The cabin was clearly occupied. Smoke snaked from the double-walled, galvanized, chimney pipe. A lamp burned, illuminating the solarium. The German Shepherd pup bounded like a deer and wagged his tail, revealing nuts that had been lopped. The front door, a glorified barn style with fir two-by-six screwed to an angular one-by brace opened, revealing a gaunt woman with cropped gray hair. “Warhol, come!” she projected, presumably at the pup. “Good boy.”
“What's up?” said Fly. “We come in peace.”
“Yup,” I added. “We're just lost as hell.”
As we approached the redwood deck, Fly explained how we'd been harvesting buds for the German-Egyptian fellow, Sharif Hefeweisen, and a CAMP chopper had circled and discombobulated us so we'd split away from Sharif who apparently had gotten busted, and now we were trying to find our way back to civilization.
The woman regarded us momentarily, her nordic blue eyes glancing from Fly to me as if to assess whether there was a grain of truth to our claim. “Welcome to Gaia Goddess Gulch, boys. My name is Helga. You like some coffee?”
Both of us were unanimous on that note, so we removed our boots and sticky stockings on the redwood deck before entering the cabin with the corrugated steel siding.
“Better put your boots up there,” said Helga in an accent that was either Norwegian or hailed from northern Minnesota, either that or eastern North Dakota. Her bony index finger indicated a shelf about head height that supported maybe a dozen pairs of boots or running shoes. “Out of Warhol's reach.”
As we followed her into what appeared to be a combination kitchen, living and dining room blazing out into the solarium and the rising sun, Helga pressed that bony index finger to her lips and shushed us. “They're all still sleeping.”
Who was still sleeping, I wondered, taking a seat at a rectangular table that boasted varnished oak for a perimeter and stained walnut maybe eight feet long. The chairs were wicker with zigzag designs of green and cane tone. Kincaid's crank was wearing off, perhaps pissed out of my blood stream after hours of relentless hiking, and Helga offered a pint jar of fresh goat's milk, she said, to splice in our coffee in reverent silence out of respect for those still snoring. Helga told us in whispers that she'd grown up on a farm in Norway during the second World War and had come to the States soon after to study to be an orthodontist. She worked in the Bay Area on really tough cases like cleft chins, she said, and her interest had recently been perked towards the value of raw milk in the diet, relating towards jaw formation. Raw milk and grass-fed, free-range meat, she said. The combination of coffee and the lingering paranoia from my first brush with methamphetamine might have pushed me to the temporary delusion that Helga was intent on slaughtering Fly and I to feed our flesh to malnourished children from the inner city, but that terror soon dissipated when Helga stated this particular day her and her friends were slated to chop up about half a dozen buck goat kids.
“I'm a vegetarian,” whispered Fly respectfully. “Like, I'm not really down with killing our animal friends, but it's okay with me if you do it. I don't pass judgment.”
“Well, we actually slaughtered them a few nights ago and they've been hanging in the shade of a bay tree. The carcasses, I mean.”
Helga fed us steel cut oats from a pot on the stove as the later sleepers emerged from lofts that ringed the open space of the main room. Some of the women climbing down the wooden ladders raised their eyebrows at the sight of two young men sipping coffee and spooning oatmeal at the table, and I had to avert my glance when the nudest of the bunch descended. Perhaps a dozen made their way to the outhouse or into the shower room, or else joined us at the table for coffee, bananas and oatmeal. The goat butchering was the big topic of the day as I gathered that these women were temporarily or eternally classifying themselves as “lesbians” and most of them lived in the Bay Area and had only come up to the ranch for the weekend. One babe about the same age as Fly and I, maybe twenty-five, acted more gregarious towards us and took interest in our situation. She was nearly as tall as Helga, sporting cropped blonde hair and the pink cheeks so sensitive to sunlight you had to imagine her ancestry to be either Irish or Viking. She could have been Helga's daughter. “Dana,” her name was, and she pointed out some of the framed paintings she'd recently done and toted clear up to Hatchet Mountain from San Francisco — they depicted androgynous beings with goat horns, primarily. I scrutinized them but then forgot most of it.
After breakfast, Fly volunteered to remain in the cabin and scrub the breakfast dishes while the women flocked to the bay tree where the goat yearling carcasses hung, gutted and skinned, and the German Shepherd, Warhol, leapt and frolicked in circles. “Shew!” the women hissed at the castrated canine. The hanging meat, skinned and gutted and beheaded, appeared eerily human and caused a chain reaction in my frazzled brain that concluded there was a reason the offspring of goat nannies were called, “kids.” The ladies bear-hugged the dead goats and set in to work on a picnic table, more or less quartering the creatures and using boning knives to strip the meat off the skeleton. They cubed most of it for stew, they said, wrapping it in waxed paper and using a black magic sharpie to mark the packages. Half the time it seemed they were photographing each other with their cell phones. Urbanites, I thought. Before long a bottle of spiced rum appeared, and they passed it around until it paused in my hands. “What do you want me to do?” I asked. “To help, I mean. I feel silly standing around.”
“Stand there and look cute, honey,” said a lady with white hair that still fell in the long, straight strands she must have displayed boldly back in 1969, just guessing.
Orders like that had not been sent me often before, and with the bottle of rum I attempted to stand around and look cute until the last drops sluggishly dropped from its nipple and the women were telling me something to the effect that no way could I hang around for the nighttime activities, that men were not part of that scene, especially men as rude as I was suddenly becoming. Lewd, they said. That was it. After the previous nightmare journey of rambling down dirt roads amped up on crank I was dogged, or else the rum was more than my frame could handle, but the next thing I knew it was dark and I was waking up in the back seat of some kind of sedan. My knee was horribly twisted from weird positioning, and Fly was up in the front telling the blonde, Dana, to pop the hood. The motor was silent as the night itself. We were on some dirt road with the headlights still blaring into nothing but tan oaks and the glossy leaves of madrones. Staggering out the back seat, inspecting the damage, I learned along with Fly and Dana that the motor had been rattled off the frame, evidently not designed for such rough terrain. It was loose and wobbled to the touch, anyway, so we weren't going anywhere further.
Dana had a GPS device on her cell phone, she said. According to the device we were several hundred miles away from San Francisco, northeast. Unfortunately there was no reception so we couldn't telephone the ladies back at Gaia Goddess Gulch. There was only one sleeping bag, Dana's, and we had little choice but to unzip the cocoon and share its insulation in the back seat the rest of the night, huddling to keep warm. “Don't try anything funny,” she warned, more than once as we snuggled and failed to stretch our legs.
My mouth was full of cotton and there was nothing to drink, not even water.