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 Lunch Gone Wrong

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PostSubject: Lunch Gone Wrong   Thu Sep 01, 2016 8:40 am

Are you all ready for a new challenge?  Time for you to give us your spin on the prompt chosen by SheilaUK.


Lunch Gone Wrong  turkey chase




It can be any take on that prompt; an interrupted meal, cooking it, hunting it, shopping for it.  It can be going hungry, overeating, a special occasion, a celebration, a prison meal, a novel kind of food, or anything else your fertile imaginations can whip up for us.


Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before moving on.  Late babies need as much love as the early ones.  


Get writing!   

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PostSubject: Re: Lunch Gone Wrong   Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:34 pm

“Beans, beans, the musical fruit.  The more you eat, the more you toot.  The more you toot, the better you feel.  So we have beans at every meal.”  The cheeks dimpled into a smile.  “Remember we used to sing that as kids?”

The blue eyes rolled.  “Heyes.  You either stop singin’ or you get us more supplies.  You choose.”

“We’re broke,” he replied.  “Best get your gun ready.”  

“If that song went on any longer I was gonna do just that,” he stuck his spoon into the pile of mush on the plate.  “You’re not interested much in food as more than just fillin’ your belly.  I get bored of the same stuff all the time.”

“It’s all we’ve got,” Heyes sighed.  “We’ll go hunting tomorrow.”

“Good.  I want to eat somethin’ interestin’ for a change.”  He pushed the pile around before spooning it up and letting it drop back down with a ‘plap.’  “Food ain’t just fuel for me.  I really enjoy it.”  His nose crinkled.  “Well, usually I do."

Both men stiffened at a cracking twig, quickly dropping the dishes and grabbing their weapons.  A wary voice drifted from the undergrowth, heavily accented.  “Sirs?  I mean no harm.”

The partners exchanged a wary glance.  “Come out.”

A wiry man with nutmeg-colored skin emerged through the scrubby bushes and smiled, but the rifle draped over his right forearm signaled a warning.  “Good evening, gentlemen.  I’m sorry to interrupt you.”

“Drop the gun,” demanded the Kid.

“That isn’t going to happen, my friend.”  The stranger’s cinnamon eyes fixed on the drawn pistols.  “Not when I have women and children to protect.  I saw the smoke from your fire and needed to make sure you were no danger to my family.”

“Children?  Women?”  The Kid’s brow crinkled.  “What do you take us for?  I’ve never harmed a woman or child in my life.”

The penetrating dark eyes stared right into their souls.  “Perhaps, but these are not white people.”

“None.  Never!”  The Kid gave a gasp of exasperation and holstered his gun.  “Little ‘uns like me and I behave the same with a duchess as I do to a saloon girl.”

Heyes arched a brow.  “Like a saloon girl?  I don’t think that’s the sort of recommendation the man’s looking for.”  Heyes put away his weapon and extended a hand.  “Joshua Smith.  This is Thaddeus Jones.  Your family couldn’t be safer, I assure you.  We’re on our way to meet the Sheriff of Porterville.  He has a job for us.”

The man paused in judgement before relaxing into a smile.  “They call me Hi Jolly.”

The Kid propped his hands on his hips.  “Jolly?”

“Hi Jolly,” he corrected.  “They say they can’t pronounce my real name.”

“Well, Hi Jolly.  We can only offer you a cup of coffee,” Heyes cast out a hand towards the pot propped on the embers of the fire. 

“Don’t take it,” the Kid answered his cousin’s glare with an obstinate thrust of the chin.  “What?  It’s horrible.  If you’re tryin’ to be hospitable to the man it’s the last thing we should offer.  You’d be better off givin’ him those terrible beans.”

Heyes glowered at his cousin.  “I’m sure the man doesn’t want any of our beans, Thaddeus.”

The fair head nodded.  “Nobody wants any of our beans.  Not even us.”

A ringing laugh rang around the campsite.  “Gentlemen, if your provisions are poor we will be happy to help you.  We have plenty of food and my wife is the most excellent cook.  Please join us.”

