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Danine, Part 11
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I spend the next few hours on Jack's couch telling myself that I am sleeping, that it has all been a dream, that it's all been a dream. There is no Dancing Bear, no Davidson. I picture myself lying in bed with Jenna at home. But I can't make myself believe that Danine isn't real, that last night with her wasn't real, and that means everything. I lie on his couch in a musty robe of his that smells like Brut and stare at the ceiling. An old orange tabby cat comes out and sits on me; I pet it and wonder what's going to happen next, the next morning when Jack wakes up and asks the questions he didn't want to ask at four o'clock in the morning. I'm glad that it's late. I only have to lie here another hour or two. I just want to sleep and wake up in ten years, wake up at some point in the future when all of this is over, when I've forgotten everything.

Jack makes coffee, and I want him to offer me a drink, but he doesn't. Instead, he pours me a cup of coffee, and then he pours some bleach in a bucket, fills it with hot water and hands me a sponge. We go out to my truck and clean off the inside, wipe the blood off the steering wheel and the seat, wipe the glass out of the passenger seat. Jack takes the guns into the house.

It only took me an hour to find Jack's place last night. The sun was just starting to come up when I saw his mailbox, Jack Peltier, and drove the four miles west to his place. In the daylight, Jack's house doesn't look any less depressing. He's got a little trailer out on twenty acres of nothing. Hardly a scrap of grass grows. Maybe it looks better most of the time, but the long and dry summer has killed everything within eyesight. Down south, the river runs right alongside of the highway, and so along there the Fort Peck doesn't seem so bad. Farther north, though, it's a different story.

Jack doesn't say much. He asks me a few questions, and I answer him honestly, I think. As honestly as I can. He nods a lot, and listens, like he always does. Rebecca gets up late, around eleven, and when she does Jack goes inside with her and talks with her for a bit while I take a take a plunger and try to get some of the dents out. There were dents in it before--a lot, really--but now it looks like it's been through a demolition derby. I'm amazed it still runs.

When Rebecca comes out, she walks out to me and says that she's got some jeans in her room that an old boyfriend of hers left there. "What, did he leave here in his underwear?" I ask her.

"From what I hear, you didn't do much better," she says.

"I wish I had had that much," I say. She laughs a short, clipped laugh, and then she goes back inside and brings me the jeans. I go inside and take a shower. I borrow a shirt of Jack's and pull the new jeans on. They're a little short but they fit all right. I'm glad to get out of Calvin's clothes. I think of him lying there in the stream, but it's already hard to remember. The images in my head are grainy, and I can't remember the step-by-step of what happened last night.

"So, listen, stay here for a little while," Jack says. "And I'm not so sure I want you going to work," he says to Rebecca.

"What for? They won't know that Frank's here," she says. She's getting ready for work while Jack and I are eating lunch. I'm in another man's house--and another man's pants--but I'm starting to feel calm. I look at my fingernail and see a tiny crust of blood underneath it. "Besides, Calvin wasn't exactly the inside player that he made himself out to be with Davidson."

"What do you know about Davidson?" Jack asks her.

Rebecca shrugs. "Nothing, really."

"Is he into anything?" he asks.

"I don't know, Dad. I really don't. It's good money, that's all I think about. He pays me well, he treats me all right, but I almost never talk to him. But Calvin was always going on about how he and Davidson and Martin were planning on taking these trips, scoping out new business."

"Martin?" I ask.

"The little bastard with the big hat," Jack says. "What kind of business?"

"I really don't know. And I need to get to work, it's not going to help anything if I don't. Look, Calvin never shows up to work until seven o'clock, anyway. They're not even going to know about the accident." I look at Jack when she says that, and I wonder if he told her everything I told him. Or maybe he decided that it was an accident. Maybe I can think that, too.

Jack shakes his head. "No. She went there last night, right?" I nod. "Then they might. I don't like this."

"Well, I need to go," Rebecca says, and gets up from the table. After she leaves, Jack takes off soon after. Says he's going into Wolf Point to do some checking around, that he knows some people in the tribal police there. I don't ask him what it is he's looking for. As everything starts to slowly sink in, I feel like I don't really want to know.

While he's gone I pour a coffee cup full of vodka and step outside into the sun, sit on the rickety front porch that Jack built himself. It's built well, but the lumber isn't good, and the weather has tugged and pulled and beaten on it until it's now almost fallen apart. A couple more cats come around looking for food. They sniff at my vodka but turn up their noses and walk away. It's then that I take out the wad of bills and count it: five thousand dollars, all in hundreds. More money than I made this year so far. More money than some people out here on the res have seen in their lives, I think. I look off toward the horizon. I can see a house, far off to the northeast, otherwise there's nothing. The wind comes up and blows a bunch of dust into my face and into my booze, but I only sit there thinking of Danine and what I could and where I could go with five thousand dollars in cash.

When Jack gets back I'm still sitting there, staring off. It's not that late yet. He wasn't gone long.

"Find out anything?" I say.

"I still don't like it," he says, and that's all he says. He goes inside. I follow him, go into the kitchen and refill my glass. I hear him in the bathroom with the shower running. I lie down on the couch and close my eyes and try to keep out all the things flashing on the insides of my eyelids.

end of essay
Joseph G. Carson Portrait Joe was the original guitarist for the now legendary Clark Schpiell and the Furry Cockroaches without Butts, playing two chords in a four-chord song under the assumed name of Jason, which he has taken to be a metaphor for his existence (the two chords part, not the Jason part). He has contributed several long pieces to CSP, including the crime novels Danine and Inheriting Dust, the latter of which is still in progress. He has also written the occasional humor piece, movie review, and political essay. | more essays by Joseph
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