By Jon Jackson
“The boy ain’t nothing but bad,” he said. “Like his daddy.” Micah Mason dropped the hook into the water and the heavy rope snaked through his calloused hands. An unfiltered Camel hung from his lip and he squinted against the smoke. His blue Dickies were stuffed into knee-high rubber boots and they squeaked against the bottom of the boat when he moved. The rope went slack and Micah grunted toward the bow.
Ernest Finley was tall and thin. His overalls hung on him like a wire hanger, and his white V-neck tee was a size too small. He acknowledged the grunt with a nod, flipped his smoke into the lake, and slid the small trolling motor into the water. “That boy didn’t have no say in the matter.” He twisted the throttle and the boat moved slowly into the cove. “Neither did his daddy. Damned shame about the girl though. Bev they called her,” he said. “I trade with her daddy over at the Co-op. Seem like good people.” He spun the pedestal seat toward the bow and propped his boots up on a small Igloo cooler. “Don’t know what she saw in that Markham boy. Whole damned family’s bad.”
Micah slid the rope under his thigh, stepped on the coil at his feet, and fished a Camel from his shirt. A patch above his pocket read Mason Machine Co, with a matching one on the other side that said Mic. “Ain’t no excuse,” he said. “My daddy weren’t no count.” He lit his smoke with a once-chromed Zippo and added through a yellow smile, “And I’m a damned prince.”
Ernest swiveled his chair and pulled a leather covered flask from his bib pocket. “You’re a saint, Mic. A damned saint.” He took a swig and stretched his lanky arm toward the back of the boat. Micah refused with a nod and Ernest pocketed the flask. “Or ya married one.” As they approached the shoreline, Micah hauled in the hook and coiled the rope at his feet while Ernest used an oar to point the boat back toward the inlet. Once in place, he dropped the Minn Kota into the water and throttled up. Micah dropped the hook and let the wet rope run through his hands. Ernest fished a smoke from his pocket and searched his pockets for a light. “How’s she doin’ anyway.”
“Mean as a snake,” he said, and grunted a laugh. He pulled a Camel from his pocket, lit it, and flipped the Zippo to Ernest who was still patting pockets. “Good days and bad days, I reckon.” Ernest lit his smoke, tossed the lighter back, and pivoted back to bow. They sat and smoked while the Minn Kota motor hummed and pulled them slowly across the glassy water. The trailing rope created a widening V on the surface behind them and made tiny waves that lapped against the shore. Micah almost didn’t notice the rope spooling over the edge. “Hold up.” Ernest flipped the motor out of the water as Micah retrieved and coiled the rope into a growing puddle beneath him. Both men stared at the water.
“Shit.” A weedy, water-logged branch broke the surface. It was near as long as the boat and weighed a short ton. Micah straddled the small bench seat, pulled the limb alongside and began snapping off small branches.
“You think she coulda made it this far?” Ernest settled back into his chair and pulled the flask from his pocket.
“Mable saw Markham’s truck pullin’ out around two. Said that ratty old farm truck was blowin’ gravel everywhere. She’s right there off Route 2, by the old TVA ramp, so the Sherriff figures that’s where he dumped her.” He paused to pick a speck of tobacco from his lip. “Water’s deep over there. Good fishin’. I reckon if she hit the channel, she coulda tumbled anywhere.” Micah worked the hook free from the branches and began removing the small twigs and weeds that were embedded in the rope.
“I hear he beat her.” Ernest turned up the flask and offered it to Micah. “You sure?”
Micah gave a quick nod of refusal. “Like his daddy. A damned coward.” He gave the rope a final inspection and dropped the hook over the edge. “Buncha damned Jehus is what they are. Drunks and dopers. Should been locked up already.” Another grunt sent Ernest into action and he swiveled his chair into position and dropped the motor. Micah stared at the water as the rope slid over the edge. “I guess this time he’ll get what’s comin’ to him.”
They reached the mouth of the cove and Ernest slowly pointed the boat back toward the shore. “Faye said she saw Mare at Bible study last week. Looked good.” He took a pull from the flask and stowed it in his pocket.
Micah watched the rope dance as the hook bounced along the bottom of the lake. He pulled a Camel from the pack, lit it, and offered the Zippo to Ernest. Ernest patted his pockets, found his smokes and caught the Zippo in his lap. He lit up and tossed it back to Micah. “Wore her plum out, though. Took two days to recover from that outing.” He pocketed the lighter and picked at the mud caked on his boot. “She ain’t never been one to take it easy.”
Ernest tilted the motor out of the water as they approached the shore. Micah reeled in the hook and flipped a mass of weeds back into the lake. Ernest spun around in his seat, found the flask and took a long drink. “We didn’t know she’d been sick ‘til you were back home, Mase. Shoulda called or something. ”
“She’s a prideful woman, Ern. You know that. Didn’t want nobody seein’ her like that. ” He reached over the side and washed the mud off his hands. “Hell, she didn’t much want me around most of the time.”
“So nothing’s changed.” Ernest grinned and gave the flask one last turn. “You tell her Faye’s making a casserole and comin’ by this week. Woman’s been a wreck since she heard.” He stuck the oar into the mud and pushed the front of the boat back into deeper water. “Head down to Mansker’s Creek next?”
“I reckon,” he said. Micah pulled the cord on the little Mercury outboard and the engine sputtered to life. “The state boys are checkin’ the channel but she’s long gone ‘less she’s hung up.” He twisted the throttle and the boat moved out of the cove.
An air horn sounded in the distance. One long blast followed by another. Micah killed the Mercury and the boat slid silently across the water. Ernest spun in his chair. “Somebody found her.” He patted his pockets for a smoke, found one and stuck it in the side of his mouth. “Bev, I think. Short for Beverly I reckon. Damned shame.”
Micah cocked his head. “Sounds like the dam. Maybe Mort’s place.” He fished a smoke from his pocket, lit it and tossed the Zippo to Ernest. “Next time I’m bringing a pole. If I’m gonna waste a mornin’, I’m gonna wet a line.”
“Faye and the Ladies Bible Class are settin’ up a potluck at the marina. She was up cuttin’ hens before I left the house. Better get on back if we’re getting chicken.” Ernest lit his cigarette and tossed the Zippo back. Micah turned, pulled the Mercury to life with a sputter, and turned the boat toward open water.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student