Monday, March 12, 2007
Hudson and I met Slim in the bunkhouse where he showed us our bunks. While Hudson inspected his, he saw a can of lice powder at the foot of the bed frame. He very carefully looked all around the bunk, bringing his eye really close to the mattress and looked it up and down.
“There aren’t any… bugs here are there?” he said with a gulp.
“Naw,” Slim replied. “The guy who was there before was a real clean guy. You won’t find any bugs there at all.”
“Whew, that’s a relief,” the private sighed. “’Cus I gotta tell you, I just don’t like bu—wowee wow wow! Who’s the hot little number over there?”
Slim and I turned and saw a woman walking past outside. I admit, she was a fairly good looking woman and it was obvious that she knew it. She wore a bright red dress that matched her lipstick. Both looked out of place at this dusty ranch. As she vamped across the grounds, the men within eyeshot stopped and looked at her. She clearly enjoyed the attention.
“You best stay away from her,” Slim warned. “That’s Curly’s wife. You don’t want to mess with Curly.”
“Curly?” I asked.
“Yeah, he’s the Boss’ son,” the ranch hand explained. “He used to be a welterweight boxer, he’s pretty tough but mostly he’s got SMC.”
“Short Man’s Complex?” I chuckled.
“Yeah,” Slim nodded. “He’s always looking to fight bigger guys than him. You two should probably just stay out of his way.”
“You hear that, Hudson?” I called to him. “Don’t stare at her and don’t mess with him.”
As if on cue, a man burst through the door and angrily stalked towards us.
“I saw you two starin’ at my wife,” he growled. “You guys got a problem?”
“No problem,” I quickly said. “We just got here and don’t know anyone. We’re not here to start no trouble.”
“Oh yeah?” he looked at me, then turned and got up into Hudson’s face. “You think you’re tough don’cha?”
“No, er, I…” he stammered.
“I said we’re not here to start trouble,” I interjected. “We’re just going to put in a few days work and move on our way.”
“Is that so?” Curly kept his eyes bored into Hudson. “You’re not going to start trouble?”
“I said we’re not,” I insisted.
“I asked this guy. Can’t you talk? What are you, stupid or something?”
“I ain’t stupid,” Hudson replied angrily. “Back off, man!”
“You gettin’ all up in me?” Curly growled.
“Come on, he’s just—” I tried to intercede.
“I said back off,” Hudson growled back.
“Oh yeah?” Curly said.
“Yeah,” Hudson answered.
“Oh yeah?” Curly repeated
“Yeah,” Hudson also repeated.
“So you want me to back off?”
“I said yeah.”
“You gonna make me?” Curly and Hudson were almost nose to nose. I buried my face in my hand.
“I don’t make monkeys I just train them,” Hudson replied.
“Oh that’s funny,” Curly sneered. “For a fourth grader.”
“I know you are but what am I?” Hudson cracked.
“A fourth grader,” Curly snapped back.
“I know you are but what am I?”
“A fourth grader!”
“I know you are but what am I?”
“I said stay away from my wife!” Curly shouted loudly. “And if you say one more stupid thing, it’s gonna be the last thing you say. Got it?”
It was quiet for a tense moment. In fact, it felt like time actually slowed to a crawl. In slow motion, I reached towards the marine to try to stop him. I may have said “Nooooooooooo,” though I can’t actually recall.
“One more stupid thing,” Hudson said smugly.
Quicker than I could have imagined and almost too quickly for the eye to track, Curly punched Hudson in the face. Hudson stumbled back from the blow and Curly followed up with a left and right as fast as the first punch.
Hudson held up his hands to try to defend himself, but was then met with several more punches to the head and body. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth but Hudson refused to fight back. Slim and I stood frozen in our tracks, carefully weighing if we should intervene or stay the heck out of it.
Curly continued to press his assault and Hudson tried unsuccessfully to defend the boxer’s punches until finally he howled and caught a punch in midair.
Curly’s brow furled as he confusedly looked at his enveloped hand. His look of confusion quickly twisted into a look of pain as Hudson squeezed. There was a snapping sound and Curly howled.
Hudson released his grip and let the other man crumple to the ground. Slim ran up to Curly and helped him back to his feet. I stepped in between Hudson and his antagonist.
“It’s broken,” Slim declared as he looked at Curly’s hand.
“Aw, I didn’t mean to hurt him!” Hudson wailed.
“I’ll take him to the infirmary,” Slim guided Curly towards the door. “You two best forget this whole thing ever happened.”
“Curly isn’t likely going to let this slide,” I said to Hudson after the other two were out the door. “We have to stick close to watch each other’s backs.”
“Yeah,” he answered kind of quietly. “You got it.”
“Remember, if we get into trouble we’ll meet back on the creek bank by my ship,” I added. “If we gotta make a break for it, we can hole up there.”
“And don’t cause any more trouble,” I added.
“OK,” he answered.
“I mean it,” I insisted. “You got a knack for that kind of stuff.”
“I said OK.”
“And Curly’s going to be real sore about this whole thing,” I continued.
“Yeah, I know,” Hudson answered.
“And I bet he’s going to try to get back at you,” I said. “Because as you can tell, Curly’s a real stooge.”