“Wow,” I said, duly impressed. “Wow!”
“Yeah, he’s so big, a rock like that’s just like a fly or skeeter to him.” Michael grinned, a tooth missing from his lower row where it’d fallen out. “Wanna try it?”
“Sure!” I couldn’t wait. How many people at school were going to be able to say they threw a rock at a bull when the teacher assigns the “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay?
“Okay,” he smiled, and bent down to get a rock. He handed the oblong, white lump to me. I felt the heft in my hand, and then grinned through my soda-bottle bottom glasses at him. He nodded, and drawled, “G’head, chuck it at ‘im.”
I drew aim. My wrist twitched, the stone resting in the crook of my index finger, my arm high.
With a grunt of effort I sent the rock sailing across the hot morning and grassy field. It arced true and strong over the distance toward the bull’s behind. At the last minute I realized what was happening and felt the hot burn of adrenaline course through my cheeks, palms and feet.
That rock slid left of Michael’s throw, and dropped a bit short. That meant the rock hit the bull square on the scrotum and made the same thunking slap, only this time on his balls, not his butt.
His reaction was a little different, too. He jolted hard, his head shot up and he let out a roar that sounded like a special effect in a rodeo movie. He launched himself off the ground and spun, eyes bulging and so wide the whites showed. It gave him a maniacal, pissed off killer look.
And he leveled that gaze right at me.
Michael burst out laughing. “Oh, man! Ya hit his balls! That hadda hurt!” Another peal of laughter.
It choked off when the bull’s head dropped between his fore hooves, and he pawed at the ground, shucking huge divots of earth out behind him, snorting and huffing deep, wet, snot-filled breaths into the waving grass.
“Uh … he … he looks kinda mad,” I stammered.
Michael made some sound in his throat, a little whimpery noise and when I looked at him, his face was ashen gray.
“We better git,” he said, and he tugged at the sleeve of my crisp, striped T-shirt. “We better git on outta here quick.”
I didn’t have time to agree, because the bull launched himself forward, bellowing that horrible roar, and we screamed in unison, frozen for a moment, pinned by the furious stare of the angry beast.
The earth shook as his hooves pounded the ground, and we finally pushed off the fence and ran. Michael pulled away from me, his countrified musculature more attuned to life in the sticks. I pushed and panted and wheezed, panic seizing my heart and driving it into a hummingbird tattoo in my chest.
Michael turned and screamed again, his eyes popping. A moment later a splintering crash shattered the day and I cried out so loud and long my throat shredded.
I snuck a look back as the shards of the split rail fence rained down behind the oncoming freight train. The monster looked like a minotaur to me, and I expected him to reach out and clutch me in taloned claws, gore me with his flaming horns and spread my entrails over the red-coated grass soaked by my blood.
I felt the thudding of his footfalls behind me and freaked even more, if that were possible, and just as I thought the point of those curved instruments of death would impale me, the sounds behind me changed.
I turned back and saw the bull trotting, head high, off toward the other side of the field, where Michael’s dad puttered on a big John Deere riding mower, cutting down the waist-high grass. He stared behind him over his right shoulder and the bull picked up steam from his left.
His blind side.
I screamed something but didn’t stop running, and darted into up the tottering porch steps into the ancient, leaning farmhouse. Michael stood in the kitchen panting, sweating, and stared wide-eyed at me.
“Wh-what happened? Where’d he go?” he said, shaking.
For a moment, I froze, tried to assess what I should say. Then I shook my head. “I dunno … I-I think your dad’s gonna take care of it.”
Later that day, we had some explaining to do to the farmer. I think that was the first time I ever heard the term “Get a switch, boy.”
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