The Tale of Cletus Bunt by Sue M

Alternate Universe "Seven Brothers"

Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em...damnit!

Thanks to Phyllis for Brothers Larabee

The Tale of Cletus Bunt Author: Sue M E-mail: Category: Gen Universe: Brothers Larabee Characters: Seven Ratings/Warnings: I'd say decide ;o) Summary: Story time at the Double L brings an interesting twist

This is a work of fiction and does not relate to anyone living or dead...but then again, who knows what Google will throw up these days if you type a name in?

"Damnit, Buck, give it back!"

As the seven brothers sat around the dining table enjoying supper, Chris noted the feigned look of innocence from Buck as their youngest scowled at the man.

"Give him his damned pork chop back, Buck." Chris shook his head at him. "That look don't work on me, pard."

Chuckling, Buck sat back to allow JD to stab his fork into one of four juicy pork chops nestling on his plate, reaching around back of him as he did so to take, unseen, a stuffing ball from JD's own plate. Tanner almost choked on his food at the exasperated look on his youngest bother's face when he returned the chop, only to spot another item of food missing.

"Keep this up and you'll be wearing dessert!" JD warned the grinning brother.

Delicately slicing up his food, Ezra glanced up for a moment. "Dare I ask what dessert is, this evening?"

"Hot pumpkin pie and whipped cream," Josiah offered. They all paused to reflect on that.

"Okay, truce," Buck suggested. Nettie's pumpkin pie was not to be missed, so wearing it was not the way to go.


A while later and stuffed to the brim, the seven brothers sat around the blazing log fire in the dimly lit living room as they enjoyed their beers and, in JD's case, soda. Standing and positioning himself with his back to the fire, Josiah spoke.

"Did I ever tell you the tale of Cletus Bunt?"

Five men grinned. JD sat forward. "No."

Josiah smiled and began his story as he remained standing in front of the roaring, crackling hearth. "Back in the 1860's, a man called Cletus Bunt traveled west to make his fortune. Not too far from here, he built a sturdy cabin in the woods and would hunt from sunup to sunset. After removing the pelts from the animals he caught that day, he would eat a hearty meal and retire for the night, to start his hunting afresh the next morning."

With full bellies and a warm, semi-darkened room, Josiah's dulcet tones wafted over them, their tired bodies melting into padded chairs as the deep, melodic voice told the tale.

"One trip found Bunt hunting the largest grizzly he had ever encountered. This pelt would be valuable, and so, despite the bear's wiliness, he proceeded to stalk the animal for two long weeks. Returning home empty handed at the end of the second week, a crest-fallen Cletus had the feeling he was not alone. Searching his small cabin revealed no visitor, or any clue to suggest he had received one, so with a shrug, he settled down to the remains of his larder. Hunting the bear had all but cleared him out of food and he realized, much to his regret, he needed to return to his more traditional hunts."

A beer bottle resting on his knee, Buck nudged Chris and nodded toward JD. The kid was hanging on Josiah's every word while sitting forward in his chair, a soda can hovering close to his lips but not being supped. Glancing around, the others were pretty engrossed, too. Chris winked at Buck and took a long pull of his beer as Josiah continued.

Shoving one hand in his pants pocket, Sanchez began to pace slightly. "The next morning, Bunt was about to leave, when the huge bear he had been hunting, came out of nowhere and hurled itself at the cabin door. His rifle was leaning against the wall farthest away, but his attempts to retrieve it were met by a pounding so fierce, the door almost imploded, so Bunt stayed leaning against it until the bear got bored and moved away. A while later, Bunt attempted once more to move out to go hunting. As if from nowhere, the bear returned, yelping in pain and turning to run away as its enraged advances were met by the discharging of two shotgun barrels. Traumatized by events that had lasted most of the day, Cletus decided to call it a night. Making up a pallet on the floor nearest the door, hungry and exhausted, he fell asleep."

Josiah became more animated as his free hand gestured and pointed. "The next day, all was quiet, so Bunt went back to his hunting regime. Returning home at sundown, he was just about to start cleaning pelts when his door burst in and the huge bear roared its entrance. A fierce brawl ensued, Cletus throwing his lit oil lamp at the beast to escape its clutches. Turning to flee the now blazing creature, Bunt almost made it to the door when a heavy paw snatched at his ankle and dragged him in. Bunt's screams were buried beneath the bear's burning body and then...were heard no more." He stared around the silent room, his voice deepening and hushed.

"It is said, sometimes at night, Bunt's screams can be heard...soon followed by the vision of..." Josiah pulled his hand from his pocket and hurled something onto the fire, causing it to roar and flare out and up in a burst of pink, purple and orange flames. "A WALKING, FLAMING BEAR!"


"Holy shit!"

"Oh good Lord!"

"Jesus H Christ!"

"That ain't funny, Josiah!"

