Pasayten Pete

Chapter Twenty-Three: Marilee Fights

The leather was beautiful. Ken Granger sat at his workbench, running the soft strips through his hands, admiring its suppleness, its golden amber color, the fine texture of the grain.

Goatskin! Who would have imagined such a common animal could produce such beautiful leather! Actually, the more he considered it, the less he was amazed. Goats and deer and antelope are closely related, and each produce a fine grade of leather, soft and supple when properly tanned. He had been reluctant to harvest skins from wild deer. Over the long years of hosting their visits at his river bottom home, he'd grown fond of the animals' trust and acceptance when they entered his sanctuary.

Whiskey Johns would not spend $15 to have a goatskin tanned, so he'd ordered Graydon to toss the hides away. Graydon carefully cleaned and saved the hides from the wethers he butchered each fall. His stepfather decided to trash them rather than fool with them. It was a senseless waste, so Graydon gave them to his friend Ken who sent them out to a tannery. Good leather was valuable; prime goatskin was especially so. Ken had grown fond of the boy, now a young man; he arranged for a woman in the community who was an especially talented seamstress to make a fully fringed leather jacket for Graydon. It was to be a surprise.

Ken had also conspired with Mike Peterson for color sketches of beadwork patterns that would be appropriate for an apprentice shaman.

"Use these patterns. There is no innate power in them, but they do serve to focus the spirit. There is great value in that. They serve another purpose, as well. When a person with evil motive gazes upon these symbols, their evil is refocused and reflected back. Once seen, these symbols will haunt a dark mind, reappearing in dreams, sleeping and waking. It is powerful medicine, as my northern cousins might say. Mike smiled to himself as he remembered times in his life when these symbols had worked their effect on the predatory minds that he'd faced.

Helen Granger saw that her young niece possessed a special gift. The first moment Marilee saw watercolor sketches of the beadwork patterns, she insisted that she be given beads, waxed thread, and needles. She asked her Uncle Ken for scraps of thin leather for practice pieces. Within a week she showed Mike her first samples and was delighted to be told that they were perfect.

The Grangers took Marilee to Indian museums scattered around the fringes of the Colville reservation northeast of Omak and Okanogan; on another weekend, they visited Seattle and the museum displays of Coast Indian garments and beadwork. She was satisfied that she could do work equal to theirs, given practice and patterns to learn.

She wanted to repay her young soul mate. Before she was done, he would have sacred emblems sewn upon his own headband, moccasin leggings, and the breast and collar of his new jacket. She asked Uncle Ken to make the headband first, so she could replicate Mike's drawings for the forehead as her first piece. It was this headband, freshly cut from the thinnest, finest belly leather of the best of the tanned skins that Ken had just finished shaping and was now running admiringly through his practiced fingers.

"It seems that somehow this was meant for him. I've rarely seen anything so fine come from the tanner's art. He raised this animal, respected its life, sacrificed it for his family's welfare with homage to its spirit, and preserved this fine hide that it might not be wasted. Now it comes to my workbench as a superb leather. This strip will come back to him, richly decorated with the skill and love of his mate. Who could claim there is not a great wheel of life? Respect and love comes full circle to those who have the eyes and the heart to see it!"

Ken rose from his bench and walked to Marilee's room. Without a word he handed it to his young niece who sat surrounded with her baskets of beads and sewing materials. She smiled. No words were necessary. She was ready to begin.

Helen and Marilee emerged from the post office in town with a double handful of advertising circulars, taxidermy supply catalogs, a few letters including a precious letter for Marilee from her parents, and the usual assortment of utility and household bills. It was the first of the month, so the Granger's postal box was stuffed full.

"If you'd like, why don't you go over to the soda fountain across the street in Baker's Drug, and get yourself something? I want to visit for a minute with Mrs. James in the craft shop. I'll only be a moment, and I'll join you. Okay?"

Marilee agreed and angled across the one street that passed as the single shopping avenue in the village. Shops and stores stretched for only three blocks, with the majority of them along the half block either side of the river road junction where it entered town across a small, concrete bridge adjacent to the Forest Service offices and shops. The soda fountain counter inside the general store and pharmacy was a town gathering place. It served a hand-scooped milkshake that was thick, creamy, and filling. Her young mouth watered at the thought.

"Hey, gorgeous! Fancy bumping into you here!" The tall boy standing beside the entrance grabbed her elbow and pulled Marilee roughly to him, dragging her away from the door and out of view of anyone inside. A tall van parked diagonally at the sidewalk blocked most of the street view.

"Let go of me," she gasped. She was panicked, despite herself, and on the verge of hysteria. She wanted to flee from this rude boy. What will he do? She tried to twist herself from his grip but it was useless. He was much bigger and stronger, and a few years older. He was one of the arrogant valley boys who made Graydon's life so violent at school. He was the one who shoved the younger girl against the school building and pushed his hand roughly up her skirt. The school authorities refused to act. Other students were complicit in the bullying or were afraid to protest.

