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Back In Time

Thomas Wolfe was right when he said, You can't go home again.

But sometimes, when you're offered a direct ticket, it's hard not to hop on board. 

Back In Time by Bill Baber



Me and the old lady were both pushing sixty. We missed the old days, but what the fuck are you gonna do? Life’s a bitch and then you die, right? It had been over twenty yearswhen the good old days turned badsince both of us had to leave Vegas. Left because we couldn't get any closer to the bottom without falling right on through. I was in debt to some bad people and strung out on booze and pills. She was broke, but at least the only person she owed was her dealer who had fronted her a couple of bags of Mexican brown.

We skipped town with the clothes on our backs and just enough gas in the tank of the pan head I’d been riding forever to get us to Beatty, an old desert mining town a hundred miles north. California was due west and the atomic test range was to the east. The silent, lonely miles to the north seemingly stretched forever.

I landed a job driving miners who lived in town to a mine sixty miles away and she worked as a caretaker for an old coot and his wife who were both born and determined as hell that they would die there. We found an old trailer out in the middle of the desert where the rent was cheap and got straight the hard way. It wasn't easy.

The years passed by. We worked, took long rides on the endless desert highways and went to bed early. Like I said, we missed the old days sometimesmaybe me more than the old lady, because she took up knitting. I’ll be a sonofabitch if I ever saw that coming.

                                                                     


I used to ride with Hillbilly up in Oregon. He was from Tennessee or Kentucky or one of them shitholes. He grew up poor as dirt, his mom died when he was a kid and his old man regularly beat the shit out of him. Said it would make him tough. It did. Hillbilly returned the favor, leaving the old man bloodied and battered and lit out for the west coast when he was sixteen. He was about 6’3” and thin as a fence post. But he was country strong and shithouse crazy. And, he was as loyal as a dog. I loved him like a brother.

We were still tight and saw each other from time to time but it had been a while since his last visit. It was just after dark on a hot, still June night when I heard his bike on the gravel road. I met him with a hug. He stepped back and said, “I’m in some shit man. They might be following me.”

For a second, I thought all those years of crank had caught up to old Hillbilly. Thought the paranoia was taking over.

“Who, what?” I asked.

“Let me pull my bike around back,” he said.

He came through the back door and hugged my woman, who for a moment was happy to see him.
“Gotta beer?” he asked.

Mama set him straight. “You know we don’t do that shit no more.”

She said it as stern as a Baptist. Actually, she had been going to the Pentecostal church in town. I thought it was just to knit with the other old biddies.

“Look,” Hillbilly said. “I don’t wanna cause you guys any trouble. Stopped for a beer and to piss just outside of San Berdoo. I got in a scrap with a bunch of Mongrels that pulled up just as I was coming out of the bar. Man, those bastards are like rabid dogs. They just keep comin’. Had to put a couple of ‘em down.”

The old lady shot me a glance, then put a pot of coffee on. The Mongrels would be coming and we would be ready. The woman got her .12 gauge and I checked the loads in my .357. I had an old Colt 1911 that I tossed to Hillbilly. Then, we drank coffee and waited.

We expected the sound of hogs so we never heard them coming. The front of the trailer sounded like it was blown in half. Then, the shooting stopped. We could see tail lights heading down the road. What the stupid fucks didn't know was that the road came to a dead end. They would have to turn around. The woman was out the back door in a flash. She crossed the road and took cover behind a mesquite tree. There was a shed alongside the trailer and I waited there. Hillbilly? He just stood in the middle of that gravel road with the old Colt out in front of him like some old gunslinger with a big smile on his face. Told you he was crazy.


They were in a dark Yukon coming slowly toward us. When they pulled just about even with her, the woman opened fire, there was no plug in her scattergun and she just pulled the trigger until death was all that was left in the front seat. I got the guy that crawled through the rear passenger door but the one who got out of the driver’s side came out blazing. I saw Hillbilly go down after getting a couple of shots off. He hit the guy and I finished him off.


When I called Hillbilly’s name, I knew there was not going to be an answer. Mama said a prayer then went through the saddlebags on his bike. She found a bindle of crank and most of a fifth of Turkey. We did a line and a shot and started making calls. Hillbilly had a lot of friends, from Tacoma to Boise to Eugene and Stockton. We would meet in LA and take it to the Mongrels. It looked like we were going to take a trip back in time, to the old days. Helluva good thing too, that knitting shit was starting to look interesting.

Bill Baber lives with his wife and a spoiled dog in Tucson. His crime fiction has appeared at any number of places on the net. He has had a book of poetry published. He has been known to drive across the border for a cold beer.