Dette emne er markeret som "i hvile"—det seneste indlæg er mere end 90 dage gammel. Du kan vække emnet til live ved at poste et indlæg.
The story begins...
There were three loud raps on the door and Culver Butts rose from his broken recliner. The recliner was broken because...
He liked British accents. He liked bettering his mind.
"The mind," thought Culver, "the mind is...
Little did Culver suspect...
He suddenly noticed that the tall woman, who was quite clearly glaring at him, appeared to be pregnant.
Culver peered out at the women through the fish eye lens implanted in his door. He touched the chain lock reassuringly. Surely...
His mind scrambled. What was the woman's name? He knew she had told him, standing there under the blinking, fizzing, watermelon-colored lights in the
Naked and humiliated in the furniture store, Culver's mind flashed back to the game shows he loved so. How would Bob Barker handle the situation? What would Bob Barker do? He would probably
And Drew Carey would laugh.
So Culver stood up, laughed, and said to the saleslady, "Hope nobody from the FCC is furniture shopping today."
Her eye moved back to him. For an instant, both focused on him at the same time, like a set of contestants zeroing in on the same clue. "This chair is perfect for watching game shows," she said. "But it's even better for
Who was he kidding?
Like this saleswoman. He'd lain naked before her, naked and vulnerable. And all she wanted was a sale.
"You ever been to England?" he asked, fishing in his pocket for his checkbook.
Culver was stunned!
Moreover, she said she had relatives there, an aunt who'd run away to England to live with her lover and to have her illegitimate baby. The lover hadn't lasted, but the baby was forever, and now she was a citizen--over there.
Culver was practically salivating. He...
" "PARKLAND!! Oh he
The cashier was frowning at him. "The address is SOUTH Parkland & we don't deliver there."
But the saleslady was looking at him sympathetically. "If you have a truck, you & your friends can pick it up at our warehouse." she said.
"Yeah" the cashier added "Here. I'll write the address down on the receipt."
Culver tugged at his pants again. How
"Sounds like a good deal to me"Jerry agreed.
"Get an ID, Sheila," the cashier called.
Sheila looked down, her lashes covering her eyes. "Sorry," she said softly. "Store policy."
He reached victoriously into his pocket to show that he, in fact, would not qualify for the purchase when the cashier suddenly stepped away from the register to answer her cell phone.
"I can't," he said, feeling guilty. She'd been nice. Although, actually, kind of pushy. What would Bob Barker do? On a show like his, you had to follow the rules. He straightened his spine. "I can't help you break the rules. It ain't right." He snatched the check out of her hand, turned, and hurried out the door. "Thanks for the offer, Jer, but I ain't buying today. See you around." Hanging onto his waistband, he trotted around the corner to his car and sent up a quick prayer of gratitude to whatever power had distracted him from the impulse to park in the handicapped spot Jerry had taken. A more righteous impulse made him call around the corner, "You got some kind of handicap I ain't heard about, Jer?"
There had been no ticket on his windshield. The powers that be had saved him from a number of things that day. If he had bought the chair, it would probably be someone from a collection agency pounding on his door now and screaming, instead of Sheila - yes, Sheila, that was her name.
Taking another glance through the fish-eye lens, he wondered
Sheila was following him.
He initially thought it was paranoia, residue from his days of daily panic attacks. But now here she was in the flesh, cover blown and clearly hysterical, at his front door. But why? What did she want and more troubling still, who was this other strange woman dressed like Baretta in drag? Was she an undercover detective? An attorney?
Culver was accustomed to following women, not the other way around. Voyeurs seek, they are not sought, Culver observed dryly.
Shaken but also fastened to the plot in a What's My Line? sort of way, Culver reached for the chain lock
For a moment, Sheila focused both her eyes on him . "Mr. Butts", she said. "I wanted you to know that the recliner chair you were interested in last spring has been marked down in our big inventory reduction sale &" here she paused & turned to the other woman "well, I can buy it with my employee discount & then you can pay me & it would only be $30.00 plus tax if you're still interested."
The other woman nodded.
