Friday, March 25
An angry, restive crowd milled around the parking lot and a temporary bandstand. There were beads and feathers, plaids and overalls, and placards for every side—Native America treaty rights, animal rights, states rights, and every American’s inherent right to make a fool of themselves in public.
The Makah’s decision to go whaling again had become international news. There were photographers and camera crews and reporters interviewing people on the street. Several TV network affiliates had vans with microwave antennas.
The crowd surged and roiled
A big man climbed onto the stage and thumped the microphone. The sound of electronic feedback made Rathskill cringe.
“This thing on?” the big man said. “You folks hear me?” He was wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a tie loosened around his neck. Nice touch, Rathskill thought. Man of the people. A working man despite the 200-thread count Egyptian cotton shirt and $150 silk tie. Rathskill recognized Big Bob Reingold.
Big Bob raised his hands. “I won’t keep you long.” A groundswell of approval rippled through the crowd. “I know you’ve come to hear Captain Osgood. I’ll introduce him in a moment but I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you. We may have different opinions but we’re a community of civilized people.” He looked at a knot of Klallam and Makah that were standing to one side of the bandstand. “Some more civilized than others.” A few people snickered. The Klallam and Makah remained impassive.
“Sure, we’ve had hard times. Money’s tight, jobs are scarce, but Port Angeles is moving into a future of prosperity. Even if we have to drag some people kicking and screaming.” He looked again at the Klallam and Makah.
“And the future is…tourism.” Big Bob hit the last word hard. The feedback screeched. “That’s right. People who come to see the Olympic National Park and the rain forest and whales. People who pay our salaries, our dentist bills, our kid’s college tuition. Tourists are the perfect resource. Clean, renewable, and they go away once they’ve spent their money. So, I want you to listen to what Captain Osgood has to say not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the profitable thing to do.”
Big Bob left the stage to scattered applause and catcalls.
A man with thick white hair, fashionably mussed, and a white beard took the stage. He was wearing a blue serge jacket with four gold bands on the sleeve, a captain’s rank. He was shorter than Rathskill expected from the Sea Defender’s promotion photos. Osgood was head of the radical conservationist organization accused of sabotage by some countries. He wasn’t legally a captain, he just looked like one. He also looked like he owned the crowd.
“Some of you know me from the years I’ve spent at sea defending the defenseless—whales and dolphin and baby seals. Some of you don’t know me at all. Personally, I’m unimportant. What’s important is creating a world where all species, not just human beings, have rights.”
“Not all people are human,” someone in the crowd shouted. “Just look at the Makah.” There was widespread laughter.
Osgood raised his hand to quiet the crowd. “I know there’s a lot of passionate opposition to Makah whaling but we should remember, passion isn’t hate. Hell, I’ve placed myself in harm’s way more times than I can remember to prevent the Japanese and Norwegians and Portuguese from killing whales but I don’t hate the Japanese or the Norwegians or the Portuguese. And I don’t hate the Makah. I stand with Native Americans. I stood with them at Wounded Knee. I bled with them at Wounded Knee.”
“My father was at Wounded Knee,” a middle-aged man shouted at Osgood. “If you were there, he said you were well hidden.”
Osgood shook his head slowly as if wearied by the pettiness of people who disagreed with him. “I have complete sympathy for the Makah, those members of the tribe who are sincerely looking for a better way for their tribe. The tribe isn’t unified in their opinion of whaling. Many recognize it is the barbaric practice of an earlier age. We’ve evolved since then. Society has evolved. It’s time the Makah evolve.”
“What about the Treaty of Neah Bay?” Rathskill recognized McCarty, one of the tribal police who manned the roadblock when Detective Vanoy drove him to the reservation. McCarty was dressed in mufti. “We are a sovereign nation. The treaty granted us the right to hunt whales where we’ve always hunted. You took our land, then you broke your word.”
Rathskill had heard the arguments before. Each side was deeply entrenched and digging deeper. It never ended well. He began working his way back toward Cock-a-doodle Donuts.
On the edge of the crowd a man danced, his body and face painted white, a band of black across his eyes, wearing only buckskin pants, leather moccasins, and a raven. The stuffed raven sat on his head, looking in the direction he had come, its wings outstretched as if ready to take flight, its tail feathers draped over the man’s face, obscuring his eyes. He was dancing backward in a circle, singing to himself in an incomprehensible language, a tomahawk in one hand, a bone flute in the other. The tomahawk was turned toward the dancer.
“Heyoka,” Rathskill said aloud. The ceremonial fools of the Plains Indians, the contrarians, the holy clowns. Rathskill had read about the Heyoka but never seen one in the wild.
A policeman dressed in riot gear—body armor, helmet, and plastic face guard—pushed through the crowd. He was carrying a 12-gauge shotgun in port arms. “Drop the weapon,” he shouted at the Heyoka.
The Heyoka turned to look at the officer, dropped the bone flute on the ground, and raised the tomahawk above his head.
“Stay where you are and drop the weapon,” the cop shouted louder and lowered the shotgun into firing position. “Do it now.”
The Heyoka were contrarians. Their societal role required them to behave opposite of what was expected, to do the opposite of what was asked. A Heyoka warrior ordered to retreat would charge into battle alone, regardless of the risk.
The Heyoka stepped forward. The cop worked the slide of the shotgun and chambered a round. Rathskill was certain the cop knew nothing about the Heyoka or the culture of the Plains Indians. He stepped between them.
“You don’t understand,” Rathskill said.
“Get the hell out of the way,” the cop shouted.
The space around them widened as the crowd backed away.
Rathskill could see the cop’s jaw clenched even through the protective faceplate. The man’s nametag was covered with black electrician’s tape. “He’s not going to hurt you.”
“How the hell do you know what he’s not going to do?”
The cop shoved the butt of his shotgun into Rathskill’s chest, forcing him backward. He lost his balance and fell into the Heyoka. Together they collapsed in a tangle of limbs.
The cop towered above him, the shotgun still aimed at his chest. “Stay down,” the cop ordered. Rathskill could feel the Heyoka beneath him struggling to get up. “Stand up,” Rathskill told the Heyoka. “Get on your feet.” The Heyoka went limp.
“I told you to stay down,” the cop shouted. He put his boot on Rathskill’s chest. There was spittle flecked across the inside of his faceplate. “You move again and I’ll turn you into a greasy stain on the asphalt.”
The Heyoka began singing a song. Rathskill guessed it was his death song. He thought it was Lakota.
“Shut up and turn over,” the cop shouted. More spittle splashed his faceplate. “Now!”
“Sing,” Rathskill told the Heyoka. “Sing as loud as you can. And don’t turn on your belly. A warrior never turns his back on the enemy.”
“Are you fucking crazy?” the cop shouted.
The Heyoka fell silent. Rathskill felt him rolling over beneath him. “At least one of us is,” Rathskill muttered. “Probably more.”
The cop called for backup. They tied their hands behind their backs with plastic wire ties and shipped them to the Port Angeles Police Station in a black van. He was being processed in the police bullpen when he heard a familiar voice.
“Dr. Simon Rathskill.” Rathskill turned to face Detective Vanoy. “Why am I not surprised?”
In mythology, the hero descends to the underworld. What happens when the underworld ascends? Whistlepig, a serialized fiction. Table of contents.
@ Copyright 2018 Charles Thrasher All rights reserved.