Let's write a story.

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Let's write a story.

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Redigeret: okt 24, 2007, 3:15 am

Let's have some fun and write a story. I'll start. Each person can add something as we go along.

The story begins...

There were three loud raps on the door and Culver Butts rose from his broken recliner. The recliner was broken because...

okt 24, 2007, 10:45 am

it just couldn't take that last round of exhuberant cheering brought on by...

okt 24, 2007, 10:58 am

Culver's addiction to game shows.

okt 24, 2007, 11:14 am

Culver had long since moved on from old favorites like "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune." Now...

Redigeret: okt 24, 2007, 6:04 pm

he looked outside America, at the British shows like "Countdown," where two players duel in a battle of vocabulary and mental agility.

He liked British accents. He liked bettering his mind.

"The mind," thought Culver, "the mind is...

Redigeret: okt 24, 2007, 6:59 pm

... completely subject to the whims of the stomach." (Which he liked bettering even more) "This ought to be the delivery boy. A quick one, he is."

Little did Culver suspect...

okt 24, 2007, 7:13 pm

that just outside the door was a pair of women, one skinny and one tall, that he thought would haunt him only in his dreams...

okt 24, 2007, 7:29 pm

and Culver hated dreams, dreams being something he couldn't better. He couldn't better his romantic relationships, either, apparently. These women...

okt 24, 2007, 11:52 pm

terrified him, with their demands, and their expectations.

He suddenly noticed that the tall woman, who was quite clearly glaring at him, appeared to be pregnant.

okt 25, 2007, 12:16 am

"Why," wondered Culver, "Oh why can't life be like a game show? At least on a game show ...

okt 25, 2007, 12:29 am

everything comes down to money in the end. These women didn't look like they had any. Furthermore, one of them - the tall one - looked vaguely familiar. Her eyes were subtly mismatched, nothing so definite as a wall-eye, but one of them glared more directly at him, while the other

okt 25, 2007, 12:37 am

shot off down the hallway. She seemed to be watching our ancient janitor lurching toward another dirty job."

Culver peered out at the women through the fish eye lens implanted in his door. He touched the chain lock reassuringly. Surely...

okt 25, 2007, 12:39 am

they would go away if he just ignored them long enough. He wondered where he had met the woman. She reminded him of

okt 25, 2007, 12:42 am

...but his thought was interrupted. "Butts, open the door! Butts! Culver Butts, you open up right now. If you don't I'll...

okt 25, 2007, 12:57 am

kill you. I'll sic my lawyer on you. I'll sit here until you come out if it takes the rest of my life. I'll

Redigeret: okt 25, 2007, 1:03 am

...Culver didn't hear the rest. How the mind shuffles itself to accomodate survival! He couldn't listen to her anymore or his head would burst. His stomach fought to purge itself. Who was this woman? Where was he in his thoughts before? Yes, she reminded him something or someone. What or whom? She reminded him of...she reminded him of...

Redigeret: okt 25, 2007, 1:19 am

his aunt Zelda. And in a burst of horror, he realized exactly when and where he had met the woman at his door. She had reminded him of Aunt Zelda then, too, but her wild auburn curls had been shorter then, and her belly flat as a dollar bill.

okt 25, 2007, 1:31 am

He had many chilling memories of his aunt. Like the time she...

okt 25, 2007, 1:42 am

and his mother had been in the kitchen, arguing, and his mother had suddenly screamed, "Put the knife down!" A huge thwack sounded, and then a silence. Culver had been too terrified to move for a moment. But then he edged toward the kitchen door. Water, faintly pink-tinged, was dripping from his mother's bread-board by the sink. Two halves of a watermelon lay there. Zelda looked around, the long butcher knife still in her hand, and her crazy stare landed on Culver. "Put it down," his mother said softly. Zelda laughed. "Want some watermelon, Cully?"

