Junkyard dogs
October 28th, 1989


It was the last Saturday before Halloween and that morning, Flynn and I were supposed to go junkyard hopping for parts for his GTO and Lemans as well as my ’79 Pontiac Trans-Am.  Flynn told me to be ready to go early, to be dressed to get dirty, to pack a change of clothes and that he would come by in his Pontiac Lemans convertible and pick me up.  The plan was simple enough even if the execution would ultimately prove to be flawed in many a way.

Flynn said that we would take his ’69 convertible Lemans.  I was excited because road trips in the old Lemans, with the top down, were always worth the ride especially if we were heading towards the coast.  We’d get finished with our parts hunting about mid-afternoon and spend the rest of the day cruising the beach front highway with the top down, looking for good places to eat, good looking women to meet and any chance to raise a little hell that we could find. 

I woke at 5:30 that morning, showered, shaved, dressed in faded blue jeans, my harness boots, an olive drab T-shirt and my old black leather jacket that I wore because I didn’t care if it got dirty or even ruined; it had been relegated a few years back to a work jacket, nothing more.  A spare change of clothes more fit for socializing, a pair of fresh socks, a pair of underwear, my good black leather jacket, my deodorant stick, and a bottle of cologne went into a black gym bag that I would throw in the trunk of the Lemans when Flynn got here.  I grabbed a smaller orange utility bag and threw in some liquid mechanic’s hand soap, two pairs of heavy duty leather work gloves, a nearly new roll of shop towels, and a dispenser of disposable wet wipes.  I had a well worn backpack filled with about forty pounds of basic tools; a heavy duty ratchet set, extensions, U-joints, a hammer, a rubber mallet, a few pry bars, tape measure, metal ruler, a nearly full can of WD-40, two flash lights, spare batteries, most of a roll of duct tape, slotted and Phillip’s tipped screwdrivers, stubbies, open wrenches, adjustable wrenches, a small notebook, pens and some permanent paint markers.  The latter items were in case we found something we wanted but couldn’t get it today we could mark our territory, make notes on where the parts were and come back to get it on another day.  The smaller utility bag with the cleaning supplies went into the tool laden backpack and I set both bags down in the drive way … waiting on Flynn to pick me up.  This wasn’t my first time to go parts hopping with Flynn and I liked to think that I had pretty much gotten the preliminary stuff down to a routine if not almost an exact science.

I was ready to go by six forty-five. 

It was going to be a glorious day from the feel of the weather. 

At seven thirty I was on my second glass of sweet tea and Flynn still hadn’t showed up. 

I reached down and took my grandfather’s handmade long blade knife out of the custom boot sheath where I kept it thumbing the blade to test its sharpness … it could be a little sharper.  I took a quick sharpener out of a side pocket of my backpack and began to hone the edge on my grandfather’s knife until it had an almost razor keen to it, sharp enough to dry shave hair off of a small patch of my arm when I tested it.  Satisfied with the edge, I slid the knife back into its sheath in my boot, rolling my jeans leg back down to conceal it.  I left my bags packed in the driveway and went to get some more sweet tea from the fridge. 

Flynn was starting to piss me off.

At eight thirty, Flynn still hadn't called and he wasn't answering his phone when I dialed his place.  Flynn was a big boy and he could take care of himself, still, what were friends for if they didn't look after each other every now and then ....  If Flynn was late, especially if he was late to go junk yard hopping on the coast then it was time to find out why.


I took the T-tops off of the Trans-Am, storing them in their black protective bags in the trunk, rolled down the side windows then threw my packed bags over into the rear seat of the TA.  I settled in the driver’s seat, twisted the key in the ignition and the big 403 under the hood turned over and caught on the fifth revolution, rumbling to life with a fast idle lope.  I put my seatbelt on, drew out my Ray Ban aviators from the holder I had mounted on the driver’s side seatbelt guide, pulled on my black leather fingerless driving gloves, and popped Def Leppard's "Pyromania" cassette into the Kenwood.  The eerie guitar licks of "Photograph" began to play through the speakers as I backed the black and gold Trans-Am carefully out of the slanted driveway.

It was time to find out what had happened to Flynn.  In fact, it was past time.

The drive over to Flynn's house was as uneventful as any that I could remember before though I enjoyed the fall weather carried through the rolled down windows and the open T-tops.  I edged my way through the neighborhood where Flynn lived, parked the Trans-Am in his driveway and undid the seat belt, letting it retract.  Everything looked to be in order which only further advanced the mystery of Flynn not showing up to get me this morning.  The garage was shut but he usually kept his toys under lock and key unless he had one so scattered out that there wasn't room to put two inside.  I stood up in the driver's seat and hopped out of the Trans-Am through the open roof, my harness boots clomping on the cement driveway as I landed on my feet.

Flynn didn't answer his door or the doorbell but I knew where he kept his spare key; a loose piece of decorative molding on the back side of the right most column on his porch.  I turned the key in the lock and stood to the side as I opened the front door.  It creaked audibly and I winced, not that surprise was on my side after having pulled right up in the driveway in the not so quiet TA.

I looked inside the house and saw nothing but darkness.  Nothing moved.  Silence.

"Flynn?" I called out.


"Hey, Flynn?!  It’s Shields.  Where are you, you stupid son of a witch…"  The last six words had been a cautious whisper on my part.

No answer.

I walked into the foyer and closed the door behind me softly.  The air was still but not stale.  Flynn's black cat, Socrates, meowed at me and did slow figure eights around my legs.  I picked up the purr monster and carried him through the house, stroking him roughly on the head and marveling at the volume of happy noise that the four legged feline could produce on demand.  I checked the bathroom, Flynn's bedroom, and the other areas of the house but there was no sign of Flynn.

Where the hell could he be?

The search for Flynn continued on into the kitchen where I found a depleted candle (now mostly a pool of hardened wax), the latest issue of Hot Rod magazine, a somewhat well thumbed through copy of Hustler from August, seven beer cans (one had been used as an ash tray for a whole pack of cigarettes, by the evidence present), and a quarter full bottle of Jack Daniels.  All of these items made for an interesting array as a possible subject for a still life there on the table.  The door from the kitchen to the garage was open slightly and the lights of the garage were on.  I headed that way with the thought that the son of a bitch might have finally checked out of life by filling his garage with carbon monoxide … either on purpose or by accident.  That thought kept occurring to me as I stepped into the lit up garage … and found Flynn’s convertible Pontiac Lemans parked there along with his always torn apart ’70 GTO project car.  Garage wasn’t the right term for what Flynn kept his cars and parts in; no, Flynn’s “garage” was more like a museum.

Even if you didn't know Flynn, you could tell he was a diehard Pontiac fanatic.  Flynn's old wooden garage was full of pre-made performance setups, ancient examples of a time when high performance ruled the streets, dinosaurs still roared and high octane gas was cheap enough to waste.  Each example was already done up, just waiting for installation, from single four barrel Rochester Quadrajets sitting on aluminum aftermarket intakes, to dual four barrel Holleys and Tri Power triple deuces on rare factory intakes.

Weiand, Holley and Rochester. 

Pieces and parts.

Several complete factory air cleaner assemblies hung on a peg board while an old GTO hood, flat black, with its wide gaping cold air intake, leaned against the back wall of the garage.  Behind the GTO hood, in rotting cardboard boxes, was a bunch of rolled up posters from old Buick, Pontiac, and Chevy dealerships, advertisements for models from long ago and models no longer made.  Two full size rolling tool chests held his collection of well used tools and plywood boards laid across the top rafters served as the floor for a makeshift attic used for the storage of more parts; bench seats, bucket seats, extra pistol grip shifters, steering wheels, center consoles and bumpers.  In one corner of his garage, he had three different Dana rear ends, all posi units and he had them marked by their gear ratios, from low to high, with a white paint marker.  Flynn would swap out his rear ends on a whim, depending on the season and what kind of driving he anticipated he would be doing for the next few weeks, matching that prediction with his assortment of different axle ratios which he had at his disposal.  Flynn's garage was filled with antique metal gas signs, old gas company literature, long out of production oil products, even an old push button coin operated cigarette vending machine.  Flynn was a pack rat but he had nice stuff and he knew where it was, even if no one else did; there was a method to his madness but it was Flynn’s method alone and pretty much unfathomable to anyone else.

