The Story of the People’s Tree ~Twice Upon a Time in the East~

(READ PART ONEPART TWO. PART THREE, PART FOUR, PART FIVE, PART SIX, PART SEVEN AND PART EIGHT OF THIS STORY)

We are in the Womb of Time. This cave appeared in the Literary Dreamtime when an ancient broken bridge was magically rebuilt over the Darro, what Nuevomexicanos would call a ‘rito’, a creek that meanders at the foot of the Moorish Palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. In this enchanted realm outside space-time constructs, stories are spun again. The writer is telling her recent adventures to the three ghosts who, thanks to their elephant mount, had broken the proverbial fourth wall behind which she was hiding. Maybe cosmically inspired by Toto, Dorothy’s dog, who exposed the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, Charlemagne’s elephant Abul-Abbas had cracked the musical code that kept the cave’s entrance locked by a magical chessboard, guardian of a waterfall curtain: the Rearview Window to the World. Charlemagne (“Ka”), Samuel Ibn Nagrella (Sam) and Zyriab, breakers of the fourth-wall, were led through the ‘curtain’ by their intrepid mount. They have stayed in the writer’s cave ever since. For the longest time, she left her characters freeze in the ink bottle of her heart to go fly on her quill pen in search of a lost thread. After fencing her Heart to go roam the Earth—two beautiful words made of the exact same letters, only arranged in a different order—she gave the compass of her soul a new Direction, the D that both Heart and Earth needed to spin a new threaD. Now that the patient ghosts have finally been reawakened by their re-creator, they are eager to learn what happened during her 20-month absence.

She needed to process many things that were happening in the world of the living, and she got sidetracked. However, what she experienced and understood in the realm of materiality, while drifting off the writing paths, was vital to the continuation of The Story of the People’s Tree. The writer needed to halt her story to go find her red thread again. In French, the red thread refers to the narrative arc, while in English it tends to focus on the concept of fate based on a lovely Asian belief. In the writer’s universe, both meanings are beautifully interwoven in a complex cat’s cradle. Among several things that kept the writer away from her main story was the important task of writing a Letter to the Heavens to the late Rudolfo Anaya, a dear writer friend. The letter, like many of her stories, took a life of its own when an unexpected guest showed up in her tribute: Billy the Kid, who sent her flying through the enchanted time-space of stories, to Rudy’s home, where he was still among the living. The Kid guided her to write four chapters she hadn’t really planned on, under the auspices of Raven, the famous master trickster. Together with the mythical bird, the “outlaw” managed to take the writer on a long quest, necessary to perfect her story. The “forced search” was both literary and physical, through readings and travels. Now the Kid’s ethereal presence is part of the writer’s world, which he permeates as he tempts, teases, taunts, traumatizes, teaches, trusts and tames her, in no particular order. The three ghost characters in the Womb of Time enjoy learning about her adventures in the Kid’s universe. Here is her latest story:

When I reached the Mediterranean shore, across the ocean that separates Europe and America, I met the most tragic character of the novel Brave New World, John, the ‘savage’, sweet Johnny. I took him out of his lonely lighthouse of Cabo de Gata, Almería, ‘the mirror of the sea’. He and I helped each other express part of what was stuck deep inside our buried emotions. After performing a cleansing fire ceremony at the beach, we reached one of the three western movie sets of the Spanish province of Almería, near the seashore, in the Tabernas Desert. Once I, Johnny and Rico (my toy horse made real) entered the Mystery School on the set of ‘Western Leone’ to receive our gift from Raven, I thought that was it. I thought I was finally ready to go back home, taking Johnny with me, to his wrongly named ‘Mal’país, for a long-awaited conversation with his creator, Aldous Huxley.

But I must admit it would not have been fair to you, my dear ghost friends, faithfully waiting for me in the Womb of Time. Furthermore, although I very much wanted to believe so, all my accomplishments were not enough in the eyes of the Master Trickster. Nothing would prevent Raven from using his ruses again. Before striking he had a nice gesture though: he offered me pieces of his Raven’s Mirror he had arranged in mosaic as a token of his and his folks’ love. BUT… He knew I was not done with the work still needed to be done on that spaghetti western set, and he found a way to trap me there. Taking advantage of my surprise of being filmed by a movie crew outside the Mystery School, Raven announced that, before we could fly back home, Johnny had to help him retrieve the prop he had set up at the entrance of the set: the cardboard cut-out figure of Aldous Huxley. It would only take a minute, he said. While waiting for them inside the classroom, I heard Raven shout:

“Come to My Raven’s Haven

and you will be in Heaven!”