They hesitated, wary of a trap, but Hi Jolly simply nodded as though reading their minds.  “You’re as wary as I am, but I had the chance to examine you before making myself known.  You’re welcome to do the same.  We are always hospitable to strangers as long as they come as friends.  A couple of extra men would be appreciated for the safety of my family.  Come when you are ready.”  He turned, disappearing into the night.”

~~~~~~

Hi Jolly turned out to be as good as word.  There were three wagons in the little group, a couple of older men, and a gaggle of excitable children who ran, giggled, and dodged around the little campsite.  Three women of varying ages talked in a language they couldn’t understand while they bustled around the fire, preparing the most delicious smelling food they had encountered in years.  Sizzling onions made their mouths water, while a teenage girl wearing baggy trousers under a long multi-colored shirt adroitly juggled and patted out flat breads to be cooked on a griddle.  The oldest woman stirred some kind of stew in a huge caldron which drew a hungry Kid Curry forward like a magnet.  The aroma of exotic spices filled the air with fragrant temptation causing the older lady to smile and usher the gunman over.  She ladled out a portion onto a tin plate, adding some green stuff before tucking a flat bread onto the side of the plate.

“What is it?” asked the Kid.

“Young goat.  Try it,” Hi Jolly replied.  “It’s delicious.  This isn’t too spicy.  Some of our food isn’t for American tastes, but this one should be fine.  That’s spinach on the side.”

The Kid tentatively spooned up some of the stew, his eyes widening in delight.  “This stuff’s amazin’.”  He turned to wave his spoon and smile at the woman.  She grinned and said something to the other women who turned and laughed, nodding their thanks at his appreciation. 

Heyes took his dish of food and settled beside Hi Jolly.  “So where are you from?  Are you from a native tribe?”

Hi Jolly shook his head.  “No.  I am from Arabia.”

Heyes’ brow wrinkled.  “The other side of the world?”

The stranger nodded.  “More or less.  I came here on a ship to San Francisco.  I was a sailor, but I liked it enough to stay.  I sent for my family when I got a job with the U.S. Army working with camels and horses.  We are moving to another base.”

“The army don’t escort you?” asked Heyes.

“I am a civilian.  They do not look after us beyond paying us for our skills.”

“So what’s this name nobody can pronounce,” Heyes tasted the food and smiled in appreciation.

“Hajj Ali,” he replied.  “They changed it to Hi Jolly

“Is that it?  It doesn’t seem so hard to say to me.”

“Me neither.   I suppose when you are not white they do not make an effort.”

“Heye…,” the Kid swallowed back his error.  “Hey, Joshua, have you tasted this?  It’s delicious.  It’s the best thing I tasted in years.”

“It is very good.  Your wife is a wonderful cook,” Heyes agreed.

“My wife is from India.  The food there is very wonderful.  This is called Salaan.”

The Kid nodded, still chewing.  He swallowed.  “Salaan.  I’ll remember that.”

“If you do want to find the dish, it is known by Westerners as Curry.  Ask for Curry,” Hi Jolly asserted.  “Will you remember that?”

“Oh, yes.  We’ll remember that,” Heyes cheeks dimpled.  “We’ve heard of curry.  Didn’t you say this was young goat?”

“Yes,” Hi Jolly replied.  “The meat of the mature male goat is bitter, and they produce no milk.  They are best used for meat while very young.”

“You hear that, Thaddeus?  You’re eating kid Curry.”  Heyes face beamed with delight before dipping in his bread and scooping up a portion.  “You said you wanted something interesting.  Kid curry sure isn’t boring.”

The gunman stared down at his plate before bursting out laughing.  “You’re right there, Joshua.”

Historical notes.

This figure is based on a real man.  Hajj Ali was born in Syria.  He arrived at Camp Verde with the second shipment of camels in 1857 and helped the Americans handle their camels on Beale’s trek to California. His easygoing nature—and Americans’ ignorance of Arabic—left him with the nickname “Hi Jolly,” and after the westward trek he took part in numerous camel projects throughout California and Arizona. After the auctioning of the camels, Hi Jolly prospected for gold, hauled freight and scouted for the US Army. Granted citizenship in 1880, he married Gertrude Serna of Tucson and had two daughters with her. However, in the tradition of the solitary Old West adventurer, he returned to the desert in his late years to prospect alone near Quartzsite, Arizona. He died in 1902. Legendary for his skill with animals, he was cared for in his final days by ranchers and prospectors.
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PostSubject: Re: Lunch Gone Wrong   Mon Sep 26, 2016 3:59 pm

Beads of moisture glinted on the faces of the men sitting in the restaurant; their small talk punctuated long moments of silence.  The evening was heavy, close, and unbearably humid as the clouds had gathered throughout the afternoon, accompanied by grumbles of thunder coming increasingly closer.  The blue eyes glanced around to make sure nobody was observing them before speaking sotto voce.  “How long will that fuse take?”

“Thirty seconds a foot.  It’s then set up to ignite damp paper and wool.  It should take a bit before it takes hold enough to be seen.  Maybe twenty minutes or so.”


“I still feel bad about burning the school house.”


Heyes grinned.  “You hated school.”


“Yeah, but maybe if I’d paid more attention I’d have made somethin’ more of myself.”


The dark brows arched in amusement.  “I paid attention.”


“See what I mean?  At least you were in charge.”


“Yeah, with your help.  I needed you to back me up.  We’re a team.”


“I suppose…” the Kid looked up at the approaching waitress. 


“Good evening, gents.  What can I get you?”


“Steak for me,” the Kid paused for Heyes.


“Two steaks…,” Heyes was cut off by a huge thunderclap followed by a flash of lightning.  “Wow, that one was close.”


The waitress shuddered.  “It sure was.  I hate this weather but I guess this heat’ll break with a storm.  I might get some sleep tonight.”


“That sure was near.  I hope nothing got struck by that lightning.”  Heyes eyes gleamed with opportunism.  “Something might catch fire.”


“Sheesh, I hope not,” the waitress exclaimed.  “Two steaks it is.  Comin’ right up.”


oooOOOooo


A smile of satisfaction spread across Kid Curry’s face as he picked up his knife and fork to cut unto the huge lump of meat on his plate.  The fork punctured the flesh and the juices ran out to meet the baked potato.  He kept his eyes down, ignoring the intensity of the brown eyes burning into the top of his head, all the while perfectly aware that the pungent smell of smoldering wood drifted through the air.  “Stop lookin’ at me, Joshua.  I’m finishin’ my dinner.”


“You can smell it too?”


“Yup, and like any law abibin’ citizen I’m gonna sit here and finish this before I go anywhere.”  He flashed a warning at his partner.  “It’s nothin’ to do with us, remember?”


“What’s nothing to do with you,” the waitress appeared to fill their glasses with water.


“The smell,” Heyes glowered across the table at his loose-lipped cousin.  “Something’s burning.”


“Yes,” she sniffed the air.  “There is.  What do you think that is?”


“I don’t know and I don’t want to know,” the Kid shook his head.  “This one here is always playin’ the hero, rushin’ off at the first sign of trouble.  It could be someone burnin’ rubbish for all we know.  I’m finishin’ my steak.”


The waitress smiled warmly at Heyes.  “Well, ain’t you just as sweet as pie, lookin’ after folks like that?”


The Kid rolled his eyes. 


“Thank you, ma’am.”  Heyes delivered his most charming smile.  “I try to help others where I can.”


The Kid enjoyed the sway as she walked away.  “Tell me, Joshua.  If we’re all here to help others then how come none of them ever help us?”


“Maybe they reckon we’ve been pretty good at helping ourselves?” Heyes grinned.


The bell above the door tinkled open and a mustachioed man rushed in.  “The school house is on fire.  We need as many folks as we can find to fight it.  We need a human chain from the well.”


“I knew it,” the Kid threw down his napkin as his chair scraped back.  He reached out and grabbed the meat off his plate.


“What are you doing?”


“I’m gonna eat this on the way, Joshua.  I’m hungry.  Are you leavin' yours?”


Heyes was already on his feet throwing down notes in payment.  “Of course I am.”


“Fine,” the Kid stretched over and grabbed his.  “Waste not, want not.”


“Are you going to fight a fire with that all over your hands?”


The Kid swallowed back a mouthful as they strode down the street.  “Sure I am.  The way I figure it, there’ll be water everywhere.  That’ll clean them up.”  He frowned at the disapproving stare.  “What?  I’m hungry.”    


oooOOOooo


A huge clap of thunder rang out, almost instantly followed by a flash which lit up the night sky and illuminated a scene of chaos.  People were running back and forth with buckets of water from the well, but it was the school teacher who caught Heyes’ attention.  Her blouse, loose and untucked from her skirt might be seen as a sign of her physical exertions to the casual observer, but none of the other women seemed to have that problem.  He smiled secretly to himself and grabbed a bucket of water running over to toss it on the fire before disappearing into the darkness. 


The Kid ensured he was more visible.  Running to the head of the line to speed up the chain of people passing buckets, but he kept his partner in view.  Well, maybe not so much in clear sight, perhaps more an observation of his general vicinity.  He had run up and thrown his bucket of water on the flames eating into the wooden walls of the building.  Instead of running back to the well he went off at a tangent until he vanished into the smoke and shadows.  The melee continued, facilitating the ex-outlaw leader’s ability to fade into the background, ghosting around the back of the teacher’s cabin. 


Heyes peered in the window, but the gingham curtains remained frustratingly closed, blocking his view.  If Roseburn was in there, he was sitting quietly.  He certainly wasn’t outside helping.  The next part of Heyes’ plan was now ready to be put into play, and the storm was a perfect cover.  Always the opportunist, Heyes pulled out the roll of fabric from his pocket and tossed it onto the roof, leaving a long tail trailing down.  All he had to do was wait for the right moment, and with the thunder crashing around them as it was, it wasn’t going to be long before the time was right to set light to it.


The next lightning flash was just the cover he needed, and he flashed up the match and watched the hungry flames dance their way to the cloth.  It took no more than a few minutes for it to take hold, which gave him the chance he was looking for.  He ran back to the well and grabbed the first man he could find, stifling his delight at the dog collar highlighted by the light of the flames.  Heyes yelled and pointed, but his words were lost in the next clap of thunder.


“What?” demanded the confused clergyman.


“There are flames on the roof of the teacher’s cabin,” Heyes yelled.  “It’s either more lightning or embers drifting across to it.”


“Darnation, so there is,” the minister turned and yelled to a couple of men.  “Go and get that before it takes hold.”


“I’m sure someone’s in there.  I saw a movement through the curtains.”


“Well, what are you waitin’ for?” The clergyman demanded.  “Go tell ‘em to get out.”


“Me?”  Heyes looked horrified.  “What if it’s a woman?  What if she’s not properly dressed?”


“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” murmured the pastor.  “What’s wrong with young men today?”


“You do it,” Heyes pushed.  “You’re above any criticism.  I’ll get back to fighting the fire.”  He grabbed another full bucket and fled back towards the conflagration.


The priest strode over to the cabin shaking his head and pulled open the door, watched every step of the way by both Heyes and Curry.  “It’s a single room,” smirked the Kid.  “Roseburn’s got nowhere to hide.”


“Let’s hope he’s actually in there, huh?”


They didn’t have long to wait.  It was a disheveled and shamefaced Roseburn who was dragged from the cabin by the local pastor, fully-lit by the light of the burning schoolhouse.  It was time for the mischief-makers to maximize on their win.  Both men started nudging and pointing, indicating the humiliated ranch owner to anyone who they could reach.


“Is that Henry Roseburn?” asked the young woman passing the buckets.


“Yeah, hidin‘ inside the teacher’s cabin,” Heyes nodded.  “He was doing up his shirt when I saw him come out.  No wonder he didn’t want to come out.”


“Scandalous,” the woman pulled away the bucket she was holding from the approaching schoolteacher.  “And him a married man.  It’s disgusting.”


