Thursday, February 22, 2024

Bearclaw Summons (A Serialized Story)

 dontravis.com blog post #642

 Image Courtesy of Pinterest:

 


Hope you enjoyed the story of Pauly and Streak. Every short story writer needs to tell the story of a kid and his dog… at least once.

 

Today, we start on a different journey. Let’s get at it. This first installment is a little long, so please stick with it.

 

****

BEARCLAW SUMMONS (Part 1)

Dead tired from a day of branding and cutting new stock, Bart Shortlance entered the bunkhouse, pulled off his boots, and flopped onto his bunk. He didn’t know which side of him was more exhausted, his white father’s or his Apache mother’s. Put them together, and he was totally whipped. It was gonna be an effort just to hit the shower.

As he contemplated that chore, Tex Duncan, another YWZ cowboy, entered and handed Bart a scrap of paper.

“A Injun kid rode up, said to give it to you,.”

Bart examined the markings on the paper: a stylized bear claw.

“Whut’s it mean?” Tex wanted to know.

“A friend wants to see me.”

“Why didn’t the kid just say so?”

Bart grinned at the Texan. “You know us inscrutable Indians.”

“I’ll say!”

He hauled himself up and rushed through a shower to borrow the ranch’s Jeep for the half-dozen mile trip south. Darkness was falling, but he knew from the proliferation of kids that he’d arrived at Big Jack Bearclaw’s camp. One of the children ushered him into the house. No one except Big Jack was there, but the place seemed filled. For as long as he could remember, Bearclaw had been a large man, but Bart had never seen him this fat. The man wheezed his way to a standing position as Bart approached.

“Nephew!”

“Uncle,” Bart played along with the courtesy. “You’re looking good, Jack.”

“See you’ve learned to speak with the white man’s forked tongue,” the man growled sourly, rubbing his big stomach. Then he let go of a laugh that shook the walls. Jack wasn’t a bigot, but neither was he above a little humor at the white man’s expense. “Sit down. Sit down. Let me get you something to drink.” He let out a bellow, and one of the older daughters served them.

“Hits the spot,” Bart complemented his host on the whiskey the girl served.

“They may be worthless sons a bitches, but the white eyes sure know how to make good liquor. There ain’t no tulapai in the world as good as this.”

“I’ll have to agree with you there.”

“That was my daughter, Dora. She’s next to the oldest. Smart girl, like her momma. Knows how to sew and makes all her clothes. She can weave like a born Navajo and makes better bracelets than a Zuni.”

Bart felt like a young buck sitting before his prospective father‑in‑law. Instinctively, he tucked his chin and inspected the far corners of the room. “Real beauty.”  Surely, this was not why Big Jack had sent for him.

The fat man motioned with his lips to Bart’s battered face. “You been fighting them white men you work for?”

Bart fingered a bruised eye. “Naw. Party. Too much liquor about, and I had to straighten out somebody who got outa line.” Bart lied with a straight face, knowing that it made a better story than than getting tossed by a half-grown slick that didn’t want to get castrated. Just part of a cowboy’s working day.

“Damned Indian bars,” Jack groused. “Ain’t good for nothing but getting our young men in trouble.  In may day, wasn’t so easy. Got drunk out in the woods or in a gully somewhere. Had to chug it down ’fore some white man come along and took it away from you, claiming you didn’t have no right to do what he done ever day of the week. Nowadays, a fella just go up and plop down money and take a drink. Too easy. Don’t take no effort or no smarts.” Jack switched on him again. “Been a while since you been back on the rez.”

“Yeah. Keep thinking on it, then work or something gets in the way..”

“That mean you ain’t coming back?”

“One of these days. The‑One‑Who‑Was‑My‑Grandmother would want it that way.” He used the indirect form of address because Jack would have had a heart attack to hear the name of a dead woman uttered in his house.

“You still working up on that white man’s ranch, I hear. They treating you all right?”

Bart nodded. “I’m fine, Jack.”

“Look good. Got flesh on your bones, but you ain’t got no belly yet. Lean.” The man chuckled.  “When you was a kid, wasn’t nothing to you at all. Arms and legs like sticks and not much else. We both come a long trail from that pine grove at Rising Rock. That musta been a sight for tourists. A two‑room cabin, a tipi, and one brush wickiup.” Jack laughed and went on down the memory trail. “Then there was that old paint of yours. A real Indian pony ever there was one. And the old woman. Shit! We was better’n a western shoot-’em-up movie. Shoulda sold tickets. The Indah would have paid a nickel apiece just to walk through,” Jack used the word for whites.

Jack’s wife Nora entered and took a chair at the kitchen table. Apparently, the time for polite conversation was at an end. He would now learn why Big Jack had sent for him.

Jack started the real conversation. “That rancher’s boy still good friend of yours?”

Bart nodded affirmatively.

“He’s a lawyer, I hear. He a good one,” Jack probed.

“He’s smart, so I guess he’s a good one.”

The fat man grunted his appreciation of the candor. “You figure the white man’s law works for the red man?”

“Maybe I’m not the one to ask.”

“I know who I’m asking,” Jack said sharply. “It’s your thoughts I want.”

“Then honestly, sometimes yes. Sometimes no.”

“When is it yes?”

“When a white man with power is interested enough to see that it works.”

“Like your friend?”

