Dixons Don't Cry
We walked through the forest, me dragging behind unenthusiastically. Normally, I’d be dead excited at the possibility that maybe I’d be able to get a few squirrels or even snake. Not for these people, I grumbled.
“Tessa, stop mopin’ and hurry up,” Uncle Daryl said to me, and I sighed before moving to fall into step beside him, my hunting knife in my pocket, a rope to carry our game around my neck. We hadn’t caught anything yet. In my right hand, I had the perfect stick for snake catching; I had whittled it myself in camp a few days before.
“Yeah, yeah, lemme guess, ‘Dixons don’t mope’?” I said sarcastically, throwing a grin at my uncle. He shook his head and rolled his eyes at me. He looked at me and gave me a small smile out of the corner of his mouth.
He said,” I know tha’ these people made ya mad the otha day, but huntin’ is wha’s keepin’ us in the quarry now.”
“Our quarry! And yeah, they made me mad! That Andrea chick or whoeva-tha-fuck she thinks she is! Her sister came to me, started talkin’, and she yells at me as if I had tried to kill’a! Her sister’s goddamn twenny-four, not a baby! And now they want us to hunt since they was starvin’ their own goddamn kids!” I scoffed and shook my head. “There ain’t nothin’ wrong with squirrel! And I can speak to whoeva I please, that bitch Andrea can’t tell me wha’ to do!”
I was sitting on a log in front of the fire pit, whittling my stick to have a forked end, just the right size to catch a snake like Daddy taught me. I was into my work, trying to make sure it was just right, when I heard a voice ask me,” Mind if I join you?”
I turned behind me to see the littler blond—what was her name—Amy? Like my dad and uncle, I didn’t have much to say when I concentrated, so I simply grunted and nodded. The rest of the camp stayed away from us like the plague, refusing the squirrel meat we brought and simply living on their stupid canned foods that my family thought would be better to save. City folk didn’t get that, and this girl was more city than any of ‘em.
I felt her sit next to me as I turned my attention back to my stick. It was a few feet long, and I had torn it from a tree in the woods when looking for some berries or mushrooms to spice up our squirrel. I didn’t want to use the canned goods, just how we did when we were camping for weeks during the summer.
“What’cha doin’?” Amy asked, leaning slightly over my shoulder to get a look.
I grunted back, similar to the men in my family,” Whittlin’.”
“Snake huntin’. I’m dying to have somethin’ other than damn squirrel and those stupid beans,” I told her.
Amy gasped and asked in shock,” You know how to catch snakes?”
I smirked and nodded, trying not to laugh. These people were almost too much. She continued,” But, like, why don’t you eat with us at the fire pit? I mean, you missed out on burgers the other day, and that was the last of the good meat that Carol and Ed had packed in a cooler.”
“I can make burgers out of any other meat just fine. Ever had anything other than beef or pork or chicken?” I asked her, setting my hands down to look at the blonde. She was cute and looked nice, but she also looked like a talker, and I wasn’t much for talking.
She shook her head, and a flicked the hand with my knife casually. She flinched a bit, but settled quickly, seeing it was just a gesture as I spoke,” See? You city folk don’t know anythin’. Snake tastes like chicken, any bird can be spiced up with mushrooms by my daddy and taste like fuckin’ duck, and my uncle Daryl can cook up venison like a son-of-a-bitch.”
Amy giggled, and nudged her shoulders into mine, making me tense slightly at the contact. “You’re funny,” she said, and I relaxed a bit. Amy noticed this, and gave me a weird look. “You aren’t used to that, huh? Talking and stuff, huh?” she asked, but there was no tone of disgust in her voice. I simply shook my head and looked at my hunting knife. I’d have to ask Daddy to sharpen it.
“It’s always just been me, Daddy, and Uncle Daryl,” I told her, but I wasn’t ashamed of it. I liked it.
“Doesn’t that get lonely? I remember when Andrea left, I couldn’t handle her being gone, but then I had my best friend there,” she told me.
“Never gets lonely if they won’t leave me tha hell alone!” I said with a smirk. My lips pulled up into a slight smile as Amy laughed.
“See? Everyone is scared of you guys just ‘cus you’re different than us, and Shane says to stay away, but I like you! You’re-“
“Amy! What the hell are you doing?” A woman’s voice screeched.
Uncle Daryl shook his head, knocking me out of my daze. After Andrea had stormed over, convinced that I was being rude to her sister even though Amy denied it, and saying my family didn’t even do anything around the quarry and how my dad was a drugged-up redneck.
Naturally, the Dixon temper kicked in, and Dad had pulled me off of her only one punch in—though I know he let me have that one punch. Amy wasn’t allowed near me I guess, and Andrea had a shiner right on her right eye. Deputy Dip-Shit held a gun to my head as if I was the problem. After that, our ‘job’ to stay in the quarry was hunting. Technically, it was only my dad and my uncle’s job, seeing as they expected me to help with dishes or laundry, but I had started laughing so hard at the idea that eventually they just left me alone. Tessa Dixon, doing dishes? No way, no how.
