Disclaimer: Yoooou shall watch the spinning object, give to me the ownership of Tin Man, yes you shall...
Author's Note: So, it occurred to me some months ago – about the time I disappeared for a week or two in the middle of writing 'The Courting of Officer Gulch' – that I keep mentioning these Tales From the Otherside that DG and Gulch are always telling, maybe I should, you know, write some. Naturally I tried to kill the idea on sight, alas and woe, however, it was tougher than it looked and kinda kept growing. I've been looking forward to it for a while now – was going to wait but schedule says now's the time. Oh, and just so you are warned, I endeavoured to do something radical like actually planning a story before I begin it so I can tell you now that there are going to be fifteen chapters, with or without epilogue, that's it, that's all. And I mean it this time. Yup, I do. Also, humour is not supposed to be the main focus of this one, though I'm sure it will sneak in anyhow, it always does. Gulch is doing half the narrating after all.
PS Mathematics says that DG was five when she went to the Otherside, so that's what I'm going with.
Elmer Gulch was bored, he was beyond bored, he was approaching mind-numbing, exceedingly bored, or even shoot-myself-in-the-foot-just-to-make-life-interesting bored. He was also wishing his thesaurus held words better suited to describing his boredom so that he could do more then add adverbs to the word bored in order to describe how utterly bored he was. Tossing the book into the passenger seat of the old cruiser, the young cop thumped his head down onto the steering wheel and groaned. Bloody hell, he was bored.
A moment later he raised his head reluctantly to peer determinedly down the road in search of speeders – no one was coming, the ever punctual Carter had already been by this morning, but it was his job and he was going to do it right by thunder. Gulches, his father was fond of saying, do not shirk their duties. Who knew one could grow so accustomed – and bored – with their profession in so short a time? Of course, this probably wouldn't have been the case if he hadn't been assigned to his tiny home town right off the bat so that he could help out on the family farm. It wasn't the best situation for training a new police officer, but his father's health wasn't what it used to be and even with all the will in the world to do so, his mother couldn't pick up the slack on her own. Least not without killing herself in the process.
There wasn't a hell of a lot of variation to policing a farming community – he'd been on the job for less than half a year and already the routine was beginning to pall. The hardest part of his job was making people used to seeing him as 'the Gulch kid' respect him as an authority figure. So far the only headway he'd made was with the elder population, who were doing him the courtesy of at least allowing him the pretence, while the younger generation – his peers not so long ago – had taken to calling him Officer Fudd. Everyone knew where he parked to set up his radar – he tried to mix it up a little but, darn it, there were only so many places to park that there actually was traffic – and the only thing he got real practice at was breaking up bar fights. He was utterly sick of donuts and the only distraction he'd had of late had been the wild goose chase in the form of a supposed sighting of a missing person, one Alfred Horatio Addlebert Mortimer Ogilvie, who's parents obviously had never liked him nor been afraid to show it.
The case file had been interesting, Elmer mused as he put the cruiser in gear to change locations, but the likelihood of a man from Nebraska who'd been missing for well over a decade now showing up in the middle of nowhere Kansas was not great. Sure, the annual rodeo had brought a whole swarm of strangers into the tight-knit community, but even if the carnie had shown up he wouldn't have been able to hang around without notice. A new face in this town stuck out like a...like a little girl in a red dress leaping off a fence onto the back of Hannibal, Farmer Spencer's ill-tempered, ornery old bull.
Elmer Gulch was suddenly no longer bored.
Tires screeched to a halt as the farm boy turned cop slammed on the breaks, ripped off his seatbelt, wrenched open the door and flung himself out of the cruiser, leaving it stalled haphazardly across the highway. That was moderately dangerous but Mrs. Middlebury wasn't due to pass by for an hour yet and dammit he didn't have time for proper parking. Planting a hand on the nearest fencepost in an attempt to vault, the cop heard, and accepted, the inevitable ripping of fabric that comes of trying to take a barbwire fence at speed. He even managed to turn his tripped up landing into a credible roll, as for what he landed in, well, that was the advantage of living with your parents – there were mothers to deal with the laundry. Before he'd even finished the thought, the young policeman was back on his feet and sprinting across the pasture towards the wood fenced watering bowl where Hannibal was having the predictable response to small annoying beings dropping out of the sky onto his back. It was a miracle the kid was still holding on.
Elmer hit the corral fence just as the bull heaved in a powerful buck, unseating his small passenger at last, sending the child hurtling into the air. Flying over the railing with accustomed – if slightly more frantic – ease, the cop threw himself forward to intercept the girl's trajectory before skidding into a sliding catch that would have made his erstwhile baseball coach proud. Air whooshed out of his lungs as her knees sank into his gut, but as far as he could tell the girl was uninjured. The policeman spent half a second rejoicing over this fact as he gasped for breath then his luck ran out and he heard the unmistakable sound of a hoof being dragged repeatedly in the dirt. It was a thing cattle liked to do before they charged something or someone.
