Book Excerpt #1 – The Mad Ventures of Bindlestiff Cliff

Here’s an excerpt from my book for you to enjoy. Keep in mind, this isn’t from the final draft. Check back in the near future for more excerpts. Thank you.

“What’s this all about?” Bob said as he was driving towards a four-way stop sign. It appeared that there were two cars already stopped and they seemed to be in a stalemate in regards to who should go next. “Come on!” Bob yelled as he angrily mashed his car horn to no avail.

“This sort of thing is exactly why I don’t have a license, Bob,” Cliff mentioned, with the understanding that Bob would agree with him.

“You do realize that I was there when you lost your license, right?” Bob asked with a puzzled look on his face. He disengaged from Cliff to give the horn another blare. “Let’s go you jerks!”

“That whole situation was a huge misunderstanding,” Cliff responded but he often found himself mixed up in one misunderstanding or another. Bob knew that better than anyone.

“The judge didn’t seem confused about it,” Bob said, determined to pick at an old wound. “If I remember correctly, you somehow exposed yourself to the lady teaching your DUI class,” he continued.

“What’s your problem, Bob? You know there’s more to the story than that,” Cliff’s tone was noticeably shifting to a place of anger. “You know; I wasn’t even driving the car. I got a ride from a man who turns out was the ex-boyfriend of one of your colleague’s sister. That cop had it out for him for violating a restraining order and he took it out on me because I just happened to be there.”

“Listen, I’m sorry. I was just messing with you,” Bob apologized. “I’m on your side, Cliff. You remember who kept you out of jail, got the fine waived, and the cost of the classes too? They only made you do the classes so the officer involved saved face,” he explained, trying to calm him down.

“Well, I was too poor to defend myself and, I admit, I was lucky that you had my back. Not everyone has a Bob in their corner though,” he said, thanking him in so many words.

“Don’t get mad,” Bob warned. “Refresh my memory as to how you exposed yourself to that lady. I remember the charges were dropped but I actually had nothing to do with that and nobody really told me what happened.”

“Like I said, it was a misunderstanding. I went to the class as they told me and everything was going fine until we took a break. I went to the bathroom and was doing my business when she grabbed my shoulder and started hollering at me. Naturally, I turned around and she starts screaming because she saw my man bits,” he tried to explain and was a little irritated to discover Bob was laughing uncontrollably at his story. “It turned out she came in the men’s room, like I told them, so they dropped the charges. I still got arrested though and they didn’t believe a word I said until half of the people in the class told them they saw her run out of the men’s room,” he continued.

“How does this stuff keep happening to you?” Bob managed to ask as his laughter had tapered off. “Look at this situation. You’re like a magnet for this,” he continued and shook his index finger in the air to suggest he had more to add to the conversation. “You’re some kind of bizarro Rumpelstiltskin that spins situations into chaos.”

“I’m happy I can entertain you, Bob,” he replied solemnly, if not sincerely.

Bob noticed his comments were getting to him so he attempted to turn things around. “You don’t usually let this get to you, Cliff. If I took it too far, I am sorry. Are we good?”

“We’re good,” he answered and nodded as well which boosted both his confidence in his answer and Bob’s confidence in its sincerity.

“Alright then,” he replied. He immediately turned his attention back to the two cars at the stop sign. “Go! You,” he pointed at one of the cars, “get going!”

Cliff, unlike Bob, sat patiently in the passenger’s seat and tried to figure out who the people in the other cars were. On the left side, there was a young girl driving a nice sedan and an older man sitting in the passenger seat. The man seemed to be trying to talk her through the situation but the girl seemed to be scared or arguing with him. It was hard to be sure from that distance.

On the right side, there was a man in one of those tiny little trucks. The truck had an unusual arm attached to the bed with a wheelchair hooked to it. That along with the handicapped sign hanging from his rear view mirror led Cliff to believe he was disabled.

“I still can’t believe nobody is going,” Bob said. At this point, it seemed he was too tired to get angry. Instead, he just shook his head and threw up his hands in disbelief.

“Don’t worry, Bob. I think I’ve got this,” Cliff said confidently.

“I can’t think of a single time you’ve told me not to worry that ended well at all,” Bob replied and the situation flew out of his hands before he knew it.

“Parley!” Cliff shouted as he stuck his head out the window and began to open his door.

“What are you doing? Are you kidding me?” Bob asked in disbelief.

Cliff scurried out of the car but then he turned and looked at Bob. “You remember, from the pirate movies, they’d have a little meeting to hash things out. That’s what I’m doing,” he explained while Bob looked on, helpless to do anything about the avalanche of absurdity except watch it unfold.

The girl in the sedan got out of her car as well, with only slight hesitation, even though the older man was about as bewildered about it as Bob. She walked timidly towards the middle of the intersection, following Cliff’s lead, and occasionally looked back at the car as if doing so would make the ordeal any safer or appropriate.

Eventually, Bob angrily got out of the car to see if he could assist in wrapping up the nonsense. “You do realize that this isn’t some stupid pirate movie, don’t you?” He asked as he slammed the car door hard enough for the others to notice. He was both disappointed and relieved that he failed to shatter the glass of the car door during his Herculean episode.

By the time Bob reached the others, the man from the sedan had joined the girl and Cliff. The four of them watched, in awkward silence, as the disabled man was in the process of using the little crane attached to the back of his truck to retrieve his wheelchair.

“Listen up,” Bob began to speak but Cliff interrupted him.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” Cliff said while gesturing him to slow down.

