Beamo’s Gold part 17
Beamo doesn’t take responsibility.
Two hours later we all sat down to eat moose steaks. In the middle of the meal Packit sounded off that Roofy was missing. Bonehead and Sass jumped on their cycles and sped downriver; Tee followed me upriver. The day already growing old, crimson light wrapped around the edges of clouds and yellow-white beams slanted down like solid pillars holding up the big sky. Every depression I rode over, mosquitoes and black gnats rose up to sting my face and jam into my eyes.
I spotted Roofy about a mile from camp. Through my binocs I watched the slim-waisted brunette romping in the middle of the herd of mammoths. Tee rode up next to me. He cursed after he pulled out his spyglass; saw her playing and dancing around the mammoth calves. The adult mammoth cows accepted her and even seemed to be guarding the teenage girl as one of their own.
“You ever see or hear of anything like this?” Tee spit out.
“Sometimes dangerous animals like bears won’t attack a person who walks up on them without fear because the animal is scared the human has a brainsickness that’s catching. You hear legends about orphans raised by wolves, but I never heard of mammoths taking in kids. The Mericans didn’t have much time to study the beasts. What’s known about them is that they are highiq.”
“And she’s a stupid wench…” his voice trailed off.
“So, what are you gonna do, leave her?” I said with a tone he didn’t like, could tell by his tight-set mouth. “She’s your new dollmoll, bruhkus. You two just got together. Leave another girl behind and you’re liable to get a rep that isn’t romantic.”
“I hate your guts, Beamo,” Tee said in an offhand way. Then he ordered: “You go down and get them to chase you then I will ride in and get her.”
I knew it wouldn’t be that simple but it was the best plan for what was in front of us. I set out slow then tore out straight at the herd. I raised my rifle with my left arm and popped off some shots into the big sky, screaming my throat hoarse then whipped around and went slow. I turned around and came at them fast again. The wise old mammoth cow sent a half grown male after me as she led the herd the opposite direction up the river.
The young bull mammoth with five-feet-long tusks bore down on me fast. I headed uphill away from the river valley. Thick brush and now jagged rock outcrops blocked my path. Had to slow down but managed to steer through to open ground. Just as I hit the throttle to tear out, I rode over some geemo cow dung that sent me into a hard skid and had to lay my cycle down in the short grass.
Half grown bull trumpeted with his trunk raised over his forehead but slowed before he got to me like a housedog afraid he would actually catch the squirrel he’s chasing.
In the distance Roofy screaming and the mammoths calling back. I didn’t see it, but knew Tee backhanded her to make her quit. I got my cycle up and revving. Ground trembled as the young bull stomped right up to me, but I took off in a wheelie and escaped.
Back at camp, Roofy ran away from Tee with her bruised face tracking tears. She headed towards Major Kaim and his buzz-cut, muscle-bound goons. When the leather-skirted girl got halfway between them and the longhaired outlaws, she sat down on the wet ground, death stare back in her puffy, cried-out eyes. The youngest Sawbird Gang rider, Bo-Rat, a seventeen-year-old, wispy-haired boy from the back alleys of Payday Metro, started over to her to offer some moose meat and cheer.
I just got off my cycle when the three-man Mutant Angel hit-crew opened up. Everybody flatted out on the ground and started shooting back at the patch of thick brush fifty yards away. The MA really hated us. To mount up on off-road cycles to get a crack at taking out some of us was way not-usual; it’s a disgrace to them to have to ride on anything but their ornate chrome choppers.
The wet ground around me puckered from bullet hits. I could only roll around trying to avoid getting opened up by lead. Quick-shooting Major Kaim hit a MA who fell out of cover but the skull-face got up firing and disappeared back into the brush.
We all crawled for better cover then stayed still. I glanced back when the two wounded in our camp started hollering. Roofy lay on her back, brown hair matted up on her face. About ten minutes later, we spotted three MA run out into the open a third of a mile up the wide game trail to where they stashed their Zark off-road cycles. Chuckles aimed his .50 cal and mauled the already wounded MA, tearing off his left arm with his first shot. The skull-face still managed to mount his cycle and ride.
“Go-on, Chuckles, waste that skin-stealing skuum!” Bonehead shouted.
Chuckles started giggling because the lead MA ran his cycle into a geemo piglet about the same size as one of our full-grown hogs back in the Zarks. He went down and a geemo boar with a misshapen, nightmare snout like an alligator impaled the hapless Mutant Angel on his tusks as he sat up from the ground. Another monster boar got the MA in his jaws. In a second the two geemo beasts were fighting over the halves.
