Settings

The Monkey Wrench Gang 19


  “All this violence,” Doc said. “We are a law-abiding people.”

  “What’s more American than violence?” Hayduke wanted to know. “Violence, it’s as American as pizza pie.”

  “Chop suey,” said Bonnie.

  “Chile con carne.”

  “Bagels and lox.”

  “I don’t like to handle dynamite,” Smith said. “Who’s gonna set the charge for the loading towers while you’re nineteen miles east a-foolin’ around with them draglines?”

  “I’ll fix the charge. All you and Doc have to do is load it on the belt and light the fuse. While Abbzug stands watch. Then get in the car and take off. You should be two miles away when the blast goes off, on your way back here. Just make sure that fuse is lit.” Hayduke looked at them; the fire crackled quietly. Twilight again.

  “George,” says Doc, “you’re so enthusiastic. You frighten me.”

  Hayduke grinned his barbarian grin, taking it as a compliment. “Scare myself,” he said.

  “Yes, and you didn’t think of everything, either,” Bonnie said. “How about this, Lawrence of Arizona: when—”

  “Call me Rudolf the Red.”

  “—when do the trains run, Rudolf? How many men in the crew? What about them? And if a train hits that bridge before we carry out the rest of the plan, what then? There goes your element of surprise.”

  “I’ve done my homework. The loaded trains leave Black Mesa Junction twice a day, at 0600 hours and at 1800 hours. The deadheads leave the Page depot at noon and midnight. So a train crosses some point on the tracks every six hours. Kaibito Canyon Bridge is about halfway between the two terminals. The loaded trains cross it sometime around 0800 and 2000 hours.”

  “Talk American.”

  “That’s eight in the morning and eight in the evening. So we sit up there around eight, watch the loaded train go by and plant our mine. We have six hours before the deadhead coming back from Page hits it. We hustle back here, get everything ready, start the fireworks promptly at two in the morning, just about the time the empty train is crashing into the canyon. Three separate incidents at widely separate locations; the Feds will think it’s an Indian uprising. In fact—”

  “We’ll blame it on the Indians,” Doc said. “Everybody loves Indians, now they’re domesticated. So we offer a bit of a clue here and there. Tokay bottles. Comic books. Peach brandy bottles. Ya-ta-hay, BIA sprayed on the bridge abutment. The media will play it up big and half a dozen Indian organizations will rush to claim the credit.”

  “You haven’t answered all my questions,” Bonnie said. “What about the men on the train?”

  “Okay,” says Hayduke. “Here’s the part you pacifists will like best. Those coal trains are automated. There is no crew. There is nobody aboard.”

  A pause.

  “You’re quite sure of that?” Doc asks.

  “I read the papers.”

  “You read this in a newspaper?”

  “Listen, the company has been boasting about these trains for a year. Computerized. No human hand at the controls! World’s first automated coal train!”

  “Not even an observer on board?”

  Hayduke hesitated. “Maybe they had an observer on the pilot runs,” he said. “But not now. They’ve been operating these trains for a year without a hitch. Till we came along.”

  Pause.

  “I don’t like it,” Smith said.

  “Good Christ, do we have to go through all that again?”

  Silence.

  A poorwill began to chant, off in the gloom of the pinyon pines: poor-will … poor-will … poor-will. …

  “You know what I wish,” Bonnie said. “I wish I had a double-dip caramel-nut-fudge Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone right now.”

  “You know what I wish?” Dr. Sarvis said. “I wish—”

  “Yeah yeah, we know,” Bonnie said.

  “Right. You guessed it. With braces on her teeth, bending over the French vanilla. Or the wild cherry.”

  “Nothing more predictable than a senile lecher. And so easy to recognize. Always forgetting to zip his fly.”

  A significant pause.

  Three men, in the dark, under the picnic table, reached furtively toward the front of their pants. There followed the sound of one zipper zipping.

  From the nearest occupied camping site, beyond three vacancies, came the sound clear and distinct of one ax chopping. And the bird: poor-will….

