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Chapter 1: Saddle Up

This was the first time that sex with Julie really scared me. Her macabre desires had always been a little unnerving, like some dark and uncomfortable thing she kept in a mason jar that she would never open, just twist the lid enough to get a smell of the thing inside as it tried to get its tentacles through. It was her thing. Hell, I didn’t mind. We all have our things. But this time… Christ.

This time the lid came off.

“Leave your socks on,” she said.

I stopped pulling then started to unbutton my jeans. “Socks? That’s new.”

“Just wait.”

Julie disappeared into the bathroom, came out ten minutes later wearing black vinyl pants and a thick, riveted, wire-only bra. Her pants were on the verge of dripping off and her breasts looked like a tie-on Halloween gag gift.

“I’ve seen this before,” I said.

She just smiled and hummed as she tied my hands and feet to the bedposts with silk scarves so orange they made my teeth ache.

“Nothin’ new here either.”

“Patience, Dingo,” she said. “Patience.”

When she was satisfied that I wasn’t going anywhere, she took a fistful of my chest hair and twisted, varying pressure and speed that made my grunts and groans jump and jerk.

“It’s like playing the piano. You’re like my own little instrument, Dingo. My very own Dingo-phone. Didn’t know I had any musical talent, did you?”

“I’ve been too distracted by your other talents to notice.”

She bent forward and bit my lower lip. “My, how you underestimate me. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.”

This time she left the room. I heard her walk through the kitchen, followed by the sound of the garage door opening and things being moved and pushed around. A little later I heard something heavy hit the floor just outside the bedroom door. Julie walked in the bedroom with a small plastic bag cupped in her hand. She gave me a wink as she put three fingers inside the bag and then started to sprinkle tiny green flakes over my socks.

“I think you’re a little south, baby,” I said.

“Oh, Dingo. You’re not man enough for that yet. But we’ll work on it.”

“What is that? Is that weed? You gonna smoke my socks or something.”

“No, no, Dingo.” She laughed. “You’re so silly.”

“Uh huh. Silly. Yeah. What is it?”

Julie gave me a crooked smile. “It’s catnip.”

“You buy a cat?”

“No, Dingo.” She reached into the bag and pulled out another pinch.

“Then what? My feet smell?”

“It has nothing to do with how your feet smell.”

“So they do smell.”

“Hush.” She put the bag down and stepped outside the door.

When she came back in, I almost ripped my arms from their sockets trying to sit up. I could hear my tendons popping over the straining bed frame. “Julie, what the hell!”

She just smiled as she placed three items on the bed between my legs, one by one:

1) a saddle

2) a melon baller

3) and a fucking ferret.

She bounced her finger between the wire bars of the animal’s cage while she gave it baby cooing sounds. The rat-dog just hissed and spat while it spun after its tail like a furry pile of shit caught in a blender.

Cold air from the garage moved into the room, slid up my legs and across my scrotum, short circuiting every synapse in my body. I gave an involuntary shiver and asked the only question I could think of.

“Jesus Christ, Julie. What’s the saddle for?”

When I was twelve I saw a National Geographic Special on a pack of wolves living in the wilds of Montana. One of the local farmers had actually set traps in the hopes of snaring the more adventurous animals that tried to wander onto his land to hunt his sheep. One unfortunate wolf, a mangy animal the documentary host called Shane, got its hind leg caught in the wire mouth of one of the farmer’s traps.

As Julie centered the ferret cage between my legs I couldn’t help but think about Shane, that scrawny animal, chewing its way to freedom, leaving behind a bloody and twisted “fuck you, Farmer Joe” lying in the dirty pink snow. The lucky bastard.

While I was trying to figure out which arm I could most likely live without, the phone rang. Julie grabbed the cordless and held it to her ear as she taunted the ferret with her free hand.

“He‘s busy,” she said. After a moment, she rolled her eyes then jumped on the bed, straddled my chest and put the phone to the side of my head.

“H…hello?” I said.

Danny, what the hell you still doin’ with that Rebound Rita?

“What? Rick? It’s 2 o’clock in the morning.”

I don’t have a watch.

Julie started to bounce on my chest. Her lips twisted into a sneer then formed the words ‘hurry up.’

“What do you need Rick?”

Um, we’ve got a bit of a problem.

The exhilaration of being rescued by a phone call in the dead of night suddenly vanished. “Don’t you mean you have a bit of a problem?”

