The sole of boot had come off at the heel. Miles of traipsing through the dust and scrub out in the Dusk finally doing it it. Clarence had tolerated it for a while until he pulled in to gas up about a mile outside of the closest relocation camp. A group of children slouched around a defunct pump watched him owl eyed when he went in to pay and fill his canteen in silence. The stiff sole slapping loudly against his heel. When he walked out the children timed their claps with his steps and grinned gap-toothed.
Clarence stopped and the children stopped. He squinted at them from over his shoulder. Then he resumed trudging back to his car to the mocking applause. He peeled out and made a half hearted rude gesture through his open window.
It was only a little ways to the outcropping of red rock he had picked to bed down at for the sleep shift. The Teller on his wrist chimed just as he pulled into the flat landing. Clarence wrenched the beaters stick into park harder than strictly necessary. He twisted in the drivers seat and sifted through the detritus that filled his backseat for a minute before swearing and heaving himself out. Yanking open the back door Clarence threw himself across the junk and rooted around the floorboards, tounge tucked up into the gap where his bicuspid used to be, one eye screwed shut in concentration.
“Aha! Aha ha ha!” He crowed to himself when his hand closed on a leather bag that had gotten jammed under the passengers seat. Odd. Normally he kept it in the trunk… Or no, it was his mess kit he kept in the trunk. Clarence snatched the worn woolen blanket from where it was draped over the drivers seat as he withdrew from the cluttered back seats. He spread the blanket over a smooth rock and sat, dropping th bag at his feet and removed his boots. He set them tenderly to the side.
Less tenderly he dumped the leather bag into his lap, plucking out the tube of ‘Maxwells sup-ER sticky’ and tucking it under his arm so he could sweep the rest of the the bric a brac into the bag again. He picked up the damaged boot and flipped it upside down to inspect the sole. There was a cobbler he knew of about seven miles away, in Claxon, but Clarence had earned his first handful of hedgebacks trapping a flitterwing that had been making nests in an old ladies squash garden and damned if he’d spend it on something that wasn’t whiskey or fuel.
The instructions on the tube said to use a penny sized amount but Clarence used four times that. He pressed the hard sole back up against the leather. Glue oozed out the side and over his fingers and he wiped them absently against his pants as he set the boot aside to dry. Clarence folded his hands in his lap, stiff with drying glue, and squinted into the deep dark of the Nightside. He thought of nothing in particular until a hollow shriek sounded from overhead.
Glancing up he could see the dim eddy of a wisp cutting through the sky. Big one it looked like. Maybe some work would come of it.
Somewhere he could hear the buzz of mud wasps at work in the crags of the outcropping he sheltered in. A few succulents had started to bloom around him, sighing a subtle sweet breath into the air. Beautiful, peaceful, lonely.
For a moment Clarence missed the camps. Only a moment though.
He took the Teller off his wrist and swept the blanket over one arm to spread over the dusty ground. Before he laid down and tucked his arms under his head he switched on a channel from the Dayside he knew played hours of radio dramas. It was a habit he had gotten into in the past few months of traveling by himself. The chatter made him feel like he was a child again, falling asleep to the sound of adults talking outside while he dozed with his sister on their shared bed in the one room of their shanty.
Even interspersed with news from the radio, Clarence could hear voices that made him feel like he had some company here in the liminal space between the constant day and night where he slept on the hard ground.
(Read B. Sabo’s All Night comic at www.allnightcomic.com to see what this piece was inspired by.)