A Hunting Story
“I thought the truck wasn’t running.”
“My brother fixed it this morning,” Sissy said while closing the door behind her.
Sam had to use the bathroom, so he got out of bed and entered the kitchen. Sissy was cooking at the stove. When she heard Sam’s steps, she reached for the cleaver on the counter next to the sink. “I thought I told you to stay put,” she said.
In Sam’s condition, he was no match for her even without the cleaver. “I have to use the bathroom.”
“Go in there,” she said pointing to a door. “Then get back to bed.”
Sam wondered how long they intended to hold him, what plans they had. Having worked in the tower for more than five years, he wasn’t used to someone else being in control, calling the shots. He had to find his clothes and get the hell out of there.
Later, after telling Sam that he needed rest, Sissy went out to the shed to hand-milk some cows Erastus was keeping in there since the fire. She had told him to stay in bed, but as soon as she closed the side door, he got up and began looking for his clothes. They were hidden in an empty room upstairs and completely dry.
He couldn’t find his gun. His boots were in a mudroom out back. He heard a heavy vehicle passing on the lonely road and looked out the door. It was a massive snowplow moving too fast to chase after.
In a few minutes, Sam was stepping in Sissy’s tracks out to the shed so that when she returned to the house she wouldn’t see that he had followed. He walked around in back of the shed and peered in through a space in the boards. There was his white-racked deer hanging from a rafter.
When the wind died, he could hear milk shooting into a foamy pail as Sissy hummed a directionless tune. There was a tractor in the shed. He couldn’t see if the keys were in it.
After a long time, she left the building with two pails of milk and headed for the house. Sam slipped around to the front and went inside. The keys were in the tractor’s ignition. He tried to push the shed doors open but snow was blocking them so that they only opened part way.
He climbed onto the tractor, the effort causing severe pain in his shoulder, and flipped the ignition. The engine turned slowly but didn’t catch. Then he pulled out the choke and tried again. This time, the engine sputtered a little but it didn’t start. He looked toward the house to see if Sissy was coming but there was no sign of her. He advanced the throttle and tried again. This time, the engine almost started. He advanced the throttle even more.
When he turned the key, the engine coughed, died – and then came alive. He let it rev for a few seconds. Then he let out the clutch and the tractor lurched ahead, tearing both doors off their hinges. He steered towards the road. Sissy was already out on the front porch. The tractor seemed to be crawling. Sam threw in the clutch and searched for a higher gear.
The woman was running across the front yard to head him off before he reached the road. She had the cleaver in her hand. The deep snow was slowing her down. She was yelling something. Sam passed no more than 10 feet from her when she let the cleaver fly. He ducked and it sailed past his head. Then she was out in the road, gaining on him.
He advanced the throttle as far as it would go and slowly began to pull away from her. Then she stopped and just stood in the road yelling.
Soon, Sam would be down to the next farm and out of danger. His shoulder felt like it was down to his hip.
The wind whipped at his clothes and spiny snowflakes stung at his face. He eased back on the throttle and road along for about a half a mile. Then he saw Erastus’s truck parked next to the lower barn. He advanced the throttle again but by the time he was passing the barn, Erastus was out in the road trying to flag him down. His brown teeth flashed as he cursed.
Sam headed right for him and the farmer jumped towards a snow bank at the last minute. Then he headed for his pickup as Sam rounded a curve. He threw in the clutch and fished for a higher gear. In a couple of minutes, the truck was bearing down on him.
Continued next week.
Terry Berkson is an author living in Richfield Springs.