Beamo’s Gold part 16
Beamo and Tee have a man to man talk.
The two of us picked our way down the slope and onto the river floodplain away from the grizz bear and the wolf pack. The grass was higher here and obscured us from the animals. The breeze was in our favor as we crept towards a mid-sized herd of giant cattle. In the river shallows downstream, a massive sawbird, wide black wings outstretched thirty feet, perched on the carcass of a drowned geemo cow.
When I turned ten, Tee and me became friends in school. We had gone to the same school for years but he was a year younger and we had stayed aloof from each other. It was less than a year since his father had been killed in the last battle of the Bloody Rebellion. There were a series of bird attacks at our school that spring. They always seemed to happen right before a big thunderstorm. The lazy principal couldn’t be bothered to patrol the playground with his weapon even though it was the law. First week in May, a giant eagle flew out of the sun and hit an eight-year-old boy. Killed the kid instantly. Nobody could do anything as it flew off with his body.
A month later, the last week of school, six of us kids were playing tag in the school playground after lunch when a pair of sawbirds attacked. The duo of twenty-five-feet wingspan condors swooped down and one picked up nine-year-old Tee by his right shoulder and left arm and started flying off with him. Luckily, unlike the giant eagles, the sawbird condors aren’t built for speed and don’t hit you going a hundred miles an hour. They just swoop down; grab you in their talons and lift off, take you for a ride up to a thousand feet while you kick and scream. After they drop you the sawbirds eat everything, including sawing through your bones with their mighty beaks.
Tee was up about seven feet off the ground struggling, keeping it from getting airborne too high. The flapping wings were powerful enough to kill you with a broken neck or fractured skull so everyone was too frightened to try to rescue him.
His statuesque, red-haired mother Kenzey Sal taught seventh grade. After she heard the kids screaming, she ran out of the school with a broom. Dodging the lethal wing beats, she started beating on and poking the giant buzzard. I threw rocks at its head and between the two of us it finally let go of Tee. The close call scared him so bad he got a grey streak in his sable hair that took a year to grow out. Of course, coming out alive from that attack was why he chose the sawbird as the emblem for his gang.
“You like seeing all these wild animals out here, don’t you?” Tee spoke quietly as we approached the raucous giant cattle.
“If there was money in it, I would live out here and study them,” I said. “They won’t be around much longer with the MA moving in. This is their last stronghold.” I paused for a minute then said, “That thrall I shot this morning was my cousin Nelay.”
Tee just nodded his head. As tall as a man, a white crane with a red head and a black beak flew up from the high grass and saplings at a pothole only thirty feet away. We halted. I squatted down and Tee did the same.
“Just so you know the facts, Tee, I never wanted to go against your wishes with your sister.” I looked at the profile of his rugged, handsome face but he didn’t look at me or say anything. “What happened between us was not about me getting back at you.”
“You’re not going to pursue it behind my back?”
“No, I won’t. Your sister and me are two different people.” Now I looked away. I rubbed the palm of my hand across my face. Started to wonder if Bonehead was right about me. Maybe I was jinxed when it came to romantic relationships.
“What you told Bonehead…”
“That’s right Tee. After we divvy up the gold, I’m calling you and Bonehead out.” It was a whisper but it was strong.
“Knives?” he whispered. I looked back at him as a little curve of smile appeared on his profile.
“Bowie knives,” I whispered back. “Me with two against you and Bonehead with one each.”
“And if we kill you?” He finally turned his head to look at me.
“Then I’m dead, Tee. I have no choice. I stand by what I told your backwoods bushwhacker. It doesn’t reason out any other way. I have to keep my reputation.” I never would have admitted I could be beat to Bonehead but talking to Tee didn’t make any sense if I wasn’t honest.
“I just turned six when they kicked me and my mom out of Heights Bluff. You remember when my father deserted, took off into the bush to organize the Rebellion after the Gate Massacre? In school that year you were seven. One time that winter, we were playing Compound Tackle in the snow-covered schoolyard. Me and fifty other kids had all been tackled and were It, but you got over the line to safe-base alone, were the last one. We barely let you rest a minute and then we all called you out to run for the opposite safe-base. You dodged around about fifteen feet and then Rarry Bammer and his two worst bully buddies caught you. Your face was red and your bushy sandy hair was all tussled. Those bigger kids tried again and again to knock you down, but couldn’t. Dozens of us rushed to pile on, but you wouldn’t hit the snow. That’s when I knew I wanted you to be my friend.”
