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Walking through town, I almost felt as though I was lost in a daze of some sorts. I just didn’t feel like ‘me’ anymore, if that makes much sense. I felt like half of me was missing…and I found myself wandering around in the road, hoping to find it again and reattach it before the absence of Colby’s presence swallowed me whole.
It don’t seem right to think it…but I feel like I’ve fallen in love. Not like…that kind of playground feeling of being sweet on some gal and blushing whenever she walks by. It was more than that. This was more like…wanting to do things for him that I couldn’t do for myself. This was like going beyond my rapid heartbeat and my desire to kiss his lips over and over again until I nearly fell ut from the overload of joy that it brought to me. This was different. Selfless. A feeling that didn’t really mean two bits of nothin’ if I couldn’t share it with him, and make him understand that all I wanted was for him to feel it too.
I know he’s another boy, just like me. And I know it ain’t right for me to entertain thoughts like this. But it ain’t like I can do much to help it. He’s ‘pretty’ to me, you understand. My heart just knows it. My eyes don’t lie. A part of me really wishes that he could be a girl so I wouldn’t have any conflicts about thinking about him the way I do…but that’s just not how things worked out. He’s a boy. Loved by another boy. And if that’s how the good Lord scheduled things to play out…then so be it. Because I can’t quit on him. I just can’t.
I doubt I’d ever be able to live with myself without at least going out there to tell Colby how I really feel. It makes me nervous, sure…but looking him over makes me feel good inside. I just…I want him to feel good inside about looking me over too.
I was heading home through the town square, trying to figure out how I was going to get my daddy distracted long enough to saddle up one of our horses after sunset and ride out to the outskirts of town to find Colby and warn him about what might be coming his way once that Gideon Priest fella and his outlaws go hunting for monsters out in his neck of the woods. It’s best that Colby and his friends just move over to the side and stay out of their way. I don’t want him and his friends to get hurt while he goes hunting for devils out that way. Best he steer clear of that kind of nonsense, that’s for sure.
But as I was walking through town, I happened to notice a few older boys circling up around that kid that came along with Priest and his squad of cowboys when they came rolling into town. I can’t imagine what he might have done to anybody, outside of simply looking and dressing different than the rest of us. I don’t even think he knew how to talk like we talk. His language sounded a bit sideways, but I reckon it made more than enough sense to him and to anybody who understood him.
They kept fussing with him, pushing him around and calling him names while he simply tried to avoid the situation. He started to just walk away from them and keep his head down so as not to draw any more attention to himself. I suppose his father was busy inside with his crew of ‘hunters’ at the moment, and he looked like he just didn’t want any trouble from the likes of a few bullies.
I recognized some of them older boys from the schoolhouse, and I can tell you that I didn’t much like them neither. Not even smart enough to learn at the level as the rest of us. They were just there to cause problems and kick up dust, really. It didn’t take much more than a few growth spurts for them to start feeling proud of themselves. Shoving the younger kids around like walking these roads was some sort of birthright. Had I been a little bit bigger and a bit tougher, I definitely would have hauled off and bloodied their noses myself. Bunch of jackasses.
As they pushed him backwards, the little boy worked up enough energy to say, “No trouble. No trouble!” I had never heard a ‘China boy’ talk straight English before. This was a first for me, and I stopped walking to see what would happen next. I was thinking that maybe I should step in and keep them other boys from picking on him they way they were. Way I see it, he wasn’t bothering nobody. What was they pushing him around for? “NO TROUBLE!!!” He said again, and one of the older boys pushed him down on his back, right there in the dirt.
“HEY!!!” I called out, not really thinking about what I was saying ahead of time. When they turned their angry eyes on me, I froze up something awful. I wasn’t trying to get myself involved to the point where I might take an ass whooping myself…but as long as I was already tangled up in this mess, i reckon I might as well earn whatever beating they’ve got planned for me. “He ain’t done nothing to none of y’all! Just you let him be!”
“Well, well, well…if it ain’t the sheriff’s kid?” Said the biggest one of the group. He started walking towards me, and I felt myself getting mighty nervous, balling up my tin fists to give him as good as I got it if I had to. “You need to mind your own business, boy. Get back home and quit poking around in what we got going on around these parts. Run on home and keep us out of your focus, you lil’ fucker.”
I could hardly catch my breath, expecting to take me a punch to the eye or the mouth any second now…but I didn’t step back away from him. I found an ounce of manhood in me and stood my ground. Just like my daddy taught me when I was still a youngin’. “What you’re doing ain’t right. And you know it ain’t right.” I said, looking around him at the five or six other boys that were participating in the same act of cruelty. “None of y’all! Quit picking on a little boy and go find yourselves something productive to get into. He ain’t done you no wrong, and you know it.”
