Two minutes after Harry and Sidney pull onto Mane Road in Harry’s beige-gold bimmer, Harry flips his blinker and pulls into a crumbly asphalt parking lot with a trailer parked on the back side. It’s on old one, thick metal construction with rounded corners and a bunch of flair bands wrapping around it which catch the sunlight and scatter it in every direction. Were Albey not so seething with rage he would probably find the sight to be dazzling, but he is seething with rage so he finds it to be a big distraction and a total waste of time and he lets Harry know.
Harry blinks at him twice. “Would you like to try that again?”
Sidney, with his eyes closed, breathes deeply in through his nose – the scent of stale beer does not make this easy – and then back out through his mouth.
“Sorry. What are we doing here, though?”
Without a word Harrington points to the sign on top of the trailer. It reads Stew Dogs in bold red letters blazing against a rusty white background.
“Stew Dogs?” Sidney asks, just to make sure he’s reading it right.
“Stew Dogs,” Harry says, then opens his door and puts a foot down on the ground. “Come on, my treat.”
“Oh uh, nah, no thanks,” Sidney says, not so much as unbuckling his seat belt. “I don’t want any, uh… stew.”
Harry, who had gotten halfway out of the car, sits back down. “Did… have you never eaten here before?”
“I have not,” Sidney admits. “I usually just make food at home, my parents keep the fridge stocked like a super market. Don’t really have eating out money.”
“Oh,” oh s Harry. “Well… I do. So come on, let’s get a couple dogs.”
Harry gets out of the car and closes the door before Sidney has a chance to form a convincing argument, not that any argument would have been convincing. It’s plainly clear that Harrington is just trying to throw his money around, to stunt on Sidney, to flaunt that which he has and Sidney does not because Sidney has Victoria, which Harry could never have… but is that actually what’s happening? Maybe he’s just hungry like Sidney was on the day they had that long talk in the editing room underneath the library and trying to be friendly.
Or maybe he’s just hungry.
Sidney opens the door then, tries to get out of the car, is grabbed viciously and manhandled by the not unbuckled seatbelt, unbuckles the seatbelt, and finally pulls himself free of the coupe. He closes the door and jogs to catch up to Harry, who didn’t walk far. They amble up to the static eatery on wheels, the wheels of which are just as flat as those on Sidney’s sedan except with significantly less lacerations, and Harry pounds on the side of the trailer with the side of his fist. He then shakes his hand out to dispel the heat it picked up and turns around to lean backwards against the side of the trailer. The smile of a child who pees himself in a pool spreads slowly across Harry’s face, but Sidney knows he’s not peeing himself. He’s just leaning against the hot metal trailer is all, but it doesn’t burn him because of his shirt. It probably feels nice and warm. Sidney leans against the trailer next to Harrington and it does, in fact, feel nice and warm, even through his hooded sweatshirt.
After a moment of basking in the sun, Harry turns his head and says, “So you’ve really never eaten here?”
“Nope,” Sidney replies from behind closed eyes. “Is it any good?”
“Any good?!” Harry exclaims. “Dude, they’re the best spot in town. At least as far as hotdogs go. Get a pair of chilidogs with cheese and fancy sauce, trust me. You will not be disappointed.”
“I’m not even that hungry, though.”
“A’ight,” Harry says impatiently. “Then only get one chilidog with cheese and fancy sauce and I’ll try not to be disappointed.”
“A’ight,” Albey says, but not because Harry said it. “What’s in the fancy sauce?”
“Fanciness,” Harry descriptively explains. “Nah, but it’s ketchup mixed with mayonnaise with a bunch of spices in it. Chili powder, a little bit of pepper, uh… coriander, I think. Maybe not coriander, I don’t know. I’m spitballin’. Thompson won’t give me the recipe, says it’s a family secret.”
“The guy who makes it…?” Harry asks. “Was that not obvious?”
