Friday, April 12, 2024

Behaviors and rewards (Cumberland Saga)

Blain was waiting for Evan when he woke up in the morning.

Evan started to talk but Blain waved off his objections. “Eat. You are going to need it.”

Remembering how long he had to go until lunch the day before, Evan started shoveling in the fried eggs and potatoes and gobbling down toast with peanut butter, glaring at Evan the whole time.

“I need to use the shitter” Evan told Blain as they left the house.

“That sounds reasonable” Blain agreed.

Blain was leaning against a sourwood tree waiting for Evan when he finally popped out of the outhouse.

“Man, you are just fucking creepy” Evan spouted off.

“That will be an extra half-hour” Blain said without rancor.

“What?” Evan said.

“I told you that you hadn’t earned the right to use adult language. You just earned an extra 30 minutes of work before we break for lunch” Blain said.

Evan continued to mutter, but it was low enough that Blain could pretend to not hear what he was saying.

They had only managed to spread the fertilizer over two of Walter and Amira’s eight garden plots the day before. Blain was hoping to manage another four today since the fertilizer had already been dropped off.

They got off to a slow start. Evan’s hands were blistered.

“I guess we have to knock off until my hands heal. Bummer” Evan said with patent insincerity.

“No. We can keep working. We just have to make some adjustments” Blain said.

“I got more wrong with me than blisters” Evan said. “I am so stiff that I can hardly move.”

“Well, I got some great news for you. Once you start working your stiffness will magically fix itself” Blain replied. “Let's go. We need to find a wheelbarrow.”

Blain insisted that Evan accompany him in the quest to find the desired tool.

“What is it with you?” Evan asked. “Its like you are my shadow. Don’t I get ANY privacy?”

“I am your conscience” Blain told him.

“I don’t need no conscience” Evan exclaimed, heatedly.

Blain looked over at him. “Your opinion is in the minority.”

“Your mother and father are concerned that you don’t seem to have one, so they asked me to be yours until you grew one of your own.”

“Don’t you have, like, a job?” Evan asked.

“I did” Blain said, “But the leadership of Copperhead Cove put their heads together and decided that finding you a conscience was more important than what I had been doing.”

Once they had secured the wheelbarrow, Blain and Evan alternated shoveling fertilizer into it and rolling the partially filled loaded barrow to the tipping point.

Evan was actually the one to point out that they could reduce the number of trips if they loaded up the four buckets and two-buckets worth of fertilizer into the barrow. Then they could “bomb” three points on the grid with each trip.

Constanze had not had an ownership position in one of the Cove’s cows so she did not harvest her corn-stalks for forage. The winter weather had knocked them down, so rolling the barrow through the corn-stubble was not easy. Consequently, whoever was delivering the fertilizer would push the barrow to the closest tipping point and then carry the buckets to the two farthest drop points. After dumping the buckets, he would then empty the barrow and return to reload.

Blain broke for lunch after they had fertilized three garden plots. They went back for the fourth after lunch. And when that one was done, Blain released Evan for the day.

Evan was astounded after Blain pointed out “Don’t you like it better, getting done in mid-afternoon rather than 9:30 at night? I want you to notice that we got twice as many garden plots fertilized today than we did yesterday, even though you are not physically 100%. I want you to think about why that might be.”

“So, when do I get my phone back?” Evan asked.

Blain had decided the other night when they were discussing the plan on Sig’s patio that he wasn’t going to candy-coat news. He wasn’t going to take the easy way out because easy in the short-term was almost always harder in the long-term.

“Probably never” Blain said.

“You CAN’T do that. It is MY phone” Evan blew up.

“My guess is that it is actually your mom’s phone and on your mom’s plan” Blain responded.

Evan postured as if he were about to physically attack Blain when Blain added “If you lay a hand on me, I am gonna hit you so hard you are going to wake up in the back of a truck heading to North Carolina.”

Evan melted down in rage...but stayed more than an arm's reach away from Blain.

Looking around, Blain saw a knotty round of firewood. Constanze’s attempts to reduce it into stove fodder had failed so she had repurposed it into a seat for the corner of the garden plot they were in.

Blain walked over to the corner and sat on the round.

