Aphelion Issue 235, Volume 22
December 2018
 
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Bigfoot Station

by Franklin Klavon





Bigfoot Station used to be called Sportsman's Getaway until acid rain killed the fishing and animal rights activists stopped the bear hunting. Inaccessible by car and only infrequently visited by university botanists, the Getaway's financial ruin appeared imminent. Then four ornithologists of the Robin Hood Bird-Watching Society, returning home from a weeklong survey in the surrounding wilderness, claimed to have encountered an upright walking beast, possibly a Sasquatch. Local newscasts covered the story and rumors spread. Soon advertisements would appear in magazines for Bigfoot Station, and travel agencies began distributing brochures.


* * *

Our party of four arrives Monday before supper. We took a seaplane from Lake Calcutta, Wyoming, flew west over the Cobra Hood Mountains, and followed Dickerson Pass above the foothills. We touched down at Granite Top Lake, the largest in a long chain fed by the eastern slopes of the Rockies. An elevator cable snaps and you free-fall twenty floors; that's what the downdrafts feel like over the tree-covered foothills. The lady across the aisle throws up in her lap.

The girl I'm with, Katy, seeing the retch, suppresses laughter with her open hand. Her watery blue eyes flick toward me. Her braided ponytail is pulled through the hole in the back of her baseball hat. Katy is medium height with dark freckles, a thin waist, and large breasts. She's 29 and I'm 20, and because of my younger age, I'm wondering if she takes me seriously. I take her breasts seriously.

The airplane circles the lake, the wings dipping hard to the left. My nose presses up against the window. The pontoons spray water on impact as the engine slows and we glide toward the landing. We climb from the plane with the two other passengers, both women in their mid-thirties, and wait for the pilot to pull our luggage from the cargo hold.

Granite Top Lake is surrounded by gentle hills of evergreens with snow-topped mountains directly west. The rocky summits seem close enough to touch. A single-story lodge with a pillared overhang is located with eight log cabins on a narrow peninsula jutting straight north into the lake. A Bigfoot silhouette, about ten feet tall and made of black plywood, faces the shoreline.

Tethered to the dock, the seaplane bobs up and down as the pilot hands us our bags. I shoulder my backpack and we head to the shore. A tall, handsome man with curly gold hair and a fat boy, about twelve, approach the landing. The man introduces himself as Sword. The boy is Andy. "I'm Michael Moss." I shake hands with Sword.

Helen, his wife, a stout, middle-aged woman, comes from the lodge. She's drying her hands on an apron. The man and his wife are our hosts. Katy and I have been assigned to cabin number eight for the next four nights. The other ladies will be in number seven. Sword, a smooth talker, caresses his bushy mustache as he welcomes our party. I have a sneaking suspicion that I've seen this man someplace before.

All three women I flew in with were reading pamphlets on the airplane alleging the Sasquatch to be an endangered species. The front page of the pamphlets shows the image of a Bigfoot taken from the famous Patterson film, frame 352. Inside, a blurb advertises Bigfoot Station, all but guaranteeing a Sasquatch sighting by at least one visitor in every group. Below that, a photograph shows Sword holding a plaster cast of a large Sasquatch footprint. The caption reads, "All profits will be used to purchase land for safe Bigfoot habitat." On the back, one finds a dollar-off coupon for Mountain Range Lanes plus a bowling tip on how to pick up a 7-10 split. No other Bigfoot enthusiasts, bowlers or otherwise, will arrive at the Station this week.

Heading to our cabin, I'm hoping it only has one bed, a double, so I can sleep with Katy. Instead, I find two sets of bunk beds built of rough-cut lumber against opposite walls of the sleeping room. "This is my bed," Katy says, tossing her travel bag on the upper bunk to the right. "You sleep on that side." She points to the other bunk. I play it off as if I expected nothing more. After all, I was invited to this gig only after my big sister canceled at the last minute. "No point wasting the reservation," Katy told me, no hint of flirtation in her voice.

