Flash Fiction

Danger in the Eye

July - 1922

Somewhere in Appalachia…

Clark’s legs screamed as he ducked around willows and dove over briar.  In retrospect, the quick romp in the hay with the farmer’s daughter probably wasn’t the best decision he’s ever made.  Especially since Clark now found himself on the hunted end of a family of heavily armed hillbillies.  Who would’ve expected they believed so heavily in commitment? - Not Clark, that’s for sure.  He reminded himself to note that in his travel journal should he make it out of this one alive.  

Clark didn’t fear death.  He was disgusted by it.  Death seemed so dull; so monotonous; so god-awfully boring.  Not that he believed in heaven or hell, but he certainly hoped that should he find himself in one or the other it’d be the latter.  The prospect of eternal bliss in heaven struck him as rather bland.  Lucifer at least seemed like a man with a taste for adventure.  Besides, being turned into a pincushion for sixteen rounds of steaming hot buckshot came across as… vulgar.  Clark hadn’t even yet set foot on the planet Mars.  Surely death would have the decency to wait for such an achievement.  

Regardless, he wasn’t concerned though.  Clark had found his way out of more difficult situations.  Or, to put it more accurately, Clark’s compass had found a way out.  Gifted to him by his grandfather, and his grandfather’s father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him, ad nauseam, the compass had the nasty habit of bringing Clark into situations where being dead was the likeliest of outcomes.  You see, the compass didn’t point north; no, far from it.  It pointed towards adventure.  

The compass had taken Clark from the steppes of Siberia to the jungles of the Amazon.  He faced cannibal pygmies in the Australian outback and pygmy cannibals in the outback of Australia.  Lawrence of Arabia was late to the surrender of Damascus because he, along with Clark and war correspondent Lowell Thomas, found themselves in a coffee house brawl in Jerusalem with six Turks and twenty-two French legionnaires.  You won’t read about that one in the history books.  As a child Clark had supplied Teddy Roosevelt with water as he and his men took San Juan and Kettle hill and had it not been for Clark, they never would have been able to cap the gusher at Spindletop.  All this from the compass that now found itself lodged in the gullet of six-hundred pound wild hog.

Clark wasn’t sure how long he’d been running for but his legs felt like hot buttered sourdough slathered in orange marmalade.  He’d certainly need a drink after this one.  The frequent explosion of branches indicated the hillbillies were closing and closing fast.  He could see (and smell) the hog just on the other side of a steep gully but without any easy way to cross it, Clark would have settle on survival being his main focus for the present moment.  Just then, Clark got the stroke of luck he had been hoping for.

A blast from one of the hillbilly’s rifles grazed Clark’s left ear and struck a young sapling growing in front of him.  The sapling had been partially supporting the remains of a decomposing oak, long-since felled by a lightning-strike.  With its support gone, the last bit of trunk cracked and gave way, falling across the gully and crushing the back half of the wild hog and forcing the compass up and out of its throat in a sort of macabre version of the Heimlich maneuver.  In a move fit for the summer Olympics, Clark jumped up and out over the gully, catching the compass in mid-air before flipping into a swan dive into the river below.  Clark swam under the cover of water until his lungs screamed as loudly as his legs, surfacing just as the river swelled into rapids followed by a small waterfall.  The hillbillies launched one last desperate volley of gunfire attempting to inflict as much pain and injury upon Clark but by then, the river had already carried him past the range of their horribly inaccurate firearms. 

Using his leather rucksack as a makeshift life-preserver, Clark kissed the compass and fired back, not with a gun, but with the bird, stretching out both middle fingers in an act of flippant defiance as he floated downriver, away from one adventure and towards the next.  Always allowing his compass to lead the way.