Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: CLEAR AS MUD (07/18/19)
- TITLE: Arlo Bender
By Ada Nett
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In fact, the boy's lack of smarts worked in Arlo's favor. He was known for his shrewdness and slick underhanded business deals. Not likely anyone would ever make a connection there, and since Viola had run off after the birth, there was no one left to tell the tale. She had resisted him at first but he kept at it. That was another trait that defined him, his relentless doggedness. No one had ever thwarted ole Arlo, if he wanted something he always dogged the trail till he got it. If she was immune to his physical charms he could surely persuade her with cheap dime store lace and perfume. And that's just how it worked.
Viola lived by the river in a cabin with her mama. Arlo had been a little worried about the mama, after all Helen Harrel was one tough cookie. Her husband, Walter had died young when their daughter Viola was in the second grade. After the funeral Helen had hired on as a weaver, first shift at the mill and had been there ten years without missing a single blessed day, that is until the boy was born. Helen left work at three one Monday afternoon when her shift ended, unexpectedly delivered her daughter's premature son at seven that same evening and never stepped another foot back into the cotton mill. Arlo knew it for a fact because he owned Bender's Cotton Mill and he knew all there was to know about everyone who worked for him. But Viola was careful and she kept their “romance” as she called it, under cover from her mama's searching eyes.
Viola had also had qualms about him being a married man but he overcame her reluctance by laying his most subtle trap. After all, his wife Constance didn't love him anymore, his heart had been broken and Viola was the only sure cure. When he laid that line on thick, along with some big crocodile tears she was a goner. Bleeding heart that she was , she fell for that one too. It was almost too easy, kind'a spoiled all the fun. She was dumb, just like the boy, it had to be where he got it from. And why for God's sake did she name him Milton? A handy pandy name for sure. Even if he hadn't been brain damaged, that name would draw the bullies like flies to sweet sugar. None of this was Arlo's fault, she should have known better.
He saw him around town every now and then with Granny Harrell. Everyone had began calling Helen that after the boy was born. You didn't notice anything odd about him just by looking at him. It was when he began to talk you could see something wasn't right. Once in a blue moon, or twice a year, Easter and Christmas, Arlo attended services at Hopeview Baptist Church. That's where he heard the boy 's stuttering talk, always gushing about what a f...f...f...fine day it was and h...h...h...how happy he was to b...b...b...be there and welcoming everyone just like he was the head usher or something. Stupid kid. Arlo always managed to avoid him and after all these years had never interacted with him at all. Never.
Thankfully, Constance had at least been good for something. She had given him Buchanan, a legitimate heir. A son with strong genes just like Arlo. He was already following in his good old daddy's footsteps. A trouble maker for sure. Yeah, it's funny how life works out sometimes. The school had called him today, said Buchanan had started a fight, trying to steal some third grader named Milton's lunch money. Not even Buchanan suspected who Milton really was.
“Yep, “ Arlo whispered to himself, “Who that boy's daddy is, is clear”... “As clear as mud and I intend to make sure it stays that way.” He set the chair back down with a solid thump, stood up, spat on the floor and left the bar.
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