"OLD MAN OLDMAN"
Old Man Oldman cocked back the hammer on his revolver, aimed it at my head, and stated calmly, "You got five seconds to get off my property, Sonny, or I'm gonna use this thing like God intended it to be used."
"I don't think God intended for you to shoot me, Mr. Oldman," I answered, equally coolly.
"You just lost a second for smart-mouthing, now move it!" The slight edge to his tone spoke volumes.
"I'm going. Believe me, I don't want an extra hole in my head. The ones I was born with are quite sufficient," I said, unable to turn off the sarcasm even if my life depended on it. Which it currently did.
"That one cost you two seconds," snapped Old Man Oldman. "Now make tracks, Sonny!"
"Well, I'll try, but these shoes are pretty old, and the tread on the outsole is rather worn down, so I may only make streaks, not actual tracks."
He extended his arm fully, the barrel of the revolver only inches from my forehead now. I backed away carefully, stopping only to grab my duffel bag. Only when I'd secured the heavy bag around my shoulders did I turn my back on Old Man Oldman and break into a sprint.
Seconds later, I remembered that I didn't come here on foot. My car was still parked in Old Man Oldman's driveway. The subsequent sound of four fired shots told me that even if I came back for the car after dark I wouldn't be getting very far. I glanced over my shoulder to confirm my suspicions. Four flats. Wonderful! I just bought three of those last month. The expensive kind, with the 50,000-mile warranty. So much for that.
I should have known better than to try to reason with Old Man Oldman. He'd never been known as a sensible man. An eccentric – sure. A hermit – absolutely. But a fair man – never.
The plan, such as it was, had been simple. Offer the old man a couple thousand in exchange for letting us hunt on his land for the entire hunting season. My friends and I knew that the harvest was plenty in the woods behind Old Man Oldman's house, so pooling our resources to seal the deal seemed to make a lot of sense.
He could've just given his permission outright, but none of us expected that to happen. We figured an old man like Ollie Oldman, a retired hog farmer, could use the extra cash, Social Security now being his only source of income. But apparently the old codger had principles after all. He didn't want strangers traipsing about in his woods, not even if it kept the deer population down and might help prevent rabbits from overrunning Oldman's garden, which the old man tended every day by himself.
Somehow or another, I drew the short straw and was designated the delivery man. My friend Terence had already visited him last week with the proposition, and while Old Man Oldman hadn't said "yes" he also hadn't said "no," which we all judged to be a positive sign. So I was sent today to close the deal.
Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of saying whatever comes into my head, whether or not it's inappropriate, insulting, or politically incorrect. Which is how this ended as badly as it did.
It had started off well enough. I'd knocked on Old Man Oldman's front door, waited a polite fifteen seconds, then rapped again, louder this time. The old man had come to the door, rubbing his eyes dramatically, like he'd just awakened from a nap (which it turns out he had), and swearing at me right off the bat.
"Now, is that any way to talk to the man who's about to make your dreams come true?" I beamed brightly as I spoke.
"What's that supposed to mean? You some kind of fairy or something?" He glared at me suspiciously.
"A fairy? No. Perhaps a Fairy Godfather," I added. "I'm here to give you some very good news."
"Jehovah's Witness?" Oldman sneered.
"Mormon, then? Where's your other guy?"
I looked at him quizzically, then understood what he meant. "No, I'm not here to proselytize, Mr. Oldman. I'm here to lay some cold, hard cash on you." I pointed toward the duffel at my feet.
"What are you talking about, Sonny? You don't look like no Ed McMahon to me!"
"Of course not, Ed McMahon is ancient, gray-haired, and quite dead. I'm young, brown-haired, and very much alive," I grinned stupidly at the old man, who was clearly not impressed.
"You wanna get to your point now, Sonny? What is it you're selling exactly?"
"Oh, no, I'm not selling anything, Mr. Oldman. I'm here about the hunting agreement you discussed with my associate Terence last week." No response. I waited patiently, then flashed another ridiculous smile at the old man.
