Thursday, May 6, 2021

Patterns of Moonglow and Shadow (Part 1 of 2 Parts)

Markwildyr.com, Post #154

 Photo courtesy of Stock Adobe.com:

 


This week, let’s get back to storytelling. The following is part one of a yarn I wrote just for this post. Hope you like it.

 

* * * * *

 

PATTERNS OF MOONGLOW AND SHADOW

Movement between patches of moonglow and shadow caught my attention as I waited at a traffic light on East Central in Albuquerque. In dark of shadow, a vague, shapeless stirring; in weak moonglow—feebly augmented by fading neons—motion took momentary shape. White sneakers, slim jeans, lanky figure, hair darker than the shadowed recess of closed shops lining the avenue. Good physique, long, coltish stride… but what did he look like? Probably not much. What were the odds you’d spot someone with it all: good build, masculine grace, and fair features? Slim to none.

The light changed before he reached the relatively well-lit intersection, and I moved on toward my downtown office for a late-night planning meeting. After that, maybe a stop at a Fourth Street bar before heading back to my empty apartment.

Without consciously thinking about what I was doing, I circled the block to catch another glimpse of this walking enigma who had so unexpectedly snagged my attention. My timing was off a bit, so I circled yet again and caught him as he trotted across a side street. The sudden appearance of my headlamps caused him to glance my way. Good Lord! I’d hit the perfecto. Build, grace, and good features.

Of course, momentary glimpses can be tricky. Minks can turn out to be weasels on closer inspection. I noted the time on my dashboard clock. Nine-fifteen. Maybe this was a familiar trip for the young man. If so, I might catch sight of him tomorrow.

****

Our downtown meeting had been called for this unusual hour because our boss kept a social engagement before calling on the team to finalize plans for a development on the west side of the city. My mind strayed, and that was dangerous for a junior member of an architectural firm. Nonetheless, my thoughts refused to let go of that long-legged stride, dark hair, and comely features back in the Northeast Heights. Would I see him again? Central wasn’t my usual route from home to office, so Lady Fate must have had a hand in what happened.

The evening ended as predicted. A couple of “hail fellow well met” drinks and then home to a lonely apartment. Actually, my pad wasn’t bad. Two bedrooms in a pricey part of town too far from the office to be really convenient. I’d signed the lease because that’s where my girlfriend Cassandra wanted to live. Cassandra. The name should have forewarned me. Like that old Trojan Priestess of Apollo who told truths that were never believed, my Cassandra had warned me our relationship wouldn’t last. And she was right. Six months into a one-year lease, she moved back to Pennsylvania, leaving me with an inconvenient apartment contract only halfway spent. I closed the door behind me and gave the empty apartment my usual greeting of late. “Shit!”

****

The next evening, I cruised the upper end of East Central from Wyoming down to Carlisle and back without results. Oh, I saw pickups—both male and female—but that wasn’t what I was looking for. That particular enigmatic figure from last night totally claimed my attention. I gave up around nine and returned home.

Unusually antsy at the office the next day, I worked late in order to get some tasks done I’d neglected earlier. Sometime after nightfall, I headed up the long expanse of Central Avenue past the Highlands subdivision, beyond the University of New Mexico main campus to the International Section, and deep into the Northeast Heights. No sign of what I was looking for.

Pissed at myself for getting hung up on something as trivial as a guy with a long athletic stride, I turned north toward home, but found myself circling the block and heading west on Central again. It was almost as if my Miata had a mind of its own. I cursed softly but continued on down the street. Shop lights began winking off, creating those weird patterns of moonglow and shadow along the sidewalks.

At Carlisle, I said screw it and headed home, or at least that’s what I told myself. And since Central was sort of a way home, I pointed the car’s nose east. Lo and behold, in a few minutes, I spotted a long-legged figure turn south on Morningside, and I did something I never do… pulled up beside the guy just as he started to cross the street to a small park. His eyes widened in surprise when he almost walked into the side of my vehicle.

Like I said, there’s always something to mar perfection, and now it was obvious. The guy—kid, really—was dirty. Filthy. He likely lived on the streets, possibly sleeping in the park lying just to the right of my car.

I blurted the first thing I thought of. “You hungry?”

“Y-yeah.”

The next words were hard to get out, but for some reason I was committed. “Get in. I’ll buy you something.”

He squinted doubtfully. “You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I said, grabbing a newspaper I had intended to read tonight and spreading it over the front passenger’s seat.”

He used that long, graceful stride to go around the car and climb in. He didn’t seem bothered at the newspaper crinkling beneath his weight.

I goosed the motor and whipped around the corner to make my way back to Central. “Robert,” I said, examining him out of the corner of my eye.

“Huh? Oh, Jimmy.”

“What do you like to eat?”

“I like I-Hop, but they won’t let me in.”

