SHORT STORY | LITTLE RED FEATHER
This overloaded Peterbilt 379 pigpen-on-wheels I'm driving is leaking fluid faster than the load of hungry hogs I've got squealing in the back. I'm already behind schedule trying to finish up a contract run from Omaha to Saskatchewan, but when I notice a girl with a coal black three-foot long pony tail bouncing off her butt, striding into a bingo parlor just south of Coeur d'Alene, I grind my rig to a halt and follow her inside. I know that sounds a bit impulsive but seriously, what choice do I have? I've been fantasizing about Indian babes since junior high when I saw my first half-naked picture of Pocahontas in National Geographic.
When my eyes adjust to the puke green neon lights, I spot the girl sitting on a raised platform, spinning a big metal basket full of numbered bingo balls. The second she takes a break, I walk up and lay every lame-assed pickup line I've ever used in my life on her. I may as well be reciting the Greek alphabet in Chinese, the way she's ignoring me. But when I promise to buy her a six-pack of Schlitz after she gets off work, her eyes light up and she starts jabbering away like she's on Oprah's couch discussing the benefits of botox and liposuction. She tells me her name's Little Red Feather but that I can call her Velma, as long as nobody overhears me. "It's an Indian thing," she says, whatever that means. I'm guessing it's because she's embarrassed to still be living on the Rez and getting chatted up by a white trash trucker like me.
I'd only planned on passing through Coeur d'Alene on my way at Tin Can Flat to do a little fly fishing before heading north for Saskatoon, but when I see her tying a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue, I pretty much kiss trolling for trout goodbye. I have no idea what organ I'm using to think with, but trust me, candy as sweet as Velma is impossible for a love-starved road warrior to resist, and I'd never forgive myself if I didn't at least try to meet her.
Just when I'm about to launch a full frontal assault, she tells me she's "sort of married" to an evil-tempered grave robbing sadist named Sky Chief (yeah, like the gasoline sign -and I'm not making this shit up- who's currently doing a twenty-year stretch up in Draper for sexually abusing a fourteen-year-old hooker after he'd shot her to death.
Foolishly undeterred by the iffy nature of Velma's marital status, when her shift ends I take her back to my rig to drain the two six-packs of Schlitz I've got chilling in my cooler. But first, I ask her for some ID. Don't laugh, with the luck I've been having lately picking up underage hookers and borderline-psycho runaways, I'm not taking any chances. She must think she's in a bar, because she doesn't even flinch; she just hands it over, giving me that exasperated look kids give their parents. How was I supposed to know she's pushing thirty? I have no intention of getting fired for contributing, and then ending up working the grave yard shift at a meat packing plant in Omaha -I'm not taking any chances Had I'd known how easy carding her was, I would have charged her a cover.
After we polish off the first six-pack, I ask her if she'd like to slip into the sleeper I've got set up in the back of the cab to check out my black velvet picture of Jesus. She says, fine, but first, she needs me to take her back to her double wide trailer out on Highway 95 near Independence Point so she can walk her senile schnauzer who's got some kind of bladder infection and might explode if we don't hurry. Too late for that. The second I walk through the door of her double wide, Dead Dog Walking takes a leak on my brand new Tony Llama cowboy boots. I swear to God, if I knew a hit man who shot dogs for a living I'd put a contract out on the flea-bitten mutt. But when Little Miss Stick-Up-Her-Butt notices me glaring at the mangy fur ball, she opens her purse and shows me a nine-inch Bowie knife that's bigger than she is: "If you even think about laying one hand on that poor sweet creature," she growls, "you can kiss your family jewels goodbye."
Needless to say, after sneaking a quick peek down Velma's blouse, I drop my plan to whack the flea-bitten mutt and decide to put up with the little bitch for awhile longer. I'm talking about the dog, although the jury's still out on Velma.
After we chug the second six-pack, it's as if the Dead Dog Walking incident never happened. Whoever said Indians can't hold their liquor never met this girl. Not that I'm any saint, but in Velma's world, sex with complete strangers apparently trumps animal abuse, because in no time flat, we're on the floor going at it like sex-starved rabbits.
An hour later, after I unglue my sweaty self from her sticky backside, she rolls over, jams a non-filter fag between her swollen red lips, and starts telling me her life story. Says her dad Grey Wolf, is a full-blooded Coeur d'Alene, and that her mother Two Faces, is a dirt poor half-breed (half Apache, half schizo) who had been working the peep show circuit in Ontario when she got herself locked up at Grand Valley for lewd and lascivious conduct. Grey Wolf had met her at a pow wow up in Calgary a few years earlier, and a month later, when she'd told him she was pregnant with Little Red Feather, the dump fuck moron married the scheming slut. Two years later, after Two Faces finally got around to giving birth to Little Red Feather, it finally dawned on Grey Wolf just what a nut job his new bride really was: Running around with her socks outside her shoes in the middle of winter, pouring anti-freeze on her Corn Flakes, showing up at the local Pentecostal Church in her birthday suit -all kinds of twisted shit.