After settling in and exploring the immediate grounds of the peninsula, we all meet for supper at the lodge. Helen serves chipped beef with gravy, boiled potatoes, green beans, and rice pudding. I find it peculiar that we four are the only guests for the whole week considering all the recent publicity. The lodge feels deserted.

The mess hall walls, I suspect, were once covered with photographs of fishermen and hunters posing with catches of trout and dead bears, but now all the snapshots are of Bigfoot sightings taken in the surrounding woods. It's all hazy, poorly lit photography, showing glimpses of gorilla-like beasts, mostly through thickets of trees or behind outcropping rocks.

"The Sasquatch is too elusive," Sword tells us, "to be caught in plain sight on film, the Patterson-Gimlin footage being a rare exception." Our hosts whet our appetites for seeing a Bigfoot, each elaborately describing encounters with the beasts. Every story is polished, even as told by the boy, as if they'd been practiced countless times for other visitors.

I raise my hand, laughing. "Ever bump into Santa Claus?"

Sword dismisses the comment and outlines a program of attack. Each team of two will take a motorboat at first light every morning and in the evenings to assigned locations around the lake. He points out the locations on a map. Footpaths lead to Bigfoot blinds in the woods where bait piles of Bartlett pears have been maintained for months. Bigfoots can't resist pears, Helen tells us. Sword and the fat kid both nod their heads, grinning.

"Only cameras, no firearms, are allowed at the lodge and in the surrounding wilderness. We don't want anybody shooting a Bigfoot," says Sword. "Bigfoots are ferocious but not likely to attack unless provoked."

"No man has ever been killed by a Bigfoot," Helen adds to alleviate our anxiety.

We spend the next two hours discussing Bigfoot habitat and behavior patterns, browsing through Bigfoot literature, and watching short clips on a battery-powered television. After our initiation, we are no longer tourists with cameras but field scientists, and the camp hosts, we find out, are research administrators. Even fat little Andy has a title: administrative assistant. Helen issues canteens, daypacks, binoculars, and digital cameras to the group. She gives us specimen bags for collecting Bigfoot hair and feces. All items are stamped "Property of Bigfoot Station."

After that, we return to our cabin for the night. Katy relaxes in a flannel lounge shirt and long socks, and I want to get friendly with her boobies, but she's invited Janet and Lottie, the other women who came in on the airplane, to stop by and play cards. We play 500 rummy, and I build a commanding lead, only to be overtaken by Lottie in the final hand.

The topic of conversation is all Bigfoot. I follow along and ask pertinent questions, if only to fit in with this crowd, and all three women voice their learned opinions. Janet recommends I buy Bigfoot for Dummies when we get back to civilization. Though I pretend to share their concerns about Bigfoot extinction, I'm the target of their condescending jabs, and they tease me as they would a kid brother.

The next morning, the boats bounce restlessly in the water against the car tires looped over the dock posts. The lake is choppy as we unhook the tie ropes and paddle out a short distance to start the outboards. It takes me three pulls to get the motor started. I push in the choke, and it runs smoothly. The air is polluted with gas fumes from the boats and smoke from a campfire in the yard, where we stood drinking coffee until the overcast sky lightened sufficiently to see. I burp the farmer omelet I ate for breakfast. Too many onions.

Katy sits at the bow facing straight ahead, examining a map to our lookout post. Every boat is assigned a post for the day, and then we rotate so that by the end of the program, each team will have monitored a variety of terrain. The plan is to stay put at the lookout until 11 AM then return to the lodge to report any ape-man activity and eat lunch. In the evenings, we return to our assigned posts until shortly before dusk. The southern tip of the lake east of the peninsula is the location of our first day's lookout.

I putt the motorboat quietly along the shoreline in the direction of our docking point at Katy's instructions. She feels there's a chance we can catch a Bigfoot off guard at the water's edge. The shore is jagged with fallen trees, and we do see a small deer as we come around a point, but I'd rather blast the motor on the open water to see what she's made of. It's a ten-horse Johnson on a rowboat, and I'm thinking it would haul ass.