"Well," Culver said. "Come inside." He stepped from the door to let the women pass.
"I'm Sheila" Sheila said, & nodded to the other woman "And This is
Culver looked warily from Sheila to her mother, who didn't look quite old enough to have mothered a woman Sheila's age, but did look like she could skin a horse and its jockey in a single, swift motion without a flinch or the flicker of an eyelash.
"What the hell kind of name is Mankiller?" Culver asked.
"None of your business," the woman growled, "but I'm a full-blood Lakota. Not many of us left. My daughter offered you a business proposition. Are you going to take her up on it?"
He turned away from the suspiciously desperate women standing in his foyer and waddled over to his suede recliner. With his chubby hands, he caressed the worn arms and noted the distinctively dark brown stains on the bottom cushion. He recalled the moment as one of fanciful despair, enraptured as if he really was part of the live TV audience when he wriggled and squealed deliriously to decry a harrowing "Let's Make a Deal" decision and dumped an entire pint of Big Gulp Root Beer in his lap.
The springs were shot, it was true. And man, the employee discount was just too good to pass up.
But these broads are crazy, he thought, just as sure as my daily midnight snack craving. I mean, why would Sheila hurl such venomous threats in my vestibule for a $30 sale? It just doesn't make sense.
She is pregnant, though, he observed from across the room. Maybe she
"They'd charge the tax based on the full sticker price," Sheila said, her wild eye zigging over to the TV set, where the "Countdown" theme song was playing - he'd missed the whole second half of the show by now - while her good eye zagged down to the hand he had shoved protectively into the right front pocket of his pants and over the frayed leather of his wallet.
He noticed she still hadn't answered his question. Thirty bucks. It was exactly the amount he had won putting a dollar down on a long-shot horse that day - Grass Dancer. He had turned around after placing the bet, and Sheila and her mother
The women's eyes made Culver feel naked and ashamed. Not like he had in the store. No, this time, it was different. Instead of his rotund body being betrayed by the jiggling love handles of fate, it was his battered soul on display, exposed for all to see and the Mankillers peered at it with the fervor of big-game predators lining up their first buck on the opening weekend of hunting season.
Culver shuddered at the race track memory. The mother and daughter, he was certain, were after more than $30. Perhaps they wanted him to be part of a cult or worse yet, they needed a sacrificial lamb and his girth would assuredly provide all the blood necessary for them to perform some sick ritual...
Culver hated when his imagination got the best of him. He did not like the idea of melodrama or psychological terror. He liked the predictability of game shows, not that you knew who would win in the end, but that you knew it was a game with specific rules and as long as you followed the parameters, there were no unpleasant surprises.
Culver realized he needed to get a grip on the situation. Sheila, he noticed, looked pale and out of breath - hardly a picture of foreboding danger. Her mother, however, looked like a wailing banshee, disturbed and forewarning. And not one molecule of Mary Mankiller, who stood 6-foot-4, came across as gentle or forgiving. On the contrary, she carried with her a perpetually pissed off look. Basically, she was not the kind of person you wanted in your living room.
Culver stammered and then thought better of speaking at all. He considered handing over two crisp 20 dollar bills and taking his chances that all of this dire straits nonsense was in his mind, which he self-diagnosed as delusional. But he just couldn't summon up enough common sense.
As he tried to determine an escape route without having to leave his own home, Culver fiddled with the remote control. If only, he surmised... but before he could finish his fragmented thought, Sheila let out a piercing scream.
Culver's first thought was that they had somehow rigged the remote to blow up the next time he pushed a button. But that was impossible. He'd been pushing buttons like crazy before "Countdown" started. After he got hooked on the British show, all the American game shows seemed uninspired. Even Bob Barker - he was too good, too smart for the show he was in.
Sheila pressed her hands to her abdomen. "Where's your bathroom?"
Culver's knees went weak. He pointed down the hall. "To the left," he said. Then he put a hand on the small of Sheila's back, afraid something bad might happen before she got there. Her mother moved to Sheila's other side, but Sheila waved her away. "I'll be okay, Mom. I just need him to show me where it is."
