The Story of the People’s Tree ~Spaghetti Western Tour with a Sheeted Tenant~


Billy hitches his mare at the school building’s rail, where I had done the same when Rico, my toy horse, was still magically alive and kicking, and where the pink-tailed Seashore Cat had come to keep me company. Studying me for a few seconds as I lean on the hitching rail, ‘the outlaw’ states the obvious:

-You are really fond of silly questions, aren’t you? Why do you think I am here with you in the first place, guiding you as you write, if I was not willing to accompany you? I am really curious about that ‘room of mine’ you’ve just mentioned.

-Yes, me too! I answer with a smile. It’s still a blurry idea struggling to emerge from the dreamland mist… Wait, I would like to ask “someone” else to come with us, if he’s willing to.

I spring off the hitching rail and go lean over the schoolhouse window Billy opened a while ago. I want to check on the feline friend I left sleeping in his straw box. Unfortunately, the Seashore Cat must have left after I dozed off. He’s nowhere to be seen in the room.

-I didn’t see anyone but you in the old classroom, says Billy who has noticed the disappointed look on my face. Sorry to see you sad.

-Oh it’s all right, I smile. I guess I don’t like leaving kitties behind, that’s all…

-I’m glad you don’t, actually. Thanks to your trip here in Spain to come for your kitties, I was able to see you again in spirit, here on set. To be honest, you didn’t see a thing back then, so it was quite lonely! Speaking of going back for what we care for, there’s something I don’t want to leave behind. I will take it as a souvenir too. Will you come along as I fetch it?

I follow Billy toward the gloomy saloon of the deserted western set, and as we approach, the building gives out a strange feeling of familiarity. Billy, who definitely seems to notice the slightest changes in my mood or thoughts, turns around and asks:

-Does it feel different now?

-As a matter of fact it does. It’s strange. I’ve been on this set at least a couple of times in my waking life, but that’s not the kind of memory I’m experiencing. It’s a deeper, creepier déjà-vu feeling…

-You might want to ‘unwalk’ your dream to see through that strange feeling then, Billy smirks cryptically.

Putting considerable effort in remembering the details of the latest dream within a dream within… (I’ve lost count of the number of dream matrioshkas I’ve opened since this story started), I am starting to pinpoint a series of images in the “pink dream” that no longer felt sweet: the last scene before the gallows appeared.

-Wait a minute, I say, looking across the sandy main street toward the Colorado Hotel facing the saloon. In the dream there was a toy horse, not mechanical like this one on the hotel porch though. Also, it was older than Rudy’s merry-go-round pink pony, the one Rico and I freed from its crucifying pole before crossing the ocean. That’s funny… I’ve learned that “once upon a time” there was a Pink Pony Saloon in the town of Taiban. It was a bar, dancehall AND cockfighting arena. There was also a snake den in the basement!

-“The town of Taiban…” I guess it was named after el arroyo Taiban, the creek. Maybe that’s where Rudy’s pony went when you and Rico liberated it, Billy suggests. My old stomping grounds in the Stinking Springs area…

 -Maybe, I smile. In my pink dream I saw a very rudimentary wooden horse, and a red-haired lady was passing by that toy horse with some sort of tray, or maybe it was a bread basket.

-Yup, confirms Billy. And I guess chimes were more appropriate than a harmonica for your sweet little pink baby dream… Even though those chimes are somewhat spine-chilling… But I was disappointed that you mixed up your spaghetti western soundtracks, therefore silencing THAT scene your dream glimpsed at, in which the lady is humming an old Irish song I love.

-Spaghetti western… Harmonica… That’s it! I was seeing images of Once Upon a Time in the West, wasn’t I?

-That was YOUR dream; I shouldn’t give you MY interpretation of it, answers Billy with a wink. All I can tell you is that I learned about ‘western movies’ here, on this precise set of Tabernas, Almería, where Once Upon a Time in the West was shot. In spirit, I spent years traveling back and forth between New Mexico and this set (well, the three of them), where I watched actors reenact our stupid machito wars… So I guess you were right, earlier, about that broken record… We knew music wizardry as phonographs in my time. After my death I liked to go check on Pueblo farmers, and from what I saw, I’d rather describe my situation like this: trying to escape following a horse that moves in circles on a big threshing plot.

