Piddle County Ohio Book Club

“There they go again,” said Warren. “Them Wild Boys — them’s the real hellraisers!”

Gunshots and hollering and over-revved engines rattled neighbors past midnight. Hellraisers don’t give a fuck-damn. When the shooting finally stopped, bugs and sparks hovered above a woodland campfire ringed by blackened stones.

From his farm next door, Warren (sounds like “Worn”) crept nigh. Dumb as an unplugged power drill he was, but his lizard-brain said to hide in the brush or the flames would light him up bright as a casino.

“Oh, hark to the drinkin’ and the braggin’,” Warren whispered. “This here’s the hour of crime-confessin’ and gettin’ real.”

A glorious night of wonderments beckoned and damned if he didn’t have to pee. Yet he stayed as still as a cow patty.

“Shut up with your theorizin’, Paul!” shouted a silhouetted Wild Boy. “I don’t need no ingrained invitation to kick the shit outta you!” Warren figured it was Sketch on account of the voice sounded ugly enough.

Wild Boys hunkered in a circle around the fire pit: Paul, Sketch, Just Tony, Boone, and George Rogers Clark. Paul poked a pointy branch into the logs until it glowed. Voted hairiest man in Piddle County five years running, he teed up his re-butt-all:

“You stubborn lug nut! Listen: J.R. Tokin’ didn’t care a lick about what he seen or done at World War One. The damn ‘Lord of them Rings’ stories was for his kids!”

“If you insist the ample repository of Tokin’s inspiration weren’t experiential,” said Sketch, whose face resembled an uncooked pork sirloin roast, “you’s deep in the Nile of how artistic-types tap into jackpots of divine genius.”

“What’s wrong with makin’ up stories just for the pleasure of tellin’ a tale? Of takin’ delight in the magic of words?”

“Jesus in a cement mixer! Wizards and Gollums and Rings of Power and shit — everything, even your dumb-assery, has a source!”

“Howzabout a source of wantin’ to smash your teeth?” hissed Paul. He hefted the branch. “I don’t give a rat’s ass you’re my stepdad AND my half-brother.”

“Can’t you boys turn it off for once?” said Boone, who was fishing pole skinny. “You’s as bad as them orcs!”

“This ain’t the hell-raisin’ I signed up for,” Just Tony chimed in. His moustache stuck out like motorcycle handlebars. “Whenever we talk hobbits someone gets sand in their cooter, and we fight, and there’s my bad back and all.”

“Yeah,” said pimply, pony-tailed George Rogers Clark. “You dudes gotta set aside your differences the way Elves and Dwarves done.”

“Authorin’ never gave Tokin’ a boner,” yelled Sketch, “it were his love of language what done it!”

Crouched in the bushes and tall burdock, Warren rolled his eyes. Same old lame-ass arguments.

“Criminy,” he muttered. “Everyone knows Tokin’ were a keen professor of foreign, old-timey lingo, the sort unfit for pronouncin’ by modern mouths.”

A war-cry smacked Warren out of his pondering. Paul waved the branch. Fiery crap speckled windbreakers and cable knit sweaters.

“I’m fixin’ to smite the shit outta you and your idiot opinions, Sketch! Back off!”

“We just gonna hafta agree to disagree,” roared Sketch, who came in low and headbutted Paul.

The burning wood twirled into Warren’s hidey-place. Ablaze, he broke cover and rolled in nettles, which sizzled and snapped. Five gun barrels drew a bead.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” screeched the smoldering apparition. “I’m a sausage what fell off the griddle!”

“Yeah?” snarled Just Tony. “Well, we’re about to send you right back to hell, you goddamned Balrog.”

“You shall not pass, jackass!” cried George Rogers Clark.

“Brothers! Don’t shoot! It’s me, Warren from next door, and I ain’t no devil-demon!”

Paul laughed. “Okay, boys, stand down. No Flame of Udûn ever pissed his britches, so far as I ever heard tell.”

“What’s up, Warren?” said Sketch. “You spyin’?”

Tears streaked the ashes on Warren’s cheeks. His frizzled beard was snotted up something fierce.

“Whole world knows you’uns is a right proper bunch of badasses. Raisin’ hell at all hours. Havin’ adventures and whatnot. I just wanted to glimpse your brand of hijinks and shenanigans.”

“Hell — we’re his heroes,” said Boone. He uncocked his pistol. “Poor lil’ fucker.”

Sketch shrugged. “I reckon we could let him hang out someday — if he brings the beer!”

Paul put on his talking-to-cops-and-divorce-lawyers face.

“Come back in a month, Warren. If you piss us off, or make us sick and sad the way you done tonight, you’re out. Deal?”

Warren damn near vibrated.

“I — I love you Wild Boys!”

“Whoa, okay, okay,” said Sketch. “Be cool.”

Paul nodded. “We’re doin’ Kafka next time.”

With a shout, the Wild Boys fist-bumped all around. Their chanted words beat against the smoky air.

“Cockroach guy! Cockroach guy! Cockroach guy!”

Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing appears in other publications. He is neither aerodynamic nor buoyant. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. To learn too much about Michael, please visit and @MGSatMGScom.

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