Friday, November 1, 2013

Two Sheets

Robin Hood and some faceless creature in a black robe greeted me with hugs last night when I got home.  Faceless, not headless - the mask was elliptical and reflective silver, but designed in such an ingenious way that while I saw only myself reflected back, the wearer could see the world almost normally.

I was entrusted with the candy for the door whilst the rest of the clan went foraging.  I thought to turn off the lights and keep the sweets for myself but then I remembered Karma and so decided I would continue to hand out bites of milk chocolate ambrosia but also offer up the cat.  There was only one taker but he wouldn't come to her so I'm still stuck with him.

For now.

Today's short fiction is a *gasp* revision of the story I wrote for the 5 minute fiction contest this week.  The prompt was this image.  I'm not trying to cheat, it's just that I thought it was a neat idea and wanted to play with it some more.  I hope you don’t mind.

Two Sheets

by Jon Stark; 892 words

Earl Weaver was not a complicated man.  Nor was he especially good at complicated things.  "Simple's good." he always said.  Unless he was saying something else - like "Dog gone 'coons got in ta my meal 'gain." or "Sally?  Sally!  SALLY!  Get me som'in."

He was not the sort of man that liked work but he'd stumble across some here and there.  When the bottle was empty he'd do his part and collect the wage but if it was only partially empty, he was forced to use "that darn rathmatic thing" and figure out how likely he was to find another job before he did run out.  His formula was simple:  X = (3+(Y*T/d)+A)*0.

It was during one of those odd job times that Earl first saw them.  He was raking leaves at the McDougal place because Mr. McDougal had said, "I'll pay ye dollars for thy labors if ye remove the vile taint of autumn from my yard."  It sounded perfectly vague to suit Earl and he accepted.  He raked for a time but grew weary of it for a strong wind had arisen and made it difficult to keep them leaves in piles.

He paused for a drink and when he put the bottle down he saw two sheets floating just above the earth.  The tops were gathered into a globe roughly the size of a noggin while the rest of the sheet just hung down.  "Where'd you come from?" asked Earl.

The only answer was a low howl that chilled his blood and set his knees to shaking so fiercely that he thought the world was being consumed by an earthquake.

He quit at once.  "Mr. McDougal, I'm a finished here."

McDougal purveyed the grounds.  Nodded once, and removed a large wallet from the breast pocket of his coat.  "Finished you are.  Thy work is satisfactory.  Into thy hands I commend these promissory notes."  Earl took the proffered bills, and wandered down to Mack's place.

Mack was a character too, but the story of how he came to be the sole proprietor of "en Fromage" is best left for a day when you would rather be anywhere else, doing anything else, and your toe nails have already been trimmed.

Mack poured out a drink for Earl.  "I heard you were working up at McDougals." said Mack.

"That's so." agreed Earl, finishing and asking for another.  Mack obliged.  "Saw a couple ghosts." said Earl.  The old man talked for a very long time while Mack poured drinks and listened to the wild tale of ghosts settling out of the sky, and then packed his oldest, and craziest, customer off for home.

Two days later Earl found himself near the McDougal place.  He considered approaching Mr. McDougal for work again but did the calculation and chose against it.  While he was considering, a white sheet floated out of the gate.  It stopped and watched him.

Earl was a generally friendly old soul and so he tipped his cap and then raised the bottle to the sheet.  "Good day to you, ghost."  It bobbed at him.  Then a second ghost came through the gate and the two of them watched the old man.  The wind came on, advancing with ferocity and driving sand, grit, branches, and leaves into Earl’s face.  A low howl whistled along the path and through the gate.

"What en all tarnition?" said Earl.  He fought to keep his hat in the gale and, surprisingly, he succeeded.  When the wind stopped - quite suddenly, of course - he saw a ripped piece of sheet on the top of one of the iron fence posts.

Earl didn't bother to cross himself.  He just went straight to en Fromage.

Mack was as patient as ever, but some of the other patrons in the pub were not as kind.

“I saw ‘em.” said Earl. “Standing there again.”

“Sure you did.” Mack poured him another pint and slid it down the bar.

“Sure as I’m see’in you right now here.” he insisted.

Jake slid up next to him, an arm wrapping good naturedly around the old man’s back. “Look, we know-”

“Git yer hands off a me.” said Earl. “Don’t need no condecension.” He took a gulp from the glass. “I know what I seen and it was them, standing there. Jez like b’fore.”

Jake laughed. “You ain’t seen nothin. Probably just a couple of strays s’all.”

Mack frowned at Jake and tried to wave him away but the younger man wasn’t paying attention. “You prolly fell and hit your chin or -”

Earl whirled on him, fierce in his certaintude. “I know what I seen, mister.” His bony finger jabbed for the other’s solar plexus. “I saw them two standing by the gate, sheets a billowin’ and wind a howlin’ and all’s hell calling fer ‘em from inside.”

The younger man was taken aback but quickly recovered. “The only two sheets blowin in the wind was you, ya old coot.”

Before Mack could intervene, the two men were at each other. Rage driving the old man into a carnivorous frenzy. The younger man fell beneath him, screaming for help. The other patrons in the bar moved quickly to separate them and so they didn’t see what Mack did.

The two of them, standing outside the door, two sheets to the wind. Watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment