by Linda Sillitoe
[p.229]Caitlin dropped off the twins at school on their first day back, and headed west toward the city center. The January thaw had come this year right after Christmas, bringing intermittent sun and rain, opening chuckholes in the roads. Her tiny office alternated between cold and hot; and no matter whether she chose her raincoat, winter coat, or just wore a heavy sweater in the mornings, she would regret that selection at least once during the day. Still, it was wonderful to have the roads dry, the sun out, and the mountains visible. She would take indeterminate weather over blizzards despite the smog.
Writing the last Hubbard story wore her down, she knew, especially writing in between and around the holiday events. Still, Roger was back—that was good. Marly was dropping by today for lunch. Maybe Marly would have an idea how to handle Roger’s determination to feature Boyd in the video; Caitlin didn’t. Also, Cait wanted to pin Marly down on her pregnancy.
How would she tell the family? What would she do about her bishop? Marly seemed to think she could play the organ week after week as her belly swelled and that no one would notice or care. R-i-i-i-ght, Marly, Caitlin sighed—and then give birth to a mixed-race baby.
[p.230]Could Marly afford this baby? She hoped Marly’s benefits included maternity insurance.
She entered the office humming under her breath, but once inside her cubicle her spirits plummeted. Something dank and discouraging lay in the air—probably just knowing she’d spend today on Hubbard again.
She sat down and picked up her planning notebook to review the multi-sectioned list she’d made yesterday. How odd—the ink was smudged, as if it had been spattered by water. That was strange, because there was no water anywhere in the room. Well, whatever the reason, she didn’t want to spend the week staring at this mess. The rippled paper felt odd. She flipped the smudged sheet to the bottom of the notebook and remade her list. As she did, she remembered two telephone messages Kiln had left on her desk that looked spattered. She pulled them off the spike and looked at them again. They’d been spattered, all right, then dried.
She looked up at the ceiling. No stains. Her poster over the radiator was dry and smooth.
“Hal?” she called out, as she heard him walk past.
“Morning, Cait. What’s up?” He lounged against the door frame.
“I keep finding notes and things spattered with water. Who’s in here at night?”
“Nobody. The cleaning people just empty the wastebaskets and clean the restroom and vacuum. They never touch the desks.”
Caitlin gazed up at the ceiling again, and Hal did, too. He extended a long arm and ran his fingertips along the stucco surface. “Dry up here. I don’t see any signs of a leak. Weird,” he said, shrugged, and left. Caitlin could hear Lana’s giggle in the front office.
“Weird,” Hal had said. He hadn’t meant anything, but still [p.231]Caitlin shuddered, then forced herself to get to work. The Hubbard article was taking shape like something hammered together from odd bits, eventually to be sanded and painted. Carefully she inserted two paragraphs on Nick’s investigation of Hubbard’s cell, then skipped down to the section on the list of lawsuits against him. Although she began writing fast and energetically, gradually her brain and then her hands slowed. She queued through the text again but her focus was fading. Finally she closed her eyes. Something smelled musty—maybe the Hubbard story, she thought; maybe me.
“Wake up call,” Marly said, brushing by Caitlin. Marly sat down in the chair, then cringed away from the small black picture frame on the window sill. “What the heck is this?”
Caitlin startled then grinned—Marly might be pregnant out of wedlock but still watched her language. Her bishop would be proud. “It’s a Hubbard order form I came across. Just a little souvenir from the never-ending story in my life.”
Marly looked at it again then stared at her. “Why do you want this in your office?” she asked, regarding Caitlin as if she’d gone mad.
“I don’t know,” Caitlin said, closing her directory and pulling her bag out of the bottom drawer. “The day I framed it I just felt I ought to have something tangible to show for all that story cost me.”
Marly looked at it again. “It feels awful,” she said. “So let’s get lunch,” Caitlin said, her spirits rising. “Let’s go find a little sunshine.”
They drove up Emigration Canyon and ordered spinach salads at Ruth’s restaurant. The sky had clouded and a stiff breeze shook their skirts. Nevertheless, Caitlin enjoyed the drive, and watched for animal tracks in the snow near the winding road.
