Henry & the Wolf Doctor
The night was dark, cold, long and seemed to have no end to it. Though the calendar said it was early October, the biting wind said December, at least. Still, Roberta Collineur prodded her five and a half cylinder truck down the empty stretch of winter road connecting one dying Alberta town to another. On the map it was simple. All the roads straight, open and well connected. But somehow one-inch on the map equaled far more than 100 miles, or 180 kilometers.
She looked at her watch, the minute hand swaying like a pendulum, teasing her. Two-thirty AM, though it felt a lot later. She gazed at the dash, and the cluttered cab behind her. Three duffel bags containing nearly thirty years worth of her collected belongings. Two boxes of books, most used, but as up-to-date as could be afforded. And one satchel, a 19th century doctor’s bag with her name inscribed on it…Roberta Collineur…Ph.D., D.V.M. It was a gift from her grandmother, a Cree Medicine Woman who had the good sense to marry a struggling doctor from the East rather than a rich cattle baron from the West. No one was at the graduation ceremony to bestow the letters of accomplishment, no boyfriend, no girlfriend, no aunts, uncles or even First Nations politicos looking for photo ops. But Roberta felt her long-departed grandmother’s hand etched in those six magic letters into the bag…Ph.D., D.V.M. Barely one in a thousand First Nation’s people ever got into vet school, and even less had the balls, or conviction, to supplement it with a Ph.D. in biochemistry in her spare time. It was worth putting in the extra four months of clinical rotation work for the double-doctorate certification. It was even worth risking dismissal from the program by writing a thesis paper on the post-translational protein synthesis that defied what the department, and her mentor, said was fact in the textbooks. It was all worth it if the Truth was served, and if you were more Alive between the ears.
But the magical six letters had an even more special place, on a leather pouch tied to her belt. No Shaman or Shamaness ever inscribed White letters of accomplishment on a traditional medicine bag, but then again, few had the nerve, or idea, of owing allegiances to the Spirit of the Earth as well as the Power of Science.
“Whatever works, and makes sense in the gut and in the head,” Roberta mumbled to herself, reflecting on the dichotomy she had become on this, her 27th and a half birthday. “So where’s something to keep my brain alive?” she grunted through a yawn at the dash as it blasted out loud static, the Blues station from Edmonton disappearing into the dead silence of the moonless night.
The flatlands of Alberta now appeared to be mountains, the 2 percent incline in the road seeming like it was a drive up Mount Everest for a Truck Commercial sponsoring the Twilight Zone. “Static beats dead quiet in the grave or a breakdown in the snow,” she told herself, re-checking the fuel gauge, hoping that the next set of towns would have SOMEthing open.
Station one brought in exactly what the doctor DIDN’T order. MUSAK, at 72 beats a minute of pure, tranquilizing sweetness that angered her brain and caused her eyes to close, her head to nod, her hand to fall off the wheel and…HONK!!!!
“Ahhhh!” she screamed, waking up from the three second slumber that would have been a permanent deep sleep had the driver of the eighteen wheeler not honked first and found a corner of shoulder to turn into.
Roberta breathed deeply, connecting lungs, eyes and reflexes together again, then took another sip of coffee. Two day old coffee from the Donut Shop with five day old milk. Stale and curdled went un-noticed by her pale tongue and dried mouth. But when “Onward Christian Soldiers” came blasting on the radio with the next adjustment of tune, the anger inside fumed a volcano that had not been tapped for a long time. “Fuck off, Missionary Assholes. Save your own Goddamn sterile souls!” she snarled at the radio, trying to turn the dial, the knob losing connection with the innards of the third-hand radio. The more joyous the singers, the more intensely she remembered the stories about the Reservation Schools that killed her people with Christian ‘love’ at the point of a gun, and the guns pointed at her by God-fearing Christians in her own life.
Then…finally, a bump, a reconnection of the knob, and an upbeat voice with a new tune. “What’ya say out there?” the DJ screamed out with a voice undoubtedly boxed in by a glued in, AM-radio smile, “One more time for the Hearty Party.”
