Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Bob Wire Bandits

This is the first draft of a short story I just wrote, based on a true story.  Quite a bit of artistic license was used, so places may not completely match up with reality.  All of the details are fictional, as are all the names of the characters.

I welcome any feedback you would like to provide, especially concerning the vernacular, which I am still touching up.  Enjoy.

Antwerp is a sleepy little town in northern New York State, bordered to the north by the county line and to the east by the Fort Drum Army base. The village is mainly known for its military heritage and for its petty crime, most of which is unsolved or unreported because of the residents’ suspicion of most outsiders, especially the police.

Dale O’Connor was a descendant of Irish farmers who moved to America to till the rocky soil of Antwerp instead of the rocky soil of the Ould Sod. A ruddy, semi-literate graduate of Indian River High School, Dale, as well as his buddies, lived at home, worked part-time or seasonal jobs, when he could find work, and stayed in beer and pot money by stealing anything not nailed down.

The bulk of the thievery consisted of stealing cash, drugs and other valuables at parties they attended, invited or not (very often Dale and his friends were told NOT to return), and from taking and selling objects from their fellow Antwerpians’ front porches, open sheds and garages – tools, bicycles and the like. One evening, however, Dale and friends decided to up the ante.

“Pass me another beer, wouldja?” Dale, Bob, Harold and Paul stood beside Harold’s ’80 Cutlass Supreme in their favorite drinking spot in a pull-off on Pulpit Rock Road one Saturday night and passed around a joint while gazing at the stars and talking about their two favorite topics, hunting and women. “Here ya go, Dale,” said Paul as he tossed over a can of Milwaukee’s Best, a misnomer if there ever was one. Bob asked, in his North Country nasal twang, “What ya guys wanna do tonight? This is borin' as shit!” “Yeah,” replied Harold, “Let’s hunt some deer or somethin’. I got my guns in the trunk.” “Naw” said Paul. “Ol' Smitty up the road gets pissed when he hears gunshots at night. I don’t wanna get hassled by the cops.”

Bob asked Paul, “You still workin’?” “Just one more week, then that sunna bitch is gonna lay me off 'fore I get my twenty weeks in!” “No unenjoyment then?” asked Harold. “No fuckin’ shit! What'm I gonna do for cash this winter?” exclaimed Paul. “My parents are sick a me bummin’ money offen ‘em. This sucks!” “Hey!” Dale interjected, “Didja hear what Wendell Taylor done? The phone company left a couple spools a wire in the ditch where they’s runnin' it over on Carpenter Road an' Wendell took it, stripped offen the coverin’ an' sold it ta that scrap metal place down in Watertown. Got some pretty good jingle too. Nobody can trace it neither. It’s just bare copper wire.”

“Ya kiddin'?” asked Bob. “What’d he do with all the rubber offen the wire?” “Hell, he just burned it up with the rest a the shit in his burn barrel. Took a while an' that’s the blackest smoke you ever seen”, said Dale. “Damn!” said Harold. “That lucky fucker. I wonder iffen we can find any wire like that around.” Dale replied: “It ain’t gotta be wire. Any kinda metal will do. They’ll buy ANYTHIN’! Ol' pipe – copper’s best – or any ol' steel layin’ 'round. Shit, they’d prolly take this bob wire fence here iffen we cut it down an' rolled it up.” “Ya think?” asked Bob. “Sounds like a lotta work ta me”, said Harold.

Just then Dale got an idea: “Y’know, we ain’t gotta roll up no bob wire; they’s lots a it over at the Agway already rolled up outback the store. All we gotta do is load it up an' take it down ta Watertown when we can.” Paul asked: “No shit? They don’t ask no questions at the scrap yard? Ain’t they gonna wonder 'bout brand-new rolls a wire?” “Nah”, said Dale. “They don’t care where it come from, so long as they can get it cheap. What do ya think?” “I dunno”, said Paul. “What iffen we get caught?” Harold replied: “Who’s gonna catch us? The cops never come through Antwerp an' it’s dark outback a Agway. It won’t take long; just a couple minutes.” “How much ya think we can sell?” asked Bob. “Depends on how much we can fit in the cars”, answered Dale. “Let’s go get my car an' some bolt cutters an’ do it. Agway ain’t open on Sunday, so nobody’ll know it’s gone till Monday mornin’”

The guys hopped in Harold’s car and spun out, leaving beer cans, cigarette butts and chip bags in their wake. On the way to Dale’s house, Bob asked: “What’s the plan? How we gonna do it?” “Easy”, Dale replied. “We back the cars up, with the lights out, ta the fence near the wire, cut a big hole or two in the fence, load up the cars an’ drive out ta our wood lot off Austin Road an’ dump it in the bushes till we’re ready ta take it ta the scrap place.” “Wait a minute!” exclaimed Harold. “We ain't loadin’ nothin’ in my car. That bob wire’ll tear up my seats an’ I gotta buncha shit in the trunk.” Dale retorted: “Fuck! We’ll load up MY car then – front seat, back seat an’ trunk – my seats are vinyl anyhow. Just leave me enough room ta drive. You guys can all folla me in Harold’s car.”

