“Trailer Park Bandits” by William Falo

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Nobody wanted to deliver mail to the trailer park, but I got stuck with it. There was a reason nobody wanted it. Danger lurked here; I was already robbed twice, bitten three times by stray dogs, and I also saw overdoses, fights, possible fugitives, a lot of guns, old missing children posters hanging on telephone poles, numerous rats, and the worst raccoons in the world. 

I was at war with the raccoons. They chewed up letters, ripped open packages, destroyed mailboxes, and caused me all kind of trouble. They often out-smarted me.

I drove down the street and a few kids hit the mail truck with eggs, which smeared across the windshield when I ran the wipers. I sighed.

If I could find a mutual transfer, I planned to move far away from here. Maybe Alaska, I could be alone there. My health has deteriorated here, my stomach hurt, my hands went numb from carpal tunnel, and I was flirting with depression. I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed or even cried for that matter.

I stopped to eat lunch then heard a scratching sound coming from the back of the truck. I got out and checked, but nothing was there. 

When I turned to go back, a raccoon ran out of the truck with my sandwich. It ran under an old fence and rumbled into the woods.  They tricked me and it wasn’t the first time.

Now hungry and angry, my blood boiled over. 

I passed a few rusted out cars and saw a gang of raccoons. They watched me and I swore they were laughing. I gritted my teeth and stormed after them with my dog spray canister in my hand. They scattered into the woods, but this time I kept going. I was so determined to get them; I lost track of how far I went. 

I noticed an old shack covered with branches. Why was nobody else here? I knew the answer; fear. I wasn’t that smart. My mind drifted to a possible horrific discovery like a body or a hidden chamber holding missing children. I remembered the missing posters. I yanked the door open. Inside, I saw a bunch of packages and when I lifted one up it slipped out of my hand. When it hit the ground, white powder spilled out. Drugs. I dropped it and went into a panic; I turned and tripped over a loose piece of wood spreading the white powder around the floor. There was no way to hide it, I could be killed. My hands shook as I tried to hide the powder, but it still showed, outside of the shed I erased all my footprints, but I missed some since I was in such a hurry. Drug traffickers would kill me if they knew I was here, then I heard voices getting closer.

I ran back to the truck. Later, I realized something was missing. My dog spray was nowhere in sight. I might have dropped it in the shed and it clearly states it was for a letter carrier on it. I could call the police but snitches usually ended up in a grave and I would be easy to find. I hoped it fell on the street somewhere.

I passed two girls on skateboards, one of them grabbed the bumper of the truck to get more speed. Suddenly, a black jeep stopped in front of me and two men got out. I noticed the black metal of gun handles at their waists. One of them held out my dog spray.

“Did you lose something?”

I looked around. I really didn’t care if they shot me. What did I have to lose? Nobody would miss me, but the two girls on skateboards could be in danger. I ran away from the truck knowing the traffickers would follow me. I heard their footsteps pounding behind me. 

I turned the corner and a raccoon I recognized as one that is usually aggressive let me run by, then jumped on the trafficker closest to me. A gun went off and pain shot through my leg and I collapsed. I heard one of the traffickers cry out then another gunshot. I stopped running and looked back. The raccoon was on the ground and not moving. The traffickers walked toward me. 

“There they are.” The two skateboard girls pointed at the men. A group of residents flooded into the area, some of them carried bats, some knives, and one pumped a shotgun. It was a stand-off until a siren in the distance got closer and the two men ran away. 

One of the skateboarders held a rag to my leg.

“Thank you. What’re your names?” My eyes began to blur.

“I’m Sophie and that’s Melissa.” She pointed at her friend. “You saved us.”

“No, you saved me.” I managed to say. “What about the raccoon?”

Sophie shook her head then I blacked out.

♦♦♦

The hospital made me feel isolated, nobody visited me. Why should they? Having a rural a mail route in a small post office limited your coworkers to a minuscule number. I needed

surgery to remove the bullet and would be here a while but will be okay in the long run. The police told me that the traffickers were still on the run and the drugs were gone.

The next day, I heard wheels rolling down the hallway.

“No skateboards in the hospital.” Someone yelled.

Sophie and Melissa came in followed by their parents along with a few other people I recognized as residents of the trailer park. 

They handed me a box of cookies and a pile of cards. 

“We have a picture to show you.” Sophie handed me her phone, and I stared at the picture then laughed for the first time in years. 

“I can’t believe it.”

It showed a group of raccoons under a mailbox. One of them looked like it was eating a sandwich. She added the words, Trailer Park Bandits. 

“I think they’re waiting for you,” Melissa said and then she laughed.

I couldn’t stop laughing then I fought to hold back tears. The raccoon that died saved my life. It moved the shooter’s arm just enough to prevent a lethal shot.

