Frost Flowers, 3200 words, story from a collection, secrets of a small town
this is a new story I just added to this collection, of short stories under the collective title of secrets of a small town
I'm sorry it 3200 words but I decided to post in one post if it is a problem I will repost in two post, hopefully I'm not so far over the word count that it's a problem.
I use a lot of names, colloquialisms, and proper names for thing in this story you may not be familiar with, if you would be so kind, is it to much.
Sometimes winter comes quickly. An arctic blast interrupts a seventy-five degree day and plunges the temperature into the twenties in just a few hours. It usually leaves people scrambling to make sure they are prepared for the coming time of ill weather.
Some, like myself, have already prepared. I knew this was coming several days ago when I saw a murder of crows, must have been a thousand of ‘em, headed south to warmer weather. Crows in that number mean a quick onset of winter and crows, being a stubborn bird, don’t leave until winter is nipping at their tails.
I wasn’t that short on feed but who can say how long this spell of bad weather is going to last. I had to get down to Hayward’s Co-op early or I might not get my order. I know Hayward well enough to know he is going to jack up the price on his feed because of the demand. He’ll disguise it as being a good Christian; I can hear him now in that broken preacher tone, “Now you folks know, I had to pay extra, yes extra, to get a special load in here, now I did this all on my own, just to help you folks, but I’d like to get my money back --- so the feed is going to be just a tad higher than usual.”
Most of them’ll know he’s lying but an extra hundred dollars a ton isn’t that big a deal when the loss of one cow can cost you five or six hundred. I have a prepaid ten ton order coming in on the nine o’clock truck. I plan to be there waiting for the truck, I intend to get my feed.
I got my old feed truck starter after priming the carburetors a time or two and drove down to the Co-op. The co-op doesn’t have a large parking lot anyway and most of the time it’s near empty but today, as I suspected, it’s crowded. I parked on the side of the road and waited for a slot.
I noticed Jess Miller and one of his boys were across the street, in the Baptist church parking lot with a load of square bales. He got a lot of hay this year and sold off more of his herd than I would have; he must have extra hay. I guess he’s trying to turn it into a cash crop at eight dollars a bale, it should be five.
One of his boys, he has two, Clinton and Virgil; I can’t tell ‘em apart they have longer hair, red checked shirts and, wear full beards like most folks around here, is splitting firewood. The sign reads for sale at seventy five dollars a rick, it should be forty-five.
The rack of the pipes on the truck coming down the street took my mind. It was a four by pulling an overloaded gooseneck. I recognized the truck, it was the other Miller boy with a load of logs, I guess they are going to cut and split them right in the parking lot.
In spite of the high price they seemed to be doing a brisk business.
Hayward tapped on my window and I rolled it down. He started right up with his con. “Mr. Johnson I sure would appreciate it if you could only take half your order, I have people in great need of feed…”
I stopped him right there. “If my neighbors need any more feed that they got then they know they can count on me. I have a prepaid order and I want it all.”
He stepped back from my truck door and nodded, “Yes sir, but Abe, won’t you think about it just this once. I can have the other half of the order in three days.”
Hayward is one of those people that are real easy to identify. He is a weasel and with oiled down dark hair and the way he dresses his thin tall body in an undersized black suit; he even looks like a weasel. I told him I wanted my load.
He nodded and told me to back into the dock and he’d load me out first when the truck arrived. I was about to back up to the loading dock when my cousin, Frank Johnson, forced his way into the dock in a one ton. He almost hit my trailer as I was backing up and it sort of pissed me off. I expected a mess here today but it’s still getting on my nerves.
I shut the truck off where it sat and went inside to see why Frank was being such an ass; he’s usually a pretty nice guy.
I said ‘hi’ to Frank meaning to make an issue of him nearly hitting my trailer. But he told me he was sorry before I could get on him about the near miss. He explained that he was in a hurry, his wife was about to give birth and he had to have chicken feed. Well, the steam just went right out of me and I asked if there was a problem.
He sort of smiled, “Not as I see it but, Amy, well you know how superstitious she is and there was a bird in the house this morning.”
I’m not superstitious either but I know the superstition – a bird in the house is the sign of a death in the family to follow soon.
Hayward was tallying up whatever Frank had ordered. He told Frank. “That’ll be Fifty dollars, Frank.”
Frank just looked at him for a few seconds, “It should be forty two, Hayward.”
“I’m sorry Frank but they charged me extra for a special delivery and I have to pass the cost on to my customers.”
Frank was getting mad and I couldn’t really blame him. But he was in a hurry, he looked at me and we both knew I couldn’t help him. “This time Hayward but someday… put it on my tab, fifty damn dollars for two hundred pounds of chops! You ought to be ashamed.”
Hayward sort of backed away from the counter, “Sorry can’t do it Frank,” he sort of grimaced, “too many folks here with cash today.”
Frank again looked at me and this time I could help. “Take it out of my load, forty-two dollars when you get paid. Ok, Frank?”
He nodded, “Sure thing Abe, I’ll pay you before I pay this bastard.”
