Hog Heaven (interior of Valley Brook Variety Store)
WILLIAM WALLACE TOWNSHIP, Maine
44.80° N, 70.27° W
It’s a young forest thick with birch and pine. How a seven foot tall moose wearing a chandelier of antlers can slip so easily through camp is beyond my naïveté. Why was there no barking? We’ve half a dozen dogs, plus or minus one, depending on whether little Ghost Dog Henry has been run over again or dug his way out of another premature grave. How can I sleep with this deranged beast out there, especially if the dogs aren’t going to alert us to danger? Cyrus Lee Hancock doesn’t do much sleeping, but when he does it is lightly and within reach of an assault rifle or five, regardless of whether there is a stalky, territorial moose outside or not. I keep a hatchet under my pillow, which Cyrus Lee finds laughable. Even if you were to wedge that blade into the moose skull, he muses, do you think you are going to slow it down? Nevertheless, I keep the hatchet close. Emgeez has a 9 millimeter, but she doesn’t expect to use it. She speaks of the woodland creature cryptically, saying shit like Moose-Dick Mitch does not exist as a moose simply because you call him a moose. Or, you do not find wind, the wind finds you. This elicits a chortle out of Cyrus Lee, who says wind sounds like a preferable girlfriend, you can’t find her unless you’re being blown. Emgeez gives him a precise punch into the kidney. Of course, it is his bad kidney, and he is fiery with rage at the impact and stomps off into the woods. She’s regretful. She intended to punch his other kidney.
How do we know this shit belongs to Moose-Dick Mitch, I ask. Emgeez comes by to examine the scat I am standing over. She points to it with one of her long toes, do you see the fur? That is not the shit of a vegetarian. There’s only one moose in these woods who consumes flesh and that is Moose-Dick Mitch. What furry varmint had Moose-Dick Mitch consumed? Perhaps Ghost-Dog Henry, who I’ven’t seen in a day. No, Emgeez negates, likely a beaver. Sure, I say. But why do we call him Moose-Dick Mitch? Cyrus Lee Hancock has returned from sulking and has taken a can of hard seltzer out of the cooler. He answers my question, cos his dick is the size of a moose’s. Oh, I say, this is reasonable. But… I mean, he is a moose. Wouldn’t we expect a moose to have a dick the size of a moose’s? You’re not from Maine, Emgeez tells me without the hint of jest. It’s not for you to understand, she says.
Emgeez has monkey toes she can grab nightcrawlers with after a hard rain. She brought this to my attention earlier in the week while placing her bare foot beside one of my own. Despite my having a head’s worth of height advantage over her, our feet were the same relative size. Relative, of course, because half of her foot was elongated primate digits she could use to draw a bowstring or paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while laidback. She goes barefoot in our hikes along Rubicon Creek, grasping roots and pinch-gripping boulder edges with her toes. Cyrus Lee Hancock discovered Emgeez in the classifieds of an Uncle Henry’s Weekly Swap or Sell It Guide, “SNOWSHOE GUIDE AVBL FOR INTL TREKKING. Fee negotiable. Can shoot the eyes out of an owl with a .22”. It may not have been love at first classified, but he certainly circled the ad in red ink. When he actually met Emgeez, or at least, when his rifle scope first set sights on the snowshoer coming out of the woodwork wearing a sports-bra and jodhpurs made of coyote pelt then it was love at first crosshairs… love, or perhaps an infectious affliction confused as affection festering in the bruised blood-pump imprisoned inside Cyrus Lee’s splintered ribcage. But what’s love other than blurry semantics?
