Friday, July 31, 2015

The McComber Switch - Chapter 2 - Thanksgiving Day Pardon

The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer

Chapter 2 - Thanksgiving Day Pardon
November 27th (Thanksgiving Day)

Jasmine was fully dressed, including wearing Jimmy’s heavy camouflage coat and hat, with the hood of the coat pulled over top of the hat.  His warm heavy boots were on her feet with heavy warm socks inside.  She was sitting on the floor of his bedroom sound asleep when the door opened.
“Jimmy,” the soft voice called. 
She woke up, and looked up, but not high enough to let whoever was there see her face.  She realized her brother Tommy was there.
“Dad says it’s time to go,” Tommy told her.
She nodded and pried herself up from the floor as he left the doorway.
As she left the room, she saw faint light coming from the kitchen, and saw her brother heading that way.  She went straight into the bathroom where she peed.  Then she took a moment to stare at her reflection in the mirror.  She had pulled her hair back last night and plaited it so that as long as the hood was in place, nobody would notice how long her hair was.  The only problem with that was that Jimmy’s hair was fairly long and full and usually fell across his face.  But where his hair ended just below his ears, her hair went halfway down her back.  Plaiting her hair was as good as she could get.  She left the bathroom, trying to keep her head down and watch the floor to make it harder for anyone to see her face.
“There you are!” her father said as she got to the kitchen.  “Grab those thermoses and let’s go.” 
She picked up the three thermoses from the counter and cradled them between her arms as she headed for the back door.  Her father turned out the kitchen light as soon as she got past him.  She heard him locking the door behind them.  It was dark, but the outside floodlight lit up the small area around her father’s big pickup truck.  Standing back out of the way, she watched as her father and Tommy loaded the guns, a big cooler, and a few other things into the back of the truck. 
“Take those into the back seat with you,” her father told her.  Gratefully, she climbed up into the truck, set the thermoses on the floor, and laid down on the back seat.  A few moments later, the truck was started and the journey began.  She breathed a sigh of relief that she had made it that far without being discovered.
There were a number of small lakes on their land.  It was a tradition in the family to do only duck hunting on Thanksgiving Day, and they did it every single year.  Her Uncle John Mercer would be helping with a group of tourists who were in for the day at one of the other lakes on their land.  Her Uncle Jack Cumberland would be working with another group of hunters at another lake.  Her father, Clint McComber, was taking his two sons to one of the furthest lakes on the property to do their hunting there with his three brothers and some of her cousins.  Jasmine, still laying down in the back seat, knew from experience that it was going to take a while to get there.  She let herself fall asleep on the way. 
The slowing of the truck, and the deep ruts in the dirt road pulled her awake.  It was still completely dark outside as she expected.  A few minutes later, her Dad stopped the truck next to three others.  She grabbed the thermoses from the floor and awkwardly got out of the truck, still trying to keep her head down as much as possible. 
Tommy got up into the back of the truck and pushed the cooler out onto the tailgate.  Her father grabbed it and set it on the ground.  Tommy got down, and the two of them each took a handle and started walking.  “This way, Jimmy,” her father said as he turned on the flashlight in his hands.  “We’ll come back for the guns in a few minutes.”
She followed them down the path between the trees.  It was so dark she could hardly see anything at all.  She stumbled a few times on the uneven ground.  The air was bitterly cold, feeling fresh and clean in her lungs.  She breathed it in, enjoying the smell of the trees and the forest around her.  How could anyone not like this?  She thought again about her stupid brother.  Had she really done what she had to him?  Yeah!  She had.  She had probably screwed up his entire life!  But anyone who was that afraid of such stupid things deserved it!  And now here she was, out with her father – hunting!  She couldn’t help but smile. 
