Last night, I thought, “I’ll never get a story out of these prompts. I’ll have to grab something else in the morning.” But I was wrong.
by Marian Allen
Jon stumbled on tree root. Anthony put out a hand to steady him, but Jon shrugged him off. After a morning’s unproductive squirrel shooting – or not shooting, rather – and the balance of the day’s trying to get back to the ATV, they were both sweaty and irritable.
Jon mopped his face, neck, and balding pate with an increasingly dirty handkerchief.
Anthony spoke each word with precision. “We. Ate. It. All. We didn’t know we’d be wandering around all afternoon, did we?” Jon’s stomach growled, and Anthony relented. “Oh, all right, yes, there’s one candy bar I was saving for an emergency.”
Taking this as the friendly approval it was meant to be, Anthony broke the bar in half, tore the wrapper, and offered the first choice of portions to Jon, just as Mother had taught him so many years ago.
The chocolate rush was melting on their tongues when a slight rustle in the woods froze them in the act of crunching their last peanuts.
“I’m over here.” Fingers snapped a staccato location signal. “Here. Over here, boys.”
Tall and scrawny as ever, blond hair still buzzed, Adam’s Apple still poking out of his collar, he showed his still-crooked teeth in a grin. It wasn’t shy and uncomfortable, as it had been in middle school and high school, though.
Anthony, always better at faces than his friend, said, “David? David … Hawthorne? Where in the world did you spring from?”
“Did you call me David? Not Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier?”
Anthony couldn’t help a snicker at that happy memory, but Jon elbowed him in the ribs and jerked his head in a warning No.
David hefted the shotgun in the crook of his arm. “Maybe I’m killin’ me a b’ar.”
Jon and Anthony’s shiny new squirrel rifles were unloaded, broken open; their useless weight had been chafing and dragging at the men all afternoon.
David said, “You’re on my land. I don’t recall inviting you. I recall inviting you to a birthday party once at the old place, back in middle school, and I recall you both saying you’d love to come, and I recall you not showing up, and I recall you laughing the next Monday and saying you couldn’t make it ’cause your buckboard broke down. But I don’t recall inviting you out to shoot today.”
Anthony said, “Good God, you aren’t still holding onto that, are you? We were kids! Kids can be cruel.”
“It was very wrong of us,” said Jon. “We were just talking about you the other day, saying how appallingly we’d behaved.”
Anthony swiveled his head to raise his eyebrows at his friend. They had been enjoying one of their frequent walks down Memory Lane, roaring with laughter at “Davey”’s red face and blinking eyes.
David said, “Aw, isn’t that nice? So did you come to say you’re sorry, or are you lost?”
“We’re lost,” said Jon. “We can’t even get a signal on our cell phones. I have a compass app, but it’s useless out here.”
“David dug in his pocket and pulled out a silver disk. “A compass isn’t. We frontiersmen – you know, we who were born on mountaintops in Tennessee – use these. Primitive, but effective. This part of the woods is a dead zone.”
Anthony’s gaze was drawn to the worn but well-kept rifle pointing to the ground, but locked and probably loaded. Primitive, but effective.
David said, “So you two came out hunting and you got lost. You got caught trespassing.”
“We didn’t mean to!” Jon blinked, eyes stung by the sweat pouring off his gleaming scalp, afraid to reach for his grubby handkerchief.
“I understand. Just an unfortunate accident.”
Anthony felt his half a candy bar clawing its way back up in an attempt to save itself.
“Ah,” said David, “some day you’ll back at this and laugh.” He tossed the compass at them. It landed between Anthony’s feet. “And so will I. The road is north from here. Keep the compass. Don’t let the trees hit you on the butt on your way out.”
David was wrong. Oh, the road was north from where they were, and they found it easily, with the help of the compass. But they didn’t look back at the day and laugh. They never mentioned it again.
David looked back at it, though. And he laughed. All over the internet.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: Deep Woods Off, White Trash, Snickers candy bar