“I’m stuffed, man.”
Rocky swung out of the dumpster and sat down on the curb next to his friend before finishing his cheese paper.
“You are. Eatin’ that crap.”
Rocky glared at Lamont. “First of all, you do not know me to talk to me like that.”
Then he swept his arm back to the dumpster while doing a horrible curtsy.
“Besides, we are eating out of a dumpster, your highness, everything we are eating is crap.”
They both laughed and nodded as they finished up their dinner.
Lamont scanned the parking lot. “Where’s your old lady?” he asked.
Unfazed, Rocky answered. “She’s over by the taco place. She mixes up ‘whatever’ for the kids and calls it ‘chili’.”
Lamont nodded. “We gotta get past this.”
A cold wind kicked up some leaves in the parking lot.
“Hope so.” whispered Rocky
The back door of the restaurant swung open and out came the bar music along with one of the kids from the restaurant. Rocky and Lamont stepped behind the landscaping hedge and watched the restaurant kid wrestle some more garbage from his trash barrel up onto the dumpster pile. They kept low and waited until he was done dancing the barrel back into the restaurant. They listened for the door to slam and the quiet to return before they hit the dumpster again to stuff what they could find into a couple of old “to go” bags. “Take Out Again” bags was Rocky’s label for them.
“Where’s your old lady?” Rocky asked.
Lamont nibbled on a fry. “Not sure. Maybe her Mom’s.”
Rocky stopped digging and stared as he washed some apple slices in an iced tea cup.
“It ain’t much” Lamont said. “We just got some issues, you know.”
“Holler if you need help, man.”
“I will Rock Man, but, look around, we are eating out of a dumpster for real. That ain’t right. Just take care of the babies. We’re good.”
“Where you heading tonight?”
“I don’t know – that wind is cold though. Maybe I’ll stop by Trixie’s trailer.”
“You are slick.”
“Naw, I’m just resourceful, baby.”
“Stop by my place tomorrow, ok?”
“All right. Later. Take care of those twins now, ok?
Rocky listened to the murder of crows fussing nearby the next morning. The twins were wrestling and somersaulting with each other near the foot of his bed. He felt the chill in the air as he watched the kids. “Winter’s coming” he thought and then shivered thinking how he would provide for Rhonda and the kids with the Witch of November arriving soon.
Rhonda stood at the foot of the bed. “That loser is here again.” she whispered.
Rocky sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Why are you always harshing on Lamont?”
“He’s a loser.”
“No he’s not.”
“Yes he is. He’s a snake. A weasel. I do not want him around my kids.”
“Will you stop? He’s out there playing with them right now.”
Horrified, she ran outside and called the twins over to her. The kids protested and begged to play with Uncle Lamont. He picked up one and held hands with the other one as all three walked over to Mom.
“Rockin’ Rhonda,” he hissed, “how you been, Baby?”
“Get away from me Lamont. And stay away from my damn kids.”
Lamont held his cap in both hands.
“Rhonda, words cannot express how much you and the twins mean to me and Lucy.” His eyes glistened, “Especially since we have not been blessed with our own all these years.”
“Damn, Rhonda. Leave the guy alone.” Rocky stood in the doorway and rubbed his forehead.
“I don’t want him around here, dammit!”
Rocky was about to respond when Lamont interrupted. “I got a tip on something.”
Rocky motioned for Rhonda to leave and then offered Lamont a seat. “A ‘tip’? What kind of ‘tip’?”
Rhonda stayed in the room and crossed her arms while the kids played outside.
“The kids want Halloween costumes for tonight.” she murmured.
Rocky shot back, “They already got some damn masks.”
He nodded for Lamont to continue.
“Chickens. And Eggs.”
“Chickens and eggs?”
“Yep. Annnnnd, pie.”
“I’m for real.”
“Real, Babyyyy!” Lamont laughed.
Rhonda tapped her foot. “Where?”
Lamont sniffed, “I’ll show you where.”
“Rocky, he’s lying.”
“Why would he lie?”
“I don’t know, he just is. I’m just sayin’.”
“You’re just sayin’.”
“Look, I just need some help carrying all that stuff. I also need a lookout. I came to you ’cause I know you need it.”
Lamont nodded to the kids playing outside.
“Fresh chicken.” Rocky said aloud.
“I don’t know.” said Rhonda.
“Beats the dumpsters.”
“What if we get caught?” Rhonda was not sure.
“No one to catch us. It’s that farm by the bridge. They have the apple festival thing. Are you in or not?”
“They have apples?”
Lamont nodded back to Rhonda. “Lots of them.”, he said matter-of-factly. “I can’t tell you more until we’re official partners.”
“The twins want to ‘trick or treat’ tonight.” Rhonda said to Rocky.
“Take them. Then get someone to watch them after they’re done,” interrupted Lamont “we can do this and you’ll be back home before they wake up.”
Rocky and Rhonda stared at each other.
“It’s no different than when we hit the dumpsters!”, wailed Lamont. “The people won’t be home tonight and they’re taking the dog with them – tonight’s the night.”
“Where’s your old lady?”, Rocky asked.
“That’s why I need you guys to do this. Lucy’s at her Mom’s.”
“It’s complicated.” he added.
Everyone agreed to meet at the bridge after the twins were done trick-or-treating. Lamont showed up a few minutes after Rocky and Rhonda.
