Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SLIP OF THE TONGUE (01/26/17)
- TITLE: Boss Man's Hitch
By Sherry Brock
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“Daggone it, boy, hitch that wagon...hay's a getting' wet...what you doin' back there...”
Boss Man's looking back at me with his head and arm hanging out the window of the pickup. Sweat and wet drizzle run from his forehead down to his shirt.
“Boy, you ready?” He bangs the side of the truck door, and when I look up I see the fiery frustration in his eyes. Nothing good's gonna happen if he lets that temper loose.
“I got it...come on back.” I shout with confidence, even though my grip on the metal is slipping rapidly. I scoot my knee under it just as my hands slip off the sides. Boss Man guns the engine and the truck bumper heads right at me. I scramble to grab and lift the two-pronged end, fighting to hold it steady as he slowly guides the hitch between them, but my nervous fingers give way and hard metal falls against my knee. I keel over, but Boss Man keeps on coming.
“Whoa...stop...STOP.” Hanley, the foreman, hops from the wagon, arms flailing in the air, as he races toward the pickup.
BANG. The truck door slams as Boss Man gets out, so I try and grab for the tongue again, hoping to guide it up to the hitch before he takes the two strides length to the back bumper. Hanley moves to grab on too, but just as Boss Man rounds the tail light my knees buckle. Hanley can't get his mammoth fingers around it in time. My backside hits the mud just as the thump of the heavy mass hitting the ground reaches my ears, followed by “Aww...ughhhh.” It's Boss Man.
Hanley falls over me, but steadies enough to pull us both upright and from the corner of my eye I see it. The wagon tongue a top Boss Man's foot. Hanley reacts quickly and jerks it upward.
Boss Man's jumping around; holding his foot one minute and trying to walk on it the next.
Hanley lets out a low whistle. “You OK, Claude?” He pulls down the tailgate and helps Boss Man up on to it. “They say it's better not take off your...”
“It's broke… the dang kid broke my foot.” Boss Man rocks back and forth and is shaking from head to toe from pain, or sheer rage; not sure.
Tears well up, caused by the searing pain in my knee and the look on Boss Man's face. “I so sorry, sir. I slip in the mud. I lifted it the way you taught...”
An empty soda can from the truck bed hits my nose. “Get him outta here...off my place.”
“All right...but we gotta get you to the doc first. You can worry about the kid later.” Hanley steps between us blocking the sight path between Boss and me.
The main house is two miles up the road so I hobble as fast as my bum knee allows, and just like Hanley told me, I send back help to hook up the hay wagon before more rain moves in.
All alone in the barn new tears well up and stream down my face. “What am I gonna tell Momma?” It's only a few dollars a week, but the money from Boss Man buys milk and bread; sometimes even a treat for little Amy and Charlie. Lowering my head in disgust, I decide to wait out the rain before making the half mile trek home. “I'm just a screw-up.”
“Hey...kid...wake up. You still here?”
I stir when a finger pokes at my back. Then I remember.
“Yes, sir… yes...I...fell asleep, sir. I'm outta here… on my way home now...” Forgetting about my knee, I jump to my feet, only to stumble right into Hanley's arms.
He sets me upright, pushes back his hat, and takes a long hard look. “You gonna sleep all day or help unload this hay?”
“But Boss Man said...”
“Oh, Claude's gonna be OK. The foot ain't broke, but it's gonna hurt for a while.”
My ears perk up. Maybe there's hope. “He said I could stay?”
“Shoot naw, boy. But he'll be laid up a few days...that'll give me a chance to show you the right way to hook a wagon to a truck hitch...even in the rain.”
“Mr. Hanley...thanks for giving me another chance.”
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