by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
*Emeralds, the flash fiction series-- was inspired by Red's M3 Fiction Challenge.
*Emeralds* is a small collection of flash fiction stories that individually use pre-specified words and are each limited to specific maximum word counts.
The individual flash sections are titled with the required word and word count, and are linked together by a common thread.
PEPPER 75"Pepper that Johnnie Reb with buckshot next time he comes around" the woman suggested, smoothing her apron and rattling a muffin-tin into the gas oven. " He's gone too far this time, don't you think ?"
"Why no, momma, we can't be shooting that old man just 'cause he's hanging around, wishin' to speak to 'ya". The pimply teenager said. "I don't think he means harm, momma".
"He does too, he's your daddy" she said.
Joe heard the door squeak behind him and it made him jump ." That door always squeaks in the wind" he thought to himself and turned to close it. The big bearded man whacked him between the eyes with a stick before he could blink . He saw stars and fell backwards into a chair.
"Don't be tellin' me I can't see the woman" he heard. " I'm 'yer rebel-assed daddy, boy! "
"I hope I didn't ripple that noggin permanent with this stick" the man said, dumping cold water on Joe's face. "Blood, not enough to get worryin' about" he added.
Joe sat up and studied the man. He was 6' 5 and close to 350 lbs by his reckoning.
"Your momma, she don't want me around" he said. "I get into her moonshine."
"Get your hands up, Rufus Johns!" Momma said. The shotgun clicked. Rufus surrendered.
"Still on that laudanum drug, Rufus?" Momma asked the big man with a smile on her face.
"I got you dead rights, Rufus, I could ventilate that thick skull of yours with this here 12 gauge, and the judge would laugh about it." she said, motioning him to sit.
"Ain't no judge going to sanction murder" Rufus stated boldly.
"My daddy, he'll sanctify whatever I say, the old goat" she winked.
"You're toast, Rufus Johns!"
Rufus Johns stared into the barrel of the 12-guage shotgun with his one good eye. "I'm not afraid of dying, Sally, you get on pullin' the trigger if 'ya like", he said to the smiling woman. He plugged his stubby fingers into both barrels.
The woman pulled the shotgun back. " I don't want to be wasting my time going to your wake" she said. "Besides, I'd have to buy you a new black suit" she added, standing the shotgun in the corner by the door. "Y'aint gonna beat on the boy again, are 'ya?"
"Not me, woman, I came to get your boy, there's work at the mine."
" He ain't my boy." She winked at Rufus.
The gangly boy picked up the shotgun from the corner and sat with it across his knee. "Damn, Momma," he said, "you always said tell the truth , am I your boy or not? I could just pepper Rufus Johns here, my head hurts, so you tell me the truth now."
"Ain't that easy boy," she hesitated.... "see, I'm an old friend of Louella's."
"Boy, you just get 'yer duff-bag packed, you're goin' with me regardless", Rufus Johns bellowed loudly. "There's work to be done at the mine and you're comin' with me".
"No I'm not, Rufus Johns, I'm gonna be a farmer, not a rock-pickin' miner, dirty-faced gold-diggin' fool"
"We'll see, boy, what your momma says about that" Rufus Johns coughed.
"What's 'yer everyday callin' name, boy?" Rufus Johns asked the kid sitting on the truck seat beside him, his duffle on his knee.
"I got no idea, Rufus Johns, I don't even know who my momma was, or if you're my old man, I don' t know anything 'cept what I read in the good book. I go by Joe, that's what momma- Aunt Sally called me --Joe, I got no idea if it's right or not." The boy hesitated.
"My official name is really Georgie Joe Johns?"
"That's what Louella says, boy" Rufus Johns said, " it's writ in her good book and I ain't about to argue with her, she's got a .44 and she knows how to use it."
"Hold 'yer fire, Louella!" Rufus Johns yelled at the woman pointing the Colt .44 . "Ya don't want to be killin' anyone, it's me an' the boy!"
