I think I ridiculized this to the point it isn't fun any longer....sigh...
Call Me Smiler
Terry, thanks for sharing "Call Me Smiler". I enjoyed it very much. "Sigh" RBAY!!!
Terry - it's okay. Thanks for the story. It's pretty good.
Maybe not book length - but certainly could be a 30 minute or hour twilight zone or hitchcock episode.
Smiler's twin brother was late for their meetup again.
"Plez Jr. is really pissin' me off.." Smiler spoke aloud to himself as he bent to tie his shoes... again.
The dust was settling along the old Mill Road in the direction of the setting sun. Sal Miller's beatup Ford had rumbled by. The dark smoke spewing
clouds of acrid smell hung heavy.
"Where ARE you, Plez?" the 14 year old whimpered. He twisted his neck toward the sawmill in one direction and back toward the
chinaberry trees off in the other before hunkering down to collect a small arrowhead he spied among the shale and gravel.
"That's a nice one, eh, Paladin?" He smiled at his jaunty hound dog nearby inside a shade patch ; pink tongue dangling off to the side.
The sparrows were rankling the hound's patience with their chatter and a gray mottled dove off in the distance sounded off somewhere near the lake.
"I ain't waitin' much longer, brother..." Smiler mumbled, shaking his head with disgust. The brick red curls danced vibrantly when he spoke and a swarm of gnats scattered like puffs of spooky gunsmoke.
Presently, it was an orange dusk and the mosquitos were out and about. A pleasant chill came with the easterly breeze as Smiler hoisted his overalls with his fists in his pockets and set off toward the haybarn to add the arrowhead to his lockbox collection.
Dinnerbells from house to farm clanged hither and thither. Sweating, begrimed farmers and ranch hands would eagerly draw toward the smell of cornbread and frying fatback like gaggles of dazzled moths toward a harvest moon.
Smiler Deet reached the old barn huffing and puffing from the exertion and paused by an oak barrel to sip a few ladles of brackish rainwater.
His grandpa sat back in the shadows on a milkcrate with a piece of straw jutting from the side of his teeth. The old man lifted his sad eyes
and tilted his straw hat back on his head as he was a custom when about to make a speech.
"Deet, you off on that road again waiting for Bubba?"
Stockstill he sheepishly shrugged and removed the arrowhead from his pocket. He paused, then:"Look at this one, Paw Paw. It's a flint."
The wrinkled cheeks on the old man's face puffed out with a whoosh as he exhaled to let off some temper before responding.
"Deet, we had this talk before. Remember I told you--didn't I?"
The boy lifted a rotting plank from the floor of the barn and reached into the darkness. Out came a metal lockbox with the lock missing.
He opened it gingerly and dropped the arrowhead within. 16 hand hewn artifacts heaped in a pile accepted the new find silently. The lid closed
and the words "Plez Junior" in chipped hand-lettering disappeared back into the hidey-hole as the plank was snugged to the floor.
"Hear me, boy?"
"Yes, Paw Paw. Junior didn't show up....again. I know. You done told me."
A pack of hunting dogs off toward the lake were baying and grousing about before the night settled in. The barn and the two occupants inside hung silently in their places for minute after minute like figures in a painting on a forgotten wall.
"What did the Doc tell ya, son? He explained it clear enough. Your brother ain't gonna meet you out on that road. Not now. Not ever."
"Paw Paw, I know. I know it. But, Plez Junior ain't dead. He promised to meet me. Junior never lies. He will meet me. I just don't remember what day he said."
The old man stood unsteadily and began unfastening his belt. The boy jumped back the way a horse might flinch if a wolf suddenly appeared.
"Don't go shyin' on me, young un. You'll get medicine enough to cure you or I'll die trying..." The belt came sliding out of the loops like a copperhead snake uncoiling from a vine thicket.
Smiler Deet's eyes fairly bulged from his head. He whirled on his heels and dashed out of the barn with wild cries of protest behind him.
"Ain't gonna beat my butt no way..." he half-shouted without looking back.
