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May 13, 2024

Up the Gump Stump

By Ward Webb

Merriweather McCluck sat preening her feathers at the edge of the pond and watched as the giant gas truck went rumbling by. Winds whipped behind it like a wave and ruffled the old bird's feathers but she couldn't have cared less about that. Merriweather sat proud atop the blackened pillar of dead oak known affectionately as the Gump Stump and watched her six downy chicks playing in the late afternoon sunlight. Tweeting with delight, they chased each other around a clump of milkweed with their little wings spread wide for balance. As the clamor of the truck died down in the distance Merriweather called out to her little ones in a loving, almost syrupy voice from her position on the dead stump.

"Time to go home, children! Gather up in a line now," and they all did just that. Prim and proper and well brought up, all the little fluffy babies lined up and waited for Merriweather to take her place as the lead.

She plopped down from the stump in a flourish of feathers and waddled to the front of the line with her head held high.

Shifting tail feathers shook in time as they all made their way safely across the dusty road to the big farm house and the quiet little fenced-in area reserved for all the birds. As she came up to the asphalt, Merriweather didn't bother looking; she knew after the big truck crashed by, that soon the dinner bell would ring, and shortly after that, the old lady would come out and put new food on the ground. She marched proudly across the strip of pavement. Her babies trailed behind her in a serpentine row, their tiny toes burned by the sun-soaked asphalt they pranced and peeped and rushed across the road.

As Merriweather stood and waited for the last of her chicks to cross, the fat old farm dog came up and sat beside her and said, "Your babies look positively delicious, Merriweather. I don't suppose you would want to let me have one, would you? Just for a snack perhaps? I'm simply dying of hunger. Have a heart."

The old chicken gasped at the very idea. "How dare you suggest such a thing," Merriweather shot back with great insult as she shooed her babies up the driveway and out of harm's way. "Each one of those are my children and I love them very much. I could never allow such a vile, disgusting beast like you to eat one of them! What kind of monster do you take me for? I would fight you to the very ends of time to protect them. You didn't know?"

"But Merriweather, come on. It's just ... you've got so many! Surely you can spare just one for your old friend," the dog sneered, and licked his chops. "You wouldn't want to see me starve to death, would you? What do you need with that many scrumptious babies? Lemme have one. Just one."

"You crazy old fool! What do I care if you starve to death? You can go eat a tire for all I care. I love all six of my babies more than you could ever imagine. You certainly won't be eating any of my babies, that's for sure! Get on out of my way before I knock you upside the head with something," Merriweather snorted and spread out both wings with regal pomp.

She flipped her neck and shook her feathers loose giving her a further air of authority. She kept walking and never once turned around.

The old mangy dog trotted out of her way and watched in silence as she shoved her babies up along the side of the house and in through the gate in the fence just as the supper bell chimed and the sky turned to the color of a ripe peach.

The next morning Merriweather waited quietly in the sandy yard for her babies to drop out of the hen house door like little pats of butter in the morning sun.

One by one they all came along, stumbling down the ramp still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, but after a few minutes, her youngest -- Clarissa -- was still missing.

Merriweather counted them all over and shouted, "Where is your sister Clarissa? Did she oversleep again? One of you good children go in there and yank her out by her gizzard! She's the laziest child I've ever seen."

Her oldest, Ernestine ran through the door and after a moment poked her tiny head back through the opening and said, "Clarissa ain't in there. She ain't sleepin.' I looked everywhere. Clarissa ain't nowhere to be found, MawMaw."

That wasn't good enough for Merriweather. Always the protective mother, she shook her feathers with great dismay and scratched at the sand as she rushed toward the gaping doorway to inspect for herself.

After a few minutes in the darkened box, she appeared again and stopped firm on the tiny wooden ramp and shouted, "She's ... she's gone? She's so little she couldn't have gotten far. Has anyone seen my baby Clarissa? Anyone at all? When I find that girl, I'm going to give her such a scolding she won't wander out of the pen like this no more! Clarissa! Clarissa? Has anyone seen my baby?"

But no one answered. All the other animals looked the other way and went about their business without commenting.

