The Forest Lights Chapter 9 When The White Raven Flies

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forestlights" Did you hear that, Grace? "  " What do you mean by ' that '?" You must have heard that. There! There it is again? " They had been searching on the trail for two hours, not knowing what they would find at the end. Faith and those inner feelings were  driving them on uneasily. Both were scared, but Grace wasn't about to let on to this " boy " she was with. Sander had his fear written all over his face and was quick to voice his feelings. Grace's instincts were leading them step by step, when the centuries old game trail in the forest disappeared. All they could see was a wall of  thick brush. The dark night sky made the going difficult. When they first set out it was a a bright, moonlit night. They had no flashlight, just the knife Unai had given Grace. Sander kept up the talking and was constantly making nervous comments, much more than Grace was comfortable hearing. She wanted the traveling to be a determined and successful task and it was making her uncomfortable. Grace was quiet and calm, using her that inner voice as if she had been there before, and Sander's chattering was a distraction, surely a sign that he was frightened. Her twelve years were not shown, her manner was more like that of a mature woman,as always a confident young mature woman. Neither could understand how they suddenly found themselves involved with this strange task, a quest they had to finish. No part of this has any connection to life as they had known it.

Grace had sensed since they left the town on the forest trail and the white raven was no longer easy to spot, that they were being watched by more than one set of eyes. The observers felt both friendly and sinister at the same time, she was sure. She had also heard unexplainable sounds, but declined to comment to Sander as to not get him more concerned than he was. In a way, she had wished she was by herself, but she also knew instinctively that the two of them had an unexplainable and permanent connection. What that connection was had not been made clear. She knew at some point that it would be revealed. She sensed that when that happened their lives would be altered forever. They continued to move forward as the thicket wall seemed to open up somehow and the way become more clear. Grace thought to herself, " I am so damn hungry. Right now, if I were back  safely at Fong's, one of the Oriental girls would be making a big steaming bowl of Chinese noodles and vegetables, with maybe some barbeque pork or some duck shredded on top." It would always one of  the girls who was having her time of the month, because like at a neighborhood firehouse, the girls on duty had to stop when were eating when they the gong sound. That meant there were customers out front to choose what girl, and what specialty they wanted from her. If she had her choice, Fong's is right where she would be now. She didn't care if anyone liked it or not, she was a whore and a damn good one. Her Mom was a whore and so was her kapuna wahine, her grandmother before that.It was always on her mind. Save up a nice, goodly chunk of money in her old Chinese camphor box and buy a boat ticket back to Hawaii. Live by the beach, catch fish, cook it in an imu and maybe marry a good strong Hawaiian boy and have lots of kamaikis, maybe five or six. Three girls and three boys. They could live in a simple house, the kids could run around half naked as is the way in the islands, search the tidal pools for sea urchins to eat, play in the surf and have contests building sand castles. She would quit working , or maybe make some big money from a rich tourist at a hotel in Honolulu occasionally. That was the dream that her and neither her mother or grandmother had followed. It seemed to always be a man in the mix. There were many who would remind her of the old saying amongst whores, "Easy money, spends easy." Grace was determined to change that.

