I watched as the kids made fun of him.
* * *
"Look, it's him. It's the Brute. Come on let's chase him," said the oldest boy.
"Not me," said the second boy.
"What if he decides to chase you instead?" asked a third kid.
"He hasn't ever done it in the past," quipped the first boy. "Come on," as he picked up a couple of rocks.
The other boys followed suit and filled their hands with stones, though not as big as those of the oldest kid.
The brute as they called him stood his ground, not the least intimidated by the young kids.
As the boys readied their missiles, I studied the one they called the Brute.
The man had grayish skin and black eyes. He had a bald head and on closer inspection, I noticed he had nary a hair on
his entire body. He was a large man, but not in height. He was barrel chested with enormous arms and legs. Somehow all
these things made him look deformed. There was one thing that made him unique. When he smiled, it seemed the whole area
lit up, his teeth were perfectly shaped and shone like ivory, which he was doing now, smiling at the boys who were
getting ready to bombard him with stones.
When he noticed me observing him, the smile quickly became a frown, which caused him to look like some sort of creature
from another world. I averted my eyes, yet kept stealing glancing in his direction. I had an uncanny feeling as if he
was drawing me into his world.
About then the first projectile hit its mark. It struck the Brute, as they called him, just under his left eye. He quickly
grabbed the spot with his gnarled hand and uttered an unfamiliar grunt that sounded much like a wounded animal. About then
a second stone and then a third and finally a progression of rocks that caused the man to turn and start moving into the underbrush.
"Did you see that?" the older boy bragged. "I almost blinded him with the first one."
"What was that sound he made?" asked another kid.
"What do you think it was?" said the first boy. "It was the sound of a Brute. Ain't you never heard a brute before?"
"Not 'til today," said one, "and it was an awful scary sound. I sure would hate to meet up with him on a dark night."
"Me too," they all chimed in.
"Hey, you boys," I said, in a scolding voice, as I approached them. "Why would you throw rocks at another human being?"
* * *
"Is something wrong with your eyes, Mister? That ain't no human being, it's a brute."
"What can you tell me about the Brute, as you call him?"
"Ain't nothing to tell," said the older boy. "He's just an ugly brute that lives in the mountains. He comes to town once in a great while."
"Does anyone know any more about him," I asked, "like what's his name, where he came from, does he have a family? That kind of stuff."
"I figure if anyone knows it would be old man Ferguson. He's about a hundred years old. Claims he's lived here all his life."
"Where might I find this Mr. Ferguson?" I asked.
"How come you want to know about Brian?" asked one of the boys.
"Who's Brian?" I asked.
"Oh, that's the name we gave the Brute," the smallest boy said.
"We figured everybody needs a name, even a Brute like him."
"Well I think that was very nice of you to be so considerate," I said. "Now where might I locate Mr. Ferguson?"
"You go down this road just as far as you can, hook a left and go as far as you can there, then turn to your left again
and you'll see a little mud house. Ain't no house really, but that's what he calls his home. You going to see him?"
"Yes, I believe I will," I told them. "Thank you so much for the information." I turned to start down the road they had pointed out.
"He ain't there," said the little guy.
"Do you know where he might be?" I asked getting rather perturbed with all their procrastinating. "Would one of you please
tell me where I might find Mr. Ferguson?"
"He's in town at the feed store," said one of the boys. "He goes there every day to play dominoes with some of the other old men."
I didn't bother to thank them again. As I said already, I was getting a little upset with them. Smart aleck little boys. Was
I ever like that, I asked myself. Lord, I hope not.
* * *
I turned from them and heard one of them utter something about me that I purposely ignored. I headed in the
direction of town. It wasn't much of a town as towns go, but it sported two saloons, a combination livery
stable/blacksmith, several small businesses and then one huge building that had a sign proclaiming, The
Largest General Store and Mercantile in the Whole state of Texas. Now talk about ego, I figure this store
owner had a passel of it. I located the building I was looking for at the end of Main Street. I walked on
the wooden sidewalk, my shoes making a clip clop sound that reminded me of a horse's hooves on the hard
pack earth. I stopped at the front door peering inside. It was so dark and gloomy that I could barely make
out shadows of men inside. I stepped over the threshold and stopped.