Flynn lived in the past so much so that I often thought some wormhole had spontaneously formed one day and cast him right out of the late sixties.  Flynn was a time traveler of that much I was sure.  He was leap-frogging forward in time and his tried and true method of projecting himself through the multitude of years appeared to be hard liquor, massive amounts of it, used to fuel his own personal biological time machine which usually took on the form of a drunken stupor that was almost indistinguishable from a coma.  I had found Flynn passed out on many occasions with little or no recollection of his actions before.  Whenever I would finally bring him around, his first question would usually be to ask me what day it was and if I had made any coffee.

I got pretty good at making coffee.

I even got to like the black stuff after some experimentation with cream and sugar.  Both Flynn and I discovered that coffee was by itself a good thing, especially when it was composed of about one part coffee to three parts sugar, but it was when coffee was mixed with liberal amounts of hard liquor, especially amaretto for me and whiskey for him, that coffee took on a truly monumental taste and gained supernatural restorative powers for such an otherwise worldly elixir.  It soon became somewhat of tradition that I make coffee the first thing when I showed up at Flynn's house because invariably, I would soon discover that I needed the amazing recuperative powers of that coffee in order to resuscitate my regularly fallen comrade.

Flynn was a great shade tree mechanic, don't get me wrong, but sometimes he would get the most ridiculous itch in his ass and go and do something on a scale that he should have known that he didn't have enough time to do or that would inevitably strand him without a car to get around in.  That's where I came in either to give him a ride to the parts house to pick up some part he suddenly needed, to replace a part that broke, or to get more beer or liquor because he was running low and needed to finish his work.  Flynn, as I have said, was a great mechanic, the only problem was, he only did quality work when he was inebriated or when he was actually in the process of getting stone stinking drunk.  I'm not sure if a lack of alcohol caused him to have these wild ideas, or if the beginning of his substantial quantitative intake started the thought process, it was easy to see it as being both ways.

The more beer or alcohol that Flynn had in him, the better he worked, to a point, that is, and that point was where he finally reached even his own superhuman limit and simply passed out on the garage floor with a wrench in his hand, mouth open, and usually snoring like an uncapped header.  Flynn could drink for hours, waxing and waning through his drunk with a clarity that few other people could hope to achieve, the result of decades of hard drinking experience, but eventually he overstepped his own heroic limits and shortly thereafter succumbed to the laws of nature.

I looked around the garage.  Flynn’s ’69 Pontiac Lemans convertible was here and so was “Mary Ann”, his ‘69 GTO, with its nose in the air on ramps.  His cars were here and I had checked the rest of the house so the last place that he could be was the garage.

"Hey, Flynn.  Are you out here?"

No answer.

“Flynn!?” I shouted.

There came the sound like a sucking chest wound, not something you expect to hear in a garage, let alone Flynn’s garage.  I slowly walked around the ‘69 Pontiac Lemans convertible and over to the ’69 GTO.  The Goat had its nose in the air, the front wheels were up on steel lift ramps and she was chocked on the rear meats.  Flynn had lifted off her hood for some reason and she was naked from the carburetor up, no air cleaner, just that big old Rochester four barrel sitting on top of the aftermarket aluminum intake manifold.  The big twin scoop fed hood of the Goat was leaning up against the side wall of the garage.


I squatted down under the nose, one hand on the bumper, not knowing what I might find … or what to expect.  The misshapen lump of human being sprawled out there on the cement floor of the garage had its mouth open, dirty face up to the underbody of the old Pontiac.  Air rushed into the gaping maw with a hurricane-like velocity and foul air was expelled with a sound like that of wet suction.

I had found Flynn, all right, passed out under the Pontiac, ratchet in hand, dirty shop towel on his chest, and happily snoring away with all the melodious grace of a constipated grizzly bear.  There was a bottle of Jack Daniels near his right hand, covered in greasy fingerprints, and of course it was empty except for a swig or two left at the bottom.

You dumb son of a bitch, I thought, using the bumper to help me stand up. 

"Make sure you're up early, we've got a long day ahead of us and I want to get a good start." I said, mimicking Flynn and mocking him at the same time, turning my back to survey the garage then turning around again to look at my passed out friend.  I stared at the snoring man there on the dusty, oil stained garage floor.  A few more snores and Flynn cut a loud melodious fart which did nothing to disturb his otherwise deep sleep other than make him pause in his snoring until his route of air flow readjusted itself.

"Time to make the coffee." I muttered as I walked back into the kitchen, rummaged around his pantry and came up with enough ingredients to assemble a pot of brew.

Soon, the smell of coffee filled the kitchen and Socrates found me again, doing more figure eights.  I threw out his old water, giving him some fresh water in his bowl and topped off his food with a few shakes from a box of half full dry cat food.  More figure eights were carried around my legs by Socrates before he dove headfirst into his food bowl and started trying to combine purring with eating.  All cats should be like Socrates, I thought, easy to please and very appreciative of your attention.  I sat at Flynn's kitchen table and leafed through the August issue of Hustler then moved on to the Hot Rod magazine, waiting on the coffee to finish.  I even did Flynn one better and raked all the empty beer cans off the table and into the trash, using a folding Buck knife to scrape the melted wax off the table as best as I could.  The coffee pot finished its assigned duty and I looked in Flynn’s cupboard, finding a pair of cups that were reasonably clean.

My watch told me that it was 9:35am.

So much for an early start.

The coffee smelled good, and I mixed mine with one part coffee to three parts sugar in order to achieve what I felt was the optimum Stochastic ratio for hot, black get up and go juice.  Flynn's morning brew was a little different because it came straight from the pot and enjoyed a liberal donation from his good friend, Jack Daniels, before it was ready to be served with a side of three aspirin.  I slipped the aspirin carried the two steaming cups of coffee out to the garage where Flynn was still passed out under the Pontiac.  I put his cup on top of the rolling tool chest and sipped at mine, held there in my gloved hands.  The eye opening effect of the hyper-sweet coffee was immediate and appreciated.

"Good stuff." I said, nodding to my unconscious friend and taking another sip.

"Damn good stuff.  If this doesn't get your motor running, chances are, you're probably clinically dead."

Socrates meowed at me and licked his lips.  I shook my head.

“No, boy.  You don’t get to drink any of this; if you did then you probably wouldn’t blink for two days.”

Socrates made a sound that could only be described as a disappointed meow.

I set my cup of coffee on the back trunk of Flynn’s ‘69 GTO and unlocked the slide bolts on each side of the double wide sized garage door, hoisting it up with the tortured scream of seldom oiled rollers moving along rusty tracks.  Daylight and cool fresh morning air flooded into the garage, bringing little dancing pieces of dust in the air.  The Trans Am still sat there in the driveway, its black and gold finish beautiful in the early morning sunlight.  I took my coffee cup and went back to lean against the front fender of the GTO, crossing my legs and relaxing.

Flynn hadn't stirred, if anything, his snoring was even more rhythmic in nature.  I took another long sip of my coffee and sighed, looking around the garage and outside.  It was going to be a beautiful day, the weather was just right, and not a cloud in the sky.  I took another long sip of my coffee, the heat of the liquid was just the right price to pay for the pleasure that it delivered.  My taste buds signaled my brain that I had reached perfection, achieving the smooth blend of caffeine and sugar which made my central nervous system spasm with modulated glee.  If my heart had come equipped with a tachometer I’d definitely be in fast idle right now.

The benefit of my own special recipe was that after the coffee was gone, I had a good inch to an inch and a half of coffee colored, wet, syrupy sugar residue at the bottom of the cup to further add to the culinary delight, a mixture which I savored with reckless abandon that morning.  When my cup was left with nothing in the bottom but a glistening, crystallized trail from the bottom up the side to the rim, I set it down on the top of a nearby tool kit and crossed my arms, closed my eyes, and sighed deeply.  That particular cup of coffee had truly been satisfying on so many base levels that I felt that a balance had been unfairly upset somewhere in the universe.

Flynn's own cup of coffee still sat there, tiny wisps of steam engaging in a spectral orgy around the rim of the cup.  I craned my head to the side and stared at Flynn, passed out there on the garage floor under the Pontiac.  An evil smile appeared on my face as I arched my back and pushed myself off the fender of the GTO, took Flynn's cup of coffee, and set it over on his work bench.  It would be a pity, nay, an outright cardinal sin to ruin such a fine cup of coffee as that with the shenanigans that I had just envisioned.

“Good morning.” I said softly, smiling with an evil, mischievous grin.

