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CHIEF WHITEFEATHER OF THE CORONA GRANDE TRIBE
April 25, 2009
"Finders keepers Sparky," Aldo Lombardi boomed, one hand resting over his massive pecs, the other hand poking a thick finger at Terry Casadio who stood a half-foot shorter and forty pounds lighter. Newark's latest wannabee bad guy, backed away from Aldo. A bare bulb swayed above Terry illuminating stacks and racks of old wood furniture.
"You kidnapped my friend. I'll have you know my uncle's a big guy with the mob," Terry tried to keep his voice in the lower registers but it kept rising to a squeaky soprano. Rocco Ricci, perpetual gopher, carpenter's assistant and steroid-enhanced muscle freak, spoke up as he penciled a mark on a piece of wood.
"Kidnapped? Hey dog, you said take what we needed." Rocco white coveralls stretched against his muscles. He clamped the wood in a miter box and cut it.
"I never meant take Brian," Terry whined. Aldo put his hands on his hips and stood feet spread wide. Carpentry tools swayed from belts and loops.
"Could've fooled us. You left Brian in your tool shed tied tighter than Houdini unfed or watered for two days. That rates high on the holy shit meter, ya know."
"It was a bad day." Terry shuffled with guilt. Aldo and Rocco mocked him with fake laughter and forced mirth.
"Bad day? Did Uncle Guido and his sycophants, his hangers-on, his ass-kissers finally leave your house? We took him two weeks ago. Tough titty Dude! You abandoned Brian." Terry turned and found Rocco measuring his height.
"Hey Aldo, He's the right height for that cigar store Indian order, right physique too. Maybe we should keep him like we kept his buddy; make him model for a while?" Rocco kept positioning himself between Terry and the door. They scuffled. Terry ended up pinned between the two carpenters.
"What are you two up? I'm going to call my Uncle and get his goombas here." Terry fumbled for his cell phone but it slid from his grip. Rocco wrapped his arms around Terry and held tight. He screamed and fought against the two burly carpenters as they dragged him through a metal door and into the back of the warehouse. Rocco tossed him to the floor.
"You can't keep me here. They'll miss me," Terry said, half standing and dusting his clothes.
"If you behave, we won't rat out your sexual proclivities to Uncle Guido," Rocco backed Terry against the wall.
"You'd pull shit like that on a guy?" Terry stood indignant. Aldo gave Rocco a playful swat. He let Rocco stare at his back while he talked.
"No we won't. He's messing around screwin' with you. Brian was worthy to be a model. You're just pretty meat. Now go. Get out. The next guy's gotta be better'n you." Rocco called that Aldo's ego tweak.
"Better? How would you know? I'm pretty damn good at most things." Terry tugged at Aldo's shoulder to turn him around but the larger man didn't move. Terry scuffed the toes of his wingtips on the floor.
"Now you're interested?" Aldo set his tools and turned to face Terry. "Imagine being a wooden Indian standing next to a display of pipes and cigars in a turn of the century smoking salon. This is the base. Why don't you give it a test drive?" Rocco slid a carved tree stump eighteen inches in diameter and eight inches high towards him.
"Just stand here?" Terry removed his shoes and socks and fit his bare feet into depressions on the stump. It forced him to rest his weight on one leg and assume a classical pose. Rocco tugged Terry's sweater off. He was a well-built fireplug -- stocky, solid, muscular.
"Do I get Indian things like beads and headdress?" Terry asked.
"We carve all that to custom fit it. Most of it is waiting for the right model. Are you the right model?" Aldo explained. Rocco measured Terry's waist, chest, arms and thighs. "Can't you just imagine all those rich guys buying cigars, admiring your body."
"If I want out, you'll let me go? Even if all the wood is carved?" Terry stepped off the stump. He unbuckled his jeans at the waist and wrapped his fists around the waistband.
"You only have to ask. Say the word and you walk out. But you don't want this. You're not as brave as Brian. You're not daring, are you? Brian said you cluck like a yellow duck." Aldo smiled his best grin at Terry.
"Where's Brian?" Terry asked. Aldo pointed to the wooden statue of a smooth-bodied, handsome Roman drying his leg with one foot on a pedestal and the other resting gracefully on the ground. The statue wore wooden sandals and nothing else. The woodgrain highlighted the youthful physique and Brian's face smiled a seductive half-smile at anyone viewing his naked splendor.
"He chose young Cincinnatus. We shaped and smoothed his body to resemble a fine-looking, proud and noble Roman aristocrat. Almost real, our motto, almost real," Aldo said. Terry went over to Brian's statue. It felt wooden, not fleshy and solid. The eyes of the statue seemed to follow his movements.
"Is he alive?"
"And aware. He contracted with the Museum of Natural History, going on display in the main gallery for three years and then traveling around the world for six," Aldo rested his hand on Terry's shoulder and kneaded his fingers into his tense shoulder muscles.
"He begged for the opportunity. Didn't even hesitate. Look at that body, so young, so full of life."
"He always was handsome to the point of being too pretty."
"Hah, he said you'd find a way to weasel out. Called you 'chickenshit wimp-boy'." Aldo tweaked Terry's ego.
"He was wrong, always underestimating me. Does he just walk away at the end of the contract?"
"When we reanimate him, he'll look just like you see him now." Aldo handed Terry a contract.
"If it's good enough for Brian, it's good enough for me. Tell me I'm not going to regret this." He snorted and signed the contract without taking note of the terms then slid his jeans and boxers down his legs and kicked them away. He stood naked as a jaybird.
