"November 2002 Challenge: "Richest Boy in Four Corners"
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Snow White had met the Seven Gunslingers instead of the Seven Dwarves? Or generally wondered at the chaos that would occur if the Seven ended up in your favourite novel.
TITLE: "Richest Boy in Four Corners"
CHALLENGE: November 2002
UNIVERSE: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) By Mark Twain
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Ezra but all Seven appear at some stage
ARCHIVE: Yes, please, to the LIBRARY for me.
AUTHOR: Scotty Scott
I had an idea for the challenge that was already half done but it was so lame - I changed my mind and decided to go down another track-- It led me to one of my favourite stories about a lad called Tom Sawyer. Rereading my electronic version, I howled with laughter as I was reminded of how much I loved this book and decided the only person I could use to play Tom Sawyer was a younger version of that charming Gambler Ezra Standish.
This is my first response to a challenge on this list- be gentle with me as I'm a newby and I hope you enjoy this little bit of fun!
Finally to Beth for checking this for me- THANK YOU! I hope the corrections are to your liking?
"Richest Boy in Four Corners"
By Scotty Scott
14 November 2002
Still No Answer
"Something wrong with that boy's hearing?" Nettie Wells muttered under her breath, before hollering once more, "EZRA !"
Still no answer.
Nettie pulled her spectacles down and peered over the top of them to gaze around the bedroom before pushing them back up onto the bridge of her nose then looked out under them. She seldom, if ever, looked through her spectacles. Stupid doctor newly arrived in Four Corners told her last week she needed them - huh - darned waste of money so ifn' they didn't help her much after next week she would be askin for her money back!
Still not being able to find Ezra, she shook her head and shouted to no one in particular, "Well, just wait till I get hold of you I'll -- "
Bending down and punching in anger under the bed with the broom, her words were left unfinished as all her energy was required to punch and thrust at the shadows, but all she unearthed was the cat who shot away howling from being disturbed so suddenly and violently from her peaceful afternoon nap.
Nettie, not to be outdone in her search for the boy, stood at her open door. Seeing no one in sight, she lifted up her voice and in that particular call calculated for distance and shouted: "EE-ZZ-RR-AA!!"
There was a slight noise behind her and swiftly, for her years, turned to snatch at the boy trying to dart from the pantry out of her reach. "Should have thought of that there hiding place. What've you been doing in there, boy?"
"Nothing! Oh my, look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What is that?" She points with her fingers and glares with her eyes at the tell tale signs round his mouth and on his hands.
"I don't know, Aunt."
"Don't know. looks like pie to me, my peach pie I baked for Mary Travis's leaving party!" How many times must I tell you to leave those pies alone Ezra?" She reached for the switch -waving it threateningly
"But your pies are the best for miles around, Aunt Nettie!" He grinned innocently up into her face hoping to sweet talk her.
The switch hovered in the air -- the peril was desperate -- Ezra thought on his feet and opened his eyes wide in alarm.
"Look behind you Aunt Nettie!" Ezra pointed.
Nettie whirled round, anticipating danger, but instead the lad scampered off at this chance of escape - running for cover. His Aunt Nettie stood surprised for a moment, then broke into a gentle laugh.
"Darn that boy, will I never learn?" Nettie thrusts away the switch in frustration. "Keeps thinking up new tricks to catch me out - yep and I fall for it every dang time like the old fool that I am. I can't lick him and he knows it. But, can't help but love that boy, he's Maude's boy for sure-- poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him, somehow."
Nettie pondered a suitable punishment that would hit Ezra where it would hurt most and she grinned and chuckled as she returned indoors to a cool glass of lemon tea.
"He'll probably be playing hooky this afternoon," she predicted, knowing boys of old and their tricks, having had 3 sons of her own, all grown up and dead in the ground for some years now. "So I will punish him by making him work tomorrow and it is a Saturday, when all the other boys are enjoying themselves, but it will hurt even more than that as he hates work more than he hates anything else!"
Ezra played hooky, and he had a wonderful time. He got back home barely in time to help Nathan before supper, the small orphaned colored boy that Nettie had taken in after his parents drowned, to saw the next day's wood and split the kindling. As usual, Ezra talked of his adventure's while Nathan did most of the work. JD (Ezra's brother, another orphan taken in by Nettie) listened in awe, intently focusing on each word of wisdom with a gaping mouth.