Her father’s flashlight caught the almost invisible opening to the wooden duck blind that had been permanently built on the edge of the pond several years ago.  She saw a dim light from inside the structure.  She followed her father and Tommy in, and saw one of her uncles, and four of her cousins already there.
“Mornin’ Clint,” one of her uncles said to her father.
“Mornin’ Jed,” her father returned.
“Brian and Pete are already out on the water putting the decoys out.  Looks like we’re going to have a great day for it.”
“Looks like it,” Clint replied.  He set the cooler down at the back of the blind and took the thermoses from “Jimmy” and set them on top of the cooler.  “Let’s go get the guns,” he told his kids.
Jasmine followed her father and Tommy back up the path all the way to the truck.  A few moments later, she was holding a large shotgun in her arms.  Her excitement soared! 
And then another truck pulled in, and Jasmine saw the one person she didn’t expect to see get out of it.  Her Grandpa!  Everyone knew from the earliest age on that her Grandpa, Jacob McComber, ruled everything.  His word was essentially law!  He was the head of the clan and was easily the most loved, feared, and respected member.  But it was his law that Jasmine was now breaking.  What would happen when he saw who she really was?  Her father finding out could only mean the worst punishment possible…most likely horribly painful punishment.  But with Grandpa McComber there, it could only be worse!  She listened as her father joked with Grandpa for a few minutes, then she followed them all back down the path to the duck blind.
Evidently, all the decoys had been set on the pond now because the place was practically full of hunters.  Jasmine still kept her head down as she ran her hands over the shotgun her Dad had given her and cradled its heavy bulk to her body. 
The sky was just beginning to brighten a bit.  Everyone watched it closely.  Of course, once the sun did come up, they still had to wait for ducks to land in the water. 
“Just a few more minutes, I think,” Grandpa noted.  The others nodded their agreement.
Jasmine saw her father turn to her.  “Ready Jimmy?” he asked, his voice full of anticipation.
“Mm-hmm,” Jasmine replied, trying not to talk so that her voice wouldn’t give her away.
“Why don’t you take that hood off,” her father suggested.  “It’s only going to get in your way in here.”
“I’m good,” she replied softly.
Clint McComber stared at his son.  His voice had sounded…wrong.  “Jimmy,” he said more forcefully, “take that hood off!”
Very slowly, Jasmine reached up and pulled the hood down from her head.  She heard one of the guys gasp as her long hair was exposed.  Then she pulled her hat off…and looked up at the shocked look on her father’s face.  The same shocked look that was on the face of all of them.
“Jasmine?” her father finally got out.  “What are you doing here?”
It was a moment before she could answer.  “Hunting.”
“Where’s Jimmy?”
“Home, taking my place.”
“And you’re here instead.  Why?”
“Because…”  She had to find a way to tell them.  “Because Jimmy is too much of a wuss!  He’s too scared of his own shadow to go hunting.  And…because I want to hunt!”
The anger in her father’s voice was evident.  “We don’t allow the women in the family to hunt.  They can get hurt!  You know that!”
“I don’t care!  I want to hunt!” she returned forcefully.  She knew it was a mistake the moment she heard the gasps from all the men around her.
Clint McComber looked around at the men, then his gaze fell to Tommy.  The sound of his voice was filled with him trying to control his temper.  “Tommy, take your sister back to the truck and wait for me there.  I need to figure out what to do.”
Jasmine set her gun down on the floor, and reluctantly followed her older brother out of the duck blind and back up the path toward the trucks.  Well, she had almost made it.  She only hoped that whatever punishment she got now would be less than her stupid sissy brother would get.  The thought of what her mother was going to wake up to in a little while though actually brought a smile to her face.  Her brother was in for it – for sure!
