Authors: Rudolfo Anaya
He showered, toweled himself dry, and shaved. He put on a pair of freshly pressed jeans and a blue cowboy shirt, still thinking of revenge.
Don Eliseo appeared, as he often did when Sonny's thoughts stampeded.
Won't do you any good, the old man said.
You keep saying that, Sonny replied. Why?
When your thoughts are confused Raven has the upper hand.
I can take care of Raven! Sonny retorted. I know what he wants. The Zia medallion. I'll tempt him. Hold it out to him, then shoot himâ
Damn it, Sonny! the old man shouted. There you go! You're not thinking straight. You can't kill him with a bullet!
“I'll find a way,” Sonny said aloud, pulling on his well-worn boots.
No time to shine them, he thought, slipping the Zia medallion around his neck, the gold medal engraved with the Sun symbol, an amulet as magical as the precious stone once suspended from Abraham's neck. Mojo power.
The medallion was Sonny's now. There had been no contact with Raven the past three months.
He walked into the kitchen, started the morning coffee, fed Chica, and was pouring himself his first cup when his cell phone rang. Something told him it was no good; still, he answered it.
“Augie. Augie MartÃnez, state police.”
Augie, Augememnon MartÃnez, son of an influential Santa Fe politico who on a cruise of the Greek isles fell in love with a dazzling Greek beauty, brought her home, and took her as his wife. He retired from politics, raised goats in Nambe, sold goat cheese, and years later died, leaving behind his wife and a bunch of kids, restless creatures who fled home as soon as they realized there were oceans to cross.
The mother, too, grew restless, the people of Nambe said, because she missed the sound of the surf, the sun setting on the sea. She took to wandering the hills around Nambe, a gypsy with green eyes, always pushing the herd of goats just over the next hill, until one day she didn't return.
Only Augie remained on the wind-scarred hills of the EspaÃ±ola valley. He finished school and joined the state cops, seeking some stability in the corps, or perhaps seeking his mother, who began to appear in the oral tradition of la gente of the Nambe valley as La Llorona, the crying woman. Did she cry for her children or for the sound of the sea?
“I've got a homicide on my handsâ”
Sonny filled his cup of coffee and waited. In his dream a body was floating in dark, swirling water.
“Jemez Springs. Someone drowned him in a tub at the Bath House.”
“Why call me?”
“We found black feathers â¦”
The hair on Sonny's neck prickled. A shiver passed through his body. Don Eliseo was right! He had been too confused to figure it out. Equinox! Raven was back!
“Raven,” he whispered.
“That's what we figure. You haven't heard the news?”
“No,” Sonny answered, turning on the small TV set on the table. The picture slowly solidified into the blurry image of Dick Knipfing reporting from the Jemez Springs plaza.
“We have a big mess on our hands,” Augie continued. “The governor's dead and somebody planted a bomb up on the mountain. It's a weird contraption but the lab boys from Los Alamos say it's radioactive. The shit has hit the fan, Sonny.”
A bomb, and the feds knew Raven was in possession of a plutonium pit. But he had lain low during the past three months. Now he was out of hiding.
“I can't discuss it on the phone. Fucking news media is everywhere. The chief wants you. You know Raven better than anyone elseâ”
“Where are you now?” Sonny asked.
“I'm in Jemez Springs, interrogating people. The chief wants you to take a look at the bomb.”
Why? Sonny thought. That didn't make sense. Anytime Raven left feathers at the scene of a crime, he was setting a trap. Raven wasn't going to be up on the mountain, he was going to be around the corner. But where?
“Let the Los Alamos boys handle the bomb,” Sonny said.
“They will, but we need you,” Augie insisted.
“Sorry,” Sonny replied, “I don't think Raven would leave the feathers and stick around.” He offed the phone. So Raven was back. And he had planted a bomb. Why on the Jemez mountain?
To get you there, the old man said.
Yeah, Sonny thought. Something big was going down in Jemez Springs. The faces of the reporters on the old TV set looked concerned. The Alburquerque news hounds were hot on the unfolding events.
