By David Glenn Cox




Civilization is a voluntary organization.


                              Chapter One

                      They Kingdom of Roaches

“Oh, it’s remarkable story sir, its all about Dagmar. Ole Dag, he was the greatest man they ever was, maybe even greater than Kris Kringle. I think you’ll like this one… sir.” Adjusting his self, sitting cross-legged on they floor en holding his hands up to his face they old man his voice rasping fawns as he begins to speak, becoming they story like them old times, talking like them old voices. They group attending is alert but unsure of what this curiosity is bout to do next. They mills round him some unsure. For them, this was a new sperience. So, they old man he begun by peering down inta his lap like he’s thinking bout somethin real hard. Then comes a voice from down inside of em.

“It were a hot night, hot en sticky. Just like always, laboring through a long court session. They judge, he sits attired in his boxers b’neath they dignity of his robes. White ringlets of sweat all round they bailiff’s armpits showed they high water marks of his evening. They sweat stain’s weariness forces his eyes to they clock, hanging like a scythe over they gallery of them…not yet convicted. Wore down by heat, fatigued by they hour that bailiff he calls out in a nasal whine, shouting over they noise clutter. “Johansen! Dagmar Johansen! Front and center Johansen, be heard or shut they fuck up!”

A roughhewn character in homespun pushes his way through them inmates reaching they cage door. That bailiff, he cranks on them keys some, releasing this burly bearded man in ta that judge’s mercy. That roughhewn hulk stood prideful quiet. To him, she weren’t nothing. Nothing but a corp rat judge, nothing special; one same as a other, right? Overworked without no nonsense or nor pretense. That judge, he fiddles some with them papers looking up almost surprised, asking cynically, “Dagmar Johansen? What kind of stupid, fucking name is that?”  

With a gravelly, guttural intransigence that hulk he answers back in a punctuated staccato saying, “She’s-they-Only-Fucking-Name-I-got, sos, I reckon, we’s both-fucking-stuck-with-her.”

That judge he thunders, pounding his palm on they desk, shouting “Bailiff, where’s the fucking file on this asshole!” That sweat stain scurrys, searching from them stacks energetically looking back nervously before giving that judge a double take, testing of his temper before splainin sheepish, “I’m afraid, I can’t find it.”  

That judge, he returns to that Outlander assuming a sorta business-like confidence, en sneers, “Then what the hell is this road trash charged with?” That sweat stain, he squeaks back sorta humble, “Selling water tokens.”  

They judge, he cuts a eye on they clock, fingering ah his gavel fer a mint b’fore clearing his throat, dispensing corp rat justice. “Due to the early hour and legal technicality, I cannot pronounce full sentence upon you Johansen. Therefore, on your general appearance and attitude, I find you guilty, but will suspend a voltage sentencing. You’re guilty of something… Johansen! You have twelve hours to leave Sin City any further Corporate Contact and I won’t hesitate to throw a hundred mega-watt sentence at you.” That judge asks him real serious, “You feel me Outlander?”

Dag, he only grunts at what passed fer justice. That judge makin noise banging on his gavel. That gallery let out a low groan, readying theyselves fer another long hot day in a corp rat cell…waiting…juss killing time, waiting on that treadmill. That sweat stains pushing on Dag towards they door. Once outside he snaps, “Money Outlander or back in the box!”

Grunting: Dag, he reaches into they recess of his jailhouse wallet, retrieving two, tightly folded hundred-dollar bills shoving em into that sweatstain’s rat’s hand. Dagmar walks away out of tune. Far off a clear frequency for he’s a “for real” man while they whole of this Sin City is of ghosts. They’s they ghosts of our future’s past.  They ghosts of our grandchildren’s grandchildren living inside a corpse. No longer, a society of they new or improved, no longer, “under new management.” This is a society of cockroaches and cockroaches must scurry from the light.

They eastern sky begun to glow orange when Dag, he first sought shade, fore they heat of they day cooked him like a worm on pavement. Back b’hind a boarded up, ole derelic building he finds a stairwell leading to a basement. Reaching they bottom he yanks at they door juss once, more outta habit than anythin. Picking out they cleanest corner he sits his self, taking off his straw hat. Inhaling en huffing out a sigh after his long night then closes them eyes to they shadows. She were good full bright daylight when he hears a voice askin; “Who give you permission to sleep in my stairwell?”

Without no noticeable motion they Outlander, he answers back calm, “Oh, I reckon she’s they same fella what toll ya you could wake me.”

“That’s easy,” they voice blusters. “He’s they fella what said you got my money.”

Dag, he looks back with a coy smile, sheepishly answerin, “Ya know; I love it when you talk Bush.”

“I ain’t Bushing you mister,” he returns steady.

“Oh sure, en I can see that,” Dag, he snarks sarcastically his head cocked sideways makin his eyes wide in a animated stare, “but… I had a long night, en juss got out a jail boy. So’s, I juss ain’t ain’t really in no mood fer any of yer foolishness. Sos, about how much money is it yous a looking fer? Now member what I done toll ya, I juss got out a jail.” His attacker, he sorta tells on his self; too old to be a amateur en too clumsy to be anythin but, pointing that knife menacingly from a top of them stairs cooing, “How much you got?”

Dag, he stands placing his straw hat casually comically, carelessly sideways, fiddling clumsily through his pockets, staring off somewhere’s, some where’s far off. He says, “Let’s see, I got five, ten, twenty-five bucks, will that settle ya?”

His assailant, he suwanees on they bargain, “reckon she’ll have to.”

“Well thin,” Dag smiles, “Come git her…I got her right here for ya.”

Hesitant, that attacker’s confidence sorta fails on him, “I reckon not, you bring her up here to me.”

“Ha! Wait just a Bush, damned minute,” Dag barks laughing, “You was ready to come down here all Billy bad ass en throw me out a here a second ago! Now I done promised you fair money boy… you come en git her.”

Looking up at they furious sky they attacker prophesies, “reckon for long you gonna want out en thin… you gonna have to come see me.”

Sighing, Dag relents, “Boy, I don’t want to see you! I juss wants you gone so’s I kin get a day’s sleep. Aright thin, I’ll do her yer way.” Straightening his hat that Outlander begun climbing them stairs slow like, methodically rising, gitting closer, a tradesman bout his business. Reaching that top step, he juss drops them bills, his size en proximity raises they attacker’s anxiety. His heart begun to pump full; his eyes begun to bulge, en his blade begun to tremble juss a mite.

Dag, he leans casual, retrieving them bills coming with a knife from his boot. Opening that boy’s belly merciless in a single swift slash, lifting him over his head pile-driving him into a tumble at they bottom a them steps. Then casual, Dag he stoops… picking up his money like they ain’t nothing goin on a tall fore turning on they corpse. Checking of her boots en pockets, making a animal reckoning of profit or loss. “Twelve fucking dollars en a pocketknife,” he grouses, “Mister you weren’t worth killing en I done lost my fucking shade!”

They unobstructed fire ball she climbs, reaching for they apogee of Sin City’s, cloudless pale blue skyline; already she were over a hundred degrees. That mid-morning pavement she shimmered to they eye, thermals rising, simmering with they smell of melting asphalt. They air she were hot to they touch, thick like soup, surrounding you, suffocating you en enveloping you. They Outlander, he spends they rest of his day in a ole storm culvert leaving they iron lid ajar drawing in them fresh hot breezes carbureted by sewer cool rank, dampness. His own fart reminding him of his gnawing hunger, but all must wait for they mercy of night when them roaches owned they landscape, building they empires in they dark.

Twilight found him ready whenever they world, she were ready. He’d move with her, agin her or whichever way made for him to profit from her. He’s a prototype of they new old man. They primal man of a postmodern desert world. En ready to kiss, kill, fuck, or fight about her, dint make no difference. Dag, he wanders through them ruins of they old city, south of they corp rat zone. He moves his self-down towards that river gitting his ass out they Hio en back to they safety of his own Tuck.

 Sin City she come to life in they monochrome coolness of they night. She blossomed under they night sun. Them empty streets begun showing signs of life wherever darkness reigned. Them barricades on them tenements come down as they low candle lights flickered, eerily forlorn, contrasting they oppressive, nocturnal glow from they lights of they corp rat zone of Sin City proper. Them poor, heat-stressed roaches en they dirty youngins sought out them streets as they sole relief. Some pretending…she were still as she once were. Pouring out from them tenements them roaches was half-starved, half-hearted en all but lost. Just weren’t no hope in em, so they juss ain’t no sense in trying.

