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NEEDS FROM THE FOREST


by Dennis Hiatt







Frail, pale and blonde, little Holly Hope Hildegard

sat in the back seat of her grandmother's car watching the

trees fly by. Holly Hope was exceptionally bored.

Grandmother was driving the Jaguar sedan rather fast for the

sharp curves of the mountain highway and telling her sister,

Holly Hope's great-aunt Phoebe, some very intimate and

flamboyant details of her most current adulterous affair.

Holly Hope had heard most of the soiled underwear

earlier that afternoon when grandmother had their hair

molded. She was hoping that great-aunt Phoebe, who wore

men's suits which were never to Holly Hope's taste, would not

start motor-mouthing about her Latest Girlfriend. Latest

Girlfriend was an early financial backer of Texas

Instruments who knew all the Los Angeles Lakers on a first

name basis. Holly Hope had met Latest Girlfriend once and was

pleased to see that the woman wore stylish dresses, even if

the end results looked like Liz Claiborne had tried to clothe

a cigarette machine.

The forest of pines and firs and vine-things whizzed by

the window with a translucent Holly Hope superimposed

on the dusty-dark and lovely forest like a dangerous secret.

Holly Hope felt beasts must lurk in those woods. Some beasts

with breasts but most without. Long snakes as well.

"Mmmhmm." Phoebe said as if she too was exceptionally

bored. "Let's stop for a bite, Nan."

"Where pray tell?" Nan arched her eye brows into a tiny

frown on her smooth, tan forehead.

"Someplace...," Phoebe crossed her slim, tan arms and

looked out the window, "rustic."

Hungry Little Holly Hope knew better than to side with

Great-Aunt Phoebe. Very hungry little Holly Hope said.

"Grandmother, I must urinate."

Grandmother clicked her tongue. "Now, now Holly, you

were doing so well remembering to call me Nan. Do you need a

Valium?"

Holly Hope crossed her legs and her arms and looked out

the window like great-aunt Phoebe. "I'm only eight...Nan."

Nan clicked her tongue again but softer. "You know

you're ten, dear."

"I'm too anorexic to be ten. I look eight and I must

urinate now....Nan." The forest flew by the window too

quickly to see even the longest snakes.

Nan sighed. "When the cat and the mouse agree, the

grocer is ruined."

Great-Aunt Phoebe laughed and uncrossed her arms. "Oh

Nan, really! if you must boink proles, try to not be

assimilated."

Holly Hope's grandmother laughed and exchanged a quick,

smug glance with her sister.

"I think I'm about to urinate NOW," said Holly Hope,

wondering if she could manage to wet her seat.

She found she could not and sighed.

Perhaps, Holly Hope thought rather wistfully, there

would be a roadside zoo at the restaurant. At that zoo could

conceivably live a bear. Holly Hope was not so much a child

that she could bring herself to hope for a great, vile bear,

but even a sickly bear, once released, might bite those who

stood near.

The Jaguar rounded a curve, over-quick as always when

grandmother drove, and there nestled in the tall, thin pines

was a cafe...of sorts. Grandmother braked hard and fishtailed

into the gravel that passed for a parking lot. Holly Hope

felt she could, conceivably, dampen the seat.

There was no sign of, or reason to hope for, a roadside

zoo at the tar-paper shack cafe named SLIM JIM'S BUCKET.

Little, frail, pale, blonde Holly Hope Hildegard tried

her hardest to dampen the seat and found she could not.

Nan said. "Rustic?"

Phoebe replied. "Mmmhmm...quaint."

Holly Hope saw, at the far end of the parking lot, an

old, old, old red pickup truck that's bed was filled with

sleeping wolves. No, she thought, the things were hairly-vile

but too smallish to be true wolves. The beasts were more like

drab dogs and, she sighed, more like dead than sleeping.

Still she cheered a bit; perhaps there was an abundance of

such creatures nearby. Perhaps they bit. The rush of rich

forest air smells made a biting seem almost probable.

Grandmother sailed onto the cafe's sad, rickety porch as

if she were stepping onto a yacht. Great-Aunt Phoebe followed

close behind, adjusting her tie and then thrusting her hands

in her jacket pockets as casually as Hamlet nodding to his

stepfather. Holly Hope drudged behind them both in her white

summer dress, making the most of being an orphan.

