NVDT Shorts – How They Get Away II


“Heard you hired Old Man Pritch-ard to run your weed farm. And that he’s growin’ Christmas trees now on the grazin’ end of his property. Down to you sendin’ a row tiller out there an spottin’ him the shoots.” Randy pushed his cap back, wiped his forehead. “How much of that’s true?”

“All of it.” Harper tossed the shovels into the bed of his work truck, started the compressor for the water tank. “Hose is on your side. You plan to start unloadin’ that concrete sometime today or you gonna call Cheryl and tell her you’re eatin’ with me tonight?”

“That shit won’t fly.” He rolled some of the hose loose. “She pulled some steaks ‘fore she left for work.”

“Damn. I miss a birthday, or what?”

“She saw some YouTube thing about how to cook steaks like a steakhouse. Says she wants to try it.”

Harper looked across the truck bed, raised an eyebrow.

“Somethin’ about how steaks don’t always have to be my responsibility or some shit.”

“Or some shit. This came up after y’all went up to the city for your anniversary?”

“What are you sayin’, Harp?”

“I’m sayin’ charcoalin’ steaks doesn’t mean turnin’ ‘em into charcoal. If I recall, you fed her a steak at Daffodils,” Harper reached in behind the seat of his truck, pulled a four-foot level. “After that she might’ve realized you weren’t all that in the steak cookin’ department. You bring your level?”

“Yeah.” Randy disappeared into the cab of his truck, reappeared with his own level. “Ya think?”

“Now I know where your daughter gets it. ‘Ya think’ what?”

“About me an grillin’.”

“I don’t have to think, I know. You got a reputation for turnin’ a twenty-dollar piece of meat into a hockey puck.” Harper grinned. “Why I won’t let you near my meat.”

“Fuckin’ pervert.” Randy shouldered a bag of Quikrete. “Where we startin’?”

“It’s your fence, but I say we do the gate posts first so they’re right before we burn one and drink a beer.”

“Or three.” Randy dropped the bag, went back for another, Harper behind him. “You never said the why about you and Old Man Pritch-ard.”

“The man grew prize winning tomatoes the size of volleyballs for years. Without chemicals.” Harper let his Quikrete drop at the nearest hole, knocked the dust off his gloves. “When I got to more greenhouses than I could say grace over and not being a farmer by training or nature, I knew he was the man I needed.”

“I thought there were consultants for you weed barons.”

“You want to spend your days listenin’ to some overpriced California fuck head consultants talkin’ their buckets of air non-stop?”

“Hell no. I just never figured Pritch-ard bein’ one to throw in with a weed man.”

“Never figured I’d own three dispensaries in small town Oklahoma, either. And he came to me with the Christmas tree idea.”

“What’s your cut?”

“Nothin’. He said he was getting’ too old for the hooved variety of ranch work and figured Christmas trees were a good bet not to wander off like cows and sheep and those damn mules of his. I could see him thinkin’. Downstream thinkin’, you know?” Harper lowered a 4×4 into a hole, slapped his level on it. “Like it wasn’t time to chuck it and quit, but time to reset his view of himself and what he could do with where he was at. So, I said ‘Come work for me and I’ll set you up. Like a signing bonus’.”

“I never was an idea man. Can’t see the Christmas trees for the forest most of the time.”

“Yeah, but you know how to get shit done. Lots of guys can figure, not many can do.”

“Nice try.” Randy leveled the back side of the pole, waited for Harper to get a solid grip before he flicked open a Cabella’s promo mini lock-back and sliced open the Quikrete bag. He started to push it into the hole with his boot, stopped, scanned the ground around them. “Where’s the damn hose?”

Harper nodded toward his truck. “Somebody who was supposed to get it forgot it.”


“I got the post, Randy.”

“Right.” He headed for the hose dangling from the truck mounted tank. “Randy the doer, not the thinker.”


Harper sat on his truck’s rear bumper, legs out, heels dug in, tipped back his beer. He watched Randy’s truck kick up dust as it rolled away before he dropped the empty bottle in the plastic trash bag with the empty Quikrete bags, picked up his phone.


“He on his way home yet?”

“Yeah. But…”

“I didn’t like the sound of that ‘but’. And don’t make some stupid fart joke.”

“He told me about you thawin’ some steaks… I maybe let the cat out of the bag on his steak grilling skills.”

“You mean his lack of steak grilling skills. What are you telling me?”

“That he might have his feelings hurt a little and it wouldn’t kill you not to rub it in when your steaks aren’t—”

“Charcoal? What else?”

“He got to feelin’ a little low about bein’ who he is. Workin’ for the man, not bein’ Shark Tank material, all that.”

“That’s ridiculous, Harper. And it’s pretty shitty of you to hint around about how I might drop my bitch a notch ‘cause the man’s not Superman.” Dead air. “Harper?”

“Not hintin’ big sis. He wants to give you the best he’s got, and he just found out he sucks at part of it.”

“An inconsequential, infinitesimal part. The man is a freaking floor foreman at the tire plant. He works his ass off for us around here. His kids love him, I love him, the dog loves him. What’s the big whoop about burnt steaks?”

“Inconsequential, infinitesimal?”

“You aren’t the only one who went to college.”

“Alright. It’s a man thing, and he’s bummin’. All I’m sayin’”

“Oh, great. I have one baby, Harp.”

“And tonight you might have a spare.”

“How’s the gate?”

“Bad ass. Spring loaded, auto close latch. No more pig shit covered dog or wandering goats down to forgetful daughter or wind a notch over a breeze.”

“Alright, I’m in. Hold on a sec… Waco? Hey, your Uncle H says two bucks if you deal with your baby sister when Daddy gets home… Yeah? Three? Okay, I’m back. You sure about the gate? What about the mess y’all always make when you do this kinda shit?”

“I told you about the gate. We only drank two beers, so it’s right and he’s not comin’ home lit,” he lifted the trash bag into the truck. “The mess is in my truck.”

“That’s for damn sure.” A few beats passed. “Thanks, Harper.”

“For the gate design I got off the internet, the fence repair, the heads up on Randy or Waco’s three bucks?”

“All that.”

“There a steak done right for me in this anywhere?”

“Don’t push it.”


I haven’t had time to do much of anything for two weeks except some editing. I sat with the intent to finish the towel saga, or an expanded riff on the Christmas Tree farm. Forty-five minutes later they’d gotten away from me. Again. Seems like in my short stuff the characters know what they want to talk about. I quit fighting them years ago. I hope Cheryl kicked her bitch down a notch and Waco kept her end of the bargain. Harper’s good for the three bucks.