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People Are Strange; or, The Drifter


Mr. Galloway

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Mr. Galloway

People Are Strange; or, The Drifter

 

When you spend your life drifting from place to place, you’re bound to encounter the strangest folks and equally as strange incidents. A drifter I met in New York once told me that, saying that he’s had countless encounters himself. Being the lifelong solitary man that I am, I dismissed his assertion, telling him that such a thing would never happen to me since I try my damndest to keep to myself. But here’s a funny thing about life: sometimes, it throws you an unexpected curveball. There you are, minding your own, then without warning, you’re somehow sucked into a scenario against your will. I was hit by one of these curveballs during my recent stay in rural Mississippi; so rural, in fact, that the little unincorporated town of Carcerville has a population below 200, or so their welcome sign says.

 

There I was in Old Ben’s Diner, the most famous spot in town, finishing up a plate of steak with a side of mashed potatoes drowned in gravy, downing the last few drops of wine. I looked up at the clock hanging above the entrance, noticing that it’s exactly five minutes and thirty seconds away from reaching ten o’ clock at night.

 

“Would you like a slice of cheesecake for dessert, stranger?” Miss Daisy, the waitress, asked with a thick but lovely southern twang complementing her voice. “Nobody makes cheesecake like Old Ben!”

 

“Why that sounds delicious, ma’am, but I’m afraid I’m quite full. Perhaps some other time. I would like that bill, though.” A soft smile grew on her lips as she nodded. The bill was brought, I paid the $10.56, grabbed my things and made my way out.

 

“Have a good night, stranger.”

 

“Likewise.”

 

“Y’all come back now.”

 

There’s something about the breeze of a warm summer night that just makes your life a bit magical. It makes you feel nostalgic. Memories of my youth flooded my mind. I remember my grandfather’s lectures about the stars, and how they were much more visible when he was my age. They still are, he would clarify, but only when you’re in a remote area, away from the boisterous big city. And now as a man who’s travelled everywhere from urban landscapes to near-ghost towns, I’ve come to realize the truth behind grandpa’s tales. I look up at the night sky gaping over me, taking note of the countless diamonds that twinkle in it; the only thing left to complete the spectacle would be a big full moon. The night sure does funny things inside a man.

 

“Psst! Hey, stranger! What in tarnation are ya up to? Tryin’ to count the stars!?” I stopped dead in my tracks and turned my attention to the voice. It came from the alleyway, the culprit being a slimy-looking fellow who stood against the wall. His hair was long but you could spot a receding hairline. A knapsack was dangling from his hand and he wore a white sleeveless shirt with the Confederate flag stamped in the center, it and his jeans being covered in grime.

 

“Excuse me?” I questioned.

 

“I asked if you’re tryin’ to count the stars. You’re jus’ lookin’ at the sky like it’s sometin’ special.”


“As a matter of fact, I am. And they are special.”

 

“Ha, pfft. Well, that’s dumb. What does your shirt say?” He walked over to me and leaned close to read the words on my shirt. “Qua-dro-phe-nia. Huh, weird name for a shirt, but whatever.”

 

“It’s not the name of the shirt, it’s an album.”

 

“Yeah? Well, whatever.” He covered his cough with his forearm (kind of surprised he had the decency to do that) and spat out a glob of phlegm. “So, how are ya?”

 

“Fine, yourself?”

 

“Me? Oh, I’m doin’ jus’ swell. ‘Specially since...I gotta good suckin’ from the neighborhood crackhead for jus’one buck.” He let out a sight in satisfaction. “Yup. Gums felt weird against mah dick, but ol’ girl knows how to make a man’s knees tremble. Shame, really. She was a sweet gal before the ice got ‘er good.”

 

“Oh, really? Well, good for you.” I turned to walk away.

 

“Hey, where ya goin’? Don’t ya wanna stick around? Know each other more?”


“Nah, I think I’ve learned more than I need to know about you.”

 

“Oh, come on, don’t be that way! For all we know, we could be long lost brothers. Come ‘ere, brother.” He forced himself on me to give me a hug. My immediate reaction was to push him away.

 

“Hey, get the f*ck off of me, man!” I brushed my shirt with my hands, hoping I didn’t catch something from him.

 

He scoffed. “Fine, be that way. Guess I won’t tell you my little secret.”

 

“Good,” I replied. Once more, I turned to walk away. He rushed towards me and pulled on my arm to turn my attention back to him.


“Alright, alright, I’ll tell ya.” He cleared his throat. “I’m...I’m this town’s local serial killer.” A wide grin grew on his ugly face. I raised an eyebrow and leered at him.


“You’re so full of sh*t.”


