Slaps the Tail - Chapter Two
These two trusties then, and their dog Rasta Pasta, being
basically jobless house sitters with little else to do, had made
quotidian ritual of walking the Loop. The Loop was how Mangas Mesa
residents had come to refer to the dirt road which winds through the
quaking Aspens, quivering firs, and rolling alpine meadows that
grace Southwestern Colorado's higher altitudes. Sunshine Creek Road
provides the only maintained vehicular access, hitching off the Loop
just below Ms. Timmerman's sprawling ranch house and winding down to
Redstone Canyon and across the San Miguel River below. From there, a
right turn on Colorado Highway 145 would take a person upstream
towards Bridal Veil Falls and the spectacular box canyon which
encases the town of Telluride. A left would lead them through
Sawpit, over the Dallas Divide and out to the world beyond.
Mornings are usually preferable for walking along the area's roads
and trails because, due to the altitude and jagged topography, the
afternoon weather will often rear an ugly head no matter the season.
Neither Ira or Deb, or for that matter, Rasta Pasta, would have been
feeling so well on this particular morning however on account of the
big reggae moon splash bash held over in the nearby town of Rico on
the previous evening. Rasta Pasta hadn't actually been allowed
inside the show himself but rather had remained in Ira's bus, which
had been parked on the main street just outside the theater. And
although Newfoundland's are historically one of your more reserved
breeds, RP was also only nine month's old at the time and had not yet
reached the stage where he might loll comfortably in the back of a
bus on a futon and ignore the welcoming committee of Rico's hounds
that had convened at the theater to bay at the moon and act out a
playful revue of their own.
The three Loop walkers then, along with the rest of the folks who
had made the winding drive to descend on Rico from the surrounding
areas, had devoted the night before and some of the morning to
howling, dancing, grinding and pawing the air to the rhythms of One
Bloody Word and opening act Ja Kiss. Debra had even been seen
dancing after hours at the Quonset Hut back in Telluride with a
group that included Itchy Richie and Rasta Jones which, if things
held to form, would suggest that Ira and RP were nearby as well. It
would be a surprise if any of them had gotten to bed before dawn. In
any event, it wasn't until early evening that Ira and Deb got around to
attempting their daily turn.
The Loop serves as extended common driveway to the nine homes which
are scattered across the Mesa on twenty loosely surveyed lots,
mapped out to surround the two hundred acre horse commons of which
Mesa residents all share privilege and custody. It is a slanted,
jerky, snaking oval which eats its tail at nearly three miles and
loses and gains five hundred feet or so of elevation making it the
ideal exercise circuit for anyone who wants to stay in some
semblance of shape without actually doing much.
Debra's parents, confirmed eastern seaboard muckety mucks who had
been advised by their accountant's lawyer that Telluride was where
everybody who was anybody was acquiring vacations homes these days,
had done just that by investing in an aging cabin at the Loop's
nadir, a cabin which they had yet to see in person. The printout
provided by a Telluride based real estate agent claimed that the
dwelling and its "rustic charm" stood on the edge of
Mangas Mesa's lower meadow, 9300 feet above sea level and had a
small back deck offering "spectacular majestic views" of
the entire Sunshine Creek drainage and of Little Cone Mountain to
the south. Deb and Ira would have written it differently to say that
they lived in the slums of the mesa
in a cold dark hollow where the sun refused to shine.
Sherman Proud, the Mangas Mesa Homeowner's President and his wife
Rosemary Rosewater, by contrast, resided at the time in a monstrous
lodge which stood near the circle's apex, carved back in the deep
woods and constructed on an outcropping of shale. Their wrap-around
porch provides glorious sightlines up the gnarled streaking faces of
Wilson Peak, Mt. Wilson and El Diente to the east along with a
panoramic view of the Sneffels range to the north. If they were to
look off to the west, they might gaze down across the horse commons,
past the Finkelstein's roof, and over the Sunshine Creek drainage
all the way to canyon country in Utah.
Ira and Deb liked to say that despite their poverty hollow status on
the mesa, they were glad for their cabin's location in one regard
since whether they opted to circumnavigate the Loop clockwise or
counter, it demanded that they ascend initially, getting a sweat
started and the cardiovascular strain over with before the descent
allowed them to coast back down to their door. Ira always compared
it to climbing a peak as opposed to hiking a canyon. Not that,
despite an enviable proximity to spectacular examples of each, he
had been spending his time in Colorado doing very much of either.