I stepped back over to the Pontiac and looked inside.  Sure enough, there were Flynn’s keys in the ignition.  I opened the door to the Goat, stepped up inside and sat down in the driver's seat.  I made sure that the parking brake was set, looked back one more time to make sure that the rear hides were chocked, put my foot on the brake pedal hard and turned the key in the ignition one click forward.  The electrical system hummed as the gauges all flew to their zero start points.  I checked the fuel, half a tank, and pumped the accelerator several times.  My gloved hand slid around the shift knob of the four speed and I worked the clutch, easing the transmission out of gear into neutral, metal on metal, a soft release.

So far, so good, I thought.

I leaned down, out of the car, holding the steering wheel to keep from falling out,  and looked under the driver’s side bottom of the Pontiac; Flynn was still in a self induced coma and oblivious to the world around him.  I pulled myself back up into the Pontiac by her steering wheel and laughed softly.  This was going to be so delicious.  The next few minutes of my life were going to be interesting to say the least, that is, if I lived through them.  The evil smile spread even wider as I leaned towards the wheel.  My left foot pushed the clutch to the floor as I turned the key in the ignition; the 400 under the hood growled to life, shaking on its mounts and raising a hell awful clatter there in the garage. 


Flynn's GTO was loud as hell in closed quarters, her angry awakening echoing off the garage walls with a tempo that could have been nothing short of Old Testament in description.  Headers thundered their monstrous exhaust note as I let go of the clutch and continued to keep a foot locked down on the brake pedal.  My right foot gently eased into the accelerator and I watched the tachometer come to life as the needle broke a thousand RPM then fifteen hundred RPM and slowly arced on up through the numbers.  The higher the tach climbed, the more the 400 under the hood bucked, the more the exhaust burbled, and the louder the symphony of internal combustion became.  In the space of a few short seconds, I had turned Flynn’s garage into a giant amphitheater with the Pontiac GTO as the performer and Flynn had the best front row seat right there on the concrete beneath that screaming beast.

Three seconds after the engine spun to angry snarling life pure undiluted comedy spontaneously erupted there in Flynn's garage.

I’ll try to explain it as best as I can.

The first thing I noticed was all the exhaust behind the Pontiac, gray clouds exiting the exhaust pipes.  Damn, she was running rich.  I was glad at that moment in time that I had opened up the garage door before hand because if I hadn’t, Flynn’s garage would have been full of exhaust smoke thicker than a London fog.

A loud resounding crash brought my attention from the rear view mirror to looking over the naked engine bay of the Pontiac.  Flynn had come awake, that much was sure, and apparently he had done some kind of maneuver which had resembled a backwards flying crab walk from under the Goat.  In his haste to get out from under the suddenly screaming GTO, he had tried to crawl backwards up and over his rolling tool chest, knocking it over and sending it crashing to the floor.  At that instant in time, I was glad that I had wisely moved his cup of coffee to the work bench because it would have been a real shame to have wasted a cup of coffee that good.

Now, Flynn wasn't that pretty to look at when he was sober, he was only a little more tolerable when he was drunk simply because his wild nature was chemically subdued to some extent and his personality was enhanced.  When Flynn came off of a drunken stupor, he was pretty much a blathering, disoriented wild man with the occasional penchant for breaking things and hurting people … or was that hurting things and breaking people.  I was happy to see that this time would be no exception. 

Seeing Flynn spread eagled against the back wall of the garage, hands and arms wide out to each side like he had been frozen in mid jumping jack was priceless.  The wild eyed look and his open mouth only added to the rapidly developing mirth.  His eyes darted from the front bumper of the Pontiac to the growling engine.  Then he noticed the laughing face through the windshield.

My laughing face.

Color rapidly appeared in his otherwise white features as blood returned to areas it had previously vacated at high velocity.  My guess was that, under speed, Flynn could generate some pretty impressive G-forces which would explain why his blood had pooled in his feet during his rapid retreat.  I could imagine that his heart must be keeping pace with the 400 under the hood there, as both were racing at about three grand and holding steady.  Unlike Flynn, it smelled like the Pontiac GTO was running way too rich.

I let off the gas, the 400 died down to a little over idle and hovered there, loping.  I leaned slowly out of the Pontiac, smiling at Flynn’s bewildered state of being.  It was obvious that the man was in complete and utter disorientation and his brain was trying to process facts as fast as it could.  His eyes were darting all around the garage and his chest was heaving with great regularity.  Flynn’s lips began moving, slowly, like he had never used them and only just now discovered that he had them.  Then his lips began to move more rapidly.  I could imagine the stream of invectives that were coursing through his lungs at that moment in time but all I could hear over the roar of the 400 was one long word.  It was a collection of several choice pieces of profanity strung together with nothing more than Flynn’s need to bunch them up into one another into something uglier than a multi-car pileup on a highway in Florida during a heavy fog advisory.

His long string of bunched up invectives was my cue to leave.  I bailed sideways out of the Pontiac, hit the cement floor and broke into a sprint for the outside world beyond the garage.  I didn’t look back.  Flynn was ten paces behind me, murderous rage and a non-stop stream of profanity was all around him.

Hell was coming for me like a pissed off runaway steam locomotive but I knew that I had a pretty good head start.

I rounded the left side of Flynn's house, dodging his shrubbery out of respect, but Flynn made a path straight through the wildly growing bushes in front of his house, cutting my lead from ten paces to six and wrecking some choice pieces of unkempt vegetation.  Not that he cared, Flynn’s house was more of a nature / horticultural preserve than anything ordered and neat.  I was surprised that he even cut his yard when it needed it.

My breath was coming hard and fast now, roaring into my lungs as I cleared the side of Flynn’s house, rounded the corner, and put on an extra burst of speed to send me into the backyard.  Now, if you have never had a pissed off, incoherent drunk intent on murder chase you with an old aluminum baseball bat, I would like to tell you that it burns more calories in two minutes than just about any other workout in the world.  I chanced one look back at Flynn and almost doubled over in laughter.  The sight of him, dirty clothes, unkempt hair held back by a black bandanna, beard flowing, running after me with a pair of flip-flops, arms swimming through the air as he tried to both grab me all the while cursing and growling like the devil’s own freight train; it was pure comedy in motion.

Flynn let go with another broadside of profanity directed at me, strong enough to remove paint from the side of a rusty old Ford.  I started laughing, which is probably what did me in because I think I was too busy laughing to ever notice what I tripped over ... probably a root.  One instant I was looking back at Flynn and the next the world was spinning around in slow motion.  I felt air rush past me, my leg went numb, and I sprawled across the ground, wet dew and damp earth dirtying up my hands and palms as I spread them out to brace my fall.  I rolled with the fall and came up on my back, scrambling for purchase as I looked up to see Flynn towering over me, both hands high above his head.  He screamed out a blood curdling yell that would have made a Viking chieftain wet his pants. 

I yelled as well.

I yelled louder because I realized that was probably the only thing that could save my head from getting torn off my body at that moment in time.

“Hey, Flynn!  Flynn!  It’s me!  Shields!  Chill out!”

Flynn wavered, off balance, he staggered backwards, panting like a dog in heat getting it good but forgetting what he was getting.

“Huhdefuh?” he said, falling to his knee.

I nodded and caught my breath as well.  Flynn was ugly to look at first thing in the morning.  I saw him retch once and dry heave.  The last thing I wanted was to have an incoherent, pissed off drunk throw up on me, even if that incoherent, pissed off drunk was my friend.

“Shields.  You know, you were supposed to come and pick me up this morning.  We’ve got a busy day ahead of us.  Make sure you’re up early and ready to go.  You know… Shields.  Black Pontiac Trans Am.” I said.

Flynn rocked back and forth, catching his breath.  He spat then dry heaved twice again, trying to steady himself.  Flynn blathered another string of profanity, something having to do with the sexual organs of primates, monkeys in particular if I remember correctly mixed with references to incest and suction.  When he had calmed down and caught his breath, he looked at me and said:

“You … scared … the … god ... damn ... weasel … piss … out … of … me … in … there.”

He checked his self to make sure he hadn’t pissed in his pants.  He hadn’t, which would have probably have been both the crowning achievement of the joke as well as the pen stroke that would have signed my death warrant this morning.

“Monkeynuts!” Flynn shouted at me, rolling over on one side and holding his head.

I sat there, watching as he rolled onto his back and heaved in breath after breath of cool, fall morning air.  I took the time to catch mine as well; my ears were pounding with the sound of my own pulse, my breath tasted metallic, cold and burning.  I hadn’t run that hard in a while now.

