Just a short one that came out of nowhere. Blood is thicker than water, right up until the family member you always assumed had your back betrays you. Like you can’t fix stupid, you can’t ever forgive a treasonous sibling, nor a fiance who immediately believed your brother’s lies.
Josh Cullen looked up from the fence straining wire he was tightening, and his face grew hard as he recognized the truck barreling towards him. It belonged to Marvin Tigh, the brother of his now ex-fiancee, Annie.
“Shit! What the fuck is that dumb prick doing out here?”
He dropped the pliers into their holster and stood, stretching his back as he pulled off the wiring gloves.
To his surprise, it was Annie who jumped out of the drivers side and stood looking at him. He scowled again as he approached her.
“What the fuck do you want?”
She glared back at him, not giving an inch.
“Brother Marvin has something he’d like to say to you, face to face.”
“Why the heck didn’t you bring him with you, then?”
She grinned. It wasn’t a pleasant grin.
“Oh, I did, honey. He’s in the truck bed. He’s sure keen to speak with you.”
She reached back into the truck, and he jumped in fright as he heard the distinctive sound of a shell being racked into a pump action shotgun. She laughed at his reaction.
“It’s okay, Josh. I’ve calmed down. It ain’t you that I want to shoot. Haul Marvin out, willya? No need to be gentle with the piece of shit.”
He looked into the bed. He could scarcely recognize the hog-tied naked man lying bruised, bleeding and groaning in a jumble of tools, covered in dust from the road.
“Jeez, Annie, what the fuck have you done to him?”
“Nothing much, yet. He must have bounced about a bit. He needs to learn that family is more important than drinking buddies, and he’ll take some more schooling yet.”
As he opened the tailgate and pulled Marvin out, Josh noted the fresh weals of a beating with a whip or rod on the guy’s back and buttocks.
“Shit! Jeeesus, Annie, what’d he do to deserve that?”
She laughed as she fastened the tailgate back up.
“Why don’t we let him tell you? Hey, Marvin, you want to answer the man’s question?”
Marvin looked up from his position on the ground, cringing as they stood above him.
“Please, Josh, I beg of you, make her let me go! She’s gone plumb loco crazy!”
Annie bent down, pulled a quirt out of her left boot and struck her brother hard across the forehead, raising another angry weal and a scream of pain and terror. As Josh stepped forward to protest, Annie moved the barrel of the shotgun towards him, her facial expression warning him to back off.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Josh, not unless I have to in self-defense, but you really DO need to hear what Marvin has to say. Marvin, honey, let me help you out to start off. Remember Saturday evening, in the bar, when you told Josh that I’d been in the cab of Hector Jouget’s truck with my heels up on the ceiling? Care to explain that conversation?”
She raised the quirt threateningly. Marvin could hardly talk fast enough.
“Josh, I lied to you. It didn’t ever happen. Annie was always true to you. Munro Reeves bought me a beer and asked me to tell you that story, so you’d break up with Annie, and he could move in on her. I’m real sorry, pal. How about letting me loose?”
Josh was staggered as the words sank in.
“Annie, is that correct? You never went with Hector?”
“Yep. I never went with Hector. We were both set up by Reeves and this fucking retard of a brother of mine. If you look over towards the Reeves place, you’ll see the smoke. Munro’s truck just seemed to catch light somehow. Real shame it was parked so close to the barn.”
He spun on his heels; sure enough there was a pillar of smoke in that direction.
He turned back, a mix of awe and horror on his face.
“You torched the fucking barn?”
“Nah, of course I didn’t. I DO know how much a barn means to a farmer. It was Marvin who set the fire. The dumb fuck shot himself a selfie video doing it, and somehow it’s gotten sent to the TV station, so I guess they know for sure who the fire-raiser is.”
There was a high-pitched squeal of protest from the ground.
“She forced me to do it!”
That earned him another swish of the quirt and another rapidly-reddening stripe.
“Shut the fuck up, Marvin! Anyway, Josh, I came to say goodbye. Marvin has been real generous and signed the title of this truck over to me, and I’m headed for town and then pastures new. You want to untie Marvin so he can start walking home? Just cut the knots with your knife, it’s an old piece of rope and he was struggling too much for me to tie good knots.”
Josh drew out his jackknife and quickly sliced through the bonds. Marvin scrambled to his feet and took off. He had gotten maybe forty yards away when...
Marvin’s buttocks and upper thighs blossomed with red specks. He tumbled over and squealed exactly like a man who’d just had his ass liberally peppered with a twelve-gauge cartridge filled with No. 4 shot. Annie pumped the action again.
“Marvin, I didn’t give you permission to start walking yet, did I?”
He screamed through the pain.
“Fuck, Sis, why the hell did you do that? You promised me that you wouldn’t hurt me any more if I told Josh the truth!”
“Because Josh was the man I was going to marry and spend the rest of my life taking care of, and you fucked that up for me. You lied to him, he got drunk and screwed that slut Tina Forbes, and I won’t ever forgive him for moving on from me that fast. You want another dose? If not, stand still so that Josh can get a clear swing at you. After all, brother dearest, it is all your fault, isn’t it? Josh, thanks for the good times we did have. We’d have been great together. I wish you a long and happy life, but it ain’t going to be with me. Hey, I was your fiancee, with the ring and everything. We’ve been going steady for two years now. You might perhaps have had enough faith in me to ask me if the story was true instead of just believing Marvin straight off, and you certainly shouldn’t have picked up that skank in the bar that evening. Hey, you know what, Josh? I’m kinda pissed at you doing that.”
She turned and blew out the two nearest tires of Josh’s truck, pumping the action again to eject the second shell case and reload. Then, the shotgun still held up, she smiled at Josh.
“Oh, my! I guess you’ve only got the one spare? My bad, honey. YOU can fucking walk home too.”
She backed away from her ex, keeping the shotgun trained on him.
“Oh yeah, Josh, honey, nearly forgot. This is yours.”
She pulled an object out of her pocket and contemptuously tossed it towards him. It sparkled briefly as it flew through the air, and landed in the muck a yard away from where he was standing.
With an easy swing, she turned, hopped up into Marvin’s truck, started the engine and sprayed dust and gravel over them as she headed off into the sunset.
Josh stood still and watched her go, the expression on his face unreadable until only the plume of dust behind the racing truck could be seen. He turned towards the other man, who squealed as he saw the flashing eyes settle on him.
“Marvin, looks like you’ve cost me the best woman I’ve ever known. How could you do something like that to your own sister? You and that slimeball Reeves had better leave town tonight. If I ever see either of you again after dawn tomorrow, you’re dead men.”