The Misfit - Short Story
THE MISFIT decided that he wanted to go to Florida. He had several sins he wanted to indulge before he moved on to the next life. As his mind wandered in the open air, on the ground he was sat on a prison bus traversing an empty dirt road en-route to the electric chair. He had asked for a window seat closest to the shutter door and gazed out at the passing plains, stretching as far as his bespectacled eyes could see. Sitting adjacent to him, was a young Negro of around twenty, sobbing hysterically and rattling his chained hands. The Misfit went to a reassure the young’un. “Now look here, friend. Things is gonna be OK, we’re not good people but we not real bad peoples. This all part of His plan,” he said, “no need to fear no more.”
“Suh, I’m a god fearing man an I always been but He’s punishing me, and for no reason mind. I’m done for. I saw a black cat by the prison gate on the way out. Real bad juju. I’m innocent!” the prisoner said.
“Innocent in whose eyes?” the Misfit asked.
“But I am! Man, I swear to god I didn’t kill her,”
“How’s about you swear to me instead?”
“On all things sacred suh, I’m not from bad people,” “What lady din’t you kill friend?” The Misfit asked, intrigued.
“Good. A mothers is something sacred. You know, my mamma died of the woman’s cancer when me and my brother was just chillun, so our daddy raised us up. She coulda been the biggest part of my life,”
The prisoner dabbed the tears with his dirty striped sleeve and locked eyes with the older man. His hair was beginning to gray and he wore specs that made him look as though he were a teacher. He had a well-pronounced chin and a blood stain on the collar of his prison uniform. He vibed placidity.
“Least they’ll come today,” the prisoner said.
“Naw, m’brother was taken away when he was a baby from us, daddy died not so long ago neither, but a couple o’ ma boys are coming to smooth things over with the prison service,”
“Yeah? Well that’s mighty nice of em to see you off. Say, your daddy, I’m real sorry ‘bout that,” the prisoner said shaking his head. “I knows sadly what that like.”
“Don’t be. He’s up at the Mount Hopewell Baptist churchyard, if you know it it’s up in Nashville, but that head-doctor back at the pen said I was the one responsible for his untimely death,”
“Really? What did ol’ Arbogast have to say?”
“That he din’t die in the flu epidemic in nineteen ought nineteen and that I shot him three times through the chest with my grand-daddy’s confederate pistol. They suppose I blacked out because he spoke ill of my mother, god made no woman finer than my mother. But don’t believe in them doctors friend. They let her pack up and die in the midst of childbirth. But lo and behold, if it was His will, then who am I to question His doing.”
“Aw gee, I’m from a family of Cobblers in Tennessee, that’s what I used to work as, nothin much interesting at all, ‘xcept havin plenty of brothers and sisters.”
“Yea, there were plenty of us too back in the day, most of us disappeared in the dust bowl but my Bailey got taken by a tall lady,” The Misfit said.
The other prisoner raised his head, looking around at the guards, as if both embarrassed and possibly frightened at the passenger next to him. He said nothing and slit open a fresh pack of Newport’s with his thumb. “May I smoke?” he asked.
The Misfit simply shook his head and closed his eyes for a brief moment, drawing in the second-hand fumes through his nostrils and blowing them back out. He looked through the window and thought it was going to be a good day for a drive, or what he had planned, he also wondered who could hide themselves behind big billboards and dirt tracks. Pushing the glasses further to the top of his nose he noted interesting details of the scenery: the rising hilltops, thin wind tiptoeing through the clumps of tulips dotted along the highway, he noticed as they were approaching the county line that the trees were fast becoming bare and unfruitful. The two prison guards at the back of the bus had grown tired of cleaning their shotguns and had cradled them to sleep. “May I trouble you for the time?” he asked his fellow passenger quite suddenly.
“A half past ten in the A.M,” he replied.
“Only a half a hour late,” the Misfit hissed.
“A half hour late for what, suh?” he asked.
There was a rumble. A maroon hot rod raced alongside the bus and levelled with the prison driver. They had gunned it a quarter mile down the highway. The officers remained asleep.
The driver saw and just as he blasphemed, a horrible thought came to him. It caused him to break into an instant sweat, dilate his pupils and made him yell to the guards. In the same instant the hot rod slammed into the side of the bus, his words were drowned out, and it was sent hurtling off the beaten track and down a deep ditch. The inmates were thrown to the floor and the driver, wrestling with the steering wheel, was thrown, yelling, beneath the dashboard. The vehicle resisted the urge to turn over but landed left-side-up in a gulch just off the highway. The Misfit remained still, a smirk had wrinkled onto his face, securely fastened in his seat by the belt, he had been ready as soon as they had set off. He had sustained little injury: a cut on his right hand and possibly a graze on the same elbow, but he unbuckled himself, shifted over his unconscious companion and effortlessly weaved his way through the broken unconscious bodies to the back of the bus.
