Montana Sky

by Rick Beck

Chapter 9


It was on the third evening's sweat lodge that something happened. It wasn't something Taz could accept or explain. Whatever he had come looking for, this wasn't it, and it didn't take long for him to leave and return to the world he understood.

His time at the Indian encampment was over.

He wasn't thinking about Kodak at all. He reserved those thoughts for when he was alone. The idea his friend was lost and he didn't know where he was, was his business and not anyone else's. At a time when he was letting his guard down, his mind wandered, and Kodak was on it. He no longer expected his return. Whether or not Kodak returned wasn't within his power to alter.

Taz made every attempt to feel Indian at the encampment but he still felt very Taz-like. He'd never been much of anything until he'd gone to Vietnam. There he had become what he was expected to be, putting his heart into it, because that's what he was told he should do.

The sweat lodge was no longer a challenge. He could sit inside for as long as he liked with the heat no longer feeling as severe. It wasn't so much that he adjusted to it; he didn't feel the heat. That's not to say he didn't know it was hot. He did. He just didn't mind. Once he was there he stayed. He would no longer be the first one to leave.

On the third night the teepee held twenty Indians. Taz thought nothing of it when he was face to face with Medicine Band once more. He couldn't be sure it wasn't by design but it wasn't something he'd considered, until that night. The wide open eyes of the chief and Shaman were always upon him.

Taz sat there each night, Jeremy to his right, Standing Buck to his left, and Tom Kelly sat behind him. The other time they were together was in Jeremy's teepee and so sitting together at the sweat lodge seemed familiar. As far as Taz knew, there was no seating chart, but when they took a spot, there he was across from Medicine Band and those eyes.

"He's staring at me. Look at his eyes," Taz said in a whisper to Jeremy, feeling like he had done this before.

It was then Taz realized Jeremy wasn't there. No one was there. Medicine Band sat directly across from him and they were alone inside the sweat lodge. They'd all been there when he leaned to whisper to Jeremy, and in that instant everyone was gone. He decided right there and then, he'd had enough. When he decided to get up and leave, he couldn't get up.

He sat cross legged and immobilized, compelled to look at Medicine Band's eyes. He wanted to scream at the old man, tell him to cut it out. No words came out of his mouth.

The old man's eyes were open wide as the smoke drifted up between them. Taz looked around him, unnerved by the absence of the other Indians. Where the hell had everyone gone? He didn't need this shit.

"He is okay," Medicine Band said, not changing his position or expression. "He wants you to know he is safe. He is okay. He is not in danger."

"Who?" Taz demanded, not understanding the comment that came out of the blue.

"Your friend with the eye that holds images inside. He is near water. Much food. He is safe. He is thinking about you. He asks you not worry. He will return."

Taz was alarmed and disoriented by the old man's pronouncement. He choked on the lingering smoke and on Medicine Band's words. He wanted to get up but couldn't. He opened his eyes and the sweat lodge was full of Indians. Jeremy sat at his right elbow. Standing Buck at his left.

This was crazy.

"What did you say?" Taz asked, standing up as other men noticed only vague motion around them.

"Sit down, my brother. Medicine Band has not spoken."

"The hell he didn't. How does that old man know that stuff?" Taz complained loudly, looking at the motionless man.

"You've touched the spirit world. Sit and calm yourself."

"I don't care what you say. He was talking to me."

"We are no threat to you, War Eagle. There is no danger here," Jeremy said softly.

"I got to get out of here."

Taz looked around, feeling light headed. He went out and went back to Jeremy's teepee, dressing in his own clothes before going to saddle his horse to ride back to where he belonged. It was dark but he didn't care. He would be fine. He knew where he lived.

"Where will you go, War Eagle?" Jeremy asked.

"My name is Taz and I'm going home where the hell I belong. I don't care what you say, that old guy was talking to me. How did he do that? How does he know about Kodak? I don't talk about Kodak to anyone. How could that old man know anything about my life?"

"The spirit world holds no secrets. You took a journey with the spirits and I suspect you found a truth you were seeking when you came to us. The spirit world guides us and my hope is that it will guide you back to us soon. Good luck, Taz. Go in peace. We would not do you harm."

By the time Jeremy finished talking, Taz was on his horse. He heard every word and didn't believe in spirits or flying saucers. He'd made a mistake staying and now he'd correct it by going back to where he belonged.

Maybe he'd been hit on the head harder than he thought.

He rode back toward the line shack, where he needed to regroup and gather up his sanity once more. He knew better than to lose control of himself. He would continue doing what he did every day. He had a job and he'd do it.

He sat at the table reading the labels on the bottle of bourbon by the light of the stove. He liked how the bottle felt in his hand. He pushed it back into the back of the cupboard, where he'd put it the last time he'd been tempted this much. He sat back down in front of the stove. He wasn't cold but the heat felt good.

He warmed the coffee and drank it. His hand shook as he held the cup. He wasn't scared of anything. Death didn't scare him. Taz was sure of himself, and he accepted life for the underhanded adversary it was. Whatever happened to him at that sweat thing, he didn't like, and he wasn't looking for any repeat trips down voodoo lane.

He propped his feet up on one of the roof supports on the front porch, sitting on the back two legs of the chair. His cup of coffee was in his hand and his eyes were on the rider coming slowly from the north. It took him ten minutes to draw a conclusion about who it was. He didn't move, wouldn't run, and wasn't looking forward to a conversation with a shrink, after feeling like he'd lost his mind.

"Hey, cowboy," Jeremy said, sounding like a dude.

"Hey, yourself. You lost? They went that a way," Taz said, pointing his cup in the direction from which Jeremy had come without being unpleasant.

