Loaded Fer Bear, Ain’t We All?!

What Mama’d say, was she alongside,  and thank the Good Lord in Hallowed Heaven she ain’t, is when you got something in your headlights not particular to your likin’, why, just look at it like a journey ‘cross a bridge.  A journey cross a bridge.  Ain’t no rights, no lefts, no maybes, no turnin’ ’round, just a journey ‘cross a bridge.

Well, what me’n Marie-France had lying up there in front of us somewhere’s, you can be dang sure it wasn’t to my likin’.  Though, truth be told, my neck was prickly and i was breathin’ with my mouth open, like some dang fool.

But on up there, beyond that line o’ ashes and maples, Marie-France had hid herself a prisoner.  Tol’ me she’d right tied his leg to the biggest ol’ tree she could find.  Tol’ me he nigh on busted a gut a’laughin’ but let her go on and do it.

Feller ain’t never tangled with one o’ Marie-Frances’ double loop, triple switch nooses.  Especially one where, once it’s tight,  she squeezes her face into a prune, then nails that knot,  spittn’ with all the vim and vigor and verve she’s got.

She’s got a lot.

I hid myself my own faint grin.  Could o’ tol’ him he wudn’t goin’ nowhere.

Marie-France, pluggin’ persistant along to my left, why,  she never could leave a thing alone.  Wudn’t no give up in her.  Stomping high through the tall grass, never mind the sticktights a’stickin’ tight to her saggy socks, she had her that “gotta get me to the other side” look.  She never once didn’t see a thing through.  Couldn’t spell “sassafrass?”  Practiced it at the breakfast table, at the lunch table, at the dinner table, and in her prayers.  Can’t tame that wild buck her big brother Macon brung home as rodeo winnin’s?  Rode and fell and rode and fell and rode and fell till her arms and legs and side of her head was plum black and blue and scratched and maimed.  Horse finally felt sorry for her,  or else had enough, I reckon.  He give it up after ’bout a week.  She still rides him to this day to school come springtime.  And he waits, untethered, till she appears to let him take her back home. 

But now, this situation we got here, don’t this beat all?

“I kept him here three days, Luce!  I been bringin’ him supper from the dinner scraps.  You know Malene, she eats like a burned bird, and Paul and Prescott, I traded them marble money to snitch me seconds under the table.”

Then, lookin’ aside, a touch reddened, “Left him a bucket and an old Sears Roebuck so’s he could do his business. too.”

Well, now, I couldn’t hardly hold it in, not one minute more.  My guffaw burst out my gullet like a horn!

“You takin’ care of his personal issues, there, Marie-France?  Well, ain’t you just the best hostess this side the Mississippi!”

I’ll allow I deserved the quick kick in the shins she give me, but banter did lighten the load, just a middlin’ mite.

And now, here we are, just to the edge of the sunny meadow.  We stop up short, lookin’ unseein’ at the deep green shadows what borders our next step.  Me and Marie-France, we’re gatherin’ ourselves before we focus and peer in to see. 

For one more step, we come to the end of the bridge.

Yep, Loaded Fer Bear!

 

 

“Well, Hell, Luce,I didn’t mean to!”  Marie-France with her short little Michelwait legs couldn’t no way in keep pace with me, her a’hop, skip, and a’jumpin’ just to stay close.  We was moving quick like, through the long stickly grasses of the meadow other side the bridge.  “It’s not like I set out to catch me my own German Nazi son of a gun!  But now I got him, what in tarnation do I DO with ‘im?

My head was fair buzzin’.  Had me a sudden vision from one o’ them film strips what come to the County Library some time back. Feller named Picasso painted all sorts o’ nonsense, points and people and sick horses, all drippin’ with colors and confusin’ the daylights outta me.  That’s how my mind was lookin’ right now.  Like them paintin’s, maybe I was jest lookin’ at ’em from the wrongways angle, but I couldn’t figure neither out with ease.

So, like ever’thing else in my way, ‘stead of studyin’ the proper way around, I jest pointed my head forwards and headed right on through.