Abruptly, her enjoyable and pleasant, rambling train of thought was interrupted when the white raven noisily flew right in front of them and, flapping it's wings, settling on a low hanging fir branch above eye level. The bird was not in the habit of making any noise at all when it arrived. Within seconds, almost like appearing from amongst the forest through the trees, branches and underbrush below the raven was a huge,sleek black jaguar. Almost immediately, there followed was a sinister coyote and then a giant gray wolf alongside the menacing jaguar. She did not see the smaller bobcat slip in between them all. Sander had stopped in his tracks. His mouth is dry and his heart is pounding faster than it had ever done before, more quickly than even after a race around the track at the orphanage chasing the boys in his dormitory. Grace surprised herself on how calm she  remained, being confronted by this fearsome and beastly lineup right in front of them. A strange internal energy seems to have been put in Grace's being and was heightened at that moment. It is as if she is communicating with these animals, all five of them, which defies normal explanation.It was a feeling she had never had in her life. Sander is not able to utter a word, but Grace is sensing that she should help him in this scary time. " Sander, just be calm and say nothing. I know they are terribly scary, but just let me handle this for both of us." " Ssssure, I guess so, " he found the strength to mutter. He wished he was somewhere else, like under his bed at his aunt's hotel. Safe and without being confronted by four wild and fierce animals that surely wanted to eat them both. Their glowing eyes trained directly on both of them. They were standing right in front of them. Sander had only seen pictures of animals like this in the encyclopedia. He did see a spotted jaguar and a wolf at the zoo. His dad had taken him to the San Diego zoo, but he was much younger. He had to count on Grace. She had that knife, but that was not going to do them any good. They were not in a movie or in a cage with Clyde Beatty, snapping his whip and firing a pistol in the air at a performance of  his famous three ring circus. That was just for show anyway. These creatures were not there for show and they meant business. Sander had a fleeting thought to turn and run, but where would he run?  He surely couldn't outrun this quartet that seemed determined to do them harm by their menacing looks.

What seemed like several minutes, but it really was just a few seconds, the jaguar slowly advanced towards them.  Eyes clearly fixed only on them. Each massive paw slowly placed in order as if she were stalking prey.  Her shiny black coat highlighted by the moonlight so the faint shape of spots are showing through her fur, looking like moving velvet sequins. Her glowing eyes, yellow-amber  jewels shining in the moonlit night, a deep menacing growl could be heard but not seen. She stopped and was rigid as she got to within an arm's length of Grace, who is just standing motionless, smelling the heavy measured breathing of the huge cat. She found herself wishing she had not run out of cigarettes ; then realizing they would not help her if she had them anyway. She still felt like right now she could use one....or maybe two. Her nerves were being tested like never before in her short life. She suddenly sensed that she and Sander were in a good and safe place on that trail as the moonlight started to come back more pronounced from behind the clouds. They could see better all around them, as if a spotlight had been switched on their dramatic scene.

The white raven made some more noisy gestures, followed with flapping wings, and all the animals amazingly seemed to fade into the forest, one moment they were there and now there was no trace of them, just the lingering fear Grace and Sander had felt since the beasts had arrived. Soon the white raven also had flown from view. " We need to follow them, Sander." "Why?, he replied, "They have left us alone, finally. We don't know where they went anyway. I just want to go back to my room."  " I want to go back too, but we are moving forward. Soon we will know why Unai sent us on this crazy hike through a menacing forest full of wild animals and that strange white raven." she said firmly. She gave Sander a sharp nudge on his shoulder and he reluctantly followed her deeper into the night forest. Grace now was picking up the pace as if she knew their destination, whereas before she had been visibly uncomfortable with the direction they had chosen. Sander followed obediently. All the while not really understanding what all of this is about or to what end it could possibly mean for them. He was wishing his Dad was with him now. He would make sure he was safe. He was always able to count on his Dad's confidence whatever time he was scared or uncomfortable. He would have led them to safety.

Grace suddenly stopped and put her hand in front of Sander as if to protect him from harm. " Why did we stop? " he asked. " There is nothing there but trees and bushes. " Don't you see it? It is right in front of us! ", she said emphatically. " Nope. I don't see anything. Are you crazy? There is nothing there. Nothing, I don't see anything. Let's go home, OK Grace?," he pleaded nervously, obviously more agitated and visibly upset. "Now look  at that odd rectangular shape of branches, right over there." As if by magic before their eyes, there appeared a little rustic cabin woven from leaves, branches, trees and limbs. It had a door covered in heavy bark with massive leather hinges at the top and at the bottom. There was a four pane window on either side of the door. It had wild flowers growing on the roof and in front of each window, which seemed unlikely because very little sunlight would be able to penetrate this part of the forest. It appeared as if the natural growth of the trees, shrubs and branches of the forest was destined to swallow the cabin shape completely, and somehow the cabin had held it's ground.

