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Scene 4 of the Acts of Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
‘Can you see?’
‘Why went he?’
‘How is it you weep on bended knee?’
Maddened, he growled into the now clear blue sky, “I’m not He!”
The twenty-foot sheet of snow ate his words and swallowed them whole.
The wind moaned softly, whistled in the high distance and the broad lonesome.
The voice rang within, distilling its chords from the dizzying ringing within his echoing ears:
Answered he: “Why not Medicine Man, o’ Holy Man, o’ Helpin’ Han’?”
A chill slithered down his spine as the breath-eater coiled in his chest.
He knelt before the letters crudely etched on the headstone:
PAT_R, for Father.
“The Indians what came called ye Father. Why’d the Christians en haretics call ye Sorcerer, you a man o’ the Bible?”
The stones whistled slightly with the southerly cross wind but offered no answer.
His voice cracked, caught and croaked. He paused to cast off lung butter and shivered, “Ye knew The Word o’ God more complete en more deep then those robed monks and book-tottin’ priests who came aksin’! Ye remembered each word amind when they come wit their own book ta be signed...quill en ink greedy at hand!”
His mind flamed with an anger in recalling the numerous scholars, priests and monks who came less to learn from He who knew so much more than they, but just to say they had, wanting his handsome scrawl, lovingly given with quill or pencil, depending on what asker came asking for the signed name of Medicine Wheel Man, which is what the traders, trappers and rangers called him.
These were the kind of folk he stood back with down below the tower as the dignitaries they had brought went with Father up here to The Medicine Wheel for their consult. The Indians and monks had the decency to come one at a time, considering it a worthless trip if one needed help making it to the base of the mountain. But priests, professors, sky-watchers, lords and ladies, they came with their entourage, every big-wigged one.
He would say, to the proffered ink and quill or pencil, “Father ‘ill sign it on ‘is table, on the second floor, afta ye walk wit ‘im to The Wheel en back.”
What had been said up here all of those many times he never knew, had never thought to ask, it being holy business and not his business besides.
Father had talked to him though, about The Wheel, while standing along one of its arms and telling him about The Bible, and relating the Arms of The Wheel to events of the Bible. These were all buried by snow, their end points and so their axis, as well as the cairn at The Wheel’s center, marked by lodge poles he had driven deep after late summer rains one year so that Father could use the Wheel even when buried under 20 foot of snow. Each pole was topped with an icon chosen by Father to Identify it: the central pole by flapping sashes brought by a Bishop, the Easter Pole topped by fleece, the Summer Pole topped by a dog’s tale, the Autumn Pole topped by maize tassles, the Christmas Pole topped by a cross.
Father had said that one day he would teach him what heavenly bodies these poles pointed to when one looked at them from the center pole. But the Bible had come first, recited from Father’s great mind, the words of Jesus and the acts of the prophets, judges, kings and disciples all spoken upon to him in common wise so that some gallows son become Ranger become a vagabond broken on the run might fathom The Word.
Being a critter of many Acts and of few Words had made for a poor disciple. Father always scoffed that he was not a disciple, but his adopted son, the son of his heart. Because Father was humble and did not want to be compared to Jesus. But when Father had told of the Disciples—well, then it was obvious what the vagabond had become, if not to Jesus, then to one of his saints yet to rise to Heaven.
He looked up through tears at the center pole jutting above the great drift of snow, from the whistling rocks of Father’s cairn, able to see a star already in the late afternoon what heralded the coming night that would have no moon. The star was faint, but it was there, and it twinkled.
The voice sounded like it came from a throat filled with mud through lips cracked and caked with crud, “Well, Father, ye sure got up Heaven’s Stair—I hope not ta embarrass ye fro’ where ye Glory up there.”
He stood, and on long impulse, from an impulse of habit long since forgotten other than in dreams of the sort best forgotten, the bent, ragged and bison cloaked man—ancient by his look—brought the swollen thumb of his empty hand to his brow and dragged his moccasin covered heels together, saluting the first star of Madam Night before Her veil shrouded the world.
“God Bless,” and wrack wrenched his chest, ruining his martial posture in a way that had him wonder if Father or God disapproved of saluting a Holy Man’s star.
Coughing and spitting, shamefacedly snotting and like an old man tottering, he limped back through the tunnel of snow towards the tower he had built for his Father’s philosophizing room that awaited him across the still cold ridge way, door latched, like a tomb.
black & pale
the fighting edge
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