Hadn’t had to.

“Shields.” Flynn said at last, rolling over to look at me.  “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kick your sorry ass right here and now.”

“Because there’s a big cup of hot black coffee mixed with Jack Daniels in there on your work bench and if you hurry, it might still be warm.” I said.

Flynn nodded at that, took another breath, then got up and walked towards the garage.  Just like that, everything was forgotten and he ambled off.  I got up and followed him at a comfortable pace.  Crazy drunks were fun to play with but still unpredictable to a certain extent.  That and payback was going to be hell even though it had been so worth it.  When I got back to the garage, Flynn was leaning up against the fender of the GTO, coffee cup in hand, drinking heartily, eyes closed and making little mmmmmmmmm sounds between swallows.  The Pontiac was still running, so I reached in and shut her off.  The garage was suddenly quiet as a tomb.

Flynn looked around the garage, at the tool chest laying on its back, and then up to me.  A strange look crossed his face.

“Hey.  What day is today?” he asked.

He was dead serious.

I reached into my pocket and handed him his three aspirin.


Flynn walked back into the kitchen and grabbed some more coffee, taking a straight swallow from the bottle of whiskey then adding more than a liberal splash to his coffee.  A stream of fresh profanity was directed at the now almost empty Jack Daniels bottle sitting there on the counter near the coffee machine but I guess it was used to taking it from Flynn because it just stood there silently and weathered the storm.  A quick recon of his pantry showed that his normally well stocked cache of liquor was also dangerously low.  He vowed that we would have to get some more today.  It was after ten already and it would be noon before we got down to the Coast, if we were still going junk yard roaming.

“Hey!  Did you clean the table off?” Flynn asked, looking around for the mess that I had made go away.


“Uh, thanks.  Well, hell!  It looks like you fed the cat and watered him too.  Damn.  I guess you’ll be wanting a medal or a kiss or something.” Flynn said, as he sat down with a box of Post Raisin Bran.

“No, but I look damn sexy in a French Maid outfit, with my heels, fishnet stockings and little pink duster.”

Flynn guffawed and wagged his finger in a no-no manner.

“That’s not a mental image I wanted to carry with me to the grave but thank you for sharing it with me.”

Flynn stuck his greasy, dirty hand down into the cereal box and dug around.  I winced and reminded myself not to help myself to anything in Flynn’s house that he had previously opened … not unless I wanted it to taste like axle grease.

“Where’s the gawdamn toy surprise in all of this shit?” he asked, turning the box around to look down into it.

“It’s Raisin Bran …  not Cracker Jacks.” I said.  “I don’t think it comes with a toy.”

“What kind of cereal doesn’t have a toy at the bottom. That’s un-fucking American.  Where is this shit made?  I bet it’s picked by some cheap ass, skating, no life commie tofu eating faggots in Wyoming.”

There came the sound of cereal being crushed in his grip as he started to eat it out of the box by the handful.  Greasy hand into box, greasy hand out to mouth, cereal debris raining down in his beard, the front of his shirt, and probably in his lap.  I lost track of them when they vanished past the lip of the table.  Socrates would probably have a windfall of a brunch later.

“They make a spoon for that.” I said flatly, nodding to his errant behavior while drinking more of my sugar flavored coffee.

“They make a lot of things for a lot of things.” Flynn said.  “I try not to be big on etiquette.  It’s overrated.”

I nodded and reached down to pet Socrates who took that as an invitation to hop up in my lap.  The coffee and sugar had kicked in, I was buzzing, riding a caffeine and sugar high of Old Testament proportions.

“So, man.” I said, leaning back in the chair, putting my cup on the table.  “What are we going to do today?”

“Whatever we damn well please, Top.” Flynn said.  “But it better involve more liquor pretty damn quick.  My head’s killing me.  After that, I don’t care, as long as it’s fun, it has a skirt, or it makes us some money.”

“In that order?” I asked.

“Not necessarily.” He replied, grabbing his head and sighing.  “I’m not in the mind to be picky today.”

“We were going junk yarding down at Hoffman’s and Billy’s…” I stated flatly.

Flynn answered with a mouth full of half chewed bran.

“We were?”

I nodded.

“We can still make Hoffman’s.” I offered.

“Screw Hoffman with a rusty pogo stick.  His prices are higher than the dealer.” Flynn said after he swallowed and burped.

“Yeah, but he’s got good stuff.  Stuff the dealer doesn’t carry anymore.” I said.

Flynn shrugged his shoulders in agreement and with that, I guess I was left to make plans for the day.  Our friendship was like that.  Flynn had big ideas, good ideas, but it was up to me to steer him or us in the right direction.  Flynn took thirty minutes to defunk and re-rag.  After a hot shower and some fresh clothes and some personal grooming he actually looked a little bit human … in as much as he didn’t smell as bad and most of the grease and oil had vanished from his face.  As he sat on his bed pulling on his worn boots, I noticed that Flynn had decided to carry his Colt M1914 .45 semi-automatic pistol in a leather paddle holster in the small of his back.  He stood up after lacing his boots, letting his vest fall over his waist to fully conceal the Colt .45 from view.  He opened a small wood box on top of his dresser and pulled out two fully loaded single stacked magazines for the Model 1914, slipping them into his vest pocket.

“Expecting trouble?” I asked, noticing the Colt .45 that Flynn had chosen to carry, as well as the two extra clips of ammo he had thrown in his vest for good measure.

“Always.” Flynn replied.  “You?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Not so much.” I said.

And then it was that I realized that Flynn always expected trouble.  In fact, I’d never known a time when Flynn wasn’t armed with at least one handgun on his person.  It was one of his quirks and sometimes it led to interesting situations but Flynn believed in his handguns like he believed in his engines … the bigger they were they better they were and nothing beat the classics.


Thirty minutes later found Flynn and me munching on a sack of burgers from Krystals  and roaring down the road in his ‘69 Pontiac Lemans convertible.  Flynn drove with a pair of fingerless driving gloves and Ray Ban shooter sunglasses he had won in a street race last year, his long hair held back in a pony tail with a bit of tied leather.  Of course the Pontiac Lemans convertible didn’t have any air conditioning, so we rode with the windows down, the top down, the radio off, and just the sound of that 400 cubic inch Poncho mill under the hood and the roar of the wind.  I pitched in for gas, especially since Flynn had switched out his rear end for a low geared diffy that made the engine spin like crazy at 60mph and drank gas almost fast enough for us to watch it vanish on the fuel gauge.  By the time we had gone from Hattiesburg to Wiggins, a little over thirty miles give or take, a good quarter of a tank of gas was history.  I had offered to take the TA today but Flynn had been adamant about taking the Pontiac Lemans convertible instead … wanting to put some highway miles on her to blow her out.

Old man Hoffman was a story in and of himself. 

The man was a crotchety, bitter old wizard who lived just outside of Gulfport.  He had a large bone yard with a set of train tracks running along the back of his property line.  Flynn and I had entertained ourselves many times with the idea of walking the tracks late at night and helping ourselves to all of the parts that we needed by stealth and flashlight.  Of course that was stealing but then Hoffman stole from his customers, took it right out of their wallets as they watched him do it and he knew it full well when he was doing it.  Our idea of creating a modern day equivalent of the underground railroad for runaway auto parts was probably not a new one and may have even been tried by some others who liked Hoffman about as much as we did.  

I should point out that Flynn and I only entertained thoughts of stealing from old man Hoffman and that was only because he was a greedy old son of a bitch with a genuine hatred for humanity and especially for anyone who wanted to buy used auto parts.  It was an enigma why the man was even in the used parts business.  Hoffman was sitting on a lot of parts that a lot of people wanted and he knew that for a fact.  It delighted him to no end to put the squeeze on people who came to him for business.  If you didn’t pay his price the first time he quoted you what he wanted for a part he just put the part behind the counter and in no polite way explained to you that you could go try one of his competitors and with that Hoffman was finished with you for the day … if not forever depending on if he could remember your face or not.  Hoffman didn’t steal, uh, deal with the public directly, no, he had some prime examples of the lower end of the Special Ed spectrum to do that for him.  These guys had only slightly more charisma and personality than Hoffman which made them only somewhat more pleasant to deal with.

Flynn and I arrived at Hoffman’s around noon to find the place unusually vacant.  I guess we had missed the morning rush of shade tree mechanics and amateur performance enthusiasts picking over parts because it looked like we had the place pretty much to ourselves if we wanted to.  At first we even doubted if Hoffman’s was open but I hopped out of the Lemans, walked up and tried the door.  Flynn shut down the Lemans, grabbed his worn backpack full of tools from the trunk and we walked on in.

