MACK COBB “DONKEY JÓTE”

mack cobb 1 again

MACK COBB

Chapter 3

Donkey Jóte

        Sunrise trickles molten gold upon the rim of the rolling horizon.

        Scott opens his eyes and stares upward at the roof of the SUV from under the sleeping bag which is spread over him and Carolyn on the reclining front seats.  Only half-awake under the blanket of the previous night’s tequila he can hear Carolyn softly breathing in the passenger seat to his right.  Scott turns his head to the left and he cries out, “Gah!”

        Outside the SUV Mack is leaning down with his face at the driver’s side window and he laughs, “There was a coyote out here listening to you snore.  You sound like a hen house.”

        Scott sits upright and Carolyn writhes awake reluctantly.  Scott exhales with relief and a patina of condensation glazes the inside of the windshield briefly and then dissipates.

        Mack stands back erect and looks down the hillside and says, “Our transportation is coming.”

        Scott struggles out the car door.  Dawn is bleaching the sky.  Glum with remaining sleep Scott silently follows Mack’s gaze down the hill.  The rolling hills are still brooding with the remaining crepusculum but in the bleaching sky Scott notices a slowly circling buzzard.  Scott smacks and licks the sleep membrane from his dry lips and juts his chin and mumbles, “Can he carry us all?”

        Mack points below the buzzard to the crotch of the hills.  The zipper of the dirt road is discernable now under the slow crescendo of dawn.  Scott squints and he believes he can see a moving figure.  Two figures.  A horse? and…No… A donkey and a person.  Now a dog can be discerned running ahead of the two.  Scott asks, “Who the hell are they?”

        Carolyn emerges from the SUV and walks over to Mack and Scott as she is hugging herself to wring out sleep.  She asks quietly, “What are we looking at?”

        Carolyn notices the slowly circling buzzard and asks, “Is something dying?”

        Mack replies, “Everything alive.”

        Scott puckers his face and says to Mack, “Come on now,” as he hugs Carolyn reassuringly and kisses the top of her head.  Carolyn smiles.

        Mack raises a cell phone to his ear.

        Scott is surprised and asks, “You have a cell phone?  How do you charge it?”

        Mack replies, “I called you didn’t I?” and then Mack points to the roof of the house trailer and answers distractedly, “Solar panels.”

        Then Mack speaks in Spanish into the cell phone and a brief one-sided conversation is heard by Scott and Carolyn.  Mack puts the cell phone into his shirt pocket and says, “Everything is according to plan.”

        Scott asks, “Who were you calling?”

        Mack replies, “Our transportation down there below.  The donkey says ‘Hi’.”

        Carolyn asks, “Donkey?” and she finally notices the trio of tiny figures advancing up the dirt road.

        Carolyn looks up at Scott and asks, “Are we going to ride a donkey?”

        Mack answers saying, “We’re going to ride our feet.  The donkey will carry the gear.  You don’t drive down to The Sombra Arroyo.”

        The three of them watch the approaching figures for awhile in silence.  The Scott shakes his head and says, “I’m falling asleep again standing here.  Mack, can we make some coffee?”

        Mack shrugs and says, “Good as made, dahrlin’,” and then he turns back to the trailer and Scott and Carolyn follow arm-in-arm.

        Inside the house trailer Mack scoops spoonfuls of powdered coffee into three disparate mugs and he says, “Don’t be afraid to tip your barista this morning.  What will it be?  OK, Megadlia D’oro instant espresso coffee it is.  Megadlia D’oro is Italian for ‘Gold Medal’,” then Mack says quietly, “It’s also the name of a horse, a thoroughbred race horse.”

        Scott and Carolyn both glance over to the skeleton head of Mack’s horse Lenore on the wall of the house trailer.

        Carolyn asks, “Any relation to… Lenore?”

        Mack places the cups into the microwave oven which he reveals up in the kitchen cabinet and he pushes the buttons and the oven hums.  Mack grins and says, “Always sounds like a hive of electric bees,” then he answers Carolyn’s question saying, “Yeah, Lenore she was a foal of the horse Super Espresso and a granddaughter to Medaglia D’Oro.

        Scott says, “Funny.  I mean, not about Lenore.  The coffee.”

        Scott is saved by the bell as the microwave signals the passing of three minutes.  Mack asks, “French Vanilla cream?”

        Carolyn replies, “I love French Vanilla.”

        Mack takes three plastic cuplets of French Vanilla individual servings from a small blue box and one by one peels the lids back and pours the dollop of cream into each cup.  Mack then says, “Swirl it.  I only got a couple plastic spoons left.”

        The coffee is especially gratifying as it floods through the tequila arroyos left in their throats from the night before, and then it plunges into their shrunken stomachs, and then it expands outward to inflate their eyes.