The name, “Emgeez”, is the phonetic bastardization of her initials, MGS, which is an abbreviation of Machine-Gun Sally. I cannot imagine this is her christian name, but given she was raised by a murder of crows, we can’t be certain a birth certificate even exists. What Emgeez advertised in Uncle Henry’s using bootlegger code was her border-crossing skills as a drug mule hauling Fentanyl and MDMA into the United States as her forefathers before her hauled marijuana or whiskey or gunpowder from Canada. Not that Emgeez knew her forefathers; she was an orphaned feral child living in the woods near Belgrade, breaking into the luxury lake homes to thieve bread & butter as needed. She believes she is indigenous of some sort and suspects a tribe from the Four Corners area of the American Southwest… she also claims, alternatively as the situation suggests, French, German and Jewish heritage, speaking fluent French, German and Yiddish on command. Emgeez also speaks the language of birds… specifically corvid: crows, ravens and grackle with a smattering of loon mixed-in for good measure. While Machine-Gun Sally has mastered the loon yodel, it is Cyrus Lee Hancock who could loon wail with the best of them. They were quite the item.
Cyrus Lee Hancock grew up in these parts too. By the time he was enrolled at Winthrop Community College, Cyrus Lee had built a small empire on his ability to fabricate driver’s licenses and passports, but the Maine Bureau of Investigation was closing in on his shop. This is when he relocated to the furthest place possible while remaining in the same time zone, where English may not be spoken but was at least recognized: Florida. Eventually, his path and my own would cross in mid-state Florida and a bond would form based on similar pessimistic nonchalance at the doomed fuckedness of things. We created a treehouse club of would-be survivors determined to withstand the Maya Apocalypse of 2012. Join us or die, with a cover-charge. Once the Maya Apocalypse came & went, Cyrus Lee Hancock embezzled what funds we hadn’t spent on ammunition and vats of peanut butter and left to form another doomsday cult in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Fast-forward through a couple divorces and here he is in Maine, putting in the foundation of his next outpost.
What Cyrus Lee Hancock and Machine-Gun Sally intend with their large chunk of wilderness is a self-sustainable town which can weather it all: climate change, social upheaval, zoonotic contagions, zombies, hippies, the United Nations, TikTok. They named their town William Wallace, after the Scotsman who sought freedom from imperial rule. They cleared the land. Then they built a yurt. A village needs to start somewhere. I arrived to help situate the yurt, the cornerstone of William Wallace Township, where Cyrus Lee and Emgeez were to live with their umpteen dogs and, apparently, an uninvited guest in the guise of a demon moose who eats beaver even though it cannot digest fur.
This is so fucked, Cyrus Lee Hancock says, preoccupied with his yurt, having already forgotten the latest territorial transgression of Moose-Dick Mitch. He smokes black cigarettes imported from Indonesia. These evil-scented cheroots are his only sustenance through the day other than the thin cans of black-cherry hard-seltzers he crushes. Cyrus Lee’s wearing an American flag bandana over his head with logging boots and utility pants. He doesn’t wear a shirt, which allows the sun to beat down on the massive back tattoo of a cross-eyed eagle screeching with talons extended. He insists the eagle isn’t cross-eyed, but how would he know, really, if it’s always flying behind him.
I do not have to ask Cyrus Lee what the problem with the yurt is. My hands are bloody with the struggle. In an attempt to winterize the yurt with the thickest sheep’s wool from a Rastafarian village on the Isle of Skye, he had made it too bloated for the exterior to fit. He fattened the bear for hibernation and now she couldn’t fit in the cave. Fuck it, Cyrus Lee calls it a day. He requires time to think. Cyrus Lee decides we should head towards the closest reach of civilization at the nearest gas station, Valley Brook Variety Store, where there is a biker bar appendage serving cold draft beer. We three: Cyrus Lee, Emgeez, Vic Neverman, strip out of our work clothes and hand-spoon rain water captured from tarps onto our chests, neck, armpits to dilute as much stank from our bodies as possible. If we couldn’t be clean, the least we could do is mellow the funk. I sort through my backpack to find whatever clothing is least soaked through with sweat or soiled with blood and dirt, finding something unworn in the bottom of my pack. You’re trying too hard, bro, Cyrus Lee tells me. If it’s a clean shirt, you are going to stick-out as from away. At least piss on it and rub some dirt into it. I leave the clean clothes for later and dress myself in yesterday’s hiking gear. We load into Cyrus Lee’s truck and drive a mile of off-road terrain back to the closet asphalt road en route to the nearest dive bar, Hog Heaven.
