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The Monkey Wrench Gang
The Monkey Wrench Gang 32
Hayduke considered the matter carefully for two and a half seconds. The broad and bristly face softened to a sheepish grin. “Well, shit … I am sort of tired.”
Late that night, with Doc on guard by the coffeepot, where it simmered on the hot ashes of the fire, Hayduke was awakened, gently, by a few raindrops falling on his face. He came out of a troubled sleep—dreams of falling—to find himself staring straight up at a black and inky sky. No stars. For a moment, terror gripped him. Then he felt Bonnie’s warm smooth body stirring at his side, and comfort came back, peace and reassurance; and a sense of laughter.
“What’s the matter, Rudolf?” she said.
“You’re nuts. It’s not raining. Go to sleep.”
“It is. I felt it.”
She poked her head out of the hood of the bag. “Dark all right … but it’s not raining.”
“Well it was a minute ago. I know it was.”
“You were dreaming.”
“Am I Rudolf the Red or ain’t I?”
“Well goddammit, Rudolf the Red knows rain, dear.”
“Say that again?”
Early in the morning, up in the cloudy sunrise sky, they heard an airplane.
“Don’t move,” Smith said. They were all except Hayduke eating breakfast under the trees, under one corner of the camouflage net. “And don’t look up. Where’s George?”
“Is he under cover?”
Smith glanced at the ashes of yesterday’s fire. Cold and dead. Breakfast they’d cooked on the Coleman stove. The airplane droned past, slowly, not far overhead, bearing west. As it went on toward Hite Marina on Lake Powell, Smith scanned it with binoculars.
“Anybody you know?” says Doc. He thought of heat sensors, infrared spectrography. No place to hide from the techno-tyrant.
“Can’t read the markings. But it ain’t the state police or the SO. Probably one of them Search and Rescue boys. Eldon flies a plane. So does Love himself, come to think of it.”
“So what do we do?” Bonnie says.
“We stay under the trees all day and keep a lookout on the road below. And listen for planes.”
“I’d say we’ll need a little amusement to pass the time,” says Doc. “How about a friendly game of five-card stud?” No response from his victims. “Two-bit limit? Just happen to have this deck here….”
Smith sighed. “Three things my daddy tried to learn me. ‘Son,’ he always said, ‘remember these three percepts and you can’t go wrong: One. Never eat a place called Mom’s. Two. Never play cards with a man named Doc.’ ” He halted. “Deal me in.”
“That’s only two,” Bonnie said.
“I never can recollect the third, and that’s what worries me.”
“Seldom, put your money where your mouth is and shut up.”
Doc riffled the cards; they sounded like autumn leaves, beaded curtains in a Spanish bordello, the fall of Venetian blinds, Friday night in Tonopah, a babbling brook, all things good and sweet and innocent.
“We need another hand.”
“Let the boy sleep. We’ll play stud till he wakes up.”
Ten minutes later the airplane came back, cruising slowly past two miles to the north. It disappeared over Elk Ridge, headed toward Blanding or Monticello. A morning of silence followed. The game went on, through the heat of a humid day, in the shade of the trees, under a solumn sky, far out on the wooded flat beyond the end of the stub road to Hidden Splendor. Hayduke joined them at noon.
“Where’s the magnesium?”
“Deal me in anyway.”
The plane, or a plane, made another pass and return, two and four miles south.
“How many time’s that fucking plane been over?”
“Check the bet. Four times.”
“Make it a dime.”
“Raise you a dime, pardner.”
“Called. What do you have?”
“Aces over, pardner.”
“Flush here. Who’s watchin’ the road?”
“I can see it. Deal ’em.”
“Dealer takes two.”
“Watch that bastard. Your bet, Abbzug.”
“Don’t rush me, I get nervous.”
The play: Abbzug lost her last chip.
“This is a crooked, dumb, boring game,” she said, “and if I had my Scrabble set here I’d show you dudes some real action.”
Hayduke was the next to fold. Siesta time.
All but Smith crept into sleep. He climbed to a high point east of camp, above the mine, sat on a slab in the piney shade, binoculars in hand, and watched.
