Ogg followed Box and Spar into the barn. It was as dark as a cave. He stopped and squinted into the darkness, trying to keep the indistinct forms of his friends separate from horses, walls, tack and tools hanging from posts. He could fix their position by listening. There was a bump and cursing under the breath as Spar located a lantern. Ogg heard the distinct sound of the lantern’s globe being raised and listened for the clash of flint on flint to strike a spark to light the wick. What he heard was a scrape. What he saw was a flare of light held in Spar’s hand. The flame held by Spar was then applied to the wick of the lantern being held by Box. It wasn’t a flint, it was a small stick that sparked into a flame. These men, his new friends, were always surprising him.
As the light from the lantern filled the barn Ogg wandered over. Spar turned to Box with a worried look. “Now what?”
“Now what, what?”
“We can’t stay here now. After that.”
“You know what I mean. After what happened out there.”
“A little scuffle. Our friend here just put some guy down. Some guy who jumped him.”
Spar’s voice got louder. “Some guy with friends. We don’t know if they’ll be back. When they’ll be back. While we’re sleeping in here.”
“I’m not worried.” Box looked at Ogg and smiled. “Are you worried Ogg?”
Ogg considered this. Did he think the chairless man would try to jump him again? No. The chairless man’s friends? They were not even in the fight. No. Would they come while he slept in the barn? It was too dark when the lantern was out. No. Box wanted the answer to be ‘no’. That was important.
“No.” Ogg looked at Spar, hoping he would not be asked any more questions.
“See, Ogg’s not worried.” Box turned and walked to the back of the barn. Spar hung the lantern on a post and looked past Ogg out into the now empty yard. “See if you can close the barn door, Ogg”. He followed Box who was already fixing his bedroll.
Ogg went out and pulled on the one of the two doors that was standing open. It was reluctant to swing closed. The leather straps that were its hinges had long ago molded their forms to the door being open. As Ogg pulled, the top hinge broke away from the frame of the door. The door settled more firmly on the ground, still open. Ogg lifted the door, holding it just a little off the ground and shuffled the door to a closed position. He sat it down with a thump. It leaned dangerously away from the barn at the top. The dried leather hinge at the bottom was all that held it. Ogg wrestled with the heavy plank door, scooting the bottom out a ways and pushing at the top, trying to get it to lean in toward the barn’s door frame. He finally got the bottom of the door situated and pushed the top of the door toward the barn. The top of the door was too far from the doorframe now and as the door leaned towards the barn the bottom hinge broke and the door fell into the barn. The post nearest the door stopped the fall, but the lantern flew off the post and broke against the wall of a manger. The fuel from the lantern blazed as it ran down the wall into the loose straw.
Box and Spar ran from the back of the barn toward the blaze and started kicking the dirt on the floor of the barn onto the burning wall. Ogg, seeing no better example of firefighting, began doing the same. It was after a very few kicks that Box gave up and screamed, “The horses!” He ran to the stalls where his and Spar’s horses were standing. Spar followed and together they pushed and led the first horse out of the enclosure. The fire had caught and was working its way along the manger wall to the exterior wall. As Box slapped the horse on the flank to get it moving out of the barn he saw Ogg still kicking dirt on the spreading fire. He ran to the next stall and yelled at Ogg, “The saddles,…in the back.” Ogg turned away from the fire and ran to the back of the barn. He pulled one saddle off a rail, then another and ran toward the doorway. Spar and Box now had their horses safely out of the barn and ran to meet Ogg, each taking a saddle.
Each began to saddle his own horse, struggling against the panic of the horses as smoke billowed out of the doorway. Ogg looked on briefly, not knowing how to help, then turned back to the barn. One side was blazing and flames ran up the outside wall. People were coming out into the yard now and shouting and running. The man with the apron from the eating-place was standing on the porch shouting, “Help, help!”. Ogg wondered at this since the man was entirely safe as far as he could see.
Suddenly Ogg knew he had one more thing to do. He dashed back into the barn. The heat was intense, but not impossible. Ogg stopped and looked at the post where the lantern had been hanging and then at the ground nearby. There! He kicked at the axe handle, confirming it was truly his axe. Grabbing it he turned to the doorway again. He saw a saddle hanging on a post away from the fire took it and ran back into the yard.
Embers had fallen on his back and shoulders and smoldered there as he stood in the yard, now clear of the burning barn. The man in the apron brushed at his shirt, knocking the coals off him.
“Okay”. Ogg replied, not really sure why he was being thanked.
“At least you got the saddle out of there; it’s probably worth more than the barn itself.”
Ogg looked at the saddle in the dust at his feet. “Yes, sir.” He wasn’t sure why he grabbed the saddle but the man with the apron was pleased.
“How did this start? Do you know?”
“Well…” Ogg looked around for Box and Spar, but they were nowhere in sight. He knew he had done this. It was his fault. It was like chopping off Daddy’s fingers. You did a thing and some bad came from it and you just had to face the punishment. There was an exception to this general rule however. If you didn’t get caught. Ogg considered his situation. Only Box and Spar knew how he had started this fire, and they weren’t around. The man in the apron was looking at him, waiting for an answer.
“I don’t know.” Ogg knew this was not a good answer, but he wasn’t ready with a better one.
“Those two guys that were with you, where are they?” He looked around the yard.
“I don’t know.”
“Did they start this fire, boy?”
“I don’t know.”
“They took off like they done it. If they didn’t do it, where’d they go?”
“I don’t know.” This seemed to be working pretty well. Ogg was feeling a little bit guilty about how the apron wearing man was blaming Box and Spar, but he knew from sad experience, taking the blame never worked out very well.
Was this a lie? He thought it probably was. Ogg knew about lies. Telling a lie could get you in worse trouble in the end. Or it could help you avoid trouble. Queedle was pretty good at it. And Bosco too, but not as good as Queedle. And Ogg was not very good at it at all. But he had never burned a barn down before. He figured the punishment for that might be pretty serious. And since Box and Spar weren’t here to tell on him, like Queedle and Bosco always did, his chances were better to get away with this lie. To say, ‘I don’t know’ was what Daddy called “weasel words”. That was, for Daddy, the same as a lie. He wasn’t really blaming Box and Spar for starting the fire, but he was. He felt bad about this.
“They better not come back here, or they’ll get what’s comin’ to ‘em!”, the apron wearing man said. Others who had been running around at first had wandered over to watch the fire from this vantage point and to console the apron wearing man. They had been listening to Ogg and the apron wearing man’s discussion and some of them voiced a mumbled approval of this last statement.
“…get what’s coming…,” mumble, mumble.
Ogg knew what that meant and he wanted no part of it. He would live with his weasel words for now and straighten it out later when everyone had settled down some. That often helped, letting Daddy cool off.
The apron wearing man clapped Ogg on the shoulder. Ogg held his breath. Had he been caught in the lie?
“Come on back to the Inn, you can stay there tonight. Are you hungry?”
The “in”? The eating-place was the ‘in’.
The apron wearing man picked up his saddle and started towards the Inn. The barn burned fiercely as the others kept their vigil. Ogg too was drawn to the spectacle, watching as a wall fell into the fire with a shower of sparks. But he did not linger. He turned from the heat and the show and followed the apron wearing man to the “in”. He was starving.