Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hoot sometimes thought of his sex drive as being like his spleen – a minor organ he’d left behind in Vietnam.  “It’s something that may be handy to have – nice even, when it’s working right – but not mandatory,” the field surgeon had explained; then, “Your life may not be exactly the same without a spleen.  How could it be? – the changes, the vulnerabilities, but you’ll go on until, eventually, you won’t even miss it.”  And then he’d used super glue to patch him up.  The surgeon had been right – Hoot had got on with his life and hardly missed it…the spleen or the sex.
            Maybe Linda, his ex-wife, had been right when she said that Hoot was a romantic psychopath, incapable of distinguishing between love and lust, forever convincing himself one was t’other.  “Truly, with you, if Lust isn’t at bat, Love isn’t even in the game,” she had claimed.  But, in the beginning at least, it had been reciprocal.  All he knew was that there hadn’t been anyone serious in his life after Linda – though he would commit grievous bodily harm to himself before admitting it out loud in public.  He wouldn’t even dare to think it in Linda’s presence, the way she had always seemed to know his thoughts before he thought them. 
Theirs had been a fierce love affair without bounds, his and Linda’s – this, before the freeze came and turned the sheets cold.  But when it had been hot, it had been reallydamned hot.  Being with Jesse reminded Hoot of that long ago time with Linda.  The good times.  The passion.  The heat.  And the sheer fun of it.  The difference was that, in Linda’s case, it was genuine wild-child abandon that drove her, whereas Jesse’s passion seemed more…calculated – even distracted, sometimes.
If Hoot ultimately became a bit zealous for sex after his return from Vietnam, it was Linda who’d showed him the way.  He remembered one warm summer night early in their relationship – must have been almost forty years ago, now – he and Linda were walking through the woods on the east side of the U of Maine campus, and on a dare she had stepped behind an elm tree, slid out of her dress and everything else, and stood there in the dark as naked as the day she was born, giggling about it.  She double-dared him to put up or shut up…and he had put up. 
Yes, Hoot thought, Linda had been the real deal back then, a true flower child of the sixties turned into a hot-blooded vixen, striding through the seventies in high heels and hot pants.  And then the fire died…slowly enough that Hoot had hardly noticed until the embers were cold.  But they’d still hung on for some years, routinely patching their growing marital malaise with thin bandages of detachment and indifference, using liquor for ointment.  Maybe it was his job taking a toll.  His maddening search for his best friend turned murderer.  While, the whole time, he and Linda kept on hanging on, pretending it was for the kids’ sake.  Whatever it was – it ended very anticlimactically.
Good as it had once been, after a while Hoot didn’t yearn for the sex so much.  The pressure of his job taking a toll, just hanging on for the kids' sake took too much effort to leave energy for much else.  Then came the shell.  Like a callous, it slowly formed around whatever soft places he’d once possessed, hardening and numbing him.  It had taken a long time to form the shell, no doubt, but he became suddenly aware of it when informed him in no uncertain terms; “We have an appointment tomorrow night with a marriage counselor, and you should do whatever is necessary to be there.” 
This was August 19th 1992.  And, coincidentally (though Hoot didn’t know it at the time), it was the same day that twelve-year-old Jessica Vega picked up a rusty old miniature golf putter and discovered the killer lurking within.  Hoot was scheduled later that evening to join a chartered US Marshalls Service flight heading for the now-famous fracas at Ruby Ridge in the remote woods of Northern Idaho.  He missed his appointment with the marriage counselor.  
- from Skyshooter

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