Monday, July 9, 2012

Magpie Tales: Sevens, Elevens & Snake-eyes

Chilmark Hay by Thomas Benton (via Magpie Tales)

It's a crap shoot, yard sale-ing on Saturday mornings with my boys. Sometimes snake-eyes, others sevens and elevens. Passing quarters for treasures until the coffee chills or we run out of change.

The barn sits down a short dirt, gravel and grass driveway off a t-bone of two back roads where counties meet. A white house sits to the front of it, tin roof, spindle rail porch. A dog asleep at the end of a ragged rope. Chimney smoke. Fields as far as the eye can see, which ends at the wall of mountains in the distance.

We park in the grass near a ramp that leads up to the door of the barn. There are no other cars. Three people congregate at a table, jawing with one another, not bothering to break as we slip beyond them. The interior of the barn is lined with tables, tables piled high with anything you can conceive.

Glass vases, tool of wood and metal-hammers, sickle, hand drills, unidentifiable instruments. Trinkets-one of those drinking birds, As seen on TV specials. Books, cloth dolls with worn staring eyes & stretched seams. Relics of lost civilizations, animal pelts. Hooks. Clothes hang on a pipe. Dust.

We maze through seeking ball cards and Star Wars. We limit our scope to that or my boys would bring home most anything unusual. No luck today, other than a VCR game, but our broke last year, so we pass. Animals lived here once, you can smell them in the damp air. The people are gone when we get to the door, the sun bright, barb wire rusty.

A man sits on a crate by the fence post, unnoticed before, gesturing for us to come over. At his feet is a cardboard box, seed stamped on the side, sounds of movement-scratching on the side. His face is pitted, big jowled, small eyes behind tight rimmed glasses. His hair is oil slicked over. He hasn't shaved since Tuesday.

"K'er. Lookit wat i gots, boys. Ere rabbit,"

The third finger on his right hand ends at the first knuckle in a fingernail that wraps over the stump, which he drags along the face of the box. Khrihpt, Khrihpt, Khrihpt. A white tongue damps his lips then from a pocket in his overalls he produces a red handkerchief and wipes them.

In the bottom of the box is a rabbit, small, one hand. Its back leg kicks out to the side, broken and flopping as it throws itself into the side of the box, skittering into a corner. A strong heartbeat pushes through its fur.

"'it em wit da lawnmooer. 'urt, em needs help. Yulnt em?"

My boys stand staring at the animal, mouths hanging open, silent. The grass still alive under their feet and growing. The rabbit flails from one corner to the next, wild eyes searching.

"No, my cat would just eat him. I think we will pass."

"If dey ketch me wit him, i go to jail. Gots ta git rid o'em."

The leg flops. The rabbit skitters. The fingernail drags the box. Khrihpt. He licks his lips. Pats his head with the handkerchief. Grass rustles. Heartbeat. Twitch. Khrihpt.

"Come on boys," I herd my sons to the car and we back out the drive to the road.

The man waves and I gun the engine, until it whines.

"Dad, would they really jail him for having a rabbit?"

I think of reasons they might, and come up with nothing good.

The road turns a hill. The fields are polka dotted with round bails of hay. Twos and twelves. Snake-eyes. Barb wire stretches fence posts. A speed limit sign with too low a number. Vultures dance an updraft.

"I dunno."

written for Magpie Tales.

74 comments:

the walking man said...

They don't jail a stranger from telling kids lies to get them to beg their daddy to help the rabbit either.

Pauline said...

If anyone looked up the definition of fanulous in the dictionary, they'd find your name.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Oh boy, poor rabbit.

Margaret said...

Wow. Now there's a sales pitch! (and I think you described a real place up there in those Virginia hills I love so much!)

Heaven said...

Like the details of the dusty barn and the man selling the rabbit. You made the rabbit even look interesting as your boys looked at them. The fields are polka dotted with more than hay ~

Have a lovely day ~

Berowne said...

A fine tale you came up with in response to the prompt - thanks.

Daydreamertoo said...