“I don’t know, dude,” Sidney says, feeling out of his element. “I’m out of my element here, I really don’t go out much.”
“Yeah, I can tell… like, what does Tori see in you, anyway?”
“Nothin’,” Harrington says quickly, launching himself from the warm trailer. He knocks on the metal again, shouting, “Hey, big dog! You in there? We’re try’n’a eat!”
No noise comes from within the trailer. Harry leans back against it, but on the other side of the service window. Albey stays put, gazing out into the streets. Whole lot’a cars flying by back and forth, lots of nameless locals going from wherever they came from to wherever they think they’re going. Whole lot’a Thompsons, Albey reckons… but they’re not all called Thompson, they can’t be. They must have names and lives and places to go, folks to see. It’s not like his life is a novel by a lazy writer, he’s just… well, he’s not an observant ‘man. Not one to go out much, an outsider who lives on the inside. He’s likely just as ambiguous to all of those folks as they are to him, so… so what? What is this weird feeling in Sidney’s gut right now?
Sidney’s eyes snap to the right. Harry’s standing next to him with his arms folded, one eyebrow cocked and loaded.
“What’s up,” Sidney says drowsily. “Did I fall asleep?”
“Do you usually fall asleep out in public?” Harry asks concernedly.
“No, I uh…” He stands off the side of the trailer and looks up to the service window, but nobody’s there. The lights are on inside, but Stew Dogs seems to be totally empty. “I don’t… I was inside my head, sorry.”
“I was inside my head,” Sidney says, this time unapologetically. “That never happen to you?”
“I don’t even know what you mean, dude,” Harry says with slight undertones of alarm, so slight that Albey doesn’t even pick them up.
“Like… I don’t know, it’s kind’a like… you–… er, I just start thinking and keep following the thought to wherever it goes and I kind of zone out, lose awareness of the outside world a little bit. Like, I don’t black out or anything, I’m still here, it’s just… it’s like I sort’a go somewhere else.”
“To The Hillside Commons?” Harry ventures.
Sidney smiles unexpectedly. “Yeah, kind’a. See? You get me.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Harry demurs. “But I kind’a see what you mean. That’s never happened to me, though. I am firmly in the real world at all times.”
“Oh,” Sidney shrugs. “That must suck.”
“You know, I was thinking the same thing about your shit. Funny how that works, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, ‘man,” Sidney says as he leans against the trailer. “Funny how that works.”
The wait in the dead parking lot for an uncounted amount of time which, were it to be counted, would be measured in minutes.
“So why do you prefer the hotdogs?” Sidney finally asks.
“The hotdogs,” Sidney repeats. “You said I should get a chilidog with the sauce–”
“A chilidog with cheese and fancy sauce,” Harry corrects with a jab.
“Right, that.” He nods up at the Stew Dogs sign. “Why the hotdogs, though? Why not the stew?”
Harry just kind of looks at Sidney for a few seconds. “Are you… you’re being serious, aren’t you?”
“Sirius as Snape,” says the young ‘man who’s never read a single Harry Potter book.
“They don’t sell stew here, numbnuts,” Harry snorts. “It’s just a hot dog place.”
“You really thought they sold stew here? From a metal trailer in a lot with no fences?”
Sidney didn’t notice it before but Harrington is right, there are no fences. The parking lot of Stew Dogs bleeds right into the parking lot of the stores on both sides, and behind the rusty trailer is just woods; branches reach around on both sides and the top as if they were the only things stopping the trailer from floating away. It doesn’t even have lines for parking either, it’s just crumbly black asphalt. The two cars parked here take up most of the space.
“Yeah, I really did,” Sidney says without shame. “The sign says Stew, what else should I have thought?”
Harrington makes a face like he can’t believe what he’s hearing – openly gaped mouth with tiny bends in the corners, wide eyes, nose looking no different than it normally would – and shakes his head a bit. “Uh, Stewart Oh Bashby, maybe?”