Dag moves with certainty through that crowd, cause she were they only way he ever moved. Any lack of certainty were a sign of weakness, en a weakness would be exploited. In they kingdom of they roaches, weakness was they only thin akin to opportunity. Human life worth only what were in her pockets. In this place no law applied cept when them rats… they said it did. It were a place where they innocent never got arrested. A place where justice were a commodity… you know? Bought and sold like water, whiskey, weed or dog jerky.

Them merchants sold they junk, they home-brew whiskey, dog jerky er what have you. Most anythin were available outside they corp rat zone cept in prosperity. See, they were this thing going on tween em, they corp rat zone she needed they Hio to give em all them things Sin City said they couldn’t have. Sin City, she needed they corp rat zone they way them roaches has always needed corp rat zones. Cause, Sin City she weren’t much but she’s all they is. Sin City, she’s they furthest outpost in they Southern Corp rat zone. Crossing that river into they Tuck made you a outlander beyond law or redemption.

Dag, he were a king in they Tuck. He were they leader of his own tribe, but they dint never call they selves no tribe. They dint never call they selves no pack, nor clan, nor family; she were just a group, Dag’s group. Dag, he suwanees on finding that river for to make his way home. Escaping they shit smell of this broke down rotting city. His life were in they pine forests en he thrived neath they shadows of them sandy palms and pine, but all depended on finding that river. When they night sun she finally begun to show, he catches sight of a overpass. A overpass meant they Corp rat toll road en from there he might could find his self.

Approaching a ole rusted steel bridge, he watches as some of them roaches scurry up into her skeleton. Still simmering he talks ta his self, pondering on they outrageousness of it. “A piece of shit corp rat fucker. That fucker, why he weren’t even one part a man. A tiny little speck, that fucker wouldn’t last a day without his rats! Shit, he wouldn’t last a day with em. It’s all Bush shit; I’d snap his damn neck like a scrawny, damn dog. I would too if in he didn’t have them rats, why, he ain’t even got the balls to live as a man, en got no more sense than them damn roaches. Road trash I am, so road trash I be!”

“Hey!” He shouts into they darkness of that bridge. “How many are ya?”

One of them roaches answers back meek, sliding down on they concrete embankment protectively quick with his answer, “Don’t hurt us, we don’t want no trouble mister.”

Tired hungry, Dag, he barks, “I didn’t fucking ask what you wanted. I asked, how many are ya? Look here, yer chances of getting hurt depends a lot on not pissing me off. So’s when I asks a question, you answer her or answer for her. Now, how many are ya?”  

“Four sir,” come his humble reply.

“What are ya… men, women …what?”

“Me, my wife and two kids’ sir.”

“Two kids!” Dag howls, slapping at his thigh shaking his head slowly in disbelief. “Two kids in a corp rat zone? No wonder yous hiding! Them rats catch you with them damn youngins en no support; they’d end up a demos, working fer sure on a corp rat farm.” Askin, “You trying fer they outlands?”

“Don’t know nobody over there,” they roach answers cautiously, casting his eyes downward avoiding eye contact, “couldn’t chence it.”

 “Sounds to me, like yer bushed buddy,” Dag snarks. “Too scared to stay en too scared to git. Son…,” he asks sincere, “don’t ya git tired of living like a roach?”

“I ain’t no roach,” he squeaks back.

“They hell ya ain’t, yous living under a damn bridge hiding when you sees somebody coming. Son… don’t ya ever want to go home…just to visit your nuts?”

“What you want with me mister?” That roach answers defensive.

“What I wanna know is this be they corp rat road what leads to they river?”

“I reckon so mister,”

“Dag looks up asking offhandedly, “What’s yer name boy?”

“It’s Jimmy, Jimmy Ray,”

Pondering he asks, “Wanna make some money Jimmy?”

“Doin what?” they roach replies cautiously.

That outlander, he pushes his hat back off his forehead. “Now, Jimmy you want out of here or what? Ain’t ya tired of living like this? Toll ya what, I’ll take you outta here en git ya yer freedom, but you’ll owe me a obligation. Ya know what a obligation is, don’t ya? A obligation, she’s just a big ole thin en you’ll owe me one. Now, a very, very small part,” he explains, using his hands to illustrate they proximate size, “is ya can’t ask shit about shit. You ain’t no slave or no demos but you ain’t rightly no free man neither as long as yer under this obligation.”

They roach, he asks cautious, “Well, how long would I be under it?”

Dag, he looks back spitting death serious, “just toll ya… you can’t ask shit about shit. I’ll take you ta they other side en promise yous gonna have a fighting chance or… you, en yer kin can juss stay here hiding like a …well, till they find ya… jail ya or kill ya.” Without no hesitation that roach he answers affirmative. This were a opportunity knocking. She were en escape, en escape not possible or least not very damn likely fer one man alone. But a man with a woman en youngins in tow… in they Tuck? … they’d pick their bones.

 Dag, he barks at him, energetically waving his arms. “Well thin, git yer dumb ass up en start looking for some shit to block up the road!”

“Block the road?”

Dag angrily shouts, “Shut up, you son of a Bush!”

“Yes sir,” they roach replies nodding furiously nervously scurrying around trying to look effective, searching in they darkness of they wiregrass. Finding a few boards en construction barrels en two roll of chain link fence, they drags they stuff up onto they roadway.

“Now, Mr. Johansen sir,” They roach asks timidly, “I ain’t asking shit sir, I’m just a wondering bout what yer plan is sir?”

“Now she’s a fair question Jimmy, I’ll answer that in.” Dag, he takes off his hat squeezing they sweat from his bushy black mane, running his fingers through it en making a face for replacing his hat. He begins scratching on his beard sayin, “And don’t you be calling me sir or mister or nothin, I’m Dag, ya git me?” He dictates in his rhythmic drawl, “we gonna block up this here road en solicit passing travelers fer charitable donations, git it?”

Jim, he asks, “What if in they rats come?”

“You run fer it,” Dag splains calmly.

“What if it is a gang car?”

“Thin…I reckon you best you run a little faster or ya gits kilt, she’s yer choice!” His voice strains, “She’s really fucking simple Jim, en she don’t need no more fuckin splainin, does she?”

Jim, he answers humble adjusting to his station, “Oh right, I git it.”

They weren’t much traffic on that toll road; few could afford they price of them fancy, hand-builts or even a recycled one. Made from they mountains of derelict auto cores. They cost of that toll she was exorbitant; they cost of they lectricity to run her on, she were astounding.

Dag, he found a spot jess beyond they crest of they overpass where his barricade couldn’t be seen till she were prit too late. Then, he took ta schooling that roach, “Now, you stand here with this chunk of concrete over yer head like yer gonna bash em.”

They roach asking, “What are you gonna do?”

“I’m gonna watch yer ass from over here hind they guardrail Jim, en sees how you does, but no pressure!”

After a car escapes, Dag, he starts chuckling, “Ya know Jim… our chances of gittin kilt here, mostly depends on you being able to stop a car in they damn near future! Give her here.” Taking they concrete he jumps menacingly at a car as it tops, they hill. Heaving they chunk she shatters they windshield. That car she swerved; its single front wheel catching on that barricade flipping them boards en chain links on they hood blinding em, en crashing em into they rusted guardrail.

 Stealth quick, Dag’s on they car screaming, “Out! Out! Last mother-fucker out gits kilt!” Knife drawn; he pulls they driver from they shattered window by his hair dragging him along they pavement never allowing him to catch his feet. His victim, answering each of Dag’s screams with his own pitiful cries as he pleads fer his life, “Please don’t hurt us! You can have anything you want, please don’t kill us!”

Dag’s hot breath were in his face nearly nose to nose screaming manically, “Empty yer pockets, dip shit! Dump her on they street, faster Bush wipe, faster! They faster I’m happy, they faster you gits away!” Them coins a jingle jangle, hitting on that pavement as they Outlander he nods fer Jim to pick em up. Once that were done, he gives they roach a tip of his hat fore vanishing into they darkness. Jimmy, he follows hot b’hind on his heels. “We gotta split up,” Dag says jogging, “they’s gonna be looking fer two of us.”

