“Dad gum it all to heck and back!” Liam spat between gritted teeth, pulling hard to loosen the working end of harness buckle stretched taut and tight across equine Ethel’s chestnut nose. Now, she was a docile as the day was long, but even her squishy brown eyes showed an occasional white of frustration or discomfort or all fired panic around the perimeter.
“C’mon, you sucker!” Liam was using every curse word he knew, just shy of cussin’, which would not only send him to everlasting fire in the pits of Hell, but the hellfire he’d see from Pop and Mama scared the livin’ dickens out of him, too. Like as not, that fear laid him just as low as the fire and brimstone flannelgraphs Miss Martha McDougal flashed during the aged 10-12 Sunday School class, nearly every Sunday morning. Used to be a time, paper fire with orange and yellow flames licking the bottom of cartoons of screaming Biblical characters scared the daylights out of the boy. These days, though, during private artistic forays, he’d discovered he could draw better flames that that, better colors, too, that splash of red here and there helped. And somehow, knowing his flames of Hell trumped Miss McDougal’s gave him pause. It did not, however, dim his fear of the seering, everlasting pain and that eternal and forever separation from more santicified and less cussified friends and family, and the Almighty, hisself.
Done. He’d mind his language, but “Darn it all to Heck and Back!” He let loose with another slew of purtin’ near cussin, a’pullin’ and a’yankin’ for all he was worth. Liam, he jerked hard, putting his nearly 90 pounds next to horizontal, and durned if that buckle prong didn’t pop right out. And durned if ol’ Liam didn’t land flat back on his nether regions, feedlot dust and bugs a’billowin’.
“Dang!” he allowed himself. That felt right good. He leapt up, giving his dusty backside a couple slaps, releasing another dusty brown billow. Ethel looked pretty pleased her ownself, tossing her proud head back, flipping her mane in a girly manner. and Liam smiled. “Dang.”
Sheepishly, he looked back over his shoulder to be sure no one else, particularly Mama, was within hearing distance, then he patted ol’ Ethel. She’d not give him up. He gathered up the rest of the tack and leathers, slapped ol’ Ethel on the rump, and toted the raggedy bundle into the barn, a little whistle on his lips.
Mama, over to the clothes line back behind the gaping barn door, just beyond the line of sight of man and beast, tossed some wooden clothespins into the hanging bag, folding the last pair of child-sized overalls and laying them in the basket. She was feeling a whistle coming on, her ownself.