Welcome back. This is my spooky gift for your October. It is a serialized short fiction piece originally published in 2011, before any of my books went into print. Perhaps we may call it a prequel. Curl up in your favorite chair, pull a blankie on your lap and hear the rain softly tapping on your window. Then again, let us hope it is only the rain. Please enjoy Hell Canyon, Part 2 of 4
We were road weary by the time the camper pulled into the RV park. Grandpa went to check us in at the front office. The park was a nice and clean. They even had a pool. Everyone had taken turns riding in the back of the camper except for Grandpa. The only decent breeze you got back there was if you stuck your face right up next to the window vent, so the pool looked mighty inviting.
Shell was the only one who didn’t want to go swimming. She had spotted an old creek bed running a ways back off the road. She wanted to get down there and hunt for fossils. Back home we had piles of white rocks riddled with little horseshoe and screw-shaped fossils in our garden. Shell never went for a swim at the creek without bringing a few of them back.
Grandpa told her not to stay gone too long since we’d be eating supper pretty quick. So she took off and left me there with Cindy and Grandma, splashing around in that nice, blue pool. We have pictures of that, too. Pictures of Cindy and Grandma passing me back and forth, my chunky baby arms bobbing on the water’s surface. We spent half an hour or so in the pool before Grandma said it was time to get out. Aunt Cindy saw to it that I got dressed while Grandma started supper.
Before too long Grandpa asked, “Shell back yet?”
In truth, everyone had been busy and kind of forgotten about her. Cindy was annoyed and said she’d go fetch Shell back from the creek. Cindy took off down the two lane black top. When she was put out she walked pretty funny. It was a fast clip that made her head bob up and down. That’s one thing I remember for sure, the sight of Aunt Cindy’s arms swinging back and forth, fists clenched, head popping up and down, just like a chicken.
When we saw Shell and Cindy walking back together, we knew they were having a fuss. Cindy was barking at Shell and gesturing up at the sky with both hands. We could see that Shell was carrying something. Grandpa said he figured she had found her fossil.
When they reached camp, Cindy was still worked up and turned her attention to Grandma.
“Look what she did! Shell went and dug up a bone on the creek!” Cindy’s face was red and her arms were crossed against her chest. “Momma, I TOLD her to put it back but she wouldn’t listen. She wanted to keep digging!”
She turned and faced her sister again. “Shell, why do you always act just like a FREAK?”
“Settle down, settle down, girls.” Grandpa said. “What’d you find Shell? Bring it here and let’s have a look.”
“Frank, I don’t approve her dragging up a bone of any kind to camp, whether it came from a horse or Howdy Doody. We’re fixin to eat.” Grandma said flatly.
“Oh, we’ll wash our hands, Mary,” he said in reply. Grandma gave up and went back to peeling potatoes.
“Come on now, whatcha got there Shellie?” She walked over and gave him a thin curved bone. Nicks and grooves on the weathered surface hinted that maybe it had been gnawed on by an animal.
“Probably some stray dog wandering the road got hit by a car,” Cindy said over her shoulder.
“It isn’t a dog.” Shell said.
Grandpa had been turning the bone end over end in his hands. “How do you know that, Sis?”
“Well, I think that’s a clavicle. I mean, I’m pretty sure of it,” she said. “We just studied over it in Anatomy. My textbook said only animals that walk upright have bones shaped in this particular way.”
The camp went silent while the rest of the family considered her statement. Shell was enrolled in the county Vo-Tech nursing program. Even Cindy had to admit that her younger sister was better versed on this subject.
“Oh, Dad, can’t you just stop encouraging her?”
He didn’t acknowledge Cindy’s question. “Well, after dinner I’ll walk down there with you and we’ll see what we can dig up, how about it?”
Shell brightened up considerably.
“Ok. I’m just glad somebody believes me,” she said, shooting a sideways glance at her sister.
Grateful the argument had died down, Grandma fanned out a faded pink sheet over the concrete picnic table. Everyone forgot about the bones for a spell and laughed and talked over beans and fried potatoes.
After dinner, Grandpa walked to the back of the camper and returned with a gallon bucket.
“I guess you’re planning on coming back with a body in a bucket, Daddy?” Cindy sniffed.
“Maybe. We’ll see,” he said.
***to be continued next Sunday***
(Originally published by Quentin Bomgardner, Kelly M. Roberts and The Red Dirt Chronicles)