Excited by this poetic invitation, I grabbed my purse and rushed to the door, only to witness Raven, Johnny and the cut-out cardboard Aldous leave the set WITHOUT ME!!!

“Wait, wait! Wait for Meee!” I shouted, waving at the sky. It was useless. Up in the air went the big black ball of feathers. Not even once did Raven look back as he was abducting Johnny and his cardboard creator wrapped in his Mighty Raven’s Wings. I had flown on those wings when Raven dropped us on the lone desert western set. Looking down from the clouds Raven shouted: “People who get their feet wet must learn to take their medicine! Hahahaha!!!!” Enraged and willing to tell Raven, once and for all, what I thought of his stupid tricks and constant escapes, I forgot about the tiny moat that surrounded the Mystery School, so I tripped and stepped into the water below. Shaking my soaked feet as I stepped out of the ditch, I bitched about Raven’s uncanny capacity to always foresee what ended up happening to me. The wet feet warning also sounded remotely familiar, something from a children’s movie.

Still cursing but now out of the trench, I reached the hitching rail to ride my fairy horse and fly in pursuit of the black silhouette. Only then did I realize that Rico was back to his toy form! Raven really had thought of everything… I tried to bring my horse back to life with the magic wand I kept in my handbag, to no avail. Betrayed and fooled again, Raven’s last blow had made me lose all self-confidence; my magic was gone, and the wand was useless as a damp match unable to make fire. I felt as inadequate as poor Franz deeming his whole life a big zero. With a heavy heart, I squat by mini Rico to hold my Barbie horse in my arms. How could such a tiny thing have taken me across the Atlantic? I sighed, got up and leaned back on the hitching rail for a while, petting my horse as I observed the eerie gallows at the entrance of the movie set.

-What should I do, Rico, now that Raven has taken your living essence away?

The toy horse, back to his hushing state, stared into the void with sad eyes, not the faintest neigh coming from his lips. I sighed heavily again, kissed Rico’s forehead and delicately kept him in my bag.

“Go where I go, Rico… Go, go, go…” I whispered in a sad tone, remembering the magic formula borrowed from Beauty and the Beast, which had taken the two of us flying through the clouds. “I guess putting my horse back in here has the opposite meaning of ‘letting the cat out of the bag.’ Secrets, lots of secrets… buried so deep within the soul. How tired I am of secrets…” With a half-smile I wondered: “Should I learn how to turn my purse into Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, to try to fly on it like Aladdin?”

-Meow…

As though materializing from my associative mind, maybe descending from a cloud on an invisible carpet—or with a unique duck umbrella—, a cat gently landed next to me on the hitching rail.

-Hello there! I smiled. Have you come from the mirror of the sea? You are such a big cat! Look at your gorgeous long hair, and that tail! Was your father a giant squirrel? You are beautiful. Why is your tail pink?

Meow, the cat answered as a female voice, out of nowhere, exclaimed in a joyful tone: “Pink! I love pink! You’ve just reminded me of those doilies I crocheted and kept with my friend’s photographs. I remember when we camped by the lake, the sunrise painted a pink sky. Then I saw four squirrels. It was September 1878, I believe…” Confused, wondering for a split second if it was the cat talking —although the four-legged looked like a ‘he’ to me—, I tried to pet the kitty but he jumped off the rail. He was staring at the school’s entrance, asking me to follow him back inside. Given the circumstances, the feline invitation felt as good as any other plan. Furthermore, the sight of the gallows facing the school started to make me feel frankly uncomfortable. The cat with the pink tail jumped over the moat and I followed suit. As I held open both the storm door and main entrance door for him to get in, the cat stopped in the space in between doors and, as he turned around to stare into my eyes, I clearly heard telepathic words in what I’d say was Irish:

Léim an chait ~ Go n-eírí an bóthar leat

That time I was certain it was Pink Kitty “talking.” Even though I had no idea of the exact meaning of the Celtic words, I intuitively knew they were a blessing meant at encouraging me on my journey, pushing me to take yet another leap of faith. Taking a deep breath to find back the courage to believe again, I heard a new voice that said: “You may feel like a zero now, but it is a good thing, since at the zero point everything moves outward, back and forth through time. You are here to break the cycle of pain, to change the stories of and about those who came before you and who will come after you. Healing will pass through you…” The hero of the movie ‘Blueberry, the Secret Experience’ was the one revealing the power of zero from his poster on the Mystery School door.