He could see for a hundred miles. Though the sky was lidded with heavy clouds there was no wind. The air was clear. The stillness was impressive. Filtered sunlight lay on the strange land, and waves of heat, shimmering like water, floated above the canyons. Must be a hundred ten in the shade down there. He could see Shiprock, Ute Mountain, Monument Valley, Navajo Mountain, Kaiparowits, the red walls of Narrow Canyon, the dark gorge of the Dirty Devil River. He could see the five peaks of the Henrys—Ellsworth, Holmes, Hillers, Pennell and Ellen—rising behind the maze of the canyons, beyond the sandstone domes and pinnacles of Glen Canyon.
Hell of a place to lose a cow. Hell of a place to lose your heart. Hell of a place, thought Seldom Seen, to lose. Period.
Bridgework: Prolegomena to the
“Okay okay okay, let’s get this motherfucking show on the road. Come on, Doc. Off your ass and on your feet. Out of the shade and into the heat. Come on, Abbzug, fix us some supper. Where’s Smith?”
“Cook it yourself you’re in such a big hurry.”
“Goddammit, where’s Smith?”
“Up on the hill. He’s coming.”
“Bloat and sloth, sloth and bloat; the sun is going down.”
“What do you want me to do about it? Jump off the rim or something?”
“Both.” Hayduke, now feverishly coming back to life after twenty-four hours of recuperation, pumps up the Coleman, lights the burners. He peers inside their big blue battered community coffeepot, dumps out grounds and leftover coffee and one sleek soaked drowned mouse. “How’d he get in there? Don’t tell Bonnie,” he adds to the figure at his left rear.
“Don’t tell her.” He shovels in eight tablespoonfuls of coffee, fills with water, sets back on stove. “Chemicals, chemicals, I need chemicals.”
“Aren’t you even going to rinse the pot out?”
“There was a dead mouse in there.”
“I threw the fucker out. You saw me. What’re you worried about? He was dead. Start slicing potatoes. Open four cans of chili. We’re going to eat for chrissake.” Pulling his warlike Buck knife from its sheath, Hayduke slices a two-pound slab of bacon into thick strips, lays them overlapping in the camp-size cast-iron skillet. At once they commence to sizzle.
“Who’s going to eat all that?”
“I am. You are. We are. We got a hard night’s work ahead.” He starts opening four cans of beans. “Will you open that chili or do I have to do every fucking thing around here? And boil some eggs. You’re a woman, you understand about eggs.”
“What are you in such a bitchy mood for?”
“I’m nervous. I’m always like this when I’m nervous.”
“You’re making me nervous. Not to mention mad.”
“Sorry? I think that’s the first time I ever heard you use that word. Is that all you can say?”
“I take it back.”
Dr. Sarvis and Seldom Seen Smith now join them; late-afternoon supper begins. The four discuss the Plan
. The Plan is for Hayduke and Smith to work on the bridge, or bridges, depending on amount of time, materials and “local conditions,” and for Abbzug and Sarvis to act as sentries, one at either end of the project. Which bridge of the three is to be restructured first? They agree on the smallest—the White Canyon bridge. The second, time permitting, shall be the Dirty Devil bridge. With the two access bridges knocked out, the central bridge over Narrow Canyon, Lake Powell, the inundated Colorado River, will be rendered useless. A bridge without approaches. With or without it, the road—Utah State Highway 95 joining Hanksville to Blanding, the east and west rims of Lake Powell, the western canyonlands to the eastern canyonlands—will be effectively cut. Sundered. Broken. For months at least. Maybe for years. Maybe for good.
“But if the people want this road?” asks Bonnie.
“The only folks want this road,” says Smith, “are the mining companies and the oil companies and people like Bishop Love. And the Highway Department, which their religion is building roads. Nobody else ever heard of it.”
“Just thought I’d ask,” says Bonnie.