Well, like I said Hayward is a weasel. He nodded. “If that’s what you want, as soon as the truck gets here.”
Well Frank went a little nuts, he wanted to get back to his wife. “I have to get back Abe, Amy is not doing good. She might need the midwife real soon.”
I knew before I even asked but I asked anyway. “Hayward, load it out of your stock and I’ll replace it when mine gets here.”
He smiled just like the weasel he is, “Well that sounds like a favor, and I just might be willing to do that if I was to get a favor in return.”
“What did you have in mind, Hayward?”
He smiled. “Well say you only picked up half your load, I could load the chops out of my stock and put it on Frank’s tab.”
I laughed and while I looked directly at Hayward, “You go ahead Frank; I’ll drop off the chops on my way home.”
It was clear that Frank didn’t like the deal, “It’s ten miles out of your way; I’ll toss in some money for your diesel on payday.”
I nodded. “Fair enough, now you get on back to Amy.”
He insisted on shaking hands and then was on his way. I backed my trailer into the slot on the loading dock.
The truck arrived on time and I was loaded out pretty quickly eight tons of twenty percent creep and two tons of odds: whole corn, sweet feed, laying pellets and, chops. I made sure the chops were on top so they would be easy to unload at Frank’s.
I went back into the store and asked for twenty foot of three quarter inch rope, Hayward said he would cut me a piece and was off.
Hank asked if Hayward’s boy, Leo, hadn’t stacked my load right and I needed to tie it down. “I got some rope in my truck if ya need it.”
I just told him “No, the rope is for something else.”
Hayward was back pretty quick and laid the rope on the counter.
I picked up the rope and I said, “I’d like the same order of feed on the next truck if the price is the same as I paid for this one.” I knew it should be; feed prices are usually pretty stable this time of year.
He did his usual thing and made out the paperwork, “I can’t say for sure they’ll be the same price. It tends to change a little but it will be close to the same, remember four years ago it actually went down.” He looked up from his paperwork and said, “Is this a prepaid order?”
I asked how much and he sort of smiled, “Well I have to base it on today’s price.”
I looked over at the men in the store and said, “Do you think twenty feet of rope is enough to go over that lowest limb on the oak down by the strip pit.”
Hank snickered, “You mean that old oak they call the hanging tree.”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
Hayward was backing up a little. Hank said, “Yeah. I think that’ll be enough.”
I tossed the rope with the hangman’s knot in it on the counter.
Hayward said rather quickly, “Now Abe, I’m just trying to make a livin’ here.”
I smiled, “A livin’ is one thing and a killin’ is another - don’t you think?”
“Now, now I think you’ve made your point, but,” he was trying to do the best he could to feather his nest, “How about I just charge a dollar a bag more than normal, I mean god Abe, cut me some slack.”
“And what about the way you embarrassed Frank, held him for ransom with him so worried about his wife and baby?”
He thought for a minute. “I’ll give him a ten dollar discount as a gift for the baby.”
It was sort of what I had in mind, “Let’s make it twenty.”
“TWENTY, god Abe I have to make a living, fifteen.”
I laughed and he sort of tried to smile. “I know it’s not your policy to take back rope after its cut but if I wanted to return this would you take it back?”
He nodded and said hopefully “I would Abe.”
“I think twenty dolls is a better idea for Frank’s baby gift.”
He looked a little sad, “I think twenty dollars is a better idea too.”
I arrived at Frank’s just before the Midwife. He told me she was on her way and he was going to stay with his wife, Amy. I put the four bags of chops where he told me to in the barn.
Hazel Short, the midwife arrived just as I was ready to leave.
“Howdy Abe, how’s Teresa.”
“She’s doing just fine.”
She reached over and touched my coat sleeve. “I wish Amy was; it’ll be a miracle if this baby is born alive.”
“It’s a month early and I haven’t heard a heart beat in two weeks.”
“Does she need to be in a hospital?”
“A-yah but she won’t go, says they don’t have the money. And I can’t force her until I know for sure something is wrong.”
Amy screamed about that time and Frank was out on the porch yelling, “Hurry the baby is coming.”
Hazel hurried her pudgy body to the porch. “I’ll call Teresa later, bye Abe.”
I started home and on the side of the road was a dilapidated old flivver of a car with a flat tire. There was a couple inside and I stopped.
I pulled the forty-five colt out of the glove box and checked to see if it was loaded before I stuck it in my coat pocket. I couldn’t just pass these people by with the weather changing but I’m not stupid either. As I got out of the truck, I realized it was getting colder just like the signs and the local weather station had said it would. While you can tell if something is coming by the birds you can’t tell how bad it’s going to get. The news says seventeen degrees tonight. The coat felt good.
“Do you folks need some help?”
The boy answered, “ah, yeah, ah, we have a flat and…” he just stopped talking.
“Do you have a spare?”
“Ah, no, we sold it for some weed.”
It was at this point that I realized he was stoned out of his mind. The girl poked him in the ribs. “What did I tell you about that?”
He just looked at her all glass eyed and slurred out, “About what?”
I wanted to head on down the road but the baby cried and hell what do I do now???
