Read Shiloh Season Online

Authors: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Action & Adventure - General, #Juvenile Fiction, #Children: Grades 4-6, #Dogs, #Animals - Dogs, #Children's Audio - 9-12, #Children's audiobooks, #Social Issues - General, #Audio: Juvenile, #Kindness

Shiloh Season (5 page)

BOOK: Shiloh Season
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41

"See you at school Monday," David says as he gets in the car beside his dad.

"How you doing, Marty? You guys have fun?" Mr. Howard calls.

"Yeah," we both tell him. We did, too, but watching a squirrel die before our eyes wasn't part of it.

We like Sundays at our house 'cause they're slow. Dad's home all day, and he'll sit out on the porch swing reading the comics aloud to Dara Lynn and Becky. Takes all the different voices and makes us laugh.

Ma usually listens to Brother Jonas preach on TV, but now she's out in the kitchen making bread. She says that next to her children, she loves baking bread on Sundays about as much as anything she can think of.

She don't say so, but she loves Dad more'n she loves baking bread, too. And this morning after I listen to Dad read the comics, I go back in the kitchen where she's shaping the loaves and she's singing one of the country songs she likes so much:

"If I could have three wishes, I'd spend 'em all on you.

To love me when I'm lonely, To cheer me when I'm blue. To laugh with when I'm happy, Because I know you're true.

If I could have three wishes, love, I'd spend 'em all on you."

I know it's not me she's singing about. I just smile and Ma smiles back.

42

I spread out my homework on the table across from her and do my arithmetic problems, trying not to let on that I'm worried:

Multiply: 687

1029

3998

.33

x.012

x 7.5

Divide: 687 by .33 1029 by .012 3998 by 7.5

III

I wonder if there is ever a time in my whole life that I will have 3998 of something and have to divide it by 7.5. I ask my ma.

"Even if you don't, Marty," she says, "arithmetic helps you think. It helps you learn to solve problems."

I'm thinking arithmetic can't help me solve the kind of problems we've got with Judd Travers. If that was true, I'd stay up to midnight every night just studying that arithmetic book.

The true fact is, I'm wondering if maybe some of Judd's drinking is because of me. The two weeks I'd worked for him during the summer, I'd got to know him some. And after a while we'd talk about his dogs and stuff, so that on the last day, I felt Judd was a little sorry to see me go. Sorry he wouldn't come home from work afternoons and find someone there he could talk to.

I'd figured to go back now and then to visit him, maybe even take Shiloh. But I could never get my dog to set foot over that bridge again, and since I wasn't all that eager to see Judd myself, a good idea just sort of washed away.

After we ate Sunday dinner, though, which at our house is about one in the afternoon, Dad lays down for a

43

nap, Dara Lynn's got her paper dolls out on the swing, Becky's in bed, and Ma's got her feet up, reading a magazine. So I set out for Judd Travers's. I mean to come right out and tell him that yes, I was over there the night before, so he won't think I'm sneakin' around.

This time Judd's working on his truck. Got the hood up, and he's changing the oil. Don't seem like he's been drinking today. Leastwise, he's not drunk yet.

"Hi, Judd," I say.

Judd looks up and goes on tinkering under the hood of his truck. "What you up to?" he asks me.

"Nothin'. Just fooling around the creek," I tell him. "You takin' good care of my dog?" he says.

Those are the very next words out of his mouth, and what I don't like are the words, "my dog."

"Shiloh's doin' fine," I tell him.

"Thought maybe you'd bring him by one of these days," Judd says. "How come he ain't with you now?"

How do you tell a man that your dog hates him more'n bee stings? "He's home playin' with Becky and Dara Lynn," I say. "They're fixing to spoil him."

Judd just grunts. "You don't take a dog hunting, he'll lose his touch."

"Dad'll probably take Shiloh with him when he starts hunting next month," I say. "Hunting season hasn't started yet, Judd. Only thing you can shoot in West Virginia this time of year is dove."

There's a sly grin pulling back the corners of Judd's mouth. "That a fact?" he says, and spits again as he wipes his hands on a rag.

