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About RichEisbrouch

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  1. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 11

    11. "And it did give me dreams when I was a kid. But they weren't bad. They were more like fantasies. The kind of things you think about when you should be doing better stuff... homework. Though there are parts I never forget." "Like?" I didn't mean to ask, and Cory looked at me like I was really intruding. "Sorry," I quickly added. "It's not important." Though I kind of knew he'd tell me if he wanted. While I waited, I tried to imagine Cory as a kid. A little dark-haired farm boy in Minnesota, dreaming about caves and cliff dwellers. He might have called them Indians. So many people did, no matter how carefully they try not to. Though specifically saying cliff dwellers, or Mogollon, is easier than saying Native Americans. "My dad first told me the story," Cory eventually went on. "Told the four of us... my brothers and me. Then we told each other... Getting things wrong... Making things up when we couldn't remember... Leaving out parts we didn't understand... But no one ever left out the murders." "Murders?" "Well, we called it The Massacre, but it was closer to murder... genocide, really." When I said nothing, Cory added, "I warned you it was bad." "What kind of massacre?" "1000 people-or-so." He said it evenly. "Maybe more... all the cliff dwellers. They were sealed inside the cave." "Wow." "It always reminded me of the gas chambers." He didn't have to explain that. "And this is a terrible conversation to be having in the middle of the night," he quickly went on. "I know all this stuff... It's nothing new... nothing shocking. But it is for you." He seemed to be asking me a question. "I never heard about it," I said honestly. "I didn't mean to scare you..." "You haven't." "I'll tell you some other time..." Though it seemed he wanted to talk "Go on," I said, sitting on the couch. "I don't have bad dreams... not that easily. And there's no point in making you wait." He almost seemed relieved but still hesitated, as if waiting for my approval. I nodded, though it was another moment before he began. "OK... My brother Dan first told me this... Danny... he's the oldest. I said my father told us, but Dan had to hear it from Dad first. None of our other relatives would tell Danny without Dad's permission." That made it sound scarier. "It's a family story?" I asked. Cory nodded. "Growing up, I never heard it anywhere else. But we were in Minnesota, and it's about here, so why would I? Later, I found pieces of it on the Internet... as I've said. But it's like the creation myths... every version is different." He hesitated again. "The other reason my friends didn't know is they weren't one-eighth Apache." "Apache?" "Yeah... my brothers and I and any of our cousins our age..." I studied Cory. He was an ordinary, dark-haired, Midwestern-looking guy - the kind who models sweaters in family clothes catalogues. The most distinguishing thing about his face was that it almost totally lacked heritage. He seemed to know what I was thinking. "You can't see it, can you?" He almost laughed. "There's too much homogenized Scandinavian... Swedish... Norwegian... It wipes out everything else." "You look like someone on TV..." "Sound like someone, too... We all do... my bland family." He laughed again. "But you're also a mix, too. You have Mogollon blood. And I can't see any of that." "It's even more diluted than yours," I told him. "I'm not close to an eighth... And it only comes down my mother's side. The women on that side always married outside the family." "'Family' meaning..." "Yeah." He grinned. "Well, I'm an eighth... My great-grandfather came straight from the reservation... And when you look at his old pictures, he seems pretty pure." "When was this?" "The 1920s... earlier. He fought in World War I, met my great-grandmother there, then followed her home to Minnesota.... to a farm almost in Canada. And he stayed there, despite The Cold." He said the last part in a much deeper voice. Then he'd laughed. "We really call it The Goddam Cold." Again, he'd used the deep voice. "My family always blames my great-grandfather for taking us from warm, sunny New Mexico and stranding us on a glacier." "You could've left," I suggested. "Most of us have... I wasn't even raised on the farm. Only my mother's family... who are something like tenth-generation frozen Norwegian... actually like the place." I laughed with him, though we seemed to be getting further from his story. For a moment, I wondered if he was doing that purposely. Maybe he'd decided not to tell me. He seemed to sense that. "I can tell stories all night," he suddenly admitted. "My family's full of them. One story leads to another, and we never really get the first one fully told." I waited for him to go on. "You honestly want to hear?" he asked. I nodded. "OK... But remember, this was originally from my brother. Then from my father, after we bugged him for all the details. We pestered my grandma, too - because it's from her side of the family. But she didn't like telling it much. In fact, I think one of my great-uncles first told Dad." I knew, eventually, Cory would get back to his point. "Anyway, here's what I know." He took a deep breath. "It starts innocently enough, with a young Apache warrior. Probably pretty good-looking... by whatever standards they used a 1000 years ago." He was wandering again. "This was the days of the cliff dwellers?" I asked, to help focus him. "That would be the time. You talked about a village... with thatched huts and just a couple of families... But I've always thought this was about the cliff dwellers." "A much larger group." He nodded. "In any case, this young warrior was sent to spy on the cliff dwellers. He wasn't alone. He was part of a group of warriors his age... a small group..." He stopped for a moment. "That makes them sound romantic, doesn't it? Like adventurous pirates. You can really distance yourself from your ancestors when they turn out to be rats." I only smiled, hoping he'd stay on track "But that's the way the story's always been told," he went on. "That this was a romance... That this warrior was one of our ancestors... an important one... Because he fell in love with the Indian princess... the cliff dwellers' chief's daughter. That was pretty big." "The Indian princess?" "Yeah." He grinned. "Cool, right?" I didn't want to distract him with questions. "Of course, who knows how he met her or got her alone," he went on. "No one ever mentioned that part. But the Indian princess and the young warrior met, and they fell in love, and the warrior and his friends were spying on the cliff dwellers when another group of Indians attacked." "Attacked the cliff dwellers?" "Yeah." "They didn't see the spying warriors?" "Guess not." "And your warriors didn't do anything?" "What could they?" He seemed to be distancing himself again. "I mean, they were just a small group. In the story, the other group's always much larger... and stronger. And our warriors were young. The others had more experience. Ours were just sent to spy, to see what they could see. It was kind of a test. They weren't supposed to get in trouble." Cory seemed about as far from his ancestors as he possibly could get. It made me wonder how bad the massacre would get. (continued)
  2. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 10

