Episode 31 - There Once Was a Man From Michigan
by Camille LaGuire
The colonel led them to the railway station, and then, after a nervous pause in which he paced back and forth, he led them on beyond the station, to a row of small sheds and warehouses along the tracks. He kept glaring back at his drunken guards, as if he wanted nothing to do with them, or with Thorny himself.
And Thorny himself? He felt like a dog's dinner.
And not one of your expensive, gourmet dogs' dinners either. A cheap, half-rotten dog's dinner for which there had been a product recall issued.
And yet.... for all he felt like death warmed over, he also felt very alive. This was not your ordinary self-inflicted hangover misery. Or even the misery of a misspent career. This was visceral and dramatic and gritty.
It was poetic, that's what it was. Worthy of a literary masterpiece. He called out, as words came flowing into his head.
"There once was a man from Michigan, who found himself in a fix again...."
That wouldn't do. He wasn't in a fix again. This was the first fix of his ever lovin' life. This was new and fresh. Michigan just didn't rhyme with new things.
"He hadn't the time, to come up with a rhyme," Thorny continued. "When the rotten guards threatened him ... with a gun!"
"Shut him up!" cried the colonel. It was a ringing, pathetic cry, like a cry for mercy.
One of the guards swung a wild roundhouse punch, and managed to land it on the side of Thorny's head. Thorny went down on his seat and the guard fell right on top of him, as though Thorny were a live grenade. My poetry is explosive, he thought.
The colonel had no interest poetry. He paced and seemed to dither, as though not sure what to do next. He looked down on Thorny and the guard with a look of fearful pain.
"Shouldn't we kill him?" asked guard who was still standing.
"Kill who?" said Thorny. In answer, and as if to validate Thorny's poem, the guard pulled out a pistol and aimed it at Thorny's head. This was more of an existential crisis than he was ready for. He struggled but didn't make it to his feet.
"Yes... no! Not here," said Pookiterin, and he looked around nervously. He flinched as a train whistle blew in the near distance. "And not now."
"But Kinchin Colonel, maybe now is better. Before they get here."
"Now is not better!" said Thorny. He struggled half up. "You don't know what's coming on that train!"
The colonel flinched again. Yes, Thorny had been awake during that conversation in the larder, between the colonel and the captain. That was what was making the colonel nervous.
"It could be a friend or an enemy, couldn't it?" continued Thorny. "Maybe they want me alive! Maybe they want to kill me themselves, did you think of that? After all that fighting you did with the captain to get me, you're just going to dump me in an alley? Don't be ridiculous! I could be your ticket to glory!"
The colonel stood there, twitching. He looked at his guards and then at Thorny.
"Glory?" he said. "You are an embarrassment! All three of you."
"Then hide us! Then you can find out where you stand with the people on the train, before you do anything irrevocable."
Pookiterin paused, surprised. "Hide all three of you, then? Yes, that will do. There is just time for that."
He directed the guards to take Thorny into one of the sheds by the tracks, while he went off in search of something. As the guards tied Thorny up, hand and foot, Pookiterin returned. He did not enter the shed, but rather swung the door shut. In a moment they could hear the scrape of a latch and then the firm click of a padlock.
All three were now locked in.
"If he keeps going this way, he'll have everyone in the world locked up," said Thorny. The guards simply kicked him.
Stay Tuned for Episode Thirty-Two: "The Locked Larder Committee"
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