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Uprising # 8
© 2022 James LaFond
Anna was nervous…
There was something about the day erased by the snow that set her giddy. She recalled looking down over Siberia four years ago, when she and her brothers Stephan and Michael had flown to Seattle. On that flight, that seemed by world events that it would never be reversed so she could get back home, she had looked out and down over the desolate frozen world and had feared it, glad that she would soon be in America—nation of hope and sunshine everlasting, land of cowboys. And here she was, feeling like she was serving a last super to the world’s last cowboy and his friends.
Now, the Old World was upon them, the horrible weather that had driven them from Romania, the wicked malice of the world when it was young and forged men, discarding those that could not be made to take the temper like slag by the ruined heap. Grandfather, a blacksmith, had once told her this, not long before he passed, when she was nine, and Anna would never forget his softly ringing words.
The new guest was so huge and so kind, and ate deeply of the stew. So she hurried back for the entire pot. She might as well set it on the table with the portion ladle.
‘Yes, and a hot pad. And salt and pepper—no one asked for salt and pepper.’
The guests—the old men, that is—were speaking in friendly tones and it reminded her of Father and his brothers back home. As she turned into the dining room, she glanced outside to see how Stephan and Michael were doing and could see nothing. It was a white out. Worried, she came to the table and the big kind man, Ishmael, stood and helped her place the pot in its middle.
Having a great empathy in him, he spoke easily, “Young Lady, I’ll go see to your brothers.”
The Cowboy chided him, “Ish, they are young bucks. Let them earn their spurs…sit, drink, this is some mighty fine chewin’.”
‘Owe, what if they are lost in the snow?’
As if she had spoken out loud, the giant old man whose motorcycle her brothers were attending to, rumbled, “They are not lost, Little Maid. My fill is eaten and I must go. I will send them in.”
With that crazy declaration, for the storm was worse than it had been when he had somehow ridden in, he rose and drew out four black leather pouches from under his vest, and placed one before each of the men, clockwise, with a single word each:
…to the Cowboy, “Chieftain…”
…to the Indian, “Scald…”
…to the black man, “Swart…”
…and to Ishmael, “Bearshirt…”
They all sat stunned, except for the two blond beauties who smiled gracefully and beamed up at the man, who might have been their grandfather by his look.
With those departing words, the unnamed man strode past her, his elbow sweeping by as he patted her gently upon the head with a touch incongruently gentle for such a big man.
Tobbes whined, as if upset over the man’s leaving.
The door creaked less than his footsteps and was not heard to shut. Rather the shutting of the door was known to their ears by the lessening of the storm sounds that came through it for two yawning seconds as the man passed from their lives.
Ishmael nor Anna, the only two with a vantage on the exterior door through the greeting room, did not, for some reason turn to witness his leaving, but simply listened sadly.
The homosexual man—the man one, not the girl one who was shivering—blurted, “How rude—what a brute.”
The Cowboy commanded, “Stow it below decks, Sunshine,” and the Homosexual made no reply, but rather hugged his mate and suggested to him, “Joey, hate has a home here. Let’s go.”
The two weaklings then rose to leave and Ishmael warned, “Stay, it could blow you away out there. We’ve lost people, in our young days in Wyoming, to these white outs.”
The Cowboy nodded his agreement and said, “No hate here, Sunshine. It’s just that the old fella has stones and he brought gifts, returned the favor of—soup up. We’re all human and we’re all under the gun. I’ve spent much of my life in the Rockies and have never seen the like of this storm. But in here, we’re warm and carving on a fat hog’s ass.”
The two gay men looked at each other as if they had been addressed by two ambassadors from an alien planet, and then sat back down and returned to eating.
Ishmael was placing more wood in the belly of the stove and she just knew by his grace that he had daughters. Based on how cozy the goddess and her little old black man where, Anna knew she would be changing the sheets in room #3 next door tomorrow—where she was the housekeeper at the six-room hotel.
‘It’s a shame Mister Jeff left for the fishing at Jackson Hole. If he were here…Michael, Stephan?’
The thunder of a motorcycle that must have been as large as a truck crackled to life outside and Tobbes howled his low mournful howl, his cloudy and ever-asking amber eyes seeming about to cry as they squinted with his howl.
A crackling chain of rumbling explosions shook the building and knocked snow from the windows and she turned to look outside, but the swirling snow on grey prevented any view on the street, and sight beyond a few feet.
But there, before the window, although she could not hear their footsteps under the thunder, she smiled to see Michael and Stephan walking to the door, caked in snow, so tough compared to most Americans, confidently braving the wicked weather, dutifully returning to help her with the table.
