The Time That Mike Encountered A Wendigo And I Introduced Him To The Future Mrs. Michael Pence
The following story is meant to be humorous, and is not intended to represent the real-life Mike Pence. As far as we know has not, in fact, nearly soiled himself in the Maine Wilderness.
Most people don’t know that I was the person who introduced Mike Pence to the future Mrs. Michael Pence, but it’s true. Not only is it true, it’s a snorter of a tale into the bargain as well. It’s about the time he met not only the love of his life, but a creature—assumed by many to be mythical—in a part of northern Maine known in that fair state as The County.
I briefly ran a kitchen after my graduation from Le Cordon Bleu. This endeavor I abandoned after a harsh review entitled “No-TAY-tow, No-TAH-tow”. It was a blow below the belt, to be sure—what we call an Irish Uppercut—but I know when I’m told. I can take it just as well as I can give it out; no shame in that.
But the whole affair got me thinking about the reviewing business. It all boils down, if you understand, to “Is it good?” If I’m to move into the assessment business, I’ll need to find myself in the market where people most want assessment.
“Did you have a good day?” is a question I imagine to be more frequently asked than any other, with the exception of “Why?” If a question is asked so frequently, I figured, there ought to be some remuneration in providing an answer. I decided to go into the Day Assessment business. Follow a person about all day and at the end tell them whether or not they had a good day.
I enlisted the help of my good friend Booper McCarthy, put up a shingle and started the important business of business, that is, ordering office supplies: pens with “How was your day? Ask Bryan O’Nolan!” embossed on the shaft; letterhead; pre-printed envelopes in all sizes. I tried to order commemorative bobbleheads of Booper but the disproportionate enormity of his great head caused them to topple over.
Meanwhile, we had no clients.
“Bryan,” Booper said. “What if we did some work on what you call the speculation?”
“Whatever do you mean, McCarthy?”
“My da, when he was just going into the building and such, erected a building on the speculation, under the theory that your men would walk by and, impressed by his erection, want a building put up for themselves.”
“Booper,” I said. “Your da was a fruit-seller.”
“Well, he wasn’t very good at the maintenance of his erections, but the theory is there all the same.”
“I see what you’re after, I see it now.”
It would be the last time I would take advice from one Booper McCarthy, requiem æternam dona ei, Domine, the blessed fool.
We resolved to follow people around for a day at the end of which we would provide a thoughtful and incisive review. We would track and record every movement made, meal taken and conversation held.
It turns out this is considered “stalking” in several jurisdictions.
After posting bail we were despondent. If the speculation would not get our business going, what would?
I was pondering this very question when into my office walked a beautiful woman with dirty blonde hair and the clearest blue eyes you ever saw this side of Galway. I’ll just say that it was lucky that Booper was marching up and down the high street wearing a sandwich board advertisement at that very moment.
She was unsure of what service my business provided. I explained it as best I could. I offered her a 100% discount, and she accepted.
Let me tell you her next day was a wonderful one. The zoo. Lunch at an up-and-coming sandwich shop. Museum in the afternoon. Supper at the hipster place no hipster would inhabit in six months. A five star day.
“How did you plan so wonderful a day?” I asked.
“Well,” she said. “I’m on vacation.”
“And what do you do for work?” I asked.
“I run an outfitter in Aroostook County, Maine, that specializes in canoe trips through the wilderness down the Allagash River.”
She was the only client Booper and I ever had.
So it was that the following October, Michael and I were in her shop—and he in her thrall—purchasing supplies for our adventure. And what an adventure it was!
We employed a pair of guides for our trip, a French Canadian fellow called Défago and his partner of twenty years, Hank Davis. The former seemed somewhat reticent to accept our business—skittish, you might say—but he relented.
Into the humming wilderness we paddled our canoes. I with Défago and Michael with Hank; the future Mrs. Michael Pence was our last sight of civilization and she promised she’d be our first when we’d got to our destination.
The first few days were relatively uneventful.
Moose and bear were plentiful, as were Hank’s tales of hunting and trapping. Even more plentiful were the black flies, a horrid little creature that breeds in running water and feeds on people. One would think that pure, undiluted DEET would keep the bastards at bay but you’d be wrong in that assumption. The DEET does nothing in that regard but it turns out it will erase the print off your t-shirt. Meanwhile your men the black flies buzz about unbothered and feast happily on any available human flesh.
So, bug-netted and begloved we paddled the Allagash water. At one point Hank and the more taciturn Défago held us up so that we could make the rapids at the precise time when we wouldn’t have our canoes swallowed by the whitewater.
It was on the evening of the third day that things began to go sideways, as it were. We’d pulled up our canoes to make camp near an abandoned lumber train—engine and cars just left where they were, made the more beautiful by their dereliction; it was as if they were being reclaimed by the forest itself—we slung our food in roped bags over high branches against the Old Brown Man of the Wood, Honey-eater, the Shaggy One. We’d seen him and his sort on what you might call the periphery watching us like the very eyes of the forest primordial itself.
As we made our tent, Défago turned to me and spoke. It was a rarity that he spoke not in answer to a question.
“Mr. O’Nolan,” he said. “Do you smell anything . . . strange?”
I put my able nose to the air; nothing but the now familiar mixture of forest smells and DEET did I find there, and I told him so.
“Ah, good!” he said, though I did not believe he was as relieved as he wanted me to think he was. “It was nothing, then.”