Merriweather started calling her baby with great urgency, pacing and cawing until the droopy old dog came sauntering by the pen. His jowls dripping and wet already, he shook himself and flung ropes of drool onto the dried, dusty ground at Merriweather's feet. His white speckled coat shined and tiny gnats trailed along after him, eager to get a taste of his stink.

"Hey! You there -- dog," Merriweather shouted. "You don't know where my Clarissa is, do you? She could be somewhere lost and looking for me. She's not in the house. She's so little she could get into trouble if I don't find her."

The dog stopped and sat down on his haunches in the dust. He flipped one leg up and scratched delightfully at his neck for a moment before answering. "Clarissa? You askin' me if I've seen her, is that right? Is that what you are asking me right here and now?"

All the other chicks balled together in a heap around their mothers knobby legs. Merriweather rolled her tiny black eyes and replied, "You heard me fine the first time! Have you seen my baby? You didn't eat her, did you? I told you I wasn't going to stand for such behavior from you and --"

"You know I did! I came along right before everyone woke up and gobbled her all up in one big bite," the dog interrupted proudly. "And she was deeeeee-licious, too! Like a little morsel from heaven. To tell you the truth -- it made me kind of want more. That's how scrumptious Clarissa was. You make delicious babies, Merriweather. I'm impressed."

Merriweather howled in mourning. The other chicks followed close to her and trembled in fear from the sound of such sorrow. "How could you do such a thing, you heartless old mutt," she hissed. "That was my child! I loved her so! I'll get you for this! You'll be sorry! Oh my precious Clarissa! How could you? How could you?"

The dog smiled and shook himself free of dust and said, "Simple -- I'm bigger and smarter and when I want something that's all there is to it! I told you I'd do it, and I did it. Plain and simple. You're just a little old chicken, anyway. You can't stop me once I set my mind on something. I'm better than you by nature, so stop all that squawking, Merriweather. You'd better worry that I don't get hungry again and keep an eye on the delicious morsels you have left. Look at that one there. Positively alluring."

A fresh dollop of warm drool fell from the old dog's black lips and hit the dirt with a splat.

Merriweather wrapped her wings around her five babies and turned her back on the murderous hound. She cupped them in her embrace and cooed that everything would be just fine while they quivered against her knees. The old dog snorted with amusement and skipped away toward the front porch for his morning nap.

That afternoon as the familiar gas truck went rumbling by and shaking the earth, Merriweather sat firm and strong and most importantly -- alert atop the old Gump Stump. The soggy bark looked almost charred with age. With roots like gnarled fingers stretching down into the muddy lip of the pond the stump sat with a sentinel's grace and gave her an impeccable view of the surrounding area.

Merriweather always took her babies to play across the road in the afternoon. They were building a new house and her biddie babies delighted in watching the men work, and Merriweather delighted in sitting on the old Gump Stump and watching her children play. But as the growl of the truck disappeared into the coming night, she knew the bell would ring soon and there was that pesky dog to consider.

"All right, children, gather up quickly, we have to hurry home," she cooed and suddenly there was a ruffle of yellow across the ground as her babies lined up one by one.

As she came up to the edge of the road she looked off at the diminishing tail lights from the truck and spied the big panting dog lying on his paws across the road from her. Crouching in the ditch on his matted belly, he waited with his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth.

"What do you want?" she called out across the road. "Don't think I can't see you over there! Look at you sitting there waitin' like an old spider! Get up from there fool!"

"I ain't hidin' from nobody -- this cool mud feels good on my belly meat, that's all," the dog answered and licked his lips at the sight of the anxious biddies falling out of line and back into a protective huddle around Merriweather's knobby knees. "What kind of dog hides from a chicken? Stop talking foolish, Merriweather. Ain't nobody hidin' from you. You better hurry on though, or you're liable to miss your supper. Lady Ma'am is gonna ring that bell any minute so come on, girl. Don't be 'fraid."

She stood still with the road stretching out on both sides of her like a gold ribbon in the dying light. Her black eyes glared across the pavement at the grinning hound.

After a moment the dog sat up and arched his back. He groaned in satisfaction and reassured the paranoid old bird, "Come on across the road! Don't stand there all night like a fool. Ain't nobody gonna bother you none. You're gonna miss your supper acting the fool, Merriweather. I won't bother you or your young'uns."

