I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 34
He shrugged ambiguously.
“Do you play at all? You used to be so good!”
“I haven’t had time really,” Spencer replied awkwardly. That was all he had, time. Time waiting in a field tent for his next target. Time sitting in a concrete cell with both his legs in full-length casts. Here he was, planning to help build this greenhouse, pretending even to himself that he really did have time. Maybe that’s what living amounts to, breathing and fooling yourself that you have time.
“Johnny, what do you do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?”
“I don’t know. Not really. I mean, I always did stuff, but hobbies? I was a good soldier. That was my hobby.”
“Well, fuck the army,” XMercy yelled.
Hearing the words out loud, coming from another person’s mouth, shocked him. He didn’t like it, didn’t like the disrespect.
Mouse had stopped cutting and dangled the idling saw at the end of her arm, nearly pulling the glove off her right hand. “Think what we could do with all that money we burn up on guns,” she remarked casually, as though the whole military was a waste.
Spencer stepped quickly into the brush pile to take the saw her from her. She hardly paid attention, walking off toward XMercy, intent on getting a drink. They hadn’t thought ahead to bring water down and instead walked together back toward the trailer. He watched their backs, Mouse taking Mercy’s hand as they high-stepped through the thick grass.
After they were out of sight, Spencer hiked into the mush to fell the poplars. These were pulp wood, fibrous, low-density junk growing like weeds fed from the high water table and nutrient-rich bog.
The behemoths were on a natural fall line straight to the greenhouse. He walked around the first trunk six or seven times, constantly shifting to find decent purchase underfoot and thinking through how to fell the huge tree away from the disastrous path on which gravity wanted to take it. He spent the next looks considering all the possibilities of how things might go wrong with the tricky side cuts he needed to shift and turn their fall direction away from the work area.
Once he pulled the rope, Spencer made two fast and deliberate cuts, the first a deep forty-fivedegree notch shifting the fall line to run parallel to the length of the greenhouse. The second flat cut set off a series of pops sounding like firecrackers on Chinese New Year’s. Spencer held the saw out from his body and stepped off fast toward the retreat he had picked out, getting himself well back and to the side just in case the weight tree decided to kick backward across the stump. It did, sliding backward fully eight feet before tumbling a half-roll then settling slowly, like a giant animal still kicking after a mortal wound, while its weight broke through the dozens of smaller trees and shrubs along its length. Had he stayed put, they would have died together.
He imagined the second poplar falling alongside the first then reconsidered. If it caught the other trunk when it fell, it might bounce fifteen feet before coming back down. An elephant in its path would get crushed flat. Spencer thumbed the kill switch and set the saw down on a dry, level spot before walking in the opposite direction down the length of the tree, spotting everything in the fall path.
He paused in front of a termite-eaten downer log, staring down at an unmistakable boot print broken through the bark where the person who went with it had broken through. He knelt down and examined the print closely. New moss was growing along the edges. Not recent. Could have been from last fall. Pig hunter? Hunting deer?
Spencer walked in a squat position that terrorized his legs, holding the saw blade in front of him parallel to the ground and shaving back a deep swath to open up a fall back from the base of the second poplar. He stood straight again, steeling himself to the pain.
A month to six weeks physical therapy for each month in the casts, the doctor had said. He tightened his pectoral muscles, brought his fists together in front of him, flexed triceps and biceps, his forearms and wrists, every muscle down his stomach and deep into his core. “Hooah!” he yelled at the top of his lungs, and then stood in silence. The thick foliage and mushy ground smothered the sound, but every bird and chipmunk froze at attention.
Spencer stomped down the new retreat path then retrieved the saw and cut quickly, decisively, knocking out the wedge and reversing back into the flat cut before backpedaling into his retreat. The huge poplar dropped with a resounding thump. He had to squeeze through a thick wall of brush, shrubs, and saplings to get clear.
XMercy and Mouse returned at the same time. Mouse spread her feet and stood still, stiffly holding both hands on her slender hips. “It was just like this when we left. Didn’t you do anything?”
Spencer could smell his perspiration, looked over his stained and filthy clothes, thought about explaining, but said nothing. Lieutenants. Women officers. Not worth getting into it ’cause you never win.
“I’ll get going. Is it OK for me to use the Polaris? I could drag all the cuttings into a slash pike that we could burn off later on. That will save a lot of trips clearing this whole thing by hand.”
XMercy was about to hold out the tuna sandwiches she made when Mouse took hold of her arm. “XMercy, you can bring down the Polaris. I’ll stay here with Johnny and get some work done.”
“It might go faster with a rope and chain,” Spencer suggested, thinking that Mouse might be planning on using the front-mounted winch, which would take forever to run out and haul in, plus they’d be backing the limbs toward their slash pile, which would also take longer.
Mouse nodded. “They’re hung inside the lean-to. Bring them along.”