“Our school days are long past, Tee. You have a point to this minisce about my stubborn streak?” The buttery midday light had started to slant. Time was moving on.
“You have another choice, Beamo. Join the Revolution. Keep your reputation and the People get a soldier and leader with skills no one else has.” Under his black beret his forehead wrinkled with earnestness. For a second his dark eyes betrayed a tired young man weighed down with decisions and deeds he was of two minds about.
“No. No way I join your cause. I hate what you fight for. It’s not natural to Zark people. Stealing personal property someone worked for, stomping on citizens’ right to speak out, punishing the families of men and women who fight against you by snatching their kids. Your Revolution is a conspiracy against the people. Your dad fought for protecting citizens and expanding their rights; maybe if you had taken up his cause…”
“My father was a naïve folk hero. He got himself killed because of his narrow outlook and so will you.” Tee looked away from me again. His jaw reset back to no doubt.
The herd of wild geemo cattle was grazing closer and their lowing grew louder.
“Very well,” I said. I stood up cautiously, peeked over the top of the tall grass, looking through my binnocs. There was a bright-eyed spring calf uphill from us about sixty yards now. It weighed over a ton and was romping away from the adults with a group of yearling giants that were three to four tons.
Downhill between the geemo cattle and us, I spotted a large cougar staring at a herd of horses drinking at another pothole. The tawny big cat was a little larger than the panthers back home but still looked undersized for taking on any of this big game. In fact, it looked underfed, desperate.
Tee stood next to me with his spyglass out looking at the big cat after I pointed it out to him. He put it down when the ground rumbled under our feet. We both turned around and saw the humongous bull bearing down on us. It had got behind us and picked up our scent. The snorting mountain was enraged, knew we were hunting its young.
I grabbed Tee by the shoulder and guided him back down into a crouch. The bull bellowed like thunder, mostly black hide with a red patch on its thirteen-feet-high shoulders. The twelve-ton beast halted just five yards away, started kicking the ground, keeling over half grown trees and uprooting bushes. A dust cloud enveloped the enraged monster as it kept bellowing till my ears hurt.
“I’m gonna have to shoot it,” Tee said.
“Phuuk no! I will stab you in the back if you try to piss that thing off. Stay down. Don’t look it in the eyes.”
Tee complied. Next thing happened, the cougar saw its chance and jumped a distracted horse over by the second pothole. The monster bull reared up and charged that commotion. The cougar leaped off the bucking horse right before the bull hit it. The horse didn’t have a chance, was gored then flipped end over end. When it landed the bull stomped it into the marshy grass. After the geemo monster took out all of its rage on the poor horse, it trotted off, shaggy tipped tail sticking straight up at the sky like a victory flag, shaking the ground and its plum-colored, boulder-sized balls as it led its herd away and disappeared into the horizon.
I wanted to laugh but Tee looked like he just ate something sour. He turned to march back up to the ridge we came down from. I followed. A huge four-legged form with great antlers that looked like chair-sized hands sprouting out of its homely head, charged out of the saplings at the first pothole. We both opened up on the dark brown bearded beast, hitting it with five shots, three to the shoulders and two to the head. It went down just a few feet from me.
Tee watched as I finished it off by slicing its throat. I hurried to field dress the hump-backed creature with my Bowie. There were a lot of predators around and we didn’t have much time if we wanted to keep the meat.
“Is this a geemo deer?” Tee asked. He was only mildly curious about animals and was already looking up the hill, thinking about his next problem to deal with.
“No. This animal is called a moose. It’s natural that they get this big.”
Khoro and Hopper Leap jogged down the hill. They took over the field dressing of the fifteen-hundred-pound moose. I followed Tee back up the hill. I stopped him half way up.
“Listen, Tee,” I told him. “I will fulfill my contract with the Sawbird Gang and find the gold but I’m not going to put up with any more demeaning nonsense. No more missions up a shi-creek. Any of your boys could have got that done. You savvy? I mean it; I don’t need any more quality time with Bonehead. His backwoods’ charm has worn way thin on me.”
Tee gave a slight smile, shook his head, and said, “Okay.”
“If I have to do a hit job, I will work with Hopper or Khoro. Joro is a little too full of himself; I don’t like working with dudes like that. I won’t work with that little duck-phuuking pervo Chuckles either. He’s not right in the head. I don’t trust Kaim and his goons either.
“Agreed,” Tee said. He was back to all business.