“Nah, I ain’t! Looky here.” He rummaged through his knapsack and pulled out a blade that appeared to be around twelve inches long. He smirked as he continued. “Haha, ya see these stains? That’s dry blood, stranger. Never even bothered cleanin’ ‘em. And don’t you worry, you don’t have to worry about me killin’ ya. I only kill bitches, ya know, whores.” I heard a door open, I looked back and noticed Miss Daisy was exiting the diner, carrying a bag of trash. My new “friend” quickly put the knife behind himself (I assume he had a holster somewhere back there), and leaned against the wall. He took a pair of dark sunglasses out of his pocket and put them on.


 “Yup. I ‘specially love ‘em when they have nice...assets.” Miss Daisy walked towards our direction, making her way to the dumpster past us in the alleyway. Even with his sunglasses on, I could tell his gaze was following her. “Sometimes I fish ‘em when I see the perfect moment. Other times, I have to resort to fantasizing. But fantasizing is boring, I need a permanent placeholder, if ya will. Something to feed certain...” Miss Daisy made her way back, walking past us two. As she did so, Mr. Serial Killer-man finished his sentence, “Fetishes.” With that said, he lunged at Miss Daisy, covering her mouth with his left hand, his right one busy threatening to cut her throat open.

 

“Hey! Hang on there, buddy, don’t--”


“SHUT UP!” He barked. Miss Daisy’s muffled screams tried to escape his grip. “You shut up too, bitch!” His gaze shot back at me. “You. You’re going to help me out.” He kicked his knapsack at me. “Reach in there, you’ll find a camera. Take pics of me threatening this bitch’s life. Flash is ready, just point and click.”

 

“A picture?”

 

“What are ya, a parrot? Yes, a picture. And don’t try anything funny, unless you want this bitch bleedin’ to death at your feet.”

 

I was too baffled by the request to say anything more. A picture? Really? A better question is why this self-proclaimed serial killer would risk getting caught by having someone else take it for him? In retrospect, I suppose it was all just part of that fetish he mentioned, having a third party watch as he threatens whatever hapless woman he snatches. But still…

 

“Are you f*cking deaf?! Do what I tell you or I swear I will cut her!”


How in the Hell did I end up in this situation? Just a few moments ago I was admiring the night sky, pondering about my childhood. Taking no heed of the world around me, living in the recess of my mind, as usual. But now I’m being dragged into this...this...I don’t even know what to call it.


I looked down at the knapsack. Then in Miss Daisy’s eyes; she’s horror struck. I let out a sigh, shook my head and reached for the knapsack. Are you seriously going to oblige to this lunatic's demand? This is usually the part where the hero stands up for the beautiful damsel in distress and saves her, right? But I’m no hero. I just want to go back to minding my damn business as soon as possible. I took the camera out of the knapsack.


“Don’t you try anything funny, or I swear I’ll kill the both of ya!” sneered the knifeman. Yeah, yeah. I pointed the camera at him and Miss Daisy. Am I supposed to wait for a pose, or what?

 

“Hey, what in the Hell?” I hear a woman’s voice behind me. “Let ‘er go, you f*ckin’ brute!”


A devils’ grin grew on the knifeman's lips. “You want some o’ this too, bitch? Come ‘ere, I’m hungry for more!” He pushed Miss Daisy onto the floor, and lunged at the heroine. And what a heroine she proved herself to be, immediately dodging his attempt to stab her, disarming him, and knocking him to the ground with an elbow to the face.


“sh*t!” Not even bothering to grab his knapsack or reclaim his camera, the now-unarmed knifeman got up and bolted off so quickly he’d give Spring Heeled Jack a run for his money.


“You!” Miss Daisy’s savior turned to me. “Did you have anything to do with this!?” I proclaimed my innocence and explained what had happened. “Well, why didn’t you try and stop him?!”


“He had a knife.” It was the only defense I could come up with. She scoffed and rolled her eyes as she shook her head. What if I did try to subdue the attacker? I’d most likely get stabbed and die. Or suffer a serious wound whose much-needed medical care I won’t be able to afford. Yeah, I’m no hero.


She bent down to Miss Daisy to offer any more help and consolation. After a few back and forths they walked off, back into the diner.


I don’t know how to make sense of any of this. Even now, just seconds after the ordeal, standing in the silent night, I’m struggling to comprehend what just happened. I thought about going back to my stargazing, but decided against it upon realizing that it’s what indirectly led to this episode. Can’t even enjoy the beauty of the universe without the sightseeing being soured by some savage. Instead, I opted for heading to the local motel before more sh*t happened, call it a night, and take a cab out of here first thing tomorrow.


When you spend your life drifting from place to place, you’re bound to encounter the strangest folks and equally as strange incidents. Carcerville, Mississippi is a place I’m sure as Hell not going to visit any time soon.

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