MANTULA Part Twenty-Eight: The Death of ManQuail part one

My mood could have been a hell of a lot better.

It was better, in fact, before reading those emails between Kip Mooney and Glenn. It was all my fault. Not the curse of course. That was thanks to the wormy witch, but meeting up with ManQuail, letting him help me out, bringing him out here to Cottonwood from Sedona. That was all me. Had I left him alone he would have been a happy little quail with only a slight recollection that he was once a totally messed up sack of humanity. But I brought his humanity out of him. Because the curse didn’t work on me the way it worked on others. Just being around me brought him back the memories of the former meth fiend he once was.

It was on me to bring him back from this, to keep him out of trouble. Only keeping an addict from his addiction isn’t the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. It’s probably the hardest thing. When people talked about meth cities in Arizona, they almost always talked about Cottonwood. Prescott probably came in a close second. These weren’t boasting rights by a long shot.

I didn’t know much about meth except never to get wrapped up in it. Not everyone managed to keep it out of their bodies, however, for whatever reasons they had. My life taught me enough not to judge others whose paths were their own. But this is a “reward” drug we’re talking about, the dopamine orgy, exploding with euphoric jam, which makes getting off pretty hard. I knew enough about it to know getting on it meant you probably wouldn’t get off.

What makes it even nastier, as we all know, is how paranoid, and just plain mental, methers get after a while. Chemical nastiness attacks the mouth, making an apocalyptic tongue-scape dentists have nightmares about, and folks start tearing apart their own flesh to rid themselves of the “bugs” that burrow under their skin. It’s just nasty shit.

With luck I’d head ManQuail off at the pass and get to him before it was too late. I made good use of my human-sized abilities, mixed with my eight legs, to bound over fences and charge down the sides streets as fast as possible, maybe not as fast as a quail with a jones, but fast enough. The rain let up a little, which helped me stick to the streets and not get bogged down in puddles. I could see the traffic on State Route 89A ahead of me, flashes of headlights and tail lights shot past like warp drives on space ships. The ice cream shop sat on the other side, which meant I’d have to cross the busy roadway. I felt pretty confident I’d get to him before he’d get a chance to partake in the drug.

When a gap presented itself, I made my break for it. With luck, all anyone would see was a small blob running across the road. If anyone did see it, they’d probably think I was a rat or something, definitely not a tarantula. Then again, thanks to Kip Mooney’s news stories, it could be people were on the lookout for a wild-acting tarantula in this part of town. I ducked under a bush upon making it safely across the street just to be sure no one saw me and got curious. I could see the neon glow of an ice cream cone a block away. Setting off for my destination, I looked around in every dark crevice I came across for Glenn, but didn’t see him. The closer I got the more frantic I became. There was no sign of a twitchy little quail anywhere.

When I’d finally made it outside the business, and climbed atop of a concrete wall that offered a good view inside, I scanned inside. I didn’t really expect ManQuail and Mooney to be doing their business inside the place, next to moms and daughters and cub scout troops, but you never know. There wasn’t anyone in there, save an old man sitting alone in the corner, and two pimply-faced teenagers inside. I took my search to the parking lot outside. There was no sign of Kip’s Subaru in the parking lot. I started to think I was too late, or possibly too early, when I happened to glance across the street. That’s when I saw a second ice cream place, packed with young families, directly opposite the one I once took my son to. I was looking around like an idiot at the wrong place.

The death of ManQuail part one.

Without a moment’s hesitation, I charged into the road and dove right into traffic. This time I found myself dodging the giant behemoths. A cattle truck roared right over my back, shaking my ugly little body like an earthquake, and barely avoided getting squished by a the front tires of a Prius right after. Weaving and dodging kept me from being a pancake, but it took more time to cross this time. I’d already wasted so much of it looking in the wrong place that I began to worry. After making it across the street, I found a clump of old newspaper in the gutter, stuck in a storm drain by the curb, and hid there for a moment to get my bearings. This side of 89A offered very little when it came to hiding spots. When I figured the coast was clear, I crawled up and over, then made my way to the parking area on the side of the fifties style ice cream chain. That’s when I heard a giggle in my head. It sounded far away at first, but I was able to hone in on it pretty quick. I could tell I was too late.

A half block up the road, a black shape stumbled and fell into an old metal trash can. The shape was small, just the size of a small bird that rarely flew. It’s stumbling gait indicated a stoned bird that rarely flew. I ran toward him and could hear the giggling turn to rambling sentences. I passed a baggy of white crystalline powder nearby, what remained of his meth, and kept going. When I got there, Glenn lay on his side against the trash. His feathered breast rose up and down feverishly. His eyes were wide open, nearly bugging out of his skull.

I put one of my legs on his shoulder. “Glenn, it’s me. I’m here. What the hell were you thinking?”

The panting increased as he looked at me, but his eyes seemed to shrink in his skull, then widen again, with every breath he took.

“What are you talking about, man?” he replied. “I’ve never felt better.”

With that, he stopped breathing altogether. I could feel his chest deflate with my leg on it. ManQuail was gone.

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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