“No fucking way!” Les blurted, staring through the passenger window at the sitting Grizzly. During his time in the mountains, he had only had two encounters with bears, in as many days, yesterday and today. A wave of uneasiness swept over him with the intensity of a mountain storm, swift and ominous. Deciding that McGee Creek would not be his fishing destination de jour Les turned the key to fire up the Cruiser. The always reliable starter whined, but the engine did not catch.
“Shit!” he exclaimed, “Not Good!” Les released his twisting pressure on the key momentarily then tried again glaring imploringly at the ignition. The starter whinnied on for seconds like an anguished electric horse, but the familiar roar of the engine did not come.
“Slam” something hit the driver side window with such force that Les closed his eyes, certain that he would be covered with broken glass. His right hand shot to the passenger seat wrapping his hand around the grip of his pistol. As he took up the .45, he saw through the passenger window that the bear was no longer on the river bank. He whipped around to face the driver side window weapon raised. A surprised Shash took a step back, showing a mix of amusement and concern in his dark eyes.
“Jesus!” Came Lester’s muffled voice through the closed window, “You scared the shit out of me!”
“My apologies,” offered Shash, taking another step away from the Cruiser to allow room for his enormous frame to execute the slightest of bows. “Sounds like you’re having engine troubles. I knocked to offer my assistance.”
“Knocked?” Lester thought, “The blow Shash had landed could have crushed a lesser car!” Les’ mind was swimming. “Bears, giants, dead engines, what the fuck? Did someone drug my Bourbon last night? And what the hell happened to my truck?”
He laid the Browning back on the passenger seat and unbuckled his seatbelt. He reached for the door handle then hesitated. What the hell was this Shash doing here and where the shit-hell had he come from? Les hadn’t seen anyone, other than the Grizzly when he’d pulled to a stop here in the middle of nowhere, and there were no other cars at the turnout.
“Pop the hood,” Shash commanded in his deep rumble of a voice, “I’ll have a look.”
After a pregnant moment of consideration, Les smiled weakly and complied. As the giant made his way to the front of the Cruiser Les noticed that he appeared to be wearing the same oversized mad-max, bounty hunter regalia that he’d worn last night at the Sierra Springs. Les glanced at the Browning resting on the seat beside him, considering the bizarre, disconcerting nature of his current situation, then decided to leave where it lay. He took a deep breath, wiped the sweat from his brow, opened his door and stepped out onto the dusty gravel ground of the turnout.
Shash had opened the hood and reached into the engine compartment with a mechanic’s confidence. “Try it now” he bellowed not realizing that Lester had left the cab and was now standing two feet from him. Les jumped, “Jesus!” He exclaimed.
“How much coffee have you had this morning friend? You seem a bit edgy.” Shash grinned.
Lester looked up at him with a mixture of indignation, awe and thinly veiled alarm. Without saying a word he turned and marched back to the cab.
“I’m definitely taking a nap today” he muttered to himself.
Les swung into the driver’s seat and turned the key. Sweet internal combustion music sprang from the now purring engine. Shash closed the hood. “Loose spark plug connections. All good for now, but you may wanna look at replacing them before winter.” Les, sitting in the driver seat with a bit of a glazed look on his face nodded slowly. “Safe travels Lester” Shash said. Then he turned and strode across the road.
“Thank you,” Les yelled at the closed window, his words bouncing loudly throughout the cab. He fumbled for the window switch, but by the time the window was opening Shash had crossed the road and was heading for the woods. Les watched mutely as the giant made his way into the beginnings of a cedar grove and vanished.
Lester McClain sat motionless gripping the steering wheel; feeling the gentle vibration born of the purring engine on his damp palms. Eventually coming out of his stupor he turned his gaze to McGee Creek. No sign of the bear. Releasing the wheel, he ran his hands through his hair leaning back with a long exhale. “Jesus!” He exclaimed for the third time that morning. He put the cruiser in gear. Fishing was no longer on the agenda. No, if fact Les was suddenly and overwhelmingly motivated to pursue indoor activities for the rest of the day. With a spray of gravel, he wheeled out onto the road, made a hurried U-turn and headed back down the mountain.
To Be Continued
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