Bart hesitated. “He has the knowledge, but I don’t know if he’s got the power.”

The answer stumped Big Jack for a minute. He reflected before continuing. “Does your friend want to see justice done for a Redman?”

“I call my friend brother,” Bart answered.

Big Jack wouldn’t accept such ambiguity. “There’s brothers and then there’s brothers.”

“This brother swears he can’t see a man’s color.”

Jack let out a wheeze. “Nora’s brother’s boy got hisself in some trouble.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Willy Saltbush. He works out at the airbase. Cleans up one of the big warehouses out there. Good job. Couple of men he works with asked him to carry something out for them. He’s got a pickup; and they was in a car. He didn’t think nothing about it. New man on the job, he wants to get along, so he done it. Took out a box in the bed of his truck where them two laid it and covered it up with a tarp. Delivered it to one of the other men’s house. Week or so later, they wanted him to do it again, so he done it. Yesterday, they asked him again. Didn’t look right to him because one of them was in his van. Could’ve taken it out easy in the van. So he said no. They told him he better because he already stole a dozen rifles, and they’d turn him in for it if he didn’t do what he was told and keep his mouth shut.

“Now Willy, he’d rather paint pictures than eat, but that don’t make him a complete fool. He knows one of these days, the base brass gonna find out about them missing guns and start checking up. Worried him enough so he come to Big Jack wanting to know what to do. Only thing I could think of was to ask you about the your lawyer friend.”

Bart went quiet for a few moments. Both Big Jack and his wife had better manners than to intrude on his thoughts. At length, he spoke: “Did he bring out the other case?”

“No. They didn’t press him on it right then. But they will.”

“I want to talk to him,” Bart said.

 ****

Interesting situation. Mixed cultures always intrigue me. Anglo, Apache, and mixed-blood. And now one culture’s clashing with another. Can Bart get justice for this young Apache who only wants feed his family and paint pictures?

 See you next week.

Stay safe and stay strong until we meet again.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something say... so say it!

Please check out my mystery novels published by Dreamspinner Press starting with The Zozobra Incident and ending with The Cutie-Pie Murders.

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


Don

New posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.


Pauly Pittman and the Pit Bull (Part 3 of 3 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #641

 Image Courtesy of Vector Portal:

 


Today, we have the conclusion to the story of Pauly Pittman and the feral dog that’s been hanging around him. Hope you enjoy.

 

****

PAULY PITTMAN AND THE PIT BULL

Monday morning, Pauly wrapped his sweater tighter around him as he waited for the yellow bus. Colder than it looked. Only a couple more weeks before school let out, and he could stop coming up to the road and waiting in the weather for it to show up. He glanced at his Mickey Mouse. Dadgummit, he’d arrived ten minutes too soon.

A big, black dog trotting down the road interrupted his musings. Didn’t look friendly. Tail wasn’t wagging. That and laid-back ears told him the beast wasn’t coming to greet a friend.

“Whoa!” he called.

To his surprise, the dog whoaed. For a second. Then it took deliberate—and threatening—steps toward Pauly.

He tried again. “Whoa!”

“The dog ignored him this time. His lips curled and a snarl came from somewhere deep inside him.

As the beast advanced, Pauly backed away, managing to keep space between him and the threatening animal… until he tripped and went down on his backside. Panic boiled up inside him and he heard himself holler something unintelligible as ferocious growling and snarling split the air. The dog! Two dogs?

Pauly lay half in the borrow ditch at the side of the road with his head on the low end, so he couldn’t see the road where the ruckus was coming from. By the time he managed to sit up, he saw the black dog racing away with another on his tail. The pit bull? He couldn’t tell.

Heart still pitter-pattering like crazy, he picked up his schoolbooks as the bus came over the hill and screeched to a halt. He scooted aboard and found a seat beside Billy. He couldn’t talk for a moment until his breathing calmed.

“You won’t believe what just happened,” he finally managed to get out.

“Try me.”

“A big black dog attacked me.”

“Don’t see bite marks on you.”

“That pit bull saved me.”

“That same pit bull from the other day.”

“Yeah. Well, I think so.” Pauly explained he’d ended up in the ditch looking up at his shoes, but he was pretty sure that’s what happened.

Billy was doubtful.

****

All during class, Pauly glanced out the window, halfway expecting to see the pit bull in the shade of the cottonwood, but the dog never showed. Had he gotten into a fight with the black dog and was hurt? His heart dropped into his stomach, and his mood followed. The school day took a long time passing.

When he said goodbye to Billy at the bus stop, Pauly watched carefully for the dog—both dogs, as a matter of fact. But all the way home, he saw nothing.

He was feeding the chickens when his father came roaring in from the fields on his tractor and headed for the kitchen door.

“Saw your pit bull,” he threw over his shoulder as he barreled through the door. A minute later, he came back out carrying his shotgun.

“Wh-what’re you gonna do?”

“Shed the neighborhood of a feral dog.”

“Wait!” Pauly yelled. His father didn’t, but Pauly ran beside him as the man started across the field on foot. “He saved me this morning. From another dog.”

His father listened as Pauly told him what had happened this morning. His reaction mirrored Billy’s.

“So you didn’t really see him?”

“Well… just a glimpse.”

“Can you swear it was the pit bull you saw?”

“Swear? I dunno, but I’m sure.”

