Tales From the Food Cart #2: Henry


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Tales From the Food Cart #2: Henry


“Hey Ed, I gotta ‘pologize ‘bout the chickens,” Henry mumbled shamefacedly as he took a seat at the counter.  “I had some trouble with a coyote.”

Ed gave Henry a long stare as he loaded a tray with the drinks he’d just poured.  

He had a good face for staring, ice blue eyes set in a visage that was seamed and weathered by the Zone’s punishing sun.  At first glance one might take Ed for a man in his declining years.  A moment's observation would tell a different story as he ran the grill, poured drinks and served his customers with a cheerful energy.  His horseshoe mustache and the hair that peeked out from under his battered straw hat were an inky black without a hint of gray.

After tending to his customers, Ed gave Henry another long look and then finally replied, “Well, I made it work.  Becky went out and bagged me a couple of javelina.  They smoked up real nice, but I can’t say the bride’s family was too pleased.  Her father really shelled out for that chicken, they wanted to impress the new in-laws and show those folk from Sands of Dieggo how civilized Bright Lights is.  Musk hog didn’t exactly paint the picture he was looking for, even if everyone said it was delicious.”

“Yeah, I know,” Henry responded sadly.  “Like I said, I came t’ ‘pologize.”

“What the hell Henry?  I paid you good money for those mother cluckers!  This was supposed to be a sweet deal, pay for another beer tap and maybe get the second grill fixed.  Instead I had to do nearly a full refund and I’ve probably lost a good customer!” Ed exclaimed in frustration.

“I had ‘em chickens all ready to slaughter,  but then there was this coyote, see–” Henry began.  

“After all the bragging about your new coop?” Ed interjected.

“Well, this wasn’t no ord’nry coyote, see,” Henry explained.  “She must‘a been some kinda mutant!  Or maybe a spirit, or a skinwalker even!”

“Henry, I’m pretty sure that between the two of us we don’t know enough to say a single intelligent thing about a coyote spirit, and that goes double for skinwalkers,” Ed argued.  “Mutants I’ve had a little experience with, but what makes you think this coyote was all that unusual?”

“Well, she could talk fer one thing!” Henry replied defensively.  “And she ran off with almost all my chick’ns in a truck.  No way a normal, everyday coyote coulda’ done that!”

“How’d she do it then?” Ed asked skeptically as he loaded up the grill with mystery meat for three orders of D-Road Surprise.  The smell of chili, garlic and spices rose in a thick cloud of choking vapors that sent a pair of out of towners running for the farthest table, coughing and wheezing.  Jeers and laughter from the regulars followed in their wake.

“I can’t really say.  See, she came up t’ me, all brazen like, when I was out watering my chilis.  She said t’ me, well didn’t exactly *say*, more I heard her thoughts in my head, but she told me I had quite the chicken setup, but not good ‘nough t’ stop a coyote.” 

“Voices in your head, huh?  How long had you been out in that sun?” queried Ed, while dishing up refried beans and boiled nopales for the D-Road plates.

“It wer’n’t like that, Ed!  I was stone sober and well hydrated to boot.  I thought we’d already ‘greed that she was some kinda mutant?” Henry protested.  “Do ya want t’ hear ‘bout the coyote or not?” 

“Well, I don’t know about mutants, but I do want to find out what happened to the chickens I was promised,” Ed replied while sliding plates and cold glasses of beer down the counter to waiting customers with practiced ease.

“OK, so she *told* me if I’d pay her a haf dozen eggs she’d ‘nspect the coop n’ give me a full report ‘bout how to upgrade it n’ make’t coyote proof,” Henry said.

“Ever heard the expression about foxes and hen houses?  Didn’t you think for a moment that might go at least double for coyotes!?” 

“I had my shotgun. I was goin’ to keep ‘n eye on ‘er the whole time–” Henry began.

Ed broke in, “‘*Were going to*’, I take it that something more important came up?”

“Well, yeah, Ed, I’d opened the coop and she’d jus’ start’d her ‘nspection when the sheriff pulled up!” Henry said in exasperation.  “I’m not ‘n idiot!  I woudn’t a just left her in there if ida had a choice!”

“Mmhmm…. What’d the sheriff want?” Ed asked skeptically, as he started plating the next order.

“Appar’ntly, Frank accused me a stealin’ a mess a his chickens!  The sheriff wanted to check my coop to see if’n I had any Reds, cause eryone knows I raise Orpies.  But it took a long time on ‘ccount a my shotgun.  It made the sheriff right nervous an’ he had me down on the ground ‘n cuffed while we sorted things out.”

“So then what?” Ed asked over his shoulder as he worked the grill.

“By the time I was able t’ get up and show ‘m my coop, it were all but empty!  We followed the chick’n ‘n coyote tracks up over the back hill.  They end’d right where some tire tracks b’gan!  That’s why I fig’r’d she was a skinwalker see?  No coyote, not even a mutant, could’a driven a truck!”  Henry exclaimed.

“Well, we agree on that at least.  Frank said you stole his chickens, eh?”

“Yep, same mode us opera andy the sheriff said!  Coyote ‘n chink’n tracks ‘n then the same type a tire tracks!  Just like me!” Ed replied. After a pause, “‘Cept he didn’t see the coyote or anyone take his chick’ns, just found the coop empty!”

“Hmm... I’m going to have to ask Frank about this,”  Ed said thoughtfully.

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