Jim, he whines some nervous, “But you said, you’d take us across.”

“En I will,” Dag answers, bowing up at em en giving him a hard look fer asking. “Member, shit about shit? We gonna go, we juss ain’t gonna go together. I’m gonna go en thin, you en them brats yearn are gonna follow.”

“You want me to just hang around here and take a chence of getting busted Dag?”

“Yeah, she’s pretty much they size of her Jim, she’s a part of that obligation of yern.”

“You wouldn’t Bush me, would ya Dag?”

Angered, they Outlander grabs that roach by his shirt, “I work with my hands Bush-fucker; I kills for a living. I kill for me and mine. Cause I do folks believes what I tells em, ya hear? Cause I don’t juss say it’s so, I make it so! Gather up them brats of yourn en make yer way down to they river en I’ll signal fer ya.” With that, they outlander he disappears again into that ebony.

Jimmy, he nervously darts back towards they overpass motioning for his ragged family to follow, gathering them en hurrying along moving em down towards they river. His wife, asks excitedly, “We’re we going?”

“Ta they other side,” he splains, without stopping.

“How’s that?” she queries.

“Now Helen,” buffering her anticipated complaint.

“Don’t you, “now Helen” me, what they fuck is goin on?”

“I met a man, he gots a group over to they Tuck en he gonna take us.”

“Yeah and what did you have to give him fer it? He ain’t do nothin fer free.”

“I’m under a obligation.”

Hollering, “A what! You done sold out to a man ya don’t even know without even asking me?”

“It’s a chence Helen, a chence,” his voice trailing off. Whispering, “Away from here, away from they rats en they rat law; they say a fella can drink water anytime he likes over to they Tuck. So, don’t you say nary a word en piss him off or he might jess kill us.”

Startled, she asks, “Kill us! You mean like really kill us? Or juss fuck us up?”

“He’s a bad Helen, big and tough. But we need him to help us make it in the Tuck. I’m under a obligation sure, but I’m under it fer all us, so don’t you go making it no harder on me or you kin jess stays here!”

Spying on they river, Dag, he watches careful from behind they brush. One eye set behind him, they other looking fer rats. Of course, he’d seen them warning signs; hell, everyone had en had em splained too, cause mostly folks couldn’t read.


           By Order of Corporate Military Governor – Southern Region

           Lethal Force Authorized!

Even if you didn’t know nothing bout no lethal force; a silhouette pitcher of a rat shooting his gun were easy enough to understand. But this were a good time to cross; them river rats weren’t particular ambitious, en didn’t much begin looking fer swimmers till day fall. Cause see, if in you ain’t never been in water fore; chences are, you ain’t much good at it. Them swimmers they sought they cover of dark fer making they try en them rats, well… they picked up they unsuccessful ones. They river she creped along slow, so slow them bodies wouldn’t bob er dint drift off too much.

In they kingdom of they roaches they fears everythin, even they freedom. There she was a juss waiting for em, waiting in they humid darkness of them pine forests. But she weren’t no water what made em scared. She was they fear, fear what was bread into em. Escaping they Hio weren’t no test of strength a tall she was in yer mind,  weighted down by iron shackles in they minds. In a world ruled by fear, they gains they freedom by overcoming her. Once they heat, crime, thirst, en hunger, done took your fear… you’s free. Then they weren’t scared no more en they water, she dint mean nothin; either way they made it, either way they’s free.

Dag, he could a been acrossed that river three times a ready, cept for his promise. Now Dag, he didn’t have no conscience to speak of, but he did have his reputation. His whole life were balanced on they knife edge a his reputation. If in he said he’d hep ya, he’d hep ya. En if in, he said he’d kill ya. Brother you best git gone. So, they just weren’t no good reason he’d ever leave them roaches behind. Only, he weren’t no damn fool bout her neither. It were Dag’s first rule, Dag, he looks out fer everybody, but looks out fer Dag first.

He’d told Jimmy ten minutes, but he didn’t have no watch er nothin; it were just a espression anyway. Dag, he were on cat time he knowd ten minutes’ same way a cat knowd it, when she felt right when he were just ready. En he was about to git there too, when he heard them roaches making all kinds of noise off in they brush. “Holy Fucking Bush Shit!” he whispers coarsely to his self, “bring them rats down on us fer sure, why don’t ya?” Pulling back, he listens fer a spell,  locating em in they darkness fore setting off in they direction. As they approached, he stood tall in they faint light of they night sun. En despite his heavy beard, a scowl of displeasure were clearly obvious. He pointed his ole finger out juss like that Jesus fella from they Bible, I think. Thin he says, with a deep baritone authority, “Shut-they-fuck up!”

Thin with hand signs, they Outlander, he moves them roaches ’tween they ruins down towards they river. Whispering, “Find somethin fer them brats a yern to hold on to so’s you don’t lose em.” Dag, he found his self a pine log to lay across whispering, “follow me”.

Jimmy whines, “We ain’t ready, cain’t you wait?

“Nope,” he splains, “I’m showing you how. How long she takes ya’ll to figure her out is yer problem. I’ll wait a spell cross they river where she’s safe, till thin, yous on yer own.

Frantically, they family scours on that riverbank, searching for anythin offering buoyancy. Jimmy, he spies a pair of red plastic floats laced to a couple of them ole gator traps hidden amongst they reeds. With his pocketknife, he liberates em. Giddy, almost giggling, announcing jubilantly, “Come on! Let’s go!”

 But right there he’d done, done it! He’d done stole property what belonged to they corporation making his self en his whole family criminals. Criminal’s’ fer swimming, en criminals fer stealing. Criminals by definition, en criminals by actual fact. Them roaches kicked en struggled fer a good long time havin never been in they water fore. Washing up on they far bank exhausted, they finds they selves at they feet of they great Dag.

“You done good Jimmy,” he says nodding in approval, “stole them from a gator trap, dint ya? They ain’t no gators, just Bushshit feed they roaches. Yer learning son.”

“Dag,” Jimmy offers up humbly, “this here is my wife Helen and my kids…” but they Outlander, he cuts him off bruptly.

 “I don’t much care Jim, they’s jess women en kids to me. They eat, they shit, en ain’t no good it a fight that’s all I know. When we gits to camp you can make yer friends, play with yer dicks, en fuck each other’s wives all you want. But yer under a obligation, you do what I say when I say. You do as yer told, en try to get along with they folks en things will work out alright for ya.”

Jimmy, he understands flush with exhilaration bout his new surroundings asking, “How far we gotta go, Dag sir?”

Acknowledging his subservience, Dag, he answers benevolently, “She’s a fer piece cross a couple a them ridges en through they altars of heaven. En I done toll ya,” he scolds, “don’t you be calling me sir no more.”

Jim, he knowd enough en dared not ask more. After they’d dried out a spell, Dag he announces gruffly, “Let’s go.”  Moving inland on trails only he kin see navigating by glimpses of they night sun filtering through them pine fans. Finally stopping, he come to a paved asphalt street on they edge of a forested landscape. They sand floor littered with ferns en dead palm fronds.  

After while, Dag, he holds up his fist signaling fer em to stop. “Listen up,” he says, “we’s gonna take us a break fer a mint. So, whatever you need ta do, do it! Once we git out this forest we gonna be in them altars of heaven. Don’t touch nothing, don’t talk juss walk quick. This is a damned religious place; en I don’t want to bring no shit down on us fucking round with dead folks, after me Jim!”

Venturing into a clearing they night sun she made them altars come to life. Bunches of concrete alters, personal altars standing bout waist high, ledges runnin up one side every foot or so. On top of them altars was a space big enough for any sacrifice. Adorned they was with rusted iron rail stubs running down they sides, framing em in and situating em from each other by carefully measured distances. It had somethin to do with they religion I reckon. They’s ranged cisely long straight lines following with they religiosity of they asphalt. Jimmy, he whispers in reverence, “They must be tens and tens of em, maybe a hundred.”

“It juss gives me the creeps thinking about all them dead folks,” Helen answers, whispering. “What do you suppose they all could a been praying bout?”

Jim says, “I reckon giving thanks fer being so rich! Rich enough to build such fine altars! And they sure is a bunch of em!” Dag, he looks back, repeating his structions with his eyebrows. Giving em hard looks ending they theological discussion. As they trudged through that humid night, they held they questions. Rusted iron poles rose up from they ground at measured lengths. Before no great distance they come to a sand berm what had spilt over covering they street en them altars.