        Mack observes, “Consciousness in a cup.”

        Scott sips murmuring, “I never drank coffee until I was studying for my first college finals.  You know, the vending machine coffee in the food court?”

        Mack sips muttering in reply, “Grounds for expulsion.”

        Carolyn says, “Thank you, Mack.  I like this coffee.  It even has foam like real espresso.”

        Scott raises his mug in a feeble toast saying, “Yes, thanks.”

        After a unanimous second round of coffee the three of them stroll back outside to watch their ‘transportation’ approaching.  As they watch the steady ascent of the donkey, the person, and the dog, their eyes rise time and again to the buzzard still circling and apparently following the ascending trio.

        Mack begins to narrate, “I met this tough little Mexican runaway in town.  Calls herself ‘Valia’.  She works odd jobs at the surrounding homesteads.  Folks in Zelma have goats, chickens, cows, pigs, horses.  They think they’re still in Mexico.  I guess they are in a way:  half of them are here illegally.  I made a deal with her.  I have an account with the Zelma Groceries and Supplies.  I call down a list and the kid sees that the stuff gets up to me.”

        Scott asks, “She has a donkey?”

        Mack nods, “A donkey.”

        Carolyn starts to ask, “How…?”

        Scott prompts impatiently, “How?”

        Mack grins because he knew their curiosity would be piqued and he says, “Valia found the donkey.  The poor donkey had been left to fend for himself on an abandoned homestead that was fenced-in.  He was starving.  Valia told the Zelma grocer and he had a bale of alfalfa dropped at the homestead.  Had to cut the fence.  The way the grocer tells it Valia stayed in the abandoned house and probably ate alfalfa with the donkey,” and Mack snorted. “She named the donkey ‘Polvo’ which is Spanish for ‘dust’.  Kinda cute, eh?”

        Carolyn sighed, “Oh, that is sweet.  Valia doesn’t still stay in that abandoned house does she?”

        Mack rubbed his neck, “Yup.”

        Scott asked, “What about the dog?”

        Mack replied, “Well one day the dog showed up at the abandoned house and ‘adopted’ Valia and Polvo.  Valia would beg dog food from the grocer.  But I finally set up an allowance for Valia at the Zelma Groceries and Supplies.

        Carolyn cooed, “Oh, you are so sweet.  That was so nice.”

        Mack looked at Scott and asked, “Well?”

        Scott said, “Yeah, yeah.  You’re so sweet.”

        Mack grinned and said, “Thanks, but I’m still waiting for you to ask.”

        Scott narrowed his eyes, “Ask what?”

        Mack shook his head in mock disappointment and said, “The buzzard.”

        Carolyn gasped, “Don’t tell me…?”

        Mack replied, “I will tell you.  The homestead next to Valia’s abandoned place was chopping down Eucalyptus trees and a buzzard’s nest fell out.  They put the baby buzzard into a bucket and they took it to Valia.  Can you believe it?  Valia was getting a reputation as a little bruja, that is, a little witch.”

        Carolyn asked, “What happened?”

        Mack replied, “Well, the buzzard lived.  And I did some research: orphan buzzard babies almost never survive.  Even with pros treating them.  So go figure.”

        Scott asked skeptically, “Don’t buzzard babies need their parents to learn how to be buzzards?”

        Mack replied, “Yup.  The buzzard needs other buzzards to learn how to be a buzzard.  Just like you.  Need your own kind, that is,” grinned Mack.  Mack continued, “That buzzard you’re lookin’ at can’t or won’t hunt like a normal buzzard.  He depends on Valia for food.”

        Carolyn said in awe, “Whohhh, she is a witch, I mean a bruja.  A good bruja.”

        Mack concluded, “Yeah, Valia is something else.  I call her ‘Donkey Jóte’ as a joke.  Jote means ‘buzzard’.  I’m not sure she gets the joke but she always giggles.  And her dog is a young female pit-bull I call ‘Dulcinea’, get it?”

        Scott smiles wryly, “Very clever, we get it.”

        Mack continues, “Also because she is so dulce, sweet, Dulcinea.”

        Scott rolls his eyes, “Got it.”

        Carolyn asks, “Doe the buzzard have a name?”

        Mack replies, “I wanted her to name him ‘Destino’, means ‘Fate’, but Valia had already named him Abrazo, ‘Hug’, because she always hugged him to her face when he was an infant.”

        And so Mack, Scott, and Carolyn watch with renewed focus the symbiotic organism comprised of the orphan girl Valia, the donkey Polvo, the dog Dulcinea, and the buzzard Abrazo as it ascends up the trail to them upon Mount Zelma.

