(01-23) Creamed Corn

After the first round was fired Indian Shadow could have run away, but he did not. He ran back inside to the refrigerator to rescue the Patriarch. He was reaching for the container when it was hit and the samples blended together and dripped into a bowl of creamed corn. He grabbed the bowl and slipped behind the stuffed Grizzly Bear. He didn’t consciously see that no rounds were hitting the bear but his body knew, and it went there.

He was bleeding but it was from being cut by flying glass, not from being hit. Time slowed down inside moments like this one. Rounds were hitting everywhere else but not hitting the bear. It was protected by Indian spirits. He was under the same protection, so far. Time had slowed to a trickle, and Indian Shadow was seeing a weak television picture in his mind, in which he could read the heat from the bodies approaching. They were all coming from the same direction, probably so they wouldn’t shoot each other. Two of them burst through the door and looked at the open refrigerator. One of them yelled, “Gene, what is this shit?”

“Sperm,” Gene said. He looked at the ruined refrigerator. “Gather up what you can and bring it along.”

“Me? I’m not touching it. Fuck you.”

“It’s an order, so fuck you.” The ferocity of the gunny sergeant took the younger man by surprise so that he died with a surprised expression on his face. Gene kicked the other man’s weapon clear and leaned down to make sure he was dead. The part that fired in rage had already slipped back hehind enemy lines and Gene was now calculating how he was going to explain killing one of his own team. The woman’s voice spoke in his head: “He was firing on the refrigerator, blowing it to pieces, and I had to stop him. He was destroying the Patriarch.”

“Gene!” A voice came from outside. “Is it secure?”

“I’ll fucking let you know when it’s secure so follow orders.” He had turned toward the door and there was a moment of lapse. It was a special moment because while he was inside it he knew he had made a fatal mistake. He hadn’t consciously noticed that the bear was undamaged, but his inner partner had noticed, and didn’t want to turn his back on it. He whirled, bringing up his weapon, when the twinge electrified his scalp and stood his hair on end.

Except that Indian Shadow was on the floor and the pattern stitched across the bear’s chest came at the same instant a round caught Gene in his open mouth on an upward trajectory and blew chunks of skull and brains outward in a spray pattern. There were two others but this was the one who needed killing. He slipped out the back door and crawled on his belly to look around the side of the house where he’d been standing a moment before Louis was hit.

The man wasn’t looking in his direction. He was beside the window, focused on it, now, carefully, looking through it at the scene inside. The light reflected on his face, a glowing target. Indian Shadow squeezed off a round. At the same instant the man moved. The round took off most of his left ear and sent him screaming and cursing backward, spraying a semi-circle around him.

The fourth man in the squad had come around the house, walking about a hundred feet in the shadows, to get a clean shot at Indian Shadow. The spray from his partner hit his body armor and knocked him off balance as he pulled the trigger. He hit his partner in the left knee and the fleshy part of the right thigh, just before he took a round through the neck from Indian Shadow. “That’s for Louis." He drew down on the last man standing as the last man standing collapsed.

The pain of the shattered knee had knocked him unconscious. Indian Shadow sat beside him until he had a moment of lucidity. “You want to stay alive?”

“This is just a job to me, mister.”

“Then don’t commit suicide for it."

Indian Shadow gathered the weapons and dropped them in the duck pond beside the Inn. The soldier left alive was quiet, now. He must have gone unconscious again, or maybe not. He wasn’t going anywhere on a shattered knee. Indian Shadow went back inside to find some plastic wrap for the creamed corn. He would be hunted, now. He slapped the corporate mercenary awake. “Where’s your vehicle?”

The man motioned with his head back toward the dunes. “Eleven o’clock.” Anticipating, he added, “the key’s in it.” Indian Shadow stared down at him, but without malice.

“I’m not killing you because you saved my life. I didn't know there was somebody behind me." But the other man had lost consciousness again.

Indian Shadow muttered something untranslatable to the surrounding night.

All of the bikes had the keys in the ignition so he took the one he came to first. They were identical black Suzukis. At the edge of the dunes was a pewter grey transport they’d brought the bikes in on. He didn’t see anyone with it. He wasn’t in the mood to see anyone else. He kicked the bike to life and gunned it toward the highway. It was the middle of the night and the sounds began to soak him like blood; he’d shut it out while he was focused on getting the Patriarch out of there but the screams of the little people began now to pierce him, so that he had to drive off the road at the first turnout he found and lay down with it in tall grass, and wonder. He had to wonder if he could have saved them.

“I called for medical services,” the Patriarch said. “You couldn’t help them.”

Indian Shadow was staring, unblinking, at fast moving clouds veiling the moon, which would slip free for a moment and then be covered again, so that it was an erotic dance between them. “You don’t know.”

“I’m afraid I do. You couldn’t help them because I wouldn’t let you help them. We didn’t have time for it, because the one’s who were mortally wounded couldn’t be helped, and the others didn’t need more help. When you killed the gunmen you gave them all the help they needed.”

“I just killed two of them. One isn’t dead.”

“He is now. Shock.”

Indian Shadow had picked a spot where he could get the bike out of sight in the tall grass. His body began to shake from the quantities of adrenalin which had coursed through him. He relaxed his muscles and let his body shake out until he was peaceful again. He’d saved some of them and he’d not been able to save some of them. He couldn’t have saved Louis. By the time he realized the little man was hit he was hit again, and he was dead. Cowboy Jesus had ascended.

Indian Shadow fell asleep. He dreamed he was watching the moon and the clouds when the moon began to grow brighter, and he knew it was falling to earth, would collide with the earth and destroy all the life on it. He opened his eyes and checked to make sure the moon was still there, in the damp Mendocino sky. Somewhere up the highway there was a growing chorus of sirens.

Posted: Wed - September 3, 2008 at 06:55 PM