Crilly Crick Spring

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the first chapter in The Misadventures of Pogue Jeffers, the second chapter being, Hassy.
I accidentally deleted this story from my portfolio. When I did so on 5October2016 it had accumulated 1,158 reads. It was originally published on this site 14July2016

Submitted: October 05, 2016

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Submitted: October 05, 2016

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That spring was up on Crilly Crick. It spouted forth just south of the big sweetgum trees right before you get to the little open grassy hill. A big drooping eyelid of stone and dirt hung over the top just above where the water bubbled out. If you bent down low enough you could hear the gurgling sound deep inside the earth. Sometimes it sounded just like a man gargling in his throat.

Geether was always runnin up there. He'd follow the white dirt path the whole two miles from the Trace.  At the point where the trail broke off form the Trace he'd always stop, turn quickly around and ask "Can ya'll hear it ?" Geether could hear it, or so he said, from all that ways down to the Trace!  Pogue was the only one who ever answered "I can hear it".  And it was on the very first time he went up there with his older brother.
The third time Pogue went up there with Geether it was so swampy hot all Pogue could think about was cool water.

"You can drink all the water ya want once we get up yonder"

"I don't wanna drink, Geeth, I'd druther swim"

" Ya caint swim in that water"

"Why caint I ?" 

"Cause I said"

For the last mile or so, along the place where patches of sunny weeds skirted the dusty trail, Pogue kept his mouth shut.  But still he knew his brother could be wrangled somehow.  All Pogue needed to do would be to figure a way of gettin Geether himself hankerin to swim in that deep pool.  So he waited until they came to the hottest part of the trail.  A stretch of trail where there was absolutely no shade, not even from high enough weeds.

"Lordie it's so hot.  I'm sweatin up a storm"

Pogue could see the back of his older brother's neck all shiny with beads of sweat.

" Ain't  ya burnin up, Geeth?"

Geether stopped and abruptly turned around to face his brother.  His voice was lower than normal.

"Don't be smart, Pogue!"

When he was fixin to get angry Geether had a way of lookin straight into his little brother's eyes. Pogue always knew when he got that stare that it was about time to shut his mouth. It was an icy stare on a hot day and Geether was done talkin, at least for now.

Once they arrived at the spring the boys drank their fill of the cool water. They dunked their hands and slurped loudly. Pogue used both cupped hands one after the other. Afterwards they went over and sat dreamily under the sweetgum trees where the green grass cooled their flushed skin. Hours later they got home just as it got dark.   During the long walk back all Pogue could talk about was folks baptized on the shoals of the Tennessee River.
*****
The summer the brothers went up to the Crilly Crick spring was long and hot. One of the Jeffer's cows died early in July. Mr. Jeffers declared it was mostly because of the heat but Pogue told Geether that cows will die if no one splashes water on their backs from time to time. So for the next week both boys went around splashing water on their ol' dog and on the pigs and even on the chickens. Mrs. Jeffers told them not to sprinkle the chickens but that they could get the hogs as wet as they wanted.

"Ya'll just have to bring up more water."

The nights that year were almost as hot as the days. The brothers slept out on the porch when the summer nights got swampy. As the oldest of the Jeffer's younguns they were allowed to escape the sweltering air of the small house where their two younger sisters and little brother still slept. They would bring a small pail of water up and then once in their underwear start sprinklin water on one another until they got too sleepy to keep it up.

" Don't ya wish we was up at the spring right now , Geeth ?"

"Yeah I guess. After chores next Sayrdee we'll go on up, maybe."

*****

That night Pogue had a dream. The water was as cool as ice cubes. The sweetgum trees were dark as ink with bright stars twinklin in their branches. He could see Geether bobbin up and down like a cork float. His older brother was laughin so hard it made him cough and spit. Both the boys were floatin closer and closer to the stone eyelid, even though the water should have carried them in the opposite direction. As they got closer Geether was laughin louder and the water sounded louder. The garglin was coming from deep under the ground and as the boys got nearer the garglin sounded lower and lower.

Pogue dove under the water. When he opened his eyes he couldn't  find his brother. No one else was in the pool. Pogue was all by himself, or so he thought. Just then a tiny flicker of light brought his blurry gaze downward. Deep below him was a big ol' catfish. It was a cat that looked like the one Pogue had spotted under the water when he was just five years old. On that day four years ago, while swimmin in the big river, he saw he same catfish lookin up at him. His eyes was empty as a pearly marble. He would back up, tail first, ever so slowly, right into a dark round muddy hole in the side of the river bank. Then, just as slowly, he'd swim back out and look at Pogue with them big empty eyes. In Pogue's dream that cat did almost the very same thing, only this time, when he backed up into the dark hole, he disappeared. Just like that. He was gone.