“It is,” Heyes agreed, devilment dancing in his eyes.  “I hope nobody tells his wife.”


There was another great peal of thunder, roaring right overhead this time.  The great globes of water dropped around them, slowly at first in a pitter-patter of a heavy shower, quickly developing into the complete deluge of a soaking spate of a cloudburst.


“Well, this’ll help put the fire out,” the Kid looked up, the water guttering from the brim of his hat and pouring down his back. 


“Yup,” Heyes agreed.  “Okomi was right when he said that there were rains coming when we met him in the bar.  It sure looks like it’s going to be the mud bath he predicted.”


“So?” the Kid grinned.  “Shall we leave them to it and go for a drink?”


“I think we’ve earned it,” Heyes agreed.  “We might as well before we have a long wet ride back to the ranch.  Now the rain’s here it’s time to put the next stage of the plan into action.”
      
 

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:15 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Lunch Gone Wrong   Mon Sep 26, 2016 11:33 pm

An oldie, but a goodie. And it sort of fits the prompt.

Montana was really showing off her colors on this October day. The sun had, finally, decided to come out and lift the dreary mood, left behind by days of miserable rain. The skies had cleared, overnight, and there had been a light dusting of frost that morning, changing the soggy leaves to a silver lined brilliance of color, that crunched and crackled, as the horses stepped through them.

It was chilly, but it was a nice change from that cold rain that had been falling for most of the previous week. Now, today, the autumn sun was already hinting at a warm and pleasant afternoon to come.
Heyes and the Kid casually jogged their horses down the main track, towards one of the numerous small towns that they had been visiting, on their way to nowhere in particular. It was one of those occasions when they actually had some money in their pockets, but no new jobs lined up. It was relaxing and stressful, all at the same time.

By the time they were heading into the small town, the sun had risen enough to add some warmth to the autumn day. The partners took a moment to remove jackets and loosen bandanas so they could be more comfortable, as they carefully surveyed the environment that they were about to ride into.

It became obvious, as they entered the town, that there were festivities going on. Everyone was in a jovial spirit. The laughing and high energy level was contagious to the point where the boys couldn’t help but smile along with everyone else.

The two horses were not immune to festive spirit, either. They arched their necks and added a high-stepping prance to their gait.

Riding down the main street, they were quickly assaulted by the enticing aromas of freshly baked breads and pumpkin pies with spice. In the town square, a makeshift hearth had been set up, and a warm fire was crackling intensely. To the delight, and great expectations of the local children, apple cider, with fresh cinnamon, was being heated up, and would soon be ready to serve.

Slowly making their way towards the livery stable, the two travel-weary partners decided to dismount and lead their horses through the gathering, putting them within easy reach of many of the tasty delicacies.
The two horses followed along behind, taking interest in all the sights and smells and sounds, as well.

Karma had matured some, since Heyes had acquired her, and she was handling all the commotion of this busy place, without missing a beat. Even when a stray balloon tugged free of its mooring, and started floating towards her, she simply planted her feet and stared at it, rather than trying to bold and run for the hills. Even when the strange object ended up, bouncing off her nose, and then between her eyes, and then off the top of her head, she merely blew at it and did a little sidestep, to get out from under.

It then decided to attack Buck, but he only found the little thing annoying, and he ignored it, with his ears back.
So, the foursome carried on. They smiled as they watched the children running with their own balloons and playing games amongst themselves. It was always amazing to Heyes, how such a small person could manage to make such a tremendous amount of noise. Get them into a pack and the sound could be deafening.

There were plenty of games of the adult variety, as well, including the inevitable fast draw contest, which the boys stood and watched for a while. Curry had no intentions of entering the contest and was content, at first, to watch the humorous endeavors of the layman, as they attempted to show off their limited skills. But sooner, rather than later, the frustration of watching such a pathetic show of marksmanship and speed, encouraged them to move on to more agreeable possibilities.

Eventually, they did make their way to the food section of the gathering. The smiles on both men broadened, as they took in all the breads and pies and pastries, that were available to purchase. The hardest part of all, was deciding which of the many culinary delights, they should indulge in first.
It wasn’t long after they had started sampling some of the wares, when Kid gave his partner a tug on the sleeve, to get his attention.

“Ah, Joshua,” he said, quietly. “Your crazy red-head is gonna get us into trouble, again.”

“Hmm?” Heyes asked, over a mouthful of heavy cream. “What?”

He looked around, just in time to witness a minor catastrophe in the making!

Karma-Lou was having no problem at all, deciding which culinary delight to sample first. It was easy. Obviously, it was the one closest to you. In the space of a second, she had snatch up a loaf of freshly-baked warm bread, and was doing her best, to get the whole thing over the bit and down her throat, before it could get snatched away.
The middle-aged, rather plump woman, who was minding the goodies, reacted somewhat negatively to this equine, who was, apparently, enjoying her home baking!

“OH! No, no! Go away—shoo, shoo!” She came running around the table, flapping her apron at the mare.
Unfortunately, when it came to food, Karma tended to stand her ground. She simply raised her head, out of the agitated woman’s reach.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Ma’am!” Heyes tried to rescue the now mutilated loaf.

He got hold of Karma’s bridle, and did his best, to bring her head down, and to grab the bread out of her mouth. He wasn’t having much success. It painfully reminded him of a certain hat episode, that hadn’t ended well, either.

Jed Curry stood back, with his arms folded and an amused smile on his face, while he and Buck watched the antics of the three characters, doing a dance over a loaf of bread.

In the meantime, bread was flying everywhere. Karma was sidestepping around, totally oblivious to the other tables that she was banging in to. The vendor was flapping about like an oversized chicken, and Heyes was doing his best to get everybody calmed down.

By the time all was said and done, most of the neighboring vendors were up in arms, and the woman, whose bread had been absconded with, was red-faced and demanding payment. What was left of the bread had been scattered to the four corners, and even Buck was able to help himself to some of the spoils that had flown his way. After all, it wasn’t every day, you got the chance at some nice, warm bread to nibble on.

Heyes was busy digging into his pockets for money to pay for the damaged goods, before the town’s sheriff was called over. He was also doing his best to sidestep the local children and a number of excited dogs. They had come running in, to snatch up any of the still edible pies and tarts that had cascaded to the ground during the unscheduled entertainment.

Eventually, Heyes had, again, placated everyone affected by one of Karma’s antics. He headed over to the Kid, with a smile on his face. He had managed to rescue two pumpkin pies from the mealy, and had only had to pay $5.34 for something that should have only cost ten cents, apiece. Still, he was pleased.

Kid shook his head, as his partner approached.

“I tell ya’, Heyes,” he said, smiling. “That mare is just as big a thief as you are.”

Heyes beamed. “Why, thank you, Kid.”

“Uh huh. Why don’t you go and find us a place to sit, over at those tables? I’ll get the horses booked in, at the livery. We’re here now, we may as well spend the night.”

Half an hour later, the two friends sat, in companionable silence, enjoying some hot apple cider and pumpkin pie, even if they did have to pick out a little bit of grit, every now and again.
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PostSubject: The Summer of Chomps Magee   Tue Sep 27, 2016 9:16 pm

The Summer of Chomps Magee


It was that summer.  You remember – That Summer.  The one the gang would tell their grandkids about – if they lived long enough to have any – hotter than Hades during the day and cold enough for the inhaled air to slice into their lungs at night.


Heyes and Curry sat in their cabin, stripped down as far as was decently possible – assuming you weren’t a very decent person.  Heyes studied his plans, mopping his forehead with his bandana and fanning himself with one of the fans Kyle and Nosy Paul had liberated from the box outside the revival tent last time they’d visited Sallie Mae and Dotty’s.  Periodically, Heyes held a hand to his cheek and moaned. 


Curry lay splayed out in his chair, arms akimbo so they didn’t stick to his sides, eyes half closed, sweat soaked hair plastered to his head, still except to swat irritably at a curl tickling his eyebrow.  The gunman turned his head and glared at his partner.  “Will you cut that out?  Sounds like a cat dyin’.”


“It’s my tooth.  Ever since Lobo sucker punched me, it’s been sore.”


“That’ll teach you to try to break up a fight that way.”  Curry closed his eyes again, ignoring the death stare from his companion.  Silence reigned in the cabin, but not outside.  Curry reopened one eye and turned his head to gaze out the open door as increasing volume indicated rising acrimony among the gang.  “Heyes, how do they have the energy to fight?  Ain’t it hot enough without gettin’ all het up about somethin’?”


Heyes stared out the door, considering.  “Guess everyone’s a little heat crazed.  Sun’s setting in a couple of hours.  That’ll cool them down.”  He winced as the sound of blows being landed wafted through the doorway - the only thing wafting through the doorway – no breeze accompanied it.


“Draw, you lily-livered, yellow-backed son of a hound dog!” 
 
With a curse, Curry pulled himself up and hurried onto the porch, grabbing his gun as he went.  As the combatants reached for their own weapons, he pulled the trigger twice.  Hank stopped short and gazed dumbfounded at his holster lying on the ground – shot from its belt.  Nosy Paul put a hand to his head and checked to make sure he wasn’t bleeding from the bullet that had passed so close to his ear that he was sure half of it was gone.  The audience stopped short and backed up a step or two, looking sheepishly at the angry gunslinger standing barefoot and barely clothed on the porch.


Heyes, who had followed the Kid at a more leisurely pace, leaned against the doorframe and suppressed a chuckle at the sight confronting him:  seven surly outlaws, mouths agape and eyes wide open – like a passel of baby birds waiting to be fed.  He put on his best leader scowl.  “What’s the problem here?”


Silence.


He searched the crowd and his eyes narrowed.  “Wheat, what’s the fuss?  You all are making so much noise I can’t concentrate on the plans for the next job.”


Wheat scuffed the dirt with his boot and smirked.  “A little noise wouldn’t bother me none.  Planning a job comes real easy to me.”
  
“Yeah, but we want a plan where we get the money and don’t end up dead.” Curry swiped at the sweat dripping from his hair.


Wheat’s face turned bright red as his fellow gang members guffawed.  He started towards Curry but stopped and shivered despite the heat as an icy glare fixed him.  “The boys can’t decide who should cook the supper,” he muttered.  “It’s too hot to cook anyway.   How you gonna fix that – great leader that you say you are?”


Heyes stood there considering his gang, his face slowly creasing into a wide smile.  “Well now, Wheat, I do have a plan.  Tomorrow morning, before it gets too hot, you’re all going down to Willow’s Grove.  You can relax and while you’re at it find us a cook.”


The gang cheered.  Willow’s Grove thrived on catering to local outlaws.  The Devil’s Hole gang spent freely when it stopped by and helped the inhabitants keep the peace should members of another gang get too rowdy.  As a result, they were welcomed by all.  An added benefit was the town’s location in a shady valley would keep the temperature down.


