King of the Mountain

They rolled down the hill over and over again, making whoa sounds until they halted in thick plush grass still wet from the morning. Mary Ann giggled and kicked her feet in the air like a turned over turtle while Oscar laid on his stomach panting. At the top of the hill was Jerry dancing tribal-like, a silhouette against the rising sun proclaiming the start of his reign as King of the Mountain.

“It’s more fun to lose anyway,” she said rolling onto her stomach and picking a fluffy dandelion gone to seed.

“I could’ve stopped,” he said.

“Oh, so could I. But rolling was more fun, wasn’t it?”

Oscar got onto his knees and watched as the white puffs from the blown flower passed a wish in front of his face. He gazed up at Jerry still dancing, stomping his feet, shaking his fists. He spit on the ground in front of him and then wiped his cheek.

“Are you mad?” Mary Ann said.

“No,” Oscar said.

“Yes you are.”

“Am not.”

“It’s just a game. Let him have it.”

“He’s such a bully just cause he’s older.”

“He’s not that bad.”

“He kicked me in the groin!”

Oscar stood up and scratched the inside of his ankle with his shoe. He looked down at the girl still laying prostrate on the grass. She was attempting to tie the dandelion stem into a knot.

“Mama told me that Uncle Ray’s too mean to him,” she said.

“Uncle Ray ain’t mean to no one,” he said.

“Sometimes he’s too loud.”

“Being loud ain’t mean.”

“Sometimes it is.”

“Nuh uh. Being loud is just who you are if you’re loud.”

Oscar began climbing the steep bank of the hill. He leaned over and placed his hands on the ground and began to bear crawl.

“Aw, leave him be, Oscar!” Mary Ann said.

“I’m tired of these family get togethers. I’m tired of him.”

He climbed the hill until he reached its crest where he met Jerry standing proud with his fists pressed firmly in his hips. His feet were wide, and he had a cartoonish smile exposing more teeth than necessary.

“Come back for more, I see? You’ll regret facing the King of the Mountain!”

Jerry tried to shove Oscar but Oscar anticipated his move and grabbed his wrist yanking downwards until Jerry almost fell over.

“Hey!” Jerry said.

Oscar said nothing. He stood up and grabbed Jerry by the neck and began trying to throw him to the ground. Jerry gurgled and snorted and tried to break free. Oscar’s grip was too strong and he violently shook the boy whose face was beginning to redden like a beet.

“Too rough, Oscar!” Jerry said squeezing the words through his gritted wet teeth.

“That’s enough, Oscar!” Mary Ann yelled from below.

Jerry dropped to his knees and pounded his fist onto Oscar’s chest. With one last heave, Oscar threw him to the ground and then shoved him with his foot until Jerry rolled a few times down the hill.

“Now, who’s King of the Mountain, Jerry?” Oscar said.

“I’m gonna tell!” Mary Ann said.

“Tell then. I don’t care.”

Jerry stood up and carefully walked down the rest of the hill while wiping tears off his face. Mary Ann ran up to greet him at the bottom but he waved her away before breaking into a jog. His sobs growing gradually louder as he approached the farmhouse in the distance. Coming from the back door was their grandmother with open arms embracing him and carrying him inside the house.

“You’re the bully now, Oscar!” Mary Ann said from the bottom of the hill.

“Good. Now he knows his place,” he said.

“He already knows it, Oscar.”

Mary Ann turned and ran back to the house. Oscar watched as she disappeared through the back door. He could tell from the way the glass shook that it had been slammed.

He looked around from his view on top of the hill. There was no one around. Just a wide field of grass and weeds empty of anyone save himself. He told himself he was the king and that it was worth it, but he wasn’t sure why his eyes began welling with tears.


About Keith Beard

Keith Beard studied English at Auburn University and taught high school English for six years. He lives in Alabaster, AL with his wife Maria, his newborn son Jackson, and his dog Holly, and he is currently focusing on playing music and writing fiction.

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