Tall Tales Contest
|"Who's that guy?" The new kid flopped his skinny arms outside of the bars, gesturing to the man in the cell across from his.
His muscled cellmate, Benny, pretended the kid didn't exist and kept on reading his book.
"Hey, dude, what're you in here for?" Jack called to the motionless figure across the way.
That night, the boy woke to murmuring from the mystery man's cell. "Shut up, already!" He shouted.
"You'd be wise not to tell him what to do," Benny grunted from his bed.
"What makes him so hard?" Jack demanded.
Benny sat up. "Your attitude is just begging for a beating, isn't it?" He placed his feet on the floor and leaned forward, rubbing his bald, tattooed head.
"You gonna be the one to do it?" Jack foolishly challenged his cellmate, who for three years had been working out for four hours a day, six days a week.
Benny sighed. "Listen, I'll tell you about him, but you have to promise to shut up from here on out, got it?"
"You talk fancy for a guy in jail..." Jack began. Benny held up his hand to halt the last of that sentence. "Just. Shut. Up." He punctuated.
"Fine." Jack plunked down on his cot. "I don't got nothin' else to do."
"First thing you need to know, Pecos Bill can go where he likes, when he likes. He can smoke when he wants, eat when he wants, and fart when he wants. No one messes with Bill."
Jack pondered this for a second. "Am I allowed to ask questions?"
Benny sighed the second sigh of many more to come. "Yes. If they're not stupid."
"Why doesn't he just leave?"
"I'm coming to that part."
"After he arrived, strange things began happening. Furniture moved on its own, creepy noises no one could explain; some of the inmates began going literally insane."
Jack looked nervously toward the muttering in the black cube. "What's he saying?" He whispered to Benny.
"He's praying. I'll get to that part, too if you let me continue."
Jack settled in and pulled his knees to his chest.
"One day, Bill had a visitor. We knew he had no lawyer, so everyone assumed it was a family member." Benny got up and filled a plastic cup with water from the tiny sink they shared.
"When he came back, he looked relieved. We figured he got sprung, but that wasn't the case. The next day I was out in the yard playing basketball with some of the guys, and out of nowhere he comes up and asks if he can play. Turns out, he's a pretty good point guard."
"Wait... he speaks to people?" Jack interrupted.
"Of course he does! How do you think he gets his cigarettes and cable in his cell?" Benny looked irritated. "No stupid questions."
Jack looked ashamed.
"After the game, he sat next to me on the bench. He asked about me, personally. I told him my grandma had recently passed." Benny looked thoughtfully at his cup. "I loved her."
"Oh..." Jack stammered. "I'm sorry for your loss."
Benny smiled. "Thanks."
"So we talked for a while, and Bill is a pretty nice guy. Turns out he's in here for ritualistic murder," his tone was matter-of-fact as if he had learned Bill played the trombone or took karate with his cousin. He took another sip of his water.
"Wait... WHAT?" Jack exclaimed.
"Sssssshhhhht- shut up!" Benny hissed at him.
"Bill was one of the most sought after men's stylists in the world at one point. Really talented, he's a wizard with a pair of thinning shears."
"Are you jerkin' me around?" Jack looked amused.
"Nope. Just relaying the facts as I know them," Benny stretched. "Do you remember the old character from the Tom and Jerry cartoons? Uncle Pecos?"
Jack looked at Benny more blankly than usual.
"You're probably too young. Uncle Pecos was a cowboy stereotype, guitar, boots, ten-gallon hat?" He could see Jack was still clueless. "Bill over there..." he gestured with a thumb, "Was a Tom and Jerry freak, and Uncle Pecos was his favorite character. He had this huge mustache, and Bill loved it. He thought it was the essence of masculinity, and wanted to bring it back in style, so he grew his own."
Jack unconsciously rubbed his upper lip. "So that's why he's called Pecos Bill..."
"The mustache was an international hit," Benny continued. "Everyone started growing them, from Anthony Kiedis..."
"The guy from Red Hot Chili Peppers?!" Jack interrupted.
"Yes, that guy, to James Franco."
Jack looked blank again.
"You know, James Franco? Famous actor, he's been in a ton of stuff. Alien: Covenant? Pineapple Express?"
"Don't know him..."
"Whatever, so it became super hip to have a mustache. That lead to the trend of beards, prohibition style bars with craft cocktails, and the return of the bowler."
"Oh yeah... I've been to one of those bars, so overpriced."
"I know, right? So turns out Satan had been a fan of Bill's work for a long time.
"Satan, like the devil?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, the devil. He'd been working on his mustache for a while and it was a little unruly. He wanted Bill to shape it for him and cut his hair in one of those pompadours everyone's wearing." Benny got up and refilled his water. "Bill couldn't do a thing with the devil's mustache. It was patchy, and wouldn't smooth out, even with the best wax."
"Ohhhhh, bummer," said Jack. "What about the pompadour?"
"No, go," Benny clicked his tongue. "Turns out Satan has some wicked cowlicks that just won't stay shaped. Bill suggested some other flattering styles, but Satan wasn't havin' it, he's really vain. He told Bill he'd be condemned to hell unless he sacrificed a young man possessing the most impressive mustache and hair that Bill could style.
"Oh wow, so he...."
"Well, wouldn't you? He went back to his salon, and when a handsome hipster walked in, he murdered him right there in front of the shampoo bowls with a ritualistic dagger made from the bone of a vestigial virgin. Satan lived up to his word and released his soul. Bill went straight to the nearest police station and turned himself in."
Jack shook his head. "I'm impressed he didn't try to get away with it."
"Remember I said after he got here weird things started happening? Bill thought he'd never be free, but he was visited by a messenger to let him know God told Satan to knock it off. Satan has a problem with holding grudges, and God felt bad for Bill. He didn't approve of the murdering part, of course, but he understood why he did it."
"Oh! That must've been the mysterious visitor!"
"Since then, he's been coveted like a saint, no one crosses him." Benny leaned back on his cot, propping his head in the crook of his arm.
"And that's why Pecos Bill is in jail," Jack said wistfully, looking into the darkness that was the cell across the way.
From that night, Jack changed his ways and took a vow of silence. He decided a life of the cloth was his destiny.
He never noticed the winks exchanged between Bill and Benny in the cafeteria line.