The moon was way down in the sky when Pogue awoke from his dream. He felt a slight trickle of sweat run down his face as he turned to see if Geether was still on his pallet at the other end of the porch. His brother was gone. The only thing Pogue could see was the big white pillar where his brother laid his head. Pogue jumped up and looked all around. He very quietly but quickly tiptoed from one end of the porch to the other. But Geether wasn't anywhere to be seen.

"Geeeeeth" he called out in a loud whisper.

" Over here Pogue."

His older brother stood in the moonlight lookin up at the night sky. As he called out to Pogue his gaze remained fixed on the full moon. His face looked silvery white. All his skin looked silvery white as he stood there motionless as a tree on a windless night. Something told Pogue not to pester his brother, so he down on the porch steps and watched Geether just standing there. Pretty soon Geether turned around and walked back and sat down next to Pogue.

" Do ya ever wonder if there's folks living on the moon, Pogue?"

"Folks on the moon. I never thought of it."

Geether yawned a long yawn and smiled at his younger brother.

" Well, let's go on back to bed."

*****

The boys finished their Saturday chores earlier than usual so they could go on up to Crilly Crick spring. It was another hot day, maybe hotter than any day so far during that long summer. The trail from the Trace baked in the noon sun and as the boys stomped along they sent clouds of dry white dust billowing high up into the swampy air.

By the time they got to the spring the brothers were so exhausted and thirsty all they could think about was drinking that cool water and droppin down on the green grass under the trees. They gazed wearily up into the sweetgum's highest branches and both boys were soon fast asleep. The next thing Pogue heard was the faraway sound of splashin water. As he opened his eyes he found that the splashin sound was comin from the pool. He sat upright and could see that Geether was't beside him, only his patched-up britches and old blue shirt in a pile next to Pogue.

" WA Wooo, come on Pogue."

Geether was doin just what he said he would never do: swim in the pool below the spring. Pogue couldn't believe his eyes when he saw his brother swimmin from side to side. He was laughin and callin out for Pogue to dive off the stone eyelid. Soon Pogue was doin just that and hittin the water with a sharp slap that sent his older brother into more fits of laughter. As the afternoon got hotter and hotter the boys swam and paddled and had water fights and jumped off the stone. Pogue could never remember having more fun.

" Well we better be fixin to get on home." Geether announced as the sun started to shine slanting through the shorter trees.

" Let's just stay a little bit longer, Geeth."

" Okay, but just a minute."

The boys kept on bobbin up and down in the middle of the pool as the time flew by. They were speechless for perhaps the first time all day when Pogue abruptly broke the silence.

" Hear that , Geeth?"

" Hear what?"

" Over yonder where the water comes out."

They swam the short distance to the stone eyelid and stopped paddling right in front of the overhand above the dark entrance. The boys held their breaths as they strained to make out whatever sound it was Pogue had claimed he heard.

But they heard nothin. Just the man gargling deep inside the ground.

Geether looked long at Pogue but at first he said nothin.

"What did ya hear Pogue ?"

"Voices as clear as all get out, speaking like they was at Baptism down at the shoals."

Another long silence. It seemed like whole minutes had passed when suddenly Geether's jaw dropped.

"I can hear 'em , Pogue."
 
But now Pogue himself couldn't hear 'em at all, try as he might.

"Can ya hear what they're  sayin, Geeth?"

"Nope, their talkin is kinda way far away."

For what seemed like nearly an hour both boys kept craning their necks trying to better hear the mysterious voices, but the gurglin spring only seemed to get louder.

" Come on now we gotta get goin or Pa'll blister our hides."

The brothers got dressed and rushed off at a fast run down the trail and only just managed to get home in time for supper. For the next week all they could talk or think about were the spooky voices deep inside the ground at Crilly Crick spring. They swore to one another not to tell a soul or to speak a word of it as long as they lived.

*****

As the long summer days wore slowly on, the boys thought more and more about the mysterious voices they'd heard at the spring. At first they'd talk about it every night. Instead of splashin water on one another they'd talk about it every night. But before very long they'd talk about it less and less, just cause they couldn't think of anything more to say. So they got back to splashin water again.

One night Pogue was awakened by a loudly singin mockingbird on the porch roof directly above where he slept. He considered throwin somethin at the bird to scare him away, when out of the night darkness Geether whispered.

" Counted eight mocker songs Pogue."

His older brother stood out in front of the house smilin at Pogue.

" Throw somethin at him Geeth!"

Geether acted like he hadn't even heard Pogue.

"Eight hymns is round about how many we sing at church before the sermon."

