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Collected Short Stories
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Mister Bob: Collected Short Stories is Copyright © 2015 Dell Sweet
Copyright © 2015 by Dell Sweet All rights reserved
Cover Art © Copyright 2015 Wendell Sweet
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2015 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. The Name Dell Sweet is a publishing construct used by Wendell Sweet. Portions of this text are copyright 2010, and 2011, all rights reserved by Wendell Sweet and his assignees. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s or assignees permission.
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I buried the Mexican just after sundown. I can’t say much about the sort of man he was in life, but I can say he was a strong man in death.
The Moon has led my way and I’m on my way across the desert into Mexico of all places. What did they say, hide in plain sight? There I’m going to be. Probably already passed the border, and once I’m across the border I’ll find a small town to buy gasoline enough so I can reach South America.
I’ve played the events of yesterday over and over in my head as I’ve driven. It still makes no sense to me at all. They say shit happens, we’ll sometimes it does, and I tell myself that’s exactly what happened here. Some shit decided to happen and I just happened to be there.
It was early. I had nothing better to do so I took a walk downtown just to take a look at the buildings. Thinking, as I walked, how just a few short years ago I had spent almost all of my time down there. Chasing a high. Drunk or both. And sometimes a third thing: Taking a little comfort with the ladies. It all came back to me as I walked the streets.
About three years of my life had been spent like that. From the day Lilly told me goodbye, until the day I woke up in the alley that runs down the back of West Broad, behind the Chinese restaurant. The back of my head had been lumped up with something or by someone.
Some one, I decided as I had begun to blink the cobwebs away and feel carefully with my fingers. A lump only, no blood. Probably a closed fist…
Two feet away from me was a dead rat. A big dead rat, and a few even larger rats were breakfasting on him. And, suddenly, just like that, I was done. That gave me a clear message about the world. And I heard it.
Of course that didn’t mean I got off Scot free. There were many little things I’d done during my long, long slide. And it took time to fix those things. Rehab, jail for some bad checks I couldn’t remember. Bad teeth, health, ideas, depression, suicide, and finally a night where I felt strong enough to take a walk through the worst of my nightmares and see if I was truly over the drugs, the life, the weaknesses that had led me there in the first place.
So that’s how I came to be there yesterday evening: Getting my feet wet. Seeing how strong I was… Or wasn’t. And it turns out I was strong enough for the temptation of the streets, but not over the bad habits I had picked up there. And that’s what got me… I cannot believe it was only yesterday when all this started.
I walked by the mouth of the alley twice. Both times I saw the old Ford sitting there in the deep shadows. Heard the soft murmur of its engine running. Some guy and some girl, I thought, or some guy with some guy, or boy who knows what. It was downtown. Shit like that happened all the time. But, I thought after the second time, this guy must be trying to set a record. He’d been there for 15 minutes by my watch, not that it was my business. All the same, fifteen minutes is a long time for a trick. Or to shoot up. Fifteen minutes could bring a cop. In the street world it was just too long for almost anything. In fifteen minutes you could get your thing on, your drug of choice, and be a half mile away and have forgotten all about that last little space of time. So why was this guy still there?
And that was the street part of me that was not gone. The street part of me that was still looking for trouble. And I found it.
The third time by, which was just a few minutes later, I was too curious. My evening had bought me some excitement. The drugs, I could see the flow all over the avenue. Easy to see if you knew what to look for. The ladies were calling too. I knew what that was about. I didn’t look at them like they were whores, or something less than human. It was a line I couldn’t draw, had confused many times, so I came back fast to see what this was. That Ford was calling.
I had stopped at the mouth of the alley. Same Ford. An old one. Like a classic. Nice shape too. Maybe somewhere in the sixties, but I wasn’t good with cars like that. I only knew old, classic, nice looking.
Nobody around. Of course that didn’t mean there was no one in the car. I hesitated for only a second, and then walked quietly down the alley, staying in the shadows as I went.
I found the Mexican slumped over behind the wheel. Blood dripping down the side of his head. A gun on the seat beside him. Another guy was slumped over into the floorboards on the passenger side. That one was dead for sure. A large, bloodless hole on one side of his chest. A larger hole behind that shoulder I saw when I reached over to move him.
And why are you still here? A little voice in my head whispered. Why are you touching him? What are you doing? But I pushed those warning voices away and continued to look.
There was blood and gore all over the seat on that side. The coppery stench of blood was thick and nauseating. Something else mixed in with it, tugging at my brain. Blood and… Fear? Something. That was when the Mexican spoke in all that silence and nearly made me jump out of my skin.
“Don’t call the cops!” and… “No Policia.” His head came away from wheel. He shook it and drops of blood went flying. I felt it hit my face, but I was still too stunned to move.
“Hey! … You hear me, Blanquito? Habla English? … No Policia?” He muttered under his breath “Dios Christos,” he focused his eyes on me once more. “What’s the matter with you?”