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

okt 25, 2007, 2:08 am

furniture store where he came to dream of a new recliner. There were so many styles now, and this woman worked there, at the furniture store. Yes, it was all coming back to him now. She'd explained to him the complexities of chairs. Their possibilities, their beauty. For example,

okt 25, 2007, 8:54 am

how wonderfully flat they could recline now without tipping over, and how tremendously strong their mechanisms were. The plump, overstuffed cushions beckoned to him, and he tentatively sat down for a test run. His mind roiled through the memories, the softness of the push corduroy felt so pliant under his palms. He had no idea if the steel blue would match anything in his apartment, but it didn't seem to matter. As he fell into sweet relaxation, suddenly the sales woman...

okt 25, 2007, 10:15 am

Tilted the chair so that he slid off, onto the floor & as he tried to rise he was aware of giggles from a young couple looking at beds & outright laughter from a young boy who had strayed from his parents & as his mother reached for his hand, there was more laughter, muffled laughter & then loud he-haws as his efforts to regain his footing faltered & he lay helpless under the glaring lights of the furniture department. ...slowly...

okt 25, 2007, 2:55 pm

as he tried to rise without being seen Culver realized he was naked. The customers weren't laughing at his trials with the chair, but at his nakedness. Now he felt as if he were drowning in a sea of...

okt 25, 2007, 3:10 pm

memories. He pulled up his pants and undershorts, covering his nakedness, then pulled himself to a sitting position, digging his fingers into the blue corduroy at his side. The saleswoman gazed at him with Aunt Zelda's eyes. She was the only person, it seemed, in the whole store who was not laughing. Her serious, almost severe expression, marred by that slightly wandering eye, reminded him of the time

okt 26, 2007, 2:54 am

she inexplicably came to his rescue when he...

okt 26, 2007, 6:13 pm

fell through an open manhole at the edge of a construction site he'd been exploring. Another year, and he would have been too fat to fit through the hole - he'd been a chubby child - but he slid like a greased pig and landed

okt 26, 2007, 10:53 pm

buttocks first in the vile sludge. Zelda had taken him home and prepared his shower, washed his clothes. She'd never told a soul and no one was the wiser.

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

okt 27, 2007, 2:53 pm

throw his hands up in disgust, turn to Drew Carey and say, "

okt 27, 2007, 5:49 pm

"This is going to mean one mother of an FCC fine."
And Drew Carey would laugh.
So Culver stood up, laughed, and said to the saleslady, "Hope nobody from the FCC is furniture shopping today."
The saleslady

okt 27, 2007, 9:24 pm

's eye wandered, and she said, "What?" and Culver, figuring she knew nothing about FCC matters, said,

Redigeret: okt 28, 2007, 3:34 pm

"Bob Barker." He was babbling now, more mortified by his tongue than had had been by his nakedness, but he couldn't stop. "Drew Carey. They're my heroes. Do you ever watch game shows?"

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

okt 28, 2007, 4:55 pm

movies, long romantic movies. Note the cupholder. And the size: this chair could fit two. This chair...

okt 28, 2007, 8:39 pm

"I can't afford it," Culver said quickly. Then, as her face fell and her wandering eye wandered over his shoulder, he took a deep breath and said

okt 28, 2007, 11:35 pm

"But I'll take it." Of course, he knew this would mean tightening his belt a little, buying generic, but the chair was worth it. He imagined how it would look in his living room, right beneath the moose-head he thought. And no one could predict the future. Who was to say he wouldn't get a return call from Wheel of Fortune, or...

okt 29, 2007, 12:19 am

better yet the British show, "Coundown." He wanted, no, he NEEDED, to go to England, to get away from...

Redigeret: okt 29, 2007, 4:24 pm

the numbing sameness of his life. It's why he'd been avoiding Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, all the American shows. Every time he turned one on, anger began simmering inside him. He knew, of course, that hundreds, probably thousands of people called every day, hoping to become a contestant. And each of them got that same recorded voice, "We value your call, blah, blah, blah." But he was different. He loved these shows. He lived and breathed them. He would be the best contestant they'd ever had - sharp, quick, witty, exuding sex appeal to every female viewer.

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.

And she

nov 14, 2007, 2:29 am

casually said she had.

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...

nov 14, 2007, 10:21 am

held on to his pants as he followed her to the cashier. "When will you deliver?" he asked. "The cashier turned to the saleslady.".When does Arnie go to Parkland?" She asked.
" "PARKLAND!! Oh he

nov 14, 2007, 11:45 pm

wished he could live in Parkland. It was just over the hills from his own neighborhood, with large, neatly groomed lots on curvy streets that ended in cul-de-sacs. A friend of his managed a gardening crew that serviced a lot of homes in Parkland. Culver had tried to wangle a job on the crew, but his friend said he wouldn't be happy with the pay. Culver suspected

nov 15, 2007, 2:05 am

this was his friend's way of blowing him off. He suspected this because...

