Chapter 12 of “Eye of the Diamond-T” by Bill LaBrie, now available in softcover and Kindle on Amazon and wherever e-books are sold:
* * * * * * * * * *
“Someday, you will meet him”
“You will know. You will know.”
Hehewuti was holding a piece of bone between her lips. Her fingers deftly stroked through Euri’s hair. Each stroke hurt just a little bit, but Euri was used to it by now. She knew it was worth it. She had seen her reflection in the glass and in the still ponds. She wanted this.
“You will know. I knew I was to be with your father. No one could tell me. I just knew.”
“Will he be Hopi?”
“I don’t know, Euri. No one knows.” Hehewuti knew this conversation would continue, so she gave the bone fragment to Euri to hold so she was better able to enunciate the words she had said so many times before. This, too, was a gesture of love.
“Euri, I don’t know. Hopi men, they are different. They are different from your father. They are farmers. And they weave. Your father weaves because I told him to weave. He never did before.”
“What’s wrong with weaving?” asked Euri.
“Nothing. Nothing at all. He raises sheep. He loves sheep. They make wool. He weaves rugs. It’s fine. But Hopi men, they—”
“So, why should I…”
“Euri, you are not…” Hehewuti was getting impatient, but only a little. Euri hadn’t washed her hair in a while. It made it both easier and harder.
“Euri, you are Bacho’s daughter, and you are my daughter. Do you know what that means?”
Euri could think of a few things it meant, but didn’t know the proper response in this case.
“It means you are you. And Euri must wait for someone special. Someone who understands. Do you understand me?”
“You are the daughter of the Hard Mother of the West, and Bacho, the Coyote. He comes from different blood. Your grandmothers don’t want to know your father. They let him marry me because I told them I would marry him.”
“But you don’t know who I will marry?”
“No. You have to find him. And he won’t be…oh, Euri.” Hehewuti held Euri’s chin and turned Euri’s face toward her. “Life is never easy for our people. It’s even harder for you and me.”
She smiled. Euri smiled back.
“You need to wait. Wait for the man who tells you of the places he’s been. It will be like you have been there as well, by his side. Take that man. Follow him. He is that man. He is your husband.”
She turned Euri’s head back so she could finish the right-side whorl.
“Is he Pahana?”
“I don’t know.”
“Pahana has been everywhere.”
“I don’t know.”
“Pahana is wonderful.”
“He is,” said Hehewuti. Then, thoughtfully, “If he exists.”
Euri started, then tried to turn her head. Hehewuti held her chin in place. She kept working on the whorl.
“Euri, you must promise me,” said Hehewuti, her fingers still dancing through Euri’s hair. “You must promise me to not go with a man because he says he is Pahana. Pahana will come. But he will never, never, never do one thing. He will never say he is Pahana.”
“But, he will wear red, right?”
“Perhaps, child. Perhaps.” Hehewuti moved her stool to the other side of the chair and started running her fingers through Euri’s hair, separating it into strands.
And so she sat there, hearing her mother hum a song while her fingers interlaced the strands of hair and pulled them over the bone. Euri thought about what Hehewuti had said about life being hard for them—especially for them. She thought about her life as the sole offspring of the Hard Mother of the West and her father, the Coyote. She thought about the stories her father had told her about the old days of the people, the ones who had gone before, the ones Bacho himself said he represented as the last remnant. And in the back of her mind she decided then that if she were ever to marry, it would need to be to Pahana. Pahana himself alone would suffice. And when Pahana arrived, she would return to the East with him to learn all that he knew—to see it for herself. Knowing through him wouldn’t be enough. If Pahana didn’t arrive, she would die a spinster, never having left the valley and her mother and father. And as she sat there, the occasional tugs against her scalp strengthened her resolve the way little darts of pain can at times. The weaving went on, accompanied by the humming.
“There, Euri. That is beautiful. My beautiful girl.” Hehewuti pulled back to admire her craft.
Then, there was a knock on the door. It opened. Two men were standing in the doorway, smiling, nervous. One held a Bible. The other held a gun. Hehewuti pulled Euri close to her. Euri looked out the window to see a man she recognized walking towards the shack. He was a white man in a cowboy duster.