"You see that you don't, either. I've had about enough out of you," Merriweather snapped back and ushered her biddies in a huddle across the road and onto the driveway of home. She locked a suspicious eye on the old motley dog as she shoved her babies along in front of her.

The dog stayed still under the shade of the tree on the banks of the muddy ditch. Tiny flies buzzed and tickled his ears and he shook his head so hard it made a wet, sloppy sound. Merriweather grimaced in disgust.

She pressed her babies up the driveway and they rushed toward the fence. Merriweather stopped and stared at the grinning old mongrel and said, "You better not mess with me or my babies no more, Mr. Dog. I don't know what you have on your mind, but I've told you for the last time. I'm not playing, either."

The old hound rolled his eyes and said, "Merriweather, I don't have no problem with you. Get that through your ruffled old head. But you honestly can't stand there and fault me for getting hungry and doing what I have to do to survive, now can you? It's not my fault your babies taste so good, now is it?"

"I'm done talking to the likes of you, Mr. Dog. You're just a greedy old fool," she shot back and waved her wings in the air. A cloud of dust rose and fell in a mist around her.

The old dog laughed and agreed, "You may be right there. But there's one thing that's sure as the day I was born and that's that I'm bigger than you and smarter than you and I can do whatever I like whenever I get hungry, so stop trying to bully me into thinking you're going to do something to me if I don't back off them delicious morsels of yours. If you were smart you'd get rid of that attitude and start pleading with me to spare those babies of yours."

"You've got a lot of nerve, Mr. Dog," Merriweather said, spitting into the dust. "You may be bigger than me, but you certainly aren't smarter. You keep right on thinkin' that and we'll see what happens. I'll show you who's the smartest on this farm. Test me again and see what happens."

"There you go with those foolish threats again," he sighed. "If you weren't so stringy and gamey I'd take a chunk out of you just to teach you a lesson. Lucky Lady Ma'am is coming out or I'd give you a good nip or two right now!"

The high, tinny sound of the supper bell sang out in the evening breeze. Merriweather looked at her tiny pats of butter shuffling up through the fence and waved one dismissive wing in the dog's direction and finished, "You ain't smarter than me and you better leave my babies alone, or else I'll have to mess you up good fashioned. Now pardon me, you ugly old mutt, but I have supper to tend to."

And that was that, until the following morning when Ernestine was found to be missing from her nest.

"Lordamercy that old dog came and kilt another one," Merriweather's voice screamed out into the barnyard morning from the mournful interior of the hen house. "I'll kill him sure as I'm standing here! Come out here, Dog! Where are you?"

A fistful of sparrows busy pecking at the dirt were startled at the sudden sound and rushed up into the lowest limbs of the ancient oak tree to get a better look.

Merriweather came bursting through the little doorway in a flurry of feathers and claws and landed in an indignant cloud of dust, screaming in agony as if her tiny heart had been torn viciously from her chest and thrown into the same dust.

All the other animals looked the other way and went about their business and pretended not to hear the sounds of her suffering.

"Where are you?" she cried. "I know you are hiding your mangy tail around here somewhere! Show yourself, you murdering bandit! Come out here and face me!"

The old hound dog came trotting around the corner of the house looking pleased with himself. He stopped and watched the flustered old bird send up another cloud of dust before speaking. "Look at you having yourself a little fit this early in the morning," he said with a mocking sneer. "What's all this ruckus about? It's too early for all that noise, Merriweather. You're coming unhinged in your old age. Calm down and tell me what's gotten into you."

"Stop acting the fool, Mr. Dog! You know what's gotten into me! You! You ... evil monster! You did it again, didn't you? You just couldn't be happy with Clarissa so you came and killed my beautiful Ernestine. Didn't you? Admit it and don't try to lie!"

"You know I did," Mr. Dog answered proudly. "I even told you I would. What's the big deal? Stop squawking like that, you're going to give me a headache."

Merriweather was aghast at his arrogance and if there was one thing an old chicken cannot tolerate -- it's arrogance.

She marched up to the wire fence and poked her sharp beak through the metal mesh and shot back, her voice full of venom, "Let me tell you something, Dog. You may think you can get away with this, but sooner or later you'll get what's coming to you. I was just kidding before, but now you've done it. I'll see to it now. You better watch your back. You're not as smart as you wish you were. You'll learn. I may be small, but I'll get you for this."