Over lunch Marly patiently answered questions. She had [p.232]health insurance and it would cover most of the expenses. She didn’t think she’d have any problem hanging on to her job.
“What about your bishop?” Caitlin asked.
Marly’s eyes looked past her and grew dreamy. She shrugged.
“We’ll work something out,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
“Marly,” Caitlin began helplessly, then sighed and moved to the toughest question. “What about the family?”
Marly’s smile trembled but she met Caitlin’s eyes levelly. “Well, what can they do? Put me in the stocks? I worry about telling Mom and Dad, but I know they’ll love the baby when she comes. Everyone is nuts about babies.”
Caitlin’s protective instincts rose like a warm wave, washing her younger sister in reassurance. “Oh, of course they will. I was just thinking about—before. Don’t you dread the next six months?”
Marly beamed then and grabbed Caitlin’s wrist across the table. “You know what, Cait? I can actually feel her moving. I know it’s too soon, but there are these little darting motions sometimes. Like a fish in a fishbowl.”
“Really?” Cait asked. “Well, I wouldn’t put it past you. She’s probably an infant witch. You’re sure it’s a girl?”
Their lunch arrived, and Marly nodded over the waiter’s full hands, her eyes surprised that Caitlin would even ask. Caitlin realized she had entirely lost her nerve to ask if the baby’s ethnicity would be a problem. At this point such a question seemed obscene. Anyway the conversation lightened and Caitlin enjoyed the relief too much to bring up the conundrum of Roger, Boyd, and Barbara. You aren’t responsible for everything, she reminded herself, enjoying the sunshine from the opposite window; sun flared in her sister’s auburn hair. Go with the flow.
Thursday morning Caitlin rushed to work, late for an interview and lacking a notebook. When she bolted through the front [p.233]office to her desk, she found her half-filled notebook near the telephone where she’d left it. She grabbed it—and realized it was soaked halfway through, from the bottom up. She stood there, staring at it, turning the soggy cardboard and wet pages in her hand. “What the hell …, ” she muttered, sweeping a clear space on her desk, looking for a puddle. Nothing. She stared at the ceiling again. No stains. The telephone rang in the front office then, and she glanced at her watch, took a fresh notebook off the rack by the door, and left. She returned to the office only to drop off her notes and to debrief with Hal. Without thinking about it, she placed her notebook on top of the computer. Out of harm’s way? she would wonder later.
Friday morning, still in bed, Caitlin realized that she dreaded going to the office. What had she thought, standing there with that half-soaked notebook in her hand? How had she gone merrily through her day after such a weird event? She went back through the week’s odd occurrences. The spatters had started Tuesday, no Monday. Sometime earlier, maybe the week before, she had placed that framed order form in her window.
Suddenly she felt cold all over, even under the heavy quilt. No, she thought, that’s coincidence. I’m imagining all this. Something very ordinary is going on. There’s a leak somewhere. She remembered the pristine poster on her window. Someone might be playing a trick. Maybe Lana was trying to make her think she was going crazy; if so, she was succeeding.
She got out of bed and dashed for the shower. She liked the way the steam rose in a cloud. She drove to the office amazed by the fear that seized her. What did she really expect to find? She didn’t know.
Kim was in the back room making coffee when Caitlin arrived, so she went directly to her office and threw open the door. Everything was in place. The framed order winked at her from [p.234]the window. She surveyed her desk. Ugh—she’d hated being here all week, she realized, but had thought she was just feeling down. She looked carefully at the papers covering the top of her desk—three memos, a list of people to call, a photo order for the cover story, and a letter from an irate reader. Her toes curled under as she saw that numerous papers appeared to have been misted—like plants—then had dried slightly wrinkled. Caitlin pulled back her chair and sat down hard.
Still nothing suspicious on the ceiling, she noticed. She got up and ran a finger over the shiny poster on the window—no condensation. Swiveling in her chair, she looked around the rest of the office, but her books, her files, her diskette file, her stack of Red Mesa photos all looked fine. The clock on her desk said 8:30. She called Nick. She’d told him weirder things.
