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Shadow Caw
Cain 5-A
© 2022 James LaFond
JUN/10/23
Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Southeast Portland, Oregon, Dove Endida
“With mighty wings outspread,
sat dove-like upon the edge of the great abyss.”
-John Milton, 1668, Book 1, Paradise Lost
She remembered always, meeting him at dawn, on the light rail platform, in late autumn. So now, when the leaves fell, she came to the cemetery ringed and risen in evergreen at dawn, hours before the gates opened, so she could at least see the same sunrise that warmed his grave. It had been the autumn of their lives when they met. He would not have his winter, nor her him, in hers.
She began to cry as she pulled over at the entrance.
“Oh, my, the gate is open?” she said to herself, in voice, not having a filter. Her father told her this, having observed her habit since childhood of speaking out loud, if softly, like her namesake bird, in observation of the cold world that in so many ways had passed Dove by.
“Bebe, its a sign—I’m coming to share the sunrise with you!” she whispered as she cried, pulling her old Dodge through the open gate and up the driveway.
Dove pulled over fifty feet from the grave, which was just up on the perfect little rise. This had been her plot. But she gave it up for him and planned on having her ashes scattered over him.
“Oh, my! Look at the size of him!” whispered Dove as she turned off her car and wondered if she should leave her purse, or lock the car, or what. His tall form topped by broad shoulders in a leather hat and black ankle coat did not seem at all that of a tweaker. Then she noticed, to his side was a traveling man’s backpack, a big one like the soldiers used, like Her Man had hauled home from Iraq, Afghanistan, Mindanoa, Kenya, all the terrible places that he wouldn’t talk to her about. The man was slightly to the left of the grave, the pack to the right, as if the place of honor had been reserved for her whose man was gone beyond, his bones in that hole.
“Bebe, you have a friend!”
She got out of the car, shut the door softly in case the man was making a prayer, and walked up through the wet grass and soft slippery leaves to stand next to him, between him and his gear.
“You are huge—a giant,” she observed as she came to his elbows.
He had a nose like an eagle, the whitest—actually the only white—white man she had ever seen. His nose shone as he grinned thinly and his big right hand, the other being on an amazing Dragon Headed cane, came to his hat rim and tilted it, “Dawn to thee, Winter Woman,” tolled he with the depth of a great bell. His voice vibrated inside of her.
“Oh, my, you are a gentleman. I so like a gentleman, they are so rare.”
He turned his head to put both eyes upon her, and she thought she heard a whine and a little grinding, like an old hand coffee grinder, and peered down into her with the most striking eyes: pure white whites offset by the silver hair and eggshell white of his skin, deep blue iris and pupils as black as those of The Watchers. [1]
“Did you know my husband?”
“Of a ken, he en I. Aye, I have known Your Man of old. His love ‘as not gone cold, mere fey, fey, fled, far away.”
Crows called above, angrily complaining at the siren like song of the descending gulls up from the sea on this unseasonably cold day.
“Are you one of The Watchers? You are so eagle like. I am of the Eagle People—this is no accident.”
The man grinned up at the noisy crows atop the trees, “Raven-kin o’ reprobation, battling ye winged rats o’ Ocean...these tussle twain clans not our birds be.”
“You seem sad, and you’re homeless—no car in sight and your pack. I’d like to talk to you about Fred. I’ll buy you breakfast at the Tik Tok, they serve booze too if you’re a drinking man—Fred sure was.”
“Thank you, Dove,” and she thrilled within, knowing for sure that this man was one of The Watchers come from the spirit world, “food no, drink aye.”
“You should eat, its cold, especially if you drink. That’s what got Fred. All those wars he survived, just to have his liver go out on him, like that—he was gone in two weeks, the love of my lonely life.”
The man grinned, his teeth pearly white, so off for such a worn looking man who must be in his 70s at least, a drinker at that, “The flesh o’ dese ole bones hungers not, nay. Yet the demon what propels dis rattle o’ bones in the earth what drank brotherly blood shed by this stain-ed hand, has a thirst like Leviathan,” he said as he raised his one black stained finger on that great hand.
“I love your teeth—you are so handsome...sorry Fred, he’s quite the man. Did you bring him for me?”
“Indeed, lass, this dawn ye found the Thirteenth Floor.”
“Oh, oh my, Fred said that’s where we met, ‘on the thirteenth floor of life,’ that we were meant to be together, but to meet the world had to be bent. Your teeth, you avoid the question, how are your teeth so white?”
“My Doctor is a remarkable physician, and Fred spoke of your trust in a smile pearly white.”
She smiled, “My teeth are little, and I smoke, and this one my first husband knocked out. Fred never hit me. He was My Warrior, My King.”
“Indeed so, en fro’ Death’s fetters ‘eard vile dogs lurking—yet yer King.”
She had been listening and talking while looking at Fred’s gravestone, a nice upright one, which cost her plenty, but which she had thought such a stand-up man deserved. Then she heard her car door shut and turned, even as the giant turned.
Four tweakers were there, rough looking meth heads, two walking up to them and two at the car. The two walking up had one a hammer and screw driver and the other a pry-bar. They were so much bigger than her and so much smaller than The Watcher. But they were armed and he was old and she was afraid for him.
“You guys, why, this is holy ground?”
“The keys,” snarled the one with the hooked steel bar.
“They’re in my purse. Please, just take it. She shouted to the man looking through her purse, “Please leave my ID, Please!”
The man with the hammer and screw driver looked up at The Watcher and said, “Stop it, get out of my head.”
