Mr. Debonnaire Hizownself has jumped to the head of the queue with a rollicking tale of poker and punnery.
Carl eased himself up into the seat of his old pickup truck, and eyed the boy cautiously.
“Here, big guy,” he laughed, “this is the best buckshot this side of town.” He tossed the blue Wal-Mart bag onto Nathan’s lap and reached for the handle to roll down the window. The July heat was stifling at midday.
The young man remained silent and scuffed the dusty floorboard with the soles of his sneakers for a moment. “I’ve never been hunting before, Grandpa. It’s too hot anyway, are you sure we should go?” The smell of the hot parking lot asphalt filled the old farm truck as the window slowly cranked down.
“This’ll be fun, boy, you just wait and see.” Carl looked down and fumbled with the key ring. “Good lord, your Father and I must have done this a thousand times back when he was little. I guess it is high-time that I clue you in on some of the things your ole Dad enjoyed.”
The boy leaned back in the seat and pulled the blue plastic bag closer to his chest. His head turned towards the window as the old Ford chugged its way onto highway 411 for its journey to the countryside.
“What was it like when you were in the army, Grandpa?”
Carl checked his view in the rear view mirror and fished out a Zippo from his pocket before he answered. “It was different from now, I suppose, but probably a lot the same, too. Our people have always served, son. My Grandfather was in the second wave that attacked the Hindenburg Line. Dad nearly froze to death in Belgium in ’44. I spent Vietnam repairing jeeps in DaNang, myself. Your Daddy’s war, though, it is different than those that the rest of us fought.”
“How old was Daddy when you were in Vietnam?”
“Well, son, he hadn’t been born just yet.”
“I was just two when he went to Afghanistan.”
Carl lit his cigarette just before the road split at the 3-Point market near Hiwassee. “Nathan, did you know that I was there the day that you were born? It was a Saturday. Big Nathan, your Father, had called us while we were having breakfast, and I will never forget how excited your Grandmother was when she put the phone down. The whole drive down to Cleveland she kept rubbing her hands together and saying, ‘Nana’s going to be a Daddy!’ All I kept thinking was ‘Moments like this make me very, very nervous.’”
Nathan thumbed the plastic bag quietly while Carl swept the old Ford around country curve after country curve.
“Why she kept insisting on calling your Pa ‘Nana’ even when he was a grown, married man, I’ll never know.”
“Do we really have to do this, Grandpa? I’d really rather just go back home.”
Carl slowed the truck and eased it onto the grassy shoulder of the road. “Nonsense, boy, we’re here anyway. And your Grandmother will be very good company for your Mother while we have some fun today with nature.”
Nathan crunched the warm plastic of the bag and looked out the window towards the weathered barn. “I hate nature… and Wal-Mart.”, he mumbled.
The old man squeaked the rusty door open and reached behind the seat for the shotgun. “Nathan, son, I can understand you hating Wal-Mart, hell, who doesn’t? But you’ve got a lot to learn about nature. How on earth can a grandson of mine say that he hates ‘nature’?”
“Granddad, I hate it. It’s hot, dusty, and we’re off to sit in a hayloft in the middle of nowhere to wait on some coyote that likes the taste of Grandma’s chickens?“
Carl laughed and cleared his throat. “Well, my boy, I do see your point. However, there is a time and a place for everything. And today just happens to be time for you and me to hunker down in a hayloft and wait for a coyote that likes her chickens a little too well.”
Nathan slid the box of shotgun shells out of the blue plastic bag and handed them to his Grandfather.
“Don’t slam the door, boy. Don’t even shut it. If that old scoundrel is anywhere nearby, he’ll hear.”
The two made their way down the path towards the barn. Years of tractor traffic had worn smooth two brown strips that snaked across the field from gate to barn like a welcoming home
The sunlight baked them as they made their way across the rolling pasture. The little boy wiped the sweat from his forehead as he and his Grandfather silently walked the tractor trail. As they neared the ancient barn, Carl slowed, stopped, and bent down to the boy and gripped his shoulder. “Nature is everywhere, boy. Every blade of grass, every breath that you breathe every sip of cool water that you enjoy when you’re thirsty – Nature is Life, Nathan. We are Nature. Even when you’re playing that Guitar Hero thing, you are still immersed in nature – from the movement of your fingers, to how your eyes and ears follow the colors and sounds. Don’t ever tell me again that you hate nature, son. To hate nature is to hate being alive. Now, be quiet, and help me with this ladder. You hold the shotgun, and I’ll climb up first.”
The air in the hayloft was hot and heavy with the sweet smell of last year’s hay, and a faint buzzing kept the two company as they lay peering out towards the tree line. Bumblebees had nested in a pile of the loose hay in the corner of the barn.
Carl eyed his sweating grandson and smiled. “The last time your Father was home on leave, he and I came out here to try to bag that old coyote. The Infantry hadn’t been enough for your Pa. He arrived here with orders for Fort Bragg. As your Grandma often tells the ladies at church, ‘that’s when Nana went commando’.
The next group of three sentences will be published a week from this Friday, as I don't expect to be in any shape to be creative over the next three days... although I should find wonderful inspiration among the Blownstar campers!
DaGoddess and El Capitan will be the next intrepids, but I could use a couple more. I'm thinking maybe Teresa... or crankylitprof... or Velocidaddy... or Pammy... or maybe you can be sweet-talked into this?
Remember, I've still got a twist coming up at the end!