We are hours away from anything other than a two-lane road criss-crossed with the burnt rubber of recreationally shredded tire. The town is technically Avon, but you can call a stop sign whatever the fuck you want, it’s still nothing more than an intersection, says Cyrus Lee, who intends on annexing Avon into William Wallace as a means to gain another six tax-paying Mainers into his community. Talk of annexation should be kept on the down-low, Cyrus Lee says as he parks at Valley Brook Variety Store. We’re like German sightseers in Poland in 1938, don’t mind us and our surveying equipment, Cyrus Lee jokes. Except we like Jews, Emgeez adds. Well yeah, Cyrus Lee says happily, hey, I loved a Jew in her sleeping bag last night. Oh we’re so fucking gay, Emgeez says and happily kisses him.
Up in this god’s country, Valley Brook Variety Store offers the bare necessities required for contemporary society: hot processed meats and booze. Kelly, the lady behind the register, is a schoolmarm, teaching the three local children the basics of maths, maps & knots by day, running the convenience store and dive bar kitchen by night. She leads us past the mounted assault rifles for sale, down the meat jerky aisle, taking a left at the coolers, passing the bottles of Allen’s Coffee Brandy, through the curtain to the bar beyond, Hog Heaven. When Cyrus Lee tells her which property he purchased, Kelly’s wide-eyed reaction is alarming, though she speaks with cavalier indifference. Oh you bought the cursed hill of Chevalier Montpelier, she says. Cursed with what, I inquire. Mayflies and ancient creatures long thought gone, Kelly says. What, I ask, suggesting jokingly, like saber-toothed beaver and child-thieving thunderbirds? To say the least, Kelly nods. What’ll it be then? We order onion rings and a round of beers.
Did I hear right, a local at a nearby barstool turns to our high-top table. His beard is a bird’s nest holding his face together. What is your name, son? Cyrus Lee Hancock, sir, Cyrus Lee says very respectfully, quite the departure from his construction site jargon, such as when he threatened to punch me in the ovaries if I accidentally staple-gunned him in the calf again. You ain’t one of them killers, are you, another local on a bar stool asked. Those three named bastards are always killing someone or another, like… John Wayne Gayce or James Earl Jones… Who’d James Earl Jones kill, the bird nest bearded local asked. Someone, I am pretty sure, the other guy ensured, someone important, I think. Rest assured, gentlemen, Cyrus Lee Hancock told them, I’m as harmless as a mama bear. Just don’t provoke me, he says with his trademark cult-leader million-dollar smile. What about your itchy mustachioed friend there, bird’s nest asked, pointing at me, looks like a browntail moth caterpillar is crawling across his upper lip. He’s just Vic, Emgeez says, explaining, he’s from away. Ahh… many nods and folk turn in their stools back to their pints of Sam Adams as if “from away” explains any eccentricity I brought to Hog Heaven.
Should I tell them, I ask Cyrus Lee, James Earl Jones didn’t kill anyone. Or at least I don’t know of anyone the voice of Darth Vadar has killed. They are thinking of James Earl Ray who shot MLK, I say. Don’t bother, they don’t give a fuck, Cyrus Lee waves me off. What they don’t know, he continues, is the FBI specifically started calling killers by their middle names in order for it to resonate more with these common folk. Lee Oswald shot at Jack Kennedy, but in the history books you read about Lee Harvey Oswald killing John F. Kennedy. The marketing department at the FBI figured this out, Cyrus Lee said, after they started wondering why everyone knew John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln, but no one remembers the Polish guy who killed President McKinley. You’re so fucking smart, Emgeez says, standing a half-foot taller by using her tippy-toes to kiss a bashful Cyrus Lee Hancock on the cheek. What’s more, I cleverly add to his point about FBI marketing, Sirhan Sirhan, before shooting RFK, was named Rio because he dances in the sand. Emgeez, who was not alive during the 80’s, blinks at me while Cyrus Lee says, Jesus dude, you go from sober to stupid in 0.3 beers. Sirhan Sirhan, Duran Duran, I say to Emgeez, but receive no kiss on the cheek for my efforts at wise-crackery.
