STANDOFF AT SHITTY SHORTS PASS Leave Grande Cache and take the Bighorn Highway north. Take the first road to the left past the Sheep Creek Bridge and follow your nose to Shitty Shorts Pass. Coffee shop blabber has it a flatlander decorated his shorts on the way up the pass when he realized it would be worse getting out than getting in. That jinxed driver provided the shitty shorts found impaled on a tree near the pass. Unlike many roads in the same area, Sheep Creek road is wide enough for two trucks to pass each other with a few inches to spare, unless of course one of them has a wide load. The timber and oil industries both exploit the area, sometimes in competition and sometimes in cahoots. I turned on to the Sheep Creek Road on my way to pick up another load of logs. I drove a whole bunch of miles and was bored when I topped the high point at Shitty Shorts Pass. I reached over to change the tape and when I looked up, there she was in the centre of the road and lucky for me you can’t go fast on that road. As it was, the road was slipperier than snot on a doorknob, truck driver talk for slippery. It was all I could do to bring the rig to a halt before I struck her full bore and had her fly over the hood and land splat on the windshield like a naked beetle. Naked beetle be damned, there was an unclothed woman in the middle of the road. A nude woman with a brown, cloth sack on her head stood nakedly on the slime coated rocks. I barely noticed the big logging boots and the leather gauntlets she sported. I thought I could see the gleam of her eyes behind the strategically located slits cut through the bag, but I didn’t look closely at her eyes, if you get my drift. I believe if you stare at a dog it could think you might attack it and I didn’t want no naked woman thinking I was staring her in the eyes. I stared somewhere else. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her right hand wave at the air in fist position until she brought it down with a yodel and leapt for the bushes on the side of the road. The truck lurched from side to side. It felt like a grizzly bear was humping the back end of the trailer. I wouldn’t open the door and look. As I lay across the bucket seats, with one hand pressed to the top of my head, I grabbed madly for the ancient radio. I pressed the key and screamed into the mike. Then I realized if attackers heard me they would know I wasn’t dead and they might come and look in the truck. I lowered my voice a few hundred decibels and spoke firmly into the mike, restrained my normal tone of voice, and remembered I could get cut off if the operator heard obscenities and thought I was low on radio courtesy. “I’m up Sheep Creek Road and under attack. Here’s what I need. I need someone to come and watch my back while I get out of here and you better send the police, too.” I listened. Nothing. I couldn’t believe it. I repeated my message again and again. Silence. For the first time since I had started driving the truck the radio didn’t work. I swore for real. “Goddom cheap bastard VHF. Socking’ slimy fool, if you don’t answer me pretty soon I’m going to come and cut your throat. Then I realized the mike was squeezed to the top of my head where I had put the other hand. No wonder I couldn’t hear anyone. I was still holding down the talk button. “No, no, no. I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was still keying the mike. Send help. Talk to me.”I unfingered the button and heard a shaky male voice, “The police are on their way and this better not be a joke…” I noticed the truck was still. The bear at the back of the trailer must have been quick, like in wham, bam thank you tire. I put my cap over the mike and lifted it slowly into the air. Silence. I shook the cap around a little, as if I was thinking things over. Still silence. I slithered cautiously up the passenger door and peeked through the window. I could hear the truck motor rumbling and thought if someone was sneaking up on me I probably wouldn’t hear. I ducked back down on to the seat and spun swiftly over to the driver’s side and shut off the truck. I couldn’t hear a thing outside. I regretted not leaving my windows down. Immediately I was grateful I hadn’t. What if some thing had leaped through the window at me. I pressed the talk button on the mike again and whispered, “How long will it take the police to get here?” This time I remembered to take my finger off the button. I heard, “I don't know. It depends how far you are up Sheep Creek road. By the way, do you have a paddle?” I heard raucous laughter in the background. I was instantly enraged. Here I was in the middle of the road with crazy, naked women trying to kill me and the rescue forces were laughing and joking about me being up Sheep Creek road without a paddle. Hmmm. I had only seen one person and she wasn’t armed. I risked another peek. I couldn’t see anyone. I rolled down the window