Monday, May 23, 2011

"Stung" Part 2 of 3

Over the next few days, Mort's life proceeded as normal as he tried to put the upcoming raid out of his mind. He scratched at his fields, such as they were, went hunting one night and fetched up two fat possums, carried some corn down to the mill for meal. Despite Rupert's assurances, he was still nervous about the chance of having to face one of the rogue mechanized stills while attempting to steal its precious moonshine liquor, so two days before the full moon he made the walk down into town to buy more ammunition for his weapon.

It was the wrong time of year for Mort to have any cash-money on hand, so he brought the possum skins as well as some of their meat with him for barter. The meat wouldn't store well in the summer heat anyway, and it wasn't as though he'd be able to eat it all before it went bad. His business concluded, and feeling much happier with an additional box of cartridges in his pocket, Mort was about to begin the long slog back up to his cabin when the door to the general store opened again, and a pretty, sloe-eyed young woman walked in.

Mort coughed and cleared his throat, feeling a nervous blush begin to rise. "Miss Emily," he managed, by way of greeting, touching his hand to the brim of the shapeless hat he hadn't bothered to remove upon entering.

The girl flashed a smile at him, brightened by the freckles splashed across her nose and cheeks from time in the sun. "Mister Mordecai. If you'll pardon me while I carry out my business, I might have a word or two for you when I'm done."

Mort nodded, and stepped out onto the store's porch to await her. He looked up and down the street for any sign of Emily's mother or brothers, and smiled to himself when he saw none. That meant he could at least offer to walk her home, as the branch up to the Lawson place forked off the trail he himself would be following. And perhaps steal a kiss or two along the way...

"Mort." The sound of his name, called quietly from behind him, startled Mort out of his reverie, nearly causing him to jump forward off the split boards of the porch. He turned, and saw Emily behind him, grinning at his reaction, though her eyes were dark with worry. She had a net bag filled with odds and ends from the store that she slung across her shoulder with practiced ease, nodding at him as she stepped down into the road. "C'mon, we gotta talk."

They set out together, the lanky Mort automatically shortening his strides to allow Emily to walk alongside him, although her own steps were unhampered by her loose calico skirt. Although her tone had suggested urgency, Emily didn't speak again until they were out of town, on the path through the low woods.

"Mort, I heard what Uncle Roop's got planned for y'uns." She looked over at him unhappily. "It's dangerous, I don't want for you to feel like you've got to go."

Mort rolled his shoulders in an easy shrug, affecting nonchalance. "I know they've run wild, but Roop's right, those stills are just machines at heart. They shouldn't be too hard to outwit." He smiled at her, trying to bolster his own confidence by increasing hers.

She frowned, prettily, he thought, but then he thought she did everything prettily. "It ain't just that, even though I'm convinced there's more to them things than meets the eye." She sighed. "I know there haven't been that many revenuers around lately, but I don't want you to get caught selling the stuff, neither. They've done and changed the law again - now they're saying any liquor 'not produced by human hands' straight up belongs to the government, since they can't collect no kind of tax from them devil machines, and anybody who's caught taking and selling from a cache is gonna be charged with theft of government property."

Mort considered her words for a few minutes, then shrugged again. "Well, as I see it, I suppose they ain't really got any right to try and make money off'n it. It's not like they've sent us any extra officers to try and deal with the things, and they're a threat to life and limb for any man trying to make his living up on the mountains these days. Things're worse than bears, at least a bear won't always come after you whenever he sees you. If anybody's got a right to make money off the things, it's them of us as has to deal with 'em." He smiled again at the girl walking beside him. "You're right, there haven't been that many revenuers around lately, and it ain't like anybody around here's gonna turn us in, not when everybody knows what I need the money for."

Blushing, Emily smiled back at him. "Well. That's as may be, but I still wish't there was another way you could get it. I don't trust them things, not the way they run around all over the place, making moonshine and hiding it, shooting at people, even though it was a man as first made 'em." She shivered. "It's like they know something we don't. Uncle Roop says they don't think. I think they do, but they just don't think like us." She stopped suddenly in the middle of the trail, facing him, and jabbed a finger sharply into his chest. "You just be careful and come back, you hear? I don't want to find myself widowed before I'm wed!"

She whirled away again just as suddenly, and disappeared hurriedly down the side-trail that led to her family's cabin. Mort, distracted by her presence, hadn't even realized that they'd made it so close. He stood in the middle of the trail, scratching his head and frowning after her. "Huh. Women."

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