Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original author only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 20 Feb 2018
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Driving home, I looked down toward the roadside. A tiny red-tailed hawk stood over a dove it had recently obliterated. The prey’s pearl gray feathers were spread around the deep green blades of grass. Time seemed to stand still as I looked down at the young hunter and he looked up at me. Keeping his piercing eyes focused on mine, the hawk wolfed down a bite of his prize.
I continued on, there’d been a hard rain this morning causing my stream to flood the roadway. Easing past the water, I started up the hill to my house. My slick silver stallion is currently bucking around in the green pasture next to the house, he’s obviously elated about the sun making a welcome appearance.
Parking, I hopped out and went inside. Bo my old hound was curled up with his cat Leo in the dog bed. The cat stretched and curled up tighter right against the dog’s warm belly. It’s early spring yet and there’s a bit of a draft that runs through the house.
Thinking about dinner, I looked out the window and jumped a mile when I saw a sad looking teenager on my back deck. The boy had his legs tucked into himself and he appeared to be unaware of my presence.
I went to the slider and quietly opened the glass door.
Kid? I called out gently.
His whole body tensed visibly.
Hey, it’s alright, who are you though? I asked.
The teen shifted,
I looked at him, he’s filthy,
How’d you get here, Ash?
Been walking, his voice cracked awkwardly.
Running from trouble?
Ash hadn’t moved from his curled up potato bug impression.
Stand up, I kept my tone gentle.
The teen obediently did as I said, one of his arms dangled unnaturally at his side.
messed up, he mumbled. He looked me over, obviously trying to size me up and make a decision if
trusting me was his best option.
Yeah, I see your arm needs tending. I held a hand out,
I’m no monster, come inside the
That’s probably what a monster would say, the teen laughed lightly and came toward me anyway, I
led the way inside.
All the other farms are empty, he informed me.
There isn’t anybody around.
Yep, I sighed.
The farm next door, they got food. Their cellar is full of stuff. I couldn’t get inside the house
though, cause I don’t break windows.
That’s good I guess, gotta have some morals in these times.
They ain’t coming back, right?
Naw, those folk won’t be coming back. Where you from?
Escaped the city.
How old are you?
That shoulder hurting?
Yeah. Hey, what’s your name?
Vance? Like with a V?
Yep, you got it.
Getting the boy looked after, I was relieved that his arm was just out of the socket and not broken. When I gave his arm a quick tug back into place, he yelped a bit but didn’t scream like I imagined he would, tough little guy. I think it put him into shock though because he laid motionless on the kitchen floor for quite awhile afterward.
When he was ready to move, I’d already thrown his shirt outside in the burn pile, I then helped peel off his gross and sticky-with-filth britches. He wore no underwear, probably long since disregarded. Free of his rags, I was able to get a proper look at his condition. He’s skinny and has obviously missed a few meals, but amongst his grime covered body he seems to harbor no lingering scars that I can tell.
I’m sure you’re tired like none other but let’s get you in the tub, I said while steering
him toward the bathroom. Drawing a bath, I glanced at Ash just standing next to me in all his glory. He’s
so tired and worn down, his posture slumped under the weight of his life.
Okay, in you get. I gave
his butt a love pat and watched him slip into the hot water. Throwing him a wash cloth, I began exiting
the bathroom to find him some suitable clothes,
I’ll be right back.
Okay, he replied weakly.
I stopped at the doorway and looked back at him,
Yeah, I’m just tired. Hey, Vance, you’re a good guy, right?
Yeah, you don’t have to worry. I left him and went to my son’s old bedroom. Figuring the two
were about the same size, I got out my son’s old flannel pajamas. The clothes hadn’t
been touched in years but smelled freshly washed somehow, I could make out the scent of our old fabric
softener. The smell made me smile fondly.
When I got back to Ash, he was crying.
Are you hurt somewhere? What’s wrong? I asked, clearly worried.
Ash sighed raggedly, tears streaming down his face and dripping into the bath water,
thankful I found someone!
I know, I know, I said gently, throwing the clothes by the sink.
It’s okay now. Going
over, I helped scrub his head. I nonchalantly checked for lice and fleas while I did so, hoping he wouldn’t
really notice. Though there didn’t appear to be anything besides a boy’s thick head of hair.
This shampoo smells good. Ash breathed in deeply,
It’s making me tired.
That’s sandalwood you smell, it’s expensive stuff but I have a whole case of it. Should last.
Draining the tub, I turned the shower nozzle on and hosed the boy down. The tub water had looked less than crystal clear and more like the contents of a mud puddle. Sand and dirt granules had settled around the drain before I turned the nozzle on them too.
Getting the boy out and dressed, I had him brush his teeth. I then directed him to my son’s old room, where I tucked the young teenager in for a nap while I went to make dinner.
I smiled, also glad that Ash had found me. What an unexpected turn of events!
A month later found the two of us settled into a groove. It had only taken a few weeks before the boy was calling me dad and I was calling him son. Ash was already looking healthier on the steady diet I was feeding him, regular meals that he’d probably never had before, and he’s even grown by an inch!
