So you can read my books

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I promised you the complete story of THE COLOR OF HER THOUGHTS. But I looked at it. Whew! That rascal is 34 pages long. Your eyes could fuse together reading that many pages on a blog.

And it's been pointed out, and rightly so, that all of my excerpts have been dark, gloom, and doom. I mean, I do possess a sense of humor. But a promise is a promise.

So I've decided to post a lighter-hearted supernatural tale of a Lakota Heyoka, a Backwards Man -- and with my life, I sometimes think I am Heyoka! You also see another form of Gaia -- she is the world, after all -- she has many faces but only one nature. Mother Nature.


My name is Toomey Starks. You can call me Tooms. But please not Toomer. Makes me sound like some unsightly growth. So of course that is what Molly calls me. But she ruffles my hair and says I am a benign toomer.

Not that Molly is her true name. Any more than the black face she shows me is her true one. But the eyes she shows me are hers. And that’s good enough for me.

She’s raised me ever since she found me beside my dead mother at the Toomey/Starks exit on interstate 10 in Louisiana. She had her reasons for doing that and love was only one of them. But I cling to the love and trust her on the rest. Molly always raises her eyebrows when I tell her this.

Sometimes I try to picture my mother’s face. I can’t. But although I can’t see my mother’s face, in my dreams I sometimes hear her last words : 'Great Mystery, I am so afraid. So afraid. Not for me. But for my little one. Stay close to him always. Always. Alw-- '

Great Mystery. Obviously that was my mother’s name for God. I use it myself now because for the most part what He is up to is a great mystery to me. And yes, that means I’m Native American. But I’m not sensitive about my race. I don’t even know my tribe. I would have used Indian but I didn’t want you to get the image of me with a red dot in the middle of my forehead.

Personally I think there’s a target on it from the way my life has gone. But your life has probably been no bed of roses either. Molly says everyone is having a harder time than they look so cut them some slack.

Actually what she says is ‘So cut me some slack, huh, Toomer?’

But I just made it sort of a universal rule to live by. And it usually works. Usually.

It didn’t work too well with that crooked sheriff. But that is why Molly gave me the puppy she called Grim. Blacker than even her, Grim has grown some since that first day. Grown a lot actually. His father must have been a locomotive.

Whenever I say that Molly just cackles that weird laugh of hers and says, ‘Yeah, Toomer, it was a loco-motive alright. Da HellBound Train.’ And as Molly laughs like the breaking of brittle bones, Grim’s eyes glow in the shadows of his great face like the dying light of the sun clinging desperately to the rim of the horizon.

I have long since given up trying to convince myself that glow is a reflection of the grumbling embers of the fireplace. Besides I have the memory of the screams of that crooked sheriff to teach me bitter wisdom.

But I got his gun out of the deal. Of course Molly changed it some as she changes everything she touches. There’s not one single bullet in its chamber. But it is the fullest empty gun I have ever seen.

It shoots. Just not bullets. Sometimes it fires self-awareness. Sometimes bitter regret. Usually whatever I ask of it. Usually. But not always. Molly has a strange sense of humor.

Take our mobile home. Emphasis on the word mobile. Whenever I close my eyes in bed, I have no idea what state, what continent I will discover outside our curtained windows. Puts a whole new spin to the term travel trailer.

Not that she stays with me all the time. Usually she just plops me down into a mess and watches gleefully from the shadows. That’s Molly for you.

Which explained the current pounding on the front door. Obviously, Molly had let her mischief do the walking last night and plopped me and the mobile home down into the middle of another furball. And speaking of furballs, Grim was nudging my left side not too gently.

Not that he was fooling me any. He could care less about the noise. He just wanted the whole bed to himself. As it was, the bed was listing dangerously to the port from his terrible weight.

I groaned, “Grim, why don’t you answer the door for once?”

He just chuffed, the breath blowing out of his lips in one of his good laughs. His bad ones you do not want to hear. They grate on your soul as if it were a chalkboard. The sound of them? Imagine the gleeful fizz-burning of something being released from its chains on the OtherSide to maul and maim. What OtherSide you ask. On the other side of whatever place I wanted to be.

Speaking of which, I sighed to the shadows, “Where are we now?”

From the darkness to my left, Molly’s spirit cackled, “In places forgotten by feet.”

I shook my head. It was never a good thing when she began the day by quoting Job. I wearily swung my legs over the side of the bed and matched her gloomy gus for gloomy gus. This time Jeremiah.

“Weep not for the dead nor mourn him;

Weep bitterly for him who goes away

For he shall return no more,

Nor see his native country.”

“Dat’s bemoan not mourn, Toomer.”

I staggered to my feet, heading to the increased pounding on the front door. “That’s easy for you to say. You actually knew Jeremiah.”

“And Ezra too -- ‘Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you.’”

'This' had come out 'dis' and 'with' as 'wid' in her words but that wasn’t why I didn’t understand her. I spent much of my life not understanding her. Wish I could say I had gotten used to it.

As Grim gave his 'What do you mean we, paleface?' chuff, I muttered, “I bet Ezra didn’t say it with a Haitian accent.”

“Only da body I wear is Haitian, Toomer. I be not what you see.”

I shrugged. “Who is?”

When your home is truly mobile, you don’t wear jammies to bed. I tucked my black T-shirt into my jeans and pushed my feet into the waiting hiking boots, conveniently loose enough to do so. I ran my fingers through my eagle’s nest of black hair. I wanted to be presentable just in case a beautiful woman was the one doing the pounding on the door.

Hey, it could happen. Never had in the past, mind you. But there is always hope.

“Be careful what ya hope for, Toomer.”

I sighed. I just hated it when Molly read my thoughts.

“Lucky I don’t minds light reading,” she cackled from the darkness above me.

Opening the door with leaden fingers and trembling heart, I sighed, “Just once I’d like to open the door and see a beautiful --”

I managed to get my breath back. “Whoa.”

The gyspy in front of me was stunning. If she hadn’t been so furious, I would have called her beautiful. As it was, seeing the fire in her eyes, I wanted to call her a taxi.

Her long hair was a hot sunset, flowing down along either side of her high-cheekboned face. Her eyes. Damn, her eyes. They were gray/green with flecks of gold in them. In those eyes the monsters swam. The monsters that haunt us or drive us. Or both. I found myself getting lost in them.

Dressed in long black leather slacks, she seemed to vibrate in place with her barely suppressed anger. Her long sleeved gold satin blouse actually had a jabot at her cream throat. A frilly jabot. She was like something out of a black and white Universal werewolf movie -- but more colorful.

But we are not what we appear, nor even how we sound, but how we move and how we act. When I opened the door, she stepped back in surprise with the fluid, liquid grace of a world-class welterweight. Judging from her still clenched fist, I bet she could hit like one too.

“Y-You’re not Romanian?,” she gasped.

Romania? So that was where Molly had brought us. I sniffed the crisp, thin air. In the mountains. The Carpathians? Maybe.

“You caught onto that right off, huh?”

Her beautiful eyes became hot slits. “You are an American Indian, like one of those painted savages in the cinema.”

“Miss, I only get savage when someone tries to paint me.”

She cocked her head puzzled, and her spun sunset hair tumbled like a living waterfall. “But you speak perfect Romanian. How?”

“It’s a gift from Molly. I can speak any language I hear spoken to me.”


She made the name sound mysterious with her odd pronunciation of it, and I smiled sad. “You’d probably call her Paraschiva.”

She backed up a half-step more. “I-Impossible.”

“No. Just damned inconvient. Today’s Friday, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” her voice was a wet husk.

I nodded with a sinking feeling in my stomach. “And some nasty critter is trying to close a bargain, isn’t he?”

Her eyes grew hollow. “In a manner of speaking. The Haitian is trying to keep his promise to kill Papa.”

She stepped forward suddenly. “Enough of this nonsense! Your damnable makeshift house is blocking our escape into the forest behind our home. Move it!”

“I didn’t bring it here, Miss. I can’t --”

It suddenly hit me. “I’m in your back yard?”

Her stunning eyes rolled. “Obviously, moron.”

I frowned. “The Romanians have a word for moron?”

She looked close to murder. “I would think you would hear that word often no matter what language was spoken to you.”

Grim had silently padded to my side and chuffed at my expense. He did that a lot. The young gypsy suddenly saw Grim in the full moonlight. She let out a frightened yelp and stumbled backwards, even falling to the ground with an easy grace.

I turned to Grim. “You make a hell of a first impression, Puppy.”

Grim chortled one of his OtherSide laughs. I tried not to shiver. If the gypsy tried, she failed. Her face seemed all eyes as she stared up at me.

“You call th-that thing ‘Puppy’?”

I nodded. “He was the first friend I ever made.”

“Fr-Friend? Are you insane?”

“Depends who you ask.” This time Grim chuffed good-naturedly.

Her jaw firmed as she rose to her booted feet. “I am not asking. Move this shack! We have to escape into the woods before the --”

Abruptly a heavy, steady pounding on the back door cut her off, and I stiffened, knowing the dead, incessant beating for what it was as I groaned, “Nzambi’s.”

She paled. “What did you say?”

“Nzambi, the Kongo word for spirit of the dead.”

I looked down wearily to Grim. “I hate nzambi’s.”

Grim gave his ‘they don’t care much for you either’ chuff.

The gypsy clenched both fists. “The Vrykolakas. Revenants.”

I shook my head. “You’re thinking your neck of the woods. This kind of nastiness comes from down south. Way down south. Though these particular fellows I’m afraid will be people you once cared about, who once cared about you.”

She paled, shaking her head in denial of what her eyes said she knew to be true. “The village council.”

It was my turn to frown, and she whispered, “Papa is the mayor. The Haitian promised he would cry bitter tears if he or the council defied him.”

Her eyes went to the back door as the pounding became stronger, more incessant. “I would wager this is his way.”

I jerked as something formed in my hand. I clutched at it awkwardly, almost dropping it. I looked down with dread although I knew what I would find.

The sheriff’s Colt peacemaker. Things were worse than I thought. It never appeared unless there was serious trouble. Very serious.

The gypsy noticed it. “Where did you get that gun?”

“It’s always with me. But like with my guilt and remorse, it doesn’t always show.”

Grim stared at me, his glowing eyes unreadable and distant. I walked slowly to the back door. I cocked the Colt.

“What are you doing? You cannot be thinking of opening that door.”

“Rule number one for living a long life : never have a 'bab pou bab' with a nzambi.”

“A what?”

“A face to face,” I said, then fired through the back door twice.

“Self-awareness and free will,” I whispered.

There was silence as I approached the door slowly. I watched the bullet holes heal as if the wood was flesh. I jerked back in shock as terrible husking screams sounded from beyond the door.

“W-What did you do?,” the gypsy rasped.

I swallowed with difficulty. “Obviously not what I planned.”

Grim snorted his ‘like that’s a first’ chuff.

The door opened of its own accord. The scent of jasmine flowed gentle from the outside like the memory of tropical islands and musky jungles. I shivered. Molly.

I edged closer to the doorway. There she stood to the left, shaking her head. Her turquoise eyes seemed to glow in the shadows of her dark face. She gestured to the mounds of powder that had once been nzambis.

“Dey could’ve been yours to control with dat gun.”

“I don’t do slavery.”

“How ‘bout death? You want ta do death?”

“Is that a trick question?”

Molly’s eyes shimmered with mysteries older than the first grass. They gleamed with the memories of seas older than the flow of blood through Eve’s veins. But they held not a glimmer of patience or mercy. I braced for the storm.

I flinched as I heard the floorboard creak behind me. I flicked my eyes towards the sound. What the? The gypsy had walked into my trailer and stood beside me.

“How did you get in here?”

She rolled her eyes. “Moron, I walked in on my own two feet.”

“But you can’t do that.”

Molly cackled, “Course she can, Toomer. She chose the hero path. Save her poor Papa she t’inks.”

I shook my head. “Get out of here. Now. Before it’s too late.”

“Already be too late, Toomer. What’s done be done. You the Trickster, she the hero. And ole Grim there he be death and hell be in his paw prints.”

And Molly laughed, its black sound trailing up into the night like the smoke from a gutted city.

The gypsy whispered, “To ie vila {a witch!}”

I shook my head. “Ako I je baba, nje vjestica {Though she is an old woman, she is no witch.}”

Molly shook her own head, her teeth becoming needled. “Now, you be tryin’ to trick yer ownself, Toomer.”

