Hawk Dancer

Short Story

Short Story Feature

A new short story is posted on a random schedule of monthly or near quarterly. These are my short fiction works in most cases. 

A Goose in Deer Season

This is only part of the story. This is the mid section of the first half of the story by the same title found in the book:
Peanut Butter and Pickle Pie: Birch Clump Village Reader 3
cute boy
About this story:

      Erik Fern is around 24 years old in this story. Jig Rajan, pictured here, is probably 23.
     Erik had already served in Vietnam as a Marine, earning a purple heart and was also a former prisoner of war (POW). He is living back in Chicago where he lived until age 11 when he was abducted.
    His mother and he moved to her native village of Birch Clump several months after he was found and reunited with her at age 14. He was a model student prior to the abduction, but developed some more-or-less streetwise ways during the three years he was on the run with the man who snatched him from school and family.
    Though impulsive and often on the verge of trouble for time to time during his remaining adolescent years, Erik returned to his better behaviors and generously helpful ways.
     He is living on his own in this story, working in a warehouse, has a casual relationship with a girl. The larger portion of this selection from the story is a dream sequence. So it takes some unusual changes as might be expected in a dream. 

A Goose in Deer Season
Set in 1978

   The Chicago tunnel was a good ten to fifteen degrees warmer than out in the open. A dirty mist from the trucks and buses buzzing through splashed the white, tiled walls near the entrance. The posting stated a twenty-five miles per hour limit, but few ever slowed down that far pulling in from a forty-five MPH highway. Regular through traffic was not supposed to use the tunnel, but some people felt themselves above the law during rush hour and used it to get a one-block advantage. Erik wished the cops would come down and ticket all the violators. It would feel so good to see self-centered drivers pulled over. Farther in the walls were clean. The bright halogen lighting made the middle of the tunnel look almost as stark and sanitary as a hospital hallway. He nearly walked into a dilapidated gurney. He worked to get his frozen numb leg to cooperate so he could lie down on it. He then tried to kick off from the wall, but the wheels were apparently jammed. It was just as well. He could have had trouble if the gurney rolled into the through lane.
    The cold stiffened his hands. The right fingers moved with effort, but the left was all but dead. The radio claimed minus five and a wind chill of almost 15 below. It was so painfully cold and he had so far to walk. The tunnel, as a minimum, provided a modest reprieve from the fury for the interval it took to cross through the tunnel.
    He passed a couple of unoccupied cars, a half-mile or so back, warming up in their driveways. He was tempted to misappropriate one and leave it a couple blocks from home. In his mind, he pictured the face on one car owner might run outside in worn out slippers yelling as Erik drove off with his car. It was a look of alarm blended with cold blooded, vehement outrage. Another car owner, he visualized, might be so sleepy, that he would stand outside with a steaming mug of coffee confused as to why his car was not still there. He might look to his garage, or across the street to see where, in his sleep-starved, inebriated state of mind he parked it, failing for a while to guess someone else drove off with it. The later amused Erik.
    He dressed poorly for the elements. January’s thaw, that permitted lighter clothing, came to an abrupt end the night before with a six-inch snowfall on top of the dirt encrusted remains of an earlier snow. Now it was too cold to snow. His heavy work shoes were soaked with the blackened, road salt encrusted, half-frozen slush found at each cross walk. His feet were so numb he couldn’t tell for sure if he had shoes on or was barefoot. He tried to look down, but his cold-locked neck wouldn’t bend. The thinning fabric of his jeans did nothing to block the intensity of Chicago’s wind. He was surprised to find this old pair under his bed. He thought he gave them to Jig. Either way, it was incredible he was able to squeeze into them. They had to be the most restrictive pair he undertook to get into. He was gratified with his accomplishment, though it was no wonder he walked a bit stiff legged.
    The unlined, military fatigue jacket provided little more protection than a windbreaker. Sticking his hands into the jacket pockets didn’t warm them. He had the foresight to put on a black, wool beret that left his brittle ears exposed. Frozen breath from the nostrils caked his week old mustache pulling the thin hairs anytime he stretched the upper lip.
    A Brinks truck approached, slowed down and stopped next to him. The dome light went on and he recognized Jig waving him inside the armored vehicle. He wore Dean’s old corduroys and varsity jacket. Erik looked around for witnesses. Finding none, he climbed up into the cab and pulled the heavy door closed.
    “What you doin’, moonlighting?”
    “No one was in it so I took it.”
    Erik laughed. No one just left a Brinks truck alone like that. Raj must have found a temporary job to see him through the labor dispute just as he did. For some reason or another most of the people who hired him on a daily basis found ways not to pay.
    “Come on, how’d you get a warm cushy job like this?”
    “What job?” Jig retorted, “I was watching this baby just idle for over an hour and so I took it.”
    The heat felt good. His skin tingled.
    “Where you going?”
    “Drop you off if you’re going home,” Raj offered.
    “You won’t get in trouble?”
    “’Long as I don’t get caught.”
    “Who’s in back?” Erik asked having heard that all armored trucks had someone in the back.
    “Never looked.”
    “Mean you really just took this truck?”
    “’S’wat I told ya.”
    Erik sat back in disbelief that he was actually riding in a stolen truck, a Brink’s truck at that. Jig had best keep to the speed limits. “I sure hope no one called this in yet. This baby is rather easy to identify, I’d guess.”
    Jig gave a laughed; the kind of laugh Erik would expect from their high school days. The laugh that said, in effect, “What are you scared of, take a chance.”
    Erik rested his blazing, wind whipped eyes.
    “So, didn’t see you on the strike line today,” Jig said.
    “Got a day job. Pushing buttons at a factory.”
    “How long will that last?”
    “One day. They dismissed me at six.”
    “How much you make?”
    “Boss went home before I did,” Erik explained. “Place was all but empty after I cleaned up around my machine.”
    “No cash?”
    “No.”

