This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any actual resemblance to persons or historical persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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© Copyright: 2002. Cuz Bonita

 

Easter Deals

 

 

Brian woke up to music.  Loud music.  He opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling, and wondered who he had to kill. 

 

Jeremiah was a bullfrog…was a good friend of mine…didn’t understand a word he said, but I helped him drink his wine…

 

MaryAnne, Brian decided.  Yep. 

 

Joyyyyyy to the world…allllll the boys n’ girls…joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you n’ me…

 

Brian sat up, looked at the clock, and wondered when the farmer’s genes in his Coltrane blood would kick in.  MaryAnne was an earlier riser by nature.  Brian was a night owl by nature.  Rosco was somewhere in the middle. 

 

Except right now, it sounded like Rosco was singing background vocals with MaryAnne.  Brian groaned and covered his ears.  There was nothing quite like Three Dog Night at seven a.m. 

 

Toenails were clicking up the stairs. Brian had stirred just enough to make Bandit come up and check him out.  The bedroom door wasn’t locked, and the German Shepard rattled the doorknob with his paws while pushing on the door.  It creaked open.  Brian sat completely still.  Maybe the dog would think he was dead and leave him alone.

 

From a slitted eye, Brian saw the tail of the German Shepard coming around the bedside.  There was a tense, expectant pause.  The dog was waiting for him to move. Twitch. Breathe.  Then it would attack.  Granted, Bandit had never hurt him when they played, but Brian still had a healthy respect for the police dog.

 

Once, shortly after Brian had first moved to Hazzard, Bandit had cornered him in the kitchen and kept him motionless there for an hour.   When MaryAnne came home that day, she saw Brian with his back to the wall and his hands up, and Bandit sitting a foot in front of him with a bull’s-eye stare.  MaryAnne remarked how it was cute, and that it was good to see them playing nice. 

 

Brian remembered answering her with Call this damn dog off.  The memory gave him a chuckle. 

 

Bandit heard the chuckle.  “GRRROWF!!”  The dog sprang on the bed and was on him, instantly. 

 

“GAH!”  Brian pulled the blanket over his head and spun over into a ball, wrapping himself up like a tamale.  Bandit sniffed, growled, pawed, and dug, playfully mauling Brian through the blanket.  The victim made muted screams. “AAAAHH!! HELP! HELP!” 

 

Brian had learned that the more he carried on, the more the dog went into a killing frenzy.  But if he didn’t do some hollering, Bandit felt as if he wasn’t making an impact, and worked him over even worse.  The dog messed with his head.

 

A voice yelled up from the living room, belonging to Rosco.  “Brian, quit teasing that dog,” the Sheriff said with feigned reproach. 

 

Indignant, Brian flipped the covers off his head to yell back.  “Teasin’?! I’m tryin’ to stay alive here! This mutt…AAAAAH!”

 

Brian had left himself wide open, and Bandit had him just where he wanted him.  The German Shepard grabbed the corner of open blanket and tugged, unraveling Brian’s defense.  “Awright! I give up,” Brian said, but Bandit turned a deaf ear and moved in for the kill, licking Brian’s face mercilessly as the defenseless man sputtered.  “PTOOEY! Dog germs…EEEYUCK!” 

 

Bandit had won fair and square, thanks to an assist from Rosco.  Brian laughed and ruffled the dog’s fur.  “Awright, score another one for you. Mind if I get up now?”

 

The German Shepard barked and wagged his tail, remaining on Brian’s chest.

 

“Go git MaryAnne,” Brian said with a mischievous chuckle. “Go git her! Sic ‘er! She’s got an outstandin’ warrant for Singin’ At an Ungodly Hour!” 

 

Bandit barked a charge and went howling down the stairs, and it sounded like the dog hit MaryAnne doing Mach 3.  “ACK! Bandit! Stop! This is my good uniform! Don’t rip my tie! Yes, I love you too, you don’t have to lick my face...ACKPTH!” 

 

“GOOD FOR YA!” Brian called down, triumphant.

 

The victory was short lived.  He had just finished dressing, when near-silent boot steps came creeping up the stairs.  An old board gave a tiny creak, and Brian thought he heard a whispered Jit!

 

Brian went on full alert.  He’d have to defend himself against this new attack.  Stealthily, he crept to his closet and removed the emergency weapon hidden on the shelf.  He knew Rosco would be armed, and there would be no quarter between them.  At a critical time like this, Brian was glad that his trusty Spring & Hittem dart gun was handy.  He loaded it, pushing a suction-cup dart into the barrel. 

 

Not a moment too soon.  The sound of light boot steps came closer.  A tall, lean shadow tilted in the doorframe.  Brian took aim, hid behind the half-open door, and waited for a clean shot. 

 

Flash suddenly wandered into Brian’s room.  Rosco had cheated, bringing the basset hound upstairs to sniff the enemy out.  The hound yawned, scratched behind one floppy ear, then turned around to chew at her tail. 

 

“Find Brian!” Rosco whispered.

 

Flash, not appreciating the urgency of the mission, got distracted by a dust ball under the bed.  She pointed her nose towards it, snuffling, to investigate.  Rosco took her actions to mean that Brian was hiding there.  He chose a frontal assault, lunging into the room and pointing his dart gun under the bed.  Unknowingly, he fixed a bead on the dust ball. “FREEEZE! I gotcha!!”

 

Flash turned around, looking at her daddy as if he were nuts.  Brian wasn’t under the bed.  She never said he was.  Rosco realized this with a cold, sinking feeling.  “Jit!”

 

“Don’t move, Sheriff.”  Brian eased the door back with deliberate slowness, making the hinges squeak ominously.  “Your little plan backfired, didn’t it?”