    10. We stayed in the cave till after 7:00, and it was nearly 8:00 when we got back to my house. I asked Cory where he wanted to sleep that night. "Well, I was planning to stay in the park." "Why do that when you can have a bed? Besides, you can't just eat tuna and peaches." He thought for a moment. "Can I return them?" I laughed. "They'll be lunch tomorrow." "You really don't mind my staying here?" "It's not a problem." I showed him upstairs to Sallie's room. Then I showered upstairs while he showered in the basement. After that, we went out to eat. The best restaurant in town is also a bar and has pretty good bands on Friday and Saturday nights. So it was fairly busy. Cory was surprised at how good the music was, and I explained that the town was kind of known for that. "What kind of music?" he asked. "Little bit of everything. Mainly country-rock. Nashville-Austin sound." "Neat." Typical guy answer, maybe, but I was surprised at how well Cory danced. The guys I usually date are minimalists. Tiny steps. Maybe a shoulder shrug here and there. Still, it's not like I was dancing with Cory. The town's not that open. He was dancing with women, and I mainly watched. Though people in the bar seemed surprised to see me. They saw me at the station and around town, but I hadn't been out a lot lately. There was no real reason, or not one I chose to explain. But I'd never planned to be living at home again and running the kind of dead-end family business. So maybe I was a little shy. Cory and I didn't talk much. Partly because the music was pretty loud. More because we'd talked in the cave, and we'd talked in the car, and there was only so much we had to say to each other. We got back to the house around 1:00. We'd both had a couple of beers, but the bar wasn't that far away, so driving wasn't dangerous. Cory already knew where he was sleeping, and my room was just across the hall. But I usually slept in my folks' bigger bed. "'Night," he said as I headed upstairs. "Want me to set an alarm?" "Nah, I'm not gonna sleep late. What time do you want to leave?" "Whenever." "Fine." I was on the landing when Cory added, "I'm gonna stay up for a while if you don't mind. There's some stuff I want to get on paper." "Sure." Just saying "Good night" might have seemed rude, but I was tired and figured I'd be out pretty fast. And I was. I slept for a couple of hours then woke a little before 3:00. I was surprised to see lights still on downstairs. I thought about going down and turning them off. I expected to find Cory asleep on the couch - one of Sallie's old habits. "Dullest book in the world," she'd say when I woke her, but she said that about all her texts. "Well, they are," she'd insist when I objected. And I couldn't really argue. Occasionally, I'd look at the things she had to read and memorize, and it was all dry medical stuff. I admired Sallie for wanting to be a doctor. But I admired her more for being able to understand her texts. Mine were all easier, about poets and poetry. I was still standing in the upstairs hall, thinking about checking on Cory, when I heard him move around. "You OK?" I called. "Yeah... Fine... Just about giving up." "It's 3 o'clock," I added. "I know, Dad." By then, I was on the stairs. They open on the living room, so I could see Cory's books spread on the couch. "I made myself coffee," he said. "Hope you don't mind." I'd offered before, so I didn't mind. "That why you can't sleep?" I asked. "Nah, coffee doesn't keep me up. I can drink a potful and still be out in seconds. It's more that I'm wound up about the caves." I didn't understand. "Is this something you're doing for school?" He hesitated. "Not really," he allowed. "It's more of a... Well, it's more personal than..." And then he stopped. I waited. He looked at me. "I was sure it was for school," I said. "Well, it's something I can turn into a paper," he began. "Maybe. It depends on what I find. Still, it's mostly... It's just something... I don't know... I can't easily explain..." Or he wouldn't. By that point, I'd come further down the stairs. Cory was standing near the dining room. I guess he'd come back from the kitchen after dumping his coffee. We stared at each other for maybe a half-minute, then he said, "I need some sleep." "What are all the papers?" I asked instead. I didn't mean to keep him awake, but I was curious. There were handwritten pages all over the coffee table. "Just notes," he said. Not defensive, but just a little casual. He started to gather them, so I came down to help. For a second, he resisted. Then it seemed he'd make more of a fuss if he did. "They're mostly impressions," he explained, I guess in case I happened to read anything. "About the layout of the cave... And how I felt about it... How I felt about possibly being in a place I'd been thinking about all these years." "Years?" I asked, and Cory seemed to grow more guarded. "I didn't mean to make it sound like that," he told me. "Actually, I didn't mean to say that at all. Guess I'm more tired than I thought..." "Doesn't sound like you're obsessed," I joked. When he didn't react, I let it go, because he clearly wanted me to. But it confused me a little, because all afternoon I thought he'd been interested in burials and medicine. It seemed safe to ask if that was true.. "Some," he admitted. "But I'm always interested in those things 'cause they may end up being part of my work." "But they're not why you're here?" He shook his head but didn't go on. And I knew not to push "It's no big thing," he soon explained, maybe sensing he'd been rude. By then, he'd put his papers away, so maybe he felt safer. "The cave's just part of a story... one I've heard since I was a kid... So seeing it for the first time... if it's really the right place... and trying to match what I saw to what I've pictured in my dreams..." "Dreams?" He laughed. "There I go again... making this sound too important. You'd think it was haunting me or something..." He hesitated, then slowly went on. "But I've heard about the caves all my life... I've been told about them... This afternoon, I was trying to put all the images together." "Caves?" I asked. "There's more than one?" Cory was silent for a moment, again like he'd said something he hadn't meant to. "There might be," he continued. "I think this one's too... small. What I kept looking for today... in all those cracks and crevices... was the entrance to a larger one." I had to think about that. I'd been all over the cave for almost 20 years. My family had explored it far longer. But there'd never been any mention of a second one. "There is no entrance," I said. "There's only one cave." Cory considered that. "Then maybe it's the wrong place." "What are you looking for?" I asked. "What's the story?" I knew I was being too direct. But I really wanted to know. Again, he hesitated, and it seemed he really didn't want to tell me. "It's kind of bad," he hedged. "The sort of thing you dream about? You already told me that." "Some," he admitted. "A little... But not terrible dreams. It's more the sort of story that... well, if it happened today... there'd be trials and lawsuits." "Lawsuits?" He nodded. "You know how customs change." I did. But I still couldn't picture the cliff dwellers in a courtroom. (continued)
  3. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 9

    9. When the boy finally tried to talk with the girl again, she was with another woman. The woman started to run, but the boy brought out his knife. He'd never done that before except to protect himself, and the girl told him to put the knife away. When he did, the second woman stayed. The boy told the girl that her warriors were smart, but he was more careful. The girl replied that her warriors would catch him anyway. The boy laughed and said her warriors had more important work to do. He added that he wasn't hurting anyone. He might even be protecting the girl. The girl doubted that, and the boy asked if she'd seen any bears following her. The girl couldn't deny that she hadn't but said there were long times when she didn't see any bears. By then, the woman with the girl had started to move toward the village, and the boy let her go. But when the girl started to follow, the boy put his hand on his knife. The girl simply asked when he'd go back to his village. The boy laughed and asked if that was something she'd tell her warriors. The girl admitted she would, and then the boy asked if she'd really help to kill him. The girl was surprised he'd know about that and asked why she'd possibly help. The boy said the women in her village weren't that different from the women in his. He said he knew what women did, and that's why it was easy to follow her. The girl didn't answer that, and the boy asked if she could live in his village. The girl said that could never happen. But the boy said that girls sometimes left their villages to marry, and he added that no one would hurt a warrior's wife. The girl said she didn't think he was a warrior. The boy replied he even had a name. The girl didn't believe that, and the boy asked if she wanted to know his name. When the girl didn't reply, the boy claimed that he'd never try to capture her alone. He said he knew her village had too many warriors. That since they protected her, she must be important. The girl said she wasn't important. That no woman was so important to cause trouble. She started again to leave, and the boy followed her. He said if he needed to, he'd take her family. He'd take her father and mother, her brothers and their wives. He said the only one he wouldn't take was her husband. The girl knew the boy would know she had a husband because she was of age. The boy said he'd never kill her husband. He'd just wait for him to die. He said that warriors died all the time. The girl couldn't imagine her husband dead. Brown Bark was young. He was too strong. She said if the boy was really a warrior that he'd have a wife, too. That he couldn't marry until she died. The boy said that women died all the time, having babies. The girl couldn't imagine another woman raising her sons. But she'd been taught not to keep too close to her children because children died all the time. She knew that parents died, too, but hers were an important part of the village, and the girl didn't believe her family would leave with her just because something happened to Brown Bark. The girl also knew that the longer the boy stayed with her, the sooner her warriors might appear. She was sure the other woman had already reached the village. So the girl continued to talk. The boy seemed to know what she was doing, and he started to leave. He added that if he married her, he'd take her children, too. The girl wasn't surprised that the boy knew about her sons though she'd never taken them into the forest. But that meant the boy had been close enough to the village to watch the meeting houses and huts. Still, before the girl's warriors appeared, the boy left. When the girl got back to the village and told the leader's wife, the older woman said this was bad. No one said the girl was haunted this time because the other woman had seen the boy. That was more important than the warriors chasing after him. But the women thought the boy was crazy, and they talked about the trouble other crazy men had caused. They said the warriors needed to kill the boy. Some of the warriors still thought the boy was part of a trap. They said the boy knew too much about the village. If he told his warriors this, they'd attack. One warrior even said they should just give him the girl. That Brown Bark could get another wife. Brown Bark had no power, so he couldn't object. But the girl's father could. Quick Leap said that his daughter was needed to raise his grandsons. The men knew that grandsons turned into warriors, so they couldn't argue. The girl also told the other women that she didn't think the boy would fight. She said he was just showing off. That he was acting the way Brown Bark did before they were married. The women laughed at that but still thought this was different. They said a man who wanted something couldn't be denied. Not if he wanted it enough. The girl said the boy was too small. He was too weak. But the women reminded her that he was smart. The girl said that if the boy was smart, he wouldn't be bothering another man's wife. The women couldn't deny that. Quick Leap also talked to his daughter about the boy. He admitted the boy was a good hunter but said he was no better than Brown Bark. The girl said she knew that. Quick Leap reminded the girl how lucky she was to marry Brown Bark. He said if Brown Bark was careful, he'd be leader of the village some day. The girl knew this but had never talked about it. It could only cause trouble. Later, when she was in their hut with Brown Bark, he asked if the girl wanted him to kill the boy. Before she could answer, Quick Leap said the village would never let that happen. The men would never risk losing Brown Bark. He said the boy wasn't that dangerous. But Brown Bark insisted the boy had to die. Quick Leap assured him that would happen when there was enough time. When enough men could be taken from the village to hunt for the boy. The leader's wife laughed when the girl told her about that. She said she hoped the warriors would catch the boy soon because she'd enjoy killing him. She said he was taking too much time from the village. If any of the other women disagreed, no one said so. But the girl didn't think anyone disagreed. (continued)
  4. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 8

