I entered the following story in the 2020 Write Michigan contest but wasn’t chosen as a finalist. I have done a lot of writing but this story, bordering on horror, was something new for me. It was inspired by a nightmare. I thought I would post it for a short while on fichigan to let readers see how one trout fisherman fills his time in the off season.
One Boy at a Time
There was a baby lying on a blanket in the middle of the two-track road. I stopped in plenty of time. I was driving carefully because I was afraid the hump in the middle of the two-track would scrape something loose from the bottom of my car. I was looking for access to a trout stream and hoped to do some fishing. I hadn’t driven this two-track before.
The two-track opened into a small field and when I looked to my right I could see people off in the distance on lawn chairs, about forty yards away, and kids running around. The kids headed toward me as I got out of the car. Skinny kids, all young, maybe not a teenager among them. I pointed to the baby as they drew near and said something about that being a dangerous place to leave a baby. The kids kept coming closer. They stopped a few feet away and surrounded me. I looked over at the people on lawn chairs and not one of them had moved. They seem to be talking as though I wasn’t there. Then I realized it was all women on the lawn chairs. No men in the party. That was odd. Where were the men? I could explain to a man how I was looking for the river and maybe there would be an understanding. He might yell at one of the women for being careless with the baby. That would be it.
I staggered forward. A young girl had jumped on my back. She had her arms around my neck. I swung around and pulled her arms free in one motion and she fell to the ground. I looked down to see her facing me on her hands and knees. She had dark stringy hair. She stared at me, wide-eyed, but with a blank expression. At least I couldn’t read her expression. No malevolence of anything like that. More like this was a game. She was skinny like all of the kids and wore loose fitting old clothes. The other kids moved back like I might be dangerous.
“Put your hands on top of your head.”
I turned around to see a woman police officer pointing a handgun at me. She wore a blue uniform, no hat. Young, in her twenties. Where the hell did she come from? No police car. In fact no cars in sight besides mine. She must have been hiding behind a large oak tree. I felt something sting my right hand. There was a smooth stone near my feet. I looked to my right. A girl with short hair, maybe ten years old, was holding another stone. She seemed to be waiting for my reaction. Patient, like a good hunter.
I had left the door open on my car and ran for it. I heard the police woman fire but guess she aimed high. Maybe it was a warning shot. With so many kids standing around it was some sort of negligence to even shoot. The car was still running so I jammed it in gear and swung wide to miss the baby. The car bounced out of the two-track but kept traction in the field grass. As I slid back into the two-track I glanced to the right. The women were still seated. A few heads were turned, watching.
I probably hit fifty miles per hour on some stretches of the two track. It split twice and I made my direction choices based on the sun which kept me in a generally west direction and away from the field. I came out on a gravel road and stopped at a four-corners store. There was no one working the counter so I called out hello a couple times. No answer. The rear door, back by the cooler, was open so I looked out back. A wiry guy with a scraggly beard was feeding a fenced-in black bear fresh carp. He was throwing the fish over the top of a ten foot cyclone fence. The bear was huge and fat. The ground inside the fenced area was all dirt, no weeds, and dug up like the bear had been digging for roots. The bear walked over, picked up a fish in it’s jaws, and plopped down. I could hear fish bones cracking.
I asked the man how to get to the highway but didn’t say anything about the women. I had to convince myself he was not related, had nothing to do with it. I kept looking at the bear. Is it legal to keep a bear in Michigan? It was disturbing to watch it feed. The scruffy man tossed the last fish over the fence and gave me directions. His directions were true.
When I arrived home I locked the doors and started writing. I have a welt on my hand from the stone but can hold a pen. I’m worried about that baby. Worried for that baby. I think it was a boy.