Pogue just sat there lookin at Geether standin in the moonlight. The mocker broke of his song just as a slow midnight breeze ruffled the elm tree next to the house. Somethin drew Pogue's attention to his brother's face. Maybe it was a slight glimmer of moonlight as the elm leaves. Way up high played with the silvery light. All of a sudden Geether looked like a grown man. He didn't look old but he looked grown, just like any grown man. Geether was only eleven years old. Pogue then wondered if Pogue looked grown too.

"Do I look grown to you, Geeth ?"

As he tiptoed gracefully up the creaky porch steps, Geether smiled at his younger brother.

" Well, ya don't look more grown than me Pogue. Better get to sleep, we might go on up to Crilly tomarra."

Pogue's eyes nearly shot clean out of his head, but he didn't say a word.

*****

All the long way up to the spring the boys didn't talk at all. To Pogue the whole thing felt pretty funny, like they was doin a chore, or worse, goin to school. Geether was on up ahead marchin like they use to do back when they played soldiers. It was Avery hot day as usual, but the brothers didn't seem to hanker for the heavenly swim like last time. As they drew ever closer to the spring all they could think about were them strange voices. Every once in a while Geether would slow down their pace in an effort to quiet their noisy progress so he might better hear. Right before the last big bend in the trail Geether  and Pogue came to an abrupt halt. After the quieting down of their labored bteathin and thumpin hearts they could just barely make out the distant, splashy sound of water bubbling out of the deep ground. It was delightfully reassuring to the boys, as if remembering an old friend. For just a fleeting moment they clean forgot about the strange voices.

" Can you hear somethin , Geeth?"

" Only the spring. Let's go."

The boys almost tiptoed the remainder of the way, as if they was walkin on egg shells. Before long they could see the trail turnin round the bend along Crilly Crick. The spring grew louder and the brothers could feel the air gettin a little cooler. They could see the lip of stone through a gap in the trees, and as the trail straightened they could see the pool and the sweetgum trees and grassy I'll beyond.

After drinkin their fill the brothers stripped to their underwear and ever so slowly wade out to knee deep.  There they stood lookin straight into the shaded mouth of the spring for the lounges time. Pogue could feel the slimy mud squishing between his toes.

" I don't hear any voices,  Geeth." Pogue hadn't intended to whisper but that's how the words came out.

"Let's go on over." And without takin his eyes off the watery cave he lowered himself into the pool.

Both of the boys swam slowly towards the stone lip. When they were directly before it they reached up to grip the rocky edge above their heads, allowing them to remain afloat without having to tread deep water. In that position, turnin their heads from side to side, they held their breaths and peered cautiously within the dark crevice.

" It's so dark in there." Pogue's voice echoed in the hollow blackness.

"Shhhh, Pogue"

Before Geether was done shushin his brother he thought he heard somethin. And it was voices alright ! He looked at Pogue but Pogue shook his head cause he couldn't hear a thing.

" I can hear 'em " Geether whispered. "I'm goin closer inside."

Pogue reached out for his brother just as Geether let go of the stone lip. 

" No no Geeth , don't go in yonder!"

But it was no use. The last thing Pogue saw was his brother's blond hair glowin bright in the last sunlight before the darkness closed around him.

"Geeth ?"

" Geeth ?"

All Pogue could see or hear was a faint splash as if Geether had maybe went below the water. Pogue hung there for what seemed like forever still callin out his brother's  name until his arms was sore from hangin on the stone. He swam to the other end of the pool and waited for Geether to come out. But Geether didn't come out and the only sound Pogue could hear was the spring. And he had never heard it sound so quiet.

*****

They never found Geether's body. Mr. Jeffers and the local men dug up around Crilly Crick spring on and off for weeks. No tellin, they all said, how far back them water caves went up under the ground. Those caves probly led for miles all the way up as far as Laketon.

Pogue never went back up there. He rarely ever went west of the Trace from that day forward. Every summer afterwards he would sleep alone out on the porch and dream of his brother standin in the silvery moonlight. One night he even talked to Geether and Geether looked like he always looked and not like a grown man. The only thing he told Pogue was not to throw anything at that mockingbird and to make sure to count every one of his songs.

Pogue deeply missed his older brother. He would miss him for the rest of his life. Many years later, even when Pogue was grown, he'd hear Geether always talkin in his ear. His brother lived on inside him in a place where nobody knew. Sometimes it even felt like they had become just one person. If Pogue did somethin really good or said somethin really smart, well then that was Geeth. If Pogue was worried about somethin a lot, or felt like he was losin, then Geeth had a way of sayin things were gonna be alright.

Pogue never had to guess exactly how Geether would have looked as a grown man. Pogue saw him as grown that night before the last time they went up to Crilly Crick. Still, in every one of Pogue's dreams Geeth would never again look grown. He was always that eleven year old boy and Pogue was his little brother.


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