Weird Tales, Broken Home, Insane Asylum, An Ancient Curse
“You-all come in and set at this here table with me a while. Be hours till it’s fit ter drive on again an’ I reckon I has a yarn or two in me afore work calls. Iff’n I can jest get rid o’ this darned dryness in ma throat.”
The old trucker sat, all silent-like, until this smooth-lookin’ Northern type took the hint and up an’ bought the old-timer a cold one. An’ jest naturally he ordered a glass o’ somethin’ more expensive for hisself. Yankees have all that style but no class worth a damn.
“’twas back in ‘46, I think, or wuz it ‘47? Darn, but I’m getting’ forgetful in my old age. Werl, no matter. I wuz haulin’ a load o’ pine from Denver over to Maryland way an’ feelin’ so far from Shreveport I fit to weep for a home I jest han’t se’ed for nigh on two months. The economy was boomin’ then after the War, an’ pine an’ all kindsa softwood wuz sellin’ at a premium. An’ iff’n them easterners knows one thing it’s they likes ter live in comfort - an’ that means timber an’ plenty uv it. Anyways, ‘twas jest after nine. No, it wuz nine-thirty in the evenin’ an’ there wuz a fine full moon risin’ when I see’d this kid setting on a rock by the I-70 an’ wavin’ her arm fit to wear it out, makin’ the universe ally accepted sign of the hitchhiker implorin’ honest workin’ men ter give a free ride.” The whole saloon laughed then as the trucker mimed opening a bottle with a pocketknife an’ chuggin’ the contents.
“It’s sure lonesome on the roads ev a night an’ I wuz plumb missin’ my Martha an’ the kids, so I slows down a tad - the highway bein’ steep enough that a touch less gas’d do enough - an’ this little girl up and jumps right onto the footboard an’ jest nachrally pulled herself into the cab without a sound. Opened thet big ole
steel door like she was flickin’ her
ma’s drapes across the winder come Halloween-time. Skinny little thing she was;
pale an’ shakin’ from the cold an none-too thickly dressed for the season’s
cold air. Detroit
“Thanks, Mister,” she said, all humble-like. “My name’s Salix and I’m heading back east to find my father. It’s kind of you to offer me a ride.” She spoke like that; all head-you Katy, but with thet
whine like a
buzz-saw hittin’ a nail. She tole me her parents wuz divorced a whiles ago when
she wuz in her teens after her daddy came back all wrong from the war an’ her
Ma took her out West where her own mother’s had lived. But she passed so now
she wuz seekin’ her daddy an’ hopin’ ter make a new life down ter Florida or
Georgia or somewheres she fit. An’ truth be tole, she sure looked wrong ter
these ole eyes. I’ve daughters myself an’ I’d hide my face in shame iff’n one
o’ mine looked halfway thet hungry.
After a while, (an’ the Lord knows I’ll tolerate anythin’ but this one was
a-pulling on a bottle of G-ddamn beer
the whole while) she tells me a bit more. California
“They locked me in a hospital away from town. Pretty gardens and lots of games and stuff to draw with and weave but the food was awful and they just wouldn’t believe my dreams about, well…” She kinda growd secretive about thet, but I have a fatherly face an’ so after a while she shakes out her long blonde hair an’ adds: “About the Evil Dead. About vampires.” The saloon was silent now, ‘cept for the Northern feller pushin’ jug after jug across to the old-timer while the saloonkeeper smiled as he added up the tab.
“There was this one guy. Real old and with an eye-patch; all muscular but gone to fat. Bulimic, they called him. He was always joking and cracking wise and he sort of took a shine to me and never laughed about my nightmares. Never once.”
There was a pause as a Sherriff’s deputy came in and asked if anyone had noticed any strangers of an evening hereabouts. But even the Yankee was well known; he sold air conditioning to construction companies offering comfort to their customers come pollen season. It seemed the Basement Murders were heading west again; nine slaughtered in their beds that month between the saloon and the State capital. But even Deputy McCabe wanted to hear the rest.
“He used to come to my room after lights out and whispered outside my door, storytelling. Terrible tales. Beautiful tales. About my mother and father and the war and how they were heroes – even my father who was, well. You know.”
We all knew. There was not a head in the saloon that afternoon but nodded sadly about the men who’d gone off to do their duty but returned damaged; unable to fit into peacetime life.
He sighed, and looked around.
“Thet’s why I got me this. I was too sim-pathetic.” He indicated the purple and white scarring from his left temple down his cheek to one jaw and beyond to a scrawny neck too sparsely grown for the beard to hide his injuries. “She kep’ me interested in her yarns about the ancient curse an’ her Desiny an’ bein’ chosen till it was too late an’ I jest had ter take a rest. I let her sleep in the cab covered in Martha’s quilt an’ I crept up ter the day bed in back. I figger she was new to her life o’ crime an’ musta panicked an’ hightailed it into the sunshine with the job only half done.
Outside the fattened livestock in his tractor-trailer howled and snarled in the afternoon’s deadly heat. They sang that nasty, sulky old one about the dawn’s early light.