"Hey," said a voice from the gloom. "Come in or git out, yer blocking the sun."
I quickly stepped all the way in and moved to the side, letting my eyes adjust to the dark dreary place. The
smell of feed and grain assaulted my nostrils, and an unfamiliar smell that I couldn't recognize, until I saw
one of the shadows spit across the floor toward a spittoon, missing it by several feet. There was also another
smell very distinctive, of unwashed flesh and clothing.
"What do you need, young feller?" asked a voice.
"I'm looking for a man by the name of Ferguson, Might one of you gentlemen be able to help me find him?" I asked.
"Whatcha want him fer?" asked a quivering voice, which I knew was my man.
"I have need of information that I understand he might have." I told the voice.
"I might know where to find this feller, but you're gonna have to talk plain if'n you want to talk to him.
Don't be using all the big fancy words."
"I would be glad to pay for anything Mr. Ferguson can tell me about the Brute."
I'm telling you, it got so quite in that dark gloomy room that the sound of my breathing and heartbeat were the only sounds that I heard.
"I'm sorry," I said to the quite, "Did I say something wrong?"
"We don't talk about the Brute to strangers, fact is we don't talk much about him to one another," said the first voice I had heard.
"Hold on there, Boris," said the quivering voice, "This here young feller said he would pay. Ain't that right, young feller?"
"That's correct," I told them. "I am willing to pay a sufficient amount for information about this so called Brute."
"What does this suffi . . . mean?"
"I will pay a crisp five dollar bill for any information that I deem good enough for what I want it for." I explained.
"What is it you want this information for, if I might ask?" again the squeaky voice.
"I'm writing a series of stories about the anomalies in this part of the state for a newspaper," I explained.
"I'm the feller you asked about, but I don't reckon I kin help you," said the squeaky voice.
"May I ask why you can't or won't help? Is it not enough money, is that it?"
"Tain't the money," he answered.
"Then pray tell, what is it?"
"I cain't understand but about half of what yer saying. If I cain't understand the questions, then how am I going to answer'em?"
"Why don't we give it a try," I said, "say for two hours? If we can't understand one another, I'll give you the
five dollars for your time and move on down the road. Does that sound fair? Are you willing to try?"
"Whatcha got to lose, Fergie, you'll get the money either way. Go ahead and see if'n ya'll kin git together."
"Okay, somebody help me up and I'll go with this young feller, 'though I don't think it's gonna work out."
I watched as a couple of men helped the old man to his feet. He stood there for what seemed an eternity to me,
then he shuffled his feet and headed toward the door and me. He walked right past me and out into the sunlight.
He stopped abruptly just shy of the door and I bumped into him.
"Don't be in such an all fired hurry. Got to let my eyes adjust to this bright sunlight, else I might go blind.
Don't the sunlight hurt yer eyes, course not 'cause you're still young."
"Do you need help walking?" I asked him.
"What! You think just 'cause I'm old, I cain't walk by myself?"
"I meant no disrespect, I was just offering to help."
"Well, help yerself. I been walking this same trail fer more years than you or your pappy has been alive.
Yer pappy is still alive, ain't he?"
"No sir," I said sadly, "My father passed away when I was quite young."
"Who raised you, boy, did you ma git married agin so's there was a man in the house to teach you things?"
"No sir," I told him, "It was just me and my mother, but she was a great teacher, and I also attended school for a few years."
"I figgered it was somethin' like that," he said, shaking his head.
"What did you figure?" I asked him.
"That's what's wrong with you. Every boy needs a man to teach him things ye cain't learn in school or from their mammy."
"And pray tell, what might that be?" This old man was getting under my skin with his attitude and accusations.
"Do you want to sit here or go somewhere else to begin our discussions?" I asked him.
"Let's head on down to my place. I'd feel more comfortable talking there."
"Okay, are you sure you don't need any help?"
"You keep on asking me that, yer gonna make me mad. That's somethin' you don't want to do. I'm meaner than a
rabid skunk when I git mad. So, jest be careful, you hear?"
"Yes sir, I hear loud and clear. How far is it to your place?"
"It's just a little ways over that hill yonder."
"But, I thought, I mean I heard . . . "
"You been listening to them pesky boys, ain't ye?"
"Well, I did procure some information from them about where you lived."