Finally, we get to where a white X and a number 2 are painted on a large oak near the shore. This marks the landing point for our lookout. We glide toward a rickety wood dock and tie up. Sword instructed us to cut the motor a hundred yards before we land and paddle quietly the rest of the way. I disregard the instruction, and Katy, peering into the thick trees, must have forgotten.

The footpath leading from the dock is soggy the first hundred feet, and then we pass through small poplars and birch. The stone-covered ground is a good place to encounter a poisonous snake. I’m leading the way and watching for rattlers. It's late summer, and the bugs are sparse. Still, a horsefly buzzes around my head. After an eighth mile through thick evergreens, the path well marked with white X's, we arrive at the lookout on the summit of a small hill.

There's a break in the forest, and the sun filters through the surrounding trees. I make a mental note of the direction east. The lookout is an old bear-hunting blind made of plywood, painted black, and camouflaged with sticks and dead bushes. The hinges squeak almost imperceptibly as I swing open the door and we duck our heads and crawl inside. Katy closes the door, and we can see out through a sliding window, long and narrow, overlooking a gradual slope scattered with rotted stumps and thorn-apple trees.

The inside of the blind is no bigger than a single bed with a narrow bench to sit on and barely high enough to stand. I’m thinking Katy will soon get bored and then we can fool around, but for now, she's peering through the window with field glasses, and then she takes the camera out of the daypack.

Even to the untrained eye, it's obvious the rough terrain is classic Bigfoot territory. There appears to be an osprey or eagle's nest atop a towering deciduous beyond the clearing. Maybe we'll see another deer, I think, and then I look at my watch--only three and a half more hours to go. I take off my jacket, roll it up, lean against the corner, and fall asleep. I dream about a herd of Bigfoots attacking the bear blind. Katy nudges me awake. It's eleven o'clock. "You've been snoring the whole time," she huffs, "and you scared away all the Bigfoots."

"Sorry." I climb out of the blind after her. "Did you see a squirrel or anything?"

"Two blue jays."

We follow the path a ways, and then I split off a short distance to go to the bathroom. We were warned not to stray from the marked trails, but Katy wouldn't let me pee behind the blind because she said it'd leave human scent and alert the Bigfoots.

As I stop to relieve myself, I notice the dead carcass of a small doglike animal rotting in the low grass. Flies buzz all around the beast. Maybe a Bigfoot killed it, I catch myself thinking. I bring Katy back to show her my discovery. She takes pictures and searches for evidence of Sasquatch footprints, droppings, and tufts of hair.

At the lodge meeting after lunch, Andy downloads the pictures to a laptop computer. Everybody gathers around, and with the help of Sword's expert interpretation, we decide that an adult Bigfoot did indeed kill the coyote on account of coyotes often threaten baby Bigfoots. Sword reminds us not to explore undesignated areas. He claims that too much interaction between Bigfoots and humans may stir up the Sasquatch population and cause a revolt. No other sightings are recorded by the group that first morning.

After the meeting, we gather in the yard to be trained on Bigfoot calls (not unlike duck calls). "Sometimes a Bigfoot can be lured in for observation," says Sword, "with special grunt-like sounds and yelping patterns." He blows into one end of a handheld device the size of an empty toilet paper roll. The projected sound makes me think of a lion killing a pig. I once saw a mountain cat kill a pig at my grandfather's farm in Kentucky. Sword stops to catch his breath. "Last time I demonstrated this for a group, a ten-foot tall Bigfoot wandered into camp midday." He looks at Andy, and Andy nods his head, confirming the incident.

Sword pulls out another call from a box of Bigfoot gadgets. "This one's to lure them in close," he says. He blows softly on the mouthpiece. It sounds like a meowing kitten. He and Andy look around to make sure a Bigfoot isn't sneaking into camp, and the rest of us nervously glance toward the forest. "Everybody gets one of each," says Sword. "These are yours to keep. We will tack $59.95 apiece on your credit card bill."