His father started walking again. “Not good enough. And if it was the bull, chances are the black dog was rabid. If they tangled, he’d get bitten and catch rabies too. Be a mercy to spare him that kinda suffering.”

“You don’t know that!” Pauly protested.

“You don’t know he saved you either.”

Pauly stuck to his father’s heels as they crossed the field and entered the woods beyond.

“Onery critter,” his dad mumbled. “Come on, show yourself.”

After half an hour they broke through to a little glen and started across. Out of the corner of his eye, Pauly saw movement. He halted in his track as the pit bull came charging out of the tree line heading straight for them. No, for his father. The dog was attacking his father!

“Dad!” he shouted.

He was too late. The tan and gray form launched itself into the air and hurtled for Pauly’s dad.

His father saw the dog at the last minute and tried to swing his shotgun around, but the dog flung himself sideways and barreled into the man’s side, sending him crashing to the ground. The shotgun went flying.

As his father scrambled for the weapon, Pauly spotted something.

“Dad! Wait! Look!”

In possession of the shotgun again, his father hesitated. The dog stood twenty feet away, panting heavily.

And there in the grass, directly in what had been his father’s path, lay the coiled form of an agitated rattlesnake.

“He saved you, Dad. You’d a stepped on that rattler for sure.”

His father loosed an oath… but it was a soft curse. “You may be right.”

“Just like he saved me from the black dog.”

The subject of their discussion stood looking from man to boy as they spoke. His tail, stiff at first, began to wag a bit.

Pauly fell to his knees and held out his hands. “Come on, boy.”

“Now wait—”

His father’s protest died as the dog lowered his head and trotted to Pauly, giving his face a huge lick.

“Pauly, you get away from that animal. We don’t know if—”

The pit bull moved to the man and nudged his knee. Pauly figured things would turn out okay when his dad put hands to the dog, sort of petting him, but Pauly understood he was actually looking for bite marks. There didn’t seem to be any.

After giving the man his attention, the dog moved back to Pauly, who hugged him to his chest.

“All right,” his father said. “What are you gonna name him?”

“Streak,” Pauly said promptly. “He streaked to save me from a dog, and he streaked to save you from a rattler. So Streak’s a good name.”

“Then Streak it is. And speaking of rattlers….”

But the snake had more sense than to hang around and get blown away by a shotgun. It was gone.

 ****

So Pauly now has a new dog named Streak. It appears that pit bulls have gotten a raw deal. From all accounts, they are friendly, loyal animals. Sometimes might not abide other dogs, but are friendly to humans. Mind you, I’m only repeating what pit bull owners have told me and what I’ve read. I’ve never owned one, not have I sat for one back in the days when Betty and I dog sat. She passed fifteen years ago, and once the dogs we cared for faded away, I didn’t accept new animals. Sometimes I really miss them.

 I have no clue what’s coming up next week, but I’ll manage something.

 See you then.

Stay safe and stay strong until we meet again.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say...so say it!

Take a look on Amazon at my BJ Vinson murder mystery series consisting of The Zozobra Incident, The Bisti Business, The City of Rocks, and four others.

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X" @dpmtravo3

See you next Thursday


Don

New posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Pauly Pittman and the Pit Bull (Part2 of 3 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #640

Image Courtesy of Vector Portal:

 


Let’s see what happens with Pauly Pittman and the mysterious pit bull today.

 



****

PAULY PITTMAN AND THE PIT BULL

Pauly glanced over his shoulder, but Billy was on the other side of the room. Mr. Hasterton had separated them at the first of the year when they wouldn’t quit whispering to one another. He looked back at the tree again, halfway expecting the dog to be gone, but there it was, as still as a statue made out of poured plaster.

A stern voice brought him back to class. “Mr. Pittman, I asked you a question.” Mr. Hasterton always called his students Mr. This and Miss That when he was irritated with them.

“Uh…”

“Please give me the answer to question number two on the blackboard.”

Why did he always call it a blackboard when it was as green as it could be?

“Uh… False.”

“Correct. Now tell me why.

By the time Pauly finished the verbal dance Mr. Hasterton orchestrated for him, he glanced out the window. The dog was gone.

****

“A pit bull you say?” his father asked after he mentioned the mysterious dog at the dinner table that night. “Around here?”

“Well, it was at the bus stop this morning. And I saw it again at school.” Should he mention Billy Bills’ shapeshifter? Nah.

“You catch it around here again, you let me know. We got enough coyotes chasing our chickens. Don’t need a rogue dog too.”

“How do you know it’s rogue?”

“You ever see it before?”

“No, sir.”

“Belong to anybody you know?”

“No, sir.”

“Me neither. Don’t know of a soul around here who’s got a pit bull. Do you?”

“No, sir.”

“There you go then. Rogue dog. You see it again, you let me know, and I’ll take my shotgun to it.”

The hair on Pauly’s neck stood up… but he didn’t know why.”

****

The mysterious pit bull didn’t show up again, making Pauly ponder if he was glad or sad. He liked the idea of a dog. They hadn’t had one on the farm since Nosy, their golden retriever died a year ago. He’d mentioned a pet to his father a couple of times, and while his dad didn’t say no, nothing ever developed. Would a pit bull make as good a pet as old Nosy. Take a whale of a dog to replace that one, for sure.