What I'm trying not to look at is the remains of that squirrel. Pieces of squirrel all over Judd's yard. Looks to me

44

like he got up this morning and threw that squirrel carcass to his dogs. Can just imagine those lean, mean dogs snapping and snarling at one another, eager to get a little blood on their muzzles.

I swallow. "Listen, Judd, I came to tell you somethin'." "Yeah?" he says.

"David and me-he was over to my house last night, and we were playing spy. That was us you heard in your yard."

This time Judd raises up real slow. "So how come you didn't answer?"

"We were scared because you had that gun."

For a moment Judd don't quite know what to say. This amount of truthfulness is almost too much for him to handle. What I haven't counted on, though, is making Judd mad. His eyes get all squinty and the brows come together over the bridge of his nose.

"You expect me to believe that? You come all the way over here to play spy? You weren't playin', boy, you were spyin', and wouldn't surprise me one bit your dad put you up to it."

"He didn't! He didn't even know we were here. But we shouldn't have been in your yard, and ..."

He never even lets me finish. Judd's hollering now: "You and that boy come over here once, you've been here more'n that. And any two boys come sneakin' around my house, won't even answer, got something on their minds besides play. I'm no fool. It was you or that boy, or maybe the both of you, who scratched up my truck, I'm willing to bet, and I catch you over here again, I just may pull that trigger. A man's got a right to protect his property."

"Judd, I ..."

45

"Go on home, you hear me?"

Judd's standing there with a wrench in his hand, and his face has gone from plain ugly to pure ugly-not a spark of kindness in those eyes at all.

When I don't move, he yells, "Git!" and takes a step forward, and that's when I turn and head for home.

Oh boy, I've done it now. I kick at a rock just about as hard as I can kick and send it flying into Middle Island Creek. I tell the truth, and look what happens.

Can't believe Judd would really put a bullet in me if he sees me over his way again, but I'm thinking he might could put a bullet in the living thing I love almost more'n anything else in the world. I sure can't go on like this, that much I know.

Dad's working outside when I get home, getting ready to mow. I stand over him as he pours gasoline in the mower. "Somethin' on your mind?" he asks.

"I wonder if Judd's drinking on account of me," I say, trying to edge in easy on the subject. Dad won't like to hear that David and me were over at Judd's last night any more than Judd did.

Dad looks at me, screws the lid back on the gasoline can, then straightens up. "Now what put an idea like that in your head?"

"I was thinking how after I got Shiloh and worked for Judd, I never went back anymore. I think Judd sort of got used to me being around-somebody for him to talk to."

"Probably so, but I don't think a man starts drinking because an eleven-year-old boy don't show up. Judd's got problems that don't have anything to do with you, Marty. He sure wouldn't get no prize for getting along with people."

46

"But he says those things about Shiloh-about me taking his dog and all."

"Judd'll jaw on about anything, you give him a chance. You know that. You know and I know and he knows that you earned that dog. Why do you keep worrying about it?"

"I'm afraid he'll get drunk sometime and shoot Shiloh." "Well, I'm worried he'll get drunk, go hunting up in our woods with his rifle, and a stray bullet will hit one of you kids," Dad says. "You want to worry about something real, take that one."

"But after all I did to protect Shiloh-the way that dog come to me-I just couldn't stand it if anything was to happen to him now," I say. I follow Dad as he pushes the mower over to a comer of our yard. "Couldn't we ... well, invite Judd to dinner or something? Make like we're really friends?"

Dad's looking question marks at me. "Marty, no more'n two months ago, you were hating Judd Travers worse'n a rattlesnake, and now you want to invite him home?"

"Just to keep on his good side." I'm thinking maybe now is the time I should tell Dad I was over at Judd's, but there's something about him that stops me.

Dad rests his hands on the handle of the mower and takes in a big breath. "Fact is," he says, not looking directly at me, "when I was up to see Judd last week, I lost my temper. I'm not proud of it, but it happened. I showed him the beer can, and reminded him our woods and fields are posted, and all he did was cuss me out."

I'm staring. "He cussed you?"

