Fiction by Arrie Brown
Dink was under the porch poking at the big black snake when me and Mama
pulled up. I knew that because I saw his old flat-tired bicycle on its side in the
driveway. Mama always said next time she was going to run over it, so I jumped
out of the car to move it out of the way. She yelled at me, Boy, you better not get
your nice pants dirty, I’m not buying you another pair.
I walked the bike over the prickly grass and dropped it next to the flower
bed where Dink had gone under the house. He was on his stomach, pushing
around the red dirt and vines with a forked stick. Every time he caught the snake
it went further back, and Dink went right after it. Daddy said one of these days he
was going to get bit by something else, a brown recluse or a coral snake.
Dink’s daddy, Uncle Eddie, was supposed to fix things around the farm for
Daddy, things like the hole in the trellis Dink was always crawling through. I think
Dink and Uncle Eddie live in a trailer on our land because Daddy felt sorry for
them. Dink’s mama died when he was a baby, running into a burning house trying
to save some Reba McEntire tickets. Mama wrinkles her nose when she talks
about her, like she can smell the smoke, but she likes to tell that story when she’s
on the phone with her friends.
I was knocking my teeth together, trying to shake off the numb from the
dentist. Dink turned his head around and asked what I was making that noise for.
“I got a fillin’. Wanna see?”
Dink nodded. I sat on the grass on the other side of the flower bed. I didn’t
want to go under the porch.
He scooted out feet first, like a goat being born backwards, and made just
about as much noise. He cussed when his shirt got snagged on a nail, and I think
it got his skin too ’cause he wasn’t usually too upset when his clothes got ripped.
He said some words I wasn’t allowed to say, except to myself, when the lights
were out and the house was quiet.
He stood over me and said, “Let me see it.”
I opened my mouth wide and breathed through my nose. Dink smelled like
he’d been playing with tadpoles and goat pellets. He liked to pull things apart.
“I don’t see anything,” he said, squinting. He started one skinny dirty finger
toward my mouth and I leaned back.
“It’s a new kind. It’s white like teeth.”
“Can you chew on tinfoil with it?”
“I don’t know. I’m not going to try it.”
“Hm.” Dink started after a big grasshopper. He caught it with one hand
against the grass, and before I knew it he had pulled a wad of silver line and a bent
fishhook out of his pocket and the grasshopper’s guts were coming out its side.
He started running toward the pond, his bare feet finding the sandy spots on the
The first thing I did at the pond was get a handful of juniper berries off the
bush and toss them into the water. Mama told me one time I ate a whole bunch
of them and they had to call Poison Control, but Poison Control said I was
probably fine. They’d sat up all night watching me, though. The fish didn’t seem
to be allergic to the berries, and one came up and snapped a couple out of the
water. Dink was on the other side, tying his line to a long stick. I went behind the
cattails looking for frogs but I only saw one, and I couldn’t catch it because I’d
get my pants dirty. The frog was scared of me anyway. He jumped into the
water and wasn’t going to come up while I was there so I went to see if Dink was
Every winter I could remember, we’d had a bunch of Canada geese stop at
our pond to wait until it was warm enough to go back home. Daddy tried
everything to get rid of them. He strung pie tins up on clotheslines around the
pond, he let the dogs loose, he even fired his gun into the air a couple times, but
the geese stayed on, honking and chasing the dogs and barely jumping at the
shotgun blast. I jumped more than they did. Daddy said we’d just have to
watch where we stepped for a few months.
But one couple of geese seemed to really like our pond, and they stayed on
through the summer, and through the next winter, too, and when the migrating
geese came back the next year, our two geese said, This is our pond now, you
just go on. So Daddy started buying special goose food for the couple and
named them Merle and June Carter. Pretty soon June Carter got nice enough to
come about five feet from you when you had food pellets. If you tried to pet her,
though, she hissed and snapped at you. She’d given me a nasty bruise on my
leg in the shape of a race car. I didn’t see June Carter or Merle anywhere. I
thought maybe they were asleep in the tall grass.
Dink’s grasshopper had stopped kicking around, and he hadn’t caught
anything yet. He tossed it out again, but it got tangled up in the weeds in the
bottom of the pond. He yanked and yanked and finally pulled the hook out with
no grasshopper on it.
“Hey,” he yelled, “help me find another cricket.” He always called them
crickets, even if they were green grasshoppers.
He started off toward the flat rocks near the road. Lots of bugs lived under
the flat rocks, and sometimes a snake, too. Dink caught a snake there once that
he kept in a shoebox for two months, before it got loose in the trailer and Uncle
Eddie found it in the kitchen one day. He yelled so loud that me and Dink heard
it from the creek, and Dink didn’t come to play the next three days. I asked what
he’d been doing, and he said to mind my own business. Mama didn’t want to
talk about it, either. She just hugged me real tight and went to talk to Daddy.
Dink picked up the first flat rock, but all that was under it was a granddaddy
longlegs and a millipede. There were a bunch of roly-polys under the second one,
but the catfish didn’t much care for roly-polys.
“Damnit to hell,” he said. “There ain’t nothing under here. Go get some lures
out of your daddy’s tackle box.”