"Come on, let's go," Grace urged. " It's OK. I feel it all inside of me. It is warm but demanding at the same time. Trust me, Sander. " He finally was fixed on the cabin and becoming enthralled at how it had appeared from nothing but a jumbled forest thicket. " There is some candle light coming from inside, " he observed. They both moved closer and peered into the window. Amazed at what they were seeing, inside is a beautiful young woman with glistening long black hair, dressed in an elegant dress of pale buckskin trimmed in colorful sea shells. " I see you have found her and the cabin, " a voice from out of the forest announced. They both turned around, suddenly startled by the voice. There was Unai standing before them with a big smile on his face. " Here you both are. There were several times I thought you both might give up and go back to your former lives. " " What do you mean former lives. " asked Sander. Your lives from this night forward will be completely different, as I had mentioned briefly before you left on the forest trail. While there was moonlight to guide you, to find what you did not know you were destined to find.

All of a sudden a strange and silent air permeated the space around them. A quiet, unexplained, multicolored vortex of lights started to slowly spin around them. It was as if they had been transported to another place and another time. Every slightest gesture or movement from each of them seemed now to be in slow motion. Grace and Sander surprisingly were not afraid. They were calm as this state of physical phenomenon was enveloping them both. Unai just stood there with the same smile on his face, as if enjoying what was happening to them for the first time in their lives. This surely was what he was talking about when he spoke about their former lives. They knew it was obvious that the future was to bring continued unknowns and unexplained paradoxes. Grace was convinced it must be the forest and this young woman dressed in buckskin and sea shells was the center of these strange happenings. She was anxious to see what was going to occur next. Sander was just standing there in a quiet and calm bliss. His thought pattern only focused on the slowly spinning colors, the pleasant quietness and the strange air that now surrounded them all. His heart was not pounding now like when they met up earlier with those scary beasts.

Slowly the colors and the vortex started to fade along with the mist around the lights. More clearly defined and standing in front of them was the beautiful young woman from inside the cabin. Her sleek black hair and elegant native dress were even more impressive. The moonlight continued to shine brightly as if it were daylight. Suddenly she spoke, her melodic and soft voice startled them all. " My eyes have seen you all for many years, for a very long time. She is always watching for me, " she said quietly. "Grace and Sander, you were meant to be here in this place and at this time. Unai is my destined worthy trust. He is my strength and connection to your part of the world. I cannot ever leave the forest. I am to be here forever. As we have time in the future, you will learn of my story and your own roles that are to be played. No matter what you do, you will be guided to a place and to perform tasks and to seek horizons that you will have no control over. Grace, as you have experienced already, you and I will communicate often, eventually continually. When I have chosen to see you, you will be summoned and you will come. My eyes will still be present as she flies freely within the town. You have already seen her often. The other women that are my protectors probably have frightened you. Fear not their presence because they will now protect you as well. The jaguar leads the she-wolf, the coyote, and the smallest, but very clever, bobcat. You will remember little, if any, of what has happened here tonight. You will experience certain recall, but a not total memory of this evening. All that will happen to you in the future will be as it should be and as I have foretold. Do not worry that anyone is watching you or that you have to perform or act a certain way. All will seem perfectly normal. You will still make life's mistakes, have joyous times of happiness, experience times of sadness and suffer terrible dangers. Normality of life is what you will experience. It is now almost dawn. I retreat now and you will be back in your beds before you know it. We will meet again soon.