"There we go with those empty threats again," Mr. Dog boomed with laughter and rolled on his back in the warm grass. His tongue lolled out of his mouth and his belly drank in the golden morning sunshine.

"Let me out of here and I'll show you a thing or two right now! How do you turn this latch?" Merriweather hissed with squinted eyes, every feather quivering with rage. "Let me loose! I'll mess you up, Dog."

She jabbed her wing at the dog but he just kept bellowing in amusement as she fumbled with the heavy wooden slat that kept the gate sealed. "Shut up that laughing, you murderin' old monster," she continued. "I'm going to get you for this. I'm going to get out when Lady Ma'am opens this gate, and then you better watch out."

Mr. Dog caught his breath and trotted to the edge of the fence with his tail held high. The back door slammed and an old tired lady scooted down the steps and disappeared around the corner of the house carrying a wooden bucket out in front of her like it stank.

"Come a little bit closer and I'll peck your dern eyes right outcher head right now -- eat my babies and see what happens," Merriweather snarled her beak but the effect was comical.

Mr. Dog bit his tongue to keep from starting up laughing all over again and quietly stated, plain and simple, "Merriweather, you can't do anything to me. I'll keep gobbling up your delicious babies whenever and wherever I like and there ain't anything you can do to stop me. You ain't nothin' but a chicken. Don't you see that's all you are? All this mouth-runnin' and finger-pointin' is just makin' you look the fool."

"I ain't no fool. You take that back right now. I'ma mind to come over this fence and --"

"Naw, you're a fool because you're a chicken and I'm better because I'm a dog. Everyone knows dogs are much smarter than stupid old chickens. What can you do? You can't fight nature, Merriweather. Even a stupid old bird should know that much."

"I can lay eggs and make beautiful babies," she said looking down at her four remaining biddies who sat silent behind her protective tail feathers. "I can do that much at least. What can you do? You're just a big fool."

Mr. Dog let a slow smile creep across his face. "Well ... I can hunt and I can track and I can follow orders and I can find lost things and I can do all kinds of wonderful stuff. You can't do anything but make eggs and delicious babies for me to eat. Get over yourself, Merriweather, you're just no contest for me. Now stop all that stupid yappin' of yours and tend to the ones you got left -- while you still got 'em. All this arguing makes me hungry." Mr. Dog snickered into his paw.

She gasped. "Oh no you aren't! Ain't gonna be no such-a-thing," she cried. "There ain't no way in this world you're getting your filthy mouth on another one of my children and I can tell you why not, too."

"Why not," he asked scratching a flea with one ear cocked in feigned interest.

Merriweather thought for a moment before responding. The sounds of hammers fell across the yard from the little house being built across the road. A twinkle lit in her black eye as she realized how she could trick the murderous beast. Merriweather leaned toward the fence as if she were going to tell the old dog a secret, grinned her most devilish grin and whispered through the wire. "Because we're all moving to where you can't get us. Just after lunch we're going to go over to our new house and start settling in where you can't go. You'll see," she choked back a smile at her devilish plan. "You think you're so smart, Mr. Dog. But you didn't expect this, now did you? I've outsmarted you this time! Yes I did! Who's the smartest now, Mr. Dog?"

Mr. Dog furrowed his brow and watched as Lady Ma'am walked back around the corner of the house and disappeared through the back door with a resounding clap.

She strutted back away from the fence and scratched at the dirt with insistence. Satisfied that the dog was properly confused, she winked at Bernice, Tabitha, Leon and Sylvester.

Mr. Dog stood and stretched with a menacing grin splitting his tired, drooping jowls. "All right then, Merriweather. You can move anywhere you like, I suppose. But it might do you some good not to keep thinkin' I'm stupid. I told you already, I'm bigger and smarter than you so you might want to get down off that high horse of yours before I munch up one of your other darlings. I told you one of my specialties is tracking, so you can run anywhere you like -- but I'll find you. You can't hide from a nose like mine!"

The quartet of surviving chicks fluttered to the furthest corner of the pen and held each other tight and safe in their nubby little arms. They pushed their tiny yellow heads together and looked down at the ground to avoid having to face the vicious monster's giant fang-filled mouth leering at them through the mesh fence.

