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Chest of Hope Ch.21

Wednesday arrived with the stirring of several hounds glancing out from their steps at the movement of shuffling feet. The dogs sniffed the cool breeze coming from the north as they circled to reposition their bodies. Jim commented, that the weather had shifted last night and the high would only reach into the sixties. “That’s the only break we is getting today.” Willie said, as he thought of the plow. Everything else was as usual. The passing of the patrol car, brought little notice from the group of workers as they headed out of town. When they arrived at the dirt crossing, Willie stopped as he focused on the eastern sky. “Jim, what’s that thing Grandpa used to say about the sky being red and all?” Willie asked his brother. “Something like, Red skies in morning, sailors and folk are warned. Red skies at night, every things all right. Why you want to know?” Jim answered, and followed his brothers gaze. “That is the reddest sky I ever did see! Must be a fire over in Mississippi or something?” Willie said. “I ain’t heard nothing about no fire on the news this morning.” Jim said, as they regarded the hue of the horizon.

They continued to the farm, shortly after sunrise, the sky was back to normal and Jim forgot it as he concentrated on plowing the field. The crew attached the ropes and pulleys as Jim directed. Half the crew broke off to man the log as the first deep cut to the earth began with grunts and howls. To every ones’ amazement, the plow seated firmly on the surface. The pulleys held tight as the men guided the archaic device across the field. Behind them the rich soil was turned, as a flock of sparrows flew in to enjoy the bounty of insects and worms. Three hours later with half the field complete, the brass bell tolled for the break. Great relief came to the workers as the sound echoed off the oaks. The men headed for the coolers placed around the field, and harsh words were heard as they discovered, one after another, the containers were empty. “What wrong with you Jim? Didn’t you fill these things last night?” Martin called, over to Jim as he also found his cooler dry. “You know I filled them last evening! Been doing the same thing ever since we got them out here.” Jim barked, as another man held up an empty jug. Jim carried his cooler to the stone wall and found the water line capped. A man called out from the barn, that the faucet was also dry as the crew grumbled. Jim saw a movement in the trees, and recognized the large hand waving to him. Jim crossed the field and found the giant, standing next to a pipe that jutted out of the ground. “Mister Odie, the water been shut clean off. We’s goin to have to go to town to fill our jugs. I knows I done filled them last night.” Jim said, as he approached. “I know you did. I dumped them this morning, over the field, after I capped that line.” Mister Oh said calmly. Jim stared at him in disbelief, through heavy beads of sweat that covered his brow. More men approached and wondered, how and when, Jim was going to send them for water. “Mister Odie. The men’s needs water. How’s we going to finish your field without it?” Jim questioned. Mister Odie smiled at Jim as he attached a T-bar to the top of the pipe he held. The giant twisted the pipe for a moment and pushed down. “The water has been turned on Jim. Bring over that keg and have the men form a chain.” Mister Oh announced. Jim heard a rush of air coming from the pipe but saw no water. His nose picked up the aroma of gas and he began to step away. A rumble came from the pipe as a stream of water burst forth, covering Jim and the parched earth. Mister Oh roared with laughter as, Jim fell on the ground, that was quickly turning to mud. “Jim, we don’t have time to play today.” Mister Oh said, as he offered the man his hand to stand. “Mister Odie! I’s think you’s the only one playing around here. Where is all that water coming from?” Jim countered, as he accepted the helping hand. “Where every good thing comes from, Mother Earth.” Mister Oh answered, as Jim caught the water in the container and sampled it for himself. “That be the sweetest drink I’s ever had.” Jim announced, as he waved to the men to fetch their jugs.

