The Ghost Dance Resurrection
Written by: Lyle Deixler
The Wind Country shaman pointed to a small, brown stone on the table. “This is my guide, my spiritual companion. It comes from the earth, below the funeral scaffold of my great-great grandfather, Likatano. My great-grandfather scooped it up with some other rocks. He passed along the stones to his children and my father gave me this one. It comes from Kansas soil, holy soil, a few miles west of here. It is by far my most treasured possession.”
The children stared in awe at the simple rock when Kinchocotow explained its background. Half the kids were Indians from the Iowa, Pottawatomi and Sac and Fox nations. Two of the kids were white, three were black and one was a Mexican girl from Texas. They all knew about the shaman’s reputation to foresee the future and were also intimidated by his broad chest and thick, muscular arms. The 47-year old was a full-blooded Prairie Band Potawatomi, worked out regularly and had the physique of a 25-year old. He grew up on the Potawatomi Indian Reservation in the northeast corner of Kansas and worked in construction before the Bump Off.
The shaman pointed to an ear of corn on the table. “This is all my food, for my entire journey. Eight days.”
The older children looked at him with half-smiles, half-perplexed looks on their faces. The younger kids were totally confused.
“Just kidding,” the shaman began. “That is an offering. I will bury it in the ground when I arrive at my vision place. It is to let the earth know we still respect her, ask for her forgiveness and ask her for pure and abundant crops.”
He pointed to three bear claws on a piece of string. “These are from a grizzly bear. It is for strength. I will wear this around my neck. It will help me to get there, and return home, safely and with little fatigue.”
Kinchocotow picked up an old, faded blue knapsack and put the stone in the front zipper compartment. He put the ear of corn and bear claws inside the pack then turned toward the children. “Some of what I see comes in dreams. Other things, I must seek out. Go on a vision quest. I will leave here tomorrow and ride to more holy soil, the abandoned Osage Indian Reservation near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Most of the Osage who survived the Bump Off made their way up here. I make such a quest twice a year. It is long and difficult, and I am at the mercy of the earth and elements. But it must be done. To see what lies ahead for us. I will not sleep much on this trip. I will not eat much on this trip. But it has to be done. It is the only way.”
When the children left he took the ear of corn and bear claws out of the knapsack and put the corn back on the kitchen counter top. Kinchocotow went into his bedroom and put the bear claws in the top drawer of the bureau. He then took out the stone. He tossed it up in the air, caught it while smiling. Funeral scaffold, he thought, that always gets their attention. He could see the children’s faces once again, impressed by the supposed history of the little rock. Kinchocotow then dropped the stone into the bureau drawer and closed it.
A breeze blew in from the north, chilling the Seneca Indian as he sat on his horse. The cold air made Wah’isimo think about his wife, Sarah, who was on their reservation in western New York. He longed for her stimulating caresses, warm body, pretty, green-brown eyes. A few more days, he thought, just a few more days. He flipped up the collar on his winter coat, pulled the zipper up until it reached his chin. Wah’isimo then thought about the smile he would get from Sarah when he walked into their house with food, new clothes and shoes.
The two goats at his side stirred and huddled closer together. Wah’isimo got off his horse and the pain in his lower back stung even more from all the riding he had done. He went to the goats and petted each one, making a clicking sound with his mouth.
“Soon, I know,” he said to the animals. “I’m hungry too.” Wah’isimo put his hands on his hips and slowly bent over forward to stretch in an attempt to make the aching pain in his back go away. A long, graying ponytail held together by a rubber band slipped over one side of his face.
Johnny Red Cloud and Kenneth Tingdale looked over at him from their mounts.
“Fucking goats,” Tingdale said while reaching up to scratch one of the pimples on his cheek. Tingdale’s long, greasy black hair jutted down from his wool hat and was matted to the shoulders of his jacket. “They can really tell the difference between GM and pure food?”
Wah’isimo didn’t bother to look at him. It was the third time on their trek Tingdale had made such a comment and Wah’isimo was getting tired of the kid’s attitude. He continued to pet the goats.
“No, I’ve been lying,” Wah’isimo began. Then he looked up at Tingdale and smiled, a craggy grin with two upper teeth gone and some bottom teeth grossly deformed from rotting. “You’re our tester,” he said, joking that Tingdale, and not the goats, would be presented with the genetically modified, or GM, and pure food, and would have to know which was pure and safe. Goats were good at sensing, by smell, what was GM and what was pure. They wouldn’t eat the GM stuff.
“Huh,” Tingdale snorted. “I didn’t ride three days in this friggin’ cold to get the Bump Off.”
“By most of what you say it sounds like you got the sickness already,” Johnny Red Cloud quipped.
Wah’isimo laughed, raised his eyebrows and smiled broader.
Red Cloud was on his sixth trip down to Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania with Wah’isimo. The stocky half-Seneca pushed his glasses up higher on his nose and took another drag from his home-rolled cigarette. His father, who died from the Bump Off four years earlier, had been good friends with Wah’isimo.
Red Cloud got off his horse and stomped his feet hard on the ground, trying to get the blood flowing a little better to his toes. The wind had picked up and he fumbled through his coat pockets for his hat.
“You said fifty eight on this trip, right?” Red Cloud asked Wah’isimo, then took another drag from his smoke.
“Yes,” Wah’isimo replied.
“And this came to you in a dream? The exact number?” Tingdale asked, amazed.