Merriweather just stood still in a giant splotch of sunlight on the ground and stared back at the dog, indignant and stated, "We'll see how smart you are. You'll never see us again you stupid old thing. Just you wait til after lunch and see. As soon as Lady Ma'am opens that gate, we'll be gone where you can't never-ever find us again. Then you can sit right there and starve to death for all I care. You just won't be tasting no more of my sweet babies, that's for sure."

Mr. Dog snorted and walked away wagging his tail for all to see.

Sylvester and Bernice walked up quietly behind their mother and Sylvester, being the bravest of her chicks was the one to ask, "What if he finds us, MawMaw? What us goin' do then? He does have a mighty big nose. You suppose he can sniff us out? Where's our new home, MawMaw? Where us goin'?"

Merriweather's face broke from stone to molasses and she looked down with unbearable waves of love for them. "Aww, sweetheart -- you don't have to worry about moving. You let me handle that old dog. He thinks he's too smart anyway," she explained. "Pride, children -- never ends well. He'll find out one day he ain't half as smart as he thinks he is. I might not be big enough to fight him, but I'm a crafty old biddy and I'll teach him a lesson for what he's done."

Sylvester and Bernice stared up in confusion but said nothing. Tabitha and Leon hugged each other in the corner of the chicken yard and listened.

Merriweather patted them off with her wing and said, "Don't worry about those things. There's plenty of time for worrying about stuff when y'all grow up. Go play and enjoy the sunshine. I think I saw some fresh worm holes over yonder by the gate -- let's go scratchin' for a while, shall we? My feet are itching!"

A chorus of joy erupted and they all began kicking up the dirt with fervor. A cow looked over while chewing her cud and rolled her eyes.

Shortly after lunchtime, when they usually looked for grubs in the front yard, Merriweather made a great show of gathering her four babies together and lining them up. All the while carrying on, she kept her eye fixed on the dark shadow under the azalea bushes by the house where Mr. Dog lay watching. He giggled into his paws at his clever hiding spot, thinking Merriweather was oblivious to his deception.

"Come along, children, before that meddlin' old dog sees us," she said far too loudly to be indiscreet. "We don't want him following us to our beautiful new home, now do we?"

A chorus of, "No, MawMaw," chimed in the breeze as the four chicks lined up behind their mother's hips.

Merriweather gave a forlorn and dramatic look at the hen house and sighed and even let her head fall as if this was the hardest thing she'd ever had to do.

As she fell in lead and began shuffling off down the driveway toward the road, she cut her eye back to the small shadow beneath the bush and comforted herself that Mr. Dog was watching and thinking himself clever.

Tabitha and Leon and Bernice and Sylvester said nothing as they trailed along behind their mother and wondered where they were heading.

"Come on, honeylambs," she purred. "Let's go somewhere that dumb old mangy fool dog won't bother us no more. We'll go live where it's peaceful, where it's quiet and the grass is soft. Won't that be nice?"

A lilting chorus of, "Yes, MawMaw," filled the sticky mid-day air.

As she shook her tail feathers in great triumph, Merriweather even added, "I may even lay me some new eggs this afternoon in those lovely bunches of grass down by the water's edge. I picked out a nice spot in the roots of that old stump too. Would you like some new brothers and sisters?"

Another chorus rippled and fell still as they paused at the edge of the road. Heading to the Gump Stump was just like she had done every afternoon of her life, only today was different. Today she was being hunted by the slobbering mutt scampering along quietly behind them, ducking behind the thick oak trunks lining the driveway.

As he crawling along on his belly with his ears perked high, Mr. Dog's attention was rapt and fixed on the tiny procession.

He wasn't about to be outdone by some old nervous chicken; especially not with his belly beginning to grumble. He watched as the small family swayed across the road and disappeared down the hill toward the pond as they normally did each day this time.

"So that's your secret hiding spot," Mr. Dog mocked and howled with laughter. He curled his black lips over dirty, yellowed fangs and with sarcastic delight, continued ridiculing the stupid old hen. "Oh yeah Merriweather -- you're a real smart one alright. Going to the same place you always go -- gee, I'll never find you there. I thought you were going to actually test me, but now that I see you're as dumb as I suspected, I may just have time for a nap." He lay down with his belly in the cool dirt and fell asleep in the warmth of the sun.

