Today’s theme is Outtakes. I’m going to assume that means the bits of a story that end up on the cutting room floor. I have a surprising number of them, mainly when I get caught up in too much backstory– trying to figure out for myself where the characters learned vital information, or as in this outtake, when they met. Remember when you read outtakes they often won’t be as polished and shiny as a final edited scene.
Rocky Mountain Heat is being published by Liquid Silver in September, and one of the main issues in the story is the hero feels he’s too old for the heroine. Plus, he’s known her since… well that’s what this outtake is about. Enjoy.
Six Pack Ranch
Lazy Days of Summer
The screams rising from the coulee had changed in the past ten minutes from fun to fearful.
Blake flicked the reins to head over to see which one of his little brothers was in need of getting his britches tanned. Because sure enough when they weren’t fighting for each other, they were fighting with each other.
Blake let Midnight take her head as she picked down the steep trail that led toward the swimming hole where the loud shrieks continued to rise to echo off the clay embankments. The individual voices grew clearer and Blake grinned. It wasn’t often Travis ended up on the hurting side of the equation.
He rounded the bend and Blake’s gaze darted over the scene. Chaos was in full reign. His four youngest brothers and a spare little boy, all in jean cut offs and nothing else, were covered from head to toe in dark mud. Joel and Jesse, the six year old twins, raced in circles, their hands waving frantically while they shrieked at the top of their lungs. Fourteen year old Matt was trying to pry the skinny newcomer off Travis with one hand, his free hand swatting the air with desperate jerks.
Travis screamed again; the eight year old was madder than Blake had ever heard the little bully. His attacker was the only one in the area not hollering or swearing at the top of his lungs. Blake watched as the kid swung and connected another solid blow to Travis’ jaw.
Time to stop the fun and games.
“Enough, you little hoodlums. Everyone of you, get your…” Blake dismounted as he spoke, ready to pull the combatants apart and deliver a ‘Big Brother from Hell’ speech. Then he realized what caused all the arm swinging and at least half the swearing.
Just to the side of the main fight lay a giant wasp nest. It appeared to have been ripped clean in two.
Blake felt a little like swearing now himself. “Matt, get the twins back to the house. Take Midnight, and clean her saddle completely after you get hosed off.” Pausing long enough to see Matt nod in agreement he turned his attention to the screaming pile of boys at his feet.
Wasps whizzed around them and he felt the first sting on his leg. Pulling hard, he lifted the still swinging blonde banshee, grabbed Travis by the wrist and toppled the three of them into the shallows of the swimming hole. “Get ready to hold your breath, boys. Travis, I mean it. Stop screaming and take a big breath. On the count of three.”
He pulled them all under, pushed off the bottom toward the middle of the stream and allowed the gentle current to float them for a good ten count before he let their heads pop up to the surface of the water, The angry buzz was still audible but fading as he hauled his squirming cargo to the shore, dragging the boys over the grassy bottom to the lower edge of the trail.
“Get on up there. Now! Get home and let Ma deal with you. Little i’jids, what were you thinking?”
Travis knew enough to sense that Blake’s patience had ended. He turned and raced up the hill without even complaining that it was someone else’s fault. The other kid. He didn’t seem to know it was time to stop fighting and start running.
“You ain’t my boss.”
“I am now, Slick. Get on up there. My Ma will see to those stings before we get you home. Unless you’d prefer I take you home now and let your folks deal with you?” The skinny little thing didn’t looked more than 5 years old. Blond wisps of hair stuck up where the mud had washed off, but the dirt seemed permanent on other portions of the creature.
“They ain’t there. Gone to town for grub. I’ll take care of myself.”
Blake counted to ten. There was no way he was going home and tell his mom he’d let some little tyke wander off without his folks. Wasp stung, filthy, and bruised from fighting Travis.
Even though it looked like the little beast had gotten the better of that particular deal.
“What’s your name, kid?”
He was given the ‘you’re too stupid for words’ look. “J-A-X. My name is Jackson, but they call me Jax.”
“Well, Jax, you gotta come home with me for a bit. If your folks are gone you could probably use a little dinner. We’ll hose off the mud and get something to eat. I think my Ma’s got leftover chicken around we could nab. Deal?”
Blake knew the second he mentioned food it was going to work. The kid was skinny as get out. Jax scrambled up the embankment and trotted next to him, his little legs working double time to keep up with Blake’s wide stride. At seventeen Blake was getting into his full growth. He was tall enough already that this little guy seemed awfully short.
“How old are you, Jax?”
That was surprising. Jax couldn’t be any bigger than the twins.
“I’ve never seen you around before. Did you just move in?”
“The blue trailer on the edge of the road. Ma said it’s a dump, but I think it’s okay.” Typical kid, he kept stopping to check out the grasshoppers and spiders that scurried off the trail as they quickstepped toward the house.
Must be the new renters that he’d overheard his parents talking about. The Dad was going to work for one of the local hauling companies. Hard work; Jax’s dad would be gone for days at a time. Blake took another look at Jax. His little face and arms were covered with swelling welts but he wasn’t making a noise of complaint about them.
“SO you wanna tell me what happened down at the swimming hole?”
Jax looked up at him in surprise. “But I ain’t your brother. You gonna let them tell you what happened, right?”
Blake frowned. “I figure you can tell me just fine. You won’t lie to me, will you?”
Jax stopped dead. “Lying is for babies and cheats. I ain’t no baby and I ain’t no cheat.”
“So, tell me. What happened?”
“Me and Joel and Jesse were swimming and playing a game and Travis came and said he’d make me eat a frog. So I told him that frogs were a deli-cat-ze and only the really important people could eat them so I thought that was a really fine thing.
“Then he said I had a stick up my butt and he was going to teach me a thing or two. So I said he was too stupid to teach me anything. Then Joel tried to tell him something and Travis pushed into the mud. Of course Jesse tried to help Joel and Travis pushed him down too. Then Matt started yelling at Travis and Travis said some bad words and then he tried to push Matt into the mud and Joel and Jesse were trying to jump on Travis and then…”
Blake stared in amazement. Usually when he asked his brothers what happened he got ‘he looked at me funny so I hit him’ as an answer. Not a 5 minute nonstop detailed play by play.
They’d reached the house and there was no sign of any of the rest of the culprits except for a pile of filthy wet shorts lumped by the still running hose. Blake pointed Jax toward the pile.
“…well, I slipped and fell in the mud and I thought maybe that could be the end and we just play for a while. You know, we were all dirty, so why not, but Travis came over and pinched me…”
Yeah, that was Travis. He fought dirty. Blake stripped off his wet things and turned the hose on himself. Ma put up with a lot, having six boys around the house, but he knew better than to enter the house covered in river water and mud.
“…but when I climbed the tree he called me a coward.” Jax stopped talking and put his hands on his hips. “I ain’t no coward. So when I spotted the nest I thought it would be a good idea and—”
“Jax. Talk while you take off your stuff. I’ll hose you down.”
“Oh. Okay. So I pulled off the nest but I kinda fell and when I landed I must have made a funny noise because Travis called me a ‘pig in the wallow’ and it made me really mad so I walked up to him and told him at least I wasn’t an ass without a barn and then I pulled that nest apart and things kinda just happened after that.”
Jax dropped his shorts quick like and turned in the spray to let Blake rinse off his back. Welts covered his skin and Blake turned down the pressure on the hose. It had to hurt like the blazes.
Then Jax turned around and Blake noticed for the first time what he probably should have figured out sooner.
Jax was a girl.
On for more snippets!
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