Three Stories

Matt Hill

Three Drunks & A Bear

Three railroad workers are out fishing on a remote mountain lake on their day off. By 8 A.M. they have already consumed large amounts of beer and whiskey. The 12 hp Johnson outboard is choking as they sputter across the still water. Words are jokingly spoken about having to row if the motor craps out. As one of the fishermen looks ahead, he sees a large animal swimming across their anticipated line of trajectory. The animal is a bear. A black bear. In the middle of the lake. Presumably heading for the opposite shore.

The inebriated fisherman with his hand on the outboard throttle says “Hey Charlie, let’s lasso that bear. He can pull us to shore.” So Charlie prepares the rope with a loose slipknot and ties one end to a cleat on the bow. He misses several throws with the lasso, but he finally does get it over the bear’s head. Very quickly however, the bruin sums up the situation, stops treading water, grabs the rope and starts pulling himself towards the boat. No sir, there’s NO fucking way he’s going to pull these assholes anywhere!

Well, the one named Charlie can’t untie the knot on the cleat fast enough, since he’s overtied it, and he starts yelling “Here comes the bear!” The bear is now pulling himself over the bow and into the boat. Charlie and the other guy go over both sides, while the third drunk is flailing around in panic mode, trying to gun the sputtering outboard while his buddies clutch the gunwales, yelling at the bear to get out of their boat. The bear growls a bit, then sniffs at the cooler, proceeds to tear off the lid, finds the sandwiches, and scarfs them down. Then the critter gets its mouth around the remaining beer cans, and guzzles the contents through the punctured tooth holes.

Meanwhile, the outboard has died, and won’t restart. The bear spreads itself out and begins to nap, taking up most of the boat. The drunks start using one oar and one arm to make the slow trip back to shore, cursing the whole way.

October Afternoon

On routine patrol, Officer Earl Fester listened to the stolen vehicle dispatch coming across the police band while he chewed on a piece of peppered beef jerky. The suspect, a tall white male, curly grey hair, mid-forties with several priors, a scar across his right cheek. The stolen vehicle reportedly parked by the front gate of the missile test site, a ten minute drive from Fester’s present location.

He proceeded up the mountain to the site, and upon his arrival at the locked gate, Officer Fester observed the suspect sitting in the reported vehicle; that is, sitting behind the wheel, partially obscured by a thick cloud of cannabis smoke. Strategically parking his cruiser on the bias behind the stolen late model Chrysler sedan, Fester nimbly jumped out of the cruiser and proceeded through the interrogation and arrest procedures.

The October afternoon was unusually hot, even for Indian Summer. As Officer Fester handcuffed the very stoned suspect, and began to secure him into the back seat, the suspect quickly asked if he could ride up front where the air conditioner was. Although knowing this was a breach of law enforcement protocol, Fester experienced a moment of weakness by agreeing to the request. Yet he opened the passenger door for the cuffed suspect, and flipped the air toggle switch to high. With clipboard in hand, he then proceeded to the driver’s side of the stolen vehicle, and began writing up a preliminary report.

Back in the cruiser, the suspect looked back, stealthily, to make sure Officer Fester was focused upon his writing activity, and Houdini-like, slid his cuffed wrists under his ass and slowly worked his wrists downward while raising his legs upward. With some difficulty, he managed to get one foot past his wrists, then the other. With his cuffed wrists now in his lap, he slid to his left over the locked shotgun, turned the ignition key while grabbing the gearshift lever, dropped it into Reverse while spinning the wheel with his thumbs, stopped with a screech, dropped it back into Drive, and punched the gas pedal.

Officer Fester looked up in time to see his patrol car, rear tires smoking and squealing, vanish down the mountain road. Immediately realizing the futility of a chase as he started to run, he fired off several rounds towards the quickly receding vehicle, loudly cursing this man for whom he had just done a good deed.

