Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chapter 11 Entries!

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: I would really rather not put a post up here just now because it would sort of bury the contest entries. Since I just put them up I would rather not do that. I may post this week's post early next week to make up for it not going up on Friday. Sorry about that. Jim talked me into doing it that way, so blame him.

First of all, to everyone who entered, thank you! I had more fun reading these entries than should be legal. I hope the rest of you enjoy these awesome stories, and please vote on your favorite. You can only vote once, so read them over and give it some thought. The poll is up there in the upper right corner.

Thanks for writing, thanks for voting, and thanks everyone for reading! Have fun!

Crook by Jenna Reid

Luis' Plot by Ellie

In The Bag by Martin Ross

Chapter 11 by Martin Ross: In The Bag

Copperspots blamed himself for his current predicament.

It had been a cold morning, so he had decided to sun himself on a rather large rock. The stone had been much warmer than the sand and soothed his aching bones quite a bit. Unfortunately his midmorning slumber had also kept him from hearing the two legs until it was too late. Before he knew what was going on, Copperspots had found himself scooped up and thrown into a heavy burlap bag. This of course made him quite angry and he let the two legs know of his displeasure with much shaking of his rattle. However, despite his best efforts, the two legs ignored his threats.

"I'm getting old," Copperspots thought.

It was harder to catch mice than it used to be.

Harder to slither unseen in the rocks.

Harder to avoid the two legs when they went poking about in their clumsy bounce-stepping way.

Although, he could at least ease his mind with the thought that the two legs which had caught him this morning was much quieter than the ones that normally came clodding into his domain.

Yes. This two legs seemed to move with a more natural grace than the ones Copperspots had seen on previous occasions. Like this one was more at home with the great land.

The bag was dark and warm. Copperspots could tell the two legs was traveling by horse now, as the bag rocked at bit in a slow rhythm that two legs were incapable of. Copperspots could also smell the horse. A warm scent which reminded him of the summer he had spent hunting mice in a barn. Horses were not so bad, if one was careful to avoid their huge tramping feet. All in all, Copperspots had to admit, it wasn’t the most unpleasant place to be confined. In time, he found himself falling asleep.

He awoke with a thud.

The bag had been thrown loose onto the ground. Carefully, Copperspots slithered out of the burlap. Once out, he regretted leaving the bag instantly. He was now in some sort of shed. The foulest smelling place Copperspots had ever encountered. It pained him every time he flicked his tongue. This place was dark, with wood walls and the smallest hole of to let light in. Behind him he heard a surprising sound. It was a snake’s chuckle.

“Ssssoo! They got you too!”

Copperspots twisted around and saw old Redstrips, his longtime friend from the southern side. Beside Redstrips was several other snakes he knew: Longtail, Sundots, Quicktongue and the ever beautiful Roseback. She was an older snake like himself, who lived on the farthest side of the Great Rocks. They had met once when he was young and he had always regretted not choosing her as a mate. Since then, he had gone mateless all his life. From what he had heard, she had never chosen a mate either. Seeing Roseback gave Copperspots a bit of inspiration to pretend to be more confident than he actually felt.

“Yesssss, but it doesssssn’t ssssurprise me that he caught you firssst.” Copperspots chuckled back.

At this Roseback’s mouth curved into a shape that only a snake would recognize as a smile.

Copperspots could feel boldness rising in him. He wanted to show Roseback that he still had enough speed and courage to be a good mate for her. However, in this wretched smelling place, there wasn’t much opportunity to prove his mettle.

Just then the door swung open letting in a blinding blast of morning sun. All of the snakes moved back nervously as a large, oafish two-legs walked into the shed. He shut the door and proceeded to pull down his pants.

“Opportunity,” thought Copperspots “has presented itself.”

© 2010 Martin Ross

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Chapter 11 by Jenna Reid: Crook

Hellbender Hungerford had seen men beaten up before. Life on the stations of the Flinders Ranges, where he had spent the early part of his life, could be rough. Hundreds of miles had separated those homesteads from the civilization of Adelaide, so law and order was as thin on the ground as it ever was here in Green River. Storm’s condition wasn’t the worst he’d ever been witness to, but nevertheless he knew it was bad. Storm’s insistence on leaving immediately had lasted as far as the boardwalk, and he had slumped, trembling and ghost pale, on the bench outside the jail. Bender knew that even if he tied Storm on to his pinto mare and hitched her reins to Swagman he’d never manage to get Storm back to the station alone. Trying would only make Storm’s injuries worse, so they were stuck where they were, forced to be content with waiting for Lynch to arrive and hoping he had the sense to bring a wagon. At least the boardwalk was shaded. It could get hot here in this season, hot in a dusty way that reminded him of home.

For years the Flinders Ranges had enjoyed what was, for the very outer hem of the Australian Outback, a wealth of rainfall. The valleys were greened and comparably lush, and the sheep and cattle men had prospered. Plenty of work for a horse doctor, although he’d ended up tending sheep more often than not. Bender didn’t like sheep much, but sheep were the lifeblood of the region. Or so he’d once imagined. He had been wrong, of course. The lifeblood of the Ranges, of the whole continent, was water. Towns were blossoming like wildflowers around the largest stations…and then the drought had come. First the rain had ceased, and then the small creeks dried up, until even the largest rivers had vanished into dust, leaving nothing to show that they had ever existed save lines of skeletal gum trees pointing accusingly at the searing blue sky. All across the ranges homesteads stood lonely and abandoned, with neat rows of graves in the yard and a skeleton or two strewn somewhere, the remains of the last poor unfortunates to die with no one to see to their eternal rest but the dingoes and the wedge-tailed eagles. Many had waited too long for a miracle and paid for it with their lives when the horses that were their only hope for escape had succumbed to the punishing aridity.