After the jugs were filled, Mister Oh placed a cap over the pipe, and had the men connect the water line to the new well. The barn, house, and sprinklers were tested, and the men went back to work on the field. “I thought I would die out here today.” One man said, as he steadied the log. “If we had started with this field last week, you would have!” Another man coined, as he lifted a rock from his feet. “One must crawl before he can stand.” Mister Oh spoke, as he came to the plow. “That is why, we started with the small labors.” He added, and several eyebrows reacted. “Small Labors?” Luke said, as another rock came to the surface. “Mister Oh is right. Even my wife has noticed the difference in me. The scales don’t squeak anymore, when I get the nerve to stand on them.” The man next to Luke’s side proclaimed, amid a round of laughter. “Yeah, my Sally likes the way my arms feel around her too.” John Douglas responded, as he tugged on the ropes. “All have benefitted with hard work, and the daily march. Do not let yourselves decline, when your tasks are finished, more may present themselves in the future.” Mister Oh stated, and the crew took notice to his tone. “I for one, like the way things have changed. I’ve even given up smoking. A couple more weeks and I’ll become a one toast drinker.” Martin said. “The key is moderation, in all things, including moderation!” Mister Oh said, as he helped the crew pivot the log for the return cut. “What’s you moderating with Mister Odie?” Willie asked, as the plow jerked forward. “Ignorance! You can always correct that with knowledge. Stupidity, is something I will not tolerate.” Mister Oh answered, with his voice lowered. “That be, one in the same, don’t it?” Willie asked. “Hardly! Teaching a man not to stand in the sunlight because he burns too easily, shows his Ignorance. If he goes and gets burned again. That tells everyone he’s Stupid! I have no sympathy for that sort of disregard.” Mister Oh answered, as the men agreed.

Waking from another dream, about ice-covered mountains and deep pools of azure waters. Tamry still in a dream induced state, couldn’t believe that her alarm clock read five p.m. She sprang from her bed and went to her dresser in hopes that her body was also a dream. Tamry stared in the mirror and found that her reflection only showed from the chest down. She examined her robe, it had become a wrap that scarcely covered her mid-thigh. Tamry rushed down stairs and dialed Paul’s number. “I’m sorry, Miss Greenwood. Paul Jr. departed a few minutes ago. I believe him to be headed for the farm, he was clad in sporting attire, as he passed by in a great hurry.” Charles informed Tamry, as she began to cry. “I’ll inform him the moment he returns . . . ” Charles said, as the connection was abruptly severed. “Open the door!” Paul’s voice sounded, as Tamry dropped the phone. She open the front door and saw Paul coming through dressed in his sweats. “Up stairs, Quick!” Tamry ordered, as she lead the way to her room. “Paul, look at me!” Tamry declared, as she let the wrap fall to the floor. He had no problem with that request as he beheld her newly found beauty. “Get a load of this!” Paul stated, as he removed his shirt and pants. “Oh my goodness! How Paul? How did this happen to us?” Tamry asked, as they walked around each other. “Paul! Now is not time, for such things.” Tamry said, as she witnessed his man parts. “I’m not excited! I’m scared as Hell!” Paul replied, as he grabbed his pants and attempted to dress. “Paul, we’ve grown together. We’re still the same height to each other.” Tamry stated, as she noticed their reflections in the mirror. “You mean the world is shrinking around us?” Paul countered, as he donned his shirt. “Put some clothes on Tamry. It’s hard enough to think like this, as it is. Go for the sweats. I ripped two shirts before I got the right fit.” Paul said, as Tamry went though her dresser. “You still haven’t answered me, HOW?” Tamry wined, as she brought the oversized shirt across her head. “I don’t know how, but I do know who! We’re going to the farm and get some answers from the only other giant in town.” Paul declared, as he watched Tamry stuff her bottom into a tight pair of sweat pants. “The potion! It’s the only thing that could have done this to us.” Tamry said, as Paul drove them out of town. “I thought of that, but why didn’t he tell us about this little side effect.” Paul answered, tersely.

The car pulled into the deserted farmyard and the couple hurried to the barn. “He’s not here.” Tamry observed, as Paul headed for the house. They could not find Mister Oh anywhere in sight, and decided to go back to town and search at Jim’s house. As they open the door, a cold wind blew passed them, as headlights came into their view. “That’s him I’ll bet.” Paul said, as they walked to the approaching vehicle. The next voice made them freeze in place. “Don’t move a muscle, you young Pup!” Arnold Johnson stated, as the truck stopped and he held out the barrel of his shotgun to them. From the back of the truck, Paul’s father and Charles, were dragged into the lights. Johnson did a double take on the youth’s height, but let it pass as he pointed to the field and lead them away. “Paul, the war has begun. What’s happened to you two?” Judge Hart whispered. Before Paul could answer, a slap caught the Judge fully on the mouth. “Quiet, in my courtroom!” Johnson declared, with a sneer.

