Trifecta 91- The Code Breaker


Billy-Jo smelled of raspberries. Her eyes were green as frogs; her hair the colour of coke. Billy-Jo’s father ran the sawmill and he hated his ‘princess’ mixing with the likes of me. But we got round the old buzzard easy enough, thanks to Mitchells Cattle supplies! On their front wall was every darned brand mark in the county. Each one was a different farm – I knew ‘em all.

I wrote up a sheet for Billy-Jo. It had all the marks on it; said what each one meant. When her school bus drove by Mitchells she’d see one of the marks circled in chalk. Worked a treat. Allowed us to arrange meets and nobody was none the wiser. I never went anywhere near their house, not once.

We’d been dating for a good while and I was having them urges. All the other boys had ‘em and their girls sorted them good. She seemed wary; a bit nervous likes. However, she eventually agreed it was time. That morning I chalked the ‘Barons’ brand mark. Across from their place was Verndale Lake. Lots of long grass – a perfect spot.

I got there early. Heck, I was nervous too. The rustling of the leaves signalled company.  ‘Hi Mikey,’ said Jemima.

I couldn’t think of much to say. It weren’t who I was expecting but boy she did look good. Jemima didn’t smell of raspberries. She smelled more like my mother. Her hair was blond but the black bits said it weren’t natural. That day was the last  I chalked on Mitchell’s wall.

Never did figure out where Billy-Jo got to that night or how Jem turned up instead: ‘just fate,’ Jem would say with a smile. I ended up doing thirty years in the sawmill while Jem brung up our kids. She left me young when the sickness hit the town. God took her early said the preacher. I can still smell her on my shirt now. The smell of love I always told her.


These 333 words, based on the word ‘brand’, form my entry into the Trifecta 91 writing challenge. 

30 thoughts on “Trifecta 91- The Code Breaker

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Thanks. Yep, got a bit lucky. Googled ‘brand animals’ and came up with the picture with all the symbols. Just looked like the basis for a secret code and so I went down that line.

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Cheers Jo-Anne. Learning fast in creative fiction that you need to grab the reader’s attention from the first few words or you’ve lost ’em. Glad you liked my smell based offering.

  1. jannatwrites

    I absolutely love the voice of this one. The unique descriptions of his girl in the beginning caught my attention (normally ‘frogs’ aren’t used to describe anything about a girl- in a kind way, at least,,,but it worked :))

    I wonder if Billy Jo got nervous and backed out, sending Jemima instead, or if Jemima figured it out and sent Billy Jo somewhere else. Either way, it seems things worked out.

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Thanks Janna. Glad you liked the frog reference. What the heck, I thought a frog is green so why not compare it to your sweethearts eyes 🙂

      My take on the end is probably that Jem and Billy-Jo were friends. Jem knew the code and sensed Billy-Jo’s nerves. Took a risk and turned up in case Billy-Jo didn’t and bingo…or something like that. My feeling is she never told Mikey the true story. Left it as ‘fate’.

      Thanks again for commenting.

    1. paulmclem Post author

      Cheers Christina. I do enjoy these 1st person pieces. Have to be careful though as if you don’t quite get it right it doesn’t work. Need to believe it’s the same person talking all the way through – tricky when you use accents/dialect/twang etc. Happy enough with this effort.

  2. debseeman

    Great story. It flowed wonderfully with a beginning and a great end. Love that your character is revealed with your choice to write his dialect. Gives a clear image of who he is.

  3. steph

    I love this. Great opening lines. You captured the voice, the atmosphere, the ‘class’ structure. How creative that you had him circling a different brand to arrange their meetings. And the ending was simply lovely. The smell of love. One of my favorites this week.


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