Green Man Red Woman
Part 4. A Story in 14 parts, based on Pacific Northwest Mythology
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Dark dreams trouble her sleep again that night. She tosses and turns as images of volcanoes and wild forests and totems with strange beasts feasting on human flesh assault her from some deep recess of her psyche until finally she jerks awake in a cold sweat. She lies in bed trembling, her eyes fixed on the ceiling, observing a small spider spin its web at the edge of the ancient, painted light fixture, unwilling to close them again and risk returning to that ugly and frightening place in her dream. For a time, the only sound is her heartbeat. Then, from somewhere outside her window comes a muted tap, tap, tap, like soft shoes on pavement, only with the cadence of a four-legged beast.
She waits for the sound to pass, remembering, knowing somehow that the thing out there is something she doesn’t want to see or know about. But when it stops suddenly, she climbs from bed and creeps quietly to the window. With a shaky hand, she withdraws the curtain. The stag stands there, majestic on the rain-soaked pavement, looking straight up at her.
Panic grips her for a moment before a strange sensation takes its place, a disorienting giddiness like the night before. Her heart races as the the memory of last night's excitement returns.
“Wait,” she mouths to the stag.
She hurriedly dresses and bounds down the stairs. When she enters onto the street, the creature is up on the next block, heading once more to the west. As it arrives at the intersection with Fifth, to her amazement, the second deer, a doe, joins him from the south and the two clock up the Max line. But when she finally arrives at the rail tracks the deer are no longer in sight. She runs, hoping to catch one more glance of the beautiful creatures.
“What’s your rush, Daughter?” a voice calls to her from the sidewalk. She stops to see the same couple sitting there on the same bench. The woman grins a toothless grin. The old man has a fierce grip on his whiskey bottle.
“Surely you saw the deer run by,” she says.
“What if we did?” the man asks. “Why are you out chasing deer in the middle of the night, anyhow?”
“I don’t know,” she says, realizing she has no reason to give him. “I guess because they’re so lovely.”
“Leave the girl alone, Jack,” the woman says.
“And what are you doing out here in the middle of the night?” Cherise says, feeling cheeky and rude.
His eyes continue to bore down on her, but he doesn’t speak.
“We have a little disagreement,” says the woman.
“Do you two fight over everything?”
“Just the important stuff,” the man says and takes a long drink.
“Like why the fuck there’s a monument to this reprobate over there across the street?” The woman spits on the ground as though trying to rid herself of a bad taste.
Across the street Cherise sees a large concrete pedestal with a of small statue on top. She’s noticed it before, but never paid it any mind. She nods to the old woman and raises her eyebrows. “So, what’s it say?”
“Go on over and read it. We’d like your opinion.”
“I personally don’t give a fuck about her opinion,” the old man says.
His curmudgeonry is the nudge Cherise needs to push her across the street. The statue, a miniature stag, gives her a chill. On the side of the monument, in relief, a bearded face stares back at her. It has horns. “The Green Man of Portland,” it says, followed by some silly story. To call it contrived would have been an understatement.
“He looks like you,” she calls back across the street. “But it’s all kind of silly, isn’t it?”
The old woman laughs. “You pegged Green Jack Doyle alright.” She guffawed, nearly doubling over.
“Sure, laugh while you can,” says Jack, “but you’ll never be rid o’ me. I’m part of you now, darlin’.”
“You don’t belong here, silly man. You belong on the other side of the blue ocean with your damned pixies and fairies. They shoulda built a monument to a fine native person, like Pahto, for instance.”
“So, where are all your old boyfriends, Lou? Who’s here for you, now? Jack Doyle, that’s who.”
“You’re only here for yourself, you miserable old paleface. You’re not half the man my Pahto was.” The old woman, Lou, is turning bright red and Cherise decides it’s time to take her leave. She’s about to excuse herself when Lou coughs and pats the bench, an invitation to join them.
“Come sit by your old mother, child.”
Lou looks nothing like Cherise’s mother. But then who knows what her real birth mother looks like? She probably resembles Lou. Cherise crosses the street and sits down beside Lou, trying her best not to sit too close, afraid that something might rub off the crusty old woman.
“Pass your daughter the whiskey, old man,” Lou says.
Cherise takes the fifth from old Jack, who grumbles as he passes it along, and she raises the bottle to her lips. Just as the warming liquid begins its long slide down, she thinks: maybe I shouldn’t have done that.
For the next episode of our novelette go to Part Five.