"There you go with them big words agin. Talk plain, will you?"
"Those boys told me to go, oh, never mind, which way do we go?"
"You jest follow me and don't dawdle or I'll leave you behind."
Now who's using the big words, I thought to myself.
The further we went the faster the old man seemed to walk. By the time we got to the end of the street,
I was having to walk fast to keep up with him.
* * *
"How much further?" I asked out of breath.
"Gitting tired, are you?" he chuckled. "It's jest over that little rise yonder."
I looked where he pointed and that little rise was a long ways off in my humble opinion.
"Come on, young feller, if you cain't keep up with a 97 year old, you ain't never gonna survive in this
old world. Come on."
I do believe he became ever faster. I was almost running now just to keep him in sight. What did these
folks eat and drink to make them so vigorous and youthful.
"We finally reached the little rise and he stopped on the top and pointed. "There she be. My home."
I caught my breath, leaning on my knees and looked in the direction his boney fingers were pointing. I
didn't see anything but another hill and more hills.
"Cain't see it, kin you?" he chuckled again.
"No, I'm sorry, but I don't see a house. All I see is hills and more hills."
"That's exactly what yer supposed to see. I built it that way on purpose. In case the Indians come looking
fer me, they won't be able to find me. "Course they don't cause no trouble no more, but in case they do, I'm
ready fer 'em. Come on, we're almost there." He took off again, this time going downhill.
I could only pray that all this exertion didn't cause my heart to give out on me. My mother had told me that
was what killed my father at a young age. His heart just stopped beating. One minute he was standing talking
to her and the next minute he had left this earth for a better place, is how she put it.
"This is it is," he proclaimed, as he came to a halt in front of a mound of dirt.
I looked and all I saw was a mound of dirt.
"Still cain't see it, kin you?" he teased. "It's right here," he reached and pulled on a piece of wood sticking
out of the dirt and just like magic, it opened up. A slab of dirt swung open just like a door.
"Let me go in and light a lamp. It gits purty dark in there," he disappeared inside the dark hole in the hill,
reappearing a few seconds later. "Come in and visit my home," he disappeared again and I followed behind.
I was amazed at the change in the temperature. Where I was drenched with preparation outside, it was extremely
cool inside this hill.
"Yer wondering how come it's so cool, ain't you?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I was thinking."
"It's 'cause the walls are so thick the heat can't get in and the cool can't git out," he waved his arms in a circle.
"That's amazing," I told him.
"Ain't nothing amazing about it," he huffed. "Jest common sense is all it is. If more folks today would use common
sense, this old world would be a much better place. You want somethin' to drink? I got some cider I made myself. It's
purty strong so you might not like it."
"Just some water if you have some?"
"What do you mean if I got some? Everybody's got water. Why don't you git it yourself, I'm sort of tuckered out after
that little trip from town. There's a bucket setting over yonder," he pointed to the other side of the room.
I crossed the room and got a dipper full of water. I lifted it to my mouth. The moment it touched my lips, I knew there
was something unique and different about this liquid. It was cool which I expected, but it was also sweet tasting.
"This is some of the best water I have ever had," placing the dipper in to fill it again.
"It ortta be. Comes from an underground spring in the back there. Ain't no water no place around here as good as that
water. That's the main reason I built here, because of that spring. Now that you've watered yourself and rested a bit,
what is it you want to know about Brian?"
"You're calling him the name that the kids gave him. Why's that?"
"That ain't the name the kids give him. That's the name his mama gave him when he was born. Brian Tuttle."
"So he does have a family?"
"Not no more, they died when their house caught on fire. Brian was lucky he got out alive. He's been on his own since he
wus about ten or eleven, I reckon. He comes by here sometimes and I give him some victuals. Not a lot 'cause, I ain't got
a lot. I reckon I'm probably the only friend he's got. Everybody in town thinks he's some kind of monster. Those kids you're
talking about like to tease him and make fun of him. He just takes it with a smile and goes about his business."
"What caused him to look the way he does? Was he in some sort of accident?"
"No, he weren't in no accident. He was a pretty baby when he came into this world. Did'cha ever notice how ugly babies grow
up to be pretty, even some of'em beautiful, and the pretty babies grow up to be ugly, well, not like Brian, but some ain't
nothing to brag about.