Which blessed me with yet one more headache,  more often than not.

“Oh, quit ‘cher whinin’, Marie-France, ” I tossed back her way, “What’s done is done did.  What we got to do is sort out just what to do now.”  

We was gainin’ on the treeline just ahead, and where cousin Marie-France had herself a lean-to hidey hole for readin’ and makin’ daisy chains and what have you.  ‘Tol me that’s just where she’d stashed her Nazi man.

“He’s next to near a boy his ownself!” she’d claimed more’n once, but who could ever tell.  I’d brung along Grandpap’s buggy rifle just in case.  Had it stuck in my boot and half way up my dress jest to get past Mama.  Gave me more’n a little hitch in my get-along but I still had Marie-France two strides to one.

“What’d’you think we’ll do when we get there, Luce?  You got a plan?”

I squinted back toward the sun,  lowerin’ slow in the afternoon sky.

“You say you been a’takin’ him dinner and such for now on three days and he ain’t run yet?”

She stopped still in her tracks.  Lord, I wanted to keep on movin’ but I needed the answer more.

Hands to hips, “I TOL’ you, Luce, he promised!  He promised to stay put ’til I could figure a way out this perdicament.”

Then, gol dang if she didn’t remind me, “You promised, too, Luce, you did, you know it!  You promised not to turn him in nor me neither!  You solemn sweared before Jesus, Luce, no lies, no crosses, no nothin’!”

Now why’d I go and do such a stupid, bumble-headed thing like that?  But Marie-France, she knowed me too well, and while yes, I’m a durned good liar, best I know, once I swear before Jesus, I’m done for.  I could just feel the air go outta my balloon.  Marie-France, knowin’ she’d won this round, bore her glistenin’ eyes through mine.  

“Look,” her voice low, “Maybe there’s some way we could get some information outta him, like war plans and such.  We could hogtie ‘im then drip drops o’cool water on his head ’til it drove him just this side o’crazy.  He’d answer all our questions right now jest to get us to stop!   Why, think of it, Luce!  We’d be heroes!  They’d likely be even a parade in our honor and we could ride on a float and wave at folks and have them wave back!  We’d like to even get a day ‘er two off from school for interviews and picture-takin’!”

She was settin’ to roll, face flushin’,  eyes lookin’ dizzy off to the distance.  “Jest think, they might’n even name a schoolhouse after us. Or a milkshake!”

Reckon we’d gone one furlong too far.  I shook my head.

“Marie-France.  Lissen to yerself.  What we got here is a feller, true, I’ll ‘low an enemy of our beloved nation feller.  He ain’t been doin’ nothin’ but raisin’ taters in a gravel hole for nigh on a year.  Whatever he got in his head, even if was worth somethin’ once, it’s long ago done and over with.”  Her face , though turned to mine, only lost just a shimmy of hope.

She’d done landed herself a precious commodity and would not in no way be obliged to give it up willingly and without a set to.  Marie-France, while a mite smaller, was one worthy adversary, bein’ full of tricks and thiev’ry her ownself.  

Finders keepers.  We’d use her rules for the time bein’.

We’d just see if her prisoner had stayed stuck in his hidey hole, waitin’ for the master o’ his fate.  And his dinner.  

‘Cause while I brung me a buggy rifle, Marie-France, she swung a bucket o’ leftover fried chicken with some drippin’s gravy for soppin’.

My head was fixin’ to hurt.

 

 

 

 

Still Loaded fer Bear!

See, this is how it was.  

We wudn’t s’posed to notice the buildin’ and carryin’ on out the road to the quiet ol’ quarry.  

We wudn’t s’posed to care they was trucks haulin’ who knows what to and fro down them lonesome dirt tracks.

We wudn’t s’posed to wake when the train come in silent, no toots, no lights ’round midnight.

Nor the sand colored canvas covered transports a’waitin’, then drivin’ off “follow the leader” style, headlamps shaded.

And leavin’ tracks.

We wudn’t even s’posed to pay note of our very own neighbors jumping off ol’ school buses, what used to holler “Hey!” but now just tipped their hats and moved on quick to their own transport home.