It was Unai's day off and he planned to have a late breakfast at Willie's and chat with the gang. Sander awoke and feeling refreshed, he went to Willie's. He was familiar with Unai and his day off late breakfast. Dotty waved him over to Unai's favorite table and said " One large glass of milk coming up, young man. How are you this fine morning, Sander? " " I am just great. I slept the whole night, just like a log, as my Daddy used to say. " " Good morning, Sander, " Unai said smiling. "You look bright and cheerful." " I am just that. I slept well and I am really hungry, " he said with the enthusiasm of a young boy. Dotty stopped by with Sander's milk and took their orders. Unai got one of his favorite breakfast combos. Oatmeal with brown sugar, stewed raisins and half and half. Two slices of whole wheat toast that he had baked himself and Mo supplies to Willie's Place. Two soft boiled eggs, grapefruit juice and hot tea. He had made sure that there was a jar of Dotty's dried apricot preserves on the table. Sander ordered a double stack of  pancakes, six of them, with extra butter and blueberry syrup, orange juice and his large milk. " Dotty, can I please also get four pieces of crisp bacon too?," he asked politely as she was on her way to give Cal the order. " I see that you are not just bright and cheerful, but really hungry as you mentioned, " Unai commented.

As they both were enjoying their breakfasts, Sander was vigorously cutting into his fourth pancake after spreading it with butter and drenching it in syrup. " What do you remember about last night?, Sander," he asked pointedly. " Last night? Remember what? Let me see. I just remember that I slept all night long. I do kinda recall that you wanted me to go down the forest trail in the dark, even though it was a moonlight night. I don't remember why I didn't. Why did you want me to go? Did you change your mind?" " Yes, Sander. I did change my mind. At least you enjoyed your sleep. Let's talk about it another time. Have you seen Grace this morning?"  "No, I don't think so, but you know that she doesn't get off work until about 2 or 3 AM. Odd that you should mention her now. I dreamed a lot about her last night, but now I do not remember any of it. I just know she was in my dreams the whole night. That is crazy, isn't it? Not recalling anything of what you dreamed about. I usually remember part of my dreams."

The day was an average one in Compass Point, uneventful for most. Mr. Martin drove up in  a cloud of dust as usual in his big Lincoln about noon. He met with two strange men in black suits and hats pulled low, who were driving a dark foreign sedan, for about an hour, then they all left separately. This in itself was not out of the ordinary, but that didn't stop the gossip hounds at Willie's to try and conjure what it had been all about. It was a warm evening and Sander had stayed up late. Mo was on a buying trip overnight to San Diego so she was not there to monitor his bedtime. She left Unai in charge of that, but he was not about to tell him when to go to bed. He was in front of the hotel under the streetlight engrossed in a heated game of marbles with some of the Royce kids and the oldest Mexican boy. Unai was on the hotel porch in the porch swing having some coffee and enjoying the warm evening air, and alternately dozing off. His shift baking bread would start in a few hours.

He was interrupted from his snooze by Big Melvin and his huge clodhoppers that were stirring up a cloud of dust on Main Street, heading for Willie's for his nightly dinner time at Willie's. Melvin was about three hours late. He usually sat down at his favorite counter stool at seven PM sharp. He moved heavily up the steps, opened the door and was greeted by the regular patrons and Dotty and Cal too. " Good evenin' Dotty. I believe I will have two hamburger sandwiches, a cup of coffee with cream please. " " So it is your regular order, eh Melvin? " Big Melvin nodded his head in agreement. " I was expectin' you in much earlier, " she said. Well today I hooked up my homemade antennae to my big 'ol Crosley so's I could listen to the Grand Ol' Opry in Nashville. They starts much earlier out here in Compass Point. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys was playin'. They is my favorite. I wanted to hear all of their songs. " Dotty had busied herself with her duties and mostly had her back to Melvin,  but she was nodding and making verbal sounds in agreement to his story. She turned to Melvin and with her big smile, " Here are your hamburger sandwiches and coffee. " " There was more nodding from Melvin as his mouth was already full from his giant bite of Cal's handiwork. Typically Melvin ate like he was still at the table of his family. Being  poor kids and making sure they got their share. In no time at all he as polishing off the last bite, gulping the still hot coffee. He put down his forty five cents to pay the bill, then slid fifteen cents across the counter as was his habit. " That's fer you Dotty. See you all in the mornin'. Big Melvin was never off his schedule going to Willie's, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Bob Wills changed that this evening. That Crosley console was his pride and joy, having taken it in exchange for a side customer deal who couldn't pay his ten dollar bill for new brakes Melvin installed on his Model A.