He rose and went to the window. March was already drawing the first green shoots out of winter's compost, hyacinth borders in pink and deep purple, apricot blossoms, yellow jonquils, the lime-green seeds of the elm trees, sienna-red cottonwood buds, swollen with promise.
Raven lived in the hot compost of the unconscious, because Raven's world was mythic, levels and circles deeper than Dante's inferno, dark epicycles where he composed his stories, images with which he tortured the unwary. To understand Raven one had to go into his world, a world so deep in the psyche a one-eyed man might get lost. That was the rub. The dream that revealed the dark images could liberate, or destroy the dreamer.
There was a saving grace. In the dream world everyone had friends, allies who appeared in all sorts of disguises, bringing messages from that hidden glob of memory that has been passed down since mother nature first conceived of a cell that could gather light.
, the psychiatrists called them. Messages in the cells. The trick was to bring those images into the light of day. The dark shadows of the soul had to be birthed into the world. Every man, woman, and child was a creator who could build soul from the psyche's darkness. Every dog?
So he's back and he's planted a bomb on my mountain. Maybe he really is up there. Maybe today's the day we end this struggle that has gone on too long.
He closed his eyes and leaned over the table.
“All I want is to marry Rita, help her at the restaurant. I want to take care of her â¦”
But deep in his guts revenge seethed. He knew he would be going after Raven. It could be no other way.
He stood at the window, allowing the warm rays of the sun to penetrate him. Cupping his hands he held the light, let it shine as deep into his soul as possible. Then he felt what he hadn't felt since the winter solstice. Something palpable in the light rays, the Lords and Ladies of the Light entering his soul.
“SeÃ±ores y SeÃ±oras de la Luz, bless all of life. Bless the children of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Africa, Colombia, our barrios. Bless the sick, those in prison, those who need food. Bless the dead governor â¦”
He turned, offering the light in the four sacred directions, scattering the light cupped in his hands and wishing for himself only clarity of soul.
Like most rituals, the prayer had become routine, but today the fingers of light cut to his heart. He heard music, and he trembled. The essence of sunlight passed through his body like an electric current. The brilliant Lords and Ladies of the Light touched him, entered him, and for a moment a clarity beyond the light revealed itself, leaving him dazed.
He looked out the window and squinted.
One eye open.
He picked up the dreamcatcher, his weapon of power, the round spider-webbed instrument with a juniper handle. Because of the handle it could be mistaken for a tennis racket, but the netting had a hole in the middle for bad dreams to pass through and disappear. Good dreams were caught in the web and thus retained in the memory of the dreamcatcher's owner.
Don Eliseo had constructed the shaman weapon, and Sonny used it to fight Raven during the winter-solstice dream, a nightmare really, in which he forced himself into Raven's evil circle, the misty chaos where dark, fiendish bird-like demons, or vampires, kept watch, horrendous creatures who had scratched out Chica's eye.
Only don Eliseo's final sacrificial act had saved Sonny from being swept into Raven's chaos, that river of a thousand currents from which there is small hope of return. Sonny struck Raven with the dreamcatcher, making him disappear through the hole in the web into the nebulous undercurrent that is always the essence and energy of the dreamâor the nightmare.
Was chaos a dark, raging river, a Lethe that emptied into a stagnant lake where all was forgotten? Oblivion, the lake at the murky bottom where thoughts of home did not exist. Or was chaos the very essence of a person's psyche, a deep, undefined energy that gave rise to the images of dreams and nightmares, a place that could be called the unconscious unconscious? A geography of the mind not yet mapped? If there was a river of life, was there also a river of dreams? A river called chaos?
But Raven, everyone knew by now, could not be killed. Not even the power of the dreamcatcher could dissipate that terrible and wondrous energy. He wouldn't stay away forever. He was back.
Good, Sonny thought as he walked outside. I've been waiting. Chica followed at his heels.
Take a jacket, Rita would say. She had given him a colorful ChimayÃ³ jacket, which he kept in a plastic bag tucked behind the truck seat. He wore it for special occasions. Today his well-worn denim jacket would do.
