A BIG IDEA
Ezra led the small group of children through the tangling mess of wild vines, spider webs, loose stones and fallen trees until they came to a bend of a small stream. The smell of water was heavy from a recent rain fall and sound of it flowing over the river bed was worth more than he was asking the group to pay.
He held his hand as to stop the group and allowed a moment for them to cluster about him. He looked over each of his 'paying customers', studying their faces of different ages and reading their expressions. Facial expressions that showed some to seemed alarmed, which was good. He can play off their fear as fright was infectious emotion. There were a few that showed a mixture of doubt and hope, another impression that could be tugged and pulled into his favor. Lastly, there were the faces that only paid to protest and prove it all to be a hoax. Ezra saw them for the bigger suckers. They didn't believe in what he was about to show them yet they were foolish enough to pay for it.
"Gentlemen and ladies." He turned slightly towards the stream of water while keeping his eyes on his audience. "Just beyond this small body of water is the proof that something of oddity is among us. That something so strange and yet fascinating is lurking right behind our homes in this little bit of a forest land." Ezra started, hiding his grin one seeing eyes widening with slight fear. Fear, it was an extraordinary emotion. The only thing predictable about fear was that it will cause chaos and irrationality while manifesting.
"Yeah! You!" One of the non-believes, Trevor voiced with a cheer of his friends and nod of their heads while sporting a smile.
This didn't derail Ezra in the least bit. He knew there would be hecklers in the group. There is always one and most of the time, they are hiding behind their words as they shouted about them only to annoy everyone in the group.
"And how dull would I be if I were.." Ezra looked him up and down but kept his face from showing anything but amusement. It was always best to all this type to believe that they did not bother him. "well, like ordinary as you are my friend?."
This brought the others of the little group to giggle. Ezra wasn't here to show battle of wits. He was here to collect their currency. "Now if you all would still like to see what I promised, I will need to collect that small fee we discussed before venturing into this garden of Eden. However, you are free to depart at this spot if you feel I have nothing to show you."
Ezra smiled, allowing his dimples to show as they each of the boys and girls handed him five dollar bills. Ezra turned towards Trevor and his small band of friends.
"What if we refuse to pay?" Trevor questioned and his friends followed with 'yeas'. It was enough for Trevor to tilt his chin up with confidence. "What if we decided just to follow you?" They folded their arms in front of them, wearing another smirk on their faces.
"Other than you going back on your word?" Ezra raised his brow and shrugged. "I suppose nothing other than my fellow associates."
"Your fellow associates?" Trevor looked around with a laugh. "It's just you and you alone!"
"And me." Jack, who just seemed to fall into Ezra's traps way too often than necessary came out from the other side of the stream. Jack was a big round boy and he had a habit of reminding everyone that his mother was on the PTA and his father was the town's governor.
"And me." Vin came out from behind the group, sporting a long stick across his shoulders that he used to wack some weeds away for a make-shift path earlier that morning. Vin was skinny but he was tall for his age and he was swift. Fast as lighting and he wasn't a coward. Trevor and Jack both had tried to bully Vin a few times in the school's history only to find that if you rattle his cage, he was going to bite back hard.
Ezra was no lightweight either. He had often used the old oak tree near the balcony of his bedroom as a ladder to climb in and out o late at night. Balance and pulling his own weight up and down tree limps were having a positive effect on his growing frame.
Trevor and the others too a deep sigh and all pulled out their own five dollars bills. "Was going to pay, just curious what you would do if someone refused."
"I don't doubt you at all, my friend." Ezra put on his friendly smile as he took their money. Forty easy bucks, he thought. Of course he would need to split this four ways thus, wasn't a whole lot but his scheme was new and he was sure it would profit once word got about. "This way if you please."
Jack and Vin moved to the side to allow the small group to go forward and taking up the back as Ezra led in front. They soon came to a clearing where the trees thinned out and the bramble bushes stayed back. Trees laying in decay on the ground gathered around as if a boulder had fallen from heaven had fallen to earth, landing at this very spot. Stones were jutting from the ground like spikes and moss hurried to cover the decaying trees and soft soil bellow their feet.
Then without warning, Ezra stopped and pointed downwards to a piece of the ground that the moss hadn't found yet. "Here it is. Actually, there are a few of them. Maybe there is a herd of them? I am afraid I do not have a lot of knowledge of such creatures."
The kids hurried to gather around all oohing about on seeing the giant footprint in the wet soiled that could only be left behind by Big Foot himself. Or herself as one of the girls pointed out in the group.
"It leads to Old Tracker Jack Shack!" One of the boys pointed in the direction that Big Foot seemed to be headed.
From what Vin and JD had told Ezra, Old Tracker Jack Shack belong to an old hermit years ago that had lost his sanity. He believed himself to be the keeper of the forest and to this day, a hundred and fifty years after passing away, he still roamed the forest.
