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  • Writer's pictureTim Sojka

June Free Sample from Sojka

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

A free excerpt from CLAWS (coming 2024) for my site visitors and subscribers


2:22 a.m., Wednesday, May 5, 1976, Beaumont, Texas

Rumbling tractor trailers, drag racing Trans Ams, and honking horns hounded out the croaks of bullfrogs and chirps of crickets, the opera of Texas night. Bordering residents, accustomed to the ear-rape of Interstate 10, flip-flopped in bed or punch-fluffed pillows. Car exhaust choked out the fragrance of star jasmine and honeysuckle.

Aside from the cagiest stray mongrels, mid-sized wildlife was rare. Deer, feral hogs, raccoons, armadillos, turtles, snakes, and skunks—pancaked road-kill—sacrificed at the altar of the all-mighty interstate, the local economy’s lynch pin. Two blocks off the interstate, near Beaumont, Texas, eight green, slime-coated mobile homes sat on mismatched cinderblocks along a scrub tree lot.

The “mobile” part of mobile home presents as a stale joke. Each single-wide trailer’s tires rotted eons earlier. No double-wide trailers in the mix; double wides offer glamour unavailable here.

Inside the rattiest of trailers, Teeny Voix twisted in bed, half asleep. Dried tears coated her cheeks. A bloody dog collar wrapped her left wrist like a bracelet.

No unicorns or rainbows painted her dreams. No princess fairy tales awaited her awakening. Teeny’s home, Trailer #2 (the actual number, not because it’s the shittiest trailer) of Trail’s End Mobile Home Park, was not the place miracles happened, it’s where dreams died … most nights.

An only child, Teeny slept on the bottom bed of a bunk bed. Sissie, Teeny’s momma, scouted yard sales after 4 p.m. when bone-tired owners surveyed unsold items, dreading toting tables, sleeper sofas, and mattresses to the garage. An ornery, train smoking, wrinkled roughneck allowed Sissie to haul off the hunk of junk bunks for free. So, boom … bunk bed.

An amber night light illuminated Teeny’s room. A rummage-sale rescued suitcase sat next to Teeny’s bed, packed, sorted, ready for departure.

Opie, her plush, pink-bellied opossum—a gift from Santa—stood guard in the corner, button eyes focused on her bunk. From Teeny’s hand-me-down dresser, three plushy Pekin ducks scouted for enemy incursions. An obstacle course of Legos separated Teeny’s bed from the door. Jumping jacks sprinkled her patchwork quilt. A mass of tight, curly, brown hair peeked from her covers.

Oafish footsteps approached her door … again. Teeny Voix stirred from troubled sleep. She listened and registered the next step, familiar with his routine. Teeny’s eyes fused shut as she burritoed her blanket around her. Flick would not knock, never knocked—might wake Momma. The door creeeeaaaaaaaked open.

“Ya awake?” he whispered through busted lips, a reminder of his lost battle hours before.

Teeny remained casket-rigid. Maybe he’ll go away this time. Flick took the first step toward her. “What the hell …?” Flick flopped assward as Legos spiked into his instep. The trailer trembled as the 375-pound, 6’4” man’s butt bounced off the peeling linoleum.

“Damn, Teeny. Told ya to pick this shit up.”

Opie watched, but remained still. Flick listened, no sounds. The rest of the house slept … or ignored.

Teeny’s stepfather refocused, using the night light to spot Legos and map a path to the eight-year-old’s bed. He stood and navigated past Lego landmines toward her.

“Teeny, ya awake?” Flick repeated.

Flick plopped on the edge of her bed. Jumping jacks, camouflaged by the quilt’s patches, skewered into his blubbery buttocks. He jumped. Thunk! Banging his noggin on the top bed.

“What the hell, Teeny? What the hell?”

Teeny remained wedged into her blanket. Wake up, Momma, wake up, she prayed silently.

Flick gathered himself, then listened. No sounds. He brushed jumping jacks from the bed. He groped, testing for soft spots, then sat. His hand moved to Teeny’s shoulder.

“What’s the suitcase for? You ain’t leaving.” Teeny started multiplication tables in her head. 4x1=4, 4x2=8, 4x3=12. Anything, anything to distract her from impending horror.

Sounds of giggling children echoed through her room. “Hee, ha, hee, hee, ha, ha, ha … ”

The giggles, new to Flick, but familiar from hours earlier to Teeny. The giggling originated from outside the trailer and inside her brain at once. Then the tap, tap, tap, on glass.

“What … ” Flick stomped toward the window. Another tap, followed by children’s footsteps racing away.

Giggling again, outside, inside, in her head. “Hee, ha, hee, hee, ha, ha, ha … ”

Teeny’s door flew open as Flick raged toward the trailer’s front door.

“Flick, what is it?” Sissie called from the other bedroom.

Teeny, unsure of why, climbed out of bed, following Flick, dodging Legos. Once outside, Teeny watched Flick disappear into the scrub trees. Cottony clouds coasted across the inky sky, parking in front of the crescent moon, smudging the night’s light source.

No more giggles to guide her, Teeny shuffled across the grass, tender feet assaulted by sticker-burrs. The eight-year-old stopped to dig out assailants.

“Whoever you are, you got no business wakin’ my family!” Flick screamed. “Get your ass out here … NOW!”

Porch lights flipped on behind Teeny.

“AHHHHHH!” Flick’s scream pierced the night, rising over road racket. Dried bush branches splintered, signaling her stepfather’s sprint toward her. Teeny heard a roar, an impossible roar.

Seconds later, Teeny’s mom, her neighbor Pru, and half-asleep trailer dwellers poured into their postage-size lots. Each to bear witness.

Flick Hurt breached the tree-line as giant jaws clamped his skull and hoisted him into the air, shaking him as easily as goose down pillows. The 375-pound couch potato jiggled, fat bouncing. His shorts flopped lower, and his wife-beater T-shirt raised, exposing his swollen, hairy, purple, stretch-lined booze belly.

Flick’s arm swung, trying—failing—to free himself, as jaws whip-snapped him forth, then back, releasing him before claws towed Flick Hurt into the scrub-woods. “Help, help me!”

Another roar reverberated the night, echoing—as if bouncing off the crescent moon. Neighbors quivered in unison. No heroes arose to rescue Flick Hurt. Each cowering witness greeted with the distant sound of the beast’s deep gurgle, clamping jaws, crunching skull, and Flick’s final whimper.

No one noted Teeny silently mouth, “Thank you.”

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