First cousin

Kingston was unable to dig the next day, so I went at it alone.  It was mid-afternoon, the hottest time of the day, and I was busy with an excavation back behind the house. I leaned on my shovel, taking a break, when a startling voice emerged from the trees.

‘Cousin Jackson, I presume.’

I spun round.   The voice had come from a ramshackle building back in the trees—Gabe’s shack.  I had a hard time seeing back into that gloom but as my eyes adjusted I made out the figure of a man leaning out of the shack’s one window, his arms dangling.

‘Gabe?’  I picked my way through the trees. 

‘No need to come any closer,’ he said.  I could just make out his face, which was very much like my own, but thinner.  He had sandy hair and darkening eyes and wore a worn work shirt splotched with either stains or patches (I couldn’t tell which but hoped they were patches).

 ‘What are you doing back there?’ I said. 

‘What are you doing out there?’ he said in a mocking way.

‘Digging,’ I said.  I waited for a response but there was none—just those cool dark eyes.

‘I’ve heard,’ he said.  ‘That you go about with some woman.’

‘What?’  The way he asked it felt like he was passing judgment.

‘How is that, to put one’s interest in a woman?’  

‘Well…it’s…nice.  I mean…it’s…what exactly are you asking?’ 

‘I’m trying to solve a riddle,’ he said with a sneer. 

‘What riddle?’

‘It’s a riddle about a man and a girl.  The man lusts for the girl, though he cannot admit it.  The girl lusts for the man, and she too can’t admit it.  How is it to be reconciled?’

What the hell are you talking about?

‘I see what it is you’re up to.’  He smiled like he carried a vicious secret.  I felt a chill across my shoulders and back just seeing him smile.

‘What am I up to then?’

‘No need to throw the game just yet.’  He withdrew his dangling arms and slunk back into the shack and out of sight.  I stood peering into the blackness of the shack’s one window.  At one point I thought I saw his midnight eyes burning in the dark.  I shivered, remembering his voice and all its moral ambivalence.

After that first meeting, I always assumed Gabe was watching everything that went on around the house. I figured I would have to do what I could to keep things interesting for the guy.


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