Monday, September 9, 2019

The Shrewd King 8.1: Shit or go blind

Vernon Blastic finally made it through an entire day without getting a public ass-chewing by his father. It would have been bad enough if it had just been verbal abuse. Denny knew just which buttons to push to make Vernon feel like a four-year old who had just wet his pants. But Denny always made it a point to dress him down in front of the people he was supervision AND Denny invariable slapped or pushed Vernon in a show of physical dominance.

What Vernon could not know is that Denny had his own, private opinions on how to motivate people. His method was to relentlessly drive them to the brink of despair and then to inexplicably stop. Afterward, he would randomly reward and punish “to keep the kid on his toes.” Denny was a great fan of Vince Lombardi and Woody Hayes.

Vernon’s place in Denny’s universe was to supervise the field work.

Denny directed Wesley to plant forty acres of corn. Wesley picked a field that had been in wheat the year before. He chose that field because the stubble would be easy to work up. He hitched up four horses and had them pull a set of double discs. Then he pulled a corn planter across the field and planted 39,000 seeds to the acre.

Denny figured at something like 200 bushels to the acre he would have almost a half million pounds of corn by the end of the growing season.

From the very first day the project was going into the ditch.

Ground squirrels and voles tunneled between the closely planted seeds and gobbled them up.

Weeds sprouted with a vengeance.

Denny knew that the corn would not thrive if it had to compete with weeds.

He sent the crew, supervised by Vernon, to move along the rows on their hands-and-knees to pull the baby weeds.

When Vernon complained about his people lacking proper tools, tools like hoes, Denny backhanded him with enough force to knock him to his knees. Then Denny pulled him up and hissed in his ear (quietly enough, he thought, so the workers could not hear him) “And they would brain you with them when you are not looking. They are animals. Never forget that. They are worse than animals.”

Vernon carried a handgun. He had rarely thought about the reasons. He had supposed it was for the random Ebola zombie that might pop out of the brush. It never occurred to him that he might have to shoot one of the people they were obstensibly “helping”.

Denny was rarely able to articulate what he considered a “good job” but that never prevented him from disciplining his sons when they failed.

Vernon was dressed down for workers that moved too slowly. Denny’s vision was that the fifty workers should be able to rip through the entire field in two days.

He was disciplined for workers that missed weeds. Chivvying his workers to make them go faster resulted in them missing weeds. Some of the grass seedlings were almost identical to the corn seedlings.

He was disciplined for workers who pulled up corn plants. Remember the ground squirrels and voles? Denny took the strings of missing plants as proof that Vernon had tolerated the workers being careless. Vernon suffered for his failings.

Vernon was disciplined for allowing his workers to move at their own pace. Denny’s vision was that the workers would all move at the same speed and Vernon could oversee their work by striding back-and-forth, inspecting the work. When they worked at their own pace the faster workers pulled ahead and the slower workers were way behind. Denny knew that without Vernon inspecting their work every few minutes that they would find some way to screw the pooch.

Vernon was even disciplined for allowing workers to help each other. One family worked together. The youngest child, a boy of about twelve, was clumsy and his older sister, a girl with strikingly gray eyes, did what she could to help him so he could keep up. Denny saw her helping him and gave Vernon a tongue-lashing (and bruises) for allowing that to happen.

Vernon had the audacity to ask “What is the harm?”

Denny’s voice dripped acid. “And if they pull the corn plants, how will you know which one to whip?”

It had been a hellish six months for Pam, the gray-eyed girl. This was the first time in a very long time that anybody had defended her in even the feeblest of ways. She decided that she would still help her brother when she could but would not put Vernon on-the-spot by doing it when he was watching. And she would certainly never do it when Denny was around.

And just like that, Denny's attention turned to another minion.



  1. Things are about to go boom! :-)

  2. Vernon could have earned a lot of points with Pa by promising to whip both slaves...


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