Part VI The Revelation
By Brother Theo
As my head touched my pillow I was swept instantly into my mother’s arms. The familiar smells of cooking, stale gin and the scent of the lilac perfume she wore mixed with another smell. My mother had her own smell, one I had become familiar with as one of my first memories, like the feel of her ‘every day’ dress, which was made of muslin, or the unique mask that was her face. These sensations, along with the sound of her voice, overwhelmed me in an instant. These things could not be! My mother had not held me in her arms since that fate filled day when she had driven my Akei from our home. These were impressions I had not experienced in so long that I only had words to describe them. My senses no longer knew this experience. And yet, here I was, being crushed in my mother’s embrace. And I was being crushed. Somehow my mother’s body had gained superhuman strength. Although she was weeping hot tears of rage, her words came through teeth that ground together in fury.
“Why?” She gritted, “Why did you let him do it? Why did you leave me, your MOTHER to be this, this thing?” My mother, now enormous, gave me a tremendous shake that would have bounced my head off the headboard; but I had no headboard. I slept on a waterbed I had bought it from the people who were moving out of the home I rented before I moved in. It was heavy, and a lot of trouble to move, so I got it cheap, but it had no headboard. I was held immovable in her arms now, my left arm trapped between my body and her viselike arm, my right arm extended upward as her right arm wrapped under it so that her right hand could pull my head forward and away. It felt as if she might snap my neck, or back. She had buried her face in my neck, and her words became muffled snarls as she bore in with her chin, a form of violence I have seen many women use.
“Shima” I struggled to say, “Shima, please!”
“It’s the seed you see? I am not your Shima girl. I would have been, I wanted to be, but you wouldn’t have that would you?” Each sentence brought a tightening of her now unbearable embrace. Each tightening of her grip brought me a little further off the bed. I could see us now, just barely, in the small mirror of my vanity. My mothers back was to my view, and I hung helplessly in her arms. My face was red, my hair wild, with fine strands of it stuck to my swollen lips as I gasped vainly for air. My right hand stuck up incongruously, as if I were seeking permission to ask some last question before I died and could ask no more. And then, she bit me. Not a bite that’s intention was to inflict pain, but a bite filled with hatred and spite. And my mothers teeth were healthy and strong. She had bitten me between my neck and my shoulder on that ridge of muscle known as the trapezius. Along with the fire that ran up and exploded in my brain came the rush of understanding that this was my vision.
Beaver had been right, this was no dream. The blood that ran in a rill down my side and was soaking the the sheets of my childhood bed was real. I nearly lost consciousness when she screamed an almost corporeal wail of malice between her masticating jaws that felt like poison being first injected, and then spreading throughout my body like venom. Suddenly thrusting me back from her body she turned and looked into the mirror. She did not look at herself, but at me. The sight of her face, lips painted red like those of a child playing with stolen lipstick, her chin painted red as some of the young men did ceremonially, made it impossible for me to take the breath my body so desperately needed. Hair wild, thick brows lowered, she looked at me with depthless hatred; and smiled a wicked smile.Then I was spinning wildly as I rose toward the ceiling, the ceiling rising with me until the scene below me grew small, like those miniature towns people sometimes put up at Christmas. And then, I knew no more.
When next I opened my eyes I was sitting in the most comfortable chair I had ever sat in. My hand went immediately to the bite and found…nothing. Nothing but the long faded scar of a childhood injury, sustained, by a fall from a mesa I had foolishly climbed when I was very young. Next to me there rose a wall of velvet that ended about for feet above my head. Although the room was dark, I could sense it’s enormity, and something more; a sense of ceremony and purpose that made the air dense with portent, and I found myself holding my breath. Sudden light sprang to life on a diaz beside what I perceived to be a semicircle of rather ordinary movie theater seats. Quite suddenly a huge tiger dressed in a cutaway tuxedo floated down upon the diaz as ballerinas will sometimes do in ballets, although, I could see no wire. He looked like an eighteen hundred pound Tony the Tiger vampire, or the Esso tiger in a tux. There were two dagger like canines which graced his face the way a circus ringmasters mustachios might lend a handsome face a look of character. The points of these fangs rested regally just below the tufted white fur of his chin.
