The landscape changed to slightly rolling pasture land near Zephyrhills. From the paved highway I turned onto a dirt road. Pine trees and white frame houses lined the road for a short distance. The area opened into large fields divided with barbed-wire fencing. In the middle of a large pasture stood an unoccupied, new house. Downhill, seventy-five yards behind the house junk cars rusted next to two trailers. Several lines, strung with laundry, stretched between the trailers. Dogs barked in a large pen next to one trailer that bordered a dense forest darkened by the late afternoon sun. Only the treetops were illuminated.
The new house appeared vacant. I drove around to the back of it. Shortly, a lone figure appeared like a character in a stage play from behind the white laundry down below at the trailers. It was a teenage boy.
"Anybody home here?" I asked when he arrived at the house.
"No," said the boy who had a complexion bleached like the laundry fluttering below.
His short hair had cowlicks and reminded me of barbed wire in the fields.
"He's coming in a minute," the boy said.
"Mr. Craylick? He your father?"
The boy nodded.
"What's that over there?" I asked, trying to make offhand conversation with the tight-lipped boy.
I pointed to a group of buildings on the other side of a nearby fence.
"That's where they have the cock fights," the boy said.
"Who has them?" I asked.
"I ain't supposed to say."
Roosters in battle gear. Sabers drawn. Chicken blood and feathers. Fights to the death. The boy remained silent. His father, Jason Craylick, walked up the incline. Craylick was about five feet six inches tall, and his face was chiseled and sharp. His hair was fair, but his skin had the toughness of alligator hide. He held out his hand that was rough and dry like cactus.
"Dream mechanic," I said, introducing myself.
No furniture in the house except for the waterbed I was delivering. Craylick and his no name son helped carry the equipment and the materials into the new house. It took only ten minutes, but it was ten minutes of uneasiness. The isolation of the place, their silence, and the late afternoon shadows disturbed me.
"You don't need no electricity to do this, do you? We don't got the electricity on in this house yet," Craylick stated.
"I use an electric drill. There's about fifty screws that go on the frame," I said.
With no lights in the house and dusk unfolding, I began to turn the screws by hand as quickly as I could.
"Boy, go get them extension cords," Craylick ordered his son.
The boy did as ordered and went down to the trailers. He came back with an armful of extension cords. They snaked several of them together to an electric utility pole behind the house. The cords came undone a few times as they stretched from the outlet on the utility pole to the new house. With the patchwork of cords linked together, I connected the drill to the end of it.
I wanted to get out of there soon, before it got too dark. There was something odd about the father, the cock fights, and the boy with no name.
The boy held a big flashlight with a two-foot shank on it. He pointed it to where I attached brackets to the waterbed frame. His father stood nearby, watchful and menacing. Bugs and frogs bustled in the fading light.
I put the frame together. When that was done, I started to fill the mattress with water. No electricity but they had water in the house. I was grateful for that until the silent shadows erupted.
"The mattress in the store was silver. How come this one is blue? What are you trying to pull?" Jason Craylick yelled at me.
The flashlight the boy held blinded me momentarily.
"I sell furniture too. I know all the tricks. Why did the man give you the blue one instead of the silver one? What's he trying to pull?" Craylick demanded.
"Pull? I don't know. If you don't want it, I'll take it back to the man that sold it to you. You can get another one. I'm not coming back out here tonight though. There aren't any lights."
Craylick grabbed the large flashlight from his son. The light flashed all over the blue mattress. The boy remained silent and stood to one side as if he knew what happened next, the future he had lived through and rehearsed in his past.
Craylick�s thick hands held the flashlight as he turned into a prized gamecock that couldn't control itself or its anger. My hammer rested on the floor near the toolbox. When Craylick swung the long flashlight, I ducked and rolled toward the hammer then stood up with it in my hand.
"You, son of a bitch. Do you want the mattress or not?"
I towered above Craylick. I never knew or appreciated my size until then. I didn't know. I never knew myself or who I was until that moment. I was ready to strike with the hammer in my hand.
"I sell furniture," he scoffed. "I'll talk to him tomorrow."
"You want it or not, mister?"
He didn't answer but walked back towards the trailers.
"I sell furniture," I heard him muttering.
"Fuck your furniture!" I yelled.
The boy remained silent. He held the flashlight and I collected my tools before his father returned with his dogs or guns or roosters in sabers. The boy with no name carried the large flashlight, and he slipped behind the laundry between the trailers, his illuminated shadow danced on the makeshift curtain.
The buildings across the pasture, people had arrived, someone turned on a light. Silhouettes flickered on the windows. I could see roosters outside in cages waiting their turn inside in the ring. I drove away as fast as I could when I heard the sound of a hollow tip whistle through the air.
BIO: Tom Fillion is a graduate of the University of South Florida. He teaches mathematics and coaches golf and tennis at a Tampa public high school. His short stories have appeared in many online publications. For a complete list please visit: http://dreammechanic.blogspot.com/.