For the next hour, Sword and Andy give personal instructions to each one of us on the subtle art of calling in a Bigfoot. All this time, our whole group is spooked and watching between the cabins, afraid a Bigfoot might lurk nearby.

"Keep an eye out," Sword warns us, "and also watch the lake. A Bigfoot might swim across, thinking there's a rutting female in camp." Sword tells us Bigfoots have the intelligence of a Saint Bernard. I recognize Sword from someplace, but I just can't remember where.

"I wish I were in the bear blind," Katy says to me. "I don't feel safe standing out in the open like this."

"I know what you mean. We should go in the cabin and hide under the covers." I squeeze her hand.

"I can't," she replies. "After this training session, Andy is taking me and the girls into the forest to pick raspberries."

I nap all afternoon, alone, and then at 4:30, we gather for an early dinner and return to our lookout posts for a couple hours. We were directed to leave the observation structures no later than 8 PM so that nobody would get lost in the dark. At 9 o'clock, we reconvene, and a member of each team reads the highlights of their field notes in front of the group. That would be our routine for the next two days.

My first full day in camp, no Bigfoots are sighted, but Lottie and Janet bring back a dead snake they found in the woods. We all gather around the lab table as Sword, wearing rubber gloves, inspects the black snake with a magnifying glass, and indeed a Bigfoot has killed it. He offers no proof, but he does say, "Bigfoots hate snakes."

"Is that it?" I burst out. "How do you know it wasn't killed by a hawk? Or maybe it just died?"

The girls squirm, no doubt embarrassed that I would dispute the expert. Sword responds, "Mr. Moss, this is a scientific investigation. 'Just died' falls short of a methodical diagnosis, wouldn't you say?"

Everybody laughs, and the objection is forgotten. What a pile of horsepucky, I think. I steal a look at the girls, wondering if they're buying this baloney, but I find only compassion in their faces for the plight of the endangered Bigfoot. Am I the only non-idiot here? Katy seems to be falling in love with this quack Bigfoot hotshot, who I now realize to be the has-been, one-hit country singer Sword Folkman.

Wednesday morning, we arrive at observation post number six soon after sunup. The lookout is a log shack with a wood stove at the edge of a grassy meadow, maybe three acres. Inside we find a cot and a table. Birch trees border the rolling grass, and the sun peeks over a hill on the far side. Sword instructed us to use caution when entering the dilapidated shack, saying a field scientist once discovered a Bigfoot sleeping on the cot, but as we creep inside, I can see the place is deserted except for a mouse running along the wall.

Katy and I sit on folding chairs and patiently survey the meadow with binoculars through casement windows. Three such windows are evenly spaced on the east wall, no doubt to facilitate shooting mule deer in the grassy field. The wood frames swing open silently, and the scent of wildflowers drifts inside and mingles with the dusty shack. Rodents have shred the cot, and I reluctantly make use of it to sleep after an hour of surveillance. I figure there's a one-in-a-thousand chance of getting Katy to lie with me. Still, I drop a subtle hint. "We could have sex on the cot."

"Uh, no," she says, peering into the binoculars. She keeps her eyes glued on the meadow.

I want to tell her what I think of this Bigfoot stuff, that I think it's a hoax. I envision convincing her of my opinion with simple logic, and she would then come to grasp how so-called truths that conflict with common sense are passed on as legend from generation to generation. At that point, having won her over to my way of thinking, she would fling off her clothes and make love to me on the grimy mattress. Mission accomplished.

It occurs to me, however, that what would really happen is we would argue, and she would express her regrets at having invited me on this excursion. I would then feel twice as alienated from her and the other women as I already do. I can't convincingly feign interest day after day in something I don't believe. Even to get laid. The idea of sitting on a metal chair for three hours watching dragonflies in a field of wild rye feels like running up sand dunes in combat boots with a full pack. Thus, I sleep off my erection.

