Another day, another hangover. This is becoming a meme. Can you have memes that only you know about, that only you follow? I condone this behavior. I am my own meme set and will continue to replicate my behavior if only to please myself. Or I shall die in a drunken pool of my own self delusion. Either way, I have my own fun.
My cousin Imp seemed better off than me, and she should being younger. She also hides her pain and lies better than me, so it could also just be a smoke screen. I hope for the former. I hate to be lied to over a hangover.
Either way she bound into the library ready and with coffee, so I am not that upset at her despite the sunshine she let in.
We waited for a half hour showing each other pictures of cats on the Internet until Ben Tobias showed up. Another five minutes of Imp loading Ben’s comfy chair into the library bookmobile and we were off to the scrap yard.
I asked if Ben wanted us to bring the replica, the giant black box he was constructing. A strange stone and wire thing...
“Why? Isn’t it safe in the library?” he said.
“Yeah, I guess,” I said climbing behind the wheel of the bookmobile. He eyed me as he sat down in the passenger seat and Imp sat behind us in a small bench. “Sorry, but this old girl’s kinda old. She’s got no air conditioning but is the only thing that can haul the amount of iron you said you might need.”
Ben said that would be fine and turned and looked at Imp, “Ms. Banned? I heard some… Well, I heard some rather odd things last night?”
Imp twisted her head, “You can call me Ilene. What did you hear, sir?”
Ben’s head leaned forward and his smile fell a bit. I was driving, eyes on the road and wrestling the bohemoth, but I know what I saw.
“Well,” he said, “After we left I went out for a beer. To the place you mentioned.”
“You went to the Honky Tonk?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “And, well, Ilene… I heard some things that made me uncomfortable with our arrangement.”
“I don’t understand,” Imp said.
“I made several friends and talked. The holidays do that, I guess,” he said, “When I told the girl behind the bar who was helping me she said, quote, ‘Good for her, never did think she’d go anywhere without that high school diploma,’ end quote. Why would she say that about you, Ilene?”
I could not see Imp’s face, but I knew what she was about to do when she cleared her throat. She was about to lie her ass off. Dammit. I had hoped she’d gotten this job on the up and up.
“Its true,” she said, “I didn’t graduate. My grades weren’t that great. Had a bad time for a while. Ain’t that right, Evan?”
And now I was here to justify her, “She didn’t graduate. It’s true.”
And it was. She did not graduate. It had nothing to do with her grades, though, but that’s for another time.
“So I drifted for a while. People didn’t know what to make of me. Then I got into local history and the past. I loved the Indian people and studied them real good. Got that diploma I showed you.”
“Actually,” Ben said, “I never did get your transcripts or paper work.”
“That damn school,” she said, “I'll call them in the morning. I swear.”
“Be sure that you do,” he said, “Now, maybe you can give us a little run down of the local tribes.”
“The local tribes? You mean the Chickasaw?” she said.
“Choctaw,” I said.
“Yep, bunch of them around with the Chickasaw and the Natchez.”
“You mind if I go through our research, Imp?” I said. I hated to cover for her, but I do not like to watch her squirm. Also, I was driving and the tension was unbearable.
I did not wait for her to answer, “Most of this I explained on Wednesday. This area was mostly Choctaw with some neighbors of Houma and Natchez to the west and Biloxi to the south and the Ofa and Tunica and Chickasaw in the north. What makes our area special, though, are the mounds.”
“Yes. Tell me more about those,” Ben said.
“Well, most of them are destroyed. Sadly we did a bunch of logging and mining around this area and tore up the land from the sky to hell. The ones that remain, mostly on private land, are either looted or just empty except a few just north of town. Hold on a minute.”
I had to concentrate the get the bookmobile through the tight fit of the gate of the scrapyard. Ben waited beside me and Imp hummed “Indian Reservation” to herself. I cast a look back to her and she smiled at me.
“So,” I said, “The few that are odd have markings and pictographs that are not consistent with other findings.”
“What’s odd about them?” Imp said, now in the conversation, forgetting that she should already know this information.
I looked at Ben, “I am not too sure. I have the books, though, if you want to read through them. They were different, not of any of the tribes.”
“Do they have name?” Ben asked.
“The people writing just called them, and remember these are old texts, The Opal River Indians because of the river.”
“I would like to see these books,” he said, “Do you think we can visit one of the mounds?”
I nodded, “I asked around and the junior college is doing a small excavation of one. We can go after we pick up the iron. After you select it.”
“We may wait for next week, if that’s okay,” Ben said, “I haven’t been sleeping well. He keeps me up.”
“Sure, they’ll be there a while. He?”
Imp reached forward and touched his shoulder, “You said ‘he keeps me up.’”
“Oh,” Ben said, “Just dreams. The visions.”
I pulled the bookmobile to a stop and Imp walked back to unload the chair.
“Visions?” I asked.
Ben reached over and held my arm, “Yes. He comes to me, tells me to do things.”
“God?” I said.
Ben laughed, “No. At least, I don’t think so. Could be, although red is not God’s color.”
My stomach dropped, “Red?”
Ben said yes and described the benevolent figure that came to him in dreams and showed him visions of a wonderful world. The man would show him truths, he called them, the truths that would lead to paradise.
“He told me to buy a building and fix it, and I sold it for thousands more,” Ben said, “He told me to buy a company and it sold for millions later. I owe him everything. He told me to come here. To build the replica.”
“What is it a replica of?” I asked.
“Simplicity,” he said, opening his hands as if he had just performed a magic trick.
“That’s not an answer. This, man…” my mouth was dry. I did not know what to say, “What…”
“I know, it sounds crazy. But its true,” he said, “I’ll stop.”
He left me then. Got out of the bookmobile. The truck shifted as Imp unloaded the comfy chair. I looked at them in the rear view mirror. Looked at them as Colby came out of the shop door and shook Ben’s hand and hugged Imp.
The rest of the day was a blur. We found iron, cast iron and even some pig iron that Colby found in a field left over from some logging operation years past. All day Ben sat in that comfy red chair and watched us work and load the iron. Ben got an okay price for the iron and we loaded it up, but all day my mind was on the Man in Red.
Why was the man who had been torturing me in my dreams nightly, why was this evil bastard helping Ben? What was the Replica? What the fuck was happening?