~~~oOo~~~


A week later Heyes and Curry stood on the porch watching the remainder of the gang ride up.  On a sway-backed, old mule – ribs and hip bones prominently displayed through her patchy fur – rode a blindfolded man.  He seemed well suited to his mount, small, bony, and equally dusty. 
 
As the gang dismounted and removed the man’s blindfold, Heyes called out, “Who’s this, Wheat?”


He studied the wizened figure before him.  Nature had not been kind to the man.  He was bandy-legged and one shoulder rose slightly higher than the other.  There was scarcely a strand of hair to be found on his head, other than the abundant growths protruding from large ears.  His lack of chin was compensated by an overlarge, twisted, beak of a nose.
  
“He’s our new cook – Chomps McGee.”  Wheat shuffled his feet then lifted his chin to stare straight at Heyes.
  
“Yeah, he’s real good, Heyes,” Kyle affirmed, the other men nodding in agreement.


Curry and Heyes looked at each other then back at the man, who smiled broadly, displaying a full set of gleaming white teeth.


Heyes contemplated him another moment, before smiling slightly and stepping down off the porch.  He walked up to the man.  “Well, I guess we can tell why you go by ‘Chomps.’  So, do you know who we are?”


“Yessir.  Now, I gotta acknowledge the corn; I ain’t never been much for long riders afore.  But there’s a first time for everything, and I was down to the blanket that’s for sure and wasn’t so proud as to be persnickety about my next job.”


“You got much experience cooking for a bunch of men?”


“Sure, I been a cossie most of my life.  Of course that was afore I got meself in a bad box with the big sugar.  There I was searching for some berries.   Found meself a great patch too.  But I also found the boss man pirooting with a piece of calico that weren’t his wife.  Gotta admit she was looker, what I saw of her that was – and I saw a lot – just not her face.  Now that man’s rib was rode hard and put up wet, but still he got hisself life-shackled to her.  Way I heard it the money behind the spread was hers.   Anyways, I tried to make out like I didn’t see nothing, but he knew.  Now I ain’t one for yammerin’ on about others’ business, not by a jugful.  But he wasn’t one to take chances, and I gotta admit I ain’t much of a lapper, and when I have more’n a pair of overalls my tongue might be a bit loose.  The man was cross-patched at the best of times, and this wasn’t one of those times.  Next I knew I was out on my ear.”  Chomps shrugged.  “Leastwise he gave me a month’s pay and Sadie here, so’s I didn’t have to leave on shanks mare.  I’ve been picking up work here and there, but times have been thin and I ain’t got so much as a penny to scratch with.  So here I am.”


At the end of this oration, Heyes and Curry exchanged puzzled glances.  Heyes looked at his gang.  “You all want him?”


“Yeah.”


“I guess.”


“Sure.”


“We’ll give it a try.”  He turned to Chomps.  “This is trial run.  You don’t go beyond the borders of the camp here – Kyle will show you.  We have a storehouse, a smokehouse, some hens, and a couple of cows for milk.  You’re in charge of those and have free run for your cooking needs.  We find you poking around where you’re not allowed or trying to leave without permission…”  Heyes paused and glared at the man.  “A word of advice, friend, just don’t, you won’t like the Kid’s method of making sure you don’t give us away.”
  
Chomps gulped and looked from Heyes to the icy gunman standing beside him.  “Yessir.”


“Alright.”  Heyes smiled and held out his hand.  “Welcome to the gang, Chomps.”


Curry nodded.  “Lookin’ forward to some good food around here for a change.”


Kyle stepped forward, putting his arm around the man’s diminutive shoulders.  “Come on, Chomps, I’ll show you around.”  He turned and grinned at the rest of gang.  “Hoowee, we’ll be eating’ good now!”


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes and Curry entered the bunkhouse, stomachs growling at the enticing aromas that had been emanating for some time.  Finally, Chomps had rung the bell and the gang had come running.


Once everyone was seated, Chomps removed the towel covering an object and placed it before Heyes along with a jug of gravy.  He then raced back to the stove pulled out a platter of steaming biscuits and placed that before the Kid.


“So, what’re we eating, Chomps?” Heyes asked as he cut himself a slice of the block before him and passed it to the Kid.  Curry meanwhile grabbed a couple of the hot biscuits and was busy slathering them with the jam that Chomps had provided.  He, too, took a slab and passed it on.


“That’s my pork cake.”


Curry examined it and took a bite, then smiled.  “Well, it may not be sweet like a cake, but it sure is good.”


The men gobbled the meal.


When there was not a morsel of the pork cake or a crumb of biscuit left.  Chomps stood.  “’Cuz this is a special day I decided to make one of my specials.  After a long day at the trail, the boys sure did like some pie.”  He stood and placed a pie, that appeared to be covered in meringue before Heyes, saying, “Yessiree, those boys sure did like my vinegar pie and cow slobbers.”


The men looked up from the pie before them.  “Cow slobbers?”


“Yeah.”


They men watched carefully as Curry swallowed a bite and smiled.  “It’s okay boys; it’s good.”  As the other men fell in gobbling down the sweet, Curry asked.  “Did you say this was vinegar pie?”


“Yup.”


“Can’t say I ever heard of vinegar pie, but it sure is good.”


Chomps looked surprised.  “Why vinegar’s the best.  It’s real good for you, you know.”


Heyes looked at him.  “How do you figure?”


“It’s ‘cuz I eats a ration or two of vinegar a day that I have all my teeth.”


“Really?”


“Uh, huh.”


Wheat snorted.  “Heyes, everyone knows vinegar’s good for you.”


Kyle looked worried.  “I didn’t know that, did you know that, Hank?”


As the dispute grew increasingly loud, Heyes raised his eyes to the ceiling.  He stood.  “Knock it off,” he shouted.  “It don’t matter who knew or not.  What matters is we have ourselves a cook, and we can all agree that the vinegar pie,” he paused, “with calf slobbers, is great.”  He turned to Chomps.  “Glad to have you on board.”


~~~oOo~~~


And so the summer wore on.   The jobs the gang pulled were small and not too far away.  It was too hot to ruin horses riding them far.  Luckily the posses felt the same about their horses.  The gang returned quickly to be greeted on their return by a grand meal.  Always as soon as they arrived Chomps would hand them his lemonless lemonade.
  
“Not too bad as long as you add some whiskey,” Heyes told the Kid as they knocked back their rations.


“Yeah, a man could learn to like vinegar in anythin’, as long as Chomps does the cookin’” Curry agreed.


There were fewer fights among the men, and they rode out less often for entertainment – it was just too hot and the food too good in the camp.


Gradually, though, the heat relented.  Slowly at first so that it was some time before anyone noticed.  It was also some time before anyone noticed how the quality of the meals had also declined, along with the heat.  As the leaves changed and began to fall, so too did the morale.  Quarrels arose where before there had been peace.


~~~oOo~~~


Heyes sat in the cabin, discussing his plans for the big job – the one that would set them up for the winter – with the Kid.  Curry was gnawing on a biscuit but making little headway.


“So what do you think, Kid?”


“What?”


“I said, will it work?”


“We need to make sure the schedule doesn’t change.  Will Sharky at the depot give us notice in time?"


“Yeah, we’re paying him well, and he knows we’ll retaliate if he lets us down.”  He looked at his partner who was looking at his empty cup and sighing.  “What’s wrong with you?”


“Haven’t you noticed the change in Chomps’ cookin’?”


“Not really.  All I notice is no one’s fighting over who has to cook.  Why don’t you go find us some coffee so we can finish the plans?”


Curry tossed the biscuit back onto his plate with a clatter.  “We’re out.  I’ll go find us a pot in the bunk house.”


When he returned, he poured them each a cup from the pot he was holding.  “I’m tellin’ ya, somethin’s eatin’ at Chomps, and we’re not eatin’ as good as we were.” Curry resumed the conversation as if he hadn’t left.  He picked up the cold biscuit he’d left behind and dunked it in the coffee, looked at it, and shook his head.  The biscuit flew into the fire where it landed with a thud, sending soot into the room.
  