"Of course the local doctor, Doc Barnes didn't have an explanation for his condition and the family didn't have enough money
to travel to see a specialist, so we just watched and wondered as he continually got worse.
"When he stopped changing, it was just like the way it started. Little by little 'til he looked the way he does now. He's
still the same lad he was, in his head, but the folks don't understand that. They take a look at him and make up their
mind that he's evil."
"When the kids threw rocks at him he gave out with some sort of guttural sound like a wounded animal. Can he talk?"
"He could at one time, but when a person lives his whole life in the wild, separated from civilization, they forget how to talk."
"How long has he been away from civilization?"
"Going on twenty years, best I kin figger. I used to try to talk to'im and get him to talk back, but he would quit coming by,
so I stopped trying and just accepted him the way he is."
"His body looks deformed. Has he always looked like he does now?"
"I reckon that started when he was about twenty or twenty one. Can't remember exactly when it started. First it was just his
hands, then his feet and then one day he looked the way he does now. That's when he almost quit coming to town altogether. He
sneaks in sometimes at night to scrounge in the trash cans fer something to eat. And like I said, I try to help all I can,
which ain't nothing to brag about."
"Isn't there something that can be done for him? Some kind of home or something?"
"Now can you picture somebody that's been living free in the forest locked up in some sort of home for sick folks? I don't think so."
"Why are the people so afraid of him? Don't they even try to understand that he's a human being just like them? He's a creation of God as are they?"
"People don't look at him as a creation of God, but as a creation of the devil. If you ain't realized it by now, you may
never get it. People are mean and cruel and there ain't no fixing 'em. Let me tell you 'bout the time they hunted Brian like an animal."
"Why would they do that?"
"Well, a little girl was found at the bottom of a ravine and some nut claimed he saw Brian push her off. Well, we found out
later the man was lying just to git attention. But it was after the fact. I believe those folks had it in their mind to kill
Brian that day. Like I said, they hunted him like a wild beast, cornered him up on a high cliff. There was a struggle between
one of the men and Brian. The man planted his foot in Brian's chest and pushed him off that cliff. How he survived is beyond me,
but by him surviving that fall only convinced the people that he was the devil's spawn and they wanted no part of him. Because
he was innocent of killing the little girl they tolerate him, but from a distance. Found out later the little girl had fallen
to her death by tripping over a vine at the edge of the ravine."
"Did the people feel bad about treating him that way?"
"Not after he survived that fall off the cliff. Like I said, that only convinced them that he was evil."
"I would like to talk to him? Do you think it would be possible?"
* * *
"I don't think he will, but we kin try, if that's what you really want to do."
"I really do. When can we try to see him?"
"First thing you need to do is learn to be patient. It's gonna take a lot of patience on your part if you expect to talk
with him. He don't care much for people and trusts them even less. Let's git something to eat, catch a little nap and come
first light, we'll go see if we kin find him. How's that sound to you?"
He fed me a bowl of some concoction that he called stew. I have to admit it was filling if not very tasty. I fell asleep
almost instantly. I suppose because of all the walking I did following behind the old man. My dreams were filled with
monsters, goblins and all sort of weird looking creatures. Thankfully, I was saved from the worst one when I was awakened
by the old man shaking me.
"Time to rise and shine, gonna be a fine morning. I got some breakfast fer you over there on the table. If'n ye want to
see Brian, then we need to git a move on."
I stretched as I got out of bed and went to the table. There before me was a plate heaped full of what looked like scrambled
eggs. I didn't want to hurt the old man's feelings by asking what it was, so I took a bite and I was extremely surprised
that it tasted very good. I cleaned the plate in no time.
"I 'spect yer wondering how come the air is so fresh, ain't you?"
"I hadn't noticed until you mentioned it, but yes, now I am wondering how it smells so fresh. One would think a hole in the
ground would have a dank, dusty smell. I meant no offense by calling your home a hole in the ground."
"Feller's got to call it what it is. The reason fer the fresh air is ventilation shafts. You didn't think I knew any big words, did you?"
"I'm impressed," I told him.
"I seen how the miners put shafts in the ground so's they would have fresh air plumb down in the ground where they's working.
I jest copied what they done."
"Where are the shafts located here in your home?"