"Said I was a sorry kind of neighbor to keep my land all for myself to hunt on. Said if he'd known what a miserly skunk I was, he'd never have let you have that dog at all. In

47

fact, he says that because he did give him to you, he could hunt wherever he pleased. That was part of the bargain."

"That's not true!" I yell, my face hot.

"I know it isn't, Marty. Judd was drunk as a coot when he said that, and I should have come home and gone back again when he was sober. But I got a temper, too, when I'm riled. I told him I ever find him hunting on my land, I'm calling the sheriff. That's why I don't want him at our table right now. I'm not asking him to stay off my land; I'm teen' him, and I don't want him to think I'm backing down."

I decide not to say anything just then about playin' spy.

48

Seven

It is sure quiet around our house. Dad never much held a grudge or carried on a quarrel with a neighbor. It bothers him to do it now.

What I don't like is not being able to take Shiloh up to the far meadow to romp and run. We're used to not going up there between Thanksgiving and Christmas when deer season is on, because-signs or no signs hunters sometimes get in up there and they've got rifles. Shot from a shotgun and bullets from a rifle are different things entirely.

Shiloh can't understand why we've stopped going up to the meadow, though. I come home from school and he gets all excited-does his wiggle dance, front end going left and his rear end going right. Runs right off toward the path to the meadow, yipping for me to come, too. Runs back and forth to show me the way, get me to follow.

"Shiloh! No!" I say.

49

He just slinks down low, tail between his legs, like he don't know what he's done, but it's bad. Then when I reach down to pet him, he can't make sense of it, I can tell.

He's been running around some with a black Labrador, though, and it's nice to see him have a friend of his own. Those two dogs go off together and sometimes Shiloh's gone all day and half the night. Comes back with burrs and ticks, but eager to be off again the next time his friend comes around.

At school I find out more from Michael Sholt about Judd fighting at Bens Run. Michael says a cousin told him that a friend's uncle had a brother who said Judd owed him some money, and Judd said he didn't. I suppose that by the time a story's passed along to that many people, there's a little added on or a little left out, so I don't know how true it is. But they say Judd had been drinking and he took the first swing. Would have 'half killed each other if the sheriff hadn't shown up.

I can imagine that all right. Having seen Judd kill two living things now, I can imagine him half killing something without no second thoughts whatsoever.

Last week in September Miss Talbot tells us our school is taking part in a project called "Imagine the Future." The idea is to get kids thinking about their lives a little further than what they're going to do over next summer's vacation, she says.

All fifth and sixth graders in a dozen schools are supposed to choose the job they'd most like to have when they're grown. That's just for starters. Then we've got to write a paper on what it would be like to do that kind of work.

50

Sarah Peters chooses swimmer.

"Swimmer?" I say when she tells me on the bus. "What kind of job is that?"

"Swimming champion," she says.

Sarah took swimming lessons last summer at a camp down near Middleboume and now she thinks she can go to the Olympics.

I ask David Howard what he's going to choose. "Biologist, forest ranger, or football player," he says. "Haven't decided yet."

Didn't take me long to think up mine: veterinarian. It's all I can think of that would please me.

When I go to Doc Murphy's that Saturday I tell him what I picked, only I say I'll probably write down "veterinarian technician," 'cause it takes a lot of money to go to veterinary school. He's showing me how to use a soaker hose on his bushes-how to keep moving it every twenty minutes.

"It does take money, and it's real tough to get into veterinary college, Marty," he says, "but there's no harm in aiming high."

I finish watering all the bushes before I go home. David doesn't come over 'cause he's gone camping with his folks. He's decided to write a report on being a forest ranger, and his dad is taking him to visit a real ranger station so he can ask questions and write a good report.

At the supper table, we're talking about Grandma Preston again. Ma called Aunt Hettie over in Clarksburg and, as usual, Grandma Preston was in trouble.

"What's she done now?" asks Dara Lynn, eyes all shiny, can't wait to hear the latest.

Ma starts to tell, then stops: "Dara Lynn Preston, I don't

BOOK: Shiloh Season
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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