    8. The third time the girl saw the boy, he slipped up on her. "Stay," he warned as she started to run. He was standing almost invisible beside a tree. Despite what he said, the girl ran. "Stay!" he called after her, insisting that he wouldn't hurt her. Then he laughed and said he should because she'd tried to have him killed. The girl reached a clearing before the boy caught up. He quickly crouched behind another tree, but the girl hoped the women she was with were close enough by to see him. Still, she knew she shouldn't be seen talking to the boy and only stayed because she thought that might be safer. The boy saw her looking for the other women and asked if she really thought he'd risk talking to her if anyone was near. "No," she admitted. The boy laughed again and told her he'd been this close to her before. He said he'd been tracking her every day since the day she scared him near the stream. That she never knew when he was there. The girl hadn't known, and that scared her more. The boy grinned, saying he'd been with the girl almost every time she was in the forest. The girl didn't believe that but still asked why he would follow her. He said because it was easy. The girl tried to forget how smart the boy was and instead asked him questions her warriors would want to know. She asked why he was still in the forest if he was strong enough to hunt. The boy let himself be seen a little more, and the girl noticed there was no longer anything wrapped around his leg. The boy told her he was strong enough to hunt but not strong enough to go back to his village. "Is it far?" the girl asked. The boy again laughed. He said he wasn't going to tell her that. The girl didn't know where the closest villages were, but she knew that some of them didn't stay in one place all the time. She thought maybe the boy was from one of those and was waiting for his people to return. Or maybe he was waiting for them to find him. Mostly, the girl wanted to be back with the other women, and she hoped one of them would find her soon. When none of them appeared, and the girl thought it was safe to move again, she slowly started towards her village. The boy didn't follow, so the girl quickly started to run. When he let her go, the girl realized the boy must have known how close she was to her village. After the girl found the other women, she told them what had happened. Once they reported to the leader's wife, she went to the men. But first she warned the girl to tell her own husband, and the girl knew why. She shouldn't have been talking to the boy. Brown Bark mainly asked why the boy was following her. The girl insisted that she didn't know. That it seemed the boy just wanted to hunt. Brown Bark asked if the boy was following any of the other women. The girl said she didn't know that, either. But she added that she really didn't want to talk with the boy. Still, she didn't say that very forcefully because she didn't want to cause trouble. Her husband thought for a while and decided the boy was following her because she'd helped him. He said he still didn't understand why she'd done that. All the girl could say was, "It was the bears. I was afraid to be alone." Brown Bark seemed to believe that. "You need to find the boy," the girl went on. At first, her husband said nothing, and then he asked if the girl knew what would happen when the boy was caught. The girl nodded, and Brown Bark stared at her until he was sure she was telling the truth. Then he went to the other men. Soon, a group of warriors left the village. But the forests were large, and there were too many caves to explore them all. Some of the men were still sure the boy was part of a trap, and they didn't want to be far from the village. But an attack never came. After the third meeting, the girl tried never to be alone in the forests. The other women understood that, and one of them always tried to stay with her. Still, none of the other women had ever seen the boy, and after a while, they stopped thinking about him. But the girl was sure the boy was always near. A twig would drop from a tree without any reason. A stone would skip across a stream. A bird call wouldn't sound enough like a bird. When the girl told the other women this, they laughed. And when the girl actually thought she saw the boy, he didn't try to talk. He'd smile. Or he'd wave. Then he'd be gone. The other women laughed when the girl told them about this, too. Still, one afternoon, the boy followed her so close to the village that two warriors were able to chase after him. When they came back, they had to admit the boy had gotten away. The warriors said the boy would go places they wouldn't. That he didn't seem to be afraid of the bears. When the girl reminded them that he was as afraid of the bears as anyone else, the warriors didn't seem to believe her. But they set a trap. They sent the girl out near the boy's cave and waited for him to appear. Only he didn't. It didn't matter if the girl went first and the warriors came after, or if the men hid first and the girl came later. And it didn't matter where she was in the forest. After that, the girl didn't see the boy for a while, and the warriors decided they'd scared him away. The other women were glad of that because they were beginning to think the girl was haunted, and the other men teased Brown Bark about his wife. Fortunately, Brown Bark was strong. (continued)
  5. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 7

    It comes up soon enough. You don't have to be patient much longer.
  6. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 7

