artwork copyright 2015 Josh Chambers
By: Marc D. Goldfinger
I’m not saying that there is no such thing as a solid reality. Really, what I mean by that statement is that all we get to go on is a construct of reality filtered through to us by our nerve systems that have been altered, muddled, and distorted by others since the day we were born.
Which brings me to Cowboy. The man had his own reality but fate cast him into another stranger, more alien reality than he ever dreamed existed. He never travelled farther west than Olean, New York. The only use he had for cows was gathering mushrooms from their pasture pies. As for riding a horse, it was his opinion that the only thing with brains that was born to be ridden was a woman.
Cowboy was born into a drinking family. Motorcycles, alcohol, drugs, and fast women. Riding the iron horse was his life. Everything else came second. His bikes were fast and powerful. When he was drinking he didn’t like to stop for traffic lights because usually he was so loaded that, when the natural balance of the moving motorcycle ceased, he fell down.
When he was young he learned from the men in his family. His sexual practices were Neanderthal in nature to say the least. At the age of nineteen Cowboy thought that foreplay was letting three of his friends have her first while he finished his case of beer.
Sascha changed all that. He met her at a bar in Hillsboro, New Hampshire called Tomachhio’s when he was thirty-one years old. He had just finished drinking a shot of Jack with a beer back when she walked in.
In Italy they say every man and every woman has the perfect partner and when that person walks into their life, it is as if they are struck by a thunderbolt. Cowboy had never heard that story. It didn’t matter. He was struck when she walked in.
In that moment everything changed for both of them. They drank, they danced, they went home with each other.
* * *
Two years later the car came out of nowhere.
But let’s back up a little. Sascha pressed her sweet self into Cowboy’s back as they rode. Sometimes she dropped her hands into the wind and just leaned back into the sissy bar as the wind tied her hair into a beauty explosion of crazy knots. On this day she reached around him with both arms, slid her hands under his shirt and stroked him where the forest of his pubic hair began.
Cowboy was heated with her love. Three days ago, it was a Saturday night, he had been out drinking with his cohorts. At 3AM Sunday morning he remembered that he told Sascha he was coming home directly from work at the flea market in Derry, New Hampshire. He closed the stand at 5PM with all intentions of heading right home when Sprockett and Toad stopped by. They went out for a beer.
Ten hours later, which was one hell of a lot sooner than the time he had gone out for a beer in January of ‘81 and returned in April of that same year with the explanation that he had lost track of time and didn’t think it was going to take as long as it did to pick up that scooter just over the state line in New York but there were other brothers, bikes, and a small police matter that tied him up for a bit…but here he was only ten hours late and a little drunk so he kicked the front door in, threw his leather on the couch in the living room and walked into the kitchen. Sascha sat at the kitchen table reading a book.
She looked up at him with those eyes that made him dizzier than one fifth of Johnny Walker Black.
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
She smiled. “No problem except for the front door.”
“Well, I had to get in and if you hadn’t locked . . .”
“Cowboy. I stopped locking the door eight months ago. This is the fifth time you’ve kicked it in when all you had to do was turn the doorknob.”
“Wow. I forgot again.”
She smiled. “I’ll put a steak on for you while you put plastic over the opening. I made salad and we have Bleu cheese dressing.”
Cowboy didn’t really know what to say so he went into the living room, closed the fresh air conduit he had opened, and went back to the kitchen and sat. He watched Sascha move around the room. He couldn’t take it anymore and went to her.
Afterwards they ate steak and salad. Then they went to bed. Later they went to sleep.
48 hours later the car came out of nowhere.
* * *
Cowboy attempted to lay the bike down. It was too close, everything was moving too fast, and it was just too damned late.
When the sound stopped the world lay twisted on asphalt. Cowboy raised himself from the weeds on the side of the road. A car engine roared loudly, then faded as it vanished around the first curve, dipped down over the rise and was gone. Silence.
The first thing he saw was the bent motorcycle. Then he saw her. Sascha lay near the bike, twisted, broken, silent. There was a growing pool of liquid spilling from the cranial area of her body. Splintered bone protruded from her right leg. No movement except for the growing stain under her head. A high pitched whine scraped the air all around him as his black leather boots pounded the dark pitch road. It was not until he reached her side that he realized the sound was coming from his open mouth.
If sound equaled wind, the trees would have been torn from the ground by his cry and every nearby cloud might have been ripped out of the sky leaving black spaces where the blue should have appeared.
Sudden death is darkness like a knife puncturing the illusory veil of light within which our reality dwells. Denial and horror are the children borne of the rapid sweep of the scythe. Cowboy was a tree rooted to the road looking down at his loved one. The summer of his life skipped autumn and roared into winter.
There was no room for rage in his broken heart. He did not think of the murderer who had left the scene. All he could do was drop to his knees, tears cutting his cheeks, soaking his heavy beard, press his hands to the inert body of the one he loved and scream his prayer to the impassive sky.
“No,” he howled, “no, God, take me instead,” was what he said and he meant it with every fibre of his being.
“God, take me instead.”
There was a moment of total black. Even the air smelled like dark earth, worms turning after a flood rain, the scent of myrrh in the midst of it all.
There was the sound of wings beating. A flash of light.
