Getting Paul Peter, again soused to the gills, into her truck would be impossible, so she fishes his keys out and, with the sheriff's help, loads him into the passenger seat of his jeep.
The sheriff sets out in her truck. Cu agrees to take him back after showing her where she is to stay.
He's dying of curiosity to take a gander at my new living accomodations,she thinks.
Cu's battered old truck pulls to the edge of the roadway and waits for her to line up behind him, then proceeds onto the highway. She follows, turning onto the dirt track when he does. Immediately the dust broiling up in his wake chokes her enough that she drops back until it lays down. She navigates by following his tail lights, which wink on and off, depending on the elevation, the wind, and how thick the dust is in between. Soon, she is climbing. Downshifting the jeep, she takes grade after grade, ever steeper, twisting and turning ever more sharply. The tail lights ahead reassure her that a vehicle really CAN go where she is heading.
Before long, they are on top of the pass, but no lights show below to indicate the location of the village of Stone Circles. The tail lights veer sharply, so she turns, then feels the jeep start to slide sideways a bit. A loud scrape, then it rights itself and she is fairly level. Her speed is a slow creep. A tree suddenly looms straight ahead, blocking her path.
"Hold up a minute, would you? I need to answer the call of nature."
She stops, then decides to get out for a bit while she is waiting. The first step she goes to make, she nearly plunges over the edge of a cliff.
This road sure must be fun on ice. There's no shoulder at all.
Grabbing a tree, she pulls herself over the hood onto solid rock. Paul Peter, descending too abruptly from somewhere above her, also grabs the same tree, which pulls away from the rock.
A flickering light shows in a vine-covered entryway behind the tree.
"A fire?" asks Paul Peter. "Who would be camping up this high? It must be a mile straight down to water."
"Maybe there's water in the cave."
He peeks in. She pulls herself along until she can see in, too, then parts the vines and crawls inside, standing once she is sure the footing is good. Paul Peter follows.
They move into the cave together, confronting two figures. An ancient Indian crone is partially hidden in the shadows. Dried roots hang above her head. Pots and stone bowls cover the area on either side of a fire pit and line the wall of the cave in natural niches.
A second, more majestic, Indian woman is wearing fringed white deerskin. She casts her left hand outward, fingers pointing at Paul Peter, who freezes. An owl feather is braided into her hair. She moves to stand before Despina, who has taken a few steps further into the cave, leaving Paul Peter immobile in the entrance.
Despina can smell white sage burning.
The regal figure directly before her is familiar to Despina.
The Medicine Woman.
"Welcome, Travels Far Woman. First, you must be purified." She places one hand on each of Despina's shoulders, turning her 90 degrees. "You must face east, the place of new beginnings."
The sage smell increases as the crone approaches from the shadows with a smudging bowl and an owl-feather fan.
"It is good that you have come. The time is close. Your work begins soon."
Taking the bowl and fan, the Medicine Woman leans down in front of Despina, "Blessed be your feet, that they may walk truly in your path." She makes a full clockwise circle around her, fanning the smoke from the bowl toward her feet.
"Blessed be your woman's center, that it may feed your intuition and bear rich fruit in its time." She makes another complete circle.
"Blessed be your hands, that they may help and heal." She makes another circle.
"Blessed be your heart, that it may endure and remain open and loyal." Another circle.
"Blessed be your mouth, that it may speak the truth and inspire others to seek their true path." Circles, circles.
"Blessed be your brow, that the inner light may shine brightly without."
"Blessed be your crown, that it might serve as the gateway for your guide. My name is Dances Dreams Woman."
Offering the bowl to the east, she fans smoke. "Children of the air, bless and witness."
Turning south, she fans, "Children of the fire, bless and witness."
Turning west, she fans, "Children of the water, bless and witness."
Turning north, she fans, "Children of the earth, bless and witness."
Fanning upward, she intones, "As above," fanning downward, "so below. Ancestors, bless and witness."
She trades bowls with the crone, passing her the owl fan, then hands Despina a bowl of liquid. "Drink."
With no hesitation, Despina downs the bitter beverage, then returns the stone bowl.
Despina can feel the blood flowing in her veins, the air touching the very bottom of her lungs. She starts to sway.
"You are always welcome at my fire, daughter."
"Take her out," the Medicine Woman commands with another wave of her hand in Paul Peter's direction.
Stumbling a bit and shaking his head, Paul Peter takes Despina's elbow and guides her out the cave entrance. Depositing her on the passenger side, Paul Peter watches her as she sits for a bit.
"Are you okay?"
He moves toward the driver's side, but before he can get around, she climbs over the gear shift and fires up the engine.
He climbs in with a shrug, fumbling a bit before fastening his seat belt.
That's new. I've never seen him hook up before!
Backing slightly, she hugs the side of the cliff, scraping the tree all down the right side, barely getting past the tree without shifting the jeep's center of gravity too far down the ridge. At first, she can't see the tail lights, but then they show, farther off on the next hill top. Thank goodness he waited,she thinks when she sees them.
Soon their track joins one that is better traveled, and when she passes the hospital, she sees two sets of tail lights, side by side. Pulling up next to the sheriff, she smiles in relief. She can feel the grit from the road dust coating her body, but is too tired and ready for this night to end to care.
"We were just about to form a posse to search for you. Did you get lost en route?"
"No, I just followed the tail lights. Paul Peter had to make a nature call."
I wonder why I didn't tell them about talking to Dream Dancer? Somehow, mentioning her just doesn't seem right.
Turning away from the men, she eyes the hovel with dread. The entrance to the adobe building is barely higher than her head. All three men have to duck to enter. The sheriff's flashlight shows a Tshaped area between two entrances. The leg of the Tis evidently meant to be a sleeping alcove. A fire pit is in the middle of the wall opposite the leg.
Seeing all kinds of insects scurrying out of the light, Despina suddenly decides to just bring in the chaise lounge from the back of the truck, her sheet, blanket, and pillow, and call it good for tonight.
The sheriff eyes her doubtfully.
He probably expected me to return to town with him once I saw the accommodations.
The sound of the jeep's engine draws her back outside in time to see Paul Peter barely miss both her truck and Cu's as he tries to drive the jeep over beside another hovel with a slightly taller roof. A bigger one is on the far side of that, with another truck beside it.
"Well, if you think you are settled in well enough for tonight, I'd better get back to town."
"Drive carefully. That road is wicked."
"You're just not used to it. It's okay in daylight."
Last updated 1/22/01.