Beamo’s Gold part 2
Beamo nearly gets his brains scrambled for breakfast by the Sawbird Gang.
At dawn they fed their big bonfire more logs. They tied me up upside down, hung me from a huge burr oak tree branch, the right side of my head too close to the fire they kept adding branches to. They knew I valued my wits and this particular torture would scramble my brain like eggs.
“Yous killed muh Gram, yous dirty Roamer phuuk!” Bonehead had been screaming that at me all night.
“You were chasing her and she shot at me thinking I was working for you. You killed her.” My reasonable reasoning just made him meaner and stupider, which is what I wanted since I was looking for him to make a mistake. But Tee stood there overseeing and smoking his high-end cigar. He knew I knew he was too good a chess player.
“Come on, bruhkus,” Tee wheedled, almost like we were best friends again. Bruhkus is old slang meaning alley-brother. “I know you’re a stubborn digger but my comrades here are even more stubborn. You’re just like a badger burrowing under a barn but we’ll smoke you out sooner or later. Why not just donate a contract to us?”
“You want me to escort you out to the fairyland filled with tons of gold, far away past the Shining Mountains in the Wasteland country without fee. Not this bruhkus, it ain’t happening, Tee. I don’t thrall for nobody.” Tee stepped up close and put out his cigar in my chest. I didn’t flinch, eyeballed him good even though I was upside down. Burned like a hot poker though. Put a hole right through my new blue, heavy-duty work shirt.
Bonehead was now smoking his breakfast reewana bloon. Standing next to him waiting for a puff was an eighteen-year-old psycho sharpshooter nicknamed Chuckles. The pimple-faced kid started laughing at me. He was always laughing at something or somebody if they were getting hurt.
“Shut up, you cripple-duck phuuker.” That got him. Chuckles got kicked out of his parents’ house at thirteen. Rumor was he had been hunting in a marsh when his dad caught him bunny-humping a mallard hen with a broken wing.
“Bullshi lie! Bullshi!” The lanky, zit-faced kid picked up a burning hunk of wood and came at me, but Tee tripped him. He got up then ran off into the woods to sulk or look for wounded waterfowl–I wouldn’t care to speculate which.
“You take us there and then we let you go with a fair cut.” Tee was getting close to his final offer. Blood rushed to my head and the bonfire heat started to scramble my precious grey matter. Close to pass out-time and then permanent brain damage.
“What about those malevolent old Merican phantasms? They say they send their tech goblins to do stuff to you you can’t imagine, Tee.” The Merican dead are vengeful possessive of their precious metals. I had heard that from another scavenge man a long time ago. Legend said the ancient Mericans in life didn’t care for their fellow citizens–even a lot of times their own families–only loved their gadgets and money, and death just magnifies what you were in life.
“You rob from the dead all the time. You’re still here.” Tee turned around like he was going to walk away. True, I had seen a lot of ghosts. Just about everyone who left town at night saw a phantasm sooner or later. They never came after me, but just looking at one made you feel like you were going to fall down a well that had no bottom.
“Beemo Roamer doesn’t rob graves. I ask permission from the Source before I dig.” I decided to make my offer: “Cut me loose and give me back my cycle and my guns and all my other stuff.”
“No guns.” Tee didn’t turn around.
“Let me have my Bowie knife then.”
“Phuuk you, Tee. Go to the Wastelands where you don’t know anyone or the lay of the land so you can die a miserable long death. You always were brainsick.” Just then I felt hands at my back turn me to face the bonfire. Thought I was going to get pushed into the flames face-first but instead felt a knife cutting my hands free. Then the rope wrapped around my knees was sawed through and I fell. I rolled over cussing, away from the fire, and looked up.
My rescuer was Lytle, Tee Sal’s kid half-sister, now all grown up. Her nickname was Little Bit. She had been a skinny, precocious girl, followed Tee and me around everywhere. Little Bit hadn’t been interested in what kids her age were doing and dropped out of school early but she liked to read. I used to give her Merican books for kids that we found from time to time in our digs. She knew my secret, that I was addicted to reading books. I collected hundreds over the years. She called books “Beamo’s Gold” to tease me. Funny thing was she never told anyone else. Back in my teens I appreciated no one else knowing.
“Enough bullshi, both of you!”
She stared down at me with a pose that didn’t give anything. Almost twenty now, looking lithe as lightning with a pistol holstered under each arm above each curved hip. Her lengthy pig-sticker knife in her left hand reflected the fire just like her big green eyes. Kind of mesmerizing. Her long, thick hair a magical combination, threads of gold and copper weaved into the brunette. Whatever crush she had on me when she was eleven was gone now. Last year I had been the lead scout for the Crans County Militia hunting her big brother Tee and his Sawbird Gang after they kidnapped Soosey Journ, the ploosh platinum blonde who happened to be the daughter of the richest family in Payday Metro. Fank Journ her dad was the owner of the Payday Trib newspaper, among many other prizes.
Little Bit sat a pint bottle of good aged whisky, not cheap local moonshine, in front of me and walked away, disappeared behind a standing foundation of bricks. I got to my feet with the bottle as fast as I could.
