Flash Fiction…..Sunday!

Flash Fiction Friday- Four Random Items. Okay, I realize it’s Sunday and I’m a touch late. I was camping for part of the weekend and spent my time fishing instead of writing. But I didn’t forget about it, so here’s my contribution at 997 words.

My 4 Random Items:  an unopened envelope, a dead man’s guitar, a road sign, and an animal skull.

Also, if you follow the above link, you can find links to the other Flash Stories for the challenge. There’s a lot of good stories to read.

If you’re looking for a quick read of 1000 words or less, be sure to check out my Flash Fiction page. There’s a little bit of everything.

Enjoy the story, and thanks for stopping by!

*     *     *     *     *

Passenger

A long pull of the steam whistle rang through the air and the long string of boxcars slowed. Slim peeked through the door at the sand and dry trees, the brown grass and weeds, as they rushed by. There was no one around as the train drew closer to the rail yard.

He tossed his pack and jumped. He hit the ground and rolled, jumping up with a broad, gap toothed grin. After a quick pat down, Barracuda Slim found he had no serious injury. Time for some walking, this was all new territory. Today was going to take him into the city. He grabbed his pack and dug out an old baseball cap, pulling it on over his greased hair.

He’d been to Santa Fe before and knew just where to find the jungle, his first stop. Though this time he had a much different purpose for the visit, this time it was a matter of honor. He dug into his shirt and took out the crumpled, stained envelope.

Arthur Thomas
128 Fairgrove Ave.
Santa Fe, NM

It was a promise that brought him here. Old Tom Cotton made him swear to bring the letter to his son. And then the old man up and died. So here’s Barracuda Slim, riding the iron into Santa Fe to find Tom Cotton’s boy.

Barracuda made his way under the afternoon sun. There was a stand of trees, just as beaten by the weather and time as Barracuda Slim was, and down in the trees with the storm run-off trench sat a jungle. Not the jungle with tigers and deadly frogs, the jungle where the other free men, the other iron riders, gathered. A place of safety, unless there was a disagreement, and a place of shelter.

Barracuda Slim shouted down into the trees as he entered, hooting in the manner of madmen, or maybe just in imitation of an owl. He heard a whistle and an aggressive strum of a guitar in response. He hopped on down, pretending to ride a horse, with his hands taking hold of imaginary reins.

He came into the place and found three others sitting around a small fire ringed in stones and busted bricks. He knew the guitar and bushy beard of Coal-Mine Elvis, and the thick glasses and eight fingers of Harry the Eight. The other fellow was just some other fellow.

Barracuda Slim sat down with his pack in his lap.

“I got a treat today, for all that gathers. Found me some fresh dug out onions when my ride stopped. Dug ‘em up fresh myself.” Slim took three large yellow onions from his bag, still dusty from the ground. “And a taste of the Dr.’s finest mint hootch.” The bottle of Dr. McGillicuddy’s Mint Schnapps gave way to a round of applause.

Harry the Eight stood with a grand bow and took a can of corn from his pack. “I do believe I smell soup cooking!”

Coal-Mine Elvis began strumming and picking the strings of his guitar. He sang, “I got nothin’ but some deviled ham and a big ol’ box a crackers.”

Now if you were to believe the tales, Coal-Mine had that guitar hand delivered to him by the King himself, just before his final constitutional. But then again, a tale is a tale no matter how short or tall.

The other fellow rolled a cigarette and set the bag of tobacco and small pack of dirty papers on the ground. “I got ‘em, so smoke if you want. That’s all I got till I get something else.”

“What’s the name fellow? Barracuda Slim don’t pass no bottle to no man with no name.” Slim took a pull and passed the hootch to Harry the Eight.

“Dirty Jim, Dirty Jim.” He tipped his hat.

Barracuda smiled and motioned to send the bottle over. The four men told their tales while the soup cooked up in an old metal coffee can. The onions were cut with a dull pocket knife, but the job got done. The sun was close to down and the stars where all but up when Barracuda Slim took out the envelope.

