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~ I found this hilarious to write and based it loosely on my parents. On reading it, my mother thought it very funny until she found out where my inspiration had come from!   
MAN or MOUSE

Hillbilly Justice.


MAN?

Billy Mathews strolled around the swamps, with his hands in the pockets of his overalls, and a straw hat pulled over his eyes to protect him from the sun. He began to feel hunger pangs.

“Nag, nag, nag!” he said aloud, tossing his head from side to side. “That’s all she does. Well, ah won’t put up with it no longer. Ah’ll be strong! Ah’ll show her this very day! She won’t know what’s ‘it her!”

Billy increased his speed and strode purposefully toward his home. Half way down the hill one of his favourite views caused him stop and relish the sight. He would often stay in this spot for hours, never tiring of looking at their house from this angle. He could see the red tiled roof and white washed walls partly covered with ivy. Feeling immense pride, he admired the yellow door. He  insisted on it being yellow and he had won! The fact that Annabelle was out shopping at the time had nothing to do with it really. A shudder shot through Billy’s lean body as he recalled the fuss she had made on her return.

Annabelle told him to change the colour immediately. He pretended to look everywhere for the can of paint she had bought especially for the job. As Annabelle could not find it either, she gave in. A minor triumph indeed, but nevertheless, a triumph! Billy hoped that Annabelle would never go near the swamp, for that can of paint still protruded from the sticky mud to remind him of his treachery!

“Bill-ee! Bill-ee!”

His thoughts were shattered by the high pitched wail coming from the vicinity of his house.

“Dinner's ready. Don’t yer let it get cold!”

His face lit up. ‘If she’s nothing’ else,’ he thought, ‘she’s a durn good cook.’ He scooted down the rest of the hill and arrived in the kitchen panting loudly.

“Wash yer ‘ans an sit yerself down.” Annabelle ordered, as she lay the table. “Sometimes ah think yer must be restricted, runnin’ round like a little boy!”

“Retarded, not restricted!” he yelled back from the bathroom.

Annabelle never let him wash his hands in the kitchen.

“Ah means restricted. Restricted in yer senses!”

“There she goes already,” he muttered softly. “An’ ah thought she was complimentin’ me!”

  A delicious smell assailed Billy's nostrils as he sat down at the table.‘Times like these, ah’m glad to ‘av Annabelle,’ he thought, looking lovingly at his plump, homely wife.

“Yer can get yer mind offa that for a start!” she said, giving him one of her 'not tonight,’ looks.

“Wern’t thinkin’ anythin' of the sort!” he quipped, gulping down the tasty stew. “Ah was thinking’ ‘ow lucky ah am to ‘ave such a good cook fer a wife.”

“An’ that’s the only reason yer lucky ah ‘spose!” she said tersely, settling down to her meal.  

“Course not darlin!” he answered between swallows. “Ah’m lucky to ‘ave this ‘ouse. Lucky to ‘ave a carpenter's ability. Oh, oh, an’ so lucky to ‘av YOU, mah love.”  

She smiled.

“Phew!” he sighed. Glad he said the right thing and was able to eat his delicious stew in peace.

When they finished, Billy got up to serve the blackberry pie. He put one dish in front of Annabelle and one in his place. Laying a slice of pie on his plate, he said, “a smaller piece fer me, ‘cos ah’m smaller,” then smiling broadly, “a bigger piece fer yer, ‘cos, yer, er.., er, such a good cook.” He remembered just in time that she hated to be called ‘big.’

When Billy finished eating, he used the back of his hand to wipe his lips clean. He thanked Annabelle for the scrumptious meal, and left the table. Seconds later he was lying on their bed. This was his regular habit. It helped him get out of the washing up. Annabelle must have finished her meal as he could hear her singing. To Billy the sound of her singing was much worse than her nagging.

Ah can’t take much more of this,’ he thought. ‘When she’s mad at me she tears at me eardrums, but when she’s ‘appy, she sings! Nuff’s, enuff!’  he decided, burying his head under the pillow.

                           


   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Or, CAT?

 

Billy heard no sound when he awoke. He looked out of the window, and saw Annabelle sitting in her rocking chair in the middle of her flower garden. She was humming quietly to herself. ‘Even the flies don't like ‘er voice,’ he thought. ‘There’s never any around, when she's out there.’ Billy stood up and walked through the kitchen, intending to go to his workshop. He smelled a lovely inviting smell, the irresistible aroma of freshly baked bread.

If his nose could be relied on, a newly baked cake too! Billy could not resist. He had almost traced the smell to a cupboard, well out of reach, when he knocked over one of Annabelle’s homemade wines. The bottle smashed on the floor! Liquid splashed up the cupboard doors. Billy stifled his cry of.... “Aaaagh!” and bolted straight through the open back door.

He ran so fast that he was able to hurdle the wire fence and dive under his favourite bush! His special ‘hiding’ bush.

“Bill-ee!” Annabelle shouted.

‘Well, she can shout all she wants! Ah’m stayin’ put.’ Ah'll show her whose master of this house! Ah’ll say it was the cat!’ Satisfied with this explanation he was able to breathe again.