“No, probably not.” I was beginning to regret my rash action. The newspaper might save my seat, but the odor was going to be harder to expunge.

“What would you think if I offered you a shower.”

“I’d think it was great, but it won’t do any good.”

“Why?”

“I’ve got no clothes to change into. Have to put these back on.”

“You don’t have any more clothes?”

“Did. But I went up the street to do some dumpster diving this morning, and when I got back, sombody’d filched my goods. Took everything.”

I glanced at the dash clock. “Walmart’s still open, how about I buy you a shirt and a pair of pants.”

“Same thing. Won’t let me in.”

“Maybe not, but they’ll let me in.”

Two minutes later, I turned south on San Mateo and whipped into a Walmart parking lot. I took out a pen and pad and wrote down his shirt and pant sizes.

“Be back in a few. Hang tight,” I said, rolling down the windows even though the night air was cool. One of the things I liked about Albuquerque. No matter how hot the days, the nights were cool.

Thirty minutes later, I exited the store and only then did I consider the possibility he’d hot wire the ignition and take off in my car. But there it was with him leaned back in the reclining seat. He flinched when I opened the driver’s side door and tossed a canvas bag into his lap. “Here you go three shirts, three pants, three shorts—hope you like jockeys—three pairs of socks, and a shaving kit. Oh, and a windbreaker for cool nights.”

“Wow! That’s more’n I lost this morning. Thanks, man.”

Let’s take you home for that shower, and then we’ll see about something to eat. I’ve got some spareribs and turkey in the freezer. Pre-packaged, but not bad.”

“Sounds good to me.”

* * * *

Okay, so our protagonist has caught his fish, so what is he going to do with it. Frankly, I don’t believe Robert has the slightest idea. He’s acting on instinct. What do you think? We’ll have our answer on Thursday the 20th.

 

I am still asking for reviews of Wastelakapi, on Amazon.

 My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:

Website and blog: markwildyr.com

Email: markwildyr@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.wildyr                                                       

Twitter: @markwildyr

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

 

Mark

 New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Guest Post: Scam, Scam, SCAM!

 Markwildyr.com, Post #153

Photo Courtesy of clipart-library.com: 


I am doing an out-of-sequence post this week because my buddy, Don Travis has something important to say in his post this week. It’s a cautionary tale, so I’ll simply reproduce it as he wrote it.

* * * * *

Scam, Scam, SCAM!

By Don Travis

 

The morning of Friday, April 16 opened like many others. Get up, clean up, eat a bite, and then check the email messages.

The day ceased to be “normal” at that point. I opened one email in my inbox (not the Spam box) that shook me. I’ll reproduce some of it below:

                                                  WE ARE RENEWING IT FOR YOU

 Dear User,

 Thank you for using the Geek Squad Services.

 This Email Confirms That You’ve Renewed Your 3 Year Subscription To Greek Squad For $499.99 On April 15th 2021

 This Subscription Will Auto Renew Every 3 Years Unless You Turn It Off, No Later Than 48 hours Or Before the end of Subscription Period

 To Cancel The Subscription You Can reach Us at 1-(833)-721-2338.

 Now there were red flags all over the place: the sending address didn’t look right, the unusual capitalization, something in the message (which I didn’t reproduce above) referenced a computer.

But I immediately focused on a couple of things:

 ·       I had a legitimate Best Buy Geek Squad contract on a television set I purchased from them, and

·       $499.99

So I promptly lost my head and let common sense fly out the window. I didn’t read those warning signs, didn’t even bother to read the message carefully or stop to consider that my contract was only a few months old and not up for renewal. No, I set out to set those cheeky SOBs straight and dialed the number given.

Then started an hour-long song and dance I will never forget. The male voice on the other end (slight foreign accent) skillfully led me down the garden path so smoothly that I left all my native suspicion, over-caution, and common sense lying in the gutter of this road we were taking.

After having me fill out forms to cancel the service, we eventually ended up in my bank account. Yes, that’s right. This normally super-cautious dolt got talked into going into my online bank account in order to see the repayment into my bank account (forget the fact that I always pay for such service with credit cards). He even talked me into entering the first of the two-part repayment, $350 and $199.99, into a form. I did so, and he said to now check and see if the funds had hit the bank. No, but there was a deposit from The Geek Squad substantially in excess of $350.

He went ballistic. I’d entered the wrong number (I hadn’t) and had to return the excess immediately… right this minute. And then my printer started spitting out details of my checking account, showing that excessive deposit. At that point, some small part of my common sense returned, and I called him a scammer. He indignantly asked why I was calling him a scammer when I was the one who had his money. I told him I would return it when the bank verified it was there. He was threatening to freeze my entire bank account when I hung up on him.

I immediately went to the bank and talked to a financial consultant (a very personable young lady who had seen and heard it all before). She printed out both my saving account and checking account, and the heart of the scam was revealed. My savings was reduced by the amount the scammer had demanded. But lo and behold, there was an equivalent amount deposited to my checking account.