To be continued

Previously: THE BONES OF THE RIVER

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ETHANAC, MARGARTH, AND THEDA

  ethanac

ETHANAC, MARGARTH, AND THEDA

        Special Agent Theda Alexander approached the shambled house trailer which was surrounded with a corona of dead vegetation.  She puckered her face at the odors of urine and rotten eggs.  She heard the clatter of metal and glassware inside the house trailer and a man cursed and a woman guffawed.

        Theda thought to herself as she approached the house trailer’s door, “Where is all this going to end up?”

        Theda knocked and a man’s belligerent voice demanded, “Who the Hell-Fuck is it?”

        The voice of the woman was turned upon the man’s voice, admonishing, “Stop saying that!”

        The house trailer door swung open and a disheveled young woman in a bikini stood there emblazoned with apocalyptic tattoos.  The young woman pulled back a handful of her hair and said congenially, “Agent Theda.  How the Hell is you?”

        Special Agent Theda Alexander squeezed past the young woman who pressed her breasts against her and Theda answered, “Very funny, Margarth.  ‘How the Heaven is yourself?’, that’s the question.”

        Inside the house trailer Theda saw the man at the kitchen sink and said, “Blessings, Ethanac.  How is Limbo treating you?”

        Ethanac, a shirtless pillar of fiery tattoos, looked over his shoulder at Theda and growled, “We’re supposed to call it ‘Earth’, remember?”

        Theda looked around at the clutter occupying almost all available surfaces of counters and tables: bottles of alcohol, cans of acetone, toluene, engine starter, cans of drain cleaner, coffee filters, containers of iodine, salt, lye, and batteries, a propane tank, matches, dishes, and jugs of acid.

        Ethanac came over and stood beside Theda and followed her gaze and grumbled, “It ain’t much different than Hell, Theda.”

        Theda nodded slowly, “Especially the stench.”

        Margarth complained, “Y’all call this a ‘half-way house’?  Its ‘half-way’ to nuthin’.  What kind of ‘new identities’ are these?”

        Theda turned around to face Margarth and answered, “What did you think?  Defectors get to sit near the Throne?”

        Margarth pouted and Ethanac said to Theda, “I figger we got the Prodigal Son beat all to Hell…,” and Theda laughed so Ethanac said quickly, “Fuck, you, Theda, know whut I’m sayin’.  Celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again.  He was lost, and is found.”

        Theda replied, “Not until you envy the pigs you are looking after.”

        Margarth frustrated asked, “What the Hell-Fuck does that mean?”

        Ethanac admonished, “Stop saying that.  Please.  My…Love.”

        Theda said, “Good try, Ethanac.  You’ll get it.”

        Margarth held her temples and muttered, “I need a three-way.”

        Theda taunted, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?”

        Margarth said, “Fuck you, Theda.  This is really hard.”

        Theda said pointedly, “That’s because decadence is so easy.  The easiest thing in the Material World.  ‘Entropy’ is what the atheists call it.  Civilization is hard.  God’s Kingdom is the hardest.”

        Ethanac growled and his flesh began to ripple.  He clawed at his forearms and bugs emerged from under his tattoos and they dropped to the floor and they swarmed toward Agent Theda.

        Theda was not afraid and indeed she began to perform a ludicrous Mexican Hat Dance, squashing the bugs like figs.

        Ethanac said, “Sorry.  Maybe I ain’t ready after all.”

        Theda softened and said, “Look you two.  You’re doing a Hell of a lot better,” and she chuckled but Ethanac and Margarth were not amused and Theda continued, “My report to Upper Management will be favorable, don’t y’all fret,” teased Theda.

        Ethanac muttered, “Theda, leave humor to the demons where it came from.  At least we get it.”

        From the kitchen sink there came hissing and bubbling.

        Margarth put her hand on Ethanac’s shoulder, “Ethanac…?”

        Ethanac gritted his teeth and said, “Oh, Hell!  The seal broke…”

        Theda slumped and rolled her eyes and asked rhetorically, “Again?  Seven times now?  Really?”

        The house trailer shuddered and then it blew up.

 

 

 

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THE PEARL IN MY OYSTER

kathy stonehenge 2_cropped

THE PEARL IN MY OYSTER

Upon a tide so long ago

I breathe a seed of golden sand

Beside my blue heart you do stand

Exciting me so irritating

I must enfold you consecrating

A chance encounter tide has planned

 .

Enshrined in my embrace you grow

More beautiful than you can know

By beauty all your own command

Pearlescent in my promised land

        Upon a tide so long ago

 .

The longer I am contemplating

The harder and more distant fading

You’ve now become within me though

I yet do feel you, seed aglow

So was I just hallucinating

        Once upon a tide so long ago?

.

.

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MACK COBB “THE BONES OF THE RIVER”

   mack cobb 1 again

MACK COBB

Chapter 2

The Bones of the River

        Mack intones in mock melodrama, “The Arroyo of the Sombra of Death.”