Heyes took a gulp of his coffee.  His eyes began watering and he choked, spraying coffee in all directions.  “He’s putting vinegar in the coffee now,” he exclaimed once he could catch his breath.


Curry looked sadly at his cup, picked up the pot, walked onto the porch and poured the contents of cup and pot onto the packed earth outside.  Returning to the cabin, he spoke one phrase:  “Talk to him, Heyes.”


Heyes nodded.


~~~oOo~~~


After breakfast the following morning, Curry took the gang out for some hunting and target practice.  Heyes stayed in the bunkhouse as Chomps washed the dishes.


“Chomps.”


“Yeah, Heyes?”


“Everything okay?”


Chomps turned from the dishes and looked at Heyes while he dried his hands on the towel tied around his waist.


“The fellas treating you okay?”


“Sure.”  Chomps returned to washing the dishes, but as he turned around he sighed and his shoulders slumped further than they normally did.


Heyes watched him through narrowed eyes.  Shaking his head, he stood and walked over.  “Finish the dishes later, Chomps, we need to talk.  Walk with me.”


~~~oOo~~~


The two strolled away from the buildings.  Heyes turned to face Chomps.  “Something bothering you?”


Chomps looked away and shrugged.  “Guess it’s obvious its beer and skittles with me.”


Heyes just looked at him.


“Guess I'm kind of dumpish.  Gotta admit, the owl hoot trail just ain’t for me.  I got a hankering to hit the flats.”


“So you want to leave?”


“That’s what I said, Heyes.  Now, I hopes that doesn’t make us catawampus, but I been thinking of cutting stick.”


~~~oOo~~~


That evening, Heyes turned to Curry.  “You were right.”


Curry grinned.  “I am a lot, but this may be the first time I ever heard you admit it.  What am I right about?”


“About Chomps.”


“What about him?  Somethin’ is botherin’ him?”


“Yeah.  Apparently, he’s getting cabin fever here at the Hole.”  Heyes looked at Curry.  “But he’s not really one of the gang.  Can we trust him if we let him leave?”


“We’re goin’ to have to sometime.”


“I guess.”  Heyes shook his head, poured himself a glass of whiskey, and sat staring at the empty fireplace.


~~~oOo~~~


“So that’s the plan.”  Heyes looked up from the map he’d been using to demonstrate and stared at each member of the gang gathered around the table.  “Any questions?”


“How come Chomps is coming with us?”


Chomps looked up and opened his mouth, but Heyes raised his hand to stop his speaking.


“He’s coming because I said he is.  It’s part of the plan.  This is our last job this year, so Chomps is going to fix us a blow out on the trail before we return.”


Murmurs of excitement greeted this.


 “Chomps has agreed to be blindfolded on the way out so no worries there.  Then he’ll be with Nosy Paul waiting on our return.  So there’s no risk.”


The men nodded their agreement.


~~~oOo~~~


They arrived back in the encampment in twos and threes, each with a satisfied grin on his face.  It had been a good haul, and they were waiting on Heyes and Curry to arrive with the bags.  It had turned cold and the faces were masked by the fog of their breath.  The men stood holding their hands to the cook fire and inhaling the spicy aroma rising from the kettle Chomps was tending.


Finally, Heyes and Curry arrived.  Heyes looked around, quickly counting heads.  “Any problems?”


“Nope.”


“Went like clockwork.”


Curry nodded.  “I didn’t see any signs of a chase and made sure the trails were muddied.  The fallin’ leaves helped too.”


Satisfied, Heyes grinned and lifted the saddle bags from his and Curry’s mounts.  “Well then men, let’s eat.”


The men cheered and eagerly grabbed plates of the chili as fast as Chomps could dish it out.  Gasps arose as the men took their first bites.


Wheat sputtered.  “What is this?” he thundered.


Chomps smiled.  “Well, I wanted to make you all something special, so I made you some of my fire chili, using my special dried chilies and a double dose of vinegar.”


Curry swallowed half the contents of his canteen.  “Sure is hot, and who knew you could make chili with vinegar, but after the first shock I kind of like it.  It’ll keep us warm in the saddle for sure.”


There were murmurs of agreement as the men rapidly consumed the stew, sweat pouring down their faces.


As the men helped clean the campsite so as not to leave a trace of their presence, one by one their faces were stricken.  Wheat groaned and dashed into the woods.
 The others soon joined him in groaning and rushing to the bushes.


Heyes, sweat pouring from his brow, watched them flee then carefully counted out Chomps’ share.  “Here you go.”


“Sure hope no one’s hit too bad with the backdoor trots.  That ain’t the way I would’ve left, I’m not on the prod.”


“Don’t worry about it, Chomps.”


Curry, his face pinched watch this transaction and Chomps' departure.  He groaned and his face took on a look of fierce determination.  “What did you do, Heyes?”


Heyes grinned.  “I wanted to make sure everyone was willing to let Chomps go.”  Suddenly he looked preoccupied, held up a hand and dashed into the bushes. 


Curry raced in the opposite direction.


~~~oOo~~~


When the men regained the Hole, paler and a little thinner than before, there was no more talk of finding a cook.


Author’s Notes:  Scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency, was a concern of many as the country moved west.  One symptom of scurvy is a swelling and bleeding of the gums; teeth would loosen or fall out.  Cider vinegar was considered a long-lasting staple used to prevent scurvy; after all it was acidic like lemons were.  During the American Revolution, the Continental Army included 4 teaspoons a day of vinegar in the soldiers’ rations to help prevent scurvy.  Lewis and Clarke included vinegar in the rations for the Corps of Discovery in their westward exploration.  During the civil war, when time and circumstances permitted, the Union army included .32 gills of vinegar in the standard camp ration for a soldier.  Nevertheless, vinegar contains no vitamin C.  In reality, for most people the fruits, berries, and organ meats consumed as part of a normal diet all contained at least some vitamin C so that, while scurvy did arise, it was not the scourge that so many feared.


Recipes for vinegar lemonade, vinegar pie, pork cake, and other old west recipes from the late 1800s can be found at the following website:  www.chronicleofthewest.com/chuckwagon.shtml. As far as I know, there is no recipe for vinegar chili.


“Calf slobbers” was cowboy slang for the meringue on top of a pie.  Other cowboy slang used here can be found at http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-slang.html.
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PostSubject: Re: Lunch Gone Wrong   Fri Sep 30, 2016 2:42 pm

Hi, a bunny didn't hop for me this month but it did inspire me to start a longer piece. I hoped to have a more relevant extract ready to post but as my contribution won't be polling this month it doesn't matter. So this is the beginning of said piece, which hopefully I will finish and post properly soon.





Lunch went wrong


“There you go,” Heyes winced, dropping the hot plate on the table. “Sit down and eat it. Man! That’s hot! Ah!” He grunted and shook his burning fingers.


The Kid looked at the plate him and then Heyes. “Ain’t you eating?”


“I had mine earlier. Now sit. SIT!” Heyes marched away to the sink. “Didn’t slave over a hot range for fun y’know,” he muttered as he went. He pumped water over his hands, and then patted them dry on a not too clean towel.


“Where are you going all dressed up?” the Kid asked, looking at Heyes suspiciously as he prepared to sit down.


Heyes was dressed in corduroy jacket, cream shirt and string tie.


“Out,” came the less than helpful answer.


“Where?” the Kid asked through gritted teeth.


“The Women’s Day Auction,” was the mumbled answer. Heyes turned round, leant against the sink and rolled his eyes.


It took a moment for the Kid’s brain to unscramble what he’d heard. When he had, he was incredulous.


“You’re going … WHERE?” The Kid exploded.


Heyes swallowed hard, looked embarrassed and sniffed. “The Women’s Day Auction,” he mumbled.


“An’ what the … is that?”


“Well. Every year Porterville has what they call Women’s Day. They auction the men off for a day to do something that usually only ladies do. For charity. The orphanage ….”


“An’ you’re going to the auction?”


Heyes cleared his throat. “Yes I am.”


“Why?” The Kid suspected he already knew the answer but wanted to hear it from Heyes.


Heyes licked his lips. “Cos ….” He cleared his throat again. “’Cos Mary asked me to accompany her that’s why,” he mumbled.


“I see,” the Kid nodded. He walked away, rubbing his chin contemplatively. Then he turned back and looked at Heyes, who wouldn’t meet his eye. “You know what’s gonna happen don’t ya?”


“Yes.”


“D’ya know what she plans to “volunteer” you for?”


“No.”


The Kid smiled at Heyes’ discomfort. “An’ you’re fine with that?”