 

But see, this is how it is.

Me and Liam and Marie-France, we seen them trucks and heard the poundin’ echosed soft ‘cross the valley and hightailed it stealth-like right on out to the ol’ quarry.  We know ever’ back track and deer trail this side o’ the county line.  This was child’s play.  We was on the hunt.

And sure enough, we found ourselves something!  Somethin’ secret and one worth keepin’.  Deep down in the bottom of the ol’ quarry, abandoned since the war begun, somethin’ near to a small city was bein’ erected.  Scurryin’ like aints with they paints a’fire, there was men, soldiers, our fellers, sweatin’ to who laid a chunk, swingin’ hammers, diggin’ holes, and a’pullin’  up walls like it was a mass barn raisin’ like them Quakers over to Jamesport.  From what we could see, they’d planted themselves twelve or so long barracks, couple of houses, and some square buildin’s lookin’ to house machinery and hard tellin’ what else.  All surrounded with a high fence, topped with jagged-edged barbed war.  

I’d lost me a battle ‘r two tanglin’ with that stuff.   Won me a couple, too.  Callin’ it even suited me just fine.

O’course, once on the scent, me and Liam and Marie-France, we was like a dog gone to ground.  Without the bayin’ and whoopin’.   We’d done caught the bug!   We figured us a plan and follered some o’ them trucks down the dirt tracks.   Never did know a thing, them fellers.  We snooped and snuck, even sneakin’ and peekin’ under them canvas covers.  Why, they was not only takin’ in buildin’ materials and fencin’ but supplies and weaponry! We was purely giddy with the joy of our find!

Me and Liam and Marie-France, we felt right important.  And we swore, bein’ good American citizens like we was, we’d never ever, upon threat of death or starvation, tell nobody, not ever, this side of eternity.  But we snuck out reg-lar, come late night, jest to watch the train slide in the depot, then to count the tall, skinny fellers led to the trucks in ankle chains and the like.  Didn’t nobody ever make a noise nor give a di-rection, not us o’course, but not nobody else neither.  I’ll admit I got jest a little itchy, ‘spectin’ some self-important feller with a big ol’ solemn voice to begin explainin’ the situation, like in them newsreels down to the Old Pladium The-ater in town. (Liam lays the sign maker mispelled the name.  Knowin’ Liam, I’d lay wages he’s right.)

And o’course, now we was fully engaged on just what the hay was goin’ on, why, we’d chat up them neighbors what worked out to the camp, fer what we reckoned was doggone saucy wages, jest to watch ’em squirm.

“How was yer day?” we’d ask right sweet, “Life treatin’ you good?  How’s the family?  That a new ve-hicle I seen you drivin’?”

“Smart Alec kids” they’d say later, grumblin’.

“Durned right!” we’d say later, grinnin’.

Well, that went on fer quite a spell.  We spied and we tracked and we watched and we speculated.  Till we plumb wore out the fun of it all.  What it was was this.  We’d captured our fair share of the enemy, plucked ’em off the battlefield ‘stead of pickin’ ’em off the battlefield.  We call ourselves a God-fearin’ nation, after all.  Then we brung they sorry selves to the durned dead-center of our world.

And put them suckers to work.

And here they been for ’bout nearly one full year, a’plantin’ and  a’growin’ and harvestin’ potatoes.  Back-breakin’ work.  Soul-breakin’ work.  There couldn’t possibly be no love lost betwixt them what did the work and they what watched.  

Still, we didn’t never hear no si-reens go off.  And to tell the Lord’s truth,  watchin’ them fellers toilin’,  bent over in the hot sun pickin’and pluckin’ tore at my insides ever’ so often.  

And somehow, that didn’t sit right, neither.

Our visits slowed to the speed of Aunt Madge’s molasses.  Which, if you know Aunt Madge’s molasses,  don’t come out the jar a’tall.  

And me and Liam and Marie-France, we just went back to livin’.

Till Marie-France went and captured herself a prisoner, that is.