Chapter: An Eye For An Eye (2/5)
Characters: T-Bag, others (Gen)
Rating: PG-R (this part PG)
Summary: His future was written at the beginning; it came to him by blood.
Spoilers: Through end of Season 1.
Authors Notes: Written for the philosophy_20 prompt #17, "Lack Of God." This is a somewhat AU history of T-Bag. This was inspired by a long-ago "Stories I Never Wrote You" challenge, the prompt being "Five Ways T-Bag Didn't Almost Die." It took forever to finish all five of them, and these are instead a set of five times T-Bag came close to dying, and who that made him in the process.
x-x-x Part II: An Eye For An Eye x-x-x
The Fourth of July picnic was always a community affair.
The whole town turned out, all the nearby farmers and people from up-river. They brought fried chicken and homegrown watermelon. The ladies outdid each other with their butter pickles and homemade pies.
The children would chase each other through the grass, the boys stealing off with their sisters’ dollies, the girls running after them lungs a’holler. There was barbecue and corn-on-the-cob, and cool, sweet lemonade flowing by the pitcher.
At the picnic, every child was welcome. They laughed and ate, their sparkling eyes showing their happiness at every turn.
Teddy got so full he hardly had any room for pie. He sat on the grass under the big black oak tree watching the junebugs jump in the heated-up grass.
Jimmy had a three-colored popsicle, but Teddy couldn’t bring himself to find one of his own. His stomach went from full to heavy to aching, and soon he was rolling on his side with the sharpness of the cramps.
“Teddy, now, what’s the matter?” Mrs. Buford asked. Her straw hat blocked out the sun, stealing the daylight from his agony like an inside-out dream.
“My stomach’s hurtin’,” he moaned, his body breaking into a sweat.
Mrs. Buford helped him up, pulling him to the grange and the comforts of indoor plumbing. He was good and sick in there, barely a restful moment for the next hour or more. Mrs. Buford called to him, and solicited opinions from the preacher and Widow Stinson. Finally, she marched on inside and loomed over him, her face screwed up against the stench.
"You need a doctor, child," she said. "If you're finished now, I can take you."
"No—no, Ma'am," he said. "I mean, please, Mrs. Buford—I'll be all right."
"Well we can't be certain of that, Teddy," she pressed on. "You've been awful sick just now."
"Mrs… My Daddy, he'd—"
Her face softened, like she remembered that the Bagwells were both poor and regularly ill-tempered.
"I'll take you home then, directly. I'd like to be back before the fireworks start."
Teddy's heart clenched at those words. The fireworks were his favorite part of the Fourth, and he wanted them no matter how bad he felt. But he could see the look in Mrs. Buford's eyes; if he fussed, she'd go on about it to Daddy, and he'd get beaten for sure.
"Come on now, Teddy, let's go."
He followed her slowly out across the grass, clutching his stomach and stumbling as he went.
"Where're you going now, Lily?" A gaggle of church ladies gathered around.
"Theodore needs to be gotten home to bed. Poor child's been sick both top and bottom."
Teddy ducked his head and blushed. Wasn't that just like grownups, talking about the most embarrassing stuff like a person wasn't there?
“Well, what did he eat?” Mrs. Landing asked.
“Chicken and corn, and gobs of potato salad from what I saw,” another voice put in.
“Not Minnie Baylor’s potato salad?" said Netta Corbin. "It’s been sitting in the sun since half-past ten.”
“Dear Lord, that must be it.” Mrs. Buford said slowly. “The boy's been suffering the wrath of food poisoning all this time.”
She bundled him into the car then, driving away as the first fireworks started. Teddy turned and strained in his seat, trying to peer out the window behind him. The sky lifted and broke in starbursts and streamers, and the night fell back to stillness between each volley. He was enraptured with the sight, with the way the air lit up and shimmered with colors that came and went. He ached with the longing to be under that beautiful, violent, sky. It would be a whole year before it came again, and he'd missed it for no good reason at all.
The next morning, he was worthless until almost eleven. He dragged himself through his chores, barely making it the next few days.
But by Wednesday, he had recovered his body and spirit. The day soon found him in the root cellar with his Daddy’s biggest knife.
He sat down there all afternoon, knowing how much trouble he’d be in when Mama found out.
Surrounded by potatoes, half of them stabbed into or cut up in ragged chunks, he surveyed the fruits of his labor strewn about the floor like fallen soldiers, headless and forgotten.
He was no longer at the mercy of a common and traitorous vegetable.
Instead, he was master of this brutalized kingdom. He would have his pitiless measure of revenge.