Pure Country

February 5, 2015 - Short Story

Pure Country
Kelly D. Tolman
Days like this they let us wander the courtyard.  I see the clouds sometimes.  I look away from my shadow, up where the sun kisses the concrete towers, and a diamond wells in my eye and wastes itself on my face.  Randy said we are all diamonds in the eyes of God.  The warden had all the trees cleared here and I’ve been told not to talk about them or Randy.  I don’t much, but sometimes when a voice touches me out of the spring breeze, or I catch the meadow larks in the fading sky.
Hard to say if we were pushed our or pulled in.  I believe we just wanted to see the mountains, like always, so we went.  Spent so long up there, poaching, living like Jeremiah Johnson, off the land, the moon and the stars and cloudy nights erased electric lights and T.V.  Met a bear once, just like in the stories, only Randy and me.  Damn near killed Toby.  Toby was the dog, a little good for nothing mutt Randy insisted we bring along.  Black and yappy, ate mushrooms, could always trust him to find good mushrooms.  Me and Randy took off, but that mutt stayed and yapped; one swipe and no more yapping.  Good thing it was just one swipe, or it would have been permanent.
Those were good days for us, living and breathing, no commercials or loud lights jumping out after bullfrogs in the dark.  No more school teachers with their x’s and y’s and square roots of Shakespeare to interfere with hunting and fishing and watching out for Sasquatch.  We moved the lodge after the incident with the bear.  Its pretty hard to find a good place anymore, away from tourists, even then we had trouble, but we found a cliff spot, not far from High Lake, the nicest place in the world, and nobody ever came there, a bit of Eden lost by technology.  Must have passed about ten or twelve years before anyone showed up, and like I always said, society is the cause of all our problems.
We heard society panting through the pines under the August sun, forming a mosquito trail two hundred yards long.  Summer time shorts and shirts, and backpacks.  How they convinced that woman to carry that much, I don’t know.  The funny of it is that for all she carried they still couldn’t light a fire between them.  Randy smelled perfume and clean skinned civilization.  Womanscent on the mountain like a drug and he said, “been a long time since I had a swim, the lake looks nice under the stars,” and a lot of other similar trash.
“You’ll kill the fish,” I said, “I got long hair, and a long beard, but there are no twigs in my memory.  People is trouble, Randy.  You go to that lake, and the woods will cut you off permanent.”
Clouds slipped under the stars, but I was ready when the night barked out, and Toby nuzzled his way back from the lake shaking all over.  I still wonder, did Randy walk up, hair matted with pine needles, smelling like Big Foot, just say “Howdy,” and they pulled out guns.  Or did they laugh and smile because they were drunk and couldn’t see if it was a man or a bear or what, and tried to kill it before it killed them.  Or maybe he had a beer with them before he forgot what society was and did something dumb, like the whole thing wasn’t dumb to start.  He came back, said there had been trouble, like I didn’t know, and I knocked him down and called the dog, and walked away.
Ten more years passed until I walked into a logging camp they built that I didn’t know about.  I got picked up but I didn’t say nothing to nobody, ‘till now.  They say I killed Randy, but I know that it was just the diamonds inside him what he couldn’t find, so he done it himself.  I know he watched the blushing clouds over the lake, and heard the lake spitting him out, the mountain rolling away, and he knew then he could never find his diamonds again, because they was streaming out his face already, so he done it.  Me, I don’t want no trouble, so I don’t talk to nobody, be gone soon anyway.

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