The tip of Heyes’ tongue traced round his top lip and he sucked air through his gritted teeth.

“Yes.”


The Kid’s smile broadened into a grin.


“How are ya at arranging flowers?”


Heyes sniffed. “Not bad,” he forced out and swallowed hard.


“Quilting? Now I know ya can sew!”


Heyes pulled at the collar of his cream shirt as if it was too tight.


“I’m sure I’ll manage IF that’s what I get volunteered for. Can’t be that difficult. After all women do it!” He rolled his eyes at his attempt at humour and shuddered at what he’d said. Good job
nobody of the female persuasion was in earshot!


The Kid chuckled at Heyes’ distress. “Y’all have fun now y’hear.” He sat down at the table where the dinner was waiting for him to eat.


Heyes gave him an icy smile just as there was a knock on the door. “Ah! That’s Mary.” Turning the smile from icy to warm, he opened the door. Sure enough, it was Mary. “Hi.”


As she walked into the little house, she let him kiss her on the cheek. A tender look passed between them and she patted his arm.


“Hallo Thaddeus,” she smiled, seeing him tucking into his dinner.


He nodded his mouth full. Heyes glared at him to get up and he started to do so. Mary waved him down.


“Has Joshua told you about the Auction tonight? Are you coming with us?” she asked, slipping her hand under Heyes’ arm and smiling up at him.


“Yes ma’am he has and no ma’am I’m not. Walt has me working the late shift tonight. Only came back to get something to eat as Joshua had gone to all the bother of cookin’ for me.”


“That was nice of him,” she smiled, looking up at Heyes. Then she looked away and widened her eyes as if she had a sudden idea. The Kid noticed and narrowed his eyes slightly. He had seen that look before.


“I’m a nice fella,” Heyes said, indignantly.


Ah yes! That’s where the Kid had seen that look before. A further thought struck him. That filled him with a mixture of pleasure and regret. Heyes and Mary made a fine looking couple and they were comfortable together. In fact, very comfortable. The Kid knew something he knew Heyes didn’t. The town were running a book on when Joshua was going to ask her. As the Kid looked at them now, he knew it wouldn’t be long. While he was pleased for Heyes, he was going to lose his partner and that made him a little sad. It would be the end of an era.


The Kid looked at Heyes critically. Before the amnesty, Heyes had begun to look strained and tired. He had drunk heavily, put on weight and generally looked older than his age. His appearance had become sloppy, wearing his hair longer and his sideburns had threatened to take over his face at one point. Now as he looked at Heyes, they were back up where they should be, he was looking younger, his hair, still floppy but tidily cut. He was back to his skinny self and he was laughing readily. Probably for the first time since they were young boys, he looked happy.

Whether that was all down to Mary or whether it was relief that the amnesty had come through, who knows. The Kid doubted if even Heyes knew. It was just good to see the anxiety missing from his face.


Not that the Kid wasn’t happy and relieved too. He was. Whereas Heyes was settling, the Kid still had the wanderlust. Shovelling manure in the livery all day wasn’t his idea of a new career choice. He had accepted it at first. Could see the sense of staying put. But it had served its purpose and that was now nearly over.


Heyes reached for his new black hat, startling the Kid from his thoughts.


“Well we’ll be off now.”


“Yes we don’t want to miss the good auctions,” Mary said cheerfully and then false smiled at
Heyes when he gave her the look he used to reserve just for the Kid. Seeing that sent another stab through him.


“Have fun.” The Kid sent them off with a grin.


As the door shut the Kid’s face fell. Yep he was definitely losing his partner.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Facing the front, the Porterville Meeting Hall seating was arranged in rows. Heyes and Mary were halfway down on the left in the same row as Lom and his wife, Janet. Lom looked like he was there under sufferance. The auction was under way and several lots had already gone.


Arranging the flowers in the church went to Mr Rogers in the drug store, who sat back with a smug smile and folded his arms.


Teaching school for the day went to Hinds the general storekeeper, who snarled out an acceptance. Heyes pitied the poor children when that day dawned.


Mary had suggested running the Hat Shop. Heyes raised his eyebrows suggestively at her. Couldn’t be that much different than running the Hardware Store could it? But Mary had shaken her head.


“It would look suspicious,” she whispered in his ear. Heyes smiled, at her closeness and the feel of her breath on his ear. He nodded. “Besides …” Mary pulled away and faced the front, trying not to smile.


“Besides what?” Heyes whispered, giving her a nudge with his elbow.


Mary raised her chin. She sniffed when he nudged her again. “I’m saving you for something special.”


“Oh yes?” A chortle burst out of Heyes. He cleared his throat when the woman in front turned round and gave him a stern look. He smiled and nodded an apology.


“I know exactly what I shall be auctioning you for,” Mary said, turning to him with a knowing smile.


Heyes noticed the gleam in her eye and whimpered. He didn’t think he was going to like this. He swallowed hard and faced the front, trying to concentrate on the next lot – the quilting bee. He glanced at Mary and she shook her head.


“Lom!”


Janet’s hand had shot up. Beside her Lom put a hand over his eyes and shrank down in his chair.


“Do I hear ten dollars for our sheriff to join the quilting bee?” the auctioneer asked.


“Here,” said a voice from the front row. Heyes craned his neck to see who it was, and then smirked down the row at Lom. The sheriff just sat shaking his head.


“Only ten dollars for our sheriff to join the quilting bee?” the auctioneer said, in mock despair.


“Fifteen!” A voice from the back this time and all heads turned. Lom growled when he saw it was his old deputy, Harker.


“Sixteen dollars, fifty,” an unidentified voice said precisely.


“Seventeen,” said another.


“Twenty!”


The whole audience heard the growl Lom made. Heyes smiled pleasantly at him.


“Any more bids for the sheriff to join the quilting bee?”


After a quick scan round the room, there were none.


“Sold! To Joshua Smith, our sheriff to join the quilting bee.” The auctioneer looked at his card.

“Thursday next, Sheriff so make sure you’ve no villains to catch that day. Moving on to our next lot ….”


There were several more lots. Heyes raised his eyebrows at Mary hopefully at each one but she just shook her head and smiled secretively at him. Inwardly he growled. What could she be waiting for?


Finally, they came to the last lot. Now Mary was on the edge of her seat. Beside her, Heyes frowned. Okay, he thought. This was the one. He was really hoping it would be something simple, like washing up after the Townswomen’s Guild monthly meeting or something.


No such luck!


“The President’s Day lunch. We’re hoping this lot will make seventy-five dollars.”


Mary’s hand shot up before the auctioneer had finished speaking.


“Joshua!”


Heyes squirmed beside her and gave her a look of pain. She smiled and patted his arm.


“I’ll start the bidding at ten dollars,” said the auctioneer with a smile.


Mary sat back, her hands primly in her lap and faced the front. Heyes looked at her profile, alternatively licking his lips and smacking them as he sucked air through his teeth. If they weren’t in public he would have something to say.


“Ten.”


“Twenty.”


“Thirty.”


“Fifty.”


Heyes glared along the row at Lom, who refused to look in his direction.


“Any more bids?”


Heyes tried to wrestle Mary’s arm down and he growled long and hard when she called out.


“Sixty!”


He couldn’t help smiling at her as she laughed. Her eyes were bright. She was obviously enjoying herself. He found himself lacing his fingers with hers and he shifted a little closer in his seat as he watched her, fondly.


“Any more?”


Heyes widened his eyes as he looked round the room. Nobody appeared to be moving. Perhaps he was off the hook.


“Seventy-five!”


Heyes closed his eyes and shook his head in despair. When he looked round, it was at Mary’s father. Heyes nodded weakly at the ex-sheriff who was standing at the back with an amused look on his face.


“Excellent! Sold to Luke Fletcher. The President’s Day lunch this year will be courtesy of Mr Joshua Smith,” grinned the auctioneer.


“And Thaddeus will be helping,” Heyes said.


“Thaddeus isn’t here, Joshua,” said the auctioneer, sadly. “Only those who attend this evening can be volunteered.” He paused, seeing further explanation needed. “It’s so no one can be volunteered without their knowledge. It keeps things … civilised.” He flashed a quick smile in Heyes’ direction.


“Thaddeus will help,” Heyes said, through gritted teeth. There were low murmurings and Mary looked at him, sharply. Heyes had surprised the audience with his menacing tone. All except, one that is.


Lom shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He hadn’t forgiven Heyes for bidding and winning his participation in the quilting bee. His revenge, driving the price up on Heyes’ lot. However, he knew Heyes and could sense the man’s mood by the set of his jaw. He had seen it before. If he didn’t step in now things might get ugly and then he would be stepping in for real.


