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Short story for adults, based on real events.
H E Gurlitt
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H E Gurlitt
It was toward evening, two days after I was booked in, when I first laid eyes on him. I'd been caught stealing bread. In this town, as in so many southern hamlets, the sheriff has his own law. Most don't look kindly upon strangers. What brought me to Curante, Kentucky, doesn't matter much, just tell you that I'm on a sabbatical from the humanities study at UCLA. My prof advised me to observe humans, how they interact, how they become influenced by various environs and lifestyles, and learn to appreciate their inherent differences. Then decide on my future. Being young, carefree and careless, I ended up financially strapped, hungry and in jail. In that order.
That's how I came to know Clyde. They had put him in the cell next to mine, which ended my peaceful existence in the otherwise unoccupied three room establishment.
A heavy man with large, loosely moulded features, the mouth a thin slash, like a mail slot. In the dimness his pale brown eyes seemed rather yellow, like a mountain cat's. Despite the scant hot breeze or because of it, Clyde's bald head glistened with sweat. Probably due to his excess weight, or was it a sign of his inner turmoil and insecurity? He constantly shuffled his feet, shifted his sagging torso, scratched his crotch, wiped the forehead and temples, fussed, clasped, snorted.
My first impression of him was his bulk in a darkened profile. He faced the bars, stared into the dimness of the hall. His rounded back, much like a buffalo, was touched by a scant moonbeam from a window behind him, near the ceiling.
It was before noon the next day when clanking keys roused me from a nap. The jailer, a gaunt figure with a waxed moustache and searing eyes, opened the metal door wide enough to tell Clyde he had a visitor.
Since it took a while before they permitted the man to come into the jail itself, I dozed off again. Gave myself to the aura of the noon sun, sparsely filtered through a fly- speckled, inch thick window. Hot, humid air pushed along the corridor, I assumed, from an open door on the southern side of the building. Like viscous soup it stuck to the walls, the rusted iron bars, and to the skin. It didn't bother me that much, I was born in southern Texas.
When I awoke, his visitor was already there. Clyde swept his temples with the turned up sleeve, groaned, blinked the sweat from his eyes, focused on his visitor as if he were trying to guess why he came. From what he'd said I gathered their women were sisters.
Clyde had just complained of "...them wimmen always stick t'gether. Don' they, Willie?" He went on to object to being ordered around just because he hadn't picked up his oily coveralls, or a dumb thing, like tucking his shirt in.
"Mostly though, she gripes about money. All that stuff."
Willie had a friendly, piggish pink face. Fleshy lips baring a row of protruding teeth, stamped him with an eternal smile. He sat, palms rested on the cusp of the knees, short, fat fingers held away from the pants so he wouldn't dampen them with perspiration. Willie had nothing to say.
Clyde complained loudly: "Geezes, them seats are hard. Can't stand them bars in front of me when I'm talking to someone's face." He sucked air through his teeth.
"So what yo've been up to, Willie? Don't look like yo'bin huntin' rabbits or somethin'. Yo all spiffed up, sunburned too, that's why I ask. Bet Yo been for rattlers, hey?" Clyde allowed himself another look at Willie's shiny shoes.
Self-consciously Willie hooked his feet around the legs of the small stool the jailer had offered him, opened his mouth to say something but Clyde absolved him from the effort.
"Look at them damn coveralls, orange, kin Yo believe it? Yo glows in the dark with them. I looks like a sissy. Wish they tell me when I kin get out of here. Legs gettin' all stiff, Yo know, cramped like."
"Yeah, so what did the Judge say? I mean he can't just let you sit here. What?" Willie stopped the flow of self-pity, seemingly glad to have found a thought.
"She's my woman and I kin slap her 'round if I want to. That's what I told the judge," Clyde announced.
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"Nice style. Vivid picture painted with minimum brush strokes. Thanks for introducing Clyde and sharing the atmosphere. " -- Ed Bruce, Essex, UK.
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© 2000 H E Gurlitt
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