Clint turned to his father.  “I’m sorry, Dad.  I had no idea she was here instead of Jimmy.”
“Yeah,” Jacob McComber replied.  “I didn’t notice it either.  None of us did.  So what are you going to do?”
“Take her home.  She can’t be here.”
“But the sun’s coming up,” Brian McComber noted.  “The ducks could fly in anytime now.”
Clint just shrugged.  “I’m going to have to miss it today.  Maybe I can get back before it gets too late.”  He thought of something else.  “Will you guys watch Tommy?  There’s no reason he has to miss this.”  He paused for a moment.  “And it’s probably better if he’s not around when I get that girl home.”
He saw the heads nod all around him.  “No problem,” one of them said.
“Can she shoot?” Jacob McComber asked.
Clint shrugged.  “Of course.  But that’s beside the point.”
“Is she any good?” his father asked next.
Clint considered that.  “Pretty good.  Darn good in fact.”
Jacob nodded as he considered things.  “Look,” he said, “I don’t like this.  I don’t like it one bit!  It’s wrong!  But it’s also Thanksgiving.  And if you say she shoots well enough, then let her stay this time.”
Everyone looked at him with amazement on their faces. 
“It’s Thanksgiving,” Jacob said again.  “You all know that Thanksgiving and Christmas are special to me.  I’d rather not see any of the kids punished today.  You can whip them both good tomorrow, but not today.”  He paused for a moment before adding, “Besides, I figure what she did took a lot of courage.”  He grunted, “A surprising amount.  And today of all days, it would be a shame for any of us to miss this hunt, including you.  It’s up to you of course, she’s your kid, but as far as I’m concerned, this time, she can stay.  And let’s see if she really can shoot like you say.”
Clint stared at his father for several moments.  “You’re sure?” he asked cautiously.
Jacob rolled his eyes and turned away.  “About time for someone to put their duck calls to work, I would think.”
Jasmine kicked the dirt around next to the pickup truck, and stared up at the small patch of sky she could see between the trees.  The stars were fading so they were hardly visible anymore as the sun gradually took their place.  In the distance, she heard the faint sounds of a duck call.  She had almost made it!  Her attention was caught by someone approaching up the path.  Her father – as she had expected.  She was in for it now.
Clint stopped at the end of the path and stared at his daughter.  She was looking down at the ground.  He had no doubt that she was expecting to be punished.  Well, that part was going to have to wait now until later.  “Let’s go,” he said as he turned back the way he had come.  He took two steps, stopped and turned back again.  “Coming?” he asked.
“I can stay?” Jasmine asked in disbelief.
Clint just shook his head and headed back down the path.  A moment later, Tommy was by his side, and Jasmine was right behind them.  “Don’t think you’re not going to get punished severely for this,” her father said without turning around.  “It’s just going to have to wait a bit.”  Once back in the duck blind, he pointed at the gun she had left on the floor.  “Pick it up and load it.  Get ready.  Ducks could fly in any time now.”  Then he turned away from her.
She couldn’t believe it.  Not at all!  All the guys in the blind were looking at her – except her father.  With a proud smile on her face, she picked up the gun and loaded it.  She was ready. 
The wait was long, and duck calls came frequently from several of the guys in the blind.  But eventually a small flock of birds flew over, circled, and landed on the lake.  It was a beautiful sight.  Guns raised and aimed. 
“Hang on a minute,” Jacob McComber whispered softly.  He turned to Jasmine.  “This is your first hunt.  You get the first shot.”
Amazed, Jasmine raised her gun again and aimed at a large male mallard that had landed in the middle of the lake.  There was no pause, no hesitation at all.  Her gun roared and the shotgun kickback felt like it nearly broke her shoulder.  A moment later, every gun in the blind followed suit.  It was glorious!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The McComber Switch - Chapter 1 - ‘Twas the Night