-Now I understand why, before we reached this place, Rico and I saw a farmer doing exactly that, I say with a smile. I’m recognizing the set from the dream screenshots. So many more buildings were added since the shooting of Once Upon a Time in the West! The movie was released the year my parents got marr…

I stop talking as Billy pushes open the batwing door of the saloon, recreating the squeaky sound he made when he peeked through the school window, waking me up from the dream.

-Oh my God! My pink dream was showing the “Sweetwater Ranch” scene, when the poor kid is about to be shot because, because…

-…Because he is a red-haired Irish cliché, and he was shot when still a kid, kinda like me, confirms Billy who holds the batwing door open for me to enter with him. Then he approaches the countertop to retrieve what he came for. See, he shows me, opening the picture frame to take the poster. This image is what I want to bring along…

-The last time I was here in my waking life, the barman took this picture frame off the wall to show it to me, and he left it exactly here on this countertop. AND this is the exact scene I’ve just dreamed of… I add.

-That scene has given me nightmares ever since (yes, ghosts do have nightmares too, in case you wondered.) Will you please keep it for me? Billy asks as he rolls the poster.

-Sure! There’s still plenty of room in my Mary Poppins bag, I smile. I’ll keep it together with the other two posters I ‘stole’…

-Becoming a thief like me, huh… As long as you don’t steal my horse, it’s all good!

-Wait a minute, YOU’RE the one going around with the mare I once rode!

He chuckles then more seriously adds: As a matter of fact, I have this feeling that my lingering energy on set, while they were shooting Once Upon a Time…, may have triggered that scene at the “Sweetwater Ranch”. I know you have studied a thing or two about the soul, and how we, spirits, interact with the living, especially when mortals are busy creating.

-So, I say as I try to grasp Billy’s hunch, you think that Sergio Leone summoned you as he wrote and shot his story, like I do summon you and many other ‘ghosts’ in my writings?

-Maybe, and I don’t think Sergio was doing it consciously; me neither though… he adds, looking into my eyes with a sad puppy gaze hoping for comfort and reassurance.

-It’s ok, I say as a poor attempt to bring that comfort he seems to have been craving for. We will figure a way to liberate you from what’s been haunting you. It’s in my own interest, since I feel I’m haunted too, I add, thinking about the gallows again. I keep to myself that sometimes I’m under the impression that Billy also knows how to make mine all his feelings, likes and dislikes.

-The connection was almost scary at times, he develops. You will remember that in the movie Brett McBain dreamed of turning his Sweetwater Ranch into a train station…

-Yes, I liked the miniature sign he had built, found by his bride after she became his widow…

-Well, Billy goes on, that idea was MINE, for our ranch at the Portales, southeast of Stinking Springs… That spot was my own version of “sweet water”. The area was a perfect potential waterhole. A source sprang nearby, from big rocks that looked like a porch; that’s why they named the place Los Portales. Charlie Bowdre and I wanted to turn our little ranchito into a station! But just like in the movie, they wouldn’t let us, they wouldn’t let me… And then Garrett killed Bowdre… before killing me. The train did come to the Portales, but I had been dead for 18 years already.

-You were a visionary… I whisper. You know, there’s this modern device I use which is really practical. It’s a “virtual” map, which means it’s generated by a device that enables the viewer to see an area in such detail that it feels as though one’s really there, a bit like movies, only that the viewer can navigate at will. All this to say that when I searched that virtual map to locate the exact spot of Stinking Springs, I was eastbound from Taiban along the rail tracks, where a train was passing… The Iron Horse some medicine men had prophesied. Speaking of medicine, I promise you we will work on ways to put that energy to rest, I assure Billy. In order to do so, I think that first we need to address the gallows. The hanging scene is extremely powerful in Once Upon a Time…

Beautiful scenery / awful destiny. I could feel the guilt weighing heavily on poor ‘Harmonica’, a moral heaviness added to the physical weight of his hanged brother’s feet on his shoulders…

As I pronounce those words, Billy starts shivering, and his expression looks as though… he had just seen a ghost, if that was not so sadly hilarious, given his spirit status. Sensing it’s really time to leave the saloon, I tell him: Come, we need to face those gallows once and for all…

Billy takes a deep breath and follows me towards the entrance of the set. On our way he unties the horse’s reins from the schoolhouse hitching rail.