 

“DOHHO! Don’t shoot,” Rosco whined, putting his hands up and getting into the act.  “I got…two cousins at home…and a dog…”

 

Brian came up behind the Sheriff, and pressed the business end of the dart gun in the center of Rosco’s back.  “I should pull the trigger. But I can’t shoot you in front of your dog.  Don’t move, and I’ll turn her to face the other way.”

 

MaryAnne’s voice drifted up the stairs.  “Will you two quit practicing drama long enough to eat breakfast?”

 

Brian and Rosco laughed like a couple of kids.  “I can’t shoot you anyway,” Brian told Rosco, removing the dart gun from his cousin’s back.  “It’s almost Easter.”

 

“Khee! Goody goody gumdrops!  It’s not stoppin’ me tho’!  Rosco whirled and fired, and the dart bounced off Brian’s forehead and went flying to be lost in the room.  The Sheriff bounded downstairs, giggling.  “ I got ‘em! I got ‘em!”   Flash barked and followed him, at a much slower pace.

 

“That was nasty,” Brian laughed.  “Easter bunny’s gonna be bringin’ you a basket of rotten eggs.”  He chuckled and came down the stairs, scooping up Flash who was still on the third step from the top.   The basset gave Brian’s face an experimental lick, right on the mouth.  “PTHBTH! Aw, that’s sweet, Flash, but….YICK!” 

 

After depositing Flash in the kitchen by her food bowl, Brian sat down to join his cousins for breakfast.  Rosco had a head start on pancakes, but that didn’t stop him from eyeing the last one about the same time Brian was. 

 

MaryAnne made a suggestion.  “Cut it in half.”  For any other two people in the world, it would have been acceptable advice.  For Rosco and Brian, it was anathema.  Share a pancake, when they could fight over it?  Nah.

 

Rosco poised his fork, at the same time Brian readied his.  Whoever went for the pancake first might get it, but would also earn a fork-stab in the back of the hand.  Sinister grins were on both men’s faces. 

 

“Boys,” MaryAnne said.  “I can make some more. It’s not a big deal.”

 

“We both want this one,” Rosco said, keeping his face dead serious.  His blue eyes, though, were amused. 

 

Brian reached for the spatula.  “I’ll flip you for it.”  He took the maple syrup, poured a drippy “x” on the top of the pancake, and then slid the spatula underneath it.  “Call it,” he told Rosco.

 

Rosco made his choice.  “Syrup-side up!”

 

Brian flipped the pancake high off the plate.  Not being aerodynamically designed, it took a wild trajectory over MaryAnne’s head and landed with a splat on the floor. 

 

Rosco looked over at it.  “It landed syrup-side down.  You win, Brian, it’s all yours. Khee!”

 

Brian couldn’t eat it if he wanted to; Flash and Bandit were gobbling up the pancake and making the most of their good fortune.  Rosco was giggling, the dogs were licking syrup off the floor, and Brian was sinking down in his chair as MaryAnne gave him that look.

 

She picked up a dishtowel and flung it at him.  Brian caught it with his face.  He left it there, giggling silently, his shoulders shaking. 

 

“You’ll clean that up,” MaryAnne said mildly.  She was holding back a grin.

 

“I want another pancake,” Rosco complained.  “And I want it to look just like that last one.”

 

“KHEE!” Brian laughed, taking off the dishtowel and tossing it at Rosco.  “You don’t look like you need second helpin’s.”

 

“You’re the one who claimed yer jeans shrunk the other day…”

 

“They did!”

 

“Uh-huh,” Rosco said with a sip of coffee. “I got one word for ya. OINK!”

 

Brian raised an eyebrow and gave a wicked smile.  “You, Sheriff, of all people, are gonna sit there in that uniform and call me a pig?  I tell ya, there’s always bacon at this table…”

 

The age-old insult against cops was a risky jibe, and Brian flew out of his chair the moment Rosco stood up.  “WAHOOO!” Brian laughed, dodging around MaryAnne to escape out the doorway.  Rosco aimed a swat at the young man with his Stetson, but hit nothing. 

 

“GIT BACK HERE!” Rosco yelled, knowing darn well Brian wouldn’t.  The screen door banged twice…once, as Brian tore through it, then again as Rosco gave chase.  The dogs, excited by the commotion, barked and scratched at the door, tails wagging.  Shouts and mild cussing could be heard from outside as Brian and Rosco took their battle to the lawn.

 

MaryAnne sipped the last of her coffee, then sat it down calmly.  She got up from the table, and walked over to the door where the dogs were whining and wagging their tails.  She put a hand to the door, but didn’t open it just yet.  The dogs froze, watching her hopefully. 

 

“Git ‘em,” MaryAnne said urgently.  “GIT BRIAN! GIT ROSCO! SIC ‘EM! SIC ‘EM GOOD!”   She flung the door open wide, and Bandit burst forward like a racing greyhound, lunging over the porch and bounding to the chase.  “GRRROWF!”  Following the German Shepard, Flash scrambled down the porch as fast as her short legs would carry her, a baying howl given as a battle cry. “YOOOOOO!”

 

MaryAnne shut the screen door and locked it.  “Muahahahaha.”  She brushed her hands of imaginary dirt, feeling smug.  Sure enough, it wasn’t two minutes later when Rosco and Brian were banging on the door to be let in.  “MARYANNE! OPEN UP! OPEN THE DOOR…AAAAAAHHHHH!! DOHHO!”

 

Growls, barks, and baying soon drowned out the screams of her cousins, and MaryAnne imagined she’d feel guilty about it later.  But for now, she was grinning ear to ear.  She peeked through the screen door, and saw Bandit trying to drag Brian off by the leg, as if to bury him alive in the yard. Only Brian’s death-grip on the porch post was keeping him from being hauled off, but it was a matter of time, given the way Bandit was pulling with ferocious tugs.  Rosco, meanwhile, had about fifty pounds of basset clamped to an ankle, and he was dragging Flash slowly across the porch like a furry ball and chain.  “C’mon darlin’, let daddy go!”

