River People

-Strange – 2 Pages –

As far as I can tell there are two types of Tennessee river people and they travel in competing packs and consume washed up fish or this ubiquitous leafy vegetation that I with my northern bearings will only later come to know as kudzu. There are the stoop-shouldered people who are generally tall and gangly and carry serious expressions but do not intend harm unless you present them with adequate incentive in which case they will not hesitate to disembowel you and devour your pancreas. Then there are the red-faced people who wear undershirts and/or bandanas emblazoned with the Rebel Flag and tend to thrive on disruption and terror especially when it comes to interloping sons of bitches such as myself. Recently one of the red faced people who wear undershirts and/or bandanas emblazoned with the Rebel Flag tackled me from behind and stole my slacks while another flung a pail of river leeches onto the back of my thighs. These ill-mannered actions caused a substantial amount of blood loss, dehydration and acute sunburn and forced me to abandon my trek out of the river jungle and currently I find myself supine and near extinction on the riverbank as a flock of vultures take dibs on my pending body parts resulting in a vicious quarrel over the tender eye meat.

The individual who saves me is a castoff from the stoop-shouldered people, an ancient ghostlike figure who hoists me from the riverbank and slings me over his shoulder and carries me up the incline to his shack which has but a single bulb burning over the living quarters and a shotgun and/or walking cane leaning against the wall. The ghostlike figure positions me on a homemade pine cot and strips me the rest of the way down and pours salt on the leeches and applies a caramel colored salve to nearly my entire body including the freshly sewn spot on my right foot. The ghostlike figure informs me that his name is Abner and not to worry about the goldurn antibiotics and to quit my goldurn jabberin’ about these vagrants hackin’ off my pinky toe and this man in black and this girl named Paul stealin’ my possessions and leavin’ me to die ‘longside the river.

Two hours or three weeks pass and Abner adorns himself with a blood-red headband with slash-like markings and proceeds to light a series of candles and sit Indian style in the middle of the floor and conduct a singsong chant in what sounds like a Far Eastern language. I join in from my position on the homemade pine cot while simultaneously holding my hands in a prayerlike fashion and moving them in a circular motion.

The thing about delirium, Abner says presently, lips brushing my earlobe, is that a piece of it always stays with you.

One by one Abner munches the river leeches with a creamy stroganoff sauce and tells a story about being the lone gunner in a depleted infantry unit hoofing its way across the French countryside. The unit is subsequently ambushed and Abner falls and strikes his head on a rock and wavers in and out of consciousness as his comrades fall to their deaths around him without a gunner available to provide cover spray. The head injury ultimately results in a stainless steel plate and Abner at this point lifts a flap of skin and displays the tip of said plate directly below his hairline and says, Makin’ its goldurn way out the older I get.

Incoming! yells Abner. He slips on a combat helmet, retrieves the shotgun and/or walking cane from the wall and heads for the door with surprising grace and speed given his age and stoop-shouldered status. Several minutes after Abner has gone I determine this a perfect opportunity to escape and thus jump up from the cot and exit the shack without stopping to gather clothing or sustenance or the accoutrements of everyday living. I am naked and may or may not be covered with the caramel colored salve but the positive news is that my injured foot no longer hurts and I am able to make good time as I travel through the river jungle. Within a hundred yards Abner spots my person and takes up chase while waving the walking cane and/or shotgun above his head and screaming in a kamikaze fashion. As I flee I notice a number of red-faced people who wear undershirts and/or bandanas emblazoned with the Rebel Flag lounging in the trees and I call out for their help but they seem perfectly content to watch my demise from above, the inbred fuckers.

A clearing opens in the river jungle revealing a set of train tracks currently accommodating a slow moving line of train cars ornamented with a wealth of graffiti such as Fuck Duck and Junior Loves GDaddy and SNATCH! I risk a glance behind me and observe that Abner is within ten yards and making up ground and licking his lips and drooling liberally as if he intends me as an afternoon snack, pancreas and all. One of the train cars has its doors open and I grit my teeth and attempt to travel faster in hopes of securing a position therein but just as I get my hand on the train car I feel Abner’s grip on my shoulder and fully understand this to be the end of my existence. His grip disappears in an instant however and I successfully pull myself up into the empty train car and look back to see Abner swarmed under by perhaps a dozen of the red-faced people who wear undershirts and/or bandanas emblazoned with the Rebel Flag.

More Strange Stories…

Andy Henion

Contributor from years gone by, he was one of the main contributors of Pindeldyboz.com, which was archived under the new site http://theliteraryunderground.org. Interesting stuff, the new site seems to focus more on poetry and the old site featured fiction by guest contributors.


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