Metal Peace

by Rick Beck

Chapter 11

Move Up

"We've made a road to drive up there on. It's still dirt but we graded it nice. We're waiting to put down a single lane of asphalt. We need to keep you off of Cyclone for a bit longer," the general said.

"A road," Kodak said. "The trail is still there?"

"Oh, yea, we'll be on horseback most of the time but we needed to get construction material up there and a road seemed like a good idea," the general said.

"You been carrying lumber up there to me for two years and never needed a road. You getting soft, General?"

"No, I'm getting old, and I'm beginning to look for the easy way to do things. We can undo what we did if you don't like the changes we made."

"No, no, no, no," Taz said.

"Why don't you sit down, Taz. How about some scrambled eggs?" Kathleen asked.

"It was hard enough getting up out of bed. I'm not sure I want to sit down so soon."

"Dr. Westphalia said that it's healing real well now. The pain should start getting better," Kathleen said.

"It's not so much pain as it is uncomfortable when I'm moving around."

Kathleen got several pillows from the living room and put them down on the chair where Taz usually sat. She helped him to move around the table to sit down.

"Oh, man, this is like heaven," Taz said. "I might could be talked into living here with you guys. Kodak doesn't treat me as nice as you guys."

"As I said, I've got men up working on your place as we meet here this morning. We'll have it ready for you in no time," Gen. Walker said.

"I don't recall you complaining about me always having dinner ready when you came home," Kodak said.

Tazerski got off of his chair and went around to climb up on Taz's lap.

"Oh, no, don't do that," Kodak said, reaching for him.

"Leave him alone. I'm fine. He missed me, didn't you, little guy? I'm okay."

The monkey sat well down on Taz's leg and put his hand on Taz's forearm, rather than his usual backward arm around the neck hold he liked.

"How long before the bed gets here? I've stopped draining, the doc said. A pile of hay would work."

"I asked Kodak about what he had in mind," Kathleen said. "We need to get that ordered. I bought a nice sheet set for it," Kathleen said, having measured the mattress when the delivery men put it in the barn.

"Kathleen, you're spoiling us," Kodak said. "I'll never get him to like my cooking again."

"After working all day, food is food," Taz said, digging into the breakfast Kathleen set down in front of him.

The boys moving back up to the mesa was the first topic every morning when Taz came out to eat. He'd never had a mother to pamper him and while he liked Kathleen fussing over him, he knew he needed to regain his independence and he missed the quiet of the mesa.

Taz ate half his eggs and half of one biscuit before he felt like he might bust open. His appetite had increased and he was eating more each day but he still preferred Kathleen's soups and a lot of ice cream. Neither took a lot of chewing to enjoy it.

It was another three days before Taz made it down the back stairs of the house and stood on solid Montana soil. Kodak went to the stable as Taz exchanged comments with the cowboys who came over as soon as they saw him.

The warmth of their smiles and the pleasure the cowboys took in seeing him getting outside made Taz feel good. He chatted easily with men he rarely talked to after the 'howdy' they exchanged upon meeting.

Cyclone made a trail straight to Taz, shoving him twice with her nose, until he hugged her neck. Milkweed stood off to one side, until Cyclone backed up far enough for Taz to easily rub her nose the way she liked. Kodak stood watching the growing crowd Taz attracted. Taz seemed comfortable being the center of attention.

It took the general a couple of minutes to appear out of the stable with Tazerski riding a beautiful red pony with a blond mane. With the cowboy hat resting against his back, Tazerski let the general lead the pony toward Taz & Kodak.

"I don't believe it," Taz said. "A monkey on a pony. It's just his size."

"Gentle as a lamb," the general said. "I met a rancher who raises them. This one had Tazerski written all over him."

"Coconut," Kodak said, thinking it was the perfect name.

Tazerski didn't go far but he liked sitting on Coconut. He felt more like the rest of the cowboys and more like he belonged in Montana. He missed the trees and the birds but Montana was okay.

A few days later at dinner, Taz said he was ready to get the final few miles to where he lived. For the first time no one argued with him. He looked around waiting for the usual, 'it's too soon.' 'You need to gain some more strength. Taz just wasn't sure how he'd make the trip. He was way too weak to walk and way to sore to ride.

He happily shoveled in meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy he put over top of it. Everyone was happy to see him eating the way he once did, emptying his plate.

"Everything is ready for you. We'll get you up there in the morning," Gen. Walker said.

The following morning Gen. Walker had Kendall bring around the jeep they'd rigged up with pillows in the rear to ease the trip up to the mesa. Kodak sat beside Taz and the general and Kathleen road ahead on horseback. Tazerski sat up front with Kendall. They eased on to the dirt road. It was slow and careful going.

Sitting in the back seat meant not getting a very good look at what was just below the canyon wall, until they were almost up to it.