The teen has ashy brown hair, shocking green eyes, and he’s rather on the petite side, not that it matters. We haven’t spoken much about his past, but I’ve told him he can come to me whenever he feels like talking, that I’m here for him. We no longer have to suffer alone because we have each other.
I walked out back while the cat did figure eights around my feet, he’s apparently trying to murder
the hand that feeds him.
Ashland?! I called loudly but received no reply. Where is he? I went back
Ash?! Slightly worried, I went back outside and scanned the property. My mood kept shifting
between irritation and worry, if he wanders off he’s supposed to tell me first.
Two hours later, I saw him walking across the field with two backpacks, one on his back and he was awkwardly carrying the second. The small teen kept pausing to adjust the one in his hands. I didn’t move to help him. He was aways off when he stopped suddenly, he’d noticed me watching him as I’d stood outside.
I got some stuff from the neighbor’s cellar! Ash yelled to me, I could see his smile from
C’mere! I motioned to him.
Ash adjusted his backpacks and kept walking, his smile gradually fading the closer he got to me.
We have a rule about leaving the property, don’t we? I asked when he reached me, my expression
set to a serious frown.
Dad, you were asleep, Ash nearly whispered.
I just thought I’d go get some stuff. He
set his bags down on the deck,
Don’t be mad, I’m sorry.
I’d been scrubbing the deck while waiting for him, a large and wide square scrubbing brush was submerged
in a galvanized bucket full of sudsy water.
Get the brush from the bucket and bring it to me.
Daddy, he breathed heavily while taking in several sharp emotional breaths.
Fetch it here.
The fourteen year old nervously skirted past me and plucked the brush from the bucket. Water came
pouring from between its bristles, landing all over.
I’m sorry, Dad, I shouldn’t have left without
I sat on the step,
Bring it over.
Ash brought the scrub brush and gave it to me,
Don’t spank me, he said sadly.
Quit arguing. Get your pants down.
His fingers found the button, they seemed to shake slightly as he tried to work it through the hole. Getting the button undone, he shoved his pants down to his knees.
Giving my knee a pat, I helped him bend over.
First of all, I would have gone with you if you’d
said you wanted to go over there. Second, I’m not going to say you can’t leave, but you need to at least
tell me where you’re going. If you didn’t come back, I wouldn’t even know where to start looking, I raised the brush and cracked the soaked wood smartly against the center
of his bottom. The impact caused his bottom to ripple. I instantly raised the implement again and gave
him a second swat.
Ash choked out a heavy sob,
The brush kept rising and falling against his cheeks while I proceeded to give him a sound spanking. Cracking the wood against one cheek, I moved it over to his other and kept on repeating until he was bawling hysterically.
He brought his feet up and tried to bring his hand back as he wiggled around.
Pinning his wrist to the small of his back, I finished with several extra hard swats. Setting the brush down, I left him to cry over my knee until he settled down. I then helped him to stand upright.
Carefully, Ash cupped his smoldering cheeks, his nearly silent tears kept flowing relentlessly. Biting his lip, he tried to stop himself from making any more noise.
It’s okay to cry, I told him gently.
Hey, quit biting your lip, quit-quit. Standing
up, I hugged him and he began crying dramatically against my shirt, his arms wrapped around me.
going to behave now, right?
Yes, Daddy, he cried.
Should we take a look at your haul?
The young teen calmed himself, sniffed loudly and pulled away,
Okay. Ash got his pants back in place then hunkered
down to unzip one bag. Pulling out a large clear jar full of red sauce, spaghetti was written on the lid.
Still sealed tight, he sniffed and pressed the metal lid’s top. It’ll press in and pop back if
air has gotten inside.
Green beans, corn, pickles, different jams. There’s a ton more too.
Let’s take Rio and go get the rest. What’s in the other bag?
Cheese and some stuff from this huge freezer they got!
Is it any good?
It seems to be, it’s vacuum-packed.
We put his first load in the house, locked up and went out to fetch my slick silver stallion. Ash hasn’t ridden him, or any horse for that matter, I guess he’ll start learning today. I’ve been getting food from further off, reluctant to take from the neighbors but I know they aren’t coming back. I don’t want to waste gas going next door, so horse power it is!
Your spanked bottom is going to be mighty uncomfortable, I informed my boy.
Can’t I walk? Ash frowned, his eyes still red and puffy.
Nope, you’ll do as you’re told.
Ash approached the horse apprehensively.
We’ll ride my large stallion to the neighbor’s and fill a large double canvas bag that Rio
will carry back while we walk. I helped Ash get on, the teen’s breathing hastened as he sat hard on Rio’s back.
Not saying anything, I wanted his punishment to really soak in. I joined him, settling in front of the fourteen year old,
Hold onto me, don’t fall off.
Setting off, it didn’t take long to reach the neighbor’s. We filled the large canvas bags and I made note of what was left, still a lot. Plus whatever’s inside.
Walking back, Ash was sighing a lot.
What’s wrong? I asked him.
My butt hurts.
How long you think the power will keep going?
Don’t know, we’re wind powered here, might have something to do with why it’s still running. People
survived a long time before power existed though. We’ll figure it out if the time comes.