Sunday, September 08, 2013


Jim was determined to stay on the tracks and die.

I’ve got no life to go back to, he thought. No life, no future. I’m dead now, just going through the motions and going nowhere. Already dead. Walking dead. Going through the motions. Might as well finish the job. Do it tonight. Do it. My life is a mistake. Which I’ll correct—

But with the second blast of the train horn, closer, he suddenly was not so sure. His heart beat wildly. No I can't, he thought. No, do it. Now. Do the only right thing you’ve ever done. Except marry Heather, that was right. No it wasn't, she’s a bitch. Loser am I? Okay, I’m a loser. Fuck it. And fuck the world. But Jason, no. He wasn't a mistake, I'm doing him a favor. If only my old man had bought the big one before he—

A third blast. Take me you son of a bitch. Bring it on. His heart was hammering. God I’m ready to go. Ready now. Ready and letting go. Let go and let G—

Another blast, and the light from the train spreading forward across the tracks and higher into the surrounding trees, pushing the blackness back but the blackness still there, just farther away beyond the light. A wall of blackness getting closer and death. He shook all over and could barely walk. Staggered. The train was almost upon him. This is it. No I can't. Jason. Heather—

He jumped to his left but tripped on the rail and fell, the light now engulfing him. The horn one long continuous blast and I can't move. God forgive me I can’t die now like this, and there was shouting and the horn blasting, and something jerked him upwards and over he went tumbling like a rag doll down the rocky incline into the blackness, tumbling and rolling over the jagged rocks and the train roaring past and cars banging, and something falling on top of him and tumbling some more and rolling into the blackness, then a flash of stars, then nothing …

* * *
“So me and Old Wolf took to the road onct’ again. Started heading East, and when we got to Nashville, the damndest thing happened.”

“What was that?”

“We were walking down the street when Old Wolf did something he’d never done before …”

Preacher Bob stopped to pop open another Old Milwaukee and take a long swallow. His face was scraped up and still bleeding after the crazy thing that had happened and his right elbow was hurting. He needed a good, long swallow of beer right now.

“We were downtown, walking along, me and Old Wolf, when out of the blue Old Wolf spotted a woman walking her dog—a cocker spaniel—and went running straight at it. I hollered at him. 'Old Wolf you come back here!' Which always before he’d obeyed, but not this time. I guess that cocker spaniel was in heat and Old Wolf was bound and determined to have at her, that’s all I can figure. Anyway, he shot right across the street and was hit by a truck.”

“Oh no,” said Tuffy.

“A damn beer truck,” said Preacher Bob, crushing the can and tossing it into the bushes. “Old Wolf was hit by a beer truck. And he died ... Old Wolf died.”

“I’m awful sorry, Preacher Bob.”

Preacher Bob popped open another Old Milwaukee. “But that’s not the end of the story,” he said. “Two nights later I was camped outside Murfreesboro, sleeping, and Old Wolf came to me in a dream …”

The man lying nearby moaned. Preacher Bob turned and looked at him.

“Is he waking up?” asked Tuffy.

“I don’t know. He might never wake up. He hit his head right hard on that tree.”

“What’ll we do if he dies?”

“We’ll just have to leave him I guess, and get the hell out of here. Maybe leave town. The police might think it was us hit him on the head. We don’t want to be anywhere around if he dies. They’ll nail us for sure. But if we leave, it’ll just be another bum found dead in the woods … I hate to say that, but it's so.”

“Finish the story, Preacher Bob. You said you had a dream about Old Wolf.”

“Yes, I did. And in the dream Old Wolf was talking, and talking in English. Which in the dream didn’t seem unnatural to me at all, even though he was a dog and shouldn't have been talking. It was only later after I woke up I thought, wait a minute, dogs can’t talk.”

“What did he say?’

“Old Wolf said to me, ‘Bob, whatever you do, don’t go to New York City and take that job.’ I asked why. He said, 'If you do, you’ll die. Promise me you won’t go to New York City, Bob, because if you do, you’ll die.' So I promised him. I didn't go to New York City ... And you know what happened?”


“A month later on September 11, 2001, two planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City, killing two thousand people. And you know where I would have been if I hadn’t heeded Old Wolf’s warning? I’d have been in the God-damned World Trade Center that's where I'd have been, because that’s where my brother got me that janitor's job. I swear to God.”

Tuffy gasped in amazement. Meanwhile, lying nearby on the ground, Jim groaned and began to stir, rubbing his head.

“Looks like he's coming around,” said Preacher Bob.

(To be continued)