Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scene 22

“Goddamn it,” barks Wayne. He’s driving the truck. Behind him, twelve-pound cannonballs are rolling around the bed, clinking up against each other and pounding the truck. Little Turtle is gazing out the window at the landscape. Brown fields shaggy with cut stalks and metal barns dominate the landscape. The farms are contrasted by explosions of signage and outbreaks of commerce around the highway exits. Auto care, fast food, equipment rentals, bottomless cups of coffee.

“We never stood a chance,” says Little Turtle.

“What?” says Wayne. Some car pulls ahead of him and changes lanes, and he brakes. Too hard. The cannonballs go flying--WHAM--against the back of the cab. Wayne swears again. The cannon, at least, is stationary.

“I said,” replies Little Turtle, “that we never had a chance. Look at this,” he says, gesturing at the land.

“I don’t know about that,” replies Wayne. “You had quite a run.”

“No,” says Little Turtle.

“Mishiekonga,” says the general, “you were very cunning. You put us on the defensive. President Washington personally charged me to raise an army, to replace the one you destroyed.”

LT leans over and pushes in the cigarette lighter.

“You thrashed Harmar. You annihilated St. Clair.”

The lighter pops out.

“Seven hundred men. You sent old St. Clair hobbling off to retirement.”

Little Turtle lights a butt and puffs on it. “These are weak.”

“But then. Then. You begged off the big one at Fallen Timbers. They all went off to fight, and you stayed home.”

“I knew we would lose,” says Little Turtle. “I argued not to fight.”

“You denied me the chance to kill you honorably, in battle. Instead I got to negotiate with you.” Wayne is resigned. “I won, but I lost.”

The farms are zipping by. The day is getting grayer by the mile.

“If we hadn’t wasted ourselves a hundred years earlier in wars with the Iroquois, we might have been more ready to defeat you. Still, it would not have mattered. You would have overwhelmed us. You would have dragged us off.”

“You are correct,” agrees Wayne. He looks out the window. “And all for this.” The truck is passing an exit. There’s a Gas N Go and a sign for a 99 cent Burger Doodle. A giant red balloon proclaims some other thing.

Wayne looks beyond the restaurant. He spies a liquor store, just as the truck is flying by the exit. He begins to perspire.

All of a sudden, a deer comes bounding out of the brush next to the highway. Like something out of an Audobon book, the thing springs out into the roadway in slow motion. It hovers so long in the air, you’d think you really could paint if before it comes down. But Mad Anthony Wayne cannot stop the truck, and he can’t swerve, either.

The truck plows into the deer. The impact makes a hideous noise, a low violent clap. Like what he actually hits is maybe an airborne sofa, as opposed to a living thing. The animal snaps back and bounces off into the median.

The vehicle gets clobbered. The bumper bends back, and a huge fold in the hood pops up. This partially obstructs the driver’s view. Muttering oaths, Wayne limps off onto the shoulder. Little Turtle hops out and runs back to the animal.

It’s a buck, relatively young, a three-pointer. Dead. Its tongue is lolling out to the side, and blood’s coming out. Wayne lumbers up as Little Turtle kneels over it. The Indian stoops down and gets it on his shoulders, sort of. He half drags, half carries it to the edge of the road. Traffic is whizzing by.

“Back it up,” instructs Little Turtle. Wayne complies. Together they throw it into the back of the truck. They arrange its legs so it slips in around the sides of the cannon. The deer’s head pokes up a little over the side.

“I’d like to find myself a whiskey, if you don’t mind,” says Mad Anthony. “Maybe a tavern.”

The Ford F-150 pulls out into traffic. The bashed hood vibrates loudly. Wayne keeps to the right.

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