Up the mill road he put on a burst of speed until a stitch in his left side stopped him cold and collapsed into a heap panting and grunting. Paladin followed silently hovering in the quietude; the pupils of his old, tired eyes catching the moonlight
like june lightning bugs.
The boy found the hollowed out tree trunk and curled up inside. An old nasty-smelling blanket from the August picnic remained wadded up therein.
Smiler shook the spiders out and stomped everywhere in the blackness in hopes of smashing the guts out of anything that crawled.
The wash of brilliant stars scattered overhead blinking wide and high; nary a cloud to behold.
Sleep stole rapidly and darkness of a summer night was swallowed up in the passing of time.
Back at the house an old man sat at his dinner picking at a tooth with a matchstick.
The silver-haired lady fumbled with dishes at the sink feverishly pausing only to spit tobacky in a Folger's can.
"Deet up to it again, Merl?" She brushed a dangling lock of silver out of her eye and let the water run from the sink.
"Sure. What ya spect? That boy ain't right no more. Not that he ever was much more than slow." The man's dry hands held a steaming
cup with bitter coffee and chicory. He'd speak, sip, dandle the cup and sip again.
Gradma Jackson turned and wiped her hands on a tattered apron with "Kiss the Cook" embroidered across the front.
"Elmer, leave him be. The Doc done told us how it is. We accept it and ask the Lord for guidance. That's all a folk can do."
"Yeah, then why are you always tryin' to convince him how truly smart he is?"
The sun came thundering up over the sawmill and whirls of dust and noise soon followed.
The road trembled under the wheels of many trucks and quail-song gave way to ravens and rubber tires.
Smiler threw off the blanket scratching furiously at a welt on his neck and chest.
"Dang it, Pal, they done got me anyway those spiders did!"
Paladin opened one lazy eye and snorted then lapsed back into deep repose.
The sun hung high in an azure heaven by the time boy and dog reached the rendezvous.
Waiting near the chinaberry stump sat the mirror image of the boy with the dog.
"Plez Junior! I knew you'd come, bubba! What kept ya?"
The hound dog sniffed curiously for something unimaginable. His jowls wobbled as he growled at nothing, then- snorted before lowering
his unsteady haunches into the cool grass.
"Deet, I ain't gonna be meeting you here no more. Like Paw Paw done told you. It's over. So stop waitin' here. Ya got that?"
The boy with the tousseled red locks quaked and dropped his chin. Tears coursed down the dusty freckled cheeks.
"I know, bubba. I just----I miss ya. Ya know? I really miss---"
"Shut up, Deet. I don't mean to hear another word. Take that mangy pup and get back to Grandma. She'll have breakfast waitin' for sure."
The hound growled again cautiously at sounds felt, not unheard and his nose worked the crackling air for signs and wonders.
Smiler Deet plunged both hands into his pockets. He twisted back toward the rotted stump to reckon at nothing but a shadow crawling inside his own mind.
The screendoor slapped shut and the old lady turned the heat off on the stove. She opened the warmer on the oven and yanked the plate out deftly
landing it on the breakfast larder.
The boy and his dog stood unsteady in the silhouette of a Saturday morning.
"Set yourself and eat.......what's that box?"
The boy pulled the old chair from under the rickety oak table and climbed into the seat placing the metal box near the biscuits.
"What'd that say on there? I can't read it?" His grandma squinted over her spectacles, eyebrows aloft.
"Use to say Plez Junior's name.." he whispered before fumbling a large, hot biscuit and dipping it deep into the dish of gravy.
He squinted and grinned.
"Thanks. This is great!"
Terry, this part was so beautifully written. Sorry that it's the end! Sounds like it was just the beginning...
Thanks, Rip....it was a skin graft. Sort of. Cork in the bottle. An artifact plugged in to round out the circle.
A leftover from a different time....
Sounds like another idea for a story. a skin graft, a cork in a bottle and an artifact-or the opening line of a joke or riddle!!! Terry, think about it!