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the Feral Wolf Twins Go To the Country
chapter 9: the Village of the Ho-bos

by Justice H. Baldenbrach   November 9, 2003
(as read to eli in a monotone voice by his robot babysitter)

adventure, novel, parody, book, author, interview, insane

A merry sortie soon set out to find Little Sigmundt's missing body. The Feral Wolf Twins agreed to split up, each to hunt their quarry in a different place; Eleanor went snuffling off in the direction of the town, while her brother bounded away towards the swamp.

Young Dickie soon found the trail to be a cold one. No matter how many broken twigs and tell-tale spoor he uncovered, his practiced snout gleaned not a trace of the errant cadaver. As the wolf-boy probed further into the trackless morass he became less certain that Little Sigmundt (or what remained of him) had passed that way; and Dickie had only just decided to re-trace his steps back to Franklin Allgemeine Zeitung's house when he saw that he was lost!

One brackish puddle appeared as like as any other, and each stand of wild corn-nut grew just as its neighbor did. No help could be found from the sky or sun: the towering alfalfa trees blocked them both.

"Bother!" thought young Dickie, although when he tried to curse aloud he merely managed a strangled kind of wheeze, which was not without result; for who should then appear from behind a log but the large and friendly ho-bo who had so resembled a bear when he had eaten an offending grackle not long ago.

"Hello, friend," said the ho-bo. "You are far from home, I'd wager. My name is Old Furry Abe, and a tramp am I. Why, can't ye do more than wheeze? No? Well, then ye are dumb, or merely simple. Come with me, then, and I'll show ye the ways of the Ho-bo."

Dickie and his new friend went deeper still into the swamp, where it became so dark that they could see little more before them than an expansive void of brown. After a while they perceived a glimmer of pale light through the murk, and the pair found themselves on the edge of a shantytown pockmarked with the cooking fires of a hundred musky vagabonds.

"Ho-Bo Alley," said Old Furry Abe, spreading his arms in pride. "Our happy town."

Ho-Bo Alley was a motley hamlet of earthen shacks, ingeniously consturcted in a series of concentric rings around a large central bonfire that lit the little village like a mellow sun and cast merry, dancing shadows on the trees above. Ho-bos of all kinds, from pudgy old men to mewling babes, shuffled from here to there, gathering rocks and soil for their supper, all with a jaunty air.

"We tramps have lived in this place for over a hundred years," said Old Furry Abe. "Gypsies, hunchbacks, freaks, and morons; bearded girls and skinny men; the ugly, the shiftless, the useless, the lame, and all those who can't live like other men, they come here to be ho-bos! Here we earn no wage and own no land, but we are the happiest of men! Is it not so?"

"It is so!" came the reply from a dozen passing mendicants. A comely smudged girl in a tattered shawl gave a saucy laugh, and cast young Dickie a sideways glance that was sly indeed.

"Ah, ye see?" said Old Furry Abe with a hearty laugh. "The ho-bo's life is the life for thee, friend. Come! Stay with us, and ye shall have a treat! For we all 'wrassle' here in Ho-Bo Alley, and I myself will fight a round with a couple of fellows this very night! One's a rabbi, the other's a shark: they make for an interesting team, bedad!"

The comely waif grasped Dickie's hand and looked at him with dewdrop eyes. "Aye, ye are a pretty freak, and I'm the mayor's naughty daughter. Stay with me, a be a ho-bo! Oh, please please please please?" And so Dickie forgot his search for lost Little Sigmund, and thought at that moment he'd like to be a ho-bo very much indeed.


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