Hello and welcome to another edition of Tuesday tales. Each week a group of talented authors get together and using a word or picture prompt create something special and unique. I’m writing a novel this way–one section at a time. Here is the next section of Hello Again. This week’s word is buzz.
“Listen to me, Shirley,” Bill said, trying to calm the feisty, old woman and get her to put down the shotgun she kept poking in his face. “Emile sent me out here to talk to you about that biker gang. You aren’t in any trouble, I swear, but you can’t go around threatening an RCMP officer with a weapon like this.”
“The hell I can’t,” she said, with just enough bravado to make him agree with her. “But, I ain’t threatening you, sergeant.” Her voice was wheezy in the heavy, humid air, but she lowered her shotgun. “I welcome all my visitors this way. An old woman living alone can’t be too careful. Just because you’re driving a fancy police car,” she continued, emphasizing the po, “doesn’t mean you’re who you say you are. Besides, this damn thing isn’t loaded. I emptied both barrels into the air to scare those thieving hoodlums away, but I can’t find the box of shells to reload it. Hadn’t used the thing in years. Glad it worked and didn’t blow my fool head off, but those bikers took the calf and ripped up my garden something awful.”
Bill looked around the small farm. Shirley’s home, a modernized, one story, sod house, built using large, thick rectangles of prairie grass, covered with wheat-colored stucco for durability, blended seamlessly into the landscape. The tin roof was flat, and someone had painted the metal to prevent corrosion and eliminate glare. The front of the house boasted three windows set deeply into the thick walls. He’d seen a few of these soddies when he’d been stationed near Lloydminster. They were well-insulated and inexpensive, and from the wires running to it, he knew she had electricity, but the small shack on one side and the water pump on the other side of the house suggested she didn’t have running water. The last building was a dilapidated barn that looked ready to fall in on itself.
On the side of the house closest to the pump stood what was left of her vegetable garden. The remaining stalks of corn were broken, the squash plants trampled. Green tomatoes mixed with ripening ones on the ground and half the root vegetables had been torn out. This food had probably been intended to supplement her winter diet, and now, most of it was ruined. Anger burned in his stomach. This place was isolated. Where were the members of her family? What the hell was wrong with the tribal council? Shirley Smoke had been a chief’s wife. She deserved some respect
Tamping down his ire, he smiled. “You could’ve been seriously hurt,” he continued. Unloaded or not, he didn’t like having a weapon pointed in his face.
“I was protecting my land and my property,” she said grudgingly. “That calf and those vegetables were supposed to feed me through the winter. Now what am I going to do?”
“I know you get money from Indian Affairs, Shirley, so don’t play that card with me…”
“Ain’t much left from that check after I pay my bills each month. Damn electricity and phone cost the earth, and with the price of food… there just ain’t enough to go around. I get a small widow’s pension, too, but …”
“What about your children and grandchildren? Can’t they help out?”
“My daughter ran off thirty five years ago. I don’t know where she went or where she is. I thought she’d come back—call at least—but …”
Bill swallowed awkwardly. He’d talk to Emile. Surely the council could do something. They had a brand new senior’s residence in Sintaluta, and they could appeal to Indian Affairs for whatever extra Shirley’s pensions didn’t cover. Hell, he was 34. Shirley’s runaway daughter could’ve been his mother, but the blanket found with him hadn’t been Nakota design.
“You should’ve called 9-1-1 and someone would’ve come out here right away. Cattle rustling is a crime as is the destruction of property. We’d have arrested them on the spot.”
Fat raindrops dropped on his cap. He’d been so involved with Shirley that he’d forgotten the storm. He looked behind him. The heavy, black clouds were almost upon them.
“No time to talk about what I should’ve done now. Come inside,” she said. “We’ll be safe in the house.”
Following her inside, his eyes bulged in surprise. Shirley had converted half of the living space into a makeshift stable. Two cows, one calf, and a handful of chickens were behind a wire wall. While it didn’t smell as badly as he’d expected it to, it couldn’t be a healthy arrangement.
“Shirley, you can’t keep your animals inside like this,” he began.
The old woman laughed, and he noticed how labored her breathing was. “My ancestors did, and it didn’t hurt them none, but it’s only for the storm. The twisters will take the barn, but the pigs will be fine. I couldn’t afford to lose any more stock.”
“The ones we’ll have shortly. I may be old, but my visions are never wrong.”
“Didn’t your visions warn you about the motorcycle gang?”
She shook her head. “The spirits never send me visions unless I can help someone else.” She moved over to the far side of the room. “I knew someone was coming this morning. I just didn’t know who.”
The staccato of raindrops on the roof sounded like a roomful of Flamenco dancers. The noise stopped, only to be replaced by the buzz of a million bees.
“In here,” Shirley said, pointing to the door beside her.
Knowing the wind could blow out the panes of glass at any second, he hurried into what he thought was a storage closet. Instead, he gaped at the modern, windowless bathroom. Shirley had brought in a chair.
“Sit,” she said. “This one won’t last long.”
Closing the door, she sat on the stool beside the bathtub, wrapped her arms around herself and began to chant in the Nakota language.
Praying. I hope to hell someone’s listening to her.
The room plunged into darkness as the buzz grew stronger until it sounded like a hundred motorcycles. He heard the scream of nails ripped from wood, and then, silence, so profound it was deafening.
Shirley stood. “Let’s go. We don’t have much time. She needs you.”
That’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales