Albey Damned

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…The little girl choked on her corn dog. She coughed and gasped for air. A man sitting behind reached out and slapped the girl hard between her shoulder blades. The girl expelled the piece of dog into her lap. She gasped loudly and knocked the undigested treat onto the ground in disgust. She then covered her teary-face with her chubby little arms and began to cry. The crowd murmured its approval for the man’s heroic act. Willie was watching from stage left, behind the main curtain. He had to bite his arm to keep from howling with laughter. He knew that he shouldn’t have reacted that way, but it was one of the funniest things he had seen in quite some time. It was a lot funnier than the acts they put on.

…Late one night, a drunken whore had found a half-naked, devilish-looking boy hiding behind a trash can. The sight of Junior scared her so badly that she went running to the Sheriff’s office in spite of her inebriated condition. The Sheriff must have nearly locked her up after hearing the outlandish story she told of finding the son of Satan hiding in an alley off Broad Street. Something, however, must have compelled the Sheriff to go and check out her story.

…Junior and Willie talked a little more about Junior’s vague recollections of his people and his feelings that he had come a great distance. Willie asked him if he recalled having sailed across some vast ocean or ridden over the continent by rail car. He didn’t. Later, Willie shared with Junior some stories about his upbringing. His mother who died of consumption. And his pa, who berated him and beat him constantly. Junior looked up at Willie with those big, sad eyes and those wicked sharp teeth. Then he reached out and put his hand on Willie’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry for what you had to endure.”  What he said amazed Willie. In fact, it moved him to tears. Willie thought of the pain and suffering Junior must have endured––for that matter, what Junior would endure for the remainder of his life. Yet Junior had this capacity to listen to Willie’s petty, insignificant problems—problems that didn’t hold a candle to Junior’s—and express genuine sympathy. At that moment, Willie knew that he and Junior would be life-long friends.

..”Stay out of trouble,”Willie told him. Willie should have known better. When he returned to the truck with the supplies fifteen minutes later, there was Junior, standing outside the truck and next to a horse that was tied to a hitching post, along with half the town. Junior told him later what had happened: the trough next to the hitching post was dry and the horse was thirsty, so Junior had gone to fetch a pail of water from a nearby well. Apparently, however, Junior’s massive sombrero kept getting in his way as he bent over to fill the trough. So, he did a most logical and expedient thing––he took off the hat! Before long, the sight of Junior, with his pointy ears, pug nose and sharp teeth, standing next to a thirsty horse in the center of Cohito attracted all kinds of attention. In record time, the town square became a zoo. Actually, a circus. Along with one thirsty horse…