Evan followed him, his rage and fury, thunder and lightning escalating.

Blain fished a gallon-sized, plastic zip-bag out of his back pocket and removed a pipe and some tobacco. Focusing on the ritual of loading and lighting his pipe, he ignored Evan’s caterwauling and theatrics.

Slowly puffing to ensure the dottle was evenly ignited, he rotated away from Evan so he could enjoy the view while he smoked in peace.

Refusing to be ignored, Evan moved to get back in front of Blain, his volume increasing with every breath and his flailing gestures becoming bigger and more jerky.

“Remember what I said about the back of the truck” Blain reminded Evan whose flailing arms were getting too close to Blain. Evan moved back a couple of steps but continued his tantrum. 

Blain returned his attention to his pipe. Normally, he only smoked a ritual-bowl while sitting on Sig's porch. He had to remember to slow down so the bowl and stem stayed cool and the smoke did not get harsh.

Blain spun on the round so he wasn't looking at Evan and Evan continued to move so Blain HAD to look at him.

The game continued for at least ten minutes with Evan becoming ever more apoplectic. Finally, Blain relented. He knocked the coal out of his pipe and gently scraped it with the head of a nail he had brought along for the purpose.

“Anybody ever tell you to never try and bullshit a bullshitter?” Blain asked Evan after he was satisfied with the condition of his pipe.

Evan, who was red-faced and totally out of breath wheezed “What the hell does that mean?”

“That was quite a show you put on” Blain said, dismissive of Evan’s anger.

Evan bristled and started to rev back up.

“Save your breath” Blain advised. “I ain’t buying it.”

“What do you mean” Evan asked with face thrust forward and his fists balled in anger. “I am so pissed off that I am going to hurt someone!”

“If you are so ‘out-of-control’ then why did chase after me when I walked away from you? If you are so ‘out-of-control’ why did you keep moving to make sure I was watching you?” Blain pointed out.

“I didn’t see a teen who was dangerously out-of-control. Nope. I saw a spoiled brat trying to manipulate an adult” Blain said.

“And THAT is why you can't get your mom’s phone back. After that show, caving-in and giving you the phone would reward you for childish behavior and that isn't something we can afford in Copperhead Cove.”


  1. Oh, yeah. Smooth and clean, immediate and appropriate responses. Just like training a puppy.
    Typo- “Blain fished a …out (not our) of his back pocket…”

  2. Obviously didn't happen to the boy when he wanted Lucky Charms.
    Shame, really, you either learn that lesson as a child, or as an adult, but learn it you will.

  3. Blain is allowing the lessons for Evan to occur AND then being told why the lessons are being taught. Gives Evan the choice to learn them or ignore them. Evan is learning the Hard Way isn't the Smart Way.

  4. Indelable in my memory are the words "If discipline does not well up from within it shall be instilled from without." stenciled on the platoon office door at Camp Upsure (sp?) where I stood at attention waiting on my turn for an ass chewing at the hands of platoon staff.

  5. Very solid writing, curious how the other brother is doing observing this process.


  6. Third paragraph- Evan ........ glaring at Evan
    The Phone conversation- Blain added “If you lay a hand on MY I am gonna hit you so hard...

    1. Another typo: The game continued for at least ten minutes with Evan becoming ever (not every) more apoplectic.

      Love the story - it's our after-dinner treat.

    2. Perfection continues to elude me.

      How many mistakes can I sneak into 1000 words?

  7. "dottle" A new word for me! Yay!
    ERJ: this interplay twixt Blain and Evan is ... I can't find the right word, but it's an uplifting thing. Thank you.

  8. Fred in Texas, Blain is a lot different now than when he arrived in Copperhead Cove. Big difference in a short time.

  9. Blain found reasons to change. Blain choose to earn himself a place and love in the Cove.

    Evan so far hasn't, his goals so far is recovering his phone A TOOL to escape the cove.


  10. Ah yes, teen temper tantrums... Never ever give in!

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Typo: "He knocked the coal out of *this* pipe". Enjoying the story as always. "Dottle" was a new word for me too.

  13. Your Blogs are very interesting and informative though, Thanks for sharing it with us


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