Monday, July 30, 2012
The Turkish Terror
Part Nine. Introducing Layla, the Turkish Terror -- she lives out in Fishtown. Keith Brown is still up on the roof of the Lighthouse Inn in LaConner, threatening to blow up the bomb in his backpack, but the standoff is coming to a head.
The Turkish Terror
Jimmy pulled himself up through the hatch. “Hey Keith, I saw you on the roof, thought I’d come up and enjoy the view with you. You got your boat tied up here someplace?”
“No, it’s back in Fishtown. I walked into town.”
“Say what’s up? It looks like you got this thing goin’ on. All these people looking at you.”
“I need to find Lisa.”
“She isn’t here. Nobody seen her.”
“Jimmy, don’t go against me. Are you one of them now?”
“No way. I’m with you, that’s why I came up here. Ernie Benson is downstairs behind the bar, he isn’t against you. And you see all these people watching you – there’s Cindy and Tom, and there’s Barb and Amy. We’re all your friends. You’re one of us. Nobody is going against you, but they’re getting worried. You want a smoke? I’ll roll you one.”
Jimmy sat down, not too close, and pulled a bag of rolling tobacco from his jeans. He began to roll a smoke for Keith and one for himself. Keith was sitting down, clutching his backpack with the bomb inside, veins pulsing on the sides of this face, all tensed up, smelling un-bathed much worse than usual. But living by himself in a cabin by the river in Fishtown, he had not much need for soap and hot water.
The Turkish Terror lived with her husband in a stout cabin just downstream of Keith. She said, “If Keith Brown ever took a bath, I would show him a good time,” but she was a bold woman, given to experiment. All the way from Turkey she came to live in Fishtown. “I know the wonders of tulips and roses,” she said. “The tulip was first cultivated in my country. It is Turkish. My name is Layla, which means tulip in Turkish. I am very fond of the fragrances of different flowers and different men. Some men have an intriguing musky odor or a manly sweat about them. However Keith Brown is merely disgusting. I like him anyway. I watch his grimaces and twitches. He would come to our cabin at sundown hoping for a meal, and I would make him a bowl of beans. Back then he heard the voices of angels and demons. But the angels have left him and now he is just mad. I wish he would take a bath.”
It was the freedom of Fishtown that attracted her. “My husband has money, so I can afford to go to Nordstrom’s and buy shoes. I am extremely fond of expensive high-heeled shoes. You might wonder why this is such a contradiction – to live in a cabin by the river in Fishtown, to chop wood and carry water and cook over a primitive stove and sit by kerosene light reading books, listening to the wind, hearing the call of birds and the murmur of the river flowing at our feet. The river is so wonderful to me.
“And yet I sometimes make a trip to downtown Seattle to shop for shoes at Nordstroms. It’s a way to abuse my husband who gets mad at me for spending his money. You see I despise this man. I also love him. I am not the least bit crazy like Keith Brown however. I see the world with total clarity. I have no ideals. I only see the reality and the reality of human life is a complete contradiction. So I am not faithful to my husband, instead I spend his money and laugh at him. He is such a good man.
“I am come here from Istanbul in Turkey, where the East meets the West. My father was an influential man in commercial banking. He sent me away because I am a free spirit. He is an understanding man, but the way I live, he could not have me in his home to be an embarrassment, to lose his social standing and his money. It was better for everyone for me to come to America. And you wonder how a young Turkish woman found this place. Because it was bashert – that is not a Turkish word, but we use it to mean the fate of your life. Bashert means what is meant to be, and I was meant to be in Fishtown – that is how I found it, me sitting by the fire, and dreaming of alligator pumps with high heels.
“And jewelry, expensive jewelry,” she added. “So we are a community of hermits in Fishtown, out of the world, in nature. Keith Brown is our brother. It is the fault of your culture that you need everything to make sense, to fit together in a neat pattern, to make progress and good legislation. That is not the Turkish way. We are a cruel and violent people with a passionate love for roses and tulips. I am a Muslim which means to have complete submission and surrender to Allah, but I laugh at God and defy him. I do not try to resolve these contradictions, because that is the way of reality.
“But you drove Keith Brown crazy here in America. You make him fit where he cannot fit. He is an electronic genius with a pornographic mind. He has no ability to seduce a woman, yet his heart aches with tenderness for all living things. Little birds nest in the eaves of his cabin -- he would die for those little birds, yet he built a bomb, truly he did, because you drove him crazy.
“But this is not my fault. I love him as a man and as a brother, for the way he is -- like me.
“My nipples are large and beautiful. I will remove my blouse and become more comfortable. Good. I can breathe more easily. I will tell you about the fishing. We have the five kinds of salmon that come by our cabin in Fishtown and making their way up the river into the mountains to lay their eggs on gravel beds in cold ice water, and they die. It is so tragic. They make love and they die. Of the five kinds, we have pineapple salmon in the spring which are large and fat, we have burnt-sugar salmon in the summer which have the reddest meat, we have the pink carnation salmon which come every two years – no, I get confused – the humpies and the dogs are coming. But the very best of the salmon are the silver bullets. These fish are not found in my native country, but I am not particular. To me a fish is a fish. I am like one of these birds – the heron stalking in the shallow water. I eat fish because I live on the river. My husband writes poetry and I catch fish. I carry this knife with a 5-inch blade. I use it to filet and clean the salmon. It is not a weapon despite what people say.”
