Monday, May 26, 2014

Hot Checks and Hogs Part Three

When the man pulls the first hog from the pen and hands it to Weldon, he cringes, drops it and the hog scoots between Clayton’s legs and on down the lane fenced with hog wire.  When he drops the second one, Burl pushes him out of the way.  “Man comes four hours from home to get hogs and turns out to be scared of ‘em.  See if you can at least work the gate.  I’ll hand off the hogs.”
When eight hogs are safely loaded in the trailer, the man locks the two he intends to keep in the pen and heads off down the lane with a catch dog to try and find the escapees.  “They might be down at the end of this here lane.  There’s a fence that might hold ‘em for a while.  I’ll be back drekly.”
When the man is out of sight, Weldon cranks the pickup and tells them to get in.
Burl puts his hands over Tess’s ears.  “What the hell you doin’?  You gon’ drive off without paying the man for his hogs?”
“You think he wants money for ‘em?  Ain’t as if they was big hogs.”
Burl drops his head and shakes it.  “Now why in hell would I think that?  Man probably advertised free hogs and had to wait for us to drive two hundred miles to pick ‘em up.  Not as if anybody around here would take free hogs.  I’m sure he’s grateful to us for takin’ ‘em off his hands.”
After a few more minutes, Weldon cranks up again.  “Looks like he ain’t comin’ back, so I guess we’ll just go on.  Got to get Tess back to her mama before midnight.”
Burl crawls into the back seat again.  “Sheriff will probably pull us over before we get ten miles and throw us all in jail for stealin’ them damn hogs.”
“Shit!”  Weldon brakes as his headlights reveal the owner of the hogs and his hog dog standing in the middle of the road.  Weldon rolls down the window.  “We owe you anything for them worthless hogs?”
“Well, I was gonna try to get fifteen apiece for ‘em and you got ten, countin’ the two you let get away.  They long gone.”
Weldon turns toward Burl and whispers.  “How much is that?”
Burl stares.  “Damn, Weldon.  It’s a hundred and fifty dollars.”
Weldon keeps looking at Burl.  “Damn.  I ain’t got that much.”
Clayton comes out of his stupor.  “See if you can talk him outa payin’ for them two that got away.”
Weldon yells out.  “Listen, feller, we don’t think we oughta have to pay for them two got away.”
“Well, all right then.  I guess maybe me and the dogs can trap ‘em again.  You owe fifteen apiece for the ones that’s left.”
Weldon turned toward Burl again.  “How much is that?”
“Damn, Weldon.  It’s one-twenty.”
“How much you got on you?’
“Me?  Why you askin’ me?  Hell, I don’t want no wild hogs.  Ain’t got no use for ‘em.  Lillie ain’t gonna be happy with me comin’ home late as it is.  Throw me plumb out if I bring home a bunch of hogs.”
“Ain’t askin’ you to keep ‘em, just loan me and Clayton the money till we can get home.”
“You and Clayton come all the way down here to buy hogs and didn’t bring no money?  See now why you stopped to pick me up.”
Weldon turns to look at Clayton.  “How much you got, Clayton?”
Clayton pulls two twenties from his Levis and hands them to Weldon.  He looks at Burl, who is feeling trapped inside the cab and is ready to be home.  He pulls out all his cash.  Eighty-five dollars.  “How much you got, Weldon?”
Weldon pulls four twenties from Burl’s hand and thrusts six twenties through the open window at the man as he pulls away.
Burl looks at his remaining five spot.  “How much did you give to this here hog buy, Weldon?”
Weldon drives in silence until they come to a set of golden arches.  Tess whispers in her father’s ear.  Weldon looks straight ahead.  “You just want one of them damn toys, is all.  You can’t be hungry.”  He inclines his head slightly toward Burl as he pulls off the road and into the McDonald’s entrance. “She wants one of them damn Wacky Packs.” 
Burl shakes his head.  “I think Wacky Packs come from Sonic, Weldon.”
Weldon lets Tess shout her order into the machine and eases forward to pick it up. As he turns the corner, they see a man sticking half his body out the order window and waving frantically.
Weldon waves back.  “Whatcha figger that feller wants?  Damn, feller, we ain’t gonna drive off.  We gonna pay.  Just need to get up to you, is all.  Hold your damn horses.”  As Weldon rolls down his window, he hears the sound of metal popping, of screws being torn loose from sheet iron.  The awning comes to rest on the trailer with a sickening thud. 
Weldon steps out of the truck, looks at the awning resting on the trailer before turning back to the attendant.  “Damn.  You boys ought to make them damn things taller.  You got that Wacky Pack?”
Tess takes the sack and Weldon reaches an open hand toward Burl.  “Plumb forgot I used up all my money back there with them hogs.  Can you let me have another few dollars?” 
Burl looks into Tess’s pleading eyes before handing over his last five dollars.  Weldon takes the change from the shocked attendant and pockets it.  “We ain’t gonna charge you nothin’ for the damage to my trailer, but you boys need to replace that awning with a taller one.”  The awning clatters to the concrete as Weldon jerks the truck away.
Next—home with the hogs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hot Checks and Hogs Part 2