“Before each trip, before we leave, he always has a dream about how many survivors there will be. Hasn’t been wrong yet,” Red Cloud said.
“Well I’ll count ‘em all, we’ll see about that.” Tingdale shot both of them a ‘yeah, right’ look.
“You won’t have to,” Red Cloud paused, inhaled on his smoke. “The Minister will know. He’ll confirm it.”
“Oh yeah? Huh,” Tingdale snorted his obnoxious snort again. “And a quarter of these fuckers will die on their way to Kansas?” he asked, recalling what Wah’isimo had earlier said about how tough the journey was. “Is it really worth it?”
“I guess so,” Wah’isimo said. “They keep coming.”
“Well I’m getting cold. They better get here soon.” Tingdale shook his arms, as if trying to shake off the chills, then grabbed the reins of his horse, gave the animal two swift heels to each side and took off down the deserted highway.
“Idiot,” Red Cloud muttered, taking another draw from his cigarette.
“I know,” Wah’isimo said. “Young, dumb and way too cocky. But we still need him. Here and back home.”
“Yeah,” Red Cloud said slowly, “I suppose we do.” He finished the cigarette and flicked it onto the road.
Tingdale soon rode back to them. “I thought that would warm me up,” he began, grinning at them. “A quick ride. But it didn’t. Jesus where are they?”
“Relax, they’ll be here soon,” Wah’isimo told him.
“And this is the spot? You sure this is the right place?” Tingdale asked.
Wah’isimo ignored him and thought about Sarah again. He just wanted to hold his wife, smell her, feel her warm body pressed against his.
The Minister flicked his whip, made from a metal rod and some electrical cord, through the opening of where the van’s windshield once was and hit the horse’s rear end. “The day’s not over yet, Magellan,” he said. He named the other horse that pulled the van Henry, after Henry Hudson.
The Minister was always industrious and good with tools, something his dad showed him when he was growing up in Denver. Robert’s father, James Colson, was also a Protestant minister and a very strict man. Whenever he showed Robert how to use a tool or build something he would quote his favorite line from his favorite play, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and say to his son, “What good is a man if he can’t use his hands?”
The Minister had removed the van’s three rows of bench seats in the back and added a mattress, coolers, his clothes, camping and other supplies. Then, using the last of the gas, he drove from Manhattan to the Horse Farm of New Jersey. Once there he broke out the entire windshield, took some reins from the stables and rounded up four horses that he hitched to the front of the van.
For the trips out west he used two of the horses to tow his van. He added a horse trailer to the back of the van, also courtesy of the Horse Farm, and loaded it with seed, water and food supplies.
The other two horses each pulled “the boats,” two 18-foot aluminum skiffs on trailers. The Minister turned each boat into pseudo-wagons to carry more seed and supplies. They would need the seeds for the spring planting season shortly after arriving at the Sac & Fox Indian Casino in Powhattan, Kansas. He added seats to the front of each boat, built four-foot posts into the sides, installed plywood to serve as walls and made roofs for each skiff from heavy duty tarpaulins he pilfered from an abandoned hardware store.
Ellen Neeling sat next to the Minister in the van. The two other women that always accompanied him, Lynne Gai and Jenny Barba, followed closely behind, each riding one of the boats.
The Minister sat in the passenger seat while Ellen held the horse’s reins. He put his acoustic guitar on his lap, smiled at her, reached over and squeezed the top of her doughy thigh and moaned, “mmm” while dreamily looking into her eyes.
Ellen loved the way he looked at her and did that.
He reached out with his hand and caressed her cheek. “Give me that smile,” the Minister said. “Let me see those dimples.”
She did what he asked, reached out and slipped her fingers through his long, wavy brown hair that reached his shoulders. He had an oval-shaped face, something he didn’t like, so he wore his hair long to try and cover it up.
The Minister went back to his guitar, started strumming a simple three-chord tune he made up on the spot, then began singing to it:
“Pretty Ellen, pretty eyes, makes me tremble, all the time,
Gaze upon her, and you’ll see, she’s a beauty, yes indeed.”
She smiled at him again, reached over and gently squeezed the top of his leg.
He started to play one of his favorite rock tunes, Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. He stopped after playing the opening notes.
“Need electric,” the Minister said. “That song sounds so much better plugged in.” He turned his attention to beyond where the van’s windshield used to be, to the open road and hilly expanse of Interstate 80 and central Pennsylvania. “Someday soon though, when Crescendo arrives, it will provide for us all the necessities, the proper necessities, for what we need to live good lives, righteous lives. And I will deliver it,” he turned to Ellen, a serious look on his face, “I promise you that. I will deliver it.”
“I know,” Ellen replied. “And then we’ll all be saved, once and for all.”
They rode in silence for a while. Soon the Minister started strumming on his guitar again.
His music made Ellen curious. “Did your parents ever buy you an electric guitar?” She asked. Ellen knew his father was also a Minister and had heard him mention once his parents had bought him his first guitar when he was a kid.
“No, an acoustic was as far as they would go. My father and mother were good people, loved the Lord. They were strict, taught me well. But unfortunately my sister didn’t take to their teachings. She rejected the Lord, drank too much, smoked pot. When I was seventeen she was away at college and died in a car accident. Her friend was driving. They were both drunk. The car crossed the center lane and hit another car head-on. In all, four people died that night.”
