Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Hillside Cabin of Jeb Catrall (Cont'd- #4)

"I can't stay until sunset to help you with that wall, Jeb," said Cliff. "I have to get back to the station and help Nellie. Shall we give it another try now?"

"Nah, I got to let my gut settle down after all that straining and grunting," answered Jeb. "You go ahead on down to town and I'll give you a dollar to find someone to bring up a load of one-by-tens and two-by-fours, say ten dollars' worth for now. Tell Haggerty I'll pay him at the end of the month when I go to town. And, say, do you think you could find some kid willin' to work and help me tear that roof apart? There's still quite a bit of it to do before I can start building a new one. I can re-use some of them boards."

"Sure, sure. I'll put your order in to Haggerty for you and send up someone to help you," said Cliff. "Hell, that's a good idea, Jeb. Keep one boy out of trouble, anyway, and I know just the one. If you got that dollar handy, I'll be on my way. Thanks for the coffee."

Cliff stood up, watching Jeb dig into his pocket for the money. Jeb stood up, too, and handed over a silver dollar, saying, "Here's your dollar, and make damn sure you don't send that Gomez and his jackass up here with the lumber. Find somebody else, Cliff."

"All right, but if there ain't nobody else willin', I'm sending him anyway, if you want your lumber," warned Cliff.

Jeb gave him a dirty look and watched him start down the hill. He sat back down on his rock and took another sip of sandy coffee, muttering, "I'll be go to Hell."

The next morning Jeb sat on the old foundation of his new house yet to be constructed and watched the mule struggle with the heavy load of lumber with Gomez hitting him with a stick about every step he took. He shook his head and said to himself, "Damn, that Mexican's going to kill that jackass before he gets halfway up the hill. I knew damn well that's who Cliff would hire and that's his oldest son with him." He sighed and took a deep breath, keeping his eyes on the trio. The boards got caught in a creosote bush, and the mule kept struggling until the boy was able to break it free, and Gomez' stick kept bouncing off the mule's back. The voices of the two carried up the hill on a light breeze as they slowly climbed the old trail, "Anda, Andele, hi-ee, hi-ee, anda, andale!"

The sun was up hot and glaring brightly, streaming over the top of the hillside and gradually beginning the trek down over the tops of the palo verdes and into the bushes. Jeb took his old rag and wiped his forehead as the mule came to a stop a few feet away in the small clearing. He looked at Gomez and then the boy, who was still pretty young, maybe thriteen or fourteen, and small for his age. Both were sweating under their sombreros.

Gomez and the boy stared at him out of their brown eyes, waiting for Jeb to tell them where to unload the lumber from the patiently standing mule.

"Hah! It's you, is it Sebio, and got your boy with you," said Jeb, still eyeing the two, the pupils of his eyes contracted in the glare, his old hat brim shading his face.

"Si, si, Meester Cat-rall. We bring your lumber and young Sebio work for you today," said Gomez. "Donde quierelo? Where do you want it?"

Jeb had no problem with Gomez this morning, that is, he thought better of arguing so early in the day, and paid him two dollars for the delivery and even told him, "Gracias." He soon put young Sebio to work tearing the boards off the old roof with his extra hammer found behind a rock in his cave.

Sebio, the elder, lead his mule back down the hill, planning to hide a dollar from his wife so he could have a few drinks in the Mexican bar. He was already savoring the taste of the mescal, licking and smacking his lips together.

Down in Tropolis after the arrival of the stage just before noon, Cliff said to his wife, "Nellie, I'm going up the hill to help Jeb and tell him about the letter that didn't come today and give him this package from back east, all the way from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it looks like. He must've ordered a new shirt. It feels like it's just somethin' made out of cloth in there. "

"Well don't wear the paper out feeling it and rubbing it like that. He'll think somebody opened it up you keep messin' with it. Just a minute before you go, I'm going to make some sandwiches with that left-over pork to take up there for young Sebio. You know he won't have nothin' to eat 'til he gets back home, and I'll make one for you and Jeb, too," said Nellie.

Ten minutes later, Cliff began his climb, holding the cloth bag with the slices of bread and pork in his left hand and the package from back east in his right, whistling his rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic going up the trail.



1 comment:

  1. Keep them coming Oscar. This is good stuff, and I particularly enjoyed this...

    '...planning to hide a dollar from his wife so he could have a few drinks in the Mexican bar.'