Chuck’s challenge is to write a 1,000 word or less story explaining one of Buzzfeed.com’s 50 Unexplainable Black & White Photos. I love old photographs. I have a small collection of postmortem and sideshow CDVs, so all of this is right up my alley. I’d like to thank my brother, Barry Bridges, for the proofread and my friend, Kelly Shew, for being a writing buddy.
I chose story #41. It’s a boy in some type of basket. In spite of my tendency to be long winded, I came in at 1,000 words exactly, including my title.
“Get out of my fish keeper.” Mark looked down in disgust at the little idiot boy. The boy was small for his age, so there was more than enough room for him in the basket that normally kept Mark’s catches fresh and alive during his afternoons by the river.
“Goober says to Cam, Goober says, ‘Outta my Goober keeper.’” The boy’s eyes rolled as he grinned up at Mark, idiot head sticking out of the narrow opening at the top of the cone that topped the drum-shaped reed basket.
“My name’s not Goober, you little bastard.” Mark said it quietly. A man would do a lot for quality poontang, and that was a fact. Mark was willing to take Serena’s chucklehead brother fishing with them, but he didn’t want to be called “Goober” while he did it.
“Eatin’ goober peas, eatin’ goober peas, we shall come rejoicin’, eatin’ goober peas!”
“Those are two different songs you have all mixed up together, Cam!” Serena came chirping down the steps of the small house she’d recently rented from Mark’s uncle. Uncle Peter didn’t usually rent to strangers, but he’d taken a chance on the two orphans, offering them a safe roof over their heads.
Serena stopped and took a picture of the grinning, basketed boy with her Brownie camera. She was fresh as springtime in her gingham dress. Her blonde hair was in a ponytail, and she’d used a scrap of gingham as a bow.
Mark swept off his fedora and held it to his chest as he gazed in genuine admiration at Serena. “You’re a picture yourself, Miss Serena. A picture.”
“Picture of a goo-ber. Picture of a goo-ber.” The chucklehead clambered out of Mark’s basket and did a Conga dance in time to his chant, thrusting a hip to each side when he hit the “ber” in “goober.”
Mark thought that surely Serena would be annoyed by this distortion of his compliment, but Serena shrieked and swept the chucklehead off his little feet, spinning him around in a delighted circle.
“Cam, you are FUNNY!” She returned the boy to the ground and hugged him, pressing her cheek against the tow blond hair on top of his empty head.
“Okay.” Mark snatched up his fish keeper and threw it in the back seat. He slammed the back door of his ’41 Ford coupe harder than necessary. “Let’s go.”
It was nearly cool on the bank of the lazy river, and that was a blessing. Would have been way harder to find an excuse to cuddle with Serena in town, where the Alabama heat had sautéed everything to a moist limpness. Limpness wasn’t what Mark had in mind, not at all. He wrapped one arm around the lovely Serena, pulling her close while pretending to watch his float out in the water.
Serena snuggled against him and Mark was considerably encouraged. He moved his hand up to the silky ponytail, stroking it lightly for a moment before he cupped her head and drew it to him for a kiss. He was a little surprised when her tongue instantly entered his mouth. He hadn’t expected experience. Experience wasn’t entirely welcome. He didn’t want some dirty whore. But he’d never kissed a woman who knew how to kiss, and it was novel. It was more than novel. He couldn’t help but like it.
Serena’s right hand wormed its way into his lap, and that was too much. A woman had never touched Mark’s penis before. He’d touched women with his penis, but, at least in Mark’s world, women did not touch penises. His eyes flew open in shock and what did he see? He saw that little chucklehead bastard.
Cam was in the shallow pool where Mark had put his fish keeper. He was tipping the basket back into an upright position. He’d obviously freed the fish. Mark had caught several nice crappie that afternoon. Serena had squealed and acted like he was a big hero. She’d promised to fry them up for dinner tonight. Mark wasn’t sure now that he wanted a dirty whore cooking him dinner, but that didn’t mean it was okay for the chucklehead to let his fish go. He really saw red when Cam climbed into the basket yet again.
Mark pulled away from Serena with a roar and made for Cam. The fish keeper was sturdy, but it wasn’t built to hold a kid, especially not when it was rocking around in the water. Mark’s daddy had given him that fish keeper, and he’d probably gotten it from his own daddy.
Even with Mark charging at him, Cam still grinned like the idiot he was.
Mark purely lost his mind. He splashed out to Cam, did a deep knee bend and grabbed the bottom of the basket. He flipped it upside down and put his hand on the bottom to keep it submerged with Cam inside.
Cam was surprisingly still and quiet while Mark held the basket underwater. Serena wasn’t. She made for Mark screaming like a steam whistle, waving his own bamboo pole at him like a combination of a whip and a sword.
“My brother! You son-of-a-bitch, you stop drowning my brother!”
Mark didn’t see the tip of the pole go into his left eye, but he felt it. His pierced brain had a moment to marvel at Serena’s incredible aim before he toppled into the water, limbs convulsing. The basket, released, bobbed to the surface and Cam slipped out, slick as a fish. He immediately grabbed one of Mark’s bare feet and held it still while he bit off a toe.
Cam popped the toe out of his mouth and held it up to Serena. The toe looked for all the world like a peanut, except bloody.
“Goober pea.” Cam grinned, his eyes rolling. He popped the toe back into his mouth.
Serena sat down on the bank, waiting for Cam to finish eating. Afterward, they’d swim upstream and find a new town.