Inspired by photo #3 in the Write Words Writing Club post:
Occasionally people who feel compelled to write tune into an alien frequency and a wraithlike whisper emerges from the ether ... "Tell my story."
I have twice heard from this person - the first time I received a snippet of his experiences, and the second represented a postscript of sorts. He is, as far as I can determine, still out there somewhere, roaming the deep Southwest.
HUNTER AND HUNTED: THE DARK RAMBLER
Slim Valdez disappeared last night.
We all called him Slim 'cause that's just what he was. Wasn't always like that, though. Time was, he ate all those nachos an' drank all that soda, he ballooned up t' about two-seventy-five. But then he got hired down ta Allied, they put him in Shippin' an' Receivin' ('cause he was big an' could easily handle th' cargoes I guess) an' that's when he slimmed right down. Mighty proud a' that too, he was. Useta lift up his big ol' shirt an' say, "Hey, check this out!" I really liked Slim. Had a heart as big as those trucks he unloaded. Naive, too. He left himself wide open for so many snide jokes that they called him a big ol' garage door. Like, one time Manny handed him a piece a' plastic, short, dark an' thin with a blob on th' end, an' said, "Here, guess what this is."
"I dunno." says Slim, peering myopically at the object. "What is it?"
"A petrified dingleberry." says Manny.
Well, Slim he dropped that bit a' plastic so fast, you'd a' thought it was burnin' hot. "Watchoo wanna go an' give me that for?" he cried. Shakin' his hand up an' down like he was snakebit. A' course, everybody busted out laughin' fit ta go ta hell. I pulled him aside one time an' asked him why'd he wanta leave himself open like that for. "I dunno," he says, "I don't mean ta do it. It just happens." But, like I say, that's the way Slim was.
Slim was a Tex-Mex, his parents come up from Mexico City, snuck over th' border, went ta ground in Waco an' got any kinda crappy job they could find ta make a go a' it, an' eventually little Reynaldo (that's Slim) came waltzin' in, so he's 'merican born an' bred. Once Slim got old enough to work, his parents snuck back over th' border, an' like the dutiful son he was, he sent 'em a check every month. That's another thing I liked about Slim. Any guy loves his parents that much, he's gotta be an okay guy, eh? Oh, and I don't wanna forget those loud shirts he useta wear with th' baggy cargo pants. They were sure bright an' colorful. He looked great in 'em, an' ya could always see 'im comin'. I liked that, too. For myself, though, I'm kinda partial ta black.
I'm gonna miss Slim.
Amy Sirkin disappeared last week.
She useta date Slim, back awhile ago, I thought they made a cute couple, but I guess it didn't work out so well. Don't know why, Amy was pretty in a quiet kinda way, didn't wear makeup or anythin', she wore a lotta blue, jeans an' shirts, baggy, not tight. She worked over ta Blowmold, ran th' machines that made plastic milk jugs an' suchlike. Hard work an' hot, she useta say, though she didn't say much, come ta think. Funny, now that I think on it, big ol' loud Slim an' quiet little Amy, together, yeh? Maybe that's why it didn't work out. I kinda liked her, but she wasn't really my type.
I heard from Darla, Amy was born somewhere up North, her Ma died when she was only four, cancer, I think, and her Pa had to raise her alone. Amy herself wouldn't ever say anythin' about that, an' I hate ta pry, but I guess Darla got some outta her one night when Amy was feelin' kinda bad an' drownin' her sorrows, an' Darla don't mind talkin'. Amy was afraid of her dad, she said, he liked his liquor an' he liked it a lot. Darla said she met Amy's dad down ta the Moonshine Inn one time, he'd had a few, an' tried ta hit on her big time. She had ta leave th' bar, he was creepy, she said, an' she heard later that he got inta a fight with some other lush an' beat him somethin' fierce. Amy moved out of her Pa's place last year, an' she asked if she could bunk with Darla, but Darla had ta say no, she didn't want Amy's dad ta come knockin' on her door, 'specially if he was drunk. I guess Amy's dad useta hit her, 'cause sometimes you could see bruises on her arms an' sometimes she'd walk funny.
I heard Blowmold put on a third shift, they was doin' so well, business was way up, an' they asked Amy ta change shifts, offered her a lot more money, an' she coulda used it, but she told them no, 'cause she didn't like nighttimes. Huh. For myself, I'm kinda partial to th' night.
I kinda miss Amy.
Billy Kwan disappeared last month.
Billy useta work down ta Sarge's Super, stockin' the shelves on th' graveyard shift. I useta stop an' chat with him, down on th' floor on his knees, crammin' those cans in down on th' bottom shelves, 'cause we were 'bout th' only people in th' store, 'cept for that lazy good-for-nothin' night manager who always looks at me funny. Jimbo, I think they call 'im. Billy an' I useta hang together. I liked Billy.
Billy hailed from Vietnam. He was an orphan, parents killed in that last push on Saigon. He was pulled out an' adopted by a Marine an' his wife. Very nice people, both of 'em. They really loved Billy, I think, an' Billy loved them, least that's what he'd tell me, but myself, I think he broke their hearts too. He got a little wild, hung out with that crowd that did crack down on th' corner by Ray's Got Gas mart, an' when he needed money bad he broke inta that crummy pawnshop, Joe's Three Balls. Didn't know 'bout th' silent alarm an' got busted, went down ta th' farm for two-an'-a-half. Poor kid, his parents died in a car crash three months 'fore he got out. I think that really broke Billy up. Maybe that's why he got that job at Sarge's, tryin' ta straighten out an' get himself back on th' right track.
The last time I talked ta Billy, he told me he'd bought himself a gun (I think he stole it, felons can't buy guns) an' asked me if I wanted ta go shootin' with him. I said no thanks. I'm kinda partial ta knives, myself.
I really miss Billy.
This is the last communication I received from my correspondent.
The soft susurrus of tires caressing pavement is so soothing, don't you think? It is a sound so pleasing to the ear.
Yes, I'm moving on. The police were becoming curious, and were perhaps beginning to suspect. They brought me in for questioning once, and ran into me at random but more and more frequent intervals, and that was all the impetus I needed. There are small towns aplenty here in the Southwest, and there is sure to be more than one that will meet my needs.
By the way, I thought you should know. Jimbo died badly.
Copyright 2006 Malcolm Mott