Tuesday, August 5, 2008
PROMISED LAND - Chapter 3
CHAPTER 3 Jude was sitting on the steps of the Bone Trailer. She was looking up the hill, past the old school bus that sat to the right of the bunkhouse. She was beautiful, still, even in this foreign landscape, wearing a printed dress she’d never be caught dead in, back in the Village. Those same big silver hoops bounced in the breeze, dangling from her ears, her wavy dark locks flitting around her face and neck, framing her eyes, brilliant green against her dark lashes, a color in complete contrast to the natural reddishness of her full mouth. She obviously new I was walking back toward her. She lowered her head for a second and then looked up. That wide flashing smile stole my heart again, as it always did, but there was a shadow of trouble there, somewhere behind her eyes. I sat down on next to her and pulled her close in an almost automatic movement. She leaned into me, her head against my neck. “Everything okay?” I asked.“Yeah. I just worry sometimes, you know that. It’s nothing. We can talk later.You wanna go on a tour?” This seemed to brighten her up, and I’m a guy that likes to know the territory, so I happily agreed. As we got up, I walked to the car.“Let’s take a little friend along, shall we?” Her look was dubious as I popped the trunk. I pulled a toolbox aside from the other junk in there, and opened it up. Closing and replacing the box, I showed her what was in my hand.“Is that pot?” she asked.“Yeah, just a little. I don’t know anybody here, and I figured you wouldn’t have gotten anything together. I thought it would be a nice surprise.”“A surprise? What other surprises do you have in there, D? I thought we talked about this. Open that box up again.” I opened the tool box without a word and stepped back with my arms straight out to my sides, palms up.She rummaged through it quickly, finding no other contraband. “See”, I offered. “It’s just a little weed. We agreed, no drugs, no problems, a fresh start. I didn’t think this would be a big deal. I’ll give it to Boyd if you want. I’ll throw it away. I just thought it would be…fun. Natural. You know.”“Yeah, I do know. That’s what worries me.” She pulled out my large flash light and looked down the hole in the center of the spare, fishing around as well, with her fingers. “There’s nothing there, Jude.” She looked at me. She looked at me like a person who wants to believe. Then she dropped the flash light back into the trunk and closed it. “Come on. We’ll burn that at the top of the hill. There’s a tee pee up there. First I want to show you the bus. I stayed there at first. I call it the Dennis Hopper Memorial Scholl Bus. You’re gonna love it.”The old school bus had been converted, in a manner of speaking, in to a home. The driver’s seat and door opener were there, like any old yellow, American Harvester school bus, but the remaining seats had been scrapped.Under the windows on the driver’s side of the interior was a long counter, with a sink and some rickety shelves. The sink drained in to a five gallon plastic bucket underneath. Across the isle was a couch against the wall and a sort of table & booth arrangement. The back third of the bus was a bedroom, behind a gaudy, but fading, beaded curtain. It was here I tried to coax Jude. She wasn’t having it, pushing back out past me with a heavy stage sigh, loud enough to be heard in the back row. I assumed that bringing the weed would besmirch me until we actually smoked it. Then it would be happy time. We climbed down the steps of the magic bus, and headed up the hill.It was a long walk, but a nice walk. We chatted about the bus, the sky, the sage, which actually is purple at certain times of the year, this being one of them. The sky, too, fell under our observations. Montana calls itself Big Sky Country. I kind of thought that ridiculous when I first saw it on a license plate. But, like the purple sage, it was undeniably true. The sky was huge, and when on a higher point of ground, it seemed as though you were suspended in it.We came around the last stand of small trees and brush and there we were.The top of the hill flattened off, almost a plateau, easily a hundred or more in diameter. It sloped gently up and away from us, to the far edge, where it broke in to a cliff, dropping off maybe fifty or sixty feet, before it turned to a very steep grade. In the center was the tee pee. Perhaps a dozen feet across, maybe fifteen feet high, it looked like a movie prop. Obviously, this thing was not the cone shaped skins of buffalo, wrapped around poles of natural wood. The posts were obviously lumber yard material, and the covering was some kind of cheap stucco, like the fake Mexican buildings at South Of The Border, on Interstate 95. There was a plywood door on the side that face the cliff, and some little plexiglas windows on the other sides.“Very authentic. I’m wondering if Geronimo is inside.” Jude glared a bit, and commented back as she opened the door and went in.“Geronimo was a Sioux, I think. That’s part of the Dakota Nation. They didn’t care for the Blackfoot, I hear. Or a smart ass. Of any kind.” Properly in my place, I followed her inside. There’s was a small cast iron stove in the center, with a pipe heading up the cone. This explained the weird poles. They were painted aluminum, held apart by metal rings, to keep the heat of the chimney from burning down the tee pee. There shelves around the edges, some like book shelves, others like pantry space, some were simply flat areas where hordes of candles sat, waiting to come alive. The inner walls were painted plywood. I tapped on with my knuckles.“Yeah, I know it looks funny,” she said, “but Boyd says the wind shreds anything up here, within a few months. Tee pees were designed for the open plain, usually a valley or low area. He finally had to cover it with wood and stucco, or take it down. It’s too nice up here to give up, I guess.”“You’re a regular tour guide,” I joked, stepping closer. “Maybe you need a couple of those orange cones on flash lights.”“Yeah. Or just one. To stuff up your ass.” She snatched the bag of pot from my pocket, and I sat down on the heavily padded rugs. She gave me a dirty look as she opened the bag, and then sat down on my lap. “I missed you, asshole. Every fucking minute.” She went back to rolling, and didn’t say a word. It was time to simply bask.