Ok, folks, it is finally done and published–second week of May. Below is the opening of chapter 1. If you want more you have to buy it, just follow the link or contact me at my email address.
It was not a good Monday morning for Moses Barkman. Sunday night’s rain had screwed up the reception on his satellite dish and, when that finally cleared, the pay-per-view, no holds barred, smack down, WWE wrestling match he had ordered was partly over. By the time the rerun started, he was almost through the first six-pack of Premium Genesee Beer and, since he could not remember who won or lost the bout, he had to stay up and watch the whole damn thing again on the rerun. This meant consuming a second, and his final, six-pack. Now, the combination of the late night and cheap beer was not making for an especially pleasant morning. To make matters worse, his welfare check had arrived in last Friday’s mail and, since it was Monday, it meant it was about time he got to town to cash it. While he could have had the check directly deposited, he was not one to trust any damn bank to handle his money; he wanted the cash in his hands. Besides, a trip to town and the cash would at least give him a chance to restock his supply of Camels, Genny and Slim Jims at the Stop ‘N Go.
Moses lived about three miles from the center of Snyder’s Corners at the end of a single-lane, dirt road. The area around him was mostly second growth timber that, after having been logged a number of times, had now reached the point where anything that was worth cutting was long gone. Maybe in another hundred years, if there were no major infestations of gypsy moth larvae or other exotic insects, it might merit harvesting again. Not that Moses minded. Since the land had been logged over and was not near any kind of fishable stream or lake, the land was worthless to outsiders that might buy it up for delinquent back real estate taxes. Moses was a prime candidate for this, since he had not paid his real estate taxes–school or county–for five years.
As long as his rural road was not snow-covered–a common factor in the winter months–it normally took five minutes for Moses to drive his Ford pickup to town, including a stop at the mailbox located where this dirt road met New York State Route 618. Today, however, it was going to take a bit longer since deer season was only a couple of weeks away and Moses wanted to check a piece of cover for deer-sign on the way. This one area in particular had a small run-down apple orchard next to a shallow pond that made it ideal deer habitat. Moses had considered putting up a tree stand in one of the apple trees assuming there was enough encouraging deer-sign around to make it worthwhile–of course, too, that would have meant that he have to find wood, nails and the ambition to build the stand. Of the three, the latter was decidedly lacking.
So he decided he would just check the cover and, if he found anything, file it away for later use. This examination did create one more problem for him, however, because in order to check the cover thoroughly he would have to park his truck on the shoulder of Route 618 and walk down a deer path for about a hundred yards through overgrown brush and blackberry brambles. This was nothing Moses was especially fond of doing on even a good day much less one when he was still feeling the effects of the previous evening. Given his hangover, he was in no condition for bushwhacking and would have been content to stay in the truck and do a visual check from there.
He was considering his options when he arrived at the pull off spot and was leaning toward ignoring it when he noticed that the path leading to the clearing showed signs of recent use. Brush, primarily the golden rod and sumac on either side of the path, was mashed down, a clear indication that something big had used the path sometime over the weekend. Getting out of the truck, Moses closely inspected the ground for deer tracks but could not see any. This was not surprising since, while as Moses, with his scraggy beard, oily baseball cap, flannel shirt and bib overalls looked like a central casting type of mountain man, he was anything but an expert outdoorsman. His appearance had more to do with lack of hygiene and apathy about wardrobe than any attempt to fill any role. Not that his tracking ability or lack thereof would have made any difference since, had there been tracks, they would not have survived the previous night’s rain. However, he did know that if deer had used the path and if one had been a buck, there was a good chance of spotting antler rubs on some of the scrub brush along the way. Therefore, hangover or no, a hike to the pond was unavoidable.
As he went further down the path, checking both sides for rubs, he could not help but notice there was an increasingly larger amount of disturbed brush as he went further from the road. Even with his nominal amount of experience, he could see that something big had taken place within the last day or two. Excited, he figured he had better check closer to the little pond, in case a couple of bucks had fought in the clearing. Someplace in his distant past, Moses had read in an outdoor magazine about these duels and how often the bucks could get their antlers locked together.
Now wouldn’t that be somethin’? Moses thought, ignoring his pounding head and increasing his pace in anticipation.
As he neared the clearing beside the pond, Moses found the shortest route blocked by a mass of brambles. In a hurry and rather than go around he decided to push his way straight through, which is how he put is foot right in the middle of the dead man’s chest.
Minimum Competency is the title and available through the link or from Amazon, Barnes and Nobel or me–unless you can talk your local bookseller into stocking it.