Charlie should've kept his arrows & story to himself [Weekend Warrior Short Story, 5/2022]
|Better the moose you know...|
"From what I've seen in the papers and on TV, you should have this drill down cold, Mr. Sheen. We'll start with your left hand. Place it flat on the scanner, one digit in each square and completely inside the square; no overlappin'."
"This is pretty fancy technology for middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, Deputy...Deputy...?"
The deputy looked up from the screen after confirming all five fingerprints had been scanned and stored.
"It's Patterson, just like you've already read on my badge. Oh, yeah. We've got phones, indoor plumbin' - all that good stuff. Right hand please...Good. Picture time. Step over against the wall, please."
"I like the little footprints you have on the floor here. It's just like hitting a mark onstage."
The lawman regarded his prisoner a moment. "For someone in as much trouble as you are, sir, you may want to dial the sarcasm back just a little."
The deputy gave him another hard look, then said, "You know, winter's comin' on and critters around here are storin' up fat to the point they'll chew on most anything. It'd be a real shame, if a hungry squirrel took out our phone line and you couldn't contact your lawyer."
"You're kidding, right?"
The deputy shook his head, and Sheen sighed.
"Well, at least there's my cellphone."
"Nope. That's been taken into inventory; you can't have it back, until you've been released."
"What? What kind of hick town is this, anyway? Who makes up these–"
"This 'hick town'," the deputy interrupted, "is Cody, Wyoming. It's the county seat for Park County, Wyoming, and its law enforcement personnel strictly follow the laws and guidance sent out by the folks in Cheyenne. We like our town, and we like respectful visitors. We don't like uppity folk coming here and doing whatever they darn well please. So, when one of our state Game Wardens brings in a prisoner and tells us the guy took a shot at a moose with a bow and arrow, but only wounded it and let it run off to suffer, well, sir, we take that pretty serious."
"I was just defending myself! The thing was stalking me, and it was huge."
"Moose are generally pretty big, but I never heard of one stalkin' anyone. I'm sure the judge will be real entertained by your 'tale of terror'."
"Now who's being sarcastic?"
"It's my jail. Okay, let's go."
"Just you? Isn't there some rule about guard to prisoner ratio?"
"You've seen too many episodes of COPS. Look, I've got at least three inches and thirty pounds on you and you're way past your prime, so just behave, okay?"
Patterson took Sheen by the arm and guided him through the admin area and back to the cells. He stopped in front of a cage populated by four other men, all of whom appeared to be slowly recovering from a state of extreme inebriation.
"You're putting me in with these guys?"
"Relax, Mr. Sheen - they're all locals, 'cept for Tank over there; he's from Sheridan. They were havin' a little too much fun downtown, so they're spendin' the night." He opened the door and gave Sheen a little shove, then closed and secured the door.
"What about my phone call? I want to call my lawyer."
"In a bit. I've got paperwork on you to finish up first. When you talk to him - or her - let 'em know their best airport choices are Bozeman, Montana or down in Cheyenne. Either way, they're gonna have a nice drive. Put your hands through the slot." Patterson removed the handcuffs and started back toward the office.
"Hey! What if there's trouble and I need some help?"
Patterson pointed to the surveillance cameras mounted directly opposite the cell door. "They're on and monitored 24/7 and these boys are just drunk, so I wouldn't worry much. One thing, though: they're video only, no audio feed, so if you do need help, be sure to sing out loud and clear!" He turned and left.
Charlie surveyed the four men. He assumed the largest of the men, who happened to have a number of fearsome looking tattoos covering his bald head, was Tank; he could be wrong, but whatever. The other three were somewhat smaller than Tank and were dressed more or less alike, so he figured them for the locals. Coincidence was one thing but, even if this was Wyoming, it looked like they bought their clothes at the same store. Cowboys, sure enough.
"Looks like you're gonna be here awhile, Sheen," one of the locals said. "Hey - you're famous, you know stuff, and we're bored."
"And that's my problem, how?"
Tank spoke up. "We like playing basketball and we've got a basket," he pointed at a trash can secured to the cage's bars, "but Patterson won't let us have a ball. It'd be a shame if we had to use your head to, as you actor types like to say, ad lib."
"Ad lib? Oh - got it. Okay, I heard this one when I was in Toronto once. All the Canadians thought it was hilarious. Of course, they were all bombed out of their gourds at the time."
"Give it a shot."
"Okay. One winter night in Canada, a moose, a beaver, a fox and a chipmunk walk into their neighborhood bar. The moose says, "I'll have a six-pack of Antler Ale." The bartender pulled one out from under the bar, opened the bottles and emptied them into a bucket, then placed it on the bar in front of the moose.