-We spent the rest of the morning up there, wandering around the tee pee, pretending to play hide and seek, poking at rocks, standing on the edge of the cliff, looking out at the amazingly huge sky. I found some white stone fragments sticking out of the ground on the cliff’s edge. I pulled one loose, rolling it in my hand.“Hey, Jude, check this out! I called out to her. “This stone is almost cold to the touch. I think it might be marble.” She came and took the rock from my hand, turning it back & forth. “You may be right. It sure looks like marble. Doesn’t that only form under deep water, though?”“Yeah, but maybe these mountains were beneath an ocean once. Things change. Given enough time, anything can change, turn completely around.”I had no idea how accurate that was going to prove to be.-It was early afternoon by the time we got back to the Bone Trailer. Again, we sat on the steps, and I tried my best to swallow some dried fruit and nuts that Jude had bags of, stashed inside. I could see why Yogi Bear was always stealing picnic baskets. I desperately wanted a slice of pepperoni from St. Marks Pizza, but Booboo & the Ranger were having none of it. Second Avenue seemed like another planet from here. “Yeah, Boyd’s pretty firm on wanting to keep the place organic. Except for stuff we really need, like gas for the cars, lamp fuel, batteries and stuff. He certainly doesn’t want any drugs or alcohol around.” This last bit was directed at me, rather than part of the informational tour, and I knew it.We both did. Still, I said nothing, and she went on about the local artists and the few people she’d met here. None of them were in evidence today, and Boyd had apparently gone off somewhere to be cosmic. Jude, on the other hand, wanted to go in to town.‘Baby, I just got here and…” I pondered just what the hell I’d be doing for the next eternity of forever out here, besides sitting on the steps, gagging on dry fruit, and thinking about how often it was going to send me to that little outhouse I’d yet to visit. It hadn’t smelled to bad, from a distance, but the buzzing of flies around it had sounded like Marshall Stacks, turned up to eleven, waiting for that first magic note. Or scream. “..what the hell,” I said, playing generous. I could only imagine how badly she wanted a break from this. “What about that ditch on the way in? Don’t people get stuck there?”“No, there’s a secret to it. It’s all timing”, she said, and then, looking back mischievously, “and, you gotta have some balls.” She squealed as I chased her around the car, and then laughing, finally jumped inside. I loved seeing her so happy, this carefree, this healthy. And I thought, too, so much in love. There were no monstrous predators from hell waiting at the gate. There were, however, about half a dozen bulls, standing there, watching Jude roll her eyes, as I refused to get out and open it. Finally, she reached over and turned off the motor, snatching the keys and getting out. She walked straight to the gate and opened it slowly, looking directly at the bulls the entire time. She headed back to the car and opened my door.“I don’t want to meet your little friends just now, honey. Maybe later.”“Oh, shut up and move over. If you can’t stare down a bull, you can’t drive either.” She hopped in and started the car, easing it through the gate. We were on their side now. She moved more slowly, more gracefully this time, never breaking eye contact with our bovine audience. As she headed back to running car, she stopped a few feet short and bent at the waist, flipping her dress up to show them her beautiful ass. They snorted and began to stomp as she jumped in and took off. I thought we’d pee from laughing.As we approached the gulley, I started to say something. Jude cut me off.“I know”, is all she said. We were approaching it fast, and I started again.“I KNOW”, she said again, this time sounding pissed. She braked just a bit before, so we slowed slightly, and let the car slide hard over the edge. There was a severe bump, and then we were headed up the other side, Jude stomping on the gas, and projecting us over the further edge.“Sorry”, she said. “Boyd showed me the first day. I thought you’d worry about your car, but it’s alright, really.” She turned briefly, and gave me a quick smile. The relief came as a welcome rush, and we joked our way in to town.-I dropped Jude off at some little carpentry shop and tool supply place. She was picking up some part that Boyd had ordered, she told me, and I had a couple of hours to poke around and get some supplies while she waited for them to get it together. It was less than twenty minutes before a local police cruiser pulled me over. While this passed without serious incident, it became very clear to me that, in small town America, I often look exactly like The Guy They’re Looking For, and get to ponder that while they run me for warrants. Needless to say, this put a damper on my visit to town, and I went back to the shop to hang out with Jude. I figured it would be more fun to shop together, anyway, and it crossed my mind that I might get less resistance in the company of a pretty girl, particularly one who had been seen around town in the company of locals.There was nobody in the front of the shop, so I walked around the side of the building to the back, looking for whoever worked there. I could hear machines running as I came around the corner, and began to smell the sawdust. Jude was in the work area, talking to a tall guy in jeans and t-shirt, obviously having some kind of intense conversation. I hung back, watching, in case of any trouble, but also knowing how Jude likes to handle things herself. The next few moments seemed to happen in slow motion.The guy in jeans stepped towards her and raised his hand towards her face. Just as I was about to run in to the room, he did the unspeakable. He brushed back a lock of her hair from over her eye. She didn’t even flinch.In fact, she smiled. My stomach dropped about a mile. My blood turned to ice. He placed his other hand around her waist and pulled her close. The she did the unspeakable. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him on the mouth.