Oh, how vivd this is. I could almost smell the old smells in that barn. How sad for the rabbit. But, I also think the old guy was lying too. Maybe he wanted someone to take it to a vet so he didn't have to pay anything to do it? Anyway, he shouldn't have showed that to your boys in the state it was in. He kind of put a damper on the day with your boys, didn't he.

Gail said...

Wow! Wonderfully detailed description, I almost sneezed in the barn.

I like the way your darkness crept in, I was waiting and BOOM, there it was.

Fantastic job!

Wild animals can not be kept without a permit in our state.

Laurie Kolp said...

Beautifully written, as always... with such detail, so vivid... and mysterious.

This story begs for more!

Mary said...

This was a gut-wrenching tale, Brian. I feel awful when I hear stories of the suffering of animals, and this rabbit was really in pain. A vivid write.

Lyn said...

Dare I say..this is the best..has a feeling of "Night Of The Hunter" about it..I certainly would cast Robert Mitchum as the keeper..and give this one an award!

kaykuala said...

How very descriptive, Brian! You led us by the hand to visit the village. Very interesting!

Hank

Daniel said...

This sounds like the start of a horror movie. Glad you made it out with your life.

izzy said...

Time for the stew pot- shame for the kids to run into that pain. Yup it is a roll of the dice what you find...thanks.

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

Thanks for taking me to your saturdays with your boys...
Cool dad you are!..

JJRod'z

DJan said...

It all came alive for me, you wrote it so well. I hope it wasn't real, just for the sake of the rabbit. But I'm a softie like that...

CiCi said...

Life's a gamble, but we are all winners if we choose to be. You have a mighty important job teaching your boys how to decide how to view things they encounter in real life. The injured rabbit would have been a problem with my kids, yet when I was a kid we would have made a meal of him with meat in shortage.

JANU said...

In spite of our best intentions, we can't do everything. Poor rabbit.

Mama Zen said...

This totally gave me the creeps!

Pat Hatt said...

Sometimes you find stuff
Sometimes leave them in a fume of puff
Poor rabbit though
And I laughed as you though on it as you had to go
For my mind went to the gutter
And maybe he did things that relieved his twang/stutter hahaha

Valerie said...

I was enjoying the 'outing' until I saw the rabbit. So sad.

The Empress said...

Love your stories.

Memories, you can feel them being permanently etched and retold, in their own way, by the next generation.

The thought gives me chills.

Susan said...

Are you sure you are not from upstate NY along the Hudson where Junk-barn antiques reign and the mountains are the backdrops after orchards and corn? I see and smell this place, and cannot believe your characters left it as framed, untouched, not even letting the rabbit back into nature to die like a rabbit instead of road kill. This poem raised an ache from my stomach to my throat where it became one of those hard truths that I know again and again but is rarely immortalized in painting or poetry. IE: a brilliant write.

DCW said...

My daughter's (she turned 40 two days ago) first encounter with death was our trying to save a rabbit from a similar situation. 34 years later she has never eaten rabbit and still keeps a pet chinchilla. Memories linger.

BLOGitse said...

You're still going strong, I'm happy for you.
Thanks for your visit - I'm fine but don't have that much time to blog as I did when abroad...
Have a good, creative week!

Eva Gallant said...

Once again, you paint some wonderful pictures with your words.

Dana Dampier said...

What seemed like a great day with your boys turned sour when they saw that rabbit. I feel bad for the boys and rabbit. I can't imagine what was going through their little minds.Well... I've got three boys, so maybe I can.

Your writing is so descriptive, it's as if we are their experiencing it with you.

Claudia said...

ugh... what a situation... hate people who play on the compassion of others... can feel the anger.. would've been angry too..

Ginny Brannan said...

Brian, I so love your stories, your choice of words always plunks me right into the middle of the moment--the rusty wire, the ancient smells of animals the barn once housed, the drawn out country speech of a grizzly old farmer. I too, used to take my son "Tag Sale-ing" when he was small, mostly limited to our local neighborhood though. Know what you mean about bringing home 'most anything unusual!!" Lol! Great stuff here, as always!

Sue said...

Ugh. A rabbit punch to the stomach.

Well done. Brian.

=)

Leovi said...

Wonderful for a moment I have traveled the world from my childhood. I had little rabbits of field and luckily I was thrown into jail.