She said this and one more thing. “I live in town now, in this apartment. Fishtown is empty. It’s only Keith and Art Jorgenson. Crazy Peter lives over by Barge Island. Black Dog Allen lives downstream a ways. It’s lonely out there now.”
Keith Brown smelled of old socks, wood smoke and cans of Prince Albert tobacco which he bought because it lasted longer. Art Jorgensen would give him the leaf from his marijuana plants and he grew a few plants himself, back in the woods, someplace where the ground was not too soggy, with enough sunlight, not conspicuous, you could walk right by his plants and not see them. The cabin had a wood cook stove, used for heat or making meals. Keith had a float outside his cabin, and an old rowboat tied up to the float, half-sunk, because Keith just let it rain and didn’t bail out the boat. It could have been a fine vessel for river jaunts.
Crazy Peter came by offering strong drink for Keith, which he accepted, but then Crazy Peter said let’s bail out your boat and take her out. Let me have it for a week or so, I could sand it down really good inside and out, make it clean and pretty with fresh linseed oil, keep that wood shining, make it glide through the water, just touch the oars and let them breath strong strokes, and you could row up the river in a storm like it was a Sunday picnic.
Crazy Peter made this offer while they sipped his home-made rice wine, which was a grade or two superior to prison hooch, a pale green color made with white rice and white sugar fermented and mixed with Mountain Dew. Most people said Crazy Peter was crazy before he started drinking, so it didn’t matter what he drank, but he was one of Keith’s friends on the river.
The point is, everybody liked Keith. He never hurt anybody, until that summer when he started hearing the voices.
Fishtown was at a bend on the North Fork of the Skagit River. They called it Fishtown because it was a good place to catch fish. The river made a nice bend and the water was deep. It was all fresh water, but only a couple of miles to the mouth at Skagit Bay. The tide came in twice a day. The water rose and the river stopped moving. It became as still as the time before the world began, and if there was no wind the surface was as smooth as glass.
The Swinomish always had a camp there. The pioneers came and used drift nets in their time and set their nets on the drift, and built small cabins on pilings to get out of the weather, cabins built outside the dike, you couldn’t get there except by boat, or a slim boardwalk with loose boards which ran underneath low willow bushes, going over the mudflat near to the river itself – a no man’s land, because the Chamberlains owned the land inside the dike, but the wetland, some fifty-feet wide between the dike and the river, had no owner. Out there you were off the map and off the money too. No deeds, no mortgage, no taxes and no rent. If that isn’t freedom, what is?
Jimmy knew all this. He wanted to talk Keith out of it, get him to let go, come down, take his medicine, do his time.
“Keith, this is upsetting. People could get hurt.”
“They’re torturing Lisa,” Keith said.
“Look, if you come down off the roof, you could head over to the Frog Hospital with me and Hitch. We could get some beer, some fried chicken, some Fritos, head out to the Sand Spit, hook up with Joy and Jellybean, bring out the drums and have us an old-time U-Bang-Em. C’mon. There’s nothing but trouble for you here. Leave that package alone – we can come back later for that.
“Okay, I’m lying. Cops are going to be asking you a lot of questions. You’re going to jail when you come down, but it will be easy for you if you just don’t hurt anybody now. Leave that package and come down. But forget the cops, don’t you see Barbara Cram down there. She will chew your ass out in a big hurry if you don’t come down. You don’t want to get on her wrong side, it will be hell for all of us. “
“It’s only four o’clock,” Keith said. “What about dinner? I’m hungry. Have Ernie send up one of those roast beef au jus sandwiches with French fries. I’m really tired.”
“Whatever you want, Keith.”
Don Coyote stirred in the bushes in back of the Garden Club. It was a good perch, being on the edge of the hill, higher up than the roof of the Lighthouse, where he could look down on Jimmy and Keith talking. He could see the others – Larry Yonally and Fred Martin standing in the middle of the street, Aurora Jellybean twirling her skirt, Barbara Cram having another smoke with Amy Hahn, Tom Robbins and Cindy Sibanda noodling on the bench on the landing of the Benton Street stairs, Roger Cayou and Chico Narkowitz telling lies in front of the LaConner Tavern, and Brian Healey pacing back and forth in front of the Pier Seven building when Lane Dexter showed up from Marblemount bearing arms.
“He’s up there,” Brian said.
Lane said nothing, looking around, then, “What about the hill?”
“If you were a hawk…”
“I see a perch up there. You stay here.”
Lane Dexter drove up Second Street, parked in front of the Garden Club, and walked around to the back, quietly, as he knew how to do that, came up to Don Coyote crouching in the bushes, tapped him on the shoulder and said nothing, bearing arms as he was. Don Coyote knew he was bested but saw Lane to be his ally not his foe. “This is just in case,” Lane said, patting his rifle.
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