She is The Eyes Chapter 8 When The White Raven Flies

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foresttrailSeveral days have gone by with not many new experiences for Sander in his new adopted home of Compass Point. He is scheduled to start school the following Monday, and he is very excited to get back to learning, his favorite endeavor. There are only twelve students in the school and it is held Monday through Thursday in the church. Many of the kids need to help with making money at home or in the family business,. Some have a job for themselves. The weekends are busy times in Compass Point and travelers from the highway may take the turnoff to town, either on purpose or from some unforeseen car trouble. The bus riders are about double in numbers too. Back at the school, to set up for class study, the hard seated pews are moved about by the older boys and the teacher, who is also the preacher, Responsibility Ryan, to make up different areas for the different grades. These pews were donated by the Catholic church, just to the west of Compass Point, when they remodeled. The church membership is made of well healed people who want to have the latest trappings for their services and classes and the old pews were only suitable for firewood use to them. The grades are combined because of so few students and rearranging the pews allows for defined spaces to stay together. Even though they are in good repair and not quite four years old, they are still constructed of  high quality Eastern hard maple, but many of the kids have to bring pillows or folded blankets, so sitting for long periods of time is easier on young bottoms.

It seems no one really knows the preacher's whole story, or if they do, will not share it with children. Unai promised he would divulge what is commonly known to the adults to Sander when he had the time to set aside. He said that he had finally convinced Mo to hire someone to help in the kitchen so he could take some days off,  from time to time. Eventually he wants to just bake bread and desserts, working the the early morning hours. Then his days would be free once again. Sunday before school was to start, Unai came to Sander's room, knocked on the door. " Are you awake, Sander? " He was just putting on his clothes and announced through the closed door that he was. " Meet me in ten minutes in the kitchen. I am helping explain some specials to my new kitchen worker, then we an go to Willie's for your first breakfast and we will catch up on the life and times of Sander." he said with a chuckle." OK, he answered through the door. " I will see you in the kitchen in ten, " he responded. "  Breakfast at Willie's. Wow, that is going to be great. Maybe Grace will be there. Unai will not want to talk to her or about her, but even though she may be there, I will get to see her again. I haven't seen her since that day, and I have looked everywhere too," he repeated to himself.

"Sander, I want you to meet Jaime Escovedo. He works as a cook with my friend over the border at the cattle ranch. Jaime was tired of moving with the herds and cooking for the vaqueros. Right Jaime? " Si Senor Unai. I am berry tired.Nice to meet you Senor Sander." " Excuse me, Jaime. I wanted to mention to Sander that you have a limited use of English, but since all of the servers and Mo know the language well, he will be OK with me not being here. A probably a better cook than I am, for sure." " Jaime, you worked at several top restaurants and hotels in Acapulco and Mexico City, didn't you? " " SI...Si. Many good places to work I am helping. I am making good American food , berry good. Las personas muy rica estan ...you know, dees people happy eating my food. " " OK then, I guess you are all set, Jaime. I will be back on Wednesday. Let Mo know if you need any help or questions that must be answered immediately.  Sander and I are off to Willie's Place for his first breakfast there. " As they walked over to Willie's from the hotel, Unai explained to Sander that he had been trying to get some help in the kitchen for almost six years. He was the one that was tired. "You know a guy with two days of free time would probably grab a bottle of his favorite and go to a quiet place, then proceed to get drunk. I wanted to tell you that I do not drink any longer. I was involved in a terrible two car accident and a woman was killed in downtown Los Angeles. It was about fifteen years ago. I spent two months in jail, it was not entirely all my fault. I had been out of work from another accident for about five years. I made money cooking, washing dishes or whatever job I could wrangle. Originally I had come to LA to work as a stunt man in western movies." When Sander heard that he was all excited and wanted to know if Unai knew his favorite actor, Tom Mix and a lot more about cowboys and Indians and such. However, he sensed it was a time for listening and he would learn more another time.