Cowboy rocked back on his heels, almost falling over by the jolt he felt when the bird-like creature with a woman’s head appeared. She was over six feet tall with long flowing thick hair that moved as if it had a life of its own, eyes of rainbow shooting sparks of multi-coloured light. The biker’s dark beard was suddenly shot through with shocks of grey. His tongue grew thick in his mouth and he could not speak.
The wings of this strange creature beat slowly, rhythmically, even as she stood facing Cowboy and casting those unbelieveable eyes down at Sascha.
“Let me see . . .” she said as she placed her hands on the still woman’s chest. “Yes, yes, we can do this,” she muttered and looked up at the sky. The sky. It was filled with colours moving like a sea of unrest, a storm, a typhoon from another world.
Cowboy was rigid. There was no way he could process what was happening.
The winged one pressed her hands onto the quiet chest of the woman.
“Clear!” she spoke and the body of Sascha leaped as if a great electric current sluiced through it. “Again!” spoke the creature and the body of Sascha convulsed again.
This time the winged one was thrust back by the force of the blow. Her wings beat, beat, beat to retain her balance and she did not lose contact with the dead woman.
A great wind came from nowhere and moaned with sorrow. It seemed to come from everywhere and Cowboy looked about for the source of it. When he turned back to look at Sascha, he saw that this wind came from her.
The creature glanced into Cowboy’s eyes, turned the lock.
“I am Alecto of the Eumenides, servants of the greater Gods,” it said. “You called, we came.”
“But what . . .”
“Your life for hers. We salute you. It is true love.” Then the creature that called itself Alecto smiled.
The great wind had become the sound of peaceful breathing and Sascha appeared to be waking up from a great sleep.
“Quickly,” said Alecto. “There is little time.”
“I’m ready,” Cowboy said, and he felt his heart flutter like a little bird in the barrel of his chest as he reached out to take the hand of Alecto.
Alecto threw back her head and laughed, her thick hairs coiling and writhing like serpents, then she spoke.
“Oh, you will be taken,” she said. “But you yourself will journey there through events that would seem to be of your own making. The price of life is never what we might expect. It is always greater.
Alecto laughed again but this time a tear spilled like multi-coloured paint from her eye. “There was a glitch. Unavoidable. But who knew? Even God is not perfect. Only the demons own perfection. Which is why they will never win. Humans are too much like the Gods. Ultimately flawed.”
Cowboy was so confused by now that he could not think. Which, of course, is always a good thing under circumstances like these.
“The glitch,” Alecto said with a wan smile, “is that no one knew Sascha was pregnant. In the name of the Daughters of Nyx, even the Gods make plans so the Heavens may laugh back at them. Didn’t Oscar Wilde say that?”
And then Alecto’s wings began to beat furiously, the colours exploded from her eyes, and as she rose she said, “Kiss your wife now as she wakes. It will gentle her return.” Alecto paused in midflight, continuing to speak.
“Oh yes, her right leg will be one-half inch shorter than her left. That is her price. But your daughter’s price, oh my Goddess . . .”
And then Alecto was gone.
* * *
Cowboy had stopped drinking for almost three months when he decided that one shot of Johnny Walker couldn’t possibly hurt.
The first drink was at a place called the Zoo in Manchester, New Hampshire. Somehow he wound up in an old stomping ground in a town called Milford, located in Massachusetts, drinking with some of his riding buddies. He had an argument with two of them at a den of iniquity known as Davey Jones Locker, left his erstwhile friends to go to a quieter place where he nursed his drinks and fueled his anger until he lost track of time, amongst other things.
He decided it was time to settle things back at Davey Jones Locker, hopped on his scooter and stopped in front of the bar. He couldn’t believe it. They had turned off all the lights in the bar and were hiding from him.
Cowboy killed his engine, got off the bike, staggered to the door and began to pound on it with his massive fist.
“Open the door, you (too many expletives to bother chronicling here) . . .”
When there was no response he could picture them inside, laughing at him, holding their bellies, rolling about the floor with big guffaws and the rage really kicked in, fueled by only the Gods knew how many drinks. He raised his studded black boot and smashed in the door.
Cowboy lurched into the bar, stunned. The place was empty. He looked at the clock above the bar and saw that it was after 3PM. Time had somehow gotten away from him.
Just then, the immensity of his situation struck him like a sledgehammer. If the police came they would look at this as a simple case of B & E in the nightime and they, because of his police record that was so long you could wallpaper a small ballroom with it, would definitely lock his ass away.
He turned to go and then halted in midstep. The alcoholic thinking really revved up. Since, he thought, he was already in for a dime he might as well go in for a dollar. Cowboy turned back to the bar, vaulted over it, grabbed a bottle of Jack, a bottle of Johnny Walker Black and a jug of Canadian Mist. Then he checked the cash register. Nothing but change. He filled his pockets anyway.
He smiled inwardly, wobbled to the door and out, opened the leather saddle bags on the Harley, and carefully laid the bottles in. He paused for one moment, lifted out the bottle of Jack, cracked the seal, took a hit and then placed it back into the saddle bag.
Then he thought he better get the hell out of Dodge City. He straddled the big bike, kicked once and the engine coughed as the police car pulled alongside him.
And that was how Cowboy came to be at the Worcester County House of Correction on maxi-tier. There’s more to the story but that’s enough for now.