“Oh how terrible,” Ellen said. “I’m so sorry.”
“It was hard, really tough for us. My parents felt guilty after that, thought they pushed her too hard with trying to live a good life. So they bought me an acoustic guitar and paid for me to have some lessons. My father told me not to play any rock and roll but I liked the Beatles and classic rock bands like Deep Purple so I learned some of their songs. But certainly didn’t let my parents hear them. That was the first time I ever rebelled against them and did something they told me not to do.”
The Minister started to play George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun. “This was always one of my favorites.”
“Mine too.” She smiled at him again.
While he knew all the lyrics he didn’t bother to sing them this time, his mind was preoccupied after talking about his family. He remembered the time when he was eight and his sister, Jean, was ten and they were painting in the basement of their house in Denver. They set up an easel with a big piece of paper and were painting a scene of the Rocky Mountains complete with snow-covered peaks, Elk and Bighorn Sheep. Jean accidentally knocked over one of the bottles of paint, spilling it on the floor. They hurriedly cleaned it up, not wanting their parents to find the mess. Some of the paint dotted the wall but they didn’t see it. Later that night their father noticed it. He was enraged that they didn’t clean it up and took out his belt to punish them.
Robert was first. He started to cry as soon as his father pulled down his pants and pushed him up against the living room wall. The first lash struck the eight-year old hard across his bare buttocks, stinging the child with incredible pain. He screamed out loudly.
“We didn’t see it Daddy! We didn’t know it got on the wall!” Jean yelled from across the room, where her mother held her by her shoulders, forcing her to watch like they always did to the kids when one or both were being punished.
“The Good Lord didn’t give us walls and shelter for you kids to ruin with paint!” her father said. He continued to strike his son.
“You be quiet, and be prepared, foolish child,” Jean’s mother, Alice, said to her.
Alice then started to recite from the Old Testament:
“And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant. And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant!” She repeated it again and again, her voice rising every time.
With each strike Robert cried out, the tears streaming down his face, mucous bubbling and dripping from both nostrils. When James finished with him, he took his daughter from Alice. Their mother then forced Robert to watch, holding him by his shoulders with his pants still down at his ankles while their father put the belt to Jean.
The Minister finished playing Here Comes the Sun and put the guitar behind his seat. He smiled at Ellen, reached over and squeezed her thigh again.
Behind the van Lynne Gai and Jenny Barba rode side by side, across both lanes of the deserted highway, guiding the horses towing the boats.
God look at her, Jenny thought, glancing at Lynne. Beautiful. That hair. Those cheekbones. And how did an Asian girl get so tall? She wondered.
Jenny slipped her fingers through her stringy, dark-blonde hair that fell below her hat and tried to push out some of the knots in it. She then inhaled deeply through her mouth. Damn cold, she thought about the weather, having trouble again breathing through her nose due to the coldness outside and her deviated septum from years of snorting cocaine.
Jenny turned to Lynne and nodded toward the Minister’s van up ahead. “Think he’s played Stairway to Heaven for the twentieth time today for Ellen?”
“I don’t know.” Lynne didn’t bother to look at her.
Jenny knew Lynne didn’t like her but didn’t care and was bored from staring at the horse’s ass in front of her. “I betcha’ he has. And some Beatles songs and Deep Purple. And he probably started the morning with Magic Bus by the Who.”
“Probably,” Lynne replied, still looking straight ahead.
Fucking bitch, Jenny thought. But she was still incredibly bored. “Did you ever listen to the Who?”
“Too bad, great band. One of the best. And Roger Daltry,” Jenny then whistled the ‘whit-whoo’. “What a hottie. Ever see him in tight jeans?”
“You don’t know what you’re missing.” Jenny smiled at her.
“No, I don’t,” Lynne replied. She certainly knew about the Who and Roger Daltry but didn’t feel like talking to Jenny about them.
“He even looked good when he got old,” Jenny began. “He was on some TV show, hosted this show about cowboys and the old west. He looked good then, too.”
Lynne didn’t say anything. She raised her hand to her face, rubbed a finger under her nose to take care of an itch, then shot Jenny a quick, condescending smile.
Fucking bitch, Jenny thought, again.
Suddenly two survivors came running up to the boats. They were both men. One was white, wearing a tattered blue ski jacket, no hat, with a scruffy, greying beard and dirty, grimy face. The other guy was younger, a Latino wearing several layers of shirts covered by a hooded sweat jacket. They came down the middle of the road, running about ten feet apart, each facing one of the boats.
“Hey, we’re hungry,” the Latino said to Jenny.
“And cold. I need a hat.” The white guy pointed to the supply boat.
“Well you know the rules,” Jenny began. “We gave out snacks about two hours ago. No more food until we break for dinner, which is soon.” Jenny was already reaching for the shotgun, propped up in its holster on her left, as she looked to her right and the man near the boat.
“Yeah well fuck that,” the younger man said. He quickly reached for one of the posts, put his foot on the boat’s trailer and pulled himself up onto it. Then he stepped up onto the edge of the boat and stood about three feet above Jenny.
The other survivor did the same but quickly scrambled into Lynne’s boat.
The shotguns weren’t loaded, in case they fell into the wrong hands. There had been occasional problems on previous trips out west. The Minster had placed the weapons obviously next to the driver’s seat of each boat, in big leather holsters he took from a rifle shop, to hopefully serve as a deterrent to people who thought they could take what they wanted from the supply boats. He did though give each of the women loaded, snub-nose 32 pistols.