"I sure as hell wouldn't regret being admired by the masses." Rocco said. He applied glue to the tree stump and Terry stepped into it. The sking of his feet bonded to the wooden base in seconds.
"I feel exposed. I'm not a naked cigar store Indian. Am I?" Terry asked.
"Don't worry! We got some fancy injun duds ready." Aldo went to a refrigerator, retrieved a six-pack of beer and handed one to Terry. He set the rest within his reach. Terry drank and grimaced at the bitter taste. Rocco ignored Terry as he carved strips of soft wood into sandals. He worked fast and sure. When the wood fit against Terry's feet, he glued it into place. Then Rocco carved appliques resembling dear skin leggings and fitted the pieces to Terry's legs. Terry watched, as pieces of wood stuck tight looking like skintight leggings. Once in place, the wood strips kept his legs stiff. Terry felt thirsty and drank more of the bitter-tasting beer.
Aldo fitted a wooden waistband and loincloth against Terry's buttocks leaving his hips and thighs exposed. Then he fit a piece of wood between Terry's legs to close the space and give him the appearance of being carved from a solid tree trunk. Aldo fit a piece of wood that folded like the front of a loincloth low onto Terry's stomach. The inner pouch cupped Terry's manhood against his leg. Aldo glued it over Terry's crotch. Terry's stood effortlessly braced by the wood. Aldo placed a pair of floor length mirrors so could see what he looked like.
"I'm thirsty. You got another six-pack of this shit?" Terry asked.
"How about we let the fluid drip into your stomach through a tube? Both your hands will be holding cigars. And how about letting us fix it so you breathe through your nose and not your mouth." Aldo held up a wood mouthpiece with thin plastic tube hanging out front and back.
"You guys think you're so good at this persuation shit, don't ya?"
"Better'n most." Aldo shoved the wooden teeth into Terry's mouth. Terry gagged as he swallowed the tube. The mouthpiece made him look thick-jawed and let a line of wooden teeth show between his lips. Aldo glued his lips in place and connected the tube to a series of IV bags. Terry eyes followed the bitter beer through the tubing. He felt its coldness as it drained into his stomach. The smell of wood filled his head as the fluid penetrated every cell in his body. Also patted his shoulder.
"I must admit, Indian, you're better behaved than most. Right about this time most guys get freaky when they realize there's no way out. But you, you barely flinched. That wood extract you're drinking, turpenoids mostly, that stuff will turn you stiff like wood from the inside out," Aldo explained, working on adrenaline and bravado, Terry turned both thumbs up in approval. Rocco brought a beaded chest piece. Aldo spread glue on the back of a beaded chest plate and stuck it to Terry's chest and abdomen.
"Position your arms like this," Aldo folded his arms in front of his chest. Terry imitated his pose with his arms resting on the breastplate. He pulled his shoulders back and held his head high. They glued Terry's arms in place.
"Good work. I'm going to carve leather thongs for your biceps." Rocco said. He fit the bands of wood resembling leather thongs around Terry's biceps and then glued Terry's hands into ovals to hold cigars. Aldo slid the feathered headdress over Terry's head. The finely carved feathers cascaded down Terry's back and once glued in place, braced his back straight up and his shoulders back. When he finished, Rocco glued Terry's eyelids open and covered the rest of his exposed skin with shellac. They slid Terry to the spraying room and prepared the sprayer.
"We're going to cover you with six coats of preservative and cure you with heat lamps. When that's done, you'll be solid wood. After that, you get paint and ten to twelve coats of high grade lacquer to give you that deep, deep lustrous shine." Aldo slipped the spray helmet over his head and sprayed away. Huge fans moved the mist out of the room between each coat. Heat lamps set in vapor-tight fixtures warmed Terry's body. He felt his muscles grow hard. His heart stopped beating and his breathing ceased. He could see and hear but not move. The finishing process took several days. When they removed him from the painting booth, they painted his exposed skin Indian red, his loincloth blue, the chest plate white and gold, and the feathers white and black, like eagle feathers.
A black belt and sandals finished his look.
"Chief WhiteFeather of the Corona Grande Tribe," Aldo waxed the muscular body of the statue while Rocco polished it with a soft cloth.
"Ya know, I envy him. After all, I designed the statue. I was supposed to be standing there and not him. I wonder if he would have agreed if he knew it was a permanent exhibit?" Rocco said.
"He didn't read the contract. Our gain and his loss. Next year this time the Smithsonian Institute will ask us to create another statue for permanent exhibition. I promise you'll be the model." Aldo put his arm around his assistant's shoulder and gave him a hug. "The shipping company is on their way here. We better build a crate built around him before they scratch him all to hell and back." They prepared a wood frame to hold the Cigar Store Indian for shipping and nailed it into place. Rocco drove the last nail into the crate. Terry, now a wooden cigar store Indian statue, stood in the dark, alone.
"Remember when you negotiate next year's statue, make sure I'm naked, something Greco-Roman, really naked to show of all these muscles I'm working on... An' nothing modern like Brancusi. An' don't forget an in perpetuity clause in the contract. I don't want some distant relative claiming and reanimating me." Rocco flexed and winked.
"You and me both." They laughed and waited in silence for the freight company to pick up Chief WhiteFeather, authentic cigar store Indian -- "almost real," just like the motto said.
2100 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
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*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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