More lights were visible, as the Knights gathered their victims in the field next to the trees. Cries and pleading came from Price women, as they were forced to the ground next to the children. As the fires were set, Paul could see that the men were armed, and some were drunk as they began to tear away at Cissy’s clothing. Doc Holiday pushed forward to stop this action and Paul watched the members hit and kick him to the ground. Docs’ wife came to his side in time to receive the same treatment, until Thomas called out, “You boys leave them for later. Where’s that Foreigner?”

A group swept the farm and trees but came up empty, as another truck pulled onto the field. “Them Stones weren’t at home.” The man called out, as he approached the fire. A loud crack of a pistol rung in the air, as Johnson swirled around. “What’s going on?” Johnson yelled. “That black bastard made a run for it. I think I got him.” A man called back, as Lotty wailed. “Which one?” Thomas questioned, as he approached the group. “The kid, over yonder ways.” The man pointed. “Get him back with the rest!” Johnson ordered, and two men went to drag back the body. “Where’d you say he was?” One of them questioned, as their flashlights scanned the vacant earth. “Find that Kid!” Johnson yelled, and more Knights took to the field.

Adam had run until he fell headlong into a deep furrow, as the bullet passed over his head. He stayed down as he crawled, the length of the field. The shafts of lights spun next to him, as he held his breath then passed, as the hunters moved away. He found the farm yard, and made a dash for the barn doors. The chain had been replaced, and the lock barred his entry. Adam thought quickly, as yells from the field grew closer. He rushed to the side, and found the hole used to clean the foundry ash. Adam squeezed into the tunnel and emerged from the rubble. He grabbed for the microphone and turned the base station on, before the pounding came at the doors.

Matt and Maureen entered though the front door carrying the bags. They had been to the quick stop service station. “What’s that sound?” Maureen asked, as she heard the hissing from the back counter. Matt went to where the radio was placed, and begins to turn it off. “Help! Somebody! Please help us!” Came the faint voice from the speaker. “Who is this?” Matt asked, as he depressed the button but received no answer. “That’s Adam!” Maureen confirmed, what Matt was already thinking. “Where are you?” Matt tried, but the radio remained silent. He scrambled into the apartment, and came back with his pistol, and a dull black rifle. “Put this on!” He said sharply, to Maureen as he opened a box of shells, and tossed a black T-shirt to her. “Watch and learn. The shells go in here, work the slide like this, don’t worry about the kick, it’s a lot worse on the other end. Count four then reload, five if it gets really hairy!” Matt instructed his wife as she put the shirt on and peered into his eyes. “Matt, what’s wrong with you? You’re so cold.” Maureen asked, as Matt’s eyes never blinked, as he fed round after round, into his spare magazines for his automatic pistol. “We’re going hunting. The snakes are out of their holes. They’re at Jim’s house, you understand how this shotgun works?” Matt responded, in a shallow voice that brought a chill to his wife as she nodded. He opened a tin of boot blacking, and smeared his face with it, he turns and applied the same to Maureen’s face and arms. “Think of it as cold cream. I’ll tell you what to do as we ride.” Matt said, as he filled her pockets with the remaining shells, and headed for the door.

At the farm, the prisoners were lined before the oaks. Adam had been beaten all the way across the field by his captors. He laid at the foot of his mother as Cissy sobbed. “We still ain’t found the guest of honor!” A man called to Johnson, as a car drove up with Pastor Miller. “Sure will be nice to see, ‘Ole High Pockets, swinging from that branch.” Thomas declared, as the men finished lacing the tree with ropes. “After tonight, I will enjoy having the church running as it should be. No more of this working on the Lord’s day.” Pastor Miller stated, with a glare at the Price brothers. “You’re right brother, after people find out what becomes of these types, they’ll walk the straight and narrow from now on.” Thomas said, with a cruel laugh. “There’s nothing wrong, with the ways we work together out here!” Willie spoke loudly. The remark brought a rifle barrel to his head and he fell to the hard ground. “Seems to me, you didn’t have much to say the last time you were about, to see the light!” Miller said, as he kicked Willie’s side. The man let out a groan then a whimper, as Miller followed the first kick, with several more. “Now, that’s the song the chorus sang last time!” Miller said, as he placed his boot on Willie’s neck. “You white trash have no reason to live!” Lotty screamed. Pastor Miller walked over to her and gave her a sermon, with his left fist. “You black bitches do your best talking on your backs! That’s the only time you make any sense. This is going to be like old times for us. Now where did I leave off?” Miller said, as he ripped Lotty’s blouse and bra from her. “Well looky what we got here! It’s that snotty bitch who tried to interfere with the law at the Jews’ store.” Thomas said, as he walks over to Tamry. “Damn girl! You been taken them steroids I been reading about.” Thomas asked, as he pushed his hand under her shirt and grabbed at her breasts. “These are ripe for pickin boys!” Thomas declared, as Tamry struggled from his grasp. Her knee came up fast and hard into his groin as he gasped for air. “Your going to die, real slow for that, bitch!” Thomas chocked, as he knelt on the dirt. Thomas rose slowly as he glared at Tamry.

