This is Story #1, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. Each tale in this series will begin with a backstory, followed by the main story.
It can get wearisome, reading long posts, and I want to make sure you don’t sleep too much while reading my book. After all, you may be at work, or driving, or doing something else where you’re supposed to stay awake.
So my goal is to keep my posts from exceeding 2,000 words. That means I’m going to have to break this yarn up into four separate posts, since it’s over 6,000 words long.
I’ll try to break it at parts where you’re just getting into it, and can’t wait to see what happens next. And then maybe I’ll include a link to an ad. Just to keep things real.
What follows is the beginning of Part Won: Go West. And Part Won begins with Part 1 of Story #1. And if you now feel confused as hell, don’t worry. So do I. I think the best thing to do is just start reading, before our confusion escalates into insanity.
When I was 29, and fresh out of the military, I bought a 3-acre parcel in a remote area of the Mojave desert. I wanted to get back to nature, live off the land, and most importantly, put up my feet and rest for awhile.
I built an underground log cabin. And without a building permit. Building underground helped insulate this cabin from the weather. It also helped me maintain a low profile, out-of-sight from the county building inspector.
But I needed a place to shit, and I couldn’t very well build an underground outhouse. Underground is where the shit goes, not the ass. That’s Outhouse Engineering 101.
So my problem was, how to build an above-ground outhouse that would go unnoticed, whenever the building inspector made one of his routine drive-bys.
I resolved this problem by buying an old, rusty water tank, for about $50. It was round, about eight feet high and six feet in diameter, with a peaked roof that looked like an upside-down funnel. The seller warned me that it leaked, and that the bottom was rusting out. Which may have been how I talked him down to $50.
I took that water tank home and cut a square hole through its ferruginous bottom. That’s where the toilet would go. I also cut a door-sized rectangle out of the side. I took that curved, rectangular piece of metal and riveted a piano hinge to one of its long sides. I then reconnected the piece of metal to the water tank by riveting the piano hinge to the tank. That provided a curved door that blended with the tank when closed.
The Mojave desert is dotted with derelict water tanks, on abandoned jackrabbit homesteads. So my old, decrepit tank was just one of many. It looked like an ordinary, normal fixture of the landscape. No one could have dreamt of its true purpose, unless they were standing just a few feet away and noticed its strange door.
So I was able to live two years in my cabin, while never being cited by the county for having an illegal privy.
One night, I traipsed to my “water closet” to do my business. I opened the door and shined my flashlight down the hole, and was greeted by a glorious sight. And that sight inspired me to write this short story. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll fill you in on the details later.
For the time being, I hope you’ll enjoy this Wild West tale about an unscrupulous villain, an old gold miner, and a very intriguing outhouse.
The Golden Outhouse
Philander Crook rode straight into a big white mess. On purpose. But only because the fear blowing and drifting in his heart was thicker than the blizzard blowing all around him.
It was really coming down in the Sierras. And he knew things would probably get worse. Winter storms in these mountains that killed the Donners don’t just sprinkle a few inches of powder and mosey on out. No, they set up a work camp in the sky, then shovel down a few feet of the cursed crystals upon the minions hunkering down below. To add to the few dozen feet that might already be there.
Soon it could be nigh on impossible for the fearful Philander to make progress.
A tongue-lashing of wind whipped up the hair on the back of his head and made it levitate. The whistling ice put goose bumps on his raw neck. He shivered like a mine blast, and felt every bone rattle. He fumbled at his coat collar with numb fingertips and frozen-stiff knuckles. Try to get that up higher. Higher, and stop that wind. Stop that killing cold.
Philander glanced around back into the wind, toward the west. Should he rein the horse around and take his chances? Could the enemy shadowing his back be less deadly than the enemy burying his front?
No. They’d be expecting that. And they’d be waiting with loaded rifles. The men who worked for his father-in-law were well-paid, and well worth every ounce of the gold the patriarch had put into their pockets.
And there was not a poltroon amongst them. No they were loyal, professional and courageous killers. So there would be at least one waiting in Sacramento where he had left them. The rest would be on his trail.
But he hoped they had fallen for his ruse and headed down to Los Angeles. That’s where he’d made it seem like he was headed.