I'd been hoping in vain that none of that unhinged behavior had rubbed off on Velma, but it's become clear that there must be vampires living in her family tree, because her bloodline has obviously worn a bit thin: probably one of those Dukes of Hazzard type deals where everybody at the wedding is related, including the bride and groom.
I don't doubt that Velma's half-Apache, but the technique she uses to convince men to fall head over heels in love with her is positively Germanic in its cold-blooded ruthlessness. I've only known her for about three hours and already I'm thinking about asking her to marry me and moving into a little pink house in the suburbs. I don't know what it is she's got. She's no emaciated, crack-happy super model, but let's face it, as far as a lonely, horny ole road toad like me is concerned, there's nothing hotter than a tarted-up orgasmic nympho who drinks. Or as one of my ex-wive's once told me, "Most men are pigs, only not as smart."
Just when I get to thinking that Velma might not be the spaced out whacko I think she is, she clamps her hand around my johnson and tells me that if I think for one minute I'm going to leave her behind after I've had my way with her, she'll skin me alive, cover me with honey, whack off my pecker, and cram what's left of my sorry carcass upside down in an ant hill.
Holy shit. She really wasn't kidding about being half Apache. I don't know what she's been smoking, but it sure as hell ain't a peace pipe. Thank goodness she's got the attention span of a mosquito on crack, because before I get a chance to explain to her that "choking the chicken" is only an expression, she clamps her thighs around my throat and starts whooping and hollering like she's about to take on an entire wagon train full of forty-niners on their way to the gold fields of California. And she's only getting warmed up.
I am so fucked. Just because my ex-wife Alice got fired from her job as a high school gym teacher for having sex with one of her female students, doesn't make me a bad judge of character, but come on; can I pick em or what? Whatever made me think I could get out of Dogpatch with my privates intact is anybody's guess. Not that I have anything against Coeur d'Alene, but from what I've seen so far, I can understand why they say it's the kind of town where people commit blatantly heinous crimes so they'll get sent to prison instead of having to live here for one more day. I'd have to include Sky Chief in that category, but fortunately for me, he's behind bars where he belongs. Or so I've been told.
Velma must think I'm a priest, because, once she semi-sobers up, she breaks down and confesses to me that Sky Chief hadn't been sent up the river for twenty-years after all, and that in fact, he'd been released from prison yesterday afternoon and is on his way to Coeur d'Alene as we speak. She says he'd called her on her cell this morning while I'd been dozing off, to tell her that, once he gets his "lying, cheating slut of a whore wife back", he's going to ram a tomahawk up my sorry white ass and bury me in the salt flats outside of town with my head sticking out so the buzzards can peck out my eyes at their leisure. Apparently, sodomizing a corpse in Idaho only gets you a year max. Hell, in Coeur d'Alene, I'd be surprised if it's even a misdemeanor.
If Sky Chief really is the smack-happy homicidal maniac Velma's made him out to be, it seems obvious to me that I may as well just gag down a gallon of gas and swallow a match. But as it turns out, she says I've got nothing to worry about because she's got a tepee set up way back in the woods out by Lake Coeur d'Alene that Sky Chief doesn't know anything about, and there's a foot-thick stack of buffalo robes on the floor that we can screw our brains out on. Like I can concentrate on sex when there's a body snatching blood-sucker stomping around out there, looking to slice off my hair and bugger my cold dead corpse. But not to worry; Velma's got a plan.
After conducting one last quickie under the buffalo robes, she shows me two swaybacked Pinto ponies she's got staked and hobbled outside under a pine tree, and in case Sky Chief actually does show up, we can saddle up and light out for the Canadian border.
"You've got to be kidding me," I tell her. "Do I look like a cowboy? I drive trucks, for crying out loud; I don't even know how to ride a horse.'
"Don't worry about it," she says, a bit too sarcastically for my taste, "you just have to sit there. The horse does all the work."
Whatever. All I want to know is, what kind of heat Sky Chief is packing, because all I've got is a rusty, 1903 single-action Colt .45 in my glove box. Even if I could find the box of bullets that I'd bought for the damned thing, I can't imagine what would happen if I actually pulled the trigger, not that I could hit the broad side of a barn if I did. Which is kind of beside the point, considering the fact that the explosion alone would probably kill anybody within a hundred yards.
If I would have had any sense left, I would have packed up and gotten the hell out of Dodge hours ago, but unfortunately, Sacajawea over there must have anticipated just such a move, because after I'd nodded off last night, she rammed a half dozen pine cones down my rig's exhaust. I don't know how Custer felt about getting his stupid white butt kicked by Sitting Bull at the Little Big Horn, but it looks like I'm about to find out. What I'm doing here with the overheated bed board banger is beyond me, but what the hell, I may as well make the most of it.