Spencer began to yank saplings out from Mouse’s twisted cuttings mound, swinging them around one by one with their bases lined up together so he could rope and drag them in quantity. Mouse followed suit, quickly making a second pile readied for towing. When XMercy rode back down with the ATV, they had already set up a quarter of the limbs.
Without saying a word, Spencer walked to the stubby ATV truck bed and came out with one long rope then pointed to the leather case on Mouse’s belt, asking without speaking to use the multi-tool. He cut the long rope into two twenty-five foot sections then took out a book of matches, lit the entire book, and melted the nylon rope ends before shaking out the flames. Mouse watched him while he tied-off the saplings, and then tossed the long end off the pile toward the towing step. While he tied off the line, she reached the second rope around the next pile. The two of them settled into a steady rhythm. Mouse paced herself and whenever the sapling or limb she was handling got hung up inside the pile, she allowed Spencer to help her out.
“MSJS,” Spencer told her. “That’s mostly what I go by. Nobody except Mercy ever called me ‘Johnny.’”
“MSJS,” Mouse repeated back.
“There’s been somebody out here in the woods,” Spencer mentioned. “Hunter, maybe.”
“How do you know that?”
“Tracks, broken logs. Pigs do a lot of damage, but they don’t wear boots.”
While she kept pulling and stacking limbs, Mouse weighed their future crop against asking MSJS what he would do. She dropped the sapling that was in her hands and turned reluctantly, squaring her shoulders toward him.
“So what would you do?” she demanded, clearly pissed off at herself for wanting advice and mad at the Big Army Dude just because.
Spencer kept working, parsing the question into approaches and outcomes starting with perimeter security to surround a forward post inside a hot zone before dropping away the snipers, the suicide bombers, and the trip wires, night flares, anti-personnel mines that keep them at distance. Night vision.
“What are you trying to accomplish?” he asked back.
“Keep our weed and keep fuckheads from stealing it,” she shot back. “What do you think?! Somebody steals the crop, we can’t very well call the sheriff, now can we?”
“That .22 won’t scare anybody,” he told Mouse. “It sounds like a pop gun. Get a shotgun. Pump action. I’ll take the dowel out for you, then it will hold six shells. You wouldn’t be able to hit anything, not from the trailer, but it will be loud. I can show you how to handle it.”
“I don’t need no help. My daddy had me handling shotguns since I was ten.”
Spencer let it go. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was, but something about her attitude was as familiar as corn flakes. Annoying, but in a puppy-that-won’t-quit-licking sort of way. He kind of liked it, too.
“Shotgun can’t do any good if you don’t know you’re getting robbed. Anyone could come in, park up off the top of the driveway, and hike a hundred yards in behind the greenhouses. They could cut right through and haul everything out of there in broad daylight.”
“We’ve got company,” Mouse told XMercy when she pulled up in the Polaris. “MSJS saw the tracks.”
“Crap. Why don’t they just legalize weed so we don’t have to put up with this!” XMercy griped.
“Right,” Mouse snapped back, “so before we know it we’re all smoking Marlboro Wowie? XMercy, I told you, the day weed gets legal is the day corporations take the profits and the little guy gets wiped off the map.”
“You want to talk or you want to do something about it?” Spencer asked them. “Control the terrain. A couple runs of concertina wire will take the steam right out of most people; make it so anybody who wants inside needs to come in your way, not theirs. Cheap insurance policy.”
“What’s concertina wire?” XMercy asked him.
“It’s like barbed wire, except it slices razor-sharp gashes an inch deep. That’s why it is also called ‘razor wire.’”
XMercy smiled toward Mouse, silently asking her partner what she thought now about having Johnny Spencer around?
Mouse scowled and stomped down the cuttings.
The sky was dancing with magical blues, purples, reds, oranges, even ripples of green toward the end of the day. Mouse insisted on pouring the contents of a half-full five-gallon gas can over the slash pile by herself, saying she could handle it without people telling her what to do. Then she ran the hundred feet back to where XMercy stood holding onto the burning torch Spencer had.
“Don’t get too close!” XMercy begged. The pile was ten feet high and twice as wide around its base.
Mouse walked back toward the pile and, from thirty feet out, whipped the torch sidearm toward the pile. She missed, skipping the torch on the grass and falling short by a good ten feet. She and Spencer looked at one another, neither moving an inch.
“I’ll make another torch,” Spencer told her. The flammable fumes were spreading out.
Mouse ignored him and started toward where the first torch had landed.
Spencer cut off her path, reached his arm around her waist and lifted her away while she kicked at him.
“What the fuck! Let go!”
“You don’t want to do that,” he told her, which made her kick even harder, a big kid throwing a tantrum. He had her back alongside XMercy when the fumes spread out along the ground and ignited off the torch. With a giant whoosh, a flaming mushroom cloud rose sixty feet high, sending scorched air over them all that way back.
Spencer let Mouse go without saying a word. He left them alone until XMercy opened the trailer door and called him to have dinner.
At the table, XMercy nudged at Mouse to say something; then she finally kicked out at her under the table.
