The Iron Writer Challenge 87
The Pitman/Caile Challenge
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Glen Bahde, Bill Prins, April Morehouse, Lindsey Elaine Cooperider
M. D. Pitman, Dani J Caile, DL Zwissler, Emily Gatrell
Gloustershire annual cheese rolling competition
A group of Old West cowboys sitting around a campfire
An inept hitman
The fact that this was an elementary school made him even more on edge. What if there was a casualty that was not the intended? Scanning over the instructions one more time, he let out a hesitant sigh and entered the festival.
Every year, the schools around the city put on a festival of learning. The elementary students had all agreed on learning about hobbies and special events from around the world. The playground was decorated and sectioned off for different activities.
The kindergarten classes were only observers for being so young, but had decided it would be a great idea to dress the opposing classes as cowboys against Indians. The teachers even dressed respectively. The children had suction cup guns or bows and arrows. The parents had adored them immensely.
The fourth graders were teaching small groups of students and parents how to cook foods from around the world. The third graders had agreed on karaoke, and it sure was echoing across the playground. The second graders wanted to express art in many different medias, so they had art supplies strew about their area. Lastly, the first grade students voted on ping pong.
The parents, however, had wanted something to do for entertainment for their children. The faculty had arranged a mock Cheese Rolling Competition down the steepest and biggest hill nearby. It began soon.
The man from earlier wandered around the festival with the biggest lack of a smile, and in fact was the very embodiment of nervous and sketchy. He was being watched carefully by everyone. Teachers and parents had kept a close eye on him from around a bonfire going in the middle of the grounds. They were all dressed in intricate costumes, each portraying a cowboy. It looked like a scene straight from an old Western.
The adults started to cheer from atop the hill, and it gathered everyone to the sidelines. The competition was about to begin! Once everyone seemed present, someone with a wheel of cheese stepped forward and called out the rules. The cheese was then rolled down the hill, and then not a moment later, the adults started to give chase. The cheers and laughter grew so loud that no one could seem to distinguish what the other was saying, but they didn’t care. It was too fun.
In the highest tree not but a few feet away, the nervous man was perched. He had a gun in his hand, and he was very unstable. The branch was creaking under his weight. His target was the man in front of the race, and he had him in his sights. He aimed.
“Steady… steady… fir—”
The branch broke from underneath him just as his gun rang out loudly, but not loud enough to be heard over the cheers. There was a collected gasp and scream of surprise as the wheel of cheese suddenly burst from the impact of the bullet. The racers all started to tumble down the hill.
This is why hit men can’t have nice things.
The stars matted the sky over four lone cowboys. The campfire could be seen for miles, and the twine if a harmonica echoed off nearby mesa walls. The fire held everyone’s gaze. Even Zax was memorized by the dancing flame as his mouth jerked back and forth on the tin in his hand. The others held tin cups full of cold coffee, and thought only one thought, well, all except George.
Critter sighed, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, lifted his cup, and then lowered it.
“Need more coffee?” Bill offered.
Critter stared into his cup. “You think he’s-” he let out another sigh.
“Son, don’t take it so hard, it was bound to happen.”
George tossed his coffee into the fire. “I’ll take some more of that.”
Bill poured out the black sludge. “I know you and him were like brothers.”
“A brother I never had.” Critter said.
George ground his molars. He wanted to fling his coffee at Critter. All Nines had to do….
“Now, you know what to do?” George looked Nines right in the eye, and knew no one was home.
“Ya, George, I got it, I got it.”
“You want me to go along?” Critter was always tagging along.
“No, I need you to cover the teller. Zax, you got what you need for the safe?” Zax nodded. “Then let’s go.”
George had a gut feeling he should have sent Bill. Zax went around to the back of the bank while Bill tipped his hat, lit a smoke, and waited. George and Critter patted their horses. Once Zax whistled, Bill coughed, tossed his smoke to the ground, and went around back while George and Critter went in the front.
“This is a hold up.” George hollered waving his gun. “You, open those bars.”
Bill, who came in from the back, shoved his gun into the teller’s side, and over to the bars in front of the walk-in safe. Once opened, Zax went up to the safe, and began turning the tumbler.
“Hold it right there boys.” The Sheriff held Nines by the collar. “You’re boy here was asking around for me.” George cringed. “Asking where the sheriff might be so he can kill him.” George’s trigger finger ached to kill Nines, and the sheriff. “Think you might want to change his name to Nines and Tens.”
“Why’s that Sheriff?” Critter asked.
“Because those are the only eight cards he has in his deck, not the ones that are missing.”
The safe was open. There, sitting in all its glory, was the great cheese roll of the Gloustershire Annual Cheese Rolling competition. George could feel it in his hands if it weren’t for Nines. His eyes bounced to his men, the teller, and the sheriff like a ping-pong ball as he sized up his options. There was only one.
“They’re probably dead by now,” Critter moaned. “I mean, after eating all that cheese, and no air vents in the safe.”
