Little Souls (short story excerpt)

We stopped in town long enough to buy milk, chew beef-jerky and spit dark tobacco juice onto the dusty ground. Craig’s grandfather tilted his dirty baseball cap back on his head and spied the only other truck in town. John bought another Ford for chrissakes. Found on road dead. Let’s get the jesus outta here before the flies get us, he said.

In an area where towns are defined by the number of traffic lights they have, Bymore has none. The center of town, marked by a dirt crossroad, boasts little more than the motel with its boarded-up windows and lonely horse-hitches. Without the silo and feed store blocking your view, you might find the shack they call the general store. If you look any further, you’ll find flat, fence-post land as far as the eye can see.

We climbed into the old Chev with the road set before us like a landing strip. Craig’s grandfather steered with his knee and tore open a new pack of Redman. His teeth were small like a child’s, but chipped and stained. We crossed unmarked junctions with dust still settling from trucks we could see in the distance. There were no trees or landmarks, just a cross-stitch of dirt roads and fence-posts and occasionally, far off the road, the worn buildings of a farm. Most of what we could see was blue sky.

We passed a small herd of cows sheltering under a stand of trees near a water hole and pulled into the driveway that followed. The smell of manure was one that would make a city person roll up the window. Dogs greeted us by running in front of the truck. Craig’s grandfather leaned out the window. Get outta the way’r I’ll runya over.

We pulled up to a small house that looked like it had been transported from a city suburb. The vinyl siding was stained the colour of nicotine. The inside looked like it had never seen a woman. It was surprisingly clean, but devoid of anything that wasn’t useful. We dropped our bags in the back room, put some hay into the box of the truck and rolled slowly out onto the pasture. The truck bobbed over the uneven track as the cows began to gather and follow.

***
 

With bellies full of bloody steak, we sat on the open tailgate of the truck sipping warm beer. Craig held a .22 in his lap. The truck was at least twenty years old, but looked brand new, a mixture of dark brown and beige, scratched only on the rails of the box from years of loading feed. Flies buzzed around our heads, but didn’t land and the cows dotted the field behind us. Craig’s grandfather pointed suddenly. There’s one. See the little bastard?

Craig brought the rifle to his shoulder and aimed at a prairie dog standing at the mouth of its burrow. Without anything to provide echo, the report dissipated quickly into the snowglobe sky. A plume of dust rolled on the ground where he aimed. We all took another sip.

Little cunts cost me two head last year.
 

Craig’s grandfather threw his empty bottle into the box and opened another. John says I should poison the bastards. Poison don’t work. They’re spreadin fastern Mary down at the motel. One morning they’ll be biting my arse when I sit down to shit, jesus. It’s cause there’s no more foxes around anymore. That’s where poison gets ya.

We sat in silence as the sun set. It seemed to go down all around us, West was every way you looked. The sky was a trap lowered over us, pink and reddening slowly.

Well boys, I got a dirty job for ya tomorrow.
 

We nodded obligingly.

One a them boars died in the pens a few days ago, a big sow. I lefter in there because usually the other sonsabitches’ll eat it. She musta died a something awful because they won’t go near the pen. Anyhow, now she’s all blown up and stinking and we gotta getter outta there. So, first thing, you boys’ll dragger out, we’ll tie her up to the back a the truck and dragger out to the coyotes. Careful though, they’re hateful little pricks. Nasty. Can’t get nothing for pigs these days but those black bastards get good money from those new fancy restaurants in the city, y’know them gay ones.
 

We sat and listened to Craig’s Grandfather tell us how it wasn’t worth it anymore and that he’d sell the whole thing and live with his girlfriend at her apartment in Red Deer if only he could get a fair price. He stroked a sore knee and told us about the old amateur rodeo circuit until the brighter stars had babies in the sky. We folded the tailgate and rolled slowly back to the house as the empties clinked around in the back.

Get to bed boys. Better dream a pussy, you won’t be seein any for a while.
 

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