Dec. 15, 2011
I awoke to the sound of danger. Or at least I believed it was danger.
A tremendous roaring sound pulled me from a booze-laden sleep and I lurched from bed like a rapidly surfacing submarine.
The sound diminished but persisted. I grabbed the Glock and peeked through the eyehole. Then the sound grew louder and a small part in my brain that wasn’t completely rattled spat out: “motorcycle.”
I inched the door open, trying to look in both directions and as I poked my head out the door, a Yamaha WR250F with an inordinately impaired Peterson aboard, screamed past me, hell-bent-for-leather with its ass swinging dangerously wide on the skiffs of snow.
I stumbled a few steps down the walkway in a swirling stupor of relief and shock and the door clicked shut. I sleep in the nude.
Some days… one should just never get out of bed, and that’s exactly what I did that day.
Peterson and Calder had spent the night drinking and when they ran out of booze went in search of more. In their rummaging through downtown Bend, traipsing through a continuing blizzard, they came to the conclusion that there was no apparent danger or even a reason to be so vigilant.
Along with the compilation of that intelligence, the trekking duo also came upon a prodigious stock of booze and cigarettes, and other supplies, at some side street corner store that had been overlooked by scavengers.
Sporting refurbished buzzes — the type that comes from partying with endless supplies —Peterson and Calder decided to ride their bikes around the resort. Calder was the first to get moving and to go down. He didn’t get past the entry kiosk. His right handle bar clipped the trunk of a car Calder had parked for cover, and he spun wildly, crashing into a snow-covered side garden and slammed his shoulder into the wall, bringing an Oregon wilderness oil painting down inside the lobby and exploding a plaster of Paris planter stand.
Peterson roared past him and, yodeling, poured it on down the hill, around vehicles and past everyone’s room, wrenching us all from sleep.
Hence, as Andy, Hex, May and Crest stumbled from their rooms, all wise enough to slip some clothing on if they slept in the nude, their heads wobbled, believing I was the source of the ruckus.
“What the fuck Rob?” May yowled cat-like.
Peterson spun and squealed back up to the lobby and noticed Calder slumped against the wall, covered in snow and blood.
Andy’s room was in the front building nearest to the lobby. He charged there with blurring speed and peeled Peterson from his bike. With one hand on his belt and another on his collar, he dashed him into Calder’s passed out sack of flabber.
Andy stood above the crumpled drunks and glared down at them. The rest of us stood at the entry to the lobby and eagerly anticipated a beating or a kicking, at least. I hopped from one foot to the next, the cold blasting up from my bare feet into my spine.
Hex, who had been popping barbiturates and drinking tequila all night, was also barely bi-pedal and May, whose crack addiction had morphed into a savage pill-popping marathon whenever she was out of supplies, which she now was, cackled like a raven on a power line watching a squirrel get squashed by a car.
I stood immediately behind Crest, embarrassingly aware of my nakedness. I noticed I was the only one armed. Thank goodness; my Glock covered my cock.
Peterson rolled down Calder’s body, pulling a wheezing groan from his alcohol-laden sack of wired plasma, and sat like an infant just figuring out all that sitting up business.
“Look at his eyes… ah hahahahahahaha… they’re all googly,” May screeched.
Andy shot a hard look at her and she shut up with a ‘clup,’ as her jaw snapped shut.
Calder groaned again and slid slowly onto his side. He pulled his knees upward and as he tightened into a fetal position, preparing to sleep off this escapade, a flabby fart rattled from his ass, which we assumed Andy was going to wrap in a sling.
Andy looked at the battleship grey and alabaster morning, slowly appearing from the dissolving navy blue of pre-dawn over the harsh eastern bits of Oregon. The windows of the hotel lobby looked as if a cheesy decorator had gone Christmas-crazy with fake snow. All that was missing was tinsel and lights.
“Been thinking,” Andy began, turning to look at the conscious, “We should stay here for a while. Like the winter.”
Andy bent down and with a light grunt lifted Peterson’s bike up. “From talking to these two idiots last night after their sortie through town, I think we’re in the right spot to lay low and become prepared.”
Hex, his voice wavering, almost post-helium huffing, asked, “Prepared for what?”
Andy’s dark, thin face, covered with a four or five-day-old salt and pepper beard, broadened as he smiled.
“The inevitable,” he said after a pause and let go of the bike. It toppled onto Peterson, driving him hard onto the ground.
Crest spat out a sympathetic “oooh” for his friend and Andy looked directly at him.
“Leave them here to sort through their hangovers. In a way they earned a reprieve, but not too much of one. And Rob, put some fucking trousers on.”
Andy stepped between us and disappeared back into his room with a half-slam.
“So we’re staying?” Crest asked of no one in particular.
“Won’t they freeze to death there?” May screeched.
“Fuck them!” Andy’s voice declared from behind the door as I raced for the lobby to get a master key.
May screeched with laughter. “Look at that white ass! Whoo!”
And just like that, we began our stay at the Hotel Bonkers, stacked to its rafters with booze and food and more than enough fuel to keep generators running and the power on.
With no one to plough the cluttered highways or streets of the city, we could maintain a lookout thanks to the snow, as long as it lasted.