At the supper table, Aunt Nettie asked Ezra questions as to what he had been doing since his flight.
"Warm today, Ezra?" She enquired, hoping for some insight into his whereabouts.
"Yes, Ma'am!" Ezra looked into her face and grinned.
"Didn't you want to go swimming, Ezra ?"
Ezra gulped in alarm. He searched Aunt Nettie's face, but it told him nothing. So he said, "No Ma'am, well, not very much!"
Ezra, knowing which way the wind was blowing, anticipated his Aunts questions with swift answers and he gulped as she tugged at his shirt to check the tail to see if it was damp then to the collar to see if he had undone the stitching that she used to ensure he didn't shuck his shirt without her knowledge.
Ezra's face, untroubled, opened his jacket revealing his shirt collar that was still securely sewed.
"Was sure you'd been playing hooky, you've got that look about you but I'm wrong - off you go!" She half wondered if she had played him wrong after all!
But JD interrupted her thoughts. "Didn't you sew his collar with white thread this morning , Aunt Nettie?"
"Yes, son, I did" Nettie sat up straighter in her chair, turning to look over her shoulder towards a swiftly departing back of Ezra Standish.
"But it's black now!" JD smiled, pointing towards Ezra's collar.
"Land sakes, your right, JD, I did sew it with white! - Ezra you git back here!"
Ezra was halfway to the door and did not wait for the rest. As he closed the door he hissed. "JD, I'll lick you for that."
In a safe hiding place Ezra examines the evidence of his discovery. "She'd never noticed if it hadn't been for JD!"
Ezra closely examines two needles, each with black and white threads attached that were hidden under the lapels of his jacket.
"How am I meant to know which one she will be using next? Sometimes it's white--then she changes it to black... can't keep up. Aunt Nettie should use one colour or the other... wish she'd make up her mind once and for all! And for that JD --."
He got home pretty late that night after meeting a new boy in town and a scuffle of sorts ensued leaving both with torn clothing and bloody noses. So, when he climbed cautiously in the window, the last person he had expected to meet was his Aunt Nettie.
She hardened her features at his dishevelled clothing and firmly resolved that his incarceration on the Saturday holiday was firmly in no doubt now and suitable punishment would be doled out first thing after breakfast.
Birdsong, warm sunshine settling into a deep blue cloudless sky, Saturday had arrived and all was well with the world. There was cheer all around and a spring in many steps. The locust-trees were in full bloom and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air in Four Corners.
A deep melancholy settled over Ezra as he appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush and took in the view of the board fence - thirty yards of board fence and all nine feet high, to be exact.
Under the watchful gaze of JD and his Aunt Nettie, he pretended to start on his punishment and after a few moments she drifted back indoors dragging a disgruntled JD after her as he had been coughing that morning and she thought he was coming down with a cold so she had some herbal tea brewing to
Ezra couldn't help but grin at JD tugging back and forth with Nettie trying to escape from her iron grip, little did they know that Ezra had put salt in his milk and that was what had started JD coughing!
A couple of strokes of whitewash were placed high up onto the fence before he sat down very disillusioned onto a tree stump - his spirit faltering towards Zero.
Nathan appeared around the fence singing fit to burst "Buffalo gal's gonna come out ta night!"
Then Ezra grinned wondering for the very first time if bringing water from the town pump would not be more enjoyable than painting? Although it had always seemed a hateful chore before in his eyes.
Ezra tried to use his cunning ways to trick Nathan into trading places with him but Nathan was afraid of Aunt Nettie's wrath.
"She said I ain't ta help ya, if I did I'd git my hide tanned!"
"Oh, never you mind what she said, Nathan.. Give me the bucket --. She won't ever know, trade you a marble?"
Nathan liked marbles and began to waver biting his lower lip trying to make up his mind.
"White alley, Nathan!" Ezra teased knowing how to lure the boy, "And it's a bully too."
Nathan totters on the edge as he views the bully very impressed at the prize.
"And besides that I'll show you my sore toe."
Nathan was only human -- this attraction was too much for him. Both were so absorbed and they didn't hear Aunt Nettie creeping up behind them with a slipper in hand and overhearing all!