Anne said...

As soon as I started reading this I was reminded of Steinbeck. And when I got to the end I was reminded of him even more so. Like him you have a way of capturing the American experience in a fine literary tradition. And as I was writing this, it came to me that is what you always do. Yes, I think your work would sit nicely upon a shelf next to his.

Dick Jones said...

The strong sense of place contains this powerful narrative so well. Great stuff, Brian!

flaubert said...

Did this really happen, Brian? You told this so vividly. I was right there, but my heart ached for the poor rabbit.

Pamela

Hilary said...

I felt so much in the story, I glanced around for the book table as I usually do at yard sales. The rabbit tale is a heart-wrencher. I'm hoping fictional.

Brian Miller said...

def real....about 3 weeks ago and i jotted a poem in my notebook originally but felt it played better as prose....i love meeting characters like this...kinda creepy with my kids there but i knew after escaping he would make it in to a story of some sort...

Tina said...

What Gail said. I could feel that something sinister was coming (I have read some of your stuff, you know...) and you put in just the right amount of creepy. I know a kid who tortures his dog, dragging him by the eyes that he's dug his fingers into, dog whimpering, mother pretending I haven't shared my great concern about the situation...
On a brighter note, there's nothing quite as thrilling as a garage sale treasure hunt. I think having the limits set for your boys beforehand is brilliant. I haven't been in years, but for three or for years it was every Saturday with Best. Lots of good stuff to be found. Lots of total crap to wade through...
Tina @ Life is Good

Tara Miller said...

I'm kinda glad I skipped this yard sale with you boys. Just reading this gave me the creeps! Yikes.

Chris Okelberry said...

Great story...I really enjoyed this. That old man is a great character.

Annmarie Pipa said...

my boys watch animal planet or something like that and see what those animals do to each other.

hedgewitch said...

Gah. Hard one, bri. Jail time for a rabbit sounds a bit extreme, but I suppose its possible in this nation at this time in our country's slide into oblivion.

Helen said...

Delightful Tale Brian, I hadn't heard the term 'jawing' for years ... broke into a smile reading it!!

manicddaily said...

Ooh Brian, well, if horribly, described. I especially liked (well, liked isn't the word) the smells in the damp barn, smells of animals, and of course, the rabbit flailing around the box, and even your boys' faces were very vivid.

Crazy story. Very real. Oh life. k.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Ugh. Why wouldn't he put the poor little thing out of its misery?

Pearl said...

Vivid and disturbing.

:-)

Well done.

Pearl

Gloria said...

Ugh Brian at the begin I wss quiet and attention how a kid listen a tale lol but...with the bunny beat me.make sad but I feel is so real!

rosaria williams said...

This is strong stuff. Too many snakes in the grass waiting to bite you if you don't watch out!

G-Man said...

Enough about 7's and 11's...
The magic number is 55!!
AND Friday the 13th....G

Margaret said...

DO YOU HAVE YOUR POWER ON YET???? !

Don E. Chute said...

Very Nice!

PLU from SSF

Irish Gumbo said...

I've been away for a while. Nice to have this to come back to, a fine, fine story.

adan said...

well this is the first prose i've read from you brian and i think impressed is just way too tame ;-)

a brilliantly set story, the details and narrative just hurled me right into your kids innocent delineated lives then into that poor rabbit's life then back at the whole thing through their eyes then through your eyes, wow

this is the kind of chapter that makes me want to know more about the characters, how this affects them, how they'll continue to interact

if this isn't part of a larger story, yet, i say let it simmer, and keep adding little episodes to it, and i bet, a story outline will grow a hair right out of it and lead you down a novel

brilliant brian, well done

drybottomgirl said...

For some reason I have chills after reading this. Probably because I was so engrossed I forgot I was in the safety of my own home1 Excellent write!

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

It's a crap shoot, yard sale-ing on Saturday mornings with my boys. Sometimes snake-eyes, others sevens and elevens...

[Note:This is so true if you venture to any yard, garage, church, etc,etc,etc, sale...]

Hi! Brian...
How many times do I have to say this to you...Once again, what a very descriptive poem...great writing,[You most definitely, know how to capture your readers, attention and interests too!]

