by Brother Theo
I had taken the box into my room as soon as my heart stopped trying to hammer its way up my throat and into my mouth. I’m pretty sure it nearly succeeded too, because I had to swallow hard several times to get it back down. It felt heavy as I sat it on the bedside table. There was no sense of a’li’il, or magic from the box, and but for the slight change in the rhythmic hum filtering in from the outside world, I may as well have been putting a book beside my bed for some bedtime reading.
Returning to the porch, the familiar scree twang of the rusty screen door spring sounded like an old friend reminding me that all was normal. But as soon as I sat back in my also very normal chair I saw two police cars pass. Now, police cars are not exactly rare in my neighborhood. There is a lot of drug activity on my street and those surrounding it, as well as a few domestic brawls, mostly on the weekends. Like I said, it’s not a ritzy community, but for the most part, people mind their own. The two cars passed my house and parked on the opposite side of the street drawing a small crowd of onlookers which I just now noticed had not gone back inside, but had instead remained just inside their fences, now looking suspiciously at my house.
Two officers exited both cars, one positioning himself to the rear of the vehicle near the trunk, the other in front of the left fender of their parked car. The officer in front took notes, interviewing people while the crowd of gawkers drew larger and louder. Some of them began to point toward where Beaver and I sat. In minutes two more police cars blocked the ends of my block. Craning my head to look at them I noticed that the men getting out of these cars wore bulky body armor and carried assault rifles. Police like this were not unknown on the reservation, and they presaged violence the way vultures advertised death. After a brief conversation among the four officers across the street one of them, a large fit man in his early fifties spoke into his clip mike and headed toward my gate accompanied by a younger, but no less muscular officer.
The other two policemen headed around to the rear of my home. Beaver spoke quietly from the side of his mouth. “Be very careful Tsosi. Red lives matter in some places, but not everywhere.”
His voice was full of tension. Stopping at the gate the older officer spoke in a clear voice. “San Jose PD folks, you mind if we come on up to the porch? There seems to have been an incident in the area, and we’d like to ask you some questions.”
Up close, I could see his uniform was neatly pressed, and his shoes had the high gloss of constant care or patent leather. In contrast the other man seemed to be wearing his uniform the way a mechanic wears a uniform; his shoes were scuffed, and his appearance was in contrast to his partner, altogether untidy.
When Beaver began to stand the younger man put his hand on the butt of his weapon and said “Sit back down chief, nobody told you to get out of your chair”.
He said this in such a low and menacing voice that Beaver froze partially standing, arms to his sides. As if nothing at all were out of place the other officer, Hargrove, I could see by his shiny nameplate, asked, “Are there any weapons on your property Ms….”
“Stonewalker” I replied frostily. “Ms Stonewalker,” and yes there are several guns on my property.”
Beaver shot me a look of disbelief. Half standing as he was it was so comical I would have laughed had I not been in a state of calm rage. Both officers now had their hands on the butts of their weapons. The other man, Chambliss, I could now see by his name plate, which was smudged and looked as if it had never been polished, was gripping his pistol with whitening fingers. Now, here’s the odd thing: The older man was neat; his hair, although streaked with silver was freshly cut, and each hair looked perfectly in place. Hargrove’s handsome, fiftyish face looked freshly shaved, even though it was mid afternoon, but instead of aftershave, a faint smell like that of overheated metal drifted from him. His uniform looked freshly donned, and was as crisp as a November morning on the Rez. He had that ramrod straight posture that runs from heel to toe that follows some men out of the military, and yet, there was something…fuzzy about him, he asked the questions, but did not seem in control. Officer Hargrove was acting as if he were in control. which gave him a, well, a mechanical appearance. Chambliss grated “Where are the weapons?”
“Well”, I said icily “not counting the guns being carried by the officers in my backyard, I count two on your belt, and one on officer Hargrove’s.”
“You bitch!” began Chambliss. His gun was now halfway out of his holster.
