Circle Nine

Having once more reached a point of no return, the dynamic duo and Pearlie Mae, their uncommitted camp follower moved out of the shelter and on towards their Armageddon of choice. I accompanied them undercover without any cover and fortunately for all of us, there were no horses of the Apocalypse.

Indelibly etched into the limestone by thousands of footsteps over the years, the path would lead them to the objective of their mission. Following along at a safe distance, and hoping the rain water squishing in my shoes wouldn’t make a noise, I had time to reflect on what sort of stupidity, curiosity and need for entertainment had brought me to this sad state of affairs.

By the time they got back to the ditch surrounding the school, the rain had stopped in the valley. Surrounding the old brick school building, the target of their mission, the trail ended abruptly in a trench. It had been dug around the building to drain off the occasional flooding rainstorm that threatened the valley and it usually turned it into a dirt filled bathtub without a visible drain. The trench was still a swamp.

Tired but resolute they found the highest, driest part of the ditch and settled in to work out the details of the rest of the operation. It required more planning, preparation and coordination than their cross-country trip on foot had given them.

A grunt and a staggering lurch was all Whit could muster.

“A trail, that’s what.” mumbled Uriah.

“What ya talking about? asked Whit. What ya mean, trail?”

“Like the two German kids that left a trail of crumbs so they’d be able to find their way home,

“Yeah, and Early said the birds ate the crumbs, interrupted Whit, “and they burned up the ol woman, right?”

“Right, but in our plan, no birds gonna eat a trail of gun powder and we’re gonna blow up the school not burn an ol witch.”

“How we gonna do it then?” asked Whit.

“I’m working on the dee-to nation dee-tails and I think a trail of gun powder will work just fine for a fuse. It’s gonna be easier than we thought it would.”

“OK, then!”

“Here’s how. We poke a tiny hole in one bottom corner of the carton, but carry it upside down until we’re ready to make a trail.” When we carry it in to put it in the stove, we turn it right side up and leave a trail of powder b back to the ditch. I reckon that’ll give us time to get away.” said Uriah.

“Then when we put a match to end of the trail and it starts to burn, we run like hell down the rise, get out of range and drop.”

“Drop what, Uriah? asked Whit.

“Yer ass, dimwhit!”

“Oh, I get it, said Whit. “If we din’t drop, the blow by will knock us down, right?”

“That’s right. Remember when Early told us about the Heero-sheema harrdass blast and the Na-ga-socki nut cracker?”

“Yep, I ‘member. That must a been somethin to see from the Nolagay.

“Well, we got no Nolagay so we’re just gonna run like hell and drop! Got it?” said Uriah, once more feeling his oats in mission control.

With no clear end to the grand plan in sight, Uriah and Whit were lost in their usual disagreeable mental maze of speculation and indecision.

“Damn!” complained Whit “this puddle feels like a soggy version of the Okeefenokee.”

Whit’s grumbling once more reminded me that I was crouching out of sight, wet to the skin, soggy shoes and all, chilled to the bone and wondering what the hell had attracted me to be even remotely a part of this exercise in manifest destiny. I was feeling like a cowboy being thrown from his first ride with a saddle from the back of an unbroken horse. With one foot caught in the stirrup and my sorry wet ass being dragged on the ground. My choices were quickly being reduced to none; cut my losses and run for home or hunker down and wait for the final act.

I could see Uriah and Whit and Pearlie Mae trying to peer over the rim of the trench. We had all heard someone coming up the trail. The sound of the tread made it clear who was coming. The shuffling, lop-sided gait of a paraplegic with legs was a dead giveaway.

“It’s Early,” Uriah whispered.

Whit grunted his acknowledgment and whispered back,

“Shit o’dear, I wisht it wasn’t. What the hell we goin to do now?”

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