By the time Billy returned to the kitchen, Annabelle had cleared up the mess. She glared at him, accusingly with her eyes. He almost blurted out a denial. Walking away quickly, he went into his workshop.  

“Know anythin’ about the broken bottle?” she asked.

“No, my sweet!” he called back from the safe depths of his den. “Ow did it get broke?”

“Ah were hopin’ yer could tell me that!”  Annabelle guessed the truth, she always did.   “Av to put it down to the cat ah ‘spose.” Annabelle was used to her questions being unanswered.

 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Or, DOG?

 

That night Billy waited half an hour for Annabelle to fall soundly asleep. The even sound of her breathing reassured him. He stealthily slid out of the bed, having some trouble as it was a high one. He knelt down, and on his hands and knees crawled underneath it. He rummaged carefully amongst the boxes and suitcases kept under there. Billy found the pieces of paper with his notes, written for a special purpose. His movements were constricted, but he managed to switch on his small flashlight and began to read hungrily.

Suddenly a sound like a wart hog’s grunt, broke the silence. Billy dropped the flashlight and it rolled a little way. His heart beat so fast he thought it would explode. He waited as the snoring became quieter.

‘She usually makes noises,’ he was thinking, ‘but this gruntin’ was inexcusable.’ Billy fumbled around to retrieve his torch. Finding it, he continued to read as he mentally made notes of the particular leaves needed, and of the way they were to be used. He re-read the title to make sure that he had instructions for the correct potion. ‘THE SAFE WAY TO MAKE A DOG’S BARK LESS AUDIBLE.’ Billy had previously checked up on the big word.

Yes, he held the right paper. Billy read on; ‘This method is painless. The potion shrivels up the vocal chords, making the bark far less audible. This compound made from rare leaves, only to be found by the swamps can be added to his meal. There is no noticeable taste if added to a gravy base. Approximately two hours later, the bark will have diminished.’ Beside the text, there were pictures of the rare leaves.

Annabelle was stirring. Billy listened intently. His eyes opened wide in the effort to hear better and were nearly popping out of his head. He dreaded hearing that voice asking where he was, but soon her snoring took up an even rhythm again. He realised he had been holding his breath and needed to gulp in air. ‘What a daft way for a grow’d man to act,’ he thought angrily, ‘but it won’t be fer long now.’ Billy was smiling again as he climbed ever so gently back into their bed. How easy this should be. For five years he had wanted to do this and now finally, he had found the courage.

“Ah’ll do it this time,” he whispered. “Ah will, ah will, ah will!” He brought his arm down heavily on the coverlet. Annabelle opened one eye. He could see it, even in the dark! She grunted, and then closed the eye again. ‘Wonder if she’ll be able to grunt?’ he thought, settling down to sleep.

 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Or, MISTAKE?

 

Billy felt very excited the next morning as he created the concoction in his work shop. For many years he had visualized the shape and colour of the leaves constantly in his mind. He even believed he knew where to find them, although he never dared look before. The time had not been right, until now. The leaves were found quite easily by the swamp and now he was mixing them, draining and blending them. ‘At last,’ he thought, ‘it’s ready!’ Whilst waiting to be called for dinner, Billy tried to carve the last leg for a chair that he was renovating. His hands were shaking so much that he ruined six pieces of wood. Eventually, he heard Annabelle’s wail. 

“Bill-ee!” Dinner’s ready!”

He quickly washed his hands and then rushed back into the kitchen. Billy could not believe his eyes. There was no gravy!

“Where’s the gravy?” he asked in a pitiful voice.

“In the beef pie!” retorted Annabelle, who had never heard her husband complain before. “There's always ‘nuff gravy for yer in the pie! If yer want more, yer’ll av to make it yerself!” 

Billy was unsure of what to do, so he sat down and began to eat from the full plate in front of him. The small bottle with the potion was in his trouser pocket and he could feel the weight against his leg as if it were a weapon.

“Well?” asked Annabelle.

“Well, what?” he asked, horrified by the sudden twitching of his right eye, which happened whenever he felt guilty. He hoped Annabelle had not noticed it.

“Well? Is there ‘nuff gravy in yer pie?” She almost dared him to say no.

Billy surprised them both! “No there ain’t ‘nuff. Ah’ll make me some more.” 

As he stood up, Billy felt his courage returning, but his confident answer made Annabelle stop chewing. She watched him for a while saying nothing, even though he was making the gravy too watery. Annabelle felt surprised at this show of independence, and it took a few seconds before she continued to eat her meal.

Now that her attention was elsewhere, Billy put his plan into action. He poured the potion from the small bottle he held, into the ladle of gravy he just scooped up. Carrying the ladle carefully, he held the pan with gravy in his other hand. Billy then walked over to the table. He poured gravy from the ladle onto Annabelle's pie, but her hand shot out and caught his arm, turning the ladle with the remaining gravy onto HIS plate!

“Ah’ve got ‘nuff Billy, ‘twas yer that wanted more!” Annabelle wondered why he looked so horror-stricken.

Billy groaned. What on earth was he to do now?