“Tonight, I pay a fifth of my debt, Stonewalker,” he said, bowing slightly. Although the stage had to be over a hundred yards away I heard him perfectly. “Tonight I bring no happiness, no joy. But let it be remembered that the repayment of debt does not always bring happiness. Remember, your gift was blood. In a sense this gift is about blood.”
Donning his top hat and throwing the cane high into the air the big cat ran around the raised stage so fast that it looked as if he might outrun his stripes. Everywhere his huge feet touched the stage, something appeared. Before I could make out what I was looking at, my brain supplied the missing pieces and I knew that place. It was a bedroom, shabby, but clean. A queen size bed with no head or footboards stood flush to one wall. Squeezed between the bed and the far wall was a small bedside table with a lamp on it. An open book, ”Rolling Thunder Speaks” was open beside the lamp. Against the wall at the foot of the bed was an antique dresser with a fine mirror. The dresser was flawless and looked as out of place as an opera patron standing in bread line. I remembered that dresser well, but in another bedroom. It was my mother’s prize possession.
Beside the dresser was a shabby wicker hamper, and beside the hamper, against the lateral wall was a chest of drawers with the second drawer standing open. Inside the drawer was a pillow, a child’s blanket, and…a baby. The child was tiny, a primi by it’s looks. The baby had the intelligent dark eyes sometimes given to premature babies. The door to the room was open, and a woman was frozen in the act of entering. Bowing low and doffing his hat as he did, the huge animal leapt high into the air and caught the walking stick as it reached the apex of it’s flight. A spark of orange light appeared where both had been, and streaked toward
me, ending in a soft plosive sound as something very heavy landed in the chair next to me. All of this happened while I was still rubbing the place where I had been bitten just seconds ago. Or had it been years ago? Had I been bitten, or had I fallen down the mesa as my mother had told me? I stopped rubbing the spot and looked up at the enormous cat, who was in turn looking down at me.
“Well,” I said sardonically, “that happened. Or not.”
His genial expression did not change, and he said “Oh it happened all right. Hurt huh?”
What, the bite, or being lied to?”
He sniffed and looked away. “Being lied to girl. As biting goes you humans are pretty much amateurs. But that hate venom…” his gaze turned serious. “That’s what this vision is all about Mandi” He made my gift name sound like a family name. “Lies and the people who tell them. I know you’ve been asking yourself, why this is happening, all these impossible things; miracles and the old ones come back home.”
His voice trailed off. “But this is not our home child.” He looked up and I could see that the roof had disappeared, and the sky was so filled with the distant stars that it seemed as if we were hanging upside down looking down at the surface of an impossibly dark planet strewn with the glittering troves of millions of years of looting treasure. Here and there some points of light were larger than others, and yet others shone with a defiant light that demanded you look upon it only.
“That is our home Mandi” he growled softly and we are here instead of there because of this” he inclined his massive head toward the distant stage. “Because of rules that are rules however far away they be.”
“Why are you telling me this now? And why hasn’t Beaver told me?”
“Would you have believed him?” He sounded faintly amused. “I think not. Ask yourself again when the stones have told you all. Besides, like all your kind you are under a…limitation you might say.”
I stayed silent gazing at the tableau on the stage. After a while he said “You are unable to speak of these things. Most of you forget them, the way you forgot how you got that scar.” I had forgotten. How was that even possible? I even remembered falling down the mesa. “People like you and Beaver can remember, but you absolutely won’t be able to speak of what you see regardless of how strong is your will to do so.” I dragged my gaze back to his.
“Why can people like me and Beaver remember?”
Moving only his eyes, he indicated upward. “The trip from here to there is…arduous. Also, time behaves differently there than it does here. Things, important things might well be much changed when I return home.” He sighed and the wind of it ruffled my hair.
“Why come then?” Now it was his turn to offer a sardonic grin. It did not look particularly friendly.