“I’ve got to see this,” he said. “I’ll drop by in an hour or so.” “Sure,” she said relieved. Maybe Nick could figure out some logical reason; if not, maybe he would be willing to certify she was not really insane. Just overworked, maybe hysterical, nothing serious.
She turned on her computer and booted up, then turned back to look at the desk again. She dialed Isabel and left a message with the answering service. Hanging up, she felt as if the day had already been spent. She tipped her desk chair back, braced her feet on a shelf of the bookcase, and closed her eyes.
“Caught you napping,” Hal’s voice said almost immediately.
“Hi,” Caitlin answered, swinging her legs down and tucking them under her desk so he could pass. He sat down in the chair in front of the window—the order form on the sill—without a flinch.
“How’s the story on Hubbard coming along?”
Caitlin took a deep breath. “Oh, it’s pretty well drafted. I’m [p.235]going to knock out the rest of it today, I hope. Maybe it’ll be your baby by tonight.”
Hal grinned. He looked rested and fit, Caitlin thought, despite the magazine’s financial worries. She wondered if Lana had anything to do with his sense of ease.
“Terrific. I knew you could do it. If anything can pull us out of the swamp it’s having Hubbard on the cover again.”
“Hal …, ” Caitlin began, “look at my desk—at these papers.”
He looked. “Have you been spraying plants or something?”
“What plants? The only water in here is what I drink. I haven’t spilled anything.” She showed him the notebook, now dry, but with the back cover and the back half of the pages rippled uniformly. “This was soaked from the bottom up.”
He gazed at the ceiling, the molding over the window, and reached up a long arm to tap the stucco finish again, bringing down a fine spray of plaster. “Certainly feels dry,” he said, and sneezed. “Maybe you spilled something, didn’t realize it, and covered it with papers.”
Sure, Caitlin thought, but said nothing. Kim appeared at the door. “Bank of Utah is on line two, Hal.”
“Okay. Hang in there, kiddo,” he said to Caitlin and was gone.
“Right,” Caitlin muttered, reaching for her outline of the article. Now, it had been sitting squarely in the center of her desk, but remained dry and smooth. The messages that looked as if they’d been sprayed were just behind it in an open basket. “Set my papers in a puddle,” she scoffed under her breath. “I work with a fool.” She slashed through several headings, then turned to the computer. She felt filthy, somehow, like she’d been rolling a body out of a grave. Where did her brain find such macabre images?
“Shit!” she said and headed for the Coke machine, nearly knocking Nick down just past the threshold.
[p.236]“Whoa,” he said, grabbing her arms. “Was it something I said?”
“Sorry, Nick. Come on in. I feel like I’m working in the Twilight Zone.”
She gestured toward the collection of spattered, sprayed, or soaked paper, now dry, mixed with untouched newspaper clippings, manuscripts, and notepads on her desk. He studied them in silence. “God,” Nick muttered after a minute. She retreated toward the file cabinet, giving him room.
Nick looked at the ceiling and walked around inspecting it carefully, then checked the window, the radiator behind the chair, everything. Caitlin relaxed watching him. How handy to know a cop, she thought. Meanwhile, the telephone rang and he passed it to her.
“This is Isabel.”
Caitlin scooted past Nick, sat down, and filled her in briefly. “Nick’s here right now looking at all this stuff. He seems to think it’s pretty weird, too.” Nick said nothing but Caitlin thought she heard him grunt in agreement.
“Okay, now go back,” Isabel said as if they were talking about something reasonable. “When did all this start?”
“Monday, I think. I was gone a few days off and on around Christmas. A week or so ago I found a Hubbard holograph and framed it. I have to do another Hubbard story—also I wrote a letter to James at Nick’s suggestion.”
“When did you send the letter?” “Um, I sent the letter sometime last week.” She glanced at Nick, trying to remember.
“I was here on Tuesday,” he said.
“It would have been Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.”