As rehearsed, Vin knelt down peering at the tracks closer as he scratched his chin. He hope he was as convincing as Ezra was at this game. As if in deep thought, Vin reached down to touch one of the prints. "These look newer then the ones we saw earlier Ez."
"Really?" Ezra leaned forward as to look over his shoulder.
"Yeah. Yeah." Jack nodded and pointed to a blackberry bush. "The ones we saw earlier were next to the berry bush! Remember, I had a handful!" Jack showed everyone his berry stained hands. In truth, they had been here earlier and planted server tracks and Jack did eat berries while he made some of his own. He too was rehearsed on what to say and when to say it.
"Huh." Ezra scratched his head and looked around nervously as he deceived the group with a very convincing worried expression. "You um...do think they could still be around?"
At that moment a bush, barely visible through the circle of trees, started to sway back and forth wildly and some grunting noises sounding very much like a wild beast could be heard coming from that direction. That was all it took for two of the eight kids to shoot off in the direction of the entrance they had taken. Easy to follow thanks to Vin's talent of welding a stick and attacking the wild growing uncultivated plants.
"Look!" One of the younger children of the group pointed over in another direction where a very tall, hairy caveman like creature stood staring back at them.
"Um..." Vin slowly stood up and started to take a step back and the bush moved again.
"There is more than one!" The boy yelled and turned, high tailing it out of the forest. Ezra was sure he would beat the others that had left before him.
"No way." Trevor shook his head. "This is a hoax."
"Well." Ezra took the stick from Vin and thrust it at Trevor. "You figure it out." Ezra pulled on Vin's arm and with Jack following they took off in the same direction. However Vin had made a curve in the pathway that allowed them to be out of sight for a moment and they took that spot to jump off the path and tread back around. They moved close to the ground and behind the over grown forest plants to avoid being seen but could still see what was happening from the spot they were a moment ago.
Trevor was looking at Big Foot who started to move slowly, almost as he was just as curious as they were of him. One of his friends took off in full run without warning and a second followed suit.
There were only two left standing. The bush moved, the sound of a grunting grew louder and Big Foot moved closer. Trevor threw the stick down and took off. He left his only back up alone. The poor kid seemed frozen in place. He looked over his shoulders, seeking for help but it appeared he was alone. He looked over towards the bush that tarted making unrecognizable sounds and then Big Foot roared and charged. The boy came to life, screamed as loud as a horror movie victim and ran as it was a grizzle bears chasing him down after being in hibernation.
The following weekend, ticket sales went from five dollars to ten and the group grew larger. The third weekend was twenty but if you brought five friends, you got a five dollar discount. The fourth weekend tickets were at twenty-five but you had to schedule a tour, they were no longer accepting walk-about without appointments.
The town folks started to talk and they started to complain about their kids spotting Big Foot in their woods. It didn't take long for Big Foot to be the scapegoat of many mishaps. St Clair claimed that it wasn't that he had too many beers while he drove home late at night but it was because he swerved to miss Big Foot who just suddenly appeared. Never-mind the lose goats on Candice's farm, it was Big Foot that stomped down all her heads of lettuce. Very married Mick Johnson went over to the very single Heather DeHart's home because she heard something terrible just outside her window. The smashed in mailboxes, that too was Big Foot's doing. The finally straw for Sheriff Larabee was the poster of Big Foot duct taped to a telephone post declaring two hundred dollars dead or alive.
Sheriff Larabee had to get involved. It was one thing to talk about it but it was another to ask for the creature to be dead. Someone was going to get killed when he was sure someone just needed an ass kicked for their stupidity of putting their lives in danger. He had to investigate. That would mean going out into town full that was full on craze at the moment.
John asked around and asked around some more. One person would lead to him another, that one lead him to another and so forth. The stories were all similar, explaining their Big Foot spotting and the danger they were in. Nothing changed, not even the, 'You should speak to Ezra. He was the first to find them.'
So, John Larabee found himself going up the steps of the old Victorian Mansion once more. He took off his hat and knocked on the door of his eldest son's home. After waiting for a moment, his youngest grandson opened the door and raised his eyebrow in what John deemed as a silent mock.
"Josiah home?" The Sheriff pushed himself through the front door, wiping his feet before going further.
"He is out and shouldn't you have a search warrant?" Ezra asked, closing the door behind him and walking towards the kitchen, a blanket still over his shoulders.
"Should I need one?" John followed him, admiring the work his son had put into the house. The restoring was coming along impressively well.
"Coffee or water, Mr Larabee?" Ezra asked instead of answering him. "Or is it Sheriff Larabee this afternoon?"
"How about Grandpa?" John answered, sitting down at the table. It was afternoon on a summer day which meant, Ezra just got up so the coffee was fresh. "Coffee, if you please."