"Aww, shit!"

Most of the five clutched at their chests, all six turned to look at their youngest, who was standing and whose jeans were soaked at the crotch. Josiah looked mortified.

"I...I'm sorry, son. Here, let me help you..."

JD frowned, staring around at the circle of now concerned faces. As he widened his legs and grimaced at the wetness between his legs, the penny dropped.

"It's soda, guys! When I jumped I spilled my soda in my lap." He held up his almost empty can. "It is, I swear," he squeaked. Turning, JD walked away, the damp jeans creating a gait not unlike that of the late, great John Wayne.

Watching him leave, Buck called out. "Hey, kid...we'll make a gunslinger out of you, yet!" His deep chuckle reverberated around the room as JD looked back, made a face and continued on upstairs to change.


Breakfast the next morning was a hearty meal, provided by Nettie an hour after the ranch day had begun. As they ate, Buck nudged JD, shaking his head and grinning as the younger man guarded his plate and frowned back at him.

"You never came back downstairs last night."

JD shrugged as he cut into a juicy pork sausage. "When I stripped off, I realized I was kinda tired, so I crashed."

" weren't *pissed* off with us then?" Vin grinned.

JD rolled his eyes at the pun and continued eating.

"Please, brothers, no *toilet* humor at the breakfast table," Ezra joined in.

JD gaped. "Et tu, Ezra?"

"Now, kid...don't get all *pissy*," Buck threw in, cackling at the look JD was giving him.

JD shook his head. "Yeah, yeah...have your fun..."

"*Peeee*-ople, please," Josiah chuckled.

"That's a *piss-poor* joke, Josiah," Nathan joined in, amidst the chuckles.

"*Wee-wee*, really should calm down," Ezra added, laughing along with them.

JD grinned and shook his head as he continued eating. He knew it was pointless fighting it, it would soon die out.

"Guys!" All eyes turned to Chris. "I'm surprised at you all. Josiah scared the bejeezus out of you last night, too. Surely, *urine* no position to tease."

The deadpan delivery had JD groaning and resting his forehead on the table while the other brothers howled with laughter at Chris's rare dip into tomfoolery. Getting up, JD waved a hand at them all as he pushed away from the table and picked up his plate to take to the kitchen.

"Ah, screw you; I'm going to the stables. I'll get more sense from that crazy donkey than you lot, right now."

Just entering the dining room, Nettie took his plate from him. "Less of the potty mouth, John Daniel."

"Potty mouth!" Vin's snort of laughter caused them all to again laugh out loud. Nettie looked bemusedly at JD, who just shrugged.

"If I were you, I'd check where the mushrooms you served this morning came from," he said as he passed her.

Moving toward the mud room, JD waited until Nettie had her back to him, made an extremely rude gesture as he grinned back at them, and left. Not so long ago, the brothers would have been cautious about offending, but JD's actions were clear as to his demeanor and acceptance and they laughed even harder. The seven had come a long way.


The next few days saw ranch life uneventful as Buck tended his bar in town, Nathan worked at the hospital and Chris, Vin and Josiah worked around the ranch. JD spent several days going through the accounts and paying bills and Ezra had taken a quick trip to Vegas, due to return the next day. JD had pondered, several times, over Josiah's story, eventually Googling the name Cletus Bunt out of curiosity. Sure enough, the man had existed. Exactly how he died was not recorded, but his epic efforts to trap the bear, had been. JD couldn't help but be fascinated by the simple life this man had lived, wondering whether the remains of his cabin still stood. He knew for a fact, the land it was claimed to be on was now theirs and untouched. That evening, after dinner, JD mentioned taking a ride out to check the land over, prompting the brothers into more teasing, this time more for his naivety over believing the story, than the incident caused by it. Josiah assured it had just been a local story he had picked up, but their words caused the youth to reflect more than he further admitted to.

Home early from Rosie's Bar, Buck ate his warmed supper that the men had set aside for him, then joined his brothers, noting JD wasn't with them. Buck found him working on the computer in the study and dropped down into a large leather chair opposite the desk. He handed his kid brother a soda.

"You okay?"

JD minimized the tabs he had open, and nodded. "Sure, why?"

"You seem to have gotten all caught up in this story of Josiah's. Sure, the guy once lived, but he was just a trapper...and not a particularly exceptional one. If memory serves me right, the story goes that he got the damned bear. Josiah was just winding us up."

JD looked at him. "Oh, I know that. I was just interested, is all." He paused, thoughtfully. "Do *you* think anything's left of his cabin after all this time?"

Buck shrugged. "Who knows?" Seeing that it was important to JD, Buck leaned over the desk and patted his arm. "Tell you's a good day's ride out that way. How about we go check it out in a couple of days? Take a tent and some food..."

JD grinned. "That would be neat, thanks."

