Sunday, February 27, 2011

One Of Us

“’Seems ta be the problem sheriff?”
Jet and Luther sat side by side, the shade from the porch obscuring the top halves of their bodies while the sun bathed the faded denim of their coveralls. Jet posed the question but didn’t move from his spot on the bench. Beside him Luther squinted at the officer of the law and chewed a twig contemplatively.
They were both large men, but Luther was the more muscular of the two. A slight cleft lip formed a fleshy line that looked like a scar cutting upwards towards his nostrils. While Luther’s hair was a dark brown, Jet managed a dirty blonde hue and both sported penetrating blue eyes with a barely visible corona of yellow around the pupils.
Sheriff Deets scratched at the back of his scalp and glanced at his boots accumulating a new layer of sun baked dust. Then he licked his lips and smoothed his mustache with his thumb and forefinger.
“I come for Zeek boys.” He told them glancing into their faces shaded by the porch.
“Zeek? What you want with Zeek? He ain’t done nuthin’.” Once again Jet did the talking and Luther the concentrated starring.
“Couple of the Rothford’s sheep turned up mutilated, had their necks snapped.” The Sheriff answered sharply.
“I don’t see what that has to do with Zeek.” Jet replied and Luther shifted his position slowly, ominously, and with great deliberation.
“Well, folks seems to think that freak brother of yours might a’ had something to do with it.”
Luther jerked abruptly to his feet with fists clenched. Sheriff Deets flinched and Jet proclaimed prosaically:
“You might want to mind what you say about a person's brother.”
The sun beat down on the hard packed thirsty earth and the single story adobe house with its chipping white wash and tile roof cast a long shadow in the three o’clock position. An olive tree stood near the front door and a litter of cast off fruit was in the process of bleeding into the dust and a sparse smattering of dry grass. Sheriff Deets stood in the yard beside the driveway, both of which were dirty and could only be distinguished by a minute shift in elevation.
“Easy, easy.” The Sheriff spread his hands pleadingly out before him, “I didn’t mean harm by it. I just ain’t got no words for Zeek.”
Luther made no move to step down, rather his thumbs began to brush eagerly over the knuckles of his closed fists.
“Let me ask you sumthin’ sheriff. When’s the last time you or any of these ‘folks’ seen my brother Zeek?” Jet asked with arched brows.
The sheriff eyed Luther uneasily.
“Not for years. Not since…” Deets broke off and concluded, “Not for years.”
“That’s right. He ain’t been anywhere but here. So he couldn’t a’ had nuthin’ to do with the Rothfords nor their sheep. Ye’ understand? It’s a long way from here to the Rothfords. I reckon someone like Zeek would be easy to recognize along the way. But he ain’t been that way. He ain’t been anywhere but here.”
Jet stood up and stepping forward he placed a hand on Luther’s shoulder, not a hand that said, ‘easy brother’, but a hand that combined with the stance and a certain gleam in the eye said something else all together.
“So that’ll be all Sheriff. I guess you best be off, so you can find your man, cause’ he ain’t here.”
Deets looked warily from one brother to the next. Then he took a few steps backwards and nodded to them biting both lips between his teeth. He turned on a heel and headed back for his truck kicking up more dust.
The brothers watched the tan cloud settle long after the pick up disappeared down the road beyond a desperate patch of sequoia.
“He’ll come back with a deputy.” Luther said. “They ain’t never gonna forget the thing that happened.”
Jet released his brothers shoulder and took a step back rubbing his chin.
“He didn’t do nuthin’ then neither, nuthin’ that any other boy wouldn’t a done.” Jet’s voice was high and pleading. He shook his head and paced.
“Don’t matter.” Luther intoned in a thick voice. “Don’t matter what happened then and it don’t matter who done this thing. They’ll come back.”
Jet returned to his brother's side and gave his shoulder a squeeze.
“They might not.”
Luther turned his gaze on Jet.
“If they don’t this time, then they’ll come again the next time something happens, hell, they’ll make things happen just so they can. That’s the way it is.”
The two men stood in the heat looking into each other's eyes, beads of perspiration forming on their brows.
At last Jet released Luther's arm and went into the house. Luther stepped into the shade but remained standing, watching the road ahead, waiting for what might come.

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