“Mr Henshaw.” Lom stood up. “Joshua and Thaddeus are new in town. They don’t know all our ways yet. I’m sure Thaddeus will be pleased to help Joshua out with the President’s Day lunch.”

Lom glanced at Heyes, who was still scowling but looking slightly less belligerent.
Henshaw looked doubtful, consulted his notes and looked over at the Mayor for help before looking back at Heyes, who gave him the full intimidating outlaw leader look. Henshaw cleared his throat and swallowed hard, before nodding.


“Very well. If Mr Jones would like to help … Mr Smith, I’m sure that will be in order.”


Lom nodded and sat down. He gave Heyes a look, which implied there would be some choice words heading in his direction later.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

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Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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PostSubject: Re: Lunch Gone Wrong   Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:29 pm

A boy of eight
with curly hair
unwashed uniform
one in a row of many like him
sit and waits
for a wedge of bread
and a lump of cheese
to fall in his plate.

A fly buzzes
hot breeze stirs
the knife rings
loud and clear on the metal plate

He puts his head down
and waits
clutching his hands together in grace
while the man who has all the answers
because he forbids any questions
drones through the neat of noon.

There he waits
All alone in a crowd
but for the glimpse
a tiny dark shadow
against the unbearable
sunlight outside.

A dimpled grin bobs over the ledge.
He came back
Just like he promised.
It is time
When they return to work
he will sneak off to freedom
and to a life in the sun.

A fly buzzes
hot breeze stirs
the knife rings
loud and clear on the metal plate

He puts his head down
and waits
clutching the bread and cheese
and stuffing it into his dungarees
because the boy who has all the answers
may have an empty belly
and they need food to escape
through the heat of a Valparaiso noon.

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Hunkeydorey

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PostSubject: Lunch   Fri Sep 30, 2016 8:54 pm

Lunch
      
“Excuse me.”  Both men looked up at the woman in the white apron confronting them.  “You can’t eat your own food  here.”

Kid Curry looked longingly down at the sandwich in his hand as his stomach rumbled.  “Why is that, ma’am.”

She pointed at the sign over the shop behind them.  “That’s my restaurant.”

Heyes delivered his most charming smile.  “And very lovely it looks too, Miss....”

“It’s missus.  Mrs. Bacon.”

“Oh,” Heyes glanced back at the sign.  “So when it says the ‘House Of Bacon’ it’s named after you?  I just thought you cooked a lot of bacon.”

“Well we do.  People expect it, but that’s not the point.  You can’t eat here.  Not on the bench outside my shop.”

“Why not?” asked the Kid.

“Because you’re sitting on the bench outside my shop and you didn’t buy that food here.  It makes me look bad.”

The Kid’s brows gathered.  “We can’t afford your restaurant, Mrs. Bacon.  We went to the store and bought ourselves some food.  We thought we’d eat before movin’ on.”  He pointed down at the bench they were perched on.  “This is the only place we can find to sit.”

“I clean outside my shop.  I keep it nice for my customers.  Not for random saddle tramps.”

“We’re not saddle tramps ma’am.  My friend here is on his way to his wedding.”  Heyes cast out his sandwich towards his partner.  “He’s marrying the mayor’s daughter.”

“I don’t care if he’s marrying the Queen of England.  You can’t use my bench to eat food you didn’t buy in my restaurant.” Her hazel eyes lit up at the sight of the man approaching with a shiny star on his chest.  “Sheriff Lightfoot!  I’m glad you’re here.  Can you move on these vagrants?  They’re hurting my business.”

“Vagrants?” The lawman’s shrewd gray eyes drifted over the pair.  “You two botherin’ this lady?  What’re your names?” 

“This here is Joshua Smith and I’m Thaddeus Jones.”  The Kid leaned forward.  “We’re on our way to Danesburg for a weddin’.  We ain’t vagrants. ”

“He’s getting married to the mayor’s daughter,” Heyes grinned, squinting into the sun.  “We’ll be gone as soon as we’ve eaten.”

“They didn’t buy that here,” Mrs. Bacon protested.

The lawman scratched his head.  “So?”

“You know they can’t eat their own food on that bench.  It’s right outside my shop.  It’s bad for business.”

“Well, now,” the lawman mused.  “This here bench was put in by the townsfolk, Gracie.  It ain’t yours.”

“But I keep the area around it clean,” she protested.  “In exchange for that the Mayor agrees that folks couldn’t eat their own food on it.”  She thrust a pointed finger in the sheriff’s face.  “You were at that meeting, John.  You know it was passed as a town ordinance.”

“Now you mention it, I do remember your brother-in-law givin’ you some kinda special treatment,” growled the lawman.  “I don’t see that these fellas are doing anyone any harm.  You bought that food, right?”  He narrowed his eyes and glared at them.  “You didn’t steal it?”

“We bought it at the store right over there, Sheriff.”  Heyes made to stand.  “We don’t want any trouble.  We’ll be moving on.”

“Wait right where you are young man,” the sheriff laid a hand on Heyes shoulder and pushed him back into the seat.  “This here matter ain’t settled.”  He turned back to Mrs. Bacon.  “What harm are they doin’?”

“They’re damaging my business.  Why would anyone pay my prices when they could eat bits from the general store?”

“Maybe you should charge less?” the lawman suggested.

“I leave that to lower class establishments,” Mrs. Bacon propped her hands on her hips.  “Like the one your sister owns.”

The sheriff’s jaw hardened as the partners exchanged a glance.  “You leave my sister outta this, Gracie.  You two are in competition but I’m here to enforce the law.”

“Then do your job.  The town ordinance says that folks can’t eat their own food on this bench.  Arrest them.”

“Now hold on a minute,” Heyes began.

“Arrest them?” Lightfoot frowned.  “For eatin’ a couple of sandwiches?  No wonder folks don’t want to use your place when you’re so ‘ornery.”

“I clean this area and maintain it for my patrons.  I’ve got the town ordinance that says nobody can eat their own food on this bench.  Are you gonna do your job, or do I have to complain about you?”

“Maybe I can help, Sheriff?” Heyes pointed to the Kid’s sandwich.  “Thaddeus, is that your food?”

“Yeah, but...”

“And this is mine.”  Heyes reached out and took his cousin’s food, thrusting his own into his hands instead.  “There.  I swapped them.  Now neither of us are eating our own food.”

Sheriff Lightfoot threw back his head and guffawed.  “Sure enough.  Problem solved, Gracie.”

“But...”

“But nuthin’.  They ain’t eatin’ their own food, now move along or I’ll arrest you for creatin’ a disturbance.”

The woman huffed loudly and turned on her heel, her apron strings fluttering behind her.  “You haven’t heard the last of this, Jim Lightfoot.”

“I don’t suppose I have, Gracie.”  He smiled at the two strangers.  “Are you two leavin’ once you’ve eaten?”

“We’ll be gone within the hour,” the Kid nodded.

“Good.  You’re best out of it when she starts up.  I swear, that bench is more trouble than it’s worth.  Somebody should burn the darned thing down.”  He winked at Heyes.  “Quick thinking, Smith.  Are you Best Man?”

“Huh?” the Kid looked indignant.

“At the weddin’?”

“Ah, yeah, Sheriff,” the Kid nodded.  “I had to make him Best Man.  He’s the one making all the arrangements to get me married off.”

Heyes smiled innocently.  “Well, not all the arrangements.  I’m sure the bride has a bigger part in that than me.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet she’ll have been real busy,” Lightfoot agreed.  “And her mother.  Seesh, mothers and weddings.  I bet you’ll be glad when it’s all over.”

“Right now, I’ll be glad when this meal is over.”  The Kid peered over at the sandwich Heyes held.  “I hate mustard.”
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Javabee

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PostSubject: Re: Lunch Gone Wrong   Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:18 pm

Sorry for my absence. I’m going to try to get back into the ASJ saddle, so to speak, with this little snippet of Kid suffering some mealtime angst and Heyes working some mealtime magic…


Mealtime Magic


“I knew it! You didn’t pack a lunch, again!” They’d been on the trail for several hours and it was getting close to lunchtime. The hungrier he got, the more clearly the Kid remembered the fiasco of their last trail-side meal.


“You griping about grub again? Relax, partner, it’s right here.” Heyes smugly denied the allegation and nodded towards his saddlebag, eyes never wavering from the trail ahead.


They rode on in silence.The sweltering heat of the day added to his discomfort, as the Kid let his suspicions stew. The swirling, dry dust coated their clothing, and made their mounts look like they were walking on clouds. Storm clouds.


After some time, the Kid finally muttered under his breath and glared angrily at his partner.


“Something on your mind?” The outlaw leader was the picture of nonchalance, even though he could feel his partner’s steely blue eyes boring into him.