“So James would have received it toward the end of the week probably. Maybe Saturday at the latest.”
[p.237]“Right.” Her stomach rolled. “Meaning he would have gotten it about the same time I put this little trophy in the window.” Caitlin felt her brain divide, one part rushing pellmell after this lead and the other part searching frantically for another explanation. “So what are we saying—it’s a poltergeist? I’m being punished already? My office sure feels awful.”
Isabel drew her out a bit on that. “Now tell me again why you framed this Hubbard item and how you felt about it.”
Caitlin explained her impulse then admitted, “Now that I think about it, I couldn’t even sit close to it once it was put together. That’s why I set it on the window sill across the room. Most people sit right in front of it without even noticing.”
Nick, who had plopped into the chair, turned around as she spoke, picked up the frame, and studied the order form closely. She realized she expected him to shove it away but saw no reaction. This should be in evidence, she could hear him thinking and she looked away.
“Well, Caitlin, I’m a little out of my depth here,” Isabel said slowly, “but it sounds like telekinesis—you know, moving things around or making things happen by mind concentration—remote control. You sent James that letter. That means he has something of yours, right? You typed the letter? You handled it?”
“Yes,” Caitlin said weakly. “It’s on magazine letterhead.”
“Right. Then you put something of his, something he handled and that’s connected to a crime, up in your window at the magazine. You may have set up a connection.”
Caitlin said, aghast, “You mean James can do this?” Her mouth felt like dust, her tongue sticking to the inside of her cheeks.
“Well, there still has to be a source of water.” Caitlin pressed her knees together and squeezed the receiver.
“There’s no source of water—that’s what’s so weird.” She looked [p.238]again at the frame in Nick’s hand and thought of Henry telling her to leave all this alone.
“The first thing you need to do is get that order form out of your window.”
“Just a sec. Here it goes.” Caitlin stood so she could open a file drawer. Nick dropped it in and she slammed the drawer shut.
“Okay, it’s encased in steel, polluting my files. Will that help?” “I don’t know. You really ought to get everything connected with Hubbard out of your office.”
“But I can’t—this last story is on the cover next month. I’ve got to keep my files someplace, and I don’t think I want to take them home.”
“Caitlin, you can’t keep messing with this. Look what it’s doing to you.”
“I know. I know you’re right, but—well, I’ll try to figure out something.”
“I really haven’t dealt much with this kind of thing. Some people use crystals to purify a space. But this is about the point at which you call in a medicine man.”
“Really,” Caitlin murmured.
“See what you can do to clear this stuff out,” Isabel said. “Call me in a day or so.”
“Okay. Thanks, Isabel.” Caitlin hung up and stared at Nick. He stared back. “What did she say?”
“She said there still had to be a source of water.”
Nick got up and checked the ceiling and window again. “I can’t see anything. You’d think there would be stains if there’s water seeping in—enough water to do this much damage.”
Caitlin whirled and ran for the office bathroom, which, thankfully, was empty. When she returned, pale and hollow, she [p.239]expected Nick to be gone but he was still gazing at the papers on her desk. He moved so she could sit down, then shut the door. He sat down opposite her.
“Cait, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.” She sat hugging herself. “I don’t believe this is happening. Isabel says the same thing as Henry—leave it alone. But I can’t, Nick. This is my job.”
Nick sighed deeply and studied his hands. “What do you want to do, Cait? It’s not going anywhere as far as the legal system is concerned. We can drop it. I feel bad that I encouraged you to write that letter.”
Caitlin shrugged. “How do I just walk away from a murder? Especially one I saw—sort of. It’s like a renunciation of my whole career, everything I think I’m about.”
“You’ve got to look out for yourself, too. Anyone would.” Caitlin managed a wry smile. “And what do I tell Hal—that he just lost his cover story because James is wetting my office and I feel like hell? He’d love that one.”
