Our safety became uncertain when we ceased to see signs of civilization for miles. The desert canyon road weaved deeper and deeper into the mountains. Maybe movies get the best of me. I need to remember that "The Hills Have Eyes" is fiction. It's a story that someone made up to scare people. That shit doesn't really happen.
Dad doesn't seem concerned, driving the olive green with wooden panel station wagon deeper into the valley. But then again, when does he ever show emotion. My two younger brothers, Mike and Ike, are in the back bouncing off each other when they should be sitting quietly playing one of the 20 different car games that were purchased for them. My sister, Tish, is obliviously transmitting pop serum into her brain with Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on her Ipod. My mom seems to be the only one concerned with our impeding doom. She shifts in her seat and fills the silence with irrelevant conversations. She has that nervous laughter she gets when something isn't right. It's the kind of laughter that never follows a humorous moment and isn't very uplifting. But then again, I could be speculating ALL of this. I've been known to do that now and then.
My mom breaks the silence. "Hector,..." That's my name "...look at those silly little sculptures." Yeah mom. Silly.
I have an issue with rusty metal sculptures. I keep picturing a burly man whose beard and head hair runs all the way down to his toes. Under the black-stained overalls he glistens from what looks like Crisco rubbed all over his flesh. But I don't think about it long enough to make any conclusions. He has a shop full of sharp and dangerous tools including mallets, jigsaws, hole punches and axes. Let's not forget table saws, drills, vice grips and oscillating tools. I don't even know what an oscillating tool is, but the name alone evokes images of pain. He's good with tools, especially wielding metal, and needs a creative outlet. These two things don't go well together.
"Hector. Look at that. How creative."
They slightly resemble deer if their anatomy was re-imagined in hubcaps and pipes, modeled after the mutated wildlife in "Prophecy". No mom. That is not silly what-so-ever.
Tish releases a twinkie from it's polyurethane wrapper and lifts it slowly to her face. Somewhere between Bieber's "Never Let You Go" and Miley Cyrus's "Can't Be Tamed", she nibbles off the head and sucks out the innards. I don't know how she can eat that shit. There's nothing edible to it. Hostess has more in common with Exxon than any food group.
We pass a rusty lawnmower abandoned off the side of the road, grazing in a patch of prairie grass. Or maybe it's a buffalo. At this point, it's becoming unclear what is metal sculpture and what is neglected scrap. A thicket of mailboxes becomes confusing considering there are only a couple trailers in sight. Then it dawns on me. THIS IS THE POINT OF NO RETURN. These twenty-some mailboxes sprouting out of the same mound mark the furthest point the mailman ventures. Inhabitants from miles around come here to get their mail. Twenty-some red metal flags stand up as a warning: PROCEED WITH CAUTION. ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER. THE STATE SHALL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE TO INJURY OR DEATH RESULTING TO PERSONS TRESPASSING BEYOND THIS POINT.
We proceed. My family, the station wagon and the trailer we pull are now in the hands of the desert cannibals. Tish hasn't seen a bar on her cell phone for miles. May god have mercy on our prying souls.
The map tells us we are close. Good. We've voyaged far beyond the safety of civilization. Even the rusty metal sculptures know better than to venture into these parts. The crack house up ahead on the right is imprisoned inside a cage. It could be the remains of a nuclear fall out. Large black carnivores pace the yard with crazed restlessness. From this distance they could be Argentine Dogo or maybe genetically bred grizzly bears crossed with tigers. Dear god, I hope that's not our destination.
Nope. The trailer on the left matches the address. We turn up the driveway, passing a sign that reads PUPPIES OF LOVE. The craters and ruts that decorate the lane is a good indication that few travel this path. The trailer rocks back and forth shaking the station wagon on it's axles. Tish checks her phone for bars. It's an amusing addiction she has. Her impulse defies her own logic.
My dad pulls the station wagon onto a platform of gravel that surrounds the trailer like a mote. Gear in Park. Key turns off. All is quiet.
What now? Do we call? Do we knock? The suspense attempts murder.
A tense aluminum spring draws all of our heads forward to an opening screen door. A seventy-some year old crotchety woman comes out of the trailer holding a shotgun. Gray stringy hair hangs from her balding scalp like spiderwebs. A breeze blows through carrying a few strands off into the clouds. She hobbles towards the station wagon. Her rat tits, supported by no bra, swing back and forth. She doesn't have any teeth on her lower jaw which allows her to make turtle faces with no effort. This is Debbie, the woman we came to see.
"You here for the puppies?" She mouths.
My dad gets out of the station wagon and closes the door behind him. All the world outside this beat-up Chevy Caprice is silent. My mom starts up conversation with Tish about whether or not they have Applebees out here. I remain alert to the deal making at hand. My dad and Debbie mouth words but I can't make out what they are saying. I felt a dodge ball to the gut when my dad turns to me and fingers me to come. I lift the door handle until it screams "click". I don't remember these doors being so heavy. The hinges lurch. Even with a slight swing, the door slams shut.
The wind blows warm and with no breaks out here. My dad and this gun totting hag are frozen in their stares as I approach. The distance seems to be the same with every step I take. All of a sudden, I am beside them as my dad says, "Do you want to see them?" I can't take my eyes off the 12-gauge in her hands. I never thought this could be dangerous.
Debbie leads us with her mesmerizing swagger. "You have to watch out for rattlesnakes here," she says in witch dialect. "They'll jump out and get you."
The hair on her chin glistens with sunlight as the wind wiggles it.
"I had one jump out at me today."
We approach the tail end of a rusted old Ford pickup. "I shot him," she assures me staring into the bed of the truck. I slowly look over to find the bloody mangled mess that was once a rattlesnake opened up like a dissected worm in biology class. "It had more rattles than that. But I blew some off when I shot him".
This was one mean bitch. This is the kind of grit that no women and very few men have these days. Yessiree. This here is a rare artifact that stands before me.
But we didn't come for the dead rattlesnake. We came for what was in the 18-wheeler. She leads us up a desert hill to a parked flatbed. By the time dad and I breathlessly reach the top, she is already jiggling a key in the lock. Lock disabled. Latch unhinged. Door swings open.
Before us bubbles a furry sea of one hundred-some scrappy-fluffy puppies. To reference geek culture, this 18-wheeler has been infested by Tribbles. Everything from Cocker Spaniels, Pomeranians, Yorkies, Shih Tzus, Malteses (and every small breed in-between) happily bounce off each other yapping like a choir. The sound is glorious.
The shotgun echoes as we drive away with a trailer full of puppies. I look back to see Debbie in the distance aiming the shotgun at the ground. The bitch shot a rattlesnake. The station wagon runs over something which springs us bouncing on the hot vinyl seats. It was probably a rusty metal cat in the road. Was it scary? At times. Were our lives in danger? Most likely not. But we are going to eat like KINGS.
Copyright 2011 Gris Grimly