The loud thud made him look away, before the report of the shot was heard. A man fell over one fire, with only half his head intact, as Cissy screamed in terror. Another man spun wildly from Paul’s side, as the shot rang out again. “Get them!” Johnson hissed, as the Knights scattered into the field, and he knelt beside the body of Adam. “Move closer and to the right.” Matt whispered, as Maureen pick up his pace. A few men fired in their direction where the flashes had been spotted. Maureen glanced to Matt, but knew he would not be there, as she moved to the side. The dance steps he taught her on the way to Jim’s, and out to the farm, were playing in her mind. She dodged the random firing of the Knights. The flash to her right, let her know she was keeping steps with her partner, as another man’s dance card, had permanently been punched by a 45cal. slug.

Maureen gauged the distance and knew where to be, as Matt came next to her. Maureen saw a man to their side and let the brass section of this band blare. The twelve-gauge roared, as its cargo hit the man full chest, something he didn’t have, when his body hit the ground. “Break left, wait for the whistle.” Matt said, in a mechanical voice, as he disappeared from her side. Maureen’s heart raced as she went to her next position on the field. She knelt and counted the rounds that Matt fired. She watched two more Knights crash to the earth. Maureen wished he was beside her as the fear began to settle over her. Maureen almost screamed, as the field lit from behind her position. Another bank of light came to life, as Matt dove next to her. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this!” Matt declared, as he rose and fired the remaining rounds at two men as they rushed forward. “What do I shoot now?” Maureen quizzed, as the barrel sights fell on more men as they went for cover. “If it moves! It’s not one of ours!” Matt answered, as he reloaded. “Damn that stings!” Matt cursed, as he felt the bullet hit his side. “Matt! Your bleeding!” Maureen yelled, at the sight of blood on her husband. “Make them bleed more!” Matt said, as the pistol obeyed his wishes, and a Knight flew into the air as his arms came away from his sides. “Take this, Ass Hole!” Maureen taunted, as she fired at three men coming at her. They spun together as the first bullet found Maureen’s back. Two more bore into Matt’s, as he turned and saw Maureen lean forward. The pistol exploded again, and Matt saw Maureen begin to shake, as the firing increased around them. Matt crawled to her side in time to say, “I’ll always love you!” He would never know if she ever heard him, as their bodies were thrown together, in a hail of bullets.

Paul had grabbed Tamry’s hand, when the shooting started. They made a dash for the trees, but Thomas had stopped their flight to safety. Tamry felt the hits on Paul’s back as he stumbled, rose, and fell again. She became sick, at the sight of the blood on his back, as she screamed, “Get Up Paul!” His eyes found hers as he spoke breathlessly, “I’ll always love you.”

