Taos: A Novel
by Lydia Nolan
© September 9, 2012
“Get back here, whore!’ He said. He was drunk as usual. He grabbed her long hair and hurled her back into the house like a rag doll.
She winced in pain. “Run girls, run!” She screamed, her two little girls watching in shock. Then he threw her across the living room.
The girls, too young and frightened to know what was happening, tried to do as she told them, to run toward the front door, but they were blocked by their father.
“David, stop, PLEASE! Let the girls go, I need help, the baby’s coming any minute…” The man shoved his little girls onto the Davenport, and slung his wife further into the living room, cracking her face against the kitchen doorway. Blood trickled from her nose and eye.
Bear Woman, was her name. She was in excruciating pain with labor, as well as the pain in her head that was gushing into her face, but she was called Bear Woman for a reason: she could take a lot of abuse. She persisted.
“Girls, GO! Go get help fro…”
The two little girls tried to run past their father once again, and he stopped them again. He took each of their arms and tossed them once again, across the room onto the Davenport. The younger of the two began to scream murderously. The other tried again, narrowing her eyes and bloating her will, growling as she charged at her father, plunging as hard as she could into his stomach. He laughed and slapped her face. Then she too began to scream and wail.
“I told you never to give me your Mama’s looks! Those are your mother’s looks, look away or I’ll wipe those lips right off your face!” The thought paralyzed the little girl, and the older just hugged her little sister, as they cried in each other’s arms.
“David, PLEASE! I am begging you, don’t hurt them… Let them get help for me.” Her eye and nose, swelling more. All she wanted was for them to be free from this life of abuse.
The man gazed at his wife for a moment, thinking how beautiful she was once when they were in love. She groaned in agony. He seemed to be somewhere else for a moment, but he remembered where he was, and thought better of caring for her.
“You need my help now, do you? Okay.” He picked her up, carried her into the bedroom and bounced her onto the bed, knowing full well the pain created by that kind of movement. Finally, the elder child escaped out the door, and the little one followed speedily behind her, as they both escaped.
David stood over his wife and stared at her long and hard. She was groaning and sniveling, begging for mercy.
“Please David, let the women help me—there’s something wrong…I feel it!”
“You managed to get pregnant alone, didn’t you? You’re like the mother of God, aren’t you? I was missing in action on the other side of the world—where’s my mercy, huh?”
“I didn’t know you were alive, David, they told me you were dead! They told me YOU WERE DEAD!” She wailed, suffering through another contraction. “Oh, God…David, please forgive me—please, help me….”
The man pressed his palms against his temples, gasping with angst. “And that was how you grieved? By fucking another man? And where is that fuckin’ coward anyway? I don’t see him here, helping you, is he afraid…of the ghost of your husband?”
There was a knock at the door. Some of the women from the reservation stood outside, one with a baby in tow. The little girls had been screaming outside when the women came and comforted them. They began calling out to Bear Woman.
“Let us in, David, we want to help Bear Woman. Please let us in!”
“Shut up!” David yelled. He pressed his temples with the palm of his hands as though their voices were excruciating. He found himself back in Viet Nam, being yelled at many times, to be put back into his cage.
“We don’t need your help!” He growled at the women.
“We wanna help with Bear Woman’s delivery, that’s all—she needs us!”
“I don’t want any more of that crap! Eat your own babies! I’m sick to my stomach of all of you!” When he suddenly realized he was not in a cage in the jungle, he corrected himself: “She doesn’t need anybody but me—her husband—all she needs is me!!”
The women stood gaping at each other not knowing what to do. They were making signals to someone on the street.
David’s parents had been called and were now in possession of the two little girls. Someone had called the grandparents the day before, recognizing David was losing his mind.
“No cops,” she had said. “They’ll take my babies away, I couldn’t live through that. “Better, David’s parents take them. They will know what to do. David wouldn’t hurt the baby, I’m sure.” But she was wrong.
