They were lazy.
We came upon them before noon, the sun beating down and cooking the Hollow, the men’s rifles stacked off to the right. The scrape of their shovels and their bitter complaints were muffled by the heat, but only a little.
“She told us we could eat them,” one of the men muttered.
“No, she didn’t,” the other snapped. “She said we couldn’t eat them. We’s to stay hungry for her boy.”
The first man snorted his disgust, coughed, then turned his head to one side and pressed a finger against his nostril. He blew a long, yellowish stream of mucus onto the ground and then turned back to his work.
“I’m hungry,” he stated, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.
The second man sighed. “I’s hungry too, dummy. Ain’t gonna eat ‘til we kill ‘im, so, let’s get to goin’.”
“This was to be him,” the first man complained, slapping one of the corpses with the flat of his shovel.
“And the moon’s supposed to be the sun,” the second drawled. “Don’t mean a damned thing ‘til it does. We get her boy killed, well, we can eat like kings. Heard he’s from outside the Hollow. They’s always got lots of fat on ‘em, even when they look like they don’t.”
The first chuckled. “’Mm, you speakin’ gospel truth there, Hank. Preachin’ it.”
“To the choir, John,” Hank laughed.
Cain and I watched a little longer as the men scraped dirt over the corpses of the two men. As the pup took a seat, I did the same, sliding a Colt out of its holster. The dog and I waited as the men hummed a few hymns, and then, they turned around.
They had their shovels on their backs, and they were about to step off toward the rifles when they spotted Cain and myself.
The men came to a stop.
“How long you been there?” Hank asked.
“Long enough,” I answered.
John cleared his throat. “How long’s that, friend?”
“Long enough to know it’s my mother keepin’ your stomachs empty.”
The men dropped their shovels and sprinted for the rifles.
I shot each through the lower back, sending them tumbling to the earth and squealing in pain.
“Finish it,” Hank snarled.
“No. Get your rifles and finish it yourselves.”
With the dying men’s curses heavy in the air, Cain and I left them to die.