My heart hurt at the notion of sitting still and not being able to search for Carrie.
But in my heart, I knew she was okay. How okay I wasn’t sure, but despite my disdain for Kenneth, there was something about the guy — something strong. Just like Andy.
Over the next month, I would get to know Andy much better. I provided more stimulating conversation than the others. And what he told me during those conversations, transformed me.
Kenneth stepped from the B&B soon after sunrise. The cougar’s eyes opened when she heard the door close behind him.
He waded through knee-deep snow to a woodpile on the far side of the house, out of the cougar’s view.
Her heart thrashed in her chest and her tight, contracting stomach demanded she not lose sight of her prey. Mama cougar stretched once and then silently dropped to the ground. She had already worked out routes around the buildings that offered her cover and she followed one until she caught sight of a tall, thin human man labouring with a large stack of snow-crusted firewood. Mama cougar froze and her body pushed down into the snow, obscuring her from Kenneth’s normally acute gaze.
Inside the warm, cozy B&B, the ladies were still deeply asleep. Kenneth intended to stoke the fires and begin preparing breakfast, before sitting down with the ladies to plot out their next steps. The snow had stopped falling during the night and it appeared as though some nicer weather may be ahead. It is time to get into Yellowstone to sort things out, he thought as he turned the corner toward the front door.
Mama cougar was now positioned over his left shoulder, trembling violently from the urge to attack.
Kenneth’s boot heel clapped into a stone that served as a small garden wall along the front of the house and he lurched forward. A couple of hunks of firewood plopped into the snow.
“Ah,” he harrumphed and knelt down. He placed the large load of wood, piled up his right arm and balanced against his chest and chin, onto his thigh and knee and waved his left hand through the deep, powdery snow, searching for the wayward pieces.
Kenneth’s hand fell on one and he froze. In his left ear he heard a soft, muffled thud sound and he turned in time to see mama cougar leaping at him.
She hit his left arm, spinning him forward, driving both of his knees into the ground and spilling the load of firewood.
The big cat’s claws lashed desperately at Kenneth as she skidded past him. One tore through his jacket and ripped a small cut in his bicep. Kenneth screamed in shock and pain as his mind came to terms with what was happening to him.
The cougar pounced again, bringing her claws down on his shoulders and her weight slid him forward. Her jaws closed on Kenneth’s mid-section and bit hard onto the cloth of his jacket, while her claws gouged into his shoulders.
Inside the B&B, Stacy’s eyes popped sloppily open, sure that she had heard a scream.
Kenneth screamed again as the cat’s teeth bit down on his arm, which he flailed at the advancing animal. Able to wriggle free from the cat by pushing with his feet and hands, Kenneth yelled and screamed and kicked madly, hoping his noise would back the cat off, but the starving creature came at him again. He scrambled to his feet and was knocked backward again as she flung herself recklessly at her prey, hunger shorting out her innate fear of humans.
A calm-shattering bang and a pinch of agony in her tail made mama cougar break off her attack and she bounded for the protection of the nearby thicket from which she’d spent the night.
Stacy’s shot grazed the upper top of the cougar’s tail. An inch up and in and the cat would have lost use of her hind legs.
By the time Stacy was sure the cat wasn’t coming back and had laid her rifle against the wall of the house, Carrie was outside and they hurriedly hustled Kenneth back inside.
The cougar’s fangs left a dozen deep puncture wounds in Kenneth’s arms and her claws had ripped his shoulder open in a couple of spots.
It took the two women more than an hour to clean and close his wounds. As they worked on him, he panted that they must seal the windows and be vigilant as the cat was starving and would be back.
“I can’t believe she attacked ME,” he exclaimed repeatedly. After half an hour of steady blood loss and pulsating shock, Kenneth passed out.
And half an hour after that, Stacy and Carrie crumpled into kitchen chairs and, their nerves still jangling and hands shaking, had coffee and Bailey’s Irish cream.
Luckily, Kenneth was a prepared soul.
“He makes Boy Scouts look like thick-headed slugs,” Carrie said when digging through his extensive first aid kit.
It took 30 uneven stitches to close Kenneth’s wounds and two-thirds of a bottle of Scotch to knock him out. He snored as the women quietly slurped at their restorative concoctions.
Several hundred yards away, up a heavily knotted, deformed, young Douglas fir, mama cougar licked her shallow wound and winced each time her sandpapery tongue scratched across the burning scrape at the base of her tail. She twitched and started with each small gust of cool wind that pushed down from Montana, while savouring the salty blood of an angel.
Once the uneasy coffees were finished, Stacy rose from the table and announced that she was going to get dressed. Both women sprang into action that startling morning dressed in their underwear, with coats over top and unlaced boots on their feet.
Carrie asked her about the big cat. “It must be absolutely starving to make it attack a man like that,” she said.
Stacy agreed and said she had best get busy.
“What do you mean?” Carrie asked.
“We have to find and kill that cat. It is suffering and it we don’t kill it, it is going to kill us. Simple as that. I suppose we are all there is for it to eat,” Stacy noted.