" I will tell you more after we get our food. " Once again the crowd at Willie's chimed in almost at once when Sander and Unai walked in the door. " The Yaqui is here," hollered Old Bill cupping with his hand his deaf ear. " Quiet the fuck down, you old fart. They can hear you in fucking Berlin, fer Christ's sakes,"  Doomsday Phil scolded. The place was almost full of customers, so Unai and Sander seated themselves by a small table, partially blocked by the windshield wiper blade display. Dotty was running full steam , waved her hand at them but said nothing, sweat pouring down her red face and cheeks, three pencils stuck in her hair to be easily at hand. She had some help today. Eleanor Small Badger,a student from the reservation near by, was helping out. It was a Sunday and she didn't have high school classes. Eleanor was a model student, and a wealthy Indian merchant who grew up on the reservation had paid for her whole college education. She was already pr-enrolled at San Diego State Teachers College to get her bachelors degree in early childhood education. She stopped by their table, her wide face beaming with a big smile and said, " Hello Mr. Unai. It is nice to see you. Do you know what you would like to eat this fine day of our Lord? Oh, excuse me. This must be Sander that I have heard about. I am Eleanor Small Badger. I wish I could talk more, but we are really busy. Maybe some other time. " Her smile still prominent even with the busy goings on. Unai nodded acknowledgement and with his hand pointing towards Sander, " You can order for the both of us. You need to have these experiences. " Are you sure?, " and before he could finish, Unai ,with a quick smile, waved his hand for him to continue his order. " I will have the bacon waffle. I have never had one of those. Can I get extra butter and syrup with my waffle?," he inquired. " Sure you can. " OK then, I also would like a small bowl of stewed prunes. I love prunes, and some milk. Lots of milk, please." Almost forgetting his new task, Sander glanced back at the menu with a wrinkled brow,thinking intently, and then up at the blackboard behind the counter. " For my friend Unai, please bring him the special omelet with nopalitos and green chiles, some hot fresh tortillas, refried beans, a small bowl of peaches and coffee. I think, ah. Yes, that is it. Thank you, Eleanor. " " Did I do a good job," asked Sander, worried that he had not. " You did a fine job. I did not know you knew about cactus omelets. That is a great breakfast and I am very hungry, ordinarily I couldn't finish that much food. But today I am going to go for a walk in the forest, there is something i  must do. About four miles, that will work off the fine breakfast You will like the bacon waffle. Cal is the first cook to do it that I have known. I have had one. Delicious....very good indeed.

Eleanor brought their milk and coffee, plus water for each. Sander was straining his neck looking out the dusty window into the street at the white raven, who had just landed. She had a wriggling field mouse in her beak that had lost it's quest to get to the other side of the street, but was still struggling to have it's freedom again."See the raven in the street, Unai? I guess she has to have breakfast too, because she doesn't get waited on like we do. Eleanor looked intensely into Sander's eyes when he looked back at her statement and repeated ," She is the eyes." Sander, all of a sudden, got a most eerie feeling and the goose bumps on his arms came on strongly before he could notice. She continued to stare for several seconds and she again repeated , " She is the eyes." Before Sander could notice, she had left to go to another table. Unai looked at Sander and said, " I see that you are most uncomfortable, are you not? " " Yes I am. She made me feel very odd. She said the same thing that you did about the white raven. I don't understand what just happened." " I told you that this would be a journey of discovery for you. Eleanor is from the reservation. All of her people are very spiritual and tuned into nature. Much of what they say is difficult to understand and comprehend for the rest of us. This is one of the factors of why almost all of her people were easily enslaved by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. There will be some times when you will talk to Eleanor, and maybe some others of her people, and it will be a special time of learning. There are many legends about her people continually told here in the mountains for centuries. Some of them are not legends, but true stories and they will surely include you in the future. Enough already. Let us eat before our wonderful food gets cold. Eleanor had brought their plates without their noticing while Unai was talking. Unai then closed his eyes for several seconds with his hands clasped together, then he waved his right hand to the sky and then the left hand, all the while repeating and mumbling some words that Sander could not make out. Soon, he opened his eyes, and there was a sparkle in his eyes. He  picked up his napkin and put it in his lap and muttered very quietly again under his breath," I know. She is your eyes." Sander just sat and was silent. He dare not ask what any of that he had just observed was all about. He was sure he would learn about that later too." Mmmm. Smells good," said Unai enthusiastically, as he took a forkful of cactus omelet into his mouth, smiling and then a sip of hot coffee.

"Have you seen anything odd, unique of any kind or that spoke to you of any special interest in the last few days?," inquired Unai. " Well, I have been thinking about the white raven often. You said she is the eyes. Eleanor said the same thing. I imagined if I could see like that raven can. Be free to fly anywhere and see anything it chooses. You know, then I am the eyes. Unai smiled in anticipation of when what that statement ' she is the eyes ' finally meant to Sander and what his response would be after his learning of that meaning. " So I made a list. I have it right here. Sander pulled out a neatly folded piece of note paper with the hotel letterhead and read quickly to himself. " The Wheelbarrow Man was in the apple orchard,  sitting on the ground amongst the fallen apples, picking up one after another until he would find one good enough to eat. He  unfolded his big sharp jackknife with the bone handle that he sharpens on a well worn stone he keeps in his pocket of his ragged raincoat. It is the same one he uses for all the tough jobs at his camp site. He calmly sliced one slice after another and ate it. He was humming to himself and seemed quite content. What was amazing about this scene was the ten or twelve crows surrounding him, wobbly strutting about, squawking and squabbling, while looking for their good apple. Which really seemed pointless, since they were eating them all eventually, one not being more important than any another. Soon they were obviously drunk and really wobbling about more than before, or they would just stop and sit down where they were. Very uncharacteristic of crows.  One bird had sat down for three or four minutes beyond the cover of the orchard and that particular tree. He just sat there, his eyes were trying to focus and he attempted once to stand and walk. Before I knew it, a great horned owl swooped out of nowhere and attacked the startled crow. The bird then tried to get airborne and fly off, one wing flapping wildly, but the owl had dug it's talons into the chest of it's quarry. It was now sadly flopping about while the owl was tying to get a strong hold of it to fly off with the prey. Meanwhile Unai was leaning forward, had finished most of his omelet, some of his peaches and was sipping coffee as Eleanor had brought refills two times. He listened to the story as if he was learing something new, but as if he knew the outcome beforehand. By this time the damage had been done and the other drunken bunch had responded, albeit not with any sort of order and without much haste. To see a great horned owl in daylight attack was unusual and I couldn't explain it. Nature had taken it's course. Last I saw, the white raven was in close chase as the owl headed to apparent safety in the midst of some tall sycamores, but without it's quarry in tow. All the crows stood around their slowly dying brother and acted most odd. All of a sudden they were completely sober and this reminded me of humans acting in the same way after a experiencing a sudden tragedy.