I could hear Rick light a cigarette and breathe smoke onto the receiver. Danny…

“You know what, Rick? I don’t want to know about it. You figure it out.”

Danny, come on…

“Stop calling me Danny, Ricky. And no, I will not come on.”

I pulled my feet up as much as I could, trying to keep them as far from the ferret cage as possible, but I could feel its movements disturbing the air around my ankles. Julie grabbed my chest hair with her other hand.

Okay, fine,” Rick said. “I have a problem. Can you help me out?

“No.”

What do you mean ‘no’? I’m your own flesh and blood, man. Christ, we shared the same womb. Doesn’t that count for something, Dingo?

“Indiana, Rick!” It came out a mix of growls and gasps as Julie’s minimal weight squeezed my lungs and her hand twisted my chest hair. Indiana! I’m not talking about a bar or a country club. I was banned from a whole fucking state for helping you with one of your problems! Do you know how hard it is to get banned from a state?”

Dude, what’s in Indiana anyway?

“That’s not the fucking point, Rick!”

Julie sighed. She fidgeted for a moment, shaking her breasts as she reached behind her back and pulled out a small knife. She reached forward and cut the scarf tied to my right wrist. She jumped off the bed and tossed the phone to me. I caught it just in time to hear Rick’s tinny bleating of Indiana’s ills.

“Rick, Rick, stop, look. I’m busy right now. Can I call you back, say during daylight?”

Come on little brother, this is important.

“Fine. What’s the problem?” I took a quick swing with the phone at Julie when she started to tickle my feet with her Jack Rabbit.

I sold my Z on Wednesday.

“Yeah, you told me. You also told me you got ripped off.”

Yeah, yeah, that’s beside the point. Look, I was in a hurry and I forgot to clean out the trunk.

“I’m sure the guy’ll hit a car wash­--”

No man, you don’t understand. I left something in there and he‘s driving the car out to Buffalo. I could hear Rick hot-boxing his cigarette.

“Well, just call the guy and have him Fed Ex it to you.”

Yeah. I, uh, don’t think that would be a good idea, Dingo.

I stretched and tried to lean on my elbow. “Why not, Rick?” I could feel the skin on the back of my skull start to tingle. “What exactly did you leave in the trunk of that car? And Rick, it better be drugs or a dead body.”

It was the box, Dingo. Well, my brother was right. ‘We’ had a problem. Dingo? Dingo?

“I am going to kill you dead.” My knuckles were white around the phone.

Okay, I know you’re pissed, but just calm down.

“Dead, you hear me? Kill. You. Dead. Oh, and by the way, your band sucks!”

Jesus, I’m sorry, man.

“Sorry?” The bed frame squeaked as I pulled on the scarves. “I gave it to you to put in your vault. To keep it safe. What the hell was it doing in the trunk of your car?”

I heard Rick pound his cigarette into an ashtray. We were recording at Damon’s. We needed a short mic stand for the PZM and the box was the perfect size and—

“Stop, just…stop. Let me tell you what you’re going to do, Rick. You’re going to get into whatever fancy ride of yours moves the fastest, and then you’re going to go get that box back.”

I can’t, man. That’s the problem. I’m leaving for Europe in the morning. We’ve got seventy shows in ninety days and I’m booked solid. I’m sorry, Dingo. I would if I could.

Julie was poking her knife into the cage and rattling it against the bars. She didn’t seem to be scaring the animal, just pissing it off.

“Ah, puke. All right,” I said. “Where is this guy?”

I’ll leave all the info with Luna. Just swing by here tomorrow and she can give you all the details. I’m sorry, little brother. I’ll make it up to you, promise. The phone clicked and Rick was gone.

I dropped my head against the pillow and tossed the phone against the wall.

“What’s your brother doing calling this late?”

I rested my forearm over my eyes and said, “I’ve got to leave town for a couple of days, baby.”

Her vinyl pants creaked and pouted as she tilted her hips. “Well, you’re not going anywhere until I say you are.” I peeked out from under my arm when her voice dropped an octave. “Now, where were we?”

When the latch on the ferret cage fell open, I remembered that Shane the wolf didn’t hobble off into the blissful western sunset. No. Farmer Joe followed his bloody trail through the gray sludge of the forest floor and shot that three legged mutt dead.

The lucky bastard.