The children were late tonight. Something must be going on in the village. She sipped her coffee and lit up a rolled smoke.
Granny held it away from her face; stared into the burning herbs and paper and knew she would tell a story about a man named Jack.
She blew out her smoke slowly and it curled around her cup like snakes making designs in the air. She thought the sign of it was an ominous one.
Jack… Tall and lanky, golden Jack. No one ever did know exactly what his blood was. Who his momma was. He was Floridian… Through and through. That was all that mattered. He was born there. People worker, tourist trader, Jack Boostow could do anything if it involved the Florida environment.
Heat didn’t bother him. Gators didn’t scare him. He could tree surf with the best of them. When the storms started, Jack saved many people… At the moment of the story Granny wanted to tell, he was doing whatever a particular gentleman in the Miami region was having him do.
The old woman looked up. She thought she saw a lantern flicker way out. The fire burned low… Maybe it was a spark. She took a sip of her brew. She heard a rustle in the bushes. Up in the trees maybe? Now she was alert, but she sat still, just as she was, smoking and sipping. She quietly rolled her staff a little closer with her foot.
Nothing happened for a long time and Granny began to think her imagination was running away with her… Then a twig snapped. Then another and another. Something was moving at her very quickly.
She kept her smoke in one hand, but dropped the coffee and grabbed her staff just as the huge black bird came crashing out of the bushes at her. It was almost twice her size.
Granny didn’t hesitate as she swung her staff out sideways connecting solidly with the birds knees. It went down squawking and screaming loudly. Made a horrible noise. The old woman moved in fast and whacked the bird hard on it’s nasty little head.
It was out. She looked at it, from it’s long, yellow and scaly legs, to it’s long, yellow and razor sharp beak. Then she hightailed it out of there, quickly. She headed to the village. If there was one of those birds out tonight, there were more.
Halfway down the path she ran into a group from the village out hunting the birds. She thanked them for running the creatures in her direction and spit off to the side.
The leader in turn told her she should move into the village, she might know what’s going on from time to time.
Granny sniffed the air and called him a shithead. Mumbling something about disrespecting their elders she moved on towards the village.
She found the kids huddled up in their various homes. Scared… Bored. She felt like telling the story about Jack. She remembered it now so she rounded them all up and they went to the meeting hall. Their parents were more than grateful. Granny wouldn’t have to worry about a thing for awhile.
They got a bonfire going in the big stone hearth. The children whispered and chattered amongst themselves. They were very happy for this entertainment. Granny spread out furs and blankets around the floor. She took her place off to the side of the fire.
The children gathered around. One older girl asked Granny why she didn’t move into the village?
The girl stated a little too boldly, that she would have gotten the alarm about the birds
The old woman sighed. “Child, I have missed that alarm so many times…” She shook her head and straightened up. She raised her voice over the kids heads. ” Let me tell y’all about a Florida man named Jack Boostow!” She had their attention now and they all quieted down.
Granny began her story…
Jack rode his horse slowly through the swamp. The horse waded up to her knees but Jack knew she wouldn’t go any deeper than that. The old mare knew more about the swamps than he did for sure. He gave her a soft pat on the neck.
The children twitched with questions and excitement but they held it in. This was gonna be a good one…
The insects were loud all around him like the generator motor. Jack wasn’t bothered at all. The huge needle nosed bloodsuckers would have ate him alive though, if he wasn’t slathered up with his momma’s special concoction. The horse too.
Flying bugs the size of birds? Maybe?… Granny raised her eyebrows at them.
Granny chuckled at her joke but the children did not join in. “Stingers as long as this!” She made an example with her hands about three feet long.
The kids pretended to be scared… Granny humphed at them and continued on.
Jack was headed deep into the swamp. A plane had dropped a package in a very wrong place. Jack Boostow’s job was to retrieve that package.
“What was in the package Granny?”
I don’t quite remember child. Important stuff. Anyways… Jack had to find it and bring it in. The tracker on his phone beeped long and slow about every 3 seconds. He was on the right path.
With or without the device he would have known though. He’d seen the drop. Knew it was roughly Northwest of where he’d seen it fall.
They waded on… Jack began to realize that the bugs had gone quiet. The frogs too. Everything silent.
Granny paused for awhile for dramatic effect. She shook her head and continued in a slow, quiet and deep voice…
Jack knew this was no good. He grew tense and so did the horse. Jack looked around. There was no solid ground anywhere and everything around them was dead looking. The water was black and stagnant with dirty yellow foam gathering around the tree trunks and grey grasses.
