Wednesday, June 10, 2009


By Tom Fillion

“It’s that one over there,” Dave said. “The shit brindle brown waterbed.”

The frame was the same color as a pit bull.

"No one in their right mind would buy this clunker,” Dave said, quoting one of his favorite expressions.

“That means there are a lot of prospects out there to unload it on and here's the winner," Wilbur Dobbs said, completing the quote like a child in catechism class.

Dave handed Wilbur the invoice with the directions chicken-scratched on the back. Advertising on a country music station hooked another one Wilbur thought as he followed the directions on the back of the invoice and made a left turn from U.S. Highway 41, the road the Allman Brothers sang about for losers and misfits and Greyhound buses, onto a dirt road. He drove to the end of the sloping road and pulled up to a house with junk cars and trucks, junk tools and junk yard dogs in the front and back yards. A large man with thick arms and a huge chest walked out from the house. He had a dark beard that hid some of the spider's web of scars on his face. His truck was parked outside. "A-1 Septic Tank Service" was emblazoned on the side of the sewage tank cylinder mounted on the truck bed.

"Shut up," the man yelled at the dogs.

Gary Hopkins looked at Wilbur and figured right away he lived in the city and didn't know anything about septic tanks so he filled him in on the vicissitudes of the septic tank business. Wilbur listened as he had become accustomed to doing. He learned that was as important a factor in his employment for Dave and Margo Hamilton as delivering and setting up clunkers no one else wanted.

"Every time you turn around, they're raising the price to dump my loads. It goes up every year. I can't pass the costs on either. There’s too much competition. I have to eat it," he said angrily.

"You wouldn't think there'd be a lot of competition for sewage," Wilbur said.
"Are you kidding? People are moving to Tampa from all over. You'd be surprised what someone will do to make a living. It’s supply and demand."

“I never thought of that,” Wilbur replied and thanked him for the lesson.
"Put it up against that wall," Gary Hopkins said after they went inside, motioning to a beige wall. "We want to cover up those holes."

They stood in a bedroom next to the family room with a pool table in the middle. Wilbur looked at the wall he pointed to and saw the bullet holes. It looked like someone had used it for target practice.

Gary Hopkins’ young daughter sniffed the plastic mattress in one of the boxes Wilbur brought in.
"It smells like a new pool," she said happily.

He thought it must have smelled like perfume to her compared to her father's vehicle. What must it be like to have a father like Gary Hopkins and living so close to Highway 41 in the humid, fetid, palmetto undergrowth and in the shadows of decaying gypsum stacks just off the road? What year of high school would she get sick of being a septic tank daughter and run away from him with a sprint car driver from East Bay raceway that smiled at her from the concourse and her life would become all tangled up like the scrambled eggs and grits she would end up serving to truckers on some other stretch of Highway 41?

End of PART 1 - Look for Part 2 on Sunday the 14th


I'm a graduate of the University of South Florida. I teach mathematics and coach golf and tennis at a Tampa public high school. My short stories have appeared in many online publications. For a complete list please visit:

I have stories forthcoming at Danse Macabre, SubtleTea, Frostwriting, Read This (Montana State University), Cantaraville, and Rose & Thorn.


Tom Fillion