Issue 4, Autumn 2007


As Dudee Fell
by Steven Gillis


      In the street, on the tar pitched warm, Dudee thinks,  "Shit."  The arrow struck and stuck.  "Struck and stuck,"  he repeats the words.  Of all the things to have not seen coming.

Mirina's legs, close enough to touch.  Standing over Dudee last night, she settled down, knees to sides, ass to thighs.  Whare still in the house, the gimp limp thumping, large shoe built up, his hip and back so sore sometimes he gets mean.  "Nothing hip,"  Whare rubs the spot.  A big man despite the leg, chest spread from doing lifts off his stunt foot, benching iron plates at the end of bars.  For Mirina he flexes, has tried to impress, reads about famous chefs and restaurants, The Rainbow Room and Le Cirque.  He promises to take her there, says  "We have to go."  A driver of trucks, Whare delivers meat and produce, works the gas with his big bad shoe.  He watches Mirina with Dudee now.  Old friends, the dynamic classic.  He grips the bow, moves away from the window.

Dudee groans, a gut shot deer.  A thought to yank the arrow out, only his hands are numb mittens.  On his back, the view is of the house, high steps and large porch, bought from the city.  One buck, such a deal, the city shrewd.  Urban renewal privatized, a twelve page contract requiring buyers to show they can cover costs of taxes and renovations.  "Not a problem,"  Whare knew a guy who could help them get a loan.  They put in what they had, begged and borrowed and closed out their savings, incorporated as  "Gang Green, Inc."  with the plan to open a restaurant. 

"Ahh, Dud!  Ahh shit!"  Mirina shouts.  The house is three stories with a cone corner widow's peak for lookout.  Dudee sleeps on the third floor, in the apartment he's restoring.  The first night he came with mattress slung and carried up, the floors of wood creaking.  He lay in top floor dust, smoked naked in the heat, imagined how it would be as people below dined on what Mirina cooked; her specialty a risotto flavored with red beets and balsamic vinegar, stuffed with chives and Humboldt Fog goat cheese.  In the upstairs of his grandmother's house, years ago, cinnamon scents and patchouli oil filled his room.  His mother was in Bakersfield the last he heard, an arrow tattoo on the back of her left shoulder, banana strap top as she stepped in half heels, jangling car keys toward the curb when Dudee was seven.

Mirina waves her hands while Whare maneuvers on the reworked stairs.  Once the interior walls are knocked out, they'll have a large space for dining.  Whare gives muscle to the sheets of wall and wood, Mirina uses her hammer where Dudee marks, stays clear of the beams that are supporting.  The window opened wide for trash thrown through and landing in the yard.  The porch has two thick planks now set from the street to the landing in order to bring the new stove and freezer inside.  Dudee sees the wood, sees the arrow, wonders about gold tips hitting their mark.  At work he's the program director at Rec. and Ed., teaches kids to shoot with plastic bows and arrows aimed at bales of hay large enough not to miss.  They miss anyway.  Dudee takes his own bow out and shows them only on special occasions.  A Martin C4 Cougar SE with a full 6" adjustment in draw length, a machined aluminum riser, thermal elite grip, 75% let-off and 65% adjustable Dynacam system.  He puts apples on heads and makes them laugh, pops balloons and pierces bull's-eye dots at a remarkable distance.

At the rear of the house, the large elm.  Dudee turns his head, feels the arrow firm, sees the top branches.  A month before he took a candle and placed it in front of the tree.  From the window back upstairs he could see the flicker, white and orange through the dark.  He knelt, fingers gloved, loaded his Martin C4 with a Redhead arrow, supreme Maxx, made of multilayered carbon composite fibers and press-fit tunable nocks.  The angle made the shot more difficult, everything easier if handled straight on. 

Later that night basil scents woke him.  He turned on the lamp beside his mattress.  Mirina held a styrofoam box brought from Bastian's.  Dudee could smell the spices.  He sat in old blue briefs, his legs crossed.  Mirina had changed out of her white assistant chef's suit into jeans and t-shirt.  When she handed him the food, her face came into the light; Psyche in the moon, though her hair was shorter, dark too, raven purple.  Dudee touched her hair as she leaned closer, pictured the strings of his bow made of nothing else.  He looked at the food and then back again, said  "I didn't know you delivered."

Mirina slipped off her jeans and shirt as Dudee ate, made him finish before he could lose his boxers.  The heat there on the third floor mounting, Mirina still asked,  "Are you ok with this?"  They spoke of Whare, of telling and not telling until they couldn't speak at all.  The next afternoon, Whare said of the news,  "Don't sweat it.  It's no big thing.  Hell,"  he considered saying more, then didn't. 