Wind of Cyrus Lee’s return to the highway, off the cursed hill, has reached the local municipalities and by our second round of beers, we are seeing an influx of bar patrons who went to school with the prodigal son and drove an hour or two out here to see him. Pete Surette walks into the bar with logging boots and sunglasses which hide half of his face. Motherfucker, fuck you, the fuck you been uptah? Fuck dude, Cyrus Lee Hancock hugs his friend then combs his hands through his curly hair, saying, shit’s been fucking wicked rough. Yeah, Pete Surette acknowledges before mentioning, you hear about Pete Maillard? Fucker got whacked by a felled tree. No shit, says Cyrus Lee Hancock, what about Pete’s wife Renee, they had a kid, eh? Fucking sold it for science experiments, Pete Surette says, and Renee went Down East to eat wharf rats and sell her pussy for pints of Sammy. Fucking brutal, bro, Cyrus Lee says.
Chuck Etienne enters the bar with his girlfriend, May-Belle, and their infant. This motherfucker, Cyrus Lee hops out of his seat and points at Chuck, could hypnotize a lobster into a coma. Cyrus Lee is introducing his mates to Emgeez, who appears to follow better than I can. Every high tide on a rainy night, Cyrus Lee says, Chuck and I were grabbing squid. Before low tide we were on the shores clamming. Good times, bro, Cyrus Lee raises his glass to Chuck. Ahh-Maine, Emgeez says an alternative to “Amen”. You fucking hear what happened to Joe-Nick, Chuck asks. Fuuuck, Pete Surette says, shaking his head. What, Cyrus Lee Hancock is unaware. Fucking Joe-Nick Goutier is out snowmobiling with his in-laws on their land when they hit a pressure-ridge near the train tresses on the lake and his sled came totally uncunted. Next he knows they’re all in the fucking drink. All his fuckin’ in-laws are ice-cubes, but fuckin’ Joe-Nick, he reaches the edge of the ice, but he cannot pull himself out of the water and he freezes in place, his face and arms frozen onto the lake ice. By the time Hancock County Rescue arrive, Joe-Nick is barely alive, but they save him and he only lost an ear and his lips to frostbite. He’s now got this crazy smile like he just fucked your mom. What the fuck, Cyrus Lee says to Chuck, you still sore about that. Fuck you, you fucking ‘tard, Chuck Etienne replies, you didn’t fuck my mom. Fuck he didn’t, Pete Surette says, I was lined-up to fuck your mom too, but it took thirteen days for CL to come. Jesus, Chuck says, rubbing his scalp. Anyway, Chuck says to the group, this is my girl, May-Belle. She may have to get back to the car and feed little Chuck. What, you mean breast-feeding, Pete Surrete asks. Don’t be fucking shy, Pete Surrete says, go ahead and dump ‘em out. We could use a show. Fuck you, you motherfucker, Chuck says to Pete to let him know the request was out of the question.
Hey, this is my buddy Vic, Cyrus Lee introduces me to his pals. He’s the fucking stupidest wicked-smart asshole you ever met. His wife just died in a tragic microwave accident, Cyrus Lee says, putting a spin on my recent divorce, and he’s up here cos he heard Maine girls are wild. Ahh-Maine, Pete Surrete toasts. Hey Vic, have you met Chuck’s sister Carly or her fifty pound beaver? Fuck you, Chuck Etienne says, talking about my sister’s beaver. Chuck turns to me, fuckin’ rodent kept nipping at my ankles so I fucking shot it with my Desert Eagle, which was fucking stupid as there weren’t nothing to be done with the fur after. Nothing but beaver fuckin’ pudding and I had to throw the rug out, Chuck says.
