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Authors: John Hansen

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Two Medicine

BOOK: Two Medicine
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Two Medicine

A Novel


John J. Hansen

Two Medicine is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are the product solely of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely

2015 Burgundy Books Paperback Edition

Copyright © 2015

All rights reserved.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to Stephanie
Sasscer, for her edits.

Note: N
ative Americans, at the time in the early 2000s, were still
known in Montana by various names, used interchangeably: First
Nation Peoples, Indians, Indigenous, Native Peoples, Native
Americans, and American Indians. Only two were in common usage
amount the locals where the book is set: Native Americans, and
Indians, and as such are used in this story.


I never set out to write a
novel about how my life started in Glacier Park, Montana. I went
there for reasons much less dramatic, less artistic, than to
research for some future novel. I simply wanted to just get away
from a humiliating breakup, and from a job I hated, and from being
incredibly lonely. I desperately wanted a new life… a life in
someplace a far away from Atlanta as I could get on short notice;
inventive, maybe, but reasons born of desperation rather than

Leaving everything behind
I left for Montana. But when I got to what I thought was going to
be a new life, I fell in love with a girl, Alia. It was to be a
short-lived love, however, and the finding out of the awful thing
that happened with her led me through such a strange and profound
journey that was compelled to write it down, despite the simple,
desperate motivation that began my journey.

So, I sit here at my
laptop, and our tale begins in Atlanta circa 2003, with a text
message from my past-girlfriend, Holly the redhead.


I was working at a
magazine in Atlanta that year in May, not too far out of college,
as an assistant editor, in fact – a job more grandiose in title
than in reality. It was a car magazine but I knew nothing about
cars. What I did know was that my father, the big shot lawyer, got
me the job because he was a partner with the corporate counsel for
Gannett Publishing, a company that owned that car magazine, and
pretty much every major magazine in the east coast.

I was broke after I
graduated with no real prospects of my own, and I had majored in
English Literature after all… So I considered myself lucky to have
any kind of job awaiting me at all.

My three interests in life
were, in no particular order: reading good books, playing guitar
and piano, and being outside. At the time I was deciding upon
college, I had read great works of literature, played in a few
bands, and spend some wondrously peaceful times in the woods. That
was what was in my mind as I pondered the list of college majors
available. I knew I was in trouble from the start.

And as I pondered over my
options back then I realized I was not dedicated or desperate
enough with the music life to chuck all my hopes and dreams into a
band van and tour around for years, perpetually trying to “make it”
– too uncertain, too gritty a life. And as for the outdoors… could
I be a park ranger like a watered-down cop or some kind of
botanist… dendrologist? (I had to look that up). No, not those
strange sounding and ill-defined in my mind careers, they just
seemed to taint the very enjoyment of the outdoors that I
cherished. Bringing a paycheck into those Garden of Eden, as it
were, seemed a bad move. Thus, English it was.

So when my father’s deep
voice – the big-time attorney voice that had years ago become his
only voice – boomed out from my phone, calling from his golf trip
in Arizona (talking over the noise of the golf course patio bar at
which he was no doubt sitting at all day with his old buddies
drinking leisurely and steadily) and when offered to “set me up at
Gannett,” almost saying it as an afterthought (which it may have
well been since he hadn’t been involved in my life in any real way
since I was nine and he had stopped coming home on the weekends), I
accepted readily enough. I accepted my father’s offer as he sat at
the patio with a tentative “that sounds good…” part statement and
part question.

This job at that magazine,
that shall remain nameless, but that is still in print and is one
of those that displays on its glossy cover pictures of heaving,
hulking, power-overdosed cars and trucks with sexy, exotic, model
girls in provocative poses draped here and there and all over the
hoods and trunks, would begin in the morning with me sitting down
at a grey metal and glass desk in a little office with glass walls
on one side that looked out over Atlanta.



The first day
I had moved into that office I was surprised to
find myself in a state of a surprised excitement – a new job with
my own office! Big title and sexy magazine! No idea what was
expected of me, but cautiously optimistic nonetheless! I was
surprised by these feelings as I sat down at my new desk that first
day – I had gotten up that morning with only a sense of impending
dread filling my heart as I steeled myself to start my uncertain
career. But excited I was as I sat down at my desk, the smell of
new plastic and metal filling my senses. Also, on my first day the
tech guys had unpacked a brand new Apple desktop computer from its
box and Styrofoam peanuts and set it up on my new desk with my new
chair – I had enjoyed that sensation as well.

But it wasn’t long,
unfortunately, until the glimmer left my eye and the pep in my step
down those halls faded into a resentful and reluctant stalk, under
the monolithic weight of the daily office grind – it probably took
only a week, in fact. I don’t care what kind of work you do, even
in some hyper-creative, artsy, free-wheeling, wild ass-slapping job
you may take, if it’s in an office building, if you have the same
desk you have to sit at every hour of every day, and if you see and
hear the same people in the same places saying the same things
every day, you will find your soul slowly shrinks down to a dried,
hard, little stone. I promise.

