The Shooting Lesson, an excerpt from West of ’89, ch XVI: Triage and Error

“Tuck the stock into your shoulder, sweetheart, right here — feel that? — the soft spot under this ridge.” Solomon’s rough hands adjusted Rachel’s grip and gently settled the butt of his rifle inside her shoulder and onto the pad of muscle just under her clavicle.  “Now line up the sights. That’s it. Take a good deep breath. Let out about half of it, hold it, relax, and just squeeze the trigger.”

Rachel turned her head up and looked at her father. “Now Daddy?”

“Whenever you’re ready, Princess.”

Rachel laid her cheek along the wooden stock, took a deep breath, let some out, and squeezed. The bottle on the stump exploded into flinders as the girl was pushed over backwards from the recoil. As she fell, Sol grabbed the barrel and plucked the piece from her startled grasp. She landed hard and looked up at her father with her eyes and mouth open wide with surprise and delight.  “Hurt yourself, honey?”

She rubbed her shoulder where the gun had kicked her. Then she stood up and rubbed her backside. “Just a little. Can I do it again?”

“Sure thing, sweetie.” Solomon handed her his rifle and helped her position it. “Now we want to work on your stance a bit, so you don’t go ass-over-tea-kettle next time. Set your right foot back a little, hon.”

“Like this?”

“A little more, and bend your knees a smidge, too. You want to be able to take a little push without going over backwards, all right?”

 

The Wedding Party, an excerpt from West of ’89, ch XIII: Immigrant Alley

Within the gynocentric Mother Church, polyandry was the norm, though orthodoxy accepted all voluntary unions. There were a few monogamous couples, mainly heterosexual, but also a few other pairings. Some people are unsuited to plural marriage, and are wise enough to know themselves. Clark wasn’t sure he envied them or not. Monogamy was probably less complicated; fewer partners provide fewer opportunities for disagreement. Still, he couldn’t bear the thought of a life without Pamiso or Lou.
Li’s and April’s and Philip’s impending union represented the greatest rarity in the church. Lesbian couples often solicited impregnation from anonymous strangers or trusted friends, but Li and April had been courting Phil for years. He was happy to provide his seed, but had declined to tie himself to an established couple. “I might as well be a Mormon,” he said.
Clark had scoffed at the notion. “With your Zoramite and Lamanite friends? You’d be an instant apostate.”

“Ladies, gentlemen, and all children of God!” announced the Cantor. “Attend to her most gracious, blessed, and beloved, our First Mother!”
Mutterings of “blessed be” and “praise her” and “god save the queen” rose from the crowd as the Grand Matriarch, Starla Woodhull, and her four high priest husbands took their places on the dais at the corner of the under lobby. Though her corpulence attested to a long life of prosperity and leisure, the spark in her eyes betrayed no sign of senescence.

As the Hoonan party approached her, her elder consorts assisted her to rise from her throne, and she sang clearly and joyfully:
“The nuptial hour draws on apace, from Cupid’s charms to Gaea’s grace.
“Beloved children heed my call and gather ‘round us one and all.
“A life in joining now begun, come see what Venus and Mars have done!”

The gathering hushed as Li and April and Philip recited, in unison:
“We are true hearts, unconfined, bound to no one, but obliged to conscience.
“We pledge these hearts to the amorous arts,
“To the fruits of freedom and the triumph of trust.
“Toward these ends, we become family.
“Joined freely, and dedicated to the preservation of property, the liberation of love, and the protection of progeny.”

Clark lost himself in the ceremony as it proceeded through Miss Woodhull’s consecration of their union, solicitation of the pledges of fealty to Church, family, and Earth, and blessings upon their present and posterity. The old woman finally concluded her address, with, “Normally, children, I would at this time invite you to seal the union with kisses, but,” she smiled at April’s and Li’s daughters, “it looks like you’ve already gotten to that part a while ago.”

A ripple of laughter ran through the crowd, and then the First Mother sang, “Children of God, Tillers of Earth, Lovers of Life, and Makers of Mirth, I give you the Hoonan family! Now let’s eat!”

 

 

 

Reign of Stone, an excerpt from West of ’89, ch XXI: El Diablo Imperialista

Late in the Eocene epoch, forty million years before Man invented language and lies, the earth’s crust cracked under western Oregon and released a sea of magma over the fertile coastal plain. Plumes of gas thrust tons of ash high into the atmosphere and it rained over the plain and enriched the soil, while great cones of cinder and stone rose like sentinels to overlook the land.