Dag, he scampers up sideways climbing they bank till he makes they tree line. Jim en his family they struggle some with they hill trying to keep up, fearing they’d git lost. They couldn’t see nothin in them woods, nothin but darkness, shadows en undergrowth. But Dag, he sorta sensed things en were at one with em, stopping periodically listening to them forest voices. He’d make a fist, en thin he’d stand still as a stone for a mint fore moving on. Dag, he threw his palms out, motioning for them to lay in they sand fore letting out a high-pitched whistle.

A voice in they darkness asks, “Who kilt they man?”

“Don’t know, he was dead when I got here,” they Outlander shouts back.

The voice asks agin, “Who kilt they man?”

The Outlander he juss smirks, “Don’t reckon she matters much… if in she’s already dead.”

They edge of that dark forest which seemed so empty, suddenly woke. They brush appearing to come down as a heavy wood gate swung open, a voice answering familiarly through they dark, “Welcome home Dag.”

“Yeah Harley, I got ya some folks here to hep you.” Dag splains, motioning for they family to stand.

“Free or demos,” Harley asks excitedly?

“They’s free, but Jim here is under a obligation.”

Disappointed, Harley answers only, “Oh.”

“See Jimmy,” Dag splains, “Harley here is our head demos. He ain’t free, en you is. En she means he cain’t tell you what to do. Now, since he’s they head demos, he can crawl ass on them other demos but not you.”

“How can I tell if they’s a demos?” the roach asks naively. A small crowd gathers listenin. Dag, he strokes on his beard some suwaneeing on that roaches’ question b’fore answering, “Well, if you call em a son of a Bush… en they don’t try ta kill you… they’s a demos.” They crowd breaks into laughter half out of respect, en they other half out of admiration, cause see, Dag, he were everything to them people.

He shouts, “Harley, take them roaches en find em a place to sleep be day fall soon. I bet them brats is tired.”

“Yes Dag,” he answers obediently, leading they family of into they glowing circle of low, dying camps fires.  

A tall man with long blond hair approaches, greeting Dag warmly.

 “Bobby!” Dag answers.

“Good to have you back Dag, where ya been?”

“I got busted over in they Hio en had to buy my way out.”

“Why in they Bush was ya in the Hio?”

“She’s like this here,” Dag splains, “living this close to a corp rat zone, ya gotta smell they shit sometimes… juss to see what they’s been eating!.”

“En what cha ya think Dag?”

“She’s terrible,” he says, shaking his head. “Them folks living like roaches, feeding off in they crumbs of Sin City. Doin shit work; pushing on tur – bines night en day, juss so somebody kin have a lectric light. They ain’t got nothing for they selves; they ain’t living like no human bean. She ain’t no fit place to be but long as they keep her over there, she don’t confront me none.”

Confused, Bobby asks, “Why don’t they juss run off?”

“They’s scared son, that’s all they teaches em is to be scared of everythin.

Scared of they Tuck, scared of them rats en scared they won’t give em no more food. Paying em juss enough to keep em around.” Changing they subject he asks casual, “How’s my stills been putting out?”

“Well Dag, we was doing real good,” he stutters as a shrill tone of nervousness infects his voice, “but we seen spotters long they bank so we had to put they fire out fer a couple a days.”

Without no comment but more direct, he asks agin, “How’s my stills been putting out?”

“We’s was doin good, bout six jugs a day Dag!”

“Don’t you Bush me none Bobby, where’s they water been goin?”

“Dag, I wouldn’t Bush you, better safe thin sorry, I always say.”

“But Bobby… you ain’t safe nor sorry… yet!”

“Now Dag,” he answers nervous, “I’m telling you they was spotters out.”

“Ya know what Bobby? I better see me some spotters in they prit near future.”

Dag, he moves on with they affairs of state, walking at leisure through they forest compound making his presence felt. As he completes his circuit, he approaches a steel trailer body laying flush in they sand. He stops taking her all in before entering. “Dag,” a women’s voice cries out excitedly, “Yer home!”

“I reckon,” he answers slow in a road weary monotone. Johanna, she runs to kiss him but he stops her handing off his knife en shoulder bag fer her to put away. Cause, she were his first wife en it were her responsibility, en her responsibility alone. At twenty-six she weren’t no raving beauty no more, not like she once were. In they world’s old age; youth en beauty ere short seasons. It were questionable if in she could still bear children, cause she ain’t hadn none so far. Bethy juss turned fourteen en were his second wife, she waits for Dag in they bedroom. Where her position as a second wife dictates she waits, till she were called for.  

“Ere ya hungry,” Johanna asks?

“What we got?” He says, rubbing they weariness from his face tryin to unwind.

“We got some left-over cat,” she answers excitedly, hoping to please.

“That’s right,” he snarks half-joking; “live her up while I’m out there bustin my ass!”

“Dag,” she cries defensively, “we gotta eat.” Answering sheepishly.

“That’s right!” he announces, as if coming to some instant realization. “I got me another wife too, don’t I? Come on out here Bethy.”

Bethy, she runs jumping into his lap as he reinforces his power dynamic. Dag, he always demands a little more from his wives thin he give. He’s juss living up to his status as a alpher male. Living like few in they Tuck, them women they lived well, but not free. Meshed in a web of power, status en position based upon what one could bring to the table immediately, long passed instant gratification, more of an instant satisfaction society.

After a few moments of playing grab ass he gives a knowing nod to Johanna, “go git me something to eat, will ya?” She knowd what he meant, en didn’t much care; she were his first wife en held sway. She returned with a bowl of stew from they communal pot finding herself alone, listening patiently to they animal sounds of copulation coming from they next room. Sitting at they table staring vacantly as she pulls his knife from his sheath examining it carefully. Looking fer fresh blood on they gudgeon, finding it she squeals with girlish delight. Taking a wet rag, she wipes on they blade carefully collecting that blood stain on a corner of they rag.

As his first wife it were her right to clean his weapons en her’s alone, but sometimes she fantasized bout what it must feel like to kill somebody. Not for they feeling of power in taking a life, but they feeling of power in ending her own powerlessness. After a few moments, Dag emerges from they bedroom alone, sitting quietly at the table as she slides they bowl in front of him.  A voice calls from outside “Dag?” Without looking up, he answers with a disgusted, “What?”

“Dag, we got folks at they gate, says they’s Christians”

“Christians?” Ha! “Tell em they book done run out, en nobody showed. You tell em, they got two hours to git gone; fore we hunt em down en kill em. Thin you wait a hour en you hunt em down en kill em.”

They voice from outside asks, “Really, Dag?”

Dag, he turns from his bowl, asking sarcastically into they darkness. “Does you even know what really means? It means, are they really en advance party fer some other group coming to scope out easy pickings from some dumb-ass asking really? Will they really come back en ambush us en sell our families into demoscrazy. Will they really come murder us, en steal our shit?” Dag, his voice it were sharp en he were raising it a half-step, each time to a falsetto tone. Then he growls, “Let me tell you something about stupid, stupid ain’t no defense, she’s a invitation. Suppose, I let them folks go en they’s an advance party, what are they going to think of us? They’d know our numbers, en our gate. We’d let em walk right in, en walk right back out.” With a philosopher’s finger in the air, Dag, he answers his self rhetorically. “They’d think we was stupid, en they’d feel powered by that! They’d reckon we deserved whatever we got, cause we was stupid! Don’t know nobody, ever felt sorry fer stupid!

So, now you go on en kill them fellas like I done told ya. Them advance men don’t return. Them folks begin to suwanee, “I wonder whatever happened to em?” Maybe they’d risk a couple more en maybe not. Maybe they don’t like they bad outcome. They won’t know our numbers or our gate, but what they do know is… we ain’t stupid!”

But what if they ain’t advance men, what if they are Christians?

Dag, he laughs so hard til he chokes on his stew, coughing en heaving having trouble regaining his self. He coughs again still trying to clear his breath. “Son, son, look around you,” he says, “does this look like any kind of place to recruit Psalm singers? Does this look like they kind of world, what needs Christians in it? No, you go on now en do as you’re told en go kill them folks.”

