Authors: Rudolfo Anaya
“Yeah, we do,” Sonny agreed. “I'll take Chica.”
“I'll fix you two a lunch.”
He wished they could cancel everything and spend the day together in Jemez Springs. But she had to be ready. Something fragile had broken in her during the miscarriage, and that would take time to mend.
She needs time, Lorenza had told him. Right now she's just dealing with the cafe, living on the surface of the world. Her love is still there, perhaps stronger than ever. You just be ready.
“I will beâ”
Rita turned. “What?”
“Nothing. I love you.”
Sonny walked into the dining area, which was buzzing and crackling. Jemez Springs was the morning's conversation. What the hell was going on?
In a corner table sat the mayor, Fox, and a couple of his cronies from city hall, men who wore two faces.
Chicano activists called the mayor Fox because his favorite TV show were reruns of the
. La plebe loved to nickname politicians. Once baptized the name stuck for life, and those who recognized the crafty man's politics said he played like a Zorro, so Fox it was.
Today the Fox was sniffing around Rita's Cocina.
The mayor looked at Sonny and signaled.
Yeah, Sonny thought, genetic drift. Now I'm caught in it.
Rita's Cocina was packed with an assortment of North Valley paisanos, including a chorus of retired elders. Los viejitos ate breakfast at Rita's then headed for the North Valley senior citizen center, their agora, to discuss the politics of the day. Today they would sit glued to the TV set, ignoring the primped-up, purple-haired comadres who tried to get them to play bingo. Instead the old codgers would watch the sketchy news they were getting from Jemez Springs. A terrorist plot in the air. They loved it. Any news was fodder for their plÃ¡tica.
Retired, bent, slurping their coffee, they talked, a continuous buzz, bees in a hive. “En aquellos tiempos la gente vivÃa en paz.” “Hoy no sabe nada la plebe.” “Chingaron bien a Saddam. Pulled down his statue. Nothing lasts.” “You know, todo se acaba.” “You got that right!”
PlÃ¡tica, the oral tradition of the forum, ancient as the Nuevomexicanos who first settled the Rio Grande Valley. In the shadow of the Sandia Mountain they had settled to farm, to raise sheep and kids, and to leave their bones in the penitente earth once their plÃ¡tica was done.
PlÃ¡tica was a cultural ritual, old as the Greeks at the agora, old as the Sumerians who told stories of the flood and the creation of first man and woman long before those stories were recorded by the Hebrews. Stories older than the telephone and TV. The oral tradition was alive, gone digital, buzzing through telephone wires and cell phone frequencies up and down the valley, from Taos down to Las Cruces and to Chihuahua. Down to el Valle de Tejas all the way to Brownsville where the river emptied into the gulf. PlÃ¡tica infused the poetic marrow of every community.
Sonny listened. The buzz roamed here and there, reminiscences of the way things used to be, world problems, the devil loose in the world, terrorism, Iraq and North Korea, the Santa Fe legislators spending their taxes, Social Security going broke, help with prescription drugs. And today, something happening in Jemez Springs.
They turned to look at Sonny.
“Buenos dÃas te dÃ© Dios, Sonny,” one said. Ladino greetings.
“Cuidado con los dog dreams.”
“Si los perros sueÃ±an, entonces los gatos tambiÃ©n.”
“Pussy dreams,” chortled Clyde. “Ha, ha, ha.” The oldest of the clan, rumored to be taking Viagra, at eighty.
“Entonces todo los animales sueÃ±an.”
“Entonces la vida es un sueÃ±o.”
“I dream forty-year-old mamasotas,” Clyde said, stroking his waxed mustache.
“Forty? They run you ragged, Clyde.”
“La problema no son las mamasotas, la problema son los terrorists. Como lo que pasa en Jemez. What is it, Sonny?”
“Yeah, what's happening?”
“Pendejadas,” Sonny answered.
“Bueno, que Dios te bendiga.”
“By the way, Sonny,” one touched his arm. “We can't remember the Spanish word for oar? TÃº sabes, paddles. For a boat.”
Sonny didn't know. The ancestors had been gone too long from the sea. They had no need for an oar in desert New Mexico. The words of the sea culture were forgotten, as the words of every culture are destined to be forgotten. And so they created a new language, Spanglish.
“You can say, âse fue en el barco con paddles.'”