“Do you have a jack?”
“No, I think – yeah, we sold that too.”
“I’ll have to go get a jack. Why don’t you ride along? It’ll be warmer.”
In the cab of my truck on the way home a strange thought went through my head. Why was this scum of humanity blessed with a baby that they have no idea what to do with and Frank’s wife was going to lose her baby that she wanted so bad. It sucked and there was nothing I could do about it.
I pulled the truck and trailer into the barn’s dog run. Then I escorted my guest to the house. The baby was crying and mom was stoned and just about to fall down so I took the baby.
She, the baby had a lot of white hair and she was just screaming her red face just looked so weird framed by that white hair.
When we got to the house the girl decided to breast feed her and hell I wasn’t going to allow that, whatever she was taking was surely in her breast milk.
I took the baby and handed her to my wife, “Why don’t you find her some that fresh cow’s milk.” The girl tried to stand but couldn’t. She slurred out as she plopped back in the chair, “No, that’s ok I’ll…” She seemed to lose her chain of thought.
I took the boy back down to his car in my pickup. He sacked out in the truck and I was happy he wasn’t in the way. I got the tire off and down to the station to get the flat fixed.
The tire was shot and Keith told me. “I have a nasty old tire that might hold air for while if you want it. But that’s all I got in that size.”
“See what you can do.”
Twenty minutes later we were on our way back to the car with a tire that hopefully will get them far away from me. I wanted them gone. As I put the tire back on the car all I could think about was that baby. What kind of life is she going to have with these losers?
I got the tire on the car and left it set as we went back to the house, the boy was still asleep when we got there and I really didn’t want to wake him. But…
“Let’s go kid.”
“Get your girlfriend or whatever and let’s get you back to the car.”
“Oh, ok, did you get, we had a flat right.”
“Yeah, I got it.”
The girl was sacked out on the sofa and my wife met me at the door with the baby. “We ARE NOT letting them leave this house with this baby.”
I made a phone call to Hazel.
“Hello.” She sounded very sad.
“Did the baby make it?”
“No, it’s been dead a while.”
“How’s Amy and Frank taking it?”
“I haven’t told her, hunny. I can’t.” She thinks it’s just asleep.”
“Keep up the ruse, I’ll be there soon and we’ll do what we can to comfort them.”
I hung up the phone and thought for a minute. I called Larry
“Larry this is Abe, and I want to call that debt you owe me.”
“What do you want before I answer?”
“I just want to report a couple of druggies out here on 321, about a mile from the Co-op. I want them in the system, never to return.”
“That’s just my job Abe so why would you want to call my debt.”
“They have a baby it’s s few days old according to my wife and Amy, just lost her’s so…”
“My sister Amy?”
“Yeah, Hazel is out there and we both know the prospects of a baby in the hands of these druggies.”
“Just tell me what you want Abe…”
“Just arrest them and they didn’t have a baby with them.”
“Give me a half hour to get a tire back on their car.”
“Don’t leave until you see me.”
I had to wake the girl and the boy to get them in the truck. Neither of them asked about the baby.
I got the tire on the car just as Larry stopped on top of the hill he flashed his lights and I drove away. He drove down after I left with lights flashing.
I went home and picked up the baby. My wife went with me to hold the child.
We arrived at Franks soon after and took the baby inside.
I asked, “Where's Frank?”
Hazel looked at us, “He’s still out walking. What have you got there?” She walked over to my wife and lifted the blanket. “ABE, what's going on?”
“She was born while Frank was out walking. Amy had twins and only one of them died.”
She turned her back to me and my wife. “Where did you get the baby?”
My wife Teresa said “She was in a very unsafe place and this one is much, much better.”
Hazel asked very loudly as she turned to us, “Do you know what you are asking me to do?”
Teresa smiled, “Save a life, maybe more than one, how is Amy doing?”
The baby cried about that time and Amy woke almost instantly. “Where is my baby?”
Hazel took a deep breath and said softly, “Damn you to hell, Abe Johnson.”
She took the baby to Amy. “It was twins Amy but the boy didn’t make it, I’m so sorry.”
Amy asked, is it a she, yes, was the answer, “Is she hungry?”
Hazel smiled, “I imagine so.”
Amy was nursing the baby girl when Frank came inside. He was surprised to see the living child. He looked at me, at us and went to see his new daughter.
That night the freeze came and the ground was warm. The tall weeds froze and they continued to nurse from the earth. The flow broke small cracks in the stem of the weeds and the water began to flow and freeze into the most beautiful frost flowers.
Six years later,
The most beautiful little girl runs from the school bus, her long white hair flowing in the wind. She almost jumps for me, as I grab her and pick her up.
“Cousin Abe guess what, they wouldn’t believe my name was Frost Flower in school today. But Ms. Hazel told them it was.”
I just smiled, I wonder where she would be if it wasn’t for small town justice and small town secrets.
if you're writing over your readers head - tum etiam, ut graece scribens --- the secret of success changes;the truth of failure remains constant; if you try to please everyone you will fail.
Last edited by max crash; 01-04-2015 at 02:40 PM..