 

MaryAnne couldn’t hold her laughter.  She hooted with glee, slapping a leg.  Rosco looked at her, and without thinking, said: “What’s so doggone funny?” 

 

MaryAnne snorted and laughed harder.  She would have called the dogs off by then, but she was giggling too much.  Brian’s grip on the post failed him, and Bandit dragged him down the steps, growling.  Brian’s hands clawed futilely at the earth, and he gave a distressed yelp to anyone in earshot.  “GAH!”

 

Rosco turned, seeing Brian in peril of becoming part of Bandit’s buried bone collection.  Rather than feeling sympathy, Rosco found the sight of Bandit digging a shallow grave for his cousin pretty damn funny.  “KHEE! Plant ‘em with the tulips!!”

 

Flash took advantage of the moment’s distraction, and suddenly let go of Rosco’s leg without warning.  “DOH!” The Sheriff stumbled backwards, off balance, and Flash leapt up against him and gave him a push.  Rosco did a backwards flip off the porch, landing in the flower bed, crushing posies and marigolds. Flash hustled down to pin him there, licking Rosco’s face so determinedly, that there was no way for him to get up. 

 

“AWRIGHT!”  Brian yelled as Bandit dragged him into the makeshift pit and started kicking dirt over him.  “MARYANNE! CALL ‘EM OFF!”

 

“Call the dogs off, MaryAnne!” Rosco sputtered, trying to push Flash away from his face without success.  “We give up!”

 

MaryAnne unlocked the screen door and stepped out, surveying the carnage.  “I don’t see a white flag,” she said.

 

“I don’t HAVE anything white!”  Brian yelled, turning his head to avoid getting dirt flung into his face.

 

“That’s not my problem,” MaryAnne said pleasantly.  “Conventional surrender calls for a white flag.”

 

“You got nothin’ white?”  Rosco hollered over to Brian.  “Not even your socks? Not even your…”

 

“NOTHIN’!  Not like I’d wave my laundry around in the front yard if I did !”

 

Rosco could tell it was all up to him.  Still struggling with Flash pressing on top of him, he reached into a pocket and dug out a white handkerchief, managing to toss it into the air.  “There! MaryAnne, call ‘em off!”

 

“Guess that’ll do. FLASH! BANDIT! At ease! Let ‘em up!”   At the sound of MaryAnne’s command, the dogs broke off their siege and returned to the house, pleased with themselves.  Free from Flash’s weight, Rosco got up from the flower bed, shaking off broken blossoms. He scooped up a few stems of posies and carried them over to Brian, who was lying in the dirt where Bandit had left him.

 

Keeping a straight face, Rosco tossed the flowers on top of Brian, then scooped up a handful of dirt and sifted it down over him.  The Sheriff removed his black Stetson, placed it over his heart, and spoke a wistful eulogy.  “We’re gathered here today to pay our final disrespects to a low-down varmint…”

 

“Are you through?”  Brian said, tapping his fingers on the turf. 

 

“Almost!” Rosco stage-whispered down to him.  “Now hush! Where was I….”

 

MaryAnne strode up to them.  “Something about a low down varmint.”   She pretended not to notice Brian, and stepped on him lightly with one foot.  “Speaking of which, where is our notorious cousin?”  She looked around in mock bewilderment.

 

“He’s six feet…uh, make it one foot, under.”  Rosco pointed beneath MaryAnne’s right leg.  She looked down and gave a little squeal of fake surprise. “Why, Brian! What happened to you??”

 

“Let me show ya.”  Brian grabbed her leg and hauled her down, catching her. He spun himself out of the diggings that Bandit made, giving occupancy to MaryAnne.  “See, this big dog came along, and the next thing I knew...”  Brian crouched down in imitation of Bandit, and began scooping dirt behind him in a fast paddling motion, showering MaryAnne with loose earth.

 

“ACKPTH! Brian! Stoppit! Stoppit!” MaryAnne shrieked, laughing. 

 

Brian looked over his shoulder.  “I don’t see a white flag! Conventional surrender calls for a white flag…”

 

“I’ll call the dogs again,” MaryAnne threatened. 

 

“She’s got a point, Brian.”  Rosco gave Brian a light kick, toppling him over.  “Besides, MaryAnne n’ me gotta get to work.  Think you can keep outta trouble for a few hours while we’re gone?”

 

“Why do you even bother to ask him that?”  MaryAnne grinned, standing up and dusting herself off.  

 

*****                          *****                          *****             

 

The morning’s horseplay had given Brian an appetite for more shenanigans.  Once MaryAnne and Rosco had left for their police duties, Brian quickly finished his chores and headed out to Diablo.  There were deserving targets for mischief out there, and their names were Duke.

 

Diablo rumbled onto to the narrow road that stretched in front of the Coltrane homestead, making a beeline towards town.  Brian knew that there was a pattern to Duke behavior, and he had memorized it well.  Chores were done first in the early morning. Then, Bo and Luke drove to town for supplies, or to visit Cooter, or to spy on Boss and Rosco – sometimes all three.  Choosing the latter adventure usually landed them into trouble, which would occupy them at least until the evening chores, and then it was suppertime.  After that, they’d roam out to the Boar’s Nest, in search of cold beer and pleasant company.  Every now and then the Dukes hit the Boar’s Nest in the middle of the day, just to keep life interesting…but that depended on whether or not Rosco was after them for anything.

