I’ve always loved to write “what-ifs,” such that what if the situation had gone just a bit differently than it did in the novel (or short story or TV show). Based upon my own novel, “Revisiting The Yearling,” this is one such story.
Furious beyond reason at Lem’s having hurt Jody in the Volusia fight, and at Buck’s and Mill-wheel’s having allowed it, Fodder-wing berated Lem, taunting him.
Buck pulled him away, demanding crossly, “What you think you’re doin’?”
The boy was distraught. “Tryin’ to git Lem to hit me like he done Jody!”
“Why??” demanded Mill-wheel.
“So’s he’ll hurt me and feel guilty, like he shoulda with Jody!”
“You leetle fool!” Buck admonished. “We oughta let him.”
“Go ‘head! You let him hit Jody!”
Mill-wheel retorted testily, “We told you; hit happened too fast with Jody; we couldn’ta stopped him.”
“You didn’t try, did you? Did you?!”
Angered at the belligerent, challenging tone, Buck shook him.
“You think that hurt? What you think one of our fists’ll feel like?!”
Mrs. Forrester interposed, pushing her small boy behind her. “Now this here, I ain’t gonna allow! You three bullies jest settle yourselves!”
The three fighters subsided sullenly, and their mother kept her youngest beside her, throughout her dinner preparations.
By the time that everyone sat down to dinner, the child’s anger had cooled. At the table, he squirmed uncomfortably as Lem, Buck, and Mill-wheel eyed him coldly. He was no longer mad, but they clearly still were, and he fidgeted uneasily at the unspoken message that Buck or Mill-wheel would now be just as likely to hit him as Lem would, if given half a chance. They didn’t like being thwarted once they’d made up their minds to do something, and their eyes shot bullets of reminder of this into him, their heartless stares seeming to say that this wasn’t finished.
After dinner, he fretted and clung to his ma, watching the three over his shoulder. They regarded him in cold humor. His lower lip trembled, and they grinned like predators on the hunt.
“Please don’t hit me. I changed my mind,” he tried diplomatically, timidly.
“Well, we ain’t changed ourn,” Lem informed him frostily.
The three laughed unpleasantly.
Their mother turned from the hearth. “Is this still goin’ on?”
More desperately, he appealed to them, “Don’t do this to me! I don’t want you to!” He choked back a sob.
His only reward was the sight of their humorless grins.
So, he turned to Arch, Pack, and Gabby for support. “He’p me. Tell ‘em not to.”
“We seed you taunt ‘em,” Gabby reminded him, shaking his head.
Pack, too, declined to protect the youngest, saying, “Now you got to handle what you started.”
Stunned, their mother demanded, “Ain’t none o’ you three man enough to protect your leetle brother?”
“That’s jest it; he set hisself up as a man, challengin’ ‘em; so, we’re treatin’ him like a man,” Arch declared.
“You’re gonna git your baby brother kilt!” she shrilled.
The next day, Fodder-wing was feeding his pets when his brothers sauntered sullenly into the barn. One look at their faces told Fodder-wing that they still intended to do the unspeakable…to him.
“Put the rabbit back in the cage,” Buck instructed.
Instead, the child clutched his pet comfortingly closer in his arms, and backed slowly away from the big men.
“You want your fuzzy baby to git hurted? Put him away,” Mill-wheel ordered. “Hit’s only you we’re after.”
“You wouldn’t!” he said, aghast.
“You so sure o’ that?” Lem advanced on him.
Horrified at the implication, Fodder-wing continued to back away from them, slowly shaking his head back and forth. Only when his back connected with the far wall, did he remember about his vulnerable little pet in his arms. Hastily, he turned and scooted it safely into its cage. Hot tears ran down his cheeks as he again faced Lem and the others.
When Lem stood directly in front of him, Fodder-wing desperately tried to turn his face away from the hostile giant, whose anger simmered hotly, so near.
A powerful hand took hold of the child’s chin, and forcibly turned the small, helpless face back toward Lem. The hand belonged to Mill-wheel.
Fodder-wing screamed piercingly, shrilly. Lem drew back, …threw a punch, …and deliberately missed.
The six adult Forresters stood and smugly grinned for the entire long time that it took their boy to stop panting, and regain the power of speech.
Fodder-wing stammered, “But, …I wa’n’t really tryin’ to git you to do it to me; I was tryin’ to git you to not do it to Jody, no more.”
“I know,” Buck said with some amusement.
“Hit backfired,” the child murmured tearfully.
“We know that, too.” Mill-wheel, too, was smug.
“And you think hit’s funny,” he sobbed resentfully.
“Well, ‘twas kinda cute to turn the tables on you.” Arch tried to curb his wide smile.
Ultimately, the six men watched as he limped and trembled his way out of the barn.
Lem commented, “That’ll learn him to pout at us.”
to the Yearling site...