Beamo’s Gold part 9
Beamo and Little Bit have some explaining to do.
It was almost midday, crisp and clear. Below the junipers where we were at, pines and spruce covered the sides of the mountains. Aspen, chokeberry, and cottonwood, their gold and green leaves shimmering in the strong breeze, grew along the stream banks and the beaver pond below the forty-feet-high waterfall in the valley. The Blills was an island of tree-covered mountains in a sea of short grass flatlands. The Mutant Angels left it alone because those steep, craggy hills slowed them down. When you worship speed like the MA you leave beauty behind.
Little Bit and me strolled into the main camp holding hands. We were greeted with a bunch of whistles and catcalls. I could tell Tee hadn’t made it back yet by the relaxed way everyone was lounging around the two campfires. Sharpshooter Chuckles wasn’t there either, and that not-accounted-for combo made me edgy.
“Lookit wat th’wilcat dragged in!” Bonehead shouted. The hooting and whistling erupted again. He was barefoot and shirtless, sitting on the dirt with his back against a stump, his steel guitar propped up next to him. Three bullet wound pucker scars decorated the right edge of his torso. The bullet scar closest to his heart had been from my rifle.
I let go of Little Bit’s hand, tipped my leather flap-cap off and waved it, getting cheers from sixteen members of the Sawbird Gang.
“Let’s see wat she did to yous,” Sass Hootie called out.
I put my flap-cap back on and unbuttoned my heavy-duty work shirt. Took it off and turned around to show them my back. Cheering broke out again. All the while I was on-the-sly scanning the mountainsides for the reflected glint off a riflescope.
“Took it easy on him the first time ‘round,” Little Bit spoke out. “Beamo was like a man who’d been locked up in the jailhouse for a month or two. I got him settled down though.” Little Bit sat on a wind-downed pine log. She fit in with the other dollmolls now and I could tell she was happy about that.
I put my heavy-duty work shirt back on and sat down next to her. Roofy, the teenage girl Tee had been with last night, passed me a cup of beer. The slim brunette looked to have had a rough night.
“Wat waz’t like fo yous, mizter Roamer?” Sass asked.
“I’ll just say this: Watch out for the innocent face attached to the guilty body. I was minding my own business, took a midnight hike to do a little star-gazing, and this two-legged panther sitting here leaped on me up there by that rock outcropping. Ambushed me, if the truth be told. But I held my own.” I gave my serious, dignified look as I buttoned back up my claw-ripped, heavy-duty work shirt. Little Bit slapped my shoulder pretty hard but I could tell she was amused.
“Iz true, ‘bout the best yous can do wit womin these days iz hold yo’ own,” Bonehead said with a grin. He picked up his guitar and started picking to tune it.
“Sure iz x-it-in havin yous ride with us, Roamer-man,” said Kholo Rise. Kholo was a young outlaw biker about twenty-four. His complexion was close to black, the hair on his head hung down in amber dreds. Funny, because his twin brother Joro Rise sitting next to him had been born with blond hair and green eyes.
“Ious an’t eva gonna fo-git ridin’ tha Snake Road wit tha Sawbird Gang and Beamo Roamer!” Hopper Leap called out. The thirty-year-old, six-feet-five-inch-tall biker with a braided auburn beard raised his cup of beer.
“I’ll tell you boys and girls what,” I said raising my cup for my own toast, “I won’t ever go black-flagger, but I have to say I prefer the company of honest Sawbird Gang thieves to the back-stabbing swindlers up in Heights Bluff.” I chugged the rest of my beer then held out the cup for Roofy to refill from her wooden pitcher. Everyone but Bonehead emptied his or her cup with me.
“Yous thinks weez gonna fine tha gold, Roamer-man?” Joro asked.
“I believe there’s a good chance. It has to be somewhere. Nobody’s found it otherwise we would of heard about it. If it’s not sitting under the mud at the bottom of a river or lake or buried in a deep mine shaft, then it has to be in one of those old secret bases Merica had just like the map told.” I leaned forward, watching the flames in the closest campfire.