    7. "It's nothing to do with Mongolian?" he asked. "Where people came from Asia?" "Not unless - by chance - Juan Mogollon's ancestors came from there." "That would be funny." "Anyway, how much do you know about the families?" "As I've said... only what I read." "Then tell me that, and I'll fill you in." He hesitated, blowing out his cheeks. Then he slowly released the air as if this was going to be an ordeal. "Wish I had my notes," he began. "Some of the books are in my car, but not the important ones. That's the same reason I didn't bring my laptop. Couldn't risk it being stolen." I just listened. "But if I had to tell you what I know," he went on. "If I had to give you a quick summary..." Again, I waited. "Well, you know about the creation myths - the loaves and fishes." "I've never heard it described that way, but I'll give it to you." "Well, a supreme being - one who's never really identified - sent down - or really sent up, since they were buried in his comforting soil... He sent up his two daughters - or two of his many daughters - armed with magic loaves. And the daughters dropped pieces of these magic loaves everywhere, creating hills, valleys, daisies, pigs, you name it... until one of the daughters listened to the demon salmon - and here it's a direct parallel to Adam, Eve, and the snake... Anyway, because of listening to the salmon, this daughter went bad and kind of became the evil twin to her good sister. Still, somehow - and for no explained reason - the good sister married the bad sister's bastard son - and there's also no explanation of how the woman got pregnant. Maybe it was a piece of magic bread. Anyway, this unnatural copulation hugely irritated the almighty unnamed being, though he still blessed the good sister and the bad sister's son, and they went off and populated the earth." I was laughing pretty hard by then. Cory's story wasn't wrong - or not completely - but it was far enough off to make it fairly hysterical. But the advantage to me was that I didn't have to explain all that to him. "Go on," I encouraged. He knew he was being funny so wasn't bothered by my laughing. "Do I have to fracture the next 40,000 years?" "I'd like to hear about The Flood." "Donkey piss." "Never mind." And I went on laughing. "Anyway, how did your… 'family'... get here?" he asked. "Do you have any idea where they came from? That's what interests me." Now I had to think about how much I actually knew. There were lots of things I'd never seen written down. My mother simply taught them to Sallie and me, with the idea we'd pass them on. "What are you looking for in the caves?" I asked. "Just to guide me." "I don't know," he answered simply. Which left me in a hole. "I don't know what to tell you then." He stood up. "Then maybe it's time to explore some more. Let me continue poking around..." So we carefully packed our garbage in his car trunk, dressed, and repeated our hike. "Want to take one backpack?" Cory asked as we began. "Make it easier?" "Nah. We'd both need supplies if we got separated." "That's not likely." "You never know." He thought for a moment. "Anything ever happen in the caves?" "What do you mean?" "I'm not talking about animal attacks. More like a cave-in..." "Not in my lifetime." "Then why worry about getting separated?" I laughed. "For the same reason I sent e-mails to three friends before we left. You never trust caves." "Yeah, well..." Still, I'd left my rifle in Cory's trunk - because I didn't think we'd need it just going to the cave. Mountain lions could get in. Bears were too big. But my family had only ever seen small animals there. We'd about reached the tunnel when Cory laughed. "Damn. I forgot my jacket again." I shrugged. I was sure he'd stored enough heat. The next couple of hours went pretty much the way the early ones had. Cory wanted to see as much as possible, though instead of going for the overview, he started asking details. "Can you tell me about the burial vases?" "I told you... they didn't use them here." "Then where did they use them? In cemeteries?" "No. Mainly in their houses. Under their houses, really... from what I've been told.." "Under?" "Yeah. Sort of in an ordinary place, but protected. Right underfoot." "But what if they wanted to keep something safe... or hidden? Wouldn't they put it in the cave, in the same kind of vase? Maybe one that was smaller?" I had to think about that. "I don't know. I guess it depends what it was. They didn't own a lot. Just pots and small tools, like knives... maybe some blankets. And they didn't bury anything with the dead... just the body. They didn't cremate that. As I said, they just kind of folded it into the vase. But if you're talking about hiding something smaller... like medicine..." "Yeah." "I've just never heard of them doing anything like that." Cory seemed disappointed. He thought for a while, then changed tracks. "Have you ever been to a tribal burial?" he asked. I'd only been to couple of funerals in my life. And they were all conventional. "We don't do those anymore," I said. "No one? "No one I know of." "Not even for rituals? Ceremonies? The smallest kind? Something you don't even think about that probably goes back for a thousand years..." "Not really. After the Spanish, we all sort of became Catholics. Then wishy-washy Christians." "And no one's been buried in this cave? Ever? Can you ever remember hearing about that?" I absolutely couldn't. "Then how were burial spots chosen?" Cory went on. "I mean in the houses? I read a little about that, but I couldn't find anything like instructions written down." I laughed. "Probably 'cause they didn't have to think about it. They just dug up the floor. It was only dirt. Though there is something I've always wondered about. We know the families moved around. On top of the thousands of years of migrating, they often moved locally for safety. I've always wondered if - when they moved - they just left their ancestors buried." "The houses had dirt floors?" "Yeah... and they weren't very large. And they weren't really houses. We're talking about one room." "Not in the cliff dwellings..." "These weren't like the cliff dwellings... They weren't tents... But they were more like huts." "They weren't like the cliff dwellings?" Cory repeated. "I'm not even sure what they were made of. Probably thatched... like roofs today. At least, what we'd call 'thatched' now..." Cory seemed to think the old family settlements were smaller versions of the cliff dwellings. But that was like saying our cave was a small version of Carlsbad Caverns. Those caverns are remarkable. Ours was just a room. A long, dark, room with no special features. There were no magic loaves. It was just a place people came to for safety. To keep other people from killing them. And this didn't seem to be what Cory wanted to hear. "No one's ever found anything in the caves?" he asked. It wasn't the dumbest question. Though it ignored everything I was telling him - 'Leave no signs.' And maybe I was wrong. Maybe you can't leave no signs - no matter how hard you try. Maybe archeologists would eventually discover something the rest of us always missed. "No one's found anything yet," I told Cory, though I suspected he already knew this "I just don't think these families were very sentimental... like the way they abandoned burial urns. And a lot of the people probably never made it past childhood. 10 years was their whole life. They lived on what they could. They were as happy as they could be. When they died, they just disappeared." "But they didn't," Cory said. "I'm sure of that. Some things don't disappear." (continued)
  7. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 6

