Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 4, December 2011

Steven Carter
Tucson, Arizona, USA



Because he was lean and gaunt—one local wag likened him to Ichabod Crane—the townspeople nicknamed Carl Jensen "Hungry." He simply appeared on Main Street one Saturday afternoon, carrying a cardboard suitcase and wearing a floppy green felt hat. Soon he moved into an abandoned line shack down by the railroad junction, and picked up odd jobs where he could.

A myth grew up around him, mainly concerning his face, which was hideously disfigured due to a wound, or so he said, suffered in Flanders Fields. He rarely talked about himself, but someone claimed that his own family wouldn't take him in after he returned from Belgium and they saw his face.

He loved kids. Once they got over their initial fright, they came to visit him and even trailed him around town, as if he were the Pied Piper. He always had a dime for them, announcing that "Candy Day" was just around the corner. Sure enough, and with permission from the parents, he gathered the little ones in Larson's Mercantile and bought them licorice sticks, hard butterballs, and peppermints.

It was Elias Cornell, the sheriff's deputy, who found the body. Through the cracked window of the shack, Elias said, you could see his feet dangling as he slowly twisted back and forth above the overturned chair. He'd used a hemp cord, covering his face with a burlap sack. Elias didn't find a note, and no one knew how to notify his family.

But the town held a funeral for "Hungry." During the short service, the pastor, who like everyone else knew next to nothing about him, for some reason chose to portray him as "a man of the land," holding up a clod of local earth to illustrate. When titters broke out in the first two rows of the church, he realized he'd picked up a dried cow pie.

The kids, of course, weren't allowed at the funeral.

September frost—
every midnight
sound of the outbound express


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