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Maggie Fiske – A Quarrel for Jimmy Lee Killscrow
Disaster – Solar Flares/ or Gamma Rays
Location – Hunting in the Mountains
Helpful Item – Crossbow
Disability – Hungover
“A Quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow”… by Margaret Fiske
“That’s him,” says Detective Baxter. He points at a white speck nestled in the BitterrootMountains and holds binoculars up to my face. All I see is a beat-to-hell camper among the pines. A bearded man with hippy hair steps into view. It’s Jimmy-Lee Killscrow, the devil who left me for dead out in the sticks when I was 15. Now he’s a Lumber-Christ in flannel. I’m disarmed. How can Iow HHow can I kill Jesus?
Baxter tries to talk me out of this vendetta. He says, “Just head back to Bozeman before the solar storm hits tonight, Claudine.”
I scoff. “Baxter, after Y2K and 12-21-12, who listens to that disaster crap?”
He doesn’t get it. The only way to stop Killscrow is to kill that bastard before he beats me to the deathblow. I knee open the Jeep door and push my crossbow pack out onto the road.
“Stay in one piece,” he says, and skins out of there quick with his money.
My name is Claudine Archer, but nobody remembers that. I’m just that hitchhiker that got her arms chopped off. ¯ ¯
By the time I hike to Jimmy-Lee’s camper there’s a high sickle moon reaping the Montana starfield. I set up Stakeout at the mouth of a small cave near the camper to scout his movements tonight. He’ll die in the sun tomorrow so he can see my hook squeeze the bow trigger.
I watched Killscrow gun his pickup down the dirt road at 7 p.m. sharp. According to Baxter’s notes, he’s gone bar hopping in Lolo Springs, where he’ll pass out redemption tracts to barflies and save his own soul from sobriety. I’ve got time to kill.
Wind cuts through my fleece poncho, making my teeth clack. I stashed a bottle of Cuervo to celebrate Jimmy-Lee’s demise, but decide to drink it now. I tuck the tequila under my armpit and twist off the cap with my molars.
Liquor lets the memories slink back easily…
I endured nineteen surgeries. When the stumps finally healed, I was fit with battery-powered myo-electric prosthetics which transmit electrical impulses from my muscles to open or close the metal hooks. These can openers scare the bejeezus out of little kids and potential suitors.
Amputation forces you to relearn how to be an adult. So I compensate for my loss of hands with other body parts. Lips, hips and toe tips all become my grip. I retrained my muscles to perform both with and without prosthetics.
I’m messed up on the inside too. Migraines, vertigo, nightmares, panic attacks, –sucks to be me. But I also grew strong, and athletic in ways I never dreamt. I have the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, and moxie that puts Miss Congeniality to shame. Call me handicapped and I’ll kick you in the teeth.
My arms are buried in an unmarked grave in Boise that was a secret between me and the gravediggers. Every anniversary I bring them sunflowers. Last summer, there was a nasty present. A pair of chopsticks stuck in the dirt. My inner killer grabbed the wheel.
I blew the last of my donation money on 3 things: An Excalibur Phoenix crossbow, tattoos, and Detective Baxter.
I chose the crossbow because it’s my legacy. With a surname like Archer, bows flow in my blood. I became a self-taught arbalist.
When the skeptical sporting goods clerk asked what I plan to hunt with the bow, I told him, “Jackass,” and dry-popped the trigger at his heart. Then for many moons I practiced kill shots on thawed turkeys in the backyard. I turned Katniss.
For my full sleeve, black wing tattoos I commissioned Karasu Ono, the cutting-edge tattoo artisan in Spokane. I asked her to transform me into the Angel of Death. Her jeweler’s loupe goggles captured every minute detail. Each shiny 3-D Photoreal feather scalloped like a hand of rummy. Badass! ¯¯
My phone chimes midnight. Time to check armaments. I tune the tension on the Phoenix to deadly perfection. I inspect the fletching on a dozen four-headed arrows, which are aptly called quarrels. The quarrel flies with a wicked little twist which can drill a half-dollar sized hole clean through a body. All my quarrels bear an icon of Venus de Milo etched on the shaft.
Tonight, Venus and I are vigilantes on a vigil. The Aurora Borealis simmers up North, just like in the summer of ’77… ¯
He picked me up outside Pocatello, hitchhiking to Yellowstone just for kicks. Too young to drive, too dumb to realize a killer can drive a yellow Pontiac with a Mormon Youth Camp bumper sticker. He was clean-cut, with gentle eyes and a cardigan. Who’s afraid of Mr. Rogers’ dorkier cousin?
