|A Urgency at the Mines|
Issue #54 (February 1986)
Conclusion: Miss Bella in the Mine
when Emmet Pismire began his letter to Fred with a plea for a few barrels of "black booze juice." While shacked up with his partner Wally and one Ona DeFlor, "a refugee from Oregon hippiedom," Emmet started a [quoteright]matrimonial correspondence with a "well-rounded woman" named Belladonna Nightflower. The negotiations involved certain promises of a dowry, as well as certain representations about the personal attributes of the prospective groom. Miss Bella arrived in town early, amid a flutter of misunderstandings, and Emmet headed back to the mine to warn Wally.
It takes a heap o' heapin to make a house a heap.
I'm out of breath and trying to get Wally's attention thout Ona knowing, but she keeps asking have I got some kind of twitchy paralysis in the side of my face that makes me jerk my head doorwise, while I'm trying to say, "Wally...uh...we got a problem...that...uh...well rounded woman is arrived!" He ain't receiving none too good, but by that time it don't matter, cause I hear somebody outside coming on fast and a whap on the door and its the Well Rounded Woman, who aims for Wally shrieking that its her true power-mower, and he disappears total absorbed into her clutch. Ona and me manages to find him and pry him out before he suffocates, and when he comes around, he leaps up onto one of the overhead rafter logs and ain't about to come down until that damn woman is got a harness on her. Well, it's amazin how one female can communicate with another when no man can get through, cause in a little bit One has got Miss Bella to put down that long stick where she's trying to poke Wally down off of the rafters, and to set down to some gurmy soup, and maybe after a good night's sleep we can all look at this thing fresh in the morning.
We all finally try to go to bed, but Ona ain't having none of it... they's been room enough for her and WaUy and me, but with Miss Bella there just ain't, and Ona rolls up in a blanket beside of the bed on the floor. Well, seems it's a choice of either Wally or me trying to hang onto the bed with Miss Bella in the middle, but it can't be both of us neither. I feel like I'm being rolled on by a hippo and a hippo ain't got no place to grab onto, and I get ejaculated out the side of the bed clawing thin air and fall onto Ona, who figgers about then she's had enough of this loony parlor, that they's a bunch of people around here got they eggs scrambled! She's headin back up to Oregon whether they got their parley settled with them Rajaneeshees or not... or maybe down south to Tiajuana to buy some more Navajo joolry, or even up to Revelstoke to a logging camp, and she ain't waiting 'til morning. She says there isn't room for her and all three of that other gal, Bella, Donna, and Nightflower. She lit out, but not quietly, making a racket that she's going to become a recluse. "Spider?"...I inquires sweetly. She comes all unglued and yells about how I'd be hearing from Lee Bailey in about nine months, but I hollers down the road at her that if she's expecting any packages, they was probably already in the UPS when she got here, so any problem developing is already most likely scheduled for about three months early, and don't ever dark on my door again, that this wasn't no damned safe house!
Wally and my well rounded woman are snoring up something fierce like nothing happened, so I rolls up on the floor in the blanket the late departed Miss Ona DeFlor was using that now smells of a three week supply of Farallons, and pull out that jug of premium Annie Green Springs Reserve she had stashed under the bed...that stuff she assured me was at least 5 year old vintage, and I guess she was right because the dated Safeway receipt was still taped on the bottle and she hadn't touched it since she opened it to the tune of a quarter jugs worth right there that day in the check-out line...that was the only thing she had left me in return for all of my favors of the soul and other things. I drowned my sorrows and frustrations and woke up with a terrible headache. I guess I should have been suspicious that she had kept it untapped for five years...she said it's an old Mensa courtesy tradition for a guest to bring wine...but if that's the meaning of courtesy, from here on in I'll stick to some less polite brew. At least, that stuff you brought from Manteca has its own built in anesthetic. Well, she had lit out, just another grasping woman, and I found she had grasped not just my hand (among other things), but half a ham, one fresh roast chicken, and two bags of last Halloween's candy, after frivously untying the G-strings of my heart.
Miss Bella sniffed around next morning and begin to complain about our nine room house. I quotes that poem at her Wally had read of a guy whose name was Edgar, a guest in the house, that "it takes a heap o' heapin to make a house a heap" and "a house, like people, that ain't been heaped ain't been loved in." (I made that last one up.) She snorts, gives me a weird stare and says that this place has sure had the hell loved out of it, and says it looks like seven of these rooms ain't nothing but heaped; they's nothing more than tool sheds and storage and such, on account of there ain't no floors in any of them, like that firewood lean-to, and where we have to store them kegs of powder and turpentine and flour and kerosene and such all together on account of the leaks...says they's only two rooms in the whole shebang which is at all habitable by a lady, and then we get into a roarin ruckus about which rooms she'll let me claim in the dowry deal to be part of the cabin. I finally says, "alright!" I'll meet her half way and admit that 3 1/2 of those rooms maybe ain't, which that still makes it a 5 1/2 room house, if it'll make her feel some better, and what about that dowry she claims to have brought, but of which I ain't seen even a hair off of yet! She says it's in that lock chest we drug up from the depot on a sled, her guardin the treasure all the way, but she's going to see the diggings first...see if they's real or not, since they's been so many other fishy things around here, so we head out back to the tunnel.
Well now, you see, that tunnel's got a slight downslope which ain't no problem bringing a load of ore up the tracks and for takin tools in, but this Miss Bella insists she wants to ride down in the cart account of walking in them rocks ain't no way for a lady to go. And, being well rounded, she starts to go alright, but Wally and I can't move our legs fast enough to hold her back and disaster looms, for she slips loose from our hold, gaining speed all the way until she hits that shoring Wally's been building to hold up that soft place we come on overhead in the drift, and they's an explosion of sorts, and that far end of the tunnel is sudden filled with a white cloud of dust rollin our way.
