by Joshua Mikel
excerpt from My Brother’s Knife
Setting: A dingy living room in a Georgia ranch home
in disarray after a fist fight between
Wayne Howling Wind and Deter Dilbert,
an off duty Police Officer.
Character: WAYNE HOWLING WIND, age 44, haggard.
Police Officer Deter has since left, leaving Wayne with Deter’s “spiritual advisor” Valerie, a novice palm reader. Wayne speaks to Valerie.
One morning right before my mom kicked the bucket, my dad woke Percy—my little brother—and me up real early. I was only ten, which I guess makes Percy eight. We didn’t have plans to go anywhere, it was a school day. He just woke us up, told us to get on some warm clothes, and we were out the door. Following me?
So in the car, he tells us that he is going to teach us how to hunt because our mother is Monacan, and Monacans were hunters by blood. They used every bit of an animal. Bones for weapons, skin for togas, and fat for shampoo. Percy thought that was gross, and Dad said that it was better than walking around naked and dirty. He said he wasn’t supposed to teach us how to hunt, Mom was—and if she was in any shape, she would. Dad had a shotgun tucked behind the seat, and I asked him where he got it, because I didn’t know we had a gun in the house. He said it wasn’t none of my business, and I guess it wasn’t. I asked him if the Indians hunted with shotguns. He said if they were smarter they would have, but they were stupid drunks just like Mom. We walked around in the woods for a while and found a nice spot and waited there for some unsuspecting animal to wander up. Percy and I fell asleep next to a big old log.
A little later Dad wakes me up and tells me to stay quiet. Percy’s still sleeping in the leaves. Dad tells me to hold the rifle, puts my hand on the trigger, and tucks me under his arm. His chin hair scrapes the back of my neck, and his breath smells sour like he hadn’t brushed, but even when he did brush, it smelled sour. He points out directly in front of us, real slow like he has stone in his bones. I see right there before us is a deer with what looks like a million points on its antlers. It breathes out puffs of warm air that twist and curl like dancing women. It is huge. It is beautiful. My dad puts his finger on my finger and pulls the trigger. BAM! It feels like my eardrums have exploded. I see Percy screaming scared, and I see Dad screaming with excitement. But the only thing I can really hear is the deer choking out this terrible, terrible … the only way I can describe it … it’s exactly what it sounds like when a soul is being ripped away from a body through a million little buckshot holes. I’ve hit him in the leg, and the thing moves violent because its brain is telling it to run with all four legs, only two of which are working. My father takes the gun from me and shoots the deer again in the chest this time. Then everything is silent except the thump of its body hitting the ground and the echoes of the gunfire.
My father walks Percy and me over to the dead deer body, its velvet skin speckled crimson. He leans down to it, pulls out his knife, slits the thing’s throat, and with his hand he catches a puddle of the deer’s blood. He lifts it up to his mouth and drinks it. I watch his Adam’s apple, splintered with hair, as he swallows—blood dripping around the corners of his mouth. He lifts his hand to my face and tells us that we’re supposed to drink too. He says that’s what the Indians would have done. I feel tears welling up in my eyes, but I drink the blood. It’s terrible tasting—like, well like blood. I feel sick as a dog. My dad laughs at me, and he tells Percy to drink. He tells him it will make him a man, but Percy says he doesn’t want to be a man. He says that he wants the deer to live again, he wants to go home to Mom, and then he starts crying.
My dad grabs Percy’s face, squishing my brother’s cheeks between his cold stone fingers. He tilts Percy’s head up and squeezes blood from his fist into Percy’s mouth. “You don’t want to upset your ancestors,” he says. Percy cries some more, and spits it out all over his jacket. My father walks away towards his truck with his gun smoking over his shoulder. I yell after him. “Aren’t we going to take this deer? To use the fat and the skin and the meat?”
“I’m not a goddamn Indian,” he says.
copyright © 2009 Joshua Mikel. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________
Joshua Mikel, from Conyers, Georgia, is a 2007 graduate of Florida State University’s theatre and creative writing programmes. His plays include My Brother’s Knife, Muerte del Maestro, Bethlehem Motor Community, Quentin G (Playscripts Inc.), The Monster Hunters (Playscripts, Inc. and winner of the Kennedy Centre American College Theatre Festival’s Theatre for Young Audiences award), and Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island (Playscripts Inc.) which will be appearing in the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.