Thursday, 23 September 2010

Cougar Street

Inexplicably we are on a break, the threads will be picked up, the debris collected, meanwhile I have to explore.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


We take more breaks, a caravan sits by the road side. A white body of faded painted signs and a dusty board with a blown away menu. Travelling is looking out of the window, peering through the windscreen dust and swallowing the unchanging dry air until the next meal stop arises. We take two Coca Colas from the wrinkled owner and sit on a plastic chair under the solitary parasol. The flat plain stretches over to a blue tinge of distant mountain, maybe fifty miles in the haze. The Coke hit’s the spot and our eyes close in the heat as we respond to the inner cooling. I feel that somehow I should urinate by the heat and sweat make it a rare occurrence, I feel like I’m drying out from the inside, desiccating and warping with leather intestines and a canvas stomach.

My eye twitches open as I sense a movement. Armadillo. It shuffles across my line of vision about forty feet away, big armoured back oblivious of us and starts to dig at the edge of the parking area. Claws grabbing the dirt, searching for grubs, fleeting and hungry and wild in a dull place. The caravan owner comes out and he is carrying a shot gun, the breaks it’s back and plops in two cartridges ready to blast the Armadillo, “bastards!” he cries and takes a shot. The ground explodes beside the poor animal and Ernesto and I jump to our feet. “Is that how you deal with everything here?” He ignores us and drops the gun barrel while looking out across the landscape.

The sky is a straight ahead blue with those fizzy white edges but in the east is a cloud, a cloud no bigger than the fist of a man. My eyesight is remarkable or am I just imagining this tiny cloud as some kind of pattern piece on the plain background of the worlds ceiling. As I stare at the cloud it grows, coming nearer, spinning and forming a shape. I focus on it’s wandering and vaporous heavenly signature. Now it is also making a noise, that’s because it is a Beechcraft Bonanza, flying low and looking for all the world like it’s about to land on the plain behind us.

I can see the caravan man looking at the oncoming aircraft. He stares at it like it’s a Zero at Pearl Harbour and to my horror lifts the shotgun to his shoulder. He gathers the aircraft into his sight and follows it’s line with the barrel. The Beechcraft angles over a little as the pilot struggles against the warm, rising air. Ernesto and I are frozen, dry mouths aching to shout, tired limbs aching to move.

No shots are fired, thankfully and the aircraft lands. Who are these people?

Monday, 6 September 2010


The police were rough and unsympathetic, a man was dead, the bar and café were trashed, the locals had scattered and there were two strangers corralled out in the car park. We explained ourselves, showed our papers and pointed at the parked car. The police shone torches in the dark and threatened us with questioning and being transported somewhere else for identity confirmation. The café owner was also part of the melee, complaining about damage and custom and reiterating that he had no idea who anybody was. At one tense point the seemed to be blaming us but then shifted in his version of things to Pete who appeared to be some kind of itinerant and opportunist criminal type who arrived and operated from here a times.

My head was sore and I was still trembling, I was sitting on a box by the entrance, the waitress who had plugged me appeared with a tray of drinks, somebody had had an idea to make amends, perhaps covering for all I knew. We accepted the whisky (as it turned out to be) and began to discuss where we could spend the night. The waitress (Rosa) pointed to the bunkhouse and mentioned a price. The police liked the idea of us remaining by the crime scene so we hobbled over hoping to find some rest. As we entered the door the lights of the ambulance arrived and Pete’s body was carted out and away. The police remained for a while as we lay on the rough blankets and stared at the light patterns on the ceiling. Sleep eventually came disguised as loss of consciousness and the cumulative effects of drink, both piled down on me bringing a selection of film noire dreams and dark corridors, none of which led anywhere.

Morning came as a shock and the dream time and recent murder blended into unreality. Through the grimy window I saw how the car now sat alone in the dusty car park but the tin chimney on the café was spouting white smoke into the dawn. There wood some coffee and food and those little glimpses of civilisation might help our self inflicted and bullet ridden headaches.

In the café we ate a steak breakfast, the owner personally preparing it and assuring us that whilst shootings were rare these days (and this one had been exceptional) there was no need now for us stay, the police had all the information they needed. I also assumed that they had the contents of Pete’s wallet and that was most likely a big help to them in deciding on how to proceed with the case. We thanked the owner and tipped him a few dollars and decided to put as many miles as we could between ourselves and the village, San Pedro.

The road from San Pedro was a long and featureless straight. Red trucks and tractors headed East on the opposite side but we seemed alone in our intent to head West. The telegraph poles counted down a hundred miles or more without any of the monotony breaking or revealing any aspects of the land’s secrets.