“I know, Tess, but they do have kids,” he reminded me, and I shook my head and swore. I knew if anybody was going to get the squirrels, it would be those damn city kids, especially the one with the piece of shit dad, Ed. For some reason, my uncle and my dad both had a spot for the little girl, but never amounted it to anything but ‘she’s a little girl.’
Still, looking to be right in the situation, I rolled my eyes and said,” If they wanted to keep those kids alive, they’d teach ‘em how to shoot, or at least give ‘em a knife. Teach them to do somethin’ other than nothing.’” Uncle Daryl grunted in agreement, and that was the end of conversation.
As we headed back into camp the next day after staying in a tree while out hunting, I was practically dancing. We got back into the camp, and I quickly spotted my dad on top of the RV keeping watch. With a smirk on my face, I quickly ran up to the RV. “Hey, Daddy! We’re back! Guess what!” I shouted up to him.
He looked down to me. “Wha’ do ya want, suga’? I’m tryin’ tah do mah damn job, kid!” He said with a smirk, and I knew he was joking.
I whipped around and pointed to where Uncle Daryl was coming into camp with a male fawn over his shoulders. “I shot the deer with the crossbow—had to be at least hundred feet away! Took it down with the one arrow!” I boasted proudly. I saw out of the corner of my eyes that the old man, Dale, who owned the RV sitting with Andrea in the lawn chairs watching me curiously with a small smile. Andrea was glowering. I smirked harder.
“Girlie, I’d believe ya, if I didn’t know yah a damn liar! Nineteen years ol’ and still can’t lie to her daddy!”
I pouted, and rolled my eyes. “Fine, I shot it in the hip, but I ran after it damn quick and got my knife in it!”
“Gotta learn tah tell ya lies better if you wanna fool ol’ Merle, suga! Now go help Darylina gut tha thing!” I saluted him and ran off, hearing Dale chuckling under his breath.
Uncle Daryl denied my help as he went down to the water to wash it, and I stood kind of amiss at what to do. I felt a small tug at my shirt, and I whipped around to see the little girl, Sophia.
“Hi,” she said simply, looking up at me with big eyes. I raised an eyebrow.
“Will you play with me?” I was shocked by her question. Play with her?
“Uhh,” I started, glancing behind her to see Carol, her mother, watching carefully out of the corner of her eye. Ed was nowhere to be found. I looked back to Sophia and continued,” Don’t you have that Carl boy to play with, girlie?”
She nodded, and looked down at the ground before telling me,” Yeah, but he’s a boy, and I’m tired of playing soccer with him.”
I shifted awkwardly, still glancing around, now noticing my dad was watching. Carol kept glancing at me. “Is your momma okay with ya talkin’ to me, Sophia? I don’t want you in trouble,” I told her.
To my surprise, she nodded and said,” My momma told me I should ask.” I looked to Carol once more. She was fully looking at me, and gave me a firm nod and a smile, before turning back to sewing a shirt.
I looked back down to Sophia, and saw a bruise fading on her cheek. I knew her daddy hit her, but nobody did a damn thing, and it pissed me off. She was just a little girl, and damn if she was gonna be shunned by another person. So I nodded and gave her a small smile.
“Come on,” I told her, motioning to follow me with my head and turned away, walking towards the forest.
“Where are we going?” she asked as she fell into place with me and grabbed my hand. I flinched a bit at the contact, but relaxed at the feeling of her small hand in my small hand.
“We’re gonna go by the water. You done that yet?"
“Yeah, to wash up and help clean,” she told me.
“Well, kid, we’re gonna have some fun at the water. There are some pretty good trees down there, itchin’ to be climbed. Ya perfect sized,” I told her, and tugged her along.
We spent hours down at the water. I helped Sophia climb the trees, ignoring the looks Uncle Daryl was giving me as he gutted his catch. He was smiling in a smirk, but I ignored him; I could play with a little girl if I damn pleased. I wasn't just playing, I was trying to get her to toughen up.
Sophia scraped her knee when she slipped on a branch and nearly cried, and I told her to suck it up, and after a minute of getting her composure, she did. She laughed each time we reached a new branch or she slipped, and in turn it made me laugh. By the time we were done climbing different trees, Uncle Daryl had finished and left, and we were dirty and had leaves in our hair, and Sophia had a rip in her shirt at the bottom.
We stripped down and jumped into the water to wash off, and for twenty minutes we swam in the water before she got hungry. We put our clothes on over our wet bodies and got them damp, but Sophia didn't seem to mind. She challenged me to a race, and so I accepted, but I let her win. She cheered and was laughing by the time we got to camp, boasting about her victory with a wide smile. She ran right up to Carol and started blabbing to her about all we did. Carol looked to me as I walked passed without even acknowledging them, and I met her eye. She smiled in thanks, and I nodded, and went to my family tent to change.