"How did you feel after seeing this? Did you realize that you did not mention what The Wheelbarrow Man was doing while all of this unique bird activity? " " I know. I honestly do not remember what he was doing. For all i know he was as drunk as he crows. How did I feel? I felt sad for the crow, but then again, he was making a bad decision and his lesson was a tragedy." " Do you think that the crows have the intelligence to realize what had happened and to learn from it?, " asked Unai,  leaning even more forward in his chair,  waiting for Sander's answer. "I do not know. Darn it, yes I do. I think they know what happened and that small group of birds will not make the mistake another time. I do not think they will quit eating rotten apples and that makes them drunk, but they will have one or two crows stay clearheaded and stand guard for the others." " Very interesting observations. You may be more right than wrong in your opinion of what will happen with the same type of thing next time." " What else did you learn on your travels around town?," he asked. "I watched Aunt Mo go outside and sit in that stinky outhouse, when there are good restrooms in the hotel. I then noticed she would be there for a long time. She was smoking a cigar. I do not know if she was doing that to cover up the smell of the shit or because she wants to smoke a cigar. Both of them are disgusting to me." "Ha,ha,ha! You caught her. She has been doing that for many years. The Chinese herbal doctors tell her to quit, that it is not good for her health. She even drank  their prescribed vile concoctions for a whole month. I do not know who she was trying to fool, but it was not any of us or the China man who made it for her. I think she is addicted to them. It is also a way to have an uninterrupted break. Covering the smell is a well needed byproduct.

"Anymore that caught your fancy?" "Yes, quite a few. I am here in Compass point and some pretty strange things happen between men and women, if you know what I mean? Unai says to himself, " Oh boy. Here we go." I saw Mr. Joe Marin, the big shot who owns most of the town and does many things that are not legal. Right?" "Yes you are right, " hoping that he had not seen some of the really illegal activities and will now be in danger of violent ramifications. With anticipation, he waited for Sander's story. " So I believe he lives on a mountain top in a huge expensive,custom built house, by himself and not in town. He drives a 1935 Lincoln Le Baron Model K. A fancy cream color car with maroon fenders, two big spare tire covers mounted in front of the doors, wide fancy white wall tires and chrome wire wheels. Big Melvin told me all about the car and a little about the man. Very little. Unai was suddenly relieved that his fears were not to be. " I saw his car drive into town and park under the trees behind Willie's Place amongst the stacks of lumber and rolls of tar paper. In a moment, Dotty came out and got in the car, they hugged and he seemed very happy. He is a small and skinny man with dark rimmed glasses. he was wearing very formal clothes. I know all of this because i sneaked up close to hear them, but i really did not hear anything but quiet talking and laughing. then there was no sound at all and i couldn't see Dotty any longer. I know that everyone thinks I am just this dumb kid who doesn't know about life, but i listen and i learn. I crawled up in top of a stack of wide redwood planks and she had her head in his lap. He was just sitting there and did not seem like he was feeling anything. I know what she was doing. She was sucking his penis. I guess men and women like to do this to each other. She kept doing it for about fifteen minutes and there was still no expression from Mr. Martin. I was ready to climb down from that redwood, it was boring, then all of a sudden he let out these big grunts, many all in one row. Suddenly he pushed her head out of the way, and she sat up with a smile on her face. Him too. Smiles, but he was breathing hard and she was not. She was combing her hair and fixing her makeup. He reached into his jacket and pulled out his wallet and gave her several bills. She giggled, gave him a big hug, but he would not kiss her. I ducked down as she got out of that fancy Lincoln, straightened her uniform, lit a cigarette and went back inside. " Did you learn anything from all of that, Sander," Unai asked trying not to smile as to the potential answer. "I learned that I have more to learn. They both seemed pretty happy at what was going on. I guess a lot more than that usually happens. I thought about what I had seen and I could not help but think of Grace. It could have been Grace in that car." Unai did not have the heart to tell Sander that Martin had been trying to get her and her mother to move into the mansion on the hill since he was one of her first customers shortly after she came to town. If he gets her to come up there one time, she will probably stay for good. It is a good bet that Fong was raving about this beautiful and amazing twelve year old that he had in his stable and Martin should try her out, like she was a fancy new car. I also am sure he paid Fong handsomely for the information. A bigger commission than he normally paid is also a good bet. Unai had been quietly praying from time to time that Grace would not walk through the door while they were having their talk. The negative impact that would have on Sander could spell disaster. They were to meet and know each other but only when the timing was right, the moon was high in the dark heavens and only after they had been introduced to the mysteries that the forst held for just a few. Then it would be right and it could all follow in the proper order, as it had been foretold for over two hundred years. To have things happen out of that proper order, would take extreme measures to make it right. Unai sometimes felt that perhaps he was not the right one to be there to shepherd it forward, but it had been set down by his people when he was born and any choices of his were not to be considered.