  “One other thing,” says Bonnie, “and this is serious, men. And that is this: What in the fucking name of sweet motherfucking Christ is the use of blowing up a railroad bridge and a coal train if we’re not going to be there to watch it happen? Hey? Answer me that one, you pointy-headed masterminds.”

  “Well put,” says Dr. Sarvis.

  13

  Duologues

  “Doc,” says Seldom Seen Smith, “what I want to know, confidentially, is what exactly do you know about this here boy Hayduke?”

  “No more than you.”

  “He talks rough, Doc. Wants to blow up damn near everything in sight. You think he might be one of them—what do you call ’em—agent prevaricators?”

  Doc considered for a moment. “Seldom,” he says, “we can trust George. He’s honest.” Doc paused again. “He talks the way he does because—well, because he is full of anger. George is warped but warped in the right way. We need him, Seldom.”

  Smith thought about these remarks. Then, embarrassed, he said, “Doc, I don’t mind saying I kind of wonder about you too. You’re older than the rest of us and a hell of a sight richer, and—you’re a doctor. Doctors aren’t supposed to act like you act.”

  Doc Sarvis’s turn to reflect. Reflecting, he said, “Don’t step on the Cryptantha. Spiny little bugger.” He stooped for a better look. “Arizonica?”

  “Arizonica,” said Smith. They strolled on.

  “But about your question: it’s seeing too much insulted tissue under the microscope. All those primitive blood cells multiplying like a plague. Platelets eaten up. Young men and women in the flower of their youth, like Hayduke there, or Bonnie, bleeding to death without a wound. Acute leukemia on the rise. Lung cancer. I think the evil is in the food, in the noise, in the crowding, in the stress, in the water, in the air. I’ve seen too much of it, Seldom. And it’s going to get a lot worse, if we let them carry out their plans. That’s why.”

  “That’s why you’re here?”

  “Precisely.”

  Hayduke to Abbzug: “What about Smith?”

  “What about him?”

  “Why is he always trying to throw a monkey wrench into my plans?”

  “Your plans? What do you mean, your plans, you arrogant, pigheaded, self-centered schmuck. Your plans! What about the rest of us?”

  “I’m not sure I trust him.”

  “So you don’t trust him. All right, listen to me, Hayduke. He’s the only decent person in this whole morbid crew. He’s the only one I trust.”

  “What about Doc?”

  “Doc is just a little boy. A complete innocent. He thinks he’s on some kind of crusade.”

  Hayduke looked severe. “We are. What else is it? Why are you here, Bonnie?”

  “That’s the first time you ever called me by my first name.”

  “Bullshit.”

  “True. The first time.”

  “Well, shit, I’ll try to be more careful in the future.”

  “Such as it is.”

  “Such as it fucking is.”

  “Still think we might be better off without that fucking girl.”

  “Are you crazy, George? She’s the only thing makes this here goldang Communist foolery worth a grown-up man’s time.”

  * * *

  “They’re both crazy, Doc.”

  “Now now.”

  “A pair of weirdos. Eccentrics. Misfits. Anachronisms. Screwballs!”

  “Now now, they’re good boys. A little odd but good. Captain Smith there, solid as a—stout and sturdy as a—ah, a—


  “Brick shithouse.”

  “Young George, all fire and passion, a good healthy psychopath.”

  “A Creature from the Sewage Lagoon.”

  “I know, I know, Bonnie. He’s difficult. But we’ve got to be patient. We’re probably the only friends he has.”

  “With him for a friend who needs an enema?”

  “Well said. But we’ve got to help him understand we’re not like the others.”

  “Yeah, I’m sure he’s heard that before. And what about Captain Smith?”

  “A good man. The best. Good sound American stock.”

  “You some kind of racist, maybe? He’s a red-neck, a peasant, a Utah hillbilly.”

  “The best men come from the hills. Let me refine that statement: The best men, like the best wines, come from the hills.”

  “And a sexist, too. Where do the best women come from?”

  “From God.”

  “Oh, shit!”

  “From the Bronx. I don’t know—from the bedroom and the kitchen, maybe. Who knows? Who cares? I’m tired of that ancient squabble.”