Around midday I was made to kneel at the grave of Philindra Lick, Bonehead’s grama whose demise I had caused the previous evening. Bonehead gave a rousing funeral oration to all the Sawbird Gang and their dollmolls, twenty-one scruffy characters sweating in the high-noon swamp mugginess:
“In her yute muh gram Philindra run a band of outlaws long before even Tee’s dad, Mand Sal. Afta hem de-man Mutan Angels swooped down an kaptured her thiry years ago, she managed to git to the poison she hid under the MA bawss’s bed then git it inta the liquor of the ten skull-faces that was gang raap-pin her. She always kep her potent death-shrooms hid in a sheepskin baggie in her privates for these kina kasions. Hem Mutan Angels’ home base was oer a thousand mile west. She kut off all hem privates of hem dead and dying skull-face skum, used hem for snacking on after she stole the bawss’s giant kusstum cycle. Somehow she rode hard standin’ up, her mutil-it-id face in the Great Plains’ wind all that way back the first month of winter.” Bonehead looked around and then said, “I jus wush she hadn’t held out on givin’ us that map she fund in bawss skull-face’s cycle.”
Bonehead walked over and booted me in the breadbasket and then I was free from further punishment over this particular incident. It wasn’t that hard of a kick and the whiskey afterglow helped me shrug it off. He started strumming his steel guitar and singing off-key an ancient song called Candle in the Wind in honor of his grama. Maybe he should have changed the lyrics to Cannibal in the Wind.
A little later Tee and Bonehead got me into a private meeting inside Tee’s spacious tent. A well-drawn map was on an easel and Tee’s father’s revolutionary artwork decorated the inside walls. I gave them my plan of running through the Blills’ gauntlet using the Snake Road that ran past the Giant Four Faces. The thought picture scared the ruddy out of Bonehead. Tee didn’t like it either, but I convinced them it was the only way to prevent a Hundred or a Two-Fifty of Mutant Angels on fast choppers running us down. I told them we needed to get four sets of spare tires for each cycle just to make it to the Vada Wasteland. The tires citizens were all riding on the last two hundred years since Zark county-nations traded in horses for cycles and atvees were made out of artificial rubber that wore out fast on rough terrain.
“No, we can get real rubber tires,” Tee told me then. I didn’t believe him at first. No real rubber had made it to our continent in over eleven hundred years; very few even knew it existed. “We can get real rubber smuggled in from New Sing at Mo’s Island in Migan Lake.” Tee meant it so I believed him.
“Figures the outlaw island would get it first,” I said. Then I brought up the touchy subject. “I won’t ride with her; she’s out-of-control psycho.” Tee knew I meant his snatched dollmoll Soosey. A month ago Soosey had gone extreme brainsick with her Ak. Mowed down a bunch of citizens who already had their guns taken away at the Kank County Bank on the Bash River three hundred miles southeast. Tee and Bonehead couldn’t stop her. Murdered eight or nine dirt farmers waiting to deposit or take out their hard-earned silver coin at the only bank for three hundred miles. I looked at Bonehead and even he cast his blue eyes down in shame.
“Ious don’t wanna ride wit her ather,” Bonehead said. This dent in time had given the whole Sawbird Gang a bad name. Gave all of our Crans County people a bad name, for that matter. “Otha thin is she kent ride fast nough,” Bonehead put in. “Slow us doewn so hem skull-faces ketchus and then thas it, hem’s got ours skins.”
“I took her guns away!” Tee raised his voice almost loud enough to travel out of his tent. He ran his left hand through his sable hair and shook his head. Then he said, “That was the cleanest, sweetest juicy I ever had or ever will have!” His copper colored eyes misted up.
“What did you think was gonna happen when you snatch a seventeen-year-old pampered ploosh from Heights Bluff? She’s snapped. At least if you get rid of her now you have a better chance of viving this pedition and she will too. You’ll both be alive to remember the good stuff. Maybe.”
He ordered Bonehead to fix her cycle but it had to happen before we got to Mutant Angels’ territory. No one else could know. Bonehead nodded and he slipped out of the tent, eager to plan the dirty deed to get his mind off the Snake Road.
Tee was wearing his black beret. He stared at one of his revolutionary father’s heroic triptych drawings posted above his cot. First was of a crowd of working citizens rising up to claim freedom from forced labor for county businesses; second one working citizens lighting up their tax bills in a big bonfire–representing freedom from taxes used to pay for the Big Men’s ploosh protection from Mutant Angels and other snatch gangs but second-rate security for the working citizens; third one an arc of working citizens shouting at a wall–representing freedom to criticize the Big Men behind the wall.
“One more thing,” he said standing tall now, his steel composure coming back. “Stay away from my sister.”
I paused just long enough and then said, “That’s lowiq, Tee. Getting with her would mean I’d have to join up with you and your merry band of black-flagging knuckleheads. That isn’t ever gonna happen. She’s loyal to you and you don’t deserve it.”
“Get out, Beamo,” he ordered so I did.