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Old Bastard

by Damien Cain 11 months ago in Short Story
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Stubborn old bulls

“Well ya grumpy old coot, what we gonna do about this?” The splintered half broken laterals of the fence protruded outward at an awkward angle, exposing dry rot and the ant colony slowly eating away from within.

Well i guess you’re gonna fix it, Redd.’ He thought

He watched as the ants writhed and scattered, stumbling over one another. More than a few fell to the tall wet grass below.

Damn rotten little critters get inside anything, just keep eatin’ away till it crumbles. Probably eat me too they get the chance.’

“You know you got ‘bout thirty other posts you could scratch on, why you always rubbin’ on just this here is beyond me.” He said, motioning his hand towards the length of fence before him.

Big dumb bastard don’t bother rubbin’ on that apple tree. Not once I’ve seen. He’ll keep eatin’ them apples though. Rotten or not. Probably chalk full of ants too. ‘

Redd shook his head “Damned ants.”

The old bull gave a half hearted snort, barely acknowledging Redd’s presence as it chomped down another apple.

“Yeah, i thought you’d say that” Redd rolled his eyes and screwed the lid off his thermos, setting the cup on the hood of the rusted out pickup, holding it steady as he poured. The cup trembled from the vibration of the engine and slid just a little across the what once may have been green and primer patched hunk of corroded steel. He left it to cool once he was satisfied it wouldn’t venture any further, and walked to the tailgate.

With a few hard tugs and only a small amount of cursing the off colored tailgate squealed and groaned in protest once the latch relented to be opened, thumping Redd in the chest as it gave way

damn thing. That’s what you get for not greasing that latch ol’boy’ Redd could hear his son’s nagging complaints about the state of the aging machine echoing in his memory along side another snort and grunt from the old bull. Asking in mildly taunting tones as to why he’d refused to just buy a new one.

“Yeah well, who asked you any way?”he said to the old bull while rubbing his chest where it hit.

Had our first date in this truck’.

He ran a swollen knuckled, calloused and leathery hand across the inside of the tailgate as the distant memory presented itself once again. “We sat right here”. A pained smile crept its way to his lips. “Just watched the stars and talked the whole damn night.”

“I ever tell you that?” He said to the old beast, half expecting an answer of some kind. A tear welled in his eye a moment before he shook his head with a laugh, “her daddy chased me down her drive with a two by four when I dropped her off.” His voice trailed as he let the memory wash over him.

“Had to sneak around for three months after that just to spend a few minutes together.” Redd stood holding that precious memory for long moment. “Had to have little Ronni run notes back and forth for us...

course that pocket sized she devil’s the one rat us out after that.’ He thought, still bitter about the situation though long past.

With a long groan Redd reached for the old hand saw that slid nearly out of reach after being carelessly tossed in the bed with the replacement timber’s. With a sigh of relief he thanked his lower lumbar for the mercy of allowing him to stand up right once more. Though after the hay bails this morning he was certain they’d have something to say about it come dinner time.

‘Can’t blame her though’, he thought as he retrieved his cup and walked to the broken fence with saw in hand. ‘Not sure how we expected a six year old to keep a secret all that long anyway.’

Redd took a long pull from his coffee cup, setting it atop the fence post when he finished. “Her old man caught up to me after church that Sunday” he said to the old bull.

He drew the saw along the broken timber of the fence, near the post, setting the tract of the cut. Making certain to leave a few inches of the rotten timber, to make it easier to pull the wedged end from the hole that held it in place, then set in to sawing. The joints in his wrist and hand dissented in chorus.

“I tell ya’, I didn’t know whether to shit, vomit, or go blind I was so scared.” The old bull, startled by the noise, as if it were lost in a deep thought and forgot Redd was even there, bucked as best he could. Turning himself to face the commotion he watched Redd intently.

Redd stopped cutting and pointed at the old bull with the end of his saw as if to drive home the point of his story. “But I took one look at Marry in her Sunday best and I stood my ground.”

The way her hair shined in the sun took my breath away’, he thought as the vision nearly came to life in his mind, ‘the twinkle of those sapphire blue eyes, her pink sundress flowing in the breeze. like an April sunrise she was.’

He looked off in the distance, hoping to spot her in the field somewhere. “I knew right then and there i was gonna marry that girl”

His heart grew heavy for a moment once he caught sight of the big oak at the other end of the field. An empty swing hung from it’s branch swaying in the breeze. The glimmer of the morning sun on white dew drenched marble at its base beckoned his attention.