“Heyes, you know I need to eat. And not just a snack, I need a meal.”


“So I’ve heard.” A big sigh escaped from the brown-haired man.


“Heyes, this is serious.”


“I already told you, it’s in the saddlebag.”


“Yeah, that’s what you said last time, and all you had was a pack of jerky and a biscuit so hard even Kyle couldn’t chew it.”


“That was different, Kid,” Heyes explained reasonably. “That posse was right on our tail and I didn’t have time to...”


“Look, Heyes, this time you have no excuse. You had all morning to get Miss Lilly to pack us a nice meal at the saloon, while I got the rest of the supplies.”


“Yeah, so what makes you think I didn’t?”


“Because I’m lookin' at that bag of yours and it’s as flat as a flapjack. There ain’t enough food in there to feed a gnat, let alone a grown man. You might be able to survive on bread and water, but not me. I gotta eat!”


“You know my saddlebag is bigger than it looks, Kid.” He tried to soothe his cantankerous partner. “Some might even say it’s magical. Trust me.”


“Heyes, I trust you to make the plans, I trust you with our loot. Hell, I trust you with my life. But when it comes to my lunch…” 


His discourse was interrupted by a loud grumbling from deep within the recesses of his stomach. It reverberated with such an intensity that his partner couldn’t deny it’s urgency. Even the horse’s ears twitched.


Heyes finally looked at his friend. “You hungry?”


The Kid plodded on, woebegone and dejected, “What do you think I’ve been tryin’ to tell you?”


“Well, why didn’t you say so? Come on.” Heyes abruptly urged his horse towards a small grove of trees. The Kid studied Heyes with the eye of a gunman targeting his prey, and followed close behind.


The trees offered a pleasant respite from the hot, dry trail. Kid took a big drink of water from his canteen and wiped his mouth, as he skeptically watched his partner lay out their meal. Heyes pulled out what looked like a large bandanna, shook it with flair, and spread it carefully under a shade tree. Grinning reassuringly at his partner, he brought out two bright red apples, polished them until they were shiny, and placed them on the cloth. A napkin filled with fresh biscuits soon joined the offering.


The blond outlaw frowned. “Nice snack, Heyes. But it ain’t a meal until you bring out the meat.”


Heyes confidently produced a small brown paper package from his saddlebag. Well aware he was taking his life in his hands, he slowly and meticulously unwrapped the pouch. With the flourish of a maitre d, he carefully placed the contents next to the biscuits with pride.


“Jerky, I knew it!”  The blond stomped towards Heyes. “I’m tellin’ you Heyes, if a big roast beef sandwich don't magically appear out of that so-called magic saddlebag, a black eye is gonna magically appear on your face!”


Wide-eyed, Heyes looked up innocently at his ravenous friend. “Aw, don’t be that way, Kid. When did I ever let you down?” 


“You really want me to answer that?” With clenched fists, the Kid loomed over his partner threateningly.




Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx




“I’ve gotta hand it to you Heyes, that was the best trail lunch I ever had.” Reclining under a shade tree, Kid patted the bulge of his ordinarily flat tummy with satisfaction. What remained of a large fried chicken was scattered across the makeshift tablecloth, along with leftover potato salad, rhubarb pie, biscuit crumbs, and apple cores. The jerky was pointedly left untouched, for a rainy, more desperate day.


“Yeah, Miss Lilly did us proud. I wanted to make it up to you, Kid. Neither one of us got enough to eat last time. I have to admit we ‘bout starved while that posse was on us.”


“Yeah.” Now that his appetite was sated, the blond was feeling affable. “I know it ain’t your fault, Heyes. I’m glad you pulled out that chicken before I flattened you.”


“Me too, partner. Me too.”


The two men continued to relax in the afternoon shade, enjoying the comfortable sensation of full bellies and good company. They knew they were dragging out their lunch break longer than they should, reluctant to face the many miles of hot, dusty trail ahead of them.


Kid sighed. “I still don't know how you did it.”


“Huh? All I did was turn my charm on Miss Lilly, Kid. You see, she always liked me, and….”


“I know how you got her to give you the entire pie, plate and all, Heyes. The way she looks at you, I swear you could’a sweet-talked her out of the entire kitchen. No, I just wanna know how you made it all fit.” The Kid eyed him, perplexed. “I mean, that saddlebag was flat, just like I said.” 


“Oh, that,” the outlaw grunted. “I have my ways.”


“No really, Heyes. A whole pie, an entire chicken, and all the trimmings came out of what looked like an empty saddlebag. How did you do it?”


Heyes eyes twinkled. “The usual way.”


Kid raised a blond brow of silent inquiry towards his friend.


“You know.” Heyes shrugged, as if it should be perfectly clear. "Magic." 


Resigned, the blond recognized the look on his partner’s face. “You ain’t gonna tell me, are you.” 


Heyes leaned back and crossed his arms behind his head. The dimples made a glorious appearance. “Nope.”


Content to let his clever partner have a few secrets, Kid rolled his eyes, and smiled.

_________________
"If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning." Mae West
coffee 


Last edited by Javabee on Sat Oct 01, 2016 3:13 am; edited 2 times in total
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Moonpie
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PostSubject: Lunch Gone Wrong   Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:29 pm

He stretched his aching back against the spectacular backdrop of jagged mountains reaching for the heavens, wreathed in the verdant green of the forest which provided his casual employment.  His clear, blue eyes scanned the hillside, beyond the clearing where lumberjacks sawed, chopped, and sweated in the midday sun, and on down to the buildings scattered in the valley below.  The golden sun shone down scene with little puffy clouds providing the only spots of shade as they scudded across a cerulean sky.  Heyes was down there; his head for figures giving him an office job instead the backbreaking slog of felling trees.

He stooped to pick up the lunch pail provided by their landlady.  He was sure ready for it now.  A morning’s labor had left him with a pit of emptiness in his belly.  He decided that the tree stump at the edge of the woods would make a perfect resting place for a break, so he strode over and claimed it, immediately pleased with the view and the sunlight filtering through the boughs providing a mottled shade.

He leaned over and flipped open his lunch pail, picking at the gingham cloth to expose the delicacies within.  The yells of some of the men made him raise his head and his brows instantly gathered as he fixed on a small whirling cloud moving through the air towards him.  Confusion was his first instinct, but he very quickly realized that they were a swarm of insects moving in an ever-circular cloud towards him.  The droning, buzzing sound continued and the tiny things moved ever onwards and inexorably towards him in a mass of helixes, each insect on their own path within this little universe.  The sound of deep humming filled his ears as the billowing haze moved closer and closer.  They were bees on the move and they were almost upon him.  Instinct told him to freeze as the host enveloped him. 

He sat, eye wide open and alert, as the bees flew around him.  He was as curious as he was impressed with their ability to appear so focused on whatever objective they had as they flew around the big heavy queen in the center of the melee.  The swarm moved so slowly as a whole he had time to marvel at the organization in the flurry.  Each of the bees flew in spirals, never touching him, not even a glancing blow, and never bumping into one another.  Around and around they whirled as the Kid looked on in amazement.

His brain suddenly switched on an unbidden memory, perhaps spurred by the motion of his eyes watching the action swirling around him as he was no more than a mute observer.  In his mind he was a child again, cowering in the woodpile as the marauders galloped around and around shooting at anything that moved.  From his vantage point, peering out between the logs, he could just see his sister’s crumpled body through a mask of tears.  He saw that view over and over again, returning automatically in unguarded moments.  It haunted him, especially as she’d been cut down just after she pushed him into his hiding place and told him not to come out, no matter what.  She had saved his life, and lost her own.  Oh, Mary.  He allowed himself a moment to wonder what she would have been today as the scarred heart broke once more.

He could still hear the jarring sound of the blasting weapons slicing through the air and his jangling nerves, one after another after another.  The hooves pounded, the fusillade ripped at his eardrums, and his heart beat fit to burst.  Then the shooting stopped almost as suddenly as it had started and the horrible truth grew as a lump in his throat until he felt sick.  It stopped because nobody was left alive to shoot back.  It was an eerie, unearthly silence; no birds sang, no chickens clucked, and the horses stopped galloping.  Reality dampened everything but the death, the fear and the smell.  The odors of a human opened up would stay with him to his dying day. 

“Did they sting you?”

He shook himself back to reality.  “Huh?”

“The bees,” the lumberjack yelled.  “Did they get you?”

“No,” he frowned.  “They didn’t get me.”  Kid Curry leaned over and flipped his lunch pail closed.

“Ain’t ya gonna eat that?” one of his fellow workers demanded.

The Kid shook his head.  “Nah, I just lost my appetite.  You have it.”
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