Dudee on the ladder attached wires to the brass chandelier Mirina found.  Whare as Hercules, held up the light with his bad leg dangling.  The weight of the fixture made him huff.  He shifted, pushed higher as Dudee finished the connection, lifted too, set the base of the chandelier flush against the ceiling, used the drill to insert the screws.  Whare shook the heaviness from his arms, rubbed at the ache in his hip.  Old man, shit, he felt it driving early the next day, delivering produce at four in the morning, the sun a sunk promise still, not yet up.  He played the radio, ignored the time, the pills he took the sort of speed that made him buzz like an electric razor.

Of Dudee and Mirina he said,  "Fuck.  What did you expect, loverboy?  What am I?"  A big stock bull, pitched and snorting, hoofs dragged back across the ground, lumbering cock-legged in his courting, while Mirina was a water bug lean and agile.  Fuck his heart.  Damn fool disease this wanting made him soft in the head.  He went to the house and worked on adding the extra fans and vents they'd need to pass inspection.  The floor in the kitchen was mouse-proofed, linoleum sheets over the holes, everything exposed in need of being covered. 

Dudee that night wore khakis, fresh shirt, his thin arms veined, sinewy length, toned from pulling bow strings all these years.  In the off hours, he used the gym at the Rec. and Ed., got his bow and arrows from his locker, opened the sliding wall and set his target at the standard 70 meter distance for National Archery Association matches.  Arrows shot through the dark heart center reappeared at the far end, in the middle of the target as if by magic.     

Mirina in summer black knit with single straps over her shoulders, drank Hop Rod Rye at dinner.  Dudee ordered sea bass, shared his lemon sauce, drank Dos Equis.  "Do you remember Charin Lake?"  he mentioned last summer, Mirina with some guy in green trunks and a washboard belly who brought brown hashish, bobbed stoned beside the boat Whare rowed out on the water.  Dudee felt it then, did not tell Whare, said nothing to Mirina.  "That's when I first knew,"  he confided now, described watching the water flow in ripples behind her silver wake, grew hard as she came out of the waves, rising not from ashes as a Phoenix but a sea nymph floating.

After dinner, Mirina clung to Dudee's arm.  "What would you have done if I hadn't come to you?"  She wondered this. 

"But you did,"  Dudee kissed her until she laughed.  "Show me a trick,"  she said.  They picked up his bow, a red plastic container of gas, some rags and old arrows and drove to the high school.  Dudee took the arrows and wrapped the ends tightly with a sleeve of cloth fastened by a strip of wire.  At the far side of the football field was a sand filled long jump pit.  They walked across the track and poured out most the gas into the pit, then came back and soaked the first arrow in what was left.  Dudee stood at a distance of 60 yards from the pit, removed his bow from its leather case, had Mirina hold the arrow as he lit the end, then set it between the string and aimed skyward.

Whare came early the next morning, went down to the basement, below the kitchen, and began to sister up the joists.  Reinforcing the floor, he doubled the boards and bolted them together in order to support the extra weight.  The sound of the drill rose through the house up to the third floor where Dudee dressed and left Mirina sleeping.  "Help me, shit,"  Whare made no apology.  "We need to get this done."


"Why, you busy?"  he used his shoulder to give the joist a shove, standing on cinder blocks, his good leg for leverage, his upper body doing most the work.  "Come on,"  he had Dudee get the drill, set the bit against the wood and bore his way into the beam.  Dust shavings spilled from the hole, dirt shaken down, Dudee tried to drill with eyes closed, turned his head until Whare said,  "Pussy.  Watch what you're doing." 

The cinder blocks dragged and remounted, the lift in his shoe built up eight inches like frankenstein on one wobbly leg, Whare shifted silver stones beneath him.  Last night, after finishing with the fans and vents, as Dudee and Mirina left for dinner, Whare went to Kerne's, sat back in a booth.  No longer thinking of sleep, he took two green pills with his whiskey.  A heavy ache, hip sore but more, like there was something pushing out from inside his chest, a pressure built before release.  He got quarters for the jukebox, played the Allman Brothers'  'Whipping Post.'  The women at the bar took calls on cell phones, came and went.  A man in a blue sweatshirt, the hood pulled over his head, sat facing Whare in the opposite booth.  Something wrong with his skin, leather hard, a walnut shell, impossible to get a read.  Whare thought,  "What a mad scientist, God,"  touched his tall shoe with the toe of his good foot.  The whiskey taunted him to comment, birds of a feather and all that.  "What are you staring at?"  Whare barked instead, made the man turn away.

One of the women came over, asked for quarters, small in her red slip-on shoes, a shuffle walk as if she couldn't be bothered to lift her feet.  Whare slid the coins on the table toward her.  The woman went to the jukebox, ordered up another oldie, Corey Hart's,  'I Wear My Sunglasses At Night.'  Whare waited for her to come back.  Her melon tits did not quite fit her frame, but she had Mirina's skin, her hair cut short, her dress sleeveless, worn high across her collarbone, the zipper in back gold, the teeth exposed as she stretched the material.