 

“Predictable as all hell,” Brian said to himself.  There were few secrets in a small town.  Though had he thought about it, he would have realized that his own behavior held a pattern.  Which is why exactly at that moment, the Dukes were not at Cooter’s garage as usual.  Instead, they had hidden the General Lee in the alley behind Rhuebottom’s, and were watching for Diablo from the vantage point of the courthouse roof. 

 

“There he is,” Luke said, pointing to the black Chevy.  Diablo made a full circuit around the town square as Brian searched for the General Lee. 

 

“Think he’ll stop by the courthouse here?”  Bo asked.

 

“I’m sure of it.  When he don’t find us, he’ll stop by to see if MaryAnne or Rosco need a hand.  He’s awful predictable.”

 

“He’s awful, alright…” Bo muttered.  He crouched down lower as Diablo pulled up to the curb.  The Chevy gave a last rumble before the engine was cut off.  Peeking down from the roof, Bo and Luke watched Brian get out of Diablo, shut the car door, then pause. The black-clad Coltrane looked around the town square, not liking something.

 

“Shoot,” Luke whispered.  “We must be upwind of ‘em.  Go on, Brian, mosey along…”

 

Bo peered down at the top of Brian’s head.  “Wish I had a bow n’ arrow right about now…”

 

“Shame on you,” Luke said, insincerely.

 

“Heck, I’d like to part his hair just once.”  Bo pulled back on an imaginary bowstring. 

 

Down on the street, Brian felt uneasy.  Somebody had his number. Old reflexes made for fast footing, and he suddenly darted around the long flank of the black Chevy, keeping low.  He scooted from behind the car and hustled for the courthouse, taking a rolling dive over the “POLICE” sign that adorned the grass.  From there, he slunk over to the wall, flattened his back against it, then pushed up slowly on one of the windows.  He waited a second, then spun around and dove inside, head-first. 

 

Bo and Luke had leaned over the edge of the roof to watch.  “Pretty smooth, for a city boy,” Luke had to admit.  “Though we’re usually tryin’ to break out of there, not in.” 

 

“So long as he’s out of the way,” Bo grinned.  He stood up and waved over at Cooter, who had been observing everything while sitting in an old pickup truck, parked on the other side of the square.  At Bo’s signal, he started the truck and drove it over to Diablo.

 

Meanwhile, inside the booking room of the Sheriff’s department, Brian was explaining his dramatic entrance to Rosco.  “I thought I was bein’ watched,” he said defensively. 

 

“Watched? I don’t doubt it. I’m surprised nobody’s called the men in white coats.”  Rosco looked on as Brian stalked up to the window and peeked out of it cautiously. 

 

MaryAnne came down from the booking desk to see what was going on.  She nudged Brian aside, examined the world through the window, and saw nothing to be alarmed over. She quirked a smile at him.  “Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s not a Fed in sight.  Unless you want to count Miz Tizdale on the mail rounds.”

 

“I’m tellin’ ya, I was bein’ watched!”  Brian insisted. 

 

“Fine, but that don’t mean yer gunna be listened to.”  Rosco walked over and yanked the blinds shut.  “If you wanna play hide n’ seek in here, then you’ll halfta hush.  We got work to do.”

 

“But…”

 

“Hush!” Rosco ordered.  “Not a peep! Got that?”

 

Brian heaved a sigh and left the window, not liking the idea of going outside just yet, but not wanting to climb the walls from boredom, either.  MaryAnne saved him from both, by handing off a high stack of files to him and pointing to a cabinet. “And don’t put ‘em all under “M” for “Miscellaneous,” she instructed.  

 

Being involved with honest work kept Brian busy for several minutes.  Then the ripping sound of the General’s pipes echoed off the building, and a Dixie horn blared defiance at the Sheriff’s Department.  Brian jumped up from the file cabinet and looked quickly at MaryAnne.  “I’ll be back later!”  He turned and ran through the booking room doors, hitting them at enough speed to make them swing back and forth in ebbing wakes. 

 

He hurried down the courthouse steps and ran for Diablo.  He couldn’t harass the Dukes if he couldn’t find them, so he was determined to get on the trail while it was fresh.  He skidded up to the black Chevy, put a hand on the door, then stopped.  He heard something like the noise of three hundred sparrows chirping.  With sudden dread, he looked inside his car.

 

A bumper crop of baby chickens filled every square inch of Diablo’s interior. Fluffy balls of yellow chicks covered the seats, the floor, and the dashboard.  Even the glovebox was open, serving as a penthouse apartment for another dozen little birds.  Peeping, squeaking poultry milled around inside the Chevy like a living yellow blanket. 

 

Brian leaned his forehead against the roof of Diablo, then banged it against the car on purpose.  “AAAAAHHHH!!”  This upset the chicks, who peeped frantically in greater volume.  Not wanting to traumatize the fuzzy critters, Brian figured he’d bang his head against the wall later.  He was trying to figure out what the hell to do with a couple hundred baby chickens, when he noticed the card under Diablo’s wiper blade.

 

He snatched it up and flipped it open.  It read, Happy Easter.

 

Brian snorted. It was one of the better gags the Dukes had pulled in awhile. He was almost flattered.  But what to do with these chickens?  He decided that he’d better ask Rosco and MaryAnne for some help.  He gently scooped up one chick and deposited it into his inside jacket pocket, for the sake of evidence.  Snug and comfy, the baby chicken fell quiet.

 

Brian walked back into the booking room, wondering how he was going to explain this one.  He’d no sooner stepped inside when Rosco cut him off at the pass.  “Brian, I told you before. If you’re gonna hang around here, you’ll have to be quiet.  I got a lotta work to do.”

 

“I know, Sheriff.  But…”

 

“Hush! Not a sound. Not a word. Not a peep.”

 

Brian held his breath.  Maybe if he was lucky, this wouldn’t turn out ugly. 

 

“Peep!”    Ah, hell. 

