People often ask me how I manage to get by. The answer is that I don’t know. I just do things I don’t mind doing, sometimes things I enjoy doing, and if I get money in the end that’s an added bonus. So far it’s worked, but lately, in this cruel and exhausting era, I’ve felt the financial squeeze. And squeeze is the most appropriate way to describe the feeling because when I think about money–especially the lack of it–I feel my breathing labored as though some horrid serpent is wrapping itself around me in order to swallow me whole.
Nevertheless, I recently decided to write other people’s fantasies for $10 a story. I figure every story I write is a sandwich and a drink, which is enough food for a day if you get the right type of sandwich. My friend and one hell of a poet, Tyler Thurgood, was my first customer. He asked for a story about him traveling through America in the fifties. He also asked to end up at a party with Hunter S. Thompson, Bill Murray, and Johnny Depp. Realizing that Johnny Depp would not be alive, Tyler opted for meeting Hunter S. Thompson as a child. Below is the story I wrote. It took about two hours of writing and slight revision/editing over two separate sessions. Well below minimum wage, but fun nonetheless. If you dig it and want your own fantasy written, shoot me a message on Facebook. My profile can be found at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/jdstylez13
Tyler Thurgood’s Fantasy: The Tramp Soldier and That Thompson Boy
It had been five years since the end of the Second Great War, a war that redefined the borders and temperaments of the modern world. This was a reality that never quite set in for Tyler Thurgood, who entered the war too young and too late. He was eighteen at the time of his deployment in the winter of 1944. At that point the Axis powers had been beaten, even if the official surrender wouldn’t come until the spring of ’45. For Thurgood his experience in Europe was genuinely pleasant—he was only shot at once. By the time of his arrival the Nazis had abandoned Hitler’s grand vision and the process of self-preservation had begun.
After all, it was only a matter of time before any person donning a swastika would be labeled a war criminal and forced to answer for the collective crimes of their people. Fighting Allied troops was no longer a priority. Hitler had lost his grip and any Nazi with any bit of foresight took off for the Amazon to live out their lives with a belly full of mango and a conscience full of charred ash.
Fortunately, Thurgood’s experience in Europe consisted of enjoying the simple pleasures left behind by the fleeing and defeated fascists. He spent many nights drinking well-aged whiskeys and wines with his battalion in the French countryside. Thurgood often found himself amused by the expectations he had prior to enlisting, visions of heroically triumphing over Nazis only to find himself eating soft cheeses and drunkenly shooting empty wine bottles in pastures at night.
When he returned home in the fall of 1945 he was bothered by the fact that he’d seen more of Europe than his own country, the very country he felt so obligated to defend. Thurgood set off to wander about the U.S. until he had seen enough to feel content with settling down somewhere. At first he lived off whatever the G.I. Bill had given him in terms of benefits, but after the third year Thurgood was forced to pick up odd jobs whenever he could find them.
By 1950, he had become enamored by the wandering lifestyle. The idea of a home seemed restrictive, and he felt there was greater freedom inherent in traveling. The sense of purpose he sought after when he headed off to war in Europe was found in every American city or forest he had visited.
His military training had proved useful as he was able to comfortably camp and live off the land when he needed. But as Thurgood discovered, the generosity of strangers was greater than he imagined. He developed an addiction to those interactions, and the genuine fascination he took in other people propelled his post-war American odyssey indefinitely.
After meeting the sister of a carpenter in Louisville, Tyler found enough work hammering, measuring, and hauling wood to enjoy a comfortable winter wherever he chose to have it. He also had a place to stay in Louisville as the sister, Violet, was kind enough to share her bed. If there is any proof of the power of names, it was that Violet worked for a local florist.
“I actually hate violets,” is what she told Tyler shortly after telling him her about her job.
“Why do you hate violets? How does anyone hate a flower?” he countered.
“Well, maybe ‘hate’ is a bit strong, but I think it’s because you’d expect me to like violets—and there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to be so easy to peg.”
“So it’s more of an act of defiance?”
“I guess so. I also just don’t find them very pretty. I personally prefer lilies.”
“Good to know,” replied Tyler with a smile. “Why lilies?”
“Their scent,” she said. “It’s bold yet there’s a gentleness to it as well.”
“Sort of like you?”
“Yes, sort of like me.”
“You should’ve been named Lily.”
“Well then I’d probably prefer violets.”