“I thought you were dead,” I managed. I should’ve run. I chose to talk.
“Yeah… I get that a lot. But I ain’t dead.” He picked up the gun from the seat and before I knew it was in my face. “Come around the side, Blanquito. Get Lopez out of the car.” He waved the pistol and I moved.
Lopez pretty much helped himself out of the car. When I opened the door he spilled out into the alley, leaving the mess on the seat and a large smear of blood on the seat back and the door panel as he went.
“Good… Good,” the Mexican said. “Now get in the fuckin’ car… No… No… This side. Come back around to this side. I can’t drive no car, Blanquito… Dios!” He waved the gun once more and I moved. Racing around the hood of the car to the door.
The Mexican did a fair job of getting himself over into the passenger seat. I was glad it was him sitting in Lopez’s blood and not me, although I had been about to sit in it.
I slid into the driver’s seat.
“You got some kind of car… Truck… Something like that?” The Mexican asked.
I didn’t have a vehicle, but my grandfather had, had a truck. It was sitting in the garage in back of my house. That house had also been my grandfather’s. They were the only two things, the house and the truck, that had survived those three years on the streets.
“Sort of?” He looked around “Get this car moving. That’s the first thing… You got a place?… Close by? How does anybody sort of own a fuckin’ car anyway?”
“Yeah, I got a place” I said. I was afraid to answer, but more afraid of not answering fast enough.
“Let’s get there, Amigo.” He slumped back against the seat. I shifted into drive, worried I might drive over Lopez as I went, and drove us out of the alley.
The house was dark. I had thought to leave a light on, but I had forgotten. I drove the Ford right into the garage, pulled the garage door back down, and helped the Mexican out. He looked over at my grandfather’s truck.
“That your sort of truck? Looks fine to me, man. Doesn’t it run?”
The thing is it did run. I had been working on it here and there. I like to tinker with things. And I had a lot of spare time to fill when I quit drugging so I had turned it to the truck.
It was an old truck. But I had in the back of my mind to fix it up and drive it. So I had started with an oil change, then installed a new headlight on the driver’s side, that sort of stuff, when I had time.
I nodded. “No plates though.”
The Mexican nodded. “Don’t worry about that… Got gas in it?”
“Some… Enough to get you away.”
“Ha, Amigo.” He laughed and then clutched the side of his head where the blood still drizzled and spilled down the side of his face, spat some blood from his mouth, and looked back at me. “Us,” he said. “Us.”
I saw an amazing thing as he spoke. The Mexican had a small blue hole just above the stream of blood. A hole from a bullet. In his head. The blood just pulsed out of it as I watched. I wondered how he could even be alive.
On The Road
I drove as he gave me directions.
We stopped just before dawn at a gas station in the middle of a small desert border town. The Mexican directed me past the dimly lit islands and over toward the side of the station, and the shadowy side lot.
There was a big hound sleeping in an open bay doorway on one side of the garage. On the other side a thin man with long, greasy-black hair was turning wrenches on an old Plymouth. He glanced up, nodded, and I nodded back as we pulled around the side of the station and parked in the shadows.
There were payphones bolted to the side wall, just past the Men’s room door. I had thought that payphones were a thing of the past. But I had also thought gas stations were a thing of the past too, come to think of it.
I helped the Mexican to the phone. He ran about $6.00 worth of change into the phone and then he just stood there, leaned against the wall, panting hard, for what seemed like ten minutes.
Finally he began to speak in a stream of Spanish so heavily accented and fast that I could make no sense of anything he said. Not even the gist of it, and I was usually pretty good when it came to Spanish.
He sprayed blood from his mouth as he talked. And he leaked blood from the bullet wound in his lower chest all over the wall he was leaning against.
The conversation wound down. I could tell because he spoke less and less. He finally went on a long coughing spasm, spat a few more quick streams of Spanish into the phone and then just dropped the handset. He came staggering off the wall and back to the truck. I rushed to help him back in.
He was breathing hard. “We got to kill some time. Find a place.”
I nodded. I was tempted to clean off the wall, pick up the handset and put it back on the phone. Someone might see that. But instead I wheeled out of the parking lot and found a small campground just outside of the town.
The place was deserted so I drove down into the dirt parking area and parked by what was advertised as a lake, but looked more like a swampy pond. The roof line of a rusted Chevy rose just above the foul smelling the water. It was near dawn. The sun a red line on the horizon. I wore no watch, but the Mexican kept track of time on his.
The Mexican was bad off, coughing and spitting blood out of the window every few minutes, but he said nothing. Never complained.
Along The Border
I had thought the place would be crowded with cops, but I was wrong. The hound dog still slept in the open garage bay doorway, and the thin man with the greasy-black hair was still wrenching on the Plymouth. The hanging phone handset, the blood, now dried to a maroon smear on the handset and the wall was still there. Untouched.
