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The Monkey Wrench Gang 25


  Another turn on the plug and the oil would begin to drain. Hayduke eased his body out of the way, regripped his pipe-handled wrench. And froze.

  “How you doin’, pard?” said a man’s voice, deep and low, not more than twenty feet away.

  Hayduke reached for his sidearm.

  “Naw, don’t do that.” The man flicked a switch, training the beam of a powerful electric torch directly into Hayduke’s eyes. “I got this,” he explained, pushing the muzzle of what certainly looked to be a twelve-gauge shotgun into the light, where Hayduke could see it. “Yeah, it’s loaded,” he said. “And it’s cocked and it’s touchy as a rattlesnake.”

  He paused. Hayduke waited.

  “Okay,” the man said, “now you go ahead and finish what you’re a-doin’ under there.”

  “Finish?”

  “Go ahead.”

  “I was looking for something,” Hayduke said.

  The man laughed, an easy, pleasant laugh, but not without menace. “Is that right?” he said. “Now what the hell you a-lookin’ for under the crankcase guard of a goldang bulldozer after dark?”

  Hayduke thought carefully. It was a good question. “Well,” he said, and hesitated.

  “You think it over now. Take your time.”

  “Well …”

  “This oughta be pretty good.”

  “Yeah. Well, I was looking for—well, I’m writing a book about bulldozers and I thought I ought to see what they look like. Underneath.”

  “That ain’t very good. How do they look?”

  “Greasy.”

  “I coulda told you that, pard, saved you all the trouble. What’s that three-foot end wrench for you got in your hands? That what you write your book with?”

  Hayduke said nothing.

  “Okay,” the man said, “go ahead and finish your job.” Hayduke hesitated. “I mean it. Turn that plug. Let the oil out.”

  Hayduke did as he was told. The shotgun, after all, like the flashlight was aimed straight at his face. A shotgun at close range is a powerful argument. He worked, loosened the plug; the oil streamed out, sleek, rich and liberated, onto and into the churned-up soil.

  “Now,” the man said, “drop the wrench, put your hands behind your head and kinda sidewind outa there on your back.”

  Hayduke obeyed. Wasn’t easy, wriggling out from under a tractor without using the hands. But he did it.

  “Now roll over on your face.” Again Hayduke obeyed. The man rose from his squatting position, came close, unholstered Hayduke’s gun, stepped back and hunkered down again. “Okay,” he said, “you can turn over now and sit up.” He examined Hayduke’s piece. “Ruger, .357 mag. That’s power all right.”

  Hayduke faced him. “You don’t have to shine that light right in my eyes.”

  “You’re right, pard.” The stranger switched off the light. “Sorry about that.”

  They faced each other in the sudden darkness, each wondering, perhaps, who had the quicker and better night vision. But the stranger had his forefinger on the trigger of the shotgun. They could see each other well enough in the high-plateau starlight. Neither made a move for some time.

  The stranger cleared his throat. “You sure work slow,” he complained. “I been watchin’ you for seems like an hour.”

  Hayduke said nothing.

  “But I can see you do a good job. Thorough. I like that.” The man spat on the ground. “Not like some of them half-assed dudes I seen up on the Powder River. Or them kids down around Tucson. Or them nuts that derailed—What’s your name?”

  Hayduke opened his mouth. Henry Lightcap? he thought. Joe Smith? How about—

  “Forget it,” the man said, “I don’t want to know.”

  Hayduke stared harder at the face before him, ten feet away in the starlight, gradually becoming clear. He saw that the stranger was wearing a mask. Not a black mask over the eyes but simply a big bandanna draped outlaw-style over the nose, mouth and chin. Above the mask one dark right eye, vaguely shining, peered at him from under the droopy brim of a black hat. The other eye stayed closed in what appeared to be a permanent wink. Hayduke finally realized that the man’s left eyeball was gone, long gone, lost and forgotten no doubt in some ancient barroom quarrel, some legendary war.

  “Who are you?” Hayduke said.

  The masked man spoke in a tone both surprised and hurt. “You don’t want to know that. That’s not a nice question.”

  Silence. They stared at each other.

  The stranger chuckled. “Bet you thought I was the night watchman, didn’t you? Made you sweat a little, huh?”

  “Where is the watchman?”

  “In there.” The stranger jerked a thumb toward the nearby office trailer, where a pickup truck stood parked, company decals on the doors.

