././2021/01/13

Oregon

I drove slowly down the dirt road in my girlfriend's mother's jeep on
one spare tire now, worry thoughts flooding my mind.  Why was I dating
this loser?  I was just afraid of being alone.  We shared no respect
for anything either of the other cared about.  The algorithm of the
dating site had matched us based on who-knows-what, and it was true.
This stupid girl was probably the best match for me within a thousand
miles.  Would the tire last?  Would her family eat me?  Her mom had
let us borrow the jeep and she had immediately started texting as she
drove, hitting a rock and popping the right front tire.  As I changed
the tire she kept complimenting my arms and the fact I could change a
tire.  She said she doubted anyone in her family could have done that
and kept commenting on how sexy my skinny arms looked as I strained to
turn the lug-nuts and she pulled up my t-shirt as I tried to fix the
problem.  I bottled up the bad feelings like I usually did.  It was
amazing she voted about the same way as me, at least.  It was amazing
she had most of her teeth and wasn't addicted to meth.  She must be
really strong in some ways to end up how she was.

We were driving to the back-country.  I knew enough about these places
to be scared.  We were going deep into the forest to meet her extended
family.  The town where her mother lived was basically a few trailers,
a bar, and a post office at a bend in the road.  There couldn't be
more than 100 people living there.  She'd explained to me that hunting
was more than economical in the winter there, it was pretty much the
only way to survive, and I tried to politely agree when she said I
should come back then and how great it was.  I could sort of imagine.
In deep snow this entire area would be impossible to get through.  It
was the middle of summer so a 40-mile trip to the grocery store in the
sweltering heat would actually work without ending up stranded having
to eat my chunky girlfriend before being eaten, like the Donner Party.
We had to have been crawling along up this mountain into the forest
for at least an hour now, which meant we may have gone 15 miles,
probably at least half that far uphill.  At least it would be cooler
up in the trees.

We finally pulled up to a clearing in the mountain forest centered
around a small wooden cabin in the shade of a few large trees.  It
certainly looked creepy.  A man with a beard in suspenders, thick
glasses, and tattered pants looked up from chopping firewood and
recognized the jeep.  He waved...  with the axe.  I breathed a deep
breath to calm my nerves.  I had met girlfriends' families before, but
I was basically a city kid.  This clearly wasn't a man who worked for
public transit, and that had been nerve-wracking enough.  I wasn't
even attracted to this woman.  What was I thinking?  As I parked, she
explained the man was her uncle.  I certainly didn't say out loud what
I was thinking.  Your...  uncle?  Are you sure about that?

I tried to calm my nerves, really a sense of panic, as we walked from
the car toward the cabin and my girlfriend's uncle.  He had a strange
country attitude like some people do.  Some people in rural areas have
quite a chip on their shoulder about city-folk.  They kind of talk
slower to you like you're retarded, with a tone in their voice to make
it clear they are superior to the urban weaklings.  Admittedly he
could split me in two without the axe, on the forefront of my mind at
that moment.  He was mostly focused on my girlfriend though, he didn't
seem very interested in me at all.  They just talked a bit about it
being nice to see each other and "Pa" not doing so well these days.
Then they headed toward the tiny cabin, my girlfriend basically
ignoring me too now as I trailed along behind the two of them.

When we stepped inside the cabin I was blinded.  It was far too dark
to see anything inside.  There were two small round windows on either
side of a fireplace.  Portholes like you would find on a ship.  One
had a transparent rainbow sticker with a unicorn, woefully out of
place in this cabin.  It was almost comical there.  What really got me
though...  was the smell.  I knew this smell and the gears in my mind
crunched along.  Where did I know this smell from?  Rats?  Ah. Oh my
god.  Once I had caught another kid torturing rats and stolen them
from him.  The smell was a mix of shit and blood.  The inside of the
cabin smelled like those tortured rats.  As my mind reeled from
adjusting to the stench, my eyes slowly began to see the entire room
that took up most of the cabin.

Walking in the door, the fireplace with the two small windows was on
the right.  One small lightbulb failed to illuminate the rest of the
room.  Past the fireplace I could see a filthy kitchen, the room was
L-shaped.  There was a table in about the center of the room, and a
truly disgusting bathroom to the left of another closed door.  In the
furthest corner opposite from the fireplace to the left was a bed
unlike any I had seen, it was actually built right into the cabin.
The inside gave the impression of being at the bottom of a ship.  I
later learned beds like that were common in old cabins, a bedstead.
That's where Pa was.  Pa was on the bedstead in the corner, but the
perspective was all wrong.  He was anywhere from four to ten feet
tall, and I realized they were keeping him chained to the bed.