-I’ll take Torda Chica with us already, Truth be told… can’t wait to leave this place.

-Sounds good to me too, I agree. I’m glad we’re taking your beautiful mare with us!

-Yes, he beams. She’s almost as sweet as the bay mare I cherished when I was alive…

-I missed Torda Chica from the time I rode her “for real”. Did you miss me too, Chica? I ask as I rub the mare’s muzzle. Will you wait for my Rico to become real again too? I whisper, pressing my forehead against hers.

I interpret her powerful neigh as a YES.

-Wow! I’m sure they could hear you miles away, just like the very first sound of A Few Dollars More… A horse neighing in the immensity of a plain where its rider is about to be shot… Maybe your new rider will help me sort out “what was ‘shot’ where”, here in Tabernas. Apart from western soundtracks, I am also mixing up my own experiences on the three different sets of Tabernas… For some weird reason I am under the impression that my life memories and those of the movies are interconnected, a bit like when your wishes, dreams and nightmares influenced the movie plot, Billy.

-About that soundtrack, I am thinking… confesses Billy. We must remember that dreams’ apparent randomness is actually a very precise set of symbols, so maybe there was something else to the lullaby-sounding chime the dream chose for you, or for us… It’s the soundtrack of For a Few Dollars More, which you’ve just mentioned. God knows I got into more trouble than I bargained for, just “for a few dollars more”, when I confronted pinche Chisum and started rustling his cattle to make up the $500 he owed me but would not pay… He’s one of many who betrayed me. He’s the one who made sure Garrett would go after me and the Regulators, you know? Telling him to “clean out that squad east of Sumner”… He meant us. Chisum got together with his former enemy, Dolan himself, and Joe CALLAWAY Lea, to figure out a plan to get rid of us.

-Why do you raise your voice to pronounce Lea’s middle name? I ask.

-Because in For a Few Dollars More “Callaway” was the last name of outlaw #1, gunned down by bounty hunter #1…

-Oh wow, uncanny… The synchronicities sure start to pile up. They’re definitely more than mere coincidences… Maybe it was for you to ‘call away’ your demons… I add, faithful to my love for rearranging words to my liking. These are good reasons for the presence of that soundtrack in my dream… I can’t wait to learn more. Will you be my official partner in—not crime, but dream? The soul sleuth journey can be quite lonely…

-Like I wasn’t already, says Billy with a smile, taking me by the arm with his left hand while leading Torda Chica with the right as we leave the school to face the gallows.

-What is this you’re wearing wrapped around your wrist? I ask, feeling some sort of lacy material.

-Oh, well, he says a bit embarrassed, it’s a pink garter… I like to adorn this hand cause it’s on the heart side…

-Haha! Sweet… It reminds me of one of my former aliases: Lacy Shrine. Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to go into detail regarding THAT garter… “Once upon a time… in my life”, I used to wear colored wool threads around my left wrist, for the same reason, I say with a smile. I am interested in the Pink Garter with capital letters though, the one you mentioned when I woke up from the dream. It was the name of another saloon, correct?

-Yes, in Lamy, New Mexico, just across the railway tracks. It opened soon after I passed. But it’s a good haunting ground for me, because the place feels frozen in time. It takes me back to that wild train ride, when I passed through there.

-Maybe that’s why my pink dream replayed moments of my childhood by the rail tracks that ran behind my grandparents’ rose garden… I muse.