And he’d heard things about a bull. Mean. Vicious. Turn on their owners without provocation. But was that true? He’d never had a pit bull. Didn’t even know anyone who had. And that raised another question. Where had this one come from? He’d never seen one in these parts. Maybe he got loose from someone passing through. Yeah, that made sense. Somebody mean who mistreated his dog—heck, his whole family. Well, coulda been that way.

Curious, he cut lunch short one day and headed to the computer room at school and learned the dogs were developed in England, Scotland, and Ireland in the 1900s as hunting dogs, and some said as herding dogs. Would one herd the chickens to him a feeding time. Course, they didn’t need herding. Step outside and yell “Cluck, cluck, cluck,” and they came running like they hadn’t been fed for weeks. But the pigs now. That was another matter. When one of them got loose, it took a lot of herding.

From everything he read, they made good family dogs and good with children when trained properly. Properly trained. What did that mean? Maybe they got a raw deal… being called vicious, that is. Everything he learned just made him more anxious to see the animal again.

But he didn’t. Until one morning, he spied the dog standing in the tree line across the road from Pauly’s school bus stop. His heart skipped a beat. Why? Everything he’d read said the dogs were friendly. And why did this one seem to hang around him? Had the dog chosen him as his new owner? Pauly wrinkled his nose. That was a new thought. Getting picked by a dog instead of the other way around.

Where did the animal live? In the wild? What did he eat? Small prey. He was a predator. That thought sent a tingle down Pauly’s back. Well, the dog had to eat something.

He stooped down and clapped his hands. “Come on, boy. Come on.”

Pauly spent five minutes cajoling the dog, drawing him closer and closer until the school bus came over the hill and spooked the animal away. Darn, he’d been so close.

****

That afternoon, Pauly’s dad picked him up at school. He’d had to stop at the feed store and do another couple of chores and decided to spare his son a ride on the bus and the short walk from the stop. As they drove toward the farm, his father spoke.

“That dog showed up again.”

“Dog?” he asked as his insides quickened.

“Your pit bull. Ralph down at the café chased him away from the back of his place. Rooting for food, I guess. And Joe saw him in the alley behind the grocery store.”

So maybe he was a scavenger instead of a predator. Pauly wrinkled his nose. Most likely both. He kept an eagle ye out, especially when they passed the school bus stop, but he didn’t see any sign of the animal.

When he fed the chickens that evening, a chill went up his back, and he didn’t understand why. Then he spotted the dog twenty feet away staring at him. No, it was staring at the chickens. Good grief, was he about to attack them? Probably make a good meal.

No, the animal shifted its gaze back to him. And the tail wagged a couple of times. Maybe it’d be all right.

Then his dad came barreling out of the kitchen door, shotgun in hand, roaring, Damned chicken thief.”

No, Dad! Wait.”

But the bull turned tail and headed for the hinterlands, followed by my dad’s buckshot.

“Damn, missed!” he swore.


 ****


Is Pauly ever going to meet that pit bull properly? Sure looks like all the cards are stacked against him. And why’s he hanging around so much? Let’s see how it ends next week.

 See you then.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say... so say it!

Please check out the Don Travis mystery series, a series of seven novels starting with The Zozobra Incident.

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com

X: @dontravis3

Facebook: www.facebook.com.donald.travis.982

See you next Thursday


Don

New posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Pauly Pittman and the Pit Bull (Part 1 of 3 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #639

 Image Courtesy of Vector Portal:

 

Hope you enjoyed the conclusion of last week’s “Garlic and Crosses and Silver Backed Mirrors.” Had fun writing it.

 

Today, we have the first installment of another three par short story. Without further ado, let’s get to the story.

 

****

PAULY PITTMAN AND THE PIT BULL

Pauly first noticed the dog late in the school year when the worst of the winter was behind them—except for tricks Jack Frost still had in store for them—but before the spring winds really warmed things. Up on the county road waiting the school bus to come, Pauly noticed an animal sitting on his haunches eyeballing him from across the road. When the flesh on his back quit goose pimpling, he recognized it as a dog, not some wild creature come to claim him as a meal. Unless it was a mad dog. Was this the time of year for them? Did mad dogs have a season? He guessed it was a pit bull, and from stories he’d heard they came in close behind a rabid dog. Pretty near wolf level.

But maybe the thing wasn’t an ordinary dog. It had just appeared. Hadn’t been there one moment, and then there he was big as you please. Pauly’s goose flesh reappeared, quelling his urge to click his tongue and call the animal over.

They studied one another from opposite sides of the dirt road until a yellow school bus rolled over the hill and came to a stop between them. For some reason, Pauly’s butt puckered as he scooted through the bus door a little quicker’n usual. After finding a seat beside his best friend Billy Bills, he twisted to look out the back window. No dog. The roadway was clear.

“That’s weird,” he mumbled.

“What’s weird,” Billy wanted to know.

“That dog.”

“What dog?”

“Sitting on the side of the road.”

“Didn’t see no dog. Kinda dog?” Billy asked.

“Dunno. Big one. Probably one of those pit bulls.”

“Oh, they can be mean. I hear one tore an arm off a kid over in Middleton.”

Pauly curled his lip. Billy hadn’t heard any such thing. It was just one of his stories.

“What did it look like?” Billy asked.

Like I said, big. Kinda gray and tan. This line went right down the middle of his face, and on one side it was tan, and on the other, gray.”

“Yeah, sounds like a pit bull. You said weird. What was weird about it?”