"Got three of'em. One is right above yer head, 'nother is on the end of the room to your right, last'n is over behind me,
'bout seven or eight feet."
"I meant to ask earlier, where do we . . . ?"
"Oh, I shoulda told you already. Follow me."
I followed him as he ducked his head and found we were in another chamber or room as he called it.
"You see that little box there?" he pointed.
"Yes, I see it."
"That little box is it? What is it?"
"'Member I told you 'bout the underground spring?"
"Well, this is downstream from where I gits the drinking water. I do my business in that little box there and the
water takes it away on downstream someplace, which I don't concern myself with. I'll go on back and git things
ready fer the trip while you do your business." He ducked back out of the room.
As I was sitting on that little box, I suddenly realized this grizzled old man was some sort of genius. I finished
and went back where he was tying a rope around a burlap bag.
"Well, pilgrim, you 'bout ready?"
"I guess I am. Do you know where Brian might be?"
"'Course I know, he's my friend. But then agin, he tends to not stay in one place fer very long, but then he comes
back to his old home place purty regular. I figger that's where we'll look first."
Again I was amazed when he pulled on a stick and the slab of dirt opened just like a door on hinges. As soon as we
were clear of the opening, the old man gave a little shove and it just sort of melted back into the hill. The only
way a person could tell it was there would be to get down on hands and knees and know what to look for, and then you
might not be able to find it.
"Come on, this way, I'm all rested up and raring to git on the trail," he took off at a brisk pace that just like
the day before, I was having a hard time keeping up.
* * *
"Mr. Ferguson?" I called to him.
He didn't stop or even slow down, "You having a hard time keeping up, ain't ye?" he chuckled. "And by the way,
you kin call me Fergie."
"Yes, I am having a very hard time keeping up this pace. Do you think you might slow down just a little?"
"I reckon I kin, but it's gonna be hard since I'm all rested up and all. But, jest fer you I'll try." He did
indeed begin to walk a bit slower, like he had changed gears or something.
"How's that?" he asked. "Kin ye keep up now?"
"Thank you so much. Yes, that's much better.
"You know now that we slowed down, it's gonna take longer to git there?"
"I don't mind it taking longer, especially if it means I'll arrive there still breathing."
"That sounded like you're making a joke. Wus you making a joke?" he chuckled again.
I didn't answer, not because I didn't want to, but because I was breathing too hard.
We went uphill and downhill and on level ground. We went through scrub brush, thorny vines and all kinds
of different things. I was cut, scraped and bruised from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.
"There it is," said Fergie, pointing down a narrow path.
I looked to where he was pointing and saw a little ramshackle shack that looked ready to collapse at the first sign of a breeze.
"Is that his home place," I asked. "I thought you told me his home burned killing his parents."
"I got mixed up a little. They wus in the barn when it caught fire. That's it over yonder," he said pointing to a burned pile of rubble.
"That little shack there is where he came into this world and more than likely will go out of the world.
Come on, let's see if he's there," he scrambled down the little path with me right on his heels.
We reached the yard and Fergie stopped just about five feet shy of the front door.
"Why are we stopping?" I asked the old man.
"Wanta be sure it ain't booby trapped. I done told you he don't much care for folks. He could set a trap to catch them
if'n they come here looking fer him." He squatted down, which I didn't understand how a man his age could be so agile.
He surveyed the area, then stood and said. "Looks to be all clear, but my eyes ain't as good as they used to be. Step
careful with each step. In fact, step in my footprints, that way if I git hit maybe it'll miss you."
We made it to the door without incident.
"You did say he stayed here sometime, didn't you?" I asked as I looked at the door hanging loose with only one hinge attached.
"Oh, he don't go in through the front door, no, he's too smart fer that. Follow me," he started around the edge of
the building until we reached a small window just a few feet off the ground.
"This little winder is where he goes in and comes out. If'n he's in there, this is the place." He squatted down again
to my amazement, placed his hand on the ground and leaned down on his hand. "Hello, Brian!" he yelled. "Are you in there?"
"I don't hear anything," I told him.
"Of course you don't. You think he's gonna come running out to greet you with open arms. I done told you he don't
trust nobody. Hey, Brian," he yelled louder. "It's Fergie, yer old friend Fergie."
"I don't think he's in there." I said.