When he turns back Johanna is watching him from they shadows, “What?” he asks impatiently.

“We was just I mean, Beth an I was wondering if you was up fer some entertainment?

“No,” he answers, firmly shaking his head. “You en Beth was wondering, if in I’d tolerate some entertainment being dog ass tired like I am. You was wondering if in, I’d trade peace en quiet for entertainment.”

“And, will you?”

“Well yeah, within reason, I reckon.”

“Can I go get him then?”


“Silver!” They answer in unison.

“They old dude?” he asks knowingly, “shit, he must forty!”

“But we like his stories Dag.”

“All he does is takes wishes en wanna be’s en strings em into stories. “When men went to the moon or when food was free,” they ain’t no truth to her, she’s all Bush shit!”

“But we like his stories,” they repeat in unison.

“Go git him thin, I was promised peace en you was promised a story. So, go on with yer part so’s we can gits to mine.” She returns pulling on they old man by his withered hand. Silver acknowledges Dag’s presence with a bow and respectful tone asking, “You requested me, sir?”

Nodding to them women, Dag splains, “They wants a story.”

“Yes sir,” asking gently, “What kind of story would they like? When white leaves fell from the sky? Or perhaps, a story about when men traveled in space or maybe about the railroad that went nowhere?”

They all laughed at they notion, even Dag snickering, “What sort of damn fool builds a railroad, what don’t go no place?”

“Well sir,” the old man splains, “That is a very interesting story.”

Dag, he looks around for agreement fore saying, “Sit.”

That old man he struggles sitting his self-cross-legged, trying to maintain his dignity as he arranges his self. Straightening his halo of white hair round his head he begins by holding his face in his hands deep in contemplation as if, straining to remember every lost detail. Eventually lifting his head in a calmer spirit; becoming they story teller. No longer a bedraggled old man living on a warlord’s charity, he becomes theater.

With a measured pause; “It happened long ago in the time of my Grandfather’s Grandfather. There was a weary traveler moving on foot all alone through they deep woods. He was very tired from his journey and it were nearly day fall when he stepped on a mouse’s tail hiding under some leaves. That mouse, he let out a squeak as the man, he caught him in his hands. “You’ll make a fine bait for my trap,” the traveler declared. But then, a strange noise come from inside of his cupped hands, a tiny voice cried out, don’t kill me and I will make you rich!”

Dag, he begun to cat call, “Bush, Bush, this is Bush Shit!” Them women quieted him as they old man continued. “Looking inta his cupped hands the traveler he asks, cynically. “How can you make me rich, little mouse?”

“I can talk and sing, people will give you money to see me.”

So, the man, he put that mouse in his kit bag and took him home. The little mouse made good on his word and made the man very rich. The man built a store and folks had to pay money just to come inside and buy things, just to see that talking mouse. But after a while, the crowds grew tired of the little mouse and stopped coming. Then the man became very angry, “What can you do for me now little mouse? Shall I kill you now?” The little mouse had also grown older, offering, “You must find another mouse and a duck and a cow, and I shall teach them to talk and sing.”

So, the man did as he was asked, and once again the little mouse made good on his word. The crowds returned, and the man grew richer still. He told the little mouse, “I am rich and you have kept your word but you can never be too rich, how can I become even richer still, little mouse?”

The aging mouse replied, “You must build a railroad that goes nowhere.”

“Bush! Bush, Bush,” Dag chants again, before being quieted.

They old man, he eyes Dag carefully before he resumes, “The railroad,” the little mouse explains, “must go round and round and go very fast, people will come for miles to ride on it.” With that, the little mouse died and not knowing what else to do the man built the railroad that went nowhere. And the people did come in droves to ride it but this man, who’d grown so rich had also become very old and he soon also died. His fortune was divided among his three sons.

His sons had gained his wealth without effort, they were greedy and slothful. Working the little animals too hard trying to earn even more money. Until one day the waters began to rise and the land around them began to shrink. The brothers took to their boat but could not agree to allow a cow in their boat, so it drowned and the other little mouse too. The brothers in their hunger turned on the talking duck. But because it had no lips, it spoke too poorly to explain they were eating their future and so they ate him! This man was named Dizzy sir and he’s the reason why today when someone is out of their head, we say they’re dizzy.”

“Sounds like anyone who’d believe that damn story have to be dizzy,” Dag shouts.

“His son’s,” The old man continued softly, “we’re the three brothers Bush, the three incantations of evil; robbery, murder and graft.

They room fell silent when Dag he says, “What? How the hell was I supposed to know it was a damn, religious story!”

“But you defended them Dag, you spoke up for em,” Johanna answers, shaking her head disapprovingly.

Dag, he pleads, “Come on Silver, cut me a solid here. “Tell em, tell em, you juss made it up, tell em, they ain’t no such place as dizzy land. Tell em, it’s juss a damn story, what you made up.”

“It is as you wish sir, would you rather hear another, perhaps when food was free?”

“Naw,” Dag carps, “They was promised one, en we heard her. Now, I’m tired en ready for a honest day’s sleep.”

“Then shall I depart,” the old man asks?

Dag nods, fore getting up heading for bed without comment. Them women, they understands of his movements begun straightening up fore extinguishing they candle. They dark sky begun glowing gray en his sleep were cut short by a banging noise on they side of they trailer. Ford calling out, “Dag, we got folks at they gate!”

Dag, he leapt up from his bed looking suddenly at they headboard missing his knife. He found it on the table instead en said out loud, “somebody gonna tote a ass whooping fer that.” Grabbing that knife, he snatches at they door asking harshly, “What?”

“Dag, we got folks at they gate, they says with Robert by they river. Dag, asks fer confirmation, “You say, Robert by they lake or they river?”

“Damn Dag, do I look like some new kind of dumb ass?” They was only a few folks who could answer back in such a tone, Ford Romeo was one… en, I cain’t rightly think of no other… right off. Ford en Dag they’d growd up together, not as friends so much as compatriots. Each knowing they other made em stronger, someone to watch they back someone they could trust… mainly. It was as close to brotherhood as this life would yield. Dag being Dag, admired Ford’s strength en ambition, but also wisely feared it. They was just like them two brothers…what kilt one another, Cain en Able I think.

“How Bushed up would I have to be…to wake you for Robert by they lake? Them fuckers? Round them nucler waters? Shit, they couldn’t find they way here… damn Dag!”

“Yeah, I know, I’s juss sleepful.”

“They says they got problems en wants our help.”

“What kind of problems?”

“They say, its harvesters,”

“Harvesters, shit!” He spits, “Tell em to juss kill em en be done with her.”

“I know,” he says, “I’m just repeating what they says,” Ford splains. “They wants to talk to you bout her.”

“I ain’t talkin to em now,” he answers, “find em some place to sleep, give em food en water, make em comfortable, en keep a eye on em. Git Harley to put one of his demos on it, I’m going back to bed.”

Ford, he answers, “It’s done Dag, good day.


                                                                        Chapter Two


                                                             They Kingdom of they Pines





Dag, he woke early towards evening as they fireball she glommed, beating on them palms en pines, softly framing they orange, cloudless sky. He slaps Johanna on they ass motioning fer her to git up, “We gots ta talk, Ford banged on they trailer yesterday en my knife weren’t on they headboard, what you gotta to say fer yourself?”


“I’m sorry,” she offers helpless, as he slaps her hard across her face, “You could’ve got us kilt. I da been dead en you en Beth would a wished you was! Don’t fuck up no more!” She teared up but dared not cry, she’d fucked up en she knowd it. He grabbed for his knife giving her a defiant look few ever survived. In this place love was a bargain, a co-dependency, a partnership in grime. They was no getting ahead only getting along, havin little en little else.


They future she was only tomorrow but not of tomorrows. They past, she was only yesterday it were time’s primitive entail. To be handed back whenever or whoever kin wind they clocks of history. Time had b’come irrelevant, a tick today, a tock tomorrow, no seasons, no difference, no ideas or concepts.  Human evolution snapping back like a rubber band, reverting to them old new ways, before they flood, before they four, before they lands went under. Willingly trading off they niceties human evolution, keeping only her necessities.


Dag, he found Harley en walked with him down they path, towards they guests. As he approaches, they Outlander places his hands wide apart palms almost pointing upwards, asking tenderly, “Who is Robert by they river? I seek him.”


