As Jim handed out lunch plates to the men, his eyes lit up when he came to Mack. “Which way did Anak go when he left camp this morning? Did he head toward the mountains, or back in the general direction of town?” His answer was eagerly awaited by everyone else in the chow line but Mack was clearly confused by the question.
“Huh? I was going to ask why he didn’t show up for supper last night like he always does.”; He replied. The mystified expression on his face began to deepen.
“But he did come, Mack! Anak visited again last night and occupied his usual spot by the fire. As a matter of fact he even asked where you were. He got the strangest look on his face when we told him you were guarding the cattle. He even retold his creepy story from the other night with some new parts added in. After that, we all ‘hit the hay’. He was gone when I got up to fix breakfast a dawn.”
Jim grew more agitated by the minute as he reflected upon the events of the previous night. “Surely you must have seen Anak when he left this morning! He would have walked right past you at the lookout station, no matter which way he went after that!”
“Well how could that be?”; Mack exclaimed defensively. “I didn’t see him walk by either time. We all know there isn’t any other way in or out of camp except by the corrals! Don’t you think I would have noticed a lumbering giant strolling by?”; He snorted.
“Maybe you didn’t see him walk past you because your eyelids were closed!”; Ross quipped sarcastically. The brash insinuation by the camp blacksmith (that Mack fell asleep at his post) didn’t sit too well with him. He was very quick to let his two ‘night watch critics’ know. The whole thing might have become a knock-down drag-out, if I hadn’t stepped in to intervene.
“Just hold on there, fellas! Did any of our livestock disappear last night while he was on watch?”; I pointed out. I hoped reason would deescalate the rising tension.
“That doesn’t prove a thing.”; Ross scoffed. “You could have propped up a scarecrow by the gate and got the same result!”
“Is that so?”; I challenged. Well, Let’s see if you do as well tonight then.” The rest of the guys laughed at my clever comeback. It seemed like Ross was trapped but he wasn’t one to give up easily.
“Well I would but uh, I uh, didn’t get very much sleep last night so I wouldn’t be able to keep awake like I usually would.”
“Suuuurrrre you didn’t!”; I mocked. “Otherwise you would love to back up your boasting, wouldn’t you, Ross?”
“I haven’t heard you volunteer for a shift yet either!”; He fired back.
I knew it would be my turn eventually so I might as well get it over with. I had put my foot in my mouth and got involved in their petty squabble. It was time to pay the piper.
“Alright, fair is fair.” I agreed. “I’ll take tonight’s watch so you can get you precious ‘shut eye’. Then you’ll be all rested up for tomorrow night.” I certainly wasn’t going to let him off the hook since he dragged me in the whole mess!