‘A Sinful Wager’ by Douglas Clark

sc june 18

The melodic sound of the Cicadas echoed across the honey colored grass field. The cool breeze caressed the tree tops that lined the open plateau and speckles of pollen wafted about the currents helplessly. An almost too warm early morning sun beamed down painting the landscape with a golden hue, except for the patch of ground under the shade of the elm leaves. All the branches formed a natural umbrella, cooling the area down just enough from to remain comfortable.

An old wooden swing wrapped around a low-hanging branch swayed back and forth with each passing zephyr. Amongst the massive roots of the ancient tree a book sat propped up as the breeze made its way through the narrative without a reader; pages flapping as it passed by. A loafing figure rested; his head up against the bulk of the tree, ankles crossed as he slowly chewed on a wheat stalk. His straw-hat frayed at the ends of the brim and sat low on his head. With fingers interlaced his hands sat on his belly. His stomach rose and fell rhythmically while light puffy clouds made a slow craw across the azure sky.

A soft, crunching sound broke the calm as if a lumbering monster stomped across the field toward him. Not so much attempting stealth, but reticence at approaching. Half asleep, he cocked his head in the disturbance’s direction without opening his eyes. He became aware of labored breathing, as if a horse had suffered great pain for hours before allowing to rest. The sound grew louder and excessive heat seemed to envelop him despite his resting in the shade. It drew so near that the cicadas silenced themselves and the zephyrs halted their meandering. An uncomfortable silence descended over the field until the resting figure felt compelled to sit up. Looking over to the where he felt the invading presence he saw a girl, perhaps thirteen years old.

“Excuse me, but may I take part in the shade of your elm tree?” the girl asked grasping the edges of her sun dress and offered a small curtsy.

“It’s free shade, in a free field; A free country for that matter. I’m obliged to share I reckon,” the straw-hat boy replied.

“You are very kind,” she said, her eyes followed the rim of shade that separated the ground under the tree from the heat and light of the sun beyond. She huffed slightly before taking a reluctant step in. The straw-hat boy shifted from his lounging to sit up.

“Kinda nice bein’ out of the burning sun, ain’t it now?” he asked being polite and turning his attention to the unexpected companion.

“It certainly is to be appreciated come the summer sun,” she replied, pulling a small shawl from her forearm and flapping it out before laying it down on the ground to sit. She sat with her feet out to one side and made sure to cover her knees. Planting her hand on the shawl covered ground with one hand she rested her body weight to that side and let her other hand fall to her lap. They sat there in silence for a while surveying the landscape out before them until she let out an exaggerated sigh.  

“You be expecting something?” the straw-hat boy asked?

“It being summer and all, I was hoping for some games. There’s so much to do in the autumn with harvest and the winter is something awful with the snow and bitter cold. Do you like games?” she asked with a raise of her eyebrow.

“They be a mighty good time if ya play ‘em right? And the wager is worth the betting,” he responded.

The girl ran her free hand through her raven-black hair and frowned. “Oh, gamblin’ be a mighty great sin if the adult folk find out you been bettin’ on things. Possibly get a woopin’,” she said, with an odd little smile.

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