I barely shut the door when he said, “Meet Jesus,” and a claw hammer cracked my cranium.
Time telescoped when he dragged me into the trees. 5 chops with a hand axe hacked-off my arms at the elbow. Pain jolted me into another dimension. He left me to bleed-out.
Somehow, I picked myself up out of the ditch to cheat death. I remember laughter behind me. There was a small murder of crows skipping through my blood puddles. I raised my arms to mimic wings. It staunched the blood flow as I staggered toward the light of the living. ¯
Whew! I’m feeling all flushed from cocktails and flashbacks, so I strip down to my tank top. I want wind on my shoulders. And behold, the solar storm strikes.
The sky ignites in swirling acid green flames bright enough to read the warning to pregnant women on the tequila label. Lolo Springs falls dark. Northern Lights curl in a tsunami of electrons that charge the air. I wobble to my feet in awe. Spec-(hic)-tacular.
Suddenly, the sky fills with chirping shadows. A vortex of panicked bats descends on the cave to roost. I dart, skid on gravel, tumble into a starless pit. ¯¯
I wake to sunlight hammering my eyelids. I feel like I faceplanted a speeding beer truck. Hands down, this is the evilest PMSing stepmother of all hangovers. I can vaguely tell that my drunken ass fell into the cave and that there’s a junk refrigerator and some bald tires around me. I try to sit up, but the pain… oooooh!
“Ahhhh,” somebody echoes. I freeze. A chorus of groaning surrounds me and I realize the nauseating truth. There’s at least a dozen girls like me, all missing body parts. Girls that didn’t get away.
It’s zombie apocalypse. I’m at ground zero in Killscrow’s body dump in his grotto of Slain Angels. Pink rags shuffle backwards on beef jerky legs in the shadows. They’re still hitchhiking.
I feel the tug of someone braiding my hair and smell her rancid pork chop breath. I turn. Half her face is tomahawked. She hisses. A buffet line of maggots wriggles in her tongue stub. I puke Cuervo till my ribs ache. The girls scuffle toward me, drawn toward the light of the living. I back away, but bump into an unstable Frigidaire that thunders end over end down the rocks, making a godawful racket.
They surround me with blind cavefish eyes. I frantically search for a weapon and spot my bow and a pair of quarrels strewn beside a torso in a Cheap Trick t-shirt writhing in the dirt. As I scoop up the bow, she chomps at my hooks. Only 2 quarrels. A quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow and one left to take out 12 zombies if they queue up ear to ear.
Outside, the camper door slams. Jesus is risen. He yells. ““Hey! Who’s up there?” I must become bait to lure him into a deathtrap. I cry out, “Help! Help me!” He snickers. “Hold on, lady. I’ll get you !”
The cadaverettes advance. I plead to them. “Remember who you were! Remember what he did to you!”
Killscrow enters the cave, waving an axe. He hesitates as he spies his resurrected victims. “You ladies should’ve stayed dead!” he roars and splits a one-armed girl like a winter cornhusk.
I cock the bow, but something’s wrong. I can’t grasp the trigger. Solar flares fried the batteries in my arms! “It’s o.k.,” I think. I can still launch the shot by pulling the claw back with my whole shoulder. But the Phoenix feels clumsy. I miss. Damn!
He’s cocky now. “What’s wrong, Claudine? Need a hand?”
No! I can compensate. I wriggle out of the arm straps… heel peel off boots and socks… grasp the last quarrel between my toes. He brags, ““I’ll chop your head off this time. Keep it in the freezer for a lonely night.”
The Angel of Death rises up inside me. I spread my wings in challenge. Killscrow can’t take his eyes off my tattoos. I flex, I feint. I punt his balls deep into his end zone. The axe fumbles as he buckles forward.
I tell him, “Meet Satan,” and lift the quarrel to my mouth with my foot. With clenched teeth, I lunge into the face of my nightmare. I jab Venus de Milo into his gentle blue iris. A geyser of blood and eyeball juice pops as it sinks into the socket till it hits skullcap. Bull’s-eye.
He yanks out the quarrel skewering a chunk of cerebellum kabob along with it. For a second he does a freaky little grand mal jig.
“Brains!” croaks a dead chick. The pack pounces. There’s still enough kick left in Jimmy-Lee for him to realize that he’s dying piece by piece by piece. The Angels feast. ¯¯
I scramble out of the cave, soaring with joy, for I have no more quarrels. I embrace the sweet pain of life with phantom limbs. Every bruising stone underfoot gives me wings.
I am the crow he could not kill. ¯¯
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