Jenny swung the shotgun around by its barrel with both hands, bringing the heavy, wooden stock quickly up and into the man’s groin.
He squealed a high-pitched “yaahh!” and fell backwards, off the boat and onto the highway. He landed on his back, didn’t have time to put his hands out and smashed his head on the road.
Lynne tried to kick her assailant in the groin but he saw it coming and blocked her leg with his hand. He then started to pummel her, punching her in the right cheek then catching her on the left side of her face with another blow.
Jenny dropped the reins to the horse and jumped off her boat. She quickly pulled herself up onto the side of Lynne’s skiff and dropped into the boat.
She got up onto her knees and took the handgun out of the front pocket of her ski pants.
“Hey, cut it out!” she yelled.
The man stopped punching Lynne and turned toward Jenny.
The first shot went through his right eye, the next one into his forehead. He fell backward, dead.
The Minister heard the shots, felt the front pocket of his black overcoat to make sure he had his gun and scrambled out of the van to see what was going on. A group of survivors, about twenty people who were fairly close to the boats as they followed behind, walked faster to catch up and also see what was happening.
Jenny put the pistol back into her ski pants. She went to Lynne, who was dazed and bloody. The right side of her face and top lip were swollen.
The Minister pulled himself up into the boat.
“These guys,” Jenny began, nodding toward the dead one then back to the man on the road, “they attacked us. Wanted food and a hat. I told them no.”
“I can see that. Good job,” the Minister said, patting her shoulder. He turned to Lynne. “Oh no, you poor dear. Are you okay?” He kneeled down beside her, brushed some of her hair out of her face.
“My mouth,” Lynne said, pressing the back of one of her fingers against her bloody lip.
“Do you feel dizzy? Hurt your head?” the Minister asked.
“No, but my mouth. How bad is it?” She pulled her hand away from her face.
“There’s some swelling all right. But I think you’ll live.” The Minister smiled at her. “We’ll get you cleaned up in the van.”
Most of the survivors had caught up to the boats, while the last dozen or so quickened their pace to catch up to the front of the caravan.
The Minister stood up, looked down at the Latino man on the road who struggled to stand up. He was woozy and had trouble walking straight.
The Minister gave Jenny a plastic zip-strip tie and pointed to the man.
Jenny jumped off of Lynne’s boat, grabbed the man by his arm and pulled him to the side of her boat. One plastic zip-strip was already looped around the front post. She took the other zip-strip, looped it around the man’s left wrist and through the one around the post. He wouldn’t be going anywhere except where the boat went and would be given a chair to sleep in that night, to keep him next to the boat, as punishment. The Minister would decide when to cut him free.
“My children, my flock, gather ‘round,” the Minister called out, motioning with both arms for the survivors to come forward as he stood in the boat.
“Like I told you all when we started this journey it would be long, it would be hard, but we will find salvation. Thievery is wrong and most of you know that but some of us still insist on doing what is wrong. We only have so much food and if you need something like a hat or additional clothing please see me. Like I said before we left I can usually find such stuff among the supplies or all our belongings if one of you needs something. We’re on this journey together and we have to cooperate to survive. But unfortunately some of us don’t feel that way.”
He then turned toward the man tied to the boat. “My poor man, your friend is dead because you both acted foolishly.” The Minister turned back toward the group of survivors. “Now I know taking the law into your own hands is wrong but these are strange times, dire times, and some things might seem abrupt and harsh.”
He reached down, gently took Lynne by the arm, slowly helped her to stand up. They both faced the crowd. “This here is a good woman, a strong woman, a smart woman. Look closely people at what she now has to endure because some of us are weak and stupid.” The Minister motioned with his turned up palm toward the bruises on her face. “My children, please, we are better than this.”
He brought Lynne to the van and took Ellen back to the boat. They pushed the body aside, as far away from the driver’s seat as possible so Ellen wouldn’t have to look at it as she rode the skiff.
“Later tonight, after dinner when it’s dark,” The Minister whispered into Ellen’s ear, “we’ll take care of that.” He pointed to the body. The Minister didn’t want everyone to see what he had planned for the dead man, which was basically dragging the body fifty or sixty feet from the side of the highway and leaving it there.
After he cleaned up Lynne’s lip and bruises and gave her some aspirin the caravan was on its way again.
That’s fucked up, Paul Kinrov thought as he walked among the survivors. He walked with a slight limp and had pulled his right calf muscle from all the walking he had done so far. Paul hoped it didn’t get worse but knew they had a lot more walking to do. He couldn’t wait to lie down in his tent later, rest his leg and get some sleep.
Paul shifted the large, heavy pack on his back and realized he had to tighten the sleeping bag straps again. It was strapped to the outside bottom of his pack, had slipped down and was swinging against the back of his knees. His pack contained everything he owned: clothing, soap, a toothbrush, a plastic plate and some utensils, a few books, memory sticks with family pictures and shots of his dead wife, Stacey, and two envelopes stuffed with more photographs of Stacey, family and friends.
He walked over to the side of the road to get out of the way of everyone else, kneeled down, took the large pack off his back and put it on the ground. Paul cinched both sleeping bag straps tighter and put the pack back on. He knew it was only a matter of time before the straps loosened, causing the sleeping bag to swing against his legs again, but he was tired of trying to fix it on this, the tenth day of their trek, and quickly decided to deal with it in the morning.
