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Sorcerer…
Scene 2 of The Acts of Awes West
“Source...sir...rrrr,” snorted the North Wind into the overgrown wreck of his sky-turned chin.
The South Wind hurled and burled cold and stony as the North Wind snorted and slathered wet and foamy.
Mused he: ‘My back is stone, face to Heaven...could I be headed home?’
“Sore...srr...grrr…” questioned the warm North Wind, hot as the fetid breath of deep piney Arkansas where once he crowned the stakes of his ranger camp with the wide-eyed and slack-faced heads of his voodooing foes.
Mused he: ‘Dragged back to that Hither Hell, to answer Papa
Doc’s accursed knell?’
“Srsss...rrr...grrr?”
Mused he: ‘The Devil come to take me to true shadowed Hell, dripping brimstone in my gauntling phys?’ [1]
He growled his self-hate and pushed up as his eyes slitted open against the crust of snow and his long-ago helmet-creased forehead bumped against a moist, warm snout, a snout that bellowed dank disdain down into the flickering fire of his inward halting breath—
“Ah!” he barked into the face of the great grisled bear, the massive, brindle-coated monster of Awes West, he who should have been asleep a long month by now.
The great fanged paw pinned his empty gut and drove his backbone into the cold stone. A burn in his shoulder told him that he was slightly nicked while the beast had rolled him over onto his back to feast.
“Devil of Awes West!, take me!” he sneered narrowly, weakly, wheezingly and coughed.
The claws of the mighty paw hooked in the bison hide of his vest and dragged his back up off the stone, his ragged head waggling before the great muzzle and he snarled, “North Wind er Hell’s Hound, take me to grind fer yer bread. Heaven’s door is closed to this fool o’ a broken tool…”
A wracking cough blew yellow slime from his throat up upon the moist snow-flecked snout of the man-tearing fiend.
The mighty paw shoved his chest into the stone, bruising his gaunt shoulder blades under the bison hide vest and draped cloak… The great beast reared back and shook its battering ram of a head, snorting and sneezing in a rumbling afront.
It backed away and coughed a rumbling warning.
Up on his elbows he creaked, his bushy chin brushing his sunken hide-vested chest, “I ain’t fat—it’s winter, what ye expect! Feed!”
The bear snorted and rose on its hind legs and roared. Then, into its face he cackled, “Feed, Devil! Why else d’ ye rise fro’ yer den?”
As he said this, the bear lowered into a neutral prowl and stood hanging its head, regarding him with half-banked eyes of amber fire.
He tried to push up to threaten the bear and make of this an end. But his left palm lost purchase and he slipped and fell back, his thumb catching in his vest cord, and the back of his head behind the left ear striking the headstone of Father’s cairn.
The world swam in snowy whorls.
The bear snorted in a surprised disgust.
Mused he: ‘Do I smell too bad to eat?’
Damned he: ‘Ah, he came to say goodbye to Father...the bears left him alone...poor Spirit Bear found only this soul turned to stone…’
The shuffling of mighty feet dragging nightmare claws across stony faces gave way to the muffling rumble of shaggy shoulders plowing through drifts of wind-driven white.
Mused he: ‘Freezing, such an easy death…’
Damned he: ‘Better than you deserve!’
Prayed he: ‘How may I continue to serve?’
A picture of Father’s letters that made his name, came to his mind, or rather gathered, haltingly with a silent gap:
He had only been allowed to write these in snow and dust and ash so that they would lodge in his mind. Father so wanted him to learn to read and write from his mind than as a child command from behind, that he had been permitted no primer to keep etched in wood like Father’s codex.
...first there was the top-pregnant stick for Peter and Paul.
...second there was the peaked house roof with the beam for Angel.
Mused he: ‘What next?’
Damned he: ‘I can’t remember next!’
Letting his head fall back on the as yet unmarked headstone, a basalt flat heavier than he, lighting struck his mind and he saw the thrown shoe of his faithful destrier, Crunch, thrown on the trace making away from the Comanche, his doom come upon him above Medicine Bow Abbey where the coward monks would not admit him into sanctuary so heavy with sin…
Recalled he: ‘Third is the symbol of the fallen horseshoe in Paul’s name, flipped over makes the hill of Calvary where Christ was crossed! The cross, third mark in Father’s name.’
Mused he: ‘Fourth mark in Father’s name? Dunno, a sound for air—a space.’
Excused he: ‘I’ll leave a space for a monk or priest to fill in.’
Knew he: ‘The sign of resurrection, of Jesus coming forth from the cave, that is the last mark in Father’s name. Father’s name should have the same number of marks that his kind hand had fingers.’
There was a chisel, made of his broken war dagger, his great Cherokee-skewering, Negro-beheading, Comanche-scalping Arkansas Toothpick, snapped between two stones when he forsake Saint Martial of Deed for Father’s Kind Word. It was back on the top floor of the tower.
Prayed he: ‘May I rise!’
His thumb snapped in the cordage of the vest as he heaved with the effort, a snapping sound what shot pain that brought forget of his waning weakness and a soundless laugh to his crusted mouth.
He howled into the South Wind, “I have another!”
Up he lurched on elbows, then rolled, turned from deadfall and became a bench, then pushed up to his knees to become a stump, then rose on popping knees to reel in the whirling snow, the shovel somehow in his right hand.
He could not see the tower through the whirling wrack. But the snow tunnel of a trace was only knee deep where it had been clear.
“Move, Son,” he encouraged, so missing Father addressing him so that he spoke so.
He dragged the shovel after him into the temporary passage in Winter’s time, knowing he would need it to return with the chisel and the Ponderosa mallet he had made one autumn night, the two tools that Father had used to teach him the letters that constructed the words of the holy book he had memorized and recited to him from a reading lamp somewhere behind those light-blind might-kind eyes.
Damned he: ‘I will never hear the Holy Word again, and if the book itself fell from Heaven the only word I might no is Father.’
Prayed he: ‘Please Lord in Heaven, send The Book so this damned soul may at the least read your name and wonder at what you said.’
The old, long ago sold, shell of a man teetered into the gathering cold.
Groaned he: “Father, ye lived t’ the three places o’ age—a true sage… may this ragged rat return to mark yer age.”
As his words wafted off stolen by the South Wind, the signs of a hundred, the stick of first number and the two circles of tensome expansion, rose in the flicker-light of his dungeon mind, beckoning to be carved below PAT_R...a last foray upon the earth in honor of the one soul the would be etcher had known to exceed its drear dearth…
Notes
-1. Physiognomy, a word Father taught about the facets of the human face.
2. Across his mind’s eye flickered an image of Father chisling away with that tool upon his codex, characters of marching thoughts to be stained by his berry ink as Father reclined with the spent effort, having written with steel upon wood without eyesight… shifting into an image of blinded eyes, taken so long ago by the Inquisition of New Spain during Father’s peacemaking mission seventy-two years gone, according to the marks of yearly addition upon the ancient Fir stump.
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Ruben ChandlerApr 16, 2022

could I be headed

Fucking wonder all this. Beautiful. I'd rather wander the yonder than dither in the withers. Gawd, this is SO good.
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