The other boy got up from the ground and dusted himself off. I wasn’t quite sure if he knew much of what I was saying, seeing as he had a whole different way of speaking…but I think he got the notion that I was standing up for him. He definitely knew that much.
The tallest boy turned around and said, “Did we give you permission to get up? Huh? HUH???”
“No trouble.” The boy said again. “Please. No trouble.”
“Trouble? Oh you got a whole fucking wagon full of trouble the second you rolled into town! And now you’ve got to deal with it!” Him and his posse wasn’t about to let up, but then…something else happened. Something that I wasn’t expecting at all.
When the oldest boy used his finger to push against the boy’s chest…he reacted by swiftly grabbing his hand and twisting it so far to the left that I thought he was going to twist it right off of his wrist! It was SO fast! I ain’t never seen another boy move so fast! And he pushed him away…saying, once again, “NO TROUBLE!!! No trouble!!!” But now that he was hurting, that only angered the main bully and all of them moved in for an attack all at once.
And this is where my shocked and confused stare nearly caused me to go cross-eyed from what I was looking at. What the hell was going on???
All of a sudden, this boy began spinning around and lashing out at these bullies with the speed of a rattlesnake! Lord BLESS, he was fast!!! I couldn’t even keep track of his hands! And his feet were even faster! I don’t even think the dust could keep up with him as he put down a beating on those boys two or three at a time!
I watched him spin around low to kick the legs out from under two of the boys, and move his shoulders and arms so darn fast that two of the other boys didn’t even know their noses were bleeding before the had already stumbled backwards a few steps and fell right on their asses. Another boy took three or four rapid punches to his chest, and one to his stomach that, sure enough, knocked the wind out of him…only to be kicked right off of his feet to ‘splash land’ in one of the horse troughs behind him, folding him up like a baby as he crossed his arms over himself to deal with the pain of it all.
That boy became a hellish whirlwind that not a single one of them were ready to deal with, and all I could do was stand back and watch as he made short work out of six or seven boys all at once. He jumped up and spun in a circle in the air to kick another one of the boys in the face, and then ran up the side of the wall to flip behind another one to elbow him twice in the ribs and pull him over his shoulder to push his face down in the dust. What kind of fighting was this??? I ain’t never seen nothing like this before! He got to flipping and cartwheeling in ways that I ain’t never bared witness to, and by the time he was finished…all of those brainless bullies were squirming around in the dirt like a bunch of sick hogs with a belly ache. They didn’t stand a chance. Not a single one of them. That boy made short work of them in a matter of seconds, and I didn’t even have enough time to be impressed by what he was doing before it was all over and done with. He was just that fast.
He was facing the other direction when I stepped forward…and when I lightly placed my hand on his shoulder, he quickly spun around and his leg shot up to almost kick me dead in the FACE until I put both of my arms up, wide eyed, and surrendered immediately. His foot was literally inches from the tip of my nose, but he controlled himself and just held it there for a while. Can’t say that I’ve ever seen anybody balance on one foot like that for any length of time. Much less even be flexible enough to kick that high.
Scared that he might do to me the same thing that he did to those other boys, I tried to communicate with him. “No trouble…” I said. “No trouble.”
He saw the surrender in my eyes, and he put his foot back down on the ground as the other bullies scrambled to get to their feet and ran off like the cowards they were. Then he pointed to himself and said, “Xiodan…”
I tried to mimic his gesture, pointing to myself, and said, “Deacon. But most people just call me Deke.”
“Deke. Ok.” He said.
“I’m sorry. Those boys are bullies. Ain’t got the sense of a mudpie, my opinion.” I told him.
I was surprised when he said, “I told them I didn’t want trouble. My father wanted me to stay out of conflicts.”
“You speak English?”
“Yes. Some.” He told me. “Most, I think.” He added.
With a grin, I said, “You sure did kick the shit out of those other boys! How did you do that? I can’t say that I’ve ever seen nothin’ like that before.”
“My father taught me. With discipline…since I was very young.” He said. “I am not supposed to fight, though. Not unless it is necessary. My father doesn’t like it when I use force.”
“Yeah, but…they were pushing you around. If I could do the stuff that you can do, I would have hurt them a heck of a lot worse than you did.”
But he looked down at the ground. “My father says that it’s wrong to hurt people who don’t deserve it. I shouldn’t use my fists to solve my problems.”
