Chapter Six

By Josh Huntsman

 

 

The four men met on the first Saturday each month at Kenny’s Kountry Kitchen. They met there because it was in the far outskirts of Albuquerque and four guys riding up on horses wouldn’t raise questions.

 

Humperdinck arrived first. He hitched his horse to the railing and walked in.

 

He was in a bad mood and only glared at Deb the waitress when she welcomed him by name and showed him to the regular booth. “Yer friends joining you soon, hun?” Deb asked. Humperdinck grunted.

 

Deb poured coffee.

 

Next to arrive was Scrooge. Scrooge loved his horse more than anything. He thought the best thing about the whole deal was that he got a free horse. He named her Wild Cherry. Scrooge was just about to start the long schooling process to become a veterinarian when the horse came to him.

 

He tied Wild Cherry up next to Humperdinck’s horse, went in the restaurant, plopped down next to Humperdinck, and sighed. “How’s it going?” he asked.

 

Humperdinck eyed Scrooge’s sword and sighed.

 

Pork and Hawkweed showed up together. They knew each other before the whole thing started because Hawkweed was Pork’s dentist. Pork used to be the drummer in a band called “The Black Soul Experience” but quit after his horse came to him.  Hawkweed was the only one who kept working because he loved it too much.

             

Pork and Hawkweed sat down next to Humperdinck and Scrooge with the kind of lazy familiarity that happens with solders or prisoners. Hawkweed had a backpack and a quiver of arrows on his shoulder. With the bow and dentist getup, he looked like a Robin Hood in white.

 

“So, I guess we should get started then,” said Hawkweed. “I have something new to show.”

 

Humperdinck rolled his eyes and folded his arms. “Great,” he said. Other than the horse, Humperdinck found nothing. Everyone else had found at least one artifact, relic, whatever, but not Humperdinck.

 

And now Hawkweed had two.

 

“It’s not my fault,” Hawkweed said as he pulled a handkerchief wrapped bundle out of his backpack. “I just found it. It was buried in my garden.” He unwrapped the handkerchief to show a simple gold crown.

 

Scrooge whistled in appreciation.

 

“Can I see it?” Pork asked.

 

Hawkweed answered only by placing the crown on his head. “I look downright Biblical.”

 

“Loose the dentist outfit and you may,” said Humperdinck.

 

Scrooge took the bait. “Alright,” he said. “What’s your big problem then?”

 

Humperdinck took a sip of his coffee. “I don’t think I get anything else.”

 

“Well sure you do,” said Scrooge. “You get one of those grim reaper dealies, right?”

 

“You mean a cape and hood?” asked Pork.

 

“No, that one thing,” Scrooge’s mind raced. He pantomimed a grand swing with his arms.

 

The four men thought for several moments.

 

“A sword?” asked Pork.

 

“I know what a sword is,” Scrooge said. “I would have said sword.” He thought hard. “A scythe!” Scrooge said. “You get a scythe. To, you know, reap.”

 

“That’s just it though,” Humperdinck said. “I’ve looked all over and it’s not anywhere in Chapter Six.”

 

“Are you sure?” asked Pork.

 

“It’s in the art,” said Scrooge.

 

 “In art, I’m usually a skeleton,” said Humperdinck.   “I thought I might get a sword because it says I’ll have power to kill with the sword, but it doesn’t say I hold a sword,  just that I’ll have power over it.  I think all I get is that horse.” He paused. “And he’s sick or something.”

 

Deb showed up and brought everyone their usual. She then smiled, winked, and told them if they needed anything else to holler.

 

“Anyway,” continued Humperdinck, “I’m just upset that Mr. Dentist here gets two things when I get none.” He took a bite of his food and chewed thoughtfully. Everyone watched him in silence. “Maybe I can have the crown,” he said, looking at his plate.

 

“Sorry,” Hawkweed said. “The crown is mine. Chapter Six is very clear on that. Plus it was in my garden, the same place I found this.” He indicated his bow and quiver of arrows. “Plus, I just know it’s mine. Just like with the horse.”