“Molly, --”

“I be not Molly any more, if’n I ever was. I be Erzulie now. Think I always was.”

She turned her turquoise eyes to the gypsy, and for the life of me it seemed as if her pupils had become tiny skulls. “Keiza, --”

“How do you know my name?”

“Ole Erzulie knows everyt’ing, child. The color of my thoughts be the Northern Lights. I knows yer Papa be trapped in his own home. The Haitian done slam shut the doors after you left. You his only hope.”

I frowned. “Why do you hate the bokor called The Haitian so?”

“He got hisself greedy. Haiti wasn’t enuff for him. No, he had to take his meddlin’ into my swamps then my mountains. He be shuntin’ the natural flow of t’ings.”

She smiled a thing of nightmares. “It be givin’ me a headache somethin’ fierce.”

Her grin grew fangs. “And you know I pays back with interest.”

Her eyes stabbed into mine. “You never wonder why yer eyes the color of mine?”

I shrugged. “Figured you were my GrandMother.”

That set her back some. “Why you never say somethin’?”

“Figured it was up to you to start the ball rolling.”

She nodded slow, some sanity coming back to her eyes. “You be blood of my blood. I won’t say how. All I say is The Haitian kill yer Mama. He owe you like he owe me. Now you collect.”

And with that she was gone as if she had never been. The shivers she had given me stayed though. And the world outside the doorway, what with Molly being Molly, had changed a bit.

Make that a lot.

Grim looked out the door and laughed. Its sound was the screeching of lost souls being flayed over a hot grill. Keiza began to shiver. I didn’t blame her.

I turned her way. “Keiza. That’s a beautiful name. Means ‘cinnamon tree,’ doesn’t it?”

She hugged herself, trying to calm her shivering. “Who is this GrandMother of yours?”

“You know several of her names already.”

“Names? What is she is?”

“Think Gaia.”


“Mother Nature.”

“You cannot be serious.”

Grim gave his 'dead serious' chuff.

I motioned outside. “Molly may be scary as all hell, but she always has a good reason for doing what she does. She changed things outside the back door to tell us this way leads to The Haitian’s back door.”

Keiza’s eyes lit up. “Getting us to where we can kill him.”

“Well, that’s not my first plan. But it’s definitely something to fall back on.”

“But you heard her. He killed your mother.”

And killing him won’t bring her back or do her memory honor.”

I made a face. “But it might tarnish it some.”

“You are a strange man, Toomer.”

Grim chuffed in agreement.

“Tooms. Call me Tooms.”

“If that is tombs for The Haitian, I will gladly call you that.”

“Then, again, you can call me Toomer.”

I stepped outside of my trailer into the thick fog. Grim padded beside me like Hell’s shadow, which he might have been. I never asked him, not that he would tell. Keiza followed and matched me stride for stride, though she moved with the lazy grace of a wave to the shore.

The fog thinned, and my blood thickened. Oh, shit. The tall signpost that marked a crossroads. My crossroads. The sign read Toomy/Starks. The question mark after it was Molly’s idea of a joke. I wasn’t laughing.

I managed to husk out a bit of a tune that came to me,

“I went down to the crossroads and fell down on my knees,

Asked the Lord up above for mercy,

Save poor Bob if you please.”

Keiza shivered. “That song was haunting. Did you write it?”

“No. A fellow named Robert Johnson wrote it. Called it Cross Roads Blues.”

“Why did you sing it then?”

“Word on the street is that he met the Devil at a crossroads. Like I’ve been trying to warn you, he got more than he expected, less than he wanted.”

“What crossroads did this Robert Johnson go to?”

“This one.”


“But he got the talent of playing one mean guitar out of the deal.”

“Was it worth it?”

One word moaned down from the endless void between the stars, “No.”

Now, Keiza wasn’t the only one shivering. Grim chortled his OtherSide laugh. I reached down and squeezed Keiza’s hand instinctively without thinking. I froze. But she squeezed back.

“And you can call me Kizzy.”

She looked intently at me. “You’ve been to this crossroads before, haven’t you?”

I nodded to the sign post. “I was named here beside the dead body of my mother.”

She pulled her hand from mine. “Y-You are aware of the legends concerning crossroads, are you not?”