Thinking about the fact that the longer they stayed, the more likely Grace may show up with a thirst for a liquid Bourbon breakfast, he said," Let us go outside and stroll in the sun. You are finished, I trust? " "Yes I am." " Good. Eleanor," he waved his hand as she passed by, " I am so busy Mr Unai, can you pay up front at the cash register. Dotty's there now." " Yes, of course. Thank you so much. "  When they walked up to the cash register, Dotty informed  Unai that Willie had given them free breakfasts because it was Sander's first time. Unai looked up at Willie, sitting in his chair, thanked him and shook his hand. There were smiles all around. " Here Sander. Give this five dollars to Eleanor and thank her for her good service when she was so busy this morning. I am sure she could add it to her college fund." Sander took the bill, gave it to Eleanor, and she stopped to hug him, while whispering something quickly in his ear and they both headed for the door. Just as Unai was about to open the door, in burst Grace with her usual flamboyance. The scent of fresh gardenia filled the room from the bllom she wore in her neatly combed black hair, puffing on the ever present cigarette. Today she was elegantly dressed in a pure white silk Asian style dress that accented her shape where the men in the room were clearly staring as she announced so all could hear, " Oh no! Are my two handsome and luscious men leaving so soon?" And before either could answer, she added, " Well I hope it isn't because of little ol' me?  No, I don't think so. She grabbed each of their faces in a hand hand and kissed each on the cheek, leaving a prominent bright red lipstick mark behind. " I guess I will have to wait until the next time to be with my handsome guys, won't I? ". Just like that, she was off to the bar." Four Roses, my dear Willie! " He had already painfully risen from his chair, bottle in hand and was wiping a glass clean as it if it had never been clean before. Sander thought to himself, " It is like she is playing a movie part. No twelve year old acts like that. He also noticed that every single man in the room, no matter what his age, still had his head turned towards this woman-child and was definitely mesmerized with her every action. She had a power many women would never achieve, a trait most woman would never achieve, at least not like a woman like this one. It was still hard for anyone to think of her as anything but a woman. Unai shook his head and mumbled to himself as they left down the steps, " I can not believe we dodged that encounter for a second time, I have to get the process going before there are some real problems before us. "

Unai checked with The Farmer's Almanac that Mo kept handy in the lobby for travelers as part of the reading material, along with the dogeared LIFE magazine issue from January 1938, the three well worn copies of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, some maps of the Cleveland national Forest, and Mo's favorite, that she reluctantly put in the lobby only after reading cover to cover late at night when wanting to fall asleep after a tough fourteen hour day in the hotel, ARIZONA HIGHWAYS. It was  before his baking shift one morning at three AM, the hotel was quiet and he could be sure of the next full moon. It was scheduled to be in five days by the Almanac. He came into the dining room later that morning when Sander was having his waffle and bacon, walked up to his table and announced, " Sander. I need you to be at the side of the chapel by the cemetery at eleven PM, five days from today. That is a Tuesday. Sander wanted to ask why he was telling him five days ahead and why would they meet in the cemetery, which seemed a bit creepy to him, but he just answered, " OK. I will be there. It is going to be pretty dark because the street lights go out at eleven PM, can I get a flashlight? " " You will not need one because it will be a full moon that night and the sky will be extremely bright, as if it were lit with searchlights that. Unai was waiting for him to ask the many questions he knew that Sander had running around in his head, but none came forth. Their original talk at the gas station on their drive to Compass Point, plus the steady growth and their relationship since then, is letting him   Unai know that Sander is comprehending the mysterious nature of what he is destined to learn. That was a good thing for Unai, because the really in depth secrets that are predetermined were about to be revealed for Sander and Grace in five days. Neither would be easily ready for the impact they would have on their lives.

