Massacre in the Bitterroots

SHORT STORY | MASSACRE IN THE BITTERROOTS

A few weeks later, after Jade had crawled out from under that leper colony reject biker she'd gone off with and returned home, we somehow managed to agree on a kind of warped truce. To celebrate I came up with a ludicrous plan to take her camping in the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. How I came up with such an ill-conceived idea is still somewhat of a mystery, but we had survived the last year with no visible scars, broken bones, or major felony arrests, and my inevitable draft notice hadn't arrived yet, so I thought, why not get away for awhile? Unfortunately, first thing in the morning, Jade declared that the trip was already an unmitigated disaster and that she loathed every second of it, and me, with equal disdain. And as Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row" blared appropriately from our dime store transistor radio, she stood eerily erect, stripped down to nothing but cut-off Levis, a black silk brassiere, and cherry red high heels, and with a passion worthy of the finest Italian opera, began hurling a series of epithets at the indifferent rising sun, announcing that she had no intention of playing Betty Crockergoescountry for one more goddamned second. She was playing the part so convincingly that I thought it best to watch from a safe distance. But before I could find a place to hide, the bacon I'd been busy burning hissed like a pissed-off rattlesnake and spat grease on her bare legs. She howled like she'd been gut shot, her eyes turned red, and as her hair flamed up around her head like a Christmas wreath on fire, she snarled meaner than a cornered cougar on methamphetamine, her already bad mood morphing into a toxic cloud of bitter, inky blue smoke.

Ok, so maybe I shouldn't have told her we were going to a fancy schmansy European Spa in Jackson Hole instead of camping in the snow at eight thousand feet in the middle of an unseasonably chilly, late fall weekend. But I really thought a little fresh air would settle her nerves. Calm her down a little. What could it hurt? Maybe give her a new perspective on life. Keep her out of prison for indecent exposure for a day or two. But judging by the obscene insults she was chucking my way, I may as well have just shot her right between the eyes and been done with it. Love does that to sick people and I decided it might be smart to continue surveying the damage from the safety of a quarter inch of shatter proof glass and a half ton of American made steel. Peeking up through the window I watched her suck on a joint, inhale four eggs, wolf down a half pound filet mignon all by herself, and then wash it all down with my last bottle of 1978 St-Emillion, all the while daring me to so much as move.

Out of the corner of her eye, she shot me a look so ominous that I thought it must be an hallucination, but after wiping off what was left of her lipstick on one of my clean white Tshirts, her demeanor turned as coy as a fat tabby stoned on catnip. Slithering over to the car, she inched her fingers through the crack that I'd unwisely left in the window, and started cooing in my half-frozen ear like some exotic dove love machine. But she wasn't fooling anybody. I knew I had only begun to imagine the devastation she was about to unleash. Jade had always used her body like grave diggers use a spade, only she'd bury you quicker and nobody would be saying any Hail Mary's or tossing plastic pink roses on you when you hit bottom. And as if by the devil's own hand, the car door mysteriously opened and my little angel of death reached in and clinched my zipper in her icy, steel grip and she said, "Now I'll show you what camping is really all about!"

In the morning the sun struggled valiantly to rise in the blank slate sky but the freezing rain stopped it cold, and as mud squeezed up between our steaming bodies like syrupy, volcanic ooze, Jade crawled out from under me, looking for drier heat and a cup of coffee. Over her shoulder, she shot me that look schizophrenics get when they don't get their Thorazine on time, and like some primeval animal, she pawed the dirt and stared incredulously at the scattered shards of clothing that she'd fired through the open window the night before, and which now lay smoldering in the still warm embers and ash. She was not a happy camper, pardon the expression, and believe me, I knew I was about to pay dearly for this little turn of events.

Sure enough, after she'd changed clothes and put on a pair of my wool socks, my handmade Tony Llama boots, my Wranglers, my only pair of long underwear, and my last clean flannel shirt, I noticed a look in her eyes that was so cold I actually thought I saw icicles forming on her eyelashes. It was becoming very clear that she wasn't in the mood for doing dishes, so I cleaned up as best I could naked, trembling in the early morning frost, while Jade miraculously started a fire using soggy matches. But, much to her chagrin, she soon discovered that silk bras and panties don't burn worth a shit, so she skulked away to the car to warm up. Her pout was pure theater, but I had to admire the jaundiced deviousness in it. Apparently obsessed with the dramatic impact of her beauty, in spite of her total contempt for it, she's begun using it like a club lately, seducing anything that moved and reducing anything that couldn't be swayed into a whimpering mass of emotional Jell-O. She had never had a problem getting what she wanted from men, and apparently what she wanted that specific morning was for me to suffer a slow, tortuous, agonizing death. And like the suicidal masochist I'd become, I stumbled dumb as a box of pet rocks into the trap, unable to resist chirping:

"And isn't this a fine, glorious morning?"

That was not a good idea. She hated when I did that and shrieked, blowing a sleeping red tail hawk end over end right out of a live oak tree and half way to Texas. After that, the morning came alive with the skittering of a thousand squirrel feet leaving town. We all knew hell was coming, so I geared up fast for the inevitable massacre and bolted upright, taking my medicine like half a man, while bending myself into such a perverted, psychotic state that in my own mind's eye I had became so clinically disturbed, why even bother to fight it? Why not just lie back and stop crying about it since I could see I was dead meat anyway, especially if I so much as turned my back on her, which unfortunately, right about then, is exactly what I did.

Before I knew it, she started shoving fresh shells into a .357 Magnum that was bigger than she was and started picking off sparrows and crows, and blowing up cow shit and God knows what else. As the feathers flew, everything that could move ran for its life. And then, as the smoke drifted south and her long hair flailed away in the bitter wind, she jumped into my Camaro like a blind man at the Indianapolis 500, and drove off, kicking up mud, cinders, pigeon parts, a burned-up brassiere, and God knows what else, driving so fast she couldn't even take her hand off the wheel long enough to wave. And all I could do about anything was to stand there in my birthday suit, and watch her cowboy lips curl up at the edges while she smirked at me, having so successfully extracted her revenge. And as she shot past me, through the open window she screamed:

"I guess we know who wears the pants around here now, don't we, Bubba?"