A few miles south of Sacramento he’d turned off the trail on a rocky place, where his tracks wouldn’t show up to give him away. Then he had headed straight into suicide. Straight for the Sierra Nevada mountains.
By the next morning he was in the foothills of the Sierras, aiming for Carson Pass. From there he planned to head north for Virginia City, then catch a stagecoach for Salt Lake City. His final destination would be Denver.
He doubted the old man would send any men to Denver. So there he would be safe while things cooled off on the coast for a few years.
As his horse slogged through the snow past a half-dead, gnarled, twisted, parasite-infested oak tree, he was reminded of his wife. And he inwardly cringed at the mental image this festering tree conjured up. For Lucinda was just as ugly as any of its half-dead branches, peeling bark, or rotting roots.
Her hair was greasy black. Looked like an old saloon mop that someone had dipped in lard before mopping out a coal bin. Her nose was as protuberant as a palomino’s proboscis. Nostrils just as wide. Strands of black nosehair hung over her upper lip, half-covering her black, greasy mustache. Actually, her hair was brown—on the rare occasions she took to wash it.
She had a pimply chin, that was usually sopping wet with the oleaginous complexion of her skin. Two droplets of oil perennially dangled from the point of this volcanic mandibular apex, gradually collecting enough oozing grease to slowly dribble to the ground.
She might have made up for some for her natural ugliness through developing habits of hygiene. But Lucinda was a slob. Her only habit of hygiene was to clean herself up once a year for Fourth of July festivities. But then she’d declare her independence from bathwater for the twelve months that would ensue, and allow filth and grease to cake up on her skin and within all the little nooks and crannies of her body.
This made her the ugliest, amongst ugly women in Oregon. Or possibly anywhere.
No male, foolish or wise, would debate that. In fact if there was anything all men residing within the newly established state of Oregon could agree upon, it would be that Lucinda Bruckles had staked out a vast claim upon the word “ugly.” And she was its rightful owner.
But she wasn’t the only one in her family with a vast claim. Lucinda Bruckles was the daughter of Ardmoore Bruckles—who was one of the greatest lumber magnates in all the state. Ardmoore Bruckles was a rich man. And a powerful man. And a very feared man.
Ardmoore had taught all his habits of hygiene to his daughter. Which weren’t much, because he himself also maintained a mucky year-round filth, caked upon his own complexion.
And he was filthy in character also. In fact, the dirtiness of his body served as an asset to him. For it reflected his reputation of a mean, unscrupulous bully. Which is exactly how he wanted others to see him.
That’s how he had come by his success in logging. He had terrorized and intimidated most of his competition right out of business. Ardmoore was deadly. He was a man most intelligent men were afraid of. And most stupid men too. He was egomaniacal, martinetish, and wielded authority like a grizzly bear wields a swat.
He squashed anyone who made him angry.
But then came Philander. Philander Crook was willing to chance that anger. He thought it might be worth it.
But Philander was young. And immature. And very greedy.
So when he met the Princess of Ugly—Lucinda Bruckles—and found out who her father was, his heart did an immediate swoon-dive. Or at least, that’s how he acted.
His script was that of a man enamored. He made a show like it was love at first sight. And he played like he was deeply fascinated by her. Like he just had to get to know her better. He made all the moves of a bedeviling adolescent who was competing for his first belle’s attentions and affections. Even though there really was no competition.
And Lucinda fell for his charms like horseshit falls from an equine’s ass. Her heart fairly plopped steaming right before Philander’s feet. But it was easy to charm the likes of Lucinda. She was just so scrofulous that it was rare for any man to show any affection toward the desperate young debutante.
So Lucinda felt flattered by Philander’s feigned attentions. And her heaving heart within her pinguid little heaving breast launched into the heavens and soared up to the stars, then burst with euphoria.
Ardmoore was even more euphoric. In fact he was beside himself with ecstasy. So far, no man in the entire American West had yet to show any interest in this female product of his loins. But now there was a man who seemed to be in love with her. To actually be in love with his walking grease-stain of a pigsty daughter!
And a handsome man at that.
End of Part 1. Come on back tomorrow, for Part 2.
Categories: Series (Stories): Go West Or Go Weird