Paul rejoined the crowd and off to his right noticed the cute girl who was taking a lot of pictures of the van, boats and people on the journey. She had long, brownish-blonde hair to her shoulders and he couldn’t avoid noticing her large breasts pushing against the inside of her dark blue, winter coat. He was cold and the pain in his leg was getting worse but he wanted to talk to this pretty girl.
His heart sped up as he walked closer to her. Paul quickly realized he was nervous because of a woman, something he hadn’t felt in years. His wife Stacey had died from the Bump Off about a year before he decided to head out west. They were happily married for ten years, until the disease struck, and he hadn’t pursued a woman in over twelve years.
He got closer to the cute girl in the dark blue coat. His heart was racing. Whoa, Paul thought, surprised at how he felt. Then he was walking right next to her. He got his first good look at her eyes, as she glanced at him briefly when he approached her. Paul saw she had beautiful, light-green eyes and was hooked.
Okay be cool, he thought. Just be cool.
“Uumm, uhh, hi. How’s it going?” he said, suddenly short of breath from being so nervous. He quickly waved his hand at her. Smooth you idiot, he thought after hearing himself.
She turned back toward him, with a puzzled look on her face. What the hell’s up with this guy? Sabrina Donner thought.
Oh shit not good, Paul realized when he saw her expression.
“It’s going, I suppose,” she said.
“What a, what a shame,” Paul began, still nervous. “People getting killed over stupid stuff like that.”
“It sure sucks. But so do a lot of things these days,” Sabrina replied.
Change the subject, change the subject! Screamed through his head. Don’t bring up all the bad shit we have to deal with it!
“I noticed you’ve been taking a lot of pictures of everyone on the trip. Are you a photographer? I mean like, is that what you did for a living before all this mess happened?”
“Yup, I’m a photographer. Bonus points for you,” she said. “Did that before the disease hit and still do it now.”
“Cool. Who’d you shoot for?” Paul asked.
“I was a staffer at the Philadelphia Tribune.” Sabrina could tell from the way he asked her about her work that he probably also worked in a similar field. This got her a little interested in him.
“And you?” She asked. “What do you do?”
“I was a communications officer for the teacher’s union in New York. Did a lot of public relations stuff, wrote for their website. Actually wrote the whole damn thing, just about. And pitched stories to different publications, websites and TV stations, about teachers and how great they were and deserved more money, basically.”
“Yeah well, I suppose we all deserve – I mean deserved, more money.” Sabrina caught herself, remembered she and all the other survivors were no longer getting paychecks.
“Uhh, yeah, that’s for sure,” Paul said. Look at her, he thought, she’s beautiful. “I’m, uhh, Paul by the way.” The nervousness struck him again. “What’s your name?”
“Oh cool, what a pretty name. I always liked that name.” He smiled at her, an honest, part naïve smile. “I didn’t really ever know any Sabrinas but it’s a very pretty name.”
“Thank you,” she replied. Sabrina noticed the naiveté in his smile, certainly felt he was being straightforward, which she liked, and thought he was cute. Then Sabrina saw the logo on his black, winter hat. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to it. “That symbol?”
“My favorite hockey team, the New Jersey Devils. Are you – ” it was Paul’s turn to catch himself. “Were you a hockey fan?” Idiot, he quickly thought, obviously not if she doesn’t recognize the logo!
“If it involves men hurting other men I am,” she replied.
A tall, thin woman walking next to Sabrina, with short black hair barely visible from under her winter hat, laughed when she heard that remark.
Paul hadn’t noticed her.
“Hockey’s my favorite sport, too,” the woman said, smiling at Paul. She had a thin face with pale skin. She reached out for Sabrina’s hand. Sabrina took it, turned and smiled at her.
Dammit Paul thought, she’s not into guys. “What, uhh, what sports do you like?” he feebly asked, trying to salvage his dignity.
“None, really,” Sabrina said. “Unless they involve men hurting men.”
“So you probably like football, and rugby?” he asked, smiling.
“Oh yeah, great sports!” Sabrina returned the smile.
“Naked rugby, now that sounds interesting,” the tall woman said.
Sabrina laughed at that.
“Ouch,” Paul replied.
“Naahh, it wouldn’t be too bad,” she waved a hand dismissingly.
“I don’t know about that,” he said.
Idiot, Sabrina thought, watching him. She did like his eyes though, saw how dark blue they were, and saw how nervous he was when he approached her, something she also liked.
“What did you do for work?” Paul asked the tall woman.
“I was the manager of a restaurant, La Casa de Paella, a Spanish joint on the Upper East Side.”
“Oh yeah, good stuff. I ate there a few times. I’m Paul by the way.”
“Pam. And if you had dinner there chances are I was there. I usually worked nights.”
“I ate there a lot but don’t recall meeting you. I probably would have remembered. I guess that’s a good thing though, that I didn’t need the manager.”
“Yes, probably,” Pam said.
“Paella sounds so good right now, mmm.” Sabrina briefly closed her eyes and tried to recall the last time she had the Spanish seafood dish.
“It sure does, even though I got sick of it. Eating so much of it,” Pam began. “I’d take some now. And tomorrow. And the next day. No problem.”
“I was in Spain once, had it over there. It was delicious. Either one of you ever been there?” Paul asked.