 

“Maybe something will still come for you,” said Pork. “I mean, we still got time, right?”

 

This was something the four men didn’t know for sure and they pondered it as they ate.

 

“I don’t really have a weapon either,” said Pork, pulling his scales out of the silk bag and holding them up. They were tarnished bronze. “I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do with these things.”

 

“Weigh stuff,” said Scrooge.

 

“Well, obviously,” said Pork, “but what? Chapter six says stuff about wheat and barley and how much they cost, but I don’t know anything about that.”

 

“That’s what people mostly ate back then,” said Hawkweed.

 

Pork considered this. “What do people mostly eat now?”

 

“High fructose corn syrup,” said Hawkweed definitively. The other three stared at him. “I saw it on the news,” he said. “It’s in pretty much everything we eat.”

 

“How much does high fructose corn syrup cost?” asked Pork.

 

“Like two-fifty a bottle,” said Hawkweed.

 

“So, I could weigh that, I guess,” said Pork.

 

“What about me?” Hawkweed asked. “I got Pestilence. I know what it means, it means disease, but I have to conquer modern science and all I have is a bow, a bunch of arrows, and now this crown.”

 

“I think that pestilence can also mean pollution,” said Scrooge helpfully.

 

Hawkweed mulled this thought over. “I guess I could pollute more,” he said. 

 

They ate in silence for a while.

 

“Maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong,” said Humperdinck. “I mean, in my understanding, and please correct me if I’m wrong,” this was directed at Hawkweed who always loved to correct people if they were wrong; “we are suppose to ride across the sky somehow, right?            Have any of your horses given you any indication that they might be able to fly yet?” asked Humperdinck.

 

They considered this. “Mine farts a lot,” said Scrooge.

 

No one responded to this.

 

“Have you killed anyone yet?” Hawkweed asked. Humperdinck looked to the ground and said nothing.

 

“Well, to be fair, you are suppose to be Death,” Scrooge said.

 

“Well, I’ve been killing lots of animals. Mice, cats, dogs, you know,” Humperdinck thought hard. “And a buffalo. I’m working my way up to people, but I have nothing to kill people with. I can’t just kick them.”

 

“Anyway,” Hawkweed said. “I was thinking maybe we modernize a bit. I’m thinking maybe these relics are only suggestions. Sure, we use them when the big day comes, but until then they are mostly for show.”

 

“What have you got in mind?” asked Pork.

 

“This,” Hawkweed said. He pulled out a 9mm pistol. “Better than a bow and arrow, eh?”

 

Scrooge smiled at the gun, and then frowned. “What is the modern equivalent of a sword?”

 

“A laser sword,” said Pork, his eyes wide. “Like in Star Wars.”

 

“They’re called light sabers,” said Hawkweed. “And they aren’t real. I was thinking that you could get a hold of some sort of missile or warhead or something.”

 

“A warhead?” asked Scrooge. 

 

Hawkweed ignored him. “And Pork can get one of those new electric kitchen scales. Most of them come with a ‘tare’ button.”          

 

“What’s that?” asked Pork.

 

“Well,” Hawkweed thought about it. “Let’s say you need to weigh out an ounce of high fructose corn syrup. You put an empty container on the electric scale, hit the ‘tare’ button, and it zeros it out!”

 

Everyone stared at him.

 

“Isn’t that great?” Hawkweed asked. “You get a much more accurate weight that way.”

 

Everyone continued to stare at him. He took this as an indication to continue.

 

“And Humperdinck—“

 

Humperdinck interpreted him. “—get’s nothing because apparently, he’s suppose to kill everyone with a green horse.”

 

Hawkweed smiled. “You’re a harvester, right? A harvester of souls?”

 

“I suppose,” Humperdinck replied.

 

“What would you say if I told you I know a guy who was selling a John Deere 2300 combine harvester for only three hundred dollars?”

 

“And what? I just mow people down in the streets with it?” asked Humperdinck.