I can quickly see right away we got two emergencies, and one is sitting in that pile of busted shoring covered with white, and I hear distant voices up through that hole in the top of the tunnel. Wally sneaks a look up through and drops back as fast...we's under the saloon basement, and they's two big vats of something burbling away, and that stuff we was digging up into was the bottom of Turner's ash and lime pit he uses for filtering what he sells upstairs. We're about decided we better get ahead with repairing the roof before we get discovered and got real trouble, but Miss Bella is starting to squirm under that white stuff, also she is all wet on account of the mine car cut the waterline layin across the track, and we have got to get her out of there and hosed down, even if it is winter, before we have a large alabaster sitting statue of what used to be a woman. We hook up the hose in room #3 and start up the water, but the pump is froze and Wally scramblin to thaw it out, and she's squirming less on account of she's starting to set up. We gets her hosed off, and her complexion has been somewhat improved, and our late brunette is now a redhead, but she's not grateful for what we have done for her and is behaving something like we had wetted down a large Barred Rock laying hen, and Wally and me figure the safest place is back into that tunnel, where she ain't about to venture, and besides, we got to get that ceiling plugged. We ain't worried about Miss Bella going anywhere while she's still wet on account of the freeze, and we can calm her down and quiet her up later about what has happened in there. We still hear noises up stairs, but so far, Turner has not come into his basement. Wally slips up and grabs a couple of jugs, emergency or no, never the one to refuse the open door of opportunity when she knocks. We load the ash and lime onto some old plywood and shores it back up in place, and vamoose.
We decide to test the jug contents on Miss Bella first, seeing as how she is our guest, and we can't cork the jugs anyway cause they is still fuming and burbling. She drinks a glass like it is prune juice (obviously an old emeritus member of the WCTU) and her color comes back, though it's kind of purkle, and she giggles, then one of her eyes wanders off to the outside and starts shimmying up and down while the other points straight ahead glassy like. She falls over on her back, and as she hits the ground, Wally nods and grins his approval of the stuff to me. Some half hour later she sits back up, adjusts her off eye back to where it belongs, and says they's something missing.
She opens that dowry chest and takes a pinch of what looks like Starving Artist palette scrapings out of a big plastic bag, and a few brown sticks and some seeds out of another. She brews some tea out of this, says it's her "Brew-ha-ha" and dumps everything into about a quart of the saloon juice. Well, I takes a small sip. Brew-ha-ha hell! It's a good thing I ain't planned anything for the rest of the day, cause in about five minutes, I'm getting a geometric view of the world, and looking out the window, I'm having to squeeze the people into the sundry corners of my vision to hold em still long enough to see who they are. I look back at Miss Bella and Wally, turning my head this way and that peering out at em through the triangular holes, and she has become the most lovely girl I have ever seen with gardenias In her hair and that grass skirt and Wally wavin that palm frond over her where she is reclining on them silk pillows. I know it is love for I feel like I have swallowed a Alka-Seltzer whole. Then I lay down and disappear.
I am peaceful asleep on the sunny deck of the Bounty when it starts to toss something fierce, and Wally says wake up, it's night and we got a job to do. Well, he and Miss Belladonna Nightflower has been scheming. We go down into the tunnel where we build a box the size of the hole, and Wally gets that old hydraulic lift working and positioned underneath the pit. After the saloon is shut down for the night, we squares up the hole, fills about five more jugs with Turner's brew and load the box with the ash and lime, and hoists it back up into place. Turner's lime pit is now back in pristine condition, except that the box is now removable from below. Bella does her thing to a couple of those jugs and the next day we take it around front and get Turner to sample a sip. In a couple of minutes, Wally says it is obviously one of the most severe cases of transmogrification he has ever seen, so we waits until Turner comes back to real life about 4:00 o'clock from wherever he's been at. He finds he has give away all of Monday's and Tuesday's proceeds in free drinks, but we get him simmered down and convince him he ought to contract for this stuff as we are equipped to provide him a endless supply. He sees the sense in all this, and after a couple of days, two thirds of the town is seeing geometrically, Turner is seeing unlimited profits and Miss Bella and Wally and me is seeing unlimited wealth.
Well, everything is going just fine for 2-3 weeks, with us loading up underneath by night and selling topside by day, when we notice them vats ain't burblin and the supply is getting closer and closer to the bottom. It suddenly comes to us, we have been too successful with our product, and Turner has stopped brewing. Also, the ashes in the lime box is getting low, and we got to get production up before Turner sticks in a pick and the whole deal falls through when to bottom drops out, so to speak.
So now you understand my emergency, and you better move fast while the train is still able to come up in here the back way once a week, before the snow closes us in and the world gets snow-bound out. And while you're on your way, stop by the New Melones dam...there must be 2-3 thousand of them river rafter's jugs come up against that dam now that the water has riz in the reservoir...and pick up 3-4 hunnerd of those jugs with that punt cavity in the bottom for strength — preferably all looking alike, so we can put our own label on them and look commercial. And also a couple hundred feet of surplus stainless steel aircraft cable and about ten of them half inch fiber glass rods...we're going to have to section them and use them for stoppers, as ordinary wire and corks ain't no way going to hold this stuff in captivity.
I just can't stress how I need to hear from you urgent...
BURT SCHMITZ's cover on this issue is an adaptation of the illustration he gave us for our "Invitation to Subscribe" flyers. They have been so successful that we are now getting more than 100 new subscribers a month.
Burt Schmitz has drawn a number of covers for The Ecphorizer as well as providing interior art. He recently worked on a large illustrated tourist map for a Silicon Valley promotion firm.