Fall with Eastwood
In my heart I know no truth, only that the heart works, keeps beating as I keep trying to match its action with my body and then it palpitates and I know that it has humor, making me think for a second that it would stop and I would die. If my mind was like my heart I would have died of laziness years ago, but there I was at the edge of the creek looking for prehistoric things that had turned to stone. I picked one up. It was a fern that had lived before the dinosaurs and I thought, Poor thing! when I looked and saw on the other side a man fishing. He sat on a bucket and had two lines out.
What the hell. I shouted, “They biting?”
The man just stood up and looked at me.
“I say, are they biting?”
He looked at me. He looked familiar from a distance and I squinted my eyes when he motioned me over and saw that the man looked a lot like someone. He was older and very thin, but from the way he sat I knew this guy had some kill to him yet. You will not believe me, I am certain of that, but when I squinted them harder it looked like Clint Eastwood standing over there. He motioned me over again and his face had that familiar growl he made before shooting a man.
“You sure?” I yelled back across. “I’ll scare all the damn fish away.”
He waved his hand for me to come.
Although it was fall and the creek was probably cold as hell, the water was also low so I took off my shoes and felt the cold of the bank and the slime of the algae as I started walking out trying to forget that it was a heavily fished area in the summer and many hooks were waiting to stick in my feet. But I walked because I am awfully absent-minded and I mostly ride on the whims of the world. When someone beckons me, I usually do not think and go like a child.
On crossing I did not look up but once and the man was Clint’s twin, I swear it on anything, the Bible, even my own ass. He wore a loose flannel shirt and brown pants and he seemed skeletal under them. He had on a black ball cap. You still probably think it strange of me just heading over but it was my nature. I crossed a deep spot up by the dam just earlier that summer because a man called across wanting me to help him land a catfish.
I had several thoughts on the way across of how great it would be if Clint Eastwood shot me when I was exactly at the creek center. But Clint did not shoot. When I was across he was sitting again on his bucket. He was readying his poles to leave. I kept trying to see his face better under the brim of his hat but all I saw was his mouth and it had the undeniable smirk of Eastwood.
And then he talked and I about fell down.
“What was it that you were going on about over there?”
By god I was certain it was him. If a moth grew to human size and could talk, that was what the voice sounded like — papery and dry and quiet and mummified. I told him what I had yelled and he looked up at me and said, “You walked all across that cold water to ask me that?”
“You waved me over,” I said
He gave me a look like, Jesus, and looked down to start shutting up his tackle box. It seemed to take him forever to put his lures all away and I heard a high school band start playing at some distant football game. It sounded like they were trying to be cool and play some rap song when Clint got up from the bucket, took off the lid, and pulled out a big black-looking fish with two tails and a bright red stripe down its side. I stepped closer and he lifted its face for me to see and I was damn certain that I would fall down for the second time.
The fish’s head looked like a dragon with a spiny beard and two fluorescent yellow eyes. And it didn’t just look stone dumb like every other fish’s eyes — it looked like it recognized me.
“Woof woof,” said Clint. “Woof woof woof.”
“What?” I said, mesmerized by the fish but wanting to look up and see Clint making those woofing sounds.
“What’s the matter?” he said. “It’s a dogfish. Woof woof.”
I had fished the area waters and watched many fishing shows in all areas of the earth and never saw a fish like that. A dogfish.
Clint said to it, “Bark.” The fish stared at me. “BARK, I said.” I thought he was going to squeeze its head off.
I hoped he would. I wanted the fish to be dead. I wished it would not look at me like that, like it knew me. But Clint tossed it back into the bucket and shut the lid tight on it.
“Wait,” said Clint. He took his hat off and walked to the bank and looked up into the sky. “You smell that?”
I didn’t smell anything other than the creek, that rotted smell it has when it’s low.
“The moon is full,” he said.
I looked all around and didn’t see any moon and Clint said, “To your right, over those trees,” and my god it was there and full and bright, so bright I didn’t see a mark on it. And I looked around and realized how dark it got.
“Do you understand Halloween?” he said, still looking at the sky where there was no moon. “I mean, you ever think about it, no not that, I mean do you ever touch Halloween?
“I liked it when I was a kid,” I said, hearing the announcer for the football game over the trees and far far away from all this nature.
“And the creature Bigfoot,” he said. “You know of that thing?”
I remembered reading books on cryptozoology at school when I was a kid. I nodded my head.
“You ever think what that thing looks like under all that hair?”
I had not.
I heard a snap and Clint held a can up to me.
“What is it?” I said.
He smirked. “It’s horseshit, hell, what you think it is?”
I took the can. And it was cold and Clint walked to the bank and pulled on a rope and pulled in the last three beers of a six pack.
“Cool as a mountain stream, Ah!” he said and removed one of the cans from its plastic ring, opened it, and took a big drink. Then he turned his head slow to look at me and held his eye aslant and said, “Better not waste that. I don’t like people wasting.”
I started drinking the beer. It had froze a little and the beer crystals felt good on my tongue. I knew beer and breweries and all, but when I looked at the can I knew I’d never seen this kind. It was a plain silver can with a pine tree on it. And its taste was crisp and cold. I drank it and could not stop drinking it and when I felt only the weight of an empty can in my hand I poured more and more into my mouth.
