GETTING AHEAD: A HORROR STORY
The old prairie bar was small and slow, but somehow kept existing partly because it paid almost no money to the help, required the barmaid to swamp out, and served anyone its low quality booze. The clientele was not elite. On this particular night it was only one man — well, a guy not quite young enough to be called a boy. The barmaid was also underage.
She was the worst barmaid the bar owner had ever hired. Also, the ugliest, but she was pretentious and some people are attracted to that. As soon as this guy came in the door — only a silhouette against the droughty dazzle of the prairie — she saw that he had a bad limp. She was surprised because she had heard a motorcycle pull up and he didn’t really look capable of handling one. When he got far enough inside for the light of the red-and-green advertising neon to show his face, she saw that he was “Indian”. She knew she should think of a euphemistic synonym but that would call attention to the fact that she was also tribal, though not enrolled.
No one else was around nor were they likely to filter in except by surprise like this guy. She got him the fortified malt he wanted and settled in on her side of the bar to figure him out. Prospects were not good, but maybe he had a rich cousin.
As for her customer, he was too busy trying to keep himself together to notice much about other people. He didn’t even register that when his bare forearms rested on the bar (he had torn the sleeves out of his t-shirt as soon as the weather was warm) they sort of stuck down. The other feature of his forearms was tattoos. Not good ones, since a friend used him as practice. But the tattooist had a lot of flashy magazines and that’s what his victim saw in his head when he looked at his own arms.
There had been something wrong with his head since his accident. The trial had found the other party guilty and the payout had been generous. In this neck of the world insurance settlements were the peak of wealth, bigger than payouts from fractionate land ownership through the BIA. And once the check hit the bank, there was nothing else to do except spend it. Thus, the motorcycle. He tied a red bandana do-rag on his head and went for it.
Once the barmaid realized this dude got his limp from a remunerative insurance settlement, she got a lot friendlier. In fact, as the dinner hour approached and the temperature outside dropped because twilight began to settle, she realized how much she hated this sagging rotten bar and its reek of mold, vomit and disinfectant.
“Hey! Let’s go out and take a ride on that mechanical horse you’ve got tied outside.” He had been sinking into despondency, but now things were looking up. Movement always helped. The wind in one’s hair and all that.
“What about the bar?”
“Who the hell cares? I’ll leave the door unlocked and they can leave the money on the bar.”
“Does that work?”
The answer was the same: who cares? She had long hair and could hardly wait to feel it flying out behind her.
“I haven’t got any helmets,” pointing out the obvious. He had no proper “leathers” either.
“You wanna let me drive?” Actually, she thought she could. He was having a little trouble stabilizing the big purring machine. The salesman had understood his bankroll and had taken full advantage of selling a fierce animal of a “cycle.” If he couldn’t handle it, the law would think he was drunk. Because he was, always.
Finally the forward momentum took hold and the road began to unroll underneath them. It was a private country road but for once there were no cows on this open range. They began to cheer and yell and the barmaid pumped one arm in the air.
They didn’t see the single strand of barbed wire some exasperated rancher had strung across the road to try to keep his cows closer to home. They knew this was a private road but “didn’t care.” The rancher had tied torn off strips of an old sheet to the wire to make it visible, but some cow ate them off. Cows will even eat baling twine and wire bits.
The wire was strung at about the height of the throats of people on motorcycles. When they found the bodies, they were — of course — headless. The heads didn’t even look surprised. The driver was identified by his tats. It took a while to find out who the girl had been. Her arm was a few feet away from the heads in the weeds.
By the end of the week, the barmaid had been replaced. The motorcyclist’s uncle, who was younger than the bike owner himself, was surprised and pleased to be suddenly wealthy. People talked about it a bit, but it never hit the nearest city paper. No one cared. When they were buried, no one bothered to buy headstones.