The Soldier

By Torn MacAlester

Image gen­er­at­ed by Torn MacAlester using GIMP 2.10.2 with Sta­ble Dif­fu­sion AI add on.

The Sol­dier



Granger real­ized that the whirl­wind month had end­ed as he head­ed to the Grey­hound bus, hop­ing to see if he could get a trip. Accord­ing to the sergeant in the dis­charge bar­racks, his chances of get­ting a home trip to Wyoming were next to noth­ing. He had the Army trav­el vouch­er and four hun­dred bucks in cash–enough to last maybe two weeks, if his luck held.

In the hazy twi­light, he made note of the lim­ou­sine pulled up along the curb. Two men were shout­ing at each oth­er along its far side. Granger noticed that the larg­er man had some­thing clinched in his fist, threat­en­ing the small­er man. Granger crossed the street quick­ly and dropped his duf­fle-bag on the ground behind the larg­er man. The man turned, hold­ing an eigh­teen-inch sec­tion of two-inch pipe.

“What do you want?” The large man said in a heavy Texas accent. “Mis­ter fan­cy pants was about to give me a ride.”

“I don’t think he was about to do any such thing,” Granger said.

“Please, I was telling the gen­tle­man that my dri­ver will be just–” start­ed the small­er man, in an almost con­de­scend­ing tone.

“Shut your fast-talk­ing mouth,” the larg­er man said, rais­ing the pipe.

“I’ll give you a count of one to drop that pipe,” said Granger, smelling the whisky on the oth­er man’s breath.

The large man con­tin­ued to raise the pipe and stepped toward Granger. Tak­ing a small step for­ward, Granger rolled the man over his shoul­der eas­i­ly and twist­ed his arm, forc­ing the pipe from his grip and drop­ping the large man to the ground.

“Once more chance, Cow­boy,” Granger said. “Take off and pick on some­one else.”

The man spat and reached for the pipe. Granger put his foot on his hand, grind­ing it against the concrete.

“Leave it,” said Granger.

The man stood and then stum­bled off, obvi­ous­ly drunk.

“That was quite impres­sive,” said the short­er man.

“There was noth­ing to it,” said Granger. “I hope your dri­ver will be along in a minute and you can get out of here.”

“You see, that is the trouble.”

“You don’t have a driver.”

“No, not as of an hour ago,” said the man.

“I take it that Cow­boy there wasn’t apply­ing for the job.”

“No, that was an unfor­tu­nate misunderstanding.”

“I can dri­ve it,” said Granger. “But I don’t have a limo license.”

“I’ll take you up on that if I can­not find one at the bus station.”

“Suit your­self.”

Granger picked up the duf­fle bag and the pipe. He tossed the pipe into a garbage bin.

“Can I get your name?” asked the man.

“Granger. Excuse me–Army the past cou­ple of years–Stanley Granger.”

“Mor­ris Mason. Good to meet you–what rank did you say.”

“No rank now, it seems. Yel­low­stone fin­ished that off.”

“Of course, Mis­ter Granger.”

“If I can help you find that dri­ver now, I’m also try­ing to see if there is any way to get to Wyoming.”

“If you need to get to Wyoming, I’ll see that you get there.

“Thank you, sir, but–”

“Non­sense, you’ve already put your­self in my debt. It’s the least I can do,” said Morris.

“Deal­ing with Cow­boy was not any trou­ble. It looked like you need­ed the help.”

“I insist. Let’s go in and see about a dri­ver, Mis­ter Granger.”




The clerk looked bored and didn’t seem to notice them walk up. “Busses are now once a week on Friday–the only des­ti­na­tions are Dal­las and Hous­ton,” the woman mut­tered, not even look­ing up.

“I am look­ing for a dri­ver,” Mor­ris said as Granger looked on.

“You’re look­ing at her, but the bus won’t be here until Fri­day morning.”

“I actu­al­ly need the ser­vices of a dri­ver,” con­tin­ued Mor­ris. “Would you be will­ing to dri­ve us to Dallas?”

“Not unless you got a thou­sand bucks.”

“Now there is a deal,” Mor­ris said. “Miss?”

“It’s just Sue,” she said.

“That seems steep,” said Granger.

“It doesn’t seem like you’re pay­ing. Does it?” said Sue.

“Quite per­cep­tive, Sue.” Mor­ris said.

“I was seri­ous, though,” she said.

“I didn’t think you were jok­ing,” said Mor­ris. “In fact, if you are ready to go in five min­utes, I can raise it to three thousand.”

“Okay, what am I dri­ving?” asked Sue, look­ing at Granger.

“The limo out­side,” said Granger.

“Okay,” she said. “What are your names?”

“I’m Stan­ley. This is Morris.”

“Mor­ris, the mon­ey­bags,” she said.

“Mason,” said Morris.

“Like Mason Oil?” she asked.

“None oth­er,” said Morris.

“Real­ly,” said Granger.

“Who did you think?” Mor­ris asked.

“I real­ly nev­er con­sid­ered it,” Granger answered.

“Well, now that we are all equal­ly shocked now after an apoc­a­lypse, can we get going? I’d like to earn the three grand,” said Sue.