The consultant changed my bank account number while informing me the scammer did not have the ability to remove money from my account, but they could move it around inside the account. They took the amount they wanted to scam from my savings and moved it to the checking account, and then made the deposit read as if it came from The Geek Squad. If I had “returned” the funds as demanded, I would have been out the money. Fortunately, I came to my senses in time.

I spent the remainder of the day alternating between relief that I hadn’t lost any money and anger at myself for being so gullible. But the story wasn’t over yet. The bank told me not to do any more online banking until I had my computer checked for malware. Otherwise, any malware they installed might give them my new account number. I wasn’t able to get that scan accomplished until the following Tuesday. Then I spent the remainder of the day, changing the banking information on credit cards, utilities, and the like. The scan cost $135; the updating, hours.

Still, I was lucky.

****

(Don Travis speaking) I chose to do this post to warn that anyone is vulnerable to gifted scammers, even a reasonably bright guy who’s suspicious by nature and never opens emails he doesn’t recognize… well, almost never. 

* * * *

Don makes a good point. We are all vulnerable. So be careful!

 Still asking for reviews of Wastelakapi, on Amazon.

 My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:

Website and blog: markwildyr.com

Email: markwildyr@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.wildyr                                                       

Twitter: @markwildyr

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

 We'll get back on our regular schedule of May 6 and May 20 next time.

 

Mark

 New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Next Up – Echoes of the Flute

 

Markwildyr.com, Post #152

Artist: Maria Fanning:

 

JM Snyder Books has published Cut Hand, River Otter, and Wastelakapi…Beloved, and is closing in on Echoes of the Flute. I completed my response to the first publisher’s edit, and am awaiting receipt of the second. After that, they move pretty quickly, so suspect it will become available in April. Then follows the reprint of Medicine Hair.

 Last November, I gave you a look at Echoes, by posting a scene from Chapter 3 which featured the return of Matthew Brandt (Bear) to Teacher’s Mead from one of his prolonged jaunts. He finds his closest friend and spiritual brother, John Strobaw (War Eagle), swimming in the Yanube River. In the joy of their reunion Matthew makes a move on John, kissing him boldly. John, while yearning to accept the approach is uncertain, which Matthew takes as rejection. The chapter ends with Matthew storming away, and John, already regretting his loss, tells Matthew that if he goes away, never come back.

 

The scene below starts Chapter 4 as John recalls Matthew’s kiss and starts wondering….

 * * * * *

ECHOES OF THE FLUTE

 The incident at the river shook me right down to my heels. My response to Matthew—not to mention my reaction opposing him—left me doubting my horse sense. The lingering shadow of his lips on mine haunted me. I’d never been moved by a kiss like that before. Hell, I’d never been kissed before. That made me want to go find a girl while it was fresh on my mind…or on my lips. You know, to compare. But there weren’t any girls around except Rachel Ann and Hannah, and I wasn’t about to kiss my own sisters. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Minnie Killpenny lived just a few miles up the river.

Then there was that other thing. I got hard remembering Matthew’s hand on my rod. I might be able to snatch a kiss from Minnie, but could I finagle her into groping me too?

There was no free time until the following Saturday. Then I hogged the bathing room until Rachel Ann banged on the door wanting in. I told her to go to one of the necessaries the coach passengers used. Squeaky clean, I plied pa’s straight edge to my sideburns and to take out a couple of whiskers on my chin. His razor always had a keen edge because it didn’t get much use. None of the men in our family had facial hair worth mentioning.

I pointed Arrow’s nose north instead of heading upriver. Pa’d told me Matthew had set up camp on the north side of the hills along Strobaw’s Crick. Nobody’d seen or heard from him since he went steaming away from the swimming hole. I found him all right. His camp, at least. He’d rigged up a tent…it wasn’t quite a tipi…and his things were still stowed inside. There was no sign of him or Wind Rider. His tracks led up the creek, but it looked like he was out hunting, so I gave up and headed for my real destination.

I’d wasted a good bath by the time the four miles to the Killpenny Farm were behind me. I was sweaty from the sun and kinda smelled like Arrow Wind. At least, it seemed that way to me. What kind of reception would the Killpennys give me after Matthew’s stunt last year?

The farmer made me welcome and took time to sit on the front porch of his place with me and have a drink of water. He offered spirits, but despite craving some to bolster my intent to kiss his daughter, I declined.

Mr. and Mrs. Killpenny were plain folks, but their fry came out fairer than their parents. Esau was twenty and my height, about five-ten, but he outweighed me by twenty pounds. Wasn’t chubby, he just carried his weight solidly. Blue-eyed, he was pleasant to look at and friendly, especially if you’d talk hunting with him.