Back at the lodge, we have grilled perch, fries, and coleslaw for lunch. It's a warm afternoon, and we eat outside at the picnic tables, Andy sits with the women, laughing and joking, telling Bigfoot yarns. They pinch his cheeks and kiss his head, Andy looks about twelve, but I can tell by his peach fuzz mustache that he's old enough to drive. He's a momma's boy, and his momma has a slight mustache herself. Sword has one hell of a mustache, a waxed handlebar. The mustache family I call them, or the mustaches for short.

After lemon squares for dessert, I invite Katy to go for a walk on the shoreline trail, but she says Andy's taking her and the ladies to a cattail marsh where a Bigfoot might be sleeping. "Would you like to tag along?" she asks.

I wave off the invitation. "No thanks."

"Are you sure? We might see a Bigfoot."

"No, I'll stay here and help Sword pump out the outhouses. That sounds like more fun."

At the camp meeting that night, the group is restless after two days in the woods without sighting a Bigfoot. "Field work can be tedious." Sword tugs his mustache. "But the advancement of scientific knowledge depends on selfless research for collecting data." Helen chimes in with a story of how she lived at the Getaway five summers before seeing a Bigfoot, a twelve-foot giant bathing in the lake, and the majestic sight, she says, was well worth the wait.

Thursday morning, Katy and I are assigned observation post number three on the east edge of the lake. We paddle into a cove of lily pads, dock in the reeds, and find an empty beer can in the mud. I almost suggest to Katy that we put it in a specimen bag for Sword to analyze. No doubt he'd say a Bigfoot popped it open to wash down a mouthful of bugs from a rotten log, but I decide not to antagonize her. We're leaving tomorrow, and I have yet to get into her shirt.

We cross a narrow boardwalk to dry land, climb a steep slope, and follow a ridge into a stand of pines. The forest floor is littered with burnt logs from a wildfire years before. The hunting blind overlooks a ravine running along an overgrown riverbed. The sun scarcely penetrates the canopy of trees. We settle in and I quickly fall asleep.

After two hours, Katy nudges me. "Wake up," she whispers then points out the window and gives me the binoculars. Her hands are shaking with excitement. I peer into the lenses, the field of vision wobbly, then steady my grip and focus on the black, furry beast eating a pear at the bait pile. The fat little Bigfoot takes one bite of fruit, spits it out, and chucks it at a tree.

"That's Andy!" I exclaim. "He's in a monkey suit."

"Keep quiet," Katy whispers hoarsely. "It is not." She grabs the field glasses from my hand.

The Bigfoot apparently hears the commotion in the bear blind, looks our way, and ambles off into the forest, glancing back one time. Katy slides open the window and blows on the Bigfoot call, but the brute never returns. I, however, manage to get several shots off with the camera.

Back at the research facility, the field scientists and administrators buzz with excitement. Sword downloads the photos to his laptop, and the group gathers around in awe, scrutinizing the five images of what appears to be a child Bigfoot, five feet tall by my description and a hundred and eighty pounds. "Way to think on your feet with the camera." Sword pats my back.

Suddenly I’m the hero of the surveillance team, but I'm not buying any of it. I glance around the lodge for the fat boy and discover him to be suspiciously absent. "Where's Andy?"

"Andy has a bellyache," Helen pipes up.

"A bellyache?" I snap. "From eating a rotten pear?"

Katy slaps my arm. "You stop that right now."

Lottie and Janet both raise their eyebrows, not comprehending my insinuation that Andy is the Bigfoot in the photographs. Andy misses lunch, and Katy refuses to talk to me.

That afternoon, I wait in ambush by the latrines for the boy behind the Bigfoot mask. I duck down in the weeds, and here he comes through the forest, whistling "Strangers in the Night." I grab his arm and pull him behind the outhouse. "Why'd you miss lunch?" I demand.

