The smack came hard, knocking her to the old linoleum floor. Teeth clenched, Shelly pressed a hand against her jaw. It wasn’t broken, and at least she wouldn’t have another black-eye. “I’m sorry.” It came out as meekly as she could make it sound. Anything more would only get his back up.
Towering over her, Frank said, “Dumbass.”
She curled into a ball, playing dead for the angry bear and tried to quell him again with another apology.
“Stop buying junk and wastin’ my money!” The crash of the plate came next.
The lovely Garden Of The Lord collector’s dish she’d ordered from HGTV. It was hand-painted, and the certificate which came with it said number fifty-five. That matched up with blessed be the meek in the Bible. Oh, she tried to be meek. She tried to follow her husband’s rules the way the Bible told her she should. Unfortunately for her, Frank’s rules could change when he was drunk.
Shelly didn’t move until she heard the screen door close behind him. God only knew why he left the trailer, but she thanked the Lord for the break in the fight. She lifted herself to her knees and started to pick up the shattered pieces. There were too many to glue back together. Standing, she went over and tossed them in trash.
Maybe he was right. He’d asked her, actually asked her nicely, to stop buying things off the television. Money was tight now that he’d retired. But it had been such a pretty plate with Jesus kneeling in a garden of flowers. The muffled sound of barking came for a moment. The kennel. That’s where he went. Good. Why he’d bother the dogs at four in the morning, she didn’t know, but playing with the hounds usually put him in a better mood.
She pulled out the little cordless Dyson vacuum to clean up the splinters. The nice one he bought her last Christmas. For a third husband, he wasn’t such a bad man. Lord knows she had worse. Bringing it to life, she ran the vacuum over the floor. The clattering-clicks of china shards being sucked up gave her an odd sense of peace. She’d picked up the shards of her life lots of times over the years. With help from Jesus.
A simple “help” escaped her lips. It wasn’t a proper prayer. She wasn’t even sure if it made a sound with the racket of the vacuum. The thump of the door banging open was much louder. Frank came in with one of the dogs, jumping up and down in excitement. Their eyes met for a moment, and then he looked down at the floor. She flicked the Dyson off, and they both stood still in the heavy silence.
His tight lips let out a murmured, “Sorry.”
It was brief, but she could tell he felt awful about hitting her. Subconsciously, she rubbed her jaw. He always felt horrible about it afterward. “Why’d you bring him in here?” A dog in the trailer was a rare sight.
“There’s a few deer out there. One’s a big ass monster buck. Least an eight pointer.” He rushed passed her and went to the closet with his hunting gear. She almost mentioned it not being deer season but held her tongue. His land. His rules. “Get my lucky shirt.” Frank ripped his shoes off and tossed them to the side. The boots came out next.
“Okay.” She hurried into the bedroom.
Calling out to her, he said, “Peas and thank ya.”
When she returned, he was quick to grab the shirt and pull it over his tight frame. For a man in his sixties, he was still in good shape. Shelly took the canteen out of the closet and went to the sink. He would’ve asked if she didn’t. Better to keep the peace and plan for his needs. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him fill his flask with whiskey. Her grip on the canteen tightened, visioning his throat. It would do no good to say anything about it. He would do whatever he wanted.
The dog came over and put his paws on her knees. “You want some water before your fun?” She pulled out a bowl, filled it and put it on the floor. “Which one is this?” She couldn’t tell one from another. He had more than a dozen in the fancy new kennel. Complete with air-conditioning and cement floor so Animal Control couldn’t bother him no more.
“I thought you didn’t like hunting with him?”
“He does alright for short hunts.” The rifle went over his shoulder, and he whistled for the dog. “Come on dumbass.”
Riley kept lapping at the water. “You need anything else?” She handed Frank the canteen.
“Nah. Theys sittin’ close.” He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. With a smile, he said, “Won’t take long. We’ll have venison steaks for dinner.”
Clipping a lead to the dog, he left. She sighed with relief at the end of tonight’s argument.
Frank trudged up the incline, looking for Riley. The stupid walker hound had crossed the highway while following the deer. Now both deer and dog were off his land and two hours of tracking was blown to hell. Stretching over the top of the guardrail, he failed to catch sight of either of them and spat to the side. If he tried to cross the highway, someone might see him carrying the rifle and call the Sheriff. That bitch Sheriff had already complained to him about going off his land with the gun and scaring the tourists.
Strictly speaking, it wasn’t even deer season. But that fucking monster of a buck had been on his land. Fifty acres handed down to him from his grandpa and his grandpa before that. “Screw it.” Dawn had just bloomed, and most of his neighbors, few that there were, would still be in bed or getting ready for church. The median was four lanes over, and the brush wasn’t thick enough for the deer to hide inside. Riley, on the other hand, was dumb as dirt and lazy. The tall weeds could keep him out of sight.
With the practice of years, he used his tongue to shift the wad of tobacco to the front of his mouth and spat it out. Then the flask of Jack came out of its holster with the speed of an old western gunfighter. He drank a healthy swallow, enjoying the burn. From his back pocket came the tin of Skoal long cut. Old school. Not those little pouches filled with tobacco that always made him think of his grandmother’s endless tea bags. His last oxy rattled inside as he flicked the can once, twice, three times, to pack the tobacco down. He twisted it open and nimbly pinched out his next fix. Eyeing the white tablet, he left it in the tin. He shoved the wad down hard, left cheek this time, and ran his tongue over his lips and teeth to remove any stray fibers.
He waited. UPS truck. Fucking Prius. Ancient Silverado blowing the blue smoke of an oil leak. Then an eighteen wheeler rolled past, kicking up a few stray pieces of gravel and cigarette butts — Clark and Sons Moving written on the side. Frank felt the wake of wind blow across his face as it rumbled over the asphalt. It was the last in the group. Jogging across, he then stood in the median and yelled out. “Riley! … Riley!” Nothing. “Dumbass dog.” Spit. Frank held the Ruger low in one hand as he trotted across the next four lanes to the scenic stop parking lot on the other side of the highway.
Mountain peaks stretched high into the morning sky. A sign read — “Campers Must Check In Before Using Trails C & D.” The origin for thousands of people journeying over the mountain going back to the colonial days and further. Thee embarkment point. The outset. Square one. Alpha. Frank’s excursion would be one of the more unusual ones in history, if not a successful one, and certainly not recorded.
Campers could stop here and have lunch under one of the dozen or so covered picnic tables, or wander down a trail. Real camping was further up the mountain, but even that was a state park with designated sites to corral sheeple in. The building, courtesy of his tax dollars, they built only a few years ago. Spit. Before that, it was only Port-O-Johns. Now the site had clean bathrooms complete with those extra-large family style rooms where faggots could suck each other off, or those weirdos who didn’t know if they were male or female could take a leak. As if a cock or a cunt didn’t make it obvious what God had intended for them.
Frank remembered the days when it was only wooden outhouses here. As a teenager, he saw his first titty in one of those outhouses. Darla wouldn’t let him do anything more than pinch a nipple and kiss. A nasty place for anything more. She squeezed out six kids and ended up working inside this new building as a grandmother, filling up pamphlet racks and showing dumbass tourists which trail was best. But she died of heart attack last year. Spit.
Chapter 3 and the remainder of this
story can be found on Amazon.
Follow the link to Mapleberry II