    6. When he left, I relaxed against the wall where I'd put my apple. I had only one rule about offerings. They had to decay. "Why?" Sallie had asked. "So no one can find it. Remember, 'Leave no signs.'" "That was years ago. When this was a hiding place." "Well, what if someone needs it again? What if we need it?" "You thinking ecological disaster? I'd rather die outside than get sealed in a hole." "I guess I would, too." When I was little, I also used to ask my parents, "What if someone else finds our cave? What if it's the rangers, and they open it to other people?" "What if they do?" Mom had responded. "There's nothing here to see. And it's pretty out of the way." "No one's going to ruin our cave," Dad had assured me. "Do you know how many caverns there are to explore? Just in this park? No one wants ours." It was the kind of question you worried about when you were 5. Then you forgot it. "What if Sallie and I never have children?" I'd asked my parents later, when I was maybe 7 or 8. "What if something terrible happens, and we never grow up? Who'll come here then?" First, Sallie had insisted that Mom and Dad would have other kids. "They're not that old," she'd said. That didn't make sense at the time though it did when I was older. Next, she'd insisted it didn't matter. "There are other families." "How many?" I'd pester Mom, Dad, and Sallie. But they could never tell me. "Lots," Dad had said "Enough," Mom had added. "You really can't worry about it," Sallie had explained. But I'd never seen anyone else in the cave. Not one member of any other family. So I didn't really believe them. Still, as I got older, I turned my questions off as easily as I turned off my light when Cory left to "explore." And I didn't click it on again till I heard him coming back. "You OK?" he asked. "Yeah." "Meditating?" "No. What made you think that?" "Well, you're just there sitting in the dark...." "Yeah," I said, cutting him off. Instead, I said, "Let's look around." Cory had walked the length of the cave, but I knew there were things he hadn't seen. Some were odd details my parents had shown us. Others were things Sallie and I had discovered. My mother wasn't really adventurous. She visited the cave because it was tradition, and she'd first shown Dad the cave when she was sure they were going to marry. She wanted him to know about that part of her life. But she wasn't all that interested. "What if you got divorced?" I'd asked her at some point. "Does that mean Dad can't come here anymore?" "We're not getting divorced," Mom had told me. "But if for some unknown reason something ever happened to me, and your father still wanted to come to the cave, I'm sure my family wouldn't stop him. In fact, he could have my visiting privileges." Which is how, I suspected, other families had stopped visiting the cave. It just wasn't important. Cory and I explored till almost 3:00. A couple of times, I thought he was finished, but he kept finding things he wanted to look at. I guess someone could explore even a cave this size for years without seeing it all. You could spend weeks underground if you had food and were dressed warmly enough. "You're right," Cory finally admitted. "I should've worn my jacket. The temperature gets to you." Instead of saying "I told you," I said it was time for lunch. So we crawled outside and sat in the sun eating canned tuna and peaches. Of course, Cory immediately took off his shirt. "To warm up," he joked, and it was hot. I went down to my thermal shirt quickly, and with him wearing so little, and me not much more, I was far more aware of my body than I wanted to be. "Who are these people?" Cory asked as we were eating. "You must know more about their tribe than I've been able to read." I told him I hated the word "tribe." It had too many connections with "wampum" and "war paint." And I told him "clan" reminded me of Scottish weddings. I was comfortable with "families," and, from what I knew, that's what most of these groups were - three or four large, intermarried families. They lived together for their safety. "But where did they come from?" Cory went on. "I know about Asia and the land bridge and the Ice Age. But why this cave? How did they find it?" "Why are you interested?" I asked, mostly from curiosity. "Why?" he repeated, almost reflexively. "Yeah. What are you studying in San Francisco?" "Medicine," he said, easily enough. "And some archeology." I'd thought the last from his books. And Sallie was studying medicine, so I figured that's how she knew Cory. "Then you probably know about these people," I went on. "Why else would you be here?" "I know research stuff. The things you read online or in books. But you know how much more there is. I'm also interested in medical anthro." "Is that a field?" I asked. "It's part of folk medicine. A lot of people are still uncomfortable seeing it as science. But there are things people once knew - and that were used for centuries - that've now been replaced by science. We're trying to go back." "Why?" "To find things we lost." "Like?" "As I said. Medicine." "But why here? What's in this cave?" Cory surprised me by telling me something I didn't know. "We think these tribes had some interesting shamen. They didn't bring back the dead or anything. Probably didn't cure cancer. But they looked at things in ways we somehow can't." Suddenly, Cory didn't sound like a frat boy, and he caught me staring at him. "What?" he asked. "Did I just say 'tribes' again?" He had, and I told him so. But I was bluffing. "What do you want me to call them? Because some of these groups were tribes - they went up to thousands of people. That's a lot of intermarriage in what you want to call 'families.'" He looked at me and laughed. "Is 'intermarriage' too nice a word?'" I laughed. "I'm the youngest of four brothers," he went on. "I can watch my language when I have to. But I usually don't." "Your mother die young?" I asked. "Yes, as a matter of fact." I'd meant it as a joke but now was embarrassed. "I'm sorry." He shrugged. "It was a long time ago. And Dad never quite remarried, so I was raised by him and my brothers." Because I didn't want to stare at Cory's body, I was mainly looking in his eyes. So he was staring pretty intently in mine. We were sitting in the shade, so we both had our sunglasses off. "These 'people'..." I said, going back to our last safe subject. "These 'families' came here hundreds of years ago..." "How many hundreds?" "Who knows? Scientists'll tell you one thing. Family stories can only go back so far." "How do you know?" "It's common sense. You can only repeat something for so many generations." "Religion lasts longer than that." "Because it's written down. Our family stories have only been written in the last few hundred years. Some less than that. Before that, they were told. And who knows how much was changed?" "You got me there," he admitted. "How much do you really want to know about the Mogollon?" I asked. "I'm not even sure how to pronounce their name," he said, grinning. "I keep hearing it different." "It's Spanish." "I know that. But Spanish from Mexico or from Europe? Not that I speak either." "From Europe... Spain. Muh - gih - yan." "Mah-gih-yon." "Almost." I tried again, and Cory repeated the word. Several times. "Close enough," I finally surrendered. "No, I don't want to sound stupid." So we practiced till he got it right. (continued)
  8. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 5

