I was down to the shoreline crabbing and it wasn’t so good. When the water murks up like that the crabs stay away. Ones that wash up dead ain’t worth the trouble. Nobody I know ever eat one, but you hear the stories about what happens. That’s enough warning for me.
I saw that man with a gunny wade in up to his thighs and toss the sack far as he could. He was in a hurry to leave. I could see that sack moving like it was alive.
Soon as the man was gone I waded in after it.
Me and Shorty Jim pulled into Mt. Pleasant on the Burlington about three in the morning. It was flat January, needle snow blowing cold enough to freeze your words right to your tongue so you had reach up and break ’em off to say anything. Usually we don’t go near a station, but it was that or die in the blizzard. In big cities like Chi, us road Joes ain’t welcome indoors, but little towns tend to be a might more friendly, especially when it’s life and death like it was that night. Stationmaster had that potbellied stove glowing red.
He sat on the river bench going over all of it again, wondering what he had missed. He had of course checked the timers, tested them until he was sure. He knew that the failure could not be because of the timers. The explosive, then. But he had tested that too, made certain the ratio was correct, double-checked and even done a trial run out in the country, far from curious eyes. It wasn’t the explosive.
He was interrupted by a series of blinding flashes across the river, silent for the split second it took the sound to reach him.
Jimmy Jimmy saw messages in the way them birds would clot together on a wire above our head, say they spelled out messages only he could read and that them messages was all full of death and bad futures for anyone who saw it whether they could read it or no and he wasn’t shy about telling me often as he thought I needed to hear it, point at the birds on them wires and shake his head and tell me that if I could see what he saw I might think twice about ever getting up in the morning.