©2014 Bill LaBrie
* * * * * * * * * *
The question nagged at him now as it never had before. For five years, he had successfully ignored it. It was nothing. Now, it was jabbing at him like a stone in his shoe. He tried to force it down. It didn’t work. It came right back. It jabbed and jabbed at him. He felt his war wound pounding at his shoulder. He hadn’t felt it in years. He noticed himself breathing heavily. He looked down at the dashboard. He noticed the green glow of the lights in a way he hadn’t before. The vibration of the engine and the road were coming through to him in new ways. And there, in the middle of the steering wheel, was the mystical, almost-glowing T. Its essential strangeness grasped out at him, seemingly for the first time ever.
He looked in his mirrors. He double-clutched down and let the horses run. The gauges swung around, the turbocharger kicked in and suddenly his back was pressed into the seat. The speedometer climbed. No one would be on the road at this hour. Seventy, seventy-five, eighty. Shift! The wind got louder and the door seals whistled. Ninety. The fenders started shaking. Shift! The Hall-Scott was now in full roar. He could feel the tires expanding with speed, now blithely dancing over the rutted pavement. A few more seconds, and he was in the zone above the one-hundred mark on the speedometer, a place where the numbers ended because once you got there, it was all academic. It might as well have been marked “Insanity” or “Goodbye.” The engine rumbled and screamed. An unfortunate rabbit met its demise, spattering some remains on the windshield. Nick hit the washer switch. The wipers wouldn’t stay in contact with the glass at this speed. Too much wind. Still nothing in the mirrors. The truck started to sway with speed as the wind howled. He took a gently sweeping turn to the left. Up ahead, the high beams illuminated a darkened sign: “Happy Navajo Acres Family Funland! Rest a Spell! Dinosaur on Rock Only Five Cents!” A delighted-looking freckled all-American boy of about 10 smiled, wearing an Indian headdress and drinking a Coke on the billboard welcoming visitors. It was a pitiful little roadside attraction a few miles outside of Ash Fork. He knew there was a place to park behind the main barn that would shield the truck from traffic passing on 66.
He lifted the throttle, and the truck seemed to decelerate like it had a parachute behind it. In truth, the trailer was basically just about as aerodynamic as a parachute. He applied the brakes and started to downshift. He watched the meter showing the air reserve for the brakes quickly descend as pistons pressed acres of asbestos against the massive steel drums. He reached down and killed the lights. There was a three-quarter moon not yet entirely obscured by the incoming clouds. It would be light enough. Finally down to a safe speed, he made a quick right on a gravel path, passing the darkened shapes of some fiberglass bison and jocular Indians holding tomahawks and bows. A giant arrow projected out of the ground. He made a right at the barn that held the snake exhibit and General Pershing’s original boots from the Pancho Villa days. He stopped the truck. He remembered he needed to leave the engine running to keep the turbo from cooking the oil in its own bearings. If anyone asked, he was just stopping for the night. Not enough rest time back in Flag. Gotta think safety.
He reached into the glovebox, grabbed his flashlight and found the keys for the heavy padlocks on the trailer door. He slid down to the ground and started walking back to the trailer.
And then, the dead spot . . .
He stopped at the midway point of the trailer. He looked around. Things were looking small. “OK, OK, OK,” he kept saying. He breathed deeply. He looked up at the tractor in its almost-glowing redness. It seemed to be shrinking and coming into sharper focus. The exhaust pipe on the driver’s side was glowing a cherry red near where it emerged from beneath the truck. The Hall-Scott was still chuffing away. There was no one else around — not a living, visible creature in the juniper-dotted high-desert scrub.
Looming above the truck and the barn was a towering totem pole. It wasn’t the kind found among local tribes, but rather what people in new Chevy and Plymouth station wagons full of cranky eight-year-olds expected to see at an Indian theme park. The topmost figure in the totem was a stern eagle head. It stared down at him with deep concern.
©2014 Bill LaBrie