Harry says nothing, only puts his hands in his pockets.
“What? Who’s Stewart Oh Bashby?”
“He’s… it’s a long story. I’ll explain after we eat.”
“A’ight,” Sidney says entirely on his own accord. Seconds pass. The cars continue to drive by, the wind continues to blow. “So when are we going to eat?”
“I don’ow,” Harry admits. “Usually he comes out by now. Maybe I should try knockin’ again.”
And so Harry tries knockin’ again. He doesn’t get an answer, but one of the lights inside the trailer flickers, so there’s that.
“Maybe we should eat someplace else,” Sidney says, pretending, ‘Maybe the guy in the black cloak murdered Thompson,’ doesn’t cross his mind. “There are other places to eat around here, aren’t there?”
“Did you really just ask that?” Harry asks, astounded.
“Rhetorically, yeah. I did. I mean, I don’t know of any other places specifically, but like…” He shrugs. “I just kind’a figured there were.”
“Wow. You really don’t get out much, do you?”
“I do not,” Sidney says.
“How do you deal with that?”
Sidney shrugs. “It’s not a big deal, I don’t really mind it. Do a lot of writing.”
“Oh yeah, you’re writing that book.”
“I am,” Sidney nods.
“How’s that coming along?”
“Pretty well,” Sidney says happily. “I’m just about forty thousand words in, so it’s almost officially a novel.”
“What do you mean?” Harry asks lowly.
“Well, like, a novella is anywhere from, like, twenty thousand to forty-fifty thousandish words, and a novel is forty-fifty thousandish words on.”
“Oh. Huh. Never heard of a novella before.”
“Yeah I don’t blame you, they’re usually sold as short stories in a collection. They’re not as common as regular novels.”
“Yeah…” Harry says, kicking at the pebbles of asphalt sitting atop the pavement.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of some though,” Sidney says, trying to bring him back in.
“Yeah uh, probably not, man. I don’t do much reading. Not books, anyway.”
This statement perplexes Albey. “What do you read then?”
“Newspapers, mostly,” he says as he kicks at the rocks. “Mostly the LogPond, when I’m editing it. Editing counts as reading, right?”
“Yeah, I don’t see why not,” Sidney levels. “I mean, it’s different than reading for pleasure–”
“Yeah, no shit,” Harry slices. “What does porn have to do with this, though?”
“I wasn’t–… didn’t mean erotica. I just meant reading for the sake of reading. Like, reading a story because you enjoy the story.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess I see what you mean.”
The wind. The cars. The rocks rolling across the pavement.
“But uh, yeah ‘man, you’ve probably heard of some novellas.”
“I really doubt it, man.”
“No dude, I’m telling you that you have,” though he’s struggling to bring one to mind. Oh, “What about The Shawshank Redemption?”
“That old prisonbreak movie?” Harry says with slight interest. “I love that shit. That was a novel?”
“A novella, yeah,” Sidney explains. “It was originally called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, but yeah, it was a novella first. By Stephen King.”
“By who?” Harry asks as if Stephen King was some obscure and unknown talent with a tiny cult following who only writes one book every five years and didn’t leave an undoubtable and unfuck’wit’able mark on not only literature but fiction and art and media in general and what the fuck ‘man how do you now know who fucking Stephen King is?!
“Stephen King,” Sidney says with undertones of passionate rage. “You definitely know who Stephen King is, you’re definitely fucking with me right now. You have to be.”
“Steven King, Steven… oh, the uh, the horror dude? Pet Cemetery and The Shining, right?”
“Yeah, along with, like, a trillion other works. He’s best known for his horror stuff but he does a lot of other writing, too. He has a fantasy series called the Dark Tower that I’m lowkey obsessed with.”
“Didn’t they make a movie out of that?”
Ignoring that accusation, Sidney continues, “It’s really awesome, it connects all the stories in the books he’s written into one contained multiverse. Dude’s a huge inspiration to me.”