Lamont shared his plan:
Rocky and Lamont would wait across the old highway from the henhouse. Rhonda would wait in the wooded area behind the farmhouse for their signal before showing up at the henhouse with the plastic bags for the eggs and chickens. If things were to go awry, the plan was for her to go back to the kids immediately. Rocky and Lamont were to cross the highway and stroll right into the henhouse before picking out the fattest chickens and the freshest eggs. Eggs were to be placed in Rhonda’s plastic bags after a couple of plump, broken-necked hens lined the bottoms. Everyone will then carry as much as they can back across the highway to the bridge where everything would be divided up and enjoyed. No dumpster diving on Halloween!
Rocky sat on the bridge rail and watched two crows pulling stringy innerds from a pathetic little squirrel.
Lamont looked over, “Just nature, baby. Everybody’s got to eat.”
Rocky kept watching, “Looks like he never had a chance.”
“He made his choices Rock Man”, we got to get moving.”
The two partners made their way to the edge of the highway.
Rhonda could see them on the side of the road. “No dogs, so far.” she thought. Everything was still. She shivered in the cold night. “This is crazy.”
The artist wanted to get home at a decent hour. The show was so-so. The interstate would probably be safer, but the highway is faster. Damn deer are all over the place at night. He figured he’d run the risk anyway. He cranked up the comedians on his satellite radio.
Rocky saw the van coming and pulled back into the bushes. “No dogs.”, he said to Lamont.
Lamont watched the van get closer. “Once this guy goes by, let’s cross.”, he whispered.
Rocky heard Lamont say something, “What?’, he turned to Lamont.
Lucy was near the dog house feeding dumpster scraps to “Killer”, the farm’s dog from a “Take Out Again” bag. She watched the highway and the farm house at the same time. No lights in the farm house. Lights coming down the highway. Another scrap through the chicken wire and she started to push up on the pin holding Killer’s pen door in place. “Any minute now, Killer”, she thought as she watched the lights.
The artist saw something out of the corner of his right eye, and veered a bit to the left. “What the hell?”, he said out loud.
He felt a bump on the right side of the van near the front tire. Nothing serious, but he certainly hit something.
“Don’t want to stop out here in the middle of no where.” he thought and glanced at the St. Christopher magnet on his dash.
Rhonda watched the lights on the road from the woods behind the house. She saw the lights move suddenly, then continue on their way down the road before she heard the dog barking. Something wasn’t right, she was confused.
Rocky was laying on the highway. No pain. Just a black sky and pure confusion. Lamont’s face filled his field of vision. Was Lamont wearing a Zorro mask? Happy Halloween. He could see Lamont looking his body all up and down. He tried to move and couldn’t. Couldn’t speak. So tired and cold.
Rhonda stood by the tree holding the “Take Out Again” bags. It was Lucy zig-zagging toward her. The dog was chasing her up the hill. The van went by to her left. She ran instinctively to her right in the dark; Lucy flew past her up the hill. Rhonda felt the dog pull her down to the cold mud as Lucy kept running. Rhonda called out and Lucy never looked back. Lights came on in the farm house. Someone stood on the porch calling for Killer. They could hear him growling and thrashing. He came down the hill later,
Rocky still could not move. He could see the back of Lamont’s neck in his left side. “He’s eating me!” Rocky thought as he tried to move. Lamont kept eating the soft tissue and organs in Rocky’s abdomen. It was getting harder to breathe.
Rocky eventually figured out Lamont pushed him into the van and muttered, “Why?”
“Because I’m resourceful”, replied Lamont.
He stuck his bloody face near Rocky’s. Rocky again noticed he had a mask on similar to his own.
“Happy Halloween”, Lamont chuckled.
Rocky kept trying to get one more breath. He saw his Dad waving and offering him an apple by a creek.
He waved back.
Lucy’s Mom’s place was up the hill from the farm house. She sat in front and waited. “It’s not my fault,” she thought “it’s not my fault”. Lucy’s Mom brought out the dishes and sat next to her daughter.
The road crew was always busy on Halloween. Lime green vests and litter sticks. There were always plenty of beer cans and fast food wrappers. The worst was the occasional urine-filled soda bottle. Once in a great while someone would find a body of some sort. Human bodies were never good. Find one of those along the road and your day is completely lost forever.
“Only 3 more days” thought Caillou. “3 more days of this crap and I’m done. The judge better not forget to sign this off this time.” He prodded and poked with his litter stick as he walked along the highway.
Caillou preferred to walk with his thoughts rather than other people. He found his thoughts easier to deal with than other people – especially when sobriety and all it’s demands were happening. He came up on a large raccoon carcass with half it’s side eaten away.
“God damn! That is nasty.” he thought as he stepped over the rancid heap. “If it were summer instead of damn near winter, that bitch would be stinking to high heaven.”
He looked up the road and saw some of the other litterwalkers had stopped to watch a weasel with a black mask running alongside two baby raccoons as they crossed the highway and darted up the hill. Caillou watched and then looked down at the carcass again.
“Three more days”, he repeated as he walked along looking for litter. The Witch of November winds were kicking up all morning. He stopped to bundle up better and then looked up the hill.
“That’s just not right.” he said as he quickly sipped some homemade from his flask and continued walking down the road – shaking his head slowly.
“No damn way that’s right.”