-Maybe, agrees Billy. Strangely enough, I enjoyed that train ride, even though it was taking me away from freedom, to the Santa Fe jail… The Pink Garter (I don’t know its name in your timeline) gives me a glimpse of what life could have been like in my Portales station. Often I haunt the train tracks and ponder…

-Speaking of pondering, I say taking Billy out of his reverie, it’s time for us to consider what these gallows trigger in us. Will you start? I propose as I look up at the noose.

Billy swallows noisily and concentrates to try to express what the ominous sight conjures up, but after a few seconds, he seems to be willing to dodge the exercise.

-I just can’t! he exclaims, looking into my eyes through welling up tears.

-Of course, you can. All we have to do is to allow spontaneity to guide our words, maybe through associations. You don’t even have to formulate sentences; only concepts evoked by the gallows. I’m sure this is the first step toward ridding you of their haunting presence. I’ll go first if you want. So, gallows, to me, go together with suffocation, asthma, repressed feelings, shadow, family curse, T as in trees and twice, sacrifices, cruelty, KKK, racism, despair, suicide.

Billy gasps at this last word.

Suicide… That would be one of my associations too, strangely enough. Family curse as well, for some reason.

-Maybe those are ripples, I suggest.

-Yes, ripples from the trenches; the moat waters you stirred… Another association would be blood brother, I don’t know why either, guilt also. Then Lincoln and lynchin’ (those two sound kind of alike…), plus injustice and anger, then… Even though I thought I’d escape destiny, fate’s shadow was longer than mine for my future kin… he says, surprising himself with this last sentence.

 -Wow! Not bad at all for someone who couldn’t! I exclaim. For some reason ‘family curse’ and ‘destiny’ bring back something from a man’s memoirs. I’ve read the simplified story of his life too, in the form of a children’s book titled Boy Writer.

-I think that’s something I might have fancied to become if I had lived a “normal” life, says Billy. A writer… maybe to set things straight amongst the huge cat’s cradle created by those who wrote about my life! Or a musician too, to make people smile, sing and dance…

I am the one smiling in silence, although still thinking about the passage of those memoirs I was talking about. Then, as dreams have it, an unexplained wonder enables Billy and I to hear that precise excerpt, as though an invisible ‘audiobook’ landed in the dream realm…

-That was wild! See how powerful your mind is, Chica Mares? Billy winks, choosing to praise me to try to conceal the impression the ‘audiobook’ content has caused in him.

-It seems so, yes. Although I would add that everybody’s mind is, dear member of the ‘sheeted tenantry!’ I wink back.

-Why on earth do people picture us with those stupid sheets on? he wonders, rolling his eyes. Why are people afraid of us, since all will end up dying? Maybe they’ll become one of us too if they have unfinished business down here!

-Here’s the key, I say. Unfinished business… The author overcame his fear of ghosts though, after an experience both sad and beautiful.

-What happened? Billy asks.

-He lost his mother at a very young age…

-Like me, Billy realizes.

-Well, his mother died when he was half your age when you lost Catherine. And ‘Catherine’, by the way, was the name of a lady his great-grandfather married in Northern Ireland, before they migrated to the States…

-Oh, it sounds like we have many things in common! says Billy, growing quite interested in the mysterious author.

-Right? I smile. As an adult, he would also name his only son Henry, your real name… But back to his childhood: the brother of the author made fun of him, for fearing ghosts, but one day, when the siblings went back to the home where their mother died, his brother rushed out of the house, terrified, after seeing their deceased mother sitting in the rocking chair. Our author was not yet in the house when the ghost appeared. When informed about it, he did not only go inside the house, facing his fear, but sat in that same rocking chair, in the hope of seeing or feeling his mother’s spirit, but she did not appear to him.

-Oh man, says Billy in a choked voice and with tears welling up again. It’s too bad.

-Yes, although ever since that day, his fear of ghosts was gone…

-What I disliked in the words we’ve just heard, is how they hanged an innocent man, and also how the author called the servant ignorant, when it’s obvious she told such a great story that he forever remembered it.

