Five Minute Fiction 73
An ongoing weekly experiment where I give myself five minutes to write something. Don’t think about anything. Just write. When done, walk away, coming back later to correct any glaring errors.
This week marks a return to limiting myself to a five minute window. I’m thinking of making another tab to this blog that will feature continuing stories.
I want to thank Valerie over at A Mixed Bag for the word “houndstooth”. She included that term in one of her recent stories and I think my mind latched on to it last night as I sat down to write. It’s funny what I think of as I place my fingers on the keyboard.
My life was saved by a strung out junkie in Wilmington.
I had spent the previous evening hours nursing a bottle of cheap vodka in a sleeping compartment that reeked of BO and vomit, some of which I’m almost certain was mine. I remember falling asleep to the clacking rhythm of steel wheels on metallic rails, thinking about Mary and how stupid I was for leaving her.
The next thing I remember was waking up on a wooden bench outside a station. I must have wandered off in a drunken stupor and collapsed on the dock. The train was puffing idly on the tracks, groaning and gurgling like some slumbering beast in the midst of a bad dream. The ground was covered with a light dusting of snow. My head hurt, but the alcohol was still coursing thickly through my veins. I ran my fingers through my hair and ground the heels of my hands into my eyes, asking God to make the world stop spinning, promising Him that I’d never drink again.
It was a promise both of us knew I could never keep.
In the middle of my existential conversation with the great unknown I felt a tugging at my shoulder. Looking over I saw a man aged before his time. His long, tangled hair tousled in the increasing frigid breeze, and it stuck to his face in matted clumps whenever it made contact with his greasy skin. His well slept in clothes hung loosely off his gangly frame, and his every movement was accentuated by a nervous, disconcerting series of ticks and twitches. Examining this poor soul, my addled mind flashed back to childhood, to Mr. Jacob’s farm and the unkempt scarecrow that kept eternal vigil over the barren, rocky eastern field. This junky, I thought, was that scarecrow come to life.
This lanky, homeless hobgoblin was pawing and pulling at the sleeve of my coat, muttering something in a language I couldn’t understand. I tried to shake him off as I pushed myself upright, but in my inebriate state I could barely stand. I again attempted to shove him aside, but that seemed only to encourage him further. He grabbed me by my shoulders like someone greeting a old friend and pulled me close. With his face mere inches from mine he looked at me with his bloodshot, furrowed eyes and whispered something foreign into my ear. He smiled, and the smell that seeped between his blackened teeth and poured over his cracked lips instantly turned my fragile stomach. I collapsed to my hands and knees and began vomiting, then rolled on to my back and passed out.
When I awoke for the second time I found myself prone once again, but this time I was covered with a coarse, warm woolen blanket. A dozen pair of eyes looked down at me with a mixture of concern and disgust. Somebody balled up a jacket and slid it under my head. A woman in a uniform, a ticketing agent I guessed, was running her fingers through my hair, cooing over me as if I were a sleeping baby. A foul taste was on my tongue.
“What happened?” I wearily asked, trying to make sense of where I was.
“Sshhh. It’s okay. Your friend brought you in,” the ticketing agent said looking down at me with unblinking baby doll eyes.
“Good thing, too,” a man in a houndstooth blazer and scarf said a bit too loudly for the supernova headache blooming in my head. “Storm’s coming in. You wouldn’t have lasted much longer out there.”
“My friend brought me in?” I asked.
“Yes,” the agent said. “He said he found you sleeping outside. He brought you in here then handed me a connecting ticket he said found in your coat pocket.”
“You’re lucky, friend,” Mr. Houndstooth piped in again. “Would have most certainly died out there tonight. Yes sir. Frozen solid. That would’ve been you.”
“Yeah. Lucky me,” I said, tonguing acrid chucks of last night’s supper from between my teeth.
“If you’re feeling up to it,” the ticketing agent said through a smile, “you can help yourself to some coffee. Trains will be late due to the weather, but we’re doing our best to clear the tracks.”
“Thanks,” I said, rubbing at my temples. “You wouldn’t happen to have any aspirin, would you?”
“Of course,” the agent said with a smile. “Let me check the first aid box.”
As I sat up the crowd backed away, some finding their seats, others going to refill their coffee cups. I looked around and found my suitcase lying against one of the long wooden benches that reminded me of church pews. He actually brought in my luggage, I said to myself in disbelief. Then a dreadful thought occurred to me. I quickly patted myself down, located my wallet, and pulled it out from an inside coat pocket. I let out a sigh of relief when I found what little cash I had still inside.
Standing, I shuffled slowly over to my suitcase and sat down in a heap on the bench. The ticketing agent reappeared and dropped three pills into my palm along with a Styrofoam cup of water, smiled, then headed back to her booth. I must admit that she looked good in her uniform, and walked with a graceful heel-to-toe gait that had a strange way of making me feel self-conscious about my disheveled appearance.
The train arrived three hours late. There was a smattering of applause when the announcement to board was broadcast. Several people stopped by to ensure that I was ready and able to travel. Mr. Houndstooth even volunteered to carry my luggage on board.
I never saw that junky again.