The Deadwood Reaches: Part III

If you missed the first part, read it here

If you missed the second part, read it here

The Glass House

I was looking for police tape or something like a crime scene on Main Street. There was nothing. It was the same moonlit path of old stores it always was. The only difference I found was with my headlights, when I was turning back toward the freeway: The old saloon had collapsed. It looked like a great big club had struck it lengthwise across the roof. Only the side walls were still standing. I stumbled back out of my car to investigate. I figured there must have been a fire, but none of the wood was charred. The weathered logs had snapped cleanly, their strawberry blonde cores protruding in jagged ways. Something had smashed the old saloon, like a big boulder or a fallen tree. Yet, nothing remained to explain it.

Now, I understand the way this story is starting to sound, and over the years of telling it I’ve come to learn that some people giggle or tsk at what’s to come. That’s all right—I have made my peace with the absurdity of the whole thing. But I can say that I remember looking up from the rubble and seeing a great big green eye catch the light from the moon. It looked a hell of a lot like an eye, anyhow. It was probably 50 feet behind the saloon—back in the trees. It was enormous. This wasn’t a wolf or an owl. The eye was four or five feet wide. It sobered me up and froze me stiff. Then it closed, and I did not hear any rumbling or thumping, but the treetops rustled like a mad wind was pushing right through them. It rustled through the trees behind the grocery store, then through the trees down the ridge toward the freeway—toward Aman’s place. I had no idea what I saw, but my instinct was to protect Aman or warn him about it. So, when my body thawed enough to move again, I dashed for my car and started for the freeway.

It was on the third or fourth swerve down the ridge road’s switchbacks that I really noticed the rye mixing with the long night. My eyes were closing on me and the road was just streaks of blue moon shadow. My wheels would grumble on the right when they found the gravel shoulder, which told me to swerve left until the left tires started complaining the same. I heard my bag slide, then roll back—hitting the doors with a thud—until a bump threw it into the footwell beside my seat. I did a big Hollywood flat-slide out of the exit onto the freeway, then mis-shifted, which threw me into the seatbelt. The gears ground into some bad smells before I popped it back into neutral, took a breath, then dropped into fifth and floored it. The car was not running smoothly, but it was moving, and the adrenaline knocked some of the sleep from my head. I think I might have even laughed. I don’t think much about dying when I’m drunk.

I don’t remember much of the drive after that. There were a few close calls with trees and fences that I can still see, but the next clear memory I have is pulling into Aman’s place and seeing a great big gash running through the greenhouse roof. The metal frames were twisted branches clinging to the jagged glass remains; the rest of the panels were glimmering in the soil that spilled out of the broken planters. My headlights shot right through the building’s wound to the property-line fence. Aman was sprinting away and yelling something at a rustling treeline beyond his property. He leapt over the fence and disappeared into the tall grass of the valley. I stumbled out of the car, leaving the headlights on, and wove my steps into the broken greenhouse. Most of the planters were shattered by some great force, but there was a big round one spotlighted by two buzzing grow-lights. It came up to my knees. It wasn’t broken, but something had stepped out of it. There were dirt footprints leading out into the night. I followed them, swaying.

My headlights beamed a fading path of light into the night, marked on its edges by the stretched and jagged shadows of the half-crushed house. I followed the path out to Aman. His echoes were tossing about the valley. He was pleading that something should “keep the accord” and that it wasn’t too late. The treeline had stopped rustling by the time I got out there. I found Aman on his knees. He was oozing blood from plate-glass gashes across his back and arms. His blood was black in the moonlight. I slurred something, and he didn’t even startle. He was cowered into his shadow, whispering nothings to no one. I wished I was sober.

I tried to find a solid patch of skin to grip and pull him up to my shoulder, but it seemed every good place was just a ribbon between slashes. I pulled a piece of glass about three or four inches out of his bicep, which finally startled him out of his trance. He winced, then trembled, pushing up to his feet to look me in the eye and say, “We gotta go to the grove, before it’s too late …” His voice was distant like a breeze.

I pulled his arm over my shoulder and his wounds clung to my shirt. I burped with my hollow gut—burned as it was by liquor—and wobbled our four legs back to my headlights across the tall grass.

“I gotta go to town … I gotta to go to the grove …” Aman wheezed.

“You nee—you need to go to a hospital, bud,” I slurred, helping him, then myself, over the fence.

“I gotta go to the saloon …” Aman began to say.

“Saloon is gone, bud buddy Aman, man. You need stitches, not beer.” I laughed. It wasn’t the right thing to do, but I wasn’t right by that point. I had counted on sleeping by that time.

But Aman had stopped at the fence to look at me, his face twisted with horror. “Why you sayin’ the saloon is gone?” He asked between breaths.

“It’s fucked, man—like God karate-chopped it right in,”—I burped some rye reflux—“right in the roof. It’s collapsed. Tinder and glass.” My headlights lit up every wound on Aman’s body. The plate-glass shower of the greenhouse roof had wrecked his arms; it looked like he had stretched them up to guard himself from the cascade. The deepest of the gashes pushed out narrowing red tongues that spiraled down to his fingertips and slobbered into the soil. “You need the hosp—”

“It’s gone? They crushed it …” Aman said to no one in particular.

“Saloons can be rebuilt, man.”

“It ain’t just a building … It’s a treaty … You can’t rebuild a treaty …” Aman slid down the fence and sat in the dirt.

“A treaty with what? What the hell are you talking about, Aman? Did someone—uh,” I watched him gaze back at me and something entered my foggy head. “Did they take your wife, Aman? Fuck it—tell me in the car, we have to get to a hospital.”

Aman shook his head. “Forget the car!” he shouted, then slumped back into the fence. “The hospital is hours away … there’s a kit with some bandages under the seat of my truck, if you’re that committed …”

The truck wasn’t locked, and I knew something about wrapping wounds from a hunting course. So, I started pulling glass and wrapping gauze while Aman rambled. “I dunno the whole detail of it, but there ain’t gonna be a war … there were wars—I hear—but they ended …” His skin was cool, pale, and clammy. “Used to be the whole forest wandered, they say …” He stared out to the sky and I saw the moon stare back into his pupils. “They say there were wars, then treaties … then broken treaties … then forests became still … I think we were the last ones …” he mumbled.

“The last what, Aman?” I pressed a bead of superglue across the lip of a gash and squeezed it closed. I nearly glued my drunk fingers into the wound, but he didn’t notice.

“The last movin’ forest … the last treaty … a house built of dead so no more would die …” Aman spoke as if they weren’t his words, but something he had been told. Then he was quiet for a long time. I fought with fatigue to keep my eyes even half on the job. God knows, a butcher couldn’t have done a worse job. I must have been crouched over him for nearly an hour tending his wounds. The bleeding slowed. It still stained the gauze, but it was slow. His pulse was weak, but steady. He was somewhere between sleep and death when he muttered, “She left. No one took her … She left with them. She cried … but she left to be still with them … to move no more …”

It struck me that only dying men talk about lost love, so I dragged him to my backseat and started the drive to the hospital.


Written by Rory

Edited by Lindsay Vermeulen

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