and stuck my head out and saw an arrow protruding from my front tire. A rapid glance toward the back of the truck revealed more arrow shafts and I ducked again. This time I tried to stuff myself under the dash like a gopher diving in his hole. I failed. I waited. I heard nothing for the longest time and then I heard a squirrel giving me a blast from a tree near the road. I waited until I was sure it was going to have apoplexy, worried that it could be screaming at someone sneaking toward the truck. Finally, I sneaked another look. There was no one around. The squirrel was bobbing up and down near the road and it was staring right into my eyes. I guessed the squirrel was telling me where to get off and where to go when I got off, or was someone sneaking up on me? I whirled around to stare at the window on the passenger side of the truck and saw a piece of paper pressed against the window. It read, “GET BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM. THIS ROAD BLOCKADED BY THE FOREST LIBERATION FRONT.” A bag-headed terrorist was holding the paper against the window. I stared at the slits in the bag and held my breath. She, it, returned my stare and spoke. I could hear the voice through the window and it chilled me to the core. The beautiful body I had seen on the road said horrible things to me in a vulgar, male voice. Things so awful and threatening to my personal anatomy I can’t repeat them. The bag disappeared. By bag I mean the paper sack over the terrorist's head, not the terrorist. I lurched over to the passenger side and saw to my relief a man, what appeared to be a man, dressed in an orange coverall. He was running down the trail toward the main road. He was packing a crossbow. I, suddenly sensible, ducked again when I saw the crossbow. I was pretty unsure about how many crossbow-packing freaks were hiding in the woods. I thought I heard the sound of a motorcycle revving up. Or could it be a quad? The sound faded into the distance. Maybe I was finally alone to await the forces of rescue. I hoped. I needed to pee really, really bad, too. I climbed out of the truck all the while ready to beat my retreat and peed on the arrow sticking out of the front passenger tire. What a relief. Nothing came whistling from the woods to pierce my helpless back. I zipped up and turned to inspect the damage done to my truck. Well, not really my truck, but I felt proprietary concern nonetheless. Every tire had a crossbow arrow shaft protruding from it. That must have been the reason for the shaking back and forth. The air exploding out of the tires caused some lurching of the vehicle and fear and imagination magnified it until I felt like I was in a rocking boat: or being assaulted by a bear. I snickered. Something snickered in the woods on the other side of the truck. I leapt back into the truck. I decided I could drive it, despite the tires being flat, and I started it up and began to back down the road. A couple of slithers toward a precipice convinced me to give up backing out of trouble and I settled under the dash to await my rescue. In the distance I could hear the satisfying whine of a siren. I crawled into the driver’s seat and poured myself a coffee from my thermos. I tried to sip nonchalantly while the cop car slewed to a stop behind the truck and a couple of Royal Canadian Mounted Police exited and slunk toward the front of the truck in crouched positions with weapons held out in front of them like B movie cops. Just a minute, one of them was packing what looked like a sawed off shotgun. I started to get concerned. I shouted out the window. “It’s all right now. They’re gone. They took off on a motorcycle. Maybe you passed them.” They stood up to their full height, which was considerable in the case of the larger male Mountie and not so considerable in the case of his female, shotgun-packing partner. They walked toward me, but still kept a close eye on the woods on the driver’s side of the truck. “Indians?” snickered the big one. “Oh shut up, Mirsky, this is serious. Go check around in the woods and see if there are any more of them,” snarled the little one. “What happened and where did it happen. I see you have been driving with flat tires. Guess you were scared poohless”, she snickered. “Poohless falls short of describing my feelings, Honey.” “Constable Darwin to you, sir. Now tell me what happened.” She pulled a notebook from her pocket and poised a previously gnawed pen over an open page. “Don’t leave anything out. Start at the beginning.” I started at the beginning, but she kept interrupting me with questions. “What colour was her hair?” I had just finished telling the police office that the naked woman who blocked the road was a redhead. “I said a redhead.” “How could you tell? You said she was wearing a bag on her head.” “She was wearing a bag but she didn’t have anything else covered and she wasn’t a heavy shaver either.” “What do