The two slim, beautifully manufactured women and the

frail, white child sat at a plain wood table near the

counter. The waitperson/cook had long, greasy hair, with a

tie-dyed head band. His face was so white next to

grandmother's and great-aunts that it looked startled--like a

child caught naked. His stomach was vast and poorly covered by a wretched tee-shirt. He looked over his granny glasses at the women as he passed

around menus. Holly Hope took her menu to the bathroom. The

bathroom was a chamber of horrors. It delighted her. She sat

freezing her bum on the hard stained toilet and thought

wondrously of the man at the counter. He made the soiled

waitperson/cook look like a man of compulsive hygiene and

smashing beauty. The man hunched over a cup of coffee at the

counter had a red filthy face that looked like one of the

statues the poor French placed on their cathedrals to make

them fear evil. The man at the counter was a man of the

forest. The man at the counter could make the French or the

wealthy fear becoming evil.

On her way back to the table, Holly Hope caught the

man's yellow eye and smiled nice.

As the waitperson/cook stood ready to take their order

great-aunt Phoebe said, "There's a prole for you, Nan dear."

"An animal lover no doubt?" Grandmother replied, smiling

ever-so-softly.

"A coyote date perhaps?" Great-aunt Phoebe tittered and

the man at the counter looked deeper into his coffee while

Nan and Phoebe laughed as soft, slivery and bristled as

drunken angels tinkling.

Holly Hope hung her head and stared at her white shoes

with a smile as blank as a dolphin's. She remembered when

great-aunt Phoebe had explained that joke last year. If you

woke up with someone that was sleeping on your arm and they

were so ugly that you'd sooner chew you arm off and escape,

(like a coyote in a leg trap) than wake them, you'd been on a

coyote date. After meeting Latest Girlfriend, Holly Hope had

given up believing her great-aunt would someday sport a

prosthetic device.

When the laugher tapered off, Holly Hope looked up and

smiled her I-don't-understand-what's-
funny smile at the

waitperson/cook. The waitperson/cook frowned but what, she

thought, could he say? He needed their money.

"Oh what GOOD today, Innkeeper?" Grandmother said,

tossing the menu on the table.

"The Rocky Mountain Oysters are radical Ma'am."

"How quaint. I'll try them." Nan smiled showing all of

her bright teeth.

"Make that two," Great-Aunt Phoebe chimed in.

"I want a dog," Said Holly Hope.

"Bring the child soup and crackers and a glass of milk."

Grandmother dug in her purse for the Valium.

Holly Hope enjoyed the thick soup but became sad when

the man at the counter left. Grandmother paid, great-aunt

Phoebe (who'd love the oysters and chewed them with gusto)

left a stunning tip, and Holly Hope ran outside. The man

from the counter was standing in the back of the old, red

truck. He was smiling. Holly Hope smiled back.

"Comemeer little girl." Said the man.

Holly Hope trotted as brisk as a fawn to him as Nan

and Phoebe stepped out of SLIM JIM'S BUCKET congratulating

themselves on their culinary luck.

"Holly Hope Hildegard!" Grandmother screeched.

Holly Hope, ignoring her grandmother, smiled up at the

man.

"Want a puppy, little girl?" The man scratched himself

in a nasty place as he spoke.

"OH yes! Please!" Holly Hope made her eyes as big and

bright as she could.

The man tossed a dead coyote from the back of the truck

and grinned at Nan and Phoebe.

"Come, Grandmother. Please help me with my dog." Holly

Hope grabbed the coyote's tail and managed to drag it a few

feet. It left a trail of cold-black and bright red blood in

the gravel.

Great-aunt Phoebe jerked Holly Hope back to the Jaguar

without touching the hand that had held the pleasing coyote.

Halfway down the mountain grandmother finally spoke. "Why did

you do that Holly?" Grandmother's unhappy voice sounded

almost as real as a friend's to Holly Hope.

"I....I needed something from the forest." Holly Hope

said, not fooled by the realness of the moment.

"Well...we'll get you a pine cone," her grandmother

said in a way that made Holly Hope think that she'd be seeing

Doctor Vandyke soon.

"Mmmhmm....from a gift shop." Said Great-aunt Phoebe

staring out the window at the dark and lovely forest.
.
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