M a r c h   2 0 0 1

Guest Writer

Part Two: Dimpe
by Jess Gulbranson

Last month, Mel lost his motel in a poker game, then wandered the streets before climbing into a train station heating duct to get some shut-eye (Part One).

Part Two: Dimpe
Mel took his time waking up.

When he had, he crawled down from the heating unit where he'd slept. No one was around, so he wandered off past the station to the trainyard's northernmost reaches looking for the watchman.

After a couple of minutes he found the watchman patrolling along behind a long stretch of train cars. It took Mel a while to convince the watchman to let him into the station. It came up that both of them had served in 'Nam, and their platoons had roved around within about a mile of each other. The watchman, Stu, offered some of his breakfast back in the station, which was muffins and coffee, and about a shot's worth of whiskey for the coffee.

"Thanks a lot, man," Mel said. "You don't know how much I needed all that."

Stu grinned between mouthfuls of muffin. "If you're hard up, go to the eastern stretch of trainyard. You'll hook up with a guy with some work."

"Really?" said Mel.

"No shit. Just go see him."

Mel thanked Stu again and left to see this guy with the work. Sure enough, as Mel reached the easternmost part of the trainyard, where the tracks and cars began to be less frequent and a lot rustier, he found an area where there was noise and stirrings of life, even at four in the morning. A solitary car that had been off its rails and moored to the ground, maybe for storage, was now the center of the early morning activity. The metal side panels had been altered and replaced with wood, making things look like a railroad version of some Beach Boys song. Double doors had been put in at the end of the car and were wide open, spilling orange light out into the gray trainyard. A variety of people were coming and going from the double doors, most of them down-and-out looking characters, but some wore suits. These Mel might even have seen before in restaurants downtown, that sort of thing. They all left towards the south, and, as they rounded a curving track, disappeared behind some cars. Mel figured he'd give it a shot, and walked to the splintery wooden stair step that led up to the double doors.

Inside, Mel saw that the center had been partitioned off, and only the barest amount of space was before him. There was enough room for one or two more people in front of the makeshift counter that dominated most of the tiny space. Behind the counter was a huge man with a crewcut and strange, pig-like features. He was talking beneath his enormous walrus moustache to a spindly businessman who was on Mel's side of the counter. When the big man's attention was finally drawn to Mel, he tugged his moustache and set down a clipboard he was holding. "Come back later, Freddy," the big man said, and the businessman left with a glare at Mel as he passed. "Hey there, fella!"

"How do you do," Mel said, proffering his hand. The big man shook with gusto.

"What brings you here today, my friend?"

"Well, I heard you might have some work for somebody that needed it."

"I've got work for anybody!" the big man announced. "What's your name, friend?"


"My name's Dimpe," he said with a twitch of his moustache. "Come on back with me and we'll work out the personnel details." He lifted the hinged part of the counter, and motioned Mel toward an almost completely invisible door concealed in the back wall.

The open door revealed the rest of the train car's space; an office, and quite professional. Dimpe licked his lips and ambled over behind the mahogany desk. Mel took a seat in front of it.

"Down to business, Mel. What I have here is a bit of an information operation. I have properties and businesses all across the city, and I need them checked up on. Also, I need some checking-up on my competitors, know what I mean?"

"Right," said Mel, "but why a train?"

Dimpe looked momentarily irritated, then replied. "I just like trains. The place suits me." He clapped his hands and rubbed them together, then reached into his desk and brought out a manila folder, which he handed to Mel.

Mel opened it with his thumb, and inside was a glossy 8x10 of Dimpe, a map of downtown and the surrounding area with certain spots marked and highlighted, along with a long list of directions and information. "You're familiar with how blackmail works, right?"

"How the hell did you know that?" Mel was a little bit disturbed.

"The Gotel, right? Mel's? Friend of mine told me about how the guy there squeezed him pretty hard, for some serious cash. I told him it was his own damn fault for taking an underage llama to a 'gotel,' right?" Mel and Dimpe were both silent for a moment. Then Dimpe's moustache bristled spasmodically and Mel's face cracked in a smile. Both broke down laughing, and minutes passed before they were able to stop. Dimpe was panting and holding his ample gut, stamping his feet as the laughter subsided. "In all seriousness, Mel, would you believe me if I said that I was an alien?" asked Dimpe in a very forthright tone.

"Say what?" Mel didn't know whether to laugh or not.

"I'm an alien."

"No shit."

"Do you believe it?"

"No," said Mel. "Fucking loony is what it sounds like."

Dimpe got up from his chair and went to the filing cabinet behind his desk, holding up a cautionary finger. He opened the top drawer and removed a small attaché case. He brought it back to the desk and, sitting down, unlocked the clasp. From it Dimpe pulled a small white plastic card and handed it to Mel. At first Mel thought it was blank, but as he ran his thumb over it he noticed the hundreds of tiny raised dots. "You steal from the blind?"

"Mel, it's my ID. Where I come from, everyone has to carry one."


"No, it's Rigel. What you call outer space."

"No shit!"

"No shit," declared Dimpe. "On the directions in the envelope you'll find a number of objectives. Would you like the job?"

Mel considered for a moment, then handed the white card back to Dimpe. "No way," said Mel. "You're too fucking loony. No offense meant."

"None taken," replied Dimpe as he rose to show Mel the door. "$500 per objective?"

"No thanks, Dimpe."



"Well, Mel, it's been swell," Dimpe said, chuckling at his rhyme. Mel stepped past the counter, where a couple of Hispanic cowboy-types were waiting patiently. They said something in Spanish, which Mel thought was probably insulting.

"Fuck you, cholo," offered Mel as he stepped down the stairs and back into the trainyard. This Dimpe was too weird, thought Mel. As he walked he decided that he would just bide his time and find some grunt work to make ends meet.

Mel found himself watering the lawn at a large apartment complex in the suburbs. His small bit of grunt work to make ends meet had turned into a full-fledged career. He worked for a large company of groundskeepers, heading a team of cholos just like the pair he'd met at the Dimpe train. Nobody liked each other much, but everybody worked and the work got done. Mel didn't make a ton of money, but he made enough to find somewhere to flop and enough to save for a truck of his own and some equipment. He was skimming off the top from the company as far as supplies went and was on his way to starting his own crew. The landlord hated him bringing bags of Casoron and dolomite lime up the stairs to his apartment, but Mel had to keep it somewhere.

Things were going pretty well and though Mel didn't exactly love what he was doing, it paid the rent. He didn't even think of pursuing less acceptable lines of work, at least until one Sunday when he was doing a special job for the boss' great aunt at time-and-a-half. He was driving the yard debris truck, and the cholo next to him was reading the paper and practicing his English. The metro section of the daily paper had some dark photo with some bright lights over some dark shapes. The headline read "ARE THESE FOR REAL?" Mel did a double take and swerved as he looked closer at the picture, which showed the trainyard. He pulled the truck over and snatched the paper. Under the picture was a small column which read:

"ARE THEY FOR REAL? This photo is one from a series that seems to depict unidentified flying objects in formation over the city railroad yards. The veracity of these photos is still being determined, but they are well documented by a photographer who wishes to remain anonymous."

Mel nearly shit his pants when he looked at the picture, and went on to the job with a great deal of confusion in his head. He worked the day and, preoccupied, nearly clipped himself with a chainsaw. At the end of the day he called his boss and gave two weeks' notice. After he had taken a shower and put on his red sweatshirt, he took the bus downtown, then walked to the trainyard.

Find out more about Mel in our archives.

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