Sander was sitting on the front porch having a cup of hot chocolate that Mo had made for him one morning, enjoying the sunshine when he saw a most spectacular sight. A red tail hawk had been harassing the crows that were feeding at the dump and the trash cans behind the hotel in town that whole morning. First it would perch in a tall sycamore until a good opportunity presented itself. One crow would become very bold and almost as it taunting the hawk to swoop down out of it's perch to attack. One such bird, probably a young one miscalculated and the hawk and it's superior eyesight at work sped down from the top of that tree and it's talons struck home. The now helpless crow shrieked in surprise and pain, not able to free itself, was about to be carried off. The hawk lost it's grip through the young bird's last efforts and the crow tumbled over and over until falling into the dust right in front of Sander awkwardly in front of the hotel. It flopped about, obviously in pain and trying to fly away to safety, when the hawk and it's majestic wingspan latched onto the helpless crow once again. Sander knew from his studies that this was a female of the species, whose wings were about twenty five per cent wider than a male's, evident by the four feet of the spread. He had never seen something so amazing and it was happening right in front of him. The hawk's next move was bold and not it's usual behavior. Normally it would transport the dead crow back to the nest to feed it's young, from one to three eyasses ( the name for young birds ) , but the hawk started to feed itself right in the street, the crow still was moving about. All of a sudden the other crows in the area, who had been making their usual racket at seeing one of their brethren lost, started to up the volume of that noise because ethe white raven swooped down on the hawk, attacking it viciously. In  the blink of an eye, the hawk flew off, nowhere to be seen, and there was an eerie silence for two to three minutes. The raven paced all around the now lifeless bird, as if it were a sentry. Sander is watching all of this in awe,anxiously waiting to see the outcome. In a short while, the raven seemed that it had done all it could possible do.. It's feet were not capable of removing the crow to a private place of mourning or it surely would have. She flew up onto the edge of the hotel, looked in all directions, landed briefly one more time in front of the crow as if to show her sympathy, and then she abruptly flew away. Almost immediately, all of the other crows came back in twos and threes. It seemed like there was almost a crow's version of a New Orleans Second Line as they all strutted back and forth in a formation to a silent band. This was more of a celebration of the crow's death than an act or mourning.

Sander had watched the goings on in it's entirety and started to think, " she is the eyes ". There is somehow a connection between the white raven's sudden arrival and  how all the forest animals respond. The more he considered it, the more Sander was sure that those answers would be revealed after meeting with Unai in a few days at the cemetery. Could this really be something significant? Ever since Unai said ,: She is the eyes," it had been on his mind. Then, when Eleanor had stared him in the eye at breakfast so intently and repeated the same words! Eleanor was an Indian who had grown up on the reservation close by. Her people had lived here for thousands of years. Was there a history of these mysterious white ravens in Compass Point?  He had seen Big Melvin sitting in front of his garage the day before, smoking his pipe and listening to Bob Wills on his little radio while taking an afternoon break, and asked him why the town was named Compass Point. He smiled slyly, asked Sander to wait a minute, and left to go inside to his room behind the main garage. He soon returned and handed him a well made, small, old brass compass. Sander got a clear look at Melvin's left hand, most specifically the ring finger, which was missing the first two joints. The results of a lost battle with a 3/4 ton Model A Ford rear axle changeover some years back. Mental images of that experience and the resulting pain of that digit missing temporarily took his mind off the story about learning the the origin of the name of Compass Point. " This here compass was a treasure of my daddy when i was a kid back home  in West Virginnie, afore we moved the family to Kentucky ta work them God damn coal killer mines, an' his daddy afore him. S'pose to be a good'n. Got me 'cross these here United States,  navigatin' all them washed out roads, condemned bridges,  hollers, creeks, boulders in roads and such. Know how ta use it?", he inquired. " Yes, my Daddy showed me when I was going to go on a camping trip one weekend , just he and I." " OK,mister. You all show ol' Melvin due north on this here o' mine." " Sure, " he answered. Sander held it firmly in his hand, loosened the clasp and opened the cover slowly. He squinted in the sunshine to find due north on the dial. His eyes adjusted even more, he turned and faced to the right, then 180 degrees to the left, gave it a gentle shake. " It is broken. It is not working. I think I broke it, Big Melvin," remorse creeping into his voice. " You all didn't break this here compass. That ol' dial was a spinnin', wasn't it? Just spinning 'round like you'd spin yer gal at the Satidday night hoe down where they is a playin' ol' Bob Wills on the Edison. Did it spin around real fast-like?" " Yes, it just kept spinning. Are you sure I didn't break it? " " Son. You grab up any ol' compass you kin find and it'll be a spinnin'. This here town and dees mountains has got them selves an Injun curse. I heared all 'bout it when I come here a long time ago. I jes don't use me no compass no more in dees mountains," he said laughing. " They all sez it's on account of some Injun prince a gettin' his throat slit by the Spanish soldiers a couple hunert yars ago and his sister, a princess name of Mala Rosie an' her ladies a waitin', went off and caught up with that Spaniard some bitch and quick gave him an extra big smile he shore didn't have afore. Then the tribe medicine woman put a curse on her 'n dem gals of hern, sent 'em off to the mountains forever. They is a still hidin' in these here woods some where, who knows. I shore don't, even today. It seems like dem gals of hern was turnt inta some big ol' cats and wolves of some such. One of 'em got tunt inta a white raven. I ain't a never seen any of dem cats or no Injun princess name of Mala Rosie, but I shore sees that white raven, right regler. You seen her too, ain't ya? " " I jes don't think 'bout it much, myself. Some folks in town thinks it's a might bit creepy an' such, other folks figger it fer a bunch of hog wash. Yer guess is as good as mine on dat subject."