Nathan the next second was flying down the sidewalk with his pail and a tingling rear, Ezra was whitewashing with vigour as the heat on his rump reminded him of his immediate duties once more - but, not for long!
Aunt Nettie retired from the field of battle with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eyes.
Ezra was on fire - the very thought of working and in the public view - made him cringe inwardly and on a Saturday holiday too and he had to put up with the taunts and Ezra groaned at the thought of the boys that would pass him and make a world of fun of him for having to work.
A sudden burst of inspiration soared through his soul - he had an idea of how to escape from this burden of work! Ezra took up his brush once more and went tranquilly to work. Waiting for the first boy to pass him by to put his plan into action!
Unfortunately the first boy to stop by was Buck Wilmington one he had been dreading as he was renowned for his skill at teasing Ezra and knowing how best to make him suffer. Ezra grinned inwardly hoping that revenge would be so sweet that this big boy wouldn't know what hit him.
Buck was skipping along cheerfully proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipation's high. He was eating an apple, and impersonating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to starboard before drawing in.
"Stop sir! dingalingaling!" Buck roared, "Ship up to back! dingalingaling!" His arms straightened and stiffened before his right arm arched into a sweeping circle simulating the big wheel of the steamer. "Let her go back on the labboard! Dingalingaling! Get out that head-line! Lively now! Come -- out with your spring-line -- what're you about there! Take a turn round that stump with the bight of it! Stand by that stage, now -- let her go!" Buck continued pulling his steamboat into the dock turning off the engines and the wheels slowing to a standstill.
Ezra paid no attention to the steamboat chugging to a halt but continued whitewashing. Buck stared a moment and then said: "Hey there! "
Ezra surveyed his handiwork without a word to Buck and with the eye of an artist, then gave his brush another gentle sweep and stood back apiece to survey the result, as before. Buck sidled up to him. Ezra's mouth watered as he caught sight of the apple out of the corner of his eye, but he stuck to his work.
"Hello, old chap," Buck greeted in an attempt at an English Accent, "You got to work, hey?"
"Why, it's you, Buck! I wasn't noticing." Ezra turned, faining surprise at this sudden voice appearing next to him.
"Goin' -swimmin', I am. Don't ya wish ya could? But of course ya'd rather work -- wouldn'tya? Course ya would! "Buck teased, grinning and digging Ezra in the ribs with his finger.
Ezra contemplated deep in thought for a moment then asked, "What do you call work?"
"Huh? Ain't that work?" Buck pointed with his apple to the fence.
Ezra continued his whitewashing and assumed an air of nonchalance.
"Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know, is, it suits Ezra P Standish."
"Ya can't tell me yer liking it?" Buck shoved at Ezra making the paint splash.
He recovered from the jolt to continue to paint in clean even strokes as if Ezra was enjoying every brush stroke that left the white paint deposited onto the fence.
"Hey, I like it, not every day a boy gets a chance to whitewash a fence this size!"
Buck stopped nibbling his apple and contemplated what Ezra had just said. Ezra swept his brush back and forth once more then stepped back to note the effect --added a touch here and there - shook his head at the uneven stroke and redid the same area again before smiling and moving to view the effect again -- Buck closely watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed.
"Hey, Ezra, can I have a try at that white washing huh?"
Ezra looked deep in thought as he considered the question swithering to say yes then changed his mind with a shake of the head.
"Sorry but my aunt is very particular about the painting of this fence being on the public sidewalk and all!" Ezra continued, "Now, if it was the back fence, Buck, no problem, but this one.no, sorry, only one boy in two thousand...could ... no ten thousand," he boasted, "could paint this fence to my aunt's particular high standards and Buck ... well, she chose me for the job!
"Awe, Ezra, lemme have a try ... please?" Pleaded Buck, "I'd let you paint my fence if'n I had one like this!"
"Buck, I'd like to, Aunt Nettie -- well, Nathan wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him; JD wanted to do it, and she wouldn't even allow JD to help. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it -- "
"Come on Ezra let me have a try please, I'll give you the core of my apple?"
Ezra shook his head, "No!" Not taking the bribe.
"I'll give you all my apple then!" Buck grinned and wiggled his eyebrows hoping for a positive reply.
With a heavy sigh, shoulders slumped Ezra played the part of a disappointed artist as he passed the brush to Buck with strict instructions of how to do the best stroke with the whitewash but swiftly retrieved the nibbled apple from Buck's hand.