"You 'member back at the hut, I told you, you had to learn to be patient?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Well, this is one of them times you got to be patient. Hey Brian, it's Fergie and I brought a friend with me.
You don't need to fret 'bout him. He's okay. He wants to meet you."
I heard a shuffling noise come from inside the shack.
"I heard something, did you hear it? Is that him?" I was getting excited.
"Jest calm down. If it's him, he's got to take a gander at you first and then decide if yer friend or foe.
'Member what I said, patience."
"I don't hear the noise anymore. Maybe it wasn't him."
"I'm gonna git tired of telling you, be patient," he growled.
"I know. I'm trying, but it's extremely hard."
"Turn around real slow, I said slow, and don't make any unnecessary moves."
I turned as slowly as I could and saw standing about ten feet away, Brian the Brute. He was looking me up and
down as if he were getting ready to pounce on me and eat me for dinner, at least that's how I was feeling right
at this moment.
"Hey, Brian, it's Fergie. You ain't forgot yer old friend Fergie, have you?"
Brian's eye didn't waver even a tad from watching me. I was beginning to worry that I had bitten off too much this time.
The Brute took a couple of steps in our direction, then stopped as if contemplating if he wanted to continue.
I heard a low growling sound much like that of a cornered mountain lion.
"Say something, pilgrim, so's he'll know yer a real person," said Fergie real low.
"Hello, Mr. Brian. My name is Gabriel Montague. All my friends call me Gabe. You can call me Gabe if you would
like to be my friend," I said with a quiver in my voice.
"That's good, what you said," Fergie told me. "Talk some more."
"I traveled a very long distance just to meet you," I told the Brute. "I'm so glad to have this opportunity to
finally meet the great Brian Tuttle. I sure would like to be your friend. Would you allow me to be your friend?
I have all sorts of things I would like to talk to you about and I'm sure you have things that you could tell me
about and things to show me. Like living in the woods like you do."
He took another few steps toward me completely ignoring Fergie. He was now standing close enough to reach out, grab
me around the throat and choke me to death, but he didn't. I felt and heard my heartbeat so loud, I knew if the Brute
heard it he might think it to be some sort of weapon I had brought to hurt him.
He just stood there and continued to scan up and down my body finally settling on my face and then zeroing in on
my eyes. I think he recognized me from town when the kids were throwing rocks at him. Perhaps he remembered the
way I scolded them for their treatment of him. He reached out with his left hand touching me on the cheek. It was
all I could do to keep from recoiling from his touch. I stood petrified to the spot. He let his hand fall away
from my face and did the unexpected. He smiled with those beautiful white perfectly formed teeth and just like in
town it seemed the whole area lit up with a brightness that I couldn't explain even if I tried. He took my hand
in his and rubbed the back of it with his other one. I heard a different sound almost inaudible that I barely heard.
It sounded much like the purring of a cat. I glanced over at Fergie and he was standing with his mouth hanging open
and a surprised look on his face. I was quite flabbergasted myself. This was more than I had ever hopped for. Brian
gave a little tug indicating I should follow him. I let him lead me away to where I knew not, but somehow I felt a
sweet calmness fill me, yet I felt safe no matter where he took me.
I glanced back and saw Fergie wave as we left him behind.
Brian led me through the forest of green trees so tall they seemed to touch the sky. I noticed all kinds and colors
of flowers. The fragrance was overpowering, almost. We crossed over a small stream, the water so clear I could see
fish swimming. Finally, he stopped and pointed up the side of a cliff. I turned my eyes in the direction he was
pointing and saw a nest of baby birds. I glanced at Brian's face and it was aglow with something I can't put into
words. Somehow he had transformed from an ugly Brute into a beautiful angelic creature. I realized at that moment
that this is where he belongs, not in some home locked away where he couldn't hurt anyone. No.
* * *
This was his home and I hoped he would let it be my home for a short while.
This world can be cruel at times, well not the world itself, but the people populating it. They have no tolerance
for things or people that are different. We may ask why does God allow people to be deformed and criticized for
the way He created them.
I can only answer that in one way. God doesn't make any mistakes and as we found at the end of our story, The
Brute became a beautiful creature because that's what he was on the inside. Outside beauty is something that
pleases man, but it is the beauty on the inside that defines a person.