It may be that Big Melvin was not thinking about the story of the Indian curse, but Sander had been thinking about little else. Last night he had not slept well at all, tossing and turning in his bed. He awoke with a start several times in the night, imagining he had heard the growls and roars of big cats in the direction of the forest, staring out his window in the direction of the path that leads to the forest. he saw nothing. He felt that his imagination was playing tricks on him. He just wished that Tuesday would appear magically so he could find out what was going to transpire his talk with Unai.

Meanwhile, he was occupying himself going to class at the chapel with Preacher Ryan. He what been studying far more advanced subject matter and interesting topics than what the kids were learning at Compass Point. Unai and his aunt suggested he would be better off going to the reservation school to have the best opportunities for eventually being able to get into a good college. At least they had a fairly good library. Sander very much missed the solitude of being surrounded by stacks of books. He would spend hours at his local library, where it gave him comfort. He hoped that he would be able to make the change soon. To say that he was bored at the church school would be a simple statement. Most other boys would be taking advantage of the surroundings and exploring the hiking trails, going fishing and hunting deer or other wildlife in the surrounding mountains and the arid, rocky desert. He really liked to fish, but only with his Daddy and on an old , but solidly made wooden boat his Daddy's friend from the Coast Guard kept moored off Coronado Island. He had fond memories of a group of four out on a fishing trip, when their lines caught several dangerous barracuda after running into a school of the sharp toothed monsters. It was especially fun for Sander, since he was the only kid with three adults on board and they treated him like one of them, even though he was only nine years old. At the end of the fishing trip, they split up the catch. The owner of the boat had built a crude smoker out of old concrete blocks, but it worked quite well. Apple branches, well aged and dry, and the resulting smoke from the coals, flavored their barracuda into a delicious treat after about four hours of controlled heat in the smoker. It was the first time he had tasted this delicious delicacy. Add some mayonnaise  on some home made bread from his Mommy, and that simple combination proved to be very tasty and satisfying. Unai promised that he would take him surf fishing again. Even though Sander had only done it that one time when they caught that big halibut on the trip down California coming to Compass Point, he was eager to go back again and again. Unai promised that soon he would  take Sander  to one of his favorite spots, Sunset Cliffs, off Ocean Beach on the Pacific Ocean side of Point Loma.  Sander had also never been hunting and had always wanted to join the Boy Scouts, so he could learn how to fire a 22 cal rifle for hunting trips to bag some squirrels and rabbits with his Daddy.

"Well, I do not know about joining the Boy Scouts, we do not have a troop formed in the mountains, but there are plenty of places to do some target practicing before safely graduating to hunting for quarry to eat, '" Unai informed him. Sander found that idea very attractive. His daddy was not much of a hunter, even though he was  crack shot at the rifle range. "Come with me, I want you to meet someone who I have not introduced you to who lives about ten miles from Compass Point, down the old highway on a ranch. He is the probably the most famous resident of the area. He will be over at Willie's place. I want to get there before he is too drunk to be hospitable. He gets pretty loud and boisterous once he has had too much whiskey in him." " Who is he. have I heard of him before, Unai?, " " Yes, I am sure that you have. OK. It is Howdy Epps. The famous Western silent movie star." " How wonderful! Over at Willie's? In person, really?  Hurry up, let's get moving, Unai," Sander said in his excitement Sander had broken into a dead run, while Unai,sporting a slight grin, just sauntered at his usual measured pace. Sander got to the steps of Willie's about five minutes ahead of Unai, but waited impatiently, as if he had to pee immediately. " Come on. can we go inside?, he shouted way back up the street, Unai being just a stick figure farther away." He did not want to go inside without a proper introduction, feeling that he might make a fool of himself if he walked up to Howdy Epps alone. His Daddy's favorite movie star when he was his age. No one knew what had happened to him after the talking movies put many stars out of work. There had been a rumor that Howdy's voice was extemely high pitched, much like a young girl's and not at all conducive to the new talking movies sound tracks. He had the handsome and rugged cowboy looks that had been his trademark for many years of box office success, even though he was born Howard Pincus Rollo Durdridge to a wealthy New York City businessman and socialite mother  in Schenectady, New York in 1890. The wealth came to Howdy and his wife,  many years later with movie success, after he had run away from home ay fourteen and joined the circus, which always sounded like a phony PR story, but happened to be really the truth. "  Mmmmm, Buckshot, his horse in all of his movies," thought Sander as he waited for Unai to catch up. Buckshot was always a handsome specimen [presented  in his trademark fancy, hand tooled black leather saddle and tack. Especially the wider than usual breastplate in front of  Buckshot, across and under the horse's neck. It was highly decorated, tooled intricately with all the animals of a circus and set with a real ruby in the middle for maximum show. Howdy was proud of his buckskin horse and his handlers kept the black mane and tail combed, shiny and sleek.

