Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Hillside Cabin of Jeb Catrall (Cont'd -5)

"Hold it, Sonny, we got company comin' up the trail," said Jeb, staring at Cliff climbing the hill. "Sit down and take a breather and we'll see what he's got up his sleeve this morning."

Young Sebio was pulling a nail out of a board and was bent over with the hammer, prying the nail out. He straightened up when Jeb told him to hold it. The nail was stuck between the claws of the hammer. He looked at Jeb, who was gazing at the man coming up the hill, and then noticed the nail and pulled it loose, stuck it in his pocket, and waited for Cliff to reach the clearing. His stomach was growling from hunger; he had only eaten one tortilla for breakfast and the sun had reached its zenith. He was thirsty, too, but he waited patiently to see what Cliff had to say. He was used to being hungry and thirsty.

The old man and the young boy were not moving, enthralled in watching Cliff dodging cactus, boulders, and bushes as he lifted one foot and then the other. When he got closer, he lifted the package and yelled, "Jeb, you got a package from back east! Were you expectin' anything like this instead of a letter? You didn't get no letter!"

"Well, I'll be damned! Hurry on up and give it to me! I forgot all about it, it's been so long!" said Jeb with his eyes still on Cliff and a big, wide grin that wrinkled up his leathery, whiskered cheeks. "I bet it's been six months since I sent off that order. Come here, Sebio, and we'll open it up."

The boy stood next to the old man as Cliff finally got to the clearing and handed the package to Jeb, saying, "It's from Pennsylvania, Jeb, Philadelphia it looks like."

"You didn't open it, did you? It looks pretty ragged to me," said Jeb. "If you did, I'll throw you down that hill. It's against the law to be opening other people's mail," his eyes squinting at Cliff.

"No, no, for Hell's sake, I know better'n that, but it feels like cloth from the outside. You get you a new shirt?" asked Cliff.

"Sonny," Jeb said to young Sebio, "take a look at this when I get it opened up and tell me what you think about it."

Sebio brushed the sweat off his forehead under the sombrero with a couple of fingers and looked at Jeb a little scared, saying, "Si, si, Meester Cat-rall, what eez eet?"

"By golly, take a look, Sebio, and you, too Cliff!" as Jeb got the package opened and pulled out a colorful piece of cloth. "Look! Ain't she pretty? An American flag! All red, white and blue, and got thirty-eight stars on it. Look at that!" he said, holding it up with both hands, arms extended. "By golly! It sure is a sight, ain't it, and tomorrow's the Fourth of July! Got here just in time, it did! I'm going to fly it high first thing in the morning. Come on, boys! We got to put up a pole! WHOOPEE! It'll be the talk of the town, and don't you tell anybody about it, Cliff, or you either, Sebio. We'll see how long it takes for them people down there to notice it! HAHAHA!" he laughed.

Cliff and Sebio stared at the flag and then at Jeb, and then back at the flag as Jeb held it high for a few seconds. Jeb quickly folded it up and stuck it back in the package, tucked it under his arm, wiped the sweat from his brow, and walked to his cave, placing the package on a rock ledge in the wall. Cliff and Sebio followed along behind, not saying anything.

Cliff broke the silence by saying, "Nellie made some pork sandwiches for us. We might as well eat 'em before we put up a flagpole."

"By golly, let's eat, huh, Sonny?" said Jeb, smiling and watching Cliff open his bag of food. "We might as well sit down. I ain't one for standing up while I eat. What did you think of the flag, Sebio?"

"Eets pretty, Meester Cat-rall. The first one I've ever seen brand new, and tomorrow I weel salute eet as eet flies high on the pole, waving eets colors een the morning breeze and we'll give thanks for eendependence and freedom. I learned that een school," he said, watching Jeb look over his sandwich like he was looking for bugs or something. "I hope the Apaches don't steal eet."

"Well said, well said, Sonny," said Jeb, taking a big bite from the sandwich. "Hah! The Indians haven't done any raiding for a long time, and they'll have to steal it over my dead body. They ain't goin' to get it!"

It was difficult to understand what he said with his mouth full of bread and pork, the sounds coming out muffled and shortened, sounding somewhat like a happy pig rooting around in his trough of swill, grunting and squawking.

Cliff and Sebio, both busy chewing, grunted back a reply.

"Tell Nellie thanks, Cliff, that pork sure tastes good!" Jeb continued after swallowing a big mouthul. "Pass that jug of water over here, if you don't mind, Cliff, that workin' sure builds up a thirst, don't it, Sebio? Here, take a good long drink of it."

Sebio took the gallon wine jug, hefted it up and drank some of the cool water before giving it back to Jeb, wondering how much money he would be getting for the work he was doing. And he also wondered how much Jeb had paid for that flag. "He must be rich," he thought, "to waste his money on a piece of cloth to fly in the air and get torn up by the winds."



  1. Keep 'em coming Oscar. I'm itching to know what happens next.

  2. Thanks, Levity. I apologize for not showing your first comment, but it got lost while moderating. I hit "Publish" for both of them, but only one showed up. I will copy it here for posterity:
    "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.'

    I thought that was typical for some of the men, and still is, I think.