"It's pretty easy." He felt ridiculous, guiding her three steps out of a living room barely large enough for the TV and his recliner into a hallway barely larger than the bathroom.
But as soon as they were out of her mother's line of sight, Sheila grabbed his elbow. "I'm so sorry. I told her the baby's yours. I didn't think I'd ever see you again. She didn't believe me, but after we saw you at the races, she got mad, and it seemed like she did ... And when I tried to explain it wasn't you at all, she only got more convinced that it was."
"Hadn't you better go to the bathroom?" Culver stammered.
"I don't really need to, but I guess I better." She went in and shut the door.
The volume on the TV went up. Mary Mankiller was changing channels. Culver stared at the bathroom door for a moment, listening to the water run. When he went back into the living room,
"Who are you to not support your unborn child," Mary Mankiller said, without asking. "What makes you so special to neglect my little girl?"
Culver hesitated before responding. He knew the next thing that came out of his mouth could change his world forever. He didn't care. He saw the lie as an opportunity to pounce.
"I love your daughter," he said. "She reminds me of my Aunt Zelda who I dearly loved. Sheila will deny it, of course, but she's the one who's keeping me from being a part of her life."
When Culver finished speaking, he realized he delivered his lines like a soap opera character, one he had watched as a child with his grandparents, but on the whole, he felt satisfied with his performance.
He always dreamed of having a chance to act and love and engage with real people in meaningful dialogue; he just never thought he would have the nerve.
He quipped to himself: What better role than a father-to-be of an out-of-wedlock child with a woman I never dated?
Culver, sweating profusely but liberated, finally was beginning to have some fun.
"Look!" M ary waved the picture at her daughter. "The wife that isn't here!"
Another role he could play, Culver thought. But how?
But Culver could not bear to tell another lie. When Sheila had taken him aside in the hallway, he had sensed an unusual pang in his chest. He had never felt such a stir and it gave him a start. Even though he was afraid of his mind playing tricks on him, he was sure it was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.
But just as he had made up his mind to bare his soul to Sheila with Mother Mankiller as witness, Culver Butts shrieked, "The price is right!" and with that, his irregularly large heart revolted.
"He never touched me, Mom."
"Liar," said her mother between pushes. "Call 911."
Sheila took the cell from her purse and flipped it open. Then, feeling genuinely nauseous and experiencing, to boot, a slight but distinctly sharp pain behind her breastbone, maybe in her heart, probably in her heart, she hesitated. The smell in the apartment was not strong, but in that moment she feared it was going to suffocate her, a blend of spilled food many days old, unwashed socks, and the unswept dust of decades of bachelor life. She
Mary Mankiller continued CPR on Culver, removed a watch from his wrist, pressed lightly for a pulse then laid her ear on his chest.
"My word, I think the tub of lard is breathing. Sheila, get a wet facecloth and a glass of water!
Mary Mankiller pushed off of Culver as if he were a king-sized mattress with fleas and lumbered to the kitchen where she found her lone daughter hunched over the sink, clutching her chest with one hand and her abdomen with the other.
Yes, it was true, Culver was not the birth father, but Sheila did have a good feeling about him being a part of her newborn's life, especially after his surprising confession to her mother.
Sure, some might think it peculiar that a man like Culver would so readily admit his secret passions about a woman he hardly knew, but Sheila thought it hardly curious. She too felt a strange sensation in his presence, and she was sure it was more than a passing infatuation. He was all she wanted in a man, even if he was an insufferable slob.
"What are you reading?" she asked. "I don't think we should keep any of the magazines, do you?"
"I did it on the Rez, remember?" "Wasn't that why we had to leave?"
"They were jealous. All of them. because I have the gift & they don't." She strode into the kitchen & picked up the phone.