“He does know a thing or two about healing, so believe him, for he is right,” echoed the poster lady facing the cowboy. “The healing he foresees is pulsating in my Rearview Mirror of Time. Yo soy Poetisa Profetisa de Palabra Poderosa, Curandera Creativa y Cancionera; I am Heartsong Healer, Soul Sleuth and Medicine Woman of the Mending Words. My mirror sees Past, Present and Future. Go, go where your instinct flows…”

Even though the Medicine Woman of the Mending Words was inviting me to get moving, and despite the Blueberry cowboy’s words regarding the importance of my mission as a writer healer or healer writer, something powerful was holding me back in the in-betweenness created by the double door, where the two images faced each other and surrounded me. For a moment I felt stuck in an airlock between worlds defined by both posters’ themes.

[Dear reader, here I will open a parenthesis, just between you and I. My ghost friends are eager to hear about Billy, and I am willing to talk about my time with him too. I have understood that he imposed himself, as I wrote My Letter to the Heavens, because he had been waiting, forever in his strange kind of limbo trench, for me to formally invite him in my stories. And it is time, and we’re getting there. But I need to explain, both to you and myself, this ‘airlock’ moment. As I tried to cross that double door in my story, knowing perfectly how to spin the thread once inside the “classroom” again, something was holding me back, taking me to one Halloween night from the past, on the very first time Soul Sleuth Lady started revealing things until then unseen in her poster. Also, I was pulled, like a magnet, to the moment my friend Teresa had given me the wondrous poster, which was taking me through a very deep rabbit hole. Some profound healing was –and is– waiting, deep down the memory lake, for me to retrieve the gem shining at the bottom, even though its sharp edges can hurt the finger that will touch them. That’s how healing works sometimes, and in this case it has to do with what the poster awakened. Writing goes hand in hand with the circumstances of a writer’s “real” world. As I was trapped in the ‘airlock’ moment, my friend Teresa was lying in a hospice care bed, transitioning. An invisible thread had united our –very different but both real– struggles. She was pondering staying on earth or leaving, and I was stuck in-between two doors as well, feeling her, hearing the silent words she spoke to answer those I had whispered while stroking her hair as I said goodbye to her corporeal being. Teresa no longer suffers. She has left her body now, and she whispers in my sleep that I’d better finish this long Story of the People’s Tree. She says that, on a later date, she will be happy to tread the healing path of re-discovery I’ll open both for her and myself, as we walk down Chimayó lane, within the poster. There are many places where Soul Sleuth Lady wants to take us, but for now Billy will benefit from my unwavering attention, and I’m ready to exit the airlock to find a way to summon him again. Before going back to my ghost audience, I will say that the pink voice was heard again, there in the airlock, agreeing with my decision she must have heard telepathically. “Billy sure deserves your full attention. In all his personal relations he was the ‘pink’ of politeness and as courteous a little gentleman as I ever met. I smiled and retook my story where I had left it.]

You see, dear Ka, Sam and Zyriab, while I was stuck on the Almería movie set, I understood I was supposed to face myself for the supreme “battle” of unconditional self-love. That kind of battle sometimes requires swallowing bitter medicine, a process made easier with the proverbial spoonful of sugar Mary Poppins was so fond of. Then, as soon as I thought of the cult song, I got it! Raven, as he flew away, had quoted Mary Poppins, in that scene where she administers preventive medicine to the children, who were soaking wet after their adventures in the chimneysweep’s chalk drawings that ended up fading under the rain.