“Are we through with this fucking philosophizing?” says Hayduke. “Okay. Now let’s get to work. Doc and Bonnie, you two see if you can’t find something we can make signs with. We’re gonna need four large ROAD CLOSED: BRIDGE OUT signs. Don’t want any tourists in Winnebagos taking nosedives into the Dirty Devil River. Wouldn’t want the Search and Rescue Team flying ass over tincups down into White Canyon Gorge, would we? Or would we? Do you have enough paint?”
“Why do I always get the dull uninteresting jobs?” whines Bonnie.
“We got a full case of Day-Glo spray paint,” Smith says.
“Good. Me and Seldom we’ll get to work on the thermite crucibles. We’re going to need, let’s see, about—”
“Why?” she whines.
“Because you’re a woman. About four cardboard drums. Maybe six. Where’s the stuff?”
“In the cache.”
“That’s what I thought,” she says.
“Look,” says Hayduke patiently, “Jesus Christ, would you really rather crawl around under the bridges? Down there with the rats and rattlers and scorpions.”
“I’ll paint signs.”
“Then shut up and get to work.”
“But I won’t shut up.”
“Okay. Who’s going to wash the dishes?”
“It always comes down to that in the end,” says Doc. “I’ll wash the dishes. A surgeon should always keep his hands clean … somehow.”
“We’re going to hide this camp,” says Hayduke, “so no one will ever know we were here.”
“Which vehicle?” says Smith.
Hayduke thinks. “Better take both. Then we can split up if we get chased. Or have a backup if one breaks down. Gonna have a lot of stuff to haul.”
Out of chaos, order. All hands falling to, they packed their gear into the camper of Smith’s truck, leaving the giant camouflage net till last. They burned and flattened their tin cans and dropped them in a pit beside the remains of the campfire. (Good for the soil.) They buried the ashes of the fire in the same pit, filled it in, swept burial site and fire site with juniper boughs. The blackened stones which had formed their fire circle they threw over the rim.
Bonnie and Doc went off to the old mining camp, claw hammer and spray paint in hand. There they found sheets of plywood and fiberboard and made their signs, big ones, six feet by ten, lettered so:
They salvaged some two-by-fours, knocked together props to hold the signs erect and lashed the signs to the roll bars of Hayduke’s jeep.
Hayduke and Smith dug out the thermite materials from the cache under the trees: 45 pounds of iron oxide flakes, 30 pounds of aluminum powder, 10 pounds of powdered barium peroxide and 2½ pounds of powdered magnesium, all of it packed in round cardboard containers with metal ends.
“This all there is?” says Hayduke.
“Ain’t that enough?”
“Whaddaya mean you hope so?”
“I mean I don’t really know how much it’ll take to burn through those bridge members.”
“Why don’t we blow them?”
“We’d need ten times the dynamite we’ve got.” Hayduke picks up two cartons. “Let’s get this stuff into the jeep. We’ll need some kind of big can with a lid to mix the stuff in.”
“Them cache tins will be okay, won’t they?”
“Why don’t we mix the stuff here?”
“Be safer to mix it on the job,” Hayduke says.
They loaded as much as would fit into Hayduke’s jeep—the powders, the fuses, the last of the leftover dynamite—and the rest into the back of Smith’s truck. The sun was gone, the sunset fading behind a dull gray overcast. They took down the camouflage net. Hayduke took his juniper broom and swept away the last footprints.
“Let’s go,” he says.
Smith and Doc leading in the pickup, they drove very slowly without lights down the ten miles of trail road to the highway. Hayduke and Bonnie followed in the overloaded jeep. Communications had been prearranged. If either party ran into trouble the other would be warned by light signals.
Bonnie felt the heavy fatalism coming on again, that flu-like feeling in her heart, her stomach. She was glad, exceeding glad, that tonight’s raid would be the last for a long time to come. I fear nothing but danger, she quoted to herself. She glanced aside at Hayduke, caught in the reflex act of tossing a beer can out the window. She heard the tinkle of aluminum on the pavement. You slob, she thought, you filthy, foul-mouthed slob. She remembered the night and the morning in their zipped-together sack: other sensations. Did I take my pill today? Good God! Brief moment of panic. One thing we don’t need now, a little bungle from heaven. She fumbled through her beaded medicine pouch, found the dispenser, popped a tiny tab in her mouth and reached for the fresh can of beer Hayduke had already opened. His hand—the sensitive plant—yielded the can reluctantly.
