Good afternoon, Everyone!
So for those following along, you might remember a certain Hobo that turned up a few flash fiction’s from last year. For those who haven’t yet met him, you can check out PASSENGER and DEVIL AND TRAIN if you’ve got the time. Well, Barracuda Slim still has some story to tell, so without further delay…
Okay, one more delay. 🙂
So this is the first part of the short fiction, keep an eye out Thursday for the next segment. As usual, when the last part posts, I’ll drop the complete tale on my SHORT FICTION page, which is building up a nice selection of stories. Okay, now without further delay, here’s today’s adventure. 🙂
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Ol’ Tom Cotton’s Boy
Barracuda Slim turned the creased and crumpled envelope over in his hands. He admired the penmanship scribbled and fading across the front. To: Arthur Thomas, 128 Fairgrove Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico. That old letter had been wedged in Barracuda Slim’s pocket for seven months now; undelivered. Barracuda Slim made a promise though; swore to it, even as Old Tom Cotton wheezed out his last breath in the asking.
The trouble was, when Barracuda Slim found himself in Santa Fe, New Mexico, standing beneath that sun baked Fairgrove Avenue street sign; he found nothing else but an empty road. Foundations of houses, as bare as a newborn, like the homes got up and walked away. There was a dead cat in the road, staring at him with hollow sockets, and nothing nice to say. All this he found, but no kid that once was Tom Cotton’s boy.
Barracuda Slim looked up as a can of warm beer was passed to him. He took it with a nod as Church Bell Chris spit into the fire just to hear it sizzle. Barracuda and Church Bell met up in a jungle outside of Houston, Texas. They tore up the iron on an old diesel in the back of a freight car to find some better weather. Damned if it weren’t still hot as all hell here in Utah too.
“You pull that letter out every night, Slim ‘Cuda.” Church Bell was getting frisky, had that flat-beer glaze in his eyes. “So, c’mon with it then. Can’t pull that paper and not make with the tellin’!”
D’Dan-Dan stuttered in agreement as he spooned another mouthful of beans past his lips. You guessed it, got his name on account of being called David Dan Daniels since birth. Bet his parents were a riot.
“Hear, hear! Give us the story.” Green George chided from where he lay. He was all huffed up on his favorite brand of green permanent marker. Most likely seeing stars and fudgecicles dancing in the sky right now.
Barracuda Slim slurped a healthy bit of warm beer and stood, teetering just enough to find a balance.
“It was plum, smack, right in the middle of a Carolina winter…” Barracuda Slim spread his arms, like he was orchestrating one of them fancy orchestras full of shiny wood and bright brass and silver.
“T-thought he d-d-died in Kentucky?” D’Dan-Dan must have thought himself a smart man with a question like that.
“You tellin’ this tale? You see, I was there! This ain’t no re-tellin’ of a tale. No, sir! This here is the actual tale as it actually happened as told by the real life actual Barracuda Slim. So listen close now.” Barracuda Slim cleared his throat. He sucked more foamy beer from the hot can and looked over the three free souls that gathered in the jungle outside of the Salt Lake City rail yard. “It was plum, smack, right in the middle of a Carolina winter…” He spread his arms like he made to hug the lot of them gathered.
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A small blaze lit up the night beneath the bridge of an unused service road. Whatever service might have been utilizing the thing had packed up and stopped coming around. The bridge was still sound though, sound as ever with heavy wooden beams. And it was so dark outside the light from that fire, dark enough to sparkle all the stars overhead like tiny birthday candles. Steam puffed from the mouths and noses of the folks what called this here jungle home for the time they stayed.
It was the most normal of late Decembers as one could find in North Carolina. The weather was cold sure, right down chilly at mid-forty degrees, but there were plenty places colder still. Three shadows danced in the firelight under that old bridge that was so sturdy and forgotten. Three men that carried everything they owned, and owned all they carried.
“I tell you what, but hot damn is it damn cold tonight!” Barley slid closer to the fire, tossing another chunk of wood in and poking the coals like it was the thing to do.
Barracuda Slim watched over three washed out cans filled with water and coffee grounds. A cold night deserved a hot drink just as much as any cold man did, and Slim was something of an artist at making cowboy coffee. Better than most any you’d meet. He had him a big secret about the craft, not the kind that needed telling though, defeats the purpose of a secret in the telling. He glanced at Tom Cotton huddled up in an old wool army blanket. That poor fellow was still pale as the moon. He had a terrible cough, the sort that took no soothing from the likes of hard candy or cough drops. They were all set to hop a rail early in the morning and ride off to warmer climates.
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Feel free to comment, I’m always happy to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by folks, and have a great day!