"There ain't no agreement," said Old Man Oldman. "Me and that boy just talked, is all."
"Yes, I believe you two discussed a certain number. Twenty-five-hundred dollars, was it?" I didn't particularly enjoy being overly polite, but I realized I was quite good at it, in an annoying sort of way.
"That sounds about right. But I ain't doing it," replied the old man, scowling uglily at the sky. I wonder what he had against clouds?
"You mean you're not going to let us hunt on your land, Mr. Oldman?"
"That's right, I ain't," he said curtly.
"May I ask why not, sir?" I inquired. "Is the dollar amount insufficient? Perhaps we could hold a bake sale, or some other such capital venture, and bump up the figure to a cool three-thou?"
"It ain't about the money," Old Man Oldman spat. "I don't care about the money!"
"Then what do you care about?" I asked directly. I stared intently at the old man, till he narrowed his eyes and glared at me, which was both impressive and scary.
"What do you care what I care about?" he shot back. "Who are you, anyway? Some kind of lawyer or something?"
"No," I replied. "I'm a bookseller."
"I don't need no more encyclopedias. I got two sets back in the back, and I don't even look at those. Same goes for the religious tracts." The old man was clearly overly defensive about door-to-door salespersons and personal evangelists.
"No," I sighed patiently. "I work at a bookstore in the city. My job title is 'bookseller.' That's what I do."
"And you're a hunter? Sounds like a mighty high-falutin' job for a hunter." Old Man Oldman looked at me carefully, seemingly unsure whether or not to trust me. Who could blame him?
I don't fit the typical mold of a hunter. I don't work with my hands, or even outdoors. I have an extremely large vocabulary, and I frequently make use of it. This is not to say that most hunters aren't literate or intelligent; they just don't usually integrate their extensive knowledge into general conversation as much as I do. I am often ridiculed for this by my friends, and probably with good reason.
"That may well be," I replied. "But I do enjoy hunting animals. Not only for the bragging rights of mounting their stuffed heads on my living room wall, but also for the tasty meals I will make from their dead carcasses."
Old Man Oldman just stared at me. The flashes of anger he'd displayed just moments before seemed to be dying down, but I was still a bit uneasy in his presence.
"So about the agreement, Mr. Oldman?"
"I already told you, there ain't no agreement." The old man's tone was flat now, surreally calm.
"Well, what if my friends and I decided that it was worth the risk to hunt on your land regardless, agreement or not?" This probably wasn't a smart thing to say, but I promised the guys I'd use it as a bargaining chip if the deal became difficult to close.
"Then you and your friends would have some explaining to do to me and my friends." Old Man Oldman turned briefly toward the inside of his house, leaning down to grab something I couldn't see, and stuffing it into the pocket of his overalls.
"Your friends? You have friends, Mr. Oldman?" I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud.
"Oh, yeah, I got friends," he said, and reached in the overalls pocket and produced his revolver. He opened the cylinder and checked the chambers before snapping it back into place. "Friends by the name of Smith and Wesson. And six other little guys in here." He pointed to the cylinder, then lifted the barrel of the gun, aiming it in my general direction.
"What's this all about?" I asked, a slight hint of panic in my voice. Being an experienced hunter, I wasn't afraid of guns. But then again, most of the contact I'd had with guns involved them being pointed in the opposite direction, not toward me.
"I'll repeat it one last time myself, and if you don't get it, then my friends will tell the story for me. There. Ain't. No. Agreement." He separated each word as though it were its own sentence, and his emphasis was clear. "Now get!"
"Get what?" I asked stupidly.
"Get going. Get gone. Now."
"You're insane," I replied.
"And you're trespassing," said Old Man Oldman. "Now move it."
"But –" I started, and that was when he cocked the hammer. You know the rest of the story.
Needless to say, my friends and I won't be hunting on the Oldman acreage any time soon. As plentiful as the deer and rabbits and squirrels may be, it isn't worth being chased off by Old Man Oldman. Or his friends.