Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Do Not Go Dangling Into That Good Night

Do Not Go Dangling Into That Good Night
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Lucas Backwaterblue was a full-blooded Apache Indian. He could trace his ancestry nearly all the way back to Geronimo. So it came as something of a surprise to the elders of his community when he married Leona O'Hare, a white girl, and just a sprig of a lass who was drifting across the south from Myrtle Beach and looking to find her way to Hollywood, where she hoped to become a TV star on one of the daytime soaps she loved so much.

When Leona pulled her musty green '91 Chevy into Turkey Creek, Louisiana, she hoped to get simply a cold beer and a fried egg sandwich. Little did she know what fate had waiting for her as she stepped into the tiny foyer of the Chicot Lodge, out there on the Saint Landry Highway. There, she bumped headlong into Lucas Backwaterblue on his way out of the men's room.

The tall and rangy First Nations American was still sorting things out in his Levis, and before he could sidestep her, one of Lucas's size 12 alligator boots stepped on Leona's sandled right foot. She swayed backward from the pain of her foot being crushed, but instead of being able to step away from him, her foot was pinned, and she bobbed and weaved like one of those blow-up, plastic punch-the-clowns, until finally Lucas lifted his foot and released her.

She collapsed backwards into a small settee, and her foot blew up to the size of a red birthday balloon. Leona's agony whipped up a scream in her mind, which began working its way through a fifth of amazement mixed with a shot of puzzlement, until finally it exploded from her lips as possibly the worst curse and racial slur the good folk of Turkey Creek had ever heard.

Maybe it was this whoop of her scream, maybe it was the sight of her frailty, maybe it was the green of her eyes, but whatever the reason, Lucas Backwaterblue suddenly felt a wave, no check that, he felt a levee-busting flood of love for Leona O'Hare wash over him and deep into his heart.

Three days later, the two were married in the County Coroner's office, Doc Watschoken being the closest thing to a public official around at the time.

Now, you might be wondering how Leona could marry a man who had nearly sent her shopping for a prosthetic foot, but who can really understand the mysteries of love? Certainly, the man was full of anguish and guilt when he lifted her up in his arms and drove her to the small Humana Hospital in Ville Platte, and so she figured he would be obliging to her for years to come. Anyway, Leona knew the Chevy was never going to make it through the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, and Lucas Backwaterblue drove one fine looking pickup, smoky red with black detailing with an in-bed hydraulic camper on the back.

The marriage of Lucas and Leona Backwaterblue had a shaky beginning. Leona never expected Lucas to be all the man he was, and after sex, she felt like a Thanksgiving turkey, stuffed and basted, with enough leftovers for the next two days.

Worse still, Lucas had a habit of dangling. Be it night or day, he liked to walk around naked, because as he would say, "I need air out my tomahawk." Mostly Leona ignored his dangling, until one afternoon, she woke from a nap to find Lucas standing over her and dangling just above her left nostril. Needless to say, she was not amused. No one likes to wake up to what appears to be a hooded cruise missile on a heat seeking mission so close to yesterday's green tea and cucumber facial at the Robinnette Beauty Pampery.

Leona tired of Turkey Creek in a matter of hours, but Lucas was not about to leave without some reason. So Leona convinced him that no marriage was really able to get going without a honeymoon. When Lucas offered to take her to Kisatchie National Forest for a week, she vigorously declined, and that night, while well above him in bed, she told him that, for all the world, she wanted to see Disneyland in California. She gave him her most longing look, but she could tell he wasn't so sure about such a long and hard trip. So she made him sure by taking the long and hard out of the equation, and they set off the very next evening.

Once Lucas and Leona were on the road, Lucas discovered the tourist in his soul. He stopped at every Lookout Point along the highway and at every backwater, roadside attraction, be it Farley's Fabulous Flea Circus or Everything's Yummy at Everything's Honey. Of all these revenue roto-rooters, he liked the Reptile Museum the best, where he spent almost two hours fidgeting with the plastic lizards and iguanas, and worrying Leona about whether he should buy the alligator hat or the tie-dyed T-shirt with the snake imprinted across the back.