 

Rosco looked up from a desk, scowling.  “Trying to be funny?”  The bite in the Sheriff’s tone riled Brian’s hidden passenger.  “Peep!”

 

MaryAnne got up from the file cabinet.  “What on earth??”

 

“Peep PEEP peep peep PEEP…”   The more noise the chick heard, the more noise it made, which was bad news in the company of Coltranes.   Rosco, ready to strangle Brian first and ask where he learned ventriloquism later, came over to confront his smart-ass cousin.  “So help me Brian, you say that just one more time, and I’m givin’ you thirty days for annoyin’ an officer.” 

 

Brian waited for it, putting his head in his hands, looking as repentant as he could.  Rosco and MaryAnne were standing in front of him, not pleased.  The silence lasted for all of ten seconds.

 

“PEEP!”

 

“JIT!”  Rosco said.  “Awright, you’ve had it.  I’m gunna…”

 

It was then MaryAnne noticed something moving in Brian’s jacket.  “Wait, Rosco.  I think Brian might have a good explanation…or at least an interesting explanation.”

 

“Thank ya, Deputy.  You’re right.  Ya see, the Dukes gifted me with about one million of these.”  Brian carefully reached inside his jacket pocket, and took out the chick.  Back out in the light, it peeped incessantly.  “Diablo’s turned into a hatchery.  The whole car’s full-up with ‘em…” 

 

“BAHAHAHAHAHA!!”  MaryAnne laughed heartily.  “That’s a good one. That’s absolutely beautiful. KHEE!”

 

Rosco was laughing as hard as she was.  He tried to consider the problem on an official county level, but couldn’t.  Just looking at Brian’s face was enough to keep him chuckling.

 

“Awright, very funny, ha ha….now tell me what I’m gonna do with all these little birds?!”  Brian asked.

 

“Build a henhouse,” Rosco suggested, straight-faced.

 

“A big one,” MaryAnne agreed. 

 

“Oh, thanks a damn bundle.”

 

PeepPEEPpeepPEEP…”

 

Rosco finally took pity on his cousin.  “Awright, Brian.  I’m serious.  All you need is some chicken wire, a heat lamp, and some plywood to fix up a henhouse.  Like this, see?”  The Sheriff took a pencil and paper and drew a quick sketch, giving Brian a blueprint. 

 

“But…”

 

“PEEP!”

 

“You can trade a lot of those chicks to Mr. Rhuebottom for the supplies you need,” MaryAnne added.  “We probably don’t need more than a dozen birds to keep us in eggs.  You can barter with the rest of ‘em.”

 

“Barter?”

 

Rosco enlightened him. “As in trade.  It’s like stealin’, only you give somethin’ in exchange.” 

 

“It’s more like buying, but you give somethin’ in exchange instead of money,” MaryAnne corrected.

 

Rosco grinned at her, not sorry in the least.  “I was only puttin’ it in terms Brian would understand.  Well, don’t just stand there, boy! Them chickens need food and water! Git!” 

 

“PEEPpeepPEEP…”

 

“I’m gittin’…”  Brian took the bird and carried it out with him.  As the booking room doors shut behind him, he could hear Rosco and MaryAnne giggling.  He couldn’t blame them; if he wasn’t the one saddled with the chickens, he would have found it amusing himself.  As it was, he’d have no opportunity for mischief until he unloaded these chicks.

 

*****                          *****                          *****

 

The noon sun was hot, and with every nail that Brian hammered into the henhouse, he plotted a new and devious revenge to visit upon the Dukes.  Though he had to admit, the dubious gift of chickens had economic and practical value.  He had managed to trade most of the chicks to Mr. Rhuebottom, and was only stuck with about thirty-six of the little birds at present.  The majority of these were clustered around Flash, burrowing themselves into the dog’s furry stomach and piling onto her back.  The basset hound looked at Brian with a morose expression. 

 

“Motherhood don’t suit ya? Join the club,” Brian said, pausing to wipe his brow.  Flash whined as peeping chicks overran her.  As for Bandit, the German Shepard kept busy by dragging Brian’s discarded jacket away to bury it in the yard.  So far, Brian hadn’t noticed.

 

He resumed hammering, finishing up the henhouse in good order.  He set the fencing around it, unrolling the chicken wire and staking it deep into the ground.  The heat lamp, water pan and feeder were arranged with the final touches, and Brian relocated the chicks into the new pen and let them refresh themselves.  Flash, released from her babysitting burdens, ran for the house. 

 

After the tools were put away, Brian searched for his jacket, and found it buried beneath a suspicious pile of fresh-dug dirt.  He sighed, shook it out, and put it on.  He had Dukes to settle up with, and that called for looking tough, even if it was a dirty, dusty kind of tough. 

 

He was surprised by the sight of Old Man Avery’s truck pulling into the Coltrane driveway.  The crotchety farmer employed Brian during the harvest season, but rarely made social calls.  However, the reason for Old Man Avery’s visit soon became clear.  “Rhuebottom tells me y’aw got chickens,” he said to Brian, as if it were the measles.

 

“Uh…yes sir.  Right there, just built ‘em a henhouse.” 

 

Old Man Avery wandered over to it, looked it over with a farmer’s eye, and nodded.  “Ought to hold up good enuff.  Yaw got one problem, though.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Yaw got no rooshter.”

 

“No rooster?”

 

“Like ah said. Yaw got no rooshter.  Them’s all hens.”

 

Brian took a good look at the thirty-six identical, fuzzy chicks.  He suddenly felt foolish that he couldn’t tell a hen chick from a rooster chick if his life depended on it.  So much for his overnight success in chicken farming.  “Um…”

 

“Rooshters got a lil’ comb right heah, and that’s how yaw cain tell,” the old farmer explained. He pointed just above the beak of a baby chick, where a comb would be found.  “No rooshter, an’ yaw got no eggs n’ den no more chickens.”