The hammers of the men rang out and kept time as Merriweather and her babies basked in the warmth at the edge of the pond.

She leaped up to her position atop the Gump Stump and watched the road closely while her chicks laughed and played with a worm they'd dug up under the soft muddy skin at the edge of the water. She gazed across the asphalt and grinned -- satisfied, at the sleeping lump of old Mr. Dog lying under the tree with an arrogant smirk on his face.

As the sun slid to the west, Merriweather puffed herself up to full height atop the stump and called out as if she were on stage, "Ohh! Ohh Lordamercy! There we go! Don't I feel better!"

Her children stopped playing for a moment and looked at her curiously, but Merriweather continued yelling and wailing as loud as possible from the top of the black stub jetting up out of the edge of the water. Across the road, Mr. Dog awoke with a snort and without raising his head watched the performance unfold.

"Oh mercyme that was a big one there," Merriweather bellowed.

The surface of the pond rippled at her ruckus, but Merriweather continued shouting with a relentless fervor -- undaunted.

"Six new eggs all lined up pretty as could be, children! Looky there! That stupid old dog won't know where we are when he comes around later on looking to fill his belly up again, will he?"

She winked down at her children and motioned for them to make some noise. They all just stood there silently staring back at her and wondering where the eggs she was laying were hidden.

Merriweather craned her head down and whispered quietly so that Mr. Dog couldn't hear, "I'm playin' pretend! Don't y'all worry about it, just play long with MawMaw."

Tabitha shrieked at the top of her lungs, "What beautiful shiny eggs, MawMaw! What should we name them?"

Merriweather smiled at her deceptive child and whispered, "Good one, sugar. Remind me to keep my eye on you."

The hammers slowed and died out like a clock winding down as the white disc of the sun dripped below the line of trees. Merriweather cut her attention to the house and the men rushing down from the framework of the skeletal structure, eager to be done with work for the day.

Her heart leaped into her throat and she pulled out all the stops and just laughed as hard as she could. She laughed and laughed until she felt like her belly was going to burst out of her throat, then she laughed a little more. She cackled and snorted and made her delight ripple across the two lanes of asphalt to where Mr. Dog lay crouching in the ditch with his ears pressed back against his skull.

Then she paused with one wing holding her heaving belly and screamed in triumph, "We sure tricked that fool-stupid-mangy dog this time! Ha ha ha ha! I bet he is starting to look for us. I bet his stomach is growling now, children! Ha ha ha!"

A rumble from the left came like muffled thunder, but Mr. Dog didn't notice -- his ears were perked and quivering with resentment on the other side of the road. Lying in the ditch just out of sight of the Gump Stump he held his head down close to the soil and fumed with anger. His nostrils flared. His eyes twitched. The tiny muscles in his lips quivered and formed a vicious snarl.

"How dare she talk to me like that," he grumbled. "That stupid old bird ain't smarter than me. Sittin' over there like she does every day of the week and thinkin' that's clever. She underestimates me. How stupid can you be, Merriweather? How dare you laugh in my face like this -- when it's you who's the idiot. I'll show you, Merriweather."

While the mocking laughter rang out across the road, Mr. Dog stood to his full height and growled down deep in his throat and showed his teeth in a most vicious manner.

"I was gonna let you be, but now I gotta teach you a lesson, you stupid old bird," he said as he stepped gingerly onto the scorched road.

Merriweather spotted him the instant he stood up and laughed even louder than before. With renewed intensity, she fell over backwards and held both hands on her belly as another blast of laugher boomed out of her tiny chest. Mr. Dog's head dropped down low to the ground and he snarled as he crept across the road. The ground shook with the growing thunder.

"Oh Lordamercy that fool ain't never gonna find us now and here we is with a brand new house all our own goin' up right over there. Ain't this like livin' a dream children? Whoever knew a chicken could live so well! Good Gawdamighty this is nice, ain't it? A brand new house all our own and there ain't a thing that fool dog can do about it."

"Yes, MawMaw," they all answered as one, wondering what was going on.

Mr. Dog yelped with rage and leaped into the air across the road with his teeth gleaming like pearls. The air roared with noise as Mr. Dog's body stretched out into the air, aiming to land on the Gump Stump and rip Merriweather to pieces once and for all.