-I agree. The man could sometimes be carried away by his judgmental views of those belonging to what the society of his time perceived as ‘lower classes’. He also tended to blindly believe the words of so-called respectable people, failing to understand how crooked and cruel some really were. I guess it was part of his life lessons.

-It does ring a bell, pun intended, says Billy.

-Pun appreciated, I answer, immediately interrupted by a real bell sound coming from the schoolhouse.

-Time to get away! Billy says. We’ve had enough lessons here. I’m ready to be back on the saddle. I think this little exercise at the gallows has helped me feel a bit better already. So thanks for the idea! I want to share some of the things I witnessed on these spaghetti western sets. Come on, hop on Torda Chica with me! he invites me as he jumps on the mare’s back.

Delighted to be riding again, I get ready to sit behind Billy, but he points at the horse’s mane while tapping the pommel with his right hand.

-No, here in the front, it’s your special “set seeing tour”! I want to make up for failing to be a proper knight in shining armor earlier, so I invite you to this front row seating! He says as he lifts me from the ground. Comfortable? he asks after I sit astride the mare, placing my “Mary Poppins bag” before me.

-Yup! I beam. Giddy up!!! I shout, setting Torda Chica in motion as I giggle at the expression that sounds so funny to me.

I am in for a treat. Contrary to what I would have done following the ‘beaten paths’, Billy goes in the opposite direction of the road, choosing to exit the “Western Leone” set through the back, passing by the “Sweetwater Ranch” again. I guess he’s not a fan of modern world’s asphalt, and I don’t blame him! Once again the two of us, funnily clad alike, pass under the arches that, when I first saw them in this dream, were decorated with images from a children’s show I liked. Now all those are gone, including the neon sign that showed the way to the Wisdom School. The movie set seems to gradually be going back to its normal state, waiting until after a sure-footed Torda Chica has walked down a steep ravine to silently ‘rebuild’ the fence that encloses the compound.

-You know, I tell Billy once we’re on relatively flat ground, the first time you appeared here, wearing my clothes and that wig, to invite us to follow you/me under those arches, I couldn’t help seeing croquet wickets in them…

-We’ll cross under other “croquet wickets” soon, to reach the second set, he answers.

-I think I remember them from one of my waking life excursions. This time, before Rico and I reached the lighthouse where we found John, we had a rough landing, and when I checked my limbs to make sure nothing was broken, I…

-You were amazed at how your four beauty marks in a square actually mimicked the four towers of the castle you had landed in, so you connected the dots to remember the teachings of The Interior Castle, and then you realized the diamond shape was how croquet wickets are set… in a double diamond pattern. So yes, the two of us have been on this journey to polish our respective diamonds, for “only after smoothing our rough edges will we unite our dark and light, and then shine…”

-Is there ANYTHING you don’t know about me??? How do you do it? How can you read someone’s mind like that, and see and feel all they do and experience?

-Well, that’s a ghost thing, he answers evasively.

Knowing him enough now not to insist when he clearly is not in the mood of explaining his magic, I remain silent and enjoy our cross-country trek. We swiftly ride through the beautiful vegetation of this unique European desert that alternates prickly pear cacti with oleanders, reeds, palm trees and tamarisks. The shrub “tenantry” greets us with delightful bird songs and lizards’ darting moves.

-The only thing I miss in THIS desert is seeing roadrunners and coyotes, says Billy after a while.

-True, I say. Should I “meep meep” for you to feel at home? I tease.


-Never mind. I guess you only focused on westerns, I smile. I’ll sing the New Mexico hymn instead…

-We have a hymn? asks Billy who, after all, seems to still have something to learn about New Mexican landmarks of his “post-mortem existence”.

-Sure we do!

Torda Chica joyfully neighs as I start humming O Fair New Mexico. At the ‘Montezuma’ line, our mare abruptly stops at the edge of a little arroyo. With a sucking click from his jaw, Billy encourages the mare to ford the trickle, more like a puddle really.

I resume singing and the birds accompany me as many times as I feel like repeating the lyrics I remember. After some more riding spent in silence, enjoying each other’s company with no need for chatter, Billy and I soon reach the “croquet wickets” mentioned earlier.