Buck stood. "Alright, then. We were thinking of enjoying a few hands of poker before bed. You in?"

"Without Ezra?" JD grinned, cupping a hand to his ear. "I can hear him fall off his chair from here."

Buck laughed. "Well?"

"Nah, I'll pass thanks. Got something I wanted to finish up, here."

"Okay, but remember, squirt, all work and no play makes John a dull brother."

When Buck left, JD re-opened his tabs. He grinned. "We'll see."


The following evening, after dinner, the brothers were discussing business. Chris, Vin and Buck were having an animated discussion about some brood mares they needed to sell and looked up briefly as JD bounded down the stairs, slid along the wood floor in his stockinged feet, and joined them in the big room.

"Did I miss anything?"

Ezra shook his head. "Hard to tell, however, a conclusion may be forthcoming. "

Nathan checked his watch. "Do you really need me here, guys? I got an early shift, tomorrow."

Chris looked up to answer, and frowned when a noise filled the room. He glanced around at the others. "What the hell was that?"

Vin stood and moved to look out of the window. "It kinda sounded like...a roar."

They all laughed, if not a little nervously, until it sounded again, louder this time. Suddenly, Vin called out. "Holy way!"

Josiah stood. "What?" They were all a little taken aback at the Texan's demeanor as he stared back at them.

"You gotta see this." Stepping back to make room for his brothers, he pointed out through the window toward the distant woods. "Please tell me y'all can see that, too."

Six jaws dropped as they spied the image of...a burning grizzly bear.

"What the hell?"

"No way..."

"How much whiskey have I consumed this evening?"

"I hope that's an apparition or we got serious fire concerns, there."

" was just a story..."

Another roar sounded, louder again this time and the confusion and alarm grew.

"Is anyone going out there to take a look?" JD asked.

They glanced around at each other, unsure what to do next, not to mention a little unnerved.

JD moved from the window and towards the mud room. "Okay, I'll go."

As one, they all turned his way. "NO!"

The youth looked back at the six of them, but could no longer maintain a straight face as he snapped away with his digital camera. "Oh, God...this is priceless." As another roar sounded, JD collapsed into laughter.

Chris raised an eyebrow. "JD!"

JD ran off toward the study, cackling. He locked the door and quickly connected his camera to the computer. He had to upload these photos before his brothers could get their hands on them. Ignoring the pounding on the door, he saved them in a folder, and sent himself copies as a back-up...just in case. Eventually he opened the door to six men staring at him, in his hands was a glorious, glossy, color print of their expressions after they saw the bear and looked back at him when he offered to take a look outside.

"Good one, huh?"

Another roar sounded. Chris's eyes glinted in amusement, but his expression remained sober. "What did you do?"

Walking through them as he admired his work, JD grinned and took up a seat near the hearth. "Well...first I Photoshopped a few images. Then, using dad's old overhead projector...though I had to work on it some to get it to project further and brighter, I timed it to throw an image toward the woods. I set a recorder to cut in first and get your attention." He laughed. "Man, you should've seen your faces."

His giggles were infectious, and soon they were all laughing, though, no one would ever admit that they were kind of relieved, too. Another roar sounded. Chris shook his head.

"Okay, got us," he grinned. "How about you go turn it off now though, huh?"

Nodding, JD stood. "Sure." He was still cackling as he bounded up the stairs.

Buck looked at his brothers. "Damn...I gotta hand it to the kid...that was pretty good."

Vin nodded. "We ain't ever gonna live this down."

"Hmm...and he has photos," Ezra reminded. "I dread to think when and where they will turn up anytime, soon."

"That'll teach us to tease the boy," Josiah laughed.

"Well...I still have to go to bed...just hope I can dang well sleep, now," Nathan admitted.

Chris just grinned and looked back toward the stairs. *Little shit!*


Still chuckling, JD entered the room he had set up the projector in. Glancing out of the window, he could see the image was still out there. He turned to switch off the recording and the projector...and frowned. They were no longer running and the projector was cold. He glanced sharply out of the window, inhaling as a man in buckskins and a coonskin hat lifted the headgear, waved back at him, and then he and the burning bear disappeared into the woods.

For a moment, all JD could do was stand and stare, his heart pounding in his chest as he tried to make sense of what he had just seen. Finally, he looked at the photo in his hand, then to the mirror on the wall. His expression matched his brothers' perfectly.

Startling when Nathan called out `goodnight', JD hastily packed up the equipment. He wondered whether to share this with his family. They'd likely have him committed. As he left the room, he knew he'd be in danger of bursting a blood vessel if he tried to keep this to himself, so decided it was worth the risk and went back downstairs.

Buck frowned at his pale features. "You okay?"

Grabbing Ezra's whiskey, JD knocked it straight back...coughed hard, then looked at them all.

"You are never gonna believe this..."

The End