Later in the evening Grace and Jennie, her mother Maddy's best friend at Fong's, stopped in for an after work drink. Willie didn't like any of those " slant eyed whores " drinking in his place, but he had to allow it after being visited by a couple of Fong's burly enforcers with specific instructions from Joseph Martin and Fong who ran the town inside and out. Willie justified it to everyone in his bragging way, even while the memory of his younger brother who served in Shanghai with the 4TH Marine Regiment, known as the China Marines still haunted him. He did not come home, the casualty of an encounter with some Japanese soldiers along the border the Marines were stationed to guard from conflicts. To deflect this situation he would go on and on about everybody's money pays the bills. Grace and Jennie sat in the corner table as always where they could see all the happenings more easily. Dotty brought their drinks, a double shot of Bourbon for Grace and a Tom Collins for Jennie. Cal was in the kitchen cleaning up and almost ready to go home, Dotty was doing the same out front.  Old Bill was in his usual chair, head down and snoring loudly No one paying any attention to him. There were about five other people in the place, mostly regulars, and all were about to leave for the evening.

All of a sudden they heard a tractor pull up out front with a screeching and releasing of air from the heavy brakes. The bright red cab door of the Autocar swung open and the stocky driver jumped to the ground, shaking the stiffness from his joints. He took off his cap, spit in his hand, and slicked back his hair in the truck's mirror, putting his cap back on squarely.  He quickly went up the steps and opened the door. " Willie, you old chicken fucker. It's me, Lester Bond, come to see you. I am thirsty, horny and I could eat the ass end of a mule travelin' south if you was to hold him still! " " Lester, you useless turd. I haven't seen you in my place for ten years. Where the hell did you crawl out from under? " " I am still with the same company, Roberts and Wade Trucking. They had me on the northern runs. I requested that 'cause I got married to a red headed hair dresser with big titties from Bakersfield. Last month she ran off with a fuckin' travelin' shoe salesman from Oakland. Good riddance. Nothin' but trouble. Cost me most all of my dough. I'm back on the southern run out to Arizona and back to southern California circuit, so I'll be coming by once a month or so. Don't give a damn that they built the new highway.  I left my trailer back on the shoulder of the highway, under some trees and out of the way. I wasn't looking forward to that shitty drive on the road here  draggin' my trailer too. Shit man, I am here for Cal who makes the best steaks on any interstate and you are still pourin' the good booze, I'll bet." " It is damn good to see you, Lester. We can talk about the old days and get drunk together. You can stay in my spare bedroom upstairs tonight. I have to warn you though, the bed is lumpy, but it is clean and quiet. Gotta hot shower and breakfast downstairs. I call that a good deal, " informed Willie.

"Is Myrtle still here slingin' hash and doin' her specialties? " " No she's been gone about three years. married a guy with the Forest Service. Already got three kids. I want you to meet Dotty. She takes care of the customers, including the specialties, if you know what I mean? " " Very pleased to meet you , Lester." " Yes ma'am indeed. Dotty, fix me up with a thick steak and all the fixin's. Cal knows I like my fries extra crispy. Cal is still cookin' this late', isn't he? " " You bet yer ass Lester. Comin' right up, shouted Cal from beyond the pass through window. Lester was downing his first shot of Canadian Club with a beer chaser and getting ready for his second. Dotty stepped back to the restroom while Cal cooked Lester's steak and French fries.