Shortly after picking up Dale’s car and just before reaching the Agway store, Harold and Dale shut off their headlights while Bob and Paul jumped out to help the drivers back their way slowly in close to the fence and switch the cars off. “He he,” laughed Dale quietly as he got to work with the bolt cutters, “we’s cuttin’ through bob wire to get ta more bob wire!” “Shh!” Paul hissed. “I don’t wanna get caught.” “Quit bein’ a pussy, an’ let’s get ta work”, whispered Bob.

The men hauled a few rolls of the wire through the opening in the fence and set them down by Dale’s car. “Lemme pop the trunk”, Dale muttered. As the trunk swung open and the trunk light shined on, Paul almost screamed. “Shit! Get that light out!” “Quiet!” hissed Dale as he reached in and yanked out the bulb. “Yer yellin’s worse’n that light!” Paul whined back: “Sorry, I’m just spooked.” “Well, get UNspooked and let’s load up”, Bob replied sarcastically.

After the trunk incident, Dale knew enough to disable the dome light in his car to avoid undue attention. “SCREECH!” went the first roll as a barb scraped noisily across the rear bumper. “Jesus! You guys fuckin’ stupid? Careful with that!” exclaimed Dale. “Okay, Okay. We’s tryin’!”

The rest of the loading went quickly and uneventfully as they crammed wire into every inch of available space in the car. Barbed wire was hanging out of the trunk and out three of the open windows, leaving just enough room for Dale to squeeze in. “Dammit! I’m gonna need a shoehorn ta get my ass in here”, said Dale. “You guys got somethin’ ta tie the trunk down so's it don’t bang?” “Lemme go cut some a that balin’ twine over there”, Bob said. So Bob and Paul swiftly tied down the trunk while Harold and Dale waited in the cars; then they started up and slowly pulled away.

As they headed out, Dale decided to keep his headlights off in an attempt to be inconspicuous. Harold, seeing that Dale kept his lights out, did the same. Unfortunately, inconspicuous they were not as they rolled through the still streets of Antwerp with no lights on and with rolls of barbed wire sticking out all over, as they found out soon enough.

“WEEEEOOOO!” sounded Deputy Sheriff Reed’s siren as he pulled out from behind the Town Hall and hit his lights. Reed had been contemplating the inside of his eyelids when a short squawk on his police radio startled him awake just in time to see Dale and Harold’s curious little convoy roll by.

“Goddammit!” yelled Bob as his head spun around. “I knew it!” yowled Paul “I KNEW we’d get caught!” Knowing there was no chance of getting away, Harold and Paul both meekly pulled over and rolled down their windows. “What’s going on boys?” inquired Deputy Reed as he strolled over to the parked cars. “Plan on doing some fencing tonight?”

A month later Judge Knowlton glared down at Dale and rumbled: “Mr. O’Connor, you know I can lock you up for a long time because of your record, don’t you?” “Yessir, I do. I’m sorry”, Dale sheepishly replied. The judge continued: “I am only doing this because you come from a good family, but I am going to give you one last chance to straighten up. I will suspend the charges if you agree to compensate Agway for the damages to their fence and immediately join the Army. Perhaps that will teach you some discipline and respect. At the very least it will keep you out of our hair for a while. However, if you do not complete the entire enlistment period, I will reopen the felony charges against you. Understand?” “Yessir. Thank you very much, sir.”

After successfully completing basic training, Dale found himself out in the field for his first assignment with the Army. While explaining the circumstances of his enlistment to a fellow newly-minted private, Dale exclaimed, “I hope I never see no more bob wire the resta my life!” Just then their sergeant called the unit together. “Okay, gentlemen, we’re having trouble with deer entering the range, so I need a detail to install the barbed wire fencing in that truck right there, starting at that pole. It should only take a few weeks. Estevez! Jackson! O’Connor!...”


Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough someone tried to steel a huge spool of electrical wire from the farm a few years back in the middle of winter. They left it on the side of the road, it was covered in ice, guessing it was to heavy for them to put in their car/truck. We brought it up to the house with a haybale spear and its now been lying in our backyard forever.

Bibliophile said...

I wonder if the utilities actually budget for a certain amount of wire being stolen each year. A couple years ago I rescued some cable that Time Warner left on our corner, after I noticed some locals eyeing it.

Alice said...

WOW. Autobiographical? It sounds less like a short story and more like you were actually present. Also, your "Antwerpese" is much too perfect to be non-native!

Great O. Henry-esque ending!

Bibliophile said...

Heh. No, not autobiographical. The basis of the story comes from a buddy of mine. His brother actually was caught stealing barbed wire and went into the military to avoid conviction. When my buddy read my story, he also commented that it sounded like I was really there. Thanks.