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Annals of the F.O. Ranch, Chapter 4

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Peg is the author of two fiction novels and multiple stories, true and fiction. She lives near Dallas with her husband and family dogs.

Photo by Brooks Rice on Unsplash

Photo by Brooks Rice on Unsplash

Fickle Floyd

Floyd glanced across the firepit at Cheryl who sat, sleepy-eyed, her head tilted toward Paula, as if sharing a secret. The women had ridden to the campsite with him, Cheryl riding shotgun, her friend in the back seat.

“You really ought to go camping with us,” his brother Carson had told him earlier that week.

“Nope,” Floyd told him. “Got an important game this weekend.”

That was before Cheryl called, Cheryl with a body that made him go melty and squishy inside.

“Floyd,” she said in that voice that made his knees weak. “Would you do me a favor?”

“Of course,” he’d replied without hesitation. Never mind the plans he had for the ball game. That could wait. This was the call he’d waited for. The camping deal was really more Carson’s thing. He’d overheard his brother on the phone with Michelle and knew they were bunking together this weekend.

Finally, he actually thought he had a chance with the girl. He knew his brother had tired of her, as always. For once, maybe his younger brother wouldn’t win. Carson always snatched up the good ones, even in high school, taking his pick of the hot cheerleaders. But when the opening had come with Cheryl, he’d been unprepared. Her voice did something inexplainable to him. It took the air right out of his lungs.

1975 Cadillac Eldorado

1975 Cadillac Eldorado

He’d thought he’d have time alone with Cheryl during the trip. But when he’d stopped to pick her up, she’d brought along a spare. During most of the ninety-minute ride, the two women chatted across the bench seat, their giggling stream of girl talk obscuring any private time.

One small reward was that her twisting over the seat gave him an excellent view of her upper body, sweeping his mind into places it didn’t belong. He had hoped that his brand-new Cadillac would impress her but it stuck out as odd among the sagging vehicles parked at the campsite.

Now, seated across the campfire, she barely noticed him. He asked himself, “Why?” Then, he caught his reflection as he passed his car window and the truth stared back at him. His face was gaunt and hard labor had aged him beyond his thirty-nine years. Through his life he asked himself why was his brother formed with broad shoulders and a sculptured chin. At six-two, he stood six inches taller than Floyd. It was the awkward question he’d always wanted to ask. Did they have the same father? The chance never came for asking before it was too late.

Alan’s trip home with his ailing passenger had gone smoothly until time to drop her off.

“Just let me out at the complex,” she’d told him. “There’s no need for a trip to the emergency room.” After repeated protests, he’d let her out at her apartment with assurances she’d go to a clinic on her own.

“I want to drive my car,” she said. “That way you won’t have to wait.”

A quick stop at his house to pick up different skis and a new pup tent he’d been saving and Alan was on his way back to camp. Spotting his truck as it pulled down the trail, Cheryl approached as soon as the door creaked open..

“Did Paula get to the hospital?” she asked as Alan began unloading equipment.

“She wouldn’t go.” Her look of exasperation went unnoticed as he turned away with a load of tent poles.

“Why not?”

He just shrugged and headed toward the other tents.

She glanced around looking for Floyd’s Cadillac. There was an empty space where he'd parked the night before. “I should have gone with her,” she told the trees. She was helpless to do much without a car. She spotted a guy on the path to the lake carrying a bucket of water.

“Where’s Floyd?” she asked.

“Clare said he left before daylight.”

The cabin had a small kitchen just large enough to hold the coolers and supplies.

The cabin had a small kitchen just large enough to hold the coolers and supplies.

He scurried back to the group of campers, who unluckily had drawn short straws for kitchen duty. They were setting up a dishwashing station with buckets of wash water being poured into a huge cauldron over the fire. One large pan of hot water was for washing and another for rinsing the breakfast dishes. Dish towels were laid out on the picnic table to drain the clean ones.

She headed to the tiny cabin where others were putting away the leftovers and cold goods. One cooler held bacon, hot dogs, and meat with another cooler for produce and fruit. A third cooler was for cheese, eggs, butter, and milk. The kitchen had an orderliness with things arranged the same every trip. A huge cooler on the tailgate of a truck parked nearby had sodas, ice, beer, and wine. Someone was already making a wine cooler despite the early hour.

Cheryl headed down to the lake to find the others, but no one was willing to make the trip back home.

Floyd pulled into the parking lot at the apartments and sat in the cool, quiet car for a moment. He stuffed the last of his breakfast sandwich into his mouth, drained the Styrofoam coffee cup and emitted a loud burp.

“What a wasted trip,” he thought. He heaved himself out of the low seat, slammed the car door and ran up the flight of stairs eager to change into his baseball uniform. “I can still make the game,” he told himself, taking the stairs two at a time. At the landing, he came to a full stop. A body was lying on the communal porch that opened to four apartment units. He rushed over to the woman, turned her face up and put two fingers against her neck. When he saw her face, he immediately recognized her. It was Paula.

“Paula?” He gently touched her cheek. There was no response. He jumped up, ran across the porch to his apartment, jammed the key in the lock and ducked inside.

“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“I have a girl unconscious on my porch.”

“Is she breathing?”

“Yes.”

“We’re sending an ambulance, sir. Please stay on the line.”

© 2021 Peg Cole

Comments

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on August 10, 2021:

Shauna, sweet Shauna, Your words are an inspiration to me and I'm honored to be in that group of writer friends that you'll spend time with. You make me smile, dear one.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on August 10, 2021:

Hi Bill, It's always a thrill to see that you've visited and your words of encouragement are much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on August 10, 2021:

Hi Pamela, I'm not sure what's going on with the email notifications. Hope the site gets them fixed along with the comments issues. Thanks again for taking time to read this story and for your thoughtful comments.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 10, 2021:

Peg, you're one of my favorite authors. Your words flow and there's always a level of suspense in your stories. I'm glad I don't have to wait to see what happens next. I'm off to chapter five!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 10, 2021:

It flows well. The characters are relatable, and I am willing to invest time in their lives. So far a big success, my friend!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 10, 2021:

I didn't get an email about chapter 5, but I just read it. It is another interesting chapter. I am curious about where the relationships will go and look forward to chapter 6. I am enjoying your story as you have written such an interesting story.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on August 09, 2021:

Thank you so much, Pamela. I released 2 chapters today in case you have the time for another one.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on August 09, 2021:

Thanks, Liz. I appreciate your visit and kind words.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 09, 2021:

This is a very good story, and you always leave us hanging. now I will look forward to the next chapter, Peg.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 09, 2021:

You keep the reader's interest well through your well-paced narrative. Great cliffhanger at the end.

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