After a moment he said,”I could no more refuse the call to come than you will be able to speak of this. I, am ‘catness’. The embodiment of all things cat. One of your philosophers, Plato spoke of it long ago. Another of your people had the good sense to write it down.”
I arched an eyebrow. “My people?”
The huge cat leaned forward and sniffed her. This made Mandi’s hair rise and fall. He said from deep in his chest. “You all smell the same to me. All people are your people child.” Facing forward he leaned back to look at the diaz. “Now watch human, for time grows short, even in this place, and there is much yet to do.”
Instead of leaning back, Mandi leaned forward. Even though the distance was obviously too great to see well, every detail stood out crisply. As if she had been suddenly switched on, the woman frozen in mid-stride suddenly went into motion walking into the room as if she had never stopped. The baby was issuing short wails that had been stilled for more than twenty five years.What had been, was again! I was looking at something that had happened, and then been made motionless long ago. It made me think of the westward tide of the white man, the Middle Ages, the mammoths; all stilled in mid stride and waiting for…what? As provocative as that thought was, it did nothing to cushion the shock of what I saw next. The woman who entered the room was my abizhi, or my father’s sister.
“But my abizhi has no children.” I said.
Cutting me short the cat rumbled, “The child is you Mandi.” Now I sat back in my seat. My aunt stood over the child seeming indecisive for a moment. Then, with her left hand she reached down for…for me? The admonition to not awaken during the vision sent an icy dagger of fear into my heart. What if I awakened here, to live out forever with my infant self? I suppressed a shiver that turned into outright shaking as my aunt’s right hand shot forward with lightning speed to slam the drawer shut, barely missing deadly harm to the baby. Before I could take this in the woman’s left had grasped her right and she fell to the floor in what was obviously a deadly contest between her two halves. For the next three minutes I watched as my abizhi‘ s right hand tried to injure me, while her left hand waged a desperate battle to prevent it. The scene froze on a frame where the baby that was me was half out of the drawer, and my aunts left hand was stopped in the act of slamming her right hand against the night table. I was motionless for a long time. Made still, like the people on the motionless tableau by shock and disbelief. In time the voice of the great cat penetrated my fugue. “It’s called Alien Hand child. It is very rare, which is good for people, but not for you. ‘Your people’ thought it was a possession by evil spirits. Beaver knew what it was, but he was not believed. White men from far away came and took her. She was your mother Mandi.”
I felt something drip from the end of my nose and realized I was crying. Continuing gently the cat said, “Her husband, your father, left her a short time after it began. At first the Child Protective people claimed you, but soon Beaver’s son, whose wife had given them no children adopted you. It was his wish that you grow up knowing who you were, but his wife wanted none of that, and insisted you be raised believing that she was your real mother. When your mother killed herself in a faraway place even dull witted humans could see it pleased her. It did not please us. Your abizhi insisted you be raised Mormon, which is why you moved to another reservation. Your uncle, the man you think of as your father was weak. This also did not please us, as Beaver grows old, and soon we will have need of another…” he stopped here, clearly uncomfortable with the words available to choose from.
“Cats paw?” I asked sarcastically. In all my time before and since I have never seen a cat look ashamed. I’ve seen the expression on almost every one of god’s creatures faces, but never a cat. Except this one time. Wordlessly he placed his massive paw onto my hand. I cannot describe how it felt. But I can tell you as feelings go, it was in the top ten. The huge pads, the great tufts if downy fur that grew between them, the hidden menace of claws easily nine inches long, retracted so that only the points could be felt.
“You can no more escape what you are than I,” he rumbled. And for an instant I felt a closer kinship with this infinitely alien creature than I have ever felt with anyone. He was a God, and I but a dirt poor red woman, but we both had to do what we had to do. In the next instant I was in my bedroom. I saw a police cruiser go by slowly through the thin curtains of my bedroom window. I sat on the edge of my bed and put my hand under the pillow, but the stone was gone to…wherever it belonged. I lay down and thought of sleep, and it came to me willingly this time, and thankfully unaccompanied by dreams.
The Butcher Shop