Road-worn and Dirty


My granite face, pock-marked by the razor hail. My scar-spangled arms sway in the wind as I trek through the expanse of the train yard that’s just another pit-stop in my Hell tour. Gut tight; my demon stomach muscles stab through the tears in my T-shirt. I lost my coat to a drifter on the rails. I’ve managed to save two hundred dollars – fast-food dumpsters have shitty locks, and even though they have cameras, they don’t pick up bums. It’s like the cameras were trained to ignore us like everyone else passing by. But I’ve got two bills. Hey, something’s going right.

There’s a tunnel under the highway that’ll get me to civilization. There’s also a sausage-handed man in a Carhartt who’s walking toward me. I know who he is. He’s the yard manager, the hound at the gates.

“Hey, you can’t be in here,” he says.

I smile. “Then I’ll be out of your hair. Just let me be on my way.”

“I’m tired of you bums being on the yard,” He reached for his cell. “I’m calling the cops.”

“Before you do that, let me ask you a quick question,” I say. “Is making your point worth closing shop for two weeks to fix the damage I can do before the cops get here?”

“You touch anything here, that’s federal time.” He was red-cheeked.

“I sleep on box cars and eat garbage,” I say. “But I’ll give you the other deal.”

“What’s that?”

“I walk away, you let me, and you’re back at your desk in five minutes. Your choice.”

The yard manager was pissed, definitely, but he looked me in the eye, and I’ve been told it’s an unsettling experience. He put his cell phone back.

“Just get the fuck out of here.” He said.

“Will do.” I headed for the tunnel. “By the way, if I see cops, I’ll ditch ‘em, and I’ll be back here to make good on what I said.”

“Just go.” Sausage-fists said, and I took the cue.


The cops don’t come up as I’m walking down the highway. Good man. Sanchette Road, the sign says. I can see a motel in the distance, in between a check-cashing place and a liquor store. Did I mention the neighborhood’s ghetto as hell? But who am I to judge?

The motel has two floors, maybe thirty rooms. After getting a bottle of Evan Williams from the liquor store, I check in. I don’t have to threaten to break anything. There’s a van cooking meth in the parking lot – they see worse.

I get to the floor my room’s on and there’s a fourteen-year-old kid yelling into the room next to mine. I tune it out and find my whiskey nest for the night. I wish I could say I reserve times like this for reminiscing the good times, but over the past thirty years I’ve shot up or snorted all of them away. As far as the pain? I think Buddha said something like suffering was caused by attachment. I prefer “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Not saying life’s great; far from it. Just because I have no specific pains, doesn’t mean my whole world doesn’t hurt. I’ve just always been garbage – don’t know any different.

I look at my face in the mirror. I got slashed on the rails by another first-class rider. It’s red and puffy – looks infected. Hope there’s a clinic in this city. I turn on the sink, washed the area gingerly, not-so-gingerly the rest of my face. I turn on a ball game and crash.

Wake up the next day and walk out to a snack machine down by the stairs. I see the kid pounding on the glass. Can’t say I was nice by giving him a dollar to get the thing he was trying to get, just hungry.

“Heard ya’ yelling at your folks,” I said. “They beatin’ ya?”

“Nah,” the kid said. “Just tired of them. Can’t wait till I’m eighteen and I can just hit the road.”

I looked at this kid, showered, good clothes, fed, not a bruise on him.

“Take it from someone who knows,” I say. “The road hits back.”

~ fin ~

Liam (SH Pic)

Liam Sweeny is an author and short-story writer from upstate New York. His work has appeared online and in print in such periodicals as Thuglit, Pulp Modern, Spinetingler Magazine, All Due Respect and The Flash Fiction Offensive. His collection of shorts, Street Whispers, is available from most online retailers, and the latest in his Jack LeClere detective series, Presiding Over the Damned, will be available in August 2018 from Down & Out Books.