-Yes, just as I remembered them. I say. We’re about to enter Fort Bravo…

-Yes, Ma’am… confirms Billy. Funny how they also call this place “Texas Hollywood”. That Hollywood name comes back over and over again on set, I wonder why. Spaniards pronounce it in a weird, guttural way though. I’ve also heard many Spaniards from your timeline call all Americans “Yankees”… They mix everything up!

-Yes, that one would drive me nuts too, I answer. But now I’m thinking maybe “Texas Hollywood” is actually pretty accurate in your case, if we adopt the eagle’s view to see things from a higher perspective, looking at layers of times… I say in words as cryptic as Billy’s may often be.

He remains silent while softly spurring Torda Chica’s flanks. I am grateful for the dream magic that has turned this second movie set into a temporary ghost town too. As we ride past the entrance booth, I am pleased to notice that it still displays the Blueberry poster, whose copy is rolled in my bag.

-So were you here when they shot this mov…

-That’s the reason why I’ve stayed, Billy interrupts, eager to start talking about that revolutionary western. It was mind-blowing. For the first time in so many decades of witnessing the same old reenactments, which keep sending ripples in “the broken record” of my wounded space-time, I was finally gifted with a different approach. I was seeing how deep traumas can be healed, and I was starting to understand that, maybe, I should stop pointing fingers at everybody else but me.

-Very wise, I acquiesce. That’s not always an easy thing to do. To swallow one’s pride and self-righteousness is no easy pill to… swallow, I say as I remember bitter-sweet moments in this region, the very moments I tried to exorcise at the beach, after meeting John.

-I witnessed your struggles, Billy confesses. And apart from observing you on that set we’ve just left, I had already seen you here at “Texas Hollywood”, a couple of years earlier, when you came with your parents. Your mom wore a funny checkered poncho.

-Another “walking chessboard”, huh, I smile.

-She did not seem very happy. I’d say something was tormenting her soul.

-I know right? She didn’t exactly know why she was in such a bad mood, so she blamed it on the price we paid for—let’s be honest— a pretty lame show… But you and I know why she needed to see this place, que no? I’m grateful this dream is sparing us the anachronistic show, and the entrance fee too, haha! The soul fee was a bit tougher to pay though…

-Maybe, says Billy, but it brings growth…

-It sure does. And this 5’03’’ giant here could use a few extra soul inches… I say tongue-in-cheek, proud to remember my foreign-sounding height in feet.

-OK, do you see this Mexican-looking church, here?

-Yes, and it feels so familiar, I say.

-I don’t think it shows in Blueberry, BUT it does in a—how do you call those shows about real events again?

-A documentary, I say.

-A do-cu-men-ta-ry, he assiduously repeats in order to remember this ‘modern’ word. Some folks who spoke like Tunstall came here two years after Blueberry was shot, to film a new reenactment of my life events. Honestly, this is one of my favorites. There’s that scene when “we” wait for an opportunity to shoot Brady from a rooftop (never happened in real life, but why not) with this beautiful church building in the background. I like the documentary because they alternate reenactments with four men of your time defending me. And they also reenact the killing of Chapman, so pivotal in the wild turn of events in my life…

-How do you feel when you see those two shootings reenacted over and over again? I ask.

-I can’t get rid of the sight of Chapman’s clothes on fire, and I am struggling to feel more compassion for Brady rather than anger and bitterness for being the only scapegoat.

-Un chiv“ito” expiatorio, I add.


-Spanish for (little) scapegoat. You know, that’s another thing that bugs me, when English speakers repeat bits and parts of your story with no working knowledge of Spanish what-so-ev-er. Once and for all, “chivito” is a little goat, “chivato” is a snitch, and “chavito” is a little man… I vent as though the movie set was an open-air Spanish classroom for know-it-all, self-proclaimed “Billy experts”.

-Well, the three still work for me, my dear Miss Richards, says Billy with a smile. Losing your legendary Patience, or what? he winks.

