by Ben Krier
War paint. War paint was next. He pulled tight the leather thongs of his authentic shin-high moccasin boots. The soft deer hide felt natural on his feet. Slightly padded bottoms. No beads. Simple. Just animal skin, tanned to a golden purity.
His loincloth was made of the same material. From the same animal, he liked to think, an animal that he could run down in the wilderness. Indians did that. In the wintertime, when the snow was frozen, it was possible for an Indian to outrun a deer. When the deer tried to run, their skinny hooves poked through the top layer of snow crust, hampering their stride. And they were malnourished then, the deer, their stamina at a seasonal low. The brave had only to keep a steady pace, to move swiftly, weightless, to wrap his arms around the charging deer's neck and insert his blade into the beast's pulsing jugular, as both bodies tumbled to the ground, a momentary disturbance to the stillness of the woods. Then cut out its steaming guts and release its spirit to the heavens, wiping its blood on his sweating face, taking part of its spirit into him.
The music in his headphones was electronic and beat-heavy and went well with the thick dope buzz he had on. Standing, flexing his shoulders, chest, and stomach, and after that his arms and legs, his whole body became taut. Like a knot, he thought. He stood with the mirror to his left, witness to the sinewy profile of a warrior. He flexed his butt cheeks. He saw a deerslayer, a brave who would keep the women fed and the babies warm. A woman was called a squaw.
And he would have the strongest, most shapely horses. Horses that other braves would think of stealing, but then decide not to, out of fear.
His rifle would be the envy of every Indian and white man this side of the big river.
He relaxed his muscles, watching them move under his pale skin, and then flexed them again quickly, with a sharp outward breath, a whisper.
The thought of practicing his Indian dance crossed his mind, but his sister had friends over, and they were watching TV in the living room below. He could see them roll their eyes towards the ceiling and wonder what all the jumping around was about. He gave a long slow exhalation to the mirror, as if readying himself for the next feat of strength or bravery. If he were to dance, he would prove his strength and determination through the power of his steps. Deep within themselves, his sister's friends would find the rhythm of his feet enchanting and hypnotic, the faraway pulse of something primitive and beautiful. They would crave the comfort of his teepee. He would go to his teepee after a night of heavy dancing and find them waiting for him on his bed of many furs.
Walking with stealth and concentration, he moved to his dresser and from the top drawer took out the jars of red and black face paint.
He returned to the mirror on the back of his bedroom door to continue staring at himself, getting close, only a few inches of space separating the reflection and the reality.
The music was swelling now, the ambience of synthesized melodies climbing with a slow intensity into a crescendo that froze everything outside the headphones. Big heavy beats, pounding like the drums of a warrior council party.
He let his body lean slightly forward, until his nose and his crotch bulge were touching the glass. The leather of his loincloth was soft on his skin. Is this what it was like to be an animal? Is this what it felt like to have a deer's penis, soft and warm in its sleeve of fur?
He stared into his own eyes. Blue. Maybe a little gray. He wanted his eyes to be steely blue, with a cold touch of gray, an eye color that would bring pause to the hearts of every squaw maiden in his village. Eyes that with a fixed gaze would bring his one special squaw to the verge of visual climax. He and she would stare heavily into each other in the cave behind the waterfall.
He had eyes that would see straight and true, as they sighted down the length of his proud musket barrel the movements of a galloping buffalo in the valley.
He stepped back from the mirror as the music subsided in intensity. He walked to the coffee table next to his bed. It was the coffee table he'd found on the street his last year in college. Bumped and stained, but made of solid wood. Like the wood of olden days, when you had to chop it down and saw it up. He picked up his two-foot glass bong, put a fresh tiny bud of marijuana in the hand crafted slide, and pulled himself a flowery hit. He exhaled strongly towards the window, the outside, towards the spirit world, and the millions of tribal fires that lit his moonless sky.
About the author:
Ben Krier was born in Wisconsin. He is living in New York City in between semesters at Syracuse, where he's in the third year of an MFA in fiction. His father's name is Chris and his mother's name is Kay. Chris and Kay live in Random Lake.