Thursday, November 1, 2018

Changing Jobs by Bill Baber

Changing Jobs
Clarence Simms had been at it since it was light enough to see. The early afternoon heat was oppressive, the sun beating down from a flat white sky and the humidity like a wool blanket that had been dropped over him.
He removed his cap, wiped the sweat from his forehead and eyes. He could feel the dried salt on his cheeks. Looking around, he muttered a curse.
“Three goddamn days I been behind this plow. Three hot sons of bitches to boot. Reckon I ain’t half way through. “
When he kicked at the earth, dust rose from the first layer of soil. Further down was hard Georgia clay.
“Just wastin’ my time,” he said out loud. “Ain’t rained in a month and it don’t look like it’s about to.”
Picking up the plow, he urged the mare forward. After a few feet he dropped it, unharnessed the horse and headed for the house.
An electric fan futilely moved hot air around. He looked over the place. It hadn’t been the same since the flu took Lizzie back in ’18. She was pregnant when she passed and when she went all his hopes and dreams died with her. Seven years ago. He didn’t know how he had kept on.
In the kitchen, he poured a slug of shine from a mason jar. If he didn’t bring in a crop this year he would lose the farm. There had been two years of drought and he had barely held on last year. The bank had been reluctant to give him a loan.
He had another taste and made a decision. His career as a cotton farmer was over. The time had come for a new one. The time had come to get the hell out of Appling County. Shit, he thought; time to get out of goddamn Georgia.
From the back of the bedroom closet he removed an old J. C. Higgins double barrel .12 gauge. Out in the barn, he placed it in a vice and with a hacksaw, cut 30 inches off the barrel. After wrapping it in burlap, he laid it on the seat of his old Model T. He put a can containing three gallons of gasoline on the floorboard.
Back in the house, he threw a few things into a grip, including a picture taken on their wedding day at the courthouse in Baxley. She had been the prettiest girl he had ever seen and she sure deserved better he thought. Better than me, better than this broke dick farm and better than to die with a baby in her belly at twenty three.
He grabbed the jar of moonshine, walking out without closing the door.
It was fourteen miles from the farm to Baxley on a rough dirt road. A rooster tail of dust followed him like a shadow every inch of the way.
The town seemed deserted. There were only a handful of cars visible on Main Street. He pulled in front of the Farmers Trust Bank and leaving the gun concealed in the thick cloth walked inside.
Mildred Barner, a kindly old woman whom had lived her entire life in Baxley was the only teller working. Woodford Blanton, the manager sat behind a polished mahogany desk. He wore a summer suit. The only sound inside came from the whir of three overhead fans.
“Well, Clarence. What brings you to town on a hot afternoon?” Blanton said with a phony smile on his face.
“Well Woodford,” Simms said with a genuine smile followed by a chuckle. "I’m here to rob the bank.”
Blanton began to laugh until Simms pulled the burlap from the sawed off. Then the color drained from his face and he looked like his lunch disagreed with him.
“Now Clarence, “Blanton said as beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead. “ Are you sure you want to do that?”
Simms pointed the shotgun at the ceiling above Blanton’s head and pulled the trigger.
“Damn sure.”
Small chunks of plaster fell on the bank managers head .He promptly feinted dead away.
Simms turned his attention to Mildred who was looking at him disapprovingly. He had seen that look before. Mildred was a spinster who played the organ and had been his Sunday school teacher at the Baptist Church. He used to get that look when he bothered the girls instead of paying attention to scripture.
“You don’t need to do this Clarence.” He could tell she wasn’t the least bit scared.
“I’m sorry Miss Barner but I do. Give me all the cash.”
As she began to scoop bills into a bag, Simms turned to check on Blanton. He heard a roar like thunder and felt like his mare had kicked him square in the chest. He found himself sitting on the bank’s hardwood floor. Looking down, he saw blood soaking his chambray shirt. When he glanced at Mildred, she held a Colt revolver.
“Damn,” he thought as the sunlit interior of the bank began to fade, “I wasn’t much of a farmer but I guess I weren’t cut out to be no bank robber either. A thin smile crossed his face.
He was ready for whatever came next.


Bio Bill Baber's crime fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in numerous anthologies. His writing has earned Derringer Prize and best of the Net consideration. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play was published by Berberis Press in 2011. He lives in Tucson with his wife and a spoiled dog and has been known to cross the border for a cold beer. He is working on his first novel.


  1. Feed the authors, show em some love.

  2. Another great Bill Baber story. Poor Clarence deserved better. Well done!

  3. Some people can't get a break. Well done, Bill!

  4. Funny and gritty writing. Enjoyed it.