Harry offers a toothy chuckle. “Yeah, Sidney. Sounds like it.”
“You would probably like the books. The Dark Tower, I mean. I could lend ‘em to you if you want.”
“Why would I like them?”
Sidney’s not sure what to say. Then, figuring it out, “Because it’s a really kickass story? I don’t know. Why wouldn’t you like them?”
“Because I don’t enjoy reading, dude,” Harry says. Sidney frowns then, recedes a little bit. “Oh, no, don’t take it the wrong way. I’m sure they’re awesome. I’m just not into books, man.”
“No I, I uh, no I get it,” Sidney stammers failingly.
Harry grins at him, but not mockingly. “You know, I’m starting to get how you get by spending all your time at home.”
“Are you?” Sidney asks, a tad bit nonplussed.
“Yeah, man. We’re not so different, you and I, but we’re also very different. I like to mingle with other humans, you like mingling with folks who other humans made up. At the end of the day we’re both mingling, and hey, you even make some folks up yourself. It’s kind of cool.”
“Huh. I’ve never thought about it like that,” Sidney says. “Thanks, ‘man.”
“Yeah, don’t mention it,” as Harry turns to knock on the trailer a third time. “Come on Thompson, what’s takin’ so long? I’m try’n’a fill y’r pockets!”
No answer. Sidney’s getting ready to sit on the asphalt they’ve been here for so long. Kind of wishes he had his journal… but at the same time, he could just talk about what he would write if he could write. Yeah, why not, right?
“Hey, Harry,” Sidney says as if they hadn’t been talking this whole time.
“Hey, Sidney,” Harry says with some confusion.
“What do you know about balance?”
“Balance?” Harry asks with an eyebrow raised. “Like, standing on one leg?”
“No, like chaos and order. Yin and yang? Y’know, balance.”
“Uh… can’t say I often think about it, man. Are you go’n’a ask me about god next?”
“Nothin’,” Harry says with another one of those toothy chuckles. “I’m learning a lot about you today, Sidney. I think I’m starting to see why you’re writing that book.”
‘Yeah, because I have a fictional world in my head,’ Albey thinks to himself. Aloud, “Oh? How do you mean?”
“Well, you seem to be a thinker. You got a lot goin’ on up there. I figure you have a bunch to write about.”
“Well… yeah, I guess,” Sidney guesses. “You do the paper, though. You have a lot to write about, too.”
“True…” Harrington says, looking for rocks to kick. It seems like he kicked them all away, shit. “I just write about what goes on around town, though. It’s not… I mean, it’s original thought and everything, but I’m just reporting what happens. You, like… I don’t know how to put it fancily, but like. You got a lot goin’ on up there, guy. More than some other folks I know. More than most, dare I say it.”
“I… guess,” Sidney guess es. “That’s not why I write though, I legit have another world in my head. Like, there are characters and places and entire histories, it… honestly, it lowkey feels more real than the real world sometimes. If that doesn’t make me sound too crazy.”
“Nah, you’re fine,” Harry says. “I’m go’n’a be crazy if Thompson doesn’t appear and give me a fuckin’ hot dog soon, though.”
Harry turns and beats both fists against the trailer. Across the parking lot, the door to the SUV sitting nearish Harry’s coupe opens and a rotund ‘man with more hair growing out of his bellybutton than he has growing in his nose climbs out, waddles to the trailer (without acknowledging Harry’s nor Sidney’s presence, even though they both track him ocularly as he ambles ‘cross the lot), opens the door on the side of the trailer without the hitch, steps inside, and closes the door quietly behind him. The trailer then shakes, presumably in step with his footpace, and the ‘man reappears at the service window, leaning his arms (also very hairy, but nothing compared to his naval, yeesh) on the countertop and looking entirely unimpressed.
“Hello there, boys,” bellows Thompson from beneath his meaty moustache. “What can I get for you today?”