Last night's weather front had dropped a light snow on the high peaks of the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountains. The Cloud People had danced into northern New Mexico, scattering the scant moisture, passing quickly over the mountaintops, creating hope in the hearts of the Jemez Pueblo farmers. The entire region was years into a severe drought. Forest fires had eaten away at Arizona and Colorado, fires that a few years back had nearly destroyed Los Alamos. As summer progressed the fires flared up in the Northwest. It would take many snow and rain storms to break the drought.
In the heart of the sky, a skinny Water Carrier moon shone pale, a sliver that resembled a bowl. It had tipped and rained its meager contents on the dry earth.
It was time for cleaning the acequias, time for plowing and readying the fields. In a few weeks the river water would be diverted into the irrigation ditches. In Jemez Springs Melvin would be pruning his apple trees.
Over Alburquerque the thin clouds that scudded across the vernal equinox dawn would dissipate, winging their way over the Sandias like raggedy old women. The afternoon would warm up nicely.
Sonny sniffed the air, spermy and spongy with the aroma of the thawing earth, the sweet smell of cedar burning in someone's wood stove, mixing with the aroma of tortillas baking on a hot comal. Overhead, the call of crows in the bare cottonwood trees mixed with the chatter of children gathered at the bus stop.
A few hardy old men, Sonny's North Valley vecinos, had arisen with the sun to look at their gardens and dream of April planting.
These old-timers still planted backyard gardens, a small milpa of corn here, a chile plot there, tomato vines and calabacita plants. But for the most part Frank Dominic's prediction had come true: the once fertile valley was being taken over by developers who subdivided the land into lots that sold at a premium. People with money were building large adobe mansions on the last of the valley's agricultural fields.
A way of life was dying for the old Hispanos of the valley. The fertile lands the EspaÃ±oles and Mexicanos had settled during those terribly cold years at the end of the sixteenth century now belonged to people who did not know the land's history.
Across the street there was a For Sale sign in front of don Eliseo's home. His sons had come a few days after the old man's death, a real estate agent trailing along. Elysium Realtyâa lot in heaven. The old rambling adobe had been in the Romero family for generations. Now it and the old man's cornfield were up for sale.
What did I tell you, Sonny, the old man said, the kids don't care about raising corn anymore.
Sonny sighed. “I know.”
Chica whined, perked her ears, and looked lovingly at her master.
“Don Eliseo,” Sonny said, reassuring her.
She understood that he talked to the spirit of the old man. Sonny had been reading late one night when a gust of wind blew the door open and in walked don Eliseo. Chica whined. She sensed the spirit in the room. She turned and saw Sonny's book drop from his hands.
“You?” he cried.
For tense moments Sonny seemed frozen, staring into a dark space, or at the shadows cast by the window's curtains stirring in the cold breeze. Was it a dream?
Who were you expecting, the old man answered, the Lone Ranger? You better close the door, it's blowing outside. March wind.
Sonny stood and closed the door. In a trembling voice he said, “I didn't knowâ”
Chica whined again. She understood whatever the spirit said was audible only to her master.
Then Sonny sat down, and for hours he seemed to be listening intently to the sound of the wind raging outside. Finally he fell asleep on the chair, and he slept soundly, the first time in a long time.
So the spirit of the old man was accepted by both Sonny and the dog. It was a comforting appearance, for it helped settle the restless energy that had consumed Sonny. Spending the nights alone was not good for him. He read books until the early hours of the mornings, devouring the many volumes, searching for the revelations the past had once offered seekers after truth.
Sonny placed the dreamcatcher on the rifle rack and called his bilingual dog. “Anda, vamos.”
Chica barked and eagerly scooted into the truck and up into the seat. This was the life, riding shotgun with the master, sniffing the wind, her brown dachshund ears flaring back like sails, barking at neighborhood dogs as they drove into the day's adventure.
Sonny looked down the street. Yes, change had come to the valley. Soon the small farms would be gone, the old people would die. La Paz Lane, where Sonny had lived the past four years, would be a memory.