Raised on an Indiana farm where shooting gophers and bagging the odd deer were routine, and having lived in rural Washington for the past 25 years, often hunting and fishing for her food, Stacy was perfectly suited for the task at hand.
But she’d never hunted a starving predator before.
“You mean you intend to hunt and kill that thing?” Carrie blurted, boggling. “You are one mista, sista. Shit. How?”
Stacy admitted she didn’t know.
“It attacked Kenneth,” she shrugged. “It’ll attack me. Instead of throwing a bundle of firewood at it and screaming, I’ll shoot it.”
The ladies laughed. Kenneth, an angel upon high — a key cog in the wheel of humanity rolling forward to a new world of magic and discovery — snored unevenly. A mixture of Scotch and Tylenol 3s (he wouldn’t let the girls use any of the morphine, methadone or codeine that he had in his ‘first aid kit’), as well as blood loss, shock and trauma, had the normally tee-totaling immortal romping in a field of giggling daisies, his scrotum tickling over the outstretched snouts of dolphins singing ‘It’s a small world after all.’
Low cloud stuck to the hills to the east, where Yellowstone bulges from the northwestern corner of Wyoming, as Stacy checked her load and then snapped her rifle up crisply to her shoulder and aimed at nothing.
Her trusty old Remington 760 could fire rapidly thanks to its pump action and she had four 30-06 shots to get the job done.
“What do you want me to do?” Carrie asked nervously.
“Well, do you know how to shoot a gun?” Stacy began.
Carrie told her I had recently given her some lessons with “all sorts of the things.”
Stacy slipped Carrie’s Glock into her coat pocket and said, “Get the shotgun then, and come with me.”
Carrie looked at Stacy with an expression that declared, “You’re not serious.”
Stacy lifted the hood of her thick winter parka, courtesy of the departed owners of the B&B and smiled at Carrie. “I’ll wait for you then.”
“You are serious, you bitch,” Carrie said and disappeared into her room to get dressed.
Pulling on socks and pants, she felt a hot sweat build up the sides of her spine. Slipping into a thick sweater, she thought of me and froze, seeing her image in the mirror hanging on the back of the bedroom door.
“Five star,” she muttered. “You’d be stunned Rob.”
Once Carrie had her pair of Sorrels on, Stacy handed her the shotgun and said, “It’s good to go. It’s a 12 gauge with a fairly wide pattern, so make sure I am beside you or behind when you fire. Okay?”
Carrie nodded, her sharp blue eyes almost glowing from below the fur-lined parka hood.
“Don’t try to aim… just point it, hold it nice and tight and know that it is going to kick hard, okay?”
Carrie nodded again and began to grow annoyed with Stacy. “I get it,” she chirped. “Let’s get this over with.”
Stacy smiled. “Okay. We’ll follow the cat’s tracks. That should do the trick,” she said and pulled the front door open.
The women cautiously shuffled out the door, their heads darting from side to side.
“It’s hard to see with all these fucking clothes on,” Carrie said, her voice sounding muffled to Stacy.
They rounded the corner to the site of the attack and a brown flash dragged screams from both women.
Mama cougar returned to the site of the attack soon after it happened, the hope of coming upon the prey again, or finding more blood to eat, stripping her of her natural wariness. Once there she could hear activity inside the house and lay down against the side of it — waiting.
The cougar spotted both women at the same time and freaked out at the collective size of what appeared before her and this time her instincts screamed at her to run. She darted along the side of the house, past Stacy and Carrie, making them spin and stumble, screaming and shouting.
Stacy spun left shouting at Carrie to look out.
Carrie spun right, screaming, and received a full-on view of mama cougar as she darted past. The shotgun exploded in her hands and an otherworldly scream made her drop the gun. A host of pellets tore into the cougar’s right hind leg, knocking her hard into the corner of the house. She bounced off the corner of the house and slid through several feet of snow before slamming into the side of their SUV, covered with a large cone of snow. The cat yowled again.
Stacy quickly drew a bead and the cat spastically and desperately lunged forward, seeking escape. Her first shot tore a gash through the SUV’s back quarter panel and as the cat scrambled to get free, Stacy buried her second shot into its mid-section, shattering several ribs and blowing a massive hole through a lung. The cat once again skidded along the ground and disappeared in a chaotic cloud of pinkish blood spray and snow.
Carrie pulled her hood down and looked for the cat, terrified. “Where the fuck did it go?” She screamed, trying to find when her gun fell in the deep snow.
Stacy skipped forward, nervously jabbing her rifle in the direction where the cat disappeared. Then she spotted the black tip of a tail. The cat had buried itself in the deep snow.
Stacy took a step forward and the cat spun 180 degrees, its one good hind leg kicking madly. A frightened, gurgling whimper accompanied her futile attempts to flee. Stacy’s gun shattered the silence once again and mama cougar was finished.
Carrie moved to Stacy’s side and, noticing that she was crying, placed a hand on her shoulder. Stacy turned into her and squeezed. Their down winter parkas whooshed together with a slippery nylon puff.
“Good shot,” Carrie said softly.
“You too,” Stacy sobbed.
Ian Cobb/e-KNOWTags: 11:11Ian Cobb
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