Marilee tried to scream but the boy clamped his hand over her mouth and held her pinned with his other arm. He pressed his body against hers and shoved her roughly against the side of the building. His leg moved up between hers while he ground himself hard against her belly. He stared into her face, her skin flushed with rage and fear, her eyes shut tight in refusal to see him.

"So, little girl, you're the new piece who's been staying at that cripple's place, that old bitch teacher's husband, right? I hear you come from back east, and you run with that freaky snake-lovin' weirdo we got in school with us. Maybe you'd like somethin' better, huh? I got somethin' here I think you'll like!" The bully pushed himself harder against her and moved from side to side, feeling her soft body under himself. Marilee was screaming in her mind, silently shrieking in rage and fright. If only she was stronger; if only she had some weapon in her hand to strike this bastard down, to smash his face, to beat him senseless. She screamed her silent frustration and struggled as fiercely as she could, but it was so futile. She could barely squirm away from his obscene movements, pinned helplessly against the wall by his stronger body.

A searing light flashed in Donny's mind. He lost sense of place. He could no longer feel the girl, his weight, or his place on the sidewalk beside the storefront. He felt suddenly alone, isolated, immersed in a blaze of red heat that filled his skull, his senses, all of his awareness.

"Let her go!"

Donny fell back, staggered, and would have fallen into the gutter but for the grill of the van that held his falling body upright. Marilee raced back to the doorway, flung the heavy door open and ran straight to the woman standing behind the store's cash register.

"Oh, God... oh... help, please! Call somebody. He attacked me, he... he... !" The cashier stared at the frantic girl, then ran to the window and saw the high school boy sprawled awkwardly, leaning back against the store's delivery van, his eyes and mouth gaping open, hands flung up as if warding off an attack. He was alone. There was no one else near, no one on either side up or down the sidewalk. He was waving his arms and hands, clearly in some sort of panic, but against what? His mouth was gaping open as if to shriek, but there was no sound.

"Who attacked you? Where, when? Was it that boy?" the cashier turned back to ask Marilee, who stood frozen against the checkout counter, flushed and gasping, with streams of tears running down her face. She was gripping herself with her arms, trying to pull herself together. She was ashamed of her lack of control. She must be stronger, she must fight! Fear is useless. I must overcome this! she raged at herself.

"Yes! It was him. That tall boy with the black crew cut and the red shirt. He grabbed me when I tried to come in the store. He pulled me away from the door and shoved me against the wall. He pressed himself into me, and he was going to... " She stopped short. She would not go there. She would not say whatever she guessed he might do next. It seemed so grotesque... an attack, on the street, in public, in broad daylight? It seemed so absurd, but it happened!

"He sure doesn't look like he can bother anybody now, child. I'd say he looks like he fears for his own life. Something is sure scaring the hell out of him! Just look at that, will you!"

Donny was gibbering, slobber running down his chin, almost foaming. A large circle of wet spread out from his crotch, and the stench of human excrement rose around him. He had soiled himself, a great wet gushing flood of diarrhea flooded down both legs and flowed out over his shoes. His arms flailed against something unseen in front of him. His body pressed so forcefully back against the grill of the van that he'd actually caved it in.

Shrieking in terror, he lurched away from the van and took a few staggering steps. In another two steps he was running, fleeing, his long legs flailing like a puppet with its strings tangled, barely able to keep him upright in a clumsy, staggering gait. He found his stride and he ran faster, blindly; faster and faster he fled down the sidewalk to its end and then he was running down the highway going away from the village. He ran along its gravel shoulder, risking a fifty-foot plunge down the riverbank onto the rocks below. He reached the bridge, thundered across its concrete and steel deck, and ran past the towering brick schoolhouse on the hill above the road. The few cars who passed him on their way into town never slowed, but the drivers did scratch their heads.

"Hey, hon'... wasn't that kid... ain't he that big rancher's kid... you know, the school board chairman's kid?"

"Yes, I think you're right. He's on the basketball team. He sure looked like he was running from the Devil. I wonder what got into him?"

Helen walked into the general store to find a small circle of women around Marilee at the soda fountain counter. She sat on a round-top stool. The women stood near her, speaking softly. It was obvious that Marilee had been crying, but she'd dried her tears with a tissue and appeared to be calm. She sat upright on the stool, looking composed and resolute. Her back was straight, her chin high, and her eyes looked at Helen with a clear gaze.

"I was grabbed and shoved against the wall outside by a rude boy. I was terribly afraid, and angry, but I'm alright now. Graydon helped me, he saved me."

Helen stared. What did she hear?

"Graydon is nowhere near, girl. He's out at the Wolf Creek place. He said he had to work all week, out there and up at the Brightman ranch. He said he couldn't come into town until Friday evening."

"No matter. It was him. I could feel it. I'm safe, and I'm stronger now, and the rude boy is gone. He'll never come near me, or bother any girl ever again. I know it."