Nick shook his head and a pocket beeped insistently. “I’ve got to call the office,” he said. “Sorry to leave you in the middle of this. “
Caitlin held on to the back of her chair until she heard his footsteps leave the office. She wanted to run after him like a traumatized heroine. Instead she went to wash her face, comb her hair, and look her reflection straight in the eye. “Give ‘em hell, Caitlin,” she muttered between her teeth.
“I have an interview,” she told Kim. ‘‘I’ll be back later.” She did have an interview, lunch with a businessman who had invested in the Hubbard business. But first she needed to clear her head. She drove down Third West and on to the interstate, [p.240]concentrating on the traffic. Sun beat through her window and the top of the windshield, even though the windshield had been wet when she got into the car. Until today, she had thought the weather explained why she had been so uncomfortable in her office. Guess again, she thought wryly, turning the outside vent on and the heater off.
Without thinking much about it, she took the interchange east to I-80, and headed toward the Wasatch Mountains. Frosted with snow against a light turquoise sky, they looked alpine. She felt a sudden longing to lose herself in them, to find a mountain cabin and hide there.
She moved into the left lane and sped past a truck, then decided to take Wasatch Boulevard south above the city; maybe by the time she reached the suburbs near the Canyon Tennis Club she’d be ready to return to town. Maybe not.
The traffic was light; most vehicles still headed toward the capital city. She reminded herself to leave enough time to get back for lunch. It would be freeway almost all the way back.
When she reached the fork in the road, she took the left branch up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Already she felt better, calm, in control and slightly exhilarated, as if playing hookey. Yes, she thought, mountains are what I need; mountains and sky. Air. Quite possibly nothing bizarre was occurring at all. When she had space and quiet, she’d sort it all out. She slowed for a tight curve. The roads were dry, winding away from cedar toward aspen and pine.
As she drove, Caitlin pictured herself on a mountaintop with wind and sky for companions, a place where she could look out and down on the world. But she settled for a deserted picnic area and a huge boulder at the edge of the frozen creek. Bare trees rustled above her head. A brown trickle of snowmelt wound through the icy boulders. The stone she leaned against was cold, [p.241]but she gathered her coat under her, buttoning it all the way up. She was glad she had worn short boots and wool pants.
For what seemed a long time she didn’t think, just watched the water, listened for hints that something lived and moved nearby, that something watched her as she watched for it. But the sounds in the canyon were few, only the occasional automobile charging around the curve or a plane miles overhead. Such quiet!—all the time she battled phantoms in the city, this place was here—still, remote, contained. She breathed in the cold air like a tonic.
Finally she searched through her bag for her crystal and pulled it out. She hadn’t held it for a long time but now it seemed to sparkle in her hand, cold as the rock she sat on. She squeezed it until she could feel it pulsing. She remembered Henry blowing against the crystal and handing it to her. Why had she neglected it? She cautiously threaded the last little while through her mind—Hal’s insistence on a Hubbard story, Nick cajoling her to write to James, her determination to do both, the adrenaline of jumping back into the Hubbard enigma and her glee at finding a trophy, then the suffocating feeling in her office and the odd, intermittent water patterns on her desk.
Finally she tipped back her head and let the sun fall on her closed eyelids. Why did she doubt herself? What had she thought, holding that notebook soaked from the back cover halfway through its pages? To Henry or even Marly it would be clear what was going on. Yet she persisted in plunging blindly along, her road map wadded in a pocket. She ignored everything she knew and felt and let her head rule, as usual. Wanting a trophy, she set that condensed bit of murder in her window at the same time she contacted the murderer. She’d tried to draw him in, to pull him relentlessly back toward another crime, long lost in darkness.
[p.242]She could do it, too, she saw suddenly, her mind clicking into high gear. Her eyes opened wide. He hid this crime so well under layers of coding and disguise. If she tried hard enough, surely she could expose it the same way. She could feed him back his own code and see if he responded. She wouldn’t have to deal with him directly at all, just embed the hook in the story as she finished it. If she did it well, only James would bite, but only if he recognized the hook—only if the hook were true.