So my bright and shiny new
job and that pleasing sense of excitement quickly developed into a
grey monotony for me. I’d look at myself in the bathroom mirror
certain mornings, see a fairly good looking, tall, thin figure with
a shock of brown hair sticking up from my head pre-shower, and
wonder what I was doing with my life.

A sample of a typical day
would be thus: I would kind of lose focus for the first half hour
or so after getting to the office, I would daydream, then
half-heartedly check the papers on my desk, check out my emails,
fumble with this document or that file, check my phone messages for
a bit. It was all about slowly adjusting. Like a deep-sea diver has
to immerse himself in a steady descent and return ascent through
the cold depths to avoid deadly internal disarray, my psyche would
require time each morning, and then each evening, to slowly adjust
to the fact that I was going to be in that room for eight hours, or
so, or later, that I had just spent eight hours in that room, or

Eventually I would shake
off my daze, and force myself to stare at list of files on my
monitor for a few minutes, files that would appear for me each
morning to download and edit, and then turn over to my managing
editor. These were stories submitted from our roving,
loosely-affiliated team of freelance writers that went to all of
the major car shows, trade shows and racing events in the country.
They would then write and submit to me their stores for each
magazine edition. I would open these files on my computer, print
them out because I could never read anything accurately on a
monitor, then review and edit the article with the editing software
we had (and by old-fashioned eyeballing for grammar errors) to
clear up any mistakes and make the stories read better. Then I’d
email them to the managing editor above me, who would do the

The file would then travel
to Mr. John Jeffries, senior editor, who would give the articles a
final once over before sending it to be plugged into a layout by
the graphic designers. And like that another edition is born and
sent out into the world.

That was essentially my
job, at least 80% of it. The rest was talking on the phone with the
freelancers trying to track down their stories for deadlines, and
working with the art department (a saving grace for my creative
mind) to get images for each article that made sense based on the
stories. The stories mostly had to do with some new part that would
make an air-intake function quieter and make a manifold run colder,
or create more torque on the back end to avoid burn outs,

So this was
my job and I hated being there after one week.
Every morning, as I sat at my desk adjusting to the my descent into
the deep, when I looked at the writers’ names on the articles
lists, and saw where they were emailing the articles from,
California, Utah, Florida, Mexico, Italy – all the car and racing
hotspots – my lethargy would be suddenly spiced up with a simmering
envy and bitter depression. Just the term “freelance” made me
envious, made me feel like I was in the wrong career bound to my
desk as I scanned articles for mistakes. I would often sit back in
my grey-blue, plastic, swivel chair and swivel 180 degrees to stare
out the large window I had in my office (thank God) that overlooked
downtown, at these times of lethargy/envy/depression, and I’d think
about these writers, the Free Lancers.

Getting paid to do what
the hell they liked… I would ponder this freedom they enjoyed
during those long, grey days in my office, as I slowly swiveled
myself back and forth in my grey-blue, plastic, office swivel
chair. There were so many window-watching mornings and afternoons
that I remember being embarrassingly caught a few times gazing out
into the distance.

And not just them, I had
always been talented enough at guitar and piano to be in and out of
bands over years, mostly in my college days, as I mentioned. And
some of the guys I played with had never given up their dream, and
were still struggling to make it in the music business,
uncompromising, putting all their eggs in that one basket – even if
it meant teaching guitar at some rinky-dink guitar shop, or waiting
tables, or driving a brown UPS truck around.

One of them I knew had
recently chucked it all up and moved penniless to Austin, and was
still playing weekly open mikes – for nothing. Yet another has just
went to Nashville, and started working during the day as a painter
– of houses, not canvases. But he was still nobly, un-deviated from
the path of his dreams. In fact both of these friends of mine were
suffering but could suffer proudly, with dignity.

I had certainly
at bit, I realized as I sat
swiveled over to my window view on grey mornings. Every day in my
little office was becoming a wasted, blank day.

So I would lose focus and
drift, down into the deep sea depths, adjusting to the pressure and
change, to make it through the day. Staring out the window helped…
watching the distant cars speeding down the highway cutting through
the city, and looking farther past the city, farther out into the
rolling green hills north of the skyline. I longed to be out of
that building, past those tall city buildings, and into the distant
light-blue forested hills, lost, wild, and….

! Linda, my managing editor, tossed a stack of papers on my
desk with a loud and exaggerated sigh. Linda must have weighed
about 400-pounds back then, with the blotchy red face and squinting
eyes of a morbidly obese woman. She was a big, flabby mess; and she
would often savagely intrude my daydreams at just the worst
moments, routinely giving me a horrible shock to my

This particular morning,
she was at this moment pointing at our magazine’s last edition that
was on the top of the stack on my desk. “Will,” she said,
missed a few things in the
edition that John wants me to
point out to you – and he’s
!” Linda had a strange way of
talking in that she would emphasize certain words at odd times,
which made her sound like she was always saying something crucially

BOOK: Two Medicine
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