"You still take two pounds of sugar with your coffee?" Ezra asked putting a mug down with fresh coffee and a bowl of table sugar.
"You are not my doctor and you are not my wife." John warned him, dumping a thick amount of sugar into his cup. Even for him, it was over the top but he had a point to make.
Ezra held up his hand while sitting down with is own mug with a peppermint soaking in his black coffee. "Josiah went to the Farmer's Market." Ezra explained.
"Well, I suppose I can speak to you without him." John pulled out a post of Big Foot that the locals had posted on a telephone poll. "You will never guess where I found this?"
Ezra snorted. "I seen them myself. I too find it difficult to comprehend that in our day and age, we still have telephone poles. They do make rather pitiful sight to behold and I find them somewhat useless with our technology of satellites, data cords and cellular services that people still use landlines of any sort."
John learned not to listen to anything Ezra says when he first opens his mouth because it was always a weak show of him pretending he hadn't a clue what was going on. Instead, while Ezra rambled, John would think about Josiah and how his son ever found patience with his own son. As Ezra went on and one how the world isn't progressing fast enough with technology and when it finally came to daylight savings and how much sleep a person actually loses, John held up his hand. He had enough.
"I don't care bout all that, son." John explained and picked up a tone he used with his more troubling county citizens. "You care, you can change the world once you become an adult." He picked up his coffee, saluting Ezra with it before taking a drink. It was his way of hiding his own grin. The one thing Ezra hated was to be reminded that he was nothing more than a child. John put his cup back down, swallowing the overly sweet liquid while ignoring the heated glare coming from Ezra side of the table. "Let me tell you why I am here. I am here because some people really believe that Big Foot is stepping on our mother natures' garden and they want to see it dead. Now me. Well I know that it probably is some kid dressed up as Big Foot and that kid is going to get himself shot at or killed if he continues to dress like this creature. Do you understand that?"
"I could see your reason for concern with that person's welfare." Ezra looked down at the wanted poster.
"Good. I'm glad you do." John pushed back on the chair so it balanced on two legs. He kept an arm outstretched on the table, his hand around the mug while the other arm draped lazy on the back of the chair. "Now, no one has come up front and pointed fingers at anyone. Yet. Eventually someone will. But then again, maybe they don't need to."
"If you are accusing me of dressing as some kind of mythical creature with a serious medical hair growth condition, you are sorely mistaken. I wouldn't be foolish enough to do such a thing in the heat of summer." Ezra peered over his own coffee.
John shook his head. "Nope. I don't think you are foolish enough to do that. I do think you know someone who is, however. If that foolish person gets killed...do you want that on your conscious?"
Ezra pressed two fingers to his temples as trying to push back the image of vacant eyes looking back at him from his memory. "No." He whispered so softly, John almost didn't hear him.
"Good." John put the chair on four legs again. He wasn't expecting that. He wasn't expecting Ezra to agree with him so quickly. Josiah often said that once you figure him out, the boy does a one-eighty on you. "You tell me the whole thing, tell me who else is involved and I want the thing that made those big foot prints and the costume too. Just to insure that Big Foot moved on and doesn't have a the urge to revisit our town again."
Ezra wince, not liking the idea of throwing Vin or JD names into the mess. Jack, well he was fine with him getting into trouble. "Is there another kind of arrangement we could discuss?"
"Such as?" Alert bells rang in John's head and he sat up straight, making sure he paid attention to his grandson's words carefully. Ezra did very well at rewording things that had loop holes.
"I can get you the equipment but I rather not give you the names of those involved." Ezra gave him a side long smile. "To save yourself and your work force from embarrassment."
"To save myself, huh?" John stared down at his cup, trying to work the pieces out. He knew Ezra didn't do this himself. "My boys were involved, weren't they?"
Ezra masked his body and face. He gave no indication that what John said had any truth to it what so ever.
John nodded in understanding but it wasn't over. Ezra was being noble to his boys but it didn't matter. JD couldn't keep a secret.
That night at the Larabee Ranch, right after work - John came home with an arm full of stuff declaring that they belong to Big Foot.
Buck, JD and Vin all looked down at the stuff John had dumped on the living room floor. He stood next to it with his fist resting on his hips while looking down at his children. "I found the mastermind behind Big Foot but he wouldn't admit that he had help. Surprisingly, he said that he was the only one involved."
"He did?" Vin looked up from the stuff in surprise at his father's words.
"Yeah. Yeah he did." John nodded his head.
Buck gave his father a curious look. "Who was it and how did he do it?"
"Ezra." John looked over at Buck, he had a feeling that Buck wasn't involved in the Big Foot Scam.