Bad, bad. Jack knew of these places left lifeless and poisonous by The Industry. How he’d stumbled upon one without noticing he didn’t know. He cursed himself for not paying attention.
Granny’s voice became ominous. Low and scary. The children were dead silent.
She growled on at them about how monsters lived in those parts. Great reptilian beasts, transformed by the waste left behind.
Jack’s horse tensed up beneath him. Something was up. The water slowly rolled with a low log like shine.
The kids were wide eyed now. Sitting up straight, leaning forward, they hung on every word.
The horse began to dance in the water looking wildly for a way out of it. Jack gave her a light tap with his heel and she took off, leaping over the roll in the water and landing right in a thick mud hole, stuck…
Granny was excited now too. Her arms stretched up and out fast, hands splayed open fingers wide.
She yelled out at them; “then the “log” came up out of the water after them!!!” The old woman lunged at the children, fingers curled into claws. Some screamed and ran across the room. Others were visibly shaken and not pleased at all.
Granny laughed and laughed. She held her side and tried to stop, tears starting to run down her cheeks.
The kids who ran off came back, everyone settled down cept Granny who still chuckled while trying to control herself.
She took a sip of coffee and tried hard to look at them seriously. Some scowled back at her, it had been a rough enough night already. Others now laughed too. “It was a huge, monster snake…” Granny began and the children quickly grew quiet.
Long white fangs dripping yellow poison… Big, bright, yellow and green eyes… It’s body would stretch from here to the village.
Granny realized she’d forgotten they were in the village but the kids got the point. She carried on… It was as big around as this building.
The children gasped and talked about how they were glad snakes like that weren’t around anymore. Granny looked at them and whispered that the snakes, like the Floridians… may not all be gone…
The kids were scared even though they didn’t live anywhere near a swamp. A fact that Granny pointed out to them.
Jack turned and looked back as he heard the whooshing sound of the water rising up over him in an oily wave.
The old woman looked menacing in the firelight. She was downright scary now. Some of the younger ones were trying not to cry.
Granny slowly got up from the floor and hunched over, she began to creep around among the children…
When Jack saw the wave, he also saw the monster snake. Rising up over the wall of water, it’s yellow eyes gleaming, mouth open wide with fangs that dripped poison… Drops that hissed and burned holes in things they fell on.
The boy hadn’t noticed Granny sneaking up behind him. She had a way of throwing her voice so it was hard to tell where she was.
The snake was coming at Jack but the horse was mired up in the mud. Jack thought they were goners for sure. The snake stretched out… and Slam!! Granny shouted as she clamped both hands down on the back of the boy’s wide shoulders.
He screamed and jumped a mile, scrambling across the circle away from Granny. Slam! Granny shouted out, continuing on. The snake plunged into the water just missing Jack Boostow and his horse. This was all that old horse needed. She jumped out of the mud and leapt forward almost totally out of the water… Damn near walked on it trying to get out of there.
The old snake wasn’t done though. It rose up out of the water the other way, in front of them now and lunged at them. Jack had to grab it on either side of it’s big head with both hands.
It spat and hissed, tossed and turned but Jack wouldn’t let go for nothing. He was able to get ahold of a thick stick and in one fatal swoop, jabbed it right through the eye. Yellow goo shot out and burned a path down Jack’s arm.
Granny said this with a triumphant growl and stabbed at the air with an imaginary stick.
The snake crashed down into the water and that smart ass horse got out of there fast with Jack holding on for dear life!
The children cheered and clapped, happy Jack Boostow and his horse made it out alive and unharmed. Granny smiled and messed up a little one’s hair. It had been a very long night now. She yawned and wasn’t the only one.
Someone asked her if Jack ever got the package… Granny smiled at them and told them of course he did. Safe and sound back to it’s rightful owners. Got paid a pretty penny for it too!
“Granny, what’s a “penny”? Granny laughed and told the kid not to worry about it… Just an old saying…
They made sure the fire was out and everything was put away. Then everyone moved out into the night as a group. Dropping each child off at their house, there was no sign of the birds or the hunters. They went on until it was only Granny and one small child left.
They arrived at his home and were welcomed with warm cups of coffee and chocolate. The old woman was told she was to stay here for the evening.
Who was she to argue tonight? She yawned and nodded in agreement as she headed towards the made up couch in the other room…