The McComber Switch

By Karen Singer

Part 1 – Revenge of the Ducks

Chapter 1 - ‘Twas the Night

Chapter 2 - Thanksgiving Day Pardon

Chapter 3 - Bad Business

Chapter 4 – Going Along With It

Chapter 5 – Meet the McCombers

Chapter 6 – Not Again!

Chapter 7 – The Stowaway

Chapter 8 – The Note

Chapter 9 – Family Meeting

Chapter 10 - Ya Gotta Have Friends

Chapter 11 - God and Jacob

Chapter 12 - Deeper in the Mire

Chapter 13 – The Workshop

Chapter 14 – The Christmas Gift

Chapter 1 - ‘Twas the Night
November 26th

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even…  Wait a minute.  Back up a bit!  Someone was stirring.  Eleven year old Jimmy McComber was wide awake in his room and fretting so much he couldn’t possibly sleep!  The nightlight that he always left on, cast dim shadows over everything in the room.  But the one thing it seemed to highlight the most were the trophy ducks mounted and hung on his bedroom wall.  Ducks that he had killed himself.  And they terrified him!
Tomorrow would be Thanksgiving, and the men in the McComber clan always went duck hunting Thanksgiving morning.  It was a tradition.  He had been going duck hunting since he was eight.  Forced to go by his father…because all the McComber men were raised to hunt from the earliest age possible.  He had killed the first duck on his wall his very first year, along with two others that day.  Murdered the poor things.  One minute they were beautiful living creatures, the next…dead!  All too often he dreamed about being a duck…and then getting shot.  Did the duck on the wall hold it against him?  Jimmy wasn’t sure.  He only knew he felt horribly guilty about killing the thing.  Stamping out its life, only to hang it on his bedroom wall.
The second duck on his wall was killed on Thanksgiving the following year, and the third the year after that.  Each time his father had decided to “reward” him for his good shooting by having one of them stuffed and mounted – and hung with the first duck where Jimmy could always see them and feel a sense of pride in his shooting skills.  But what they had really done was to remind him constantly that he was a murderer.  That he had taken their poor lives and crushed them out.  Their black beady eyes always stared directly at him…accusing him…blaming him…constantly reminding him of his guilt.  He was afraid that somehow, someday, those ducks were going to have their revenge on him.  And now they simply terrified him.
And it wasn’t just ducks.  For the past two years his father had taken him deer hunting too.  He’d never admit it to anyone, but he had purposely “missed” each time he had taken a shot, including every trip they had made this year too.  Last year, his misses had been chalked up to being young and inexperienced, but that excuse wasn’t holding up as well anymore.  His father had been taking the whole family out target shooting more often lately, preparing for the winter hunting season.  His father had made sure that, like all the rest of his family, he was basically a pretty fair shot…at targets.  He just never wanted to kill another living thing again.
As he lay in his bed, he forced his eyes away from the ducks to the pile of clothing on the floor.  His hunting clothes.  Warm and waterproof.  All of it waiting for him to put on in just a few hours…before he would be forced to go out and kill again. 
He closed his eyes, trying not to think of any of it.  Trying not to worry.  Trying to fall asleep for a few hours.  But sleep wouldn’t come, and the ducks were already accusing him for killing more of their kind…and he hadn’t even left home yet.
He could stand it no more.  He got out of bed.  Trying to sleep was useless.  He left his room and went down the hall to the bathroom.  Going out his door, he passed his sister’s room directly across the hall.  His twin sister Jasmine.  She continually complained that she wanted to go hunting.  What was wrong with her?  Fortunately, all the hunting was left to the males in the family.  He turned into the bathroom, directly across from Tommy’s room.  His fourteen year-old brother loved hunting – like all the rest of the men in the family.  He loved it, and he was good at it.  Their father was understandably proud of Tommy.  So far, he was proud of Jimmy too, but how long would that last?
He had made his father angry last night – again.  He had made him angry because he had pleaded to not go hunting.  But hunting to the family was serious business.  It was serious business to all their relatives too.  Not just to put food on the table – that was pretty much secondary.  But the extended family owned nearly twenty-eight thousand acres of prime northern Arkansas hunting land, and managing hunting clubs and guiding hunting expeditions were the way much of the family brought in their money.  Hunting wasn’t only important to all of them, it was vital! 
The only problem was, Jimmy didn’t just not like hunting – he hated it.  It terrified him.  But being a guy in the family meant that he automatically had to like it…or love it, as the rest of them did.  Except that he didn’t love it…or like it. 
And shooting ducks was one thing.  His father had been continually going out of his way this year to make sure Jimmy shot his first deer.  And as he had done in the past, he had reminded Jimmy all too often of the special ritual that was so important whenever someone shot their first deer.  The heart had to be cut out, and then eaten by the one who shot it, right where the deer was killed.  Sometimes the heart would be cut out while the deer was still alive – while it was still beating.  It was a rite of passage into manhood and the clan seemed to lay a big emphasis on it.  But to Jimmy, just thinking about it made him sick to his stomach and made him shake with fear.  He couldn’t imagine anything worse in the world.