My girlfriend went right up to him and said "hi, Pa," to him.  He let
out a truly demented laugh and reached out and grabbed her breast.
She laughed, embarrassed of that, and looked back at me.  So...  that
had been enough to embarrass her.  She walked over to me, away from
her Grandpa, and I realized I had unconsciously edged toward the
kitchen in shock after noticing Pa. She was so trashy, this was taking
the cake.  I had known she was a little strange when I met her.  Our
relationship had been a lot of potsmoking and me not noticing certain
things.  As she walked over to me she kind of flaunted her fat butt
for Pa. What the fuck?  She walked right up to me and put an arm
around me in the way that usually made me so horribly uncomfortable.
I was unable to focus, but grateful for the cloud of trashy perfume
masking the sick odor of the inside of the cabin.  My heart was
pounding.  I was scared in a way I never had been.  I couldn't focus
on anything as they talked, catching up.  Pa was unintelligible
anyway, the weirdest accent I have ever heard coupled with a horribly
diseased mouth and mind.  My mind was reeling.  I was in fight or
flight mode meeting this girlfriend's family.  My girlfriend picked up
on it and tried to cover for me, but it went on for the longest few
minutes of my life.  I would occasionally choke out a laugh when the
three of them were laughing.  At one point I wondered if they were
laughing at me when Pa got a bit hysterical.  I slowly realized they
probably weren't going to kill and eat me, relaxing a tiny bit.

My girlfriend asked how the kids were.  Dear God, they had procreated.
More than one child.  I saw no woman anywhere except my girlfriend,
but knew not to ask anything, not to speak.  Her Uncle said they would
be back any minute.  My girlfriend asked about dinner.  How was I
going to escape?  How could she be hungry in this place?  My mind
began to wander, trying to think of an excuse to get her alone and
demand we leave.  As I stood there utterly horrified, trying to hide
it, I knew they all knew how uncomfortable I was.  I wondered how
often they got visitors and how they escaped.  I heard children
talking outside, coming closer out the forest.  They weren't loud but
it sounded like quite a few children.  The Uncle looked over at me,
his eyes enormous through his thick glasses.  Dear God, I was going to
have to speak.  I steeled myself, but I was saved from that by about
as many kids as the population of the small town we had come from
running in the door.  The cabin was suddenly packed with dozens of
children, it was like packing clowns in a Volkswagon.  They were
crawling over the entirety of the cabin in seconds, multiple children
in the bathroom at once, several snuggling up to Grandpa in a way I
should probably report to CPS.  They were like an army of ants.  A
taller child carried some kind of small dead animal to the kitchen,
and a smaller child ran up to me and just stared curiously.

As I reflected on my life choices, practically flashing before my
eyes, I realized the Uncle was talking to me in that country way.  He
was explaining how tough his kids were.  I nodded politely which
seemed to make him a bit angry.  He explained that these kids were no
city slickers, and they could all probably take me down.  I wasn't
sure what to say as one of the medium-sized kids snickered, came up to
me, and kicked me in the shin.  Dear God, so this is how I was going
to die.  The Uncle flipped out though.  He started screaming at the
kid in a way that scared me worse than I had been yet in the whole
visit.  In the middle of all of this he said calmly to me, "they know
what's right, they're good kids." The kid was terrified now.  He knew
what was in for him.  Better the kid than me, I thought.  What could I
do now, anyway?  The Uncle told a taller kid to get the acid.  He
punished his kids with...  LSD...?  The taller kid laughed and opened
the door that had been closed, and started rummaging through a packed
closet.  In a little bit he produced a large glass bottle, as I tried
to calm the Uncle down and say it was ok.  It had to be a gallon jug
of what I soon found out wasn't LSD.

The Uncle took the kid who had kicked me to the table and told him to
put his hand down.  The tallest kid came silently back from the
kitchen, holding a spray bottle with an expressionless face.  All the
kids knew what was coming next.  My girlfriend looked at me a bit
horrified herself now.  She said to her Uncle he didn't have to show
off in a pleading tone.  He just barked out a laugh, uncapped the
bottle, and poured some kind of strong acid on the damn kid's hand
like that scene in Fight Club.  Except he overdid it.  Even he looked
a bit shocked.  The kid just held his hand there, gritting his teeth.
He didn't cry, but his hand was literally melting.  The kid somehow
said jokingly, "looks like a city." The oldest kid started spraying
whatever base was in the bottle on the poor kid's hand at about one
second intervals.  Squirt.  Squirt.  The smell of the chemical
interaction mixed with the shit, blood, and my girlfriend's perfume.
My girlfriend went off on her Uncle.

After screaming for about half a minute she stomped out of the cabin.
I trailed close behind, my skin crawling as I walked past her Uncle,
now standing there as stunned as anyone.  My girlfriend cried by the
side of the jeep for a bit, I just stood there trying to look
compassionate.  Now I couldn't dump her for another month.  I didn't
have the heart to do it after that, aside from which I would be
stranded here without her.  My mind felt empty, I was numb.  We got in
the jeep silently and began the long drive back to town and my own
car.  My girlfriend, wiping tears from her face, asked me if I wanted
to smoke some weed.  I told her she could, paused, then laughed.
Thank God I had survived that.  I said I had a new-found desire to
turn my life around.