Pauly shrugged. “Dunno, really. I mean, it wasn’t there, and then it was.”

“You mean it just ran up?”

“Naw,” Pauly said with a shake of his head. “It was just there. Didn’t see it come up or anything.”

“Uh-oh,” maybe it was a shapeshifter.” Billy was part Navajo.

“Do shapeshifters turn into dogs.”

Billy let out a breath. “They turn into anything they want to.” He studied the seat in front of them a minute. “But I never seen one turn into a dog.”

Pauly punched his shoulder. “Yeah, like you’ve ever seen one.”

“Well, my grandpa has. And my uncle too.”

They argued over shapeshifters all the way to Ecton Elementary some five miles down the road.

****

That afternoon, Pauly’s mind wandered as he fought to keep from dozing, thanks to too much to eat at lunch and his sixth grade teacher. Mr. Hasterton spoke in a  monotone unless he was talking about football. Then he sounded human, not like one of those metronomes in the band room that went click-click in a measured beat. On the few nights Pauly didn’t drop off to sleep the moment he got to bed, he wished his teacher had been there to give one of his lectures. That woulda put him out like the light bulb in the barn when Pauly pulled the string on it. A glance out the window brought him wide awake.

In the shadow of a cottonwood at the edge of the schoolyard, he made out the shape of a big dog sitting and staring at the window like a guard dog put on alert. The pit bull… if that’s what it really was.

 

****

Well, here we go again. Last week “vampires,” and this week “shapeshifters,” perhaps. Or maybe it’s just an ordinary dog. But even so… a pit bull? Are they vicious or big cuddle buddies? You can get into a big argument over that. At any rate, we’re not sure exactly what the animal is yet. Let’s learn more next week.

 See you then.

Stay safe and stay strong until we meet again.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have somethingto say...so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder mystery series starting with The Zozobra Incident and ending with The Cutie-Pie Murders.

My personal links:

Emal don.travis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


Don

New posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time. 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Garlic and Crosses and Silver Backed Mirrors (Part 3 of 3 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #638

 Images Courtesy of Dreamstime:

 



Aha, loaded down with garlic and crosses and silver-backed mirrors, our hero is walking up the hill toward the woods to confront his vampire… or werewolf… or whatever. Let’s see what happens.

 



****

GARLIC AND CROSSES AND SILVER BACKED MIRRORS

The forest seemed darker today as I pushed through the underbrush and entered the trees. Other than the noise I was making, they were absolutely silent. No bird calls. No squirrel chatter. Nothing.

But I caught the dying sway of a scrub oak bush where someone—or something—had recently passed and headed straight for it. And beyond it to another bush just going still. On a leaf of this one, I found a scrap of leather… rawhide really. Long, like it was a fringe off something.

I moved deeper into the trees, feeling like the pathfinder in one of those James Fennimore Cooper novels tracking his prey, especially after I found some long dark hairs on another bush. As I moved on, I noticed the darkness lifting. Now really curious, I darted from bush to tree as the atmosphere lightened more and more. Ahead, I caught a ray of sunshine. A clearing. A clearing lay ahead of me.

I broke through the last of the trees and was so bedazzled by the pretty glen that I failed to notice the figure standing at the far side at first. And it gave me a start when I did, I can tell you. My heart hammered against the cross on my chest so hard that I’ll swear it moved. I’m not sure, but I think maybe I gasped.

The creature raised its right hand, palm out, and called out a word I didn’t recognize. Having nothing better to do, I mimicked his hand lifting and yelled back, “Howdy.”

He stood dead still until I took a hesitant step forward, and then he did too. As we performed a weird ritual dance, he morphed into a human. Definitely a human. Man… well, boy. Probably about my age. Not one of Ma’s Romny… but an Indian.

That puckered my sphincter. Here I was alone in the woods with a wild Indian. Didn’t matter if I was garlicked to the gills, what I needed was my rifle. Heck, I didn’t even have my pocketknife. Forgot to pick it up when I left the house.

I tucked away my panic and looked more closely as we neared. No weapons. That’s good. Wait! Knife in a scabbard at his waist. Left side. Did that mean he was left-handed? Ma had some saying about off-handers too, but I couldn’t remember what it was. Nothing good, I’m sure.

That glen musta been bigger’n I thought, or else we were taking baby steps, because I had time to notice his clothing. He wore what Pa called a hairbine around his forehead holding back long, dark locks that woulda made Sara jealous. Came clear down past his shoulders. No shirt, and his shoulders looked way broader’n mine. Guess Sara’s not the only one in the family capable of envy. His trousers were buckskin with fringes—that’s where that piece of leather on the bush came from. That almost brought me to a halt.

He'd lured me here. Pure and simple lured me in. Tore off a fringe and pulled out a few hairs for me to follow. My scalp prickled like a duck’s behind.

Then I noticed his shoes. Moccasins. But not just rawhide, the tops glistened when he walked. And when we were close enough, I saw they were festooned with beautiful, colored beadwork. Sara would’ve gone green over those too. Heck, I wouldn’t mind having a pair.

I was close enough now to make out his features, and they were surprisingly pleasant. Dunno why I said surprisingly. Maybe I thought all Indians were closed and dark and brooding. This one wore a beaming smile that reached all the way to his black eyes. Never seen anyone with black eyes before. Reminded me of a hawk staring at me. I almost snickered. A smiling hawk.