So now Jimmy was even more terrified of going hunting in a few hours with the rest of the men in the family.  Because killing ducks on Thanksgiving morning was only going to bring him one step closer to having to go out once again to try and kill his first deer.  And just thinking about that little ritual made him gag and nearly throw up. 
He peed, he washed his hands, and left the bathroom.  Just as he got back to his bedroom door, his sister’s door across the hall opened.  She was startled to see him.
“Can’t sleep?” she whispered, standing there in her flannel nightgown as she ran a hand through her long brown hair and stretched a bit.  She was slightly taller than he was.  As was common for girls at that age, she had grown a bit faster than he had.  His parents had said that he would catch up and pass her fairly soon.
“No,” Jimmy replied.  “Not a bit.”
“Too excited,” Jasmine replied with a knowing nod.  “Damn, I wish I could go.  I’d love to kill some ducks.”
“Don’t even think it!” Jimmy exclaimed a little too loudly. 
“Shh!” Jasmine hushed him, looking around to make sure they didn’t wake anyone.  “I know,” she said with a roll of her eyes, ‘hunting is for the guys.’  The women all have to stay at home and cook!  Phooey!  I hate it!  It’s not fair!”
“Huh!  Better that than going out and killing poor innocent creatures for no reason at all!”
Jasmine’s eyes went wide.  “What’s wrong with you?  I’d do anything for a chance to go!”
“You can have it!” Jimmy exclaimed, again a little too loudly. 
Jasmine looked around to make sure no lights went on in the other rooms, then she pulled her brother into her room and closed the door so they wouldn’t be heard as easily.
Jimmy’s eyes quickly scanned her dimly lit room as his sister switched on the overhead light so they could see better than by the single small light next to her bed.  Unlike his room that had the ducks mounted on the wall, her room was painted light pink and had two rows of shelves stretching the entire length of the wall above her bed, then turning the corner and going almost the full length of the next wall.  The shelves only stopped because of the door opening.  But every inch of those long shelves was packed with dolls.  Dolls, dolls, dolls.  All kinds of them.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Jasmine whispered again.  “Hunting is what we do.  It’s what the whole family does.  I’d do anything to be able to go!”
“You can have it!” Jimmy whispered back.  “I’d just as soon never kill anything – ever again!”
“Why not?”
Jimmy just shook his head and stared at the floor.  “I just don’t want to!”
“Why not?” Jasmine insisted again.  “There’s got to be some reason.”
Jimmy looked up at her, but the two of them only stared at each other for a few moments before he could reply.  “I’m scared!  Okay?  Just don’t tell anyone.”
Jasmine, for the life of her, couldn’t understand that.  “Scared of what?”
He shook his head as he searched for an answer.  “You never know what you’re going to run into out there.  Do you know how many snakes crawl around in the woods?  And there are bears and wild boar, and…a bunch of other things that won’t just hurt you, they can kill you.  And…”  He looked down at the floor.  “I don’t like killing things!” he added.  “I always feel like…”  But he didn’t finish.
“Feel like what?”
“Like…  Never mind.  It’s stupid.”
Jasmine watched him for a moment, but it didn’t look like her brother was going to give out any more details.  “What’s stupid?  If it has you so scared, then maybe it’s not stupid.”
Jimmy rolled his eyes.  “Yes it is!  Just don’t tell anyone – please!”
“Don’t tell them what?  You’re not saying anything that makes sense.  What scares you?”
“The ducks,” Jimmy finally admitted.
Jasmine blinked and tried to understand, but she couldn’t.  “You’re afraid of ducks?”
“It’s not that.  Well, it is, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Jasmine still couldn’t comprehend being afraid of ducks…or anything else.  “Like what?”
“Don’t ask.”
“I am asking!”
Jimmy turned away from her and wandered a few steps around, but it wasn’t his room and he had nowhere to go.  He finally sat on her bed.  “They’re always staring at me,” he said.
“Who’s always staring at you?”
“The ducks!  The stupid ducks on my wall.”
Jasmine blinked again.  “The ducks on your wall scare you because you think they’re staring at you?  They’re dead!”
“That’s just it!  They’re dead…and I killed them.  It’s as if they hate me now.  All I can think about is how guilty I feel and…”
Jasmine was now firmly convinced that her twin brother had a screw loose – a major screw!  “And what?”
“And they want to get back at me for it.”
Jasmine’s head was spinning.  Her stupid brother was seriously messed up!  “You’re an idiot!” she exclaimed in no uncertain terms. 
“So what?  Tell me something I don’t know.”
“There is no way in the world that anyone can be afraid of ducks…especially not dead ones.  And there’s no way that a dead duck is going to come back and do anything to you!  You idiot!”
“I can’t help it!” Jimmy insisted.  “I know it makes no sense, but that’s the way I feel.  And don’t even get me started on the bit about killing my first deer.  You have no idea how much I’m dreading that!”
Jasmine didn’t know what to do with her screwy brother.  “Are you talking about the ritual, the one where you eat its heart right after you shoot it?”
