Copyright © 2015 Chris Schnaufer
The unplugged fountain was happily splashing when the morning sun found a man with thick curly blond hair sitting in Celestina’s chair with his feet on the table. The other members of the group were spread out around the courtyard propped up against walls in various stages of slumber.
“Hey Pops,” called the blond man as the sun breached the walls, “cover that head of yours. It’s like being in the salt flats.”
The bald man across the table from him smiled and looked up at him while reaching for his hat on the table. “Don’t call me Pops, Son, I’m only a year or two older than you,” he said as he put his hat on. He then leaned back and adjusted his hat over his eyes, blocking out the sun and the view. “Like you don’t know that,” he muttered under his breath.
“Naw, I don’t think so. You’re much older than me.”
Getting no reaction the blond turned his attention to the man sitting on a low wall.
“Hey New Guy,” he said, ‘what’s that on your head called again?”
“It’s a baseball cap,” the New Guy said. “Sir,” he added. He took his cap off and fiddled with the rim.
The blond chuckled at the “Sir” and said “That’s right, now I remember. It’s that that game where a bunch of guys stand in the hot sun wearing those ‘caps’ while trying to catch a ball that someone hits with a stick?,” he chukled. “So what does everyone else do since only one guy can catch the ball?” Groans could be heard when he finished speaking.
A man on the left said, “why don’t ya leave him alone? We’ve heard this before.”
“I’m sure all of you would like it if we tried it,” the New Guy said hopefully.
“Shut up New Guy from Nuu Yawk,” growled the blond. Turning, he said, “hey Cookie is breakfast ready yet?”
Cookie was sweating in a corner of the courtyard over the built-in stove. He had cleaned the unused stove and now had a fire going. He’d been cooking for a half-hour so far getting breakfast together for the men.
Cookie didn’t look up from the stove. “Hey Cookie, when is the grub ready? How much longer ‘till we eat? What are planning on killing us with today?,” Cookie muttered under his breath.
“Them jokers should try cooking for once,” he continued. Then he remembered times when some of them had cooked. “Naw, that would kill someone,” he muttered began feeling better.
“It’ll be ready on about 15 minutes,” he said aloud.
“Fifteen minutes?,” grumbled the blond.
Changing tacks he said to Pops, “How’s Jake doing Pops? He hit his head pretty hard when that thing threw him.”
Pops answered from under his hat, “Doc and Jethro are in there with him now. If he’s made it ‘till now there’s probably hope.”
“Damn,” said the blond.
“You won’t catch me making that mistake. You can be sure of that,” he said.
“Curley, tone it down will ya?,” said Pops. “Jake is a good man. He just made a mistake and we should be praying that he recovers, not placing blame. Thank God he wasn’t killed.” Some of the men that were awake crossed themselves for protection.
“I know,” said Curley (which was the blond man’s name) crossing himself. “I just hate being around these places. They give me the heebie jeebies even after we kill them all.”
“I don’t like them,” he added.
“Well we got them all,” said Pops reasonably. “And we’re going to leave soon enough. Just gotta eat and figure out what to do with Jake. Then we can leave.”
“I know,” said Curley. “I just hate it.”
Silence came from under the hat across the table.
Curley played with his hat for a little while, pursing his lips and singing little snatches of song under his breath. New Guy had replaced his cap and was sitting on the wall again with his head down kicking his feet.
“Hey Curley,” called Cookie. “Why don’t you let Doc and Jethro know that grubs ready?”
“Sure thing,” said Curley putting hit feet on the floor. He got up and made for the door, happy to be doing something. Various members of the group that were awake went around waking up the others.
Curley had almost made it to the door when it opened and a tired Doc followed by the man in black from the night before came out.
“How’s Jake doing?” asked Curley.
“He’s asleep now,” replied Doc.
“Is breakfast ready” asked the man in black, looking at Curley.
“Ready just now, Jethro,” he answered.
Jethro took a seat at the table as the other men got their food. He invited New Guy to sit with him, along with Curley and Doc. Cookie brought Jethro his food.
“Here you go Jethro,” said Cookie handing Jethro his food. “With your own tableware just like you like it.”
“Thank you Cookie,” was the reply.
Jethro waited until all the men were seated, hatless, and looking at him expectantly.
“I want to thank all of you for your help last night,” Jethro said. “As you know, it is hard work ridding the world of evil. But last night we had some great success and while we pray for Jake and wish him a speedy recovery we must acknowledge our how great and holy our work is.
“The road before us is hard. We know this. But with such a fine group of men by my side we will scrub the world of evil and bring God’s love and hope back into it.
“I don’t know what’s before us, but I know that each of you…” Here Jethro paused and looked around at the men. “… that have given up so much of your lives in this pursuit are assured a place in His kingdom.
“Now let us pray.”
Jethro then led the men in a short prayer. “Now let’s eat,” said Jethro with much enthusiasm.
As sounds of conversation and eating rose over the courtyard Jethro turned to New Guy and asked “So Dale, how is our newest member faring?”
Dale finished his bite of food and took a quick swallow of water before answering. “I’m still having trouble believing what I saw last night, sir.” The other men at the table chuckled.
“They are just remembering their first encounters with these evil creatures,” Jethro kindly assured Dale. “They were as put out as you are, I believe. But it’s all old to them now I suspect.”
“I don’t think it’ll ever grow old for me,” Dale responded. “I mean, I’ve heard stories of many things, but this beats them all!”
“Those stories as just that, stories,” replied Jethro. “But dig in, we need to leave soon.”
As Jethro finished speaking, his eyes fell onto the plate Dale was eating from. Quickly, he glanced around the table and the men arranged around the courtyard.
“Cookie,” Jethro cried. “What have you done to us?”
Cookie looked up and said “What’s the matter Jethro?”
“The dishes! Where did you get them from?” demanded Jethro.
“Well, I found them stacked inside in unopened boxes. They were dusty so I washed them in the fountain,” Cookie replied, half standing now. “I made sure the water was OK by tossing in a mouse I had caught.”
All eating had stopped as the men looked at Jethro and Cookie, some with forks poised in mid air.
Jethro paused and then said loudly “Well, that’s alright then. I should not have doubted you Cookie. Can you forgive me?”
Cookie just smiled. “Of course Jethro!” he said as he sat back down.
Jethro sat down as well. “Well dig in,” he said, waving his fork at the others seated at the table. As he continued eating the noise in the courtyard resumed to its former level.