“Mandi…” Beaver’s voice held something closer to panic than warning. The discrepancy between the two officers I sensed earlier was now greater than ever. I could see that Chambliss had not shaved in the last day or two. His hair was unkempt, and it grew untidily over his ears and collar. And he smelled like a cross between rotting fruit and dirty laundry. Also, the man slouched like some great ape. Had Chambliss risen to his full height, he would have easily been four inches taller than Hargrove. Hargrove made a patting gesture with his hand.
“Please Mr. Beaver. Sit. We just want to ask some questions.” Turning to me he said mildly, “Please do not provoke officer Chambliss Ms. Stonewalker, he’s not…himself today.” He winked at me.
Fear washed over me as I realized that they had not asked Beaver’s name and so should not have known it. I could see the same thought going through Beaver’s mind as he sank back into his chair. I wanted to sit too, but not until these two men, (were they men?) were safely off my porch.
Chambliss leered. “Here’s a question Ms. tumbleweed nigger, where is the cat?”
Although this drew a faint expression of distaste from Hargrove, it didn’t faze me. In fact, where was Mosi? “Cat?” I asked politely.
Then I did feel fear.. In a series of minuscule moves the slovenly man’s face became a feral mask. His eyebrows lowered over eyes that reddened and began swelling as his scalp retreated. His long nose wrinkled in a somehow familiar way. The formerly full lips thinned as the corners of his mouth turned down and then widened as the mouth began to gape open revealing sharp, discolored teeth. An inarticulate growl rose in his throat, and fear shot through me as I saw murder form in eyes that were now the size of boiled eggs. A reflection of movement in those eyes behind me that made me turn in time to see a smoky yellow funnel about a foot in diameter rush directly into and through the officer Chambliss thing, turn slightly right, and then correct left on a course that took it through Hargrove.
Though neither man fell, they both staggered. Sparks sputtered briefly from Hargrove’s mouth and eyes. The tunnel rushed upward to spread over the crowd of onlookers hovering there briefly before bursting into an explosion of fine glittering hairs that drifted thickly downward, disappearing when they touched the ground. The shimmering cloud descended into the gawkers looks of confusion replacing various expressions of disbelief, fascination and fear. Agitated movement slowed until the thirty or so people were frozen in various attitudes of arrested movement.
Officer Chambliss, who had bent over when the funnel, which had looked like the trail of an obscenely oily rocket blasted through him straightened slowly looking poleaxed. Beaver reached out a booted foot and shoved him not so gently toward the steps, in which direction he took a few stumbling steps. So doing, he said “Better get going officer Wasichu.”
Beyond this surreal scene the assembled neighbors, passers by and looky loos gave a collective sneeze that seemed to break whatever spell had been holding them locked in immobility . Dumbly, they looked suspiciously at each other, and then jerkily at first, but then with more confidence, resumed their normal rhythm of predictable normal life. No sign of what had just happened seemed evident in their movements or expressions. They just went back to, well, whatever their parts were in the daily dance of life on my street.
Jerking into sudden movement officer Hargrove said “Well, again, thank you for your cooperation Ms. Stonewalker. Here is my card if you you think of anything else.” Taking the proffered card I said, “Thank you officer.” Giving him my best smile. As he started down the steps Chambliss followed more slowly. I noticed that he was tucking his shirt in looking bewildered .
“Ma’am” he said inclining his head towards me.
“Officer.” I said sweetly. “Who were they Akei?” My voice was shaky now.
“Puppets with their strings cut granddaughter. I think the end has begun.” That night neither of us was hungry. I had wanted coffee, but Beaver demurred, saying that I should eat or drink nothing to disturb my sleep, repeating his warning against waking during my vision. So I drank water instead as we watched the news. There was a brief spot on the ‘unexplained loud noise’, but there had been no witnesses. Officer Hargrove made a brief appearance on the news cast explaining that there were many unexplained loud noises reported worldwide these days, and that the SJPD’s investigation had ruled out any terrorist threats. Beaver and I shared a laugh that didn’t really seem to be funny, and I went to bed. Opening the box on the table, one of the stones vibrated noisily, like those pagers they give you at some dining establishments when your order is ready, or your table is available. It quieted at my touch, and I placed it thoughtfully under my pillow. Lying back, I wondered when sleep would come. I never knew.The Butcher Shop