MOON-BLIND BITCHES OF A SICKLE TOWN (nope!)
(Trying out titles for this batch of stories…
a foxhole village in the vast Arctic wastes
East of the Mackenzie and up from the Bay)
Chapter ONE – FLIES
________________________ This is a cartoon ( pencil and ink drawing) a caricature
by artist Ernie Taylor (North Bay, Ontario)….
Working for the “Talk of theTown” Press, whenever I wrote a strange story (which was basically all the time) Ernie loved to capture the `mad act.`
My first article for the Talk of the Town Press was:
“ROVING REPORTER DISCOVERS FLIES” This story drew Ernie`s attention immediately. A line like – “Your Roving Reporter has ascertained that Flies do indeed exist outside the civilized areas.” This line got his attention immediately.
IF YOU WERE WONDERING WHAT I WAS doing with “moon-blind bitches of a Sickle Town” I was trying to make a rhyme, trying to get a title. Rhyme with what? With “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.”.
But that’s where the ressemblance ends – I am working under far more savage and extreme conditions than Leacock ever saw..
You don’t have to feel sorry for the animals
around here – because the animals WILL KILL
YOU– not just the polar bears and the menacing
100 pound weasels. But the wolves howling all around us… and trying to bite my ass when I have a shit!
Here, even the DOMESTICATED animals try to kill you!
Just to set things staraight, THIS STORY IS
TALES OF WAIT-A-BIT
“MOONSHINED BITCHES OF A TOWN
(And by “bitches” I mean fools of both sexes)
Now I`ve moved farther north. Here in the CANADIAN Northwest Territories, you can`t tie up your horse outside for longer than an hour in fly season… If you stay in a bar too long and your horse is tethered outside, one of two things can happen by the time your return.
(1) Your horse has gone mad and he won`t let you near him… every time you draw near he tries to bite you – and there`s no way you can ride him. In his own crazy, eyeball-rolling way the horse is dead serious about hating you… and he won`t change his opinion about you for 2 years. You`ll notice you can see his ribs now,when you never could before. That`s because the clouds of carnivorous insects have been eating his tenderbits – and now they`re thinking of burroughing thru his hide to start devouring his internal organs…
You can be sure his ass hole will mostly have been eaten out so it is almost beyond repair… this will not have a calming effect on your horse, and it is likely he will hate you for as long as he lives. I leave my smokey burrough and and go outside to talk to the fool. I don`t like being outside at this time of day, but – after all, I`m the reason he`s up here, so it`s only fair that I talk to him….
… I can see in his eyes that he`s a long way from sober… He`s getting that “step n`a lurch” tourists get around here. It`s easy to spot… ((Bertie`s walking past: “Hey, Bertie remember that tourist we had a few years back?” Bertie: “Sure do… Nice fella…. Didn`t say much tho… Funny the way he ran after that plane!”
“Sure was.” Nice to talk to Bertie.Don`t see him much anymore… To tell the truth, I thought he was dead.
I go real quick over the lane to talk to the man. It`s obvious his horse is in distress… “Distress” is putting it mildly.
“Your best plan is to shoot him quickly and use his body for food.”
Fella whirls around on one heel and stares off at me as if I`M in the distance when I`m only ten feet away. Peers in my direction like he`s never seen a man in a hat before. He says,”WHAT?” He`s looking off to the south trying to see the plane. The Plane`s been gone for hours. Won`t see a plane for weeks now, maybe months, maybe a quarter year.
I SAY: “You`re going to need the food for survival in these parts. And nothing stands still here for long…” Just as I say this, a dog goes running past us down the street, as if ten children are throwing rocks at him. And they say God doesn`t have a sense of humour. Well. nobody says that up here. Up here everybody knows God has a sense of humour… Just… not a very pleasant sense of humour…
This guy. He keeps staring at me like he has never seen a hat before, keeps trying to reach up under my screenings…. I swat his hand away and kick his leg a light one. “WHAT?” he shouts at me again.
Spose he`s been down to Artie`s Grill That`s the only place you can get liquor around here. And the man hasn`t had time to make his own.
I say: “YOU`RE GOING TO HAVE TO SHOOT THAT HORSE!” “WHAT!” he shouts at me. He`s not asking questions now. Now he`s getting rude. And he`s standing there unarmed.. He`s sort of a big fella, but I was big when I first came up here, too..
I SAY: “The horses can`t stay out long this time of year…Usually they just run up and down the street a few times and peel right back into the barn. Then we lock the barn door tight.” He`s walking up close to me now. “What do you mean this time of year?” he asks…
“I mean the summer!” It doesn`t last long but it`s NASTY, LONG AS IT LASTS!”
He shouts,”Looking for a man called WILCOX!”
“You mean HENRY Wilcox?” I ask.
“I MEAN ANY KIND OF FUCKIN` WILCOX AT ALL!”
“Ha! Ha!, Well, you came to the right place! I`m Frank Wilcox. Henry was my uncle.”