Tamry watched in horror, as the twinkle left his eyes as he sank to the earth. Tamry felt only rage as she came off the ground and ran for Thomas. The man was reloading his pistol, as the first hits, came to his face. Thomas tried to escape the blows, but the fingernails which dug deeply into his flesh, held him close. The muffled burps of his weapon ended the punishment from the girl. Tamry’s limp body coursed to his feet, as Thomas discovered one of his eyes, had been plucked from its socket. “Help! For the love of God. Help me!” Thomas yelled, as he stumbled back to the fires. The guns went silent as Johnson called out, “Who the hell, was that?” “It’s them Stones. They’re both dead. What should we do with them?” A man answered, from over the pair. “My nose is broken! She broke my nose!” Thomas lamented, as he came up to Johnson. “Bring in the bodies, put them by the fire. We’ll hold service for the bothers, after we take care of the rest.” Johnson said, as he helps Thomas to where one Knights was bandaging another. “You got a choice Doc. Fix him up, and you live!” Johnson stated, to Holiday. “I’d rather be snake bit. I just retired from medicine!” Doc Holiday answered, as Johnson knocked his glasses off, with the but of his rifle. As the men brought the wounded and the dead, as Pastor Miller, did his count. “Thirteen! That’s very unlucky!” “Them odds aren’t too good either, four for nine.” Johnson said, as he walked passed the fallen Knights. “Damn, I wish this one was still alive. I’ve wanted to put my Holy Staff in that, ever since she got here.” Miller said, as he gazed down at Maureen. “Go right ahead. There will be no complaints.” Johnson said, with a sneer. “I’m not a Necromancer!” Miller shouted, and some men behind him laughed. “Don’t matter too much. We still got them over there. That youngun will do just fine for me. After that, you can pick and choose, which and where you want to do anything you want.” Johnson remarked, as he stared at Charlotte Price. “How’s Thomas?” Johnson called out, as they walked away from the Stones. “He’ll live! Lost an eye and will have some battle scars though.” A man said, tending the Sheriff. “Good! Well boys, lets get this party going. Take those two and string them up. Don’t stretch their necks just yet. I want them to see what happens to their women first, and to both them girl children.” Johnson said, as Jim and Willie started fighting with the men that pulled them to the hanging tree.

“That’s enough!”

The roar came across the field. The men saw the giant in the flood lights, and they saw the axe over his shoulder. “Give me that pistol, Quick!” Thomas said, through his broken nose. “Welcome to a down home party. You escaped freak from a circus. Get rid of that axe, or this girl’s brains are taking up traveling!” Johnson said, as he pointed his rifle to Charlotte’s head. “As you wish!” Mister Odie said, as he came closer. His hand moved slightly, and the great axe spiraled toward the trees. It sailed over Johnson’s head and wedged into the hanging-tree’s base. Jim and Willie froze, as their guards went for their guns. “A good throw, but now, you have nothing!” Pastor Miller said, grinning at the man-mountain. That grin faded as the people heard the groans from the oak. The crack, sounded like a rifle, as the tree split in two and fell to the side. “Sweet Jesus in heaven!” Cissy cried, as her eyes widened at the sight of the oak. “That don’t matter much, we got plenty of trees out here. One even for you!” Johnson said calmly.

Mister Oh peered down at the bodies of Paul and Tamry, then to Matt and Maureen Stone. Thomas stepped slowly forward holding his gun at him. “This ones mine. All mine!” Thomas chocked, through his wrappings.

As he came closer, Willie was the first to notice the sky. He bumped his brother, but Jim’s eyes stayed glued to Thomas, and the pistol. Above the farm, storm clouds were rushing in from all sides. Lightning, began skipping from the tops of the clouds, and the temperature dropped rapidly. With another bump, Willie got Jim to look up into the heavens, and they witnessed its building fury. Judge Hart, smelled the strong aroma of O-zone, as it swept the field. Mister Odie walked to the fires, as Thomas ranted on about everything that was going to take place in the next hours. “When the Judge rules this, to be a mass suicide, things will be all legal and proper. I figure the brotherhood will be gettin some kind of metal for trying to put a stop to it. We just got here too late to save them all. You got any last requests before we start with them?” Thomas asked, as he glanced to the Price brothers. “Only one. A law should be passed, banning mothers from rising idiots like you!” Mister Oh answered, as he slowly smirked at Thomas. “That’s going to cost you High Pockets!” Thomas raved, as he raised the gun and pointed to the giant’s chest.

Jim watches the hammer slowly pull back, as Thomas spoke, “Lets see, if your Diplomatic Immunity, can help you now!” Jim ran forward, with his arms still bound. He tried to speak, but could not be heard over the thunder that came from the overhead clouds. Jim felt himself rise from the ground, as the pressure increased on his arms. He looked up into the blue eyes of Mister Odie, and wondered why he was so close to them. “Is you all right, Mister Odie?” Jim asked, as he fought for breath. Mister Odie said nothing, as the body of Jim Price went slack in his grasp. Slowly, he brought Jim to the ground, as the words filled his ears and heart with rage. “Looky here, Brothers. We’re not going to use as much rope as we thought.” Thomas snickered.