"What do you mean?" His voice whines like a little girl.

"You were at our bait pile this morning in a monkey suit, and it took you this long to sneak back to camp."

"You're crazy."

I push his back against the wall. "Stay away from my girlfriend."

"She thinks you're a joke."

"This whole place is a joke." I squeeze his fat face in my hand.

Andy pulls away and spits in the grass. "I felt up your old lady yesterday in the woods and Janet and Lottie."

"The only thing you felt up is your little dick." I throw him on the ground. "You're fessing up to those girls, or I'm going to pound you."

He flips me off with both fingers and sticks out his tongue.

After supper, Sword asks me to stay around for a minute. We go to his office, and he sits at his desk and lights a pipe. On the wall, a framed photograph shows him on stage with Willie Nelson. Sword motions for me to sit. "I heard some disturbing news, Mr. Moss. My son tells me you roughed him up at the latrines. Please explain yourself."

"I'm only trying to get the facts."

"About what?"

"About the Bigfoot we spotted!"

"I see." Sword picks a crumb of tobacco off his lip. "And what did you conclude?"

"I figure our Bigfoot was no Bigfoot but Andy in a Halloween suit, and I'm aiming to get the truth out of him."

Sword laughs. "I've seen a hundred Bigfoots around here, and you wouldn't know a Bigfoot if it crawled into your bed."

"Really? Because I think you're lying."

Sword relights his pipe. "Well, that's the charm of the unknown, Mr. Moss. You can't prove it or disprove it, and you'll never catch me in a lie--I'd bet everything I own."

I stand up from my chair. "I'll take that bet."

Sword puffs on the pipe and exhales. "Keep your hands off my boy."

That evening, Sword directs Lottie and Janet to observation post sixteen, straight north of the peninsula. Katy and I are stationed at post seventeen a quarter mile farther west. These locations are Sword's best guess on where the calf Bigfoot and the cow, which he believes was lurking unseen near the bait pile this morning, will be tonight after being scared off and then fleeing into the wind.

A narrow strip of beach bordered by upland forest runs along the north side of the lake. We climb a rocky hill, hike ten minutes into the trees, and arrive at the lookout under a canopy of virgin pines with massive trunks and no underbrush. The forest floor is covered with brown pine needles and cones.

I figure Andy can easily motor in and tie up his boat along the sandy shore. He can sneak into position in the ape suit, show himself at one of the bait piles, then return to his boat, and cruise back to camp without discovery of his monkey business. Our trail leading back to the beach is curvy and winds through hilly terrain. If Andy knows a secret direct route through the woods, we won't be able to catch him in the act.

For this reason, I've already decided that if a Bigfoot appears through the maze of tree trunks, I'm not going to grab the camera this time but instead blast out of the blind, run the little sissy down, and make an open field tackle (and it'd better not be a real Bigfoot). Thus, when we enter the blind I make sure Katy goes in first, and I sit closest to the door, ready to spring like a cat.

But eight o'clock rolls around and still no sign of the crybaby. We head out, and I figure Lottie and Janet will have a Bigfoot story of their own back at camp. We cut through the trees and granite outcrops then descend a cascade of ledges to the shore.

"Look!" Katy points at a large footprint in the sand. Along the water's edge, a trail of sixteen-inch-long tracks strides the beach. "A Bigfoot was here," she whispers.

We scan the shoreline and forest in both directions then follow the tracks while Katy takes pictures. The footprints are humanlike with five toes. I step in one to compare the length to my own foot. It's like a baby foot compared to a grown man's. "Don't destroy the evidence!" Katy whispers loudly.

The tracks meander in and out of the dry and wet sand then fade where the waves have washed them over. We follow the trail, watching ahead for the giant whatever-it-is that has passed through while we sat at our lookout. Rounding a point, we can see Janet and Lottie heading toward us, backtracking the same trail of footprints.