“What is it?” he replied impatiently.

“We can’t start without the other guy,” he explained as he pointed towards the disabled man who was, at last, in his wheelchair.

Bob did not have time to answer because the man in the wheelchair zoomed over with much greater speed than anyone expected. As he got closer, he stopped abruptly causing everyone in the group, save Cliff, to jump backwards to avoid a collision.

“Sorry about that,” he said, looking up at them. “I’m still getting used to this new chair I got from my grandma,” he explained.

“That was really nice of her to do that for you,” the girl replied in that tone people often use when they feign sincerity.

“Oh, she didn’t give it to me,” he said shaking his head, “she died and I took her chair because it’s so much better than the one I had.”

The group of people looked at one other. It was clear each of them was hoping someone would step up to the plate, so to speak, and steer the conversation back on course.

Cliff was all too happy to oblige, although the results with him were a mixed bag at best. “Well, it’s not like she needed it anymore,” Cliff blurted out the first thing that came to mind. To make matters worse, he raised his hand towards the man signaling a high-five and, to the surprise of the others, the man enthusiastically slapped his hand thus completing the aforementioned high-five and eliminating any possibility to leave Cliff hanging.

The situation evolved beyond the realm of what Bob had thought a simple drive from a motel room to his home could entail. He was determined to take control and saw little choice but to play the hand he was dealt. In this case, that was the police card. “Listen up,” he announced in a manner to suggest he was not foreign to taking action. “I’m a police officer and I really need everyone to return to your vehicles and move along. The middle of an intersection is no place for anyone to be standing.”

The five of them continued to stand in the middle of the road. It was astonishing that no other cars had showed up at this point.

“He’s right. Let’s just do as he says and get back in the car,” the older man said, clearly agitated, to the younger girl and attempted to grab her, albeit gently, by the arm.

The girl quickly pulled away from him and turned her attention to Bob. “I’m sorry, officer. It is just that my dad is totally stressing me out. I got my learner’s permit and Dad was going to show me a few driving tips since he is always driving in big cities. We started arguing at the stop sign and then I noticed the truck was there and I didn’t know if it was my turn to go or not so I just sort of froze,” she explained and talked extremely fast while doing so. Her dad suddenly seemed content to let her take the lead perhaps in the hopes that she would learn something or at least gain some valuable life experience out of the deal.

“Okay, calm down,” Bob said and the girl seemed to heed his advice by taking a deep breath. “Does anyone else remember who was there first?” Bob asked. He raised his eyebrows and looked over the two men.

The disabled man pounced at the chance to answer as if he were waiting for the question. “I remember. It stuck out in my mind because about halfway down the street, I almost hit a cat…”

“What kind of cat was it, house cat or feral?” Cliff interrupted. The nature of his question seemed to suggest it mattered one way or the other.

“Cliff!” Bob tried to stifle his voice to keep from shouting but his outburst startled the would-be commuters nonetheless.

“I don’t know. What’s the difference?” he asked.

“Maybe you should loan him your dictionary, Cliff,” Bob sarcastically added. He immediately regretted the suggestion for fear that he might actually go fetch it.

“Well, I’m sure you know what a house cat is. A feral cat is basically just a wild cat,” he explained. “As a matter of fact, I once met a Chinaman who taught me a lot about the virtues of feral cats. You see…”

“Let me just stop you right there,” Bob said as he casually shoved Cliff away from the man. “First of all, nobody says Chinaman anymore. I am not a historian but I’m pretty sure that is offensive. Secondly,” Bob leaned down to get uncomfortably close to the man, “do you know if it was your turn to go or not?”

The man leaned away in vain because the more he did, the closer Bob got. “It was definitely her turn,” he answered.

Bob lingered in the man’s face far longer than he had hoped especially since he had given him his answer.

Suddenly, another car pulled up to the stop sign. Now a car waited at every end of the intersection. A very old woman drove it, one of those older sedans with a hood almost as long as an entire modern car. In addition, the car was at least twenty years old but looked brand new and probably had fewer miles than Bob’s two-year old vehicle. Without any hesitation, the old woman honked her horn, screeched her tires, and flipped the group a very common hand gesture among motorists representing her disapproval of the situation.

“Well, she has a point,” Bob commented as he retreated from the absurd battlefield of wills.

“That’s not the first time an old lady did that to me,” said Cliff with a hint of pride in his voice. He apparently found it humorous.

“Imagine my surprise,” Bob replied and continued to walk.

“Hey, Bob! I think I can see your house from here!” Cliff exclaimed while still standing surreally in the street with three strangers.

“No kidding? You keep that up and you might make detective before I do,” Bob replied and was unrelenting with his sarcasm.

“He really is on fire today,” Cliff mentioned to them and got about as much reaction from them as he would have from a dairy cow. “It was nice to have met you all,” he added and scampered away abruptly. The motley trio of dawdlers finally took the hint and began to disperse.

Cliff quickly arrived back at Bob’s car. What he did not find, however, was Bob. In response, he looked all around the car, in the car, and down the street. As he did, he noticed that Bob was more than halfway to his house. He had walked, abandoning his car.

Cliff thought that to be out of character for Bob but always tried to be liberal in his understandings of people. On the contrary, he lived his life with his own kind of understanding: some things are not meant to be understood. With this in mind, Cliff tried his best to let people be who they are rather than shaping them, in his mind, to what he wants them to be. He quite often found himself on the pointy end of public judgment. Although he did not enjoy that, he took it for what it was and endeavored to move forward.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

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