Milton stared at the Mule
who appeared to be really
grinning a little, but not a frozen
grin, just a show of teeth and a roll
of those big eyes. Ears twitched.
Hooves scratched at dust.
“Try to relax I said.
Not much you can do.
I don’t belong here either.
Not a clue. That sergeant.
Comes back here I need to lay
a swift hoof at his noggin.”
Just then the voices
at the front quit
or the manner of their speech
was overturned to the tune
of imminent emergency.
Major Majors was losing control
of his horse. All who were mounted
were losing control of those mounts,
and the state of the earth, that it was rumbling,
became more pronounced with each second.
The only man appearing unaware
that the earth rumbled harder and harder
with each passing second, that a force
that foreshadowed darkness long before
it came to the on-location status,
was Staff Sergeant Redbeard.
Yes he had to know
of the rumbling the earth
was just then getting more deeply
involved in, but he was more intent
on the fact that Major Majors’
attentions were fixed more on what
the rumbling meant than on whether
Staff Sergeant Redbeard had obeyed
or the situation of
Staff Sergeant Redbeard’s bullwhip.
So it was then that Staff Sergeant Redbeard
again lunged for his bullwhip,
but the mount on which Major Majors
was astride had just intensified
the manic motions – or to say
another way, the horse was
ultra-sensitive at that moment,
sensitive to sound and to touch,
especially foreign touch, and extra
especially a touch from the behemoth
the horse knew as Staff Sergeant Redbeard.
Now Major Majors was not a man
to fly off the handle – true his campaign
engagements did not get cranked up
until he’d spent a few seasons,
thus his reasoning that he’d likely
never have the bird much less a star
to decorate an epaulet – but
when he was aware of Staff Sergeant
Redbeard’s flagrant disobedience
he simply reacted with the exposure
of his revolver and without thinking,
pointed straight at Staff Sergeant
Redbeard and pulled the trigger.
In a calmer setting Major Majors
acting this way would doubtless
have him dubbed as a man
with a memory too feeble
to entrust a troop of men
to his military command.
But under the circumstances,
there is no record that indicates
any of the men had a poor
impression of the major
or the major’s memory
just then – they all detested
Staff Sergeant Redbeard,
and by now even Milton
who had no idea where he was
or how he’d come here, and who’d been
exposed to Staff Sergeant Redbeard’s
brutish disposition for a mere
quarter hour, smiled that he may
get to see the beast become dead.
Because Major Majors had apparently
already forgotten what happened to
the cannonball, because what happened
to the cannonball happened to the bullet,
and that was that it fizzled
in midair, and though the bullet Major Majors
shot did hit Staff Sergeant Redbeard
and though it did pack heat
and Staff Sergeant Redbeard did utter
declaration full of displeased
emotion, the sense was more like
Major Majors threw a cup of hot
coffee; insult more than attempt to kill.
Well now Staff Sergeant Redbeard
plunged into pure rage and lunged for
Major Majors, but just then the forms
appeared from the fog and just after that,
the screams commenced because the forms
also were mounted and they carried no pistols
or rifles or cannons but they were
swinging around axes and swords.
Milton felt a bump.
“We’ve made it to the rest stop, sir.
We can get out and stretch and man – sir?”
Squint and frown and rub of eyes and jaw
and blinks of those eyes, sand granules
dribbling. Sought to say something like
‘what the hell’ but the syllabic functions
had not yet slurped their nightly lubricant.
“Knew you needed the rest but damn
I had to stop – never can resist
these joints with flashing neon,
especially where everything’s so
quiet, so far from everything –
except we got the highway – travelers.
Hear they serve up some fine greasy
hash browns. Sausage patties. Omelets.”
Vultures picked at human and horse
bodies that littered the hilltop
which was still as foggy as when
the first horse popped through the membrane.
Horse entrails traded for human
sinews; kidneys for brains – one
pulled on tendon from Major Majors’
shoulder while another plucked
Lieutenant Louie’s right eyeball.
Most of the crows had moved on, gone home,
but the original two were still perched
on the spectator branch because
they’d be killing time there anyway;
and the crow who would like to go
by Mackenzie, said to the other
who had no correlate name preference,
“well what do we do now?”
Would a perch exist to see from
a much higher height, the perched could look
down and see a complex network of road
and light. Supersensitive hearing
would bring sounds of bustle.
But there in a spot
almost undetectable from so high,
would be a gray dot, and bringing in
a zoom lens would reveal that
gray dot to be a strange blur of fog.