A little something for Halloween. Click here to read part 1.
Mrs. Stehlen hadn’t so much as flinched at the sight of his empty eye socket. Pa had glared quite intensely as soon as he learned that Errick had lost it as a child, not in the war.
as a consequence he sat down at the dining room table a bit uneasily. His clothes were still damp, but it wasn’t like Emma had anything in his size. Her Pa was staring him down rather unabashedly. Emma said he’d never relaxed since the war, and that was a good forty or more years ago.
Errick’s tour hadn’t been half so bad if he was going to be honest, his post had been so far from the fighting, but he was useful there. Not everyone understood that, Emma’s Pa included.
“Looks delicious Ma’am,” he said as Mrs. Stehlen set down a plate of steaming biscuits, trying to divert his attention from Pa.
“Dig in then,” she said with a kind smile.
Pa shifted, grunting.
Emma dared to give his arm a small squeeze. “Errick wants ta take me to Paris next year,” she stated as way of conversation.
“Better marry you first,” Pa mumbled, making her blush.
“It ain’t like that Papa, besides, I’m thirty, if you chase off every man I’ll ne’er settle down.”
That’s blunt. Errick glanced at Pa to see if he would react badly, but to his relief he was just an ordinary father, stubborn, but still subservient to his precious daughter’s willful ways. He cared about her deeply, and that was why he was sizing up Errick like his next meal.
Something buzzed his ear, he swatted it away. “I’d pay for the trip and all,” he assured Mrs. Stehlen, piling a spoonful of warm, gravy soaked green beans on his plate. “It’s just that Emma told me she’d never been out of the country, and I thought that might be a good place to start.”
“That’s awfully romantic.” Mrs. Stehlen sounded pleased, setting the vase full of wildflowers in the middle of the table as a finishing touch.
A fly settled on Erricks plate, he swatted it away, making the plump thing launch and take up annoying circles around the table. It had the misfortune of landing on Pa’s side. He killed it with a vengeance that made the silverware ring. Errick was pretty sure Pa was imagining he was the fly.
Mrs. Stehlen opened her mouth to say something, but never got the chance. A deep crack rang through the air, and Errick had the fleeting impression that he was on the ocean.
Emma jumped up like she’d been electrocuted. “What ‘n the world!”
Pa got up too, nimble, the surprise taking ten years off of him. “Stay here,” he demanded, making for the hall, “I’ll go see what it is.”
Emma wasn’t having any of it, and Errick wasn’t going to let her go without him.
Pa didn’t get any further than the backdoor, which consequently meant a confusing jumble in the back hall.
“Th’ door Pa, be careful!”
“Emma, go, sit back down!”
“What’s happened?” Errick added to the din. The sun was almost down and he couldn’t quite see past them. Emma and Pa settled differences quickly, out of necessity, both insisting on each others safety, letting him edge closer, careful to not knock into the pretty wilderness themed paintings in their small rustic frames. The door was open, but only half, that half being the top half. There were splinters too, littering the floor and turning under his feet.
Emma and Pa agreed, finally, that shotguns should be fetched and the perimeters, back of the house most importantly, secured. Errick swallowed hard, that door was a good inch and a half thick, no cheap plywood thing, oak in fact, yet it looked like a discarded toothpick, all halved over and bent double.He headed back to the kitchen to check on Mrs. Stehlen first, she might be worrying, all out of the loop.
When he came in she was standing back to him, staring out the kitchen window with its soft white curtains. Her hands, slightly calloused and knobbed still reminded him of Emma’s. They’d worked more than a day in her life, but now they were meekly and patiently clutching the counter. A fly crawled across her knuckles, all life and twitchy action, attracted no doubt to the smell of food.
She turned at the sound of his voice, waving at the fly, looking calm. “What’s going on dear?”
“Not sure ma’am, but just wanted to check on you.”
“I’m fine, just fine.”
“I’ll go then.” Errick gave her a nod, trying to look manly and worthy, not a standabout.
Emma and Pa were already out when he rounded the house. He called out softly, and managed to not get any unwanted rifles trained at his head. “Anything guys?” Guys? Pa won’t like that. “Ma’am, sir?” Sounds even worse dammit. They ignored his flip-flopping, much to concerned with the present situation.
“Nothin’ at all.”
Pa grunted in agreement.
“Can’t imagin’ what could take out th’ door like this.” Emma’s finger was stroking the side of her downturned rifle just above the trigger, ready and tense, her blue dress swaying gently in the slight evening breeze.
They all spun around when a crashing ruckus started up in the underbrush to their left. Emma’s rifle rose, not quick and jerky, more steady and deliberate. Errick was the only one that flinched really, as the deer lept out of the brush. It stopped dead in front of them, dark glistening snout twitching. He was close enough to see the delicate hairs around the soft rounded edges, close enough to see instantly that something was wrong too. Its sides were heaving, eyes white, whiter than just reflection, white like fresh fallen snow. Its tongue lolled and lapped, mouth snapping, like it’d been dosed with peanut butter by some insistent Hollywood producer. Ted the amazing talking, demonic deer, sure to rise ratings. He had only been kidding himself, but as the deer’s neck twisted and rolled, waving the small head about rather violently, a voice issued from the chomping mouth, and what a voice it was! Errick knew very well that a deer’s vocal cords were not designed to make that sort of noise, and no, it was more like a projection, a very loud projection.
“Watching you,” the voice boomed, manly, then culminating in a woman’s high crystalline voice, “I’m watching you!”
Needless to say, there wasn’t very much left of the deer’s head when Emma had finished. The sound of the gunshot superseding the voice, cutting it like a knife. The deer stiffened, upright for a brief but creepy time, then fell over on its side with a soft deep thud.
“Well I’m not eating that one,” Pa remarked from his right, apparently finding a very rare spot of humor in the situation. Errick turned towards him in surprise, catching the look on his face, one of pride for the daughter he had raised so well.