“In Black Water”
Will Ficklen
“Ms. Lisa says he just came walking up to the counter. Says his tie was
loose and his shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows. The sweat dripped from his ears
and nose with each step he took. And she says he sort of smiled in the rush way
businessmen do to make out like they’re common as anyone else but they ain’t.
Asks if she had any tarps over six foot and she said she did. So he said he thought
he’d like to buy it off her as long as it was black. Ms. Lisa thought black wasn’t one
of her usual colors, but she’d check in the back and she’d be damned if he didn’t
follow her as she walked to where storage was kept and peek over her shoulder to
see to it she did as she had promised. Turned out she only found black tarps in as
big as five by five foot. So the man sweats some more and looks at his shoes all the
while she’s watching him like he’s a fool. And he decides that what she has will
have to do. And she swears that before she could look up the price, he’s matted
up the tarp and left out the door, leaving a whole five dollar bill on the counter for
her. Odd and harmless, don’t it seem? Well if these things ever were, they can’t
be now, I’m guessing. Cause it seems that this stranger went sweating and car-
rying this tarp of his over to Ray’s liquor porch and got good and sauced, left his
wallet under a rocking chair, and then shoved off for a walk going north along the
highway towards Pearson. And that’s it so far as Ms. Lisa or anyone else interested
enough could tell for fact. By the time any person saw him again he’d been about
gnawed to his bones by stray dogs; he hadn’t even made it to 441 yet. Only way the
cops could identify the body was from the scraps of black tarp they found caught in
the grass on the side of the road. Best as I can figure it, this man went walking out
alone, sweating all the while, and came to this spot in the road. And here I think he
looked once or twice around at the white grass, the pines, and the moon hanging
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