Redigeret: nov 17, 2007, 8:36 am

Culver knew he didn't look like the guys Daryl hired. They were young guys, all of them & they'd stand around wearing tight jeans & no shirt & the women... well Culver knew that if he had one of those jobs, he'd work hard & not-
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

nov 17, 2007, 7:41 pm

had he gotten himself into this predicament? He was angry, suddenly. He couldn't afford the chair - couldn't even afford a decent pair of pants - and shouldn't have set foot in a furniture store. "Forget it," he said. "I ain't buying nothing you can't deliver. What kind of stupid-ass store is this, you can't deliver to an address right here in this city?" With another tug at his pants, he turned, face flaming, and marched toward the door. But

nov 18, 2007, 12:55 am

fate intervened, and

nov 19, 2007, 12:36 am

Jerry, his friend with the gardening business, drove up and parked in the "handicapped" spot in front of the door. The wooden slats around the his pick-up's generous bed were dark with ground-in dirt. A clutch of rakes, shovels and other miscellaneous implements beside a spiral-clipped potted juniper gave it a grubbily festive air. Culver averted his eyes and tried to slip unnoticed through the glass double doors, but Jerry boomed out a welcome. "Hey, buddy, wazzup! Get a good deal on an easy chair? Need transport?"

nov 19, 2007, 8:20 am

The saleslady had hurried over. Now, for a moment, both her eyes rested on Culver. "If you pick it up yourself, you don't have to pay the delivery charge," she said.
"Sounds like a good deal to me"Jerry agreed.

nov 20, 2007, 12:17 am

caved. "Okay." He took the checkbook from his pocket, wrote quickly without looking at his balance, tore the check out and handed it to her.

"Get an ID, Sheila," the cashier called.

Sheila looked down, her lashes covering her eyes. "Sorry," she said softly. "Store policy."


nov 24, 2007, 1:45 pm

grimaced at first, but then heaved a great sigh of relief. He only had his library card with him. His driver's license had been suspended for over a year due to a grossly neglected pile of parking tickets that remained untouched on his water-damaged Elizabethan era chest of drawers.

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.


Redigeret: nov 24, 2007, 7:32 pm

glanced over her shoulder. "Listen," she said in a low voice, "I really need this sale."

"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

Redigeret: nov 25, 2007, 6:16 am

how on earth Sheila had found him and why after all these months. It had been spring when he last saw her. The scene in the furniture store, followed by a brief encounter at the horse track, had touched off a series of unusual happenings in Culver's life and while others may have chalked these off as mere coincidences, Culver had detected a rat.

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

nov 25, 2007, 9:05 pm

His hand trembled, making the chain jingle - an oddly festive sound under the raucous and increasingly hoarse shouts. The chain fell loose. He turned the deadbolt. As it slammed backward, freeing the door to open, Sheila fell silent. He

nov 26, 2007, 6:35 am

managed to smile at her & said "Hello"
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

nov 26, 2007, 8:38 pm

my mother, Mary Mankiller. I think you met her at the races.

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?"

nov 26, 2007, 9:46 pm

Culver scratched his oblong head and grunted. Something clearly smelled foul in South Parkland.

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

nov 27, 2007, 12:17 am

just needs the money. "What's the tax?" he asked, playing for time. If she needed the money, why would she ask for so little?

"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

nov 27, 2007, 1:50 pm

were standing there, gaping at him. Neither blinked or acknowledged him. They each just stared at his fleshy being as if they were confronting a ghost.

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.

nov 27, 2007, 9:04 pm

Mary Mankiller took the remote out of his hand. "Hush up, Sheila," she said.

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,

Redigeret: nov 27, 2007, 10:58 pm

Mary Mankiller stopped flipping channels but kept the volume loud. The screen showed Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in a prison scene from Papillon.

"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.

