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Runnin’ the River

“How was it, buddy?”

 “Durn near the best prawns and chilli sauce I ever had, Vince.”

 It was too, with all the right fixin’s an all. Plenty green ginger and not so much chilli that you couldn’t taste nuthin’ else – just like Ma made. She learned me to cook. All the years workin’ in restaurants prawns was my specialty; never did tell the boss I dumped his recipes and used my Ma’s. Rest her soul.

 “Beer?”

 I nod at Vince and he ducks out and lobs me a nice cool can. He can be a bit crusty, Vince, but a sound guy. I’ve known him for … well, it’s gettin’ on for 12 years now. You can depend on him. As we say here in Texas, he’ll do to run the river with. If you’ve got a tough assignment, he’s the guy to have along. And right now I’m feelin’ about as jittery as a long-tailed cat in a room full o’rocking chairs.

How’s the time? No sweat yet … June 10th, now there’s a happenstance; big brother Jake’s birthday. Bastard. I guess neither one of us got what you might call a real good start – our Pa lit out before we hardly set eyes on him; Ma all wore out working day and night just to keep the shack around us. I don’t blame her for the sorry guys she brought home, she was an easy mark, but they sure had a bad influence.

 God knows I ain’t no angel. I’ve done dope and a good bit of thieving in my time. Got put in the slammer for it too – twice.  But Jake. He was a whole nuther thing. Some guys runnin’ dope are as dumb as a box o’rocks. Not Jake the Snake. He was smart and thought he was ridin’ high; done it by pushin’ high school kids. Kids. Youngsters with no better start than we had. And he pimped the girls he got hooked. He was makin’ it all ways. But he took risks when he started jerkin’ the suppliers around.

 I was goin’ straight then. Chef: finger-lickin’ good prawns. With Angie, my steady girl – a real foxy lady, but sweet with it. That was too much for big brother. He put the moves on her, used her, would have trashed her like every woman he come in contact with, but my beautiful Angie topped herself. That really choked me up. The bastard deserved everything he got.

 “Time to move, buddy. You ready?”

 “Sure thing, Vince. Equipment all checked?”

 “All good.”

 There’ll be no screw-ups – these guys get plenty of practice. So here I am. Restraints in place, ready to run this river alone. We can’t all live honest, that’s a fact. But a man should die honest.  No judge nor jury ever believed it, but it weren’t me as killed my arse-hole of a brother. Wished I had. Whoever did – live long and sweet, buster.

 Lord ha’mercy on my soul.

************

Trish Nicholson is the author of the newly released A Biography of Story, a Brief History of Humanity

[Runnin’ the River  won first prize in a Flash500 competition in 2011 and was published on their website and in the print edition of Words with JAM magazine, and in Inside Stories for Writers and Readers (2013, not currently available).]

Runnin’ the River
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