Storm’s rasping voice jerked him out of his reverie. “You ever been beaten up, Bender?” he croaked. “A couple of times, yeah,” Bender replied, remembering. “What happened?” Storm was looking at him intently, probably trying to keep his mind off the pain. “Well, one time I was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with too much money in me pocket.” “And the other?” Bender smiled slightly. “The other…was about a girl.”

Storm’s split and swollen lips tugged sideways in a tiny smile. “Tell me about it,” he said. Bender grinned. “She was the prettiest little thing in the whole of South Australia, and I loved her with all me silly young heart. I wasn’t the only one with an eye on her, though. She was the daughter of the blacksmith, and he had an apprentice who wanted to be a son-in-law. He wanted to pound me into my boots, and he did. He was a great strapping bloke, and pounding out horseshoes all day builds bigger muscles than dosing sheep and trimming hooves.” He paused, and his eyes grew unfocused, looking back on that distant day. “I was a sorry sight, but I won, in the end. Me darling girl picked me.” He glanced again at Storm and was surprised to see a look of aching sorrow on his face. Bender had the strangest feeling that that expression had nothing to do with Storm’s battered ribs, but the next second the twisted, despairing look had faded, and Bender wasn’t sure he hadn’t imagined it.

In the silence that settled between them, Bender stood and stepped down into the dusty street beside Swagman. A thought had occurred to him, and he felt slightly ashamed for not thinking of it sooner. He pulled a flask of water from his saddlebag and brought it back up to Storm. Storm took a swig and spat, rinsing dust and blood out of his mouth. “Oh God,” he hissed, clutching at his left side, “I’ve felt better.” “Don’t you worry, mate, you’ll be apples once we get ya back to the station and Miss Lewis-Smythe’s tender care.” Storm groaned. “Fiona. She’s going to be furious. I hate upsetting her…” Storm’s voice trailed off, and Bender saw again that pained expression. He thought he understood it a little better this time, but he was distracted by the unhealthy flush rising in Storm’s pale face. Lynch had better get here soon. Damn Holt for a sheep-buggering fool. Storm had slumped back again, eyes closed and head resting against the rough wooden wall behind him. Bender looked away up the street, in the direction of the Green River Station, waiting.

“What happened to her?” The question was barely more than a whispering scrape of sound. “What’s that, mate?” Storm cleared his throat. “What happened to your girl? Where is she?” Though clearer, his voice was barely louder and he hadn’t opened his eyes. Bender had the sense that he was barely clinging to consciousness. “She died.” Storm’s brow creased faintly. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. “Nah, mate, it was a long time ago.” Years and half a world ago, and his heart was still as sore as the day he’d buried her under a still-green gum tree next to their small son. He had left the Ranges the next day, along with the few families who had remained, down to the coast and Adelaide. Bender had fled farther than most, across the wide Pacific, running from that pair of graves as much as the terrible drought. He was profoundly grateful when the jingling rattle of a team and wagon interrupted his thoughts. He gazed up the street again, squinting against the intense afternoon light, and relaxed when he recognized the slouched figure on the seat.

“Come on mate, up you get,” he said, carefully hoisting the injured man to his feet and supporting him, “Saint Peter’s here for you.”

© 2010  Jenna Reid

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Chapter 11 by Ellie: Luis’ Plot

“Merda!” Saint gasped standing up as he and Wash sat in the barn.

“What lad?” Wash asked blinking in surprise.

“Merda! Look!” Saint growled pointing. “Luis… Only he would do this…” he sighed rubbing his forehead.

“What Sa... Jaysus! What the Hell?” Wash exclaimed jumping up and standing next to Saint as he saw what Saint pointed to. “Luis!” he growled in agreement.

“Why in Hell are these things in here?” Saint asked Wash slowly backing up.

“I have no idea lad, but why even bring them in here?” Wash responded backing up with Saint.

“I am going to kill that little bas…” but before Saint could finish his sentence he jumped back a bit.

“Saint, we can’t just leave them here lad, we have to get them out or something,” Wash suddenly jumped back a bit too.

“Merda, Hell no!” Saint snapped at Wash quickly. Wash slowly turned around and looked up at Saint with fear.

"We're surrounded lad..." Wash whispered silently. Saint looked around to and growled.

"Merda, merda, merda! How many of these basterds are there?" Saint wondered allowed.

"How did the lad get them all? What the Hell is he planning on doing with these things?" Wash responded while jumping towards Saint. "We can't leave these things here, it would be bad for the horses and what would Bender do if he found out we did nothing?" Wash added.

"Wash, you are absolutely right, but I need a cup of coffee," Saint patted Wash on the shoulder yawning actually tired and then ran a hand through his hair pulling out a piece of hay.

"Saint, don't you dare use that excuse!" Wash eyed at Saint extremely annoyed.

"Good luck!" Saint smiled at Wash and then slowly made his way to the barn doors.

"Saint, Saint, please don't leave me!" Wash pleaded helplessly.

"Good luck Wash, by the way it was your idea," Saint added pushing the doors open his back to them.

"Saint! If one of these things feckn' bite me, I will kill you!" Wash yelled after him with at that a stick flew in the air hitting Saint's head. Saint left the doors open for Wash and walked back to the station. Walking to the door to the kitchen a sweet sent washed over him. The girls must be cooking, he thought absently. I’ll yell at Luis later, or if Wash is bitten, Sorry to leave you to the rattlers Wash.

© 2010 Ellie

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