He stopped just beyond arm’s length, so I did too.

Those black eyes scoured my person, and I figured he considered I was overdressed, laden with garlic and a cross and silver backed mirrors like I was. He was focusing on them, I could see.

My “vampire” lifted a hand, pointed at his broad chest, and said something that sounded like “Hookoyete.” If that was his monicker, it sure was a heavy one.

I shoved a thumb at me and said, “Jamey.”

That gave him some trouble too. “S-shamey?” he stuttered.

I shook my head. “Ja-mey, Jamey.” Then I tried out his. After a couple of tries, neither of which got it, I gave up and pointed at each of us in turn, and pronounced. “Hook. You’re Hook, and I’m Jamey.

He frowned, but his expression cleared as he understood. “Hah! Hook—” He pointed at himself first and then to me. “—Shamy.”

I nodded. If I was gonna mangle his name, couldn’t object if he did the same to mine.

We took another mutual step, which put us nose to nose. He really was a pleasant looking fellow. Looked clean too. Not dirty and smelly like some folks said the natives were. In fact, I was the smelly one of the two. He reached out and lifted my amulet to his nose and took a whiff before recoiling.

“Garlic,” I said.

He muttered an unpronounceable word I took to be his word for garlic.

“Yeah. Garlic. Scares off vampires and werewolves but apparently doesn’t work on Indians.” At his frown, I reached a conclusion. “You don’t speak American, do you?”

“’Merican? Yes. No. Thank you. Go now.”

As he made no move to leave, I took that to be a recitation of his English vocabulary. “That’s more’n I can say in your language.”

He surprised me by lifting my arm and laying his alongside it. Comparing our coloration, I gathered. He confirmed it by moistening a finger and rubbing my forearm vigorously to see if the light color came off. I knew better, of course, but he’d done it, so I did too. His darker complexion didn’t change beneath my vigorous rubbing.

That unleashed us. Giggling like teenagers—well, technically we still were, although well past the giggling age—we examined one another. He lifted off my garlic and mirrors and cross and made clear he wanted me to unbutton my shirt. I did, and he moved behind me to take it off and feel and poke and mumble aloud. That’s when it dawned on me he was trying to see if we were the same—other than the difference in our skin. He wanted to know if I was human. That gave me a tumble. Old Mrs. Jarvis at the church we sometimes attended loudly proclaimed that Indians were not. She held the same, unshakable opinion of black people.

Now here was a Red Indian trying to make the same determination of me… a white kid. I’d sure like to tell Mrs. Jarvis about that, but the old bat would probably expire if she knew I let an Indian touch me. Might be a decent trade-off.

And touch me, Hook did. He felt my back and my chest and my belly and inspected my underarms like he was buying a boy at a slave market. If he tried to inspect my teeth, I wasn’t gonna put up with it. But tit for tat, I brushed his arms away and went to work inspecting him. He let me put my hands all over him. I pinched him here and rubbed him there until I noticed something. When I touched one of his nipples, it stood up. Curious I brushed the other one. It did the same. When my mind flashed on Nettie Nixton’s boobs, I figured I’d crossed the line somehow.

Apparently, Hook wasn’t aware of any such line, because he pushed my hands away and did the same to me. When he fingered the left one, I almost jumped. I knew girls’ breasts were an “erogenous zone,” as one book called them, but sure never figured that was true for a fellow. But when hook fingered mine, I felt it down in my britches. Had he when reacted that way when I did it to him?

Then he really took me by surprise. He moved in and lapped his lip over one like he was a vampire going for blood. Indians had witches, didn’t they? Was this guy a junior apprentice witch? If so, I was a gonner. I couldn’t have moved if I’d wanted.

When he switched to the other one, I forgot about all of that and sorta reveled in the feeling. I couldn’t believe sucking on my tit was affecting another part of my anatomy, but it sure was. Down south, I was growing like crazy.

He came up for air, and we just sorta stared at one another. Sure wasn’t a smile on his face now. And it was a darned good face too. Better’n Nettie’s flashed my mind before I could stop it.

After a long moment of examining one another’s pupils, Hook put hands to his waist and slipped down his trousers. Did he want to see if we were built alike down there too?

I took a look. Lord almighty! I wish! Without thinking, I slid down my own britches and didn’t even blink when he reached for me.

Hook wanted more’n just a good look at it, lots more… and he got it too.

 

****

Looks like this “vampire’s” after something other than blood. Let your imagination suggest how many ways Jamey may have given it to him.

 See you next week.

Until then, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder mystery series, a series of seven books, all related but stand alone for readers. Still, better to start with the first The Zozobra Incident.

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis 982

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.

 

 Don

 New posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time. 

 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Garlic and Crosses and Silver Backed Mirrors (Part 2 of 3 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #638

Images Courtesy of Dreamstime:


 

The Singaporeans were back last week. Welcome, and I hope you stick around for the finale of the story. Speaking of which:

 Vampires? Werewolves? Those are Eastern European things, aren’t they? Not here in America, even frontier America. Or are they? Let’s read on and find out.

 

                                                                         ****

GARLIC AND CROSSES AND SILVER BACKED MIRRORS

The woods always got to me… you know, how dark they were. Out in the field, the sun made the rocks sweat. But here beneath a thick canopy of leaves, the place grew gloomy and held a different kind of heat… close and stifling. I searched the area around the bush I’d seen quake, but I didn’t find a thing out of the ordinary.