Not too long ago, Spencer had enlisted the help of his good friend's son in moving the bull between pastures; it had been a long and arduous task as Hannibal hadn't seemed to care that they were trying to move him in with some nice young cows. No, he'd only focused on how much he didn't like trailers; seemed to Elmer in that moment that the contrary old bull was holding a bit of a grudge. Deciding that reminding his lungs how to breathe wasn't a priority at the moment, the cop scrambled to his feet, hauling the girl with him. And then came the sound of pounding hooves...
"Run!" Elmer yelled to the kid, shoving her in the direction of the nearest fence line, "Get out of here," he ordered, dodging left and away, glancing over his shoulder to see if he'd managed to take the bull with him.
It wasn't just fabric ripping this time as the bull rammed into him, a horn catching him in the seat of his pants and tearing its way towards his spine as Hannibal hefted the cop into the air with a mighty toss of his head. Ever the pain in the ass, the farm boy grunted internally as he was launched across the pen. Plus side was that the bull had actually managed to throw him clear, well mostly, as the cop clipped the top board of the fence, somersaulting through the air only to land with a jarring thud on his back outside of the enclosure.
Elmer Gulch groaned and opted to lie there a moment. "Rectum nothing, it damned near killed him," he muttered once he'd caught his breath again.
"What?" a little voice chirped from somewhere nearby.
Opening his eyes reluctantly, the cop looked up to meet the innocent, wide blue-eyed gaze of the small girl leaning over him. "Nothing," he mumbled, "You okay?"
Smiling merrily in response, the child inquired curiously, "You a clown?"
"You made the bull chase you, that's what the clowns do," she informed him sagely.
"I'm not a clown," Elmer replied firmly, contemplating getting up. He really didn't want to but someone was probably wondering where the little girl was.
"What are you then?" the child queried, tilting her head inquisitively.
"I'm a cop," he told her, gesturing to his badge, "You can call me Officer Gulch."
Scrunching up her nose, the kid shook her head. "Not a cop, the badge is wrong," she said.
"Eh?" the policeman uttered in surprise, pushing himself painfully up onto his elbows so that he could look for himself. "It is not," he added indignantly a moment later.
"Is," the brat fired back insistently, reaching out to trace a circle around the six-pointed star with one finger, "is wrong."
"What's wrong with it then?" Elmer demanded a little more harshly than he'd meant to. He was proud of his badge, dammit.
"It...It," the girl began, poking at one of the points insistently, "It just is!" she wailed in agitation.
Alarmed at how upset she was getting – were her eyes watering? – the cop interjected hastily, "Okay, maybe it's wrong where you come from, not all police forces use the same badge. You think that could be the problem?"
Sniffling ominously, the little girl rubbed her eyes before nodding ever so slightly.
"See, so I can be a cop," he suggested gently, then as she slowly nodded once more he added, "Do you mind telling me your name?"
"Well DG," Elmer stated, attempting to sit up, "it's nice to meet – ow!" he gasped, flopping forward onto his stomach.
"Your bum's bleeding," DG informed him.
Well that would explain why it hurts so bad, the farm boy thought.
"You got whored," she added.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Bull got you with his horns, you got whored," DG explained.
"I do believe you mean gored," the cop pointed out delicately as he gingerly began probing the wound.
"That's what I said," the girl remarked reproachfully.
"Ah, right," Elmer muttered distractedly as he wondered how to go about bandaging his own butt, the guys at the station were going to die of laughter – all six of them. "I take it you went to see the rodeo?" he asked.
DG nodded. "The nice man took me."
"Nice man?" he inquired, considering then rejecting the idea of having the girl try and bandage it for him.
"Friend of Popsicle," the kid explained, "helped us come here. Cries a lot," she added thoughtfully.
"Does he now?" the cop prompted absently as he struggled out of his shirt to get at the undershirt beneath.
"Yup, cried and hugged me lots when he had to leave. Momster says he misses his wife and children."
"I see," Elmer said sympathetically, drawing his own conclusions as he hitched to the side to shrug back into the shirt, hissing as he pressed the folded undershirt to the wound to stem the bleeding. "And where might one find Momster and Popsicle?" he panted after a moment.
"There," DG said, pointing to where, off in the distance, one could just make out a rooftop set against a stand of trees.
"The old Gale place?" the cop asked in surprise, "I didn't know someone had bought it. What on Earth are you doing all the way out here?"
Blue eyes clouded over as they gazed into the middle distance, brows furrowing the little girl mumbled, "I was looking for...looking for...something."
"Something?" the policeman encouraged softly.
"For an adventure!" DG blurted, her expression clearing instantly.
"Huh, no kidding," Elmer Gulch replied as he glanced between the remote farm house and the seemingly immeasurable distance he was going to have to cross in order to get back to his cruiser. He was going to have to climb a fence, too. This is going to hurt. "You think you can warn me next time first? Something tells your adventures are going to get me into trouble."
Earnest blue eyes gazed back up at him, it was a shame he missed the impish smile that lurked in their depths.