The place was almost empty.  There was only the two of us and old man Hoffman, bitter and removed as he ever was.  We found Hoffman, alone, inside the parts house and that in itself was unusual but he merely grunted and waved us on with a nod of his head as he went back to watching some show on a small color TV set he had set up on his desk.  There was no sound or either he had it turned down to where only he could hear it.  I thought back to Cody at Hinds.  Flynn and I shouldered our backpacks, hit the rear door and walked out into the vast, overgrown junk yard.

Hoffman’s junk yard was a truly tremendous adventure; surely it was more than fifteen to twenty acres of piles and rows of all manner of smashed vehicles, from subcompacts to commercial grade tour busses.  At one time there may have been some order to the salvage but over the years Hoffman had either gotten lazy with how he arranged his parts or he simply stopped caring if his customers could find what they were looking for or not.  In the time between whatever decision it was that had been made, Nature had started to reclaim parts of his yard for her own and some wrecks were not only overgrown in vines, moss and weeds but at least two had trees growing out of their engine bays; a dogwood in an old Fairlane and a pine tree sprouting out of an old Buick.  We walked from one end of a full sized bus to another, with sunlight filtering in through mildew and moss stained windows playing in dust filled rays over the torn up seats and exposed metal and I thought what a perfect environment to listen to Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral in.

“If there’s ever a breakdown in society and we go road warrior, I’m going to set up a movie screen up front, a projector in the back here, use these seats for customers and turn this bus into a wasteland theater.” I said.

“What’s the price of admission?” Flynn asked taking time to light up a cigarette.

“A gallon of gas, a bag of grass or a piece of ass.  No one sees for free.” I said.

Flynn chuckled and shook his head.

“Or it could be barter and trade.  Bullets.  Canned goods.  Medical supplies.  Used auto parts.  Etc.”

“If all of this is going to be a wasteland then where are you going to get the electricity to run the movie projector?” Flynn asked,

“Oh!  I already figured that out.  You see, I’m going to get your hippy ass on a stationary bicycle and you’re going to pedal crank a generator for me that will charge a bunch of old car batteries.  You know, like that old dude who lived with Charlton Heston did in Soylent Green.”

Flynn shook his head, blew smoke and took a long drag from his whiskey flask before offering it to me.

“Uh huh.  I do the work and you get the profits.” Flynn said as I took a pull on his whiskey flask, handing it back to him.

“I’ll slide you a piece of ass every now and then, you know, partners.”

“So … what movie are you going to show the wastelanders?” Flynn asked.

I shrugged my shoulders.

“I don’t know.  It sure as hell won’t be Ishtar.”


Twelve thirty in the afternoon found Flynn and I happily walking through the piles and rows of old cars.  He had his own list of parts to find as did I but for the most part we stayed together under the belief that two sets of eyes could find parts quicker than one set.  We also pretty much knew what the other was looking for and what year models and makes the parts could be found in.  Hoffman had long ago arranged his yard into sections, divided out according to manufacturer but in the years since he had just dumped any old make or model where ever he felt like it.  It was an interesting arrangement with GM pieces in the Ford section, Ford hulks in the MOPAR section, etc.  I’d already mentioned that we thought that Hoffman had either just gotten lazy or maybe he had let it all go out of spite but the end result was that you had to search for your parts at Hoffman’s and that often meant walking from one end of his collection to the other and that was a fair piece to walk full of dead ends and toppled stacks of vehicles.  We hit the Pontiac section first, or what used to be the predominant Pontiac section as it was evidently home now to a large infection of Ford / Lincoln / Mercury / Buick / Oldsmobile / and a few imports.

Remembering my idea for a post-apocalyptic theater made out of an old Greyhound bus, Flynn and I even made up a game built around the concept of “run across the cars like you’re an extra in a really bad, low budget post apocalyptic movie.”  It was a fun game that had very simple rules; you pretended that the nukes had all fallen and that you were now running among the ruins of a major city, across all the bombed out cars.  Flynn became a quick master of the game by running up the trunk of one car, across the roof, down the hood, jumping to the next car in line, and repeating the process.  For a man who looked like he did, Flynn was remarkably agile and quick.  A side benefit of this game was that we found that we could cover a great amount of distance this way and that it was also an excellent way to get up higher so we could spot good picks on the rows to each side. 

The game was, of course, rather noisy to play the sound of us jumping from vehicle to vehicle echoed through the graveyard of metal.  This went on for some time but like all good things it had to eventually come to an end and that end was as unexpected as it was sudden.  Flynn jumped from the roof of one car to the hood, only to cave in the rusted out hood because the engine compartment underneath was gutted and someone had just put the hood back on for show, not even reattaching it at the hinges.  So there you had it, Flynn jumping from roof to hood, rusted out hood collapsing in on itself and Flynn slamming hard against the crunched up hood and falling back against the firewall and windshield. 

It was funny, at least to me, when it happened, but Flynn didn’t think so.  He managed to twist his right ankle pretty bad, scrambling on the collapsing hood and with a flurry of interestingly strung together profanity.  Of course, his injury pretty much ended our impromptu game but it had been fun while it lasted.  Once I managed to stop laughing and once I waded through the storm front of profanity I gave Flynn’s injury a look.  Flynn honestly seemed to have hurt his ankle pretty bad in some not readily apparent way as over the next ten minutes his ankle swelled up and got real tender to the touch.  Twenty minutes after the injury he was limited to slowly hobbling and favoring his good foot.  When I suggested that we go back he would have none of that and so we pressed on even though he was obviously in a lot of pain every time he put pressure on his bad ankle and it was only getting worse.

About a half an hour after the accident I noticed that Flynn was really hobbling on his twisted ankle and grimacing with almost every step so we decided to take a rest on a 1987 Lincoln Towncar that had apparently been the victim of a T-bone collision on the driver’s side.  Flynn reached into his vest and through some form of advanced yoga, managed to retrieve a cigarette, his lighter, and his flask of whiskey using just two hands.  He offered me the flask as he lit up and I took a hit of the Jack Daniels, feeling the whiskey burn down my throat. 

“You probably need this more than I do.” I said.

I handed it back to him and Flynn did something I had never seen before; he took a shot of whiskey, swallowed it, then blew smoke out of his nose.  I guess he had taken a drag while I was taking a shot and I hadn’t seen it, but the effect was eerie to say the least.

“Is it getting worse?” I asked.

Flynn nodded as he reached down and rubbed his ankle.  Bruising had already set in and the area around his ankle was swollen like an egg.

“Is it broken?” I asked.

Flynn shook his head.

“I don’t think so but it sure hurts like a son of a bitch.” He said, cigarette in mouth and his words slightly mumbled.

“I think we should head back … before that gets too bad to walk on because I’m sure not going to carry your hippy ass out of here.”

“So much for uncommon valor …” Flynn said.

“You ready?” I asked, taking his backpack and mine.

“Give me a minute, will you?  Just let me catch my breath and let this thing settle down.”

“All that extra walking when we should have turned back probably aggravated it.”

“Yeah, probably.” Flynn agreed.

He knew that I was right but Flynn was stubborn that way.  We sat there on the trunk of the smashed Lincoln, talking about parts we hadn’t found yet and what we were going to do with our Halloween evening in a few days.  Halloween had become big time for us, we were like kids again and I knew that Flynn’s idea of a good time would involve some kind of alcohol and probably large amounts of it.  Whether that good time was with a large group or just he and I sitting in one of our cars on some two lane watching the stars and talking about whatever came to mind was yet to be determined.  I knew that the bar at a local hotel held a costume contest every year and that some of the women who went were not real hard on the eye.  We had gone to the contest the previous year and it had been a hoot.  Flynn was like me in a lot of respects, which is where our friendship came from, and one of those similarities was that he and I hated crowds, especially loud, obnoxious crowds.  For all of his drinking, the one thing that Flynn really couldn’t stand was another drunk … or a bunch of drunks.  Flynn may have been a hard drinker but he was an elitist as well.

Flynn was almost finished with his cigarette and I had just taken my second hit of whiskey when I heard a long dog bark.  I slowly put the whiskey flask down and looked at Flynn.  The bark came again, louder, a bit deeper and certainly closer.  Flynn and I both slowly looked up at each other, realization dawning on our minds.