Minnie—she let it be known she liked to be called Min—was easy to look at. Ma was fond of saying, “that Killpenny girl wasn’t but seventeen and looked to be twenty.” She was blonde, like her brother, but her eyes were green. Pretty as all get out. But shy. How in the hell had Matthew gotten her out in the trees last year?

The Killpennys must have been wondering that, as well, because they stuck real close while Min and I sat on the porch and talked. At least, I talked. She just did a lot of smiling and dimpling. Esau hung around until I showed no signs of going hunting with him, and then he took off. As he strode around the side of the cabin, I noticed his bottom was broader than Matthew’s. Now where in the hell had that come from?

After an hour, I figured I’d worn out my welcome, so I said goodbye to everyone and went to get Arrow. I’d ground hitched him, but he’d wandered a bit, following the vegetation as he grazed. He was around behind the barn, and when I walked over to get him, Min came along with me. As soon as we were out of sight of the house, I grabbed her. She must have thought a wild Indian was attacking her, but she didn’t do anything except give a grunt when I jerked her up against me and planted my lips on hers. Had to… or I’d have lost my nerve. After about thirty seconds, I came up for air, muttered something—not sure what—and vaulted aboard Arrow. I remembered to doff my hat before laying heels to the horse’s flanks and racing away.

Half a mile later, I reined my gelding to a walk and considered things. Wasn’t sure if I’d reached any conclusions, but one thing was for sure. The two kisses didn’t even compare. Min’s was soft and sweet…and kinda like kissing my sisters. Matthew’s had reached right down inside me and yanked on my innards.

Instead of going back to the Mead, I headed for Matthew’s camp again. But it wasn’t there anymore. The spot where his tent had been was pristine. The earth had been wiped clear of any sign he’d ever been there. He’d come back and seen my tracks and wanted no part of me. I must have hurt him awful bad that day at the swimming hole.

I could have ridden in a big circle and picked up his trail, but this made it plain he was through with me. Arrow turned down the crick and bore me home with the hole Matthew always left in my chest back in place—except bigger this time. 

* * * *

Hope this sparked your interest and motivates you to want more. The publisher has settled on a new cover, but I’m unable to locate the new one, so have provided the previous cover.

 By the way, if any of you have read Wastelakapi, please post a review with Amazon and give me some stars. All the previously published books have multiple readers’ reviews, but poor Wastelakapi sits there with no reviews and, alas, no stars.

My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:

Website and blog: markwildyr.com

Email: markwildyr@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.wildyr

Twitter: @markwildyr

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

 Until next time.

 Mark

New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Uncertain Beginning, A Memoir

 Markwildyr.com, Post #151

 Photo Courtesy of freeimages.com:


JM Snyder Books is moving quickly on the Strobaw Family series novels. They published the last book in the series Wastelakapi… Beloved, and have already republished Cut Hand. River Otter will be coming out soon, probably sometime this month or next. Echoes of the Flute is already in the works (I approved the cover a couple of days ago). Then, there remains only Medicine Hair. Thanks, JM.

Also my thanks to Don Travis for his guest blog last week. Alas, this week, I’m all on my own. In a reflective mood, I reached back into my history for something to talk about and came up with the story of my birth. Hope you enjoy it.

* * * * *

UNCERTAIN BEGINNING

A Memoir

In his heart, he knew it was a stillbirth.

The bright October sun streamed through the tall windows of a second-story apartment, sharpening the smell of blood and sweat and afterbirth in the little bedroom. The physician hoisted a newborn by its ankles to deliver a series of slaps to the tiny rump. Nothing. No reaction.

Although the baby was small—only five pounds—the delivery had been difficult, complicated by the mother's severe toxemia. The small-town family doctor delivered another loud smack. Harder this time. Still no response. He laid the still form on the bed and swabbed its mouth with gloved fingers. No obstruction there.

As the clock ticked away precious seconds, he motioned the midwife assistant forward, and together they frantically labored over the inert child. Nothing worked. After placing his stethoscope to the still chest one final time, the medic glanced at the exhausted mother lying on the bed. Her pretty features sagged from illness and exhaustion.

Judging her more or less out of it, he swiped his damp brow with a forearm and turned to the anxious father perched on a windowsill at the far side of the room.

“I’m sorry, but it’s not unexpected given your wife’s condition. She’s the one we have to worry about now.”

The father stood and pressed thumbs into the corners of his eyes. His shoulders slumped. “Was it a boy?”

“Yes. You have to be strong now… for your wife’s sake.” The doctor sighed from weariness and sorrow. “I know you were hoping your son would grow up to be a first baseman, but—”

“WAAAHHH!”

They whirled at the sound of an angry wail and saw the midwife holding the baby. As they watched in astonishment, she calmly removed her finger from its little rectum and handed the squalling child to the doctor.