Jimmy only nodded and stared at the floor.  “I practically start gagging every time I even think about it.”
“You do?”
He nodded. 
Wide eyed and mischievous, Jasmine said, “I’d love to do that.  You have no idea how much I’d love to kill a deer and eat its heart.  Maybe I could get to it while it was still alive!  I would take my knife and plunge it right into the deer, right next to where its heart should be.  I would cut all around it so I could get to the still beating heart and…”
“Stop!” Jimmy exclaimed, a bit too loudly.  He got up and hurried toward the door.
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m going to puke!”
“Well don’t do it here!”
Jimmy actually had the door half-open before he got his stomach under control.
“You really are afraid of this stuff!” Jasmine exclaimed as he quietly closed the door again.  She shook her head.  “I can’t believe it.”
“Yeah, well just don’t tell anyone.”
“Why not?”
“You know perfectly well why not!”
“What are you going to do?  Did you tell Dad you’re afraid of killing anything?”
He shook his head.  “Of course not!  I did ask Dad last night to let me stay home and not go hunting tomorrow, but I didn’t tell him I was afraid of anything.  I tried hard last night to convince him to let me stay here.”  He rolled his eyes.  “You have no idea how mad he got at me for it.  I thought he was going to kill me for just suggesting I not go!”
“So what are you going to do?”
He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Go and try not to hit anything, I guess.  I’d just give anything to not have to go at all tomorrow!”
“Huh!  You’re crazy!” she replied.  “I’d give anything to be able to go.”
He shook his head.  “Goodnight Sis.”  He opened the door and went back to his room.  He laid down in his bed…and stared at the ducks on his wall – all of them staring back at him with menacing looks in their eyes.
Jasmine finally got to the bathroom.  Her brother was screwy!  What the hell was wrong with him?  Afraid of ducks?  Talk about dumb!  Major dumb!  Major stupid!  God, what a wuss!  A major wuss!  She had no idea her brother was that much of a pansy.  She’d give her right arm to be able to go hunting with all the guys.  She’d give anything to be allowed to shoot at something – other than a stupid paper target.  What good did that do?  She was a great shot!  Better than her stupid pansy brother! 
She could shoot some ducks.  She knew she could.  With no problem at all.  Then maybe her father would have one of them mounted and let her hang it on her wall.  She’d love to look at that instead of all those stupid dolls everyone always bought her.  She had a million of them, and they were all useless!  But she couldn’t go hunting.  She was a girl. Girls don’t hunt!  At least, not in this family.  It wasn’t right!
If dumb Jimmy was too afraid of a silly duck, talk about dumb, then let him stay home and let her go instead!  It was only fair.  There was no reason in the world why she shouldn’t be allowed to go hunting with everyone else.  No reason in the world – except family tradition.  The women didn’t hunt. They all stayed home and cooked dinner!  Ugh!  And tomorrow, she would have to get all dressed up in her new dress, and go over to Grandma’s house and work on preparing Thanksgiving dinner for everyone else.  A thousand people!  Well, it seemed like it. 
The men got to go out and have fun all the time, while the women stayed home and worked.  It wasn’t fair.  It just wasn’t fair!  Let her stupid brother stay home and cook dinner with the women.  Let him see how he enjoyed that instead of going out and doing something interesting.  Let him see how much he liked that!  It would serve him right!  Let him do that…and let her go hunting with the men.
Her thinking stopped right there.  She had gotten so worked up over it that she was still sitting on the toilet – long after she had finished peeing.  She wanted to go hunting.  Her stupid brother didn’t.  Could she?  Did she dare?  It only took a moment’s thought to realize the trouble she would be in.  Her father would kill her!  Maybe literally!  The rest of the men in the family might too!  Did she dare? 
But…was it worth getting killed, if she could just experience hunting once.  It would be so worth it if she could just kill a duck.  Just one!  It would be…
Damn!  She couldn’t believe she was even considering it.  What was wrong with her?  She quickly washed her hands and headed back to her room.  But when she got to the door, she stood in the middle of the hallway.  Her room on her left, her brother’s room on her right.  He had said…  She had said…  Should she?  No!  He wouldn’t!  If he was that much of a pansy about being afraid of ducks, he would never agree to…  But…what could it hurt to ask?  He’d never tell anyone that she had suggested it.  That is, not unless he actually agreed. 
Her hand reached out to knock on his door, but she stopped herself.  No.  Not this way.  Not this way at all.  If she was going to offer to do this for him, then she wanted him to do something for her in return.  But what she had in mind, well, she would have to make sure he didn’t back out first. 
If he was too afraid of a little duck to go hunting, would he be afraid of her too?  With a sly smile on her face, she went back to her own room.  But the dim light by her bed stayed on.  She laid down on her bed, but her mind was working way too fast for her to fall asleep.  A little while later, she got up again, and headed for her desk.  She would just have to see how desperate stupid Jimmy was to not go hunting with the guys!

