by Fred Redekop
Harvey owned three acres of open meadow and another seven of bottomland timber. Nalora, his attractive, fortyish live-in girlfriend, told everyone it was the nicest place in Woodard. In the evening and on weekends, they sat on the log cabin's south-facing deck and enjoyed the warm March afternoons. "It's a vacation every day," Harvey said to his crew, rubbing it in.
Harvey started on the ground as a JAFO--just another fucking observer--and after thirty years of hard work became senior line foreman for the regional electrical company. The day after his promotion, hung-over, he made the nearly fatal mistake of letting a college kid, a mud flap, plant the outriggers. Harvey was up in the cherry-picker when the outside foot plates sank into the loose shoulder, and like a rookie he grabbed for the wires. Had he succeeded, he would've done deadman pull-ups; as it happened, his shoulder brushed against the humming lines, popping him out of the nest. Like a bungee jumper, he fell headfirst and jerked when the ropes held. He hung there, slowly spinning in his harness and staring up at the faint sky.
The nightmares began soon after--a loud pop, then falling. Once he dreamt he was skydiving with his crew, and as they flew through the air, the college kid drifted over to him and pointed to Harvey's back. Harvey reached back. No parachute. The whistle-pig grinned, pulled his cord, and rocketed out of sight. Harvey went down and down like a lightning bolt seeking ground.
After his accident he couldn't work the high trapeze and after he used up his vacation and sick time, he went on 90-day disability. The head of HR told him that if he were found to have a legitimate medical condition, he'd go on long-term and be retroactively reimbursed at 60% of his pay. She shook his hand and Harvey, standing outside her office, realized that he was out of work and no money was coming in. He used up his savings in three months and went to the clinic. Halfway through the session he realized the doctor was a psychiatrist.
"I'm not crazy," Harvey protested. "I just can't breathe. I get the shakes. Doc, I shit my pants when I put on the harness." The doctor, who seemed like a nice guy, nodded and asked him how his libido was. A moment later Harvey found out what the word meant.
Harvey was so humiliated by the experience that afterwards he couldn't face Nalora and brush-hogged the meadow instead. He was starting to feel better when, at the bottom of the slope, he noticed that the stream running through his woods had flooded. He got off the tractor and discovered that it wasn't due to melting snow or spring rains--beavers had built a dam on his downstream property line.
Harvey considered himself something of a naturalist. With a hunting buddy, he had introduced breeding pairs of pheasants into the area and he and Nalora fed a flock of wild turkeys that gathered on his land every winter. But he had a dream of putting a tee in the meadow and clearing a section of the bottomland for a putting green. It would be a sweet, if short hole, and he pictured his white golf ball against the blue air, coming to rest like a tiny comet on his property. A water hazard he didn't need. With a long piece of cast-iron gas pipe from the garage he pried a hole in the dam. He threw the pipe to one side and watched in satisfaction as the water poured through; by the next day, he figured, his timber would be dry.
The next morning he found the pipe buried in the rebuilt dam. Harvey broke the dam apart again, and that evening he brought a Coleman lantern and put it on the bank, figuring the bright light would scare away the beavers. Instead, he returned to find the dam repaired yet again and the lantern buried in the muck and branches. I'm getting a backhoe, Harvey said to himself.
He was unloading the Kubota rental in his driveway when he heard a honk. A green pickup pulled in, and an environmental police officer motioned Harvey over. He said the seven acres were listed as wetlands and gave him a brochure outlining regulations.
"It's my land," Harvey said in disbelief.
"You gotta look at it from their perspective," the officer said. "They were here first."
Nalora came home and found Harvey sitting on the deck. She brought him a glass of iced tea and he took it moodily. "The beaver?" she guessed. He nodded. She put out her hand, but he withdrew it as if a charge arced across their skin.
A few weeks later Harvey found himself in a waiting room with Nalora, pretending to be interested in a magazine while Nalora knitted a blanket for her grandkid. She glanced over, put her knitting down, and resting her hand on his thigh, pointed out an ad. "She has a nice little fanny, doesn't she?" she whispered.His ears were still red when Nalora's therapist brought them back to her office. Harvey was confused why he was there. He couldn't get out of bed in the morning, but his old lady was the one with a therapist. Nalora had explained why her therapist wanted to see them both, but that too made no sense to him. Cause and effect were jumbled, like a house he had rewired in his spare time. The owner had mucked it up bad, and when Harvey turned on a switch the lights pulsed, the fire alarms shrilled like high summer cicadas, and clocks set and reset themselves.
Nalora's therapist was young and quite pretty. The deadwood between Harvey's legs itched, as if grubs and ants were stirring beneath it.
"Harvey's a bit quiet," Nalora apologized, after the therapist had repeated her question. "He's a big bear, gruff but doesn't mean you harm. You mind, hon?" Harvey hung his head as Nalora answered for him, and looking up through his bushy eyebrows he was fascinated by the straight black line the therapist's skirt made on her tanned legs.
He tried to follow the discussion. He did. But he had no idea what the therapist was saying, and the fact that Nalora understood her made him uneasy. He expected the worst and got it: it wasn't even fifteen minutes before they were talking about sex.