“What’re you popping?” he asked, suspicious.
“Just a little Sunshine,” she said, washing it down with Schlitz.
“You better be kidding.”
“I got more important things to worry about.”
Evil fanatic. Nobody had yet told George about the Larger Plan. The plan to suspend operations after tonight’s assault on the Power Complex. Not terminate—but suspend. No one had dared. And now, certainly, was not the time.
There was also the question of interpersonal relations. Bonnie couldn’t help it, pill or no pill: she thought about the days and weeks, even the months and years to come. Something inside, deep within her, longed for a sense of what lay ahead. For the gestation of something like a home, if only in her mind. With whom? With whom indeed? Abbzug liked living alone, part of the time, but never imagined for a moment that she might spend the rest of her life in such unthinkable exile.
We are lonely. I am lonely, she thought. Only her need and love kept loneliness at bay—the darkness surrounding a forest campfire, that bitter misery of loss. George … if only the bastard would talk to me.
“Say something,” she said.
“Gimme back my beer.”
Vast walls of sandstone rose on their left, south of the road. The pavement ended; they drove into the dust of Smith’s pickup, following him westward over the forty miles of dirt road that led to the three bridges. No traffic on this lonesome byway tonight, though ore haulers from the uranium mines had left the surface beaten and corrugated like a washboard. The noise of the jeep and its rattling cargo made conversation uncomfortable, but since there was no conversation anyway she knew he wouldn’t mind, the moody brooding sonofabitch.
They passed Fry Canyon gas station and food store, bathed in the ghastly blue glow of its mercury vapor “security lights.” Nobody there. And drove onward down the
winding bench of desert scrub and sand toward Glen Canyon, Narrow Canyon, the slickrock wilderness.
Stars appeared, a few of them, dim beyond the cloudy veil. She could barely see the road.
“Shouldn’t you turn on the lights?”
He ignored her or didn’t hear her. Hayduke was staring at something ahead, away from the road. Bulky black silhouettes of steel against the green glow of sunset lingering in the sky. He switched his headlights on and off four times. Halt signal. He pulled the jeep off the road and parked it behind a clump of trees. When he shut off the engine she heard at once, off in the distance, the dreary chanting of a poorwill.
“Now what?” she said.
“Bulldozers.” Alive again, animated, his moroseness gone. “Two of them. Big mothers.”
“Better check them out.”
“Oh no. Not now, George. What about the bridges?”
“They’ll keep. This won’t take long.”
“You always say that. And then you disappear for seven days. Shit.”
“Bulldozers,” he muttered hoarsely, eyes glittering, leaning toward her, stinking of Schlitz. “It’s our duty.” He pulled the boxes of rotor arms from beneath the seat, kissed her square and fair on the mouth, then scrambled out.
“Be right back.”
She sat and waited in furious despair, watching his blue-lensed light dancing about in the operator’s compartment of a bulldozer that looked to be about forty hands high. The iron tyrannosaurs.
Smith approached. “What’s wrong?”
She nodded toward the bulldozers.
“Thought so,” Smith says. “I hoped—”
He was interrupted by the roar of a twelve-cylinder Cummins turbo-charged diesel, starting up.
“Excuse me.” Smith disappears. She hears a consultation: two men shouting at one another under the raving of the mighty engine. Smith climbs down from Hayduke’s tractor, makes his way to the second; she sees his flashlight wink on briefly near the control panel and hears the second motor revving up.
After a minute’s delay both tractors rumble off on parallel course, into the gloom. They are about fifty feet apart. Between them is a tanker truck, a BLM public-relations billboard on posts and a sort of metal shed mounted on a sledge. These objects come suddenly alive, wrenched into movement by an unseen force, and move away between the two tractors, as if pulled by invisible bonds. The billboard topples, the shed sways, the truck rolls on its side, as all diminish steadily toward the rim (as she will later learn) of Armstrong Canyon nearby.