Some said he had set aside the biggest part of his heart for Buckshot than he did for his wife Lorraine, but most considered this just a rumor started by a former manager who had embellished the content after quitting Howdy's employ due to several bounced checks. Howdy had continuing attraction to bottled in bond Bourbon and the daily racing form, both of which he ended up on the botom of the stack, much like those day old newspapers that printed story after story of spurious facts. Lorraine LeSeur, born Agness Firness, then Fridell, was a widow when she married Howdy. Her husband, Augustus Fridell, perished in a horse barn fire at a very young age. He had inherited an 800 acre working thoroughbred horse ranch and continued to build it's worth and success until his demise. Agness,distraught over the tragedy, changed her name, sold the property and invested the money so well that it's value was hardly affected by the 1929 stock market tragedy. She invested the money in Canadian distilleries which she had no idea would be so well insultated globally. She met Howdy in the south of France on a cruise after changing her name to wipe the slate clean, and give her a new emotional start. She changed everything in her life she possibly could. the one thing close to her heart that she kept is her love of clothes and fabrics. Her mother had been a working class young woman. She toiled in a New York City garment factory when she met Howdy's father when out on the town with some friends. He was smitten with the tiny attractive lady with the golden curls and the sharp clothes,which she had in total made herself, and they were married three months later. Six months later, Howdy arrived on the scene. Agness Firness now had a new name, a new family, lived in a new 37 room mansion on Long island with servants to handle all of the household tasks, a chauffeur, a nanny, but she had an elaborate sewing room with industrial sewing machines and she still made elegant stylish clothes for her old friends. However, now she did not tear down old garments or shop at the thrift stores for items to redesign. She shopped at the prestigious wholesale fabric houses in the city, with access to the latest textiles from France and Italy.

As Howdy chipped away at his fortune when talkies diminished his demand for movie parts, it was his wife Lorraine who bankrolled his crazy schemes. His failed movie, where he was director and writer, it was Lorraine writing the checks. She refused to let him know the extent of her wealth or give him free rain with shared accounts. There was not much he could do. When he failed or became frustrated, he would retire to his den, drink in solitude for several days until Lorraine would dig him out, make him take a shower, put clean clothes on him and go out and sit in the sunshine. She was the one who bankrolled his failed circus which he swore would be so different that European booking agents and promotional companies would have them booked for 250 days of the year. It failed and she pulled the plug, sold the equipment and trucks to pay back wages of the workers and performers. Howdy begged her to let him keep Sweet Pea, his favorite elephant and her calf, Petunia. During his heyday he had an I.O.U. for 125 acres of land on the highway just east of Compass Point. Lorraine came to the rescue one last time, and she was adamant about this one last effort, so they packed up Sweet Pea and her daughter in one van, the animals-Buckshot and the elephants in another and their belongings in a third van, followed by their 1931 Dusenberg Model J driven by Lorraine with Howdy in the back seat, drunk most of the way with their three Scottish terriers. Howdy had begged her to keep Chauncey, their chauffeur of ten years, but Lorraine was trimming costs. She pointed out that she was already footing the bill for the expenses and wages, 24 hours a day, for the five wen who drove the vans and were there to handle emergencies and unpack at arrival. They would hire new employees at their new venture, Howdy Epp's Wild Western Town and Wild Animal Show. What was of great humor was that their wild animal show consisted of Sweet pea and her daughter, were about as wild as a cat and her kitten! The " caravan " arrived safely, three dirty and dusty vehicles, with five animals, after fording creeks and rivers and dodging boulders on washed out dirt roads, nine tire blow outs, and two nights spent in a New Mexico Motor Court with a roof made of materials best described as woven grass mats driving over 2900 miles from Long Island to Compass Point, California.

You took so long to get here, Unai," he said while sitting on Willie's steps and not going in.  Sander did not know that the last person he wanted to see today was Howdy Epps because it was a good bet that Lorraine would be with him at Willie's. Unai and Lorraine had reconnected and had been seeing each other intimately and with out Howdy's knowledge,  ever since they had relocated to Compass Point. Lorraine and Howdy lived at the hotel for six months while she designed their new home that they had built on the acreage just a short way from Howdy's Western Town project.Howdy was passed out from drink and Lorraine knocked on his door one night at 1 AM. The affair continues with meetings under the same circumstances. Howdy's affections were limited to Buckshot and and a bottle of Bourbon.