“Wat’s comin fo us next on this jaunt?” Roofy blurted out. She sat down cross-legged on the ground close by to Little Bit and me. The girl felt alone since her friend Packit had latched onto Sass now that Soosey was history. Roofy’s wide blue eyes looked just like the soldier who wakes up one morning and knows he’s soon to catch his fatal bullet so he gives all his possessions away. A sixteen-year-old runaway from a tiny village called Flying Squirrel Hollow in Crans County, Roofy had gotten sick of minding six younger kids and doing unending chores for her worn-down parents. She sneaked off one night a year ago to get her an exciting life with the famous outlaw gang, but the reality turned out more than she bargained for.
“Well,” I answered after a pause for reflection, “what you’ve already seen is just a little taste of the wonders ahead. A couple hundred miles west on the Tana plains are geemo beasts like you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams. Twelve-ton bulls guard great herds of giant wild cattle, horns spread out thirty feet across. Three-thousand-pound razorbacks live in the rivers, bite you in half with just one snap. Wild goats with necks so long they can eat leaves off of the tops of twenty-feet-tall trees. Pronghorn antelope that run faster than anything else alive. Grizz bears three times bigger than our black bears back home. Bison herds and woolly mammoths too.”
“Wat’s a woolly mam-moth?” Roofy forgot her death sentence. All of a sudden her blue eyes got curious like a little girl listening to a bedtime story.
“Woolly mammoths are huge shaggy animals that have two big curved tusks. Its nose is a long trunk that it uses to pick up things. They are the smartest animals out there. You ever see an engraving of an elephant? No? The elephant are extinct now but they were like the woolly mammoth only they weren’t shaggy. Scientists from ancient Merica resurrected the woolly mammoth. It had been extinct for thousands of years before the elephant. Right when the Slow Pox Plague came through they had a herd of a couple dozen up in the North Country ‘cause those beasts like the snow.” I picked up a stick and drew in the dirt as best I could an outline of the animal I saw five years ago.
“I want to see a woolly mammoth before I die,” Roofy said and smiled sadly.
“Well, I’ll do my best to see that you do,” I said. I could tell she felt a little better but I wasn’t going to tell her she wasn’t going to die.
“How come those Mericans made all those geemo crittas like that giant granddaddy catfish?” Hopper asked and scratched his head. “They more likely to do-in a cit-zin than the regular crittas.”
“I read that after the Slow Pox Plague went through, they had trouble feeding the survivors cause all the ‘globalist capital financing’ for their giant dustrial farms dried up.” I took a big swig of beer and belched. I wiped my mouth off then took it up again: “Almost nobody knew how to small farm back then ‘cept our hillbilly and latino ancestors in the Zarks and the Apalash hill country. That’s why we’re here and the Mericans ain’t. Anyway, back then, their desperate scientists grafted, ah, combined traits from wild animals from Africa and even prehistoric beasts to get their livestock to grow faster soas to make more meat. They never got to eat much of it though.”
“Yous full of some of the most loco kaka-shi I ever heard, Roamer.” Bonehead started strumming his guitar, irritated at my monopoly of the conversation.
“You are welcome to take what I say or not take it, outlaw,” I said back. “The most loco I ain’t even brought up yet. People went geemo too. There is a nation of four-legged people called Highsters living way up on the sides of sheer mountains so tall they make the Zark Mountains look like runts. And the Dezret citizens say there is a nation of talking swine who have human organs, including human brains, living in the Cali Sera Mountain country…”
“Ious gonna start the cer-mony fo th’ membrance of Retry Ewls and fo Soosey Journ,” Bonehead shouted out, cutting me off.
Bonehead started playing an ancient song called Stairway to Heaven. I had heard different versions by the troubadours who came through during the once-a-year Crans County Fair that they put on in the fall. The song built up from mournful to powerful then it was rushing like a flooding creek but the last line went back to slow and mournful. Bonehead played decent but wasn’t a troubadour.