Off to the west, I heard a noise like a branch snapping or an acorn falling to the ground. Coulda been natural, or might have been something sinister… like Ma’s vampire or Sara’s werewolf. But I was garlicked to the gills and laden with silver backed mirrors plus a clunky cross around my neck, so I was safe, wasn’t I? Then why was my back puckered like a patch of goose flesh and my breath coming hard?

Then I saw it. A shape, an indistinct form in the gloom. The thing, whatever it was, stared at me a moment before vanishing behind the bole of a tree. I shoulda chased after it, but I turned tail and ran for all I was worth… which apparently wasn’t very much. Not so far as bravery was concerned, at any rate. I was so chicken, I felt like clucking.

****

Of course, I couldn’t keep my big yap shut and blurted it all over the supper table that night.

“You actually saw it?” Sara asked, her eyes mimicking two the ten pennies I’d managed to save and hide in the toe of a sock.

“Uh-huh. With my own eyes.” I anticipated her next question. “Dunno exactly what I was looking at. Too dark.”

“Describe it as best you can,” my pa urged.

“Dark. Everything was dark. Hair black as that oil you smear on the wagon’s wheels.”

“Was it a man?” Sara asked, her eyes back to normal. “Or a beast or—”

“Best I could tell, it was a man. Leastways, didn’t seem to be four-legged or have wings or nothing like that.”

“Anything like that,” Ma automatically corrected. “Many of them are Romany, and they’re all dark. Black-headed, dark-skinned.”

“Yeah, like that.”

“But what did he look like?” Sara persisted. “Was he ugly like a warlock or—”

“Handsome as a prince?” I interrupted to jab at her verbally. “Dunno. Like I said, it was dark.”

“And you were too scared to notice. Probably went cross eyed,” she struck back, demonstrating her point by crossing her blue orbs and sticking her tongue out the side of her mouth.

“And right that you should be frightened,” Ma interjected. “Vampires are vile and crafty and cannot be trusted.”

“I’ll bet you took one look and ran away,” Sara put in, not about to let me get away with my “handsome prince” remark. “Did you wet your pants too?”

“Sara!” my parents exclaimed in unison.

“You bet I did,” I said. “Ran, that is. Not the other. But he ran first. At least he disappeared behind a tree.”

“You don’t go in the woods anymore,” Ma said in a sharp voice. “You stay in the fields. You keep to the sunshine.”

“Kinda hard to hunt in the fields,” Pa said. “But maybe it’d be best if we went hunting together, Son. So your ma’s right. Stay outta the woods unless I’m with you.”

He didn’t need to tell me twice.

I thought I’d be bothered by dreams that night, but I guess I was tired, because the Sandman came early, and the next thing I knew it was cracking dawn.

****

Pa and I usually worked in different fields, and two days later, musta been mid-morning when I hauled Cloppy to a halt and held up my hand to shade my vision. Movement had caught my attention. It took a bit of searching before I spotted him. A figure. A human figure stood at the northern edge of the field just outside the tree line… full in the sunlight. Male, from what I could tell. How long had he been there? Apparently, he could handle the bright sun, but for how long? Long enough to lope down here and suck the blood from my veins? He’d have to catch me first. Oh, couldn’t they turn into bats? Wouldn’t have any trouble catching me then. The hair on the back of my neck rose.

But for some reason, I wasn’t afraid… not really, just anxious. Maybe it was the fresh garlic Ma’d fashioned into my amulet. I’d started calling it that instead of a necklace. Necklace was a word Sara’d use.

He watched me watch him for a long moment before turning and entering the forest in a graceful, masculine stride. Recalling my sister’s taunt about running away and forgetting Pa’s orders to stay out of the forest,” I dropped Cloppy’s rein and walked up the hill toward the woods.

 

****

Looks like his little sister’s sniping put a little steel in Jamey’s backbone… but is that a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll find out in next week’s finale.

Until then, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say... so say it!

Please take a look at my BJ Vinson murder mystery series published by Dreamspinner Press. The seven books are a series, but they can be read independently. Better to start with the first, The Zozobra Incident. 

My Personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday,


Don

New posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Garlic and Crosses and Silver Backed Mirrors (Part 1 of 3 Parts)

 dontravis.com blog post #637

 Image Courtesy of Dreamstime:

 




Here we go with another short story this week, also a two-parter. Hope you get a kick out of it.

 



                                                                         ****

GARLIC AND CROSSES AND SILVER BACKED MIRRORS

The thing—whatever it was—first made its presence felt when I was out hunting in the woods. We lived so close to Indian Territory, it was hard to tell if we were trespassing on tribal lands or not. But the Indian troubles were mostly behind us, so Pa said it was of no concern to us, so long as we didn’t go hostile on them. Me, I worried about the other way… them going hostile on us.

I said I first noticed the thing when I was hunting. And I don’t know what to call it other than the thing. I’d never even seen what was creeping me out. I wasn’t normally a scaredy-cat, but when a man can’t understand his surroundings, it tends to worry on the mind.

The other day as I worked the fields close to the wood line, I felt it, as well. Didn’t see it this time either, just sensed something there, and heard noises like a twig on the forest floor cracking or a swish of leaves. And some shadowy movement through the trees and underbrush. That was enough to tell me I wasn’t spooking out over nothing.