Sabrina shook her head no.
“I was in England once, a long time ago, but never got across the Channel,” Pam said.
“Okay, no more talking about food, I’m hungry.” Sabrina turned to Pam. “How are you doing?”
“Hungry too,” she replied.
“It should be dinner time soon, real soon,” Paul told them.
“Can’t wait!” Sabrina said with forced cheer. If the weather was dry and not too windy they usually had some sort of pasta each night cooked over fire pits they dug out on the side of the road. The Minister had plenty of shovels to dig the pits and a supply of collapsible cooking stands to put over the fires. They also used a few camping stoves the Minister had and whatever fuel he could pilfer from shops. If they couldn’t get fires started they had some sort of cornmeal cakes and wheatums, cakes made from ground up wheat seeds and plant parts, but dry and bland.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Paul,” Sabrina said to him. “And good luck on this trip.”
“Yes, thanks, and it was nice meeting you, too. And you have a safe trip also, and you too, Pam.”
He faded back a bit from the two women as the group of survivors continued to walk down the road. My god she’s beautiful, he thought. What eyes, what a face. But damn, she’s with a chick. Then the hunger pangs kicked in and he tried not to think about the aching in his stomach. Paul thought about his dead wife Stacey, her pretty light-brown eyes, how she smelled, how she felt so good to hold, especially in the morning. He remembered the simple, oversized white nightgown she usually wore to bed.
“It’s a bit big, isn’t it?” Paul asked her, the first time he saw her wearing it.
“I know, but it’ll come off easier in the morning. See.” Stacey pushed one strap off her shoulder, then the other, and quickly writhed out of it.
“Oh, very nice,” Paul said, smiling, burying his face into her large, buoyant round breasts.
“Silly,” she said through a giggle before closing her eyes and moaning softly.
He pulled away from her. “You’re smart. That is a very nice nightgown.”
“I know,” she replied matter-of-factly.
Paul remembered how she sounded when they made love, could see her on top of him, one of their favorite positions, hear her saying, “that’s it, so good,” right before coming. Tears filled his eyes and he struggled not to cry.
The caravan soon slowed down again and came to a halt. Paul moved toward the front of the crowd to see what was happening.
Three men stood on the side of the road next to three horses and two goats. What the hell is this? Paul thought.
Jenny and Ellen stood next to the boats, each holding a shotgun. When they saw the three men up ahead they loaded the shotguns and also made sure their snub-nose 32s had ammo.
Jenny stood there, glaring at the Indians, the butt-end of her shotgun pressed against the ground, both hands around the barrel of the weapon. Her gaze softened a little when she looked at Johnny Red Cloud.
Ellen was more relaxed, with the shotgun cradled in her arms across her large stomach.
“What a pleasant surprise. I never thought I’d bump into you. Especially here,” the Minister said to Wah’isimo.
“Me neither. Surprise indeed,” the Seneca Indian replied dryly. An assault rifle was slung across his back.
Johnny Red Cloud stood next to him, holding a semi-automatic pistol. He looked at Jenny and thought wow, what a knockout.
Kenneth Tingdale stood next to Red Cloud, holding a sawed-off shotgun.
The Minister then grabbed a post on one of the boats, pulled himself up so he stood on the edge of the skiff and turned to face the survivors.
“My children, my people,” he began, raising his left hand high above his head. “A quote, from the Book of Revelation: Worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
He then lowered his hand. “What we have here, like on every trip, is payback time. These poor fellows, the Indians as you know, were slaughtered by our ancestors and forced to adopt a lifestyle they never lived nor wanted. And now well, it’s their turn. We must offer tribute if we are to continue on our journey.” The Minister jumped off the side of the boat, went around to the back of it, took out a key ring from his pocket and unlocked the padlock to the door on the back of the boat.
Several people in the crowd called out, “What’s going on?” “Who the hell are they?” and “What tribute?”
Wah’isimo, Red Cloud and Tingdale followed the Minister.
“How many survivors this time?” Johnny Red Cloud asked.
“Fifty seven,” The Minister replied. He turned to Wah’isimo. “What’d you say?”
“Fifty eight. Lose one already?”
“Yes, and it wasn’t pretty. He got a little greedy, along with his pal over there.” The Minister pointed to the man still attached to the front of the other boat.
“His stupid dream was right,” Tingdale muttered.
“I told you.” Johnny Red Cloud smiled at him. He then slipped away from the three men and wandered over to the Minister’s van, pretending to check it out. He saw Lynne sitting in the passenger seat and went over to the other boat.
Johnny Red Cloud pulled himself up onto the side of the boat and grabbed Jenny’s knapsack. He opened his own pack, took out three small, plastic bags filled with pure soybeans and put them in Jenny’s knapsack. In one of the bags he left a brief note that read: From Johnny, enjoy! He then quickly rejoined his compatriots at the other boat.
The Minister proceeded to take out several boxes of pasta, cereal and rice from the boat. He handed the goods to Tingdale and Red Cloud and went back into the boat.
The Minister quickly emerged with a small box. “And for your senses and powers, for knowing yet again how many poor souls I’d have and when I’d be here, a treat. They’re pure like everything else. Your hungry goats will attest to that.” He flipped open the lid, revealing a dozen bars of chocolate.
Wah’isimo nodded in approval.
