Monday, January 01, 2007


By Dick Nelson

At first, the hobos were suspicious of the robot. But their wariness vanished when Vienna sausages were ejected from an opening in its torso, followed by cigarettes, harmonicas and can after can of baked beans. The sudden appearance of these items delighted the hobos, as did the thick fountain of fortified wine that spurted from a nozzle extending from one of the robot's arms.

Soon, the highway underpass was alive with merriment. After eating their fill of sausages, Billygoat Johnson and Mister Slops began guzzling the robot's wine, which they had collected in several old paint cans. Li'l Corncob and The Oleo Kid sang "The Bindle Stick Blues" several times before stumbling through a particularly long and bawdy rendition of "A Toothless Tease." And Snickerdoodle, beard dripping with wine and beans, simply danced from one end of the hobo camp to the other, feeling as free as a runaway locomotive.

"Come on over here and join us, friend!" one of the hobos yelled to the robot. The robot, however, was content to stand quiet and motionless, its silver skin gleaming in the light of the hobos' fire.

Several more hours passed before the hullabaloo was finally over and all the hobos had fallen asleep. It was then that the robot pressed a button on its chest, and a molecular-destabilizer beam shot out across the camp, instantly transforming the slumbering tramps into bubbling puddles of smoking, scarlet ooze.

The remorseless machine glided over to the log where Parasite Pete had been sleeping. It paused for a moment, the lights on its head softly pulsing. Then it picked up Pete's banjo and disappeared into the night.

(Author Dick "Dirty Beard" Nelson based this short story on the Woody Guthrie song of the same name. For more tales of science and vagabondism, we heartily recommend Nelson's spellbinding A Hobo Laser.)


Hugh Jorgan said...

This must be a chronicle of the first time it ever happened, robots vaporizing hobos. Otherwise the hobos would have learned through the itinerantnet to be wary of a shiny mechanical visitor in their midst, dispensing goodies.

Itinerantnet -- did you catch that excellent wordplay??!

Dick Nelson said...

Who is to say that little Spittoon Andy wasn't crouched down by the riverbank, watching the whole horrible episode unfold? Such is the mystery of folklore.

Also, most hobos have never heard of the itinerantnet, so it's moot to wonder if they can go vagabonline for information.