Mary’s syrup, just like the car color on Soul Sleuth Lady poster when John and I first looked at it, was ‘blinking’ red and blue, in a magical mix of alternate strawberry and… “Blueberry” medicine! Things were starting to magically intersect again both on set and in my mind associations. Apart from the color switch of the car ‘body’ paint (in a dream, cars often represent the dreamer…), Mary Poppins’ bicolor medicine also matched the poster woman’s garment and the two books by the sleeping angel; one blue, the other red…

“What if that red book was the diary of my life in New Mexico? I know many people rummaged through my private words after my death…” suggested the ‘pink’ female voice. She went on: “It would be easier to accept the privacy breach if I knew my diary was divinely summoned in this beautiful artwork. The angry rooster on the left of your Soul Sleuth Lady reminds me of those cockfights the boys loved to gamble at! I laughed and cheered the fowls with them, because I wanted to be one of them, but I have to admit I was not that tough, sadly, whenever one of my sweet roosters died on the ranch… I love all God’s creatures so much!”

My many readings about Billy’s times led me to guess that the yester-voice—who remembered getting emotional when one of her chicks ‘saDly’ died—was Sallie Chisum. But for the time being I wanted to focus on “my own rooster beaks”, which I had started seeing in the Moroccan wall sconces that framed the poster on my Spanish home wall. I remembered wondering who had ripped whose beak off when reading about some obscure cockfight in the past. On that set it became clear that the cockfight was between my own light and shadow. Above the poster on my Spanish wall there was a Moroccan sun lamp with a stain in its amber heart. The lightbulb, too close to the lamp’s center, had branded a dark spot on that amber heart, maybe as a reminder of cattle empires… Now the “lamp brand” was revealing its symbolic warning: Only through a slightly sunburnt ego would I learn from eclipses, shadows and moon cycles… Once again such understanding had come through visions. First as an illustration I had imagined for Rudy Anaya’s characters, Sonny and Raven, two sides of the same solar coin; then in a dream where I fought myself within the contours of the same Zia circle snake I had envisioned for those literary antagonists. The “weapon”, in both visions, was a raven’s feather used as a quill, but in my self-cockfight version one of the ladies held a mirror.

With this new understanding, I was finally ready to enter the classroom again. Inside the Mystery School, my new cat friend, the pink-tailed beauty, was waiting for me atop the teacher’s desk that Raven had turned into a Day of the Dead altar.

-Watch out, kitty! You don’t want to knock over the bottle dolls Raven made, I said reaching the table where the cat sat, conscientiously grooming its ear with its left front paw. They are the cutest snake, bear and beaver I’ve ever seen. And check this out! Under the bottle’s open bottoms were hidden these heart-shaped mirror mosaics. You need the three hearts to spell “I – love – you”, see? I said showing the cat what was written on each heart I laid on the table before him. I don’t have the… heart to leave those gifts behind, so I’ll take them with me, wherever the dream may take me. Now, how could I carry the dolls without breaking them?

Jumping off the desk, the cat found a perfect sleeping spot in the northwestern corner of the room, behind the teacher’s desk, where a wooden crate filled with straw was waiting for Pink Kitty to take a comfy nap.

-What a cute bed you have found there! Do you mind if I borrow some of that straw? It will be perfect to protect the dolls.

The clever cat scratched off some of the straw for me to place each doll on a soft hay bed. Then I wrapped them all in the pink Spanish shawl that covered Raven’s table. It was a beautiful “mantón de manila”, like those worn by yester-señoritas all dolled up to attend fandangos. “Manila, manila…” Why was the name loitering in a back corner of my head? Suddenly in my mind’s eye a white lady dressed in sarongs was dancing on a map of Asia, facing a character in Shakespearian attire.

-Funny-looking gal, I thought while packing the dolls in my bag. “She would be a great model for a new doll creation,” I smiled as I set the three mosaic hearts on top of a front row desk, where I planned to sit and contemplate my next move. 

-Oh no! I exclaimed as I spotted the Cornhill Magazine on the desk. Raven left in such a hurry that John forgot his precious photo album of Aldous’ life.