 

“Aw, hell.”

 

“Ah got a rooshter y’aw cain have,” Avery offered.  “If you be want’n to trade some of dem chicks for ‘im…”

 

“It’s a deal.”

 

*****                          *****                          *****

 

A little while later, Brian delivered one dozen chicks to Old Man Avery’s farm.  In return, he was given one large, fat, Leghorn rooster, which sat so immobile in Avery’s farmyard that Brian initially thought it dead.  “He’s just sunnin’ hisself,” the farmer assured, and scooped up the bird without effort.  He handed it off to Brian, whereupon the rooster showed sudden animation, glaring at him with one furious yellow eye.  The rooster fluffed, stretched his neck up, and let out an open-beaked, cawing screech that was fit to announce Armageddon. 

 

“He’ll do that ev’ry mornin’ for y’aw, five-thirty on the dot,” Avery said proudly. 

 

“Terrific.”  Brian could barely contain his lack of enthusiasm.

 

The old farmer took no notice.  He was satisfied with the bargain, and carted his dozen new chicks to the henhouse, waving Brian goodbye.

 

Brian got the sneaking suspicion that he’d been had by the wily old farmer.  The white, mud-stained rooster he just acquired seemed too old to make a decent stew, and the bird’s worth as breeding stock was probably questionable. Yet as he looked at the ragged, overstuffed creature, he felt a little sorry for it.  Besides, a deal was a deal.  He put the rooster in Diablo’s’ passenger seat, getting his hand pecked in the effort.  “Ow! You rotten feather-duster…now sit there and behave!”

 

The bird snuggled down into Diablo’s black vinyl seat, making the most of the sun-heated interior.  It shut it’s eyes and looked dead again, not even stirring as the Chevy fired up and lurched into gear.  Brian let the bird rest, or enjoy it’s rigor mortis, as he drove back through Hazzard.  Avery’s farm was on the other side of town, and coming back through the town square was the easiest way home. 

 

The sound of traffic and the scents of town got the rooster’s attention.  The chicken suddenly fluffed and stretched up, craning it’s neck to try and see over the dash.  It clucked nervously. 

 

“Sit down, you ain’t missin’ nothin,” Brian muttered to it.  He watched the bird with no more than half an eye; the General Lee was parked over by Cooter’s garage, and that had his full attention.  Man, if I had a grenade launcher…

 

The rooster, in a burst of frantic flapping, took a mad flight around the car seat, like a moth trapped in a canning jar.  It squawked in distress, shedding feathers by the pound, startling Brian so much that he nearly drove into a fire hydrant.  “GAH! Stop that! Settle down!” 

 

With a screech, the bird propelled itself out the passenger window.  It hit the ground running.  Cars skidded to a stop, horns blared, and the rooster made the most of it’s bid for freedom, dashing between vehicles and barreling around the inside stretch of the square. 

 

“*&#@!”  Brian yelled.  He pulled Diablo over and jumped out, giving chase.  For an old rooster, the motley bird was the fastest thing on two feet that he’d ever seen.  It weaved between halted cars and darted under pickup trucks. It changed direction and ran between Brian’s legs.  It kept to the pavement, running wild around the town square, grinding all traffic to a stop. The honking of horns, squealing of brakes, and yells from the townsfolk did nothing to slow the bird down. 

 

Over by the garage, Bo, Luke and Cooter leaned against the General, watching the commotion.  “Coltranes must be on hard times,” Cooter said casually, “If ol’ Brian’s been reduced to stealin’ chickens.”

 

“A-yep,” Bo agreed.

 

“That’s a fact,” Luke nodded.  All three of them kept straight faces, with some difficulty, as the speeding rooster and Brian ran past the garage.  It made Cooter think of something, and he walked away for a moment, returning shortly with a pit crew sign that he’d kept on hand for the Duke’s racing days.  Bo and Luke grinned. 

 

Brian, working on lap two around the square, happened to glace up at Cooter, who was holding a pit sign with his time chalked on it.  Bo and Luke waved pit signals with complete seriousness.  Townsfolk whistled and cheered as the rooster put it into high gear and gained a good lead on Brian, who had fallen behind by about a quarter-lap. People came out of Rhuebottom’s with cold beers and cracked them open, taking up seats to view the spectacle.

 

The noise carried to the booking room.  MaryAnne pulled up the blinds and looked out the window.  She stared at the scene in the town square.

 

“What the hell is going on out there?”  Rosco asked from the booking desk.

 

“Nothing,” MaryAnne replied, letting the blinds drop. 

 

“Good,” Rosco said. He knew MaryAnne was lying, and he was grateful for it.

 

Outside, Brian was closing the gap.  Both he and the rooster had run themselves into the ground, and now it was a matter of sheer determination as to who would win.  In the end, Brian won, thanks to luck.  Someone dropped a piece of popcorn on the road, and the rooster paused to take a peck at it.  Brian poured on the last of his stamina and leapt at the bird, pouncing just as the chicken went to dart off again.  He snagged a leg and hung on, gaining a good hold on the struggling rooster.  Raucous cheers went up from the spectators as Brian, panting and exhausted, stood up and held the bird like a trophy.  He bowed to the applause, not even minding as somebody shook a beer and sprayed him with it. 

 

Bo, Luke and Cooter whooped it up.  They ran over to Brian, thumping him on the back.  Cameras flashed, and young, pretty girls latched onto Brian to have their pictures taken with him.  He squirmed from the attention, a little embarrassed.

 

“Ain’t every day a city boy catches a chicken,” Cooter explained.  “You were the underdog in this here race.”

