Friday, March 11, 2011

Buffalo Bill And The Giant Eyeball

Buffalo Bill rides out onto the prairie. What causes itching? he wonders. He is tired of scratching himself. He is wearing a lot of leather, softened by years of wear. It must be his long johns.

His saddle leather creaks and his legs are getting cramps. Old age, he thinks.

It is a lovely blonde day. The air is a parable of odors. Pawpaw. Sage. Wild prairie rose.

Divinations. Conjectures. The things a man thinks when a man is alone. And the air is palpable with premonition. Ghosts. Inner demons. The monstrosities of the soul.

Buffalo Bill carries a rifle, a Remington. It is beautiful. But it kills.

He is followed by wolves. The wolves are hungry. If Buffalo Bill manages to shoot one, or even two, the others will get to him. He hopes they don’t attack. But it’s inevitable they will.

The sun floats on a hill of wheatgrass. Buffalo Bill knows that if he spurs his horse and speeds up the wolves will give chase. Movement excites them. He rides at a measured pace and tries to remain calm.

His heart beats faster. His horse snorts, smelling death.

The wolves give chase.

He spurs his horse. They take off at a gallop. He turns round and fires a shot. A wolf yelps and hits the ground.

Moments later, the pack stops, turns, slinks away. He is puzzled. Something other than a single dead wolf has spooked the pack. And then he sees it.

Edward Swanborough, engineer and balloonist, reconnoitering for the Union Pacific, is lost. His balloon has a giant eyeball painted on it. He shouts to the man on the ground: where am I?

Buffalo Bill cannot hear him. He merely stares at the eyeball, and studies how he might relate this mystery to his friends.

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