“There they are,” said Ishmael with a note of relief, “bit by the cold I’d say. It must be below zero wind chill at least.”
As the sound of the motorcycle faded into the distance and the “woosh” of the wind could be heard as the door opened and closed, Anna was awash with relief. The loss of Grandfather had never left her, always offered to reemerge like a pal draped over her heart whenever danger or fate reached for her loved ones.
‘How are Father, Mamma and Grandmother? Phones and internet out for a week now and—they will be alright…’
Anna smiled and passed biscuits around as the first serving was gone and Tobbes wanted another and she did not like having his paws on the serving dish. The sound of Stephan and Michael walking back to the kitchen cheered her, although she thought they were being rude—well, of course, they had always been rude!
The Cowboy asked, “Why don’t your brothers and you join us? There is plenty to go around.”
The man was growing on her and she smiled to him as she placed his biscuit, “Of course, Cowboy. I will have them refill the pitchers while I bring more settings.”
‘Oh, I called him Cowboy, and he is an elder—smile sweetly, not too sweetly lest the blond claw my eyes…’
He seemed happy to be addressed so, rather than tediously named—he did like his cowboy hat—still had it on his head.
“Damn!” said the black man. “This is some snow-nigga voodoo shit!”
The man had emptied the contents of the black pouch into his hand, which held a number of bullets, short pistol bullets of three types it seemed.
Ishmael asked, “Loads look familiar to you, Punk?”
The man answered, “Shit yeah—only three I eva used, ta the numba of dey use.”
He then selected one larger bullet from the ashen palm of his hand with his thick-nailed forefinger and thumb of the other hand and said absently, “I almos’ fogot ‘bout dis bitch-ass snitchin’ nigga here! Only time I tooled up wit da foaty-five AP-snuffin-C…”
She wanted to call to her brothers to bring more beer, but these men were so enthralled with their pouches and she was curious.
‘They are warming up around the wood stove, those goodtime slackers.’
The black man had six bullets in hand and one between his fingers.
Ishmael emptied his pouch on the table, absently curious and out spilled a belt buckle, a beautiful handmade fly fishing hook which she was well familiar with, and a wedding ring on a string. He tucked the things back into the pouch, kissed the pouch and placed it inside of is jacket. He said nothing. But she noted that the Cowboy seemed to know the significance of each item.
With that all eyes turned on the Cowboy, who said, “Yata-hey!” and poured out the voluminous contents of his pouch. The light metallic clink heralded a heap of stainless steel tags attached to beaded steel neck chains. The gay men both asked as one,
“What are they?”
The Cowboy answered, “Dog tags, for us dogs of war. I wore a pair when I was a soldier.”
He then started sorting them and muttered, as he dropped the chains and tags in various small piles, “Bosnia—whenever the hell that was, smoked too much fuckin’ Mary Jane trying to forget that…The Stan, 2002… Iraq—fucking shithole, 2004-to-7… Syria, 2016—poor Rooskie bastards—called that shit in… Mindanao, 2021… Africa—fucking Chink bastards playing whack-a-mole all over the continent, 2024-25 all done and dusted and then they retired my old ass or I’d still be shootin’ them that need it…”
He then sat back, patted the blonde woman lightly with his left hand and saluted the piles of metal death tags with the other hand. He then recovered from his trance, smiled emptily and said to the Indian across from him, “Time for the peace pipe,” and pulled out a pipe that seemed to be made of amber, as well as a baggie of marijuana, and began to build a smoke.
All eyes now turned to the sorrowful figure of Old Joe Medicine Crow. He emptied his pouch and out came four feathers. He was stunned and said nothing, so Ishmael spoke when the horror-stricken old Indian raised each feather:
Finally, the fourth feather was raised in the old man’s shaking hand and Ishmael commented, “Eagle, maybe, but black and red like a falcon and red-tailed hawk cross?”
Old Joe stammered, “Thunderbird…from the Time of Grandfathers…”
The Cowboy soldier then lifted his pipe, lit it, and said, “Well I’ll be good and goddamned,” and began his smoke.
Then, as they all sat in stunned silence and he passed his pipe across to Old Joe, the younger even prettier blond sitting next to him petted him hypnotically with an otherworldly sense of adoration which Anna had never seen among young women, and only recalled seeing once as a child, when Grandmother had insisted on bathing Grandfather’s body alone, in the parlor of their family home…
The storm howled and it was time she checked on her slacker brothers, probably warming their hands over the woodstove in the kitchen while their distraught guests were nearly in danger of going dry.
And Tobbes cried.
Interlude of Uprising

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