Redigeret: nov 28, 2007, 10:28 am

Mary Mankiller was still wandering about his tiny living room & now she picked up a picture of Culver's mother from an end table. "WHo's this?" she asked. It was an old picture, taken maybe 10 years before Ma passed away. They had lived here together, all Culver's life, existing on Ma's social security while Culver tried to hold down a variety of odd jobs. After Ma had passed away, Culver tried to find steady work, but nothing lasted very long. Mary frowned at the picture. "Your wife?" "Uh, yeah." "so where are you? You're not in the picture." She laughed, a mean kind of cackle. "She's gone," Culver said. " She..." But Sheila had appeared from the bathroom.
"Look!" M ary waved the picture at her daughter. "The wife that isn't here!"
Another role he could play, Culver thought. But how?

Redigeret: nov 28, 2007, 2:17 pm

He could say that the woman in the picture was indeed his wife of many years but she had gone missing, disappeared one day never again to be seen. Or perhaps he could say she had died tragically in an accidental fall while rock climbing. It was easy to keep tall tales flying once you got started.

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.

Redigeret: nov 28, 2007, 5:22 pm

Feeling fresher with her face rinsed and her hands washed, Sheila opened the bathroom door and stepped toward the living room just as Culver's knees buckled and, clutching his chest, he sank into the shabby, stained recliner. She started to cry his name, but choked off the syllables with the sudden awareness that to call him Mr. Butts would expose her lie. But didn't she want it exposed? It was her mother who rushed to him, silent except for the rap of her feet on the rugless floor and the rip of fabric as she tore open the front of his shirt to put her ear on his chest and then push, push, push.

"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

Redigeret: nov 28, 2007, 8:57 pm

coughed nervously and fidgeted with her unresponsive cell. "No signal," she cried, scanning the room in frantic search of a land line. Unable to spot a phone in the mess of TV Guides, newspapers, magazines, books and compilations of crossword puzzles, Sheila dashed to the galley kitchen where she grabbed a cordless from a hideously papered wall of Safari wildlife and dialed 9-1-1.

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!

Sheila? Sheila?!"

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.

nov 29, 2007, 9:29 am

Culver found that he enjoyed being in the hospital. His bed was tilted to a half-sitting position so he could see the TV without having to move around. If he needed anything, anything at all, all he had to do was push a button & someone would appear to answer his every request. He barely noticed the IV line taped to his arm & sometimes th e Oxygen prongs slipped out of his nose, but the food was good & it was carried in to him & carried away again with no bother- some preparation & cleaning up. Now they were trying to get him to walk up & down the corridor outside his door, the IV riding along beside him on a set of little wheels & a kindly nurse walking next to him to make sure he didn't stumble. Now she was asking him if his wife was coming in to visit. Wife? he supposed she meant Sheila. Oh yeah, & the battle-axe. They'd said something about cleaning up his house. He couldn't remember much of what had happened. The Doc said he'd had a mild heart attack & some lady sat down & talked to him about his diet. He remembered agreeing with everything she'd told him. He just couldn't remember exactly what it was.


Redigeret: nov 29, 2007, 7:55 pm

, Sheila remarked to her mother how much she believed in the power of psychosomatic symptoms. While Culver was having a mild heart attack, Sheila was certain that the feeling in her chest was the same pain and while Culver, her soulmate, did not induce an early labor, the pains in her uterus had convinced her that she was about to prematurely deliver their child.

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.

nov 30, 2007, 8:04 pm

Culver needed her, too, that was obvious. She bent down to transfer a half-dozen-or-so empty soda cans littered around the recliner to the plastic wastebasket in her left hand. Sitting around all day drinking sodas and watching TV was what had landed him in the hospital. That would change. Maybe they would visit England, or even move there. She glanced at her mother, who had paused, uncharacteristically, with her nose in a magazine. Mom would never leave here.

"What are you reading?" she asked. "I don't think we should keep any of the magazines, do you?"

dec 4, 2007, 8:59 pm

"I can do that." Mary Mankiller muttered. "Do what, Ma?" Sheila asked."Tell fortunes." Mary waved the magazine in her daughters face. There was an ad that said"Secrets of the future exposed to you alone! Your own set of Tarot cards &"
"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...