“You hear that?” I asked, knowing full well that he had.

“Yeah.  That’s a damn big dog and he’s close, too!” Flynn said loudly.

"Does Hoffman have any dogs?" I asked.

"I don't think so ..."

There came another bark, much closer this time.

"I think we should start heading back." I said.

"Yeah.  I think you're right." Flynn said, hopping down off the trunk, grunting with pain and trying to favor his good ankle.

“Goddamn that’s sore.” He muttered, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

I hopped down too and we both started looking around for the source of the growl.

“I think we need to be moving, like fast as we can.” I offered.

“Yeah.  I think you’re right.”

“Come on.” I told Flynn, helping him stand up and lean on me for support and that’s when the dogs found us.  Flynn committed a very creative if totally sexually impossible blasphemy as I looked up in time to see a pair of dogs round a corner of the junk row, stop to sniff the air, look our way and start scrambling for us.  The dogs were sleek, well muscled, jet black, mouth open, teeth barred, barking and snarling as they ran.  Flynn and I were standing side by side, staring at the huge dogs bearing down on us.  Their snarling and barking was enough to raise the fine hairs on the back of my neck.  There was no doubt in my mind that this was about to get ugly real quick.

"Shoot those sons of bitches.” I said, pointing at the snarling dogs that were headed for us and making a gun gesture with my hand.

My choice of descriptive adjectives was pretty good, given the nature of the threat bearing down on us.  I would laugh later, but not now.

“Shoot them?!  With what?!” Flynn asked.

I turned to stare at him in utter slack jawed disbelief.

“With your Colt!  You know, the Colt you always carry.”

Flynn's look told me what he couldn't.

"Flynn?  Where's your Colt?"

“I don’t have it.” Flynn said flatly.

“What?” I asked, not believing what he had said.  “The hell you haven't got it!  You tucked into the back of your belt under your vest this morning before we left.”

“No.  It’s not with me.  I didn’t bring the Colt with me.” Flynn said softly, almost a whisper.

We heard another loud bark, closer but from somewhere that we couldn't see, over on the next row of junk ... maybe.

“You … didn’t … what?!” I asked in a tone that could in no way ever be considered a whisper.

“I didn’t bring the Colt with me.  I locked it in the trunk when I got my tools out.”

“And why did you do that?” I asked condescendingly.

“I figured old man Hoffman might think I was trying to rob him if he saw it and I didn’t want no trouble with that crazy ass geezer.” Flynn said, getting angry at his own lack of foresight. 

I didn’t have any type of gun on me but I did have my grandfather’s hand crafted knife in my boot sheath just for times like this.

“Tell me that you’re joking.” I said equally as softly as the first dog was almost upon us.

“I shit you not.” Flynn said.  “I left the Colt in the trunk because I didn’t want no damn trouble with that old geezer!”

“We’re fucked.” I said flatly, staring at the two dogs almost at us.

“Like a pair of discount whores on payday.” Flynn added.

I guess in hindsight I should have said “I’m fucked” because Flynn leaped back towards the Lincoln, hobbling on his hurt ankle, abandoning me as fast as he could hobble away.  Great, I thought; outrun and abandoned by a half drunk crippled hippy.  I sighed and braced myself for what I knew was coming, steeling myself and adjusting my stance to fight the snarling dog that would soon be upon me.  I guess I was lucky in that one of the dogs broke off and started chasing after Flynn, which left just one dog for me.  The dog growled, snarling as it scrambled for me, mouth open, teeth barred, and eyes fixed on me.  I pulled my left hand back inside the sleeve of my leather jacket, made a fist and braced myself.

“This is just not going to be your lucky day, boy.” I said.

The dog was probably thinking the same thing about me.

Now, I’ve never been one to be afraid of dogs and I don’t guess I ever will be.  A pack of wolves might concern me, if I was tied down and unable to fight back, but I think too many people put too much fear into dogs and I think it is both an unfounded fear as well as a primal fear.  Dogs just aren’t that tough of an animal to deal with if you use your brain.  Now if these had been lions or tigers or giant, Buick-sized black widow spiders, yeah, I’d be scared.  However, a dog, even a dog, didn’t scare me simply because it was a dog and I was a man, and that meant I was higher on the food chain.  Higher was better, at least in my book and right now that was all that counted.

I looked around, but Flynn was gone, vanished, and so was the second dog. 

Damn.  I didn’t know a half drunk hippy cripple could hobble away that fast.

“Thanks for nothing.” I said loudly, not believing that Flynn had left me like that.

I braced myself, squatting slightly, head down, left arm out to block the dog, left hand closed tight into a fist and tucked back slightly.  The dog came at me, snarling, scrambling for purchase in the dirt.  It leapt at me at the end of its run and I managed to block it with my left arm, aiming my arm so that I jammed my fore arm hard across the dog’s open jaws.  I managed to do so before the dog could get its mouth closed and I finished the move by slapping the back of its head with my right hand, pinning its mouth around my arm as we rolled.  The dog managed to bite down hard on my arm and that brought with it a certain degree of pain that I didn’t wish to experience again anytime soon.  The dog was heavy and there was no way I could have stood against that amount of weight hitting me as fast as it had been running.

The dog and I went down, hard, taking a dirt roll.  I don’t know who was growling harder, the dog or me, but I was definitely giving as good as I got.  I fought to keep my grip on the struggling dog, if I let it go, it would have me.  Right now, all it had was my arm sideways, jammed into the back of its mouth as far as I could keep it and my hand on the back of its head holding it like that.  We rolled and I landed on top, staring down at the snarling dog.  I felt its legs kicking at me, nails scratching for purchase but I held my grip and managed to hang on.  The dog was trying to chew through my arm, but the leather jacket was stopping everything except the pinching pressure.  My left arm felt like it was being stuck with hot needles and my left hand was starting to tingle.  I opened and closed my fist, twice, to try to pump some circulation into it.  With my right hand behind the dog’s head and my left forearm blocking its jaws from closing and biting, effectively taking all of the force out of the pressure that the jaws could exert, I tried to press down with my left arm, to put all of my weight into and onto the dog’s mouth, spreading its jaws as far as I could and use my weight not only as a lever but also to snap the dog’s jaw or even break its neck.  

Easier said than done.

The dog was locked on, squeezing down but he wasn’t getting near enough the leverage he needed and he certainly wasn’t getting through my leather jacket … yet.  At the same time, I wasn’t making any headway in trying to discourage him from chewing on me.  The pain was there, and having a snarling, wild eyed dog staring you eye to eye with inches separating you is not an experience I would highly recommend to the faint hearted.  Each of the teeth that I could see were clearly defined, lips barred and the dog’s breath was putrid. 

I threw all of my weight on the dog, holding it to the ground and letting go of the back of its head.  I reached down with my now free right hand and, fumbling, took my grandfather’s knife out of its sheath in my right boot.  Feeling the comfortable, familiar weight of the knife, I drove the blade forward quickly, scraping on the ribcage of the dog and, meeting more resistance than I had expected, I plunged it in deep between the bones, working the blade in and out quickly, pumping it where I could find purchase, sawing up and down.  The dog let out a long gurgling yelp, muffled by my arm in its jaw, and then kicked spastically.  I twisted the knife left and right, feeling the resistance of the dog’s internals and the warm splash of dog blood on my hand.  The dog kicked some more, pitifully, against me, and made gurgling noises deep down inside its throat.  I hoped I had punched a hole in one of its lungs, maybe both.  I pulled the knife almost all the way out, angled it differently, and slammed it hard up along the side of the dog’s rib, sawing and punching as hard and as deep as I could.   I almost felt sorry for it, almost, but then it stopped moving and I slowly began to ease my weight off of it.  The dog’s eyes stared vacantly at nothing in particular and the rear leg slowly pawed at the air. 

“Sucks to be you.” I said, taking the bloody knife out and wiping it on the dead dog’s fur.

Black bloody bile and some partially digested food suddenly belched from its mouth and then it was still, dead in a pool of its own fluids.

“And that’s just nasty …” I admitted, grimacing a little at what the dead dog had given up there at the end.

I caught my breath, rose to a squatting position, thinking that I would have to find Flynn.  There was still the second dog loose and Flynn was probably in the back seat of some wrecked car with a snarling dog scratching at the dirty glass trying to get in to eat him.  I guess that I would have to go find him and rescue his crippled ass.

