Old Zenard used to say, “Never throw a damn punch when your so tanked you’re seeing double, Too numb to feel the impact.” Should have taken his advice. Wouldn’t be using a rusty pair of needle nose to pry Burpie’s tooth out of my knuckles right now if I had. Didn’t even know I’d slugged him till I came to this morning.
Woke up in the weeds here just out of town and staggered down to Bernie’s broken down shack cuz I knew he had an old tool box. Been sitting out here in the sun on the hood of this busted down Packard in this meadow trying to get this guy’s molar out of my hand ever since. Bastard didn’t even have a gold filling for my troubles.
“Hey there Trip,” I hear Little Vern call.
I smell the booze coming off him before I even look up to see him. Man’s nearly forty, but with his carrot top, maze of freckles across his face, and thin wormy body he could pass for a teen any day of the week.
“Whatcha hear Vern?”
“Trouble Trip. Burpie. He didn’t make it.”
I’m off the Packard fast leaving a streak in the dusty hood. Vern backs off me a step.
“You here to stir the pot Vern? Cuz I ain’t in the mood.”
“Gosh Trip, not me. You’re a big fella like Max Baer. Just thought I’d warn ya was all. Last night when ya popped Burp he went down and lit on the back of his head. We all thought he was just passed out or something, but come closing time at the Bucking Wheel he never woke up.”
“Shit. Whattda think that’ll get me? Six months in the poke for manslaughter? Something like that?”
“Small town Texas like this and Burp being related to damn near everyone that lives here. You probably won’t even make it to the county court house Trip. Pistol to the back of the head and a burial out in the sage brush be my guess. I didn’t see no sheriff this morning though when I woke from my drunk in the alley,”
I sit back up on the Packard and go to work on my hand again. Finally pull the tooth free with a big gush of blood. Hurts like hell, but I can still move my fingers.
“Got some hooch back in the alley you can pour over that for the infection if you want it.”
“Naw, save it. I’ll dip my hand in gasoline later. I should stay out of town today. Hell, probably forever.”
An old Model T passes on the county road heading into town and Vern watches me track it. The dust hangs in the air a long time.
“Easy to steal, but hard to do the time once they catch ya,” Vern says.
“Yeah, train’s my best bet I suppose. I can hop a freight. The yard is outside of town at least.”
“Hey Trip, you know those fellas coming down the road?” Vern asks pointing east into the sun.
Three figures still in the shade at the edge of town were pointing at us and moving our way. Two of them look to be carrying bats. I stand up the and start to move off trailing blood from my hand. Fool Vern calls after me.
“Follow Heart Creek through the trees yonder, That’s the fastest. I’ll talk to them when they get here. And watch out for Clyde the railroad bull over there. Him and Burp are cousins.”
“Heard it,” I yell as I wave off all his blabbering and run for the treeline.
I crash through the brush for five minutes along the creek and make my way to the train yard. A line of box cars hooked to a freight engine are just hissing into motion. I’m about to hop one when old Clyde’s double barrel against my ribs makes me reconsider all my options, past and present.
About the Creator
Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.