Thursday, May 14, 2020

Zack and Zel Went Up the Hill blog post #389

Courtesy of
I’d say that the Brits liked “Liam” as well as anyone else. While normally US readers are by far the most numerous, readers from the UK almost equaled the locals. Saudi Arabia came in third. I’d hazard a guess there are some repressed feelings among that culture, wouldn’t you?

This week, back to flash fiction. The following is a story in 880 words. And I used a voice I don’t normally use when writing fiction: the omniscient. Let me know how it holds together.

Zack and Zel Went Up the Hill

          Everybody in the little farming town of Leghorn knew Zack Cryer went loco over Zelda Milhous. But the young man had a problem. He broke into a sneezing fit whenever he was around her. Allergies, most folks figured. Lots of locals suffered from that ailment in this part of the country. Some had it hard when spring blossomed; others endured the malady during the hay baling season. But it seemed like Zack was allergic to his sweetheart, which meant he suffered “purt near year-round,” as old Mr. Williams put it. Except for the two weeks each year when Zelda’s family visited her grandmother down in Texas. Then he’d go from sneezing to pining, moaning about how much he missed his darlin’. The more sarcastic villagers muttered darkly about the mental soundness of a man who craved an absent allergen. Things got so bad the kids made up a little ditty about his predicament.
          Zack and Zel went up the hill, and Zack came down a sneezin’.
          The town folk were of three minds about this problem. Some claimed he really was allergic to her; others said her perfume got to him; and still others didn’t give a whiz about it at all.
          Those who leaned toward the olfactory explanation wondered aloud why she didn’t simply stop wearing the perfume. Opinions differed about that as well. Her closest friends claimed she really loved that particular aroma. Her not-so-close friends pointed out she favored the perfume over her beau. Snarkier minds opined it was her defense against Zack.
           Whatever the case, Zack kept hanging around Zel despite all his sneezing. Contemporaries in the perfume camp who claimed it as a defense against Zack, found purchase for their belief when Zel started seeing Mort Henderman, a bachelor farmer five miles down the road from Leghorn who was a tad older than her twenty years.
          Once again the town—eager for gossip that didn’t involve the price of hay or the lack of rainfall—took note and divided into different schools of thought. Some claimed Zel was being practical, not romantic, and was simply seeing to a secure future. Mort was known to own his 240 acres free and clear. Heck, there wasn’t even a mortgage on the white frame two-story at the front of the property.
          Others claimed the perfume wasn’t doing an adequate job, so Zel took up with Mort to further discourage Zack, although their belief looked a little shaky because Zel’s best friend Mallory Higgins confided Zel was actually fond of Zack… except for his sneezing fits.
          The more elderly among the town folk, nodded to themselves and tisk-tisked that the little strumpet was simply a gold-digger. How else would you account for the difference in their ages?
          And as usual, there were those who didn’t give a damn one way or the other.
          It all came to a head in the spring of ’19 when Mort Henderman suggested the honorable state of marriage to Zelda Milhous. Everyone in Leghorn knew about the proposal before Zel had the opportunity to show off her diamond engagement ring.
           Zack Cryer did not take the news well. He stopped sneezing enough to rant and rave and head straight for the local moonshiner. He stopped paying attention to life—didn’t show up for his job or swing by Ma’s Corner Café for his customary coffee and pancakes. He just holed up in his little house and moldered.
           There he stayed until he broke out the front door early one afternoon, unwashed and unkempt, to stagger into his old Ford pickup and weave his way through the town from end to end. Some said he went out to the Henderman farm but headed back to town when he didn’t find Mort’s Pontiac in the driveway. Others told about him checking in at the beauty parlor where Zel worked, scaring the bejesus outa beauticians and customers alike with his wild-eyed ranting before taking off upon learning Zel wasn’t there.
          The one thing everybody agreed on was that Zack found the newly engaged couple at Ma’s eating a late lunch and shot Zel dead with a big black revolver his granddaddy had left him.
          From there, the accounts differed. He pointed the Colt to his own head and claimed he was going to shoot himself right in front of them. Or he threatened Mort with it. But all agreed he turned toward Zel when she started screaming bloody murder. The muzzle of his six-shooter followed the direction of his eyes, and a shot rang out.
          Like usual, the town split into camps. The gun went off by accident when Zack started sneezing. No, it was deliberate. Maybe he was aiming at Mort. The gun was Mort’s, but Zack took it away from him. Ah, well, the villagers sighed, the law will sort it out.

          Children still chant their ditty in Leghorn, but it has a new verse to it.
                       Zack and Zel went up the hill, and Zack came down a sneezin’.
                      Zack and Zel went up the hill, and Zack came down a blazin’.
           But one wag at Zelda’s funeral probably put it best.
          “Guess that proves there’s a shot for every allergen.”

What camp do you fall in? Did Zack shoot Zelda by accident? Had he intended to shoot Mort… or himself, but fate dealt another hand? I have my own opinion and would like to hear yours.

Until next week.

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See you next week.


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