John now gone, I was left alone with his photographs. I sat at the desk and decided to have a better look at the pictures he had collected. He had arranged them throughout the pages of the vintage book, gluing here, cropping, painting or pocketing there, which gave the swollen leather-bound magazine an air of those fancy scrap books many “DIY” lovers enjoy making today. I was moved to see John’s delicate penmanship on the label he had glued on the book spine: “My Real Father’s Brave Old World”. All those years alone in the lighthouse at ‘the mirror of the sea’, John had studied the photographs, to get to know better the man behind the writer. I pictured John tracking every feeling behind each word crafted by his maker, deciphering every facet of the life events Huxley whispered or blurted in his stories… As I browsed through the pictures, I found a thin envelope held by the red bookmark ribbon tied to the book spine. There was a collage on the address side: an illustration from Alice through the Looking Glass. In between the two sides of one of the most famous mirrors in the history of literature, a hand was breaking through a third mirror, pointing at the viewer. The quote on a label above hinted at self-love.

The famous breakthrough in Carroll’s masterpiece was the inspiration for Jeanne Argent, who sculpted a bronze Alice through a glass structure at Guildford Castle Garden. Near this beautiful place, Charles Ludwige Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, used to rent a house. This is also where he died in 1898. Somehow, it felt as though Alice was trying to reach out to Lewis, just like John did with Aldous. The magical sight was yet another illustration of the intricate relation that exists between creature and creator.

And just like in Alice’s story again, the thin envelope in John’s album, under the collage, gave the reader instructions: “Turn me around”. I did so, and read a note on the other side that said “open me”, a new order I obviously obeyed. Inside the envelope I found a series of six pictures, whose tongue-in-cheek captions made me smile.

“Someone” had named the series of photographs A Treatise on How to Doro-Tease, a clear wink at DoroTHY Brett, one of Aldous’ acquaintances who appeared in those pictures taken at Garsington Manor in 1917.

Dorothy wore a dress that turned her, as suggested in the captions, into a walking chessboard. I wondered who was to blame for the mockery; Aldous or his literary creature? I hadn’t had much time to get to know John, but he sounded pretty serious to me. More acquainted with Aldous’ irony and love for teasing the people he knew, I decided these captions were his.

Until recently, apart from her name and her acquaintances in New Mexico, I did not know much about “the Honorable Lady Dorothy Eugenie Brett”. Only now am I realizing that she was 11 years Aldous’ senior. I love her painting style, at least the renderings of her visual encounters with the Pueblo world, and two horse paintings in particular: Boy and Horse, and The Blessing of the Mares. I guess she knew how to play chess in ‘the regular way’, but I am not sure she was aware of all the esoteric layers of Alice’s Adventures on the bigger-than-life chessboard the mythical little girl roams in The Looking Glass world. I know ‘the honorable’ (“Hon.”) Lady Dorothy Eugenie was a hard worker, and in good physical shape in her adult life, but maybe not ready yet for high-wire spirit acrobatics! Speaking of movements, in the round dance with Aldous she strikes a pose a bit similar to that of the mysterious lady of my vision. She also shares the same haircut. “Curiouser and curiouser…” Are you My White Rabbit, Aldous?” The monocle you hold as you ‘scan’ the Brett seems to say so, as does your caption…

As often with Spirit or Mystery, those innocent recreations of Alice’s Adventures of a 22 or 23-year-old Aldous were actually a projection in his future, a screenshot from 28 years ahead, when Walt Disney would ask Aldous to write a screenplay from Alice’s story. Unfortunately, Huxley’s Alice and the Mysterious Mr. Carroll never made it to the big screen. From the surviving script I’ve read, I’m sure I would have loved to watch it. It was aimed at understanding the man Carroll behind his Alice creature. Maybe from his California retreat did he feel his character’s longing in his Andalusian abode in another mirror…

I wondered where Raven might already have taken John by then. Sighing as I thought of them, and missing them (yes, Raven too) very much, I kept browsing the pages of the album. Another picture popped, which I immediately loved. It portrayed a much older Aldous with his cat on his shoulder. According to the caption, the cat’s name was Limbo. Quite an appropriate description of my situation!

Looking closer at the cat’s features, I thought it might have been my new feline friend’s offspring, or rather an ancestor. Or… was it even possible that…

-Who knows, answered the pink-tailed cat with another MEOW that interrupted my suppositions. My “Seashore Cat” (a new version of his cousin from “Cheshire”) was purring louder and louder, soon blissfully falling into Slow-Wave Sleep, while I struggled not to doze off, shaking my head vigorously and going back to my study of the photographs. I noticed that John had added yet another personalization on the back of Aldous and Limbo’s picture. It was a copy of the cover of Aldous’ first short fiction collection, with a handwritten excerpt of the book. John had highlighted some words in pink, related to cats and symbolism.