"I need to talk to you," he said, waiting to be invited off his horse. "I brought some venison. Thought you might enjoy it. Once you get used to it, you can't stop. It's the Indian fix."

"Coffee?" Taz asked, remembering Jeremy had made him feel welcome.

"Sounds like a good way to start the day. I don't suppose you baked any donuts this morning?"

The two men sat across from each other at the table. Taz had given up the table cloth and thrown it in the pile of dirty clothes he was building. He slapped the metal cup down, spilling the coffee over the edges and onto the table, which he wiped with his hand.

"What brings you out here?" Taz asked, between sips.

"You," Jeremy said, letting the word linger and stopping there.

"It was time," Taz revealed. "You are there searching for something. I'm right where I want to be and right where I belong. My search ended here."

"I want to know why you left so abruptly. You were there one minute and gone the next."

"I don't like people picking at my brain."

"I understand that much. What you thought happened wasn't what happened. You went where you needed to go. You didn't understand the journey."

"You trying to call me stupid?" Taz asked, not sounding happy about Jeremy's inquiry.

"The furthest thing from the truth. You see, I've never been able to have a vision or a spiritual awakening. I think you did. I think it scared you."

"Oh, I'm not stupid, just crazy?"

"I'm a psychiatrist by trade. My father was a different kind of doctor. I had to be a doctor to become a shrink. My mind is too indoctrinated to let loose and embrace my spirit. I've been trying."

"So I'm stupid and crazy. I'm not buying it. My life is fine and I don't need some old man wandering around in my brain."

"Medicine Band is my father. I asked him about you. Professional confidences, he said. He can't reveal your connection. He did say that he was in your brain and you did speak."

"No, I didn't speak. That old dude had no right doing what he did."

"You accept he spoke to you? It's not his choice. The spirits serve it up. A Shaman would be guilty of malpractice if he didn't deliver it as he saw it."

"I heard him. You guys can say you didn't hear him or that he didn't speak, but he did. I haven't figured that part out, but whatever it was, I didn't like it."

"He wasn't inside your head, Taz. He was in the spirit world. You met him in the spirit world. That's what I want to know about. What was it like?"

"You're nuts. It wasn't like anything. I wasn't anywhere. He spoke to me and I heard every word."

"It must have been something disturbing enough to make you leave. He wasn't the one in search of answers. Medicine Band is a Shaman and the spirits speak through him. They gave you an answer you wanted, except when you got it, you didn't know what to make of it. You did something in a couple of days I have been trying to do for years. I really want to know what you experienced. What was it like?"

"I can't tell you anything more about it. He knew something he had no right knowing. It's private. I don't talk about it. You can go practice your shrink skills elsewhere."

"Did you dream last night?"


"The door to the spirit world has opened to you. My father's channeling of the information you wanted is merely him being a telephone to what you want to know. Did you dream last night?"

"Yes," Taz said, feeling a bit unsettled by Jeremy's persistence.

"Did it have a connection to my father's words?"


"Tell me what you dreamed."

"It makes no sense. It did involve the same information. I mean it came from the source of the information he gave me. It was nothing he could know. My dream was bizarre and involved what he spoke about without having anything to do with it. It doesn't make any sense."

"The doorway is open. What did you dream?"

"One word. That's all it was."

"What happened after you heard the one word?"

"I got up and had some coffee."

"It disturbed you as much as what my father had to say?"

Taz sat for a minute and leaned back on his chair, sipping from the cup, pondering why Jeremy wanted to know.

"What was the dream?"

"It wasn't so much a dream as it was a word. I heard it as clear as if he was standing next to me. Kodak is my friend. He was going to the South Pacific to take pictures. He was a photographer. The plane that took him out there never returned. I want to believe he is alive. That's what your father told me. 'He is safe,' he said. "How could he know that?"

"The word that upset you? Tell me what the word was."


"Your name? Why would that upset you?"

"His voice saying as plain as day, my name? Only one problem with all your voodoo. He's never called me Tazerski. He didn't know that was my name for a long time after we met. He always called me Taz. If he used Tazerski it would have been almost never. In my dream he called me that. How do you explain that? Wishful thinking."

"I can't explain anything, my friend. I've been trying to do what you did but I can't. My mind is too cluttered with routine and the indoctrination education provides and saddles you with. I feel that is the barrier to my spirit. I can't explain what the meaning of any of it is, but I can tell you that you're on a journey. I'm seeking a way that leads me to mine."

"I'm not going anywhere. That's your story. I'm just a cowboy cowboying."

"You can run away from us but you can't run away from the spirit world. You can't ignore it and my bet is it won't go away. You and my father met in the spirit world. He gave you the message there. I can't explain it. I don't understand it, but that's what I believe."

"I like you, Jeremy. You've treated me nice. You make me laugh. I'm not all that smart. You can believe what you want and what all that education tells you, but me, I've got to deal with my world, and I don't see how I can get where you want me to go. I don't know that much."

"That's the reason I came, Taz. I don't think you have anything to say about it. You've been there. Maybe you'll never go back. Maybe you can slam the door shut and walk away. I don't think so, and if I'm right, then me being around might save you from going off the deep end.

"You don't want to stay at our village, so let me stop by here. Besides, your coffee is way better than at the encampment."

"You can come back when you want, but I do have a job. As for me going off the deep end, well, I've been teetering on the edge of insanity all my life. Haven't fallen off yet, but I think they say I'll be the last to know when I do."

"I think you're safe, but having your own shrink can't hurt."

"It means nothing. It was a dream. You're trying to do this Indian thing and want me to buy into it. Well, there's no sale. Maybe I'm part Indian but my life isn't about that."

"My old man spoke to you without words. He spoke of things he couldn't know. How do you explain it?"

"You're the shrink. You tell me. I don't need to explain it. Bad venison maybe."

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