I nodded again, my hand feeling empty without her fingers around it. “Yeah.”

I felt Grim’s glowing eyes upon me. “I know where I’m going to end up. But maybe it’s not your destination that’s important, but how you get there.”

Keiza’s eyes became wet, and she reached out and gently took my hand again. “I think I like you --- Toomer.”

I suddenly decided I didn’t mind that nickname any more.

I looked about the ever-changing landscape around me. No other alien land in all my travels called out to me like this crossroads. No other land could so longingly, so hauntingly whisper its welcome. In my nostrils still lived the breath of flowers that had perished along with my mother. I shivered.

“I do not blame you, Toomer. I have never seen such a place before.”

I sighed, “In West African and Haitian legend, the crossroads is an intersection of sorts, a place where the world of the dead and the world of the living can make contact -- if either are so foolish. The ruling spirit here is Legba.”


“Yeah, the guardian of doorways and mirrors, of all crossings actually. A trickster spirit whose job is to interpret communication between humans and those that dwell on the OtherSide.”

She let go of my fingers. My hand was beginning to feel like a yo-yo. She looked at me with eyes that seemed to have grown twice their size.


I shook my head. “The only one I end up fooling is myself, Kizzy.”

“Really? You have tricked me into coming to this crossroads I have never before seen.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. You’re still in your village.”

“You are insane.”

I sighed. “Not that you might not be right there. But there is absolutely no unchanging space. Just like there’s no absolutely unchanging time.”

“Words! Words to confuse me futher.”

“Space and Time are living things in a universe in perpetual motion. This place is still the same village where you and those you know live.”

“You lie.”

“No. You’re just seeing the truth of it for the first time.”

“What truth? That all is mist and lying signposts?”

“That’s more truth than most ever discover.”

Grim nudged me hard on the left leg. I looked down at him puzzled. He sighed as if at an addled child. He thrust his long black muzzle to my right. I turned. Suddenly, there was more than mist to this place, though I doubted the change would be welcomed by Keiza.

A four poster bed was smack in the middle of the road closest to our right. And in it dozed a man and a woman. Across the man slept a leopard. The woman had a snoring cheetah across her. But the hissing of snakes took my mind off the strange sight.

Keiza clutched my right arm. “By The White Lady, Toomer. The children!”

I nodded sadly. The children were at the foot of the bed. A little boy and a little girl giggled as they ran their fingers through the writhing knot of biting, hissing snakes all about them. They were being killed right in front of their sleeping parents.

“We have to save them, Toomer!”

I shook my head. “Too late. The venom is already in their blood.”

Her face was all eyes as she husked. “Then what can we do?”

“Keep it out of ours. Come. Let’s take the path to our left.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Why left?”

“Because that is the side closest to my heart.”

Her eyes stayed slits. “I do not know about you.”

“Why should you when I don’t understand myself.”

We walked all of three steps when a gnarled hand reached up from the mists to snare my left arm. Grim growled low. Keiza stepped away from the apricot-faced vagrant revealed by the thinning mists. He was sitting cross-legged, looking hungry and weathered.

“Buddy, can you spare a paradigm?”

Taking my arm from his fingers, I shook my head. “No, you’d only hurt yourself with it.”

He nodded as if agreeing. Then, as Keiza yelped he tore the eyes from his sockets with a wet “splurshing” sound that turned my stomach. I stared dumb-struck as he studied the bloody eyes in his hands with his seeping, empty sockets.

He chuckled, “I see what you mean.”

I watched with dry mouth as he shoved the eyes back into their sockets backwards. “Yes, I understand now.”

“That makes one of us,” I muttered as I led Keiza away from the still chuckling vagrant.

This time it was she who got her arm snared. She tore it savagely away from the Peddler to her right. He smiled with long needled teeth. I barely saw them. His eyes. Great Mystery, his eyes. They were tiny mouths with snapping shark teeth.

He opened his long black coat, showing antique pocket watches and tiny sundials which hung from loops on the inside. “Want to see some of my time pieces?”

Keiza seemed paralyzed with fear, and I led her away, shaking my head at the monster. “I can see you have an eye for beauty. But we’ve places to be.”

“Do not be in such a hurry to rush into your graves. I could help you.”

