This Mean This
Woodruff crouched next to Bob in a muddy wash, the roots of a mighty tree jutted out of the ground between them. They fought, in vain, against their panting breaths as quietly as they could. Woodruff’s hair was matted to his head in a sweaty mess, while Bob’s face and neck was covered with mud and grass.
“Just leave me, Bob, I’m not going to make it.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It just all went wrong.”
“It’s my fault.”
“It’s not your fault.”
Bob slowly peeked over the berm behind them, out at the deathly still field that stretched out to a distance tree line. He slumped back down and closed his eyes.
“Did you see anything?”
“We’re in trouble.”
The acknowledgement of the cold hard truth hung in the air.
“How’s your leg?” Bob asked, unable to speak his own fear.
“I’ll live, I think.”
Woodruff lifted his bloody leg out of the sludge, his pant leg torn right down the middle to reveal the painful gash.
“Can you run?”
“I’m not sure.”
Bob grimaced and turned himself around to face the protective wall of grass and black clay. He stretched his neck up and peered out over the field. There was no sound and nothing moved outside of the blades of grass shaking slightly on the breeze.
“I don’t see them anywhere.”
“They’re out there.”
“Maybe they left.”
“Why would they do that?” Woodruff demanded, with his attention on his wound.
“I don’t know,” Bob replied. “It’s 4:30, maybe they went home to watch People’s Court.”
“Yeah, Bob, I’m sure that killing machines, bred for stealth and destruction, paused from their ongoing mission to annihilate mankind to watch People’s Court.”
“It’s riveting television, that’s all I’m saying.”
“We need to focus, or neither of us is going to make it out of this alive.”
“You’re right, we need a plan.”
“Maybe we could wait them out,” Woodruff suggested. “It will be dark soon, we could try to sneak out under the cover of night.”
“No good,” Bob said. “If we move they’ll be able to sense the tremors of our footsteps on the ground.”
“What if we lure them out?”
“Are you crazy? That’s like challenging Mike Tyson to a game of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.”
“Is Mike Tyson good at Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots?”
Woodruff shrugged and nodded along. Bob drew in a deep breath through his nose and sighed.
“We’ve only got one choice.”
“No!” Bob exclaimed. “An all-out frontal assault, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid style.”
“Don’t they die?” Woodruff asked.
“The freeze frame finale is unclear.”
“Which one of us is Butch Cassidy and which one is the Sundance Kid?”
“I’m clearly Butch Cassidy.”
“Even though I called dibs on young Paul Newman if my life story is ever made into a movie.”
“How would that even be possible?” Bob asked. “He died, like ten years ago.”
“CGI,” Woodruff replied. “They did it with Peter Cushing, with Jeff Bridges, they’ve been doing it with Rob Lowe for years.”
“Fine, you can be Butch Cassidy.”
“Alright then, it’s settled. Kill or be killed.”
“If I’m going to bite the dust, I’m glad it’s with you.”
“Me too,” Woodruff said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure, like our super bowl party.”
“Those bowls were super.”
“My favorite was the stainless steel punch bowl.”
“Don’t forget about the finger bowls.”
“Or the spice bowls.”
“Never forget the spice bowls.”
“Woodruff, it’s been an honor.”
He shined a smile on Bob, as tears pooled in the corners of his eyes.
“On 3,” Woodruff said, clearing a tickle in his throat. “1, 2…”
“Wait, is it go on 3 or 1, 2, 3, go?”
“Doesn’t matter, pick one.”
“Fine, let’s go on 3.”
“All right, 1, 2…”
“I changed my mind, 3 and then go.”
“Okay,” Woodruff drew in a deep breath and scowled at Bob. “1, 2…”
“What if we count down from 10?”
“Bob, you’re stalling.”
“I’m not stalling, I’m…uh, I’m styling? Stoking? Staging?”
“What are you two do’n in the ditch?” a raspy voice called from above them.
Woodruff and Bob looked up at a scrawny old man in a straw hat and a pair of bib overalls.
“Get down, Farmer Brown,” Woodruff said.
“Hey, that rhymed,” Bob’s voice chimed.
“What happened to your leg?” Farmer Brown asked, as he climbed down into the ditch.
“Stepped in one of their holes as we were escaping,” Woodruff explained.
“Escaping?” the farmer asked. “Escaping what?”
“Them,” Bob said and pointed toward the open field.
Farmer Brown lifted his straw hat and scratched at his thin gray hair as he looked out over the field. He pursed his lips and shook his head, as he turned back to Woodruff and Bob.
“I hired you boys ‘cause ya said you could git rid of my problem.”
“They proved more ferocious than anticipated,” Woodruff replied.
“They’re gophers,” the farmer sighed.
“Ferocious gophers,” Bob added.
“We tried playing music, because gophers don’t like loud noises,” Woodruff said.
“Who told ya that?”
“Wikihow,” Bob replied. “But they must not be Fleetwood Mac fans because it just made them angry.”
“It ain’t that hard, ya goobers,” Farmer Brown said, as he shook a burlap sack in the air. “Ya just get some dog droppings and put them ‘round their holes. They’ll bugger off if they think there’s a predator about.”
“But we don’t have a dog?”
“Well, most any critter would do,” Farmer Brown said.
“You know, they may not be leaving because they think there’s a predator,” Woodruff said. “Maybe they’re leaving because you put poo on their doorstep.”
“That’s why Uncle Charles left us.”
“I thought you said your Uncle Charles died?”
“He did,” Bob said. “He slipped on a frozen turd on the doormat.”
“I can’t believe ya’ll wasted a whole morning on foolishness.”
“That’s nothing,” Woodruff replied. “We once wasted a weekend on malarkey and hogwash.”
“Haha, yeah,” Bob said. “Who knew lemmings were such followers?”
“That’s it,” Farmer Brown said. He took off his straw hat and hurled it down into the mud. “I’ll take care of these varmints myself.”
With the burlap sack in one hand, the old farmer took hold of the tree roots on climbed up out of the ditch.
“Be careful,” Woodruff said. “They’re really riled up.”
“Shoulda known when they asked to be paid with pie,” the old farmer muttered.
He shook his head and disappeared over the grassy berm. Woodruff and Bob waited anxiously for sounds of conflict. After several minutes of silence, they heard the pounding footsteps of the old farmer and the chatter of an army of ground dwelling rodents in the distance. Farmer Brown came tumbling back into the ditch with his overalls covered in dog droppings. Bob plugged his nose and Woodruff held his breath.
“This means war,” Farmer Brown said.
“No it doesn’t,” Bob said. “This means this.”
“What are you blabbering about?” the old farmer demanded.
“This doesn’t mean war,” Bob replied. “War is a state of open armed conflict between two hostile groups.”
“He’s right,” Woodruff said. “This is used to identify a specify thing or a situation just mentioned. This cannot mean war, this means this.”
The old farmer’s mouth fell open and he looked above Woodruff and Bob with terror in his eyes. They turned around to see a gopher standing atop the berm with a menacing expression on his furry face and a turd in his little paw.
“They’re hostile and they’ve armed themselves!” Woodruff yelled.
“Run for you lives!” Bob shouted, as they turned and scurried out of the ditch.