The Taste of Buzzard's Blend

Contributor: John Laneri

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Sheriff Matt Carson first noticed the bee when it flew from a prickly pear to the wooden casket containing the remains of the Honorable Theodore Busard, a man originally from Kentucky.

At the time, the Sheriff was standing with a group of people at the cemetery, wiping sweat from his brow and reflecting on the final minutes of the Judge’s career, which so the story goes, ended with a smile during his last visit to Aunt Jillie’s Boarding House, the finest establishment along the cattle trail to Fort Worth.

Curious, he followed the bee, watching it explore a handful of flowers as it worked its way from bloom to bloom, oblivious to the people at the graveside. Soon, he saw it dart to the preacher’s shoulder where it dawdled quietly close to the man's collar.

The good Reverend casually flicked it away, his voice rambling on, preaching words of gospel interrupted by mind-numbing oracles attributable to the late Judge.

The Sheriff followed it to his right, watching it buzz the fashionable Jillie Marbley, a lady known throughout much of Texas as, ‘Aunt Jillie’ – the belle of boarding house fame. To his delight, she was wearing a bright red dress, the likes of which attracted many an eye.

Looking away, he glanced to the side and noticed Vernon Carter, the Mayor of Neverton, gazing into the distance. Drifting beside him, he whispered, “What are you looking at, Mr. Mayor?”

Vernon cleared his throat, his sleepy eyes lifting a fraction. “I was just counting those turkey buzzards circling across the way.”

“I see a bunch of ‘em – nasty creatures. I wonder what they’re watching.”

Vernon scratched at his beard then reached for a back pocket. “They’re probably keeping an eye on the Judge. I doubt they’ll let him lie still for long – probably been watching him for years.”

The Sheriff laughed quietly. “Not many folks cared for the man – that’s a fact.”

“It’s not hard to blame ‘em,” Vernon said, as he uncorked a flask of whiskey and glanced toward the preacher. “The Judge was a harsh man.” He took a shot then offered it to the Sheriff. “Care for some refreshment?”

The Sheriff turned a portion and returned the flask to Vernon. “The Judge was too hard in my opinion, especially with his use of the hangin’ rope. Lots of people got their toes twitched for no reason.”

“The rope will likely be his legacy,” Vernon replied. “Personally, I hope he chokes on it. The old buzzard didn’t have any friends to speak of. He sure as hell kept my stomach burning. I’m surprised people came to his funeral. ”

The Sheriff again glanced toward the preacher then gestured about. “I suspect most folks are here so they won’t be looked upon in the same light.”

“You’re probably right. Most of us perform our duties without much question.”

Aunt Jillie edged beside them, her red hair glowing in the sunlight. Whispering, she asked, “Would either of you gentlemen care to share some whiskey? I don’t remember much goodness in the Judge. I always thought of him as a cranky, old buzzard.”

Vernon handed her the flask, his eyes running her length. “There wasn't any goodness,” he replied, as he looked again, his eyes lifting a fraction. “You’re lookin’ mighty pretty today, Miss Jillie. I truly admire that dress.”

She turned a shot. “I appreciate the compliment. The dress was the Judge’s favorite. As I recall, he liked to wear it after splashing in my bathtub.” She took another swallow then returned the flask to Vernon and drifted away.

The Sheriff glanced at the preacher then turned to Vernon. “I wonder if the Judge was wearing the dress when he died.”

“I wouldn't be surprised. He was a mighty despicable character. But, then again, I'd like to be splashing in Jillie's bathtub about now – anything to get out of this heat.”

Laughing, the Sheriff flicked away another bead of sweat. ”I have to agree. Splashing with her has always been my favorite way to forget the Judge for a couple of hours.”

Looking away, he returned to the front and saw the bee circle the preacher’s head then land on his opposite shoulder. A few seconds later, he watched it move to the man's collar then disappear from view.

He nudged Vernon. “Watch the preacher. He's getting ready to start dancing.”

“Hell fire,” the preacher suddenly screamed. “A bee just stung me. Damn pesky critters, they’re just like the Judge – always circling around disrupting the harmony of life.”

The mourners let out a collective sigh as they watched him jump about, swatting at his collar, his efforts directed to squashing the bee.

Then calmly, as if a Divine hand had reached out to touch him, the good Reverend stopped dancing and spoke out, the bass in his voice rising to a resounding crescendo. “But, as the scriptures say: Fear not the bees for they pollinate the fields and provide us our daily sustenance.”

With those words, the Sheriff again nudged Vernon and said, “I'm about ready for some of that sustenance in liquid form. Care to join me at the saloon?”

“Don't mind if I do,” Vernon replied, his eyes finally coming to life. “I've been wantin' to try that new whiskey from Kentucky.”

“A new whiskey, you say?”

“Yep... It's called Buzzards Blend.”

Laughing, the Sheriff said, “With a name like that, I bet it gets the stomach to burning.”

Vernon glanced his way, his interest waning. “You're probably right. Maybe, I'll just settle for a beer. I don't need to be reminded of the Judge.”

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit can be found on the internet and in several print edition periodicals.
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