Old Bill had awakened during all the commotion and Willie was half whispering to him and three of the regulars still there,  including Doomsday Phil, over in the corner at the end of the counter. Dotty came back and gave Lester his steak and immediately he carved off a big chunk and began chewing with relish and a grin on his face, smacking his lips. She walked over to the four of them and over heard Willie say ten inches, whereas they all started chuckling, careful not to be heard by Lester. " What the fuck are you bunch talkin' about. This bastard have a ten inch dick? " " Yes. That's what it is, but you can handle it Dotty. Myrtle did every time he came through. You scared, Dotty? " Willie challenged.  " I am not letting him shove that donkey dick in me. You can make book on that, you assholes " " Listen Dotty. Here is the deal. He spends lots of dough here and hasn't been here in ten years. You keep all the cash on this deal, I guarantee he will throw in a big tip. He always does. Shit,  I'll even toss in another Andrew Jackson. What'll you say? " Dotty paused for several seconds, face grimacing and running all of what had been said through her brain. " Oh, all right asshole. I will do it. But if he hurts me, I'll come out here and toss a pot of hot coffee in your lap. Got it? " " Deal, " Willie said with a huge grin.

No one had noticed that their voices carried to Grace and Jennie's table. It was one of the reasons why Grace always sat there. She quickly stubbed out her just lit cigarette, gulped down her Bourbon and said, " We gotta see this, Jennie. There is a space through the bars on the window in the storeroom where Dotty services her customers. " " Not interested. I have seen my share of 10 inch cocks. I'm headin' home. See you on the morrow, Gracie, " Jennie replied as she left. Grace knew exactly what she would do. It was a bit sinister, but he had to have some education about life and who better to show it to him than little Gracie! " Grace quickly went outside and there was Sander, still playing marbles in the street. " Why was he not in bed? His aunt must be out of town, " she thought to herself. Unai had left the porch to start his baking shift in the hotel. She walked over to the bunch of boys playing marbles and announced, " Hey Sander. You gotta come with me. All you kids get home before your folks come looking for you. " " Aw, Grace. Why? I was winning, " cried Sander. " You can play again tomorrow. Right now, you have to come with me. "

" How come we are here in the dark at the back of Willie's by the storeroom window? " " Just keep your eyes peeled through the window. You'll see why. " In about ten minutes the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling came on as Dotty pulled the chain. She started to take off her uniform, her underwear and was soon naked. Her huge breasts prominent through the window. Sander's eyes were big round orbs like baseballs suspended in mid air. Grace glanced over at him and it was all she could do to keep from breaking out laughing. She knew better to talk, or he might turn and run. Soon a burly guy with a trucke's cap entered the storeroom, with a big grin on his face. He unbuttoned his trousers and pulled off his underpants. All of a sudden Dotty gasped and said, Ten inches my ass. Willie said you had ten inches. That monster is approachin' thirteen and if I am lyin',  just shoot me dead." It was standing parallel to Lester like he was ready for batting practice. " All right, Mister. I will give it a try. But if you hurt me, I'll break that damn thing off and we will see if you use it ever again. " Most men would lose their enthusiasm immediately after hearing a woman promise an action so drastic to their manhood, but not Lester. He maintained his grin and was more than ready to still do battle.

"I think you have had enough of this, " Grace declared. Sander had not uttered a word. He had just stood there with his eyes still wide open, not even blinking, speechless. Dotty pulled herself onto the high makeshift cot covered with a blanket she had arranged over some cases of peaches and Lester positioned himself between her legs. " Come on now, Sander. Get going , " said Grace as she yanked Sander's arm roughly and dragged him away and back to Main Street and the hotel. She was at least  a foot and a half taller and outweighed him by forty pounds so he did not have much choice but to follow her. " How come he...." she stopped him in mid sentence. There will be a time many years from now when I will tell you about tonight. Maybe I was wrong to show you that, I thought it might be funny. Maybe I have made a mistake. We will not talk about it further. If I hear that you have been telling anyone I took you behind Willie's to see them, you will be in big trouble. Trouble like you have never known. " Sander believed her. He was tired, exhausted and still could not get those images out of his mind. He had never seen a grown woman naked before. Not like that. " Well! What are you going to say? " " Ahhhh, nothing. I won't say a word. Some day you will tell me all about it? ", he asked. " Yes, I told you I would. I keep my word. For now, let's forget the whole evening." " Okay, I will. "

 

 

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