Durwood had just turned 50. 50 is an age in which most men are going to achieve whatever it is they're going to achieve in life unless they're waiting on the Nobel Peace Prize. Durwood wasn't going to receive a Nobel or any other such prize. No, men like Durwood begin to see everything start slipping away at age 50. It wasn't that he led an uneventful life. Not hardly. He was a war veteran without being in the armed forces. He was a master of deception without being in the CIA. He was a mercenary, but he was our mercenary or the more politically correct term "private contractor". He survived Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and every landmine, rocket launcher, and bow and arrow in Fharawaystan. What he didn't survive was a rather indiscrete affair with one of the wives of a very important U.S. ally – a potentate of a strategic Middle Eastern kingdom whom he was supposed to protect. He was banished for that indiscretion. He was the lucky one. The poor wife was stoned to death at a soccer stadium televised on state television.
But a man who seemingly had no past (or one that could be documented with authenticity) began to develop a propensity for indiscretions. In that foggy past where being discreet had served him well, carelessness and recklessness had just about done him in. He wandered aimlessly, drank considerably, thought about his lot in life incessantly. He finally landed a mall security job in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He drove a golf cart around the perimeter of the mall where he took swigs from a Southern Comfort bottle. He would occasionally run into parked cars but luckily no one reported him. He would get that long lost adrenaline rush again when an opportunistic purse snatcher would take off in his direction. And an amateur purse snatcher was no match for Durwood – drunk or not. One such loser said he needed money for tattoos. Durwood broke both of his arms. Then he made sure the miscreant got the word thief tattooed across his ass. The letter "I" would pose a problem. He never meant a mall cop like Durwood. But running down purse snatchers was one thing, writing up mall managers because their music was too loud or detaining petty criminals for stealing five dollar t-shirts was another. He moved on.
After months of living off the land and periodic stays in homeless shelters, he decided to try his hand at honest living once again. His constant companion was that damn Southern Comfort bottle. Durwood and his bottle would eventually settle down in a sleepy little 'burb outside Dallas. His new job- driving a kiddie train around an amusement park. He managed to rent a nearby upstairs apartment from an old lady who swore she was present at the grassy knoll the day Kennedy got shot. Before she rented the apartment to Durwood, she had to make sure in her own mind that he wasn't Lee Harvey Oswald. She refused to believe Oswald was gunned downed by Jack Ruby. However, she did recollect that back in the day she worked for Ruby in one of his clubs. She once delivered a suitcase full of money from Ruby's safe to a guy with a heavy Cuban accent. She says Ruby didn't die in prison but resides in a nursing home in upstate New York. He sends her flowers every year on her birthday. If he were alive, Ruby would be 100 years old. Rest assured, it all makes sense in a parallel universe. If she only knew about his past, Durwood thought. He could regale her with some of his stories, but then he would have to kill her. No need in that. And anyway, she seemed to forget about the rent as long as he managed to keep the lawn mowed.
The days at the amusement park were for the most part uneventful. All aboard. Load up the kids and some parents, and then embark on a 15 minute train ride around the park. Blow the horn, go through the tunnel. Give the kids that authentic train feeling. Stop at the depot and do it all over again. At midday, there was time for lunch, fuel, and cleanup. Cleanup could be a bitch though. There was popcorn, spilled sodas and ice cream, and the occasional bodily fluids to wipe up. But the kids invigorated him. They made the days tolerable. Perhaps they reminded him of his own childhood. Back when he was Jack and Lila's boy from Mt. Pleasant, Texas. Back before he had to answer to a code name. Back to when he had his own kids - two sons Jake and Gabriel. Back before everything got so damn crazy. And just when his sons needed him the most, he was on some foreign "assignment". Could they come along sometime, they would ask? "Not a chance in hell", replied their father. He had lost track of them and their mother over the years. When he decided to reconnect with them, it was too late. Jake had died of bone marrow cancer. Durwood would have been a perfect match if he would only have been there. Gabriel would blow himself up in an abandoned warehouse while cooking up some meth. Their mother took a lot of pills and died. It was a hell of a life.
A little red haired, pig tailed, girl shook him from his reverie. "My dad drinks from a bottle like that mister", she said pointing at the not so hidden Southern Comfort bottle protruding from the inside pocket of Durwood's coat. "Oh that…it's something I found while cleaning up. We gotta make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands". Hey by the way", he said hoping to distract her "do you wanna blow the horn"? With that, she forgot about liquor bottles. That was a close call. Luckily, nobody else was around. He had just had a meeting the previous week with the park manager. In his office he had photos of P.T. Barnum, Walt Disney, and Bozo the Clown prominently displayed on the wall. He wore a western bolo tie, a cheap sport coat, pants that were too short, white loafers, and sported a pompadour any televangelist would be proud of. This was the guy he was taking orders from. "Listen Durwood, safety is of the utmost importance", he said in the cadence of an OSHA inspector. "The speed of the train is not to exceed 15 miles per hour. Regular maintenance is to be done at the close of each shift". Blah, blah, blah. Durwood sat expressionless during the meeting until the manager cleared his throat, got up from his desk and walked to the window. "There have been reports of employees drinking on the job". He turned around, faced Durwood and winked. I'm sure they're just rumors at this point. That was all the warning he needed but still…In Durwood's previous life, this was a guy who would be brought before some tribal council and summarily executed. The town elder would be walking around in those white loafers clutching a bolo tie.