Bill chuckled at the thought.
George smiled as he gulped back his cold sludge. “Probably.”
“Sorry to hear about your dad, Clay,” I said, shaking the young man’s hand. “I’m just glad they caught it early, and that he sent you up this year.”
“Thanks Mr. Burgess,” he said, with a laugh. “That’s what those colonoscopies are good for I guess. This has been a long time coming for me; my grandfather once told me it’s my destiny to compete.”
“Your grandfather sure could string a yarn,” I said. “Imagine this starting fifty-odd years before the first Cody Stampede Rodeo, not long after the Civil War ended, with some old west cowboys sitting around a campfire swapping stories. Heck, there’s a gal over at Fire Number Six saying she’s seventh generation.”
Glib McLaughlin was holding forth loudly in his incongruous Boston accent by Fire Number One, so we stopped to admire his artistry.
“….. there I was by the church, and these guys in white with red bandanas came running by me screaming something in Basque, and out of the dust and crowd ran a half dozen bulls all bucking and slashing. I would’ve got clear, but stopped to save some drunken skinny guy (pretty sure it was Brad Pitt) and was slightly gored, when out of nowhere comes this gorgeous nurse ……”
“Tongue like a jai alai basket,” I observed.
“Slinging turds,” added Clay.
We walked around for a while, smelling the not too distant stables and sampling the high art of BS in its myriad forms.
“Hold on a bit Clay,” I said. “Buster Vreeland’s up at Number Three and I want to see if he still brings it.”
“….. so instead of hot queso cheese, I mistakenly poured off-white latex paint all over the nachos, and given our condition nobody even noticed. The weird thing was, and I don’t know the chemistry of it, later, when we passed gas from the black beans, out popped perfect little spheres of plastic. I’m not complaining; I mean, I made a small fortune selling ping pong balls …”
“These folks will be at it all night,” I said. “Then they’ll be up early to catch the first rodeo go-round, and start it all over again. Straw polling begins on day three, and we’ll be down to finals by Friday. Hey, there’s Red Rabinowich getting warmed up.”
“ … then in 2010 I was helping with rules for the next year’s Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling and Wake when we started getting these crazy death threats. I thought it was hooey until this Indian, the turbaned kind, tried to run our car off the road with his motorcycle. So we left him in the ditch, and the next night he threatens us at the pub with kung fu, until Alicia floors him with a stiff left jab. We heard he was arrested after asking the Irish team if he could buy a bomb.”
“Well Clay, I’ve got you starting down at Number Four in about an hour. And here’s a few free words of advice: Class-action paternity suit.”
A Cheesy Opportunity
A creek of a door tuned the heads in the room. With a hurried step towards the crowd he walked in and slammed it down on the table.
“There it is ladies and gents.”
The crowd around the table was like a group of Old West cowboys sitting around a campfire staring at the paper with confusion as to the excitement?
A large deep voice said “I understand”
The rest of the crowd then looked at the paper again trying to figure out what it meant to the two.
A small squeaky voice in the dark said “what does it say Momma?” and then she read it to the rest of them
“Gloustershire Annual cheese rolling competition to be held at the recreation center this weekend” Everyone was even more perplexed.
The deep voice said one word.
Silence was maintained and then heads began to nod one by one another voice said “Cheeeeeeeese” and the word cheese began to be chanted. The young voice asked “Momma? Cheese?” The others became quiet knowing that this was an important lesson for the youngster.
A soft reassuring voice said “Yes dear, cheese. What eats cheese my love?”
“Mice? Rats?” A pause and then the young voice purred with delight “CHEEESE!”
So now the messenger said “They should be setting things up tonight at the rec center. I cruised by, the Ping Pong table had cases of cheese on it, there were decorations hung. I don’t know how it happened but a few of these newspaper articles seemed to be laying around outside the feed store warehouse barn today.” He smiled.
The feed store had guard dogs in a fence and was locked up tight. For the cats, it had been a citadel that couldn’t be taken. But the lure of cheese for the mice and rats was going to be too much for them to bare.
Not one of these cats was an inept hitman, they were natural born killers frustrated at security measures made by humans, to stop humans. It just so happened these security measures had stopped this band of feline hunters, but not this Friday. Each knew deep down years of frustration would end.
The deep voice said “Gather up. I want two look outs on each of the rec center. We need to get positions early on the inside. I need four hunters scouting all exits for the rodents. We need to make sure they get in and aren’t spooked. I need some messengers from the scouts and three hunters positioned for attack near the pool tables. Keep an eye out for the sewer openings.”
About that time a voice in the distance could be heard. “Mittens…….Here Kitty Kitty…….Mittens time for your din din”. All the cats looked around. Who was Mittens? The large black cat barking orders headed for the door.
“Be there tomorrow at 1800 hours and the first one of you that calls me Mittens will have more to worry about then cheese starved rats.”