“I want to know the Spanish word,” the vecino insisted. “I'm writing a poem.”
“I'll look it up in my Velasquez,” Sonny promised.
“Gracias,” they nodded and went on sipping their coffee as they talked, turning over and over the dog dream question.
Sonny paused to look around.
The cafe was packed with the workers of the City Future. Electricians on their way to wire a job. A mexicano crew of roofers, mostly men from Chihuahua, Sonny surmised, about the only workers that would do that hot, heavy work all day long. Plumbers working in the new North Valley mansions that kept sprouting like tumbleweeds. Drywall men, their pants covered with chalky dust. Painters in paint-splattered overalls, which if framed and hung on a wall would fetch de Kooning abstract art prices. A couple of Bernalillo sheriff's deputies, one a very nice-looking Chicana who smiled at Sonny. Sirena. They had attended Rio Grande High together, and Sonny had almost scored one night. Those were the heavy-duty hormone days of almost going all the way.
“Hi, Sonny,” she said. “How's your dog?”
“Still barking,” Sonny replied, returning her smile.
A few horsemen who kept stables along the river sat at a corner table, and by the window a smattering of the ubiquitous North Valley yuppie rich: attorneys, doctors, and businessmen and women who worked downtown. They ate huevos rancheros while they read the
Wall Street Journal
. Eating at Rita's Cocina was a shot of culture for the North Valley yuppies.
Republican immigrants, Sonny thought, sniffing the air, glancing at the blonde in blue who looked up and smiled.
From a corner table, a haggard-looking mayor signaled for Sonny.
Sonny sniffed again. There was no threat in the air, only the honest smells of hardworking people, paisanos. The yuppies acknowledged Sonny's presence as he walked toward the mayor's table. They knew about his exploits, considered him a hero for catching the mad scientist from Ukraine who had tried to build a nuclear weapon at Sandia Labs. And Sonny had started the “do dogs dream” controversy, and like all good baby-boomer professionals they thrived on controversy.
“Good morning, Mr. Baca,” said the blonde. She was a big-shot attorney in the biggest law firm downtown. “Is this the famous dreaming dog?”
“That's her,” Sonny replied.
“Howcuuuutydoggie, cutiecutiecutie. Here dogggieee.” She threw Chica a piece of leftover tortilla from her plate. Chica looked disdainfully at the woman. I don't take scraps from the likes of you, she snapped.
“She already ate, thanks.” Sonny moved on to the mayor's table.
Sonny knew Fox secretly supported Frank Dominic, the City Future's big tycoon who had set up a corporation to buy water rights in the state. Dominic's goal was to privatize the water rights of the entire Rio Grande Valley. The new czars weren't into oil, they were water despots. This was the same man who had proposed the city siphon off Rio Grande water, not for drinking, but to create a Venice in the city. He had a plan to build canals from Downtown to Old Town, a new image for the City Future, a casino on every corner.
“Hello, Fox,” Sonny greeted the mayor.
“Sit down,” Fox answered, scowling. He didn't like to be called Fox. He hadn't shaved in days. A random pattern of red chile spots adorned his tie.
“I don't do tricks!” Fox replied.
Sonny sat and Marta delivered a cup of coffee and a steaming plate of huevos rancheros, the old-fashioned kind with blue corn flour tortillas, Rita's brand of beans flavored with chicos and her famous Nuevomexicano red chile con carne. Plenty of crisp hash browns on the side. Carbohydrates for the long day ahead.
Chica jumped up beside Sonny.
“This the dreaming dog?” Fox snarled as Sonny speared the two eggs so the yellow mixed into the beans and chile.
“Yeah. Chica Chicana. Wonder Dog. She can fly.”
“Bullshit,” Fox scoffed.
“You asked,” Sonny shrugged, then smiled as he dug into the food, satisfying the enormous hunger he felt. He figured he had gained a few pounds since Christmas. No sex, so he was eating a lot. Making vicarious love to Rita through her comida. In the morning she was a spicy plate of huevos rancheros, enchiladas with refried beans at lunch. Hot tortillas at every meal.
He glanced at the cash register where she was ringing out the yuppie blonde. She smiled. Sonny returned the smile. Someday soon she would be ready. Like the Canadian geese and sandhill cranes flying north in February, love had to return to the North Valley, it just had to.