“Help yourself you mean,” husked Keiza. “Our people know of you, Peddler. You mean the opposite of what you say.”

I nodded. “He wants a piece of our time.”

She shook her head. “No. Of our eternity.”

“I feel ever so much better knowing the difference.”

“Mail call!,” grated a voice to our right as a figure stalked out of the flowing fog.

“The Postman,” rasped Keiza.

A tall skeleton in a blue tattered uniform lumbered at us. He reached back into the bulging leather bag bound to his back. Grim growled, growing half again as big as he had been. I shook my head.

“Sorry, gruesome. But you should know that postmen can’t stray into one another’s route. We belong to Grim here.”

Keiza managed to get out, “W-We do?”

I sadly nodded. “We all have that letter in the post with our name on it. Some of us get it sooner. Some get it later. But the Postman knocks on all our doors eventually. We just get to have a Postman who will love us until that day.”

Keiza looked doubtfully at the glowing-eyed monster who had been my first friend. She tried to swallow but couldn’t. Grim stood menacing the skeletal Postman with ever-increasing growls. He padded forward three steps. The straying Postman edged back into the fog until he disappeared.

Grim chortled his OtherSide laugh, and Keiza glared at me. “I just feel the love.”

I patted Grim on his huge, misshapen head. “See, Puppy. You’re growing on her.”

“I was being sarcastic, moron.”

“And you sounded so sincere too.”

She smacked me aside the head with the back` of her left hand, and Grim chuffed in delight. I smiled. She was growing on him, and that meant the world to me.

She whipped me about to face her. Her anger was over-riding her terror, but only barely. Her words came out gutteral.

“This place is a nightmare!”

“Only if you make it one. Besides it’s still your village.”

“You keep saying that. And I keep telling you that I have never seen it before.”

“It’s where you and everyone you know live. You’re just seeing the truth of it for the first time.”

“Then, I don’t want the truth.”

I took her gently by both upper arms. “You and everyone else. And that’s what gives The Haitian the power to rule your village.”

That brought her up short. I felt her stiffen beneath my fingers. She closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath. She opened those disturbing gold-flecked gray/green eyes and stared into the very bottom of my soul it seemed.

“So be it. I will have your truth then.”

“It’s your truth too.”

Her eyes were suddenly unreadable. “Perhaps.”

We took up our walk again. Still to the left. Sue me. I’m a romantic.

A loud ringing clanged irritatingly right in front of us. Keiza looked a question at me. I shrugged. As most times in my life, I had more questions than answers. I would have worried. But usually when I got answers, they sucked, so I was in no hurry.

She flicked uneasy eyes my way. “Do you know what demons lie ahead of us.”

“No. In this place there is no warning. We either whip them, or they whip us.”

She sneered, “That simple?”

“Exactly that simple. And that deadly.”

Grim blew out his ‘you haven’t a clue’ chuff. Sad thing about that was he was probably right.

Keiza looked at me, her head cocked. “Why do you stay in that trailer? It only leads you to dark places like this. You could walk away.”

I stopped and faced her full on. “Then, Molly would be all alone. We’re family. And family doesn’t do that to family.”

“She is going to get you killed one day.”

“Something is going to kill me one day any way. This way I help keep the darkness at bay for her.”

Her eyes hollowed. “Be careful of your quests, gaje. The darkness is like a knife in the mind. It does not care who it cuts.”

I started to reply to that, but we stumbled into a break in the mists. I pulled up short. Keiza almost walked on my heels. Grim looked at us like addled clowns. But we were all eyes for the trio of women in front of us.

Not Macbeth’s witches. Nuns. Three gaunt nuns, their left hands bloody, their right clanging away with cracked bronze bells. Under a huge oak, they stood next to a huge red kettle that looked more in keeping with the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Nuns were yelling gibberish at the top of their lungs, “Ew evah eht reswna! Ew evah eht reswna!”

It suddenly hit me what they were screaming, and I backed up. “Sorry, sisters. But you’ve got it all backwards.”

As I was edging away, Grim had turned sideways right behind me. I stumbled into his bulk and reeled over backwards to the ground. I hit hard and felt the breath knocked out of me.

“Puppy! Watch where you’re going.”

He abruptly sat down right in front of me and gave his ‘Exactly’ chuff.

