Sunday, October 12, 2014

Silence Echoes: The World According To Giant Bat Wings Roland


I opened my notebook and cleared my throat.  "Giant Bat Wings Roland," I began.

She immediately raised a hand.  "Stop."


"Yes.  If I can guess in three tries how Roland got that stupid name, can we skip this, and watch 'Family Guy?'"  She didn't so much want to watch the show; she wanted to fall asleep to it.

I acquiesced.  

She looked at the ceiling for a moment.  "He had some kind of deformity that his fellow hoboes said looked like giant bat wings?"

"Nope," I said.

"Okay - hold on.  I know whatever it is has to be weird.  He wore a pair of fake giant bat wings?"

I made a show of checking my notes.  "No.  Strike two..."

"Ugh.  Alright, um... Oh!  I know - he actually had wings - and not just deformed arms or something."

"Seriously?  No.  Geez.  He just always carried a pair of ordinary bat's wings with him - wings that he described as 'giant,' although they were not.  At all."

She scowled at me.  "Of course.  How could I not have guessed.  It's so obvious."

"Roland was orphaned when he was ten, and-"

"Oh, here we go again," she groaned.  "What manner of freaky death befell his poor parents?"

"I have no idea how they died.  Not much is known about him at all.  I just have some quotes, translated from the hobo signs he left scrawled on track-side sheds and telegraph poles between Pittsburgh and Altoona in the 1930s."

"Those squiggly lines and triangles and stick figures?  How much story can be conveyed that way?" she asked.

"More than you might think.  Here's what I have, in no particular order...

My brother Walt is an engineer.  Hasn't spoken to me since we were small boys.  But he always slows his train when he sees me walking, so I can hop aboard and ride a while.

I know his signature pull on the whistle cord, and can hear him for miles.

One night, I walked the Pennsylvania just east of Horseshoe Curve, and I heard the silence, and I knew.

Silence echoes, though only hoboes can hear it.  The sound of that whistle never came.  The silence echoed off the hills, down to where I walked.  It was the end of Walt.  The next morning, I came upon the mangled steel. 

No one talks to hoboes, around a wreck.  Supposed to be bad luck.  They didn't need to say it.  I said a prayer and kept on walking.

The world was mine, anyway.  Walt knew nothing of my freedom."   

She shook her head, as if trying to dislodge water from her ears, then kissed me, and rolled over.  "Nice one, sweetie.  Good night."

Shockingly, this post was prompted by my friends at Studio 30 Plus, using "here we go again," from this fine blog post, and "weird," from this one.  Stop by either of these bloggy places, and you won't be disappointed.



  1. A different spin ... very nice ... and I like it, as always!

    1. Thanks, Katy! Hopefully, the rust is beginning to flake and crumble from my poor neglected writey wheels...

  2. This was a very nice hobo story. The lead in was a creative way to hook the reader.

    1. Thank you, Tara! I know I haven't been around much, but hopefully that will be changing soon...