“Sweetie, what are you doing awake so early?” Roan’s groggy mother, Helen, asked as she entered the kitchen.
“Storm kept me up last night” he replied before taking a sip of coffee. It was his second of the day at 7:00am.
“You need breakfast?” Helen asked.
“No, thanks, Mom, I’ve eaten already. Hey, do you know if grandpa is in town this weekend? I was thinking of stopping by. Not sure if this is a fishing trip weekend or not.” He did not want to sound urgent.
“Why? Everything ok?” Helen always knew when there was an ulterior motive.
“That’s a weird ability, Mom.” Roan sighed, deciding what he wanted to tell his mother. “I got in a fight with Bernie Eastman last night. I’m ok, don’t worry about that, but I thought I’d let grandpa know. Since we’re not supposed to fight and all that.”
“I’ll never understand this family’s relationship with the Eastmans as long as I live. Your father’s lucky he has a nice tush or I’d never put up with this feud stuff.”
“Hush, we’re all adults now. I think your grandfather is in town. He’ll want to know about Bernie. Probably call for a council meeting or whatever they do with this sort of thing. They’ll bring Bernie in to tell his story and you’ll tell yours, a cow will be traded to make amends and that’ll be it. Always with the cows your granddad.”
Roan laughed. His mother had always worked to keep the legend of the Eastman and Fletcher family feuds out of the house. She liked when people got along and thought given credence to the families’ past disputes would only encourage an ‘us against them’ mentality.
“Thanks, Mom.” Roan put his coffee on the table and made his way out of the house.
“Ask if we can borrow his edger, would you? Dang yard is eating the sidewalk” Helen called after him.
He was surprised by the calm of the outdoors. For as fierce as the storm had been there was no sign of its occurrence. Trees waved in the slight morning breeze, birds chirped with gusto and the summer sun hung low in the sky. Sidewalks and pavement were dry and not one leaf or pinecone could be found on the ground.
More surprising was his nose. No pain, no bruising, no indication a fight had occurred at all. Roan was not sure if he should be thankful or frightened.
He had made his way down half a block before he heard the sound of rubber on pavement and the familiar clacking of a baseball card hitting wheel spokes filled his ears.
“Roan! How about that storm last night?” Flint said hoping off his bicycle.
“You heard it too? Thank goodness for that. Have you noticed the distinct of lack of any sign that storm happened?” Roan said. He tried to sound unworried, but he knew his tone betrayed him.
“Little freak out, eh? I thought you didn’t believe in the family curse stuff?” Flint asked in a teasing manner.
Roan, never one to be at a loss of words, had no response.
Flint nervously fiddled with the bike’s handle bars. “Grandpa will sort everything out.” Roan did not feel reassured.
They walked together to Grandpa Fletcher’s home. A mere six blocks in a town where that number was a significant percentage of the tally and they would have their answers.
The rumbling sound of an old car engine came from behind, obviously slowing down. In unison the boys turned, looked and felt little surprise to see an old friend pulling over for a chat; Sheriff Donna Dunns.
Throughout high school it felt the Sheriff had made it a game to delay the boys in their travels. She stepped out of the patrol car with that all too familiar swagger of days gone by; sunglasses covering her face, hair in a tightly bound bun atop her head, uniform always looking like had come straight from a dry cleaner (doubly odd as the town had no such services within its borders). Sheriff Donna Dunn meant business and she was far from a big fan of Roan Fletcher and Flint Darby.
“Boys” she said. She had started every conversation in this manner since they were 15 years old.
“Sheriff” they replied in unison as they had done since they were 15 years old.
“Roan, I hear you had a bit of a run-in with Bernard Eastman last night? Is that true?” She asked, but already knew the answer.
“Yes, ma’am. He nearly broke my nose”
“About what time did this occur, boys?”
Flint jumped in without hesitation, “it was 11:43, Sheriff. I had just checked my watch on account that Roan was taking a lot of time paying our tab.”
“What did you boys do afterward?” Sheriff done lowered her sunglasses ever so slightly. It was the most of her face either Roan or Flint had ever seen.
“We both went on home. When there’s a drunk Eastman about, we know better than to think we’re going to have a fun evening.” Roan said. He thought for a moment that he could have talked to the sheriff with less sass, but only a moment.
“You too, Flint?”
“Yes, sheriff. Straight home. Plugged my phone to the charger, switched off the light, and called it a day. Until the storm of course.”
The sheriff raised an eyebrow at mention of the storm.
“That’s good. Good boys heading on home. Not too many of your family know when to call it a night. Do spread the word with your cousins though; I want you all, Fletcher and Eastman alike, indoors by 10:00 sharp for the rest of the summer though.”
The two boys erupted in questions and demands for answers. Roan was enraged; one little fight and the town gets frightened of a family curse. It was that very mentality that made him grin from ear to ear when he first left town for college.
“Don’t question this, boys” Sheriff Dunn cut them off. She sighed and removed her glasses. “You’re going to hear about it anyway, and I trust you two to keep this under wraps. Don’t let any curse rumors run out of control now. Bernard Eastman was found dead this morning on the old Turner homestead. It looks like a cougar got hold of him and didn’t let go for some time. Be respectful and make sure your cousins don’t go celebrating a dead Eastman.”
With that the Sheriff returned to her patrol car.
Roan stood motionless. Flint much the same.
“We have to see Grandpa” they said in unison.