“WAS?” WAS? Did you say, WAS your Uncle? YOU MEAN I JUST CAME 5,000 MILES TO SEE A DEAD MAN?`”
“Yeah, that’d be right. But don`t be blaming me about Henry. S`ǹot my fault he`s dead… you can`t just go runnin`off across the muskeg around here! It looks like a field, I know, but it`s got HOLES in it… Just watch the moose they don`t stay on top long…. Course you won`t see a moose this month…”
Once again he made a grab for my hat….kicked him harder this time closer to the knee….This one `hurt-a-bit`. In Jamaica they got a town called “Wait-a-bit?” but that`s a different story…. …… …… Sure as hell wish I was in Jamaica now…. It`s hotter here —- and you can`t get a beer to save your life…
“DON`T GRAB AT MY HAT AGAIN!” i`m taller than this fool when I stand up straight, and you better believe I can choke the life out of him…. God knows, I`ve had enough practice! It`s just not smart to stand up straight around here – you make a better target…
HE SAYS: “You kick me one more time, I`ll rip your nose off!! Right off your face… that`s if you have a nose!!! Under all that screen shit. COME `ERE! I WANT TO GET A LOOK AT YOU””
Artie`s laughing so hard he`s rolling in the dirt… 3 legged dog keeps sniffin at him…
“WHERE YOU FROM, ASSHOLE?”
“Maryland…” he says
“””YOU DON`T TOUCH MY HAT! Takes too long to strap it on! Those screens are real important to me. I`ll tie em up when we get inside… Artie`s buying us a drink.” Artie, get up! You look like you`re enjoying what that dog`s doing to ya!!”…… a little too much.
We go inside and I get Artie to unsnap the back of my hat where it tightens around the neck… I hang the hat from a hook in the ceiling…. don`t have to reach too high for the hook. Ceiling`s only 4 inches above the top of my head
when I`m crouching…. which I do these days pretty much all the time. You get used to walking in a crouch… ask anybody who”s been in the army for about 4 years where people are shootin at yer head.
Now that I got my hat off and the tourist can see my face —- it`s too dark in Artie`s to see yer face…( I can write good english, but not always)
It`s cool in Artie`s Bar because it`s dug in the ground…like every other fukin place around here….after the Joint Canadian-American cruise missile tests… and that dumb NUK (I mean CAN-NUK – I`m not being racist, not that anybody`d notice around here… nobody gives a fuck and I tell ya…after smoking your skin a foot from a wood stove 10 months a year… nobody can tell what colour your skin is anyway… cause it`s too dark to see anywhere you can relax enough to have a drink…..after all, there`s only Artie`s.
This guy`s name is Hank and he`s not a bad guy – he`s going to have to learn some manners…. He just took the oil lamp off the bar and shone it in my face….
Nearly blinded me: “Relax, just want to see what you look like…see if you`re half mad or if you`ve gone all the way.” Artie laughs: “Oh, he`s gone all the way.. All the way and back!”
“All the way round the moon —— only the dogs up here understand him cause they sing together.”
“SHUT UP, ARTIE!” It`s nice to see him – just not that nice.
” So what were you trying to tell me about my horse?” the tourist asks me.
I was saying…. YOU`RE GOING TO HAVE TO SHOOT THAT HORSE….Artie`ll lend you a rifle and sell you a bullet.
Artie pours us all a double shot of moonshine mixed with water, berry juice and syrop from farther south, flown up from NORMAN WELLS..
“OK, listen to me now: You`ll likely be spending the winter here, because people don`t like cruelty to animals in these parts, so no one is going to give you a ride south. Not that there are any rides south —- unless you can paddle 2000 miles up river….”Ha! Ha! Me and Artie laugh. After all, you`ve just lost your transportation. You`d better shoot him fast before he runs off into a lake somewhere and stands up to his neck in water for days, like the deer do.
“Every once in a while you`ll see a deer duck his head under the water to get the flies off. He`ll stand there in the lake up to his chin in water with his eyes closed and he won`t move.It`s hard to see em after a while – look just like a stump.”
“No, your best plan is to shoot him quick before he gets in too deep and then you`ll never catch him. But first you`re going to have to dig some holes – at least four feet deep, so they`re below the frost line. And don`t you put more than 20 pounds of horsemeat in any one hole!”
“Good God, you`re kidding!” he shouts, scratching all the while, and insisting on scratching repeatedly in several unattractive places. After a while you see newcomers do a dance, hopping from one leg to another – rather like a kid who has shit himself.
“I only wish I was kidding,” I say to him, giving him a sympathetic nod and trying not to laugh. He`s noticed I have a big screened hat on my head – I look like a beekeeper, only crazier and more extreme,(Talking now when we first met) “We got flies and biting insects up here that make bees look cuddly and friendly – sometimes they even look like they can keep your warm.”
