I think that I could have guessed that Colton Welles would fall in love with Burney Bush well before it happened. I don't know what it is about life, but it always has this strange way of taking a simple thing and making it more complicated than it should be.
The three of us Burney, Thurman, and myself had gone out to eat Chinese food at the Bamboo Garden. When we went to drop her off at her house, Colton and her brothers Cain and Abel were standing around Cain's battered Ford pick-up truck. Colton was shirtless and had his foot up on the bumper. Abel Bush, or Oogie as he was known, had his foot up on the bumper on the other side. Cain was leaned up again the side of the truck looking about as mean and dumb as a human could possibly be.
In fact, I would have swore a oath that he was the meanest dumbest looking person in the whole damn world if it weren't for the fact that Oogie was standing next to him taking that look to an unworldly level. He looked like the meanest and ugliest thing to ever come out of Mars.
Colton looked like and sounded like a snake. He acted like he was trying to be pleasant and inviting, but I could sense his rattles shaking, and it made me aware that I needed to stay as far as way from him as I could get to avoid being poisoned with his venom.
Thurman tensed up a bit when we pulled in the driveway and saw them standing there. The sun had begun to set and there were some shadows forming, but the three men were standing smack dab in the last dying light of the day. If Thurman was scared in anyway, he did a damned good job of covering it up. He got out the truck and helped Burney down. Much as I didn't want to get out, I had to just in case he needed my help.
Oogie greeted us, "Well, lookie what we fucking got here. My darling little sister and her personal Prince Fucking Charming. What do we owe the pleasure?"
Burney spat, "Shut the hell up, Oogie. Thurman's just bringing me home, so don't start any shit."
The men started laughing with Colton laughing the loudest, and he hissed, "Damn, Oogie, she done told you! That's what I like about your little sister. She got a lot of fire in her!" Then turned to Burnie, "Damn girl. You lookin mighty fine. Here I been asking you for a date for weeks, and then you come waltzing right up in front of me with my own damned cousin. The very, same cousin who has been trying to replace me in my Daddy's affections. "
You could tell he had been drinking. His pupils were little dark dots, and there was a strange greenish glow about his face. He looked like evil incarnate as he spoke. Colton always looked evil, even when he was trying to play nice, but now the liquor had stripped away anything that would have hid that evil from being visible to general public.
I know that Thurman heard him, but he acted like he didn't. He took a hold of Burney's right arm and guided her toward the front door of the house. Oogie took his foot off the bumper, opened up, and kind of blocked the path between the truck and the gate.
Thurman stopped and looked up at him for a second, Oogie looked into his eyes, thought about it, and then stepped out of the way. Thurman opened the gate and took Burney up the red brick steps that led up to the green door.
As they said their goodbyes, it left me standing there by myself. The men turned their gaze upon me. I didn't know what else to do, so I focused my gaze upon Cain and asked, "You been finding any more bugs?"
He didn't laugh. The others just looked at him to see what I was talking about. His face flushed, "He tyrna make a joke on me. He caught me messing with Missy the other day and threatened to tell Cilla on me." They turned to look at me.
Oogie spoke first, "That right? You was gonna rat out my brother for having a little fun."
Colton quickly followed suit, "Damn, Billy John. I didn't know what a little piss ant you was. I'm shamed of you, boy. My cousin the rat"
"Cain's a damned liar! And he is a fat-assed, ugly damned liar! And Oogie you look just like him, so you're also a ugly, fat-assed liar too," Then I turned to Colton, "Fuck you and your being ashamed, Colton Welles. You ain't never done nothing in your life but bring shame upon your daddy!"
A second before I was real scared of what might happen, but hearing Colton turn on me was more than I was willing to bear. I saw Thurman gently nudge Burney into the house before shutting the door and coming down the steps. I'd had quickly resolved that I was going after Colton with both hands when a suddenly the whole scene was bathed in a light coming off a pair of headlights that had just turned into the driveway. It was Burney's mom and daddy coming home from church.
Mr. Bush, a short but powerfully built man nodded at me as he walked by, he said hi to Thurman, then looked at the others, "You boys ain't been drinking again have ya?"
Oogie's eyes never left me as he mumbled, "No, Daddy, we was just sitting here talking. Weren't we Colton?"
"That's a fact, Mr. Bush. Just talking."
