Making Deals by Olley

Word count 935

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#4 in The Surrogate Father and Adopted Son series

  Val and a young Johnny after Father’s Day. 

We were a couple of days out of San Vincente and all I’d had from him was pouting and sass on account of my refusing to let him have his own gun. Told him his hand wasn’t big enough and his arm not yet strong enough, do you know what that ornery mouthy scrap of a boy said?

“Could be made smaller to fit my hand!”  I replied, “Could be I’ll turn you over my knee.”

I knew then there was not going to be any stopping him picking a gun up, I recognised a burning need deep inside fuelled by hate and vengeance.  All I could do was keep him on a tight rein for as long as possible; perhaps show him he had choices besides the trade he was set on. 

After a day suffering him riding double muttering Mexican into the back of my shirt, I reined Solo to a halt. “Well, Johnny does this look like a good place to make camp?”

He slid off the back of my horse and I watched as he scouted out the clearing. 

“Yep, clear running water, good cover under the trees and plenty of dry kindling. He grinned up at me. “We going hunting for grub?”

His mood surely could change in the blink of an eye.  “What’s first boy?”

He tilted his head to one side. “See to Solo then build a fire pit.”

“What you missed out Johnny?”

“Check under the rocks for snakes and scorpions.” He frowned up at me as he held the bridle while I dismounted. “We ain’t gonna eat snake are we, Papi?”

I did think to say yes just to teach him a lesson for giving me two days of sass, but snake, that’s for hard times. “Nope, how about rabbit?”

His face lit up but before he could get into his campaign to use my gun I held my hand up. “Give me three reasons not to use a gun.” I bent down to look him eyeball to eyeball daring him.

He looked down hugging himself and toed the ground. I waited, I was learning to keep quiet, give him time to think on the words he would use.

“Don’t want to bite down on a bullet.”

I raised an eyebrow but kept my peace, he looked up then.

“Gunshot could warn the prey or even strangers of our whereabouts.”

I nodded, wherever he had been before we came across each other he had learned staying quiet was to stay safe. “Good, can you think of another reason?”

“Don’t waste bullets.”

He had that solemn look that makes him seem so much older than he probably is.

“Well done boy, so you and I will build us a rabbit trap” I sent him off to collect wood telling him what I needed for the trap as well as the fire.

He studied how I put the trap together and grinned when I showed him how to bait it so the trap was sprung.

Later as we sat by the fire, I watched him suck the last of the meat of the bones of our rabbit supper and then lick his fingers. He was turning the trap around testing how it worked, I let out a sigh and scratched my chin.  “I was younger than you when my Grandpapi showed me how to build one of them.”

Those blue eyes of his looked up “You have family Papi?”

“Did have, lived with him and my Ma up in Indian country. My Pa was a scout and trapper, didn’t see much of him.”  I knew I had his full attention.

“Did you have any run-ins with wild Indians up there?”  

I reached over a ruffled his hair “Johnny I inherited some Cherokee Indian blood from Grandpapi, he was a wise man who taught me a lot.”

“So you lived with them when you were a kid.” He was sat forward wanting a story.

“Well, we lived alongside them.  Indian tribes a’int just wild savages, they know and understand important stuff if you are minded to take the time to listen and learn.”

“Are we going there next Papi?”

 It was obvious he had an eagerness in him to learn and grow, just hoped that it would open his eyes to a life that meant more than just using a gun.

I sipped my coffee. “We’re a couple of days from a friend of mine who breaks and trades horses.”  I knew that would catch his interest.  “If you’re willing I’ll offer you a deal.”  The boy sat back and narrowed his eyes.

“What deal?”

“You lay off hounding me about using a gun and stay out of trouble and the deal is you get a pony.”

Now, most stray kids would have agreed straight off but not his one. He was tugging at his ear weighing up the deal!  Even back then he could have an old head on his skinny shoulders, didn’t stop him acting foolish most of the time though.

“That’s two deals on my part, how long before I can learn how to handle a gun?”

I scowled at him declaring him an ungrateful son of a gun, didn’t deter him, as he offered up 2 weeks of staying out of trouble, I countered with ten months.   He wore me down to three months, I had my fingers crossed behind my back when I said we would talk about it then. 

Maureen Olley
July 2020

Continued in Tuck and Roll

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