Oh yes, it is so important to always have a tail/tale or two in store! I knew Lewis Carroll’s mouse would agree with me from the Pool of Tears created by Alice’s sorrow, only made worse with the downpour of cats and dogs in her verbiage. My word-factory mind noticed that ‘Cravister’ was the anagram of “Cats River” or “Scarier TV”. I am sure both concepts would have spoken to Aldous. I was partial to “Cats River”, and of course I directly ‘translated’ the publisher’s name, Chatto & Windus, into “Cats of the Wind”… Had John added that cute winged cat with a pink tail on the cover of Limbo? It felt so. What was he onto? Had my pink cat friend visited Johnny too when the lonely character took solitary rides on the movie set? John had mentioned a shadow rider that always struggled to cross the veil to be with him. Could it have been me, wishing to tread his dreams, where the pink-tailed cat was his guide? I vaguely remembered the short story John had taken the excerpt from: a male writer’s personality was taken over by his female self at night, and both wrote according to their opposite views. She was a patriot, he was a pacifist, and the writer’s double creative life had driven him crazy. I was seeing both where this came from AND was headed to in Aldous’ personal life. In the 1930s, he had taken a noble pledge never to support war. He had powerful, deep-seated, atavistic reasons for doing so…

I praise him, and am determined to help his soul keep that pledge. FOREVER. Maybe influenced by the writer’s “split personalities” of Huxley’s short story, I too started to feel the real struggle it takes to find balance among our soul’s numerous selves. The logo of the publishing company Chatto & Windus—twin angels reading on a bench—inspired me a personal adaptation, probably inspired by the split personality theme: cute flying cat twins fluttering above two roses at the feet of the two reading angels. I secretly imagined the angels’ bench inlaid with the WE-LOVE-YOU mosaic hearts.

Truth be told, the ‘bench’ looked more like a Victorian stool. I fancied it covered in velveteen, fabric the sweet rabbit of the “becoming” tale is made of. My imaginary stool would be pink or green, colors associated with the heart.

Visions are a constant occurrence in my mind’s labyrinth. Without images, sentences are harder to build. Photographs are the firm foundations of my prose and collages, the background brushstrokes of my quill. I found that putting oneiric images into words is when deeper truths are unearthed. I dream, doodle, design and draw descriptions before they develop into solid words. Once I started analyzing my subconscious creation, switching from right to left brain, and trading nagual for tonal, I would realize that the book twins were the rosy version of the sleeping brown angel on Soul Sleuth Lady’s poster, the winged little girl whose own twin was being kidnapped by la Llorona. At that thought, the pink-tailed cat’s purring reverberated throughout the classroom, and it became the only sound that mattered. The feline motor was irremediably taking me down a hypnagogic whirlwind, picking up all that was pink through the rose-colored lens of my ‘dreamwrighting’ craft… The drowsiness led me to cross my arms on the album, gently laying my head on that improvised pillow, for the movie to start behind my closed eyelids. Here’s my dream…

-Quite the “T”… Creepy, ain’t it? Sorry for this dream interruption, but I thought you would bring the Pink Garter saloon in your next pink thing, and your dream persona is not ready to go back to New Mexico. Plus the Pink Garter’s letters are really too similar to Pat Garrett’s name… He took them, mixed them, and added another T, as in ‘timber’ which he fetched for gallows he never got to build… Heehee…

My double or dream twin, who had guided Rico, John and I on the set, was the one speaking and peeking through the school’s window she had just opened. With an arm around her mare’s neck, she was observing me waking up in the dream. She sounded like she had seen all that was happening behind my closed eyelids.

-Oh you’re back, I said, with a half-smile, rubbing my eyes. Too bad for Rico that his mare, well yours, or “mine”, comes to him when he can no longer feel.

-Sometimes I’d say it’s best not to feel at all, answered “me #2”.

-That’s not really what I would choose to say, so please drop the pretense and tell me who you REALLY are…

-Hahaha! You’re so perceptive. I thought I had a great disguise, the best disguise ever, the ‘self’ disguise… I’m used to faking being who I’m not, and it’s not the first time I dress up as a girl, well, a woman.