“Hang that fuckin’ phone up,” the Mexican said. I got out and hung up the phone and it immediately rang in my hand.
“Well answer the thing… Dios,” the Mexican spat. He went into a coughing spasm. I picked up the phone, and an unintelligible string of Spanish launched itself into my ear. I held it away. “For you,” I said.
He groaned and levered himself from the truck, stumbled, and then made his way to the pay phone. He took the gun with him. He spoke calmly into the phone for a short time. No rushed spate of Spanish this time, but a low murmur that I could not make any more sense of than I had the rushed torrent. After a time he took the headset from his ear, pressed it against his chest and spoke to me in a near whisper.
“Take this fuckin’ gun, Amigo.” He handed me the gun that was all splattered with gore and he pulled a second one, equally messy, from his coat pocket. “Watch our backs, blanquito” he told me.
I suppose I could have shot the Mexican and gone free, but I never had the time to do it. I didn’t even have the time to think about doing it until later on.
As I stood there I heard the suck of rubber against the asphalt, the way it will when the road is really hot. And the morning was hot, the road hotter, the way it will sometimes get in the desert.
The car slowed and pulled into the station. I saw none of that, but only perceived it from what my ears told me. A short conversation in Spanish between someone in the car and probably the thin man with the greasy-black hair wrenching on the Plymouth, and I knew that someone would be coming around the side of the gas station in a matter of seconds.
The Mexican heard the same things. He hung up the phone and put one finger to his lips, lurched his way back over to the truck and leaned against the front of the grill for support. His gun pointed over the hood. Not knowing what else to do I slipped back behind the passenger door and followed suit.
“We should be good… Don’t just start killing… But you be ready, ’cause you never know, muchacho.”
Three of them came around the corner. Two men I hadn’t seen, and the greasy-haired thin man. He stopped short when he saw the guns aimed at him.
“Dios Mio,” he stuttered.
“Vamos,” the Mexican said. The greasy-haired thin man slipped backwards and then disappeared around the corner. The other two, hard eyed older men, stood their ground. No weapons in their hands. Silence held for what seemed a long while.
“Well, you got it,” one of the oldsters asked. It came with such a thick accent that I had to take the time to figure out what he’d said… “Chew gat et?”
The conversation switched to a quick spate of Spanish then. That went back and forth between the two men and the Mexican for a few minutes and then silence came back so hard I could hear a bird calling in the distance: The sound of a big rig on the highway, and that was a few miles away. One of the oldsters nodded, turned, and walked away. He came back around the corner of the building a few minutes later with two large duffel bags and tossed them on the ground between us. They slid a couple of feet towards us and then stopped in front of the truck.
“Get them bags, amigo,” the Mexican told me.
I looked at him like he was crazy, but of course he was crazy, and there was nothing I could do except come around the hood, a pistol in one hand, eyes on those two older men.
I stopped by the hood when I suddenly realized that I had a problem. I could not pick up both duffel bags without putting the gun away. I debated briefly, stuffed the gun into the waistband of my pants and picked up the bags.
“In the cab,” the Mexican said. I Levered the door of the cab open and set them inside. “Strip off that tarp.”
The tarp came off and the two men came forward and lifted out the suitcases. The Mexican and the two others stared at each other for a few moments, then the oldsters walked away. I watched them turn the corner and they were gone.
I started to get back into the truck when the Mexican wagged his head and put one finger to his lips. I pulled my gun back out, scared to death. It was maybe a second after I got the gun back in my hand that the two came back around the corner ready to take us out.
I shot first. Unintended. Pure reaction. The gun was in my hand and happened to be pointed in that direction and I fired out of reflex. One of the oldsters heads exploded. Something tugged at my collar, and then the Mexican dropped the other guy. A second… Less than a second and it was over. The silence didn’t come again, this time there were sounds in the silence. The hound dog up and baying. Excited voices in Spanish somewhere close by.
“Now we go,” the Mexican said. “Now we go, Amigo.”
I needed no coaching. I was in the truck and backing out of the gas station fast. The rear tires hopping and screeching on the pavement. A black Caddy sat on the tarmac, just past the pumps, engine idling. The doors hung open.
“Stop!… Stop!” The Mexican yelled. “Get them bags back!”
I stalled the truck stopping without pushing the clutch in, ran to the Caddy and got the bags along with two others from the back seat. I threw them all into the back of the truck and I had started back to the driver side when the Mexican shot.
I didn’t think I just hit the ground and I didn’t come back up until the Mexican began cursing at me to get back in the truck. I looked back at the gas station when I did. The man with the greasy-black hair lay sprawled in the open stall. A shot gun off to one side. The hound dog stood stiffly, head in the air, howling. Blood ran from the man’s body toward a floor drain. Voices raised in Spanish, loud, somewhere close by. And the Mexican yelling at me. I threw myself into the cab, got the truck started and got out of there fast. And here I am now running across the desert heading to Mexico.