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???I been away a long time???

I repeat those words and look over the campfire, and see unfamiliar young faces, eyes glazed over with the fire as I tell my story. My hands are crisp from the cold, and creatures??™ rustle about all around us, making sounds to keep the workers at bay and to keep the humming of the nearby town clambered out, stop the government from pumping the woods full of their own sort of mist.
Another unfamiliar face pops out at me over the fire. His face glows like a light-bulb from the fire, his eyes burnt-out and crusting over, like over-cooked marshmallows peering out from inside hollow sockets. It takes a moment for the gears to kick in, and a concerned smile forms over the face, scars running deep grooves in the otherwise seamless machinery.
His voice is level but strong, much like Papa??™s had been. He calls himself R & J Wolf when our eyes meet and it registers the puzzled expression on my face.
Uncle R & J Wolf??™s voice continues, highlighted against that ragged face like blood against a white towel, and it tells me to not give these boys ideas and not to tell lies about what happened to me. It tells me I??™m better than that, and its eyes scan my face to see if its words are making a dent, bending my story and making it better suit his own. I look away from that voice coming from that ragged, worn face, hair graying over and beard growing as only it does when one retires to let others take care of their appearance.
It registers this, and its prerecorded voice quiet downs as it searches for some sort of preprogrammed response. When it realizes there isn??™t one, its ragged face sighs and pulls itself away from the fire, hiding away in the husk, where I can??™t see it again.
The young faces look at me again, faces no older then 16 and 7. Uncle R & J Wolf had told me they were my cousins, and that their parents had long since left to join the others at the dame. A frown was on his face as he spoke of the others, eyes clearly relaying the message to not follow after them.
The younger face leans closer, watching my face closely. It asks questions about McMurphy, his name having triggered a switch even in Uncle R & J Wolf. Her voice sounds skittish but curious; looking for the happy ending the combine had told her was always there.
???McMurphy got out.???
I say those words clearly, confident in them as the image of that flailing body appears in my brain.
I see Uncle R & J Wolf??™s programmed frown, even in the dark, and shaking its head dimly.

The fires dimmed afore Uncle R & J Wolf??™s face comes out from behind me, eyes full of mock concern, trying to shoot messages at me that this is the same Uncle R & J Wolf that laughed at the government. I ignore it, looking at the dimming fire. When it realizes this, it stops trying, and out of the corner of my eye I see its features get lazy, the gears finally falling apart as it realizes it no longer has a need to work. No one can see it to report its malfunction. It could come apart right here and now, and only I and the young ones would be here to see the rusted machine, falling apart after years of installations have rendered it broken.
The voice shoots out of the gaping speaker again, the framework moving to match the words so as to delude those around us that it??™s still somehow functioning. It warns me of the law, that I should quickly change my story that I should ???lay low??™ awhile and to try and conform how the government likes. It knows I??™m still Indian, and it presses its own little buttons and tries to put pressure on me, to crush out the Indian in me enough to let them hold me down and finish whatever they started at the hospital. It??™s just like what they did then, and it almost feels like the big nurse still stands over me, those porcelain features cracking into that fake smile, those black boys standing around her, trying to get her control back.
I don??™t respond. I stare at the almost completely dimmed fire, the young faces pulling back and wrapping themselves up in a sort of bag, designed to keep the blood warm and the circulation flowing.

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The woods are cold. The trees stand tall above us all, their branches hiding in the darkness. The wind pushes against them, and I hear whispers around me, accompanied by the hooting of an animal I can??™t see.
I see things in the shadows. Faces. I see the Big Nurse, her smile standing strong against her porcelain face, the repairs long since complete and those eyes holding your soul in place until you surrender to the pressure and cry out all your sins to her.
I crumple underneath that smile, the blanket-bag wrapped around my body scuffing my neck, and holding my arms and legs in place as I try to squirm away from her, my body moving like a worm in it??™s pitiful attempt to escape a bird.
Something red flashes in my eyes and I see McMurphy in the burning embers and stop. I watch that red haired face stare down the Big Nurse??™s face, and see the terror come back to her face, her eyes darting about in fear he??™ll grab her neck again. His scars glow red in the fire, and his grin seems more lively now, telling me he got away, that the combine still couldn??™t touch him, even after he??™d given that last, final yelp.
The bag comes loose, and I pull myself upwards. The faces disperse as I move around, and the wind feels cold against my face, the heavy scent of nature coming in through my nose.
A single face remains though, and I see the face of the lesser of the young ones, her eyes stuck stock still on Uncle R & J Wolf??™s bag, like a security camera stares at a thief, signaling the combine to come hold him down.
I walk over to her, her naked toes standing out against the black earth like little stars. Her fingers are bare too, and water leaks from her eyes, her face looking to me worried.
I can tell without looking what happened. Uncle R & J Wolf??™s installations finally caught up to him. His lungs had given way, and the combine hadn??™t had the chance to come around and install a replacement yet.
Smiling at her, I move her away gently, sit her down next to the burning embers of the fire, and tell her it??™ll be ok. Her eyes gleam in the dark, the message that the combine was yet to touch her finally being received by my brain. I tell her to put out her fingers and toes.
???Ting, tingly, tingly, tremble toes.???
As I start lightly gripping her fingers and toe, I repeat my grandma??™s lullaby.
???She??™s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ???em inna pens. Wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock. One flew east, one flew west.???
I come to her left middle finger, and wait a second, holding it between my pointing finger and thumb. The young one giggles.
???One flew over the cuckoo??™s nest.???
I liked that goose.


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