Pa didn’t make anything of it when I told him about it at the supper table that evening, just said to keep my eyes open. Ma, who’s got some Middle Eastern European blood looked at it differently.

“You be careful you don’t tangle with a vampire.”

“No vampires over here in the American territories,” Pa came back at her.

“How you know this?” When my ma got excited, sometimes her English slipped. “They no law against it.”

That was her measure for everything. “No law against it.” She sure had more faith in the law than I did.

“Maybe it’s a werewolf,” my little sister Sara put in.

“Don’t start that nonsense,” Pa said with a slap on the table. “Now Suzie B.”—that’s what my pa called Ma—“you know full well such creatures don’t roam around in the daylight hours, if they even exist.”

“They exist all right. My uncle Vanya fell victim to one. Found him dead in his workshop with every drop of blood drained. Besides, the woods are dark. No sunlight gets through that tangled mess.”

“That’s true,” Pa acknowledged.

Ma pointed a dinner fork at me. “Jamey, you don’t set foot outside this house without some protection.”

“What kinda protection.”

“Garlic. That’s the best.”

“That stinky stuff?” I asked. “I’ll smell to high heaven.”

Put up with the smell and the heart keeps beating. Without blood, heart doesn’t beat. I make a necklace tonight. You wear it when you go to work in the fields tomorrow.”

“Aw—”

“Don’t you aw me, James Herrickson. Somewhere I’ve got some mirror buttons with silver backing. I’ll weave them into the necklace. Wish I had a crucifix.

“We’ve got a wooden cross,” Sara said.

“Have to make do with that.”

My mood plunged. Wish I hadn’t mentioned the thing. “Hope I don’t see anyone I know.”

Sara giggled. “Especially that Nixton girl. She’ll hold her nose and run the other way.”

“Hush up,” Ma said.

That gave me something else to worry about. Did garlic and that other stuff repel girls too? Seemed like it was hard enough to sidle up to one of them without stinky and glittery stuff chasing them off. And Nettie Nixton was morphing into quite a juicy plum.

Sara intruded on my introspection. “What if it’s not a vampire? What if it’s a werewolf? They wouldn’t have any trouble running around in the daytime.”

“That’s okay,” Ma said. “The Germans, they don’t believe it, but my people, they know the garlic works on werewolves too. On vampires and werewolves and devils.”

I took a hard look at Ma. She was as educated as a woman got in the 1850s, yet here she was carrying on over creatures that didn’t even exist. I hid a grin. She was a pleasing woman to look at. I took some pride in the fact people said I looked like her… but in a manly way, they always added in a hurry. I did have her red-gold hair and eyes that weren’t quite green or weren’t quite brown. And her mouth, everyone said. Full and pouty. Pouty? Why was that supposed to be good. I snickered to myself. For pouting, I guess.

****

I made a good stab at it, but I didn’t escape the house without a necklace of garlic cloves and shiny buttons firmly around my neck, accompanied by a little cross carved out of oak and stained brown hung on a string.

By the time Cloppy—that’s our plow horse—and I reached the edge of our property line near the timber, I kinda liked the smell of the garlic and got a kick out of the way the mirrored buttons caught the sun and sent sparks of reflected light dancing over the mare’s rump. Didn’t get a blessed thing out of the cross, not even inspiration.

I stopped to swipe my face with the red bandana that hung out of my overall’s rear pocket. Normally, I wore it around my neck, but it would cover up the paraphernalia Ma had hung there. That gave me a pause, I can tell you. Did that mean I believed her rant about vampires and werewolves? Nah.

Then I went still as our old setter when she was pointing at quail. There was something there. Something in the underbrush near the fence. Dunno how I knew, I just did. That thing was back. Goose bumps raced up my spine, and I went cold all over.

“Hey!” I yelled, mostly to make noise. “Show yourself. I know you’re there.”

Nothing. Then I heard a twig crack.

“Hey you! Whatever you are, you don’t walk out where I can see you, I’m gonna come looking for you.”

Crap! Did I really say that out loud. I wasn’t about to enter those woods. Not by myself. Not without my rifle. Oh, hell. Why hadn’t I brought my rifle?

I squared my shoulders. Why not? Why not go see what was there. I had all the protection Ma could give me hanging right there around my neck. So, fighting another wave of chill bumps and a certain weakness in my knees, I dropped the reins, picked up one of the rocks I was always throwing out of the field, and marched toward the wire fence.

The bush swayed again.

“All right, you bastard, I’m coming, and I’m armed with a rock I’m gonna use to smash your fangs right outta your head.”

Nothing as I reached the fence.

Nothing as I slipped through the wire.

Nothing as I entered the woods… except the pounding of my heart.

 

****

Sure hope Jamey’s not biting off more than he can chew… or perhaps the bite will be on the other teeth… or fangs… or whatever.

 Did you ever have Old World aunts and uncles or grandparents tell you spooky stories from the old country when you were growing up? Did you believe them... maybe just a little bit?

Until we meet next week, stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say... so say it!

Please check out my BJ Vinson murder series published by Dreamspinner Press. The Zozobra Incident is the first, but Bisti Business is my favorite.

My personal links:

Email: dontravis@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

X: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.


Don

New Posts every Thursday at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain Time

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