Hello everyone! I’m author Rhi Etzweiler, and I’m here today with the main characters from my short story titled “Blood & Peyote.” Gentlemen, thank you for joining me today. Let’s start with a general introduction: name, rank, job title, that sort of thing.
[A great deal of eye contact and nonverbal communication takes place as they decide who’s going to go first.]
A: Hi, I’m Specialist Apisi Howling. I’m three generations pure Kainai, and ten years a medicine man apprentice under my father. I’m a game warden in Glacier National Park. I track the movements of tagged wolf packs on the eastern slopes. As a Guardsman, I’m a Designated Marksman and Master Gunner. They tried to get me sniper qualified, but the slot didn’t open up before our last deployment.
C: I’m Specialist Chartreuse Beaudrou. And since we’re doing ethnicities, my father was French Canadian and my mother was German. And I’m the platoon medic for our Guard unit. Out of uniform, I’m a large animal vet. I have my own practice and a string of local ranchers in northern Wyoming and southeastern Montana as clientele. Mostly beef cattle.
[They share a glance.]
A & C: [in unison] We’re both practicing heathens.
Where did you grow up?
A: On Blackfoot Nation lands.
C: Uh, Toronto and Boston, but Billings, mostly.
[Laughter from both men.]
Does that mean you’re both Canadian born?
C: I am, yeah. My parents moved to Boston as expatriates when I was still in elementary school. But, uh, Api here—
A: Technically, I’m a Kainai citizen of the Blackfoot Nation, not Canadian or American. We don’t really observe the national borders of other countries through our lands. My parents relocated south inside American borders about two decades ago, when my mother took a seat on the tribal council.
Tell us about the first time you met. Was it love at first sight?
A: [grimaces] Ah, yes? I didn’t realize there was a…such thing.
C: [laughs] We’re supposed to be talking to the interviewer, not arguing semantics. You looked hot in that PT uniform. I would’ve fucked you in a heartbeat.
A: Except for the whole “it’ll get you court marshaled and dishonorably discharged,” you mean, right? And nobody looks hot in a PT uniform.
C: [shrugs] I might’ve risked it anyway. You won’t ever know, will you.
A: That doesn’t qualify as love. It was hormones.
C: There you go with semantics again. [grins] He’s too smart for his own good most of the time.
A: [growls and shoves Char in the shoulder] Beats being a smartass.
C: You’re just jealous of my sharp wit.
You two definitely have an interesting dynamic going on. What drew you to each other?
C: Solidarity. We got paired up as battle buddies during out first OIF deployment. Been that way ever since. Usually veterans are assigned with first-timers on ensuing deployments.
A: Our unit is small enough, that wasn’t necessary. We got lucky.
C: And on each other’s nerves.
A: A lot.
C: You liked every moment of it.
A: [laughs and grins] You did make for a good distraction. Like that time we pranked the lowlife that sent you a Dear John letter? River’s still hunting for that snapshot, by the way.
C: What snapshot?
A: The one of them from the party.
C: Oh, when they lost that bet with Handler and had to wear those fishnets and seven inch stilettos. I didn’t send that one, it was too good.
A: But you didn’t give it back, either.
C: F… no. Of course I didn’t. That thing is art.
A: Blackmail material, you mean.
C: That too.
An interesting story, you should definitely share the details another time. From the sounds of it, you both thrive on challenges?
C: Definitely. We’re usually at each other’s throats when we’re not making dares.
A: Understatement. We’ve bother been sergeants at least twice.
C: The last NJP was your fault, so you know.
Non-judicial punishment? They took rank stripes, from both of you at the same time?
C: Yes. We were performing a religious ceremony. Rather ill-timed it turned out, and the commanding officer didn’t see it as such.
A: Neither did the chaplain.
C: Yeah well. Arterial spray stains don’t really ever come out of clothing, not even combat uniforms.
A: Especially not when the Afghan summer sun bakes it to their skin.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
A: The Rockies. I enjoy hiking along the eastern slopes during my downtime.
C: Can I use his bed as a valid answer?
A: No, you cannot.
C: Why not?
A: Because I said so.
C: Yeah well, I was asking them, not you. Besides, I can’t think of a single other place I’d rather kick back and relax in my free time. You should see his bed. It’s a work of art, let me tell you.
A: I’m sure you shouldn’t tell them. They don’t want to hear about my bed.
C: I’d beg to differ.
A: And if you do, I’ll shut you up real fast.
C: [eyes narrowing] Is that a threat or a promise?
Well, I understand how you’ve managed to lose your sergeant stripes twice. Care to share future plans? Do either of you intend to stay in the military?
C: I intended to renew my service contract with the Guard for another six years. I doubt I’ll get the option, not after the rough time I’ve had with reintegration. Which is fine. I’m getting too old and battered to keep up with the spring chickens.
A: I wanted to, until after this last tour. When my contract comes up next year, I’m done. I’ve more important things to focus on. Like my apprenticeship.
Thank you for taking the time to join us today, gentlemen. And welcome home, we hope retirement treats you well!
C: Thank you for having us. Let me tell you, it’s great to be home. And I intend to abuse my retirement to the full extent of the law, too.
A: Oh great. That means running me ragged? No more naked snow angels in the dead of March.
C: Hey, wait just a second!
A: I will not! I’m completely serious! I’ll make a mountain of coconut shavings in the greenhouse for you to roll around in. That’s as much as you get.
C: My frostbite wasn’t that bad!
Apisi Howling and Chartreuse Beaudrou returned from their Guard unit’s deployment almost a year ago. His battle buddy requested space and Apisi complied, limiting contact to phone calls. When their sergeant calls in a code black, Apisi throws out all the rules. Can they find a way to live with their demons, including their mutual attraction?
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Rhi enjoys creating characters and worlds with a speculative mixture that defies easy genre labels. For Rhi, storytelling is an artistic medium, and there’s rarely such thing as a short one. “Sometimes luring or bribery of muses is required. Once they realize I’m listening, they don’t stop.”