Sheila sank down into the recliner & sighed. The steel blue recliner sat almost in the middle of the living room. it was already surrounded by crumpled Cheese-it & garlic Nachos bags. Culver had reluctantly gone for a walk. The Doctor had told him to walk every day, but it was getting harder & harder to push him out the door. "You wanna die?" Mary would yell at him. "Leave your poor child an orphan?" And Culver would head down the street anything to get away from the sound of her voice. Mary Mankiller had moved into Culver's Ma's old room & made it her own. "Just wait," she told Sheila. "People will be knocking down the door!"
Sheila cringed, remembering some of her mother's earlier adventures with the spirit world...
When Mary Mankiller heard about the super-lotto, she knew she had to win it. There were 7 numbers to pick & she was determined to be not just THE winner but the ONLY winner. All she had to do was find the numbers & they could leave the small trailer they shared & move to a place in a city. Sheila did not ask her mother how she was going to find the numbers, but when she discovered the rusty knife that had shown up in the potato field hidden beneath her mother's pillow she wasn't surprised.
"Dreams" Mary told her. "The spirit in the knife will send me dreams of the numbers." But the spirits were quiet, too quiet, & the drawing was only a few days away. People had already been hinting to Mary about lucky numbers but she 'd had to blow them off. Then luck gave her a more practical idea. Big George, running late, had left his office door unlocked & Mary, who was late coming back from her break,was able to slip inside. There were numbers all over the place, must with $signs attached. The rumors were true, she saw, the casino was not doing well. There was a calender pad on George's desk, & Mary flipped the pages to the date of the drawing. There they were, 7 numbers. She repeated them under her breath as she hurried down the hall to find pencil & paper to write them down. That night, she dreamed about crows. They were flying back & forth , landing on an old tree branch, a different number of them each time. In her deam she counted them, until they had landed 7 times & she knew she had her number. But what about the number on Big George's note pad? That, she decided would be the number she would, O so secretly pass on to her friends. The true number, the crow number she would keep for herself.
The casino was crowded the night of the drawing. Sheila stood in the back with her girl friends but Mary was close to the podium where the "Number machine" sat. One of Big George's grand-daughters would reach into the machine & draw out the numbers where all could see them. As the child pulled the last number, there were gasps & cries from all over the crowd. The loud speaker blared the victory "War whoop" as Big George posted the numbers. Mary had to blink her eyes & look twice until the realization hit her that the numbers that had won were the numbers she had passed to all her friends. Her numbers, the Crow numbers had lost. "He cheated the spirits," she said out loud but no one paid any attention. "Hey Mankiller, how much did you win?" some-one asked. Mary's answer was a dark frown. "You mean you didn't -- not anything?"
"He cheats!" she cried. "Liars & cheaters! Everything -- cheaters! All of them" She turned to walk away, but Big George Bone stopped her. Big George was built like a lineman, he was as tall as Mary but heavier. "What did you say?" he glared at her but Mary glared back. "You cheated. My numbers are the true numbers I--"
"Wait a minute, Who the hell are you calling a cheater?"
"All of you", Mary repeated.
Big George drew back a step. "Then you can get the hell out of here. I never want to see your ugly face again." He turned & noticed Sheila approaching her mother. "You & your cross-eyes daughter." He pointed at Sheila "OUT!"
Her mother stared, open-mouthed with astonishment, while Sheila's heart thudded. It was the first time, ever, she had talked back to her like this. Even after the casino disaster, she had kept her mouth shut, meekly accepting the penance of the furniture-store job as if it were she, not her mother, who had broken the casino rules and gotten them kicked out on their asses.
Then Mary's brows drew together. Before she could say anything, Sheila pressed her advantage. "Culver's only letting you stay here because of me. If I let him, he'd throw you out of here as quick as Big George threw you out of the casino. Quicker." Her heart felt like it was about to jump out of her throat, but she swallowed it down. "I swear, Mom, if you say one word about any kind of spirit dream, I'll tell Culver to send you back to the rez, and you'll never see him or me again."
"I knew you'd turn out this way." Mary screwed up her mouth and spit into the seat of the new recliner. It had already collected some stains on the arms, but the gob of spit looked black and slimy as a curse. "Your wasichu daddy ..."