“Couple’a chilidogs for me, do ‘em up with cheese and the fancy sauce, and one more for the other guy,” Harry says without missing a beat, impressive in his stoicism.
“Comin’ right up.”
Thompson disappears back into the Stew Dogs trailer. The sound of sizzling accompanied by a backdrop of a humming microwave lilts from the service window.
“Was he in that car the whole time?” Sidney asks quietly.
“I believe he was,” Harry answers quietly. “Just go with it, I really want these dogs.”
Very well. The boys – young men, that is, though they really are boys; we can kid ourselves all we want, and for some folks this is not true, but in smalltown Logger’s Pond childhood does not end until the ripe age of twenty-eight at the earliest, and even then you’re not to be treated as an adult until your face is all wrinkled up and your back is hunched and your mouth is crimped into a permanent scowl from all the hot misery you’re forced to put up with whilst living in a small backwoods town like Logger’s Pond – wait silently for the ‘man who made them wait while he napped (or did something blasphemous, it’s impossible to say, although one is vastly more likely than the other, and you’ll be left to figure out which one that is all on your own) in his car to fix them their [what passes for] food. A few minutes later he slides three plump red chilidogs in toasty brown buns smothered in glumpy brownish-red chili, molten cheese product, and a whole hefty heaping of fancy sauce onto the short counter hanging out of the service window.
“That’ll be nine’nineteen,” says Thompson all smooth-like. Harry hands him a ten. He punches the register and makes it give up some coins which he then dumps onto the counter with the dogs. “Eighty-one’s your balance. Thanks much, you boys have a nice day.”
“Thanks Thompson, you too,” Harrington says as he reaches up, collects his balance, and then takes down his two dogs, one in each hand. Sidney takes the third, nods his head at Thompson, and gets nothing by way of response. Thompson’s face is stone cold, not one shred of emotion.
Back across the parking lot, Sidney makes to get into the car but Harry, thinking fast, whips his keys out and locks the door.
“What are you doing?” Sidney asks, troubled.
“I could ask you the same thing! You are not eating that in my car, dude.”
“Why not?” Sidney asks, looking at the steaming liquid mess that is his Stew Dog.
“Because… I don’t need to fuckin’ explain it, dude. Just eat now.”
Sidney looks at Harry’s chilidogs and sees that half of one had vanished on the walk across the lot, and so he just eats now, and the chilidog is amazing, one of the greatest things he’s ever tasted (the second greatest thing he’s tasted today, in fact, for nothing can beat his licorice spice oatmeal no matter how unbelievably sensual it is), and Harry takes his tray (which has enough chili, cheese, and fancy sauce to prepare another Stew Dog) and brings the three of them back to the trailer, where he places them on the counter. Thompson takes them into the trailer and what he does from there is uncertain. Harry comes back and, after the boys have both licked their fingers clean and wiped the foody saliva on the front of their pants – not the back, because then it would track onto Harrington’s seats – allows Sidney entrance back into his car.
“All right,” Harry says, patting his stomach. “That was great. Back to the library?”
“No dude, we need to find that cloaked asshole who slashed my fuckin’ tires.” The chilidog has invigorated Sidney, given him a whole new lease on the rage he feels for that queer blackly cloaked asshole. “He didn’t have a car, I would have seen it in the parking lot. He must be walking around town somewhere.”
“Oh yeah,” as Harry throws it into reverse and backs up so he can pull out of the lot without jumping the curb, “almost forgot about that. What are we going to do when we find him?”
“Don’t know yet,” Albey says schemingly. “Cross the bridge when we get to it.”
“A’ight man, whatever you say,” and off they go.
Hello Commons, this has been the fourth subchapter of the fifth chapter of Untitled Bigfoot Project, a novel about a writer who writes a novel about bigfoot.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Untitled Bigfoot Project is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Untitled Bigfoot Project and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~