“Sad news from Kentucky. Old Tom Cotton ain’t no more. He died right in front of me, but asked me to take a letter to his boy before he went. That’s why I come, to fine me Tom Cotton’s boy and fill my promise.”

“I knew Tom Cotton. He told the best tales,” Dirty Jim held his hat over his heart.

The others placed hands on their chests too. Barracuda Slim raised his bottle and sipped. He passed the final swallow around and they all drank the bottle gone in memory of Old Tom Cotton. Barracuda Slim curled up beneath an old wool army blanket with his bag as a pillow and fell asleep to Coal-Mine Elvis’s guitar.

In the morning, Barracuda was alone. The others gone to catch whatever train they had to catch. Barracuda stretched and gathered his things. He wandered into town and found a bus stop. Not to catch the bus, but to check the map of bus routes with all it’s street names. Fairgrove Avenue was about six miles away.

When Barracuda got there, he just stood and stared. Sure the sign was right, dusty and bleached by sunlight. Fairgrove Avenue. The street went nowhere. If there were houses, they left a long time ago. Sand and weed choked foundations was all it had left to offer.

A dead cat lay in the middle of the road. Hit by a car sometime back. Plenty of time for rot to take away all the parts that said ‘hey, I’m a dead cat.’ Long enough that even the flies left it alone. Barracuda just looked right back at that road-kill.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?”

He took the envelope out again and opened it.

END

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction…..Sunday!

  1. I loved how much atmosphere this story has; I could picture it all so clearly in my mind, really felt that I was right there watching it unfold. the characters were all really memorable and quite endearing (I like that we had the same idea about the guitar — great minds, eh? ;)) Now I want to know what’s in the letter, and where the absent son has gone! Great job, hope you continue this some day.

    One tiny error I spotted — once, you called “Coal-Mine Elvis” as “Cole-Mine Elvis.” Other than that, brilliant piece!

    • Haha, yeah I found the guitar similarity fun, although I think your guitar really was the King’s. Glad you enjoyed it, Spaceman. Thanks much! 🙂

      Thanks for the typo spot too. Spellcheck doesn’t catch the wrong word when it’s spelled right. 🙂

  2. Great story! I was near tears at the end, I was so sure that he found a grave marker instead of the son. Now I wonder, what really happened to the son? To the whole neighborhood?

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂
      I may have to continue with Barracuda Slim’s tale. I wonder what happened to the Son and neighborhood too. Thanks again. 🙂

  3. What wonderful characters you have created here. Each with his own distinct voice, & Barracuda Slim..? What a freakin name! Love this piece JD. Really great work!
    ~Chris

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. I had some fun with these characters. I have the feeling in my head that I need to continue the story. I’m curious myself what happens to Barracuda next. Only one way to find out, I must write more.
      Thanks for reading, Chris!
      -Joe

      • There have been several ff pieces I wanted to expend on. Stormy is the Heart I actually did. Interestingly, my submission for this challenge also is one I would like to explore some more.
        I think you should definitely see what road Slim ‘Cuda wanders down and where it takes him. He’s too cool to be left where we closed. Shoot me a tweet of comment or whatever and let me know when you do. I’d love to follow up on him.
        ~C.

      • Will do. 🙂
        I had one previous flash piece that I did a “Director’s Cut” version. Double Croste turned into a much longer short story (by the same name) and has a sequel (Croste Your Heart). I’m currently writing a third installment (Croste Roads) of the dual personality occult Detective. Great ideas come from these prompts.
        I’ll have to jump over and check out your work. Thanks for reading!

      • I found it on your site. Bookmarked. I look forward to checking it out. Cheers!
        ~C.

  4. Those were some great great names that fit great characters. Any symbolism in the ending? Road-kill related to hobos?

    • If only I could have been so clever. Ran out of words and had to tie in the last random item of the challenge. Working on a continuation of the story now, so there may be something to it! 🙂

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