It throws down the gauntlet of writing a short story centered on a keyword. And today, the word is ROPE.
Well, why not? Can't be writing about dying spouses ALL the time.
NEWS FLASH - we WON!!!!
“Well,” the old rancher said, “you’ve got a rare skill. I ain’t never seen a Jeep forty foot up a tree before.”
I gritted my teeth to keep from saying something snippy that would send the old guy and his big ranch-truck over the horizon. Holding my tongue is not something I’m good at. Besides, while the stupid vehicle was indeed up a tree, the tree was at the bottom of a slope that must have been great for skiing, in winter. I’d just slipped the wheels off the edge of the road, gravity took over, and the Jeep’s last bounce had carried it up into the branches, engine still running.
“Y’all are lucky I come along. Sometimes this road don’t see no traffic for, what, two weeks?” He slipped a plug of tobacco under his lower lip, and then offered me the can. “Chaw?” he asked, and smiled. He had about six teeth.
I’d seen people use chewing tobacco in the movies, and pinched off what I thought was a manly amount, and raised it to my face, where for a second time stood still, and it hung there, ropy and malevolent, like a bug that I was about to eat that didn’t want, particularly, to be eaten.
Oh, heck, I thought. It can’t be all that bad. I popped it into my mouth, and forced the lumpy thing beneath my tongue.
“Wow,” said the rancher, when I stopped retching. “Looks like y’all went all the way back to yesterday’s breakfast.”
“Ugh,” I said, drooling unspeakably into the dirt.
“Wanna try again?”
I shook my head, and the ropy drool shimmied like….uh, oh.
“Didn’t think y’all had more to give, son. But ya sure did.”
He leaned down, and put a rough hand on my neck. “Y’all jest stay there, an let me git yer Jeepy, all right?”
I nodded. “Keys are in it,” I said, idiotically. I had left them in the ignition when I went over the side as the thing left the road.
Moving my head wasn’t a good idea, so I didn’t see what he did, but I heard him reposition his truck, humming to himself. Then there were scrabbling steps as he went down the slope, and some clanking noises, from far away.
And then the rancher was back. For an old dude he went down that slope, and back up it, faster than I could have. Maybe chewing tobacco gave superhuman strength, or something.
“All ready now,” he said cheerfully. The truck’s engine had been idling, and its note changed.
Interested, I looked up, and saw that a winch on the front bumper was pulling in a wire rope that led over a short length of log, and down the slope.
Aha, I thought. He’s attached it to the Jeep, and he’s pulling it out of the tree, pulling the tree over. Poor tree, but I want my Jeep.
Dizzily, I sat up. I wanted to see the last act, see my wheels come up over the crest. The guy was good. Had to be the chaw.
And then he stopped the winch, and slid down the slope again. Mystified, I crawled over…the world was still at an angle to where it should have been…and peered over the edge.
The wire rope wasn’t connected to the Jeep at all. The tree had been gracefully pulled down until the wheels were touching the ground…and as I watched the rancher drove it out of its leafy embrace.
He stopped when he was clear of the branches, and waved to me. “Y’all kin come down now!”
I didn’t want to lose any more dignity than I had, but walking down the slope was impossible. So I slid. On my butt. There were a lot of sharp rocks, and Calvin Klein never designed his jeans for this.
“Well,” I said, dusting myself off as I stood. “I’m impressed.”
“Twaren’t nuthin’. Jest got the tree to take a bow.”
“Sure. Like a singer, after a song? You’ve seen people bow, sonny?”
“Uh, sure.” Trees taking bows. “How’d you know it would bend, and wouldn’t break?”
He fished into his pocket for the can of chewing tobacco. After examining it carefully, he suddenly threw it to me. “Why, heck, sonny. I planted ‘im. He’ll bow for his daddy, any time.”
He pointed along the base of the slope. “Jest foller the scree-line till you hit the road. About a mile. Or maybe three.”
He grinned his six-toothed grin. “An’ enjoy the chaw!”