As the Miocene epoch began, twenty million years before Man mastered mathematics and mendacity, volcanic activity accelerated and rivers of lava laid down a vast plateau of brittle basalt.

At the beginning of the Pliocene epoch, four million years before Man began to worship women and war, the Juan de Fuca plate, hurtling eastward at four centimeters per year, left the Pacific basin and slammed into the west coast of North America. The relentless pressure from the collision pushed up mounds of earth and folded it under the basaltic plateau. The surface buckled, popped, and pierced the firmament with great splinters of stone.

Long before the Reign of Stone gave way to the Age of Reason, settling mounds of ash and gravel climbed into the sky, to be softened and shaped by rushing wind and running water. Periodically, as the heat and pressure mounted, these slumbering giants tore themselves open and set loose great gouts of lava, ash, and vapor upon the upper world. This constant violence of one plate sliding inexorably under the other turned organic matter under and ground it into pulp while it broke up the layers of basalt and transformed Oregon’s idyllic countryside into a roiling cauldron of muck and rock.

Martin Powell struggled to keep up. His head pounded. His feet hurt. He did not love Jesus. His years of desk duty at the Oregon (nee Idaho) Department of Power had left him unsuited to hiking over the rough terrain at Blind Ridge. Because his reactivation into the Reserves had been sudden and unexpected, he lacked the conditioning of the Regulars, thus vindicating their dim view of the “Sorry Seconds.” The enlistees assigned to him had no trouble keeping up with Harrison Davis and Clayton Mackenzie as they marched over the ridge, but he was impelled to call for regular halts.

As he caught up to the party the Guards were seated near the edge of the bluff overlooking the Spokane River. Mackenzie was hugging the trunk of a great ponderosa pine growing out from the cliff edge. Davis had climbed onto a branch, his legs wrapped tightly around it and his head dangling into open space. “Oh, come on and open your eyes, Mr Mack. This tree is perfect for our rig. It’s held itself here for generations, against both gravity and wind loading. Our puny bodies are not going to break this!”

 

And now, from the beginning… an excerpt from West of ’89: prologue 1

Pensacola, Franklin Parish, Republic of West Florida
10 December 1810

“Senor Reuben?”
“Umberto, I said twenty — ” Colonel Kemper looked up at the standing clock and saw that it had indeed been twenty minutes since he’d asked his aide to delay his guests. “I’m sorry, Umberto. Another half moment. Help me with these writs.”
“Oui, m’sieur.”
Reuben scrawled and his graying gaunt slave blotted and assembled the documents into a neat stack at the corner of the desk. “Is General Claiborne still waiting outside with the Govern — er — the Senator to be?”
“Yes, sir. With the OTHER new Senator, Senor Reuben.”
Reuben stood and slapped Umberto on the back. “I wish you were coming with me to Washington City.”
“The spoils of war are yours to command, Senor.”
“Of course, mon ami. But Nathan will need you here. He will be well served by a boy who speaks English, French, Spanish, and Muskogean.”
“I am pleased to hear it, sir. I have served this hacienda twenty years now. I confess I have grown to love it, in spite of a few rather — unpleasant grandees.”
“Grandees no more, amigo. Soon we will all be Americans. Now bring in Mr Madison’s emissary, and have Carlotta fetch us some refreshments.”
Umberto ducked his head and departed, and in came General Claiborne and Senator-elect Skipwith. Claiborne extended his hand. “Good morning Senator. Shall we get on with the formalities?”
Reuben smiled and gripped the offered appendage. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, General. I’ll wait until Mr Clinton accepts my oath. At present I am well satisfied with Mister.” He offered his hand to Skipwith. “I hope Samuel enjoys life in St Francisville, sir.”
Skipwith smiled. “Your brother seems well disposed to insuring that our just rights will be respected here at home. As for me, the blood which flows in my veins yearns to return, unimpeded, to the heart of Washington.”
Reuben laughed. “And return we shall, sir. Please gentlemen, be seated.”
Settling himself onto the settee, Claiborne grunted. “You missed a bit of a tussle in your legislature, Colonel. Your Volunteers seem unsatisfied with the scraps you’ve thrown them.”
“Bugger the Volunteers. They’ve got their beloved Franklin back. And they’ve got the House Delegation, too. What more do they deserve?”
“Arguably, sir,” said Skipwith, “we owe them our very independence.”
Reuben frowned. “Their arrival at Mobile Bay was timely, but it was my vision, and the valor of my brothers, drove the Spanish ’crost the Apalachicola.”
A young negrita bearing a tray appeared in the doorway. Reuben rose again. “Please, gentlemen, join me in a toast to the Lone Star Republic, our bonnie new state, and,” he winked at Claiborne, “so that I may properly accept your surrender, General.”