“â¦ you have to tell me,” the mayor was going on, “what the hell you mean dogs dream? You can't know. You can't get into the dog's head.”
“She gets into mine,” Sonny answered.
“Some of the city workers are betting their paychecks. Does she or doesn't she dream? Why don't we get a psychiatrist to check her out?”
Sonny frowned, looked at Chica then at Fox. A bureaucrat could run a city, but not dream. Fox was smart but he didn't know the invisible world of dreams. Fox had never been master of his own dream. Fox was no shaman.
“Do you dream, Chica?”
Chica barked and wagged her tail furiously.
“See?” Sonny burped, sipping Rita's rich coffee blend, better than Starbucks, and wiping up the carne adovada on his plate with a piece of tortilla.
“That's no answer! Let's test the dog.”
“Not on your life!” Sonny petted Chica. The last thing he would do is put Chica through any dream exam. Her dreams were hers. “What's happening in Jemez?” he asked to change the subject.
Fox shrugged. “So you know.”
Fox leaned closer. “Remember the Bible, Sonny. There's a prophecy about the mountains. Because the enemy stands against you, even the ancient high places are in our possession. God speaks on the mountains, Sonny, and the only way to save them is to make a deal with the devil. Let us handle Raven.”
Fox bared his teeth. Sonny drew back. Fox quoting the Bible was scary.
A paranoid prophet gets you nowhere, the old man told him once, because he doesn't even know he's paranoid. This, after all, was the Chinese Year of the Ram. The sign was stamped on Fox's forehead.
“How do you know it's Raven?”
“He contacted us. He wants to deal. I suggest you don't get in the way.”
“What about the governor?” Sonny asked, baiting the mayor.
“Too bad,” Fox replied, “but he was no dream man!” He handed his check to one of his cronies. “Did the FBI call you?”
Sonny shook his head. “State police.”
“It figures. They know very little.” He leaned closer and whispered. “Someone murdered the governor, but it's not Raven. It's a terrorist plot. It's big, Sonny. We have to proceed with caution, not muddy the waters. Raven can help us. In fact, we have a press conference scheduled at six at the Hispanic Cultural Center.”
So, thought Sonny, Raven was already calling the shots. The bomb Augie mentioned was probably a hoax. To get him up on the mountain. Get him out of the city while he made his deals with the politicians. And both events were diversions. What Raven really wanted was to confuse, and in the confusion grab the Zia medallion.
“You better change your tie,” Sonny suggested.
“Look, Sonny, it's not just politics I'm talking about. What happened to the governor is just the tip of the iceberg. If you get involved it's going to hit you like a bucket ofâyou know.”
“You're saying I should stay out of it?”
Fox nodded. “Yeah, stay out of it. You don't want to mess with the big boys. My father used to say, the only words you'll never hear in New Mexico are
We sail with the tide
. You just missed your boat, Sonny.”
Fox grinned, turned, and hurried out, followed by his flunkies.
Sonny burped again. Lordy, Lordy, a satisfying breakfast, but sitting with Fox had left a bad feeling in the air. It was rumored Fox and the governor were business partners with Dominic. Fox had taken Dominic's money when he ran for mayor, and if the governor was dead that left Fox in charge of the henhouse, or the water house. If Fox didn't want him involved in the governor's murder, that was all the more reason to get involved.
He's no dream man, Fox had said. A dead governor can dream no more. Did they want the governor out of the way?
His cell phone buzzed and Sonny answered.
“Sonny, Augie. Where are you?”
“You were there when Raven infiltrated Los Alamos Labs.”
Yes. Raven had waltzed into the labs, or flown in like a brujo. He had stolen a plutonium pit from under the nose of Los Alamos security.
“You know the core of a nuclear weapon is still missing. So what if Raven sold it to Al Qaeda?”
Sonny paused. Raven would form alliances with anyone out to create panic.
“Don't believe me? What if I told you I have an Al Qaeda operative prisoner?”
“You have an Al Qaeda agent?” Sonny repeated. That got his attention. What the hell was an Al Qaeda operative doing in Jemez Springs?
“Here's what I'm guessing. Raven was paid by Al Qaeda. The FBI's been following this agent. All of a sudden he shows up in Jemez Springs. Walks right into my hands. You know what this means. Promotion for me. I call the shots.”