With his mostly immobilized wrists making it pretty tough to make the tight turns on the downhill run, the suspect was managing to put some major scrapes on the cruiser’s side panels as he bounced off the mountainside to his right. After several miles of this, he had almost made it to the straightaway before the state highway. But that last turn was just a little too tight. The cruiser slid sideways over the embankment, and rolled a few times before coming to rest upright in the secure embrace of two pine trees.

Meanwhile, on the mountain top, Officer Fester’s mayday call had gone out, with every available unit furiously responding, the roadblocks set up at every major intersection. Several hours of search ensued, with the canine units eventually locating the mangled cruiser off the road’s embankment. The suspect remained unaccounted for however, having headed off into the steep and brushy terrain.

In the following months, Officer Fester was frequently seen unloading his pickup at the local landfill. Rumor had it that he had been suspended for breach of protocol, and had been placed on indefinite administrative leave. But now with this new line of hauling work he was in, at least he didn’t have to put his uniform on every day.

Mojave

We sailed down the Tehachapi grade in our late model sedan, the early evening heat blasting through the open windows. Stark outcrops blurred past, set against the dessicated scrub. We slowed down as we hit the first stop light in Mojave, and cruised the business loop until we saw a cheap looking diner. The faded marquee out front had Gino’s across it. The kind of place that once may have been a Dairy Queen, with molded plastic beige booths and a vague prison like décor. There was a large man was wiping down the tables as we slid into the seats. He came over, and nodded at the seat I occupied as he laid down the menus.

– Do you have any idea who was just sitting here?

– No sir, I do not.

– Adam Sandler. Right there (points to my seat).

– Ah, well, can’t say I know that name.

A long awkward pause …

– He does movies. You know, comedy flicks.

– Oh I see. He would be a celebrity diner. And what was it he ordered?

– He had a tuna melt with coleslaw. Plus a Cherry Coke.

– Hey, that sounds pretty good. I think I’d like to try that.

– Alright. (Turns to my friend and raises eyebrows).

– I’ll have the house burger please, medium with Pepper Jack. And fries and a Coors if you have that.

– OK, real good. Will have your orders up in ten minutes.

Feeling sticky and irritable , we sat there in the washed out gloaming, as the heat began to lessen and coagulate the air like butterscotch pudding. We stared out the windows, watching the cars head east into the vague blue-black Mojave night. The headlights and ludicrous neon signs seemed to disarm the town against the slowly percolating darkness. For the residents, it may have been just another dull weekday night in some insufferably small town. And since there were only two other customers in the place, this somehow contributed to both our hunger and sense of estrangement.

The large man brought over our orders, and then set down a black and white glossy photo of some goofy looking guy. It was Sandler, who had a white chrysanthemum stuck in his mouth. In the area below his silly visage, he had scrawled in a black sharpie “God I Love Gino’s!”

After introducing himself to us as the proprietor, the big guy remarked on how Adam Sandler had seemed like just a real ordinary guy; very well mannered and respectful, yet making humorous comments as he ordered. Sandler’s demeanor seemed very un-Hollywood like. Apparently, as the man related this to us, the bummer part happened when Sandler got a call on his phone half way through the meal, erupting from his seat to rush off and deal with some director who was flipping out about him not being present on the set in LA. As he went flying out the door, Sandler had yelled “I’m coming back! Don’t worry, I’ll bring the whole goddamn studio with me!”

As the owner spoke about all this, actually talking to the space above us more than to us, his face began to look perplexed. He’d move off to wipe down another table, then shift back to us, asking, “Now how am I going to seat a whole studio load of people in this place?”

We finished up and as we paid the bill, we noticed the owner take the glossy photo and toss it into the trash can. He caught our looks, and then shrugged as if to say, Fuck ‘em, I hope they don’t ever come to Gino’s.

—————————————————————————————————–

Residing in the southern part of Northern California, Matt Hill is a sculptor, street poet, and fiction writer. His poetry, prose, and short fictions can be found on many Internet venues, including BlazeVox Books, Argotist ebooks, and Gradient Books.

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