excerpt from West of ’89:

Harlan led the honored guest down the narrow stone passage beneath the South Dependencies, two flights below Sally’s suite. Drainage from the central cistern passed under the wing’s lower hearth and emptied into a tiled pool in a hidden chamber. As they came out of the cramped corridor they found the master of the house lounging in the heated basin with his “First Ladies”.
Thomas nodded to his old friend and adversary. Dolley smiled.
Sally leapt from the water, which sheeted down her caramel skin, dripped from her cocoa nipples, and drained from her jet curls. Before she could wrap James in her sopping embrace he doffed his cover. Harlan caught the garment as Sally’s and Jim’s flesh slapped together.
“About time you got here.” Dolley rose and kissed her husband, then the three of them settled into the tub with Tom.
“Thank you, Nib,” said Tom.
“Yassuh.” As inky as the pen point suggested by the sobriquet, Harlan hung Jim’s robe on a hook next to the others’ and trudged back up the steps.
“Shouldn’t you be in Washington to receive the delegation from Hartford?” Sally snuggled under his shoulder. “Not that I mind, mind you.”
“Let Mr Gaillard and Mr Kemper deal with them. The treaties must needs go through the Senate. ‘Twas Kemper himself chased New England from the Confederacy.”
“Which neither breaks my heart nor piques my pity. The united States were getting to be too many. We should have stopped at Appalachia. We can hold it, perhaps, at the Big Muddy.”
“Too late for that, my sweet.” Dolley laid her head on Tom’s shoulder. “The Trans Mississippi is a fait accompli three years now.”
He bristled. “The Louisiana territories are a special case, sacred and undeniable.”
“As are they all.” Jim smiled. “Still, with so many Southron Senators, New England is roundly thwarted in their mercantilist aims. Good riddance say I to Prickly Pickering and his stiff necked Atlanteans.”
“Which neither bakes my bread nor picks my roses. The pusillanimous idea that we have friends in New England worth the keeping still haunts the minds of many. Besides which, those Blue Light Federalists never cared for your central bank or your war against their mother country, n’est-ce pas?”
Jim nibbled at Sally’s neck and shoulder. “My war? My bank? ‘Tweren’t America’s? If men were as angelic as our dears, here, no banks or governments would be needed. Do none respect the President or his prerogatives?”
“Not here, Jimmy. Certainly of the united States, and by extension, of Virginia, as long as she consents. But in THIS house, I am master of all who live and breathe — except for Sally and Dolley and the cats.”
“Well said, sir.” Dolley kissed his cheek. “A wise man knows who butters his bread or spreads o’er his bed.”
“Greedy wench.” Tom reached under the water and held Dolley’s hand which had been bringing him to life. “Enough of politics, Jim. Shall we indulge in some redolent blossoms?”
“Redolent?” Dolley squawked. “Sir, we wash!”
Sally scowled at him and splashed him from across the tub.
“Not your delicious blossoms, hearts of my heart. I speak of hemp.” Tom half rose from the tub and called, “Harlan!” and settled back into the pool. “You’ll like these flowers, Jim. I’ve been cultivating them in accordance with the General’s notes. Pungent, powerful, and every bit as intoxicating as our ladies’ own delicate blooms.”
Sally splashed him again and giggled. “You silly old poop!”

 