        Scott and Carolyn look at each other and Scott rolls his eyes.  He then turns back to Mack and says, “I didn’t see your vehicle.”

        Mack grins and says, “Oh, it will be here tomorrow.”

        Scott pleads, saying, “Well, Mack, our SUV can’t make the drop to The Sombra Arroyo.  You told me on the phone that you would arrange transportation,” and then Scott asks, “Is your mechanic bringing it back or something?”

        Mack answers, grinning tighter and saying, “Yeah, ‘or something’.”

        Scott is feeling a little exasperated at this character Mack and he asks him, “Then what do we do now?”

        Mack shrugs and replies, “Live and breath.”

        Scott deduces, asking, “So we’re going to spend the night up here tonight?”

        Mack imitates a dead-pan clerk and replies, “Well, you do have a reservation don’t you?”

        Scott finally joins the ribbing, saying, “The Triple-A guy did give you a One Diamond Rating.”

        Mack concurs, saying, “A diamond in the rough, yes?” and then he starts to lecture, asking rhetorically, “Do you know that Mexican scientists have devised a new method for manufacturing synthetic diamonds using tequila?  The University of Nueva Leon, Mexico, found that the drink produces crystal diamond structures when heated”

        Scott raises one eyebrow, saying, “Oooo-Kayy.”

        Mack turns to Carolyn and offers, “So, would you like some Romance?”

        Carolyn giggles and Scott says, “Whoa.”

        Mack frowns humorously at Scott and says, “Milagro Tequila Romance, of course.”

        Scott puckers and waves his hand saying, “I don’t like tequila.”

        Mack says, “You have never tasted it.  They don’t have this at your Taco Joe’s on campus,” as he proceeds to the kitchen cabinet and takes out a bottle with an extra spout coming from its shoulder.

        Scott puffs, saying, “It looks like a bong,” and then says, “So I’ve seen in pictures.”

        Mack holds up the bottle and says, “This, my tequila-challenged friend, is Milagro Tequila Romance, the bottle is hand-blown with three inner chambers suspended inside.  The three inner chambers represent the three years of its aging.  The outermost bottle is filled with tequila ‘rested’ in oak barrels for nine months.”

        Carolyn says, “I’d like some, please.”

        Scott looks down at her and grins, teasing, “Well, well, señorita, do you come to this place often?”

        Mack says, “Bring your tea cups ladies and let’s go sit by the fire.”

        It is still warm outside but the lowering sun spreads blankets of shadow on the rolling hills.  Mack walks Scott and Caroyln outside to a little red-brick beehive-shaped oven with an open mouth.  Facing the oven are four wobbly wooden chairs as different as snowflakes, and Mack says, “That is to say, if there were such things as snowflakes here.  Maybe every hundred years or so.”

        Mack builds a fire in the open mouth of the conical little oven using among other wood, Eucalyptus branches, saying, “Clears the sinuses.”

        While the stars emerge early without being shouted down by city lights, Mack, Scott, and Carolyn romance the tequila, watching the fire burlesque as they ride upon the chairs that sway like burros, traveling in equilibrium toward the constellation Leo and Mack spouts, “At 390 kilometers per second,” and then Mack toasts, saying, “To Equal Inebrium!”

        Scott finds himself thinking out loud, “I googled satellite images of The Sombra Arroyo.  Even satellite pictures are obscure, the way the hills surround The Sombra its always in shadow.  You only get a hint of the dry river bed.”

        Mack announces, “The bones of the river!”

        Carolyn has a tequila-enhanced flashback to the collection of skulls upon Mack’s house trailer wall.  She hunches with a chill in that warm night.

        Scott has a tequila-epic fantasy about finding the skeletons of Mexican soldiers, plotting them like the Custer battlefield in Richard Allan Fox, Jr.’s groundbreaking work.  He imagines appearing with Fox in a PBS special and then he imagines becoming a tenured History Professor and then he chuckles, saying, “Having made my bones.”

        Carolyn startled asks, “What?”

        Mack raises his cup and toasts, saying, “To making our bones!”

        Carolyn shudders, asking, “What?”

        But the tequila train rolls quickly onward to new destinations of memory milestones, emotional habitats, and sexual limbo.

        When the constellation Orion has begun to hunt above the hills of the western horizon, Mack uncoils erect like a charmed cobra swaying and he then waves a silent good-night to Scott and Carolyn.

        Scott calls after him, “Don’t worry about us.  We’ll sleep in the SUV.”

        Mack waves to the stars without turning back around and says, “Sleep tight in your SOB.”

        Scott and Carolyn arise and stumble together past the house trailer back to the SUV, Scott trying to mimick Mack by saying, “Like back-to-back Siamese twins.”

        Mack laughs from inside the house trailer, saying, “Not Politically Correct!  Rachipagus conjoined twins!”