He took the guards’ shotguns from them and prodded their fat guts in turn. The two men awoke staring down the barrels of their own weapons before their scalps were blown clean off, making a bloody mess of the rear windscreen.
The Misfit turned back to his acquaintance and shook the unconscious man gently, he woke with a shudder.
“What in gentle Jesus happened?” he exclaimed.
“It’s a prison break friend, I said my boys were coming to smooth things over didn’t I?”
“Yessum, please suh, let me come with you?”
“Oh no, we going somewhere unfit for a gentleman like yooself, and we’ll be judged for what we’ve got planned by Him, and, by golly, your fate isn’t something I need on my conscience neither.”
The man’s eyes welled up with desperation. “Please, I’m real scared of the dark.” He shook, trapped, in his seat.. The Misfit rested his bloodied hand on the man’s shoulder and laid the shotgun on his lap. The prisoner took in deep breaths, coming to terms with it all.
“Friend,” the Misfit said, “I’m not going to set you free. The author-i-ties will go and catch up with you and hit you and beat you and torture you and say you were in cahoots with me and my boys and I, by Mary mother of god, will not willingly bestow such a fate upon you. So close your eyes, but don’t pray to Him, because He didn’t help you before, pray to me instead of.”
Mister Josef Morris, Bobby Lee and Hiram heard the report of a gun. They looked up from the steaming ‘50 Buick towards the wreckage. Bobby Lee popped the hood and wisht for the engine to start up again. Mister Josef Morris twiddled his revolver and his cigarette in his pale bony hands and regarded his partner stepping down from the bus. “Hey Luc…” he called out.
The Misfit gestured angrily, “You’re late,” he called back, rolling his eyes at Bobbly Lee and Hiram and crossing a dry patch of mud over to the terrible trio.
Mister Morris swallowed his tongue for a moment, trying to formulate an excuse for their tardiness; the waitress had taken longer than expected to serve them their hot biscuits Red Sammy’s joint. He prayed that Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum would bite the bullet from the boss. There was a groan from the wreckage and the boss asked Morris to serve the driver his dues. There was one loud shot before two more, in quick succession, echoed out over the cornfields.
When he was done the Misfit asked for Morris’ here Cattleman and, upon being handed the weapon, turned it on him and fired a single irreproachable bullet through his thigh. Hiram and Bobby Lee gathered over the ditch, looking down at the creature who lay slouched in a puddle of blood, eyes bulging, staring up at the cloudless sky.
“Fetch his hat, jacket and revolver. Now, give em to me and hand me that jerry can in the trunk while you’re at it.”
Hiram looted Morris while Bobby Lee collected and handed the Misfit the carton of gasoline and the man’s smouldering cigarette. He tipped the contents upside down, tossed the thing aside, and cleaned his glasses with his bloody shirt. The Misfit licked his lips. He tore the shirt from him and paused over Morris’ naked squealing figure. “Then Jesus said to em ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of his poss-e-ssions.’ – Luke’s Book, Chapter Twelve, Verse Fifteen.”
Then he chortled, dropping the cigarette into the gasoline.
“Now the author-i-ties will take Mister Morris here for me and I got maself I nice coat out of it.”
“And what if they don’t go for it boss?” Hiram asked.
“Won’t bother me none.”
“Boss, pardon me but what is your real name? Neither of us two know.” Bobby Lee turned, genuine interest smeared over his face like wet lip rouge.
“Boys,” the Misfit said, “For the life of me I can’t remember, but that smoulderin heap over yonder, was probably the only one that ever did.”
“Right, I never sees a man burnt alive before,” he said.
“Well, you gon’ seen one now. That’s how my mamma went, got herself burnt herself alive in a traffic collision dontcha. Fellas, what we gonna do with that heap?” the Misfit asked, pointing at the pointless smoking muscle car on the grass.
And as if on que they saw a car some distance away on top of an oncoming hill, racing down it in the wrong direction towards them. The Misfit stood up, lapping away the blood from his hand with his tongue and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention. The battered-up, hearse-like, vehicle drew up alongside them, it was full of kids. “Gee mister,” the driver said, “we saw the smoke out there on the abandoned farm, what in the hell happened?”
The Misfit’s face wrinkled into a smirk, “Oh, just a little spill is all. Say, who’s ve-hicle’s this?”
The young man, sporting a comb over and large biceps, told the three men that it belonged to his father and asked if they’d like a to a repair shop. The strange man in the hat and glasses accepted the offer and inquired as to where the generous fellow purchased his jeans from. His girlfriend, raising an eyebrow to the top of her broad yellow head, decided to follow up on a very different line of inquiry.
“Hey mister, whatcha gonna do with that gun in yer hand?”