 

          I'd heard that story all my life but didn't really accept it as anything other than family legend—until I met Mrs. Ward four decades later. She had been the midwife in that little Oklahoma drama. She sat in the easy chair in her son’s living room and recited the story with a cherubic smile on her pleasant face. She finished with, “It’s true Every word of it. We were so worried over your mother. She wasn’t in good health at all.” She beamed at me.  “And I see you grew up to survive whatever life chose to throw at you.”

My father did not get the first baseman he wanted from that child. What he got, instead... was me. My mother recovered from her illness and lived to bear a daughter and twin sons. She passed away peacefully twelve days shy of her ninety-seventh birthday. My father preceded her in death by some 30 years.

I have speculated many times over the course of my life on the psychological implications of drawing my first breath in that manner. You see, I’m often accused of being anal-retentive.

* * * *

What more is there to say? Now you know all of my intimate details. However, I challenge you to come up with the story of your own birth.

 My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:

Website and blog: markwildyr.com

Email: markwildyr@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.wildyr

Twitter: @markwildyr

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

 Until next time.

 

Mark

 New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Piquant (A guest post by Don Travis)

 Markwildyr.com, Post #150

 Photo Courtesy of Clipart Library


As noted last week, JMS Books published Wastelakapi… Beloved. They have now published an ebook version of the original Cut Hand. And I just finished reviewing the first edit of the second book in the series River Otter. It should come out shortly. They intend to publish all five books in the series.

 This week, Don Travis is doing a guest post of one of his short-short stories. I believe he wrote this sometime in 2014. I like it… let’s see if you do.

 * * * * *

PIQUANT

By Don Travis

Sometimes vocabulary—you know, words—can get you into trouble.

Let me tell you what I mean. My name is Wylie, and I’m about as different from the other kids in my class as my name is from Robert or John. I guess you could say, I’m confused. Sometimes I see Helen Hagen practicing with the other cheerleaders and I get all steamy from looking at her curves and long blonde hair. You know, feeling weird down there and ashamed someone will see and hoping she does. Okay, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, so what’s the problem?

The problem is Robby Belson, who’s the team quarterback and as pretty as Helen is… except in a different way. And he’s as curvy as she is, too… but still in a different sort of way. But my insides treat them the same. I get syrupy and weak-kneed and stutter and embarrassed around either one of them.

I’m not on the team, but I run the snack bar at the school’s field, so I’m around both the team and the cheerleaders a lot. Worse, I have classes with the two of them. And to top things off, I do better in the classes than either one. Especially, in the English class. That’s where I got in trouble.

Miss Hardesty was talking to us about vocabulary. How everyone needs a better one. How to build one. As usual, she picked on me to make her point.

“Wylie, describe Helen in one word.”

“Beautiful.” I’m sure I blushed a little, but she merely smiled.

“Come now, you can do better than that. You have a great vocabulary. Use it.”

“Lovely, alluring, glamorous.” My mouth got started, and I couldn’t stop. “Exquisite, radiant—”

“Excellent,” she interrupted. “Now describe Robby in one word.”

“Piquant,” I blurted without thinking.

Someone from the back of the room spoke into the sudden hush. “Doesn’t that mean hot and spicy?”

Ears flaming, cheeks scarlet, I nodded my head. “Y-yes.”

Thank goodness, Miss Hardesty moved on to others to make her point. I sat for the rest of the class with my head down, not daring to look at anyone.

I walked home alone feeling as low as a wad of gum on a shoe sole. Everyone stared at my back as I passed by, or at least I was convinced of that.

I followed my usual pattern of grabbing a glass of milk and a cookie to settle down at the kitchen table to do my homework. I always finished it before my folks got home. Dad was a carpenter and mom worked at a day care center.

I finished my lessons and was considering splurging on another cookie when the phone rang. When I answered it, my spirits soared through the roof.

“Wanna go for a ride?” Robby asked.

My imagination went wild as I nodded my head emphatically.

“Hey, guy, you still there?”

Realizing he couldn’t hear my head nodding, I blurted. “Sure.”

His low, sultry voice set my flesh to puckering. “Anywhere special you want to go?”

“Anywhere you want to take me.”

* * * *

I hope Wylie didn’t have one idea of the “ride,” while Robby has another. That could get a little more piquant than Wylie can handle. What do you think?

 My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:

Website and blog: markwildyr.com

Email: markwildyr@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.wildyr

Twitter: @markwildyr

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

 Until next time.

 

Mark

 New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Wastelakapi… Beloved

 markwildyr.com, Post #149

Cover Design by Written Ink Designs 


As regular readers know, last month, J M Snyder Books published an ebook version of the fifth book in the Cut Hand (now known as the Strobaw Family Saga) books. The print version is to follow soon. Now that I have the book cover to show you, I couldn’t resist giving you another excerpt.