But Culver's key clicked into the lock, the deadbolt slammed, and the door opened. Sheila turned and saw an oddly thoughtful look on his face. What could it mean? Didn't she have enough to worry about already?
Culver thanked her as he felt the hot liquid flow through his stomach. This was not bad, he thought. 2 women taking care of him, cooking his meals, ding his laundry - not bad at all...
Sheila watched as her mother set the little tray table next to Culver's arm rest & handed him the remote. Mary was smiling- -not a good sign. Sheila knew that soon she would return to her job at the furniture store. Then Mary & Culver & the baby would be alone together. Culver was smiling back at Mary, enjoying her attention. It wasn't hard to figure out what Mary was up to, Sheila thought. And she wondered what she would be able to do about it.
In her grandparents' grandparents' time, the world had been whole. No asphalt and concrete cities covering up the strong, black land. No dancing images pulling people's eyes into worlds that did not exist, the programs only excuses for the commercials to lure them into buying things they didn't need. Candy, liquor, nose-deadening perfume sprays, tiny machines that piped music directly into people's ears so they never had to listen to the real people around them. Money. In her grandparents' grandparents' time, there were no papers with dead white presidents' faces staring up at you, arbitrarily labeled $5, $20, $100. No, value was inherent within all the things of the world. Everyone knew the value of fish, elk, buffalo, cedar, fire, friendship. There was no such thing as a disaster which touched one member of a tribe and not all, and so, in those days, what could be a disaster? If a man's horses all fell poisoned in an evening, dead from eating locoweed, by the next morning a new herd of gift horses would have appeared outside his door. If a woman's baby died, all the women of the tribe mourned with her, and it might even be that some more fortunate mother, a mother of many sons, would bring her own baby to suckle from the mourning mother's breasts and take the dead one's place. No, there had been only one great disaster, the disaster that had destroyed a world.
Mary was no fool. She was no ghost dancer, dreaming she could harness spirit to flush the whole tribe of wasichu off the face of the land and bring back the world of her grandparents' grandparents. And despite her name, she was no killer. But one baby from this worthless pale man who thought of nothing but the pale and spiritless dreams on his television screen, this man who spent his day watching images striving to win money, watching illusions chasing illusions - one baby from him was enough. The spit he was sitting on would begin the process of drawing out his life juices, but there were other things she would do to finish it.
She had lost Sheila, she saw now. The girl was as wasichu as her father. But the baby inside her belly was not lost. It would carry a few drops of Mary's blood into the future world - might be the only vessel, however frail, who would ever carry it forward. This baby was too precious to lose.
Culver tried to be as careful as possible sleeping on the very edge of the bed (they had traded Ma's old double bed for Culver's single, which Mary used) but Culver had never shared a bed with anyone before. What if he accidently rolled over & crushed the baby? He was afraid to fall asleep.
Sheila had never slept alone. Her earliest memories were sharing the matress on the trailer floor with the other little girls when she & mary & her father traveled with the Irish Tinkers. After her father had so suddenly departed for Ireland & Mary moved back to the rez, she & Mary shared a bed in their rented trailer's only bedroom.
After the episode of premature labor pains that had ocurred when Culver had his heart attack, Sheila had been told to stay off her feet as much as possible. She lay on the living room couch while Culver sat in his recliner -Mary called it "Command Central" - & watched his game shows. Mary stayed in her bedroom, watching movies on the old TV she & Sheila had brought with them. At first, Sheila had joined in with Mary when she made fun of the game shows, but bit by bit she had been drawn in & now she often beat Culver in shouting out the answers.
"How would the 2 of them get along while she was in the hospital," she wondered. Because they were on welfare, she should only have to stay for 1 night. But Mary was being a little too nice...or was she worrying for nothing, just nervous from all those extra hormones.... But all that morning she had been aware of little pains the flickered across her belly. The kind of pains that clenched, then relaxed. she wanted to look it up in her baby book but didn't want anyone to see her looking. She stood up. At that moment she felt a warmness running down her legs & realized that she was standing in a tiny puddle of water. Whatever was going to happen had already begun.