When we last convened, Val was returning from town on a special Friday off work, having narrowly dodged the Hick-stays-home bullet that so frequently pierces her solitude when the Hickster gets advance wind of her mini vacation.
The time was 12:45, when Val would normally be spouting off about the commensalism form of symbiosis, where one organism benefits and the other is neither helped nor harmed, as with the example of eyelash mites in the follicles of humans. But not today. Today Val's heart raced not with the excitement of ecosystems and the fine tightrope balance required amongst organisms and their environment, but with apprehension over the sight she beheld in her BARn field.
A TRUCK WAS PARKED IN FRONT OF THE barN!
Let the record show that Hick's truck sits near the BARn, and his $1000 Caravan sits near his truck. But they are farther from the BARn, more towards his freight containers hidden in the fence row, which he plans to turn into a storage building for odd autos and 4-wheelers. This truck sat insolently between the fire pit where Hick burns refuse to obtain scrap metal, and the pen where the goats and mini-pony frolic.
No truck should have been in our BARn field. So Val did what any self-respecting country spouse would do, and vowed to get to the bottom of this trespass incident. What if somebody was planning to steal two lawnmowers again, out from under the BARn lean-to? They already got our two non-working lawnmowers. I'll be darned if they're going to get the working one without a fight. Besides, what was I supposed to do...sit in the house, peeping out the mini-blinds, waiting for that truck to leave, or for somebody to break in? It WAS a workday for the rest of the world, you know. Nobody supposed to be home here.
Perhaps you remember Val's apprehension every time that unmarked white truck carrying the ginger-bearded "meter-reader" shows up and that dude tromps across the porch. We are not located on a beaten path, but ensconced upon 20 acres on a dead-end gravel road. Val has not forgotten the time the sheriff's deputies blocked off access to her homestead for several hours due to an abandoned portable meth lab a half mile down the road. Nor the more recent investigation of the headless body found in a septic tank a half mile up the road in the other direction. She is well aware of the remoteness of her surroundings. When seconds count, the county deputies are just 30 minutes or more away.
I drove up the driveway, not following the tire tracks of that truck that went through our ditch and into the field. I pulled off into the front yard, and called The Pony to put on shoes and meet me in T-Hoe. The BARn is about 100 yards from the house, with a bit of woods and the animal pen in between.
"See that truck over there?"
"Was it there this morning when you fed the animals?"
"I didn't notice it when I went to town, either. So it must have got there within the last hour or so. We're going to see who it is."
Yes. That's Val. Sitting on an armory stockpiled with firearms, yet knowing how to use none. Taking with her The Pony, a creature only slightly less helpless that a newborn kitten. The vigilantes were on the case. Val and her posse of one. Let the record show that The Pony wore flip-flops. Yet even that fact did not bode well for Val, who didn't have to be able to outrun the intruder, but only The Pony.
I drove across the yard and onto the gravel section of faux road that Hick has in front of his Little Barbershop of Horrors. We approached the truck, dark green in color, with a crew cab, tinted windows up, but no driver in sight. There were two large styrofoam soda cups in the holders. Perhaps The Pony and I were outmatched.
Neither of us had seen this truck before. Hick's oldest son, Sonny, sometimes comes out on the weekends to help him build stuff, or let his kids pet the mini-pony. But he has a white truck. Like that ginger-beareded so-called meter-reader. I looked around for people. None. No sounds. I drove along the side of the trespassing truck. Turned back to get the license number. And saw that the plates were from Texas.
"Did The Veteran move back to Missouri?"
"I don't know."
"Does he have a truck like this?"
"I don't know."
"He hasn't been out here in over a year. I thought he was still in Texas. Your dad hasn't said anything about him."
"That would be the most logical explanation."
"I know. Why else would a person with a Texas truck even know this place was here?"
I think The Pony was just glad there wasn't going to be a rumble. We drove back up through the field, around the main sinkhole, and back onto the driveway. I parked in the garage and started carrying out groceries. The Pony took them from the porch into the house. My sweet, sweet Juno was nowhere to be found, no doubt bonding with our intruder. I gave her arch nemesis, Ann, both shares of cat kibble. Actually, I put out a big pile for Juno, and a little pile for Ann, but Ann hogged it all. You schmooze, you lose, Juno!
"Need any help?" It was The Veteran, Hick's second-oldest son, walking across the front yard.
"No. I think we've got it. Now I just need to put it away. I think The Pony's coming out."
The Pony had told me, on his next-to-last trip to get the groceries, that he saw The Veteran over by the chicken pen.
"Yeah. I just stopped by to say hi." He had his two little girls with him.
"Sorry, it's been a long week, and I've got stuff I planned to do today."
I went inside to put up the food and start my next load of laundry and set out The Pony's lunch, and mine.
Let the record show that Val is not as heartless as she appears on screen, and that she has no beef with The Veteran. Let the record also show that Val abhors drop-in visitors, values her privacy, and looks forward for two months each fall to this conference-week day off with grand plans for leisurely writing.
I sent a text to Hick after I got the household duties under control. Funny how he had sent me one while I was in the garage, and hadn't had time to check.
"Are you having a good day off?"
"No. It's a good thing I didn't call the sheriff when I found a strange truck by the BARn. It's a good thing I don't know how to shoot any of your guns. And it's a good thing I don't pass out from hypoglycemia, because it's 2:00 and I still haven't had lunch. And no, I am not having a good day off."
"I didn't think you'd even know he was on the place."
"You might have thought to warn me in case I heard something. Or saw a strange truck. He says he stopped by to say hi. Funny, what with this being a workday, and me supposed to be gone to school."
"I told him he could come out and see the animals, but your name never even came up."
"That's odd. If I was at work, he wouldn't have stopped by to say hi. I bet you couldn't wait to get on the phone this morning to tell him to come out. You always find a way to intrude on my days off. You've never even told me he was back in Missouri."
"I didn't know. Until today."
There's something fishier than Fishy McFisherson about this story. I can't wait until Hick's barbershop patrons start showing up unannounced to wander around the premises.