        Inside their SUV in the front seats Scott and Carolyn pull an opened sleeping bag over themselves like a comforter and adjust their seats flat backwards.

        Carolyn in fading tequila illumination asks, “How about that horse head on his wall?”

        Scott replies, “I’m just glad he didn’t have his dead wife’s head on that wall.”

        In the star-shimmering darkness a coyote mourns.

Next:

MACK COBB “DONKEY JÓTE”

Previously: THE ARROYO OF THE SOMBRA OF DEATH

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The Apples of My Eyes

The Apples of My Eyes

 

Passion for others alive doesn’t last

Passion for the dead is eternal

Passion for art or craft is passion for myself

Oldest friends corrode like apples

Fallen from the tree in the garden

So, I’m the tree?

Gnarled and fixed and twisted by desire for something above

Newton saw that tree and saw his law of existence as now do I

Bearing seedless fruit

Bite me, Eve

That wasn’t a hiss

I’m just old and flatulent

How do ya like them apples from the inner man as I still praise my maker

I could be a legless orphan scuttling in a Bombay alleyway

Thank aGod

I can’t be whipsawed by praise or dislike

That would be a job

I have a job

I grow old

Do I dare to eat a Pop-Tart?

Mmmmmm

Take another bite

From the apples of my eyes

MACK COBB “THE ARROYO OF THE SOMBRA OF DEATH”

mack cobb 1 again

MACK COBB

Chapter 1

The Arroyo of the Sombra of Death

        The lanky fellow stands upon the makeshift porch which is a plank of plywood supported by two sawhorses at the front entrance of his house trailer.  He watches the distant rooster tail of dust from the car which winds slowly up the rough dirt road toward his hilltop.

        Mack Cobb wears rumpled onto his frame a red plaid shirt, jeans, and slung around his frame is an engraved leather gun belt with a big shiny revolver.  His head is the post for a small cowboy hat which barely shades his sun-engraved face and his feet are bare and brown and discolored with calluses.

        Mack Cobb draws on his anisette-flavored cheroot and then he exhales a recollection of passages from Faulkner’s Light in August:

Though the mules plod in a steady and unflagging hypnosis, the vehicle does not seem to progress. It seems to hang suspended in the middle distance forever and forever, so infinitesimal is its progress…

         This is Mack’s land for miles around hilly with a pelt of golden dry grass and with trees erupting here and there and scrambling for the sky.

        A Red-tailed Hawk krees and krees circling high above Mack’s hat.

        In the Toyota SUV hopping up the dirt road are Saddleback College History Undergraduate Scott Wolcott and his young Filipina wife Carolyn who pleads in a wobbly voice, “Sc-ott, slo-ow do-own, please!”

        Scott announces, “It’s li-ike we e are i-in a mo-otor bo-at in chop-py seas!”

        Carolyn begs, “Ple-ea-ea-se, Sco-ott.”

        Scott hunches forward holding the steering wheel like a praying mantis and he says, “We-e won’t ever get the-ere if I go-o an-y slo-ower.”

        Carolyn tries to speak in husband language, saying, “Wh-at will ne-ew sh-ock ab-sorb-ers cost yo-ou?”

        Scott then relents and slows their progress to a rolling see-saw, saying, “I could have taken the college’s Jeep, remember?”

        Carolyn makes a sour face, replying, “And ride the freeway in an open Jeep?”

        Scott smiles, saying, “Your Highness, the Mercedes was still in the shop.”

        Carolyn says, “Hey, Professor, I agreed to come with you to this dust bowl didn’t I?”

        Scott teases, saying, “I could have gotten Amanda to come along and help.”

        Carolyn says coolly, “But isn’t this the day she shaves her legs and her armpits?  And her face?”

        Scott and Carolyn finally arrive before the raised platform of the makeshift porch.  The house trailer is anchored three feet above the ground.  Mack Cobb is still standing there above casually eyeing the couple as he draws on his anisette-flavored cheroot.  He nods the barest of acknowledgement as Scott exits the SUV and raises his hand in greeting saying, “I’m the one you called.  I’m Scott from the college, this is my wife Carolyn.”

        Mack replies, “Well, howdy, Scott from the college and his wife Carolyn.  Thirsty?  Come around back so you don’t have to climb up on this porch.”

        Around back of the house trailer the hill is no longer steep but a tiny plateau and there is a rough hewn wooden stairway with a cast iron railing that ascends to the back door of the trailer.  The staircase contains many faintly askew angles that are charming like a child’s drawing or a modern art sculpture.  When Mack appears opening the back door Scott and Carolyn tip-toe up the creaking stairs and shed the cape of bright summer sun from their backs to enter the surprisingly cool shade inside the house trailer.

