As part of our on-going effort to give local writers/artists/poets/creators space to share their works, HP FlashFiction was created.
The works are presented and will be placed ‘as is – as the author wrote’ with out any editing on our part.
In this edition, we present a short story by B.A. Johnson. To submit your works, simply send them to [email protected]
They told me he was comin’ back. I would’ve sworn he was dead, but they said it, and I didn’t aim to disbelieve ‘em. The others had figured it wasn’t true – they’d been the ones to bury him – but they’d been strung up, one at a time, all except The Kid. Nobody knew who by…leastways nobody’d say what they reckoned, so I figured they were wrong.
When he was around, folks would say, “Sooner or later, everybody’s gotta meet the judge,” and to young’uns, “Shush, or you haf’ta see the judge.” So, when I heard ‘em say he was comin’, I reckoned my time was sooner – reckoned I’d bring my pistol.
He used to live in a house on the edge o’ town next to Ol’ Jeb’s.
When I got there, I saw Ol’ Jeb diggin’ outside…he was always diggin’.
They said Jeb was the first man in town – bought all the land west o’town, far as Scrag Hill some three miles out, for prospectin’ – blamed fool. May have been true; lookin’ at him, I’d believe it. He was skinny as a bird-picked coyote; skin so tight around the skull with sunken, black eyes starin’ down the spade handle. You’d think a corpse was out diggin’ its own grave.
He must’ve dug up all his land, as right then he was on the line between his property and the judge’s, turnin’ over a patch ‘neath a big oak bough with a rope scar ‘cross the top, six feet out from the trunk.
He saw me, but didn’t say a word.
He didn’t stop diggin’. “What’re you doin’ here? Haven’t you heard the judge is comin’? Comin’ up fast.”
“He ain’t in there,” said Jeb. “Comin’ up fast though.”
I told him I’d see for myself and went ‘round back the judge’s house where the backdoor was hangin’ wide open. I peered in.
The windows were still hung with old lace, tied back as though opened that mornin’, dust gray, just like the moth-eaten furniture.
Everything was quiet, ‘cept Jeb’s shovel – Schik. Schik.
I crept in, floor groanin’. I went through every room and in the last one found The Kid, sittin’ in an old chair, staring out the window, gun in his lap.
“What’re you doin’?” I asked.
He just smiled strange-like. “Ol’ Jeb, still at it.”
“Yeah. You heard?”
“Everybody’s gotta meet the judge sometime. Comin’ up fast…you ever listen to diggin’?”
I stared at him. He just looked out, listenin’.
“Funny what you can tell from a shovel…can hear a place’s been dug before – sounds smooth goin’ into the dirt ‘stead o’ harsh n’ clangin’.” He sat there a long time.
“Comin’ up fast.”
The shovel stopped. Nothin’ made a sound. Then the floorboards groaned and The Kid went white.
“Jeb?” I called, figurin’ it was Ol’ Jeb. Then came the sound of a shovel outside, diggin’ into the dirt, not as smooth and easy as before.