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Fiction #106
(published October 31, 2002)
The Woodpecker and Blossom Hit the Road, part 3 of 4
by Jonathan Farlow


Slobber McAllister and his best friend Gene Pickard left the newly refurbished Columbia theater just after 10:30 that night. They had skipped Citizen Kane, seen The Wizard of Oz, Gene wanted to see that one and a little of the Marx Brothers movie because Horace Spinks said that it would be so good. It was stupid and they walked out and sat down on the curb until 11:00 when The Blob was supposed to start. While they were sitting there Slobber smoked cigarettes, detailed the movie scene by scene and analyzed the merits of the film as compared to the Japanese monster movies, which he preferred, and the giant atomic bug movies of the 1950's. Spurred by the comment from Gene that he was glad that monsters weren't real Slobber insured him that not only were they real, but the woods in that area were full of them.

"You've heard of that girl over round Jamestown!" Slobber hollered at Gene as he stepped over to the drink machine for a Coke "She stands on a curve and hitchhikes and when people pick her up she gets in the backseat and gives them an address. When they get to that address she's gone and then they knock on the door and ask about her and the girl's Mama says that she died in a car crash on prom night ten, twenty year ago."

"You ever seen her?" said Stanley, sitting back down and throwing the bottle cap into the storm drain between his feet.

"No I haven't. I rode by there once, but it was middle of the afternoon and they only ever see her at night." They sat in silence for a little while as the flesh on Gene's neck began to squirm and he began to glance up and down the street to make sure that some ghost wearing a prom dress wasn't coming toward him. Then Slobber looked at his watch and said that it was time that they headed back in. As Gene struggled to get to his feet Slobber threw down his cigarette and mashed it out with his feet.

"You know I been to the Devil's Tramping Ground?"

"What's that?"

"It's a place off in the woods over the line in Davie County. It's a big circle in the woods and nothing grows in it, no plants, there's never any tracks no nothing. It's just sand and they say that's where the devil goes to plan his evil deeds. He just walks in that circle until he wore off everything and left the ground bare in just that spot."

"Hmmm." They're quiet while they show the ticket girl looks at the stamps on their hands and walk into the lobby where they stop at the snack counter.

"You wanna ride over there and take a look around? Maybe camp out in that spot."

"I don't know about that."

"Think about it a little bit. We might get a look at old Scratch himself." Slobber looks at the line ahead of them and then makes for the theater door, pulling Gene along behind him. "Let's go on in I don't want to miss the opening credits. The Blob's got a real cool theme song." He starts singing and skipping as they enter the theater and head down the aisle toward the front row. "It crawl's it creep's it flies it slides . . ."



Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat, rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. In the hours around dawn S/Sgt. Buddy Powell, USMC retired, slept the sleep of the young, the righteous and the heavily sedated. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. Spread eagle on his bed wearing only a pair of ratty boxer shorts, having since kicked all the covers off onto the floor, the wheels in his mind began to turn, spurred on by the noise just outside his bedroom window. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. As the room around him began to brighten with the light of a new day he was back with the 15th Infantry, on the beaches at Anzio. His legs began to pump and he could feel the sand beneath his feet as he charged over the dunes. He could hear the screams and the shells exploding all around him and he could smell the salt air, the smoke and the blood as the sound rang through the house again. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. Something brought him out of if just after he had vaulted over a sandbag wall after the same teen-age kraut that he had bayoneted forty some years before. He sat bolt upright and looked around the room as if he expected an SS coming at him out of the closet. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. He froze at the sound and fought the temptation to dive for cover. When he heard it again his mind had cleared and he crept out of bed and walked to the open window. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. There was a big red-headed woodpecker on the drain pipe outside ramming his beak into it like it was a tree. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat. He snuck back to his bed and got his service revolver, a Colt-45 that he took apart and cleaned every Thursday, from underneath his pillow. He went back to the window drew a bead on the bird and thumb cocked the pistol as it just as the bird's head went back to hit the drain again. He had just began to squeeze the trigger when something akin to a tentacle grabbed him by the wrist and pulled his arm down just as the gun went off. He caught sight of the woodpecker flying off just as he was jerked from the window and thrown flat of his back in his grandchildren's kiddie-pool just under the window. What it was that had pulled him out of the window he didn't know, but he looked up and stared it right in the face. It was huge and black and it had two glowing red eyes. Its teeth were as long as he was tall and that tentacle waved back and forth over him. He froze where he lay as a wind-up frog kept bumping him in the end of the nose and the water drained out of the pool through a bullet hole in the bottom.