--- §§§§§§§§§§ ---

Jimmy was still wide awake and staring at the ducks on his wall when the soft knock came at his door.  He heard his sister’s voice softly calling his name.  In a flash, he was up to open the door.  “What?” he whispered.
“How desperate are you to not go hunting tomorrow?” she asked.
He rolled his eyes.  “I’d do anything!”
She grabbed the front of his pajamas and pulled him out of his room and all the way into hers, where she shut the door behind them and switched on the overhead light again.
“Anything?” she asked.
He looked at her suspiciously.  “What do you mean by anything?”
“I mean…anything!
“Like what?”
“How desperate are you?”
“Pretty desperate, I guess,” he replied.
“Desperate enough to kill more ducks and have them mounted on your wall?  Desperate enough to go out and kill a deer and cut its heart out and…”
“Okay, okay!  Geez!  I already told you I don’t want to do any of that stuff.  I really will barf if I have to listen to you talk about that anymore.”
“So you’re pretty desperate to get out of it then?”
“You already know that,” he replied suspiciously.
“So are you desperate enough to let me go hunting in your place…instead of you?”
He blinked and looked at her like she was crazy.  “How could you do that?  You know Dad won’t let you.”
“Most likely he’s going to kill me when he finds out.  I’m just hoping he won’t find out until afterwards.”
“I don’t know yet.  But the question is, how desperate are you?”
He shook his head.  “Look, if you want to try to take my place, then have at it.  I don’t want to go!”
She smiled.  “Yeah, but if I go hunting, pretending to be you, then that means that you’re going to have to stay here and fill in for me.”
“Huh?  Fill in for you?  I can’t do that.”
“Sure you can.  You just stay here and help Mom and the others instead of me.”
“They’ll never let me!”
“They’ll have to if I’m gone and you’re stuck here.”
He thought about that for a moment.  “Maybe.  I guess,” he finally conceded.  “So you want to try to sneak out of the house and make them think you’re me?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Then go for it,” he replied.  “Like I said, I’d much rather stay here.”
Jasmine shook her head.  “But you see, it’s not going to be that easy.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I’m going to get punished within an inch of my life for pretending to be you and going hunting, then you’re not going to get out of this deal easy at all.  You’re going to have to do something that I know you’ll hate almost as much as eating that raw, still beating deer heart.”
“Like what?” he asked suspiciously.
Instead of answering, she ran to her desk and plucked a piece of paper from it.  “These are my demands.”  She handed him the paper.  “You’ve got to agree to all that, and copy it over as a note to Mom, in your own handwriting, and then sign it saying that you’re agreeing to do everything on that list instead of me – because I’m being kind enough to help you out so you don’t have to go hunting.”
He read the first item and his eyes went wide.  “I can’t do that!”
She nodded and smiled.  “I didn’t think you’d want to.  I guess you better start looking forward to eating a nice warm, bloody, deer heart.  Maybe it will even be still beating when you get it.”
He could feel the bile rising up from his stomach. 
“I wonder if it will still be beating after you cut it out of the deer’s body.  That would be so cool!”
He ran for her trash can, struggling to keep himself from barfing up anything that might be in his stomach.
She watched him in amazement.  She couldn’t believe it really did upset him that much and make him start gagging.  What a wuss!  What a pansy!  Feeling cruel, she pushed a bit harder.  “I wonder how it’s going to taste.  Will it be soft?  Will it be hard to chew?  I know it will be wet, and warm, and moist from all the blood – the blood that’s going to fill your mouth and drip down your chin…”
“Stop!” he begged as he retched a bit over her can.
She watched him closely for a moment and smiled slyly.  “So what’s it going to be?”
“What else is on that list?” he asked, the trash can still in his hands.
She grabbed the paper from where he had dropped it on the bed and handed it to him.  He read it in silence.  All of it.  Each and every item was worse than the previous one.  And the first item was already beyond his worst nightmare. 
“Warm bloody heart,” she said softly.  “Dripping hot blood filling your mouth and running down your chin.  Down your body.  It’s going to taste so good!  And then you know Dad will have that deer head mounted and hang it on your wall.”
He dropped to his knees and wretched harder than before.  Nothing came out, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. 
She stayed silent for a while, letting him calm down.  God, what a wuss!  What a damn pansy!  She just couldn’t believe it.  “So what’s it going to be?” she asked once again.
He was gasping a bit, trying to calm himself.  “I can’t stand it,” he said.  “I don’t want to go hunting.”
There was no doubting the smirk on her face.  “Stupid wuss!  Drop that trash can and get over to my desk…or I guess it’s going to be your desk now.  At least for the next day.”
