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Mister Bob: Collected Short
Stories is Copyright © 2015 Dell Sweet
Copyright © 2015 by Dell Sweet
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This novel is Copyright © 2015 Wendell Sweet and
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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
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
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
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
“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,” 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
“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
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
The Mexican nodded.
“Don’t worry about that… Got gas in it?”
“Some… Enough to get you away.”
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.
I drove as he gave me
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
“We should be
good… Don’t just start killing… But you be ready, ’cause you never know,
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.
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?”
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.
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
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.
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!” 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.