11 | Hen Heckler

Shasta Lake’s teal ripples melted into the shoreline and I tried to reach out to touch them, only to find my right hand was full of tiny blue mountains. I giggled.

I guzzled what was left in the can and held it up in front of my eyes until the mountains were silver… and a moment later they were blue again?

What the fuck?

A boisterous laugh boomed to my left, making me jump out of my skin. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I realized I was still with CA Man. He’d been handing me beers for the past hour while I silently processed his news.

The hand free of a Coors can searched my baggy for another nibble of shrooms.

They were gone. Well, almost. I dropped the few small crumbles that I found in the bottom corner of the bag into my mouth.

Dammit. I hadn’t had nearly enough to make me forget what he said.

So, what now? I asked. The mountains were beginning to dribble into the lake in the setting sunlight.

We camp, CA Man answered. The trees rustled, as if the winds were whispering to me to run.

Of course, I said, chugging the rest of the beer in my hand. We climbed through tense silence into the truck cab. Vague details from the first night we met flashed through my mind. So many beers. Did he tell me about this then? Why did I feel like I already knew? Was this deja vu?
When CA Man turned back around and drove into Whiskeytown, I couldn’t help myself. Laughter burst from my gut as if I had been hit with a Tickling Charm from Professor Flitwick himself and I forgot all my woes.

Where are we going? I asked. This is where we came from. Aren’t you on the run?

More laughter. Unencumbered and inappropriate laughter.

CA Man told me of a friend with a place nearby. He went past it in case we had been followed.

The cabin we arrived at in Brandy Creek was no better than the trash shack we’d been in that first day when we let him hitch a ride. It had walls made of wood, but they were paper thin, worn by time and human carelessness.

A wooden chicken coop surrounded by wire fencing sat to the left of the cabin, about 50 yards away. To the right, a fire road led to Whiskeytown Lake. I stared into the eyes of the ominously moss-darkened face of the cabin as we approached, nearly entranced by its deteriorating beauty. The sun dipped past the mountains behind me, illuminating every pine needle in the trees above the cabin.

As the sun continued to fall, the last of its light rose into the darkness of the night sky, and I sat there watching until the day faded into black.

Finally, my near overdose of shrooms faded away. The sun was rising again, behind the cabin I’d been staring at all night. It’s blinding morning rays brought me back to reality.

Push it out! C’mon! Yeah! UH!

I whipped my head around just in time to see a stranger thrusting his hips forward and back, yelling into the coop as a chicken honked through the frustration of birthing an egg.

Who the fuck are you? I asked.

Who the fuck are you? he replied.

We stared each other down, like two gun slingers in a wild western. Neither of us said another word until CA Man burst through the front door with his obnoxious laugh to introduce us.

Do you often heckle your hens? I asked.

Instead of answering, the hen heckler spit, glared at me, and walked inside.

What are we doing now? I asked. My eyes threatened to roll in their sockets, but I didn’t feel like getting knocked out again. So, I held them steady.

CA Man didn’t answer. He followed his friend inside while I trailed along behind them, like a confused puppy.

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