Snakes and Pills

088 - decade

The little boy chased after his grandfather, who was already making his way across the field from the farmhouse to the barn. His grandpa was a tall, lean man, dressed in flannel and overalls, with a beat up straw hat on his head. He carried a shotgun, as well, and he moved confidently across the worn path to the barn.

"Grandpa, why are you going to the barn with that gun?" the child asked, as his little legs moved at twice the speed of his grandfather's, just trying to keep up. His grandfather did not turn to answer him, nor slow down. He did not even directly answer his grandson's question. Instead, he just asked, "Little Nicky, who let you out of the house?"

"Grannie said I could follow you," Nicky replied. The farmer clicked his tongue. "She should have known it wouldn't have been safe. Not safe for a child, anyway," he said. Nicky felt a little scared, but then he remembered what his grandma had told him. "She said you're just crazy, and that I could keep you company."

"Crazy, eh?" he asked in an inquisitive manner. "I hope she's right, little one." By now, they had reached the barn, and the farmer pulled the large doors open. Inside, there were a great deal of animals, the majority of which were chickens. Nicky always loved to spend time in the barn. Even though it was occasionally quite smelly and dirty, being a small child himself, he was rather accustomed to people using similar words to describe him, and thus these things did not bother him much.

It was a fun place, though, because he liked watching all of the animals, and there was a lot of hay that he could play in. However, now that his grandfather was here, Nicky tried to remain somewhat more serious, in an attempt to emulate the adult nature of his grandpa.

His grandfather began to go over to the animals, counting them and inspecting them. Nicky just watched in silence as the farmer did his work. The man worked methodically, moving from animal to animal, making sure nothing was amiss. "Everything checks out," he would say to himself as each animal passed under the scrutiny of his eyes.

Eventually, Nicky's grandfather seemed to be finished with what it was he set out to do, and the man sat down on a rocking chair near the back of the barn.

"What are you doing, grandpa?" he asked.

"Standing guard," Nicky's grandfather quickly replied.

"Standing guard from what?" Nicky immediately asked, in the manner that children often do, being little never-ending fountains of questions.

The old man just smiled, and said, "From the wolves, of course." Nicky thought it over. "Wolves? Do wolves really attack farmers' barns? Isn't that just from the stories?"

Now Nicky's question made his grandfather truly laugh. "My boy, wolves are a threat that's far too real, I'm afraid. So that's why I am here, or I suppose, why we are here. We sit here and wait for them to come, and then I'm gonna shoot 'em with this here gun," he explained, rubbing his shotgun fondly at its mention.

"Why are they going to come here? To eat the animals?" Nicky continued asking, a little afraid at the possibility of seeing a wolf and even more afraid imagining having to watch his grandpa shoot one.

"Everybody thinks that, even your dang old grandma. But no, see here. The wolves don't want the animals. They want the eggs. Delicious eggs. Wolves crave eggs."

His grandfather was smiling, perhaps eager to tell someone else the truth about what wolves desired. Nicky scratched his head, not quite sure if he should believe his grandfather, or if the man was just telling yet another one of his little jokes. "Are you fibbing?"

"I swear to you, egg wolves are real, little Nicky."


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