-Thanks for the correction, I ironize, starting to feel a bit better after the disrupting image of the gallows that appeared again in my dream. Are you one of the extras of that movie crew that was shooting our meeting with Raven without my consent? Were you waiting to replace me in case ‘une cascade’—a stunt— was in the cards?

Before my double answered, I took mental note of the strange homonymy in French between a waterfall and a stunt. Maybe that’s why I crash landed through the frozen water when I came back to you, dear Ka, Sam and ‘Zyri’…

-Well, answered my double, I rarely am an “extra” when an umpteenth movie tries to tell my story. And no way, even though I’m riding a white horse, I wear no shining armor: you deal with danger yourself, like the big girl you are! Are you really still not recognizing me, Chica Mares?

-“Chica M…” BILLY! BILLY THE KID!!! You “piss pot son of a bitch!!!!”

-Wooohoooo, what’s THAT for a language, lady?

-The language Deluvina “Maxwell” used when she cursed Pat Garrett for killing you… I’ve read A LOT since our last meeting in the White Sands…

-Oh! Oh… said Billy caught off guard.

For the first time since his passing, Billy was hearing about his good friend’s reaction to his untimely death. Deluvina, the Navajo servant of Luz, Pete and Paulita Maxwell, was among the most affected by the loss of her dear Bilito to Garrett’s bullet.

-Is it really how she reacted? Billy asked, visibly moved by what he heard.

-Yes, I said. She was the first one to enter that room and turn you over to confirm you were dead. She was the one who held the velorio, your wake, and led the burial ceremony the next day, saying a few words for you with all your friends who had come to say their last goodbyes. It would mark her forever since. She was the one who built a cross for you, and the one who visited your grave every time she could, until she moved to Albuquerque. She died there in the big city in 1927… The other day I had a dream about her passing, and I saw how she was greeted at Heaven’s door by a ‘fake’ cowgirl, a Wild Wester who had passed the previous year. Her name was Annie. I’ve left her ghost in a mask shop in Venice, Italy, by the way… Another woman was with Annie to greet Deluvina in Heaven: Susan.

-Who is that Susan? Annie’s mother? asked Billy, apparently interested in my dream from Heaven.

-Strangely enough, Annie’s mother was indeed named Susan, and she had died just a year before the Susan who greeted Deluvina in the light with Annie. But the full name of ‘my dream Susan’ was Susan Arnold Elston Wallace.

-Wallace!?!? Like the…

-…like the other “piss pot son of a bitch” who abandoned you, poor you, yes. Lew Wallace. Susan was his wife.

-Wow, that’s wild! I guess my dear Deluvina kicked Susan’s heavenly ass when she learned who she was!!! says an expectant Billy, with stars in his ghost eyes.

-Quite the contrary, actually.

-Whaaaaaaat?

-Yes, sorry to disappoint the wild outlaw in you, for whom retaliation is a way of… death rather than life, I say.

-So Deluvina betrayed me too?!?!?! Billy can’t believe his ears. What a nightmare!

-Well, we love mares so…

Why have they all forsaken me?!?!?!? he whines in a melodramatic way, facing, as he speaks, the gallows at the entrance of the set.

Oh PLEASE!!! I explode. I’m so done with that Old West Law BS and the ‘poor me’ broken record!

-What do you mean ‘broken record’? asks a startled Kid.

-Oh Lord… Can’t you see? I sigh in exasperation. Wait for me, I’m coming out, I add, gathering all my belongings.

As I open the front door, I decide to take something else as a ‘souvenir’ of this strange place: the two posters that surrounded the “airlock”.

-Planning to redecorate your room? asks Billy from outside the door.

He has taken off the wig that made him look like me, and now wears the bandana that held ‘my’ hair as a neckerchief.

-Actually thinking of decorating YOUR room, I say, an idea suddenly taking shape in my mind. Look, I say as I sit back on the hitching rail, I am sorry I shouted at you and ironized about your situation. It’s just that I’m really done with retaliation, revenge, an eye for an eye, which always ends up leaving the whole world blind. I for one know that it is exhausting to hold a grudge. Would you please accompany me to those ominous gallows, as I ponder why, yet again, I came back here in dream?

TO BE CONTINUED (here)

2 thoughts on “The Story of the People’s Tree ~Twice Upon a Time in the East~

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