Violet didn’t have many house rules for Tyler, other than to clean up after himself and to watch out for “that Thompson boy” two houses down. Tyler being curious in nature began to fixate on her warning, to the point where he’d spend his days off sipping bourbon on the porch hoping to catch a glimpse of “that Thompson boy” in action.
It wasn’t long—maybe three days since Violet’s cautioning—that he first saw the boy ride by on his bicycle. When he passed he politely nodded and Tyler tipped his glass. When Tyler saw him again, the Thompson boy was riding furiously towards his house. Rather than panic or fear, Tyler sensed a certain level of excitement coming from the boy’s face.
When he read the following morning’s paper it became clear as to why the Thompson boy was in such a hurry. Apparently, a few blocks over a handful of mailboxes had been blown to pieces. The police suspected mischievous kids, and Tyler knew one in particular that was most likely the mailbox bomber.
Later that evening when Tyler had returned from framing a house, he saw the Thompson boy in front of his house shooting cans with his BB gun. Tyler approached the boy, who was pouring BBs into the magazine, and asked if he could shoot a couple cans.
“Can you shoot?” asked the boy.
“I have some experience,” Tyler replied.
“I spent some time in Europe a few years back.”
“My name’s Hunter,” he said while handing Tyler the loaded BB gun.
Tyler grabbed the gun with one hand and extended his other to shake Hunter’s.
“I’m Tyler. Tyler Thurgood.”
Tyler turned towards the line of cans, pumped the gun, and fired. He hit the first can, pumped again, hit the second, and on he went until all the cans lay in the grass.
“Looks like the military taught you well,” said Hunter.
“Whiskey and quiet nights taught me well.”
“Are you Ms. Kendricks’ new guy?”
Tyler laughed, “Violet?”
“I don’t her first name,” he said. “I just know she doesn’t like me very much.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The way she looks at me.”
“I wouldn’t get too caught up on something like that.”
“You come over here to shoot the BB gun or give me life advice?”
“Actually, I came over here to get whatever you used to blow up the mailboxes.”
Hunter immediately shifted and became visibly unsettled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“Hey I’m not here to get you in trouble. I figure I could use the powder for getting a fire going when I’m camping.”
“You’re in the wrong place.”
“From what I understand you got quite the reputation. It’ll only be a matter of time before someone official comes around and if they find whatever you used it would sure be hard to prove any innocence.”
Hunter mulled over Tyler’s words for a second before replying.
“You got anything to trade?”
“What do you have in mind?”
“I always see you drinking bourbon on the porch.”
“You want my bourbon?” asked Tyler, who was both disturbed and impressed by the request.
“I’ll give you every bomb I got, which is enough for a season’s worth of fire, in exchange for whatever bourbon you have left.”
“I’ve never seen a kid anything like you before, and I don’t think Violet will be favorable of me giving a little boy whiskey.”
“She doesn’t have to know. I’m thirteen. It’s not like I haven’t drank before.”
Maybe it was the confidence with which he spoke or maybe it was that Hunter reminded Tyler of himself, but he agreed to leave the bottle on the porch later that night. In exchange, Hunter gave him a brown paper bag of seven M-80s. It wasn’t one of Tyler’s most ethically sound decisions, but he figured saving a few mailboxes was worth the moral disregard.
From that point forward, Tyler and Hunter would shoot cans whenever Violet wasn’t home. It seemed to keep Hunter out of trouble—not entirely, but the time spent together certainly reduced the frequency. Things between Tyler and Violet began to fizzle when Tyler began to miss traveling, camping, and the thrill of new towns and people. Before he left Louisville at the beginning of 1951, Tyler gave Hunter his brother’s address in New Jersey, which he was using for mail, and told him to keep him posted on his exploits. Hunter did the same, and the two kept in touch on and off throughout the years until they both seemed to become too distracted by life to write back.
It wouldn’t be until years later that Tyler would learn that Hunter had gone on to publish a book on one of the most dangerous and depraved motorcycle gangs ever to exist, the Hell’s Angels. Right around the time the book was published, Tyler’s brother, Harry, called to tell him a package had arrived from “some Hunter S. Thompson guy”.
“What was in it?” asked Tyler.
“It’s a box of fireworks with the note, ‘Don’t let the fire burn out’, signed HST.”
If you enjoyed this short story, grab a copy of Life On a Treadmill: The Collected Works of a Successful Failure