..Slow down, hell. I came to a complete stop and set my lights to flash.
Deer jam, on the road ten feet in front of us, two does and two little fawns, babies who hadn’t lost their spots yet. The mamas glanced up, moved quickly to pass by me, so close we could’ve rubbed noses before they dashed up the mountainside with feet barely touching the rocky surface. The fawns they left behind—nature at its best, oh yeah, I’d lived a similar scene. But didn’t expect what followed. The little guys sunk to their bellies, heads down and skinny legs splayed over the pavement.
“What’s going on?” I whispered.
“The instinct to survive,” Bish said. “They think they’re hiding from us. Play along and enjoy.”
You bet. Bish rolled down his window, held out his cell phone, and captured the moment on camera. I wondered what happened to my cell phone. Maybe he’d get me another one, if I played along.
I heard snorting to my left, does calling out to their young. The obedient fawns wobbled to their feet and scampered off, taking the same path as their mamas before. The innocence of nature, what a sight, one I wouldn’t soon forget. But then a horn beeped from behind, ordering me to move on. Instead of a flip-off to my rearview mirror, I shifted into drive and stepped on the gas pedal.
Bish broke the spell when he asked, “What are you thinking?”
“The usual: how much further before we get there.”
“Liar,” he said.
No point in arguing; he’d nailed my thoughts. If ever there’s a poll asking for the ideal place to die, I’d have to vote Montana.
We drove another hour, high into the sunset of a mountain, before arriving after dark at our Big Sky hideaway, a two-room log cabin once owned by a sheepherder, according to Bish who perked up on seeing it through the beam of my SUV’s headlights.
“This place better have running water,” I grumbled.
“Not only faucet-wise but a flush toilet,” Bish said, “power-generated electricity too, all the modern conveniences except TV, computer, and telephone.”
“What? Those are my lifelines to the outside world.”
“Mere distractions, take it from one who’s enjoyed many moons in seclusion.”
Without a butt boy, I almost asked but figured it no longer applied to our current situation. “Cut the Indian jive. How many months in one outing, give me a number.”
“Okay, at least six. This is where I learned to meditate.”
“Meditate? That’s what you plan on doing?”
“Hell, I don’t know. I’m down to the wire, taking one day at a time. Now help me unload this truck.”
“Hey, a little respect please. This truck as you refer to it happens to be the SUV of my dreams.”
He didn’t give me any lip. In fact he seemed pleased with the deal we’d made and I figured, what the hell, nothing or nobody lasts forever.
Fire and brimstone, I’d been thinking. Not the kind where if you miss Mass on Sunday and die on Monday, BAM! You’re headed straight to hell with no stopover in purgatory. But more like the sulfuric garbage I imagined spewing from a coach’s fiery halftime speech at the Rose Bowl. “Boys, we suck worse than titty babies. We’re fucking up this, we’re fucking up that, and if we don’t change in the second half, we will get our asses handed to us, big time. Do I make myself clear?”
Yes, a little more fire and brimstone, that’s what I needed to stay awake through the ten o’clock at St. Francis of Assisi, parishioners sitting shoulder to shoulder with me wedged between the oh-so-hot Morgana and her adoring father. And next to Mitch, Blake the Younger who’d insisted on the aisle seat because his brother wasn’t there to take it. Instead of playing Mister Nice Guy, I should’ve shoved Monster Brat into the pew and let Morgana go next.
During Mass in my life before this one, I often revisited my most shameful sins or those I dreamed of some day committing, if only given the chance. Or, maybe I’d imagine a pretty girl kneeling in the pew in front of me instead of the juvy inmate who should’ve been born the girl he loved imitating, poor confused bastard. Straight guys like me, we’d put our thoughts on carnal pilot while suffering through rhetoric that left us clueless to its true meaning. Readings and gospels repeated a dozen times over, homilies no more than impassioned pleas of well-meaning priests, challenging us to live honorable lives. Well-spoken pleas, but nonetheless passive—give me a break. Pro-active, that’s what should count.
Take a stand or sit down and shut up.
Oh, yeah. I’d already taken one stand and where did it get me? Six years in Juvenile Detention, and then some. Years of prostrating myself before God and all that’s holy, years of begging forgiveness, years of watching my back, of sticking it to the worst of the worst before they stuck it to me. And for what—doing what I believed was the right thing to do.
Delores had me to thank for getting her out from under. But when my time came, did she stand up for me, no way. Instead she banned me from the farm, disowned me. As if she ever owned me; nobody owns John Danner the Second. Or Free Danner. And don’t get me started on Lark …