“Sorry I kicked you,” she told Spencer.
“And?” XMercy was still shaking from it all.
“Thanks,” she faltered, and then followed with, “MSJS.”
The conversation flowed better after that. XMercy fried steaks and home-style potatoes, none of the New Age foods. Mouse set a six-pack of ice-cold Michelob on the table, cracked a cap, winced as she realized how swollen her hands were from the work, and handed the first beer across the table. “Got a lot done,” she admitted. “XMercy, there’s still a ton to do. Can’t leave that ground covered by shoots; they’ll destroy the floor and we don’t want to go through that again. Why don’t you and MSJS run into Beckley tomorrow morning and rent the stump grinder. They’ve got to sell razor wire at one of the hardware stores, too, what with the prison there and all.” She looked Spencer straight in the eye, asking him, “How many feet will we be needing?”
To XMercy’s shock, Johnny washed dishes and Mouse dried. Spencer asked her to talk more about the tattoo. Mouse said she could do better than that, wiped her hands on the dishtowel, and went back into the bedroom. She had carefully-folded papers that she carried almost reverentially in her hands when she returned. Looking at the sink and MSJS, she found a safe high shelf and placed them on top until the dishes were done. XMercy recognized the papers, knew what they were, and would have shown her displeasure, but the evening was showing a perfection she knew was rare and she would not have spoiled it no matter what she thought of Dimitri Vosilych, not for the world.
XMercy and Mouse walked Spencer outside into the warm evening air. Mouse pressed the papers inside his hand before he headed toward their guesthouse. She bent over and brought kindling to their fire ring, but XMercy brushed her aside to take over. Mouse went inside and came back with the last two bottles of Michelob, pulled two low chairs alongside the fire, and they sat down beside one another to plan. XMercy would be driving in on her own. Rental store for the stump grinder, the smaller one that fit in the back of the 4Runner. MSJS figured on four hundred feet of wire. XMercy needed to get gloves and a cutter, too. MSJS decided it was best for him to stay put and clear the lines so they could get the wire down when XMercy got back with it.
Inside the camper shell, Spencer lit the oil lamp, opened the papers, and stretched out on the foam mattress, leaning into the light to read.
I was Dimitri Vosilych. Because you are reading these words, I know I am dead. But this is good, because if I am dead I have had courage and I am dying for something bigger than individual.
When I am coming to America, I come for living in this incredible place where all is possible, where men can speak their dreams and say always what we think without any problem. In my country, you must not criticize powerful men or they get you beating up or get you for prison even. Everyone is knowing how rich people they are stealing away from all other peoples. In my country, the rich people most they are not showing so much money. They think people will be angry and kill them and take money away. When the government goes down, everyone sees and is talking about how the big man was living. We come to looking at his houses, his cars, all these not normal things and we see proof that he was so bad.
Now I am coming to America and I am seeing is worse here. Many poor people here, too. But people is worship golden calf. Poor children, so bad schools, much violence, and rich people like kings and not doing something. They don’t care and people let them live and don’t get angry and don’t doing something.
I am thinking I coming to America and I working very hard and then is getting better. I get wife, house, children. I want to be member of society. But only people are thinking for getting rich, for themselves, not for society. Rich peoples they are making so much monies and other peoples cannot even go to café to sit and talk and make good life together. No Starbucks! I mean people’s place.
I read university is much money so normal people cannot pay but still rich people can walk everywhere, drive in their cars, do everything and nobody is getting angry. How is possible?
For being in political system is taking very much money. If you want make change, make life more fair, is impossible! Rich people are having so much
In my country, the people they fight for change. In America, who is fighting? Who is driving Pharisees out from the temple? Many many problems and only America is fighting making wars in other people’s countries. So, I am saying Dimitri someone must make rich people afraid. Must make rich peoples stop and think how rich they are being. I want make normal people see they are not thinking good. How they cannot think only these other people are so rich so they can’t do anything. It is better rich people are afraid so they are aware they are rich and their riches are offense to people who must struggle. I want make them pay for being rich people so the rich people they will not pass all other people in street and think nothing and live their life in ignorance. And when I am able, one man, to make rich people afraid, then more men and more women will see and say I can do this, too, like Dimitri Vosilych.
Once he began laughing, Spencer couldn’t stop himself. He felt tears rolling down his cheeks, imagining the college kid who probably faked the letter.
Who the hell was Dimitri Vosilych? Did he even exist?
He lifted the guitar without paying attention and started to strum. Chords at first, followed by snapping each string and tuning until he was picking notes quickly, dancing his fingertips across the frets like he had never stopped practicing.
XMercy started taking a sip of beer then stopped midway and listened as a breeze carried sound up the meadow toward them. Spencer was strumming chords, then he began to sing, quietly at first.
“Shush,” XMercy hissed.
She shushed Mouse, who wasn’t saying anything, clutched Mouse’s arm and listened. XMercy strained to hear every note as she mouthed the words. She knew he was missing words, not that she cared.