Pronghorn, Chapter 27: Wednesday Morning

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

The next morning, Asa Pemewan woke in darkness. The air was still and humid, although cool. He padded through the house and saw no lights on in it, and he thought The power must be out. Makes sense.

Another thought stopped him where he stood. Damn. Coffee pot’s electric.

The bubbling sounds of a percolator heating up reached him then, and Asa stepped into the kitchen. His father stood by the stove–a gas appliance, fortunately–with a lighter in hand. A couple of candles were on the kitchen table, flickering with the currents driven by Asa walking in. “Mornin’, son.”

“I guess the storm knocked out the power.”

“Seems that way. Whole block’s dark. Been hearing sirens off and on, too. Heard a whole lot of ’em overnight. Cops, fire, EMS. Heard a chopper, too. Somebody’s had a real bad evenin’.”

“We have any branches down?”

Asa’s father nodded. “Couple out in the back yard. Nothin’ too big, though, and nothin’ on the house. You got a crack in your windshield, though, and we’ve all got dents all over hell. Gonna have to get the roof inspected again. Damn shame, too; had a new one put on just a couple, three years ago.”

“Is it still under warranty?”

“Maybe. Not likely, though.” He snorted. “My luck, it ran out Monday.”

Asa made a non-committal noise and shook his head. We’ll not talk about my luck. After a moment, he asked “Do y’all have a weather radio?”

“Got a hand-crank jobbie under the sink, I think. Gets other stations, too.”

Asa nodded and rummaged around in the indicated cabinet. He soon found the object of the search: a combination radio/flashlight/lantern, powered by a hand-crank. Asa began to work the device, and although his hand soon cramped around the small handle, he soon had a crackle of static and coherent voices coming out of it.

“–are down throughout much of Pronghorn County. Several traffic accidents took place during last night’s storm, with several people taken to San Antonio for treatment. One man, identified as Bartholomew Smitherson, has died as a result of one such accident. He had been taken by helicopter to University Hospital in San Antonio after being caught in the middle of a multiple-vehicle accident around eleven o’clock last night. Police reports suggest that a tree branch fell onto West Second Street in Pronghorn, causing a pickup truck to swerve to avoid it; the driver of the truck lost control and hydroplaned into Smitherson’s vehicle, knocking it in turn into oncoming traffic. Smitherson stood at the nexus of several family businesses and was a figure of influence in Pronghorn; how his death will affect several business deals is uncertain.”

“Fuck!” exclaimed Asa, and his father turned, saying quietly and forcefully through gritted teeth “Keep y’r voice down! Y’r mother’s still sleeping!”

“No, she’s not.” Asa’s mother spoke from behind him, and he started, dropping the radio. “And what’s the ‘fuck’ about?”

Asa stooped to scoop up the radio that still cracked with reports of the night’s storm damage and changes to the stock market. Standing again, he answered “Bartholomew Smitherson was killed. He was also the one who hired me; I was going to start work for him on Monday. Now, though, I don’t know what’ll happen–and I can’t really ask his businesses. I get the impression they’re all family-owned, and they’ll have a lot else on their minds right now.”

“Well, yeah, they will. And I imagine there’ll be a big to-do at the church about it, too; Smitherson was heavily involved, as you might have noticed. He doesn’t–didn’t care much for Reverend Kerr, I know, but she tried to reach out to him and keep him included.” Asa’s mother nodded as she spoke. His father poured cups of coffee from the percolator.

“I wasn’t aware of the strife” said Asa as he accepted a cup of bitter black brew and sipped at it.

“No reason you would’ve been, since you’ve not been involved in the church or the tow for some time. But if you were going to be sweet on Kerr, you might not’ve done well to work for the man.”

“Why didn’t he like her?”

“Oh, the usual bit for folks of his age. Doesn’t–didn’t think women ought to be preaching; says so in the Bible–1 Timothy, as I recall, not that that comes out of Jesus’s mouth. Didn’t think we ought to be even polite to gays; says so in the Bible.” Asa’s mother shrugged. “Didn’t think a lot of things ought to be that ought to be. But he donated a lot to the church, and he did a lot of work with it, especially after his wife died.”

“When’d that happen?”

“Two years after you left for school. I only knew about it because of the papers and your sister. She had apparently made a friend in Smitherson’s daughter, clever girl, and used it to get some paying work in San Antonio. She also let me know some of what all she figured out, so that was interesting.”

“Hm.” Asa sipped at his coffee again. “Well, I suppose I ought to see about doing something. Looking for work will have to wait, of course, but there’s stuff to do here, to be sure.”

Asa’s father chimed in. “I appreciate it, but drink y’r coffee first. And have y’ got boots? Today, you’ll want ’em.”

“I’d have to look, but I don’t know. I think not.”

“I might have a pair y’can borrow. But I mean it. Finish y’r coffee. Seen y’ try to work without it before. Nobody ought to have to see that twice.”

Asa shook his head at his father. He also took another sip of coffee.

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