Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.
Having left Tyrone at the library, Charlemagne is headed somewhere in the middle of nowhere to talk to a genealogist when a shot brings him up short. What is going on? See what's happening in this week's chapter of An Unholy Alliance. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!An Unholy Alliance #17 (5.1)
Immediately I assumed a defensive posture, taking refuge behind the nearest tree so I could assess the situation. Annoyed at my own carelessness, I cursed under my breath and listened for any sign that I’d been seen. Only laughter and the sound of breaking glass met my ears as another shot sang out. That was something to be grateful for, at least.
I peered out cautiously, ready to make a hasty exit, if necessary. Just how close had I come to getting into trouble, and how quickly could I get past these people and back to business? Damn. My foolish ruminations had caused me to almost—and I wish to emphasize the word almost—run straight into the midst of a group of armed men. Not really surprising in the middle of Missouri, but most definitely unwelcome.
Just a few dozen yards ahead of me, in the middle of a small clearing, four men were shooting at beer bottles they took turns placing on top of a tree stump at the far end. Clearly the glassware were the aggressors, judging by the vigor with which they worked to eliminate them, and the primitive joy these idiots took in their demise. I estimated their ages to be anywhere from late teens to late twenties. The men, that is, not the bottles. Again, don’t hold me to that. Dressed in similar attire—T-shirts with inane slogans, faded jeans, leather boots, gap-toothed stupid grins—these good ol’ boys were in no danger of gracing the cover of GQ any time soon.
“C’mon, Donny, you’re too slow,” one of the younger men whined. He gestured with a half empty bottle at another man who was obviously in charge of refilling the stump. A third man lounged in a webbed lawn chair close to the complainer. He loosely held some sort of chain, the purpose of which was not evident to me, while the fourth fellow, situated just behind him, fiddled with his rifle. The man addressed as Donny made no immediate reply, but the reason for that became obvious at a glance. His head was thrown back and he was busily swilling his own beer to a chorus of “Chug, chug, you slug” from the others.
Finishing the contents of the bottle, he swiped one hairy fist across his mouth before wiping it on his shirt, let out a satisfied but disgusting belch, and set the bottle onto the stump. Then he backed away, but only slightly.
“Donny, you trying to get shot?” The man with the chain guffawed. “You know Caleb don’t shoot so good when he’s got lady problems on his mind.” He slapped his thigh, as if he’d made the wittiest bon mot ever.
This remark obviously annoyed his friend Caleb, who was in the process of taking aim at the offending bottle with his rifle. He pivoted, his weapon now pointed at his chortling companion instead. “What’d I tell you ‘bout talkin’ ‘bout that, Frank?”
Frank immediately threw up his hands in self-defense and yowled, “Jeezus Christ, don’t shoot me, Caleb! I can’t help it if she…. ”
By this time, I was more than tired of this display of stupidity and tuned out the rest of whatever nonsense he was uttering. I decided I would just quietly skirt these fools and be on my way. They were obviously no menace to me, and would be none the wiser for my absence. In that moment, however, I belatedly realized the reason for the chain Frank had been holding when a reddish ball of fur came flying in my direction, dragging the self-same chain behind it.
“Rover, what the hell!” Frank yelled. “Get back here!” But the canine—which I had now ascertained the creature to be—never stopped, never slowed down…and headed straight toward me.
Let me make it perfectly clear from the outset that I am not a dog person. Not that I’m particularly a cat person either, but I have to give felines a somewhat grudging admiration for attaining their own ends with the least possible effort. Plus, for the most part, they have a tendency to leave their owners alone, unlike dogs, who constantly clamor for attention, love-starved little beasts that they are.
That being said, I wished no particular harm to the species, and in general found it expedient not to interact with them. I’ve found in my experience that most dogs give me a rather wide berth anyway, while cats are spectacularly indifferent to my presence.
This Rover, though, was a different matter entirely. He was a fluffy little thing, with a somewhat squashed face. His tail, which curved up and over his back, wagged furiously as he circled me, yapping. His bark was surprisingly deep for such a small animal. Then he drew closer, as if he were scenting me, and suddenly he tried to leap up on me, greeting me as if I were a long lost relative.
What brought that about? What did he smell on me that sent his brain the message that I was someone to be not only trusted, but welcomed with open arms? I’d never received such a reception before from any dog, and was at an utter loss to explain his reaction to me.
But I didn’t have long to ponder the matter, as the man who I assumed to be his owner raced up, gun in hand. “What are you doing? I didn’t tell you to look for any—” He stopped speaking abruptly at the sight of me and stood there for a moment, staring at me as if he couldn’t decide whether to be more alarmed or amused at my being there. Dumbfounded even.
In his defense, he probably didn’t often see men wearing suits outside of the courtroom.
to be continued
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