His eyes followed the branch to the knotted trunk and down to the base of the tree. Then to the gnarled roots, thick and dark, until the scalding heat of hot coffee snapped his attention back to the old bull now standing next to him.

“Hey!” He shouted the sudden shock of pain ever present in his voice, “what you go and do that for?, Ya’ ornery old bastard!” The bull gave another stubborn grunt and a satisfied shake of the head.

Redd shook the still very warm liquid from his hand and sleeve as he turned back to the old pick up. The door groaned on its hinges as he jerked it open. He shed the now coffee soaked flannel shirt and flung it into the cab. Catching the torn and frayed sun visor in his haste. Not noticing the old Polaroid falling to the seat, landing photo side down.

Too damn warm for that thing anyway’ he thought as he took a cigarette from the pack on the dash and placing it between his teeth. The old bull bellowed, the most Redd had heard him do in weeks. “Quit yer belly achin’, I’ll damn well smoke if I want to.”

‘Hell, at my age what I got to lose from it any way?’ He thought as he fumbled in the pockets of his blue jeans for a lighter. “May as well start drinking again too, who’s to say other wise?”

The bull gave a short grunt in reply

“Yeah, other than you, ya big dumb...”

Don’t mind him Redd, he’s just irate he ain’t been laid in years. Neither have you but you ain’t half as ornery as that bastard.’ Redd let out distressed sigh

No you’re only set in the middle of a field talking to a half rotten Hereford like some nut job... You’re losing it Redd. No ,I’m fine... Yeah sure you are pal... You’re fine, the truck is fine, the fence is fine, hell even the god damn bull is fine... Yeah everything is just damn fine.’ Redd slumped against the side of the truck.

Who are you trying to convince Redd? That bull? Or yourself?’

“Where’s that damn lighter?”

Redd turned back into the cab of the truck. Reaching across the seat for the crumpled wet flannel. As he did he caught site of the old Polaroid photo laying face down on the seat. He stood perplexed and staring at it. The edges had yellowed with time and the once solid black square on its back now a faded grayish brown.

His hand moved slowly towards it, stopping just inches from picking it up. ‘You sure you wanna do that Redd?’ His hand shook as it hovered above the photograph, ‘you know what’s on the other side.’

His hand moved past the photo to the coffee drenched flannel shirt. His eyes however, fixated on it. He fumbled blindly with one hand drawing the lighter from the shirt’s front pocket.

With a spark and faint hiss the flame flickered before him as he lit the cigarette still clenched in his teeth.

‘Its been a long time pal’ he thought as he drew a long, deep inhale of tobacco smoke. ‘Do you even remember his face?’

The bull let out another bellow, as if daring him to pick up the photo.

“Stow it will ya?” He said never taking his eyes from it.‘He’s my son, how could i forget?’ Hesitant, he took another drag from his cigarette before picking up the photo and turning it over.

His son’s round face, long flaxen hair, and piercing blue eyes looked deeply into Redd’s own as pangs of sadness and regret roiled in his gut.

You could call him you know?.. Sure you could, and that damn bull would probably talk back to you before he would... Still, it’d be worth a shot at least... right?” The old bull let out a hefty grunt. Redd turned back to face him.

I don’t know if I can... he’s... so what if he is?.. what the hell does that matter?.. he’s your son god damn it... It ain’t right...who the hell are you to say what’s right?.. don’t matter anyway..’

“He wouldn’t even answer if I did.”

The bull stamped the ground leaving a deep scar in the dirt.

“He wouldn’t. Not after what I’d done”

Redd slumped back against the truck again, still staring at the photo in his hand. ‘He couldn’t have been more than ten here.’ He thought as he thumbed at the boy in the photo, ‘lotta things were said. Most of it bad.’

“Yeah” he said to himself, agreeing.

She never really forgave you for driving him away... You never forgave yourself... And why should you? How could you?.. Unless he does first... Don’t matter any way... He wouldn’t answer... would he?.. Might be worth a shot.’

He flicked the butt of the cigarette to the ground at his feet. Still clutching the photo. The crack of splintering wood drew his attention back to the old bull, once again rubbing himself against the fence post. The broken lateral fell to the ground in two pieces. Redd watched as the ants abandoned their broken home.

You broke it, you could at least try to fix it... Can’t you?

The old bull bellowed.

“Ok” Redd said to old bull “ok ya miserable old bastard” he tucked the photo into his pocket.

“We’ll try”

Short Story

About the author

Damien Cain

I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. I tend to write whatever pops into my head at any given time. All of which may be the result of a deeply disturbed, and in no small way, skewed vision of reality.

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