“Bippity boppity boo, I’m drunk,” said Clint. He left his hat off and said, “Set down to my fire and have a talk, let’s tell some ghost stories.”
But there was no fire and I laughed and I looked back at the moon and it had turned the color of a fire and I drank the bottomless beer and laughed at that too. I laughed at the light of the moon like fire on the creek but the orange disappeared and it was now very dark.
“I am drunk,” I said.
“Drunk,” said Clint and he had a smile like one of a kid that got into the vanilla wafers. And he started laughing in that quiet way of his in the Westerns and slapped his leg and looked like he was pushing some tears away with his beer can when he said, “Halloween is coming. Do you know that I’m Bigfoot?” He laughed his quiet way. “Just shaved all my hair this morning. I felt like I needed a change in life and there is nothing better to feel a change than shaving off all your hair.”
For some reason I thought of a fat child in a pumpkin costume that had fallen down a hill and kept rolling and rolling. I laughed, laughed much louder than Clint and it sounded unnatural as it echoed into the woods and into the creek and far down where the clay cliffs were.
“Shut up,” I heard Clint say, and I laughed more when I thought of being there in the small town where no famous person ever set foot and there was Clint Eastwood next to me and telling me to shut up. Then I stopped laughing because I thought back those seconds and knew that this was Clint Eastwood and he told me to seriously shut up.
“You deaf or something? I said to shut up.”
I was not making a sound.
“It’s the echoes. It’s not me! It’s the echoes. I’m not laughing. I’ve shut up.”
Clint’s mouth started quivering. It was like he was trying to contain an unbearable pressure. Then he shouted:
“Shut your fucking face!”
He reached for his waist.
I dropped the can and ran.
I ran through trees, they smacked my face, and I heard Eastwood gaining on me, squashing the big dry cottonwood leaves. Up a hill I stopped when I didn’t hear him behind me. I looked down in the ravine and Clint was there standing with his hands held out to the sides in the moonlight like a scarecrow.
“O ye Elementals,” he said and then made a sound like a sharp-shinned hawk.
I heard the footsteps of the night hurrying to him. A barred owl landed on one of his raised arms and a barn owl on the other. A pack of coyotes sat at his feet. Opossums and raccoons huddled close to him. Bats flew erratic over his head.
“Come down here and talk to the Bigfoot, Pumpkinshine,” he said. “I’ll tell you the story of old Jack O’ Lantern.” He spit. “I said get your ass down here. Right now.”
After I didn’t move, the animals, the coons, the coyotes, the opossums began to growl and I heard what was like the squeal of angry rats and I heard movement of quick feet and I ran. I ran far to a field that was lit all blue with the moonlight and in the middle of it was a small tree that had a glossy bark that shined bluer than anything else.
Past the tree a darkness fell over the field and I thought immediately that this was the end, that Eastwood shot me. I fell to the ground and felt around me for a wound but there was nothing except the hideous dark. I reached out and touched the darkness and there was a clammy feeling to it. There were no stars or moon, just a falling down of this ominous pressure with orangish tint. I smelled burning leaves with a trace of some spice of the woods, much like cinnamon.
Behind me the glossy blue moon tree began talking. It talked like Clint Eastwood. I could not make out what the tree was saying so I walked closer and looked up into it and there was Clint up in the limbs.
“There has to be one apple left,” he said but I knew it was not an apple tree.
He reached up as far as he could, reached too far, and he fell to the ground. I ran and looked down at him.
“Oh, hi, kid,” he said. “Where’d you run off to?”
The orangish dark fell all over him and he smirked.
“Christ, I’m getting old,” he said. “What are you all going to do when I die? You going to argue? What are you going to do when this dark stuff falls down and I’m not around?”
I didn’t know what he was talking about so I helped him up and he walked back through the field with me, staggering like John Wayne — it was awful to watch. He should not walk like John. A pure travesty to behold. Don’t ever try to imagine it in your mind.
“You kids need to know who and who not to help out,” he said to me. “There is a great horror out there and people help it out as they try to help everyone.” He smacked at the air and spit. “They will accept death to help every goddamn thing out.”
We walked back to the creek and he carried up his bucket and poles to an old pickup. He would not let me help.
I had to ask one thing, “You’re Clint Eastwood?”
“I’m a creature that saw the world as a nest of rattlesnakes and didn’t like it.”
He got in his truck.
“I’m old. You all are going to have to find a meaner rattlesnake killer.” He started his truck and said out his window, “You’ll all be fucked square when the real last of October gets here. There will be none of that tricky treating.”
He looked around in the cab and put on his black ball hat. His truck stalled and he cussed and started it again before saying, “Set up bottles on a stump and shoot those bottles. Shoot them until you hit’m every goddamn time. Shoot them until the bottles become a breathing poisonous serpent that you will have only one shot to kill. And then when you are just about to shoot, the ugly bastard will have the face of your mother.”
I couldn’t think of anything good to say. I just nodded my head.
“And shit, kid, I told you my name. It’s Bigfoot. And you are all babyfoots in a rattlesnake hive.” He smiled his evil smile and said, “So long,” before driving away.