Redigeret: dec 5, 2007, 12:05 am

Once, a butcher knife had materialized in the middle of the garden. Sheila had never been convinced it was a spirit manifestation. The blade had been scabby with rust, the wooden handle soft and splintered. They had been digging potatoes, and there it was at the bottom of a big hill of Yukon Golds. Her mother had stared at it until the hairs rose on the back of Sheila's neck, then said, "That knife belongs to a dead man. He spoke to me last night, told me the truth about my Daddy lay under a hill of potatoes."

dec 10, 2007, 10:35 am

The day after her mother found the knife, old man Jimmy Talks low was found dead in his bed. No one was surprised, Jimmy was over 70 & had a bad heart. It was when the women were cleaning his body that the talk started. When they rolled him over to wash his back, they found a deep knife wound. Some said it was still bleeding but others said it was an old scar--nothing unusual. Yet Sheila remembered that that was when people would come knocking on their door, asking her mother questions."They want to know the future," Mary Mankiller had laughed when Sheila asked about all the unusual company. "Stupid people. Only the spirits know." And a few weeks later, when Sheila was looking for a clean bra & opened her mother's dresser drawer, she found the knife wrapped in some underwear. She never said anything to her mother about it, but maybe she should have. Although it wasn't the knife that had lead to their leaving the Reservation. It was what had happened in the casino & Sheila still shuddered, remembering it.

dec 10, 2007, 4:17 pm

Both Sheila and her mother had started as cashiers, but Sheila had studied to become a dealer and, just a month before the disaster, gotten a coveted job dealing blackjack. But after the knife incident and old man Jimmy's death, people started asking her mother for tips. That was strictly against casino rules, of course, even if an employee at Mary Mankiller's level had known anything to give a customer an edge, which she didn't. But that didn't matter to the people who consulted her. They would turn her most innocent remarks inside out for clues, and then come into the casino to place bets on a number she might have mentioned or anything that gave them some kind of idea on how to play. Mary's boss had called her in and given her a warning. Sheila was afraid of being called in, too, and maybe she would have been if everything had not fallen to pieces so suddenly.

Redigeret: dec 12, 2007, 9:30 am

The cold winds that blew down from the arctic also blew away the tourists that visited the Badlands.That year was worse because the state now allowed casino gambling & the locals who used to drive out to the reservations now lost their money close to home. At the beginning of November, Big George Bone who managed the casino cut back its hours to week-ends plus the Thursday night Bingo Madness which drew in the largest crowds. The older residents of the Rez preferred slots & Bingo; the young men liked poker but had little money to spend. Big George & the council decided that a super-lotto game with a big pay-off would get people in the doors & the Christmas season would losen their purse strings.

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!"

Redigeret: dec 12, 2007, 2:05 pm

It had been a disaster, maybe the worst disaster of Sheila's life. And now here was her mother waving a crummy, Cheez-It-stained magazine and bragging about her supposed gift of spirit dreaming. Sheila grabbed it out of her mother's hand and dumped it into the wastebasket with the empty soda cans. "You just have to ruin everything, don't you? Everytime something good comes into my life, you've got to screw it up!"

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?

dec 14, 2007, 10:27 am

Culver sank down into the recliner, unaware of the glob of spit which had now sunk down into the upholstery. "Are you OK?" Sheila asked. "Out of breath?" "I'm fine," Culver answered. "You know, I think that Doc was right. That fresh air felt good." Mary had slipped into the kitchen & now she returned with a cup of hot tea."Here, warm up. It's cold out there."
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.

Redigeret: dec 19, 2007, 6:47 pm

Mary had dreamed about birds again last night. Not crows this time. White birds. Big fish-eaters with long necks. A flock of herons settling into a marsh, slowly wading, reaching open beaks into the slimy water to snatch cold, wriggly things from the bottom, then raising their heads to the sky and shaking what was in their mouths down the length of their long gullets. White people. Like Culver and her daughter and the coming baby.

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.

dec 21, 2007, 11:33 am

It was amazing, Culver thought, that a stomach could grow so large & round as Sheila's . When Sheila noticed him staring at her as they lay on the bed, she took Culver's hand & placed it on the top of her stomach where he could feel the baby moving inside. "There's really something moving around in there?" he wondered. "Oh yes, & you'll see soon enough."
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.