She was writing about Nick’s investigation anyway—an investigation that hadn’t panned out. That version hadn’t panned out. How could she do it? The answer came so fast that she laughed. Why not give the alleged victim a name, an obvious pseudonym. Instead of calling him John Doe, why not call him Mr. Greentree?
She hugged herself, shivering with cold, as she had shivered earlier in her office—except now she had air and light. She had to get back to the city, to the last interview, to the last draft of the last Hubbard article. This hook would sink like a fishing line through a hole cut in ice.
Then she would clear all of this out of her life, go on to other things, never think about it again. Either James would bite and Nick could take over or he wouldn’t. Whichever way it went, she could walk away. But she wouldn’t let James beat her at his little game. She’d figured him out long before he even knew who she was. He had smashed many people’s lives—she couldn’t let him get away with anything more.
Caitlin hurried back to her car. Relief and adrenaline sped her down the canyon. The sky had clouded over again, and drops hit her windshield by the time she reached I-80. Crazy weather. By tonight, with any luck at all, Hal would have the article, Nick would know she’d taken matters as fur as she ever could, James would have his hook-and she would be free.
[p.243]Everything went as planned and Caitlin spent the weekend following her daughters’ agenda—the sports mall, shopping with the money they received for Christmas, and a pizza party Saturday night. Sunday the four of them toasted marshmallows in the fireplace and listened to a downpour outside. “I’ll bet that’s snow before morning,” Jake said gloomily.
“Maybe it will rain itself out and move on,” Caitlin hoped. “It’s only January and already I’m looking toward spring.”
Hal called, and Caitlin stood numbly with the receiver in her hand, listening as Hal told her that her office was flooded. “The security alarm went off and I got a call,” he said. “The rain is pouring through the roof over your desk. You’d better get down here.”
“I’m on my way,” she said. The slick streets, the almost empty parking lot, the mostly dark building, all had a dreamlike texture, but nothing like the sight that awaited her. Two galvanized garbage cans stood on her desk and the rain drummed in as Hal, a janitor, and a security guard watched helplessly. Cait gazed for a stunned moment, then piled her sodden papers in a box. Her computer was splashed but seemed all right. “Good thing I gave you the Hubbard disk,” she told Hal.
Old carpet shampoo resurrected beneath her feet, and she nearly slipped as she helped the men empty her office. “We’ll set you up out front for now,” Hal said cheerfully, “until they can get the roof fixed. I’d have sworn there wasn’t a leak.” Why, Caitlin wondered, did men turn hearty in a crisis, as if congratulating one another on their manhood?
Caitlin drove home trying to convince herself that her desk had drowned of natural causes. She fell into bed, slept heavily, and woke in the morning with her nightgown drenched and her [p.244]hair wet. She felt the way she had for so many days in her office. She heard Jake and the girls heading out the back door. Moving like someone damaged but determined to survive a hurricane or an earthquake, Caitlin dressed methodically, left a note, packed a bag, and called into work.
“While you’re repairing my office, I’m going after a cover photo for the reservation story,” she told Hal.
“I thought you had all kinds of good stuff.”
“I have a new idea,” Caitlin said. “It’s an easy shot and I’ll make a quick trip. No photog—I can manage myself.”
When she arrived at Henry’s door nearly at dusk, he gave her a long, considering look. “I’ve been expecting you,” he said finally, and motioned her into his trailer. Henry dished up some stew that simmered on the stove and then they talked. Finally Caitlin collapsed onto an old couch in the living room and fell asleep.
Henry wakened her, an electric torch in one hand. Her wristwatch told her it was five o’clock in the morning, black outside and bitterly cold. She washed up, then he led her across the rutted dirt road to the ceremonial hogan. Inside, a central fire emitted surprising warmth and flickered patterns on the round log walls. She sat where Henry pointed and closed her hand over her crystal.
For a moment, listening to Henry’s voice, Caitlin thought she would faint. Could people smother in a hogan? But Henry’s voice sang steadily in Navajo; obviously he wasn’t affected.
