Eight-year-old Moldy Backtrack stood dazzled by the array of finery at the Christmas doin’s in Volare. From the fancier-than-usual clothing to the sumptuous food on the table to the holiday decorations, it was, like every Christmas, the finest sight he ever got to see. He smiled with pride at his father, Dime Backtrack, who wove a mesmerizing tale of magical hunts over a crowd of other men. His father’s real first name was Ebenezer, but the Woods had long since nicknamed him Dime, because it was the smallest coin, and Ebenezer was certainly the smallest man.
Thinking of the Woods, Moldy looked across the width of the church at them. Their last name suited them, because they were as tall as trees. At least, the six adult brothers were. And they were rough, rambunctious, and dangerous as well. Everyone agreed that Duck and Quack were real birds, and that Milkweed had grown even wilder. Phlegm always made others uncomfortably choked up by his mere presence. Starch was a little stiff for everyone’s liking. Being slightly shorter than the rest of the big Woods, Rabbit jumped at the whim of the others.
Moldy’s eyes searched, but there was no sign of the Woods’ baby brother, Clipped-wing. The Woods must’ve left the poor boy home this year. Moldy would’ve loved to have seen him, and was disappointed.
Moldy’s gaze slid back past his father to where two women sat together on a bench. One was his mother, Oreo Backtrack, who was as round as a cookie. Her companion was not a relative, but Moldy still called her Grandma Slutto all the same, out of affection. Mrs. Slutto’s only real family was her son Olive Oil, who thought he might like to float on water. As a sailor, that is. With a name like Olive Oil, it was natural that he’d find inspiration from Popeye.
Moldy followed Olive Oil’s intense gaze to the blonde young woman at whom he stared. Moldy knew that Olive Oil was quite smitten with Twat Weathervane, so much so that he wanted to whisper oily nothings in her ear, and even wished desperately to rename her Twat Slutto; he fancied that the name suited her.
Moldy was worried; he could see that Olive Oil was working up the courage to ask Twat to dance. The boy sidled close to his eighteen-year-old friend.
“Don’t do it!” Moldy cautioned.
“I aim to ask Twat to spread…I mean stretch…her legs,” Olive Oil pronounced decisively.
“In front o’ the Woods??? ‘Specially Phlegm Wood?!”
“Phlegm would what?”
“Phlegm would choke ya! Anyways, Duck and the other Woods’re so loyal…!”
Over the loud music, Olive Oil heard little of that, and confusedly replied, “No, I don’t think Phlegm’d duck. Them Woods stand firm as if they was planted, and don’t budge.” But he still ignored Moldy’s advice, and followed his heart and his dick to the waiting Twat.
As Moldy had feared, within moments, Phlegm came up and cleared his throat. “What you think you’re doin’ with my Twat?!”
“I never touched you!” Olive Oil protested, glancing self-consciously below Phlegm’s belt. “Besides, don’t you mean dick??”
Phlegm looked disgusted. “You twit!”
“Twat,” the woman corrected.
Olive Oil ignored Phlegm, and bowed gallantly to Twat. “Will you couple with me? I mean, dance as a couple?” He blushed at his faux-pas. Phlegm choked laughter. But when Twat gaped happily, Olive Oil was slick, and took her in his arms, flashing a vinegary-sour smile of triumph at his rival. Phlegm spat.
Meanwhile, Duck went by, calling, “Quack!”
Nearby Doc Wiltin’ wilted. “I resent that! Jest ‘cause I cain’t cure a broke neck…!”
“I was callin’ my brother.”
“Oh.” Doc was, Moldy knew, withering from too many trips to the town watering hole.
Also not far away, Moldy noticed, Mr. Boilover, who on most days ran Boilover’s Store, was watching Phlegm and Olive Oil in agitation, looking like he might…, well…, boil over.
But Moldy had his own eye more on the storekeeper’s niece, Ukulele Boilover. Unfortunately, she was dancing with the fairy boy, whose wings let him fly above the river as he dragged the ferry back and forth with its passengers.
Moldy steamed. He thought to himself, Clipped-wing ought to have them wings, so’s he could git around easier, and ‘cause he’s allus wanted to fly. And I ought to have Ukulele; I could play her a heap better, and maybe even join the Woods’ backwoods band. ‘Sides, iffen he’s sich a fairy, he should be more interested in Clipped-wing or in me, than in a gal. Some fairy.
“No fair, fairy!” Moldy muttered, and ran a self-conscious hand through his moist blond hair. Moldy was always a bit damp from building too many fluttermills.
Ukulele happened to glance his way just then, and caught Moldy’s jealous, moss-green stare. He blanched an anemic, fungal pale as she looked away disdainfully. Moldy sagged, realizing that Ukulele had just been stringing him along.
But then Moldy’s attention was drawn back to where the Woods were beginning to congregate so thickly that Moldy could no longer see the forest for the trees. Duck had long since found Quack, Milkweed had shot up beside them, and Starch stood stiffly by. They were gathering in support of Phlegm, Moldy realized, unnerved.
“Rabbit!” Milkweed yelled irritably, and Rabbit obediently hopped to.
Then Moldy saw Dime approaching as well, his narrow face a sliver of silver-gray with worry.
Olive Oil was oblivious to the gathering storm, wearing a greasy smile of rapture, until Miss Weathervane pointed north. His oily grin drained away as he gazed at the dark Woods.
Hurriedly, worriedly, Dime advised, “Olive Oil, you best stop messin’ with Twat.”
“Don’t be a scrooge, Ebenezer,” Olive Oil said with a slippery smile. “’Specially at Christmas.”
Phlegm aimed a slimy fist at Moldy’s father, suspensefully lowering the fingers one by one, and saying, “Here’s my five and Dime!”
Dime blanched as if tarnished, and Milkweed raised his own sticky limb and taunted, “Chicken?”
“Duck,” his closest brother corrected, thinking that Milkweed was addressing him.
Then Phlegm’s “five” swung in Olive Oil’s direction, and the greaser suddenly felt a bit wimpy. “Don’t be sich a Brutus!” he begged, withdrawing from Twat.
Moldy looked pasty and limp as well.
Duck and Quack cackled, Milkweed oozed, Starch straightened smugly, Rabbit jumped for joy, and Phlegm drooled happily.