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The Story of Peter Coppintale

In a small town in the Rocky Mountains there lived a commune. The inhabitants of the commune had many trials, for the town was full of rednecks and Mormons, and if one group wasn't threatening to burn them out, the other was doing its daily, smiling best to convert them. The spiritual leader of the commune was a man called Peter Coppintail, a highly evolved being on his last incarnation in the earth plane, and he was a channeler, from whose lips came the voice of the mighty spirit Dhu-Be-Dhu. When their leader was channeling, all the disciples fell respectfully silent and paid strict attention to Dhu-Be-Dhu's instructions for the way they ought to be living their lives.

Some of these messages concerned meditation. Every evening after dinner the group assembled in the meditation hall, an Iroquoi longhouse constructed from plans provided by Dhu-Be-Dhu, and sat zazen around the firepit, chanting the sacred name of their holy guardian spirit until bedtime. Sometimes they danced deosil - except for a few who couldn't tell their left hands from their right and danced widdershins - to the rhythm of sacred drums.

Occasionally the group was given a special blessing, and the ascended spirit would deliver a lecture on the Sacred Serpent Fire. These usually coincided with one or more of Peter Coppintail's four wives being mountainously pregnant, and Dhu-Be-Dhu would issue a directive as to which female disciple was to share the leader's sleeping bag. This gave the commune something to argue about with the Mormon missionaries, but it frequently caused the rednecks to get redder when they'd had a few beers.

"Wuuull, shitfuck, Joe Bob," one envious redneck was heard to say to a disconsolate companion one night in the Grizzly Bar, "that ole hippie must have more moves than Ex-Lax!" And he pounded on the bar and hollered over to the bartender for two more pitchers of Colorado Kool-Aid.

"Ex-Lax, hell!" said a voice from the other end of the bar. "That son of a bitch has more moves than a game of Sprouts." The speaker stared moodily into a fruit jar of Purple Jesus (fifty cents per glass). A chain connected his lower left earring to his nose ring, marking him as several kinds of a dropout. An underage cheerleader from the local high school was sipping J. W. Dant's with two cherries in it at a back table, and she thought he was way cool even if he did eat sprouts and granola and yucky stuff like that.

Joe Bob raised his head. "You talkin ta me?" he growled, for he had been mourning his scorelessness since sundown and was sure he had been insulted, and some unpleasantness broke out which had to be dealt with by the bouncer, who also 86ed the cheerleader. The cheerleader decided to just go on up and find out if the commune was also way cool or just plain weird.

The inhabitants of the commune did not drink beer. They made their own sacramental wine from a recipe provided by Dhu-Be-Dhu, out of bananas, tangeloes, and overripe kiwis scrounged from the dumpster behind the Save-A-Buck market. Nor did they eat meat except on ceremonial occasions, when Peter Coppintail, following instructions from an ancient Navajo medicine man he'd met on hajj to Los Angeles, slipped naked into the deeps of the forest to request the gift of a deer from Changing Woman. Dhu-Be-Dhu spoke sorrowfully of those who ate meat from the Save-A-Buck, and cautioned the commune that they were polluting their higher vibrations if they let themselves be seduced by the scent of a quarter-pounder. Peter Coppintail himself brought home the ceremonial deer, but its flesh never passed his lips. His task was to summon the deer, slay it with a consecrated arrow, and offer the group's collective gratitude to the deer's spirit for the gift of its meat. But Peter Coppintail, ever mindful of his higher vibrations and his channeler's vocation, abstained. And during the meal he reminded the disciples of the damage they were doing to their karmas by eating even consecrated meat.

One fall morning, as the commune was meditating on a bountiful harvest and farting like a herd of tired horses after their breakfast of pinto beans and cabbage juice, their leader lost his patience and gave them the rough side of his channel for their spiritual laziness, their unwillingness to strive harder to control themselves, and the way it smelled in here this morning. The disciples had been bitching for weeks about the menu provided by Peter Coppintail's wives, which consisted mainly of brown rice and soy tofu, flavored with zucchini the size of mortar shells and what Shakti-Go-Go, the senior wife, said was tempeh, but a disciple from Flower Mound, Texas, claimed he'd spotted her cleaning out of the goat barn with a shovel. Peter Coppintail offered himself and one or two of his more evolved wives as examples of culinary transcendence. They wouldn't have eaten the flesh of Our Fellow Beings if it had trotted merrily into the yard and jumped into their mouths. But seeing as how all the disciples seemed to be at the mercy of their lower natures lately, Peter Coppintail would ungird himself and go skyclad-per instructions-into the forest to summon a deer.

Naked he strode into the forest, holding a Hopi paho and singing his sacred deer-calling song. The wives and disciples clustered in the front yard, the wives looking virtuous and the disciples glum and guilty. And hungry. The disciple from Flower Mound, Texas, was just about drooling in anticipation of some good old deer meat to cut the taste of that shitty tempeh, and one young disciple, a 15-year-old runaway from Tater Knob, West Virginia, was wondering if she still recalled how to make venison mincemeat by mammaw's recipe. Tempeh made her snap her lunch.

Peter Coppintail, his pale body dappled with sunlight through the autumn leaves, followed the trail to his meditation rock in a grove of quaking aspens. Breathing ki, he mounted the rock and stood tall in the crisp air, composing himself. Compassion almost overwhelmed him as he thought about the deer who was going to die to feed his chilidogivorous disciples. He thanked his guardian spirit, Dhu-Be-Dhu, that he and his wives had overcome their baser appetites and nourished themselves, as the I Ching directed, entirely on the purest of food. He felt himself entering oneness with Great Deer. Then he raised his arms to heaven and bowed from the waist to the spirit of the deer in humility and supplication. With a swelling heart, Peter Coppintail offered himself wholly to the ritual.

He heard the sharp crack of a twig behind him, but before he could even straighten up, a load of double-ought buckshot caught him square in the behind. Shrieking to the sky and bounding like a jackrabbit, Peter Coppintail streaked for home, quickly outdistancing the Good Ole Boy from Lubbock, Texas, who'd flown up here to the Rockies for the first day of deer season. The Good Ole Boy stood scratching his head. Gawd damn, what a racket!

The Good Ole Boy wondered if he mighten't oughta go after that whitetail he hadn't quite managed to kill, but then he took a hefty swig of cool Lone Star from the longneck in his back pocket and decided not to bother. That sucker's rack hadn't been worth dawgshit.

MORAL: When you're standing on your principles, it's always best to cover your ass.

- Jane Gallion  [4004 BC]

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revised 24 November 2005