With his back facing Ezra, Buck never saw Ezra's grin and enjoyment of eating the apple as his heart soared in triumph at his first victim.
And while the late steamer worked and sweated in the hot sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents.
Buck was tiring of painting and Ezra gulped at the thought of having to return to the painting again when he spotted a fresh victim walking towards his trap.
A tall gangly youth wearing a suit and high collar walked along solemnly. Carrying leaflets. Ezra recognised him as the preacher's son, Josiah, and he looked as if he needed cheering up.
"Hey there, Josiah!" Waved Ezra, standing up to catch the boy's attention.
"Morning, Brother." Josiah glanced quickly towards Buck, but dropped his eyes as if he had viewed something scandalous.
Ezra quickly recognising envy pounced interrupting Buck's painting. "Time's up, Buck - my turn, really missed this painting, thanks!"
Ezra retrieves the brush and as Buck searches his pockets for more items to trade Josiah creeps up alongside Ezra to see what he's doing and why he is looking so cheerful painting that fence.
"Working hard there, brother?"
"Me?" Grins Ezra, flashing his gold tooth, a present from his mother when one of her schemes went wrong, but not before she had recovered enough dollars for them both to live high for a week or two. He had broken his tooth after falling hard when chasing after his departing mother. "Josiah, I don't work!" he stated matter of factly, then added, "This is pleasure - sheer pleasure!"
"Oh, yep, I had to pay him, Josiah, 'fore he'd let me have a turn at that there paintin'- got some frogs at home, Ezra - trade ya them for another turn?" Buck stared, appealing Ezra to take the trade.
"Go get them, Buck!" Before Ezra had finished talking, Buck, forgetting about his steamboat, raced off sending dust flying high into the air as he raced for home. "See -- man, can't even have pleasure in painting his own fence when others want to keep interrupting him and annoy me so much they beg to pay to help!" Ezra stopped and looked hard into Josiah's face. "Now, being a good Christian Boy," he gulped hard, hoping nothing bad would happen - good - and then continued. "See, Josiah, I couldn't be mean and not allow others to share in the pleasure of painting now, could I? - Just wouldn't be Christian to not allow them to help! - Would it?"
"Brother, right Christian thing you're doing, now-" Josiah dumped his leaflets displaying the times of his father's church meetings and services onto the path and delved into his pockets to see what he could find to pay Ezra so he could try some of this pleasure - and Josiah wondered if it was the pleasure his father preached about that was sinful - Josiah didn't care - he wanted it. He found a couple of buttons, a broken animal tooth he had found at the Indian village and a small coloured picture of an angel that his sister had asked him to look after but he had forgotten it was in his pocket.
"Trade these!" Josiah held out the tooth and the Angel. "For double time!"
Ezra knew he had met a shrewd businessman and nodded knowing he would be hard pushed to fool this tall boy. Josiah took over after throwing down his jacket and rolling up his sleeves. Ezra saw that this trade could prove to be very productive.
So engrossed in watching Josiah painting, Ezra never saw or heard Chris Larabee the horse trader's son riding along on his pony until he was nearly atop of him. Ezra explained to him all about the aspects and pleasures of painting.
"Huh, not that good with only one brush!" Chris glowered down at Ezra with his green eyes staring into Ezra making him feel uncomfortable - but, Chris always made him feel like that - even if he had nothing to hide!
"Suppose you're correct!"
"Not supposing - I know it - painted enough fences for my pa!"
"Ah, but this is white wash not paint - different - different feel and bet ya never painted a fence this big or long afore?" Ezra saw the green eyes begin to flicker and he knew he had reached through the strong exterior of this boy.
"My pa's got plenty brushes - old ones mind - can I trade them for -a turn or two?"
"If you bring a few, then, you can paint for as long as you wish!"
The pony whirled away and before Ezra could turn round a dozen times he had a team of boys painting his fence and all for free - well, free for Ezra but not for them. He had Buck, Josiah, Chris, Billy Travis, who had escaped from his ma's clutches before leaving Four Corners to go to live in the Big City. He had given Ezra some old books his mother was throwing out but he didn't tell Ezra that!
The last person to arrive to help carry out Ezra's plan to paint the fence was Vin Tanner. Ezra liked Vin a lot, but most of the town's people didn't like him hanging around. Vin's pa had been taken away and so had his ma - they said they were both crazy - well, that's what he had heard but Vin he was okay - bit scruffy - bit smelly - but he knew stuff - grown up stuff!
"Hey, Ezra!" greeted Vin, coming up to his friend and getting recognised by the others painting the fence. Billy Travis held his nose and let out a snort and coughed until Buck slapped some paint in his face and shouted. "That should stop yer cough!"
Chris turned to look at Vin, the first good look he had got of this Tanner boy, he held his gaze and green eyes met blue a slight nod at each other and Chris returned to his painting. Each had recognised a friend without words!
"You want ta paint some?" asked Buck, holding a dripping brush out to Vin, offering him some space to stand between him and Chris.
Vin looked at Ezra and said, "Nothin' ta trade ya!"
"Yes, Vin you do!" Grinned Ezra, watching Vin's face change and flush slightly. Ezra knew he didn't have two buttons to rub together but Vin had a skill at catching fish and he was good at tracking- oh, yes, he had a lot of useful things to trade.
"You can take me fishing this afternoon!" Ezra held out his hand, for Vin to shake. "Deal?"
"Deal!" Vin shook the hand firmly and ran to take the proffered brush and grinned shyly up at both Buck and Chris before joining in with the whitewashing.
The plan had worked beyond his wildest dreams. Ezra sat back with legs outstretched looking at his wealth of booty extracted from all his unknowing victims over the morning.
He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while -- plenty of company -- and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in Four Corners.
He mused for a while longer over the substantial change in his fortunes that had taken place over the space of the last few hours. Standing and brushing off dust from his clothing and rechecked his pockets before standing to report of his successful accomplishment in whitewashing the fence to his Aunt Nettie.
Nettie was resting her eyes as women of her years are apt to do on a hot summer afternoon and she woke unexpectedly from her slumber to see Ezra standing before her - sitting up brushing off the cat she replaced her squint spectacles and peered over the top of them to look into Ezra's face.
"May I go and join the boys to play now, Aunt?" Was his surprised question that caught her at a loss for words for a moment.
"Land sakes, boy, how much have you done?" she asked hesitatingly, now as he was grinning and if Ezra grinned like that with that flashy gold tooth showing she knew mischief was afoot of some sort.
"The job is completed, Aunt."
Knowing Ezra of old, she groans and continues, "Don't lie to me, Ezra!"
"It is all completed, all the fence has been painted!"
Nettie's expectations from Ezra were not high and she had expected the long fence to be only partially painted but her chin could have hit the floor as she came round the corner to se not just a small area painted - but the whole dang thing!
The whitewash looked remarkably well and not just the one coat she recognised that it must have had at least two if not three coats and the ground all alongside the high fence was painted showing that hard work had taken place here after all.
Ezra stood back and revelled in seeing his Aunt Nettie struck dumb, for once. Her lower lip quivering in astonishment and he tried not to gloat at his successful cunning.
"Boy, you certainly can work when you've put your mind to it." She rubbed her hands together and shook her head. "Land sakes must admit, Ezra, I'm surprised to see you do it so well!"
Ezra got worried thinking Aunt Nettie could come up with other ideas to get him working to the same level and he thought it better prudent to try to escape before she thought up another chore.
Patting his shoulder she urged him to follow her. "Come on, you deserve a treat for your efforts!"
She passed him from the food pantry an apple and on his way out of that delightful place he snatched a small pie into his pocket undetected. Another pie, less for Mary Travis' leaving party that evening!
Coming from the house Ezra spotted JD reminding him of the pain he wanted to inflict on him for calling attention to his black thread and getting him into trouble that led to the whitewashing of the fence.
Recognising JD's intended destination Ezra lay in wait until JD was firmly ensconced inside the outhouse before he carefully rolled a heavy barrel across to block the only exit. He took his time halting in case he was discovered too soon.
He wandered off before Aunt Nettie could catch him for imprisoning JD as he was bound to start hollerin' soon!
He walked jauntily up the street and whistled tunelessly with his hands thrust firmly into his pockets feeling at his wealth of booty!
His soul was at peace, he had settled with JD- and he was also a wealthy boy - and he had a great afternoon's fishing with Vin to look forward too!