        Mack is going to the kitchen area of the oblong house trailer and as Scott’s eyes grow accustomed to the dimness he discerns upon the wall opposite himself the big bleached skull of a horse with several vertebrae yet attached.  And then he realizes that mounted all around the horse skull on that wall is a filigree of skulls of other creatures: coyotes, rats, lizards, birds.  Carolyn takes Scott’s hand and Scott nonchalantly inquires of Mack, saying, “Are you a zoologist?”

        Mack does not look up and he answers, saying, “A physicist.  Once upon a time.”

        Mack raises two cups and Scott and Carolyn approach the little kitchen area as Mack says, “Ice tea.  The water is from my well and it takes some getting used to so I’m giving you ice tea.  Water’s good to drink, but it smells a little like this whole area does.”

        Scott and Carolyn were aware of the sweet, pungent and dusty aromas in the breezes that wafted through the house trailer’s window frames and seams.

        Scott sips his tea and makes conversation, asking, “A physicist, eh?”

        Mack replies, “Yup.  I was a physics teacher for a few years at the University of Dallas.”

        Scott says involuntarily, “Really.”

        Mack grins, saying comically, “Hard to believe, ain’t it?”

        Carolyn charges the breech, saying, “Scott wants to become a full History Professor at Saddleback College.”

        Mack says, “No shit?  Uh, sorry, Ma’am.”

        Scott asks boldly, “Why would you ever leave a job like that?”

        Mack glances down and replies, saying, “My wife died.  The fucking doctors – sorry Ma’am – the God damned fucking doctors misdiagnosed her.  They said she had a food allergy.  Suddenly a food allergy?  What she had was colon cancer.  And when it was too late to do anything they finally figured it out.”

        Carolyn says, “I am so sorry.”

        Scott puts his arm around Carolyn and agrees, saying, “I am really sorry.  I don’t know what I’d do.”

        Mack says, “Well, I know what I did.  I couldn’t care anymore and I was pissed at God and you can’t be pissed at God at a Catholic college.  So I was ‘resigned’ by my peers”.

        Carolyn asks brightly with hope, “Do you have any children?”

        Mack replies, “Naw.  My wife and I had a horse we loved.  That was all we could afford back then,” and Mack laughed and shook his head, saying, “But a horse is just a kid that you don’t send to college.  Horses cost yuh just like a kid costs yuh.  She was our ‘child’ for sure.  My wife’s child mostly.  My wife named her Lenore.”

        Carolyn asks hesitantly, “Do you still have Lenore?”

        Mack points to the wall of skulls, saying, “That’s Lenore.  One day months after my wife died I bought Lenore hay that had a bunch of Silver Nightshade in the middle of it.  Lenore died.  The veterinarian cut her head off to have her brain chemically analyzed.  That’s how they found out it was Nightshade poisoning.”

        Carolyn says, “Oh, my God.”

        Mack continues, saying, “Oh, yes, your God is a funny bastard.  I told the vet I wanted Lenore’s head back.  He thought I was nuts.”

        Mack is contemplative for a few moments then he says, “You ain’t heard the funniest part.  I tried to sue the doctors who misdiagnosed my wife but it was too much money and it was taking too long and the lawyers were no different than the doctors,” Mack suddenly snickers and says, “That’s when I bought Tonto here,” and Mack slaps the big silver revolver and then he continues, “But the big ol’ company that sold me the hay gave me a ton of money to just be quiet and go away.  Ain’t God a clown?  I had enough money to come out to California and buy this God-forsaken land.”

        Scott moves the conversation to the present, saying, “Those belt buckles you found are an amazing find.”

        Mack enjoins, asking, “The real deal, eh?”

        Scott nods replying, “Mexican Army around 1876.”

        Mack asks, “What were they doin’ up here?”

        Scott replies, “Good question.  I’d like to go to the area where you found them if it’s OK with you.”

        Mack shrugs and says, “Sure.  You bring a shovel or somethin’?”

        Scott replies, “I requisitioned a state-of-the-art metal-detector.”

        Carolyn spoke up, saying, “And I will record the data and mark the locations of any finds for our computer landscape.”

        Mack grins, “Computer landscape?  How hard is that to mow?”

        Scott rolls his eyes and then picks up the conversation, saying, “It gives a rotatable 3-D image.  It is really cool.  Are you familiar with the work of Richard Allan Fox, Jr., the Director of the Archaeology Laboratory at the University of South Dakota?  His forensic anthropology at the site of Custer’s ‘last stand’ was what inspired me to become an Historian.  He looked at the unique marks on bullet casings and followed individuals, soldiers and Indians, uh, Native Americans, on the battlefield at the Little Bighorn.  He showed it was a panic massacre.  There was no heroic ‘last stand’.  Just individual heroism, I suppose.  It was mind-blowing.  And still controversial.”