“We buried the one who got killed.”

“Thank you. That raccoon was a hero.”

“So are you.” 

“No, I’m not.” I wasn’t.

“I’ll save the picture for you. Hurry back.”

They both hugged me and left. I cried for the first time in years, but it wasn’t only because of sadness. 

 

William Falo writes fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Newfound, Back Patio Press, Vamp Cat Magazine, Elephants Never, Clover & White, and other literary journals. 

“The Last Hunt” by William Falo

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The red fox looked up to the sky and let out a loud yelp. Snow fell into his eyes and he didn’t see a shadow moving through the trees. A blast made him jump and a shower of pine needles fell on him when the bullet slashed through the trees. He darted into the thicker woods with his tail down as not to be an easy target.

When he stopped, he sniffed the wind and knew the human was getting closer, he took a chance and bolted uphill to the deeper snow. While he could walk across the top of the snow without sinking, the human would have to trudge through it at a slow pace. It would be an easy escape.

Behind a group of snow-covered pine trees, he listened to see if the human continued his

pursuit. Why would he? But he knew the answer. He saw his mate in the trap. The cruelty was beyond his understanding. 

Crows in a tree farther down the slope cawed out a warning. The human was coming. The birds took flight and continued to sound the alarm. A large deer bolted past him. When he was younger, he might have tried to take one down, but now with missing teeth and sore legs the buck could kill him. He should have followed it.

The sound of crunching snow made him focus his one good eye in the distance and he saw the human climb up a pile of boulders. The fox watched as the human leveled a long stick to his eye, he looked through a tube on top of the gun. Before he realized that his red tail was sticking out into the pure white snow a spark came out of the gun and searing pain instantly spread from his leg to his head. He tumbled over and saw red flecks on the snow where he was previously standing.

“Yes.” The human yelled. The fox limped to cover behind some trees. He feared the next spark from the long stick, but suddenly the human cried out. The stick flew out of his hands and the human fell off the rocks and rolled down the hill until his body ended up hitting a tree. The human remained still, his long stick was nowhere to be seen and a trail of gloves and supplies littered the snow.

The fox licked his wound, but the pain didn’t stop. After the blast of the shot, the woods took on a haunting silence, until he heard crying.  He wanted to get closer to the human. The vision of his dead mate drove him. It took a long time while dragging his leg behind him, but he made it close enough to see the human’s bare fingers were shaking while frozen streaks of water lined his cheeks.

The fox moved closer. 

The human saw him and reached for something that wasn’t there. Panic filled his face. The fox waited.

“I’m sorry I shot you, but you killed my dog and all my chickens.”

The fox tilted his head.

“Didn’t you?”

The human sobbed. His hands started to turn a dark color. Night was coming and the human probably wouldn’t survive it. 

“Maybe, I was wrong. The dog was my best friend and I was so mad. My neighbor said a fox did it and he said he knows it because he traps them. I would never trap any animal.”

His mate died in a trap. Should he help this man?

A yipping sound came from the pile of boulders. Two coyotes looked down upon them.

“I recognize that sound. That’s what killed my dog and chickens. It wasn’t you; it could have been the coyotes.”

The fox watched as the coyotes disappeared behind the rocks.

“I’m sorry. Revenge got the best of me.” The fox looked into the human’s eyes for a long time. Maybe he didn’t use the trap. He slowly moved closer while keeping a watch on the rocks. Coyotes were tricky and he needed to be alert. The man fell asleep and the fox stood guard as long as he could. Darkness was not to be denied and the fox curled up next to the man using his tail for warmth. He saw his mate waiting by a den. He was home.

 

♦◊♦

 

The park ranger stopped the bobsled and looked down the hill. She took out her radio. 

“This is Madison. We need medical right away. I’ll send you the GPS.”

She drove past a rifle and saw numerous coyote tracks, then followed a path of gloves and other items until she reached the man under a tree. 

Next to the man was a fox. Its bushy tail covered the man as much as possible. The man’s

hands and nose looked frostbitten.

She felt his wrists and got a pulse. 

“Make that a medical evacuation by helicopter. He may make it, but could lose his hands. This will be his last hunt.” She put the radio down and saw the man was trying to speak.

“The fox?” He managed to mumble.

Madison looked closer and then shook her head.  “It might have saved your life.”

She kneeled next to the man and covered him with an emergency blanket. 

“What happened here?” Madison asked.

His hands shook and he opened his mouth, but he couldn’t speak. A single tear then fell down his frozen cheek and made it all the way to the ground. 

 

William Falo writes fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Newfound, The Ginger Collect, Fictive Dream, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and other literary journals.

Twitter: @williamfalo