“Follow me.” Red Cloud led Tingdale to the goats that were tied up to Wah’isimo’s horse.
They put the boxes of food on the ground, near but just out of reach to the goats and then went back to the boat for more.
The survivors gathered around the two boats at the front of the caravan to see what was happening.
When Wah’isimo was satisfied with the amount of boxed food he handed the Minister four large, empty flour sacks.
“Wheat is low. I can only give you half a sack, if that,” the Minister told him.
“Bake a lot of bread between New York and here?” Wah’isimo asked, smiling his craggy smile. Then he got serious. “Just make sure my corn and rapeseed sacks are full.”
The Minister went into the back of the boat, fumbled around until he found the scoop and filled the first sack with corn seeds. He passed the sack through the door to Wah’isimo and filled the other sacks with wheat and rapeseed.
The Minister stood next to the three Indians and one of the goats.
“You still don’t trust me?” the Minister asked.
Wah’isimo ignored him.
Red Cloud opened a box of spaghetti, took out a few strands of the pasta and held it up in front of the goat. The goat quickly sniffed the pasta then bit into it. The goat pulled its head up slightly as it chewed. Red Cloud dropped what he held onto the ground. The goat ate the rest of it.
They tested the chocolate, cereal and rice and the goat ate everything. Some of the seeds were next. The other goat had its turn and ate what they gave it.
“Thank you very much sir,” Red Cloud said to the Minister as they went to the next boat.
Wah’isimo pointed to one of the small, open, flat-bed trailers their horses were pulling. “The food goes on that one,” he said to Kenneth Tingdale. “Sacks first, boxes on top. Load it up.”
Tingdale did as he was told, putting the seed on first, then the rest.
“And get those three empty duffel bags from the other trailer and bring them over here,” Wah’isimo called to him.
The Minister unlocked the backdoor to the other boat. “More shoes and boots this time, not as many sweaters,” he said as Wah’isimo gave him an empty duffel bag.
“Any longjohns?” Red Cloud asked. “I could use a new pair.”
“I’ll see what we got,” the Minister replied, climbing into the back of the boat.
“And how about a new sleeping bag?” Tingdale called to him. “Mine’s old and nasty. Red Cloud gave it to me. And a new quilt while you’re at it.”
“Easy.” Wah’isimo raised his palm to Tingdale, motioning for him to back off. “This isn’t the general store.” He stepped closer to the door of the boat, stuck his head in and said to the Minister, “If you have a spare blanket or quilt we’ll take it. I know sleeping bags are hard to come by.”
“We’ll see what we can find. I think we can accommodate you,” the Minister replied.
Soon the three duffel bags were filled with socks, shirts, shoes, gloves and hats.
“Bottoms are the best I can do. Don’t have any tops.” The Minister gave Red Cloud a pair of thermal longjohns. “I hope they fit, they look your size.”
“Thank you. That should work.” Johnny Red Cloud folded it up and put the longjohns into his pack.
The Minister then pulled a dark blue quilt off his shoulder and gave it to Tingdale. “This’ll keep you warm.”
“Thanks!” Tingdale smiled a dopey grin from ear to ear.
The three Indian men loaded up the duffel bags on one of their trailers and got ready to leave.
“It was a pleasure doing business with you, as always,” Wah’isimo said to the Minister, smiling and shaking his hand.
“Yes, as always,” the Minister replied.
“Good luck on the rest of your journey. And may the wind blow with you and the storms away,” Wah’isimo said.
“Thank you,” the Minister began. “And you have a safe trip too, back home.”
The caravan got underway again. Wah’isimo, Tingdale and Red Cloud rode ahead of the survivors for about two miles, then headed north onto Route 119 to make their way up through Pennsylvania and eventually to western New York.
Fucking-a, Paul thought, Indians and tribute? This is one hell of a trip so far. He started to look through the crowd to see if he could find Sabrina. He knew they would be stopping for dinner soon so Paul decided to ask the two women if he could join them.
He caught a glimpse of Pam first. She was easy to spot, being so tall and wearing a solid, bright red hat. They were about thirty feet away from him, off to his right. He started to wade through everyone, making his way closer to them. He soon got even with Sabrina and Pam and was about fifteen feet away when he felt someone brush against his arm.
“Hey, how’s it going? I’m Brett.” The man next to him was easily six foot two and besides being taller was obviously much bigger than Paul, given the way he filled out his ski jacket. He had a fair complexion and blonde hair sticking out from under his winter hat.
Brett lowered his voice. “She’s a hottie, that little photographer babe, eh!” he smiled at Paul. “I overheard your conversation before, couldn’t help it. I was walking behind you guys.”
“Okay,” Paul said cautiously, trying to figure out what Brett was getting at.
Sabrina noticed Paul almost catching up to her and then saw Brett bump into him.
“Anyway, don’t even think about it. She’s mine.” Brett quickly swung his fist around, drilling Paul in his stomach. Even through all his layers the punch hurt. Paul stopped walking and doubled over in pain.
What the fuck was that? Sabrina thought, watching Brett slug him.
Soon Brett was beside the two women.
He smiled at Sabrina and was about to say ‘hi’ when she spoke first.
“Why’d you do that, punch Paul?” Sabrina asked, annoyed.
“Oh him? He walked by me and practically knocked me over with his pack. The jerk didn’t even say ‘excuse me’.” Oh shit, he thought, she saw that. “I’m Brett. What’s your name?”
