ADMIX: Episode III
By: Connor Pohlman
The stranger alongside the road first appeared as a blurry speck, but soon came to, crystallizing into form. As they got closer, Buffalo held his hand up behind him to signal Moose to be cautious, feeling an unsettling fatherly instinct.
“Don’t worry yourselves, I’m harmless,” the man said before he even turned around to see them. The man had a quiet voice — soft and soothing. Moose and Buffalo continued their careful approach, finally stopping at the edge of the stranger’s little spot.
“Please, I mean it — come, come,” the stranger said, waving them forward. “Take a seat, have some soup if you please. I made plenty,” he told them, taking a seat on his flattened sleeping bag. Moose looked uneasily at Buffalo, who didn’t return the gesture, keeping a gridlocked gaze on the stranger, but he was the first to walk forward, taking a seat on the hardened, dry ground. Moose followed suit, sitting down next to him.
“Cobb,” the stranger said abruptly. “My name is Cobb. So sorry, gentlemen — very rude of me to not preface my invitation with that,” Cobb said, reaching out to the small, makeshift fire that sat in the middle of the three men.
He took the large ladle from the bowl hanging above the smoldering bonfire and poured a spoonful into his thermos, sipping it with both of his shaky hands, which hid under poorly-knit fingerless gloves that were tattered from navy blue string to navy blue string. He reached into a sack that sat next to him and pulled out a small handmade bowl, offering it to either one of his guests. Moose politely shook his head no, while Buffalo did nothing except grab his right wrist with his left hand, resting his arms on his right knee that stood upright while his other laid flat. Moose took a look down at the pathetic attempt of a fire and then looked up again at Cobb, who blissfully observed it as well, a gentle kindness stuck permanently on his face.
“Is it really the best idea to start a fire out here in this parched hellhole?” Moose asked him.
“Well, I gotta eat,” Cobb replied, taking another sip from his thermos. “How are you fellas doing?" he asked. "I don’t see many out here without a vehicle." The sun was beginning to set in the distance, tucking itself into bed behind the far mesas.
“Aren't you going to ask us our names? Where we’re coming from? Where we’re headed?” Buffalo spoke, his deep voice scratchy now as well.
“I wasn’t planning on it. Don’t want to pry. But I will if you’d like me to” Cobb said to him, each word from his mouth a genuine one.
“That’s alright,” Moose interrupted, doing his best to help, even when he had no idea what Buffalo was trying.
The men sat in silence for at least a while, Moose on edge during every minute of it. It was almost completely dark now, the only light on them coming from the passive moon above, only a few stars giving it company in the sky.
“I think I’m off to sleep now. You folks need anything, don’t hesitate to wake me, just let me know,” Cobb said to them while bowing his head.
He pulled the top of his sleeping bag over himself and tucked himself away. Cobb rolled on his side, his back turned to them. Moose heard him murmur some words to himself, but they quickly faded into the bag as well. Moose’s constant state of confusion had not had any resolve since they arrived at Cobb’s fire.
“Get some rest, boy. I’ll keep watch,” Buffalo said to him.
Moose nodded his head, not possessing any desire to allow stubborn instincts into himself. He laid down and turned only his head away from the scene. His breathing calmed to a state of rest, but his eyes couldn’t be closed if the lids themselves reached out for one another. Not much time had passed when Moose felt a kick in his back, quickly turning his head to see a pair of familiar boots.
“We’re outta here. C’mon,” Buffalo said bluntly, his voice even deeper and coarser at a whispering level.