This story tied for 2nd place in the Finn McCool’s 2012 Short Story Contest. The story is included in the print collection, edited by Stephen Rea, “Finn McCool’s Short Story Entries 2010-2012.” It is available for purchase for $15 at Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, 3701 Banks Street, NOLA. (All proceeds benefit St. Baldrick’s Charity to fight childhood cancer).
We had to use the following ten words in our stories:
Published with permission of Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, New Orleans.
Along for the Ride © Copyright 2012 by Sara Jacobelli (First printing rights Finn Mcool’s Irish Pub New Orleans)
I ended up driving away from Round Valley heading into the mountains with Dixon, wild-eyed speed-freak sitting by the open window blasting Zeppelin on the tape-deck smoking Camels and tweaking-tweaking-tweaking, and Winter Hawk, seventeen year old Wailacki Indian kid quiet in the backseat. Dixon’s plan was to shoot Winter Hawk for stealing ten grand worth of our plants. I was supposed to be the driver, not the shooter, still, Dixon wasn’t talking tomfoolery, he was planning murder. I had no way out.
Dixon’s idea was to convince Winter Hawk to look at a site for guerilla growing, next season he can be partners with us. We’d provide the indica starts. The kid never knew we solved the mystery, we’re on to him and the rag-tag bunch of Indian and white teenage rip-off punks calling themselves the Mountain Posse.
It wasn’t hard to convince Winter Hawk to come with us. He was just hanging around the Hudda, watching TV, bored. He’s got that fatalistic attitude a lot of the guys on the res have. They ain’t scared of shit. Unlike me. I was scared.
Dixon stared out the window with a vacant expression on his face and bobbed his head in this annoying way to Zeppelin. I was lucky he wasn’t playing air guitar. It wouldn’t have been so scary if I hadn’t known about the hot Smith and Wesson in the pocket of his baggy army coat. His skinny body and pop eyes and stupid fatigues made him look like an escaped POW.
“I’m sick of bullshit rock.” They both groaned, but I stuck Miles Davis in the deck, Kind of Blue. Dixon passed a joint, some of the shit that we grew last season, that strong, sweet, sticky herb that put Mendocino County on the map. “Make sure there’s no roaches in the ash-tray, Kelly hates that.”
Miles. We saw him in Oakland, what year was it? Had to be at least five years ago, 90 or 91. Coming back on the Bay Bridge I was so banjaxed on Ecstasy and Jack Daniels I lost control of our 69 Chevy and almost ran into the concrete blocks that hold up the bridge. Me and Kelly had the same thought at the same time: I’m gonna die right now but at least I saw Miles.
“Can’t you drive any faster Jake?”
Never mind Miles, I had to deal with Dixon. I knew there was a chance he’d change his mind, with his famously short attention span. We drove along the road drinking Budweisers and Winter Hawk spotted a bear.
“Why isn’t that bear hibernating?” I asked.
Winter Hawk bummed a Camel off Dixon. “The bears don’t hibernate here. The snow only lasts a week or two. Been hunting up here with my uncles and cousins since I was a little kid.”
“Too bad Kelly didn’t see it.”
“Kelly likes bears?”
“Shit. Any animals. Saw a bald eagle up here, the day after her mother died. Kelly went nuts, saying it was her mother’s spirit soaring to heaven.”
“A bald eagle. Kelly’s cool.” I never heard Winter Hawk talk much. “My grandma brought me to her house a coupla times, me an my brother. You know, my little brother that got shot in the leg? She tutored us in reading. My grandma likes her. She doesn’t like much Wasichu either.”
“What’s Wasichu?” Dixon interrupted the kid’s reverie.
“White people, it’s what jines call white people.”
Winter Hawk finished his beer. “It’s what Indians call each other. What do white folks call each other?”
“White trash. Except for Dixon. We call him Rich White Surfer Boy.”
“Will you idiots shut up?” Dixon pulled out Miles and shoved in the Stones. He turned up the volume, tapping his fingers in an unruly rhythm against the side of the car as his right hand hung out the window. He fingered the gun in his pocket with his left hand.
“We’ll be in Mad River if I drive much farther.”