    5. We found the cave without any trouble though Cory said he would've missed it if he'd been alone. "It's on your map," I pointed out. "It's pretty clear." "But you know the area, and I would've gone right by." The cave is fairly well hidden. It's a 20 minute hike from the nearest dirt road, and that's about 20 minutes from the nearest paved one. There's a kind of sharp, narrow ravine almost covered with high, dense growth. But when you work your way through the growth, the entrance is clear. There's also an easier way in. You climb partway up the hill and slide back down. That puts you behind the brush, right at the cave entrance. Unfortunately, you can't get out the same way. The sliding part of the hill is too steep to climb again, and your boots won't grab hold. Instead, you have to pick your way through the brambles. Inside the entrance are the usual things that make you squeamish - bats, birds, bugs, animals, and their leavings. And you have to crawl through and past them. The entrance is just a hole, knee high and maybe 2 feet in diameter. Then you crawl down a tight burrow for what seems forever but is really only a couple of minutes. The tunnel's also dark all the way. I gave Cory my spare helmet, gloves, and kneepads. He'd changed into jeans and a sweatshirt at the car. "You won't be warm enough," I warned. "Yeah, I will." "You're not even wearing a T-shirt. I've got a sweater over a work shirt over a thermal top. At least, take your jacket." "Nah, I always sweat." I told him we didn't want to hike back to the car once we were in the cave, but he just shrugged. So I figured it would be fun to watch the guy shiver. Cory already knew how to work his helmet light and how to change batteries. We were mainly carrying those and water, and I figured we'd crawl into the cave, explore it for a while till Cory got bored, then come up for a late lunch. The crawling went fine. The tunnel is mainly dry and straight, with a gentle slope down. There was only one point where either my father or I, who were both near Cory's height, ever had any trouble squeezing past, and we usually passed our backpacks forward to Mom or Sallie. I told Cory about this in advance, and when we reached that point, he gave me his backpack. After the squeeze, he put it back on. "That was pretty narrow," he said. "There any other places you can't do that?" "Not really. And people were probably smaller when they first used the cave. Probably had no trouble getting through." "How old are the caves?" "I'll tell you when we're inside." It was hard talking over my shoulder. The caves were thousands of years old, and I thought Cory knew that from reading. But he might have been asking, "How long have the caves been used?" That was something no one actually knew. Bone fragments found in some of the caves had been carbon dated, but even the better documented, more public areas still kept a lot of secrets. We knew the caves were used well before our ancestors reached them, and that was about 700 years ago, before the Spanish arrived. But we weren't sure how long they'd been in use. This cave wasn't even all that big, maybe 20 feet wide by a 120 feet long. The ceiling was mostly right over my head, and the whole thing could have been formed in a 1000 years. I tried to remember the first time I'd seen it, to tell Cory if he asked. The crawl had seemed extremely long then, but I'd been less than 5 years old. Sallie had been able to go for a year or 2 before me, but Mom and Dad insisted I wait. "It's cold and dark, and you're on your knees all the time," Mom warned. "Hell," Dad said. "Small as he is, he can probably walk." I wasn't that small. And though there were places in the crawl where I then could stand. I mainly remember constantly asking "How much longer? How much longer?" because it seemed like we were never going to get there. Still, I was excited just to be in the cave, even if the crawling hurt my hands and knees. The tunnel didn't seem to make any impression on Cory. He was almost silent all the way. He followed close behind me, and when I looked back, his face was pretty blank. When we got out of the tunnel, the first thing I did was make an offering. It was only an apple I'd stuck in my pack, and I didn't make anything of it. In the dark, I almost hoped Cory wouldn't notice. Instead, he asked, "What are you doing?" "Paying respect." "What is this place?" He was shining his helmet beam around the walls. "A quiet space." I didn't want to use the word "sacred" because it wasn't. "It's a family place that not a lot of people know about. But I didn't want to put you off because you seemed set on seeing it." "I knew some of that," he told me. I wasn't sure he did. "But I didn't know you still made offerings," he went on. "Is the cave still used for that?" "For what?" He didn't say, and I couldn't imagine what he meant. "My great-grandparents told stories about the cave being used," I explained. "I never knew my great-grandparents, but my parents did. And my grandparents are still alive, so I hear their stories. My dad jokes that he'd like to be buried here - in the traditional way. But that's not what the cave was for." "Buried" was the wrong word anyhow, and I wondered how long it had been since someone in our family was sealed in a giant clay pot. That's the part Dad thought was cool. "It's probably not even legal," Sallie had insisted. "To hell with today's laws," Dad had said. "And it's not our land," I'd added. "It's not anyone's," Dad had gone on. "Tell that to the park service," my mother had argued. At that point, Dad would always grin. "In any case, it won't be my problem." We hoped it wouldn't be anyone's for quite a while. People in our family go into their 80s. "Can you imagine if he really wants that?" Sallie had once asked me quietly. "If he writes it in his will? You and me dragging an old, dead guy down into a cave when we're already in our 60s." "Our kids can do it. They'll be old enough by then." "Even they wouldn't be able to get a giant pot through that hole." That assumed there would be kids, and they could be conned into doing it. In my great-grandparents' time, there were over 30 families who knew and regularly visited the cave. But no one knew of anyone being buried there. "I knew it wasn't a burial ground," Cory said. "I read that." I think he almost said, "Sallie told me," and I'm glad he couldn't see me smile in the dark. "But I didn't think you still needed to make offerings." "You don't... but we always do." Then I thought about that. "No... it's something I always do. I was never taught... never told. It's just something I've done since I was a kid. Maybe as a prayer to get me out of this place alive." We both laughed at that, though I'd never felt any danger. "You think other families have special places here?" Cory asked. "I noticed you went straight to yours." It was just a crevice, a tiny rock shelf. I don't know how or when I'd found it, or if I'd used some other place before. This one occurred naturally in the stone, and I'd always left food there. Other than that, the walls weren't marked. There were no special family spots. Over the years, fewer and fewer people had come into the cave, maybe as other families lost interest or simply lost their maps. "How can you not remember the way?" Sallie used to ask. "I can find it at night." "That's because we come here every year. Sometimes, more than once. But that's just us." To other people, it was just a dark cave. There were no piles of skulls as in ancient crypts. You couldn't easily bury something if you wanted to. The floor was stone, and it would take hours just to chip out a small hole. Cory seemed disappointed by the lack of display, but that's what our ancestors wanted. "If they can't find us, they can't hurt us," I'd been taught to sing and remember. It was the chorus of several songs and the theme of many family stories. That's why the cave was so isolated. "How far down are we?" Cory asked. I didn't really know, though I'd asked that question myself. I was told we weren't so far down so much as dug into the side of the hill. There was tons of earth above us. "Not even one marking," Cory almost complained, as he moved his light across the walls. "From a tribe famous for its pottery." I never liked the word "tribe," and I didn't like "clan," either. And anyone who read even the least bit about our history knew we weren't "Mogollon." Juan Mogollon was a Spanish governor who'd named the mountains after himself long after our families had begun using them. But when modern historians needed a label, the name stuck. "Other caves are full of drawings," Cory went on. "There are hundreds of them." "Our families insisted on no markings." "But this could be any dumb cave. This could be something you see in a movie." He laughed right after he said that and added, "Sorry... I didn't mean to offend anyone... Especially not someone who's dead." "I'm sure you haven't. And it doesn't matter anyway. I've been down here for hours... overnight sometimes. You don't think I didn't use part of the place as a john." "Really?" Cory said. "'Cause I've kind of had too much coffee..." I had to laugh, and then he laughed, but I'm sure not for the same reason. I was thinking, "I'm trapped here with a frat boy. What was Sallie thinking?" "There's a place we all use," I told Cory, and I pointed my helmet beam to a far corner. It was maybe 80 feet away, but on fairly even ground. I knew he could get there alone. (continued)
  9. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 4

    4. Except she dreamed about the boy. About his death and his screaming. He kept shouting over and over, "Please!" The first time she helped kill a man wasn't the first time she'd seen one die. There were always hunts, and people were always dying in the village. Sometimes, younger ones were hurt in the fields. Sometimes, people simply got too old. The first man she helped kill was her father's age. He'd been part of an attack on her village, so he deserved to die and seemed to expect it. He'd been hurt in the attack so was already weak when he was brought to the women. They cleaned and fed him. They helped him. And then they killed him. He died almost without a sound. He was always watching the women and always seemed to be looking for a way to escape. But he had to know he wouldn't get far. He'd be caught, and then the men would make his death horrible. The girl remembered how the man's eyes were always open and how he never seemed to forgive the women as he died. The second man was younger. His warriors had attacked, but he'd been captured without being hurt. When the men brought him to the women, they were taunting him, saying what a terrible fighter he was. They ordered the women to make his death quick and not waste their time. Still, he screamed through his entire washing. He begged and cried and blamed. Hearing this, the warriors told the women to go more slowly and to kill the man outside their meeting house, so everyone could see. They knew if any of the man's warriors were near, they'd take his screams as a warning. No one would save a man who was so weak. As the girl woke, she wondered what kind of death the boy would die. She lay beside her husband, not far from their young sons. As near were her parents and brothers and sisters. She thought the boy might be weak and then remembered him rocking silently in pain. His eyes had been closed. Maybe he'd die without a sound. The women respected that. They couldn't kill a warrior sooner, but they could make the pain so bad he'd go into a sleep. When a man was strong enough to keep the pain to himself, the women would ease him into death. The girl was one of the younger wives in the village. She could help in the boy's death, but like her husband among the men, she had no authority in it. Though if she cut a little deeper, if she let his blood flow a little fast, the older women would only call her stupid. Except in the morning, the warriors had to search again. Her husband told her it wasn't her fault. The warriors had found the cave. They'd found the tree and had even seen signs of the bears. But there had been no boy, and they thought he might already be dead. The girl asked if her husband thought that was true. He told her the bears might have killed the boy, but there was no reason for a warrior to die in the dark to find out. The girl almost hoped the bears would get the boy before the men did. But she said nothing because she didn't know why she felt that way. Later, when the warriors came back with only pieces of the boy's clothes, the girl thought she'd gotten her wish. Then she saw the boy again. The second time, he was crouched by a stream close to the village, and the girl was again gathering wood. At first, she thought he was the brother of one of her friends, and she moved toward him and called his name. When the boy saw her, he instantly stood. As soon as she realized who he was, she ran, shouting to the other women. Two of them heard her and came quickly, and all the other women followed. They had their knives out, so there was no way the boy would be foolish enough to attack. For a moment, the women even talked about capturing the boy. They laughed among themselves, wondering what the men would think. Catching even the weakest warrior wasn't the work of women. Though when they looked for the boy, he was gone. The girl had seen him run right after she'd called to him, and he seemed almost angry, maybe that she'd seen him first. But this time when the women went back to the village, the warriors couldn't chase the boy. Most of them were away on a hunt, and the few older warriors who'd been left to protect the women and children couldn't do that by searching the forest. The girl thought the boy shouldn't be hard to find. He was probably still hurt, or he wouldn't have stayed nearby. Then she remembered how quickly he'd stood, and she realized his leg had to be healing. Though she'd seen something wrapped around his leg or attached to it, and the boy hadn't done more than run. If his leg had been strong, he might have tried to attack. Though what good would that do? Killing her would only bring her warriors sooner. Unless the boy knew they were away on a hunt. And if he'd been smart enough to hide his own death, to make the warriors think he'd been killed by the bears, he could probably hide hers, too. The fact that he was smart only worried the girl more. But the warriors who'd been left to protect the village had other ideas. They thought the boy might have other men with him, and the warriors ordered the women and children to hide in the cave for the night. "Our men will be back after light," they told the leader's wife. "We never know," she later told the women though it was something they never liked to talk about. On any hunt, any of the warriors could be killed. Once the women and children were in the cave, the leader's wife also told them the older warriors thought the boy had let the girl see him on purpose. The warriors didn't even think the boy was hurt. The girl reminded the women that the boy had asked for her help. The leader's wife said she was only repeating what the men had said. The girl asked if everyone had forgotten about the bears and asked if they were part of a trap, too. When the other women stared at her, the girl realized she'd said too much and quickly apologized. She added that she'd mostly been scared. The women understood that because they were almost always afraid in the forest. All of them had been threatened by bears or other animals, and no one felt safe when the warriors were away. Still, like the girl, they thought the boy was more worried about saving himself than about tricking anyone. When the warriors came back in the morning, they again hunted through the forest. They searched the cave where the boy had been seen. Finally, they asked the girl if she was sure it was the same boy. When the girl nodded, the warriors wondered why the boy was still there. The girl knew the men didn't care what she thought, so she said nothing further. She knew the men would spend many evenings in their meeting house, talking over the question. And they'd enjoy all their talk. That was mostly how they passed the time when they weren't hunting. The girl's father later told her that the men didn't think the boy could hurt them, and the girl's husband agreed. The men thought the only reason the boy was staying in the forest was because he was still too weak to go back to his village. That made sense to the girl, and when she didn't see the boy again, she stopped thinking about him. (continued)
  10. RichEisbrouch