“You don’t think they deserved it? Even after pushing you down in the dirt?”
He said, “No one deserves it. No matter what they’ve done. I should have known better.”
For someone who was so unbelievably quick on his feet, and clearly able to beat the stuffing out of anybody that dared to look at him awkward, it seemed a bit off that he would feel bad about it. Had it been me? I would have whipped the feathers off of every last one on them boys and held my head high while proudly strutting away from them. Then again…maybe that’s just me.
“Xiodan! Come!” Came a voice from the left side of the road, and I saw his father and them other fellas come walking out of one of the nearby saloons. I don’t reckon they knew anything about him fighting with the town boys of nothin’…but his son was quick to hurry over to their side. They all seemed to be walking with a purpose, getting their wits together to go hunting down whatever monster they claimed to be looking for. Whether it be a killer coyote or a monster devil snake…they were sure hell bent on seeking it out. And that just made me all the more anxious to get myself back home and find a way to get out there before they do something that might catch my sweet Colby in the crossfire. Who even knows what Priest and his outlaws got planned when they go trotting out there in the dark, looking to string up anybody that they think might be a step down from God Himself? I can’t imagine him and his posse being too careful when it comes to drawing their shooters on whatever might be moving in them woods.
I picked up the pace and made it back home as quick as I could. Buster was cooking up some beans and had tossed a few chicken vittles in the pot for me and Daddy. I was surprised that he wasn’t swaying with his usual drunken swagger, but thankful for the fact that he had the house smelling good. “Deacon? You’re home.” He said. “You bring your daddy with you?”
“He’s still in town. Working things out with them new fellas, come into town. I s’pose they’re looking to find some justice for Ms. Sampson and a few others.”
“Right.” He said, opening up the oven to put a few biscuits in for us. “Such a shame. Innocent folks getting all chewed up like that. Can’t quite wrap my head around any creature that would do that to another person. It just don’t make the right kinda sense.” Then he said, “Get some of them strawberry preserves off of the shelf in the next room. Make these biscuits nice and sweet for us.”
With a grin, I said, “You sure are feeling bold tonight, with the cooking skills.”
“Every now and then, I like to show my ass.” He grinned back. “Sure will put a shocked look on your daddy’s face. I live for that look, Deke. Let’s me know that I’ve still got a few surprises left in me when I ain’t full of liquor and gambling losses at the table.”
“You ain’t never lied, hehehe!” I said, and I went to grab him some jam for his biscuits. But, seeing as Buster was busy being a chef and all tonight, I made sure to wander outside and look at the few horses that we had back in the shed. Four of them. But I always went to my horse, Benny. He was my favorite. I walked over and lightly petted his nose, his shiny brown coat glistening as he greeted me with a loving grunt or two. He was beautiful. Something to behold and be in awe of. Quietly, I said, “You think you can take me out of here tonight, big fella? I’ve gotta wait until Daddy comes home and gets his belly full first…but after that, you and I are gonna go out on a ride. Ok?” I said, lightly stroking the hair of his majestic mane. “Hope you ain’t too scared of the dark. I don’t much know what’s out in those woods after sunset, but we’re gonna be just fine. You hear me?”
It wasn’t long before I caught sight of my Daddy coming back home. He looked a bit tired, but still managed to stand upright and remain steady. Just like he always did. The kind of man that I always wanted to be someday. “Deacon? You coming in for supper?”
“Definitely.” I smiled, walking over to join him as he headed towards the house. “Believe it or not, Buster has been pulling out all the stops tonight. Put a full dinner together that would even make Mama proud.”
“Is that right? Well, let’s not let any of his hard work get cold on us, shall we?”
He put an arm around my shoulder and gave me a loving squeeze. It was soft little moments like this that made me so proud to be his baby boy, you know? It was just…something that made me want to keep my head held high. For him, it might have been a simple gesture of affection…but to me…it was everything. It was the validation of a life that I honored and cherished with every breath that I could muster. A validation that I sincerely hoped wouldn’t be tarnished by…not being what he expected me to be.
I guess you could say that the emotion was bittersweet. Because…if he knew what I was feeling about Colby…another boy…and how unnatural it must seem to anybody and everybody who might find out about it…
…That validation of my life might change. Or, even worse, might vanish completely.
I don’t think I know how to handle something like that.
The only question now is…will my feelings for Colby be worth risking the loss of everything I know to be ‘normal’? Because…right now? I’m thinking it is. And when I saddle up on Benny tonight and ride out to the woods…I might find myself heading out on a journey that I can’t come back from.
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t scare me a touch. Because it does. It really does.