you mean?” I could see a flush of red creeping up the sides of Darwin’s neck and I knew she knew what I meant, but I went ahead and gave her the explanation she asked for. “Well… when she waved, lots of red hairs waved with her. Little curly ones, long shaggy ones, you name it. They were all red. Well, strawberry blond, more like.” The flush of red was full blown and Darwin didn’t look me in the eye anymore. I took a big swig of coffee and choked on the grounds. “Holy Gravy Train, Officer, I didn’t mean to spit on you. I just gagged on my coffee.” It didn’t seem to matter. I was on my knees and handcuffed so fast I prayed I would never see the day when I might make Darwin mad. I looked up at her with what I hoped was a most pathetic face. Mirsky came back round the vehicle. “What happened? He try to attack you? Why're you all wet?”Darwin scraped the coffee off her face and snarled at him. “Be quiet and go look for motorcycle or quad tracks.”I was beginning to think Darwin didn’t like Mirsky much. She was always sending him off alone into the woods where people were hanging out with crossbows. “Ahem. Did you know a crossbow could kill a person pretty easy, officer? Maybe Mirsky should hang around here until more help arrives.” “We’re it. Get talking and no more funny stuff.” She undid my cuffs and helped me back on my feet. Mirsky was taking pictures of the truck tires with a camera. He had little bits of paper with writing on them by each tire. I supposed he was recording the damage. I couldn’t help staring when he dusted the arrows with some powder. I realized he was looking for fingerprints and my face got a little red when I remembered peeing on the arrow in the passenger tire. I decided it wouldn’t show and I didn’t need to mention it. It took a long time to explain everything to Constable Darwin while Mirsky kept taking pictures. We followed my tracks up the road to where the original attack had taken place. There were boot prints in the mud. The prints they found were unclear, but good enough for Mirsky to take picture again, and again make little notes. A misty rain made all his papers curl but he kept plugging along with his camera. Mirsky found quad tracks in a secluded location near the road. He decided the attackers drove away on that quad and took numerous photos of tire marks and made a few plaster cast impressions. I was surprised to see how fast the plaster set up even in the drizzle. They determined there were two people involved in the attack. They found a pair of women’s panties. The panties looked brand new and they couldn’t find a mark on them. They smelled the panties and declared they smelled like they were fresh out of the store. I couldn’t help snickering when I saw Mirsky sniffing away at those panties with a puzzled expression on his face. He looked up and saw me grinning and I knew he was not amused. He stuffed the panties into a plastic sack and attached a note to the outside. Lucky he and Darwin donned gloves before they picked up the silky underwear. Otherwise, numerous fingerprints belonging to Darwin and Mirsky would join any others found on those panties assuming they could get fingerprints off panties. I puzzled over the sniffing, was it investigative technique or were they a little.... We heard the grinding of more vehicles. It was one of the mechanics and a few men. They leaped from their vehicles and strode toward us, tire irons held high. This got a response from the police officers by way of drawn pistols and purposeful crouches. The guys dropped the tire irons and tickled air over their heads with their fingers spread to indicate no threat. Mirsky and Darwin finished with their investigations and indicated they could care less what we did with ourselves, yet they waited until new tires were flung hastily onto my rig. Then they left, probably eager to show off the evidence and get the photos developed. “Okay, Stinky, how’d you get yourself into this one?” Possibly from driving in my sock feet or maybe from some other more tricky reason, my nickname is Stinky. “I didn’t do anything,” I told the mechanic. “I was just driving along, minding my own business when a nude woman with a bag on her head stopped me…” “You let her shoot out your tires? You must be slipping.” “No, it wasn’t her. It was some guy with a bag on his head too.” “I bet you weren’t happy to see him nude.” “He wasn’t…oh never mind, just get the blinkety blank truck moving and I’ll get my load. You and the guys should probably follow me. I’m not sure if they’ll be back.” I gestured toward the woods. “They have crossbows.” Gus, the mechanic, gazed into the brush by the road then looked over at the rest of the crew and I where we stood in a confused huddle. “You guys follow Stinky and escort him back to town. Tony you follow me. I’ve got work to do at the shop.” He and his son Tony headed for their quads and before you could say, “Chickens don’t