Chapter XXXIII – Birk Gets A New Shirt

Coal Dusters

Chapter XXXIII

Birk

Gets A

New Shirt

They got their fishing rods & a net basket for holding their catch from the side shed. 

“Think we’ll try the Blue Ridge Trail to the lake this time. We can check the rabbit traps on the way.”

“Faster?” Clancy asked.

“About the same but avoids the town.”

“Don’t want to see the damage, eh?”

“There’ll be time enough to see that m’sure.” Birk wanted to skirt the town to avoid possibly running into Lillian. “Sides I … Ya saw how my sisters acted.”

“You mean about you playin’ hero?”

“Yeh. I don’ need people comin’ up to say anythin’ to me about that. It was something any man’d do.”

“What’s wrong with people taking notice of ya in a good way.”

“That’s not why I did it. When I get a good word about my work in the pits don’t want it. I hate to think people are watching me. Not that I want to be cussed out. The less notice I get the better.”

“Yeh I see what you’re gettin at.”

Even though of the snares had been tripped there was nothing in any of the rabbit snares other that bits of fur. 

“There’ll be more when they start to have babies.” Birk adjusted the snares. “In a few weeks we’ll have more than enough.”

The ridge took them through the fields of the near by farms. They bypassed one that had a black and white bull in it. The bull walked over and stopped a few feet from the fence to paw the ground and snort at them.

“Smell that.” Birk took a deep breath. “Cow shit.”

“Yeh.” Clancy took a deep breath. “Almost gets rid of that smoke smell.”

“Must be in our clothes. Same way the coal dust is. It’ll take a day or so for it to go. Unless it rains.”

“I’d rather smoke than mud.”

The less-used ridge trails were overgrown as they hiked though them to the lake.

“Good sign.” Birk said. “Means not many’s been up here.”

Low lying branches whipped at their faces as they made they way through the woods. Brambles caught at their pant legs. Every now and then a flock of startled pheasants flew up to their left echoing through the trees.

“Too bad we didn’t bring a rifle.” Clancy said.

“Yeah. I’ll remember where they were for the next time.”

“Y’ sure y’ know where yer going’?”

“Pretty sure.”

They came to a low hill clearing and stopped.

“Take another good breath” Birk said. “I can smell the water. Can’t you?”

“No. I can still smell that cow shit though.” He rubbed the soles of his boots on the ground. “You got a better nose than me I suppose.” Clancy said.

“Jus’ through here.” Birk lead Clancy through another thicket of maples and alders until they came out at a rocky outcrop about halfway beside a waterfall.

“These the Blue River Falls. This is where the the river makes that turn. Over there’s where we fished the first time.”

The elevated ledge gave them a clear view of the expanse of the lake. 

“You can follow along t’other side to where it narrows again.”

The descent along the rapids involved two drops. The first was about three feet but the second was nearly ten. At the top of the second Birk tossed the rods down, handed his lunch tin to Clancy and jumped.

“Drop the tin down to me. Gentle. Don’ want to break that bottle o’tea, do we?”

He caught his pail and then Clancy’s.

Clancy stood at the edge of the drop.

“Come on b’y, s’not that far. Yer taller ‘n me so you don’t have to far to go either.”

“Easy fer you to say.” Clancy paced along the the rocky ledge. The shale was solid underfoot. One side was splashed by the rapids. The other hooked back sharply into the wooded area and then became even steeper.

“Come on Clancy b’y. I’ll catch yer.”

Clancy sat on the rock edge of the precipice. He turned so his belly hugged the rock and he lowered himself with his arms. His feet got what grip he could on the uneven rocky face of the drop. The rocks under his left hand gave way and he fell into the air. 

Birk caught him around the waist and they both collapsed to the ground.

“Oof. Man yer eatin too much of ma’s cookin.” Birk said pulling himself out from under Clancy.

“Yeh.” Clancy stood and brushed debris from his pants. “You’re making a habit of savin’ people.”

“I suppose so. You only had a few feet to fall anyway. More important to save this though. Them cookies are precious cargo.” He picked up his lunch tin. “We’re almost there.”

The rapids fed directly into the pool that then flowed into the lake. They took off their boots and socks and waded along the shore to were they had been fishing before. From there one couldn’t see the rapids.

“Looks as if no one else has been here since us.” Clancy toed the dark ashes of their previous fire. “Not even that rain washed it all away.”

Birk baited his hook, pulled off his shirt and pants and waded into the lake in his underpants. He cast his line.

Clancy followed suit. 

“I thought this would be a popular spot for fishing.” Clancy said.

“Most don’t think to come over them bluffs the way we did last time. None cares for that climb down along the rapids either. Fishermen keep good spots secret.”

“Land belong to anyone?”

“County as far I know.”

“Ever thought of owning a piece of property?”

“A farm?”

“Yeh. Where you didn’t have to worry about where yer food was comin’ from. You could go into your own field and pick what you wanted to eat.”

“Like them apple trees behind our place?”

“Sure why not. That’ ad be grand.”

They caught a dozen or so fish each over the next couple of hours before they stopped for lunch.

“Sure is getting warm.’ Birk said. “Guess that rain’s holdin’ off fer now. Think I’ll set for a spell in the sun.” He rolled his pants into a pillow, pulled off his under-drawers and stretched out on the warm rocks.

“That orchard all you thinkin’ about.” Clancy said as he did the same.

“Nope.” Birk said softly. “I think about what we did the last time here. Rubbin’ on each other.”

“We did that to avoid the sins of self-pollution.” Clancy teased.

“Yeh. Only this time I don’ want no rock scrapes on my knees and elbows. I get enuf of them in the pits.”