The park had its frequent visitors. One regular park goer was a 7 year old kid trapped in a 26 year old body. Melvin was a 420 pound, developmentally challenged African American who was a daily fixture at the park. His mom would drop him off at the park and head to a job in Dallas. She would pick him up after work. Durwood took a liking to Melvin. He felt sorry for him. He loved the train but was unable to fit in the passenger seats because of his girth. Durwood obliged him by letting him toot the horn. That at least made him feel a little better. The super slide was the only park attraction that could accommodate him, but he soon became bored with that endeavor. No, trains were made for dreaming and he just wasn't going to be happy until he was able to ride it. Durwood was all set to revamp one of the cars to facilitate the entry of Melvin, but the park manager would have none of it. "Were not here to cater to your whims Durwood or to the whims of that 26 year old freak", he said derisively. "This is a business, not a charity". So they went back to tooting the horn.
The weeks went by, and Durwood settled into a routine. He worked when he was supposed to and drank when he could. Melvin continued to toot the horn until one day he made his move. After collecting tickets from the riders, it was mandatory that he turn them in to the ticket counter to ensure nobody was riding for free. A quick head count was then done by another employee to make sure the tickets reconciled with the number of passengers. But this time when Durwood and the other employee came back from the ticket office, the full train was already taking off with Melvin in the driver's seat. He somehow was able to wedge his body inside the car partly because it was a little larger than the regular seats. "No Melvin NO!", Durwood screamed. But it was too late. The train shot out like a rocket. The problem was Melvin's size 17 foot. It was stuck, with no way to extricate it. And what was worse, was the fact the train had a top speed of 60 mph – much too fast for the amusement park track. The engine car in fact had come from another company owned park that had went belly up. This was no Briggs & Stratton lawn mower engine. It was designed for several miles of straight track, not a short winding track. Durwood had once stepped it up to 25 mph, but even that was too fast for some of the turns, thus the admonishment to not accelerate over 15 mph. There was a look of fear and exhilaration on Melvin's sweaty face. The passengers crying out in horror, parents and children holding on for dear life. The handbrake would stop the train, but it was tricky enough for an experienced driver to handle - for a novice, impossible.
Durwood quickly assessed the situation and realized that Melvin might make the first turn ok, the second turn a bit trickier but by the third turn disaster was pending. Melvin's weight along with ten cars carrying two passengers each would hopefully slow it down enough for Durwood to act before the train reached full speed. But what the hell would he do? "Think damnit, think", he said out loud to himself. He grabbed his constant companion, no not the Southern Comfort bottle, but his other constant companion – a loaded .44 which unlike the Southern Comfort bottle was usually out of view. He had made a lot of enemies in his day. You never knew when someone would be gunning for you.
He figured if he ran across the park quick enough he could act. The motto "one to the head and one to the heart" had served him well over the years, but this was a situation like none he had encountered before. He knew he had to shoot Melvin to stop the train. If he didn't, possible death and/or dismemberment would ensue. For all he knew, some of the passengers may already be jumping or falling off. He ran as fast as a 50 year old man with bad knees, a broken heart, and a bad liver could run. And on this day, it was pretty damn fast. He had to knock over a few people to get there, but he made it none the less. Melvin was approaching. The good news was that it looked like all the passengers remained onboard. But just as he surmised, the train was reaching top speed. Melvin could not raise his knee because it was caught under a compartment. And because he couldn't raise his knee, he couldn't extricate his foot. The accelerator pedal slammed all the way to the floor. The train wouldn't survive the next bend. Durwood was less than 30 feet away now. He would have an easy shot because the car was completely open, no door. And Melvin was a hard to miss target. He took his stance, placed both hands on the gun due to its heavy recoil, aimed and fired twice. The train slowed and limped into the next turn.
ONE YEAR LATER
There was a brand new train at the park - newer, cleaner, and much slower. There was also a new conductor/driver manning the train. It was Melvin and he had a new prosthetic limb to show off. You see when Durwood fired his shots; he aimed at Melvin's foot. He shot the foot completely off which was the only way to have stopped the train. As part of the insurance settlement reached with the amusement park, Melvin was entitled to drive the train anytime he wanted. And he wanted to drive it all the time. He was also allowed to live onsite at the park and he took orders from no one. He also took to wearing a scorpion bolo tie. Size 17 white loafers were harder to find.
No one knew what became of Durwood. He just seemed to vanish into thin air. But occassionally an empty liquor bottle would be found on the premises. .