 

In the following scene, John Strobaw (Medicine Hair) and his friend Winter Bird are spending the night on the range to settle down some cattle recently purchased and moved to land north of John’s Turtle Crick Farm. As they rest in twilight beside a small campfire, a lone rider approaches. It turns out to be Plenty Horses, the Lakota who shot an American army officer in the back. John’s brother-in-law Captain Gideon Haleworthy had only recently told the two of them that Plenty Horses was on trial for murder. Yet here he is. Read on.

 

* * * * *

 “I see you, Plenty Horses.”

“And I see you, Medicine Hair,” he responded in fair English. “Winter Bird.”

“Hau-we,” my friend replied.

“Climb down and share some coffee with us,” I said. “We probably have enough rabbit and some corn cakes left for a meal, if you’re hungry.”

The slender BrulĂ© dismounted and led his horse into camp. “That would be welcome.” Then, like any good horseman, he set about taking care of his mount. He unsaddled the gelding and watered him in the nearby rill before hobbling him to graze. Apparently, we had a guest for the night.

Little was said as Plenty Horses ate. He was about ten years younger than I was and relatively tall for a plainsman, yet thin. And as pleasant looking as I recalled. There was a diffidence about him, an awkwardness, a shyness.

As soon as Horses finished eating and slaked his thirst from his coffee cup, Winter Bird spoke up.

“Thought you was in the white man’s jail.”

Horses ducked his head. “I was. They let me go.”

Enough light remained to see my friend’s brows climb. “They grab you for shooting a white soldier and then let you go?”

“Uh, huh.”

“Did they bring you to trial?” I asked.

He held up two fingers. “Two times. First time six farmers said I oughta be called guilty of murder and six other farmers said I oughta be called guilty of man …man-slaugh-ter. They called it a hanging trial.”

“A hung jury,” I corrected. Plenty Horses’ English was not as good as I’d expected after five years at Carlisle. “They couldn’t agree, so they couldn’t convict. Then what?”

He answered in Lakota. “They did it again, but this time, they tried to get Star Chief Miles to come down and sit in the witness chair. They wanted him to say it was murder. He didn’t come, but he sent a captain down in his place. They got the trial started, but then they shut everything down because of what he was gonna say.”

“And what was that?” Bird asked.

“That we was at war with one another. The white men who was my law-talkers” —I took this to mean his lawyers— “tried to tell me what difference that made, but all I got was they was letting me go. That’s what counted, ain’t it?”

I nodded. “The white people have a funny justice system. Most of the time, it takes care of their own, but sometimes the bullet blows out the wrong end of the barrel. That’s what your lawyers did to them. If they held you guilty of murder, then all those soldiers at Wounded Knee were guilty of it, too.”

“How?” Horses asked.

“You weren’t guilty because you—we—were at war. And soldiers killing soldiers or warriors killing warriors during a war isn’t murder. They were bound on hanging you, but their own law got in the way and saved you from the noose.”

“That’s what those law-talkers said.” He shrugged. “So when they let me go, I started for home.” He paused and looked in my direction. “But first, I wanted to come find you.”

“Why? How can I help you?”

Horses dropped his head onto arms folded over his knees for a long moment. At length, he straightened. “I didn’t want to go to the white man’s school over there in Pennsylvania, but they sent me anyhow. I stayed there for five years. I had thirteen summers when I got there and eighteen when they let me go. And when I got home, I found out I wasn’t Indian no more.”

“And you weren’t a white man, either,” I said. “You didn’t fit any longer.”

He snorted through his nose. “I knew I wasn’t gonna be no white man. But I didn’t expect my own people to turn me out when I come back from that school. I was an outcast just like if I’d raped a man’s wife. It couldn’t of been any worse if I had. Nobody trusted me no more. I fought with you and the others at Drexel Mission, but when I went to the Bench after that, it didn’t make no difference. Nobody wanted nothing to do with me.”

I nodded again. “That’s why you killed Lt. Casey.”

He pounded his knee. “I figured if I showed them I was a warrior, maybe they’d see I was still a BrulĂ©.”

Bird took off his hat and slapped it on the ground beside him. “How come you shot him in the back? If you wanted to show you were a warrior, you shoulda faced him.”

Horses shrugged. “Wasn’t sure I was gonna do it. But when he turned around and got on his horse, I panicked about him getting away before I could stop him.”

No one said a word for a full minute. Then Horses roused as if waking.

“Anyway, I heard all these stories about Medicine Hair, and how him and his brother came to help their people.” He looked my direction again, although it was hard to tell because the light was virtually gone now. The campfire was small and gave little relief.

“And I heard he was raised with the whites and acted like a white. But nobody pushed him away. How come?”