“Happy to oblige.” Clancy lay on top of Birk.

“Uh.” Birk gasped. “You a mite heavier than I was.”

“Don’ want to hurt you.” He began to roll off

“S’fine though.” Birk put his hands on Clancy’s behind to keep him in place. He tried to respond with hip movements to Clancy’s grinding. The hard rock under him made it awkward.

He turned his head to face away from Clancy. Clancy was breathing in Birk’s ear. They pressed at each other for several minutes. Each trying to anticipate movements by the other.

“I’m going to …” Clancy gasped. He raised himself with his left arm and with his right hand he forced Birk to look him in the eyes.

“Me too.” Birk tried to resist looking Clancy in the eyes but Clancy held his head firm. Clancy’s warm spurt oozed around his member. He spent himself seconds afterward. 

“You closed your eyes.” Clancy said. “When you spewed.”

“So did you.” Birk replied. 

“Wonder why that is?” Clancy continued to hold Birk’s gaze.

“So as we won’t see what’s in t’other soul.” He returned the gaze even though Clancy had let go of his head. “Ma say the eyes are windows to the soul.” 

They lay a few moments with eyes locked. 

Clancy licked his lips and pushed himself off Birk and rolled on to his back.

“Yer not so heavy after all.” Birk said. “I think’s time we did something about that bed at home though.”

“Get rid of the squeak, you mean?”

“I’m thinkin.” Birk rolled to his side, head propped on his elbow. “We don’t want to keep waiting till we come up here. Not when the snow flies, at any rate.”

“Or till we’re both covered with rock scrapes!’ Clancy jumped up and ran into the lake.

“That’s right.” Birk followed, leapt on Clancy to push him under the water.

They dried off and fished until the rain clouds darkened the sky.

“Let’s get these fish cleaned. We can take the town trail home.” Birk said. “It’ll be a lot faster.”

They were passing St. Agatha’s rectory when the rain started. Light drizzle at first and then a heavy downpour. They were drenched by the time they got to Birk’s house. 

“Don’t bring that wet in here.” His mother said as he handed her the fish they had caught.

“Can’t come bare skin into the house Ma.”

“Go on with ya.” She handed them two of her aprons. “These are big enough for ya till ye can get decent again. I’ll keep yer sisters in the parlour till yer upstairs.”

They stripped down to their under drawers and hung their clothes on the clothes line. 

“That’ll save us having to wash’em.” Birk said.

“Hope the rain takes that smoke out of them.” Clancy haded Birk of of the aprons.

They tied them around themselves, went into the house and rushed up to their room.

“We’re in Ma.” Birk shouted down.

“Barely covers yer arse.” Clancy laughed.

“Lest my little feller isn’t nosing about.” He pointed to Clancy privates. He’d put his apron on so hasty that the hem had been caught in the waist of his under drawers. 

“Thought it was a might breezy when I rushed up here.”

“Want to come out and play some more?” He reached out and touched Clancy’s member.

“Hey.” Clancy pulled back. “Not till we fix that squeak.”

“What’s this?” Birk noticed a package in brown paper on the bed. His name was printed on it. He tore it open and it was a couple of white shirts with a pair of dark grey pants under them. On top of the shirts was a handwritten note.

He glanced at the note and handed it to Clancy and put on the pants and one of the shirts.

“What’s it say.”

“I th’ot you could read?” Clancy squinted at the note. The handwriting was frilly.

“I can when ‘tis printed but this writing stuff I can’t make head nor tails outta it.’

“You know whose it from don’t ya.” Clancy sniffed the letter.

“No!” Birk buttoned the shirt. The white dazzled him. It was a large on him. He’d never touched such a fine linen.

“It’s from her who you plucked out of the fire last night.”

“What?” The pants were too large. The waist would need a belt and the legs were so long there was a good three inches beyond his toes. He sat on the edge of the bed and rolled the cuffs up.

“Dear Mr. Nelson,

Please accept these items to replace the clothing of yours that was damaged in the fire last night. They are apparel of my uncle’s that no long suits him. I trust they will fit you. If not I will be happy alter them.

My uncle, Father Patrick and I dearly wish to express our gratitude in person if you would kindly join us for a luncheon this Monday at the rectory. 

Sincerely

Miss Lillian McTavish.”

“I’ll be fused!” Birk said. “She wants to meet with us?”

“Just you.” Clancy grunted. “Shame you don’t fancy the gal as much as I do.”

Birk bounded down the stairs to show his mother the clothes.

“When that package come? Who brung it? Did you speak to her?” He blurted before answers could be made.

“I answered the door when the lady come.” Sal said. “She had a pretty face but dressed no better’n Ma. Called you Mister.”

“Made us laugh.” Maddy said. “Told her there was no Mister Birk living here only a plain old Birk.”

“She asked us our names.” Sal said. “I read to her from the good book too. Ma made me to do that.”

“I had to ask her in for a cup of tea.” His mother said. “Not every day we get one of them calling on us. Told us how you have been so brave at the fire. Very pretty she is.”

“I think she’s sweet on you.” Sal teased. “But that babby isn’t hers.”

“Sweet on me! You know ma’d kill me if I ever took up with some girl when I have the two of you to look after.”

“Yeh particularly a Catholic.” Clancy said. “The priest’s niece she is.”

Birk paraded around in his new clothes. 

“This is how I’d look if I were a priest.” He crossed himself. The pant cuffs refused to stay rolled up. “Guess the Father counts on God to keep his pants up.”

“Birk!” his mother laughed as she swatted at him with her wooden spoon. “Show some respect.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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