Mr. and Mrs. Weinstein had driven all the way from Idaho to take their granddaughters out of the situation of life or death, as Bear Woman had put it. She pleaded with them not to involve social services.
David’s father was just as desperate, but careful not to rush into the house. He watched to see if the women would make it into the house. When he saw that they weren’t allowed in, he would make one attempt to reason with his son.
“DAVID?” He called out loudly. “DAVID!”
“What the hell you doing here, ol’ man!” David yelled out, his eyes pinched together looking at Bear Woman and back at his father, wiping the sweat from his brow with his sleeve. “Is this your doing?” He glared at her.
“David, please,” she said, “let me get help, I need help, I’m bleeding non-stop. I think my water broke, and …” liquid and clots of blood trickled from between her legs, leaving Bear Woman barely conscious. David gave her a slap to wake her, then she had another contraction.
“I need my rifle,” David whispered, distracted. “I’ll see to it they are treated properly, alright. I’m sure they all know your boyfriend, too…”
He walked into the dining room to retrieve his rifle from his gun case. He grabbed his favorite hunting rifle, cocked it, then headed for the door, pushed out the screen, and aimed at the women with it.
“Now get! Before I send all you whores to hell!” The women ran as fast as they could, wailing and hollering in terror. Then, David addressed his father.
“What do you want?” He said.
“David! My son, stop this, you need help…”
“So Della called you, did she? What for…?”
“We’ve come for… I’ve come for the girls…You want them to be safe, don’t you? What, with you hurling that rifle around, someone could get hurt…”
“Better tell Della that…and everybody else…All of you!! Stay outta my way!!”
“We will, Son…But just let me see her…Let me see Della, Son…”
“Nope! Have you got the girls?”
“The girls?” David’s father was distracted a moment. “Yes, I have them, Son…” He sighed deeply, seeing the little ones in his wife’s arms, crying. “I have them. Son, please, let’s…”
“Then, get the fuck outta here!”
“Davie, Son…listen… Where’s Bear Woman?”
“Don’t call her that! Her name’s DELLA!”
“Okay, son, calm down… But where—where’s Della?”
“She’s dead, and so’s her bastard kid.”
David’s mother gasped in horror. “David! Oh, David! What have you done!”
By this point, Bear woman was moaning softly, unable to holler, lamenting without comfort, repeating the names of her two little daughters. “My babies, my little … Oh, God…”
The little girls were sniveling brokenhearted, in the car, holding onto their grandma tightly, agonizing over their mother’s fate.
David’s father gave his son one last chance: “I’m going to call the police, Son, if you don’t listen to me, I have to. You just can’t kill your wife, Son…” His father shivered and jumped into the car as soon as he saw his son aim the rifle at him, and he sped away.
“That’s it, I’m done,” David whispered to himself. “It’s almost over now, Honey.”
There were beads of sweat dripping into his eyes as well as bitter tears that fed his lips. He started to heave with sobs for a moment, sniffed some, then tightened his resolve. He lowered his gun, exhausted from the whole scene.
The tribe’s women had already scattered and run away. When the disheveled man returned inside, he remembered the reason he was there. He went back into the room.
Della Bear Woman begged for her life, and for mercy, but instead he shoved her off the bed, onto the ground and kicked her. Any other woman would have been dead already.
“What kind of woman finds a lover when her husband is in Viet Nam? I was being tortured, do you know that!”
“No, my love, I didn’t know…”
“No, you didn’t know…and suffering every goddamned day—you have no idea what I went through…you will NEVER know what I went through until maybe a little bit no…”
“Forgive me, David, I’m sorry you suffered…”
“You think you’re suffering? You shoulda seen some of those women and their dead children. You don’t know what suffering is.”
“…But you’re gonna learn what real suffering is…”
He walked around the bed, set the rifle on it, then picked her up, as she whimpered and cried again…
“The Baby’s coming, oh, God, please…”
“And where’s your lover now, shouldn’t he be here? Yeah, I know, he’s scared … He’s a coward!! Well… You go on, deliver that Indian bastard yourself. Get on with it!”