markwildyr.com, Post #78
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Thanks for giving me a pass for my last posting. Car wrecks and internal bleeding and endoscopes and colostomies get in the way sometime.
Anyway, here’s a new story. It’s one I wrote a long time ago, but decided I wanted to update. Here’s part one of the story. Enjoy.
My father rolled down the Dodge pickup’s window, admitting the heat and dust as we left our quarter-section and drove across town to the old Jones place early Monday morning.
“Are you looking forward to your summer, Patrick?”
I brushed a blond cowlick out of my eyes and nodded. “Guess so. As much as a fellow can look forward to stretching fence. But thanks for offering to pay me.”
“Only right,” he answered. Then he read my mind, like he usually did. “Up till now it was just chores, really, but this’ll keep you hopping full time till you go off to college in the fall. Got a corral and shed to build after the fencing’s done if I’m gonna run cattle on that land.”
“Yeah. I’ll get it done, pop.”
“I know you will. You okay with me asking the Hartshorn boy to give you a hand.”
I paused before answering. Everyone talked about Devon Hartshorn, but nobody ever said anything about him, if you know what I mean. His family was new to town when some drunk plowed into their car out on Highway 55. Killed everybody except the Hartshorn boy, who was never the same afterward. The kids at school claimed he was feeble-minded or worse. The thought of working with a blithering idiot raised the hair on my neck.
But that wasn’t all of it. Nobody was left to take care of the kid after the family was killed, so they put him in a public home. When he turned eighteen the man who ran the place took him to live at his house. Everybody thought that was mighty Christian of Mr. Jones until the ugly rumors started. He was abusing the kid, people said. Abuse to me was a walloping that wasn’t earned, but the kids in the know whispered about another kind. Some guys claimed Mr. Jones was…well, screwing the kid. The outraged locals ran the man out of town, and now
Devon lived alone in the old Jones house
out on the west side.
Dad spoke into my silence. “
Devon’s a good boy
despite all that’s happened to him. He’s a good worker even if he is kinda soft
in the head. Do you know him, son?”
“Seen him around town, but that’s all. And, yeah. I’m okay with working with him,” I said as we turned into the dirt drive beside a white clapboard, cross-gabled house.
I’d never seen
Devon up close and don’t know what
I expected, but it wasn’t what I got. A handsome, fit young man with
coffee-colored hair and deep brown eyes tripped down the steps and grasped my
Devon,” dad said. “You know my boy, Patrick? You’re
gonna be working for him this summer. You two are gonna fence part of the old
Mills place for me.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Holt. Hello, Patrick,” he solemnly greeted me with a firm handshake. “Did Mr. Mills say it’s okay?”
“Mr. Mills is dead,
Devon,” my old man explained. “I
bought his land, and that’s what you and Patrick are going to fence. Understand?”
“Yes sir. I’ll work good for you, Patrick.”
“Uh … okay,” I said in a daze. Dad explained things to
like he was a ten-year-old, but the guy was built like an adult—although he
looked younger than me. And that couldn’t be; Mr. Jones got chased out of town
four years ago. If the kid was eighteen then, he’d be twenty-two at least.
“You sure you’re okay with this?” my father asked when
hopped in the truck bed and we started for the house. “He’s a good kid, Patrick,”
he went on when I nodded. “You treat him decent, you hear. Everybody acts like
he’s different—and he is, I guess—but they’re either condescending as hell or
else they treat him like a mindless animal. I know you won’t do that.”
Devon and I loaded a posthole digger, fence posts, wire, cutters, the come-along jack from the barn and headed for the job, fortified by two fat sack lunches and a big cooler of water. Neither
Devon nor I said
a thing on the six-mile drive to the Mills place. I was too nervous, and he
apparently had nothing to contribute.
I quickly learned if I carefully explained what was expected,
performed perfectly. If I assumed he understand something, it led to disaster. When
we broke for lunch, I tried to initiate a conversation.
“You're a good worker,” I started and immediately realized that condescension thing had reared its ugly head.
“Thanks, Patrick. Mr. Jones said that was what everybody expects out of a fellow.”
The casual mention of his abuser threw me off stride. “I'm surprised you even mention that son-of-a-bitch’s name. Uh … him treating you that way and all.”
His reaction was astounding. “Don’t go saying bad things about Mr. Jones! He was good to me. Till he up and left me all by myself. Why did he do that? I thought he liked me. Said he loved me. What does love mean?”
asked throwing me a curve.
Stunned, I looked at the incredibly handsome boy…man…sitting beside me on the Dodge’s tailgate, chewing his sandwich placidly. “Uh, that’s when you like somebody really well.”
“Oh, then I guess I love you, Patrick.”
“No, no!” I sputtered. “I mean like when a man and a woman want to get married. Or how a fellow feels about his father or mother.”
He frowned in concentration. “Can a man love a man?”
“Sure. Like brothers, you know. Otherwise, they’re just buddies.”
“Buddies. Is that what we are, Patrick? I had a buddy once,” he went on in his childlike way. “Mr. Jones was my buddy. He loved me.” The frown came again. “But he went away.”
“You don’t know why he went away? Be damned, you don’t have any idea, do you?” I muttered when those big, liquid, clueless eyes turned on me. “How could you like a man like Jones?”
“He’s a good man,”
Devon said seriously. “He treated
me real good. Took care of me when nobody else wanted me.”
That made sense—put up with the abuse in payment for the care. My curiosity got the better of me. “Didn’t you resent what he … did to you?”
“He didn’t do nothing to me,” came the sincere reply, making me wonder if a great injustice had been done in the heat of the chase.
“He didn’t … do things to you? You know, personal things.”
A confused frown revealed
Devon’s lack of comprehension. “He
did good things to me.”
I backed off. “Well, if it’ll make you feel any better, he didn’t want to leave you. He got … uh, he had to leave, and they wouldn’t let him take you with him.”
“I know. That’s what he told me. Said he couldn’t even write to me.”
“Great,” I muttered, crawling to my feet.
As I delivered
Devon home after work and paid him
for the day like my dad had instructed me, he promised to be ready bright and
early the next morning. We were both filthy from the day’s work, and I wondered
if he’d have enough sense to clean his clothes.
I had time to clean up before mom put supper on the table, but decided I was too tired to go into town and find my girl, Sara Sue Crowley. I settled for talking to her on the telephone for fifteen minutes instead.
Sounds like Patrick’s handling everything okay. Or does it? Tune in next time to find out a little more.
Amazon permits you to read a short passage of my novels, Cut Hand and Johnny Two-Guns. I also believe the STARbooks-published River Otter, Echoes of the Flute, and Medicine Hair are still up. I sure would like to get the final book in the Cut Hand Series, Wastelakapi… Beloved, published, but it’ll take some help from readers to get Dreamspinner interested.
My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:
Website and blog: markwildyr.com
The following are buy links for CUT HAND:
And now my mantra (yes, it’s mine, even if I borrowed it from Don Travis): Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!
Until next time.
New posts at 6:00 a.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month.