The second .50 cal shot whip-cracked out and the other not-wounded Mutant Angel went down. Chuckles deliberately aimed for the cycle not the man. The MA got up sprinting and dodging, but a giant sow ran him down and dragged him away in her jaws.
“Sweeeet!” Sass Hootie called out as she watched through Bonehead’s spyglass. Her and Bonehead started dancing around and clapping.
Chuckles laughed so hard he couldn’t get another shot off at the one-armed Mutant Angel speeding away. Hard to imagine that badly wounded MA surviving alone out on the Tanna plains on a cold September night, but when you are talking about those punishment-absorbing marauders who knows?
I walked up next to them with my rifle and a big grin. “Great shooting! Give that young man a cigar and a duck.” I have to admit I enjoyed picking on old Chuckles.
“You just talk shi to me ‘cause you ain’t mature,” Chuckles said after his giggles faded away. He policed up his great big rifle and departed with a haughty step.
“That really hurts my feelings, Chuckles,” I said after him. I shook my head in mock regret then shouted out: “I thought our relationship was getting close to a breakthrough!” He turned around and flipped me off. Same pervo dude who molests waterfowl and laughs when he shoots people says I’m not mature, ha! What a do-fo.
There wasn’t any more time to run down Chuckles’ self-esteem. Caterwauling Packit squatted down over Roofy’s body. Major Kaim beside himself as one of his buzz-cut goons writhed with a chest wound on the cold wet ground.
Tee roared at Bonehead, berating him for not getting even one raft put together. Then Tee and Major Kaim clashed, each accusing the other of not having guards posted. It was just a time-matter before they both turned on me.
“I never said this place was safe,” I calmly said back at them then spit on the ground. “How you handle security is your business. I show the way, that’s it; don’t give any guarantees on a jaunt like this.”
Little Bit worked on Bo-Rat’s wound. One bullet zipped through his left side, missing his vital organs. She concentrated on patching him up. That whole day she’d done a great job distancing herself from me. It was like we were not even riding together.
I walked over to Roofy’s body. A headshot opened up the back of her skull. Looked like friendly fire. Didn’t want to believe Tee did it tentional. Not a good angle from where he was shooting but with him you never knew, maybe he did it without thinking but still meaning to. She had become a problem for him. Girls came too easy for Tee, except for Soosey Journ.
With her hands over her mouth, Packit turned away when I reached down and brushed the blood-matted hair from Roofy’s face. The dead girl’s big blue eyes wide open in that ultimate surprise look even after her premonition. I shut her eyelids with my right hand. The dead girl’s skin still feeling warm and moist with life already gone.
The buzz-cut goon flailed his arms, in his death throes now, the sucking chest wound making him gasp faster. “Moma, moma, moma!” he cried out then went stiff.
The one timber raft got finished quick. No digging graves. We covered the two bodies with the biggest rocks we could find. The Sawbird Gang all stood around Roofy’s bleak resting place. The wind blew the clouds out of the sky and the late afternoon sun shown down as Bonehead strummed his steel guitar and keened for the dead girl:
“Roofy gots her nay-a-yee-aim
‘cause she had to sleep up on the roof
at her parents’ cab-in
when all the littl’ brats was cry–in
She gots treated like a thrall back home, wanted to be free-ee
so she run away to join up wit us outlaws
Now she never gots the chance to have her own fam-ee-lee-ee
Thas it, thas all for her
Thas it, thas all,
Thas all for Roof-ee.”
With current song-writing stylings like Bonehead’s, it’s no wonder most citizens prefer boogying down to versions of the goldy-oldys written over eleven hundred years ago before Doomtime. Bonehead put away his guitar then led the way down to the raft.
It took three trips to get all the riders and cycles to the other side. Lucky for us, the geemo boars all left the river to graze in the evening. I took the last ride across the narrow, fast Yella River. Thought about my little sister Ceecee who died of monia when she was only ten.
I walked my cycle off the timber raft as Hopper Leap worked on hacking the lashing apart with his hatchet. When I got a little way up the hill from the river, I turned and looked back over the rippling water to the graves. Somehow the herd of mammoths sneaked up on our campsite. I watched as the wise old cow used her trunk to throw away the rocks from Roofy’s grave. The other woolly mammoths circled around to protect their matriarch from anything we might try. The massive animal gently picked up Roofy’s slender body and carried it away. In wonder and sadness I watched the herd of great beasts march quickly downriver.
After kick-starting my cycle, I noticed Little Bit looking over at me. Deep concern darkened her face and longing shown in her eyes. It made me glad despite my sorrow that she even gazed on me. No one else witnessed the mammoths taking Roofy, just Little Bit and me. Outlaws don’t look back, like to put a bad place behind them as soon as right now.
“We ride!” Tee called out.