“Nah,” I said. “I don’t know where it is.”
“Bullshit.” He looked at me hard. “It’s in the barn under the table saw,
where it always is. Go get it.”
“He don’t want you to use ’em anymore, alright? You always get ’em
tangled and broken, and then he has to buy new ones whenever he wants to go
fishing himself.” The sun was setting in my eyes. I squinted.
“He don’t ever go fishing, and he can buy any damn thing he wants besides.
He don’t have to poke around for crickets. He just buys them.”
Daddy hadn’t fished in a long time, not since birthing season started, but he
said when it was over we were going to have a big fish fry and all my school friends
and all his and Mama’s friends could come. We’d get some corn on the cob and
watermelons and have a seed spitting contest off the porch.
Dink threw down a clump of dirt and sat on the big rock that we called the
diving board, because it stuck out of the ground long and flat, and if you jumped
as hard as you could it would bounce but never tip over. But now, he just sat on
the rock and swung his legs back and forth. There wasn’t enough room for me to
sit, so I crouched down beside it and picked at the grass. I was picking out
brown blades and folding them in my fingers, feeling them break, when I saw
something white. Way back where the rock went into the ground, there was a
nest made out of sticks and feathers with six big white eggs in it.
“Hey, Dink. Lookit.” I started underneath the rock, and I saw a pile of
goose poop right before my knee landed in it. There was poop all around the
nest, and even on some of the eggs. I pulled one of the feathers on the edge of
the nest. It was soft and grey, like the ones sticking out of Mama and Daddy’s
pillows. Dink had crawled in beside me and was reaching out his skinny hand to
“Don’t you touch those eggs, Dink. That’s June Carter’s nest and if she
smells you on it, she won’t come back to it.”
Dink just laughed. He picked up an egg and turned it over in his hand. It
was crisscrossed in brown lines. He asked me how I knew June Carter
wouldn’t come back.
“Daddy said you’re not ever supposed to touch a nest,” I said. He knew
lots of things about animals. “Birds think if you came once, you’re gonna come
back, so if they smell you they don’t ever come back to the eggs. They go
somewhere else and build a new nest.”
“You don’t think that goose is gonna smell you crawlin’ around under here?
You done and spoiled the nest already.” He crawled backwards out of the
shade with two eggs in one hand. I turned to my side in time to see him toss one
egg up in the air and catch it with his other hand.
“D-damnit, Dink. Stop throwing June Carter’s eggs!” My face got hot
when I said that bad word.
“June Carter ain’t going to mind.” He held one egg in his hand, bouncing it
up and down like a baseball. “June Carter won’t even know.” He stopped
bouncing the egg and turned up his mouth in a mean smile. “Why are you so
mad about them geese anyway? They’re the only friends you got, ain’t they?”
“I got friends, Dink. It’s you that hasn’t got any friends.” I felt my voice
shaking, but I was so mad I didn’t care. My eyes were stinging and I was afraid
I was about to cry, so I started yelling. “Now you put down those eggs and
leave those geese alone!”
Dink reared his arm back and threw the eggs at the rock so hard they
exploded and splattered both of us with yolk. “Daddy shot them geese the other
day and you didn’t even notice ’til now, so don’t get all boohooey.” He started
spitting and wiping his face off, but I just stood there and stared at him ’til my
chest was so tight and my head so hot that I couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“Mama says you’re nothing but a redneck and your mama was a redneck
and you’re not good for anything! You’re nothing but stupid white trash and I
hope your trailer catches fire and you die!”
Dink’s face was long and white for a couple seconds, then he bared his
teeth and lunged at me like a ram, knocking into my shoulders so hard I stumbled
backwards into the dirt. My elbows were scraped and they hurt so bad I
wanted to cry, but Dink was standing there looking at me. I closed my eyes and
gritted dirt between my teeth. I lay there, not moving, until I heard Dink’s bare
feet running off over the field.
It was getting dark, but I could see the last three eggs in the nest shining
white in the darkness under the rock. My elbows hurt with all the dirt caked in
the scrapes, but I crawled under the rock and curled my body around the nest,
resting my head on my arm and pulling the eggs up to my chest. There were
ants and crickets all around, and something bit me between the fingers. I heard
Mama calling my name, her voice angry and scared. I shivered and my teeth
knocked together. I pulled the eggs closer to my body and breathed hot air
onto them, the hottest air I could. Mama’s voice got closer, and then it got
Arrie Brown holds a Master’s degree in English from East Carolina University
and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her first published story.
On “Goose Eggs”:
The afternoon described in “Goose Eggs” borrows heavily from my
childhood, the summers of which kept me as grimy as most boys I knew.
I know too well what the inside of a tadpole looks like. While writing this
story, I listened to mostly ’90s country music, stuff I listened to at age 10
(and not since, until recently): Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Deanna
Carter, and, of course, Reba. I'm partially indebted to my elementary-
school best friend, whose mother ran into a burning house to rescue Reba
tickets, but thankfully escaped alive, tickets in hand.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Volume 4, Number 1
Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to
in the Apple Valley
Review are retained by
the individual authors