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The Great Race – And the Winner is…

The swirling wisps blowing across the open fields had formed waves of such perfect, powdery drifts that even under late afternoon skies they sparkled like crystal dunes. These obstacles, many well over six feet in depth, wearied the two Gangplankers and required great perseverance. Yet despite Malus’s supposed advantages of youthful pride and teen-age energy the two men were still within an arms length of each other, primarily due to the fact that Emerson had gotten a grip of Malus’s hood and refused to let it go.  

Malus had used every possible combination of curse he could think of  (even going so far as to invent new ones) yet Emerson held fast. With some wild flailing Malus eventually managed to free himself of his coat the way some lizards can drop their tails. The squire undoubtedly would have opened a huge lead if he hadn’t had to abruptly come to a halt. With arms waving, Emerson stopped beside him.

Before them, encircling the farmhouse, was a moat. A cold fog enshrouded the lightly steaming waters. The water itself was clear to the rocky bottom (about twenty feet deep) and appeared to shine with the faintest hint of an emerald green glow.

Emerson turned to the squire and pointed. “Where the hell did that come from?”

“Sir Emerson?” a voice queried from behind them; startling the knight and his squire into a sudden about-face.

“Martin Malus!” hailed a second voice.

“Greetings Cleetus.” said Emerson before turning to smile at the elder of the two men, “Nice to see you Pa; it’s been awhile.”

The father and son addressed as Cleetus and Pa sat atop an old wooden ass-cart that had been outfitted with skis in place of wheels.

“What be bringin’ you two runnin’ cross our field half nekkid in de middle of December?” asked Cleetus.

“We were coming to see you.” Emerson said. “ We had a little vehicle trouble about a mile back.”

“I be guessin’ dis ain’t no social call.” said Cleetus narrowing his eyes.

“We were hoping to do a little business.” Emerson confirmed.

“Business?” Cleetus feigned confused disbelief. “I jest gived de Squire a pound not more ‘n a mont ago.”

“You know how it is. Holiday stress and all.” Emerson shrugged. “Bottom line is we’re out.”

“So you is looking for anudder pound?” Cleetus asked.

“Actually, we were thinking more along the lines of a bale.” said Emerson. Then turning to Malus, “How big is a bale, Squire?”

“Better than a bushel.” Malus replied. “We also need some moonshine.”

“Yer in luck dere. Me an’ de boys just  bunged a dozen barrels all filled up wit de White Cane.” boasted Pa.

“We’ll take them all.” said Emerson.

Cleetus grinned. “Hop in de back of de sleigh. We’ll takes us a look at dat vehicle of yours den head us home fer dins.” he looked over at Pa and said “Ma prolly gots dat pot a tripe just simmering nicely right ‘bout now.”

“Dat’s right.” Pa smacked his lips. “We don’t want ta be missin’ Ma’s boiled tripe.” He turned to the two men in the back of the sleigh. “We can talk business later. You boys be in fer a treat.”


Emerson leaned back in his seat in the old farmhouse kitchen, rolling the hookah nozzle back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. “That was mighty fine tripe soup Ma.” Emerson exhaled a great cloud of purple smoke adding to the pomegranate haze that danced in the air like tendrils of gossamer. “Wouldn’t you agree Squire?”

“Who knows.” Malus shrugged “I could barely look at it let alone eat it.

Pa laughed and gave Ma a wink. “It be a delicacy not fit fer all palates, young Martin.

“Don’t fuss Squire Malus,” said Ma good naturedly. “I don’t take no offense.”

“Cleetus, I’m interested in that moat.” Emerson said. “That seems an unusual innovation.”

“It must have been a lot of work.” Malus agreed. “And why doesn’t it freeze?”

“Not so much work.” replied Cleetus. “It really be jest an expansion of existin’ irrigation systems. It don’t freeze on account sumptin dat powers dem bears. It be some kinda substance that don’t never stop burnin’. Once a couple of ‘em bears fell in de moat it done never freezed again.”

“It been a real bad year fer bears.” Ma sighed.

Cleetus reached for one of the nozzles of the hookah. “Dey almost never comes sout a Bump. But dis year be diffrent.  Dis year sumptin’s got ‘em spooked inta comin sout.”

“Dem damn buggers be a pestilence!” hollered Pa.

“Language Pa.” warned Ma with a stern look.

“I gots me some tales.” said Pa.

“Hold on Pa.” Cleetus turned to Emerson,  “Before Pa starts tellin’ his tall tales, I jest wants to make sure you ain’t gonna intensify dem none wit any a yer own tale-spinnin’. Rumour has it you tends to tell tales yerself, Sir Emerson.”

“Not true.” protested Emerson.

“Jest de same,” said Cleetus. “I don’t want my name appearin’ in no story.”

“Don’t worry. Your name will indeed not appear in no story.” said Emerson most solemnly.

“Okay den.” nodded Cleetus. “I’ll have Ma and de boys load up de ass-cart sleigh wit de bale n barrels while Pa tells you ‘bout dem bears.” Cleetus paused then added. “I’ll be keepin dat dere propeller-sled you two rode up on as barter.”

“You’re kidding right.” said Emerson, looking incredulous. “That’s my Go-Devil. Junie painted the flames on it custom just for me.”

“Dey be painted on backwards.” commented Cleetus with a snicker.

Oh no they ain’t!” replied Emerson haughtily. “I move so fast I leave a trail of flame behind me. It is aerodynamically depicted and accurate.”

“You blaze a flamin’ trail in de snow, do ye?” Cleetus and Malus exchanged a glance then snickered. “Anyway, dat fancy propeller-sled ain’t flaming now – it ain’t doin’ nuttin’ but sittin’ in my field. Even if I gives you sumptin’ to fuel it wit, you ain’t carryin’ no bale nor dozen barrels of White Cane on dat. You come back in de spring wit a cart and I gives you de propeller-sled back. Wit anudder bale an’ dozen barrels to boot.”.

“Deal.” said Malus.

“Deal?” said Emerson looking sharply at Malus. “What are you up to Squire?”

“Am I supposed to guess what you are talking about?”  Malus sneered.

“What’s going on down in the Gangplank cellar at night?” Emerson snapped.

“It’s a quiet place to think.” said Malus. “I find the water soothing.”

“Cleet.” Emerson turned to his host. “Do you need any farmhands? Because this kid shovels manure with the best of them.”

“Hey now.” Cleetus replied. “dere be no need to flaunt no big-city ignerince. We ain’t all manure shovellers.”

“Squire.” Emerson said turning back to Malus. “I’ll look the other way on this cellar business of yours as long as you make this new drink a success.” Emerson paused before adding. “Besides we have a more pressing concern.”

“What would that be.” asked Malus.

“The race.” said Emerson. “There was money riding on it. The people will never be satisfied with a tie.”

“What do you propose?” asked the squire.

“Rock, paper, scissors.” said Emerson, holding out his hand. “Throw down on three.”

“Count it out, old man.” Malus sneered.

“One… two… three.” said Emerson throwing down paper to Malus’s scissors. “Dammit! Two out of three.”

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  1. Kimika Ying Kimika Ying December 29, 2012

    *walks along the city wall looking out toward the mountains, wondering how the contestants are getting on….a simple sportsmanlike race, what could go wrong? They’re undoubtedly having a wonderful time.*


  2. Kristos Sonnerstein Kristos Sonnerstein December 31, 2012

    Poor Cleetus and his double negatives. Emerson kept his promise easily enough. Heh, as for boiled tripe, my typist can attest from experience it’s not bad at first, but the flavorlessness and odd texture tires quickly. Thai restaurants can sometimes make for interesting encounters.

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