    Erik thought of his money. He had a dollar seventy-five and two or three pennies when he left work. He had asked one of the ladies about bus service. He needed a buck-fifty. Ten cents could buy a transfer. With any luck, he might find the bus he could switch to that passed the end of his street.
    “There’s one that heads to Main, then on to Washington where I change buses. I don’t know where it goes from there.”
    “Close enough for me.”
    He walked with her to the bus stop. He didn’t know where those places were, but the ride would be warm and had to be closer to home than the factory. Standing a fair distance back from the curb to avoid cold dirty splash from the cars, they made small talk of how cold it was. She wore a dumpy, knee length, fake fur coat. Her dull, non-distinguishable colored felt hat with earflaps had a broken string on one side. The other string hung down her front.
    “Dear, you should have gloves,” she said as she searched through her bag. “Your hands must be frozen by now.”
    Erik stuck his hands back into his coat pockets to ease her mind. If she was searching for an extra pair of gloves, he didn’t want to accept them. She was a sweet lady, probably in her mid-forties. He imagined that she could be a hard working single Black mother who probably went to church regularly, had a couple of good children and a couple others living on the edge. He wanted to know more about her, but wasn’t sure what question to start with.
    “Lord,” she said in worried panic, “Ain’t got my fare tickets. Son, I’m sure you’re more broke than I am; but you wouldn’t have a quarter? I got a buck twenty-five and the fare’s a dollar fifty.”
    Erik took his hands out of the coat pockets and worked at getting his stiff fingers into the pockets of his jeans. He fished up a quarter while a penny dropped into the snow. His generosity made any hope of a cross bus for him null and void. It wasn’t just generosity, as he saw it. He would have felt bad if he held back, his prerogative to do so without moral consequence, and there was no bus at his stop to switch. She knew her route so it was certain she would get dropped off close to her home. However, he could not find it in him to tell her that. 
    He felt she didn’t see the penny drop. Normally he wouldn’t waste a penny, but it was just too cold to work his hand through the snow to find that penny.
    “God bless you. Are you coming back tomorrow?”
    He liked her voice, strong, reassuring, and not at all bashful about offering a sincere and kind remark.
    “Not sure,” Erik answered. He knew he wasn’t, but didn’t want her to worry about paying back the quarter.
    “I gotta change buses. You got a dime so a poor old lady can buy a transfer?”
    Forcing his frozen fingers back into the pocket. He worked up a dime. He looked around while he inched the dime near the top of the pocket and answered her, “Sure, where is she?”
    “Who?” the stout, matronly lady wondered.
    “The old lady,” Erik said.
    She smiled a barely audible laugh.
   His fingers were too numb to pinch the dime, but he was able to make it drop into his palm. He held the price of a bus transfer out for her to take.
    “Bless you. You’re such a dear.”
    He realized he was now seven or eight cents short of bus fare. He pondered how to handle this without the lady finding out. He could try to slam his fare into the box right after she deposited her fare and maybe the driver wouldn’t be able to determine how much money was in the till. Then again, he thought if the driver dropped her fare before he could get his in and announced the shortage they both would be embarrassed.
    “Don’t worry about it, Ma’am. I’m sure you’d do it for me.” Then he walked away.
    “Son,” she called. Her face was worked up into a hurtful look of pity and wonder for the day worker that just came in her life. “Where are you going?”
    “Left my gloves at work. I’ll get the next bus.”
    It was a lie. He left his gloves at home wrapped over the snow shovel handle when he took them off to light one of his machine rolled filtered cigarettes. The tin, which he kept extra cigarettes in, pressed against his chest. He could use one just about now.
    “Lord, that’s an hour from now. You’ll freeze standing out here.”
    “It’s fine. You go ahead. I need those gloves for tomorrow.”
He could feel her sweet loving eyes watching him as he headed for the shop. There was no way he could let her know that between the two of them one would have to start walking. He couldn’t get on a bus and leave her behind.
    He tried to visualize her looking for him at the small factory tomorrow. He wouldn’t be there… 
“Beats walking in this weather,” Jig said pulling Erik out of his memories.
    He nodded in agreement.
    The ride was slow going. Jig pulled over on a side street. “She’s all yours.”
    Jig jumped out leaving the engine running and hurried down the sidewalk. Erik contemplated whether to drive the truck on or to jump out also. He slid over to the driver’s seat and studied the gearshift, mirrors and brakes, then pulled back on the main road. He didn’t know where he was. He exercised more caution to keep the oversize vehicle inside its lane.
    “Why did I take the truck?” he asked himself knowing his finger prints were all over the cab by now and on file since he was arrested as a juvenile and again in joining the service. Jig, on the other hand might not have had his prints taken ever. Would he come forward if the arrested Erik and explain things, or just let Erik take the heat?
    He kept looking for a place to abandon the armored vehicle, but each time he saw a parking lot he could pull into there were too many people around.
    He stopped hard for the new traffic light in Gladwin along US-2. He didn’t know how he got there. A car rammed into the back of the Brinks Truck. All traffic came to a halt. A few people moving in slow motion were on the street - typical when an accident first happens. They were determining if they should stick around to see what happened, rush in to help, or move along and not get involved. A couple of teenage boys, sporting closely tapered flared jeans and varsity letter jackets, were grinning the sort of smile he saw on other boys gathered to watch a fight when he was their age. This was probably the most excitement they had all day. Erik humored himself with the thought of yelling out, “Hey guys want to take her for a spin?”
 
