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Short story: <i>Old Tom's Trailer</i>

I was out in the desert again, looking for flying saucers and gold dust, leastways that's what I told old Tom when I crossed the mangled piece of barbed wire that serves as a boundary line between his place and everywhere else.

Why old Tom lives out this way is one of the great mysteries of the world, I expect, to anyone who cares to think on it, or about old Tom at all for that matter. There aren't a great many people who even know he exists, and even fewer of those care that much either way about whether he exists and where he chooses to do it.

Old Tom's land sure is big. Well, I think it's big. I like to walk this way myself, just for something to do. From what I can tell from the straggly bits of barbed wire stretched out in places and then winding off to other places, Tom owns a fair bit of this expanse of red dirt covered in scrubby bushes with the occasional rotting vehicle thrown in just to break up the monotony. Old Tom doesn't seem to mind if I walk around on his bits of desert, it's all the same to him. He's got his trailer, parked from what I can tell to be smack bang in the middle of what he owns, and he's got his banged up old truck that he gets about in, although not so much anymore. Pretty much any given day or date on the calendar you can find old Tom sitting in a rusty fold out chair just under the dirty canopy that stretches out from one side of his trailer, smoking cigarettes and staring out into the scrub.

Old Tom can be a bit misleading, I don't know if he does it deliberate or if he's just being obtuse but when he comes out to greet me when I cross over to his land he likes to stare at me like he's never seen me before. Then raises himself up on toothpick legs and drags his head up with his mighty straggle of grey hair falling all about his face. Then he'll say, "You." And then I guess he remembers me because he glares at me and wanders off back to his chair on his skinny little legs, but he doesn't pick up his rifle and he doesn't ask questions.

And then I'll say "Hey there, Tom, just out for a walk, lookin' for flyin' saucers and gol'dust." And he'll just ignore me, if you please, staring off into space in another direction. Sometimes I see him pick up his hunting knife, but I don't have to worry about that because old Tom only uses it to carve a bit more of his homemade tattoo on his left arm. It's not quite done yet but it's coming along nice. Ernesta from the nearest town, she's told me all about old Tom. Apparently, a ways back, they used to date. She says he's a nasty old piece of work. A sado-masochist, that's why he likes to work on his tattoo, and he gave her one too without asking. Yep, Ernesta sure knows a lot about old Tom.

So, after we've exchanged our pleasantries, I'll pick up my bags and walk on by, giving Tom the universal upwards nod of recognition, even though he's not paying any attention. And then I'll walk round the back of the trailer and get out my metal detector and gloves, and start the next section I've marked out on old Tom's land. Ernesta reckons he's got gold nuggets as big as a man's head hidden all over this scrubby dump, and I don't reckon that grumpy old bastard'll even notice they're gone.

This is the result of a thirty minute writing exercise. The only constrictions were the time limit and five randomly selected words from the dictionary. Today the words were: misleading, date, mighty, universal, and masochistic.

Image courtesy of ldandersen.

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