“Better have another drink…” I tell the poor man. I remember when the realization first hit me – and I`m not talking about any spiritula Awakening…The spiritual awakening you have up here is that you`re fucked – I mean well and truly fucked. Not fucked by a woman …not good fucked (Yeah we still have women up here, if you know where to dig deep enough)”
“DIG deep enough?” he looks at me ascance, as if I`ve offended womankind. He`s worried about this is he? The poor little fruit? Jesus Christ! He`d better go somewhere else and flap his hands at the end of those limp wrists he has… (OOOOooo, I`m feeling the 200 proof, that`s good. Nothing like drinking out of a tin cup to really taste the stuff! “)
There`s class and there`s class and up here this is class…
“Hey, Artie, fire a blast at Jerimiah!” ( I mean a blast of sound —- bullets are too expensive to waste…. and we really need em in the dead of winter…”
“When`s the dead of winter?” the Tourist asks
“Shit! Was I speaking out loud?”
“Sure wuz,” says Artie…. I stare at him like it`s the first time I`ve ever seen him. I can`t remember ever hearing him talk.”
“OK, Mary`s Land – the LIKKER`S STARTING TO TAKE EFFECT —— that means hallucinations —— I like it when it happens – I think it`s an added attraction, but.it… it takes a little getting used to…. the rule is – DON`T SHOOT ANYTHING UNLESS IT MOVES REAL FAST!”
“I don`t have a gun,” says Hank.
“HEY, ARTIE, GET THE MAN A GUN. He`s gonna need a gun soon as he starts seeing things…Or needs to take a shit. We all start to laugh. I lean over and say to Hank – the outhouses aren`t the safest places around here, either. You really do have to take a gun when you have to go for a shit
“Artie, you`ll have to show him how to shoot!” Artie whips a twelve gauge shotgun out from under his smock and blows the horns clean off one of the mooseheads by the door.
I didn`t think Artie could see that far – twelve feet! Har! Har!…. I just saw somethin skitter real fast acroos the bar… I blast it`s head off quick like lightning with my no stock
sawed-off single-shot boit action Lee and Enfield 303. I keep it as a convenience under my right arm….I` feel naked without it; hell, I can`t walk straight without it. (I probably can`t even relax and take a shit without it resting there under my arm, but you don`t need to know that) ”
“None of that pistol in the pants bullshit we used to see on TV… when we had TV….before that Canadian flyboy blew the jail and mayor`s office, the A&P and our Artic version of the Dixie Chicks right off the face of the map and incinerated 4 fifths of the town in .036th of a second.
” I MISS THOSE GIRLS….”wails Artie and goes outside crying to have a piss.
“Fuck! Did that really happen?” Hank`s starting to scribble in a notebook…. ….. I watch him for a while. I used to scribble in Notebooks, too – it`s nice to see some fool at work – scribbling like the idiot I used to be. ”
“Oh, it happened all right, and that` not all that happened…” After all the corrugated cement buildings turned to powder, the Beasts moved back in. The lowlands here were always the Wolverines` home.
“By the way, how` you manage to have yourself dropped off by a plane that lands here only 3 times a year?”
“WILCOX hired me as a reporter….”
That stuns Artie and me into silence… it takes a long time for us to digest the absurdity of it all.
And the unbalanced strangely tilted technicolour beauty of living in a world ruled by the smiling Trickster God —-The Trickster clearly has gotten us all by the cosmic/comic balls ….
“You were to be my replacement – but Henry`s dead… he ran off into the bush with a hard-on. God knows what he was chasing… they found his socks and his Walkman,that was all -The same song was playing over and over again…and we hope the song had nothing to do with his death.”
The booze was obviously finding a place in Hank… On impulse he rubbed his hands over the wood stove until his hands were pitch black, then he smeared his hands over his face and the back of his neck and in the crack of his ass and he rubbed more of the soot on his balls….
“We`ve got women who will do that for you,” said Artie
It might have been something I said — I told him smoke is the only effective fly repellant in the area, especially when you mix the soot with skunk piss. But then there is always the chance a huge weasel will wait for you in your deep-dug- human-home (in the army it`s called a foxhole)….. and mount you when you enter in the dark. “And you don`t always have to be covered in skunk piss,” Artie says.”If you`re lucky you will have passed out drunk , before the animal has it`s way with you.” Artie knows. It`s happened twice to Artie. The first time he was pass3ed out drunk, the second time, not so much
They tell me, if you happen to be sober at the time, the nightmares persist for many years.
When the missile struck, we were fortunate. It was summer and the people leave any way they can. There were only forty-six of us left in town. Now we have 16, but this is different. This is our busy season.
“Nobody knows where we are. And we don’t know where we are either!”Artie laughs.
“Don’t depress the poor tourist,” I say to Artie, feeling the moonshine
like a strong breeze in my ears already,
“The poor fool will be depressed plenty… when he understands the
sitUation he’s in up here!”
After Incineration Day, all our memories went blank. To tell the truth,
none of us can remember what the town used to be called. In time
maybe somebody will remember the name of our town and exactly where
we’re at. Maybe, maybe not. We gotta wait. This is why we call this
(C)2000-2016 by William G. Milne
from LIGHTHEARTED TALES OF ISOLATION AND PANIC etc.