"Thanks, Dave," the moose said, dipped his muzzle into the bucket and began to drink.
"No problem, Max." The bartender turned to the beaver. "What about you, Bobby?"
"Well, I think I'd like a Logjam, please."
"Hmm, never heard of that one."
"It's a Maple Fashion—I just love the taste of maple, it's my favorite wood—with a pair of cinnamon sticks."
The bartender mixed one up and set it in front of the toothy rodent.
"Thank you, Dave."
"No problem. How about you, Reynard?" the bartender asked the fox.
"I've had nothing but mice all day; I need a little something fresh and fruity. How about an appletini?"
The bartender put it together in a flash and served the thirsty customer.
At last, the bartender turned to the chipmunk.
The chipmunk didn't answer.
The striped little rodent still didn't say anything.
Sheen smiled and looked around the cell. Nobody was laughing. Nobody was even smiling, and a couple of them looked pretty confused.
"That wasn't especially funny, dude," Tank said.
"Did I mention they were all hammered?"
No one said anything for a few minutes. Charlie thought back to the various drunk tanks he'd 'visited' and asked, "So, what are you boys in for again?"
"It wasn't no big deal," the brown-haired cowboy offered. "Like Patterson said, we were just havin' some fun and then Tub there," he gestured to the beat-up looking dark-haired guy, "well, he just started tellin' ever'one how folks in Cody're better'n ever'one else in Wyoming—'cept for Sheridan, o' course—an' some no-accounts from Thermopolis took it personal. Things got a little loud after that."
"What about you?" the one called Tub asked. "What're you in for?"
"Funny you should ask. My production company is set up in Pahaska, just this side of the East Entrance to Yellowstone."
The four men looked at Charlie like he'd just called them idiots.
"Right. You'd know where Pahaska is. Anyway, we were on location a few miles outside of town and between takes. I had to take a leak so I took a little stroll away from the camp. While I was doing that, I had the strangest feeling, like I was being watched. I didn't see anything or anyone when I looked around, so I went back to the shoot."
"You guys didn't bring any porta-potties?" Brown-hair asked, more than a little doubt evident in his tone.
"Well, sure, but I was trying to kind of get into character, become one with Nature, stuff like that."
"Let him tell his story, Mace!" Tub snapped.
"Anyway, like I was saying, we're shooting this film—it's sort of an homage to Deliverance, but without the banjos, hillbillies or river—and every time I go to take a leak, I just know someone's watching me. I've had a little trouble with paparazzi over the years," snickers came from all four men, "so I don't need videos of me doing my business all over the internet, right?"
"I expect not," said Tank.
"So, the next time I went out, I took my bow and arrow from the shoot with me. I learned how to shoot while making Hot Shots! Part Deux, so I figured I'd just scare the guy a little. Just as I zipped back up, I heard movement in the trees. I looked to the left and there was the biggest moose you've ever seen. He was huge, with antlers wider than I can spread my arms. I figure it was the moose all those times."
All four men were now noticeably more interested in Charlie's tale.
"I picked up the bow, fitted the arrow and aimed just in front of him."
"You were in his territory," said Mace.
"He was just protecting what's his," added Tub.
"Yeah, I guess. Anyway, he charged and I got scared and let go of the bowstring. The arrow hit him towards the back, and he turned and crashed through the trees. Apparently, he ran right through the set, because when I got there a minute later, there was equipment trampled and scattered all over, a couple of the crew were laying on the ground and a guy in a red shirt with an antelope patch on his sleeve was demanding to know who'd shot the moose. Turns out, he's the local game warden, who'd stopped by to check things out. He slapped me in cuffs faster than anyone in L.A. or Malibu, I'll tell you that, threw me in his pickup and brought me here."
The four men all stood, weaving a bit, but looking a lot more sober.
"You shot a moose," Tank stated, not even trying to make it sound like a question.
"Well, yeah. Like I said, it was stalking me. I only wounded it a little, just to scare it away, you know."
As one, the four men advanced on Charlie.
* * *
Deputy Patterson watched the cell monitor for a minute, then opened his center desk drawer and pulled out his moose tag for the upcoming hunting season. He'd waited seven years for this tag, and the notion that some Hollywood yahoo could just come in and take a bull moose out of the running—by accident, no less!—just chapped him something fierce.
Maybe I shoulda told him not to mention why he was locked up. Ah, well: live an' learn. Like I said, Mr. Sheen, we take our huntin' real serious here.
Author's Note & Prompt Info ▼