"Oh, for fuck's sake," he shouted as the little boy's cries rang out into the night, blending in with the soft howls of wind blowing through the forest. Despite sitting relatively still, their silhouettes danced upon the trunks of the trees surrounding the campfire.
"John, you can't be upset with him
! He's just a child! He's not old enough for those type 'o stories and you know that!" shouted the young woman holdering her weeping child close to her as they sat upon a log.
"It wasn't even that scary," John grumbled at his wife. "And even if it were a little scary, that's
not how you react," he stated sternly with an accusatory index finger pointed at his son. After a moment, he put his hand down and sunk back, a little defeated. "Kid, it was just tale. Skeletons don't really move, and they definitely don't use swords."
The child rubbed his eyes and slowly pulled his wet face out of his mother's shoulder long enough to glance across the way at the man who had delivered such fright unto him. The father could only sigh before scratching at his beard in a fit of anxious frustration.
"Look, that story wasn't real, but there really are scary things out there," said the man with controlled sincerity. "There are animals that want to eat you, people that want to rob you or worse, lightening could strike me dead right now! What matters is how you react when you have to deal with something scary. You can't just cry to your mama until she makes it feel better," he said with a mock whine in his voice. "You've got to stand there and stand tall and deal with that scary thing. Think about it reasonably, logically and tactically. And don't you ever flinch. Do we have ourselves an understandin'?"
The little boy was quiet, staring at his father blankly, a million emotions swimming around in his mind.
"I said, do we gave ourselves an understandin'? You deaf, boy? Answer me, Jack!"
+ - + - + - +
"Just tell me what you want me to do!
" The words escaped his mouth in a sharp panic to Jack's own surprise. The stakes were just as high as his blood pressure. He made a living by knowing what the next step was and knowing the next step after that and playing off of that knowledge to beat many a person our of their spending cash. But this situation was different. He didn't know the next step. He didn't know what was coming, which made it impossible to prepare, to be ready for the danger. Preparation helped mitigate fear, but Jack was a blind man in a strange land, figuratively speaking. He furrowed his brows to keep them from shaking, giving him the guise of a serious thinker. In reality, the familiar tingle was starting to crawl up his spine. He couldn't let it reach the top. If he gave in to the terror his imagination was creating, he would surely be a goner before too long.
" he stuttered, attempting to clarify. "What's the plan, Sheriff?