Last Bit of Dirt


“Mr. Harris?”  The damned voice sounded like a rock sliding back and forth over a cheese grater.  “You ready for your vitamin shot?”

“Hell no.”  Harris rolled over, away from the nurse.  It was bad enough that he had to suffer the indignation of being here.

“Mr. Harris, we’ve been over this before.”

He relented, rolled over and faced her.  God damn, he thought, another day of shitty living.  He sighed.  He had to face a new day in the White Oaks Retirement home. Harris hated being here in the nursing home but there was no one else to take care of him.  He also had never believed he would’ve ever ended up in a nursing home.  He had always done the dirty work for the Family without a complaint.  When he got too old, the Boss retired him.  He shouldn’t complain too much.  They were footing the bill for the nursing home and also the meds for his beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.   It was a miracle he woke up every morning.  “Odell?”

“Yes, Mr. Harris?”

“You’re an ugly bitch.”

She gave a thin smile, reached over and pulled the blanket away.  She took out a syringe and, without further ceremony, jabbed it into his buttocks.

He groaned.  “Thanks.”

“Anytime.”  She helped him up and got him dressed then left without a further word.

After several minutes, he took up his walker and made his way to the recreational room.  He met up with Alan for a game of chess while the drone of Oprah Winfrey blared from the television set.  He saw Alan was having some problems sitting.

“You okay Alan?”

“Naw, my ass burns.”


He looked puzzled for a moment.  Harris could see a mix of confusion and saw what looked like tears welling up in his eyes.  “No.”  He hissed softly.  “Henderson,  he…”  The old man broke down after a moment.  Harris looked on in shock as his close friend held his sobbing face in his hands.  He was sobbing so bad that the nurses had to take him back to his room and sedate him.  He went to visit him several hours later.  He crept along with his walker and cursed his progress of walking down the hall.  Getting old was no goddamned fun.  It was then that Alan told him everything that Henderson had been doing to some of the patients.

Harris’ jaw hung open.  “Jesus.”

Alan continued to whisper low.  “He threatened me you know, said if I ever said anything to anyone, he would kill me.  You remember Jackson?”

Harris remembered.  “Sure.”

“I think he did him in.”

“What?”  Jackson had died suddenly in the night.

“Jackson told me what he had been doing to him.  I think Henderson gave him a shot of morphine or something to kill him off.”

He went back to his room and thought a long time.  Henderson.  Despicable character.  He never liked the thirty-something nurse’s aid the moment he saw him.  Something was not ’right’ with the young man.  He could be abusive and so condescending at times.  Harris fumed.  He had to do something.  He still had some dirt to clean up.  He hadn’t made it this far in life just to have a man like Henderson ruin it for him.  He had to protect the other patients as well as his own manhood.   Also, with his Alzheimer’s progressively getting worse, he had no desire to have Henderson having his way with him.

The following morning, he took up his walker and made his way to the nurse station.  He asked to use the phone in the private room.

With shaking fingers, he dialed a number.  After several rings a man answered the line.  “Hello?”


“Harris!  How you doing old man?”

Harris thought fondly of Matt.  He had showed the young man the ropes of the dirt work business.  He had also saved his ass several times when things went sideways during some business deals.  Matt would come around every couple of weeks or so to visit.  He got to the point of his call.  “Matt, I gotta call in a favor.”


The radio played low, droning out a steady country beat in the dark room.  Harris propped himself up in his bed, cursing softly the aching bones.  Harris loved the older country tunes but the new stuff was okay.  It beat the hell out of the other crap that people called music these days.  Eric Church’s tune ‘Creepin’ droned on.

Matt had come by earlier in the day and dropped off the package.  Harris thanked him.  They said little.  Matt knew better than to ask.  He shook Harris’ hand, donned his hat, smiled and left without a word.

He eyed the doorway.  Henderson could be heard making his rounds.  He was sure he was picking out his next victim.     He leaned over and jammed a withered, ancient hand under the mattress.  He worked the old sawed off Winchester ‘97 free from between the mattress.  He slid it under his sheets, held onto the wooden pistol grip, grunting with effort.  He swore softly at the weight.  Maybe a .38 would’ve been better but he couldn’t afford to miss.  He settled the nub of the barrel on his drawn-up knees, pointing the dark maw at the doorway.

He saw the shadow of nurse Henderson approaching his room.  The footfalls and jingling of keys announcing he was coming for a ‘visit‘.

He cocked the hammer.  It was going to be the last hole Henderson saw.

~ fin ~

John L. Thompson currently lives in New Mexico with his wife of twenty-nine years. When he is not searching for lost remnants of the old west, he can be found working on several writing projects or collecting antique or vintage paperbacks. He is the current cover designer for the Casca the Eternal Mercenary series written by Tony Roberts, and the occasional graphic artist for Yellow Mama e-zine. He is the author of Truck Stop and Monkey Wrench. His third novel Dead Blow, the final installment in the Truck Stop trilogy, is set to be released in September 2021 by Dusty Desert Press.