Buddy's wife, Mabel, was asleep in the front bedroom where she had taken to sleeping to avoid Buddy's freight train snoring. She hadn't heard the bird or the gunshot or her husband's screaming. What woke her up was someone pounding on the front door. She looked through the porch window first before she unlocked the door and let her husband in. He was white as a sheet and soaking wet. He didn't answer any questions, in fact he ignored her completely as he tore through the house like a scalded cat. He called the sheriff, got his shotgun out of the cabinet, loaded it, locked the door, drew the drapes, grabbed his wife by the arm and took her into the closet where they hid until they heard the sound of Sheriff Leo Dorsey calling from the front porch.



Blossom's trainer, George, his assistants Spider and Landon as well as Henry, the midget who did most of the shoveling up after the elephant, made their way down a thin gravel road right at dusk that Friday. The sheriff had gotten a report from some old geezer who he thought saw the elephant although all anybody, including George had gotten out of him was that it had been a demon from the darkest pits of Hell. That he had stared evil in the face and that God had pulled him right out from under the beast's fearsome gaze and brought him to his bosom. George didn't care about all the religion crap, but from the description, minus the fire and brimstone it sounded like an elephant, or some whacked out weirdo's description of one. The sheriff's deputy had been patrolling the area for an hour or two before the sheriff had come and gotten George and drove him to the old man's house. He had found a pile of dung on the side of this little gravel road and radioed the sheriff who brought George to verify that it was indeed elephant droppings and finding a few more nuggets down the road they figured that Blossom had headed that way. The police had to go back to town to help get ready for some stupid festival that they were having so they just dropped them off there on that road and left. They did have the decency to radio the Davie county sheriff who was going to meet them at the county line, which was just a mile or two down that road.



I have to get off the subject here somewhat and tell you that Slobber McAllister slept in the nude. Disgusting thought I know and you're wondering why I took the time to mention it, but I promise it is important. Slobber couldn't even close his eyes wearing anything more than what the Lord gave him and as he and Gene Pickard bedded down at the mysterious nearly bare patch of earth called the Devil's Tramping Ground, Slobber stripped off and slid down into his sleeping bag. Gene didn't think that they should go to sleep and he really thought that Slobber should have kept his clothes on. That if this was indeed the Devil's Tramping Ground and that Satan could show up any minute. If that was the case he thought that they should be awake and clothed just to be ready.

"It don't matter," Said Slobber raising up onto one elbow and eyeing his friend through the dim light of the miniscule little campfire that they had managed to create. "It's the devil. You think that a pair of blue jeans and a leather jacket's going to do anything against the Prince of Darkness. He'll get you no matter what you do."

"Well I want to be awake with my drawers on if he does." They were both silent as Slobber settled down again and Gene reached over from his sleeping bag and tried to stoke up the fire with a stick, but it only seemed to get lower. "Nothing you can do huh?"

"Not if he wants you. You can pray and go to church and believe in God and all that stuff to protect you soul, but if he wants you body he's gonna get it." More silence as Gene sat up and began to poke at the fire harder sending embers up into the air but not doing much to help the flames.

"You pray today?"

"Yep. You?"


"Boy you better get to it." Slobber said and turned over hoping that Gene was going to shut up and let him get some sleep.

"Man, who's idea was this." Gene snapped as he threw some twigs onto the fire.

"You wanted to come see the Devil's Tramping Ground."

