BORN FOR TROUBLE: THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HAP AND LEONARD by Joe R. Lansdale preview: “Hoodoo Harry”
In celebration of the release of Joe R. Lansdale’s outstanding BORN FOR TROUBLE: THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HAP AND LEONARD, Tachyon presents glimpses from the new collection.
You could call BORN FOR TROUBLE a collection of stories. But that’s like calling Paradise Lost by Milton a poem. BORN FOR TROUBLE is a road map through 20th-century crime fiction, and your guides are two of the greatest, most intriguing characters ever created, Hap and Leonard. Rambunctious, complex, and endlessly fascinating, these two best friends offer a clear yet sometimes painful view of America in general, and East Texas in particular. Oh, by the way the cartographer of that map is one of the most original inventive and masterful storytellers to put pen to paper, Joe R. Lansdale. BORN FOR TROUBLE is bound to be a classic.—S.A. Cosby author of Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland
Joe R. Lansdale
The sun was falling behind the trees as we came over the hill in Leonard’s pickup, pulling a boat trailer loaded down with our small boat. We had been fishing and had caught a few. Our usual method was we terrorized the poor fish and threw them back at the end of the day, which for the fish, if you considered the alternative, wasn’t so bad.
On this day however we caught about a half dozen good-sized perch and a couple of bass, and we thought we’d clean them and dip them in a thick batter and fry them in a deep Dutch oven full of popping grease.
I’ve cut back on my fried foods for years now, but once in a while a bit of fried fish or fried chicken sets me right for quite a few months and I thought this would be one of those times. But our intended fish fry was cut short before the fish so much as got cleaned for frying.
As we came over the hill, the trees crowding in on us from both sides, we saw there was a blue bus coming down the road, straddling the middle line. Leonard made with an evasive maneuver, but by this point the trees on the right side were gone, and there was a shallow creek visible, one that fed into the private lake where we had been fishing. There was no other place to go.
The bus seemed to come for us as we veered, and I saw right before impact that there was a black kid at the wheel, his eyes wild, working the steering wheel with everything he had, but it wasn’t enough. He was out of control. The bus hit us with a loud smack and I remember suddenly feeling the odd sensation of the tires leaving the ground and the truck turning over in mid-air. I heard the trailer snap loose and saw the boat sailing along in front of us, and then it was out of sight and we were in the creek, the roof of the truck on the bottom of the creek bed, water coming in through the damaged windows.
I heard a slow groaning of metal and realized the bus was on top of the truck and the roof of the truck was slowly crunching down into the creek bed and the floor of the truck was coming down to meet us. Another few seconds and me and Leonard would be pressed like sandwich meat.
I tried to get out of my seat belt, but nothing doing. I might as well have been fastened to that seat with duct tape. I held my breath as the water rushed in through the shattered windows, but the belt still wouldn’t come loose. A little, cardboard, pine-tree-shaped air freshener floated in front of my face, a shadowed shape against the dying sunlight leaking in at the edges of the side truck windows. A moment later the belt struggle was too much and I passed out, feeling as if I were drowning. Last thing I remember before going out was Leonard had hold of my arm—
That was it.
When I came to, I was lying on the ground on my side by the edge of the creek. I was dizzy and felt like I’d been swallowed by a snake and shit down a hole. My throat was raw, and I knew I had most likely puked a batch of creek water.
I turned my head and could see the bus, which I realized now was a bookmobile. rolling literature was painted in large white letters on the side. It was sitting with its tires on top of Leonard’s truck, the windshield blown out. I could still hear the groaning sound as the weight of it slowly squashed the truck and shoved it deeper into the creek bed. Leonard was holding an open pocketknife in his hand, the one he had used to cut my belt loose. He looked exhausted.
“Good thing you come around,” Leonard said. “Mouth to mouth wasn’t going to happen, pal. Come to that, I was going to be walking home alone.”
Leonard shook his head. “What’s left of him oozed out through the bus’s windshield. Glass worked on him like a cheese grater.”
“Shit,” I said, sitting up.
“I was you, wouldn’t go look. You don’t need that in your head. Bet he ain’t more than twelve years old.”
Books were floating out of the shattered windows of the bookmobile and were pushed along gradually by the current like dead fish. The water was either red with sunlight or with blood. Night settled in and the red in the creek turned black as ink and the bus looked like a small island out there in the shallow water.