I rubbed my nose to give me time to think. “I guess we went about it differently. My spiritual grandfather was the Red Win-tay, a white man named Billy Strobaw. When our tiospaye was massacred in the autumn of ’50, he took in my father and raised him as his own son. Billy was accepted by the Indians. Hell, he was an Indian in everything but blood. He paved the way for Dog Fox—that was my father’s name before he became Cuthan Strobaw—and the rest of us. River Otter, who was also a spiritual grandfather to me, made sure I understood the tribal side of myself. So I was lucky. I was able to walk in both worlds.”

“But that ended, too,” Bird said. “The army burned your farm and arrested you.”

“They only did that when a Cheyenne shot one of them at my farm. Still, what you say is true. My red blood is the cause of the greatest loss of my life. If they hadn’t burned my farm, Shambling Bear and I might not have gone to Pine Ridge.”

“You woulda,” Bird said with conviction. “Bear woulda gone, and you wasn’t about to let him go alone when trouble was coming.”

“Has anything I told you helped?” I asked Plenty Horses.

He shook his head, making his eyes glow in the feeble campfire light. “I don’t have big friends to make a way for me. I have heard of this Red Win-tay and River Otter, too. They walked tall among the people. I have to make my own way.”

“And you are man enough to do it,” I said. “This I feel in my bones. Stay with us tonight, and tomorrow we will go to our farm just a short ride to the south. You can rest up there a few days and then resume your journey. Bird and I will see that you have provisions for your trip.”

 * * * *

I have just finished editing the first book in the series Cut Hand for Snyder Books, (scheduled out soon) and was struck anew by how involved I was with these books. This series is my favorite. I had fun researching. I enjoyed writing. I even get drawn into the stories as I edit… and most writers will tell you that’s a “clinical” undertaking. Cut Hand and Billy Strobaw and Otter and John and Matthew are living, breathing friends of mine… or at least they seem that way. I hope you will accept them as such, as well.

 Again, my sympathy to my compadre for the loss of his son. He seems to be handling it as well as can be expected.

 My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:

Website and blog: markwildyr.com

Email: markwildyr@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.wildyr

Twitter: @markwildyr

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

 Until next time.

 

Mark

 New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Douche Bag

 markwildyr.com, Post #148

Photo courtesy of lista.com


In case any of my readers also go to Don Travis’s website (dontravis.com), you will find I have guest posted the following story on his blog this week. He suffered the unexpected loss of his older son on January 22 and was a bit discombobulated. As I result, I agreed to put the following story on his site to allow him a week’s respite. He posts weekly, whereas I post on the first and third Monday of each month. Hope you enjoy the following story.

 * * * * *

DOUCHE BAG

I managed to snag a summer job back home after my freshman year at Eastern New Mexico University. Lucky, gainful employment was hard to come by in this uncertain economy. Not only that, but my hometown can’t even claim 10,000 residents, every one of them scratching for a living.

Anyway, when I hired on as one of the remodel crews for Westerton’s Home Repair, I considered myself lucky. I might have liked a semi-blue-collar job, say like working in the mailroom at city hall or delivering for the local florist, but, hey, you gotta take what’s available, right?

I’m not a rough-and-tumble guy, but I figured I could hold my own with a blue-collar crew. My old man was one for years, but then, I’m not my old man. In fact, I spent more time with my mom and grandmother than any of the male members of my family. Truth be told, I’ figured out I was gay this past fall when I got involved with my first semester roommate. Can’t tell you how liberating that was. But now I’m back in this little town with a mindset of the 1940s, requiring me to go back into the closet. Wasn’t hard to do. Been doing it all my life, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

On my first day, the boss assigned me to Walsack’s crew. Julius Walsack was about as broad as he was tall, but it wasn’t fat. Overdeveloped muscles… but definitely not fat. I’d known him before I went off to college in the vague way a guy knows everyone in a small town. He had a rep for spending his days doing hard manual labor and devoting his evenings to doing hard physical exercise in the town’s one gym. About five years older than my nineteen years, he’d been somebody to say hi to when our paths crossed. Looking back, I realized that he’d scared me, or at least intimidated me with his he-man bluster. Now he was my immediate boss.

The other two members of our crew were older men I knew the same way I knew Walsack, they were faces I could put a name to. They were an amiable bunch, and I knew my way around a hammer and saw, so I fitted in right from the start. Or thought I did.

The second day, Walsack walked up to me as I was fashioning a spline miter joint for a box window and sent me to the hardware store to pick up an order. As I started up, he slapped me on the butt.

“And put a hurry on it. It’s got some stuff I need,” he yelled while tossing the keys to his pickup at me.

I caught them and hurried to the company’s truck, swiping sawdust off the rear of my jeans as I went.

Later the same day, he came up to inspect the work I was doing and stood so close his thigh lightly brushed where he’d left his handprint. I moved to the other side of the saw table and watched his eyes as he studied what I’d been doing. He suggested a small change which made sense before walking back to whatever he’d been doing.