-Ah, Patience, the daughter of the famous teacher Mary Philippa Richards, the lady teenage-you had a crush on, I blush. True, the three words do apply. From chavito to chivito—cause sometimes estás como una cabra (you’re crazy as a goat)— to chivato.

-Yes, and that chivato part is the one that hurts most. Nobody likes a snitch, regrets Billy.

-You have to forgive yourself, Billy, and also forgive the one who encouraged you to be that chivato, even though Wallace failed to honor his part of your secret deal. Things were not as clear cut as it seems.

-Right, Billy says in a sarcastic tone. I’m still the only one who took the blame.

-True, but you were no angel either and, let’s face facts, you did sWitch sides as well, like everybody else in the Lincoln War…

-You sure have balls talking to Billy like that, you’re lucky that I’m an inoffensive ghost or…

-Or what??? I say as I jump off Torda Chica to look into Billy’s eyes as I tell him MY truth. I’ve spent YEARS trying to learn all the aspects of that damned war of yours, learning about your circumstances, character and choices. I did the same for many other actors in that war, men and women alike, trying to be as fair as I could in my understanding of it all, but I sure won’t kiss your—nor anybody else’s— ass, forgive my french. I want to help you heal, for us all to heal, because violence, unforgiveness and an-eye-for-an-eye mentality are a very heavy inheritance to bear. And quit talking about yourself in the third person, it’s ridiculous and it REALLY gets on my nerves.


-Yes, I’m feeling better now, in case you’re wondering. Thank you for shutting up.

-Heeheeheehee… I love your temperament, actually. I think I should have had more ‘cabras’ like you around in my time…

-Well… I guess in your time goat-me was busy trying to keep my balance like this gentleman passing us by, I say as I point at a stuntman in a long coat standing on his mount as he rides down Main Street. It looks like they are going to appear again soon in ‘the here and now’ of the waking world; our “ghost slot” must be about to expire. Is there something else we need to see on this set? I ask, holding my left arm in the air for Billy to help me back atop Torda Chica.

-You’re so funny, Chica Mares… he says as he hauls me back up. Yes, one last thing, this way.

One more sucking click from Billy’s jaw and Torda Chica walks towards the saloon / brothel, where her rider stops in front of the building to ponder Mike’s tragedy in Blueberry.

-Mike’s circumstances and mine are a bit different, Billy says, but ever since I saw Blueberry I knew that one day, ladies would help me heal too. Time and time again I imagined mysterious healers waving at me from this balcony…

Then he opens a rein for our mare to turn around and face the other saloon on set, on the far edge of Main Street, the one I had seen in a distorted mirror image when I first crash landed here before meeting Raven. Maybe then I was influenced by a real mirror at home, which I decorated with mini playing cards as an ‘ode’ to New Mexico’s trading posts, steampunk aesthetic and… Annie Oakley and Billy.

And now Billy himself is the one taking me on a Spaghetti Western Tour…

 -And then, Billy goes on, this other saloon—turned into Dolan’s store in the British documentary— always looked like a huge steamship to me. Can you see its helm on top? The day you roamed this set with your mom and dad, I had a vision in which you took that helm, whistling along as I sang a little song that goes like this (he strikes up new lyrics to the tune of O Fair New Mexico, which I hummed at least ten times during our ride):

♫♪ Under a sky of azure / Where fake cow boys roam free / blowing a kiss to the sun / is my dear, fair Nathalie / Girl with so many ghost friends / whose traumas she will end / she sure loves all their stories / my dear, fair Nathalie… O dear, fair Nathalie / I love you, love you so / my heart’s again aglow / never been fuller, no! / O dear, fair Nathalie / I love you, love you so / the coolest girl, really / fair Nathalie ♪♫

I can’t help letting out a stifled laugh while calling him out on his sweet talking strategy.

-You found a silly way to win me over again, didn’t you…

-I’m very sincere, he smiles.

-All right, all right… But regardless, I’m determined to ‘send you to your room’!


-Remember the misty idea that intrigued you… and me too? It’s taking shape right now. Your performance has inspired me. Let’s reach the Yellow Rose!


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