“I didn’t see him knock into you. You walked into him.” What an asshole, she thought. “Look out.” She quickly pushed her way past him and went over to Paul.
He had straightened up but was walking much slower.
“Are you okay? What’s up with that guy?” Sabrina asked him.
“I’d say,” Paul began slowly, still in obvious pain, “he hasn’t graduated from the sixth grade yet. And he has a crush on you.” Paul half-smiled at her.
“What a jerk,” she replied. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine, thanks. Just a little punch to the gut, that’s all.” Don’t even think about asking to have dinner with her and Pam now he thought, embarrassed.
Sabrina reached out, gently squeezed his arm, smiled at him.
My god she’s beautiful he thought, once again. And those eyes, so green. Paul smiled back at her and they walked together for a moment, among the crowd, eyes locked.
Sabrina soon went back over to Pam. Brett was walking next to her. Pam didn’t see what had happened.
“I hope I didn’t hurt him,” Brett said.
“Just stay the fuck away from him, and me.” She blatantly took
“Whoa,” Pam said. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing. This guy’s an asshole.” She nodded her head toward Brett.
“Hey take it easy. He almost knocked me over with his pack,” Brett claimed again.
“No he didn’t. Just give it a break, man.” Sabrina turned away from him. “Come on Pam, let’s head over that way, follow the boats for a while.” She led Pam away from Brett and toward the front of the caravan.
“Fine, whatever. Bitch,” Brett said.
Sabrina spun around and shot him the middle finger.
Paul lay in his sleeping bag in his tent. He wiggled his butt then moved his back from side to side in an attempt to get his body to conform more comfortably with the bottom of the sleeping bag and half of quilt under it. The rest of the quilt was over the top of the sleeping bag. He wore a pair of longjohns, two pairs of sweatpants, a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweater, pair of socks and winter hat to try and keep warm. He kept seeing Sabrina’s eyes and face. He fantasized about holding her nude body and feeling her large breasts pressed against him.
“Hey, anybody home?” the woman’s voice called through his tent to him.
Jenny startled him and he gasped in fright. “Uhh yeah, what? Who is it?”
Jenny unzipped the tent door, kneeled down, dropped her pack on the floor and crawled inside. It was so cramped she had no choice but to lie next to him.
“Hi,” she said, smiling. “I was a little lonely and cold. And thought you might be too.”
“Uhh, well, maybe.” On the third night Paul had seen her go into someone’s tent and knew it wasn’t hers, he saw which one she slept in the first two nights. Three nights later he saw her go into a different tent. What’s up with this chick? He thought.
“Just maybe?” She slipped her hand under his sleeping bag, sweatshirt and shirts beneath it and started to rub his stomach.
“Your hand is cold,” he told her.
“I know. That’s why I’m here.”
Paul could smell her perfume and realized she must have recently put it on it was so strong. And while he couldn’t see her face in the dark tent he thought she was attractive and got a glimpse of her light blue eyes on the first day and liked them. He didn’t like her stringy hair though and wished it were straight.
Her hand went under his sweatpants and longjohns. “Oh yeah,” Paul moaned. Glad I still have some condoms, he thought.
“You like that?” she whispered.
“Yeah,” he whispered back.
“That’s nice,” she said, caressing him. “Big.”
She took off her jacket and sweatshirt. Jenny then opened her pack and took out a condom.
Damn look at that, Paul thought. Just make sure it doesn’t slip off.
Jenny finished getting undressed then helped Paul do the same.
The next morning when Paul woke up he saw Jenny sitting beside him, going through his backpack.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
She held up his X-Phone. “What sort of music do you have? I’m bored with all of mine.”
“Mostly classic rock. Led Zeppelin. AC/DC. Black Sabbath.”
“Got any Who?”
“Some, but not much,” Paul replied.
“That Roger Daltry, he was something.” Jenny whistled the ‘whit-whoo’ again.
“Uhh, okay,” Paul said.
Jenny took out Paul’s utensils from the pack. “I need this. Lost mine.” She put his table knife into her backpack.
“So do I,” he told her.
She ignored him and continued digging through his pack, taking out some old, beat up paperbacks, envelopes of photos and dropping them on the tent floor.
Shit, Paul thought, I don’t believe this.
Soon she was done and also put the backpack on the floor but didn’t bother to put the rest of the stuff back in it or even zipper it closed.
Jenny pointed to the pillow in his sleeping bag. “Got any extra pillowcases? Mine is ripped, dirty and nasty.”
“No,” he replied, lying. He did have one extra, in one of the outside, zippered pockets on his pack she obviously didn’t discover.
“No problem then.” Jenny reached over, picked up the pillow and started to take off the pillowcase.
“Hey,” Paul said, trying to grab the pillow.
She pulled it away quickly and shoved him hard in his chest, pushing him back. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Are you kiddin’ me or what?” he asked her.
Jenny looked him straight in the eyes and in an even, flat tone said, “Please shut up.” She put the pillowcase in her backpack and zipped it closed. Jenny then unzipped the entrance to Paul’s tent and crawled out of it.
* * *
Blood pooled on the floor. The man kneeled down, pressed his hands into it and smeared the blood, which wasn’t his, onto his face, covering it. He then stood before an open window and stared intensely down at a crowd gathered below on the street. So it’s starting, the dreamer thought, waking up. Here we go.