The highway patrolman remains in his patrol car, probably running plates, long enough for Weldon to hand his open beer back to Burl and to get Tess set down and buckled in.  While the trailer blocks the patrolman’s view, Burl tosses three beers out the window.  Weldon steps out on the highway just as the patrolman reaches the door.  The strong odor of spilled beer wafts back to Burl’s nostrils.  He imagines calling Lillie to get him out of jail.
The patrolman puts a hand on his baton.  “Stay inside the vehicle, sir.”
“Yes, sir.”  Weldon puts one hand in the air as if surrendering but stays outside.  He puts the other hand on the patrolman’s elbow as if to guide him away from the vehicle and makes as if to whisper in the man’s ear, but the patrolman backs away.  Weldon nods toward Tess.  “You see, officer, sir, my little girl, she had a bad experience back home with a bad man who just happened to wear a uniform same color as yours. No offense, and I have tried to explain to her about how they ain’t nuthin' to fear from you folks, but she just goes to screamin’ when she sees one of you.”
The patrolman glances toward Tess, who is gazing out the side window, about to nod off again. 
Weldon tries again.  “Pore little thing.  Lost her mama and all.”
Burl glances at the patrolman, who appears to be buying Weldon’s line of bullshit.  He is not happy with Weldon using the little girl this way.  He whispers to Clayton.  “Lost her mama after she left his sorry ass.”
The patrolman tickets Weldon for expired trailer tags and leaves without looking inside the truck.  When Burl judges they have come about two hundred miles, he is riled.  “Wait just a damn minute.  When we gonna get to them pigs?  Already be past dark before we get back if we stopped and turned around right now.”
Weldon takes his eyes off the road and turns again.  “See, Burl, this feller I know works for TXU told me about this feller has hogs down around these coal mines.”
“Coal mines?  Well, I’ll be damned.  You told me we was goin’ just the other side of Emory.  Now how much farther is it?”
Weldon cricks his neck enough to glance back at the road.  “Well, he said the man lives right around these coal mines in a big house with three garages.  Said they would hold two cars apiece.”
Burl leans over the front seat and glances at Tess, still asleep.  “Weldon, you better get to tellin’ me where the hell we goin’ or turn this sumbitch around and head home.  I told Lillie I’d be home around dark.”
“Man’s got three garages.  How hard could he be to find?”
Burl hangs his head.  “You don’t know his damn name or where he lives, do you.”
Clayton snickers. 
Several stops for directions later and well past dark, they find the huge house with three double garages set well back into the woods.  Clayton whistles under his breath.  “What the hell is a man owns a house like that doin’ with wild hogs?”
Weldon feels vindicated.  “Traps ‘em cause they come up in his yard at night and make a mess.”
They stare at the garages until Burl loses patience.  “Dammit, Weldon.  You gonna get out or not?  Let’s get the damn hogs and get on home.”
Weldon has one foot on the driveway when one garage door rolls halfway up.  Two rottweilers emerge from the open door and stare at Weldon as if he is supper arriving late.   Weldon steps back into the truck and rolls the window half down. 
Burl rudely pushes the back of Weldon’s head with the heel of his hand.  “Go on ahead and get out.  I don’t think they gonna bite.”  Clayton laughs.  Burl feels trapped because he can’t get out of the back seat without waking Tess. 
Finally, a man appears with twin leashes for the dogs and lets them lead him out of the garage. 
Weldon sticks his head out the window but won’t step out of the pickup.  “We lookin’ for a man with hogs for sale.”
The man nods and points.  “That would be my caretaker.  He traps them.  Lives about a half mile on down this road.”
Burl grits his teeth.  “Thought you said the man we lookin’ for lived in this big house.”
Weldon backs out of the driveway and points the pickup down the road in the direction of the pointed finger.  “Coulda sworn that was what the man said.”
Fifteen minutes later, they are inside a fenced area and backing Weldon’s stock trailer up to another trailer with pens full of hogs.  The overalled owner has twelve hogs and wants to keep the two that have what he calls a pure feral look.  “I’m willin’ to part with ten.”
Weldon opens the gate to his trailer.  “Them’s awful little hogs.  How we gonna load ‘em?”
“Easy. I’ll just reach in the pen and grab ‘em by the legs one at a time and hand ‘em over to you.  You throw ‘em toward the front of your trailer.  One of you other fellers can get in the trailer and work the middle gate.” 
Clayton, woozy now, agrees to act like another back gate and stand guard in case one slips away.  He and the open trailer gate make a narrow hall for the hogs to be handed through.  As Burl eases into the trailer, the lights reflect enough to show that Weldon has gone white.