I needed a talk with Michael, and forthwith.
He and Hank were encamped some ways away, but I marched right over and pulled himself away from the fire to speak in privacy.
“Michael,” I said. “Have you noticed anything queer about your man Davis? This evening Défago has been in a right state and, I tell you, I don’t know what to make of it.”
“No, Bryan,” he said. “I’ve noticed nothing out of sorts. He appears to be his usual gregarious self.”
I was getting all anxious myself.
“Michael, you don’t think they’re cannibals or stray carnival folk or something like that?”
Mike just laughed.
“No, no, Bryan, I’m sure they are not. But I’ll be sure to keep a weather-eye on Hank, though, if that will ease your mind.”
I thanked him and returned to the bit of the camp laid out for Défago and me.
Défago was still looking nervous. He was the quiet sort, yes, and tried to keep people at arm’s length, yes, but I’d taken a shine to the man, don’t you know. He was good, honest folk; I felt a brotherly care for the man.
“Défago,” said I. “There’s something bothering you, there has been since before we even embarked. What is it, man?”
“Have you ever heard of the Wendigo?” here he laughed to himself. “Of course you have not. They say there is a devil which inhabits these cold northern forests. He hunts for men. And there is a—how do you say?—characteristic scent before he strikes. It is, they say, both sweet and repulsive at the same time. Just as you arrived I heard from a fellow guide—an indigenous person native to this land, you understand; not like you or me—that the Wendigo was on the hunt. He had smelled it.”
He kicked our fire; little did I know we were bourne into trouble, as the sparks flied upwards.
He laughed another feeble laugh.
“It is nothing, of course.”
We retired to our cots.
I was soon asleep, though I daresay Défago was not.
I woke in the night to his wordless fussing. He was not sobbing: no. But he, in his sleep, was clearly in some emotional distress. I was greatly saddened for the man, though there appeared to be nothing I could do to soothe him.
Then I smelled it: an acrid sweetness. I can only say it smelled like death.
There came a sound, like a great torrential river of wind, crashing through the forest that stopped at our tent door.
Défago sat up, his eyes wide like saucers. Suddenly his cot was dragged by no earthly force I could name to the doorway and he sprung out of it and ran into the forest. I followed as best I could once my wits were about me but I’d lost him almost instantly.
I went and roused Michael and Hank.
When I’d finished sputtering my story and gesturing incoherently Mike’s face bore a look like he might soil himself at any moment. Hank’s face bore a look of terror.
“Why, we must,” Mike said. “Organize a search.”
“Don’t bother, Friend,” Hank said.
Hank fixed his gaze on me.
“Did he tell you about the Wendigo?”
I recounted what I knew.
“Well, mister,” Hank spat defiantly into the fire. “That ain’t the half of it. Ain’t by a long stretch.”
He pulled some jerky from a small packet he always carried and worried it in his mouth.
“The Wendigo is a cruel devil that feeds on human flesh. A starving giant. Every time the bastard feeds he grows as much as he ate, so he can never be satisfied.”
“And I thought,” Mike said. “That the witch in Snow White was the most frightening thing I could imagine. Jeepers creepers!”
“It’s a damn terror to look on, they say,” Hank said and spat again. “It smells like death, and it looks like a giant, haggard, emaciated victim of its own rapacious hunger.”
We were silent for a moment.
Mike made a low whistle.
“Well, I’ll be gosh darned to H-E Casey Kasem,” he said.
“Would anybody mind,” I suggested, trying not to sound as terrified as I was. “If I just grabbed my things and joined the two of you for the night?”
It was agreed; but even once situated, none dared sleep, nor even enter the tent. Hank sat, back to the fire, watching the forest. Mike and I were on tenterhooks.
“Michael,” I whispered, for I wanted none but he to hear my voice. “Are we to be eaten tonight by this vile creature? I daresay I never thought I’d go as food.”
“Gird your loins, Bryan,” said he. “Tonight may be a hard one.”
“Don’t bring my loins into this, Michael,” I retorted in whispered indignation. “The only feast my mortal remains will be for is worms! To suggest I become rubbed and marinated cuts is unspeakable.”
“You’ll note, friend,” he said. “That I did not speak of that possibility. Cleave your worries as close to reality as you can and we’ll make it out okay.”
I put my earthly faith in Michael as I always have. If he says we’ll make it out alive, then I’ll believe it until it’s proven false.
As happens, he and I dozed off in our watching.
It came upon us in a flash: a mad cacophony of wind and fury and sound that scoured the descending forests about the wild river and stopped before our camp. It breathed heavily before us. It inhaled us and knew the innocents who lay before it.
We, all, turned ourselves to the menace: it huffed and it breathed its foul, hellish breath.
Up it stood, a great presence from without the world-henge. Emaciated, its skin stretched across its bones, a shape half like a man and half like a hungry wolf. But in the features of its face there was an unmistakable likeness to—
“Défago?” Hank creaked.
The beast’s nostrils smoked.
“Dé-fa-go!” it growled. “Dé-fa-go!”
And then, as suddenly as it had come, The Wendigo turned and ran off into the forest.
We made the end of our trip in record time. And, as promised, was the future Mrs. Michael Pence waiting for us. Three paler men she could not hope to meet.
Sometime I’ll have to tell you about the time Mike got kicked out of the Emergency Room for flipping off everyone in it.