Thinking back, I really don’t remember hearing the second dog at all but I sure as hell felt it when it slammed into me from behind and sent me sprawling.  My knife left my hand for whereabouts immediately unknown and I managed to use God’s name in vain as I flailed out as hard as I could to keep the snarling, gnashing teeth from sinking into anything vital.  The dog was on top of me, barking and snapping all around my neck, looking for purchase as I threw my head into my shoulders to keep it from getting any chance of the dog digging in on my ears or face.  There was dog breath in my face, snarling, barking, growling teeth threatening to tear my nose or ears or lips off of my face as I reached out from a prone position and grabbed the dog by its thick chain collar.  It tried to bite my hand but I twisted the collar to the point where we were both at a standoff, I had one hand around the only thing I could hold it with and it was in no position to get at that hand.  The dog pulled back, twisted, jerking, trying to free itself.  I had hold of a snarling dog that was trying to bite my wrist but I held on.  The damn mutt was strong, actually dragging me along the ground as it tried to pull away, tried to pull me off balance so it could get away and come at me again.  I scrambled forward somewhat and punched it in its nose as hard as I could … once … twice … making it yelp in pain but because I was off balance I didn't think I was doing anything but pissing the dog off.  I tried to throw a third punch but the dog managed to move its snarling jaws in the way and I pulled the punch at the last second, right before I had put my fist in its mouth.

There we were, me on my knees, one fist wrapped tight around the dog’s neck chain, the other hand looking for an opening to punch the damn mutt.  The dog kept trying to drag me forward, to get away from me, to pull me off balance but I managed to knee walk with it and for a few seconds the contest of strength between me and the dog became the strangest looking tug-o-war probably ever seen.  I darted my hand in and managed to get a grip on its throat, sliding the hand with the grip on the collar up so that I could get two hands on the chain around throat of the dog. With some success and some error, I managed to get both my hands around the dog’s chain and started to squeeze as hard as I could, tightening the chain, taking all of the slack out and then using it as leverage to garrote the damn dog.

I squeezed tighter and tighter until I couldn’t feel my own fingers under the chain.  The dog started to make gasping sounds as I wrestled with the dog, twisting its body hard and slamming its head to the ground as hard as I could.  The dog continued to struggle and scratch at me, twisting its head to try to bite at my arms as I dug my thumbs into its throat trying to crush its windpipe or choke it quicker to death.  We struggled and I slipped and rolled but kept my grip as I did so.  We were side by side as I continued to choke the life out of the dog.  The dog shook side to side, violently, using its own weight to try to free itself and my left hand came out from under the dog’s chain.  I flailed about with the left arm, trying to punch the dog in the nose but I had lost my advantage and now I was on my back, one hand holding the dog’s chain and the other hand trying to get a hold again of the dog.  The dog got its breath back and jerked hard then rammed forward, charging at me with teeth barred.  I whipped my right arm down as hard as I could and tried to bring my left arm up to grab the dog.

No good.

Another dirt roll and I was again now on bottom, laying on my back, but I had both hands around the dog’s throat and was choking it to death as best as I could, grabbing for skin, squeezing and trying to feel for anything that felt like it might be vital to the dog’s immediate survival.  Why wouldn’t this damn mutt die?  I had almost twisted its head off with its own chain, I had almost pinched its head off with its own chain … I was squeezing the hell out of its throat with my fingers and thumbs ... how much more fight did this damn dog have in it?

I was pushing its snarling, spit dripping maw away from me when I saw the shadow fall over us; a large black shadow eclipsed the sun.  My first thought was that it was old man Hoffman.  That thought turned from rescue to the idea that he might not be so happy with me for having butchered one of his dogs, if it really was one of his dogs ...  I saw the shadow move, stepping in to stand over the dog and meI.  The shadow raised something over its head, and then brought it down fast and hard.

I had about a half second to question what was going on before pain shot down my arms as they were brutally jarred with the heavy impact.  The dog yelped once loudly on having its skull caved in and thrashed there in my grip.  A loud huff, the sound of something whipping through the air and then another impact, this one not so square.  I felt the second impact probably more than the first and the dog instantly went limp in my hands, jerking spastically.  My arms shook with the force of the blow, my thumbs felt like they were going to snap backwards and break as I felt the impact clear down my arms and all the way into my shoulders.  The top of the dog’s head was now concave shaped, the eyes were at a wrong angle and there was something protruding from the skull at the front, a rusty piece of metal bar that made the dog look somewhat like a retarded unicorn.  I held the dead dog there at arms length then let it fall on top of me.

Warm, heavy, stinky dead dog.

I looked at the dog laying there on top of me, staring at me with its smashed in skull.

“What the …”

The shadow standing over me resolved itself into the likeness of Flynn.

I looked up as Flynn stepped over me, holding a bloody, rust covered tire iron in one hand and wiping his long hair back out of his face with the other hand.  He reached down to the chain collar on the dog and jerked it up and out of my grip, hauling the dog’s body off of me and throwing it to the side with a caveman-like grunt.

I slowly sat up, looking from the dead dog up to Flynn.  The dog kicked again spastically.  Reflex motion from its demolished brain misfiring off to its otherwise intact nervous system.  A long time passed as Flynn and I caught our breaths.  I finally decided to break the silence.

“What took you so long?” I asked Flynn, rising to a sitting position and wiping my face with both palms.

“I had to find something to whack that dumb son of a bitch upside his head with.” Flynn said, pointing the bloody tire iron at the dead dog in an accusing manner. 

“Why?  Did you get lonely?” he asked, looking at the bloody tire iron like it was some piece of art.

“No, but I did say some really ugly things about you.”

“Yeah, well, most people have.” Flynn said, favoring his ankle.  “Doesn’t mean that you meant what you said.”

“Yeah.  Yeah, it does.” I whispered, but Flynn didn’t hear me.

Flynn, grunting as his ankle complained, twisted at the hips and threw the bloody tire iron as hard and as far as he could, hurling the old trunk tool over a huge line of cars.  It spun through the sky, dropped and hit the top of one of the cars, punched a loud dent down in the roof, then bounced off into the underbrush and skittered, rustling leaves as it plowed to a stop far, far out of sight.  Flynn hopped to a more upright stance and took a pull from his flask.

“Let’s get the hell out of here.” He said, starting to hobble off, drinking from the flask.

Then he noticed the other dead dog and stared at it.  He took another long pull from his flask, hobbled over, and stared down at the dog.  His sweaty hair fell back down across his brow.

“Damn.” He said.  “Did you do that?!”

I nodded, not even looking.

“Remind me never to try to bite you.” Flynn said, nudging the first dog’s body with the toe of his boot.

“Or try to hump my leg.” I added, standing and walking over to where Flynn stood.

My grandfather’s knife!

I had lost it when the second dog hit me by surprise from behind.  A quick search found the hand crafted knife nearby and I returned it to the sheath in my boot.  I wiped the flecks of dog blood from my face, hoping I didn’t taste it in the process.  Flynn handed me the flask and I took it without thinking twice.  I took a small pull of whiskey, rinsed and spit.  The next pull was longer and went down with a pleasing vengeance.  The therapeutic properties of Jack Daniels whiskey are amazing and simply cannot be understated.  I capped the flask and handed it back.  As I squatted there, adjusting my pants leg over my knife and my boot, I knew that we had to get rid of the dead dogs.  Leaving them out in the open like this wasn’t the smartest course of action as they’d be found pretty quickly.  I looked at the dead dogs lying there in the path between the junk cars.

"Do you think that those were Hoffman's dogs?" I asked.

Flynn shrugged his shoulders.

"I can't remember Hoffman ever having any dogs before, can't remember him even talking about having them.  Never heard anyone else say anything about Hoffman having any dogs ..."

"Yeah ... but what if they're Hoffman's dogs?" I asked.

"Well?  What if they are?  Fuck him and fuck them." Flynn said.

Flynn started to hobble off but I kept looking at the dead dogs.  Flynn stopped, lowered his head and shook his head.

"Shit.  Shields.  Tell me that you're not thinking of burying those sons of bitches."  Flynn said.

"Might not be a bad idea." I replied, standing up, putting my hands in the pockets of my jacket and walking slowly towards the first dead dog.

"Huh?  Why?"

I stood over the first dead dog.

"Think about it.  If these are Hoffman's dogs then we just killed his dogs and I don't know about you but if I had a couple of dogs, especially dogs like this, and someone came on my property and killed them I'd be pretty pissed off about that."

Flynn rubbed his chin in thought then ran his fingers through his scraggly salt and pepper hair.

