Home Page Photo

The Big Stupid Review

Archives

American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
01-01-2015
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
01-11-2014
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
01-04-2014
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2014
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
10-01-2013
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
07-01-2013
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
04-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
10-01-2012
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-07-2012
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-04-2012
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
01-01-2012
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
01-10-2011
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
01-07-2011
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
01-04-2011
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
01-01-2011
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
10-01-2010
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
07-01-2010
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
04-01-2010
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
01-01-2010
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
Side Photo for The Big Stupid Review

Chief

By Warren Buckles

moderately old Las Vegas, NV

We called him Chief. He showed up in early spring, I can't remember exactly when. I went outside and there he was, sitting against the whitewashed wall, a few pieces of turquoise and silver beside him on a square of light blue flannel. He taped the flannel down, a long strip of masking tape on each edge carefully rubbed into the planks with the side of his thumb. Every evening he peeled it off. Chips of paint came with it, first the brown I had put on the year before, then a sequence of colors, one for each oil company that had owned the place before me. There was Gulf Orange, Mobil Blue, Phillips 66 Red and, finally, Sinclair Green. After that it was bare wood. That wood has stayed bare ever since.

The tourists stood over him and looked, sometimes squatting to pick up an earring or necklace. Some asked if it was real turquoise. A few asked if he was a real Indian. I never heard him answer. They had to pay a dollar to take his picture or else he covered his face and they got free pictures of an old guy's hand or an upside-down newspaper. The ones that paid got a wrinkled brown face framed with black braids.

"It's a trade," he told me. "My face for George Washington's."

Chief rode in a blue pickup. It was parked closer to town, just by the city limits sign. A woman sold Mexican rugs, chilis and bundles of colored corn from the back. In the morning he walked along the highway, about a mile up the hill to our place; in the evening he walked back down to the truck and they drove away.

Jack and Cathy ran the café and I ran the gas station. We didn't mind having Chief around. He made us feel like we weren't just a bunch of young gringos.

The café did a good business. There were a few regulars who didn't mind driving a little way out of town and some adventurous tourists willing to risk native food. Sometimes truckers stopped, leaving their idling rigs parked in the wide, dusty space between the gas pumps and the highway. There would have been more trucks if we had diesel, but there was only gas: Regular, Ethyl and Premium in three pumps on one concrete island.

In the summer I fixed cars while high school kids pumped the gas, checked the oil, aired up the tires and washed the windows. Full service. The locals bought a dollar's worth, about three gallons, while the tourists got a full tank. We were the last service station on the road out of town and the first one on the road into town, so we caught the worriers heading into the mountains and the survivors creeping out of them. There was plenty of business in the summer, but the winters were slow.

All day Chief sat and stared across the highway, above the fast moving Bonnevilles, Delta 88s and Impalas, out toward the sky and the mountains to the west. Sometimes, when things were slow, I sat beside him and stared, too.

moderately old Las Vegas, NV

"I wish I could fly out there," I said to him once.

"Take one of those airplanes," he answered, nodding toward a silver speck leaking a white contrail across the sky.

"I've been in them, they go too high and you can't see much out the little windows. No, I want to fly like that raven up there," I said, pointing to a bird circling us.

The raven came down as we watched, turning into the wind and hovering above the power lines that paralleled the highway. He hung there, balancing on the wind with wings and tail before taking the wire in his claws, settling with a double step.

"Why are you telling me this? Do you think an Indian can teach you to fly?" he said.

"No," I answered, feeling foolish.

The raven cawed, head forward and mouth open to show a black tongue. I kept looking at it, squinting as if I had never seen one before. My face was hot and I felt Chief's eyes on me.

I sat there a while longer, but neither Chief nor the raven said anything else. Finally I got up and walked away, feeling I had missed something important.

The next time Chief came I brought him something from the café, a bowl of green chili stew and some white flour tortillas. I sat beside him and ate from my own bowl. We shared the tortillas.

A family stopped at the gas pumps. The high school kid filled their tank with Premium and washed the windows. The family came over and looked at Chief's wares. We kept eating.

The woman touched each pair of earrings. Her daughter touched all the bracelets. The boy didn't touch anything. The man had a camera and asked Chief if he was an Indian.

"No, I'm a hippie." He jerked his head toward me. "He's the Indian."

"Can we take your picture?" the man asked.

"Costs a dollar. One for each of us," Chief replied and picked up the last tortilla.

The man held out two dollars. Chief put down his tortilla and took the money. I looked at the man with the camera. He was sunburned and fat. His wife and kids were looking at me. They were sunburned and thin. I smiled. They didn't smile back. I decided they were Republicans and looked out toward the mountains.

"Can the wife and kids be in it, too?"

"If they pay you, sure," Chief said.

The man with the camera stepped back. The rest of the family stood beside us, the woman beside Chief, the two kids beside me. The flash went off and they stepped away quickly.

Later I thanked Chief for making me an Indian.

"You make a pretty good hippie, too," he told me.

"Next time I'll be the hippie and you be the Indian," I said.

"OK, but I get the two dollars either way."

That evening a raven circled us, calling in a harsh voice. I was sitting next to Chief, watching the sunset and trying to think of something to say. I hadn't thought of anything when the bird landed on the power pole. He cawed, beak open and straining in our direction, then flapped his wings and started to rise. The tips brushed the wires, drawing sparks. There was a loud bang and a flash seared my eyes. Everywhere I looked there was a single image, a purple ball that had once been a raven. I smelled burned feathers and ozone.

People streamed out of the café and gathered around the power pole.

Chief and I stayed where we were. We exchanged looks, seeing the flash in each other's eyes.

After a while the crowd came back to the café. Some carried charred feathers, the burned hair smell clinging to their hands and clothes. Some asked us what had happened. They didn't wait for an answer.

After a while the people went back to their food. My eyes returned to normal and the sky faded from orange to deep blue. When it was nearly dark Chief peeled up the tape and folded the cloth around his silver and stones. I offered him a ride.

"No, I need to walk home tonight," he said.

He never came back.

In October they cut off the oil supply from the Middle East. Gas prices went up and people stopped coming by, choosing to pump their own gas at the discount stations. They didn't bring me their cars, either, but kept driving them until they broke down. Then they bought little Japanese cars that never needed service. I spent a lot of cold days sitting in the office waiting for the driveway bell to ring.

Cathy and David split up and the café closed.

One night I drove down the road, following those Bonnevilles and the other fast cars of summer.

I never went back.

moderately old Las Vegas, NV

© Warren Buckles 2008