"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Henry Slough Chapter V

The Pima twins moved into the bunkhouse and ate meals with Henry and his parents.  They hunkered down over their food to get their mouths at table level, and shoveled in helping after helping of meat loaf, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, and of course Ma Slough’s pot roast garnished with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, creamed potatoes, or rice; and finished with vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, rice pudding, or canned peaches.  They ate so much, were so fat, and ate like pigs that Velva Slough thought that she might as well fill up a bucket full of slop and throw it in the trough by the barn.

The twins spent most of their time in the bunkhouse, especially when Jimmy One Feather came down from North Valley.  They all unloaded soggy cartons and tattered plastic burlap bags.  Jimmy never bothered to put a tarp over the back, preferring to outrun the storms, which was dumb because it is 300 miles from Prairieville to Roseau, and all kinds of shit weather blows in from Canada, or North Dakota.  Jimmy One Feather was wired the whole way anyway, too fucked up and carrying too sketchy cargo to take the four-lanes, so he blasted his F150, culled from the same crop of ballast rusting on trailer lots as the twins’ truck down the the blacktops; and when it rained he just turned up Garth Brooks, yelled the music out the window, cooled his chops with the blast of stinging water, cracked Bud after Bud, and arrived at the bunkhouse looking far worse than bad, long hair no longer ponytailed and bound with a silver and turquoise ring but wet and straggly, eyes red and skanky, twitchy and ready for anything but Minnesota two-lanes.

Henry had no idea what was in the soggy boxes and torn bags, nor what was going on in the bunkhouse.  When he went over to ask the twins what was up, they always replied “Indian business”, especially if Jimmy One Feather was there. Middle Henry could only retreat, trusting Dina’s brothers, but suspicious of the twitchy Ojibwe who was mean and ugly when he had an attitude on and could for sure scalp him with a rusty tin can if he felt like it.  Henry knew him from his carpentering days up north, mean motherfucker who had done his share of slicing and dicing.  “Best give him wide berth”, said the drunks at the bar.

Middle Henry didn’t come by this dumb innocence randomly.  If genes count, his parents were responsible.  His father did taxes for a living, and never once had colluded with, aided and abetted, or even smiled knowingly at any form of tax evasion, no matter how small.  It was a wonder he made any money, Henry always wondered, but then again his clients were farmers, and Mr. Slough kept up on how much of the cow you could deduct, the columns for tornado damage, and tractor repairs.  He was a master of rural deductions for honest, good people with respectable deductions, and many clients came to him to declare their meager earnings.

His mother sold Mary Kay cosmetics and had the same honest, simple attitude as her husband.  Wearing makeup – even the cheap stuff that caked like library glue, the eye shadow that leaked and ran black or blue, the lipstick that smeared like Bozo the Clown – gave the women of this dusty, harsh, and windblown prairie something. Mrs. Slough thought herself a kind of lay minister.  Women put themselves in her hands as she applied eye-liner or foundation, then finished with a magician’s touch of light, illuminating powder and lip gloss.  Like her husband, she did honest work.

The fiendish zoo that lived in or frequented the bunkhouse had no more relevance to or meaning for Mr. and Mrs. Slough than….Here Velva Slough always stopped her thought because she couldn’t imagine anything more bizarre, more unexpected, or so foreign as the two, fat Pima Indians and wiry, twitchy Ojibwe in her bunkhouse. 

Henry was now consumed by two corrosive doubts – first that Dina was screwing his friends; and second that something bad and illegal was happening in the bunkhouse.   The images of Petey Brogan fucking his girlfriend kept him from falling asleep and woke him up.  The nasty, rancid smell, and rattling metal that came from the bunkhouse came in the evening when he was trying to recapture the magic and illusions of childhood and the Corn.

He finally got to sleep by convincing himself that his buddies were just that – his mates, his guys, his crew, bonded like brothers in the same kind of honest work that his parents did in Prairieville.  Stapling tarpaper, hammering drywall, keeping everything in plumb, solid, and reliable were no different than what Dad and Mom did – honestly serving honest clients; but the next night these same buddies were eating Dina’s pussy, sucking her big tits, fucking her up to her eyeballs.

He dismissed the nasty smell by saying, as all Prairieville residents did about farts, pig shit, garbage, and rotting mulch “It’s the mill”, the paper mill, grandfathered in to pollute Big Bear Lake and the air of Hanson County until it died on its own; but the owners, stolid Swedes from the Old Country kept the thing going, defended their property and their right to emit noxious, gaseous, putrid, gagging smells with barbed wire, Dobermans, and four 12-gauges, one for each of the sons.  It was only because of some climatic anomaly in the Canadian air mass and a reverse lake effect that the winds nearly always blew west and into the Dakotas, causing the good people of Brookings and Huron to choke and retch; but occasionally the blessed lake effect anomaly changed its being, and the gaseous cloud covered Prairieville. 

As far as the rattling in the bunkhouse, he figured the twins were still setting in, this being their first home.

Of course, they were building a meth lab in Ma Slough’s bunkhouse.  Jimmy One Feather, as promised, was bringing Sudafed, paint thinner, drain cleaner and all the rest  from the north to the cooker in the south, and the rattling was the sound of jerry-rigged, rattrap works, cobbled together by one wired, spun, and totally fucked-up Ojibwe and two fat, dumber than stone Pima Indians.  It had to blow, and it did.  Luckily no one was in the bunkhouse at the time.  Jimmy One Feather slammed his pickup onto the blacktop and headed to the rez, but the Pima twins were picked up by the Sheriff within hours, charged, and locked up in the County Jail.  There was enough ether, brake cleaner, and Epsom salts that weren’t incinerated in the blast for the prosecution to build a good case.

Henry, being the closest “relative” (the Court was generous in this regard), was responsible for seeing that the twins got a defense – not a good, or superior defense, but a defense, and therefore he had meetings with the Public Defender’s office.  Prairieville was such an upstanding community that there was rarely a call for a public defender, and the only one available worked part time.  His permanent job was selling men’s clothing at the K-Mart in Oakton.  He obviously hadn’t seen the inside of a courtroom in years, but officiously shuffled some kind of papers on the table in front of the twins. 

“We want an Indian lawyer”, said the twins.  “Go get one”.  Nothing doing, said the attorney, happy to have a case that would enable him to renew his license, pay him a few bucks, and most importantly get him away from the wives who were finicky about the cut of the cheap two-pants suits he sold.  “Get us an Indian lawyer”, repeated the twins; and as it turned out, there was a provision in Indian Treaty law that granted jurisdiction in some cases to the Reservation Courts.  Even though the twins were not Ojibwe, they had, it was determined, clear rights to an “Indian trial”.  So the judge in Hanson County granted a defense motion to move the trial to the North Valley Ojibwe Nation Reservation.

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