    With a quick look into the rear view mirror, he saw that a police car with a heavy bumper had run into him. No one got out of the squad car yet, so he grabbed the nightstick wedged between the seat and backrest and smashed the dome light, slid to the passenger door and bolted out, high tailing it across the street and rounded the corner of the nearest side street.
    He noticed how the few pedestrians braving the weather scurried out of the fugitive’s way. He was ashamed, but also angry with the witnesses that they were so afraid of him. He didn’t do anything wrong, but he realized he must have looked a fright to them with his faded jeans, worn military jacket, black beret, his wisp of a beard and long hair. Although he was a little underweight for his height and age, some folks might have viewed him as a malnourished, desperate drug junkie at this point. I suppose anyone running from an armored truck like that would at least be desperate, he reasoned, yet he remained angry the self-righteous witnesses would fear him non-the-less.
    They should have at least mimicked some concern for Erik. He once saw a shabby looking young man bolt from the alley entrance of some business. He was apprehensive about the guy’s appearance, but not wanting to appear judgmental just because a crudely dressed person ran out the back of the store, Erik offered him a hearty, friendly, “Hey?”
    The man spun around and pulled a gun on him. He wondered where he would be now had a burglar alarm no gone off at that same time stumping the gunman who opted to continue running. Erik hadn’t known terror like that since Vietnam.
    The memory shot a burst of adrenalin through him. He slid as he rounded the Birch Clump general store, but kept on his feet. A crowd gathered at the window of the restaurant across the street. He saw them point him out to the police. One man in an off-white trench coat, more likely an expensive London Fog had even gotten out of his Mercedes-Benz, honked the horn and pointed towards the marina. Erik hated the man’s face. He looked like a condescending, self-made, self-righteous entrepreneur disgusted with the likes of anyone who looked like Erik. He imagined the man snarling the words, “Hippie, Commie.”
    Stupid, he thought of the self-important businessman’s actions, had he paused in the open to point out an armed man, he’d be shot.
    An hour ago, he was an innocent, scrawny young man who couldn’t afford a decent haircut or pair of jeans to replace the ones he outgrew. Now the public saw him as a potentially armed and dangerous renegade. How swift judgments are made; and he knew he couldn’t prove them wrong about him. Any excuse he could think of for running would sound flaky.
    He pitied the two teens when their laughing faces melted to terror as he approached them at full speed. They couldn’t get their hands out of their varsity jacket pockets fast enough to make a good run for it. Backing away with their open jackets, one teen slipped on ice. He might have smacked iced over pavement face on had his partner not freed a hand in time to break the fall. Both boys went down.
    He wondered he could run at all with no feeling in his left leg. The lack of sensitivity was, oddly enough, painful.
    Erik cursed Jig for getting him into this mess. He ran towards the municipal parking lot set between the Menominee courthouse and the sheriff’s department. Going over a spot of ice, smoothed over by spinning tires, he lost control. His feet wildly tried to maintain balance, but the constricting jeans hindered his efforts. He grabbed hold of a car trunk to regained balance and then he zipped over a few rows of parked cars before hitting another slick spot and fell, slamming his side into the pavement. His left arm instantly went to sleep as if his funny bone was hit. He tried to get up, but couldn’t. He looked under the cars and saw a policeman head the other direction.
    Again, he tried hard to get up, but his frozen left leg and the numb arm kept him down.