have lips,” they had driven off in the direction of town, safety, and freedom from crossbows. I fervently hoped they would meet a bagged redhead on the way back, but I had a sinking feeling they wouldn’t look as interesting to the Forest Liberation Front as my truck did, seeing as they were entirely free from log hauling equipment or any evidence thereof. I looked at the rest of the guys. They were backing away, toward their vehicles. A vague suspicion prickled my backbone. “Where are you guys going? I thought you were keeping me company while I picked up my load?” I followed them toward their vehicles. They slammed their doors, spun their vehicles around and sped off down the trail leaving me, open-mouthed, by myself. I looked slowly over my shoulder toward the bushes by the road and finally saw what Gus had been eyeballing when he decided to go home.A patch of orange clued me into the fact that someone was standing in the bushes. More alarming than the patch of orange was the crossbow held aloft by a large, gloved hand. “Don’t shoot. I’m leaving and I’m not coming back.” No answer and the patch of orange did not shift nor did the gloved hand with the crossbow. I squinted. Somehow I began to worry that the figure was motionless. Was he nailed to a tree by one of his own arrows or was he trying to freak me out? I decided to test the situation. “Hey, I’m coming over.” I waited for a reaction. Nothing. I moved toward the figure and stopped. “I want to parlay.” Still nothing. “Well, here I come damn it, don’t shoot, I just want to talk to you.” As I closed in on the motionless figure in the bushes my life wasn’t flashing before my eyes, so I thought I actually might survive. When I arrived at the last bush I was able to see the crossbow was fake and was held in a glove stuck on the end of a branch. The gleam of orange was the suit hanging on the branch. It didn’t reassure me to see the fake crossbow. Somewhere in the woods was the real crossbow. Was it being clutched by a real gloved hand and pointed perhaps in my direction? I headed back for the truck in time to see the rig dance around as the arrows from a well-aimed crossbow once again punctured the tires. I hit the dirt. I was in a king size lather. This time I didn’t have the protection of the truck. I was caught in the open like a cat in a kid’s sandbox is caught in the sweep of a homeowner’s flashlight. I didn’t like it one bit and I was starting to do a slow boil, likely brought on by the fear of forthcoming death, and the worm turns thing was beginning to take me over. Hardly had I begun to lift my head, being filled with an intention to leap to my feet and find something to beat on, when I heard a familiar, bad tempered, male voice. “Get your head back on the ground and don’t move. I’ve got arrows left and one of them has your name on it.” “Oh yeah, you don’t know my name,” I stopped raising my head though. Just in case… “Stinky.” I dropped my head into the dirt again. The beggar knew my nickname. It was enough to curl my, you know, socks. I cursed my chicken-hearted rescuers and the cops along with them for leaving me at the mercy of this crossbow killer. Hell, even a chicken would be braver than Gus, Tony and the crew. I waited for what seemed an eternity. When I felt something brush my cheek I yelled and rolled over to see the disappearing nether end of a bear that must have sneaked up on me while I wasn’t moving. The sight of that bear sent me hurtling toward my truck and I didn’t look back until I was inside with the door firmly slammed behind me. I hastily checked my body for arrows and looked around the vicinity. It was then I realized the bear was probably just as scared as I was. I pondered the weirdness of a bunch of men showing up to protect me while carrying nothing but tire irons and then how quickly they disappeared when the real protectors, cops with guns, were gone. I keyed the mike and spoke. “Send help. Cops, chickens and tires gone, so tell the boss unless he wants me driving this truck out of here on the rims he’d better send back them chickens along with a few rifles and maybe backbones.” I started to wonder about that bag headed woman. Her voice was familiar, but I can tell you the average man wouldn't pay no never mind to a voice when there was something as eye catching to look at as that body. Try as I might, no easy no way outside of a gopher' s hole that I could place that voice, but it nagged me like Mom does when she gets on my case about children, and "settle down son", and stuff like that. While I was remembering her figure, and trying to conjure up a better look from the back of my mind, I heard a tiny sound. I peeked and there she was all hunkered down, sneaking toward my truck. The sound I heard must have been one of her boots scraping against a rock. I slipped off my boots and slowly opened my door and slid to the ground. Maybe I could take her. After