 

“Yeah, it was a helluva battle…” Brian began, working up his victory speech.  From across the square, he suddenly noticed two blue shirts walking out of the courthouse.  “COPS!!” he yelled, and the townsfolk scrambled to their cars and pickup trucks, the spectators melting away in the face of the law.  No one knew if a chicken chase in the middle of town was illegal, but no one wanted to be caught if it was.  Engines revved and tires squealed, and in moments, Hazzard resembled the peaceful, sleepy town that the unwary believed it to be. 

 

Rosco and MaryAnne watched from the courthouse steps as things returned to normal.  Somehow, Cooter and the Dukes, along with Brian and his hard-won rooster, had disappeared with the disbursing crowd.

 

“Do you have any idea what that was all about?”  Rosco asked MaryAnne.

 

“No. I don’t think I want to know, either.” 

 

*****                          *****                          *****

 

Once the rooster was at home in the new chicken pen, Brian began to hatch his plans for vengeance.  He had a dozen chicks left to barter with, which would still leave twelve baby chickens and one misbegotten rooster for the Coltrane household.  The spare dozen were rounded up, placed into a box, and taken to town. 

 

Having learned the knack for bartering, Brian traded six of the baby chickens to the Hazzard Floral Shop. He arranged for the delivery of one Easter lily plant to the Duke farm, complete with a greeting card that he signed himself.  Next, he made a stop at an egg farm, and traded the six remaining chicks for four dozen eggs.  The eggs were set into flat, open containers, twenty-four to a cardboard tray.  Brian carried them gently to Diablo, sat them on the floorboard, and drove carefully to the Boar’s Nest.  It was late in the afternoon, and he was betting his hopes for revenge on Bo and Luke’s customary habits. 

 

At the Boar’s Nest, Brian parked Diablo behind the building, keeping the black Chevy out of sight from the road.  Then he waited patiently.

 

At the Duke farm, the delivery of flowers to Bo and Luke Duke caused a stir of curiosity.  Bo carried the lily plant to the kitchen table, wondering who would have sent it.  He had a bad feeling about it all. 

 

“There’s a card,” Luke said, finding the envelope tucked into the plant’s base.  As Bo, Daisy, and Uncle Jesse looked on, Luke opened the envelope and read the card. 

 

“To Bo and Luke.  Happy Easter.  P.S – this ain’t over.”  There was no mistaking the script in black ink.  “It’s from Brian,” Luke concluded.

 

“Flowers, from Brian?”  Bo said incredulously. 

 

“Easter lilies,” Luke pointed out.  “A traditional funeral favorite. I think sent us a mild threat.”

 

“For a mild threat, they sure smell pretty,” Daisy said, giving the blossoms a big sniff. 

 

“Smells more like a set-up to me,” Bo said.  “You’re right, Luke. He’s got somethin’ up those black sleeves, an’ this here’s his way of showin’ it.”

 

Uncle Jesse wagged a finger at his nephews.  “You boys just keep out of his way. Every time things start to settle down in this county, one of you start in and then there’s trouble.”

 

Bo put on his most innocent face. “We didn’t do nothin’.  We just gave Brian a few Easter presents.”

 

“Lots of presents,” Luke grinned.

 

Uncle Jesse looked at the card, his eyes zeroing on the words this ain’t over.  “I git the feelin’ you boys are gonna find yer generosity returned.”

 

*****                          *****                          *****

 

Predictably, Bo and Luke headed for the Boar’s Nest after the evening chores.  While driving the General Lee, Bo pondered the whereabouts of their black-clad nemesis. “Think he’s waiting for us there?” he asked Luke.

 

“More n’ likely,” Luke answered.  “No sense disappointing him.”

 

“Sure there is.”

 

“Bo…” Luke said reprovingly, “We’ll never know what he’s up to unless we find ‘em.”

 

“I don’t wanna know what he’s up to and I don’t want to find him,” Bo stated. 

 

Luke chuckled at his cousin.  He couldn’t blame Bo for being a little apprehensive, but to not show up at the Boar’s Nest tonight, would be equal to admitting that Brian had rattled them.  Therefore, they had to go the Boar’s Nest.

 

“Diablo’s not here,” Bo observed as they pulled in. 

 

 “Maybe he rode along with MaryAnne. Maverick’s over there.”  Luke pointed to the blue Trans-Am parked to the side.

 

“I suppose we’ll find out.”  Bo parked the General and climbed out.  He and Luke kept their eyes open as they walked to the door, each of them feeling the same wordless dread.  Somebody had their number.  They scooted into the Boar’s Nest and took a long look around.

 

“Howdy fellas,” MaryAnne smiled.  She strolled over to them, wondering why they weren’t heading for their usual table.  “You want the hostess to seat you?” she joked.

 

“Huh? Oh, uh...no.”  Luke smiled nervously.  “We were just wonderin’ where Brian was.”

 

“He’s not here,” MaryAnne said to the obvious.  “I haven’t seen him in hours.  Did you try callin’ him on the CB?”

 

“No,” Bo said. “No, we didn’t.  See, we’re not really lookin’ for ‘em, we just wanted to know where he is.” 

 

“Uh-huh,” MaryAnne said sweetly.  “Listen boys, I’ve got to get back to work. Don’t worry about Brian. I’m sure he’ll find you.”  With another benign smile, she sauntered off. 

 

“That’s exactly what worries me,” Bo muttered.  “What now, Luke?”

 

“Let’s go check around town. C’mon.”  Luke spun around for the door and walked out quickly, with Bo following.  Growing unease gnawed at them both.  The door to the Boar’s Nest had barely shut behind them, when Diablo’s motor started up.  Vhrrraaa-HOOOM!