"I think you and I need to have our meeting right now and not wait any longer" Unai said to Sander abruptly. Sander was taken by surprise at his sudden urgency. He was anticipating the night time meeting at the cemetery in the five days as was agreed. " I want you to go over to the cemetery right now and wait for me over there. It may be some time before I arrive there, so you will have to be patient.' Sander nodded that he understood. The advent of a confrontation with Howdy and Lorraine at Willie's had prompted Unai to change his plans so quickly. he knew that the chance to meet a famous western movie star was going to be a disappointment to Sander. There would be other opportunities. Even though it was improbable anything confrontational would have happened or been said in the middle of Willie's with people all about, he did not want Sander in the midst of this part of his life at this moment. The minute he arrives at the cemetery, he notices the white raven perched on a leading broken limb in the old dead scrub oak  at the edge of the chapel, adjacent to the cemetery. It was then that the statement unai had repeated many time, She is The Eyes, really made an impact. It was no longer a curiosity to have the bird around so often.The fact that all other wildlife was non existent when the raven was in the area was still very strange. who was the " She"?  Sander now felt quite strange and off center. He felt self conscious and found this time extremly  unsettling as he sat on a stack of old fence beams that had been part of a long planned fence upgrade and waited for Unai. The time soon stretched into an hour and then an hour and then into two hours. He had occupied his mind by memorizing all of the dates of the past souls born and died on the gravestones in the small cemetery when he heard voices that interrupted his mental exercises. He heard a single man's and a woman's voice that broke the eerie silence that all graveyards seem to possess. He was startled when he saw Unai finally return with Grace striding alongside. She was scrubbed, bright faced and without makeup. She was dressed in tailored khaki slacks, a plain light blue blouse, a bright red scarf and wearing a pair of men's hiking boots laced quite hig above her ankles. Her usually elegantly styled long black hair was tied up on the top of her head in a matching red ribbon.

"Sander, this is Grace Suarez. I do not believe that you have been introduced properly." " Nice to meet you, Grace," he said short of stuttering as he put out his hand to shake hers. She responded with a calm demeanor and her words were in kind. He noticed that she was gentle and reserved, not assertive and brash like the other times he had seen her at Willie's. "Sander, do you remember our talk on the highway by the ocean when I told you that you would have a test in the forest overnight? " " Yes, I do," he answered. " The day has come for that test. The one I spoke about that day.Grace will be going with you, as it is really a test for the pair of you. You are both connected closely and have been so since you were both born. It may not make any sense to you now, but all that has happened in both of  your lives was as it should be now, i this place and time.I will not explain why or how this is the case and any other details of this dual connection. That information will unfold in a way for you both. Much like the dawn of a new day brightens the sky for the animals and creatures of the forest. It must occur as i have said, it will not make any sense to you unless the unfolding runs it's true course." They both just stood quietly and listened, much like obedient little children being instructed on the proper way to do their homework by their aged tutor. In some ways, this is exactly what was taking place, there in that empty cemetery.  The eerie lack of sound was now ever so evident. The sky was quickly growing dark and cloudy, abruptly interrupting the brightly lit skies that the sun had dominated just a few minutes prior. In addition the temperature had dropped almost 20 degrees, drastically changing the mood of the day. All around was completely empty of people or animals or birds or even the sound of crickets, just a weathered, old Yaqui Indian man offering wisdom from another place in time, empty except for the white raven whose eyes and the expressions of those eyes were taking in every word as if it were human. An empty place except for two children meeting for the first time, scared and confident at the same time, being given tasks they know not if they will succeed, yet they are ready to follow as instructed. The scene could easily be taken for a time two hundred years before that day. Grace sensed to herself that all of these happenoings were almost moving in slow motion,like a trick of the movie camera she had seen at the movies. She knew that was not the case, but more important were these feelings within her were strangely new. They seemed right and permanent. She was still apprehensive, but no longer was scared.....concerned about the outcome. How would this ten year old boy be on this test was the question that concerned her most as they were about to set out..

"Here is a knife. one that I also mentioned that day you would have." Sander and Grace stood at attention and listened intently and silently, even though both wanted to ask many questions. You must work together to make it through the night. To find water to drink, food to eat, shelter and fire keep warm, because it will become very cold in that forest tonight. The path is not easy. Use your gifts. Gifts that both of you have, but have not used to date like you will from here on, " he continued talking, clearly and firmly. " Before the night is over you will find a small cabin. It will appear where it was not, from the trees and bushes. May perils and setbacks will have you wanting to stop and turn back. You may not turn back, under any circumstances. Dangerous wild beasts and The Curse of Mala Rosa are calling to you clearly on this journey of only one night, an important night to you both, and at the same time, they are hindrances for you both to succeed." They both continued to be still and just stood there, motionless, looking at the sinister looking knife in the tooled native scabbard. It was more of a sword than a knife. Unai had handed it to Grace, each wondering why he had not given it to Sander. " I will see you when the dawn breaks,." And he left them to their difficult and unknown task. Confused and feeling out of place, without saying a word, Sander looked up at the flapping motion of the white raven, which flew off to the east towards the end of town and the path that led into the woods. Grace motioned to Sander and they turned up the forest path at the edge of town and followed the white raven.

 

 

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