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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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.