Joe stood behind the truck, watching. The dusty hat was pulled over the woman's eyes and she stood sideways like a crack shot.
"She'll shoot again, Rufus Johns, told you we shouldn't come here, she don't want me here at the mine, " the boy said. "Is she a lunatic?"
"That's a matter of opinion" Rufus Johns said, watching the woman.
"Is that you, Georgie-Joe Johns, is that you, boy, behind the truck, you with Rufus there?" the woman yelled.
"I'm writ in 'yer good book!" the boy shouted back.
"Don't shoot, we're comin' in! "
She showed the boy her ring. "See? I was married to Rufus Johns twenty years ." "He said it was glass, but it's emerald from this mine here- this ain't a gold mine like everybody figures."
The boy squinted at the moss inside the stone. "Moss" she said.
"In the looney-house, I was" she said. "Locked up like that moss."
"You got took in, Georgie-Joe, 'my friend Sally took 'ya in, while I got well."
She spun the shiny Colt .44 on her finger. "I shoot better'n Annie Oakley."
"Louella, she'll teach you how to fish and tell lies , and I'll teach 'ya how to mine emeralds and pretend 'yer workin' a gold mine" Rufus Johns said. "Meantime we better get moving', Louella ain't gonna be peaceful when we come back, no supper" Rufus said, squinting into the setting sun. "We better get home.".
"Well look , this tire is flatter'n a cowflap!" Rufus kicked the truck. "Git the jack, and hand me that wrench". The boy fired instead.
The prairie hen flapped and dropped at his feet.
"Do tell" Rufus said, smiling. "You shoot good!"
"See the mark on the tree, boy?" Rufus asked Joe. He pointed to a tree high on a hill. "It's the size of a man's head, it's a knot, and if you hit it, boy, the emerald mine is yours". He yanked the Winchester out of the gun boot. "Not easy like a shotgun, shoots left a bit" he said. He tossed Joe the rifle.
Joe aimed and fired.
They walked up the hill. Rufus wheezed and dug the bullet out of the center of the knot. He coughed blood.
"I'm dyin' boy. I got consumption. The mine's yours".
"Rufus Johns coughed blood and died, " Joe said, "we gotta bury him."
"Gave you the mine?" Louella pointed the .44 at him.
"Damn him, you ain't goin' nowhere."
"I ain't 'yer momma, idiot boy!" she raised the .44 to fire.
"I'm writ in 'yer good book, you said!" Joe shouted. He saw a flash of steel.
A shot rang out.
"See? I told you we couldn't trust Louella, boy." Rufus Johns said.
"Had to test her, boy. You'll get home to your real momma. Come back when you're full sized".
Joe buried Rufus Johns the next day too.
Joe smoothed the dirt over the graves and piled rocks. He broke a wide board in half and carved "Loonie Louella" shot dead 1891" on one half and "My Father Rufus Johns 1891 " on the other half. He cut two sticks and nailed the cross-boards up.
"Goodbye, Rufus Johns" Joe said, looking over the graves. "I ain't the type to be cryin' my head off over lunatics" .
"I ain't a miner either" he said, jamming the truck into gear. He patted the bible on the seat beside him. "But I'm writ in the good book" he said, smiling.
Joe saw green stones sparkling.
"Green glass" his voice echoed.
"I ain't a miner ". He set a long fuse in a bundle of dynamite.
The fuse spurted flame as it got shorter.
The flying rock closed the mine without a trace.
"I'm back, Momma! Joe smiled.
At Incoming Bytes, we love to experiment with writing. This post is an experiment in continuity and the potential relationships possible between flash stories. Can flash fiction be related? When and where does a collection of flash fiction stories become a single short story?
We encourage our readers to consider that decision.
We we also hope you enjoyed it!
Is that Incoming I hear?
photo: courtesy of www.chemistryland.com