 

Bo and Luke stopped dead in their tracks and looked around worriedly.  Diablo’s’ motor rumbled unseen.  Vrruumm vrruumm vrruumm…

 

“He’s parked behind the Boar’s Nest!” Luke realized.  “He’s been waitin’ there all the while! We’d better…”

 

VHRRAAHRUMM!!  Diablo’s growl grew loud, and the black Chevy’s headlights suddenly burst into view.  Bo and Luke bolted for the General Lee, fleeing out of instinct.  They dove into the General with the smoothness of a thousand fast escapes…

 

CRUNCH! …and landed square on four dozen eggs. Twenty-four apiece, to be exact.  Someone had purposely left eggs on the General’s seats, and Bo and Luke had crushed them instantly with the rear of their pants. 

 

“Oh, lordy.”  Luke sighed and looked at the mess he was sitting in.  The slightest move made another crunch.  He glanced over at Bo.

 

Bo was resting his head against the steering wheel.  The General had vinyl seats, so the mess wasn’t a big problem for the car.  However, it soaked clear through his denim jeans, and Bo was praying that none of his girlfriends would see him like this. 

 

Brian strolled up to the General and called a friendly greeting.  “Howdy Bo! Howdy Luke! Didn’t see y’all pull in…”

 

“Like heck you didn’t,” Bo said. 

 

“Anyhow, since you’re here, come on in and I’ll buy a round.”  Brian smiled congenially. 

 

“We’ll take a rain check,”  Luke answered.

 

“Suit yerselves,” Brian chuckled.  He basked in the sight of the Duke’s discomfort for another moment, his dark eyes full of mirth.  He didn’t move as Bo picked up a half an eggshell of goop and crunched it onto his jacket, as if pinning a medal. 

 

“Happy Easter,” Bo grumbled lightly.

 

“Khee! It is now,” Brian laughed.  “I was wonderin’, earlier today, what came first.  The chicken or the egg.  Since y’all started this one, I’d have to say the chicken.”

 

“You could be right,” Luke chuckled.  He looked over at Brian. “Truce?”

 

“Truce,” Brian agreed.  He accepted a handshake from Bo, who grinned ruefully.  But when Brian leaned in to shake Luke’s hand, Luke pressed a gooey handful of raw egg into his palm.  “Happy Easter,” Luke told him.

 

“Gee, thanks.”  Brian wiped the mess on his jacket, which was due for dry cleaning anyway.

 

*****                          *****                          *****

 

On Easter morning, MaryAnne set the breakfast table as usual, but today she added an Easter baskets next to Rosco and Brian’s plates.  Her cousins thundered down the stairs shortly thereafter, already embroiled in a water-pistol duel.  “No squirt guns in the house!”  She reminded them. 

 

Rosco and Brian looked at her, then shrugged and took deliberate aim at one another.  MaryAnne quickly drew her own weapon, a large water-pistol with two chambers and a double trigger.  “Who wants to try me first?”

 

“GAH! JIT!”  Rosco and Brian dropped their weapons and raised their hands.

 

“Smart move. Now I don’t want to get your hopes up, but I think the Easter Bunny was here…”

 

“Oooo! Khee!”  It was the fastest that either Rosco or Brian had made it to the table in some time.  Like little kids, they dug headlong into their Easter baskets, stuffing jellybeans in their mouths as they took inventory of the goods.  Brian pulled out a package of brightly colored, marshmallow candy and stared at it.

 

“Marshmallow Peeps,” he said wryly, and MaryAnne giggled. 

 

“Thought you’d like those.”  She enjoyed watching her cousin’s expressions as they took apart their Easter baskets, finding toys and goodies that were inexpensive to buy, but priceless to receive on an Easter morning.  As they gobbled down sugar and chocolate in mass quantities, she went to the fridge to get the makings of breakfast going.  But when she opened the door, she found an Easter basket had been hidden in there for her.  She pulled it out, giving an “awww” at the stuffed toy bunny within it.  Chocolate and candy overflowed the basket. 

 

“I’m not going to have any teeth left if I eat all this,” she complained happily, unwrapping a chocolate rabbit. 

 

“Khee! Maybe we’ll take it back to the Easter Bunny, and you can trade it for carrots,” Rosco suggested.

 

MaryAnne turned her back to him, clutching the Easter basket possessively.  “Not on yer life.”

 

Rosco chuckled.  “Awright, but save some room for dinner tonight.  Remember, Boss n’ Lulu are puttin’ on a feed. We’re all invited, and I think the Dukes are comin’ over with Cooter.”

 

“In that case, I’m bringin’ my dart gun, my water pistol, and a slingshot,” Brian announced.

 

“No yer not,” Rosco said.  “You can behave for an hour or two if you set yer mind to it. Boss n’ Lulu are puttin’ on a real nice ham dinner for all of us.”

 

Brian looked up.  “We’re having ham…at the Hoggs?”

 

MaryAnne snorted.  “Just don’t make a pig of yourself.”

 

“Hey, I’m not the Supreme Superior Oinker at this table…”  Brian barely had the words out when Rosco stood up and went to retrieve the water pistols.  The Sheriff picked up not only his own gun, but Brian’s as well, deciding to toss any idea of fair play right out the window.  Brian scrambled from the table, stirring up the dogs as he ran for it and tore out of the house.  “KHEEHAAAAA! You’ll never take me alive!”

 

“GIT BACK HERE!”  Rosco slammed through the screen door in pursuit.  Flash and Bandit barked to raise the dead. 

 

 MaryAnne picked up her squirt gun and walked over to the door. The dogs looked up at her, eager for action.  “Git ‘em,” she said with a wicked smile.  “SIC ‘EM!”  She flung the door open and the dogs burst through it, howling. MaryAnne ran out behind them, readying plans for an ambush.  In the bright, clean air of the morning, there was the sound of barking dogs, playful shouting, and a crowing, screeching rooster.

 

The End