  “What’s he doing?”

  “Nothin’. I got him hogtied and gagged. He’s all right. He’ll keep till Monday morning. The loggers’ll be back then and turn him loose.”

  “Monday morning is tomorrow morning.”

  “Yeah, I reckon I oughta mosey on outa here.”

  “How’d you get here?”

  “I like to use a horse for this kind of work. Not so fast, maybe, but quieter.”

  Another pause.

  “What do you mean?” Hayduke said, “by ‘this kind of work’?”

  “Same thing you’re doin’. You sure ask a lot of questions. You wanta see my horse?”

  “No. I want my gun back.”

  “Okay.” The stranger handed it back. “Next time you better keep your lookout a little closer.”

  “Where is she?” Hayduke reholstered his weapon.

  “Right on that jeep where you left her, puffin’ on one of them little Mary Jane cigarettes. Or she was.” The stranger paused to look at the surrounding night, then turned back to Hayduke. “Here’s somethin’ else you want too,” he said, fishing in his pocket and handing over a bunch of keys. “Now you can start them engines and burn ’em up real good.”

  Hayduke jingled the keys; he looked toward the office trailer. “You certain that watchman is secure?”

  “I got him handcuffed, hogtied, gagged, dead drunk and locked up.”

  “Dead drunk?”

  “He was half drunk when I got here. After I got the drop on him I made him finish up a pint of bourbon he was suckin’ on. He passed out scared and happy.”

  So that’s why nobody squeaked when I knocked on the door Hayduke looked at the masked stranger, who was shuffling his feet, apparently ready to leave.

  A high voice, strained and frightened, came out of the dark. “George, are you all right?”

  “I’m all right,” he shouted back. “You stay out there, Natalie. Keep watch. Also, my name is Leopold.”

  “Okay, Leopold.”

  Hayduke jingled the keys, looking at the dark hulk of the tractor at his side. “Not sure I know how to start this thing,” he said.

  The masked man said, “I’ll give you a hand. I ain’t in that big of a hurry.” Off in the woods somewhere a horse stomped, shuffled, nickered. The man listened, turned his head that way. “You be quiet, Rosie. I’ll come and git you in a minute.” He turned back to Hayduke. “Come on.”

  They climbed to the driver’s seat of the big tractor. Taking back the keys, the stranger chose one and unlocked the access plate behind the braking pedals on the floor of the operator’s compartment. He showed Hayduke the master switch and turned it on. Unlike the old-fashioned Cat at Hite Marina, this machine was started entirely by the power of a series of batteries.

  “Okay,” said the one-eyed man, “now you push that little button there by the speed shift.”

  Hayduke pushed the button. The starter solenoid engaged starter pinion with flywheel ring gear: the twelve-cylinder four-cycle turbo-charged Cummins diesel coughed into life—1710 cubic inches of packed piston power. Hayduke was delighted. He pulled back on the throttle lever and the engine revved up smoothly, ready to work. (But heating rapidly.)

  ??
?I’m gonna do something with this machine,” he announced to the stranger.

  “Yes you are.”

  “I mean move things around.”

  “You better move quick then. It ain’t goin’ to last but a few minutes.” The stranger eyed the instrument panel: oil pressure zero, engine temperature rising. An odd unhealthy noise, like the whine of a sick dog, could be heard already.

  Hayduke unlocked the lock lever and pulled the speed shift lever into gear. The tractor bucked forward against the lowered dozer blade, shoving a ton of mud and two yellow pine stumps into the side of the Georgia-Pacific office.

  “Not that way,” the stranger shouted. “There’s a man in there.”

  “Right.” Hayduke stopped the machine, leaving his load piled high against the buckled trailer wall. He shifted into reverse and the tractor backed over the Georgia-Pacific pickup truck; the truck collapsed like a beer can. He rotated the bulldozer over it, grinding the wreckage into the muck.

  Next? Hayduke looked around through the starlight for another target.

  “See what you can do with that new Clark skidder over there,” the masked man suggested.

  “Check.” Hayduke raised the dozer blade, turned the tractor and charged at full throttle—five miles per hour—into the skidder. It crumpled with a rich and satisfying crunch of steel flesh, iron bones. He pivoted the tractor 200 degrees and aimed it at a tanker truck full of diesel fuel.