The gas truck appeared over the hill and hit Mr. Dog full force. The sound was like a balloon bursting. He exploded against the grill of the vehicle in a mist of grey and red. Mr. Dog's body soaked into the metallic teeth of the giant truck and hung like leather in strips from the front bumper as the driver struggled to bring the giant machine to a stop.

The tires squalled and the entire truck swayed on the road in a tidal wave of amber dust that flooded back over it as it finally coasted to a stop. The bald front tires dangled over the edge of the road and spun over the muddy ditch. The driver screamed out in horror as the thin, bloody film oozed down his windshield.

The workmen all fell silent at the house and looked on as the man got out and inspected the front of his gleaming silver truck.

The uniformed driver picked up a branch from the edge of the road and pried the bits of Mr. Dog from the front of his shiny truck with his nostrils flared and his lip curled. He tugged at a paw that was wedged beside the headlight and threw it down with a moan of disgust. He kept glancing at his wrist watch and mumbling to himself as the workmen lost interest and started putting their tools away for the night.

The sky turned from cobalt to rose and the driver tossed the stick into the ditch and rushed back to the cab of the shimmering vehicle.

Merriweather sat on the Gump Stump with a wicked grin on her face and looked on quietly realizing the final act was over. Her babies hugged the base of the Gump Stump and waited for all the noise to stop.

Squatting down onto her belly she looked down at her children who were still trembling from the sudden noise of brakes squalling and tires screeching and said with simple determination, "I guess he wasn't as smart as he thought after all. He let his pride and greed get the best of him. It don't take a genius to remember that gas truck goes by every day at the same time."

Leon looked up at his mother sitting proudly on the broad, black plateau of the stump and said, "Does that mean we're still goin' live over here now, MawMaw?"

Merriweather smiled down at her inquisitive son and answered without turning from the chaos on the road above, "We can live wherever we like, but if we don't head on home soon we'll miss our supper. Lady Ma'am is going to be ringing the chime soon. We can't rightly miss supper, now can we children?"

They looked back and forth at each other and finally agreed that "No" was the answer their mother expected, and shook their little heads accordingly.

Sylvester and Tabitha and Bernice and Leon all lined up quietly and waited as their mother, the triumphant and victorious Merriweather McCluck stepped down from the Gump Stump like a champion.

As the five of them waddled back across the road, the truck driver fired the engine and sped away from the scene of the crash leaving them clouded in a golden shroud of road dust.

They stepped over the damp brown spot in the center of the lane and weaved around the little bits of bone and hide, careful not to dirty their feet in any of Mr. Dog.

Merriweather and her babies rushed toward the big house on the hill with their wings spread out in excitement just as the tinny sing-song of the supper bell rang out into the perfumed evening air.

Article © Ward Webb. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-02-13
8 Reader Comments
06:37:20 PM
Do the editors not correct grammar?
08:30:12 PM
Not when the language of the characters is so colloquial. Chicken and dog language can be very ungrammatical.
02:45:15 PM
What a fun read. The chatter was so clever.
06:57:37 PM
Has potential. A pleasant quick read. However, it didn't have much of a flow to the story, seemed way too rushed, and had too many errors for being this short. Good to read as a free book, but I wouldn't have paid even a dollar for this.
10:08:05 PM
Fantastic story! I loved the banter between the animals a lot. The ending made me scream. I didn't see that coming!
I picked up this author's ebooks and saw the same negative review under "Pale Yellow" on Amazon that was posted here. Not sure why someone paid a dollar to read this story!!
I'd like to see more from Ward Webb. He caught the language of the southern characters well and told it in an old fashioned type way that made me want to share it with my kids!
03:29:33 PM
A good read! This author has great imagination and provides great imagery in the story. Good dialog between characters. A twist ending that tickled me. I didn't see it coming! Would like more from Mr. Webb
06:00:12 PM
This is a rollicking journey, doesn't really matter where the story is going, the ride is such great fun. The detailed clever descriptions of everything, make one feel they are there. The suspense makes one read harder to see what is going to happen.
01:41:45 PM
I found this story to be very interesting. It certainly proves the theory that what goes around comes around! Great story! I love the country grammar!
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