Didn’t matter none how big a man you were, or thought you were, when she give you That Look you’d feel two inches high and green as grass.
I seen it once. Them eyes of hers would go from summer-sky blue to ice, so cold they’d freeze right to your soul. Yeah, I seen it once, aimed my way. Don’t much care to see it again.
About six months after her man died, it was. Jim Highson was what you’d call a regular feller. A good word for everybody and a good day’s work for his pay. He was crazy for Molly from the day he fetched his cart up against hers at the market. Any other man would’ve gotten That Look, but any other man wasn’t Jim Highson.
They got hitched close on a year later. It worked for ‘em. The usual ups and downs, the house, crops, the cars, dinner with the neighbors. No kids, but it happens that way sometimes. Fifteen years into it, the big C takes Jim and leaves Molly with a hunnerd-sixty acres and one hired man to tend it. That’s me, and that’s the job I been doin'. One of ‘em, anyhow.
So Jim was gone and Molly was alone. Folks is practical around here; they figured she’d grieve a proper length of time, then see about findin' a new man to mind the land, the accounts, all that. A rich, good-lookin' widow is a popular lady, but not all widows’re like Molly. I’d be workin' on whatever, tractor maybe, and here comes this one or that one, duded up with flowers in hand. Wouldn’t take but a few minutes of him yappin' before That Look showed up on Molly’s face and he’d slink out of there.
After a few weeks of this, word started goin' around that Molly was gettin' above herself. I was on my third cup of coffee at the café when I caught a drift of conversation.
“…needs to be taken down a peg…”
There was a little more to that effect, and some more I didn’t hear, but the meanin' was plain. Thing of it was, Molly wasn’t the type you could just tell somethin' like this to. I never got the chance to, anyhow. By the time I’d finished my business in town, it was goin' on dark. By the time I got out to Molly’s to check on her, it was full dark.
There was a car in the drive.
I knew that car, and I knew who’d be in the house. The Dempsay brothers could be called the rotten limbs on their family tree. After so many years of Juvie and real jail and who knows what-all, their folks had given up and written ‘em off. Now they was here to, as they said, take Molly down a peg.
I looked in the window, figurin' to check the lay of the land. Even without the tumped-over chairs and such, it was plain there’d been trouble. Molly was backed up against the china hutch Jim’d given her on their fifth anniversary. Her sleeve was tore, and the corner of her mouth was bleedin'.
I could hear what was bein' said, but I won’t go into that. Let’s just say that the Dempsays was statin' their case and decidin' who’d go first. They mighta been too drunk to try, but not too drunk to put Molly in a hurt.
They was also too drunk, and too busy arguin', to notice that Molly had slipped into the drawer of the hutch and pulled out Jim’s tenth anniversary present. Those ice-chip eyes of hers blinked twice, once for each shot.
I made sure to announce myself on the way in the door, I can tell you.
We stood there some minutes, the clock ticking, us thinkin' and the Dempsays very dead. Finally, I cleared my throat.
“You, uh, want me to call somebody…?”
Molly leveled That Look at me. Two inches tall and green as grass.
“Just get the shovel, Frank. Put ‘em out with the others.”
By Penny Dreadful