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Even in the woods of Alaska, you cannot run from your past forever. Eventually, you will make a mistake--leave a clue--like Butch did, when he dropped the newspaper clipping of the turkey theft, even though he tried to blame me. But it was obvious that only an Indian would commit such an atrocity--filch a fowl that is practically considered Uncle Sam's national bird--in the name of the American Indian--and Butch was definitely an Indian; even though I apparently talked like one in my sleep, so in a way, that made me a part-time Indian, at least in the vernacular sense. In any case, the sleep-talking was Butch's story. It was probably bullsh*t, but nevertheless--in conjunction with the alleged and undeserved suspicions of myself as a turkey-napper--probably serves as the most pathetic tribal assimilation process ever put forth. Unfortunately, however, as far as my qualifications go, it is enough for the FBI to call me an Indian terrorist. They do not particularly differentiate between full or part-time, which could be a violation of federal law, because I know the ordeal has taken at least 40-hours per week from my soul. By this time, I should be retired. I am not familiar with reservation labor laws, however.
I guess it sounds like I finally confessed--unless they forced it out of me--which would make me innocent. I do not remember any Miranda rights being read, but for all the pain it has caused, I might as well take credit. Hell, for all my protestations, it sounds like I am the world's most qualified expert. Ask me anything: I did it, and I did not. Psychologically, that probably makes me a multiple personality; but personality is not everything; it can only get you so far. In this line of business, it is not unusual to say two different things at the same time.
Hell, the weirder sh*t you make up, the more the FBI believes you, and also hates you, with a pathological passion. Eventually, however, you get good at it. I learned a lot from Butch. For a time, he was my best friend. But I still hated his guts. Maybe I should be an FBI agent.
After a while, I must say, it got old, arguing over the kidnapped turkey that had come home to roost in a damn photo. Even among the rubes of Thorne Bay, I was not stupid enough to fall for Butch's ignorant Audubon ruse--pretending that the turkey was a parrot. Just because I was sleeping in a carcinogenic charcoal forest did not mean I was a fumigated idiot. Butch was trying to frame me in the land of A-Frames.
"It says stolen turkey, right here, in the King's English!" I waved the turkey photo. "Don't you have an eye for detail? Can't you read?"
Butch was not moved. "I read the stars"--he mendaciously traced the heavens with an iconic finger that seemed to mimic Michelangelo's Creation of Adam on the Sistine Ceiling. "Orion says"--Butch orated--"if you burn the forest, you cannot log her. She is like a hot virgin."
"Logger?" I laughed. "Oh, good one. But we already did."
Beneath his dented hat, and charcoal cheeks, Butch glowered, his coarse hair bundled on both sides. A slight man, he slouched beneath his brim, probably thirty or thirty-five, it was hard to tell. His features were basically nondescript, like a grainy photo. Usually his eyes were sharp; now red and hazy; but still hyperlinked; as if you clicked on them, something might issue forth, perhaps a feathered turkey thief.
Or, are you referring?"--I blinked--"to the beverage? Indie lager, perhaps?"
Butch's gaze, like the sky, remained impenetrable.
I searched above for Orion-the-Warrior's constellation sword along with his alpha star, Betelgeuse--"The stars don't come out yet," I observed. "Midnight sun, remember?"
"The buffalo are gone."
Upon reflection, I could not argue with his profound summation. It was more deer and wolf country. Maybe mastodon if you went back a thousand years. At least a tusk or two.
"That's a mouthful." I examined the turkey photo more closely.
Beneath the zookeeper's tender brow and sensitive gaze--worthy of a supplicating priest--the obeisant turkey basked in a tragic, melancholic, and confessional spirit, a veritable stupor of eggshell-fragility, of suffering and self-pity--the two of them forming a lamentable, almost-angelical, if not mythical, Platonic tryst--a poignant masterpiece portrayal of bird and man--maybe not Madonna and child--but approaching perhaps Victor Hugo's classic compilation of good and evil: Les Miserables. In the bird's role as ornithological icon, it radiated a nimbus halo; either that, or water from the rainforest island had damaged the photo.