"Ezra created that whole Big Foot thing!" Buck snorted while trying to hold back a laugh. That only caused Vin and JD to laugh, which cause Buck to let go. Buck's laughter had always been contagious. It didn't matter how idiotic the story, if Buck laughed everyone laughed. Just as contagious as a yawn.
Natalie, hearing her boys from the adjoining room walked in and looked at them with a smile but not knowing what was going on.
After a moment, John put a hand around his stomach and took a deep breath. It had been one hell of a month with constant reports of spotting Big Foot here and there, doing this or that. All month long and all the long, it was just a bunch of kids. He took a deep breath and as the laughter settled down John looked over at his younger two. "Ezra took the whole blame to save you two. I know you two were involved, he never had to tell me. How, I'm not sure but I would love to hear."
"Are we in trouble?" Vin asked and JD looked hopefully at his father, blinking his chocolate brown eyes at him.
"Oh yeah. No getting around that." John sat down on the floor, crossing his legs and nodded for the other two as well. Buck, seeing as it was going to be one hell of a story, sat down like it was story time. Which it was.
Vin and JD exchanged looks and sat down as well. "We were watching a show about Big Foot and JD said he would pay to see Big Foot and Ezra got one of those ideas."
"The good kind where we make money." JD blurted out.
John eyes widen. "Well that's new. Ezra never mentioned money being involved. He told me that you three did it out of boredom."
"Jack too." JD added but that got him a sharp stab in the ribs from Vin's elbow.
"Well this story just got a whole lot more interesting." Buck leaned against the foot of the sofa with a humor grin on his face.
"How much money did you boys make?" Natalie folded her arms in front of her.
Vin shrugged and mumbled. "Don't know."
"Four-hundred, seven dollars and fifty cents." JD beamed, very proud that he had that much money.
"Damn!" Buck whistled. "I wish I was in part of that!"
"And you split it four ways?" John said in disbelief. "Or did Ezra take a higher percentage?"
"He tried." Vin huffed but remembering that he was on Ezra side, tighten his lips till they showed white.
"No. We split it four ways." JD shook his dark hair, not really seeing what the problem was all about since they were just laughing a moment ago about the whole thing. "We each got four-hundred, seven dollars and fifty cents."
"What?" Buck bolted forward. "You mean that was your take after the split!"
"Where do these kids get this kind of money!" Natalie looked over at John.
"Allowance, I guess." John shrugged. How was he to know how or why parents gave their kids money to spend. "So you are saying JD, that you guys made ummmm..."
"One thousand, six hundred thirty dollars." JD quickly told him. "I remember Ezra counted it out at the end of the month. He said we couldn't get it till then, till the end of the month just in case something happened that caused him to have to re-um-re..."
"Reimburse?" Buck helped his younger brother out, ruffling JD's head as he did.
"Yeah." JD agreed. He quickly stood up on his tip-toes and started to growl. "I was Big Foot. I was walking on stilts! And Ezra had recorded Josiah in the mornings while he made breakfast cause he sounded mean."
"He sounded like a grizzle bear." Vin laughed but covered his mouth. Staying silent was hard when the idea was funny to him. He didn't think the scam would work at all. He thought after the first visit into the woods, it would all cease but Ezra didn't let go of it.
"And Jake, he is really good in wood shop. He made these." JD picked up the large wooden foot prints that JD attached by ropes to his shoes. "We took turns walking in the forest with these to make the tracks." He then picked up a long rope with wooden handles on the ends. It looked like an over sized jump rope. "I used these too. When Ezra gave the single, I pulled these. He had it wrapped around a bush so it would look as if the bushes were moving on their own. But it really was me doing it."
"I know you need to be mad at them, Dad." Buck looked over at his father, his smile never faulting. "But that was a damn good scheme."
"We kept raising the price every week." Vin explained. "I didn't think people would pay that much but Ezra said it they would and they did."
The four boys weren't too happy when John Larabee congratulated Jack, Ezra, Vin, JD and all parties involved in raising One thousand, Six hundred and thirty dollars for the local shelter with their mock Big Foot Tour in a free news letter to the community. Luckily, none of the boys had spent the money and with more reluctant from Ezra and Jack, they handed the money over with fake smiles. JD and Vin had sincere smiles because even though they did wrong, they had felt better turning it into something good.
All the kids that admitted to paying for the 'show' stood in a photo shoot for the paper as the boys handed over the money. The payees felt better that their money went a cause instead of being swindled out of it. They rather had admit they knew it was to raise money all along than to admit they thought Big Foot was indeed alive and living in their backyards.
No idea what made me come across this story line. It wasn't suppose to be this long either. It was rather short and originally it was to end with Ezra selling the Big Foot Business and someone else getting in trouble with it. Hope you all enjoy it.
Kathy and Guest - Thank you both for the reviews! They are always wonderful to find.
And to those that read Chaucer story -thank you! You all blew me away with the great response!