    A play of light from the bright, though lightly overcast U.P. sky to the late gray of Chicago’s evening found him back in his apartment. He held his breath a moment, and then let it out relieved to wake up from the nightmare. He had cut off blood circulation to his left arm by laying on it. A cold draft hit him from the window he left open a couple inches. Leaning back, he forced the dead arm out from under him.
    He worked his body back and forth to drop the numbed out leg. It dropped like dead weight.
    His breathing was still fast and his heart was pounding from the panic he felt in the dream, as he struggled to sit up in the old, overstuffed cushions. He massaged his tingling arm and hand until he could use then to aid in getting up on his deaden leg. It would not hold his weight. He plopped back down another minute or so. He managed to stand and limp with his prickling leg over to the tripod with Jimmy’s picture on it. Erik was working on this for a couple weeks now. A clip-on spotlight shined on the snap shot of the young Greek soldier’s picture he was copying for his landlord, Jimmy, in exchange for a month rent-free during last October’s strike and a reduction in rent for the next twelve months.
    He noticed an envelope that had been shoved under his door. He wasn’t sure if his weakened leg would support much more walking until more blood flowed back. He could see from the return address that it was from Annunciation Friary. He was contemplating letting someone know of his thoughts, his longings; he just didn’t know who to begin with, who to trust first
    He smiled at the contents of the letter once he was able to retrieve it. 

[This story continues in the book: Peanut Butter and Pickle Pie, Birch Clump Village Reader 3]
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