by: Wes Ishmael

Euclid, Pythagoras and all the rest of the geometry nabobs were wrong: every angle has at least three sides.

“It was a slaughter of epic proportions,” proclaimed one grizzle-chinned young man who appeared to be in his late 20's or early 30's. He was in camouflage from head to toe, even his face greased to resemble the area's foliage, except for garish shades of yellow, red and green running in sweaty rivulets down the side of his face. His eyes were wide, muscles fidgeting with the rush of adrenaline spawned by the victory.

“Yeah,” said another similarly dressed young man, beaming like Grandma Moses watching her favorite slot machine pay out five figures, less surprised than pleased to see unwavering faith fulfilled at last.

“It's the city's fault,” said a skinny, clean-shaven, whiny type, shoulders slumped, leaning against what apparently used to be an expensive bicycle. He was covered in bright paint splotches from head to toe, just like the bike, only with more welts.

“Yeah,” said another, equally splotched. Twigs and leaves were sticking out of his helmet. He was holding a twisted bicycle rim, rubber shredded, spokes sticking out in every direction. “And these idiots with their paintball guns.”

“It's the dangdest spectacle I've seen since wee Willie Tomkins bet he could ride Tornado's Ghost backwards,” howled Hooter McCormick, beating his knees. “That only ended with Willie and two clowns hung up in the same bull rope, and one unfortunate bystander getting knocked over and losing her wig in the mud, nothing like this.”

Far as Hooter and the boys knew, they were innocent, too, just lucky bystanders to what will surely become known as the Beech County Massacre.

Happenstance and Whatnot

Like so many of Hooter's adventures, this one began with a third-party invitation to an event in a strange land. The strange land was the aforementioned Beech County, about three counties over from Apache Flats and Rio Rojo County, bordering Lubbock County. Most recently, of course, Lubbock County made national news with a judge there soliciting a tax increase, in part to beef up security in the wake of an Obama re-election, which he predicts could result in civil war, a fight against the federal government for national sovereignty and other assorted ills. You cannot concoct this kind of stuff.

The invitation came from Izzy Franklin's second cousin, Alvin. The Franklins were gathering for their annual, “Last Bash Before School” celebration. There were hardly any school-age kids left to attend, but that didn't keep the family from carrying on the tradition.

“Pig roast, horse shoes, poker tournament, we got it all,” beamed Izzy, like he did every year when inviting the gang to attend.

“You also have kin with the reasoning ability of a rusty staple,” growled Lonnie Johnson, chasing away a stray cat with a well-aimed stream of Mail Pouch.

“That was three year's ago,” said Izzy. “They're over all of that. They forgive you.”

“Nothing to forgive,” said Lonnie, chewing harder on his tobacco. “What lame brain takes a rambling wreck of a pig to the fair, gets last place by a mile, right where they should have stood, then blames the guy who sold them two sacks of feed?”

“It was the heat of the moment,” Izzy said defensively.

“That pig wouldn't have made decent grease from the day it was born,” Lonnie said. “Plus, who was it who offered to sell you one that ended up winning the county?”

“It was so expensive.”

“Yeah, highway robbery,” said Lonnie, his voice starting to rise. “Market price, period. How many miles did you burn coming up with that prize winner of yours?”

To be fair to Lonnie—long acknowledged as an extraordinary show pig breeder and jockey—the porcine conjured by Izzy for his niece was an anatomical spectacle of mismatched parts, including eyes that crossed.

“Come on Lonnie. It will do you good to put the past there,” Hooter said. “When and where Izzy?”


The Rock Road of Destiny

So, here Hooter, Charlie, Lonnie and Peetie were bouncing through the brush, with Izzy commandeering his 4-wheel drive crew cab which had every button and bell GM had to offer 10 years ago.

The Franklin family festivities were in one of those sprawling parks at the edge of town that weren't supposed to be like parks at all, except for the occasional barbeque pit and the brand new concrete bike path meandering through it.

The problem was that there was some kind of bike rally going on; the first annual Beech County Cycle Insanity Road Race, as it turned out. That meant bikers and bikes were jammed near the park entrance when the gang arrived. That also meant, once Izzy worked his way through the oblivious glut of riders and pedestrians, that contestant were also claiming the roadway for their own, too, despite the sparkling new concrete bike path that ran parallel to the road.

“Izzy, turn on your windshield washer and douse them!” Hooter ordered from the middle of the backseat. “Roll down the windows, open the doors, all hands on deck…”

Hooter hated bikers.

Knowing that and thankful for kiddy locks on both doors and windows, Izzy calmly steered off the road, heading for higher ground. He wasn't sure of exactly where to find his family, anyway.

“Just one rock, a bottle of water, anything,” Hooter pleaded, his nose glued to the back window like a good hound hoodooed out of the chase.

Izzy blasted through the brush, dodging only the rocks he deemed too tall for his oil pan.

“Slow down!” shouted Peetie, who was riding shot gun and dangling somewhere between his seat belt and the handhold. “You can't see anything. You'll run someone over.”

“No one is supposed to be in this part of the park, or did you overlook the sign,” Izzy said, both confident and peaceful.

“That also means we're not supposed to be here, you idiot,” Lonnie grumbled from the back seat.

“See there!” Peetie shouted.

Izzy hit the brakes before running over the top of one of those striped road barriers with a blinking detour sign.

Izzy got out, looked around, moseyed through the brush, reappeared and drug the barrier through the brush.

“They're lucky we happened on to that,” Izzy said when he clambered back in. “It's obviously supposed to be on that bike path on the other side of the brush. Must have been someone like you, Hooter.” He wagged a meaty finger at Hooter in the rearview mirror.

After what seemed like an interminable distance, Izzy gunned his ride up a steep embankment, busted through some mesquite and locked up the brakes before careening down the other side that was just as steep. And there it was and there they were, a surreal battle beggaring belief.

Dreams are Made of This

“It was a whole lot like one of those old timey duck shooting games at the fair,” Hooter explained to one of the law enforcement types who always seem to appear magically in the aftermath. “Here were these bike riders sailing in from that side over there, single-file. As soon as they came into the clear, here were all of these guys dressed in camo shouting and shooting a sea of those paint balls. The first bike rider crashed, causing the next one to pile up and so on. There wasn't anywhere for them to run except right into the barrage, so they just stayed there, trying to use their bikes and each other as protection…”

Hooter was too choked up with laughter to continue.

“It's just like Hooter said,” explained Peetie when it was his turn to offer an account. “I told the boys you've got to be hard up for something to do when you volunteer to be a target. Mind you, and no offense intended, folks in this county have always knitted their socks a mite different if you know what I mean.”

The sheriff was talking with the paint ball group again. It turned out this was a weekly congregation of the Rolling Plains Marauders.

“Why did you keep shooting at them?” wondered the sheriff.

“We've got a permit to be here, and we had our area cordoned off,” said the grizzle-chinned paintball assassin. “They're always trying to make trouble for us, like they own the park.”

“Yeah!” shouted Hooter. “You tell ‘em kid.”

The sheriff turned to Hooter. “Sir, I thought you weren't from around here.”

“I'm not,” Hooter said defiantly as he glared at the bikers. “I know their type, though.”

“Yeah!” said the kid. “You tell him, Pops!”

He and Hooter high-fived.

“Enough!” the sheriff shouted. He turned the spokesman for the bikers.

“Apparently, these folks do have a permit. And, at first glance, they had the area cordoned. “Why did you ride through here?”

“When we turned off the main path, we picked up so much speed and there was so much brush I never saw it until I broke through it and into this mess,” the biker wheezed.

“Turned off the path. Why?”

“There was a detour sign.”

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