Boy hell the fire was in his eyes when he stood over me and said son you ain't got a prayer left under god or heaven or all the stars in the sky so mark your time. Withering, that glare; rattled me to the core and left me wanting to jump up and run from that house and back down through the briar and out the gate into the open fields, away.
It wasn't just Old Jules, either. That rifle in his hands, it was the worse. Rusty and brutal, just to grip it risks too much. Half of you thinks it'll tear someone's face off, or it's just as likely to pop in your hands and send you back down where you came from. The rust on the barrel was an odd semi-circle, like the gun was smiling right down at me, both like it knew its fate and could all-too-well guess mine.
Who are you to come around here, he asked. I said my name. Came up through the briar looking for Old Jules.
Ain't ever seen you before, he said. But well you found him by sight, and you'd better get to explaining yourself all skulking and cowering or else this conversation's going to be awful quick.
There was a moment just clear of the path, in the yard between the bombed-out Ford and the empty dirt pitch where a dog used to be, where I hesitated. Took down my bag and opened it up, double-checking my supplies and surveying the house. It was corrugated metal, simple and sharp, drafty and cold, but it at least kept out the rain. Then out from behind the car springs the man. Cagey bastard and fast, but wouldn't guess it to look at him. Hit me on the head with the butt of his gun and down I went, black and flat.
Awoke to him over me, near pressing steel to my cheek.
Here for trade, I blurted.
Trade? He laughed, guttural and rolling, but that smiling rifle didn't flinch none. Son you come to the wrong place.