Contributor: Gary Clifton

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Freddy and Jimmie Bob sat on Freddy's back porch, chugging shots of shine, chasing it with Budweiser. The air at dusk was still sticky with humidity, but the temperature had dropped and mosquitoes weren't bad yet. The old man shuffled up through the trees in the fading light.
"Hey, Arthur," Freddy said. "Meet my brother Jimmie Bob...plumber up in Hot Springs, drove down to visit." Freddie circled his ear with a finger and pointed his chin at Arthur. Jimmie Bob nodded understanding.
"Hot Springs," the old man struggled up the steps. Ancient, with a permanent forward stoop, his bushy hair and scraggly beard had dodged the comb for months. "Must be sixty mile."
"More like 97...this far into Louisiana here," Jimmie Bob scratched his nose with the back of a hand and took a hit of shine.
Freddy, with more tattoos than teeth, grunted over his huge gut as he reached into a cooler at his feet. He handed old Arthur a Budweiser and pointed to a wicker chair.
"Plumber, huh," Arthur slumped in the seat. "Gotta leak in my kitchen. You fix it, I could pay...maybe later." The old man filled his mouth with beer.
"Got no tools...on vacation." Jimmie Bob swatted an insect and drunkenly spilled shine in his lap.
"Maybe come back tomorrow?" The old man looked over half glasses perched on his nose.
"Told ya. Crazy as hell," Freddy whispered.
"Whut's that? Gettin' crazier 'n hell?" Arthur echoed, his belly laugh like tearing cardboard. "Cain't hardly hear a damned thing.” He cupped a hand to his left ear.
"Brain's prolly pickled." Jimmie Bob tossed a dead soldier into the darkness. "You 'member how nuts grandpa Chadsey got?"
"Maybe oughta to be in a home," Freddie said He glanced at Arthur out of the side of his eye.
"Home? Gotta leak in my home. Iffen you come fix it, I'd pay you when I get my check," Arthur said. "You maybe come back down from Little Rock?"
"Oh for God's sake," Freddy roared. His beer-belly quivered like jello. "Looney old fool. Jimmie Bob's on vacation. He ain't gonna do no plumbin' on' he livin' up in Hot Springs...not no Little Rock"
Arthur drained his beer and flipped the can into the weeds. He peered wistfully at Freddy's cooler. "Did I ast if y'all knowed a plumber?" Arthur cackled. The vacant eyes didn't match his lively laugh.
"Damnation, old man, lemme see what kinda tools I got in the truck." Jimmy Bob stood. Unsteady, he leaned on the frail porch railing. "You got any pliers, Freddy?" Tall and skinny, he slugged down a double shot of shine. Excess whiskey dripped off his thin goatee.
“Dammit, Jimmy Bob, you got no need to…”
“Aw hell, he sorta makes me think of Uncle Chadsey. You live long ‘nough, you gonna get old too.” He moved down the steps and turned toward his old pickup.
Arthur, grinning, shuffled over and snagged another beer.

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Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over sixty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites. He's been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued, and is currently retired. He has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.
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