The Watcher then stepped forward in front of her and his voice was like a great bell, “Mister Quartermaine, rogues upon the jolly boat!”
The two men then backed up looking around for another person, and seeing no one, looked at each other as the man who now had her keys threw her purse to the man by the passenger side door and all of them were frozen by a chime-like roar, “You offend The Dead!”
The man with the steel bar stepped forward really fast and chopped into The Watcher’s side with the hooked end. He ripped and pried and something tore loose with the sound of canvas ripping, bone breaking and even a spring pinging.
“Oh my!”
The head of the dragon cane, in that big pale hand, smashed into the side of the tweaker’s head and cracked it like a smashed pumpkin, the man falling stone dead.
The man with the hammer gave a frightful cry and sank the claw of the hammer into The Watcher’s neck, around the collar, a sound of popping bone and collapsing flesh like a ham being being parted shank from butt, made her want to shout a curse to the gray dripping sky streaked red with the sun’s veiled rise.
Then the man was stabbing The Watcher with the screw driver with popping sounds, and, “Oh my, a pygmy!”
Up out of the backpack popped a tiny black man with a tube, a flute—no, a blow gun, to his lips. He blew like a snake’s hiss and a pretty feathered dart appeared in the neck of the man with her purse, who dropped it, turned away in shaking fear and began to runaway back down the driveway.
A disgusting cracking and gurgling sounded behind her to the right, and there The Watcher had picked up his attacker, with one hand, the stained finger one, and broken him backwards over Fred’s tombstone.
“Oh my! This is crazy!”
She heard her car start and saw with some horror that The Watcher was walking out in front of it and standing in the way as the engine revved, “No, its old, real metal—let him take it! It will hurt you!”
The Watcher then flourished his cane over his head and said, “Hold!” and the car, her car, her old Dodge, leaped to life and crashed into The Watcher’s legs, knocking his long legs in half, boots and bones, and springs, and some bent bars, and blood and oil and nuts and bolts flying everywhere as The Watcher’s body slid across the hood and crashed through the windshield, shattering that old glass, The Watcher now, legless in the front seat, wrestling with the driver…
The pygmy was gone, back in the pack she supposed. Then her car crunched into a nice arbor vide and stopped, the driver bailing out and running like crazy in the direction where the man with the feathered dart in his neck was now weaving and staggering towards the gate.
Dove walked over to the car and saw that The Watcher was jammed in the passenger seat upside down with his shredded legs, which were clearly not bleeding enough, hanging between the seats into the back and his head down by the floor mat, his eyes rolled back to reveal a silvery back.
“Mamma, Mamma Winter,” came a musical voice from the back pack.
“What?” and Dove left the driver’s door open and walked back over to the back pack near the grave, decorated now with a dead broke-back tweaker in a blue hoody and torn jeans.
The pygmy was there, cute as an Oshkosh doll in denim overalls, trying to drag the backpack bigger than him down to the car. She was walking up to the wonderful sight and the tiny black man with big emerald eyes frantically waved his arms, “Mamma Winter, me Mamma Mia, too fat. Please help me drag her down to Master Cain.”
Dove and the midget managed to drag the ruck sack down and hoist it into the back seat, where the legs were bleeding and dripping oil too.
“There,” he said. “Please, Captain Cain, parts and pieces collect!”
With that the pygmy and Dove were picking up pieces of clothing, bone, springs, rods and other hardware, and what seemed like meat too, and placing it all in a linen bag that the midget had gotten from out of nowhere.
She had to ask, “Who are you?”
The little black man with the tassled hat-shaped afro bowed grandly and looked up at her, “Poppa Doc, Juju Quartermaine, Physician to Captain Longshank Cain—jammed up in you car.”
“I thought he was a Watcher.”
“Yaaz, Mamma, Watcher yes, o’ the seeker kind.”
“I think he’s dead—I feel so bad. We just met and he got hurt because of me.”
“Yaaz, Mamma—we fix ‘im yet!”
“How? The hospital? Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
“Oh no,” said the man, as he worked his little hands like tambourines, “a garage, auto maybe, no mechanic home?”
“Oh,” she thought out loud, wondering why the vision had stuck with her and having thought it was a nostalgia for when she rebuilt the engine in her Volkswagon beetle forty years ago, “there is that automotive garage down on Foster, by Red’s Bar and Grille, that tweakers burned. It’s wide open. They just threw a tarp over the door, cars still in there.”
Most people would have had a crisis of sanity over this situation, pygmy witch doctor and semi-mechanical sea captain. But, for Dove, who had seen and smelled Sasquatch, new that a feathered Contrary had once sung a love song to her when she was a virgin, and had a friend who was married to a Navaho Skinwalker, even though the automotive aspect of this emergency seemed out of place, she accepted easily that when one of The Watchers came into the world to help people, that strange things might be reasonably expected to occur.
Before she set down her giddy body on the mess of a driver’s seat, Dove had a warmth overcome her and she turned towards Fred’s grave, “Thank you, Bebe. Now I know why you where so devoted to your friends. They’re warriors like you.”
And for once, with her parting words to Fred at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, she did not cry, not a tear, and she drove that car with no windshield through the early morning mist without a single fear.
She smiled, “The Watchers are here,” and then she smiled more deeply, for that big, hard hand with the stained finger moved to her thigh with some affection.
Thinking of Fred, she gave a sigh, and knocked the tweaker at the gate clean out of his shoes with the right fender, and did not look back.
Notes
-1. The three spirit wise men with painted wooden hats and eagle features who watched for peril on behalf of the living.
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