Tks, for sharing the image [Chilmark Hay by Thomas Benton (via Magpie Tales) too!
deedee :-D

Barbara Shallue said...

Oh, you take me up and down, all the time. Love a good garage sale and a barn and junk treasures.. then you showed me the box with the poor rabbit. I don't blame you for not taking it, but oh, poor rabbit.

Karen S. said...

This was really quite fun! I felt like I was right along with you all, great descriptions, and love the idea of limiting what you came for...when it works it's great! Now if this is a real true story, and that happened to me, I would have done the same thing too....strange that he offered such an odd reason (although he probably figured you were all too good to let him go to jail!) Ha! ha! Kind of silly but who knows he might really believe it too!

Kaylen said...

You are such a great story teller! I felt the mood perfectly...though I didnt' like that man!!! :)

Ravenblack said...

Wouldn't buy a rabbit from such a creepy man, who knows what that rabbit could be carrying...

Awesome write, such good details -- the little actions, the sounds he makes with his nail against the crate, the feeling like all of you just want to get out of there. Awesome.

She Writes Here Now said...

This sounds like a bad dream, a very bad dream.

Kay said...

love the images you made in my imagination..i could see it i could smell it..fantastic piece...poor rabbit though!!

Fred Rutherford said...

I'm torn with running into oddballs. Part of me wants absolutely nothing to do with them, the other part wants to silently, and off to the distance, observe them and see how nutty they are. But if I had my nieces with me I''d have scooted on out of there pretty fast myself.

That said, there definitely seems like way more to this mysterious stranger, but yeah, as you implied, probably nothing of merit though, could've got bad, if that rabbit wasn't traumatic enough. Like the choice of dice imagery throughout. Great read. Thanks

ethelmaepotter! said...

In my absence, I'd almost forgotten your brilliant imagery, that gift that takes me there, lands me smack dab in the center of the dampness and clutter of the old barn. I was hunting for those Star Wars anythings right along with you, but totally unprepared for a frightened wounded bunny in a seed box. "Vultures dance an updraft." I could hear the silky voice of Rod Serling after that line: "Brian Miller and his boys have just escaped...the Twilight Zone."

Little Nell said...

Wonderfully descriptive story, and hugely enjoyable.

Myrna R. said...

Haven't been garage sailing in so many years. I like the scene you paint. The characters are interesting - strange man, poor rabbit.
I wondered what I would do. I wouldn't believe the man of course, but I'd wind up taking the rabbit.

turtlememoir said...

a beautiful carefree morning, a beautiful world, & suddenly there's that poor rabbit, breaking my heart - & i remember the "barb wire rusty" sun... you are such a writer, brian - i read you & remind myself to slow down, look for the detail

Tess Kincaid said...

It's yard sale season...I love it...enjoyable write Brian...

Doctor FTSE said...

Great writing, Brian. You know precisely how not to say too much.

Jules said...

I went looking for a wordle to return a visit... and I came upon this piece. Since I collect dice and I occasionally go to local garage sales this caught my eyes. (Well I gots to read with both of 'em!)

Only reason I think the old guy could be jailed is for poaching, or endangerment of wild life. But then who needs a bunny with a busted leg - unlucky, at least for the bunny.

I know a few folks around my area...even in the suburbs that raise rabbits for food. I'm too much of a city gal to kill my own food.

A nice bit of story telling. Be well and thanks again for stopping by my 'gems'...mostly 'stuff'.

Tumblewords: said...

Incredibly fine!

Sheila said...

That is the freakiest story. I kept waiting for an Of Mice and Men reference.

Jamie Dedes said...

What some folks will do to make a sale.

A nice description of an outing with the children.

Altogether lovely spin.

Bee's Blog said...

Lovely story - a carefree day out, bargain hunting - an eye for the unusual and suddenly marred by a poor rabbit with a broken bone and a father unable to answer the child's question. True to life - very good.

Lydia said...

"A strong heartbeat pushes through its fur." This whole write was a strong heartbeat. Horrified me, but I loved it and think it is truly remarkable for the painting prompt.

Syd said...

This hurts my heart. The poor rabbit.