Leona left him to his shopping and waited for him in the cab of the truck. She turned on the engine and blasted the air-conditioning directly into her face. Her eyes drooped from fatigue, and her tongue slipped slightly out the side of her mouth just as she fell asleep in a stream of gas-guzzling cool air. When Lucas came from the shop and peeked at her through the window, he knew she would be the only woman in his life. She looked like Jack Twofeather's golden lab hanging its tongue out the side window of Jack's truck on a hot summer's joyride into town, but to Lucas, she was a angel who had dropped from Heaven and right into his lap.

Leona woke with a start when the hot air from outside rushed in the cab. She looked over to see Lucas dangling by the driver's side door. More precisely, he was dangling and urinating in the dusty parking lot.

"Men are lucky" he crooned to Leona with a smile that one could have easily mistaken for a smirk. "We can pee anywhere."

The days and the miles rolled by slowly. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Leona saw the "Welcome To Arizona" sign, and she was suddenly full of hope. One more state to cross, and she would be in California. She turned to Lucas and asked him if they would be in California by the end of the day. He looked at her like she had suddenly gone stark raving mad.

"Could be done, but can't be done," he said blankly. "We have to see the Grand Canyon, woman. It's a national monumentality."

So just as the sun was setting that evening, the honeymooners pulled into a camp ground on the very ledge of the Grand Canyon. The view was truly impressive, and even Leona was glad they had gone out of their way to see it. She felt as though she were standing at the edge of a brave new world.

That night, Lucas built a fire, and he and Leona sat around it watching the flames flicker in the dark. There was an air of magic that drew them closer together than they had ever been before. Leona nestled into the crook of Lucas's arm, and the night seemed dead quiet, until a small man in a blue fedora stepped out of a beat up Volkswagen van parked in the campsite beside theirs. He carried a kerosene lantern, which he placed on the picnic table chained to a slab of concrete. There he sat and looked up at the stars with the fixed studious gaze of an astronomer.

Leona thought the odd little man comical, and she giggled as she watched him, but Lucas called to him to come share their fire. The man turned his head towards them, and sure enough, he got up slowly and walked towards them. When he came within the glow of the fire, Lucas introduced himself and his wife.

"Nice to meet you," the man said in a kind of deep, monotone voice. "You must be honeymooners."

"We are," Lucas confirmed. "We're on our way to Disneyland."

"Disneyland?" the man asked with a look of surprise.

"Yes, Disneyland," Leona piped in with the firmest voice she could muster, suddenly unsure of this little man who seemed to measure her with his beady, intense eyes.

"In Disneyland, everything is what it is," the man said in a low voice. "Out here, nothing is what it is and everything is what it isn't. Disneyland is where you will discover the truth about one another."

Even as he was speaking, the stranger had begun a slow walk back to his own camp site. Just as he was about to open the side door of his van, Lucas, who was still mulling over what the man had said, called over to him.

"Mister ... uh," Lucas shouted, "sorry, I didn't get your name ..."

"Bob," the man said just loud enough to be heard above the crackling fire.

"Nice to meet you, Bob," Lucas replied. "Come over for breakfast, if you like."

The man mumbled something, then merely waved, climbed into his van, and pulled the door shut.

"Interesting man," Lucas said to Leona.

"Interesting asshole," Leona blurted out. "No way he's coming for breakfast, Chief, no way, you hear?"

Lucas watched as the closest moment he had ever shared with his wife dissolved into a rant. Leona threw a Styrofoam cup, half full of coffee, into the fire, and she stormed off the bed.

For a moment, Lucas wasn't sure what to do. He stood up and walked towards the canyon. He wanted to dangle over the edge and urinate into what he imagined the largest outhouse dig in all of creation.

Sadly, perhaps because of the dark or perhaps because his mind was filled with confusion, he took a step too many. His luck, as a man, had run out.



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