Dixon ignored me and turned around to glare at Winter Hawk. “Your grandmother ever teach you it was wrong to steal?”
Dixon, careless and garrulous, when he’s wasted words are effluent.
The kid opened another Bud for me and one for himself. “Hey, gypsies can steal, why not Indians? Anyhow, I was telling about Kelly.”
I turned down the volume so I could hear him.
“That was four years ago. We was just kids. My grandma said we should do something for her, because of the free tutoring and books and videos she gave us. I figured I could chop wood for her or something. She said she wanted me to take her to the Eel River when no one else was there.”
I stopped the car. All three of us got out to piss on a poison oak bush while Winter Hawk told the story.
“She told me she grew up near New York City, in the projects, and never learned how to swim. I guess she felt shamed. I taught her how to float on her front and on her back. She was so proud to learn that, she was like a little kid. I never knew you could teach a grown person something. You got a good old lady there.”
We got back in the car. I could tell we were almost there because Dixon was bouncing in his seat like a dog recognizing the road home. I shifted into park and turned around to look at Winter Hawk. He was an arrogant little jerk, maybe he deserved it. But I couldn’t go through with killing this kid, somebody’s son, somebody’s grandson. I thought about Kelly. She had guts, guts and integrity.
“Yeah, I do have a good old lady.”
“Why’d you stop the car?” Dixon said, turning up the Stones.
“I can’t drive with burnt out rockers singing along to thirty year old songs! How many times have you played that tape?”
Dixon got out of the car, slammed the door. “You can’t drive anyway. You don’t even know where this place is.”
I got out and walked around to the passenger’s side, trying to think of some way I could signal Winter Hawk. Dixon slid into the driver’s seat.
“Come on, let’s GO!” He tap-danced his fingers on the steering wheel, bored, his danger volume on high. His face was so red he looked like a flabbergasted flamingo. “A retard could drive this road.”
“You’re proving that.” I lit a cigarette. “There’s snow on the ground, be careful.”
“You’re a little old lady, this jalopy’s a grandma car.”
It started snowing harder. I thought about growing up in Connecticut. Staying in bed listening to the radio, waiting to hear school was closed for a snow day. Too bad the three of us couldn’t settle our differences with a good snowball fight.
“Here we are.” Dixon pulled over to the side of the road and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper as we got out of the car. “We use bicycles, hide them in the bushes when we come up to check on the plants.”
“But people can see our tracks heading down to the patch.”
“Taken care of, Kemosabe.” He smiled his evil grin. “They got a store in San Francisco, sells these Ninja boots, makes your footprints look like a cow, or a deer, or a pig. Nobody will suspect nothing.”
“Let the cops wear the pig boots.” Winter Hawk said.
“Let’s go.” Dixon scurried ahead.
We followed, first Winter Hawk, then me. I thought of grabbing Winter Hawk and running to the car and getting out of there. But Dixon had the keys in his pocket.
I had no way out. If I tried to change Dixon’s mind he’d kill me too. He couldn’t wait to use that gun. I thought about Winter Hawk’s grandmother, raising all these kids, helpless to keep them out of trouble. Her grandson shot, dead in the snow, eaten by hungry bears.
We didn’t hear Dixon for awhile. The brush got thicker, these prickly things kept getting me. The path grew steeper. Winter Hawk moved swiftly, he knew these woods like he knew the Eel. I wondered why he wasn’t quite keeping up with Dixon. He’d stop every so often to wait for me.
“Down here, perfect, there’s even a spring. Jake, don’t fall on your ass.”
I started to say something and Winter Hawk put his finger to his lips. He held up his hand for me to stop and pulled a small gun from his boot. I attempted to steady my breath. Winter Hawk eased gently through the scrub, down the hill toward Dixon. I stood there drinking in the scent of the pines and the scrub oaks, watching a squirrel scramble up a tree. Kelly would say it was an omen.
Two shots. That was it. I’m glad I didn’t see the blood. I hate blood. I hate bullshit rock.
Story judges are Stephen Rea and Ian McNulty.
Photo Credit: cdfgnews.wordpress.com Wildlife Conservation Board Funds. Copyright Free Google Images.