No one identified the body. No one would even touch it. The shin bone had popped through flesh upon impact. The sight gave everyone the heebie-jeebies. A baseball bat and Tabasco bottle were in each hand. Some say the grip was still strong as he lay there without a pulse, flat lined.
The Silver Bow county morgue printed an obituary with no name and the customary biblical passage underneath. Another anonymous nobody was embalmed and lowered into the earth.
There’s no way of knowing if flinches flared up across rivers and mountains or wherever Hillbilly’s hobo teammates mighta been laying their head, but one thing’s for sure. This wasn’t the first time Hillbilly died, but it would definitely be the last.
How many soft hands he’d slipped away from was anybody’s guess. Ladies called him by the worst of names but Hillbilly loved that first feeling; those first steps away from decency and union. He called it escaping death; a smashing of the whiskey windows and he cherished every moment like a kid floating on air in a new pair of shoes.
The married life was not for Hillbilly, but that never stopped him from duping dames. He plucked rubber bands, tapped the mouths of Mickey’s malt beer bottles and with every swig of Jim Beam, added words that became songs and dance. He spit, burped, and scratched his crotch and yet ladies clung to him like a fire escape.
He never bothered with long notes or saying goodbye. He walked straight towards the tangled mess of train tracks where his family of hobos, locomotion and the whistle onward always waited. Twenty years of back and forth between a lady and riding the rails, between respectability and Hillbilly, sober and drunk, straight and twisted.
There were 15 of em’ hopping trains and heading nowhere. They begged and gambled, splashed in rivers and turned road kill into first suppers with an eye drop dash of Tobasco; instant home under the stars.
It was just outside Boise, Idaho where the first baseball game was played. The hobos didn’t have names for fields; just weeping willows bobbing into PCB infested river water or backyards with 7 clothes lines. The landmarks were flashbacks, reminding them of the quicksand at second base-Shreveport, the barbed wire home run fence-Ashtabula, the wind in Kankakee.
Boilermaker threw a “splat ball;” nastiest pitch anyone had ever seen, stopped in mid-flight and hop skipped to the right, but only a hair. Then it would whip back to the left, down and out.
Lone Wolf roamed the tall outfield grasses, never did take responsibility for his life; loud and arrogant one day; quiet and apologetic the next, but hell if there was a fly ball he couldn’t track down.
Hot foot ranged all over the infield, planted those big feet of his and threw an underhand sling shot never dipping below waist level. Musta traveled over 150 miles per hour.
Lemon Doo was fatter than anyone liked to admit. Couldn’t pan handle a dime with her around, but she was the only one to ever connect on Boilermaker’s splat pitch; nothing but a foul ball, but definitely an indication. And sure enough….throw her a fastball and she sent it sailing faster than the early evening Hiawatha.
Years passed faster and faster and the hobos forgot all about their bodies and the world; became no different from leaves or snow falling; rushing water, a still mountain peak.
That all changed when young mean drunks took over the train yards. The hobos felt naked and distance crept over them. It was a dark day in autumn when Lone Wolf suffered one too many pummels from a Louisville Slugger. The angry kids took off and ran, leaving the bloody body and baseball bat behind.
One hobo after another squeezed under fences and back into society. Some found holes under subways. Others slipped behind shopping mall walls and lived beside boiler rooms. A few fled to the hills and built makeshift shacks.
Only Hillbilly remained; choosing to die in the same ring that brought him to life. He yanked the baseball bat and Tabasco bottle from Lone Wolf’s grip and hopped a Union Pacific, heading east towards the Continental Divide.
It was on a ridge somewhere near Pipestown Pass in Montana where Hillbilly extended his arms east and west as far as they could go. He touched rivers and mountain peaks with the tips of his fingers, felt the surge of river water racing through his veins, let out a long sigh and leaped. He was buried with baseball bat and Tabasco bottle in hand.