After two drinks she agreed to go out to the truck.  The parking lot no good, Whare was only able to feel her tits with hands squeezed under as she bent her face in his lap.  "Wait,"  he wanted more, asked her name, convinced her to go to his place.  They drove past the high school just as a shooting star flared, rising, the trajectory of a comet.  Whare slowed the truck, saw the flame crest and role and begin streaking down, landing and exploding, hot orange-yellow blaze reaching skyward again, spreading out before burning off.  In the glow two forms ran toward the heat, leaped in the air.  Sheila clicked her tongue as if the sight was nothing.  "Kids,"  she said.  "Always something burning."

Whare's apartment was on the first floor, a walk-in facing the street.  Inside he turned to paw, impatient, the smell of dust and sweat from putting in the extra vents and fans covering his clothes.  Sheila pushed him back, told him to,  "Slow down, cowboy."  She wanted him to,  "Take it off first." 

Whare lifted his t-shirt while Sheila shook her head.  "Not that,"  she pointed down.  Whare sat on the bed, undid his boot, pulled off his pants.  Sheila stared at his calf half-sized, his knee a bearing knot, the hinge all wrong, the extension of near muscle deflated, missing depth, the bone a faulty shaft, leading to a curl of doll-like ankle and foot shrunk pink, no bigger than an infant's, as if in design the maker had run out of parts and stuck whatever she could find at the end of Whare's leg.  

"Wow,"  Sheila said.

Whare with his bad foot raised, extended himself as she wanted to touch.  Surprised, he wondered if this was where the connection would finally come from.  Sheila reaching, tender it seemed, not clinical or maternal and who was he to question?  He might have kissed her then, might have laughed and drawn her entirely into his big meat arms, rejoiced at unforeseen discoveries and revelations, had she not leaned even closer, her breasts half falling out of her cheap flower dress as she said,  "Man, I love you freaks, you know?  You guys appreciate everything and always pay, no matter." 

Whare heaved the last ceiling joist with his left shoulder, grunted and stepped off the blocks, checked the final bolt Dudee tightened.  Mirina woke and came downstairs, black t-shirt borrowed, hanging below her knees.  Whare looked at her, took back the drill, removed the bit which was warm, the motor overheated.  He tossed the drill toward its case while Dudee shook off the dust, wiped at his hair.  Mirina smiled, denied the awkwardness, beast whisperer, said  "If you're through, let's get some breakfast."

"Can't,"  Whare rubbed his hip, turning.  "Shit to do."

"Come with anyway,"  Mirina in bare feet, drew toe lines through the dust. 

"Stove's coming,"  Whare at the stairs.  "Someone has to be here."  He went out front.  The wood used as ramps was left in the yard, six planks and one large sheet Dudee helped carry and place across the steps while Mirina dressed.  "Eggs then,"  she offered to bring back.  Whare on the porch, stood above the planks.  All buzz worn, he debated taking another hit of speed, just enough to push on through.  Alone, he counted the hours since he last slept, calculated how far he could go before the crash, got lost in the numbers, said  "Fuck it,"  went to the truck and took what he needed.

Lump heavy, he sat on the porch, back against the wall for the longest time.  Thoughts of Mirina a few weeks ago, as Dudee shot his bow at cans, Mirina told stories from the Metamorphoses: Psyche so beautiful the goddess Aphrodite grew jealous and ordered her son, Eros, to use his powers as the god of desire to have Psyche fall in love with a freak show monster.  So what happened?  "Fuck love,"  Whare felt cheated.  "What sort of son disobeys his mother?  Prick Cupid,"  Whare convinced even mythology was stacked against him. 

He went inside, climbed thump thump thump all the way up to the third floor where he stared at the bed, the mattress on the floor.  The room was as they left it, Mirina and Dudee, their clothes tossed about, the bow in its leather case, the arrows arranged in what looked like an umbrella stand.  "What was the trick?"  Whare didn't quite get.  He stepped over the mattress, pivoted on his good leg so that his boot swung through the center and landed on the opposite side.  The lining of the leather case was a soft red cloth.  Whare brought out the bow and a handful of arrows, went to the window facing the front of the house and looked for a target. 

Dudee, after breakfast, parked across the street.  An hour before work, he wanted to go upstairs again and get back in bed, recover the time they lost, but there was Whare's truck still in the drive.  He stopped and stood and stared up at the house.  Mirina on the far side of the car, saw Dudee in the street, knew what he was thinking, and laughing, started coming around just as the arrow hit the ramp in front of the stairs at such an angle that it skipped and flew up again.  The bow in Whare's huge hand gripped all wrong.  Hardly Cupid.  "Fuck, luck, shit!"  He thought again of Eros and the possibilities blown, love not given to the freak but denied as Eros fell for Psyche, double-dealing his mother while begging his father, Zeus, to let love lay exclusively with beauty.  "Hell, hell, hell!"  Whare on the stairs, hurrying down, dropping the bow and heading for his truck, lifted Dudee and laid him in the bed.  Mirina against the wind in back, held firm the shaft of the arrow.