"Can you believe this?" the ladies greet us. "We came back from our post, and these tracks walked right by our boat!" The women bubble with excitement.

Katy hugs me. "Now do you believe, Michael?" I'm not sure what to believe.

Lottie explains that they followed the trail forward as far as they could until the tracks entered the forest and no longer penetrated the hard ground. I want to head that way and see if we can pick up the trail in the forest, but daylight's fading, so we backtrack past our beached motorboat, only to lose the footprints where reeds overtake the shoreline. I'm not surprised that the tracks dead-end in both directions. "Let's go," I say.

Back in the boats, we motor east, scanning the beach. I’m hoping to catch Andy clomping in the sand with giant wooden feet or at least find evidence where he'd landed his boat. We come to where a steep cliff juts into the lake, and then, not wanting to navigate these waters in the dark, I turn the boat southward for camp. The waves pound the hull and splash our faces. The other boat follows a short distance behind.

Sword and Andy greet us at the dock. It's dusk and the water's calm on this side of the lake. The women report the giant footprints to Sword.

"Did you find any feces or hair?" he asks.

"We did not," I say. At this point, I figure it must have been Sword who stomped the giant tracks along the beach, Andy's legs being too short. I look over at the moored boats for evidence that they'd been out on the lake, but everything seems to be as it was earlier.

After Sword analyzes the footprint photos on the laptop in the lodge, he estimates, based on size and penetration, that we crossed paths with a five-hundred-pound Sasquatch. Then he says it was probably a Bigfoot scout on patrol--Bigfoots don't like trespassers. This rot amazes the girls.

"I wish we didn't have to go home tomorrow," says Lottie.

Helen enters on cue and announces the new price schedule for next season's programs and offers a twenty percent discount if we reserve in advance--advance meaning today. "And don't forget," she adds, "all profits go to purchase more land for a Bigfoot wildlife preserve."

The girls produce their credit cards and put down nonrefundable deposits. Helen approaches me to reserve a slot but I decline. "Why not?" she responds as if nobody in their right mind could pass on such a fantastic deal.

Because, I want to tell her, I think it's a flimflam. I want to accuse Andy of masquerading in a hairy costume and Sword of tromping along the beach in Bigfoot shoes, but I figure if I keep my mouth shut and play ball, I'll have a better chance with Katy tonight, our last night together. So, I tell Helen that I'll be in Tibet next year tracking the Abominable Snowman.

The program officially concluded, we gather at the fire pit and drink beer. A multitude of stars and a full moon shine in the clear sky. Loons call out on the lake. The fire sparks and pops as flames flicker orange and bright yellow, Andy avoids me and sticks close to Mom and Dad.

We all listen attentively as Sword Folkman tunes his guitar and plays the songs that made him famous for a short time. His baritone voice resounds as clear as the water in Granite Top Lake. I want to ask Sword why he's in the mountains and not on stage, but he's a talker, and I'd rather not hear his whole life story. Besides, I'm ready for bed. Tomorrow morning, the seaplane arrives, and we'll fly home.

After turning in, I sleep soundly to well after midnight. I wake up and need to go to the bathroom. I dress and put on a jacket then creep outside with a flashlight. It's chilly, and I can see my breath in the moonlight. Typically, in the middle of the night, I'd pee in the bushes behind the cabin and go back to bed, but I hear trashcans banging on the far side of the peninsula where the camp discards its garbage. I flip up the collar on my jacket and head that way.

I sweep the flashlight beam left and right, cutting between cabins and passing the lodge. A timber staircase leads down a small hill. Crickets halt their songs in the weeds as I draw near. I approach the clanking and crashing at the garbage dump, stop near a cabin, and can see Sword in the moonlight, standing out in the open, facing away from me. He's carrying a rifle slung across his back and throwing rocks at a crouched-over beast digging in a trash barrel. Sword flashes a spotlight at the brute and hollers, "Get out of here! Go on! Get!"