A young man steps forward announcing, “I am the son of Robert by the river. He is my father and my mother a demos but has taken me as his son.”


“Are you also Robert?” Dag asks humbly?




“Then you’re welcome Robert, I hope you were given much to eat and drink and a demos to entertain you.”


“Yes Dagmar, you are very kind. I was told you were the great Dagmar and I can see it is so.”


Sitting on they floor, Dag asks with a wide-eyed generosity, “How can I be of service to you?”


“It seems,” Robert begins timidly, “We’ve harvesters in our land. They have taken six of our people.”


Dag’s demeanor suddenly changes, shouting, “Hell, they’s harvesters, they’s maybe two or five or this many,” holding up both hands. “You set a trap, en you kill one or two, en they rest gist runs off.”


“This is different Dag; they have a boat and are using the river.”


“Thin, they ain’t harvesters!” He remarks with a quick certainty. “Harvesters is crazy fuckers what done turned can bull. They cain’t organize shit, every time they try, they end up eating they selves.”


Robert replies humbly submissive, “You know more about these things than I. That is why I am here. We ask you come in force and help us kill them, whoever they are.”


Dag, he reaches for they meat of they negotiations grinning widely, en asking; “What’s in it for me en mine?” He’s no longer a diplomat en no longer wide-eyed.


“If you come, you will be protecting your border where the night ends. If you do not help us, when we are gone they will attack you!”


Dag, he answers sharply, “No Bush they won’t one time maybe, but that’d be that! Now, if we’s gonna hep you here’s they way she goes, we get all they spoils en all they demos.”


“Your price is high Dag,”


“It ain’t my folks getting et,” he answers.


“But all the spoils and all the demos?”


“I think she’s a fair bargain,” He answers, “yer folks getting et, not ours. We gonna stop yer folks from getting et, risking ours.”


“You don’t understand Dagmar, you won’t be alone we’re going to help you.”


Dag, he looks back sorta contemptuous, “Yeah well, I done already figured that into my price now there’s my offer, you take her or you leave her.”


“We accept,” He says, “but your price is too high.”


“No, she ain’t, ere you wouldn’t be accepting her.


Robert asks, “How long will it take until you are ready?”


“We’s ready now,”


“Then we can leave quickly?” Robert asks,”


Dag, he turns to Harley saying, “git Ford, tell him we got work gonna take a couple nights, maybe.”


Dag, he returns to the trailer calling out, “Johanna! Get my bow, en weapons!”


Delivering them up apologetically, she asks nervously, “Where you going?”


“I got work aways off, en me en Ford gonna take care of it, a couple of nights maybe.” He answers, fastening they strap of his haversack.


She puts her head down confessing, “I hate it when you’re gone.”


“She’s how I makes my living,” he splains, “taking care of shit before shit takes care of us. Look round,” he says, “she’s they reason you kin live like this!”


“I know,” she mumbles humbled, “But I love you!”


He only grunts fore turning to go. Meeting Ford in they compound they walk together to greet Robert’s party. Startled Robert asks, “This can’t be all, where are the rest of your men?”


“She’s enough,” Dag pronounces.


Robert bellows, “Our bargain was you come in force… to kill the invaders!”


“Listen Sonny,” Dag says pouncing, “we don’t know who they is!”  Pushing his finger bluntly into they young man’s chest. “Till we do, we don’t go running off Bush ass wild when ya don’t even know where’s yer going. You wanted Dag; you got em, my plans, my way or you go on en walk yer ass home!”  


Robert en his followers were much humbled en subdued by Dag’s outburst. Ford, he watched without giving no notice, having seen it all before. It were pure Dag; throwing down they gauntlet en having that pissing contest right off. So, a ways through them woods when they come to them altars of heaven. Robert en them hesitate saying, “Dag, we cannot go this way!”


“Why the hell not?” He barks.


“It is wrong to cross here, this is sacred ground,”


“Ain’t no sacred ground no more, thems what thought she was is gone. So’s she cain’t be sacred no more. I’ll be bushed if in, I’ll look out for they feelings of dead folks.”


“But, we can’t…” Robert stuttered.


“See ya,” Dag offers, continuing down they path calling out, “Meet ya on they other side!”


After a momentary hesitation, they trio pursue they Outlander through they ruins into them altars of heaven. It was when they stopped to rest when Dag started in on Robert, “Thought you dint want to come this way?”


“I didn’t,” he offers, “but I could not show up at home without you, without embarrassment.”


“Yeah, life’s she’s kind of Bushed that way,” Dag observes, “Full of contradictions, more afraid of daddy thin them dead folks. That there, is yer problem with religion, right there. Fellas always gonna do what’s best for they self when push comes down to shove, en them gods won’t git no cut.”


“It wasn’t fear Dagmar it was respect.” Robert howls, bowing up at they accusation. Dag, he don’t mean nothin; he’s just a bully out to push as hard as he kin. It were near on ta day fall when they arrive at Robert’s camp. Dag en Ford, each stared at they other stunned by they lack of security without no guards nor gate. Ford, he mumbles, “gist asking for it.” Most of them folks what hadn’t gone to bed yet formed a crowd en was greeting them strangers as they passed along they way, leading them to they elder Robert, “Welcome, welcome, my friends, bring them water and food!” the old Chief says, standing to greet them.


Dag, he stuck out his mitt, but Robert suddenly grabbed him hugging him tightly round they neck. Dag, he didn’t take too kindly to being touched. See, it were against his religion. So, he extracted himself clumsily to Robert’s confused surprise. See, to Dag, his body were his temple en no one were allowed to touch they temple without permission. Dag, he answers, “Yeah, she’s nice to see ya, where they hell is yer security?”


“They’re watching the river, I’m certain my son has told you of our troubles.”


Dag, he removes his hat running his fingers through his thick, black hair explaining, “Look, she don’t work that way! You don’t juss pick a direction to defend, you gotta defend em all!”


“Currently, our problems come from the river Dagmar,” Robert explains gently, “and we have no enemies from other directions.”


Excitedly Dag answers, “but you will! Once they find out you ain’t got no guard!”


“Yes, then Dagmar,” Robert replies, “Tell me how many and where they should be.”


“Well, that would rightly be up to you. How many men you got en how many paths you got leading in here.” Robert the elder whispers among his associates as they disperse asking, “You must be tired, let me show you to a hut where you must rest yourselves until night returns. As they walk, they village children follow behind them curious, laughing en imitating them strangers, mocking their gruff manners. Robert motions em towards a hut offering, “Whatever you want is yours Dagmar, we thank you for coming.” Dag, he were cautious this time, suspecting he were bout to git grabbed agin taking a step back, saying clear eyed, “Thank ya.”


Once inside, Ford exclaims, “Holy fucking Bush shit! These people don’t think they have no enemies, kin you believe it?”


“Don’t matter what we believe, they believe her.” Dag splains, lying in his hammock, “en they’s probably gonna pay for her too but she ain’t our problem. They ain’t no harvesters working in no boats, she don’t make no sense. Our job is to suwanee on her, en make bank.”


“You ain’t worried bout Robert en them,” Ford asks?


“Course I am,” but solving they problems solves ours,” he answers, drawing his straw hat down over his face ta keep they critters off, for saying, “good day.” Quickly falling asleep his hand locked on they handle of his knife with Ford soon following. Dag, he woke sensing a movement outside his window. Imperceptibly pulling his blade from its sheath, he’s ready. After another movement, he peers out from under they brim of his hat with one eye. He tenses his self waiting on they shadow’s return. When it comes, he seen it were a youngin. Shouting in a deep voice he says, “Boy! You best get yer ass away from here, fer you git hurt.”


Startled, Ford wakes, “What is it?” jumping from his hammock. Dag answers, “Ain’t nothin but we might as well get up… she’ll be day fall soon.” No sooner had they stepped from they hut when a women stationed outside they door asks, “Food sir or water?”


Dag, he answers, “Yeah, en git Robert they youngin for me,” later as he en Ford were eating, Robert approaches, “Yes Dag?”


“Need fer ya to show me where they first in was taken, thin they lasten before she gets too dark.”


 Answering obediently, “Yes Dag, whenever you’re ready.”


Tossing his bowl, Dag says, “I’m ready, come on Ford, let’s go to work.”