        Mack considers all this and then says, “So where were you before Custer?”

        Scott hesitates and Carolyn hugs his arm and laughs, “Scott was a Security Guard at rock concerts.”

        Mack nods approvingly, saying, “Well, where we’re going there is a concert of rocks alright.”

        Scott states for the record, “The Sombra Arroyo, right?”

        Mack intones in mock melodrama, “The Arroyo of the Sombra of Death.”

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Next:

MACK COBB “THE BONES OF THE RIVER”

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THE UNICORN’S BLESSING

unicorn 3

LA BÉNÉDICTION DE LA LICORNE

(THE UNICORN’S BLESSING)

    chapter 2 whisper - crop1   am Giselle, the fourth daughter of my father Vaux le seigneur de la guerre (the warlord).  I am seven years old.  I hear my sisters playing with the boys in the forest.  I take a path toward them that leads me through the meadow.

        The grass in the meadow is as high as my waist as I wade across.  A multitude of grasshoppers, moths, and butterflies arise to greet me and they alight upon my rough tunic like jewels.  The tall grasses wear helmets of golden spikes and the multitude of them bows to me in waves.  They are my Armée de la Prairie (Army of the Meadow).  I am the Warlord Queen.  I nod to my loyal army.

        Then I see two kittens in a nest of grass, a back one and a white one.  They look up at me and their eyes are fierce and they raise their tiny paws in defiance.  I speak to them, saying ~ You have safe passage in my land.  My army shall have no quarrel with you. ~

        I enter the forest once again and anon I see my sisters, Héloïse, Clarice, and Marian.  They are laughing and holding hands and I know they are speaking of boys.  Marian, my third sister, sees me and calls out with disdain, saying, ~ Go away, Giselle!  This is not for children. ~

        But Héloïse, my eldest sister, shushes Marian and calls to me kindly, asking, ~ What brings you here, Gisells? ~

        I ask ~ Where are the boys? ~

        Clarice replies to me, saying, ~ We await them here at our castle while they battle Le Subalterne du Démon (The Minion of the Devil) ~

        Then I hear the boys in the distance yelling excitedly.  I cry out, saying, ~ I want to battle The Minion of the Devil, too! ~

        As I run past my sisters I hear Héloïse saying, ~ Oh, Giselle. ~

        I hear Clarice saying, ~ Oh, no, no! ~

        I hear Marian saying ~ I told you: she ruins everything! ~

        I am thinking to myself disdainfully saying of my sisters, ~ Why do you swirl your tongues for boys while they have all the fun? ~

        I seek the noise of the boys through the forest ahead.  I find them at a rocky clearing.  They surround with long sharpened sticks a furious black creature.

        It is a black cat!

        The cat dashes to escape and I witness Etienne, son of Gaume the captain of my father’s men, as he jabs at the oncoming path of the frantic animal.   The cat quickly retreats to the center of the cruel arena of hollering boys.

        Etienne shouts, saying, ~ Run from Warlord Etienne, oh, Minion of the Devil! ~

        The black cat spins and hops and hisses surrounded by unrelenting menace.  One of the smaller boys leaps behind the cat and thrusts his sharpened stick into the cat’s side.  The cat screams and tumbles on the ground like a top.

        The blow has also struck at the meager consciences of the boys’ and now they lower their spears and Etienne frowns at the eager small boy, asking, ~ Why did you do that? ~

        The small boy is yet triumphant and immune to the palpable censure, saying, ~ I have slain the Minion of the Devil! ~

        The cat has stopped spinning and sits on his haunches panting wide-eyed lowering sinking.

        Another boy speaks up to the boy beside him, saying, ~ Now what do we do? ~

        I suddenly think of the two kittens that I had encountered and to whom I promised free passage in my land.

        The small boy shouts again at the unexpected indifference of his warring comrades, saying, ~ I have slain the Minion of the Devil! ~

        I startle them all by leaping into the center of the rocky clearing, beside the cat and screaming at them all, saying, ~ You are the Turds of the Devil! ~

        Etienne cries startled, saying, ~ Giselle! ~

        Before any of them react I clutch a handful of sharp rocks and fling them at the head of the small boy whose stupid face receives them earnestly.

        The small boy shrieks and covers his face and runs away from the clearing.  I grab another handful of sharp rocks but those find the backs of heads as the cruel boys turn and flee into the forest.  All flee except Etienne, who stands his ground facing me.

        Etienne is speaking, saying, ~ I did not give the order to kill the Minion… ~

        I have glanced down at the wounded cat who now lies on her side, I see her swollen teats, and she treads air in her dream of death.  I have raised the biggest sharp stone nearby.  I have looked back into Etienne’s feeble speech and I am raising my arm.

        Etienne turns and flees into the forest.