"Yeah, well, if they are his dogs then they attacked us.  I can sue his geezer ass for that.  Hell, I can own this whole junk yard." Flynn said.

I shrugged my shoulders.

"These dogs may be his, they may not be.  Who knows what's on the other side of those tracks.  These dogs may be strays, they may even be wild.  Even if they are his dogs, what do you think he's going to do?  If he finds out that they attacked us he's going to realize he's in a lot of shit.  He may lie and say they aren't his, just to get out of any legal trouble."

"Hadn't thought about it that way.  It would be our word against his and it is his property.  So ... "

"So ... I think we should get rid of the dogs, don't say anything, and get the hell out of here ... maybe not come back here for a while.  Maybe a long while."

Flynn rubbed his chin in thought, again, nodding slowly.

"Yeah.  Now that you put it that way, that might not be a bad idea.  Maybe we should hide the bodies."

"We don't have to bury them, just help me find a couple of old cars with trunks with keys and we'll hide the bodies there."


"Yeah.  We can hide the dogs in the trunks of a couple of cars, lock the trunks and throw away the keys."

"Junkyard maffia style." Flynn said.

"Junkyard maffia style." I agreed.

Flynn and I did a quick clean up of the scene of the fight.  For some strange reason, most of the cars at Hoffman’s still had keys in their ignitions, not that they would ever run, but you wouldn’t believe how handy it was to find parts you needed but couldn’t afford right now, take them, hide them in the trunk of some other make or model of car (my favorite trick was to hide Pontiac Trans-Am parts in the trunks of full size, four door Ford models) then take the key, lock the trunk, and walk away.  Later we would come back, use the keys, open the trunks, and haul our parts up to Hoffman’s office and pay for them.  It was kind of like a junkyard version of layaway.

I had a different idea now.

We found an old '80 Crown Victoria nearby with the keys still in the ignition, I popped the trunk on the car and made sure it wasn’t full of parts (in case other people used our trick as well).  Flynn and I then grabbed up the dead dog, each taking a pair of legs between us, and threw it in the trunk, slammed the trunk, and locked it.  We carefully but quickly repeated the process for the dog that Flynn had bashed the brains in, using the trunk of a 1978 Dodge Magnum simply because it was conveniently close.  I took the keys to the trunk and threw them as far away as I could, hearing them jingle as they hit the top of some car then fell off onto another car.  Flynn rested against the trunk of the Magnum and wiped his forehead.

“He’ll start to smell in a few days, especially if the sun hits that trunk and makes like an oven.” Flynn said, frowning.

“The ants will find him anyway.” I add.  “He’ll be bones in no time and I doubt it’s like anyone is going to come looking for parts from this car, not with it having sat here this long…”

I sighed and looked at my gnawed on leather jacketFlynn noticed this as well.

“You’re a mess.” Flynn said.

"Yeah, well, at least I can still walk."

I took off my leather jacket and looked at my arm.  Flynn took me by the wrist and raised my arm to look at it.  Where the dog had tried to chew through my jacket there were tell-tale signs of bruising and some abrasion but no bleeding.  Flynn stabbed the most colorful area hard with his finger.  I jerked the arm back quickly with a pained look.

“Does that hurt?” he asked flatly.

“Yes, damn it.” I said equally as flatly.  “It hurts.  Thanks for poking it really hard.”

Flynn was like that sometimes, just said stuff that kind of made sense given the current situation but which you wouldn’t expect anyone in their right mind to really say.  I really wanted to kick his ankle and ask him if that hurt.  After a few minutes we both felt like getting up and getting out of there so we backtracked to where Flynn had found the tire iron and picked up his backpack which he had left on the hood of a full size Pontiac station wagon, itself bleached by years in the sun and covered in sparse patches of a green fungus that was starting to spread.

I put my leather jacket back on and we headed out of the junk yard through the sales office.  As it was, old man Hoffman didn’t even look up as we walked through his yard office and out into the parking lot.  He was too busy watching his little TV.  We didn’t say anything and neither did he.  Since it was obvious that we didn't have any parts and he wasn't going to make any money off of us then he couldn't be bothered to give a rat's ass about us.  Flynn and I hopped in his Pontiac Lemans convertible and hit the highway.  It was obvious that just the simple act of driving was causing Flynn a great amount of discomfort and after about thirty minutes, Flynn finally couldn’t take the pain in his ankle anymore so we pulled off near Wiggins at a gas station.  I bought a pack of BC pain reliever, an ACE bandage, a bag of Lay’s potato chips, a bottle of cold Pepsi, a bottle of water and a bag of ice.  I walked back out to the Pontiac Lemans convertible parked behind the station where Flynn was sitting on the hood , his sock and shoe off, looking at his ankle.  It was swollen and starting to bruise.  I didn't think it looked right or ... if not right then definitely not normal.

"What did you do?  Go grocery shopping?" Flynn asked.

"Yeah.  Got some basics." I said, handing him the ACE bandage.

"What's this for?" he asked.

"Wrap up that ankle.  Imobilize it, keep it from moving around so much and maybe it won't hurt so much until you can get it seen by a doctor."

"I'm not going to any damn doctor." Flynn said.

"I think you're going to need to.  This doesn't look like something you can take some aspirin for and make it better."

"Watch me." Flynn said.

Flynn struggled as I wrapped his ankle with the ACE bandage, gritting his teeth.  I could see that he was in more pain than he let on.  Flynn groaned again as I did the best that I could to stabilize the ankle and foot in place.  His ankle looked swollen, really swollen, even before being covered in layers of ACE bandage.  I pulled it tight.  Flynn groaned.

"Don't be such a monumental pussy." I said.

“This is messed up.” Flynn said flatly, his face almost white and sweat starting to form on his brow.

"Messed up like you need to see a doctor of messed up like you're going to be limping for a while?"

"I told you ... Don't need a damn doctor ..." Flynn complained, holding his wrapped ankle and slowly kneading it through the bandage.

I pulled the ACE bandage tighter and Flynn let out a long deep grunt.

"Yeah.  I think you're going to a doctor for that."

"Are you finished?" Flynn asked.

I tacked the bandage with the two metal clips it came with and looked at my handiwork.  Not bad for an Eagle Scout.  I handed him the BC powder and offered him my unopened bottle of water.  He shook his head, dropped the entire packet of BC into his mouth then took a shot of whiskey from his flask to wash it down.  I grimmaced at what I imagined that tasted like but Flynn didn't bat an eye.  He took the bottle of water from me more as an afterthought and drained half of it in one long pull.

“Let’s go.  I’m getting hungry and my ankle is killing me.” He said.

Flynn didn't look good ... in fact, he looked a bit pale which for him was a feat in and of itself but with his ankle stablized and the water in him he at least started to look a little better than he had just ten minutes ago.

"Give me the keys." I said.  "You can't drive hobbled up like that."

"Won't argue with that ... just don't go and twat up my Lemans."

"Not planning on it." I said.

Flynn handed me the keys without any further protest.  I helped him down off the hood and he leaned on me pretty hard as he hopped over to the passenger side and I helped him in.

"What's the bag of ice for?" he asked.

"Your ankle." I said.

I picked up the bag of ice and dropped it on the pavement, hard.  Once, twice, three times ... breaking it up as much as I could then sliding the bag of broken up ice down under his foot, putting an old towel on top and resting his wrapped ankle on the towel like a pillow.

"Goddamn, Shields.  You really were a Boy Scout." he whispered, trying to get comfortable and gritting his teeth.

"Eagle Scout.  Order of the Arrow, too." I said.  "Yeah, that ice might take some of the swelling out.  How's that?"

Flynn, gritting his teeth, nodded quickly and then tried to get comfortable in the passenger seat.  I shut the door and walked around to the driver's side.  I hopped in, stuck the keys in the ignition, and fired the Pontiac Lemans convertible up.  Shifting into gear, I eased the Lemans out of the gas station parking lot and back out onto the highway.  About two miles north of Wiggins Flynn produced a hand-rolled joint and lit up with his Zippo, smoking as I drove.  By the time we got back to Hattiesburg, got some fast food and got back to Flynn's house he was feeling no pain.

No pain at all.

Three days later Flynn did go see a doctor who determined that Flynn had a really bad pulled muscle and a fracture of his heel.  It was almost three weeks later before Flynn was able to get around without a crutch and he hobbled for a good month after that.  We never went back to Hoffman's ever again but it wasn't because we were scared to, no, it was that things in life just worked out that way.