Thursday, June 07, 2007

Shirts and Skins

Fifty-four days ago...

McDougal and I are out raccoon hunting. I have no idea why. He says it will be good practice for the next six months. He's been saying things like this since we started this road trip a few days ago. By his body language, he seems to be indicating that these statements are fraught with meaning, but it all just sounds like Nostradamus-like open-ended prophesy to me.

We are each carrying a double-barreled shotgun and have one of those flashlights on and elastic band strapped to our heads. We look like deranged coal miners. We are somewhere in the vicinity of Mount Storm, West Virginia, which only adds to the effect. There should be a sign outside town that says "The Original Home of the Deranged Coal Miner." McDougal loves West Virginia because it is easy to score meth. The only way it could possibly be any easier here is if they had it in the gumball machine in the lobby of the Wal-Mart.

My thoughts are distracting me from the instructions McDougal is giving me as he empties another bucket of bait (catfish guts) upwind of our firing position. The smell is atrocious.

"Now, if you're taking your 'coon skins up the hill to sell them, you have to leave one paw on. Because one time, some people sold them a bunch of cats."

He says this with the air of an expert, despite the fact that earlier in the evening he told me he hadn't ever been to Mount Storm before. I wonder if he was lying then, or now. I guess it doesn't matter.

McDougal suddenly goes silent and turns back towards where he parked his truck. After a minute or two I hear what got his attention. Tires on the gravel road. Goddamn, his hearing is sharp...

"Come on," he says, "let's check it out."

McDougal's truck is camouflaged, which is really more effective for blending in on the main street of any West Virginia town than it is for blending into the woods. But the driver of the red Mustang that sat a few hundred yards down the gravel road, windows just beginning to steam, still must not have seen it. Otherwise he would have picked a different place to stop. After all, the woods are full of rednecks and perverts.

Says the raccoon hunter who is sneaking up to his car...

"How the hell did they get all the way up here?" McDougal whispers.

He has a point. We had to use four wheel drive to get up the hilly road, covered with treacherous loose gravel.

"Come on," McDougal says, "let's fuck with them a bit."

McDougal creeps softly up to the car. The big man is part Cherokee, so he can be unbelievably light on his feet when he wants to be. Not a single twig snaps, not a single dry leaf crackles. He peers down into the window, then turns and looks back at me, scrunching his face up in a silent "ooooo!" It is somewhat reminiscent of Bill Cosby, but more... unsettling. He also makes the gesture of a thumb and forefinger loop being repeatedly penetrated by the index finger of the opposite hand. This is generally regarded as an international gesture for vaginal intercourse.

I decide to go up and take a look for myself.

As soon as I arrive at the side of the car, McDougal flips on his coon hunting light. The girl shrieks and I watch the guy's face change from alarm, to shame, to anger all in the span of about two seconds. He reaches out for the latch on the glove box. McDougal taps his shotgun on the window and says, "oh, no you don't."

I was expecting teenagers, but the couple inside are a bit older than that. I would guess early twenties. The girl has a great body on her. She has a promising career ahead of her at the local strip joint. At least until the douchebag with the Mustang knocks her up, since a condom in nowhere in evidence. Maybe she's on the pill, but I doubt it. She doesn't strike me as the kind of girl who thinks that far ahead.

McDougal looks the girl up and down, long and hard. He turns to me, raises his eyebrows and then looks at the guy.

"Hey," McDougal purrs, "maybe we can work out an... understanding here."

Both the guy and the girl turn as white as ghosts.

Absentmindedly pointing the shotgun at the guy, McDougal opens the door and slowly reaches into the car. He reaches down, in between the girls legs. He leans further and further down into the car. The girl shudders as McDougal's hand brushes her inner thigh. He slowly closes his hand around the unopened bottle of Wild Turkey lying on the floorboard.

Then he stands bolt upright, thanks the guy and runs off into the woods, whooping like an indian. I have no choice but to follow.

Goddamn... Sometimes that McDougal scares the hell out of me.

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