Peas in a Pod: part four
Peas in a Pod
“No,” Fish told Lawrence, who was listening. “I don’t myself handle firearms. Not no more.”
And if Fish said so, Richard thought, trotting up to join them, he took an elastic view of recent events.
“Now, when the war was done with, I carried my side-arm faithful. Never had no call to use it. Well, I don’t say that. Used it on a mad dog once’st. Used it on a copperhead snake. But I didn’t never turn my weapon on a fellow man. Not ’til the day I was arrested.”
Silence descended, and Lawrence at length gave Fish the prod he’d paused for. “What’d you do to get arrested?”
“I was plied upon, is all that happened. I did nothin’ on my own account. This was one time back when I was a hand on the Dick Parry. Little foreign fella that we called Mattoo fell into company with me. I believe it was on purpose Mattoo come sidlin’ up. There was another one named Jasper Merriman. By the time we made the run up to Lou’ville a few times, I got to noticin’ how Merriman would go disappear an hour or two, an’ turn up flush when he come back. I asked Merriman, ‘You got a wife up in town give you money?’ He told me, ‘I’m gon’ let you in on my secret’. Now we got down in the hold, an’ hid up among them hogsheads we was carryin’ down river. An’ here I find Mattoo come along behind me, quiet as a cat. First thing he does is pull out his big Bowie knife. Shows it to me, drawin’ it back an’ forth crost his own neck, just play-actin’, you see…but to give me the idee. ’Cause Mattoo un’erstood more English than he knew. He says to me, ‘We ask you nuth-een. Only a small theen’.”
Mattoo, as Fish brought him to life, sounded like Fish, slowed down, and speaking through puckered lips. Fish suspended his narrative. The saloon’s door was at his back; groping behind him, he found the handle, and without a word pushed through.
“That foreigner,” said Lawrence, “and that other’un, Jasper. What was they gon’ ask Fish to do?”
“Well…steal from someone.”
Lawrence issued three short laughs. He liked this, hearing Richard tell him what he suspected himself. Richard thought they had lost Fish, and was about to say this too, when the saloon’s door swung back, and Fish emerged with a jug in his hand, smelling as though he’d spent a share of his dollar on a dram or two by the glass. Fish was like a stagnant pool; every fresh drop that stirred his surface brought strong odors weltering from the depths. But he was generous with the boys. He had been generous from the day they’d shared their first dollar. Richard now took the jug, drank, and passed it to Lawrence.
Peas in a Pod
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)