Ira had been sitting on the back deck that evening, trying to clear
his head by working aimlessly on some whittling project and by
smoking and drinking. He had just cracked the third Rolling Rock
when he noticed RP standing next to him with a slobbery leash
dangling from his jowls. The sun had disappeared again, ducking
behind the clouds that shrouded Little Cone where distant flashes of
lightning strobed the evening air. Thunderheads were billowing up
over the Wilsons and it was beginning to look decidedly ominous down
valley as well. Ira could never figure out if the storms were coming
"Let's go Deb," he called into the back door as he slipped
the knife into the sheath that hung from his belt and set about
attaching the leash to the excited R.P.'s leather collar. "This
dog's about to crap himself."
Deb appeared from the bedroom massaging her temples under the
tangles of hair. She groggily retrieved her Tam from the floor
by the stove and began tucking her tangled mane up beneath it. She
would have been better served to concentrate on this task alone but
instead, as she tucked she attempted also to step, albeit rather
absently, into one of her hiking boots. Stumbling and lurching
suddenly to one side, she ended up hanging against the counter,
which accelerated the pounding in her head and brought on a
vertiginous nausea. As the nausea subsided slightly, she
straightened, took a deep breath and bent to try again at the boot
only to have her hat fall over her eyes as she tilted forward. She
then lost her balance, trod upon one of R.P.'s squeaking chew toys
and turned an ankle. Her hip and shoulder met the kitchen floor with
a solid thud and when the spinning room finally slowed she focused
to find Ira gawking at her from above. She studied his face with a
confused and bitter, blurry annoyance.
"Nice maneuver Hoover," Ira said offering her a hand. R.P.
bounded around them excitedly, tangling and untangling them in his
leash. Deb ignored the proffered paw. Ira tried again. "Come on
Grace, get to your feet. You'll feel better when we get going."
Deb didn't care for the names Hoover or Grace.
"Will you please put on a Tam or something," she screeched up at him
without warning. "You look like a damn cue ball."
Startled but not surprised, Ira hesitated, considering the outburst
and looked down at her as one might at a saucy child.
"But cue balls are bald my skanky little friend." He
finally said. "Perhaps you mean Q-tip. Or are you still too
fried to know what you mean?"
Deb pulled her own hat off and lowered her head into her hands,
which caused her impressive matted locks to cascade around her
knees. Having been blessed from birth with long, naturally kinky
hair, the dreading process had been almost immediate and much easier
for her than for Ira. His hair never seemed to grow much, certainly
hadn't dreaded with any respectability, and simply looked dirty and
frizzled as if he had had an unfortunate encounter with a eating
utensil and a two-twenty socket.
"I just wish your dreads would come in, she finally muttered.
"Like Rasta Jones's"
There was no hesitation this time.
"I'm tired of hearing that asshole's name!" Ira shouted
down at her menacingly. "First you spend all night following
him around like you were R.P. and he was some big ass to sniff, then
you babble about him and Itchie Richie and their damn mobile karmic
bus community the whole ride home. And now the first thing out of
your mouth when you drag your lazy ass out of bed is 'I wish you
were more like Rasta Jones. Why don't you just go move into his
stinking bus with him."
"And leave you in my parents house? That's not to goddamn
likely is it..."
"I'M GOING BACK TO THE CITY ANYWAY." Ira kicked R.P. aside
with his foot.
"DON'T YOU SCREAM AT ME!" Deb shrieked springing
unsteadily to her feet. "You want them to hear us again? And
don't you dare hurt that animal. Goddammit!" She picked up the red and green
Tam from the floor. "Let's do the walk and get
it over with. Here, please take a hat." She offered him hers. Ira glowered at her for a long minute before ripping the hat out of
her hands. He pulled it down over his head tightly as he marched out
Thunder rolled in the distance, echoing off the peaks in a surround
sound style that made it difficult to tell from where it came. The
late summer evening light was taking a purple hue and the shifting
breezes rustled the aspen leaves and stirred up miniature dust
devils in the road. R.P. strained at his lead tugging Deb, who
stumbled along behind him, to and fro in an unabashed effort to
sniff as many bushes as possible and lift a leg where he deemed it
appropriate. The trio marched around the first turn past Ms.
Timmerman's driveway where they could see her through the aspens and
scrub oak, standing on her porch, arms akimbo. They didn't wave and
continued to let R.P. drag their hangovers up the gentle grade.
"She probably heard you shouting again," Deb hissed under
her breath. "It's too quiet up here. When are you going to
figure that out?"
"I'll figure it out when I'm not up here anymore which will be
pretty goddamned soon if you're not careful." Ira gritted his
teeth and picked up his pace leaving Deb struggling to keep up with
R.P. who pulled her relentlessly like a lead dog suddenly being
outdistanced by a lesser member of his team.
By the time they passed C.E. McFetter's towering polished oak
entrance gate, which, as usual was locked with a heavy chain since
the famous actor almost never blessed the mesa with his presence,
they were flushed and sweating despite the cooling winds. R.P.'s
tongue was lolling out the side of his mouth and strands of viscous
slobber wrapped around the top of his black snout. Too preoccupied
snuffing down a chuckhole to drink from the last stream they passed,
he now had to endure his thirst until they reached Mangas Creek
where it crossed under the road just after the hill topped out.