    Crisscross Moon

    Sure thing. And thanks for your interest in my writing. If you need to string the book together in your mind, in the original form, the chapters alternated cleanly between present and past, and there were only 17 of them. I haven't lost any of the story in the form I'm using for this site. I just took breaks where I thought they wouldn't intrude.
  11. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 3

    3. Like many women in her village, the girl had no name. The women were known as someone's daughter or someone's wife or someone's mother. The someone was almost always a man. For most of her life, the girl had been one of Quick Leap's daughters. Not the oldest or youngest. Just one. First, she answered to "girl." After she married, to "woman." The girl's husband, Brown Bark, wasn't much older than she was. She became his wife because her father was one of the best warriors in the village. The men were given names when they proved themselves. This usually happened after several hunts or raids. Most of these were for food though some were for revenge. If the village was attacked, or if a warrior was killed, there was almost always a raid. Quick Leap was named when he jumped from a rock during one attack and saved an older warrior's life. Brown Bark was named for his ability to heal. The men were only allowed one wife at a time, and the few men who weren't strong enough to be warriors often weren't allowed to marry. There was little reason women would want them as husbands. Even flirting with another man's wife could get a warrior killed. If the man was of age, he'd be challenged to fight. If he was too old, too weak, or still an unnamed boy, he'd simply be tortured to death. The warriors knew they were the most important members of the village because they fed and defended it. And they knew their lives weren't to be wasted on over something as unimportant as women. Though the girl's mother told her the women were as important as men, just in different ways. Women did things the men wouldn't. In exchange, the men risked their lives. Not that the women always needed protection. When the men were away, the women could fight almost as well as the warriors. And when a man needed to be tortured, whether he was from the village or a warrior who'd been captured in an attack, it was women's job. Even before the girl was married, she'd helped kill several men. They died slowly, often in pain. Their deaths were a lesson to the warriors, to remind them that men hunted carefully, no matter whose village they belonged to, and that it was always their duty to return. So when the girl discovered the wounded boy, it was more than a surprise. Her village hadn't been attacked, so the boy wasn't a warrior her husband had fought but who'd gotten away. And he couldn't have been hurt in a hunt, or his own men would have taken him back to their village. The boy must have been hurt in a failed attack on another village. After a fight like that, the defeated warriors would scatter to slip back to their villages alone. But this boy was too weak. The girl had been gathering firewood when the boy suddenly ran from a cave. They were in the middle forest, and the girl hadn't been collecting wood alone. But she was by herself when she saw the boy. For a moment, she didn't know why he'd let himself be seen if he wasn't planning to attack. Then she saw the bears. There were two smaller ones, larger than cubs though far from full-grown. They were with their mother, and maybe there was a fourth bear behind them. The girl didn't wait to see. She'd been taught to run as quickly as possible and as far away. But she'd been distracted by the boy. The bears were fast, and they were close, so the girl's only choice was to climb. She climbed the nearest tall tree. "Help me!" the boy yelled. His language wasn't hers, but it was near enough to understand. "I can climb," he hollered. "But help me up." The girl's first thought was to let the bears get the boy. That might be enough to save her. The boy was going to die anyway. Once she was safe, once she was back in her village, the warriors would come after the boy. But after she was safely in the tree, she reached back and grabbed the boy's hand. That was all he needed to lift himself off the ground. Then they both climbed as high as they could. The bears could climb, but they usually wouldn't. They were as afraid of people as people were of them. Still, the girl knew why the boy had run from the cave. The bears would attack anything they thought was hurt. The boy stayed just below her in the tree. His knife was out, and he seemed ready to use it. The girl's knife was out, too, but she couldn't imagine fighting even a small bear without falling from the tree. From high up, the bears could be seen through the branches. But the three or four of them seemed to be looking away. Then the large bear made a sound, and they all moved off. The girl waited for the boy to leave. He glanced at her but didn't speak. Then, when he seemed to feel it was safe, he climbed down. The girl let him go first though she wanted to get back to the other women. She also wanted to call them to help, but she didn't want to anger the boy. She'd helped him, but he could still attack. He had to know what it meant to be caught. Only jumping from the lowest branch, the boy seemed to hurt himself again. He lay on the ground holding his leg against his chest, almost silent, maybe knowing that even a moan could bring the bears. Or the other women. He must have known the girl wouldn't be in the forest alone. As the girl watched, the boy finally tried to stand. He couldn't, and it was clear to the girl that she'd have to leave the tree while he was still there. She doubted he'd attack, and she didn't think he was trying to trick her. Though once the warriors from her village caught him, he might even wish he'd been killed by the bears. So he might hurt her to get away. The girl thought how unlucky the boy had been. Or maybe he had no choice but to go into that cave. Maybe he'd come as far as he could before his injured leg had stopped him. Or maybe he'd been looking for a place to die. But then he wouldn't have run from the cave. He wouldn't have tried to escape from the bears. He wouldn't have asked for help. He asked for it again as she came down the tree. She'd purposely climbed on the side away from him and had tried not to look toward where he was. But she knew he was watching. When she started to run, he called out, "Please..." The girl didn't turn. "Please..." he said again. "Please..." Please what? the girl wondered. Please don't leave? Please help me? Please don't tell your warriors? "Please..." he repeated. She couldn't help. It simply wasn't part of her life. Helping an enemy would only lead to danger. Her village had moved twice within her memory. First, the warriors thought they'd found a safer place. Then, when they were away on a hunt, there had been another attack. Women and children had been killed. When the warriors came back, they'd moved the village even before going for revenge. Since then, the village had been safe. There were mountains to protect them. And forests. And there was water and a hidden cave, large enough for everyone to hide. "Please," the boy said again, but the girl didn't listen. Instead, she found one of the women she'd been with, then another. As the women gathered, the girl told them about the boy and the bears. Then they hurried to the village. They told the leader's wife, and she quickly went to her husband. The men had been in their meeting house, but after the leader's wife warned them about the boy, some of the warriors came to the girl. The girl's husband and father were among the men, but neither of them spoke. Her husband didn't have the authority, and her father knew not to use it. The girl told the warriors where she'd been in the forest and told them anything she could remember about the boy. It was almost dark when the men left the village, taking spears and knives, and the girl expected to see the boy again in the morning. He'd be tied to a post in the women's meeting house. She knew the warriors would only kill the boy if they had to. But she fell asleep before her husband came back. The warriors shouldn't have been away that long because the middle forest wasn't far, and the men knew it well. They often hunted there. As the girl fell asleep, she worried about the bears. She didn't think about the boy because if he'd had help nearby, he wouldn't have asked for hers. When her husband finally came into their hut, he slipped onto their blanket, almost without waking her. And though he had to know the girl wasn't asleep, he didn't speak. He pulled the skins over them both and held her for warmth. The girl was glad he was safe. (continued)
  12. RichEisbrouch