Mr. Bush looked them over and then asked me, "That's so? What were you boys talking on, Billy John?"
"Bugs. We was talking on how annoying these little flying insects are. Cain said he got bit by one on his leg the other day."
Mr. Bush turned and looked a question at his son. Cain glared at me before answering, "Hurt real bad, Daddy. I had to put some lotion down there to stop it from itching."
Mr. Bush, " I don't know what you was doing to let a bug get at your leg like that boy, but I suggest you quit doing it. Hear me?"
Cain nodded in response. Mr. Bush surveyed us all again then turned and started walking toward the house leaving us with, " You men, try to stay out of trouble. It wouldn't hurt none of ya to get yourself right with Jesus."
Mrs. Thurman, a slender gray-haired woman with fine features was a very sweet lady. I never could understand how she gave birth to the likes of Cain and Abel. She stopped and put her hand on Thurman's arm, "Thurman, how is your aunty and your Uncle Billy? I ain't seen them a while."
"They doing fine, Miss Elly. I'll let them know you was asking about them."
With that she followed her husband to the door. While they were walking away. Thurman and I used the opportunity to get in the truck. As we pulled the way, our lights outlined the three figures standing motionless in the driveway, a snake and two fairly large baboons. Colton's angry eyes could have cut diamond in two.
"Sorry, Thurman. I ain't having nobody telling lies on me. I lose all sense of control."
He put the truck into a forward gear, "Don't fret on it none. It don't matter how straight forward you are with some people. They don't understand honesty or nice and never will."
Later, after we got home, we sat out on the porch a bit, drinking a beer, and talking quietly in the light of beautiful full moon. I was in a wondering mood and asked my brother a bunch of pesky questions. I know he was trying to gather his own thoughts on the matter, but I couldn't help it.
"Don't it just seem to too dang weird that we drive all the way out here from Oklahoma for you to fall in love with the same woman that our shit head, no account cousin had his sights set on?"
Thurman was stroking his chin, a sign I knew that he was thinking deeply on something. He had always done that when his mind was troubling him, even as a boy.
"I reckon that it has to be this way. I ran away when I should have stood up for Sersie that day in church. I was all embarrassed, Mama was there, and we was in Church. It felt like God his own self was looking down on the whole pathetic scene. I didn't know what else to do?"
I was puzzled by his words, "What was you supposed to do? That was all Pa's doing."
"I loved Sersie, and she loved me. And I don't care what anybody else said on it. I should have stood up and fought for her, even if I had punch my own daddy in the head, or the preacher, or God himself for that matter. I might have saved her had I made that stand. Running away from it just guaranteed her fateful end on that lonely road outside of Fort Sumner."
He was on a roll, so I didn't say nothing even though he'd touched on things that I wanted to know about. Eventually, he resumed telling me what what he was thinking, "You got to stand up to life, Buddy. If ya don't it'll keep coming back and start pushing on you until either you fight back or you fall down and stay down. And when that happens, they might as well start tossing dirt on your head."
I thought about it for a minute then answered, "You remember when Bobby Eakins and Sonny Dawes jumped me in our pasture. I ran away thinking it was the smart thing to do. Daddy was looking out the barn and saw me run. That night he took me out in the barn and whipped my ass for shaming him. I hear what you're saying, Thurm. I been thinking on it myself. I should have fought harder for Guinnie too. I should have never had made her do all that work, but I didn't know what else to do."
"Don't go putting that on yourself. You was standing up to life and she was helping too. That's the way it's supposed to be. It was losing Stewie that killed her. And there was nothing you could have done to prevent that."
"We could come to California the moment I first saw a dark, dust cloud."
That one stunned him for a moment then he let out a soft chuckle, "Damned, Bud. I don't know if you noticed. They got some damned, dark clouds out here too."
That made me laugh. Then a voice and a light appeared out of the night. It was Mr. Jenk's dressed in his nightgown and carrying a flashlight. He even had a hat on his head and looked like a character out of that book by Charles Dickens.
"What you boys doing out this late at night?"
Thurman answered, " We just sitting out here laughing on the way that life is."
"Good. That's the way it oughta be," and then, "Night boys."
We chimed, "Night, Mr. Jenks."
Then right before I closed the door, Mr. Jenks called from across the way, "Billy John, you get that coffee?"
I called back, "Yep! I even got us some cinnamon rolls."