It was there that Deb and Ira, with the climbing phase of their walk
over with, would often stop to gulp gratefully from their water
bottles and catch their breaths while R.P. stood cooling his heels
and lapping at the stream. With most of the mountain snow melted by
this late in the summer, the creek was little more than a mossy,
three-foot wide rivulet snaking out of the undergrowth.
The wind picked up and the air began to smell as if the big drops of
a summer storm would start slapping the ground at any moment. They
pushed forward to make the top of the hill and the cover of the
encroaching spruce. As R.P. led them over the final crest, his ears
rolled suddenly forward, his head cocked, and he stopped short. His
body quivered with attention.
Just below, where the creek gurgled out of the roots and moss to
disappear into a pipe under the road was Rosemary Rosewater and her
husband's two wolf dogs. Rosemary was bent by the stream picking
wildflowers and didn't see them. The two wolf hybrids however,
caught wind of them immediately.
Deb and Ira had encountered them on their walks before although
always when Rosemary's husband Sherman had been along. These
meetings were annoying to all involved since the animals would
strain hard at their leads, R.P. with a playful cautious wonder and
the hybrids with undisguised vicious fury. R.P., though only half a
year old, already weighed a fluffy 90 pounds and resembled a little
black bear to the wolves who had no doubt had their share of run ins
with a few of the mesa's authentic ursines. It normally appeared all
Sherman could do to maintain his balance as the dogs strained, each
owner unreasonably annoyed by the others interruption of their walk
in the woods.
But Sherman Proud was not along this time and the wolves were not on
leashes. They came racing up the hill before Rosemary knew they were
gone. R.P. begin to wag his tale cautiously as they approached since
the world as he had experienced it thus far was filled only with
creatures wanting to fawn over him, frolic with him, or flip him
over and rub his tummy. Instead the bigger wolf wasted no time
lunging straight for his throat and ripping into the thick fur. The
smaller wolf circled warily, charging in when it saw an opening to
nip and retreat.
R.P.'s leash, which had been looped around Deb's wrist, quickly
tangled around her legs, and dragged her to the ground where she was
caught briefly underneath the writhing, snarling jaws. Her kicking
and screaming had no apparent affect. Ira tried at first to separate
the gnashing animals but lost his balance and was knocked to the
ground as well.
Rosemary arrived at the scene only to stand on the side of the road
yelling Goddammit you goddamn dogs, Goddammit, Goddammit, Goddammit,
over and over and over.
Ira, grabbing futilely at fur and tail, was briefly able to latch
onto the larger wolf's collar but this only got him yanked back and
forth and dragged about the road as the maniacal animal ripped and
thrashed. It hadn't taken R.P. long to realize the stakes involved
and he tried to fight back but had neither the muscle development
nor the breeding to match the bastard lupine's instinctive primal
fury. As it became increasingly clear that this was a playtime he
wanted nothing to do with, R.P. decided that flight would not be
ignoble and begin lurching desperately to break free, finally
tearing away from the fray but leaving half of his left ear in the
wolf's foaming red jaws. The puppy would have made a clean break
except that the leash, still tangled in Deb's legs, dragged him
down. Both wolves were on him, as he flipped over squealing, and
ripped into his furry throat while the entire mass shimmied down the
embankment towards the creek like fighting mice on a ouiji board.
At this point Ira apparently began to see red. He sprang to his feet
and placed a running kick in the small wolf's rib cage. She let go,
her ribs cracking under the hiking boot's hard toe. As she gasped
for breath and went slinking and coughing towards the wood, Ira
turned his flurry of kicks and punches to the male. He finally got
between the bloody animals long enough for Deb to scramble to her
feet and break into a run pulling the whimpering and confused R.P.
along behind her until he got his bearings and returned the favor by
sprinting out in front.
Ira was left behind to face the male wolf who had seemingly hyped
himself into such a frenzy that he no longer cared whose blood he
tasted. Ira pursued the animal relentlessly kicking when he could
and swinging his fists. Suddenly he felt a backswing connect with
Rosemary Rosewater who for some reason chose that moment to charge
into their midst. As the wolf lunged they all fell together
intertwined in a ferocious writhing mass with Rosemary clamped onto
one of Ira's legs and Ira's hands tangled in the collar as the beast
gnashed at his shirt. It was during this brief stalemate that Ira
remembered the knife sheathed on his belt.
Deb could hear Rosemary's screaming, and Ira's bellowing mixed over
the wolf's snarl and yelps as she dropped over the hill. Then she
couldn't hear anything except the pounding of her heart and head as