"The doctor's cleared him, medical-wise. He got a jolt, but luckily it wasn't enough to do permanent damage. The psychiatrist says it's a depressive problem." Nalora had picked up a couple of books at the supermarket checkout line and studied them. She tried to interest Harvey in what she had found, but like everything else she did lately, it just drove him deeper into silence.
"You're on Paxil?" the therapist asked.
"His side effects shouldn't have lasted this long," Nalora said.
"It varies," the therapist said sympathetically. "How is your libido?"
"I fell out of the crow's nest," Harvey said thickly. "I get nightmares."
"That's the post-dramatic problem," Nalora said.
"Uh-huh," the therapist said. "I wonder if you're pushing him too fast."
They went on, totally over his head, their voices fading. Was this what the beaver experienced in the quiet deep? He pictured it snug and secure in its lodge, napping the day away. At night, he heard the beavers slap the water before they dove. The moon, reflected in the new pond, shone through the trees as if a silver fire was raging on his land.
"The last thing I want is for him to feel bad about his problem," Nalora said.
"We've talked about other things," the therapist said. "Other strategies beside penis-in-vagina intercourse."
"Other things?" Harvey spluttered. The therapist smiled to reassure him. She had white sharp teeth and her incisors were small chisels. Harvey trembled like an aspen.
Nalora wet her lips. "She means, you know, other things. Oral things."
Harvey looked at the therapist, astounded. Was she really suggesting that he eat Nalora's pussy? Did she think that was going to solve anything? "I'm not working. Didn't she tell you I'm not working?"
"How does it feel for Nalora to make sexual requests?" the therapist asked. "Does it help to know that she finds you sexually desirable? Or is it threatening that she needs you?"
"Yeah. No." He looked to his girlfriend for help but she was absorbed in her knitting.
"I've told her that antidepressants affect things," the therapist said. "I've told her you need time. What do think she needs?" Nalora sniffled and a huge tear fell onto the yarn in her lap. Harvey sat, helpless and rigid, as the beautiful sympathetic therapist fed tissue after tissue to his sobbing old lady.
Harvey moved to the sofa, permanently. Patient as a backwoods scout, he watched nature shows on the TV until beavers appeared. With a crayon he scrawled facts on a Chinese takeout menu: long time ago 800 pounds teeth keep growing man biggest preditor no gentles just clockle cloakell clewhackal opening rubs oil into fur with fourfeet
At the next therapy session, he pulled out the menu and the smell of shrimp low mein filled the room. "Beavers have to stay wet or their toes'll crack," he said. "In winter, they find air bubbles under ice."
"His father never expressed his feelings," Nalora said. Her voice was authoritative--before going to work each day, she set the VCR in the bedroom to record Dr. Phil.
"Okay," her therapist said, sweeping her hair to one side, "why don't you two practice handing the speaking stick back and forth. You're getting the hang of it."
That night Nalora, as some sort of bad joke, got up on all fours and said, "Do you want some beaver?" Harvey leapt out of bed. He stayed at the Seven O's until it closed, went to the VFW, and came home in the morning after she had left.
He fell asleep and had a nightmare where he tried to drown Nalora and her therapist. Nalora went under, but the therapist popped up and crawled onto the bank. Like an animal, she shook her glossy brown hair and grunted. Her back arched, her hindquarters swayed, and a rich thick amber fluid oozed from between her legs. She's in heat, Harvey thought. Nalora surfaced and swam over. She scooped up handfuls of the liquid and rubbed it onto her hair and breasts and crotch. Her therapist looked back over her shoulder and said, "All the world comes to my castoreum." That was his last dream for a long time. But though his nightmares ceased, his fits and impotence remained and he got dizzy when he stood up, as if his six feet were sixty.
Harvey's schedule turned around, day for night. Nalora nagged at him until he finally pulled himself off the couch one evening and walked down to the new pond. The first thing he saw was the beaver, swimming calmly and industriously toward the dam, carrying a branch in its mouth. The wake it made was arrow-shaped and went straight into his guts. "Cunt-fucked beaver," Harvey whispered. "Asshole mammal." The flooded trees had budded, but they would soon be dead.
As time went on, two mated-for-life geese nested on the beaver lodge. A rabbit shrieked in the meadow and was reborn as twisted coyote scat. Fiddleheads unscrolled in the frog-singing swamps. Spring beauties furred the thighs of the lawn. Forget-me-nots exploded at the slightest touch. Narcissus, a fancy name for daffodil, bloomed in the garden that Nalora tended.
About the author:
Fred Redekop likes to think he shares the same personality type as his hero, The Tick. As ENFPs, they are crusaders, individualists, and when the world says Jump! they say Pass the salt. Like most writers,however, he modifies the truth to suit himself. He is an introvert (I) not an extrovert (E). He doesnt fight crime, he stays close to home and drinks a lot of tea. Mostly he drives his wife crazy. When she says, What time is it? he says, Are you implying I dont do enough work around the house?" From another perspective, that of his seven-year-old daughter, Fred Redekop is huffy and grouchy and always tells people what to do when they're already doing it.