“Those boys are mean as snakes and shifty as cats.” Ethyl said to the ladies in the beauty shop as she watched three young men ride slowly through town in a lifted-up truck.
“We all know that,” Malvie said, waiting for her turn under the dryer. “Now get away from that window before they see you.”
Ethyl walked back towards the chairs arranged around a wooden coffee table piled high with magazines. She could hear the roar from a truck’s exhaust as it reached the end of Main Street and sped off. She sympathized for whomever they were after. Those boys were the sons of Lucius Doherty, who spent most his life in and out of prison. She shuddered at the thought of what those boys had been through or had been witness to. They were meaner now than their dad had ever been. The rumor was they killed him. Ethyl believed it too. The middle boy was just released from jail himself for rape.
“Mrs. Malvie, I’m ready for you.”
Malvie swatted Ethyl with a magazine as she walked past her to the beautician’s chair. That put the color back in her cheeks.
“How was that pussy in prison, Floyd?” The youngest of the three, Gene, asked his brother as they cruised down Main.
“Boys scream just like girls do when you ain’t asking.” Floyd poked Gene in the belly and they both laughed. They were looking for the girl Floyd got locked up over’s kin. She left town but her brother was around and they planned to make shit right on him.
Edwin scanned the shops. He was the oldest. He didn’t have the luxury of behaving like a child when his brothers did. Being the man of the family, it fell on him to get retaliation for that little bitch testifying. If he didn’t, people would lose fear. Losing fear meant losing respect, and he’d be damned if any of these motherfuckers around here didn’t show them respect. They didn’t find the boy in town, so, Edwin gassed the truck toward the girl’s home.
Lowell walked to the mailbox. His momma was upset with him for getting muddy playing in the creek that morning. He was upset with her for not letting him go into town and buy a new book. He loved school, so summers were painful. He’d spend most of his time reading until school started back. He’d be a freshman this year and he was excited about learning French. If he could speak French, he might could finally charm Leslie Crosby into going steady.
Lowell had just reached the end of the driveway when he heard the truck coming up the road. He tried to run but the brothers jumped out and were on him before he could take two steps. He screamed for his mother right before Edwin cold-cocked him and threw him in the bed of the truck. They were out of sight by the time Lowell’s mother stepped out on to the porch, she could’ve sworn she’d heard her sweet boy calling.
They took the kid back to their father’s place and pulled him out of the bed just as he was coming to.
Lowell was crying and pleading while they dragged him to the deep end of the creek that separated the two Doherty family properties. At the edge of the bank, all three of them beat the boy into a ball on the ground. Lowell didn’t want to die. He covered his face and waited for them to wind down. He knew Blackjack creek better than anyone. They finally stopped beating on him long enough to pull out a pack of smokes. They all lit up while they talked about how Lowell was going to meet their father at the bottom of that creek.
Lowell saw his chance so he took it. He jumped up and ran. The brothers dropped their cigarettes and ran after him. He couldn’t have been more than fifty feet in front of them. Lowell saw the trail he was looking for and took it. Right where the trail turned wide and sandy, he bolted into the woods. He dodged and weaved his way through the trees and then dropped back onto the main path. The Doherty boys saw him and ran straight towards him. Suddenly they stopped.
Lowell stopped too.
He turned around and watched all three of those brothers cuss and struggle to free themselves from the quicksand. Lowell smiled. He knew Blackjack Creek better than anyone.
Once nothing showed of the brothers except a little hair that hadn’t been pulled under, Lowell crossed the creek and started home. He couldn’t wait for Leslie Crosby to hear him speak French.