  “You’d better get used to it, man. We’re going to be around for a while.”

  “Bonnie, my tough little nut, I’m glad to hear that. Better the cold and bitter world with woman than Paradise without her. Roll over.”

  “That’s exactly what I mean.”

  “Roll over.”

  “Go to hell. Roll over yourself.”

  “The ass-man cometh.”

  “The ass-man can go take a flying leap at the moon.”

  “Now, Bonnie….”

  “Doc, you’ve got to change your ways.”

  “You mean there’s another way?”

  “No, that’s not what I mean. Don’t you ever listen to me?”

  “All the time.”

  “What did I say?”

  “Same thing you always say.”

  “I see. Doc, there’s something I’d better tell you.”

  “I don’t think I want to hear it.”

  “Seldom, you’re a good fucking cook. But for chrissake do we have to have beans with every fucking meal?”

  “Them beans they’re basic, George. You rather have shit on a shingle? You shut up now and eat your beans.”

  “When they going to invent a fartless bean?”

  “They’re workin’ on it.”

  “But they have everything. They have the organization and the control and the communications and the army and the police and the secret police. They have the big machines. They have the law and drugs and jails and courts and judges and prisons. They are so huge. We are so small.”

  “Dinosaurs. Cast-iron dinosaurs. They ain’t got a fucking chance against us.”

  “Four of us. Four million of them, counting the Air Force. That’s a contest?”

  “Bonnie, you think we’re alone? I’ll bet—listen, I’ll bet right this very minute there’s guys out in the dark doing the same kind of work we’re doing. All over the country, little bunches of guys in twos and threes, fighting back.”

  “You’re talking about a well-organized national movement.”

  “No I’m not. No organization at all. None of us knowing anything about any other little bunch. That’s why they can’t stop us.”

  “Why don’t we ever hear about it?”

  “Because it’s suppressed, that’s why; they don’t want the word to get around.”

  “The ex-Green Beret. How do we know you’re not a stool pigeon, Hayduke?”

  “You don’t.”

  “Are you?”

  “Maybe.”

  “How do you know I’m not one?”

  “I’ve studied you.”

  “Suppose you’re wrong?”

  “That’s what this knife is for.”

  “Would you like to kiss me?”

  “Fuck yes!”

  “Well?”

  “Yeah?”

  “What are you waiting for?”

  “Well … shit. You’re Doc’s woman.”

  “Like hell I am. I’m my own woman.”

  “Yeah? Well, I don’t know.”

  “Well I know. Now kiss me, you ugly bastard.”

  “Yeah? I guess not.”

  “Why not?”

  “Have to talk to Doc about it first.”

  “You can go to hell, George.”

  “I’ve been there before.”

  “You’re a coward.”

  “I’m a coward.”

  “You had your chance, Hayduke, and you blew it. Now sweat.”

  “Sweat? I never sweated over any woman in my life. I never knew a woman that was worth the trouble. There are some fucking things more important than women, you know.”

  “If it weren’t for women you wouldn’t even exist”

  “I didn’t say they weren’t useful. I said there are some things more important. Like guns. Like a good torque wrench. Like a winch that works.”

  “Good God, a whole nest of them. I’m surrounded by idiots. All three of them would-be cowboys. Nineteenth-century pigs. Eighteenth-century anachronisms. Seventeenth-century misfits. Absolutely unhip. Out of it, nowhere, just simply nowhere. You’re obsolete, Hayduke.”

  “Like a decent valve job. Like a decent—well, I mean, like drawing trips to a pair. Like—”

  “Unhip. Unhip. An old man at twenty-five.”

  “—like a good coon dog. Like a cabin in the woods where a man can piss off the front porch—wait a minute—where a man can piss off the front porch anytime he by God fucking well feels like it!” He stopped, unable to think of any more withering similes.

  Abbzug smiled her specialty, the scornful smile.

  “History has passed you by, Hayduke.” With a fling of her wonderful hair she turned her back on him. Crushed and silent, he watched her walk away.