"Where the hell is my cabin?" Taz asked, stretching to see up to look at what had replaced it. "What the hell? What did they do? Kendall, what did he do?"

"I'm just the driver. You need to ask him," Kendall said.

"Oh my God," Kodak said. "It's a house. They built a house. No wonder they didn't want me coming up to see."

Kathleen stood beside the general in front of the two bedroom house they'd built while Taz was convalescing. The jeep stopped and Taz and Kodak sat speechless. They got out to get a closer look. It was a house.

"What did you do, General?" Taz asked, still stunned.

"Taz, I never said thank you. I decided it was time to say it and I decided on this."

"Thank you. I'm the one that should thank you, General. No one has ever treated me as well as you," Taz said, letting go of Kodak's hand and stepping forward to hug the general in a rare display of emotion.

"Well, let's go inside and we'll show you what you have," Kathleen said.

"I had them build the front porch offset from the front door. That way you can sit out with your coffee in the morning on the screened-in porch. When it storms or unpleasant out, the size of the picture window gives you a wonderful view to the west while sitting in your living room," the general said excitedly. "I'm afraid we were unable to capture the slant you'd built into the previous porch, Taz."

"Very funny, General. My eye may be a little off kilter, but no one ever fell off the porch."

"You have electricity," the general said, opening the front door.

"This is too much," Taz said.

"You have a phone. There's a shortwave set. It's marked where you get Crosby. You push down the button and he'll hear you in the communication's room. There's a pump on the well for running water. Kathleen, you want to pick it up from there. Most of the rest is your doing."

"You have an electric oven, electric coffee maker, some new cookware, dishes, and little things you'll find as you go. I recommend taking your boots off before coming into the house. Keep slippers near the door. The dirt up here goes everywhere if you aren't careful. The rugs are sturdy and meant to last. For the worst conditions there is a showerhead outside the back door that will come in handy.

"The bathroom is set up with handles in the shower so Taz feels comfortable and doesn't fall."

"That's why I keep Kodak around. He holds me up in the shower," Taz said unashamed.

"In case Kodak is out when you shower, you'll feel safer with the rails. The tile is easy to clean and the mirrors are a nice size. I think you'll get use to it," Kathleen said. "I did get you some towels and other goodies."

There were only two windows that faced the canyon wall, and both had awnings to keep anyone from having a view from above. It's not a typical consideration when building most houses, but the general had in mind when this one was built.

No one thought there would be another attempt on Taz's life on the mesa, but being careful was on the general's mind. Angus McCoy was the only one who spent any time up on the canyon wall. He was there the day Taz and Kodak moved in. He had the general string wire and moved the elevated rocks that could serve as a hiding place.

McCoy knew Jack Slade well enough to be almost positive he'd never make a hit on Taz in the same place twice. He would attempt another hit however. McCoy kept an eye on all the angles. Taz and Kodak were asked to report their movements to Crosby each day.

Usually McCoy made a point of being in the communications room when Crosby and Kodak talked about the plans for the day. It was then that McCoy made his plans for the day. He got together with Rowdy and Boyd to make sure that the boys on the mesa were never far from help. McCoy took pride in his ability to remain out of sight.

The road between the house and the mesa made it possible to move up and down without being on horseback. The trip took seven minutes with the pedal to the medal and Kendall at the wheel. McCoy insisted he know every inch of the road in case of an emergency.

They didn't discuss what kind of emergency but Kendall was a sharp cookie. He knew what he would be expected to do in an emergency, and so he prepared for it.

"I've never had a place this nice to live in before. The tent in Vietnam was the best living I ever did before this," Taz said from his easy chair that faced the kitchen where Kodak was exploring the goodies in all the cabinets.

"I had it pretty good growing up. We always lived in a nice house."

"We'll go for a walk after dinner," Taz said. "When will they bring Cyclone and Milkweed up?"

"The radio is in the corner of the hallway. See what Crosby says," Kodak said.

"This is going to take some getting use to. We are actually connected to the world, Kodak. Wonder what's going on out there."

Once again Taz settled into yet another homecoming. This time he'd come all the way home. Felling comfortable in a house built for him and Kodak was easy. It was built for them. You could hardly be more at home than that. The creature comforts, even on a Montana mesa, were far in excess of what Taz needed, but it was fine. He liked it.

There was some question about Taz being able to live the life he'd lived before he was shot. The house was the perfect answer until Taz was able to resume his work on the mesa. He had no doubt he'd be as good as new before long.

Kodak spent his first week back on the mesa arranging the new home for Taz's comfort. His cooking skills lacked the variety that was Kathleen's specialty, but she'd filled the freezer with casseroles and dishes the boys enjoyed most.

The pantry was full and Kodak wouldn't need a shopping trip for some time to come, which meant he wouldn't leave Taz, which is how it was planned.

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