A Baby Tramp
by Ambrose Bierce
(about 1800 words)
The town of Blackburg is used to strange occurrences. It has rained frogs, red snow has fallen, and a terrible, unexplained plague has ripped through the population ravaging it either in death or in desperate flights to safety. It’s not so hard to imagine that a little boy hardly old enough to tie his own shoes might be standing alone in a rain that can only be described as ‘sticky’. No, in Blackburg, that is not so strange at all. The story of how he got there, however, from the plague death of his parents, to the care of a distant relative, to wandering the desert with a tribe of Piute Indians, to being sold to a woman who then adopts him, only to have him wander off again at which point he is given to an infant care home–which he also escapes–now that is strange, even for Blackburg. At last, somehow, he arrives back home, alone and cold with the intent to return to his mother. But alas, his mother is dead, and it seems that there is only one way for little Joseph to be reunited with her.
Ambrose Gwinnet Bierce was born in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio on June 24, 1842. The tenth child of thirteen, Bierce was never very close to his parents and moved out on his own at the age of fifteen. From there he traveled for a time before taking up with his uncle who convinced him to enlist in military service. Bierce fought in the Civil War, though his military career ended with a bullet wound to the head which miraculously didn’t kill him, but caused him to suffer bouts of dizziness for the rest of his life. Bierce traveled frequently in his life, and took up many odd jobs and fleeting occupations. Writing, however soon became his primary love, and for most of his life he wrote for one newspaper or another. Known for his cynicism and satire, Bierce was a popular writer, however not without his critics. His most famous work, The Devil’s Dictionary started out as a weekly column in one of the papers he published with. It was originally called The Cynic’s Word Book. After the dissolution of his marriage and the tragic death of his two eldest children, Bierce resumed his nomadic existence. Letters to family noted his intent to travel to Mexico, however after passing through Texas he vanished and was never heard from again.