Mystery and Crime Fiction posted April 19, 2019 Chapters: -1- 2... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
It happened in a small town

A chapter in the book Umatilla


by Brett Matthew West

Cast of Characters:

Unidentified Narrator
Unidentified Harley hogger
Bettie Johnson - 83-year-old spinster
Daisy Mae - Bettie Johnson's milk cow
Tommy Smathers and Josh Carver - boys who help Bettie Johnson round up Daisy Mae
Claude Rafferty - old man trying to prove he still can with the ladies
Maria Covington - dancer at the Umatilla Gentlemen's Club


Ours is a rich and storied history. Today, our community is as vibrant and diverse as ever, but our past holds stories that are vital. Stories we need to continue to share and preserve. They say nothing much ever happens in a small town. But, let me tell you, no one will ever forget the day the old spinster Bettie Johnson's lone milk cow wandered off in search of a greener pasture. That was a sight to behold.

Picture this scene if you can. Here's this eighty-three year old, seashell white-haired woman, all four and a half feet of her. She's wearing her bloomers and chasing this Guernsey moo-moo down the middle of Braxton Street in broad daylight, raising a cloud of dust behind her. Don't know which concocted more of a ruckus, old lady Johnson or her lowing heifer Daisy Mae. Hee-hee! Oh, we all got a big cackle outta that episode. Much better than all that bang! bang! shoot'em up hullabaloo you see on TV.

Those of us chowing down on piping hot biscuits fresh out of the oven and sopped up with homemade maple syrup, sugar-cured ham, and scrambled eggs in the Old Mill Restaurant heard poor Bettie cry over and over again, "Lawdy! Lawdy! Daisy Mae, you get back here. Don't you make momma hafta run after you. I'm too old for this." We all hurried to the door to see what the commotion was about.

The docile bovine kept meandering down the middle of the road a-chewing her cud as she went. You could smell her unwithered cow chips along the way. Tommy Smathers and Josh Carver returned from fishing at the lake. Like the rest of us, they observed this spectacle. They sat their poles and buckets down on the sidewalk in front of the clothing store. Then, the barefoot boys took up the pursuit.

"We'll help you round up your cow, Miss Johnson," they assured her.

Bettie slowed her steps, "You will?" she asked, "Bless you both. You're such good boys."

"Remind my dad that the next time he says woodshed," Tommy replied back to her.

"Mine too," Josh chimed in.

The rambunctious whippersnappers collared the dogie in front of the ice cream parlor and helped Bettie return her home. She rewarded them with slices of her delicious hot apple pie she's always baking. Remembering their manners, both spry youngsters thanked Bettie for her generosity before departing on their merry ways. Makes my mouth water thinking about the treat that's won more than one blue ribbon down at the county fair. That's coming round next month. Huge happenings in these parts. So, you never know. I might get me a piece of that delectable pie yet. Yum! Yum!

I'm the only one who knows Bettie's secret ingredient for her pastry and I swore a long time ago not to tell another living soul, "Cross my heart and hope to die!" I did.

That brings us to sixty-eight-year-old Claude Rafferty. He's always trying to prove he still can and tie nary a tryst on with one of the local dancers down at the Umatilla Gentlemen's Club. Course, this place is hidden in the sticks on the outskirts of town. Way back in the boondocks. It's one of them privileged, don't tell places, if you know what I mean. Triple X rated for sure. Oops, shouldn't oughtta have confessed that one. Well, too late. The cat's out of the bag now. Meow!

Usually it's Maria Covington, who likes to call herself a fancy woman. Guess that means she's not much more than a hussy. Dim lights, steamed windows, and the backseat of Claude Rafferty's Oldsmobile 98. That's where they do most of their petting and other extracurriculars. They don't know I snuck up on them one moonless night with a video recorder. Weren't a purty picture, but, oh the scandal I could impose if I had a mind to. I could make them the talk of the town. Not that everybody doesn't already suspect the romps the two of them have relished.

No, our quiet niche in the boonies didn't ever attract much of anything BIG...that is, not until last Saturday. That's when the outhouse collided with the windmill and chaos ruled. The pickle began innocent enough when a loud, rumbling, Harley hogger roared up to the courthouse steps. Pleased as punch, he stopped his shiny, new, motorcycle in a parking slip and dismounted. All at once, I recognized the rider. I'd known him my whole life. Whatever bomb he dropped on Umatilla could only be spelled T - R - O - U - B - L - E in all capitalized, bold print letters. I couldn't wait to learn what catastrophic dispatch he imparted this time.

Without speaking, he removed his helmet, winked at me, and nodded. His flaxen, shoulder-length locks glistened in the lustrous rays of the morning sun. I returned a gesture as he disappeared behind the wooden front door of the chancery and hoped I imagined what I thought I'd witnessed. It'd been a while seen I last saw him. And, no, it wasn't an extended middle finger. That wouldn't have been polite.

I closed my eyes tight. Perhaps his appearance was nothing more than a figment of my over-active imagination and desire. Upon reconsideration, and re-opening my baby blues, I somehow doubted the possibility of that phenomenon. Reminding me of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, he wore dark threads and danced in and out of the shadows. But, he was very real. I'd found myself face down over his knee a time or two before.

At the moment, even Bettie's longed for famous delicacy wouldn't settle the curdling in my stomach. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, could prepare our little town for what transpired. Pots of gold are not always found at the end of rainbows.


The Friendly One, by Snapdragon, selected to complement my story.

So, thanks Snapdragon, for the use of your picture. It goes so nicely with my story.
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Artwork by Snapdragon at

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