“Nooo!!!!” Roberta screamed as the top forty favorite oozed out of the radio reserved for Blues and Beethoven. “No more Hearty Party!” She had been hearing it for the last 600 miles, and on the way to her first job as a six-lettered double-doc, the last thing her scientific mind or Aboriginal Spirit needed was to have the 2/4 dancing tune that bopped the heads of millions of mindless morons echoing though her ears. “Come on pretty baby, stop driving my heart crazy, don’t be a dardly lardy, come join the Hearty Party.” The rest of the lyrics were simplistic, easy to dance to, and begged all oppressed people who felt like they were being controlled to join in the singing and the beat…together…in step with the singer…”dance to the beat of your own drummer, just stomp your feet with the Heart Party”. A definite ‘keep the masses mindlessly dancing so they don’t indulge in revolution or free thought’ kind of tune.
The knob wouldn’t give way, and the station broadcasting the tune that had turned around the charts was getting stronger. Left with no other options, the battle took on another dimension. Roberta clenched her fist, grabbed the wires under the radio and yanked with all of her strength.
She grunted a declaration of victory, giving the defunct radio a third digit salute, and a battle cry in Cree which had no translation in English, or French. Then, from the seat besides her, a whine, from a creature in need of help, and comfort, waking out of a slumber, pointing its paw at the radio.
“I told you, Mohegan. The Heart Party kills brain cells,” she said to the warm pair of brown canine eyes that kept her sane while going through vet school, reminding her that treating animals was about being a Soul Healer, not a veterinary doctor. “The CIA is killing millions of people with the Hearty Party every day. Trust me, I’m an animal doctor.”
Roberta showed off her recent diploma to Mohegan, but the Shepherd-Collie-Whatever cross was getting restless. He loved riding in the truck, but he was well past his 4 hour ‘joy ride’ limit. He laid his head on her lap, hiding his paws under her fringed buckskin jacket.
“Don’t worry, Mohegan,” she said to him. “We’ll be at our new job in two hours.”
The truck hit a small bump, putting out four, maybe five of its horses under the hood.
“Okay, another three hours,” she conceded.
Another noise under the hood, and three more units of equine power laid up.
“Okay, another four hours,” the revised promise, and hope.
Mohegan nudged his nose towards Roberta’s medicine bag, and the reward behind it. She reached in to get what he was after—two dog bisquits, one large, one small.
Mohegan barked, clearly indicating his preference.
“No, Mohegan. Until I get my first paycheck, I get the bigger…”
Before Roberta could finish describing in advanced human language what the command was and the reason for it, Mohegan had taken matters into his own hands, or rather mouth. As he chomped on the larger bisquit gently taken from Roberta’s hands, his Mastress, or in his mind, servant, glanced at the smaller canine treat. It wasn’t too bad. Liver flavor, or maybe it was bacon. Protein was protein, and what was good enough for Mohegan was good enough for her, and vice versa. After all, his blood lines did go back to the wolf, her Spirit Animal, so her grandmother told her during the precious 4 years of childhood she could remember. And it was only appropriate that the animal was named Wolf, in her Native, and nearly extinct, tongue.
The taste of the dog biscuit in Roberta’s mouth felt sweet, then bitter. Then, rancid upon the first swallow. She had downed the cherry-colored ‘Doggie Donuts’ before, but they never tasted so putrid, evoking in front of her eyes, smells and tastes of another time. She hadn’t fallen asleep, so the nightmare decided to visit her in her waking hours.
The first movement of the Symphony in a Very Minor Key came as a primal scream, a girl crying for mercy. “Shhhhh,” the fatherly voice of ‘assurance’ said as the girl screamed louder, shame and fear added to her physical agony.. “Don’t tell anyone. This will be our secret. Just between you and daddy. Now open up your legs and let me make it all better. You know I won’t do anything to hurt you.” His voice was White, and sadistic. Then, the child screamed out again, begging the White God in Heaven as well as the Great Spirit in the Mountains to end the ‘pleasuring’.
Watching from the slightly open door, a woman with terrified eyes. “Go back to bed, NOW!” the man commanded her in a quiet authoritative voice. “No!” the child screamed.
“Help me, Mama,” the child begged.
But the woman slithered down the hall like a beaten squaw, closing the door behind her. Then, the crack of a whip, making the screen in front of Roberta’s inner eye black, then white, then a gray fog, and a moan of sadistic pleasure from a fourteen-going-on-forty year old teenager.