  Somebody was screaming at him. Something was screaming at him.

  Full throttle forward. The tractor lurched ahead one turn of the sprocket wheels and stopped. The engine block cracked; a jet of steam shot forth, whistling urgently. The engine fought for life. Something exploded inside the manifold and a gush of blue flame belched from the exhaust stack, launching hot sparks at the stars. Seized-up tight within their chambers, the twelve pistons became one—wedded and welded—with cylinders and block, one unified immovable entropie white-hot molecular mass. All Is One. The screaming went on. Fifty-one tons of tractor, screaming in the night.

  “She’s foundered,” the masked man said. “There ain’t nothin’ we can do.” He clambered off over the rear, under the eight-ton rippers. “Let’s go,” he shouted. “There’s somebody comin’!” And he melted into the darkness.

  Hayduke pulled himself together, got off the tractor. He still heard somebody screaming at him. Bonnie.

  She yanked at his sleeve, pointing away into the woods. “Can’t you see?” she screamed. “Lights, lights! What’s the matter with you?”

  Hayduke stared, then grabbed her arm. “This way.”

  They ran across the clearing, among the stumps, toward the shelter of the forest as a truck came rumbling into the open area. Headlights flared, a spotlight swept across the open and almost caught them.

  Not quite. They were in the woods, among the friendly trees. Feeling the way through the dark in what he thought was the direction of his jeep, Hayduke heard a thunder of hoofs. Somebody on a horse galloped past at a full run. The truck, which had come to a stop beside the whistling bulldozer, discharged some men: one, two, three—impossible to count them in the dark. Hayduke and Abbzug watched a spotlight probe the clearing, the trees, seeking the horse.

  Again too late: one glimpse of the horseman and he was gone, into the forest and down the road, riding off to the end of the night. A gun barked once, twice, in futile remonstration and subsided. The hoofbeats faded away. The men at the truck moved to the assistance of somebody inside the office trailer, who was kicking at the walls. They’d have a tough time getting him out with that load of rubble banked against the jammed door.

  Bonnie and George got into the jeep.

  “Who’s in God’s name was that?” Bonnie demanded.

  “The watchman, I guess.”

  “No, I mean the man on the horse.”

  “I don’t know.”

  “You were with him.”

  “I don’t know anything about him. Shut your door and let’s get out of here.” Hayduke started the motor.

  “They’ll hear us,” she said.

  “Not with that bulldozer howling they won’t.” He drove without any light but starlight out of the trees, slowly, and onto the main forest road, heading back toward the highway and North Rim. When he felt he had gone a safe distance he turned on the headlights and stepped on the gas. The well-tuned jeep purred smoothly forward.

  “You really don’t know who that man was?”

  “I don’t know, sweetheart. All I know is what I told you. Call him Kemosabe.”

  “What kind of name is that?”

  “It’s a Paiute word.”

  “Meaning what?”

  “Shithead.”

  “That figures. That fits. I’m hungry. Feed me.”

  “Wait’ll we get a few more miles from that logging outfit.”

  “Who was in that truck?”

  “I don’t know and I didn’t want to stick around to find out, did you?” He decided to stick it to her. “Did you, my hotshot lookout?”

  “Listen,” she said, “don’t give me any hard time about that. You wanted me to stay with the jeep and that’s what I did. I was watching the road like you wanted me to.”

  “Okay,” he said.

  “So shut up.”

  “Okay.”

  “And amuse me, I’m bored.”

  “Okay. Here’s one for you. A real conundrum. What is the difference between the Lone Ranger and God?”

  Bonnie thought about it as they rattled through the woods. She rolled a little cigarette and thought and thought. At last she said, “What a stupid conundrum. I give up.”

  Hayduke said, “There really is a Lone Ranger.”

  “I don’t understand.”

  He reached over, grabbed her, pulled her snug against his side. “Forget it.”

  20

  Return to the Scene of the Crime

  Hayduke and Abbzug camped illegally (not even a fire permit) against all regulations far from the blacktop down a closed-off fire road under the aspen trees.

  They woke up late and had breakfast in bed.

  Birds singing, sunshine, et cetera. Afterwards she said, “Now I want something to eat.”

  He took her to North Rim Lodge for brunch. They had orange juice, pecan waffles, fried eggs sunny side up, hash-brown potatoes, ham, toast, milk, coffee and Irish coffee and a sprig of parsley each. All marvelous. He led her out on the terrace of the lodge and showed her the high rim view of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

  “Neat,” she said.

