This set of interrelated vignettes sprang from my fingers with little prodding. I don’t know the whole story here; not even the main parts of it. But I know there’s a story beneath this scenario. I know there’s more than a vignette here; perhaps I have, indeed, found a piece of a story that will call out its brethren to form a whole. I’m not going to rush it, though. I have to allow myself to think through the before and the after, the beneath and the above, the injury and the salvation, the bondage and the escape. This beginning may actually build upon itself in ways of which I’ve only dreamt heretofore. But, of course, the possibility exists that these may be the final words of Clamber and Decker. I hope not. I sense there’s something here that begs to be written.

The volume of Clamber’s voice rose with each sentence, each syllable, until the last word sprang from his mouth as a scream.

“Why did you leave me in that godforsaken town, of all places? Couldn’t you have taken me to Dallas? Or Texarkana? Or anyplace with more people and more options?”

The old man shrugged and shook his head. The movement appeared to say “I don’t know.” But he didn’t speak. Instead, his chest heaved and stuttered; his body convulsed in a silent whimper, followed by another and another until, finally, audible sobs escaped his mouth and tears ran down his cheeks.

The anger in Clamber’s face softened as he watched his father cry. The shake of his head mimicked his father’s a moment earlier.

“I know you’re sorry for it, Pops, but I don’t know whether I can forgive you. I’m not even sure I ought to try. But I guess I will. So, yeah. The answer is yes. I’ll help you to the extent I can.”

Clamber Scoggins was fourteen years old , alone, and homeless when he started what would become an empire. He had been abandoned by his father, Decker Scoggins, at the Quick Stop gas station and convenience store in Bogata, Texas.

The abandonment was mildly civil, if such a thing can be said about leaving a child alone to fend for himself. Describing the desertion as civil is especially troubling because the act was done in a place so decidedly unfriendly to unattached children. Bogata, Texas, population twelve hundred, more or less—fifteen miles from, Clarksville, the county seat of Red River County, one of the poorest counties in Texas. Kids don’t do well in Bogata schools, nor in Bogata workplaces.

But leaving a child in Bogata doesn’t necessarily mean a child will stay in Bogata.

The boy Decker Scoggins left in Bogata, Texas was ungracefully thin and, at five feet two inches, short for his age. His dishwater blonde hair spilled in untrained layers over his ears, collar, and forehead, its haphazard asymmetrical cut suggesting an untrained home barber’s work. Clamber’s face was thin and, except for the natural smudges that build during days without washing, pale. Like his father, his eyes were big and brown and brooding, but unlike his father’s his eyes hid behind a pair of plastic, round-rimmed eyeglasses.

The elder Scoggins explained to his son what he was about to do.

“Clamber, I just can’t keep you no more. I’m leaving you almost all I got in the world, nearly five hundred dollars, so you can feed yourself while you look for somebody else to take care of you.

“I hate to do it, boy, but I just got no other choice. Here, this here money is for your front pocket and the rest is for the money belt I give you.”

Decker reached into the threadbare right rear pocket of his ancient jeans and drew out an old, faded, scarred wallet—the kind truckers carry; long, with a chain attached—and opened it. He pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and a thick, wrinkled envelope. He stuffed the bill in the left front pocket of Clamber’s faded jeans and handed the boy the envelope, which contained the remaining four hundred and seventy-one dollars.

Clamber stood holding the envelope, his head cocked slightly and his confused eyes searching for something to explain this odd interchange. He stared at his father. Decker stared back for several seconds, as if waiting for a reaction. When there was none, he continued.

“Come on, boy, put the rest of the money in the money belt before anybody sees you got it.”

“You’re gonna leave me here?”

“I told you, boy, I just can’t take care of you no more. I want you to find some nice family to look after you. Somebody don’t know me or my history.”

Now, if you or I were in that kid’s shoes, we would have started bawling our eyes out. But Clamber Scoggins, his bewildered gaze morphing into a look of acknowledgement, remained fixed on the man. His eyes betrayed no emotion; but if a boy’s vacant eyes could tell a story, his told that he understood and accepted what his father said.

“All right, then. I guess I better start looking for a place to be.”

With that, the boy turned and walked inside the convenience store. His father climbed into the cab of a chalky grey 1993 Ford F-150 pickup that once had been blue, now coated with dull orange dust, and drove off in the direction of Mount Pleasant.

Clamber turned and stared out the dirty window until his father’s truck disappeared from view.

“This the place to catch the bus?”

The clerk behind the counter, a thick and heavily-pimpled girl of no more than seventeen looked at him with dim beige eyes. “Yeah.”

“You got a schedule sayin’ what times the bus comes and where it goes?”

“Yeah. Look behind you on the wall.”

Clamber turned around and saw the bus schedule. His options were limited; the end of the line for the TRAX bus service appeared to be either Paris or Mount Pleasant.

“I’ll take a ticket to Paris on the 12:25 bus. It gonna be on time?”

“It usually is. You’ll know soon enough. Should be here in about thirty minutes. That’s three dollars.”

Clamber fished the twenty dollar bill from his jeans pocket and handed it to the clerk.

“Here’s your ticket and seventeen dollars in change. Anything else.”


Clamber went back outside and leaned against the building. Forty minutes later, a transportation van, not a large bus like Clamber expected, arrived. After sorting through his confusion over whether this was his ride, he climbed inside and headed toward Paris. Clamber’s brief midday visit to Bogata that day was his last one as a poor boy, but not his last one as a foundling.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Fiction, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bogata

  1. phil2bin says:

    Has promise, a healthy springboard.

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.