It took him a long time to copy it all – word for word.  And then he had to sign it…sign it and certify that he was agreeing to every one of her demands, and that he was too afraid of everything to go hunting anymore.  The moment it was signed though, Jasmine grabbed it and headed for the door.  “Where are you going?” he asked.
“You don’t think I’d leave this anywhere where you can find it and rip it up before Mom sees it, do you?  You’re not getting out of this deal at all!”  With that she hurried out of her room.  She went all the way out to the kitchen.  She looked around for a good place to stash the note, and quickly settled on putting it on top of everything in the silverware drawer.  Then she hurried back to her bedroom where her brother was still sitting at the desk.
“What did you do with it?” he asked.
“Hid it,” she replied.
He was screwed!  Totally screwed. 
“Now get those pajamas off!” she ordered.  “And hurry up.  I’ve still got to get myself ready too!”  While Jimmy was removing his pajamas, she dug into one of her drawers and pulled out a pair of her panties and a bra. 
Jimmy reluctantly removed his pajama top, but it took a stern look from Jasmine before he could remove his pajama bottoms too, leaving him standing in front of her in only his boxer shorts. 
“Get those off too!” she ordered. 
“My underwear?”
“Isn’t that what I said?  Now hurry up!”
“But I’ll be naked!”
“Tough!  This is your problem…your punishment.  So get busy!”
He finally found the courage to remove his boxers, leaving himself totally stark naked in front of his sister. 
“Here,” she said throwing the panties at him.  “Put these on.”
He gratefully grabbed the thin little piece of material and pulled them on.  They were so light and thin that he was afraid they might rip.  They didn’t though.  They just felt strange.
“Turn around and face the wall,” she told him.  “I’ve got to get undressed too.”  She watched until he was facing the wall, then she quickly shed her nightgown and panties, and pulled his boxer shorts on instead.  She grabbed his pajamas and put them on, effectively dressing herself in everything that he had been wearing.  “You can turn around now,” she told him.
Jimmy slowly turned back around to see his sister, now dressed in his pajamas.  And a moment later, he saw her heading towards him with one of her bras.  “Sis, do I have to?” 
“Of course,” she said.  “You won’t look right without it.”
She slipped it on him and fastened it in back for him…and paused to consider something else – something she decided she just has to fix.  “Wait a minute,” she said.  “I’ll be right back.”  She hurried back to the kitchen where she and her mother had been working on sewing projects together.  She found the little plastic box she was looking for and went back to the bedroom.  “Turn around,” she said as soon as she had the door closed again.  With his back to her, she set the little box on the bed and took out a safety pin.  She used it to pin his bra together so that it would be impossible for him to get it off by himself. 
Feeling much more satisfied, she handed him the nightgown she had been wearing and told him to put it on.  Once it was on him, she turned him around and buttoned the back neck button for him.  But she again decided she didn’t want him to be able to remove the nightgown either.  It was important that Mom see him in it when she found him in the morning.  Pulling one safety pin after another from the box, she pinned the back neck fastening closed with two safety pins, then she used two more to pin the back of the nightgown to the bra he was wearing under it.  For all intents and purposes, she figured he would now have a pretty tough time getting out of the thing.  But she wanted to make doubly sure.  Taking every safety pin from the box, she went to work on his arms, pinning each of them straight down to the sides of the nightgown.  Any movement from his arms now brought the material of the gown with them…and didn’t allow him to move them much at all.
“Isn’t this a bit ridiculous?” Jimmy asked.
“Mm…maybe,” she admitted.  Actually she had been having more than a bit of fun with him.  But there was one last thing she had to do, and it was vital!  She hurried to her desk where she wrote another short note, then taking the last four safety pins from the box, she pinned the note to the back of his nightgown.  He wouldn’t be able to see or reach the note.  And Mom would have no problem finding it.  “Now lay down in the bed,” she told him.  “It’s time for you to go to sleep…and I’ve still got to get myself ready.”
Feeling more foolish and worried than ever, Jimmy awkwardly laid down in Jasmine’s bed and let her cover him up with her covers.  With his arms semi stuck to his sides, he couldn’t even move the covers she had put over top of him. 
Jasmine turned out the light by the bed, leaving the overhead light still on so she could see.  Then she opened the bedroom door.  “Goodnight,” she said to him, trying to keep from laughing.  Then she turned off the overhead light.
“Hey!” Jimmy called.  “Leave it on!”
She turned the light back on again.  “Leave it on?  Why?”
It was a moment before he answered.  “I’m afraid of the dark.”
Her mouth just dropped in disbelief.  She rolled her eyes and shook her head.  God, what a wuss!  What a…sissy!  She forcefully turned the light out again.  “Good night…Sis!” she told him.