excerpt from West of ’89: epilogue one

Blind Ridge, the Spokane River, Republic of Idaho
20 September 1989

Glittering sunlight slashed under his eyelids. He was cold, and his first impulse was to pull the blankets up but he couldn’t find his blankets or his hands. In dream state he had imagined that Eleanor was kissing his ear. Awake he realized that it was the river lapping the side of his head. He reassessed his situation and savored the irony of it. It was Assessment, after all, that had brought him to his present state.
Immersed to his chin at the edge of the burbling Spokane, hung up on a gravel bar, Harry wondered that he had not drowned. He remembered hitting the river clean and plunging into the center channel. Amidst the swirling silt and bubbles as he tumbled along the riverbed was — something — hard and moving fast, that rolled across him and sent fire up his spine. Then nothing.
Then awakening and long periods of reflection. It had to have been a sizable chunk of debris that followed him from the blast. He couldn’t decide whether or not he wished he could feel his legs. After all this time in the cold water they couldn’t be in very good shape.
“Captain! Captain Gideon!” He heard a faint call, then the clicking and grinding chirp of boots on river gravel. “Over here!” The voice grew stronger as it approached. “I think we got another survivor!”
“Careful, Corporal,” came a second voice, “don’t move him yet.”
It was that doctor, that woman doctor, Gideon. He tried to quell his emotions. He’d left an Aryan officer alive — a captain to take charge of the camp. More fool he. Hydra had too many heads. He struggled to check his frustration. It wouldn’t do for the Guard to catch their President’s assassin crying over spilled blood. If they wanted to patch him up and stand him against a wall, so be it. One more life was still a modest price for a monster like Adam Schickler.
“Easy, mister. We’ll get you fixed up.” The Guard hovered over his face, then turned and shouted into the distance. “Dressed like labor, ma’am… It’s, uh… It’s Mr Davis!”
“Davis?” The woman’s face came into his view and smiled sadly. “You’re in a bit of trouble here, mister. Can you feel your legs at all?”
He shook his head.
“Corporal Little?”
“Ma’am?”
“Run fetch Mr Mackenzie. Hurry!”
“Yesss!” agreed Harry. “Sugar. Must speak to Sugar.”

The Consequences of Foreclosure, from Chapter I: True Name Undisclosed

Marysville, Benton County, Republic of Astoria
31 March 1989

Donnie Fleming shared a cell with three men in the basement of the Benton County Courthouse. Two looked at magazines. One snored softly. Donnie studied the guard, seated in a creaking swivel chair, his feet on his desk and a paperback in his fists. “Hey bud, you got a smoke?”
“I told you to keep a lid on it, squirt.” The guard continued to read.
“Hey, c’mon chief. I’m dyin’ for a cig. How ’bout it?”
“How ’bout I come in there and smack you one? Shut up.” The guard laid down his book, lit a cigarette, and blew smoke into the cell. He chuckled as he smoked and returned to his cowboy story.
“Ah cheez, that’s cold!”
After the guard had half smoked his butt, he flicked it into the cell. It struck the far wall and exploded into sparks. Donnie scrambled after it and puffed it back to life.
Another guard stepped in from the corridor. “Roust your babies, Frank. Let’s get ’em loaded on the van.”
“T’hell wi’that,” mumbled one prisoner, “le’s jus’ get loaded right here.”
“Keep it up, sweetheart,” Frank opened the cell door, “and you can settle your debt at the range.”
“Take it easy, Frank. Let’s just get these babes to the Farm. Goliath here is getting ripe.”
After a couple of deep hits, Donnie surrendered his prize to see it crushed under the heel of one of the guards as they assembled the assessees. They were marched out the door, up to the street, and into the waiting van.
The van pulled away, passed through town, then accelerated out of the confines of city traffic. The van roared past a bicyclist as he turned off the road and coasted into Union Station.
The highway followed the river. Where the Willamette swung away to the northeast, the road threaded its way into a thicket. Exiting the grove, the ground leveled into rich farm land, planted post to post in mint and yams. Mint gave way to beans and beans gave way to hazels to apples to peaches until, looming at the top of a hill, a spartan wood and brick edifice, attended by ancient oaks and wrapped in wrought iron, stood ready to accept the passengers.
The van pulled off the smooth road and crunched onto gravel. An iron gate, mounted between two stone kiosks, swung inward as the van slowed to a stop. Arched over the entryway, in black iron filigree was writ GENADY WORK FARM, and under it, in smaller lettering, arbeit macht frei.

That’s all you get for the price of admission.  If you’d like more, hard copy is available post paid from Greigh Area Associates or Piracy Press for Fifteen United $tates Legal Tender Federal Reserve “Dollars” (U$LT) in check or money order, or Three Quarters of a Silver Dollar, in silver coin.  Send your U$LT to Gene Greigh, c/o Greigh Area Associates    //   843 Carson Drive, Lebanon, Ohio; 45036    //    An earlier version of this novel, weighing in at a tedious and didactic 192000 words, can be had in digital format from smashwords.com for $1.99 Fe’ral Reserve Digits.