The hairy animal tips the barrel, and the barrel rolls down the bank toward the lake. The beast turns and snarls at Sword and ambles closer, standing on two feet. For one fraction of a quarter second, I think it's a Bigfoot, but then I realize what I'm seeing is a grizzly bear. I can see it's missing a front leg, likely shot off by hunters, and that is why it walks on its hind legs. I later realize that this must be the "Bigfoot" the bird-watchers spotted and then reported to the local newscasts.

The bear comes closer, growling, and Sword shoulders the weapon, the muzzle wavering. I skulk backwards a couple steps to the dark shadow of the cabin wall.

Without warning, another bear charges over the crest of the bank on all four legs. Mud flies. Sword redirects the rifle and fires. The gun kicks and flame shoots out the barrel. The charging bear turns and bounds off along the bank toward the forest. Sword cocks the lever action and fires at the upright bear now towering over him. It falls, grunting, then drags itself away through the trees. Sword cocks another round and fires again, the barrel flashing like a torch.

The smell of gunpowder drifts through the air. Sword approaches the spot where the bear fell, searches the surrounding brush with the light, and scans the sloping ground toward the lake. He circles the littered garbage dump, gripping the rifle, ready to draw and fire. I remain hidden in the darkness then slip away.

Back at our cabin, Katy's snoring in bed. The next morning, the women find a blood trail on the path leading to the outhouses. At breakfast, they tell Sword about the blood. Lottie reports hearing gunshots last night.

"A grizzly bear attacked a Bigfoot eating at the garbage dump," explains Sword. "And I shot the grizzly."

"He's lying," I blurt out. "The Bigfoot was really a bear with three legs. I saw the whole thing."

The ladies glare at me.

Sword stands abruptly from the table. "Don't you have a plane to catch, Mr. Moss?"

"Yes, I do," I say.

I grab Katy's arm. "Let's go before he scams you for more money." I practically drag her out of the mess hall.

"Let go of me!" She slaps my hand.

We head to the cabin and pack our luggage. Katy won't talk and looks away when we meet eyes. I can see a pink lace negligee folded on top in her open suitcase. My heart throbs when I realize she brought this nightie to wear for me; only she was too shy, and I had been less than charming.

"Katy," I say.

"What?!" She looks up.

I embrace her in my arms and kiss her pouty lips. At first, she resists, for about one second, and tries to push me away. I kiss her again. She groans, locks me in a bear hug, and pushes her tongue into my mouth. She about sucks the lips off my face. We climb on the bed and make out.

The seaplane circles in the sky, the roar of the engine echoing off the hills as it lands on the lake. We hop down from the bunk, and Katy pulls her shirt back on (those big boobies were serious business). We grab our luggage and head out toward the landing.

The plane bobbles on the wavy water as the pilot cuts the engine, and Sword ties a pontoon to the dock. I can smell aviation fuel. Lottie, Janet, and Helen are waiting up ahead at the shoreline. No sign of the Pillsbury Doughboy.

All of a sudden, the women point in our direction and scream. Katy and I look behind us and see a herd of apelike beasts, eight feet tall, lumbering through the forest, heading toward the cabins.

Sword and Helen wave and shout for us to be quick as we run to the lake, holding hands. We can hear the grunts of the hairy monsters charging the camp. Sword hurries us along the dock to the landing, and then he and Helen make a beeline to the main lodge. Katy and I crowd into the seaplane with the others, and it takes off across the water. The plane circles over the peninsula, and we can see Bigfoots, like ants on candy, swarming the lodge.


THE END


2014 Franklin Klavon

Bio: Mr. Klavon has written a novel, Bubba Grey Action Figure, and a collection of short stories, Lemon Wine. His fiction has appeared in Brain, Child Magazine, at storychord.com, and at verdadmagazine.org. In a previous life he played lead guitar for Bubba Grey and has produced five alternative rock compact discs. Mr. Klavon is an avid chess player and has a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. For more, visit franklinklavon.com.

E-mail: Franklin Klavon

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