Robert leads them through they forest to a clearing by they riverbank. “Here is where they first was taken, when she’d come to get water.”


“When,” Dag asked?


“It was day fall, just after we’d all gone to bed and she did not return.”


Dag, he stroked on his beard pondering, “She ain’t right, she gist ain’t right. Ain’t no harvesters out in no fucking daylight. See, you might not have no enemies but them Harvesters damn sure do! When you’s gitting by eating folks, it makes you sorta unpopular.”


Ford only laughs adding, “You got that Bush shit right.”


Robert, a bit offended but more intimidated asks, “Then who?”


“Demos hunters’ maybe,” as Ford asks, “Were there any blood?”


Robert shook his head affirmatively eyes solemnly affixed to they ground.


“Forget that thin,” Dag says, “but in a way, she’s good news.”


Stunned, Robert exclaims, “How?”


Dag asking, “You want yer revenge, don’t ya? Demos hunters be long gone. Show me where they lasten was taken en we’ll git to work.”


“What do you want me and my men to do,” Robert asks?


“Honestly?” Dag answers, stroking on his beard en doing his best to be delicate, but he were about to say something prolly inappropriate, something along the lines of “Stay the fuck out they way.” When Ford spoke up, “Go git yer men en wait in them woods about a half a ways off, down river.”


“To do what!” Robert objects angrily.


“To do,” Dag answers puffing at being questioned, “as yer told!” Yer a pretty good ole boy, but what are you eighteen…nineteen? We got a old fucker, what knows everything about them old times. En he says, they was places where youngins got taught stuff by real smart fuckers. So, I’m gonna teach you how to reach twenty by an easy path, en yer gonna shut they fuck up while I school at ya.”


As this were the only open course, Robert backed down en did as he’s told. Ford spoke quietly with them before shipping em off down river to get shed of them. “I know you fellas got yer ass on yer shoulders. But listen here; in this here business, you don’t git to be wrong but onced. Y’all sent for Dag cause he ain’t never been wrong. They ain’t but two ways to learn about Dag, en they’s only one way where’s yous git to go home, so trust me this in is better.”


When Ford returns, Dag asks sarcastically, “Did you pat they little heads en dry they little eyes?”


“Dag, ya got what you wanted,” he spits back splainin, “if they’d have gone away all pissed off they might a tried showing you how tough they was or how smart they was, en fucked up everything for everybody. This way they do as they told en stay out they way.”


Dag, he nods, “Pretty smart Ford, ya know, if it weren’t for me you’d be they smartest fucker round here. Dag smiles, en Ford knew that was as good as it gets from Dagmar Johanson. In they failing light them two begin seeking out positions for a ambush. They night she passed along slow en quiet, with only they faint sounds of them river cicadas off in they distance when they begun hearing a burbling of a motorboat. They moved along slow crouching through they brush following her along they bank, juss waiting on em to make they move.


Them harvesters was unaware they was prey, en was too casual in their approach as Ford mocked Robert under his breath, “we ain’t got no enemies.” Dag, he whispers back, “Shut they fuck up.” That cabin cruiser she beached herself in they muddy sand as a man on they prow jumped off with a rope tying her off to a palm tree. Dag, he raises up his bow en were about to kill him when a second man come over the side, knee deep in they water. As he finishes tying they rope he turns away en Dag drops him from ten foot away with a lung shot in the back. Ford, he hit they othern with an arrow in his throat. Silence their goal, was achieved; Dag en Ford, took up they positions under they prow waiting on em to investigate further.


After a moment, a voice from up on deck whispers, “Mike, Mike?” He come over they side still whispering. But found eternity waiting on Dag’s blade, but managed a garbled cry. Three women scream in panic at they sight of them strangers, diving over they side of they boat fleeing into they darkness. Dag en Ford, they climb on they boat playing off of each other; Dag, he loads another arrow then nods. As Ford shouts, “Come out en live or git ready to die!” A movement in they cabin assures them they was a demo’s to be had, when a woman’s voice answers, “We’re coming out!”


Dag, he takes a step back preparing his self as two women emerge from the cabin one carrying an infant. Dag, he barks at em, “Who are ya, en what you doing here?”


They women carrying they infant answers in a defiant tone, “If you are wise you will release us immediately. I am the wife of a great warrior from a rich tribe and we can be ransomed.”


Ford, he looks over they side asking sarcastically, “Them fellas?” As Dag says, “I reckon not.” Them women held each other in fear as Ford gives em their options, “You can become a demos of they great Dag or you can die they choice is yours.”


“Then you do not seek ransom, you’d rather kill women?”


Dag only sneers, “I done toll you what I’d ruther. I give you a choice, now make it!”


“What about my baby?”


Dag, he answers, “I’ll take care of yer youngin.”


She passes they infant to her servant declaring, “I won’t live as a demos.”


Instantly, Dag slashes her across they throat pushing her over they side. Without hesitation, he snatches they infant from they servant’s hands pitching it as far as he kin into they river, adding simply, “En you?”


Her answer’s quiet and muted, “I was her slave and now I am yours.”


“Thin what is your name demos?”


“It’s laurel sir.”


“Why are you here demos?”


“We were seeking bodies for processing sir.”


“Who sent you demos?”


“I do not know; I was her slave and was not told.”


“Yer a liar,” Dag answers, slapping her cross they mouth.


She holds up her head defiantly, eyes blazing with hatred as they blood trickles from they corner of her lip answering, “I told you, I do not know.”


Dag, he replies, “Thin, tell me what you do know demos.”


“It was as she said; their tribe captured me and made me her slave. I prepare bodies, that’s all I know.”


“Where is this tribe, demos?”


“Down river sir,” she answers, as he slaps her again this time hard enough to knock her down.


 “You don’t think I know that? he barks, “You think I’m so stupid, I don’t know you come from down river?”


“You do not need to hit me sir, I will tell you all I know.”


Dag answerin, “I’ll do as I please, en you’ll tell me anyway.”


“Yes sir,” she answers in a more civil tone.


“Where are you from, demos?”


“We’re from down river, down the other side of Sin City?”


“In the Hio?” Dag asks surprised.




“How is it demos, that a group of harvesters has such a big fine boat as this? Then asks, “How is it a group of harvester’s lives in they corp rat zone?”


“They have protection, sir.”


“Bush shit!”


Expecting a blow, they demos winces, putting her head down saying, “That’s all I know sir.”


“She ain’t all you know, but she’s enough for now. How many bodies ya got in there,” he asks, pointing into they cabin.


“Two sir,” Ford, he places a noose round her neck with a length of rope as Dag says, “Well, get em out, they won’t put they selves over the side.”


“By myself?” She cries as he mocks her, “By myself?” Look lady, my job’s hard too, but you don’t hear me whining bout her!”


With a rustle in they brush, Robert en his men appear with them three women, all tied at they neck. “You have done well, Dagmar!”


Dag, he answers, “Tolerable fair; cut me loose one of them demos to help this here whiner empty out my boat.”


“You are humble Dag,” Robert replies, “You’ve gotten them in one night!”


“You think so Bobby? You think someone’s gonna lose a big fine boat such as this, en not come looking fer her? Nodding to laurel, “This in says they got protection. We dump all this shit in they river en someone’s bound to come a looking. Now if I wanted, I could say yer right. I could take my demos en my boat en go home. But Ole Dag ain’t gonna play ya’ll that way.


After them corpses was cleared, Dag orders Ford en Robert to take them other three demos to they village en secure them. “What you gonna do with that one,” Ford asks? Dag, he smiles answering,” First, she’s gonna show me how to work this here boat en thin we’s going fer a little boat ride. Unconcerned, Ford asks, “What’s they split?” Equally unconcerned, Dag he answers, “I don’t know, three for me, en one for you, sound fair?”


Ford answering, “fair,” nodding his approval.


After they’d gone, Dag, he gives orders to his new demos, “Show me how to work this damn thing.” That floor she was littered with yeller plastic bags Dag he lifts his foot en removes one from his sandal; folding it carefully placing it in his pocket. That demos, she tries learning him they basics bout they steering wheel en they throttle en such, working up to they ignition key en lights. Dag, he’s been looking around asking, “What’s them?” pointing to two metal Jerry cans strapped down inside they stern of they boat.


 “Those are extra fuel cans, she explains. “You could sell those for $500 each in Sin City, if you wanted to.”