"Yeah in the daytime not camp out here."

"I asked you if you wanted to spend the night and you said yes."

"I did not."

Slobber rolled over with both his finger and his mouth ready for a row when, simultaneously, the fire went out and the sound of a stick breaking echoed through the woods.

Meanwhile, having met with Ronald Simmons to assure him yet again that all would be well with the Harvest Festival the next day, Sheriff Leo Dorsey headed back toward the Day Mill Road where he had left the fellows from the circus to look for the elephant. The thing had yanked Buddy Powell out his bedroom window that morning and then according to the elephant keeper headed northwest toward Davie County. Buddy wasn't any help. All he would do when they tried to interview him was preach about his salvation and sing I'm Gonna Be There When the Roll is Called up Yonder while Mrs. Powell played along on the clarinet. His deputy James Myers had found some leavings not a mile away on Day Mill so they had left the carnies and headed into town so Simmons wouldn't blow his gaskets when they missed the meeting. He felt bad about leaving them there, and they weren't too happy about it, so he radioed Arnold Ruth, the sheriff in Davie County and had him meet them at the other end of the road where it crossed t he county line.

He radioed Arnold again to see if they had seen the elephant and said that the trainer had seen some tracks but that was about it. They made plans to meet at the county line and that he would take the circus folk back to their trailer and they would try again in the morning.

He got to Day's Mill Road at a quarter of nine and as he approached the county line he could the Davie County sheriff cruiser. The spotlight was on and was shining along the tree line on the right side of the road. Just as he registered it all Gene Pickard, one of the local nuts, came running between them from the left in a sleeping bag. Leo looked after him and had just hit his spotlight when the elephant that everybody had been looking for barreled past and started closing in right on Stanley's heels. Leo couldn't get his door open before Slobber McAllister, the other local nut, streaked out of the dark and passed the elephant just as they grew even with Leo's passenger side door. His pasty white, buck naked body shining in their spotlights like a lighthouse beacon. By the time that they all could get out of the cars, get coordinated, and take off after them all they could find was Gene's sleeping bag, a very scared tabby cat and Slobber McAllister who Leo picked up about two miles away as he headed down the highway.

What happened was that when Blossom and the woodpecker were strolling through the woods that night they attracted the attention of a big tabby tomcat named William. William had been prowling, looking for the occasional mole or chipmunk when he spied that fat juicy woodpecker. He wasn't too concerned actually with the five and a half ton elephant that the woodpecker was riding on so he started stalking them and followed as they walked down a creek bed biding his time until he could get a crack at the woodpecker. The time came when they all were in sight of Slobber and Gene's little campfire, although all three smelled it more than actually seeing it, when the woodpecker chased a mite down onto Blossom rump. William saw his chance and lunged for the bird who was able to flutter out of the way and the cat's claws stuck into the leathery skin along the elephant's backside. Blossom felt the cat and was more startled than hurt as William's claws didn't come close to piercing her skin, but she did pick up the pace and started trotting through the woods making it sound like the devil himself was taking a midnight stroll. The woodpecker, being disoriented, had only one thought in his panic and that was to get back to the elephant. As he turned back that way his aim was low and instead of lighting on Blossom's back he accidentally stuck his beak in a very sensitive area about a half an inch south of her tail. That hurt and prodded Blossom into a flat out run taking not only the woodpecker but William with her right through Gene and Slobber's campsite. They both had heard them coming, hard not to, and were frozen where they lay waiting to see what form Satan would take when he stepped out of the woods. Their campfire had gone out before Blossom got there so all they could see was a very large black shape making toward them producing a cacophony of bellows, snorts and screeches. Gene screamed, stood up and started running all in one motion and took his sleeping bag with him which did little to hinder his speed. Slobber did take the time to get out of his sleeping bag, which accounts for the fact that Sheriff Dorsey saw him last, but he more than made up for it on the main stretch. His lack of clothes not only made him lighter but decreased his wind resistance dramatically.

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