She held on to herself, the crystal between her hands, as Henry explained in English what he would do and the meaning of the instruments he set out on the floor. She drew deep breaths, remembering to exhale completely. The sage helped when he [p.245]shook it over her and himself. She closed her eyes, hearing his prayer coming fast and intent, filled with pitches, clicks, and hisses she had never spoken.
Eyes closed, she was only an ache encircled at the top by a thick cloud of gnats. Henry’s prayer moved back and forth between the fire, the instruments, then hovered over her. She drank something bitter. Then his hands were solid pressing hard on her head, neck, shoulders, back, lifting so suddenly that her body recoiled like a fired gun.
Let go, Caitlin told herself, let go, release, let him go. Earlier Henry wrenched from her the surprising confession that she had stolen James Hubbard’s mask, exposed him. That was why he pursued her. She had to let him go.
Suddenly Hubbard was there, to the right in her mind’s eye, his familiar profile barely smiling. She sensed the keen dark hum of his thinking, but now Henry’s energy came from the left, balancing the menace. Goodbye, James, Caitlin thought hard and hurriedly. Talking with Henry, she had resolved to picture the photo she had seen of James as a five-year-old—maybe then she could summon compassion. Now, in an overpowering instant she realized she didn’t need that childish image. She was bidding James goodbye; astonishingly she would miss him.
In that moment Caitlin felt love. It was not new—love for this tormentor, her adversary, whom she had come to understand inside out. Uneasily she heard her own voice echo through her writing, parading him naked and exposed. She saw the photographs and tapes and notebooks she had filled with him, the trophy in her window. I possessed him, she thought numbly, and his secrets.
She took a deep breath, and sorrow came in like a wave—sorrow for the little boy she had dreamed, for the father with [p.246]anguished eyes, grief for the body tumbling into a neglected grave, grief for the human web that entangled them all.
On the outside Henry’s voice stopped. Caitlin became aware of tears dripping from her jaw. Her nose ran. She opened her eyes when Henry opened her hands, locked around the crystal. He placed dirt in her left hand and closed her fingers over it. She kept the crystal in her other hand. The prayers continued, the whiffing and blowing, then daylight gleamed through her closed eyelids as if the sun had just risen. She held on, the crystal hot in her right hand, the earth heating her left. She felt herself expand to fill her inner space. Then Henry dusted the earth from her hand and the prayers stopped. She opened her eyes and wiped her fists across her cheeks. Something vile rose in her gullet and she vomited into a pail he had placed at her side. As she followed Henry back to the trailer, a tumbleweed whirled end over end and stars gleamed along the horizon.
After breakfast Henry drove her a few bumpy miles over dirt roads to an arroyo. Above it, cliff tops were lined with crumbled ruins. He pointed out petroglyphs a few feet above their heads.
“You see these two figures holding hands,” Henry said. “The archeologists tell you they are a man and a woman. Well, they are a man and a woman, but the archeologists don’t see the spiritual meaning because they don’t consider the ways of Indians.” Caitlin nodded agreeably.
“Until recently—even after World War II—you would never see an Indian man and woman holding hands in public like that, or with their arms around each other—none of that. White people did that sometimes; Indians didn’t.
“The only time you would see this kind of thing,” he said, his voice taking on an echo, “would be if they were traveling some place dangerous. The spirit world, maybe—or a dark place.”
While Henry left offerings for the spirits, Caitlin tucked a small [p.247]red stone into her pocket. They walked to his truck in silence and drove back slowly over the rutted road, the wheels occasionally spinning on slickrock. Caitlin leaned her head against the high seat back and tried to relax, to absorb the intensity of the blue sky, the rosy dust flying around them, the enduring pale green of the sage and rabbit brush.
“You are really all right, Caitlin,” Henry said when they reached her car. “When it comes right down to it, there is nothing wrong with you.”
She felt her throat close and swallowed hard. “I know,” she said. “I believe that. I’m just…traveling through a dark place.”
“Hmmm,” Henry said, and his large dark hand appeared and covered hers. She turned her fingers to grip his. His palm was still hot.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and pressed her mouth against the blackish knuckles. Minutes later, her car turned north toward home.