Chickens In The Night
Raymond threw his charred marshmallow stick on the fire. He jabbed Tommy with an elbow and winked. “Uncle Dink, tell us a ghost story.”
“Yeah” echoed his cousin. They were both ten. Raymond was tall and skinny with dark wavy hair; Tommy was blond with freckles, short and bull stout.
“Nope” Dink said. He scratched his handle-bar mustache with a stubby finger. “Too many weird things happening around here to be talking ghosts.”
They were camped in a small clearing among the post oaks above the Brazos de Dios River, the Arms of God. “You boys crawl in your sleeping-bags and get some shut-eye. We’re running trotlines come sun up.”
“Weird? Did he say weird? Tommy.”
“What’cha mean? Uncle Dink” Tommy asked. “Like you forgetting the TP?” Both boys doubled up laughing, remembering Dink in panic mode. “I’ll bet you’re glad I found those McDonald’s napkins under your pick-up seat.”
“Ha, Ha” Dink said. “Tell me, Tommy, what did we bait those hooks with?”
“Chicken gizzards and livers.”
“Raymond, wasn’t that stink bait we brought in a mayonnaise jar?”
“So, smart boys, how come Mrs. Chavez happened to have a bunch of chicken innards? Course, I like innards for bait better’n stink most times. But didn’t you wonder what happened to her chickens that she’d give me good eating parts for nothing.”
Tommy laughed. “Mr. Riley at the Country Store would say, he drawled, ‘She wuz right neighborly’.”
Dink got up frowning and pitched two oak logs on the fire sending a shower of sparks into the dark moonless night. “Mrs. Chavez asked me to take a look. Something killed half her flock. Just punctured two holes in their neck and sucked the blood out. That’s weird, I tell yuh.”
“Oh, wow!” Raymond exclaimed.
“Really?” echoed Tommy. “It didn’t eat them? Just drained their blood? Was it a vampire?”
Dink held a finger to his lips and peered intently toward where the ruts behind the pickup disappeared into the darkness. “I thought I heard something” he whispered. “Listen.” After a minute he turned and looked at the boys. “Probably my imagination.”
Tommy and Raymond scooted closer to each other and the fire.
“Uh, Uncle Dink, what killed those chickens?” Raymond asked.
“Don’t know. I’ve heard of things sucked dry like that. Some folks blame it on a chupacabra.”
“You’re too close, move over” Tommy said, shoving Raymond away. “What’s a chupa whatever?”
“A chupacabra is sorta like a hairless coyote, ‘cept his hindlegs are longer than his front ones. His paws, front to back be different too. Fangs hang down below his bottom lip and his pointy snout sticks way out. He’s kinda greenish-gray. When he --- did you hear that?” Dink stared hard into the darkness.
Twisting their head, listening for whatever was spooking Dink, the crackling fire was the only sound they heard. The flickering oak log flames sent eerie shadows dancing in the overhanging branches.
Dink cleared his throat. “Chupacabra’s – goat suckers, they’re called, usually kill goats. Sometimes they suck chickens and turkeys dry or small calves. Never heard of ‘em draining a man. You’re not big as a calf, but I never heard about them getting a young’un.”
“Uncle Dink” Raymond asked, chewing on a fingernail, “how far is Mrs. Chavez’s place?”
“She’s close. Half a mile, I’d say.” Dink’s eye gleamed, reflecting the fire’s flames as he looked at the boys. “If you see a chupacabra you’ll know it right off if he looks at you. His eyes glow red and it makes you nauseous to look at him. Shhh – listen.”
“There!” Tommy yelled, jumping up and pointing. “Something’s coming.”
Dink leaped to his feet. Both boys bumped together behind him, peering around Dink’s belly-roll from separate sides.
“That’s two vampires, for sure” Dink whispered. “Hey, Linda, Clare -- what’cha sneaking up on your kids and me for?”
“Scared you, didn’t we?” Linda said, laughing as the boys stumbled into view.
“You left this” Clare said, pitching a bag to Dink. “You can thank us later. Are you boys okay?”
“We thought you were goat suckers” Raymond said, easing over and hugging his mother.”
“Dink, what have you been telling these boys?” Linda demanded. “I told you not to tell them ghost stories, remember?”
“And I haven’t” Dink confessed. “I just told them about Mrs. Chavez’s chickens. You heard they died a strange death, didn’t you?”
“Shhh – I think I heard something” Tommy whispered, pointing. “Over there!”
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