Friday, August 3, 2012

Staniel The Spaniel - The Iron Wolf

Stan Wolf tried way too hard. He could have led a normal hobo life as Stan or Stan Wolf or Wolfie or any number of standard, readily-accepted monikkers, if he hadn't forced the issue before he had even left the non-wandering world. He and his coworkers at the Happy Air Electric Fan Company factory stood in the payroll line on the morning of their employer's "temporary" shutdown, and many of them announced plans to hit the rails and join the hobo nation.

Few of them had been unemployed before, and none had the remotest clue about hobo life. They only knew that they were the last of all their families and friends to lose their jobs, and that they would definitely not be finding work anytime soon, so vagrancy sounded like as good an idea as any. The only thing they knew about hoboes was that they often had colorful names, like Boxcar Billy and Cholly The Yegg and Jack Skunk. A few of the men wondered aloud what hobo names that might land upon them once they hit the tracks. They all agreed that the hobo name had to develop, and that it would be bestowed upon them by others; one cannot choose one's own name. They all agreed, that is, except for Stan.

"I'm going to be The Iron Wolf," he proclaimed.

"No. No, you will not. Did we not just this very minute establish that you can't choose your own hobo name?" muttered Stan's only friend in the world, Henry Dowlington.

"Yeah, what's wrong with you, fella?" one of the other out-of-workers asked.

"It's the perfect fit," Stan explained. "My last name is Wolf, and I'll be a citizen of the railway, home of the iron horse. And I'll be a lone wolf. A lone iron wolf."

"You'll have a lone black eye, is what! Geez, are you thick or something?" growled another in the queue.

"He is a little thick, actually," Henry offered. "But he's harmless."

"No, I'll be the Iron Wolf and no one will mess around with me because I'll be the king of the rails, ruling the high iron. The wolf is the king of the jungle, so I'll be king of--"

The stranger in line ahead of Stan turned and regarded him as though he might be dangerous. "Say, what's the matter with you, bub? The lion is the king of the jungle. Everybody knows that."

"Yeah! The wolf ain't king of nothing, you dim-wit."

"The wolf is so the king of the jungle!" Stan insisted. "And king of the north. Don't you know anything?"

"That's Nanook, you moron!" barked the growly man. "And I know how to bust your head open."

Henry was tired of stepping in to protect Stan from his own big, dumb mouth, but he did it one more time, grudgingly. "Easy, fellas. He don't mean nothing by it. He's just in shock from getting the boot, is all. His mind's just a little confused. Isn't that right, Stan?"

Stan looked at his shoes for a second and muttered under his breath, then he looked up at the increasingly-agitated men around him, smiled and let out a playful "Aaa-ooooooo!"

"What the?" The big man looked for a moment as if he was about to lead the others in a fatal beating, but stopped himself and laughed, instead. "You want a hobo name before you're even a hobo, mister? You got it. Hey everybody - get a load of Staniel The Spaniel!"

"No - The Iron Wolf!" he insisted, and then let out another ridiculous howl. By now he was next in line for his final paycheck.

The men howled back, first in a mockery of Stan's feeble howl, then in uncontrolled laughter. "Staniel The Spaniel. That's something, ain't it! He sounds like my grandma's old cocker spaniels - even kinda looks like one."

Staniel The Spaniel took his check and signed "The Iron Wolf" on the payroll log. The girl in the little cagelike booth simply rolled her eyes, cracked her chewing gum and said "Next."

"I'll be the Iron Wolf! You'll see!" he insisted.

"Sure you will, Stan." Henry said, signing for his own final paycheck.

"Yeah - see you on the rails, Staniel The Spaniel!" the growly-voiced man growled. "Ow, ow, ow-oooooo..."

Walking away from the fan factory for the last time, one of the other men asked his friend "So, you think that guy will make a good hobo?"

The man shook his head. "He won't last five minutes out there - even less if he keeps making that noise."