Original fiction by David Biddle
Steve is out buying hotdogs, buns, carrots, more beer, and ice cream. It’s a long way to town and back. We’re all just letting gravity take its course sitting around the trailer house on his farm near the Hungry Mother Forest. Doolin is smoking a cigar and Powell Dodge has out a deck of cards.
“Can someone cut my hair?” Powell says, shuffling the cards. He has been asking that question since we were swimming in the afternoon. Lysen wanted to oblige so he and Lionheart go through both the little kitchen and the bathroom cabinet looking for something to cut Powell’s hair. All they find is a rusty razor blade and a meat cleaver.
“Shut the fuck up, Dodge.” I say. We’re all a bit drunk with our empty stomachs.
“I’m bored, man,” says Dodge looking at the cards.
“Someone turn on the radio,” I say.
Doolin with his stogie saunters over to the console next to the TV. His hand wants to go to the tube. I say, “Turn on the radio, please. There’s no reception out here for visuals.” Doolin’s hand waves at me behind his back then hovers over the radio while he tries to figure out the controls. Finally the radio comes on and it is someone reading from a book.
Earl enjoyed a drink as much as any man. He enjoyed women too. They went together. Three whiskeys, hang his gun up behind the bar, find a pretty little thing up the stairs and around the corner. He wasn’t particular, wasn’t Earl. They’d come in all shapes and sizes and colors. He liked the redheads most, but the drink kept him from being too particular. One thing he noticed was how they all had eyes spattered with cloudy diamonds when it was dark and he lay with them slow and steady.
I watch Powell. “How about we play poker?” I say. The room is a happy place all of a sudden. Doolin moves into the kitchen smiling. Lionheart standes to help him. Kevin McGlinnity burps. Lysen and Doolin open the fridge and bring out the last beers. My brother, Willy, sits across from Powell Dodge and tells him that his hair looks fine. Dodge seems grateful.
Shamanism is not a profession. It is a calling. It is the movement of a soul from that of luck and desire to the life of the coyote, alone with his soul.
“What the fuck is this?” Lionheart asks.
No one opens a mouth. Dodge deals the cards. We play with our beers, look at the cans, hoping and wishing. It’s hours since we came back from swimming.
Earl has finished up with a blond and is heading down the stairs for a last shot or two. He’s got a good ache to his danglers and a warm glow in his gut. He is beginning to wonder about settling down, thinks he needs to start testing each of the girls to see which is best, maybe go up sober so he isn’t fooled by them. That’s when he sees Sidewinder Fremont come in through the door looking mean and ready. Earl is at a loss. His gun belt is hanging on a hook at the bottom of the stairs.
I’m looking at the hand I’m dealt thinking about hotdogs and carrots. Everyone is, I think. Doolin lights up a new cigar. The room smells like beer farts in a shoebox.
“This isn’t music,” says Lionheart, fiddling with his cards.
The shaman is a coyote in human form. He is walking along the road looking for truth and meaning. The moon reflects off the asphalt skittering cloudy diamonds into the air. Each diamond is a possible future. The shaman can choose only one. Some do a good job, others struggle. But even failure can change the course of human history.
I look over at my brother. He’s got a good hand. I love my brother. I also know him like…well, my brother.
Powell Dodge runs his hand through his hair considering his cards. “I wish I had some smack,” he says. “Man. I’d like to get fucked up. I fold.”
We look at each other: me, Doolin, McGlinnity, my brother Willy. Lysen blinks. Lionheart shakes his head. None of us will ever be so grown up as to put our feet in the waters of heroin.
Earl tries not to move. Sidewinder sees him anyway. Drawing his gun, he says, ‘It’s a nice day to die you thieving scoundrel.’ Earl knows he can make a run for it, but that’s all the time he has because Sidewinder Fremont slams his palm back on the firing hammer three times and shoots Earl once in the gut, once in the shoulder, and, finally, through the top of the skull.
“Shit. Where’s some music?” Doolin asks.
Just then Steve comes through the door with a grocery bag in each arm. “Time to eat fellas!” he says cheerfully. We throw down our cards and jump up to help him. I’m waiting for the argument. Everyone always wants to do the cooking. I’m waiting for this.
On the radio, the announcer is saying, “We hope you enjoyed this parallel presentation of Barry Moore’s Earl Jones Meets Sidewinder Fremont and Carlos Derida’s Conversations with a Desert Sorcer. Next week we’ll be doing Don Quixote and The Naked Lunch. Until then, this has been your host Dr. Richard Hocks.”
“Can someone cut my hair now?” Powell Dodge asks.
I want to tell him to shut the fuck up. But I’m thinking about coyote in the dark, and Earl the cowboy, and how he was just realizing he needed love in his life and wonder if that’s the problem we’re all having.
(not copyrighted; if you want it, use it…even if you want to put your name on it)