My cousin Syd, who smoked pot, attended happenings and had a different girl every week was, my parents’ opinion notwithstanding, the coolest of the cool. We’d taken his wreck of a car to his dad’s cottage some ways out from a small town in the foothills. He’d brought along Blaze, a thirty-something tourist from Brittany he’d met at a café downtown.
When Blaze came into the kitchen the next morning with nothing on but an open blouse, her appearance suggesting chastity was not her top concern. Syd good-naturedly suggested I “give her a smack on the bum...an’ tell her she’s ba—d!” She was rather flat-chested, wiry and seemingly nervously on the alert. Notwithstanding that she was European, she seemed remarkably hairy — a fine tawny duvet covering all but her hands.
The stifling heat led Syd to suggest we bring along some food, walk over to the falls — a mere ten foot drop on the nearby creek — and maybe camp out overnight. We’d have to ask permission from the Graysons, a family that’d lived out here with no modern amenities since God knows when. Emerging onto a small gravelly plateau, we wove between the rusting car hulks behind a house seemingly held together by tin beverage signs. Upon explaining our presence, we were invited in by an older woman.
“Lands’ sake Eula, come in here an’ give these folk sumthin’ to drink. Altogether too much larnin’ that one, puttin’ on airs — hummph! but she do keep us goin,’ collectin’ and dryin’ medicine plants like her granny was wont to.”
We sat down around a table in the middle of a worn-out linoleum floor. Wearing a worn flour bag shirt and some thready denim shorts, Eula entered, hesitated, and then deliberately crossed herself before putting down a coil of barb-wire and a tobacco can of nails. “Mornin’folks,” she said with hardly an accent. Squeaking and gurgling from the hand-pump by the sink preceded the arrival of a full pitcher of water and some glasses.
Syd, chatted with Eula’s mother, while Blaze looked around uncomfortably. Drawing my attention, Eula whispered, “Come with me.” I followed her to a shed behind the house, admiring her thickly braided auburn hair, darkly tanned skin and heavy-set muscular body. Picking up a finely perforated pill box strung on a lace, she filled it with leaves selected from a bundle of dried plants. As she hung it ’round my neck, I noticed she bore a lovely aroma of fresh sweat and the outdoors.
“It’ll keep away the ‘skeeters, an’ — other varmints.”
It was only close up that I noticed her lazy eye. I winced involuntarily — one eye watching me while the other looked elsewhere was rather unnerving. Embarrassed, I added awkwardly, “Sorry about your...eh — and thanks for the bug repellent,” She turned away, running her forearm across her eyes, then turned back and handed me a short-handled axe, “Tough ground to hammer in tent pegs.”
Blaze was so anxious to reach the falls that she repeatedly ran ahead, then back to Syd, only to report that we still weren’t there yet. Having arrived, Syd and I set up camp below the falls, while Blaze, suffering from the heat, immediately entered the water. After some time under the falls we all felt refreshed. We cooked up some steaks over an open fire and potatoes in the coals. By the time we’d eaten and cleaned up it had cooled considerably. When, with a couple hours daylight to spare, Syd and Blaze wandered off upstream, I thought nothing of it, well, nothing beyond what I pictured them doing.
Eula’s mosquito repellent didn’t work, so when twilight darkened into night, I retired to bed, rather unconcerned about Syd and Blaze —they were adults after all. The next morning having brought neither Syd nor Blaze, I wandered down to the Graysons. Eula was outside the shed.
“Seen Syd or Blaze?” I asked, “they walked off from camp last night and aren’t back yet —wouldn’t put it past Syd to be pulling a prank.”
“God’s mercy, no!” she exclaimed. Stuffing her pockets with some change she handed me a small bottle of water and a shard from an old mirror. “Take — let’s go — the axe? — never mind — camp.”
When I asked her what the hell she was up to, she just ran faster. I caught up with her at camp, where she’d just picked up the axe.
“Jesus, girl, what the f—”
She replied angrily, “Never take his name in vain, not now, not ever! Come.”
Hours of breakneck bushwhacking through everything from alder bogs to close-set spruces brought us to a narrow ledge. Eula made a sign to be quiet. How she’d trailed them I haven’t a clue. Syd lay below, among the bracken, naked, lacerated and barely breathing. A tawny wolf lay languidly in a cleft in the hillside. A strong scent of blood and chestnut blossoms pervaded the place. Below its tail, the wolf’s haunches were glistening.
“Bottle,” Eula whispered. She poured out a stream across the great tawny wolf’s lair. Shifting, it growled. Eula, oddly, seemed to be intent on sharpening the axe against a large coin. Turning to the wolf she cried, “neither mercy for you, nor your whelps. In nomine patris, filii...” She sprang forward swinging the axe, but stumbling only struck the beast a glancing blow and fell prone. It howled eerily, now standing erect just above her throat. How the idea arose I don’t know, but rushing up I drove the old mirror shard in beneath its shoulder, and it shuddered in its death throes.
While Eula was slipping old dimes under its eyelids, and cutting open its womb to place a dollar piece within, she recited a series of Ave Marias. I managed, with my lacerated hands, to bring Syd out of his stupor and get him on his feet.
Our return was uneventful, our actions neither heralded nor condemned, for no one ever did come looking for Blaze.
"Syd's Vicious Lover"
Copyright: © 2010 Georges Dodds
Published in strong competitors to The New Flesh like International Agrophysics and Estudos de Literatura Oral, Georges Dodds has until recently kept his weird writing under mouldy cerements. His recent genre activities include textual resurrection for a publisher of Gothic novels, unearthing and presenting in an e-library some thematic precursors of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes, translating early French science-fiction to English, and preparing a collection of American dime-novelist William Murray Graydon's earliest adventure stories. Georges and his 3-species family (4 with the goldfish), lives in a former bus garage, on the now relocated site of an18th century cemetery -- so far tilling the garden hasn't revealed its past.