“What’s wrong with yer, Billy? When ah looked in on yer earlier…”

“What?” he interrupted. His right eye began to twitch madly.

Annabelle fixed him with an icy stare. “Ah was sayin’ to yer, that when ah peeped in, ah saw yer throwin’ yer work in the bin.”

He breathed again, but could not stop his eye twitching.

“Never seen yer do that before! Are yer ill?”

Billy nodded. He could not remember a time when he had felt so ill. “Not hungry, Annabelle,” he answered pathetically and truthfully.

She looked at him quizzically, as he sat there with his arms hanging by his side. Annabelle had never seen such a miserable expression on his face, especially not when a plate of food was in front of him. In a strangely gentle tone for her, she asked him to eat a little, to keep his strength up.

Billy lifted his horrified eyes from his plate and looked at Annabelle. She was so concerned that he felt he had to eat some of it. He tried to find an area which had the least amount of gravy. He managed to swallow some small mouthfuls, but soon felt like heaving. Annabelle told him to go and lie down. Passing her on his way to the bedroom, he noticed she was still eating.

 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *    

Or, MOUSE?

 

Billy awoke with a start. For a moment, he thought he could hear Annabelle singing. But he was wrong. Everything was quiet. If he had mixed the potion properly, she would never sing again. No more nagging either! He felt so excited. All those years of planning his words for today and now he could tell her just what he really thought.

Unfortunately, Annabelle could not understand his pathetic squeaks when he tried to speak! On finding she was unable to speak either and without even a squeak, she had cried for them both. This made Billy feel so bad that his eye twitched for days afterwards. Annabelle wrote down everything she wanted to say to him.

The sound Billy made when he spoke was too high-pitched for him to be understood. So, he too, had to write down anything he needed to say to her. Annabelle could not work out what had afflicted them both, but she accepted it better than he did.

As each day passed, Billy hoped his voice would get stronger. There was no improvement he could discern so far and it had been at least a month. Although he had carefully studied all the information on the vocal shrivelling up potion, Billy decided to check if there might be something he missed. He needed to know if there was a chance the vocal chords could heal themselves over time.

Billy went back to his stash of private belongings hid amongst the items under their bed. He found the paper he needed and read it again. ‘Ow could they do this?’  he thought. There was nothing written about the length of time this condition would last. Billy read all the small print on the page he had torn out of that medical magazine. He had been reading the article whilst waiting in his doctor’s surgery, some years back. That was the last time he had injured himself badly, ‘throwing’ himself around, Annabelle had called it. He was only jumping off a haystack, which had been great fun, until the day he broke his arm.

Billy felt dejected as he replaced the paper with instructions, to its hiding place. He missed talking to Freddie, his cat. Billy tried his best to make amends by letting the little fellow accompany him on his many walks and stroked him more too. Billy could still tell the cat noticed the silence and missed the bond that talking made. Billy never realised how important talking was to communication. No wonder Annabelle used to feel irritable with him. Billy never instigated a conversation or said much in reply to her.

Freddie, a stray kitten, turned up on one of Billy's walks. The small starving creature followed him home and Annabelle allowed him to keep it. ‘Yeah, she does have a kind heart,’ he thought guiltily, as he remembered what he had done to her. His eye twitched every time he thought about his terrible actions. No wonder he was made to suffer the same fate. ‘Serves me right ah ‘spose,’ he sadly thought. But, in a strange way, pleased this had brought them closer.

Note-writing back and forth had been more communication than he had had with Annabelle for years. She gave Billy hugs each time he reciprocated, when she had written she loved him. Stranger still, he meant it. He now loved her as much, well nearly as much as he did Freddie.

Billy walked into the kitchen and watched from behind the door as Annabelle went about preparing their meal. ‘Ah wish she was singin,’ he thought sadly. Then he remembered the sound of it. ‘No, not singin,’ but talkin,’even shoutin’ at me.’ He missed it very much. He wished he could turn back the clock. Her singing had not been that unbearable. And the nagging? That too had been a part of his life; and now it was too quiet. He would give anything to hear her scold him again. Maybe, at a push, even to hear her singing!

As the weeks went by, Billy had time to think. With the many notes needed to write to each other, they had grown closer. He now understood it was his fault the marriage deteriorated. He stopped communicating long ago without even noticing it. The less he talked, the more Annabelle tried to compensate. No wonder she kept getting mad at him. She felt shut out. It took this terrible deed for him to realise he still needed Annabelle. His hopes were for another chance to say the loving words he should have spoken before. And, of course he wanted to talk to Freddie again. Annabelle, on the other hand, seemed happy enough with the extra closeness they gained through this tragedy.

Billy now he wanted so much to communicate with her. Although, no matter how hard he tried, he was not that sorry she could no longer sing. 'Per'aps her voice would come back quieter, sweeter, more in tune?............Nah, can't see that 'appenin.'  There was a smile on his face with that thought. Whatever the result, he would get used to it. He had learned his lesson well. 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Copyright ©1988 Donni-Jay De-Ville ~ www.donnideville.com ~
All rights reserved and may not be
reproduced in any way without permission from the author






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MAN or MOUSE