    Crisscross Moon

    Because I post ahead, and the chapters are on timed release -- every afternoon at 1:00. All together, there will be about 40 chapters. There are fewer in the e-book and printed edition, but readers seem to have less time to read here, so I further divide the chapters.
  13. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 2

    2. It didn't take much to close. My folks being gone made it easier 'cause there was nothing to explain. Of course, if they'd been around, one of them could've worked. But they weren't there much lately. Dad's only 45, Mom's a year younger, and once my sister and I finished college, my folks wanted to sell the station. Only no one was interested. Still, that didn't keep them in town. They moved to Albuquerque, to - as Mom put it - "paying jobs." She trained as a geriatric nurse, and Dad went to fixing cars for other people. So I stuck the "Closed" sign up, scribbled "Prob'ly 'til Monday" in dry marker under the laminated clock, then told Cory to follow my car. Closing the station wasn't a problem. We weren't some last oasis. There was a 7-11 a few miles ahead. Cory followed me to the house. It took 6 minutes. I timed it, a lot. Tree-by-tree. I pulled into the driveway, signaled Cory to park, and led him inside. Now other people might be screaming: "What are you doing! You don't even know the guy! And he's hardly wearing clothes!" Truth was, he pulled on a T-shirt and shoes before getting out of his car, and my neighbor kids were right across the way. I waved to them as I pulled in. Besides, I knew my sister had sent Cory. Sallie was always doing things like that. I wasn't going to say anything, and I knew Sallie told the guys to keep quiet as long as they could. But soon as I saw the UCSF sticker, I knew. Of course, I could've been wrong. Cory could've been a serial killer, escaped from San Quentin, dreaming of nothing more than stuffing my chopped body parts into a plastic bag. But I had a rifle, and he knew it. And though that wasn't the only reason I told him, it was part. The house wasn't so messy it was embarrassing. When my folks came for a weekend, I cleaned, and Dad probably thought the place always stayed that way. But Mom knew what clean plates in the dishwasher meant. "You live alone?" Cory asked. He didn't make it sound like he was stalking. But Sallie must've told him I wasn't seeing anyone. "There are cats," I said. "But, yeah. My folks mainly turn up on weekends." This weekend? I knew he wanted to ask that, but he didn't. And was he counting on sex? That wouldn't've been bad, either, though it could've been better timed. I was still kind of low-key depressed. Sallie never thought of those things. Still, I decided to lie. "I never know when my folks're coming. It's their house, so they don't have to say. Same way it's their station." "I figured it was family. That you could close so easily." I laughed and asked if he wanted coffee. It would've been easier to give him some at the station, where there was a machine, but he said, "No." So I told him to take anything he wanted from the kitchen then went upstairs. I needed jeans and a sweatshirt, my hiking boots and socks, and a hat and a backpack. I hadn't been in the park for a while, and it was longer since I'd been in the caves. I really didn't know the mines as well as I'd told him, though none were very complicated. Most were sealed off anyway, so the worst thing I usually had to handle was some guy with a treasure map. And it always was a guy. Women wanted to explore the cliff dwellings or needed someone to lead them on the trails. But they were rarely hunting gold. I found what I needed, and when I came downstairs, Cory was sitting on the couch. He was studying a map. It was marked up, but it wasn't one of the park guides or something from Triple A. It was hand drawn. "Where'd you get that?" I asked. He shrugged. "A friend." My sister, I was sure. I almost recognized the writing. "Can I see?" He grinned. "Well, I guess I gotta show you if you're gonna take me there." I looked at the map more carefully and was surprised. It was one of the Mogollon caves. Usually, Sallie sent me on tourist trips. "Been there?" Cory asked. "Oh, yeah. Since I was a kid." He seemed disappointed - like it was supposed to be a great secret - and I wondered what Sallie had told him. So I backed off a little, playing along. "It's not a place a lot of people know," I admitted. "Outside family." I waited for him to respond, but he didn't. "That's the reason I've been there so often," I went on. "It's family." He liked that, and it was clearly part of the reason he came. The gay brother was extra. "What're you looking for?" I asked. It was an easy question, but he still shrugged it off. I was beginning to think a shrug was part of his vocabulary, and I wondered what made Sallie think I'd be interested. "Then let's see what we find," I said. "But if we're going to the caves, I'll need some extra supplies. You been in caves a lot?" "A bit." "You bought enough batteries. You knew to do that." "I knew this wasn't Carlsbad." I laughed at that. "Nope... no underground snack bar." He laughed, too. "You have a helmet?" I asked. "No." "Gloves?" "No." "Kneepads?" "Uh-uh." "You do have warm clothes?" "Oh, yeah." "Then you'd better change." He hesitated. "I will when we get there. Let me enjoy the sun." "Sure thing." I gathered what we needed and loaded it into his car. We left mine in the driveway, not locking it or the house. As I waved to the neighbor kids, Cory pulled off his T-shirt. "Better not do that in the caves," I joked. "You'll freeze." "I know. But why waste a clean shirt?" In the jumble of his back seat, I doubted anything was clean. "How long have you been at State?" I asked as he drove. We had about 15 minutes, and it seemed like a good time to talk. He gave me another of those "How'd you know that?" looks, and I said, "The parking sticker." "You notice a lot," he said, grinning. "You don't keep a lot hidden." He might actually have blushed at that, but the sun was too bright to tell. "I'm always at the gym," he explained, "so I don't think about clothes. And I'm originally from St. Paul. People in San Francisco complain about the cold, with the fog and everything. But any time it's over 50, I lose my shirt." "San Francisco's not cold," I said. "You been there?" "A couple times." I maintained the lie, saying nothing about Sallie. "Maybe the wrong times," he said, laughing. I didn't argue, and for maybe 10 miles, we didn't talk about anything important. "You ever gonna ask my name?" I finally prodded. Of course, he knew it - that's why he forgotten to ask. He looked at me, completely dumb, and I liked that. "It's Terrell," I told him. "Terry." "Cory." "I knew that from your credit card." (continued)
  14. RichEisbrouch

    Crisscross Moon

    A couple of young guys in the present try to figure out a mysterious legend from the past. Meanwhile, some years earlier, a young, Native American wife is being admired by a young warrior from another family, temporarily stranded because of an injury. And there are bears.
  15. RichEisbrouch

    Chapter 2

    Fortunately, not all university programs are like this. So much here was the consequence of a poor leader for so many years, and the other faculty members running wild the moment they got loose. I'm sure things improved.

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