MANTULA Part Ten: Doug and Glenn cross the street

Mant-10Rain fell in icy sheets the morning we escaped from the crazy woman’s house in Cottonwood. I could feel the monsoonal moisture seeping intomy body and creating a slick, watery layer between ManQuail and myself. Every drop that hit my body felt like an icy stinger shot from heaven itself. The downpour continued all morning, but we were making good headway on our quest to reach my apartment. Rain had tousled the tuft of feathers and down atop my companion’s head, including his black plume, which had fallen like a limp noodle over his right eye. 

The wet bird mumbled. “Are we at Twelfth Street yet?”

“Another block I think. Do you need a rest? Should I get off?”

Water dribbled off his beak when he looked back at me. “No, man. I’m just tired of getting rained on. I would rather get there as fast as I can.”

Thinking of the naked woman who’d, only a half hour before, chased us from her home, I decided the rain wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it had a cleansing effect. Seeing that Glenn and I hid in her closet and watched her disrobe, even though I tried to look away, the whole episode had me feeling a bit dirty. And the early morning monsoon did the trick in washing some of that away. If I ever ran into her again, however, I was betting the whole affair wasn’t something she’d easily forgive.

“A little rain is better than a crazy woman in a bathrobe,” I joked.

“She’ll get hers someday, man. It’s like I always say, what goes around comes around. Her bad attitude will bring bad attitudes back on her,” Glenn prophesied. “We just look like a couple of animals. She could have been more chill about the whole thing.”

I admitted that I would have done the same thing were I in her shoes.

“She was crazy, though. You’re just a dude stuck in a tarantula body, but cool besides that,” he said.

We hung a right on Elm, then made our way down Twelfth. The Adobe Apartments were located right across the street from the fairgrounds, a small patch of grass city officials used to hold a majority of their local events. When I’d moved into the place a few months before, the fair had been in full swing. From my little apartment I could hear music, screaming kids and screeching car tires almost all night.

We were only a fewManQuailStarsMeme blocks away, but we’d have to cross Highway 89A, which led from Main Street up to Jerome on the middle of Mingus Mountain. To me, Jerome was about the only interesting spot in the whole of the Verde Valley. Sedona was simply too elitist and pricey for the average Joe, not to mention boring as hell, and they like it that way. Cottonwood is where the people live who work in Sedona–basically the opposite of Sedona, trashy and cheap, but also boring as hell. It’s possible to like both spots I suppose, but not for me. Jerome, while too small to enjoy for long, has a hint of character, a taste of interest that very nearly adds up to a gulp. You can drink it all in after half a day. And I’m not the only one who liked the former mining, turned art, colony. One look at the traffic pouring up and down 89A and that became clear to anyone.

The rain kept most from noticing the wet bird with the equally wet arachnid on his back. Our travels were ours alone. But that would change when we got to the intersection. Cars raced up and down the four lane stretch of wet road leading up to the mining colony. Each passing vehicle sent a spray of water into the air. The mist by this point didn’t feel as cool and refreshing as it would have a day earlier. I was drenched and wanted nothing more than to dry off in my crappy place. I was also curious to see whether or not my human body would be sitting there, or laying there, on the floor of the kitchen. That’s the last place I remembered being, so that’s where I pictured myself. It could be it was already starting to smell, as I was sure I had died. A small part of me thought I could be asleep and that, touching myself, I’d wake up back where I belonged. It was a long shot, but possible.

ManQuail poised himself on the side of the road. “Are you ready, Doug?”

“We’ll have to go fast, Glenn. Wait for a break and run like hell.”

My bird companion sounded a little unsure, so I clutched his downy feathers as hard as I could with my six legs. The other two held the hundred dollar bill tight. “It’s hard to see with all the spray, but I’m thinking… now!”

With that he dashed onto the asphalt. It was like diving into a flood zone. Noise filled my senses. I heard the gargle of water and the screech of brakes, a blaring car horn that vibrated my entire body. Somewhere a dark shape, the size of a whale, sailed inches from us. In my head I heard ManQuail curse. He altered his course. I think we turned back the way we came. Another whale-sized shape blurred before me and was gone in a spray of oceanic water. Horns and wrenching metal filled my head, drowning out the bird’s cursing, and I felt him change course again. For a moment the rain stopped. We passed under a vehicle, hissing steam, and emerged into the flood again. I heard shouts and noticed red lights, brake lights I think, reflected in the water all around us. ManQuail dropped his head and charged forward. We emerged a moment later on the opposite side of 89A. We’d made it across.

Looking back, I saw a pile of cars at the intersection. At least three were clustered there, not moving, with smoke and steam rising from various area of damage. ManQuail kept his little legs peddling. As we made our way toward the Adobe Apartments people began to emerge from the vehicles. One of them aimed a cell phone our way and appeared to be snapping photos.

“Great. Someone’s taking pictures of us. Look at the crazy tarantula riding on the back of a quail in the middle of a rainstorm after causing a pileup on the highway,” I said.

ManQuail shot under a bush in response to the news and we disappeared from view. It kept the rain at bay a bit too, which was a nice break. “We don’t want people to see where we’re headed,” he told me.

Minutes later we emerged onto the parking lot which divided the apartments in the complex. Pools of water covered the place, reflecting yellow spools of light from the globe lamps situated throughout the property. We’d made it home.

Published by patrickwhitehurst

Patrick Whitehurst is a fiction and non-fiction author who's written for a number of northern Arizona newspapers over the years, covering everything from the death of the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots to Barack Obama's visit to Grand Canyon. In his spare time he enjoys painting, blogging, the open water, and reading everything he can get his hands on. Whitehurst is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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