Night Shooting

Rob McClure Smith

6.00 a.m. A recovered clap stick clapped.

This time Klein did not complete his loop but gave a small cry and toppled, as in slow-mo, camera weighing him down as he disappeared into a head-high thicket of prickly palm from which he commenced screaming in agony.

“Scheisse. Scheisse.”

MacPherson was concerned. “Is the camera okay?” he cried. “For God’s sake, is the camera awright?”

Lillee crouched over Klein, extricating camera from sled.

“It’s fine,” he said, with a thumbs up. “No damage.”

“Thank Christ.” MacPherson wiped his brow. “That’s a relief.”

“Scheisse,” screamed Klein, rolling to and fro. “Meine beine tun wir meh.”

“Sprachen Sie fuckin’ English a minute here, Gunther?"

“Naibe dugologuad,” said one of the Kuna, pointing at Klein’s leg.

“Can we get a translator here? This is like the fuckin' Tower of Babylon.”

“Naipe naipe,” shouted another Kuna, alarmed.

“Poisonous snake.” Duffy announced. “The big Kraut has been bitten by one, got at by the fangs of the coral snake or a big bushmaster, perhaps.”

“Die Schlange,” yelped Klein, trying to sit up. “Die schlange.”

“Gunther’s got bit by a snake,” Lillee said, redundantly.

“Aw, Christ oan a bike.” MacPherson looked at the writhing cameraman with annoyance. “How careless wis that?”

Klein looked up pleadingly, pawing at his leg.

“What does one do in a situation like this?” asked Lillee.

“Is there anyone else can work the steadicam?” asked MacPherson.

“For God’s sake,” said Rich. “Can we get this man some medical attention?”

“Maybe someone should suck out the poison?” suggested a Spanish officer.

There was a squall of nervous laughter.

“That’s what they do in the movies,” said an extra.

“Well, this isnae the movies,” said MacPherson. He considered the statement. “Anyway, ah’m no sucking oan nae big German fella. For wan thing, ah don’t swing that way. For anither, ah don’t know where he’s been.”

“The man may be beyond medical help already,” intoned Duffy, gloomily. “The venom of jungle snakes is so poisonous that cardiac arrest often follows within seconds.”

Duffy straddled Klein, who looked up at him with a startled expression. Duffy turned to a Kuna.

“Elardo! Go get me the chainsaw. The one they used on those tree things.”

“What you want a chainsaw for?” asked Rich, nervously.

Duffy shrugged. “We need to amputate the leg before the poison seeps into his circulatory system. That’s what needs to happen.”

“Don’t be fucking ridiculous,” Rich shouted. “No one is cutting off no one’s leg with a goddamn chainsaw. Are you mad?”

“It’s the only thing for it,” Duffy shouted in his face. “If you don’t want to help him live, get the hell out of my way. I’m about saving lives here.”

All eyes were now on Duffy, including the macaw’s yellow ones.

“I’m going to faint,” said Klein. He had wisely reverted to English.

“No you’re not,” said Lillee, patting him on the head. “That would be stupid.”

Elardo returned, carrying a hatchet.

“Ah, that will do the job,” said Duffy. “That is satisfactory.”

Klein pointed at Duffy, trembling with fear or anger. “Fick dich, Wichser.”

“Don’t let them near him,” cried Rich.

“I’m going to die,” Klein sobbed. ‘I’m going to die.”

“No one’s going to kark it on my watch, mate,” said Lillee, yawning.

The Kuna passed the hatchet from hand to hand, talking loudly.

“They are saying,” said Duffy, “that if we do not act soon the snake devil will crawl into the man’s body...”

“Enough wi’ the fucking snake devils,” said MacPherson. “Just get him back tae the medical tent and git him...aspirin...ur sumthin."

“Wanky wank,” screeched the macaw.

“Don’t you be starting telling me what’s enough, midget-man.” The pistol was in Duffy’s right hand as he waggled it at the director’s shoulder. “I’m trying to save a man’s life while you lot are signing his death warrant by rank negligence and...”

The pistol discharged.

Everyone jumped, including Klein. Then no one moved at all. The jungle was silent. The macaw flew up to a tree. The bird’s flight was awkward. It clung to a branch, one dark blue wing outstretched and shattered and streaked red as its underside. Its feathers shone in the arc lights with an iridescence of metallic gold. The bird looked down, almost wonderingly, its eyes filming, and then fell with a flat splat to the dirt.

Klein looked a little better, a pile of bloody feathers bunched before him.

“The good news is,” said Duffy, “the pistol now seems to be operational.”

MacPherson made a flying leap for the actor’s throat. The attempted strangulation was averted, though, and the director thrown to the ground beside Klein, held down by a group of uniformed men.

“You killed Claverhouse, you fuckin’ prehistoric lunatic,” MacPherson bawled. “You murdered mah burd.”

Duffy looked around. “This incident was obviously accidental.” He gestured towards the weapons specialist. “The fault lies there if anywhere. That man is an incompetent of the first water. It is a good thing he didn’t bring harm to someone.”

“You homicided mah macaw.”

One of the Kuna bent over Klein and rolled up the German’s pant leg. “He mash up good. Bullet ant.”

“There you go,” said Duffy. “A false alarm. One of them ant things again. I suspected as much.”

“Pissen sie auf!” said Klein, struggling to get to his feet.

“I am perfectly amenable, you understand,” said Duffy, “to purchasing a new parrot, one which he can also teach to use profanity as he sees fit.”

“How’s about that,” Lillee offered, hopefully, “is a wrap?”

*     *     *

6.30 a.m. MacPherson was borne to the medical tent for a sedative and Klein for a tetanus shot.

“What am I going to say to the studio?” Rich asked Lillee. “What am I going to tell them? That the Darien Disaster is officially now a Darien Disaster?”

“You ask me, mate, you just tell them it’s going a hell of a lot better than the last one.”

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