Faith that the thing can be done is essential to any great achievement.
-- Thomas N. Carruther
Recognizing that getting Paul Peter, again soused to the gills, into her truck would be impossible, Despina, with the sheriff's help, loads him into the jeep's passenger seat.
Once Cu has agreed to return him after showing her where she is to stay, the sheriff sets out in her truck.
He's dying of curiosity to take a gander at my new living arrangements, she thinks, watching the tail lights of her truck fade into the darkness.
Cu's battered old pickup pulls to the edge of the roadway, hesitates until she lines up behind him, then proceeds onto the highway. She follows dutifully, turning onto an unmarked, narrow 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. When the tail lights veer sharply, she turns, surprised to feel the jeep start to slide sideways. A loud scrape, then it rights itself and is fairly level. Her speed is a slow creep. A small 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. Probably follows an old animal trail over the mountains, and since everyone was used to going that way, they turned it into the road... she muses, grabbing a tree branch and pulling herself over the hood onto solid rock. Paul Peter, descending too abruptly from somewhere above her, also grabs the same sapling, which bends away from the rock.
A flickering light shows in a vine-covered entryway behind the narrow trunk.
"A fire?" asks Paul Peter, scratching his head. "Who'd be camping at this height? It must be a mile straight down to the nearest water."
Despina lifts her shoulders in a half-shrug. "Maybe there's water in the cave."
Paul Peter peeks in. Despina pulls herself along until she can see in, too, then parts the vines and branches and crawls inside, standing once she is sure the footing is good. He 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. An owl feather is braided into her hair. She casts her left hand outward, fingers pointing at Paul Peter, who freezes. 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 looks familiar.
The Medicine Woman from my dreams!
"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."
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, hear the swoosh its passage makes, sense the air touching the very bottom of her lungs. She starts to sway.
"My name is Dances Dreams Woman. You are always welcome at my fire, daughter."
With a wave of her hand in Paul Peter's direction, the Medicine Woman commands, "Take her out."
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, eyes fastened on her, but before he can get around to where he'll step over the edge, she scrambles over the gear shift and fires up the engine.
"I'm fine." She grips the wheel with determination.
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 it without shifting the jeep's center of gravity too far down the ridge. At first, she cannot see the tail lights, but then they show, farther off on the next hilltop.
Thank goodness he waited.
Soon their track joins one that is better traveled, and as they pass the hospital, she sees two sets of tail lights ahead, side by side. Pulling up next to the sheriff, she smiles in relief. She can feel the grit from the road dust coating her sweaty body despite the cooler night air, but is too tired and ready for this night to end to do anything about it.
The sheriff lifts his hat to smooth his hair, then replaces it. "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.” Despina gets out on shaky legs. “Paul Peter had to make a nature call."
I wonder why I didn't tell them about talking to Dances Dreams? Somehow, mentioning her just didn'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 T shaped area between two entrances. The leg of the T is evidently meant to be a sleeping alcove. A fire pit is in the middle of the wall opposite the leg.
Seeing a plethora of insects scurrying out of the light, Despina suddenly decides to bring in just the chaise lounge, 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 drives the jeep over beside another hovel with a slightly taller roof. A bigger one sits on the far side of that, with another truck beside it. All three are separated from the rest of the village by about a quarter of a mile, Despina notes.
Mickey eyes her thoughtfully. "Well, if you think you're settled in well enough for tonight, I'd better get back to town."
"Drive carefully,” Despina responds in a deliberately cheerful voice to signal that she is okay with the arrangements. “That road is really wicked,"
"You're just not used to it,” Mickey responds, lifting his hat to smooth his hair down. “It's okay in daylight, especially when seen with eyes not coated in dust."
Last updated 3/17/10 Corrected cannot and hilltop. 1/27/10 finished off the tells. 1/12/10 added tells except for the last three lines. 12/27/08 - Changed truck to pickup in Cu's battered old pickup; 12/4/08 - Changed He to Paul Peter peeks; She to Despina pulls; and Paul Peter to He follows.; 8/2/08 -- Add When the tail lights ... delete so she turns, add surprised to feel a small tree suddenly looms; Changed tree to sapling in ... grabs the same sapling; changed tree to ... entryway behind the narrow trunk. changed up this high to at this height (6/9/08, remove she - and is fairly level; 7/21/06 first three paragraphs; 7/20/06 [1) all. Probably follows an old animal trail over the mountains, and since everyone was used to going that way, they turned it into the road... she muses, grabbing a tree branch and pulling; 2) straight down to the nearest water.; 3) daylight, especially when seen with eyes not coated in dust -- 8/4/04.]
Word Count: 1528
Sunday, December 9th, 2001 10:59 p.m. (pandemo)