The next day, I was hanging a curtain rod in one of the bedroom’s closets when he sauntered in to see how I was doing. While one hand tested the rod, another came to rest on my ass. I was sorta penned in, so I just brushed his hand away. He agreed I was doing a good job, and went back to his own work. Maybe I wasn’t as far in that other “closet” as I thought.

For the rest of the week, it was something every day. Once, he slipped past me in tight confines and rubbed his fly across my butt. He paused just a second, not noticeable to the others, but it definitely was to me. A couple of times when he came to make suggestions or inspect something I was cutting on the saw, his eyes weren’t on the work. They were on my crotch.

Long before the end of the work week rolled around, I considered quitting. But this was as decent-paying a job as I was going to find. Maybe I could ask for a new assignment. Of course, I’d have to come up with a reason for the request. At the end of shift Friday, he informed me that most of the guys gathered at a local bar downtown to celebrate.

“But I’m not twenty-one yet,” I replied.

“Aw, you come on. I’ll get you in.”

But he didn’t. The bouncer turned me away after eyeing my driver’s license. I glanced at Walsack, who shrugged.

“Hey, I figured every college kid had a phony ID. Too bad.”

As I turned away, he laid a hand on my arm. “I’ll get a couple of six packs, and we’ll go to my place.”

I pulled free and started walking toward my car. “No thanks. I’m tired.”

  

The weekend was unsettling. Most of my high school buddies had moved on, and I wasn’t interested in trying to find a date. Most of my time was spent puzzling over how to handle Walsack and thinking about my former roommate. I missed him; and I missed what we’d done. Sure wasn’t anyone in this little berg I could do that with. Except maybe Walsack. The thought made my skin crawl.

Why? He wasn’t a bad-looking dude. Sure was built. Like a brick shit house, as they say. But he was so damned… macho was the word that came to mind. Aggressively so. Wasn’t my type. I had a type? Must have because he sure wasn’t it.

I went to work Monday with my tail dragging. Not a week before, I’d been excited and anxious. Now I was dreading it. My mood must have showed, because the others on my crew-except for Walsack—asked if I was okay. He just beamed at me like a fox spotting a hen.

We’d finished last week’s job and were working at a new house. My assignment was to install paneling in the two-car garage. That meant I mostly worked alone since the rest of the guys were remodeling the kitchen. A solo job was okay by me, but it meant Walsack checked on me more often than usual.

The first couple of times were okay. He pointed out a couple of things I needed to correct and gave me some tips that made the job easier. Then he started in with his tricks. Standing too close. Putting his hand on my arm. As the afternoon went on, he grew bolder. Once, he reached over me to point to something, and his groin pressed right up against my butt. I froze, and after saying something I don’t even remember, moved away. I turned in time to see him adjust himself.

The dude’s turned on!

Just before quitting time, he delivered the clincher. I didn’t even hear him enter the garage, but I heard the door close behind him. I ignored Walsack until he was standing behind me… too close, as usual. My mouth was open to say something when he leaned into me.

“Hey!”

I started to move away, but his hand snaked around me and grabbed a handful. I twisted away and ended up in the middle of the garage with my fists curled.

Walsack faced me, laughing. “What’s the matter, kid?”

“Don’t ever touch me like that again!”

He shrugged. “Why not, you’re gay aren’t you?”

“What of it?”

“So you oughta like a real man feeling you up.”

“Is that what you are? A man?”

“One hundred percent New Mexico beefcake. A queer like you oughta be lappin’ up what I’m offering.”

“Tell me something, Walsack. If you’re such a man, why’re you even interested.”

His chest swelled. “I’m a man, all right. But a little change now and then don’t hurt. You oughta be flattered I find your ass kinda fetching.”

“If you’re such a man, that means you screw women, right?”

A smile played on his lips. “Ever chance I get.”

“So do you go feeling them up all the time.

Walsack scowled. “N-not all the time.”

“Why not?”

“Hell a man doesn’t make a play for every woman he meets. You know the old saying. Some will, some won’t.”

“According to that logic, you oughta feel them all up to see which ones will.”

“Hell, can’t do that.”

“How come?”

“They’d, I dunno, think I was a douche bag or something.”

I smiled. “There you go. Got it right the very first time.”

* * * *

Why is it that some people think that just because a person is gay, he or she should always welcome—or worse—be grateful for an advance from them. Do they think all gays are promiscuous? Do they think a gay should be flattered just because some guy (or gal) wants to “use” them to satisfy a curiosity about a “different kind of sex?” T’ain’t so, my friends. Some are willing to sleep around, but I wager most are not.

 My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:

Website and blog: markwildyr.com

Email: markwildyr@aol.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.wildyr

Twitter: @markwildyr

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

 Until next time.

 

Mark

New posts the first and third Thursday of the month at 6:00 a.m., US Mountain time.