Helen looked around at the faces of the other women who helped Marilee calm herself. They nodded to her and moved away. Helen eased up onto the stool next to Marilee and considered what the girl had said.

"Well, perhaps we'd best let that pass for now. Are you alright?"

"Yes. Actually, I'm a little ashamed. I should have paid more attention to what was around me, and I should be a lot stronger and put up more of a fight. I'll never let someone catch me off guard like that again, Aunt Helen. I'll never submit to being a victim again!"

Marilee called the counter girl: "Can we have a milkshake, please? Make mine vanilla, and make a strawberry shake for my Aunt Helen. Have you got some fresh strawberries? That's her favorite."

Helen shook her head, amazed at the swift change in her niece. Well, what about that! she thought to herself. I do pity the next man or boy who tries to take advantage of our little Marilee. They'll find themselves fighting a double handful of wildcat!

She smiled and glanced toward the counter girl. Yes, a milkshake with fresh strawberries would be perfectly wonderful right about now!

Late evening at the Granger home found Marilee in her bed sleeping, having an entirely different sort of dream. Previous dreams awakened her in night terrors, soaked in sweat and whimpering at the horrors replaying in her mind. But this dream crept slowly upon her.

She was in a meadow, high on a mountain ridge. Beyond the ridge she saw the towering, snow-capped peaks of the upthrust granite range. All around her the grasses were tall and wind-blown. Wildflowers in riotous color celebrated the day. She was tall, slender, half again as tall as she knew herself, and she moved with long, easy strides, her arms swinging. She felt strong, confident, filled with a power she'd never experienced before. Far in the distance at the end of the ridge, she saw a spiral column of soaring eagles and at their base, his arms extended and hands outstretched to welcome her, she saw her future husband dressed in fringed, beadwork leathers, his long hair blowing freely in the wind.

"You would not have believed it, today, even if you had seen it for yourself!" Helen spoke, softly, to Ken who sat in his chair beside her. They were enjoying the last rays of the sun setting behind Mount Gardner, far to the west.

"I swear, in an eye blink, she turned from a hysterical, sobbing girl into a strong, determined young woman. I've never seen such a change come over a girl in all my life, and I've taught many hundreds of them. If you had seen it for yourself, I doubt you'd have believed it."

Ken smiled and nodded. He'd seen the change the moment Marilee stepped from their car and strode to him by the pond. She glided with long, confident strides, more like a young Olympian than a shy, nervous girl. She had come up to him, smiling, and had thrown her arms around his neck to kiss him on his cheek.

"Thank you, Uncle Ken, for everything! You've been so wonderful, and it's so amazing to be here, and I can never thank you and Aunt Helen enough for it, for all of it!" She kissed his cheek again, moved back a step, smiled, and strode swiftly away to the house where she began helping Helen put away the groceries they'd brought from town. He knew then that something profound had happened in town.

"So, what happened? What could possibly have caused such a change?" he asked.

"I didn't get to see it. I was in the craft store, and when I came out to meet her at the soda counter, it was all over. But here's the story I got from Sharon at the counter... "

Ken knew the bullying boy's family quite well. They had a large cattle ranch, hundreds of acres of hay fields, and a huge orchard along the valley foothills. His family and theirs went far back in local history, multiple generations, but their association was not always neighborly or agreeable. Ken's views, in particular, did not sit well with the rigid opinions of Donny's father who never hesitated to use his influence to resist anything that smacked of conservationist meddling. Father and son were very much alike. Both were bullies in their own circles.

"So he was seen running along the road out of town, out toward the Twin Lakes area? Did anyone see where he went? Did he get home?"

"I called Esther. They live out near the lakes. She said he was seen staggering down to the creek outlet at the lower lake. Their next door neighbor, James, was fishing near there and he saw the boy tearing off his clothes. He thrashed around in the water, splashing and wiping himself. He did say the breeze was blowing toward him and he caught a whiff of a horrible smell, like the kid had shit himself. He said the kid tried to wash his pants and shirt, but finally gave up and climbed up the hillside in his stained shorts and undershirt, leaving the rest behind. That's the last he was seen. The folks out there think he made it home, but nobody wants to call the family. They think there'll be fury and embarrassment enough without stirring it up any further.

"Esther wanted to know if I had any idea what happened, so I told her what Sharon told me in the store. Apparently Donny tried his grab-and-grope thing on Marilee, until he went berserk like the banshees of hell were turned loose in his head. He pissed himself, crapped his pants, and ran away down the street. He never stopped running until he got to the lake area where he could wash himself."

Ken leaned back, closed his eyes, and delighted in the scene playing through his mind. Justice! Sweet, lovely, ever-lovin' justice! It was good to live long enough to witness something like this!

"Let's call it an evening and go inside. I feel like a warm snuggle," he smiled to Helen. "It's been an amazing day, hasn't it?"

Investigations < <> > Relocation

Pasayten Pete © Graybyrd 2010

Last modification: 2016/8/25 at 19:24