I'm about to tell you a story that you may, or may not believe, if you don't believe, I don't blame you. If you do believe it, however, I will not hold it against you. First, let me set the stage; this story took place in a small town called Branton, Indiana, or Mississippi. We've never really known witch state it is, but old Ted and Earl have been trying to figure it out since they came here fifty years ago. Either way, the fact that the 'witch-state-are-we-really-in' argument has been the hot topic for fifty years running says a lot about the people of Branton. They're a slow-moving folk, the kind that could stand for hours and talk about something that happened only moments before.

The people of Branton are also the kind to notice any change and make it the talk of the town. Why, I can remember back when I decided to paint my house a different shade of blue. You'd have thought the president had come to my house. The Preacher gave a very loud object lesson about redemption while I mixed the paints, and Mr. Kibbs, our local entrepreneur, started selling pretzels and paintbrush-shaped cookies to all the kids. My neighbor, Miss Ella Johnson, was telling all her friends from the bridge club that I was ruthlessly destroying tradition by changing the color of the house that my father and his father before him was born in. The Mayor even used my ladder to make a speech about why we should re-elect him, though it was a little ridiculous, considering nobody ever ran against him. He continued his blathering until I convinced him that his standing on my latter was hindering progress.

Well, one day, in June, I think, the people of Branton experienced a chain of events that to this day, have superceded the Indian/Mississippi conflict in terms of dinner talk and gossip.

Ted and Earl were sitting at the train station, as they always did after lunch. They didn't say anything to each other, as one of the few things they agreed on was that talking too soon after a meal would just make you hungry again. They also agreed that sometime between lunch and supper (most people in Branton didn't keep time as there are only twelve watches and three clocks in the whole town) a boxcar train came screeching to a halt. It's very unusual for any trains to stop in Branton, if anyone has a reason to leave town they would usually ask Mr. Kibbs to give them a ride to the next town in his Ford, and anyone coming in usually came by car or wagon. It was even more unusual that a scruffy-looking man would get off the third boxcar.

He was a kind of person, the likes of witch nobody in Branton has seen before. He wasn't particularly tall, but nor was he particularly short. Held to his waist by an old piece of rope hung a raggedy, patched up pair of what seemed to have once been fine, expensive suit pants. His coat was made of a thick burlap material and was sewn together with a thick, waxy sort of thread. Under his coat was a blue dress shirt clearly in need of a wash, and around the collar, an old tie hung loosely with a large green patch sewn on. The shoes of his feet revealed how far he traveled, the shine had been long gone and they where held together with various pieces of cloth and string. Resting somewhat lopsidedly on his head was a mud-freckled fedora, coming apart at the seams so that the small gray threads fell and blended into his stormy-gray hair. The beard on his face didn't match the hair on his head. His chin and part of his neck was covered in bristly, yet soft almost golden-yellow whiskers that, with his hair, framed his huge doleful, sky-blue eyes. Slung haphazardly over his shoulder was an old, rusty piece of pipe, on the end of which dangled a patched up sack that sagged pathetically under it's own weight. The most noticeable thing about the man, however, was the small copper kettle he carried. The kettle though dented and lacking shine, was not that noticeable considering its contents; one pick-eyed, yellow-beaked, snow-white farm hen, looking surprisingly content in her kitchenware home.

The man walked calmly across the platform, watching his feet intently the whole time as if he was making sure they didn't run away, or waiting for his shoes to finally fall apart.

"Pardon me sirs," the man said in a deep voice that could be felt in the bones of all those who heard it, "could you perhaps tell me where I've ended up this fine day"

The two old men where reluctant to answer, after all, they didn't want to get hungry again. But the silence was becoming very awkward so Earl piped up, trying to make it sound obvious.

"Why, you're in Branton, Indiana, boy." "Mississippi!" Ted corrected loud enough to startle the chicken.

"Well," said the stranger, "Mississippi or Indiana, Branton is right where I mean to be"

With that the man walked of, chicken and bindle in hand staring at his feet.


Thanks for reading folks, I'd really apreciate any sugestestions you have for me regarding this story as I plan on entering it in a contest and I would really like to get it polished before then.