Brush with Evil I

This is the tenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


Earlier, I mentioned Johnny Smith and The Dead Zone. I too have encountered evil with my “gift” of perceiving the character and notions of others. You know evil when you feel it. There is the normal stew of human ways of being- sad, optimistic, arrogant, angry, happy, gloomy. Usually, underlying all, is the sludge of fear. In my experience, the most happy-seeming people are also the most terrified. After all, have you looked and listened these days? Have you read the signs? If you’re happy all the time then you’re either willfully ignorant or stupid or dead.

But real evil lacks fear. Or maybe it’s pure fear, untainted by the desire for something warm and noble, only concerned with its own preservation. Real evil sees the world simply, as prey and predator. It has no choice in the matter. Real evil is ice cold, like reptilian eyes regarding you with primordial intelligence. Am I giving you the idea that these Rocky Mountains are a paradise full of well-meaning hippified outdoorsy types and beleaguered park rangers? There is evil out here too, just like everywhere else.

Salida, Colorado may the most Colorado place on the planet. The Arkansas River runs right through the center of town, the headwaters in the nearby mountains. White water rafting, mountain biking, mountain climbing, hang gliding, moose wrestling. If you can think of an outdoor rush then, “Right on!”, it’s here or nearby. There’s a US highway that skirts the quaint center of town with it’s upscale eateries and galleries. On the outskirts are the motor inns, pawn shops, liquor stores, gun stores and churches. You know- The Great American Cultural District. I walked on the shoulder of the road through this fringe wasteland. Cars whizzed by or turned into parking lots in front or behind. All except for a black Lexus with tinted windows that slowed and followed me, matching my pace, half on the shoulder. At first I thought he was turning or rolling to a stop from car trouble. But then I could feel the driver and knew he was fucking with me.

I could feel that he was grinning.

This was not some dumb-ass teenager throwing a beer can out the window and yelling something crude. There was a cold-ass motherfucker behind that windshield and I wanted to get off that road quick as I could and be around some other people.

I was in front of a church. A tough choice loomed. The church? Or tangle with the evil motherfucker following me with ill intent?

I turned up the walkway to the church door leaving the highway behind. The car stopped and I could feel him watching me. Then it accelerated away on the roadside gravel, crunching a memo that time would be bided, that I couldn’t hide forever, that there was nothing for him to do but watch and wait.

I lingered in the church doorway until the chill passed then started back down to the road. I wanted to get resupplied and back to the wilderness ASAP. I felt out-in-the-open and exposed like the slow gazelle in a nature show about lions.

A voice from the church doorway behind. “Changed you mind?”

Shit. Church person.

“No. Yes. Gotta move on.”

“I felt him, too.”


“The guy in the car. Did you see him?”

“No,” I said. “Tinted windshield.”

“You don’t want to see his face. That means you’re too close.”

“What’s it like?”

“Clean shaven. Rosy and boyish. Smiling. Always smiling. Successful.”

“You survived it. Evidently.”

“Barely,” he said. “And then, only because of Jesus.”

“He showed up?”

A wry smile. “My faith in Jesus. My faith always shows up.”

“Hmmm. Sometimes I wish it were that simple for me.”

“There’s nothing simple about it,” he said. “It’s a relationship that needs cultivating. Like any relationship.”

I was feeling nothing specific off this earnest and frank churchman, just a general feeling of security. No, that’s not quite it. Serenity maybe?

“Do you pray?”

“I walk,” I said. “I wander the land.”

“That’s faith, too,” he said. “Wandering is a kind of prayer.”

“What about that evil motherfucker?”

“Avoid him,” the churchman said as he turned to go back in. “Don’t get caught out alone in the open. He feeds on the isolated.”

That’s when I knew I was headed back north to see my Mountain Girl.

“What Happened to You?”

This is the fourth installment of a new series about the Mountain Dude.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.


“What happened to you?”

I get this question more often than I like. If I had scars from facial burning or I was missing a limb, most people would be too embarrassed to ask. Most people would pretend not to see and treat me like I wasn’t damaged at all. They might even whisper about my courage to even carry on in such a condition.

But, I’m a disheveled wanderer who can’t keep my mouth shut. People are bolder when they can’t see the damage or they perceive you as shiftless, possibly dangerous. I’m not rudderless, though. If I had a bumper sticker, it would read, “not all who wander are lost.” Just like Gandalf.

Unlike Gandalf, I have no wizardry other than this emotional ESP that, coupled with my big mouth, doesn’t help at all. I’m not like Johnny Smith in the Dead Zone who can see someone’s future by touching that person or that person’s stuff. I remember in the book Johnny Smith shook hands with some politician and saw clearly that this politician would become president one day and lead the world into nuclear holocaust. The Cold War was in it’s long wind-down and nuclear war was still on everyone’s mind. Anyway, Johnny Smith sets out to murder this politician, therefore saving the world from nuclear holocaust by ending him before he becomes the president who destroys the planet. This was a story from the imagination of Stephen King, of course.

Can you even imagine such a crazy far-fetched fantasy in this day and age?


I can’t keep my mouth shut. And it’s better to walk the earth having fleeting encounters with people. Better for them and for me. When I piss them off irrevocably, I move on.

In high school, I couldn’t just move on. My skills were there but I hadn’t really separated them out from the adolescent surge of hormones, from my own desires and despair. I could perceive things and say things people wanted or needed to hear. I could say just the right thing to teachers. To parents. To girls.

Girls. With them I really had to start honing the response to my perceptions. For instance, I learned pretty quickly to say, “It’s all going to be ok” at just the right moment rather than, “I know you’re heart is breaking but it’s not appropriate to be in love with your cousin.”

Bland generalities, boldly delivered at just the right moment. “It’s ok to cry.” “Life is really hard.” “He doesn’t deserve you.” These generic insights were key to getting to first base and sometimes beyond. “Wow, you really understand me,” some girls would say. The better to get into your shirt, under your skirt, into your bed.

Yup. But can you see that I was learning how to be a fraud? And that being a fraud can get you things? I hadn’t yet learned that the things you get by being a fraud are hollow and make you sad in the end.

“What happened to you?”

One of the things that happened to me in my early twenties: I was riding an Amtrak train across the country. It was the middle of the night and I sat in the upstairs lounge car which is like a big glass bubble with seats facing outward so you can watch the USA speed by. I sat chewing these mushrooms and as the dawn rose and this ecstatic psychedelic depth opened up inside of me I watched the Nebraska prairie emerge from the gloaming. As I sat suspended in the train bubble it was impossible to tell if I was rocketing through the prairie or if I was motionless and the prairie was flying past me as I was dangling above in some weird glass pod. Space and time ceased to exist for an hour or two and I just sat there in a detached suspended bliss until some people came in to eat Hostess cakes and the awful ceaseless sound of crinkling wrappers brought me back to a rather limited reality.

That happened to me, too.