        The cat now stares at eternity.  I can do nothing.  I think again of the two kittens, surely hers.  I pile rocks over her black body and I try to make an honorable crypt.

        I return toward the meadow, to myself saying, ~ Boys!  Sisters! ~

        My Army of the Meadow greets me and a halo of lacewings honors me as I seek the two motherless kittens.  I find them sleeping and before they can panic I have clutched them and placed them into the pockets of my tunic.  They are strangely calm.

        I enter the forest toward our encampment.  After some dawdling journey I hear a twig snap not so far behind me.  I am sure it is a vengeful boy.

        Then I hear the wolf cry.

        There are twigs snapping closer and closer at a gallop toward me.  I start to run and I cry out for my nurse and tutor, saying, ~ Magge!  Help me! ~

        Then I know I cannot outrun this wolf.  I stop and turn and I scream, saying, ~ Go away!  Leave me! ~

        I see him now as he bounds the final yards of my life, his eyes golden in his black face as indifferent as eternity.

        Then to my gasping astonishment the black wolf halts his charge, skidding in dust to his belly and he hides his muzzle in the dirt.

        I hear a snort behind me and trembling I jump around.

        I am stupefied.

        My eyes are telling me to see an enormous stag with the head of a horse and with a large horn on the top of his forehead; to see the body covered in scales, red, black, yellow, blue, and white and a belly of yellow!

        I can hear the soft sound of bells coming from its mouth and I am knowing what the creature is telling me, saying, ~ I am Ch’i-lin ~

        I ask the creature, whispering, ~ Are you going to eat me? ~

        I hear the bells again from his mouth and I know Ch’i-lin speaks, saying, ~ I am the protector of innocent girls. ~

        I listen to the bells as he speaks further, saying, ~ I have not been to this side of the world in a long time.  There has been darkness since the slaying of the Lamb.  Your spirit calls to me.  I can hear it ringing from the other side of the world. ~

        In stupid astonishment I can only ask, saying, ~ What did my spirit say to you? ~

        I feel the smile in the creature’s melodious reply, and Ch’i-lin is saying, ~ You have a great destiny.  I will be protector of your destiny. ~

        I ask, saying, ~ Will no harm come to me? ~

        The creature lowers his head, saying only, ~ I protected the Lamb. ~

        As the creature turns to go I see the black cat, or perhaps the spirit of the black cat, upon the creatures back, unharmed, and I feel her voice to me saying, ~ Care for my two children.  Care for them until death. ~

        Ch’i-lin looks back at me and chimes, saying, ~ The white one is named Yang and the black one is named Yin.  Bless you, Giselle, in kindness which is true Wisdom. ~

        When I reach our encampment I continue on a path to find my nurse and tutor Magge.  Along that path I encounter Mafeo, my father’s advisor, who always meddles in my volition like my father.

        Mafeo speaks, saying, ~ Well, young princess, what have you got in your pockets? ~

        In truth the two kittens had been so calm that I had forgotten them and I withdraw them from my pockets and hold them up and I reply, saying, ~ I have found two kittens.  Their mother was killed by the boys. ~

        Mafeo smiles and continues to engage me, asking, ~ How nice of you.  Have you given them names yet? ~

        I reply, saying, ~ The white one is Yang and the black one is Yin. ~

        I see Mafeo’s eyes widen and he seems confused, asking me, ~ Where did you hear those names? ~

        I am impatient to find Magge and I reply, saying, ~ Ch’i-lin told me. ~

        Mafeo’s eyes widen and it is as if they push back his head and his mouth is left hinging open wordlessly.  In that silence I escape his presence and I place the kittens back one in each pocket and I persist in my search for Magge.

        When I find Magge in her tent I run to her and she hugs me.  I withdraw the two kittens and show them to her.

        Magge is pleased with them and speaks to me, asking, ~ But won’t they miss their mother?  Won’t she miss them? ~

        I raise my hand in defiance and I reply fiercely, saying, ~ Those stupid coward boys killed the mother for fun.  They called her The Minion of the Devil.  I stoned some sense into those fucker boys! ~

        Magge squeels and hugs me and speaks, saying, ~ Oh, Giselle, I’ll wager you did.  What will you name these kittens? ~

        I reply, saying, ~ The white one is Yang and the black one is Yin. ~

        Magge retains the same puzzlement that Mafeo had upon hearing those names.  Magge speaks, asking, ~ Did I teach you those names? ~

        Mafeo enters the opening of the tent and stands there, saying, ~ Giselle, tell Magge who gave you those names. ~

        Magge looks questioningly at Mafeo as I reply, saying, ~ Ch’i-lin told me.  He told me lots of things.~

        And Mafeo and Magge look to each other very afraid.

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This has been a prequel to

WHISPER YOUR NAME INTO MY HEART

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But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS