Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: Two
Title: Wither Part 15
Glen leaned against the house, giving the vinyl siding his weight as he crossed his feet at the ankles. His heavy boots thunked together as they connected. The sound seemed overly loud in the otherwise quiet of the backyard.
He drew in a deep lungful of the cold night air, his exhale a puff of white vapour, and he watched Mac light a cigarette. The crackle of tobacco igniting was familiar, reminding him of the way his father used to spark up his customary 'coffin-nail' after every meal. The memory created a wave of nostalgia and longing, triggering a lump in his throat.
Swallowing to ease the sudden constriction, he stared at Mac who was watching him with a shrewd, searching expression.
Mac exhaled a long stream of smoke, winced, spat, then glared at the glowing amber end. "Damn, that's stale." He shrugged and jammed the filter back between his lips, sucking hard. "Beggar's can't be choosers, I guess," he said, one side of his mouth kicking up in a lopsided grin that highlighted his swollen cheek and eye, the bruised flesh looking purple in the limited light from a crescent moon.
Glen stayed quiet. Mac wasn't growing on him any. Something about the man felt...off. As far as Glen was concerned, the sooner he moved on the better.
Mac looked around, inspecting the large stacks of cut firewood. "You got a pretty good set up here. Looks like you could ride out the winter easily enough."
Glen remained silent.
"You got water put away? No telling how much longer you'll have water. Systems probably automated, but now that the power's out, that won't last. Back up generators will fail soon. Seen it happen in a bunch of towns already."
He waited a minute, like he expected a reply. When none came, he sucked more smoke, hunching his shoulders against a sudden cold breeze twisting around the house.
"Well. If you haven't, you probably should, just sayin'."
He laughed a little, quietly amused by Glen's reply that came in the form of an arched brow. "Guess you don't need the advice, right? Anyway, it looks like you'll be okay. At least as far as food and shelter go. The rest...well...I'd say you've got some tough choices to make."
Glen shifted his weight as Mac drew on his cigarette, blowing out smoke rings and superiority. It was clear Mac had a point he wanted to make, but he was taking the long route to get to it.
He switched topics, though Glen wasn't sure if they were getting closer or farther away from the Mac's reason for asking Glen to join him outside.
"Noticed there's been some recent fires around midtown. Guess you got lucky the weather stayed wet, kept them from spreading this way." He flicked ash to the ground near Glen's boots, then jammed his free hand into his pants pocket, shivering slightly.
An awkward silence stretched out, like Mac was trying to goad Glen into a reply by matching his silence.
It didn't work, so Mac cleared his throat and scuffed the sole of his right shoe across the damp grass he stood on, looking like a scorned little kid. That is if kids had jaws like bulls and fake dispositions.
Glen felt a wave of impatience hit. "All right, Mac. Let's get to it. What do you want?"
"Who said I want anything?"
Glen ignored that. "You want to stay for a day or two? I'll talk to Mara, see if she's agreeable. Beyond that, we can give you a few essentials, some water, food to last a week or so to take with you. Other than that..." Glen purposely left the sentence open-ended, holding his hands out to the sides to convey there was nothing else.
He was grossly conscious of the cold weight of his gun tucked into his waistband, nestled tight against the small of his back as he waited for Mac's reaction to the limited offers. His gut was tight, and his mouth tasted sour. That he felt the need to have it on him around someone who should've automatically been welcomed and respected, didn't sit right at all. Didn't help he kept thinking of his limited supply of bullets and how it'd be a waste to have to use any on someone like Mac.
Once upon a time the idea of using a gun to threaten or show force would have been unthinkable. Those days were in the past. Glen just hoped to hell he never had to pull the trigger...
Mac's eyes narrowed. "Appreciate the offer to stay. Been on the road a long time."
"A night or two," Glen reiterated, keeping eye contact, loathe to offer even that much.
Mac finished his cigarette then dropped the butt, grinding it out on the ground. Glen grit his teeth when it looked like Mac intended to leave the smashed end where it landed.
"Guess a few nights is better than nothing." His tone clearly revealed he thought otherwise.
Glen nodded and then decided he was done conversing. "I'll talk to Mara, make sure she's okay with it." He turned to head in, but Mac stopped him.
"Before you do that, we should probably discuss what exactly you think you're doing with my niece, and why exactly you think you have any say or authority when you're basically a squatter in my brother's house."
Glen stopped in his tracks. The uneasy feeling he'd harboured for Mac since the man picked himself up off the floor, and Mara had realized who he was, ballooned. He'd hoped it was wrong, that he was just being paranoid, but when he turned back around to face Mac again, the man's set jaw and rigid stance, hands balled at his sides, told Glen everything he needed to know.
Mac was going to be a problem.
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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)