 

“It would be effective,” Hawkweed said, smiling.

 

“I don’t want to sound like a dork,” Scrooge said. “But how am I supposed to find a missile?”

 

“If you want to carry a gun around, that’s fine,” Pork said. “But I wouldn’t try and label it as a modern day bow and arrow. If anything is a modern bow and arrow it would be some sort of state of the art crossbow.”

 

The four of them stared down at their unfinished meals, cooling and congealing on their plates.  Deb the waitress brought the check and politely sat it on the far end of the table, away from everyone.

 

No one moved. 

 

Hawkweed rolled his eyes, picked up the tab, and rolled his eyes again. Humperdinck was staring hard at him.

 

 “I don’t know why you always think you’re the leader of the four of us,” he said. 

 

“This again, huh? Well,” Hawkweed rubbed his chin. “I am named first in Chapter Six and wear a crown.  Hell, some say I’m Jesus.”

 

“And some say you are the Anti-Christ,” Humperdinck said.

 

“Either way,” said Hawkweed, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet. “That makes me pretty important. And it says I go forth conquering and to conquer. That means I’m in charge.”

 

“You’re nothing more than a glorified litter bug, “Humperdinck said. 

 

Hawkweed sighed. “Listen, right now, when people think about the apocalypse, they imagine me. Riding on my white horse, bow and arrow held high, wearing a crow, moving across the sky. I am the apocalypse.” Hawkweed held his artifacts high, posing like Moses with the Ten Commandments.

 

“I always pictured War,” Pork said. “Granted, it was a bit grander than Scrooge here, but a red horse, a sword, yeah. I actually thought that Pestilence didn’t have a name.”

 

“And I’m frickin’ Death” Humperdinck said. “Without me none of it would go down. So let’s just stop acting like we’re Mr. Big Shot Apocalypse man.”

 

The four men fumed and looked into different directions. They always ended these meetings with a fight followed by a half-assed apology.

 

“I’m sorry,” Hawkweed said. “I didn’t mean it like that. I know we are each as important as the other.” He pulled out two twenties and laid them on the table. 

 

The four men stepped out of Kenny’s Kountry Kitchen and surveyed the scene. It wasn’t what any of them expected.

 

“Holy shit.” They observed together.

 

They sky was filled with red clouds, churning up lighting and thunder as flaming sulfur fell. Huge swarms of insects moved in clouds thick as oil to whatever living soul was nearby, eating them to the bone. The ground opened up and belched fire and demons, a group of which decided to hijack a semi in the parking lot.

 

The four men looked at each other. 

 

“Excuse me,” a scratchy voice asked. “Are you four gentlemen the Horsemen?”

 

The four men turned to look at a small imp with a clipboard.

 

“I, er, Well,” Hawkweed looked at the group.

 

“We are,” said Pork, pulling the scales out of the velvet sack.

 

An elderly woman ran past them screaming, a demon hanging by her earlobe. 

 

“It’s just, we have a pretty tight schedule to keep,” the Imp said.

 

“Right,” said Scrooge.

 

The four men turned to their horses who were beginning to float just a bit off the ground.

 

“Just like this then,” said Pork.

 

“Just like this,” said Scrooge.

 

Hawkweed hesitated a moment then tossed the crown to Humperdinck. “Here,” he said. “You need something.”

 

Humperdinck tossed it back. He smiled. “I’m fine,” he said. In truth, he was great.

 

In truth, none of them could remember a happier time.  The four men mounted their horses and began to ride.

 

 

 

 

Josh Huntsman lives in Utah with his wife and two cats. He has been published in the Southern Utah University Journal as a movie critic and has a popular feature in the National Hay Grower Association’s newsletter (Hay There) entitled “Tales of the Reluctant Farm Boy,” where he recounts growing up on a farm and all the various dung-related jokes that come with it. He is one semester away from having a BS in English Creative Writing with a Minor in History.

 

 

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Published on January 3, 2009 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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