“That feels nice,” the young woman moaned in delight, gazing down to her arm, watching the joy-juice being pushed into her veins by the Candy Man, a 25 year old hunk straight out of a James Bond film. “That feels nice, baby,” she said again, his smooth hands caressing her breasts and unzipping his pants, her wrists still tied to the bedpost. The faces were clear enough, the mirror opposite the bed revealing that it was indeed Roberta, and that her Knight in shining armor bore a frightening resemblance to her father. Then the cuffs came off, and she embraced him, a warped orgasm echoing through her head and body, the mirror clouding up again, to fog and a bright light, and a baby crying.
The screen changed once again, flashing in front of Roberta’s half-shut exhausted eyes, now wide open with terror. “Don’t take my baby!” she screamed as herself in the hospital bed and the fifteen year old patient being fitted for a straight-jacket. “Don’t take my Daniel!!!” she screamed as the Nurses took the half-breed infant toward the door and down a long, long hallway.
“You signed the papers,” the Doctor told her.
“I didn’t sign the papers! My boyfriend and father did!” she ranted, her breath stinking of booze, breaking loose from the restraints, and nearly decking the Doc who came to work that day trying to be civil to his clients and effective to his patients.
“Daniel is better off with someone who can raise him right, right?”
“You mean White, not right!” she spat into his eyes. “You let me out of here, NOW!!!”
“So you can keep on doping and boozing yourself to death, and kill your own baby with neglect?” he challenged. “Not on my shift.”
The doctor walked out of the room. Roberta snatched a scalpel blade from the tray next to her and cut herself loose, running down the hall toward Daniel, running toward the door from Security, then running down the street to the next not-so-Great White Father who could give her a fix.
The Midnight Nightmare running led her to a bedroom. A phone call came in telling her that her grandmother had just died on the Rez, and requested her presence there before she departed. “Like hell we’re going to an Injun funeral today,” Kurt ‘the suit’ barked as he came into the room, emptying the suitcase of the Traditional Native belongings Roberta had somehow kept over the years. “There’s another deal coming down in Miami, and we’re both part of it. Coke, horse and weed, make heap big wompum, squaw woman.”
“Not this time,” Roberta said, looking at the photo of her and her grandmother on the Reservation taken on those precious summer breaks from ‘family time’ in town. “I have to pay my respects.”
“To ME,” Kurt grunted, grabbing her by the collar, slapping her across the face.
“No more!” she screamed. “You took Daniel! All of you did!” She opened the door, prepared to scream her proclamation of realization to the Palacial dining room.
Kurt shut the door, threw her onto the bed, and pinned her down with every kilo of his 180 pound cocaine-powered body.
“What are you doing?”
“Keeping you quiet, bitch,” he grunted, grabbing a roll of duct tape to put over her mouth. “Those people our there are our friends and legitimate business associates. Cops, lawyers, and bankers.”
“YOURS! YOURS!!!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, feeling her grandmother’s spirit coming into her arms, throwing Kurt aside, trashing the bags of Canadian Rocksalt and Party Power Powder open to reveal their true contents.
Then, an in rush of people, an escape out the window, and the sounds of sirens behind her as she kept running, and running, and…
Roberta felt herself running, each millisecond of the nightmare seeming to last hours, days and years, till finally—GUNSHOTS, from the realities on both sides of the rainbow.
Back on the Alberta highway, Roberta shook. Her hands on the shaking wheel. Her truck was sucked into a swerve. “Daniel! Where are you!” she muttered with quivering lips. “Daniel!!!”
Appearing in direct range of her headlights, a pair of eyes, bright, shining, and helpless. Grabbing hold of reality as hard as the wheel, she yanked the truck to the left, trying to avoid hitting the ghost in front of her. Then, as it moved, to the left, a hard turn of the wheel to the right, leading her away from the eyes, and down, down, into a dark abyss.
Opening her eyes completely to Alberta, 2002 she took stock of the situation. The truck had stopped, very dead, into a pile of fresh snow. Mohegan barked, hoping that his Masteress, human servant and best friend, was okay. But the trail of blood in the snow led to the injured and helpless ghost, and it was indeed very, very real.