Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Shrewd King 7.3: Life in an Observation Post

It is true what they say, you can never go home again.

In Quinn Spackle’s case it was because the defense force he had called his home no longer existed.

In the weeks he was convalessing, it morphed from the run-and-gun of street-ball to sitting on the bench and dream about the excitement of practice shooting free throws.

Chernovsky slid him into the half team that exhibited the worst discipline. Chernovsky was sure Spackle would stiffen their spines.

Chernovsky was wrong.

Spackle was the only member of the five who had been in Chernovsky’s original defense force.

The other four were constantly whispering behind his back and dissappearring.

Unwilling to leave the observation post unmanned, Spackle did not hunt them up.

Too proud to admit his lack of leadership ability, Spackle did not rat them out to Chernovsky. Somehow, enough “soldiers” always trickled back in time to meet Chernovsky’s standards. But as soon as Chernovsky and Gimp were out-of-sight, they disappeared again.

The watch was split into two, eight-hour shifts. By the end of the first eight hours, Spackle was climbing the walls. By the end of the second eight hours Spackle was stir-crazy.

He was ready to tear some new assholes but he was not in shape to chase them down even if he knew where to find them. The need to man the OP meant he couldn’t go looking.

To his surprise, there was half of a roasted rabbit waiting in camp for him. The four other guys were nowhere to be seen.

The second night there was a breaded and fried catfish

The third day, as Chernovsky was getting ready to leave, Spackle plastered a big smile on his face as he gripped gripped a fellow soldier by the belt so he could not slip away.

“What is the deal?” Spackle asked.

The young man spat out “Everything.”

“Explain.” Spackle said.

“If you were going to invade us and were coming across that bridge” the young man said pointing down at the river “what is the first thing you would do?”

Spackle thought for a second. “I guess I would look for the defenders and kill them.”

“Wrong.” Jason said. “You would send scouts across the river where it can be waded or send them in as customers at Steve’s Store. They would find us BEFORE they invaded. There wouldn’t be any looking for the post because they would already know where it was.”

That made a certain amount of sense to Quinn.

“So, what is the answer?” Spackle asked.

“You get to be the decoy. Two of us rove. Two of us are off.” Jason said.

“We split the first, eight-hour shift into two, four-hour shifts on roving. Then we split the second eight-hour shift into four, two-hour shifts.” Jason said.

Spackle frowned. “That’s weird.”

“We all got shit to do in the morning.” was all Jason said.

“I am supposed to be the leader here. The problem is I can’t lead if I don’t know what is going on. So we are all going to rotate through...what did you call it, “decoy” you can make me smarter. Because I think you might be on to a smarter way of guarding this bridge.” Quinn said.


The next morning Spackle followed Jason as Jason worked his set-lines, that is, lines with hooks and weights at one end and tied-off to convenient roots or the tips of saplings on the other. That is where the fried catfish had came from.

“It takes me about four-hours to run the lines and deliver the catch. If I have a big haul then I put part of it in that little creek and take most of the rest to Steve’s store. He is always happy to have fresh fish to sell.” Jason said. “That is why we have four-hour shifts in the morning. It don’t pay to stop in the middle of this.”

“I do a re-check and re-bait on my last two-hour off period.” Jason said. “Catfish and turtles bite better at night so I want to make sure I have fresh bait out there.”

“What do you use for bait?” Quinn asked.

“You will see tonight.” Jason said with a grin.

Quinn considered himself an outdoorsman but he had never spent much time on the river. Jason was very at home and pointed out several hazards that Quinn didn’t see, including tree roots that extended over the current and had holes that could catch and trip the unwary.

“Yeah, I had an uncle that drowned in the river when I was a kid.” Jason said. “He got his foot twisted in one of those holes and his girlfriend didn’t have a cell signal and wasn’t strong enough to hold his head out of the water. Damnedest thing, drowning within a couple of feet of the bank.”

The period when Jason and Quinn were ostensibly in the observation post were spent just below the military crest of the river bank. They moved very, very slowly. Quinn recognized this as “still hunting”. Move just a few steps until your sight vistas are not hemmed in with vegetation and then wait, watch and listen for anything unusual. Quinn had to admit that it was far less mind-numbing than sitting in the observation post.

Suddenly, Jason said “Hear that!” it was the sound of a Blue Heron calling.

“Yup.” Spackle said.

“That means Chernovsky is coming. We gotta haul-ass to the OP.” Jason said.

Jason and Spackle slid down the slope just before Chernovsky and Gimp came around the bend. Obviously, Jason had folks willing to be look-outs for him. In all probability, people who enjoyed fried catfish in addition to beans and cornbread.

That evening Spackle and Jason re-ran the set lines. Jason pulled the three lines closest to the Observation Post. "I like to keep setting new water." he explained. "By the time we get moved to the next OP, my lines will be half-way there."

"Aren't you worried about fishing out the river?" Spackle asked.

"Ain't never gonna happen." Jason said. "I got a couple of customers in the neighborhood but I never wanna catch more than twenty pounds to take to Steve's store. First of all, twenty pounds of fish gets pretty damned heavy when you are carrying it a mile and a half. The other thing is that he keeps them in a kiddie pool and he doesn't have room to keep more than twenty pounds of cats alive."

Smaller fish and turtles had pretty much stripped the lines of bait. Jason rebaited the hooks with the guts of the catfish they had saved for dinner. He also used some rabbit guts that Miguel Rodriguez had. When Jason ran out of offal, he waded into the shallow, gravel bottomed river and felt around for clams. Bringing a handful to shore, he smashed the shells with rocks and used the muscular clam-bodies for bait.

"I like using clams for bait!" Jason said. "They are tougher than hell and stay on the hooks real good."

Tomorrow Quinn was going to shadow Miguel.


1 comment:

  1. ERJ -
    Glad you like my website. You've been a daily read of mine since I found your first vignettes. Please continue also.

    (Please don't call me sir, I was enlisted....)


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.