The fuck ever happened to Frenchie, Cyrus Lee asks his mates. Ahh, he’s all fucking clean, Pete says, gone sober, but his brain is fucking Chef Boyardee. He’s fucking sitting at the local Dunkin challenging anyone who comes in to a game of fucking checkers, but he can’t even play right, he just makes his own fucking rules, sticking most of the pieces up his asshole if he’s losing. Yeah, fuckin’ wicked fucked, Chuck agrees, fucker hasn’t been the same since we lowered him into the well in Androscoggin. Last I saw of him he was workin’ a carwash in his tightie-whities while wearing that dumb-fuck Dan Boone cap with 1 foxtail and 6 raccoon tails, three on either side.
Valedictorian! Cyrus Lee Hancock raises his glass to clink with his classmates.
Pete Surrete, Chuck Etienne, Joe-Nick Goutier and Pierre “Frenchie” Montpelier all claimed to be descendants of the old Acadians who, Treaty of Ghent be damned, refused to leave after the British Empire absorbed this part of the world. Those who would leave in Le Grande Derangement, resettling in Louisiana as Cajuns (“Acadians”), have been finding their way back to the motherland of Maine and Nova Scotia in the years since Hurricane Katrina. The number of LSU Tiger flags flapping in these parts is confounding if you do not understand the history of migration between these parts and Louisiana.
What the fuck, Chuck, Cyrus Lee Hancock lays in on his friend as May-Belle begins nursing. I didn’t take you for father-of-the-year. How the fuck’d this come about? Chuck Etienne isn’t forthcoming, but eventually admits, we was pullin’ & prayin’, but neither of us are close to God, I guess. We were playing pond-hockey rules, ain’t no goalie in the net, right? Either I didn’t pull fast enough or one of May-Belle’s brothers stumbled in drunk and saw his sister passed out and figured one cunts as good as the next. Ah, fuck you, May-Belle threw an onion ring at Chuck’s head. This is your fucking baby, you bastard. He bites tit like only you do, you fucking ‘tard. Chuck laughs at her, saying, from what I remember, so’s your brother.
After shaking his head, Chuck Etienne asks Cyrus Lee Hancock, how’s the hill. Savage, wicked savage, Cyrus Lee responds. We saw three bears in a tree yesterday. I chased them into the blackberry bramble. I had my rifle, but this guy Vic, Cyrus Lee says nodding his head at me, is out there with a fucking throwing hatchet. He’s fucking shitting his pants knowing he’s got one throw and then he’s fucking sashimi. Hey, I say interrupting the story, for the record, I did not shit my pants.
And Moose-Dick Mitch been coming around, Cyrus Lee tells his pals. No shit, they were shocked. Wait, I am curious, everyone here is familiar with Moose-Dick Mitch? They all nod. Pete Surrete elaborates, it was a French Canadien legend, the myth of Michel avec le Coq d’Orignal, this moose-monster motherfucker who’d go around Quebec fucking your mother and eating your children. Fucker eventually crossed the border into Maine. Pete Surrete tells us, my gramps had a story about Moose-Dick Mitch, how he shot him sixteen fucking times and Moose-Dick Mitch just stared at him, took a big, filthy, shit and then disappeared. My gramps found a child’s skull in that shit. Or maybe it was someone’s pet monkey. Who knows. But when gramps got back home, my grandma is pregnant with my mother. Explain that shit!
Christ, Pete, if your grandma was raped by Mitch, the least he could have passed along was the moose-dick. What the fuck happened to you? Fuck you, Pete tells Chuck, your mom doesn’t mind my small dick, she just asks I stick it in her ass. A bridge too far motherfucker, Chuck says, Chuck Junior doesn’t need to hear this shit about his grandmother. Yeah, Pete asks Chuck. Cos Chuck Junior has got them Cyrus Lee Hancock eyes is all I am saying, no disrespect May-Belle. Oh fuck you, May-Belle tells Pete, I’d take that Hancock dick if it were offered, but it weren’t so this is definitely Chuck’s baby.
We’re deliriously drunk and exhausted. I am tempted to ask Chuck after his sister Carly, what is she up to tonight? I don’t. My better sense broke through the beer buzz, insisting a romp with a wild Mainer playing pond hockey rules is not a gamble worth taking. Especially with Moose-Dick Mitch peeking through the window.
Who says nothing happens in Maine ?? 😆