When we finally crawl out from under the buffalo robes an hour later, Velma tosses a couple logs on the fire and announces proudly that she's going hunting for something to eat: "Just stay put," she says, "and keep an eye out for Sky Chief. He's a shifty son-of-a-bitch. And whatever you do, don't let him sneak up behind you."
And off she goes into a forest so deep and dark I can't even make out the trees. How she plans to spear something to eat with a Bowie knife is a bit of a mystery, but I wouldn't put anything past her. Hopefully, we'll be chomping on something other than grilled slugs for lunch.
With Velma out there stabbing squirrels or whatever, it suddenly dawns on me that, if she really is the pathological liar I'm beginning to believe she is, then how do I know if Sky Chief knows where this hideout is or not?
Just when I've about convinced myself that I'm only being paranoid, a scrawny little dark-skinned gnome who looks like he'd spent the last few weeks eating nothing but gnats, jumps out of the shadows and gets right up in my face: "Huh huh hullo there," he stutters, nervously squeezing the words through his teeth like he'd just swallowed a balloon full of helium. "Where's Little Red Feather? Out huh huh humping the wildlife? Heh heh."
I don't know whether to run for my life or laugh in the munchkin's face. If this guy is Sky Chief, then I'm Paul-freaking-Bunyan. The guy's five-foot five tops and can't weigh more than an underfed mosquito.
"She's off hunting for lunch with a Bowie knife," I tell him, a bit less apprehensively than I would have thought possible, considering the brutal ferocity of his clearly over-hyped rep, "It might be awhile."
"Hunting, aye? That's funny. The only thing she's ever hunted for is a Bob's Big Boy. Heh heh. She can't even track mud on the rug. The only things she's gonna catch out there is a cuh cuh cold. She caught crabs once but they got away. Heh heh."
OK, so the guy's a stand up comic, but I still can't help thinking; if Velma had been even half right about Henny Youngman here, and if he really is the blood-thirsty cannibal she's been telling me he is, then it's possible he could still pull out his tomahawk, chop my balls into bite sized pieces, and serve em up with fava beans and a nice Chianti.
"Don't feel so bad," he tells me, detecting my understandable discomfort, "you're not the fuh fuh first dump fuck sucker to fuh fuh fall for Little Red Feather. They don't call her the porn queen of Coeur d'Alene for nuh nuh nothing."
"Excuse me, Chief. But with all due respect to Porky Pig, if you don't get that annoying stutter under control, this conversation could take years. You mind?"
"Well, Jesus H. Christ. My wife's lover is a fuh fuh fucking speech therapist. For your information, I only stutter when I'm nervous."
"Thanks for sharing, but considering your reputed fondness for hacking up hookers and defiling the dead, it seems to me that I should be the one who's nervous. By the way, you don't talk like any Indian I've ever heard. You sure you're an Indian?"
"I think you mean Native American, you racist twit. And assuming it's any of your business, my father's Italian and my mother's from Peru, which accounts for my dark skin. You feel better if I talk like Tonto? Little Red Feather only calls me Sky Chief because her bigoted Rez pals will desert her in droves if they find out she lied about me being a Navajo medicine man. As if she should talk; she's half-Mexican and half-Morman and only thinks she's a fucking Indian princess. You got anymore questions, kimo sabe?"
Uh, yeah. Three of them. One: What on earth are you doing with a certified wing nut like Velma? Two: Whatever nationality she is, why would anyone sane want to marry the oversexed fucking freak? And three: Why on earth would you want her back?"
Having evidently relaxed enough to get his irritating stutter under control, Sky Chief lays it out there for me: "Well, the truth is, the poor girl's got a screw or two loose and I need to get her back to Kootenai Behavioral Health before they send out the white coats and the meat wagon. She's been diagnosed as a chronic alcoholic, a violent, bi-polar sociopath, and as I'm sure you've discovered by now, an incurable sex addict. I finally had to have her committed last winter when she robbed a liquor store wearing nothing but her brassiere and a pair of sunglasses, cracked the clerk in the head with bottle of Jim Beam when the clueless knucklehead wouldn't hand over the Thunderbird, high jacked an 18-wheeler that was parked at a truck stop across the street, and forced the driver at knifepoint to take the old smuggler's road across the Kootenai River, hoping to make it into Canada before the ice melted. Sad to say, we'd had an early spring and the ice gave way and the truck went down. Velma made it, but the trucker didn't. It seems she's had a thing for long haul truckers ever since. Go figure."
"Yeah, go figure. Lucky me. Now listen, this has been a lot of fun but I gotta run. You mind?"
"Uh, no, I don't mind, but hey. You hungry? It looks like you've got a nice campfire going over there and I've got couple of buffalo steaks on ice in my pickup, and Little Red Feather might not be coming back for, say...ever, so why don't you and I have a bite to eat before ya go. Whatdaya say, aye?"
Oh, what the hell. Who can resist tossing a couple buffalo burgers on the grill and sucking on some suds on such a lovely fall afternoon in the great north woods? Beats the shit out of eating whatever Velma's out there hunting for in the woods in her under pants.