all, the only thing she was armed with was her nudity, gauntlets and boots. I confess it was hard not to breath heavy looking at her crouching there. It took all I could do not to gasp a bit, but I manned up and choked back my normal reactions. She was the stinker who arranged to have my tires shot off and so was not a real focus of carnal desire, just a better dressed type of killer. The thought of that, and the idea that the cross bow guy might be near, propelled me to her side but when I tried to get a grip on her waist my hands slid right off. Seems Miss Nude Vanity had greased herself heavily with sun block. Trust her to want to save her devilish hide. I had no choice left. I lunged and yanked at the bag. The shriek she let out almost made me let go and I realized I had grabbed a load of hair with the bag. We struggled. I held on with both hands. I knew if I ever let go it would be the last thing I clutched in my life. How did I know? She was threatening to kill me at the top of her lungs and kicking at my thighs. I was certain it was not my thighs she hoped to nail and I was trying to keep my male outlook, while at the same time I was determined to keep her from hopping off through the woods like some playboy bunny. Around about the time I was beginning to think I had entered the back door of hell, I heard a siren and realized that Mirsky and Darwin had gotten the call to return to rescue me. I was never so happy to see a pair of cops as I was this time. Darwin barrelled out of the car and threw herself on the naked woman, forcing her wrists into the cuffs, despite the grease and the squirming and kicking. Might have been the gauntlets that helped her get hold of the wiggling, screaming terror. As soon as the cuffs went on I grabbed the cuffs with my left hand while hanging on with my right and then realized I could yank the bag off if I shifted my grip a bit. Off came the bag. "You! Holy galloping blue jeans, Mrs. Dean, what on earth are you doing attacking my truck with a crossbow toting maniac? And where are your clothes?" "You'll pay for this you beast. Just you wait until John finds out you kidnapped and tried to have your way with me. I'm lucky to be alive you cowardly...." She burst into tears and looked tearfully at Darwin who had just finished shackling Carol Dean's ankles. I could not believe how such a tiny cop could manhandle a tall woman like Carol Dean, rip off gauntlets and boots, all the while yelling at her to give up. Yelling is mild. A roar would be a better description of Darwin's lung power. I think I fell the wind of it stir my hair, or was that the fright I was getting from the accusations sprouting from Carol Dean's lips? I glanced at Darwin, she was glaring right at me and as Carol spouted her ever growing lies, Darwin's face became pink, then red, then burgundy and she reached for her sidearm. Naturally, I threw myself to the ground and begged for mercy. I was almost as certain as a bat in hell could catch flame that my wings were about to be shot off. Thank all the geese in Canada, Mirsky knocked the weapon from her hand and shouted something. Looking back I suppose Mirsky said, "Lets slap the cuffs on him instead, that way we can poke him all the way back to the lock up." At the time, I thought he said, "Let's shoot the muffs off him, we can joke all the way back to the lock up." I leapt to my feet prepared to run, but it only made it hurt more when Darwin slammed me to the ground and cuffed my hands behind my back. I could hear her muttering something about extra charges for misrepresenting myself as a victim when I was just using the police to try to shut up my victim. I tried to speak, but Darwin just shouted, "SHUT UP," every time I opened my mouth. I shut up when I saw her pick up a handful of gravel. I was sure that gravel was going to fill a hole and I was bound to win a bet that it was the hole beneath my nose. Yes, I shut up. I was sure the truth would come out and went meekly to my seat in the back of the cruiser. Yes, I was going to stay shut up until I saw a lawyer. Yep, you can't say I run on and on all the time. I know when to shut up. Yes, I do. I can shut up. "Shut up! Prisoner approach the bench." The judge slammed his hammer on his table. "GET OVER HERE" I got there and looked the judge right in the eye, as he pronounced me guilty and sentenced me to prison. I wished then and there that I had asked for a jury of my peers, but I guess I was trusting in the justice system too much. The judge had ignored all the evidence given in the trial and I was sent here to rot. To make it all worse, as they were leading me out after the trial, Carol Dean, waved from the back of the room and called to the judge. "Hi Joe, how're you doing? I whirled around and squinted and if I had ripped off the judge's clothes, the way he was now standing, and put the cross bow guy's suit on him, it would have fit perfectly.