The Great White Hunter

(posted Thursday, December 22, 2005)

To an empath like Seraphic Flame, the sense of guilt pervading the air of the dingy CCCP headquarters could not be avoided. Like a hunting cat, she followed the scent to its source: a diminutive girl in a cowboy hat and boots, bending over a paper sack: Oksana, the Communist Cowgirl.

She watched the girl with bemusement and pity. Beneath Oksana's bandana was usually a smile, though partly deluded: the girl had been raised in isolation on the steppes of Siberia, with nothing but American cowboy movies and Marxist tracts to teach her about life. She was in many ways the most out of place member of CCCP, even in the country whose frontier had provided her worldview.

The tense body language of the girl's back was so uncharacteristic that Flame felt a compulsion to comfort her. "Hello, Oksana," she said.

Commie Cowgirl jumped a foot in the air, whirling around to conceal the bag behind her back. "Tarnation!" she hollered, then calmed herself. "I mean, is mighty fine to see you, pardner."

"How are you?"

"I'm just dandy," she said, forcing a grin. "Happier than a pig in mud."

Seraphic Flame crossed her arms. "How lovely for you. What's the occasion? Are you wrapping a Christmas present?"

"Nyet! I mean, da, I shore am." She glanced around the room. "Is for Kurt. Ayup, Kurt. That's all."

"That's sweet. You're quite fond of him, aren't you?"

"Ayup, da, I am," Oksana said, becoming suspicious. "I, ah, reckon I should finish here and vamoose."

"May I see the present? I'm still debating on what to give Ratt and Shuma." She took a step forward.

Oksana scrambled to hide the bag. "Nyet! Is, ah, embarrassink gift, only for my cowboy, if you get my drifting."

"Oksana." She made her voice as stern as possible. "No more dissembling. What are you hiding?"

Oksana's face broke into tears. "Tarnation, Sera, I din't mean nothin'! It was an accident, honest injun." She held out the bag. Inside was a single slab of a green leather-like substance as wide as Sera's hand.

"What is this?"

Oksana wiped her nose. "Consarn it. You make me feel like a little girl." She set her jaw. "It's Sally."

"Sally who?" Comprehension dawned. "The waterbeast?"

"Da."

"You encountered her?"

"Da." She sighed. "And Sally encountered me, you could say."

"Oksana. I have told you about hunting in Croatoa."

The cowgirl turned as red as her politics. "It weren't my fault! I was using that dad-blasted jetpack thingamabobble, flying over the lake, just minding my own beeswax. I heard a splash, and the biggest dang lizard under God's green earth popped its -- her -- head up out of the water."

Oksana hesitated. "Go on," Flame urged.

"Well, I reined in to take a closer look, and of course for safety I got out my Soviet Buffalo Rifle. That lizard was as big as a house. I got her in my sights, and... well... dang it... you know I'm a handy shot with a rifle."

"Oksana..."

"The jetpack sputtered! It dipped me like a tango dancer and my finger tensed up." The tears began to flow. "I plugged Sally right between the eyes."

"You wounded her?"

"I killed her, Sera. She sank like a stone." Oksana took back the scale, weighed it in her hand. "I dove into the water and pulled this off her. I don't know why. It ain't a trophy, 'cuz I didn't plan on bagging that old gal." She shrugged. "Maybe I should give it to schoolchildren."

"Michael Azir, give me strength," Flame muttered. Not for the first time, she regretted casting her lot among these foolish humans, who could only appreciate beauty by destroying it.

She gave Oksana a tissue. Oksana blew a wet, noisy noseful of snot into it.

((It's true, Commie Cowgirl accidentally one-shotted Sally. I wish I could have gotten a screenshot. It was hilarious.))