 “Only if in, I knowd somebody in Sin City what needed boat fuel,” He answers caustically adding, “How do we git out of here?”


“First, you untie the line,” she answers.


“No,” correcting her, “first, you untie they line,” pointing. “En don’t try nothin funny or I promise… it won’t be.” Ever cautious, Dag, he holds on to they end of they rope round her neck as she unties, they line en climbs back onboard. He hollers, “Starter up en take her up this way!” As they boat cruises up river he stands so close behind her she could smell of his breath. “Slow,” he whispers as he begun fooling with them light switches. Finding her spotlight, he points her along they bank looking back deep into them woods. “Stop,” he whispers, “See that washout? Take er up in there.”


“You can’t…you’ll wreck her,” she warns.


“You let me worry bout that,” he answers.


“There isn’t enough room, you’ll get stuck.” She insists, but Dag, he were unmoved by her arguments. No matter how she tried to squeeze her in that boat it grounded in they soft sand. “Here, let me try,” Dag says, backing her out into mid-channel thin gunning them engines full throttle over they sand bar and into they dry slew.


“I told you!” she carps, as he grabs her by her rope lifting her on her tip toes splainin, “You don’t tell me shit, ya understand?” Before letting her go, “Now come on,” he barks, “We gots work to do.” Gathering brush, logs en debris, they block up they slew in a sloppy, half-hearted attempt to hide they boat with palm leaves en small limbs. Dropping one of them fuel cans over they side he pours they othern into they passenger compartment, until them fumes force him over they side.


“You’re going to burn it?” she asks curious, but he answers, “Shut up. Now try en keep up,” he says, as they march off through them woods in search of Robert’s village. They find Ford eating en being entertained by they jubilant villagers. As Dag, enters they camp he were congratulated but was unmoved by they demonstration, telling Ford, “Finish your meal; we still got work to do. We gotta guard my boat. Robert asks, “shall we help you again tonight?” But before Ford could intervene Dag he answers, “Yeah, you kin keep yer eyes open from now on.”



Ford adding politically, “Just like last time.”


Impatient, Dag says, “Come on.” Ford, he follows behind they roped laurel, soon taking his place alongside they Outlander. “What they Bush!” Ford shouts, “Ya don’t have to be a dick about everythin!”


Dag, he looks back incredulous, answering, “Yeah… I do!”


Ford his hands held plaintively asks, “What? What! What!”


“This ain’t bout no harvesters Ford, harvesters ain’t got no damn boats. Harvesters don’t live in they Hio, jus them extra fuel cans would feed us for a month in Sin City. Does that make sense to you? I bet you ain’t even give her a thought!”


“Well sure, I thought about it?”


“Yeah,” Dag smirks, “You thought about… how many demos will I get? You thought about her but sure as fuck you don’t poke no critter in they eye till ya know how big she is.”


“Who or what,” Ford asks?


Dag interrupts, shaking his head silently. “It’s they corporation, someone workin for they corporation or someone trying to cut in on they corporation. They’s all trouble, juss different kinds.


“They Tuck,” Dag suwanees, “she’s outside corp rat control so they don’t stake no claim on her. So’s, I reckon, someone’s making a play to get into they meat business. That tells ya two thins, thins are bad en business is good.” Ford looks up asking, “What you reckon they want?” Dag, he answers, “Xactly, what does they want?”


Ford stood silent, certain Dag would splain without no further need of prompting. “They’s either coming for meat or they’s coming to stay.”


Ford looks back attentive, “Taking they women will destroy a group faster than sickness.


Dag answers, “Maybe they’s hungry or maybe they’s victen em!”


“What are we gonna do?”


Dag, he looks back at Ford sorta curious giving him a double take before exhaling loudly, “We gonna kill them fuckers! Shit! What did ya think?”


“But if it’s they corporation, they could send many, many, more than we could kill.”


Dag, he threw his head back laughing, asking, “Ever burn yer hand in a fire? How big was it? We ain’t got to kill em all just make her painful. Won’t take long b’fore they give up chasing whatever they’s after, fire wins every time.”


From a top of a sand en mud riverbank, a lost relic from they river’s ancient path them two waited, hovering over they boat in they sultry darkness. They vantage point puts them most directly above her. En after a while Dag, he slides down they sandbank by they light of they night sun. En pours out they contents of they other fuel can long they woodpile behind they boat. Returning with they metal can near empty Ford asks, “You that sure they’s comin?”


“They’s coming,” He whispers, as he begins wrapping gauze around arrow shafts. Thin he rolls over on his back and pulls down his straw hat, snoozing, while he waits for they opening of hunting season. It were a long time fore they heard they sound of a motor breaking through they stillness, echoing off they water. Dag, he offers without moving his hat, “That tells us somepin, to git here from down there they’s travelin in daylight.”


Slowly, a speed boat with four men in it burbles upriver searching long they banks til they’s gone past, en could barely be heard faintly off in they distance. Dag, he says in a sort of casual way, “If in they come right back they got maps, if not they’s eye ballin it.” No sooner had he said that when they boat returned, cruising slow stopping in they water across from they dry slew. Voices called out careless of whoever might be listening. They boat pulled in close without beaching. Two men come over they side in they knee-deep water moving inland, climbing they woodpile searching for they boat.


Them intruders, climbed on they boat careless of they speech, “I could smell it,” one silhouette splains.


A voice answering, “must have busted her fuel tank bringing her in.” From they port side they other fella was bout to ask a question when Dag, he interrupted they conversation with a burning arrow hitting they deck. That boat exploded in a gasoline en fiberglass fireball, instantly dooming them men on her deck. They others, scorched en blinded was quickly dispatched silhouetted as they was by them flames en attacked from inside en envelope of darkness. As them flames begun to die down some that boat begin taking on a shape of a melted, plastic blob, smoldering noxiously they air raining down black plastic filaments. Soon they darkness she conquered them flames, en Ford asks, “Now what?”


“Now, we go fucking round in my new boat!” Dag answers giddy, “Get they demos; she knows how ta work em.”


 Investigating they craft, Dag, he begun showing off what he’d learnt they night before. En while most of it were wrong, Ford he dint know no different en were much impressed. Dag en him was from they Tuck en dint never spend no time around no machines much. laurel, she were polite in correcting him en he accepted her corrections with a strange smile. He cranked up that boat taking her up river, looking for a good hiding place for it. He splains, “That lasten, she were too damn big en weren’t no good cept fer bait, but this in…this in she’s a keeper, this in is fer down they road.”


Waiting for they gloaming, Dag en Ford says they goodbyes to Robert’s camp departing for home with them new demo’s. When Ford he asks, “Hey Dag, how come they look like that?”


“Like what?”


“All puffy en round, ya know?”


“They’s women!” Dag snarks.


“No shit?” Ford answers sarcastically, “I would a never have figured that out by myself. Thank you so fucking much! I know they’s women but why does they look like that?


“Cause they’s fat!” spitting out they word in his own disgusted emphasis.


“We ain’t gonna be able to sell em, lookin like that,” Ford says, knowingly.


“No shit?” Dag parrots, “you dint think I knowd that?”


“Won’t no respectable man have a demos lookin at him thinking bout which of his parts might taste best, en tradin days is coming only a couple of moons away.”


“Don’t sweat it; Harley will work it off em.”


“Yeah,” Ford replies, “but what’s my cut?”


“I get three en you get one, same as always.”


“How about I get half? I did half the work.”


“Yeah Ford, but that’s jist it, don’t ya see? You got to do half they work. Didn’t nobody else get to do half they work.”


“Yeah Dag, but you, asked me to help you!’


Dag answering, “Xactly, en your welcome. Now look here, if I split every thin down they middle with ya prit soon you’d have as much as me. Know what would happen next? Why I’ll tell ya, you’d get to thinking, “why do I have to share every thin with this here Bush fucker?” Thin I couldn’t trust ya no more en you couldn’t trust me. Thin! You’d probly try some thin stupid en thin, I’d have to kill ya en she’d ruin my whole night. You see now? They’s a order of thins. I’m number one en yer number two, if in you git rid of me you might think that make you number one, but she don’t. She’d only mean that you couldn’t be number two no more.” Dag, he smirks, waiting for Ford to answer but Ford he weren’t buying in, answerin, “Bush fucker!”