  “See one Grand Canyon you’ve seen ’em all,” he agreed. He took her to Cape Royal, Point Imperial and finally to Point Sublime, where they camped illegally the second night. As the sun sank legally (in the west) they gazed down six thousand vertical feet, into the yawning abyss.

  “That abyss is yawning at me,” Hayduke observed.

  “I’m sleepy,” she said.

  “Christ, it’s only sundown. What’s the matter with you?”

  “I don’t know. Let’s take a nap before we go to bed.”

  It had been an active weekend. They lay down again to rest some more.

  From down down far down below, carried on the wind, came the applause of Boucher Rapids. The dried stalk and empty seed husks of the yucca rattled in the breeze, on the rimrock, under the stars. Bats dipped and zigzagged, chittering, chasing insects taking evasive action flying for their lives. Off in the dark of the woods one vulgar nightbird honked. Nighthawks rose against the gaudy sunset, soared and circled and plunged suddenly for bugs, wings making a sound like the roar of a remote bull as they pulled abruptly out of headlong dives. Bullbats. Back in the forest deep in the gloom of the pines a hermit thrush called—called who?—in flutelike silver tones. The pining poet. Answered promptly by the other bird, the clown, the raven, the Kaibab crake, with a noise like a farmhand blowing his nose.

  They passed her placebo back and forth in exceeding slow slow-motion. Reefer madness. I love you, Mary Jane.
>
  “Listen,” murmured George W. Hayduke, his heart corrupted and his brain damaged by too much beauty, love, tenderness, dope, cunt, sunset, canyon scenery and fluty woodland notes. “You know something, Bonnie?”

  “What?”

  “You know we don’t have to go on like we been. You know?”

  She opened her heavy eyes. “Don’t have to what?”

  “Don’t have to keep on risking our necks. They’re gonna catch us you know. They’ll kill me. They’ll have to.”

  “What? Who? Who is?”

  “If we keep on. We could go to Oregon. I heard there’s human beings there. We could go to New Zealand, raise lambs.”

  She rose on her elbows. “Are you talking to me? Are you out of your mind? Are you sick or something, George? How many—gimme that joint—who are you anyway?”

  His drugged eyes stared at her from forty miles away, the dark-brown pupils big as checkers. Poker chips. Mushrooms. Magic morels. Slowly the wide evil gleaming grin appeared, wicked as a wolf’s in the smokeblue twilight.

  “Men call me …” he said, tongue thick and numb as a turnip’s tuber, “men—”

  “Men call you?” she said.

  He tried again. “They call me … persons call me …” He put a finger on his numb lips. “Shhhhhhhh…. Kemo … sabe….”

  “Shithead?”

  “Right,” he said, nodding his stone-heavy head and grinning happily. He laughed and sank again, beside her. They sank together, laughing, sprawled on the lofty fluff of their goosedown zip-together.

  In the morning he had recovered, was his normal bale and fulsome self again, despite a wracking marijuana headache. “Back to work,” he growled, rousing her. “We got three bridges, a railroad, a strip mine, a power plant, two dams, a nuclear reactor, one computer data center, six highway projects and a BLM scenic overlook to take care of this week. Up, up, up. Make me some coffee, godfuckingdammit, or I’ll ship you back to the Bronx.”

  “You and who else, buster?”

  They headed north, out of the national park into the national forest. Property of all Americans administered for you by your friendly (Amer. Forestry Assoc.) forest rangers. Their Smokey Bear sign had been removed. At Jacob Lake they stopped for fuel, replenished the beer chest (back to normalcy, says Hayduke) and mailed a few incriminatory picture postcards. Onward. Hayduke took the right fork out of the woods, eastward down the monocline toward the Martian-red desert, floating in heat waves, of Houserock Valley. Pleased with themselves and the world, they drove on down and away across the desert and up the Kaibito Plateau and southeast beyond Page to see how the Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad was doing. Concealing the jeep off the road near the crossing of Kaibito Canyon, they hiked north for a couple of miles through the psychedelic Navajo sunshine. They saw the railway in the distance. Properly oriented, they made their way to a high point on the slickrock from which, through field glasses, they could study the progress of repair work at Kaibito Canyon Bridge.