  Later, crawling into his greasy fartsack under the blinking fiery stars, he thought (too late) of the right rejoinder: Today’s hip is tomorrow’s hype, kid.

  14

  Working on the Railroad

  Hayduke stumbling around in the dark, blue light glimmering. “All right now, everybody up, everybody up. Drop your cocks and grab your socks. Off your ass and on your feet….”

  The old moon low in the west Good God, the man is mad, she thought. He really is a psychopath.

  “What time is it?” somebody mumbled—Doc, buried in his bag.

  “Four by the stars,” Hayduke growled. “Up, up, up. Only one hour till dawn.”

  She rolled over and opened her eyes. Saw Captain Smith bending above the Coleman stove, heard the encouraging sizzle of country sausage, smelled the heartening smell of cowboy coffee.

  Hayduke, steaming mug in hand, was nudging Dr. Sarvis in the ribs with the toe of his iron-toed climbing boot. “Come on, Doc, get your ass in gear.”

  “You let him alone,” she said. “I’ll wake him.”

  Bonnie crawled out of her own sack, pulled on jeans and boots, went to the doctor close by. Wrapped in the cozy luxury of his goosedown bag (which could be zipped together with Bonnie’s—but this time wasn’t—to form a double bag), he seemed reluctant to arise, to face reality again. Bonnie knew why.

  She opened the nylon folds of the hood of his bag. By starlight he looked at her. Those bloodshot eyes seemed dim and small without their glasses. The nose had lost its luster. But he smiled.

  She kissed him softly on the lips, nuzzled his nose, nibbled at the lobe of his ear. “Doc,” she murmured. “I still love you, you fool. I always will, I guess. How can I help it?”

  “Every sugar needs a daddy.”

  Their words turned to vapor in the frosty air. His arms came out of the sack and he hugged her.

  Aware of Hayduke and Smith in the background, watching, she returned the embrace, kissed him some more. “Get up, Doc,” she whispered in his ear. “Can’t blow up any bridges without you.”

  He unzipped his bag, rolled slowly out, awkward, stiff, cradling a grand erection in his hand. ??
?A shame to let this go to waste,” he said. He stood upright now, swaying a little on his hind limbs, a great bulging bear of a man in thermal underwear.

  “Later,” she said.

  “May never get another one.”

  “Oh come on. Put your pants on.”

  “Once more into your britches, friends.” He found them, pulled them on, and shambled off to urinate, barefooted on the cold sand. Bonnie sipped her coffee by the picnic table, shivering despite the sweater she wore. Hayduke and Smith were busy reloading the vehicles, rearranging baggage and cargo. The plan of the moment, it seemed, was to take both Doc’s station wagon and Hayduke’s jeep to the site of the objective. Smith’s camper truck would remain here, loaded and locked.

  Captain Smith, old Seldom Seen, appeared not quite his usual jolly self. He looked thoughtful, an expression which made him hard to recognize. But Bonnie knew him; she knew the type. Like the doctor, Smith tended to suffer from scruples. Not a useful quality in this line of work. Bonnie wanted to go close to him, as she had to Doc, and whisper comfort in his ear.

  As for George Hayduke, the very sight of that shaggy ape turned her stomach. She was glad, thirty minutes later, driving off in the dark with Doc and Smith at her side, to know that Hayduke, following in his jam-packed jeep, was choking on her dust.

  She glanced up now and then from her steering wheel to look at one star, bright and alone, off in the velvet purple of the southeast. Words came out of nowhere: It is a strange courage you give me, lonely star.

  “Turn right up yonder where it says Kaibito,” Smith said. She turned. They glided over the new asphalt trail at a safe and sane eighty per, leaving Hayduke in his laboring jeep far behind. Only the distant yellow blur of his diminishing headlights, seen in the rearview mirror, reminded her of his presence. Soon that too was lost. They were alone at five in the morning on a long deserted highway, rushing galley west through the dark.

  We don’t have to do this, she thought. We could escape that lunatic back there, return to a decent law-abiding way of life with some sort of future.