While Keiza studied me as if I had gone insane, I whispered, “You want me to watch where I’ve been going.”

Grim’s glowing eyes became suns.

Memory swept me up. I was a babe again, crying beside the still form of my mother. I pounded and pounded her, but she remained unmoving. An adult Grim suddenly popped out of nowhere to straddle her, his glowing eyes stabbing into me. While I was only a child, I had been old enough to understand my mother’s last words.

I remembered squealing at the sight of him. Not with fear. But with relief. To me The Great Mystery had heard my mother’s prayer. And he had sent me this huge monster for protection. In a child’s crazy logic that meant not only was I not alone, but that Mother was still alive -- just with The Great Mystery.

With a relief and a joy that words simply cannot describe, I reached up and hugged Grim’s thick neck. “Puppy!”

And so he became. A surprised, bemused puppy. We stared at each other. And our lonely eyes connected soul deep. And both of us knew that we would never again be alone. And we had grown up and grown close.

Back in the present, I hugged him and muffled into his big neck, “I remember, Puppy. I remember.”

I scrambled awkwardly to my feet, smiling at a confused Keiza. “And it’s me that has it all backwards.”

Having come to terms with my forgotten beginning, I understood a bit more clearly my final ending. And how to walk the path to it. My heritage, which I had thought so unimportant to me, held the answer.

“Heyoka,” I sighed.

“What?,” frowned Keiza.

“In the Lakota Sioux language it means sacred clown.”

Keiza smiled smug. “I keep telling you that you are a moron.”

“Cute. Did you know that cute means bow-legged in Japanese?”

She instinctively glanced down at her legs, caught me smiling, and simmered, “You are a clown.”

I nodded in agreement. “Yes. A true Heyoka. Who does everything backwards.”


I bent down and hugged Grim’s neck, who gruffed his ‘not in front of her’ chuff. “I was the puppy all this time.”

“If I stay with you, Toomer, I shall need a compass. You have completely lost me.”

I rose and smiled. “You know when you walk into a room, and your puppy has made a terrible mess? You point at it and say ‘Bad Puppy!’ And then what does your puppy do?”

“You’re the expert on puppies. You tell me.”

“He sniffs the end of your finger!”

Grim gave a ‘finally’ snort as I continued, “Which is what I’ve been doing this whole time.”

Keiza sighed, “I’m glad you understand.”

She smiled acid. “Must be a moron gift.”

“Exactly! Everyone here has been pointing at the way out of this limbo, and all I’ve been doing is looking at the finger.”

Keiza flashed me one. “Here is another for you.”

Grim chuffed delightly. I ignored the both of them. True genius was never appreciated.

“The Heyoka ask important questions by acting the clown, by saying things others are too afraid to say. It is how we get others to think about things not ordinarily thought about or to look at things a different way.”

I shook my head at myself. “And here I went and became blind when it was done to me.”

I laughed at the poetic absurdity of it. “Here I am, a Heyoka, that couldn’t see that my friends here were all trying to make me understand that the way backwards is the way to go forward.”

“I - I don’t understand.”

I looked beseechingly at her. “I don’t ask for your understanding. Just trust me. Please.”

She looked long into my eyes, then slowly smiled. “I must be becoming a moron too, for I do trust you. What do you want me to do?”

“Just stand right there.”

I walked slowly up to her as the Salvation Nuns looked silently on. Grim padded beside me. I looked across at him.

“Time for you to dog my heels, Puppy.”

Keiza yelped as Grim became a mass of black smoke, billowing and steaming, which swirled in a spinning column that seeped into my heels. An inner coldness like a white fire took me. I told myself that I had asked for it. All I heard was Grim’s OtherSide laugh echoing inside my mind.

“Was that really necessary?,” Keiza husked.

“I-I’m asking the same thing. Now, hold still.”

I looked up at the tall oak spreading its gnarled arms over us as if in leafy benediction. Without taking my eyes off of them, I picked Keiza up with both hands and swung her around and around. I laughed like a child. Caught up in my mood, she giggled like a little girl herself. I sang my Orenda {Power} song.

“A shield of leaves growing over,

Becoming the shadow of all it shadows.

Cross over, cross back.

The gate, somewhere in between.”

And like the swinging of some invisible gate, one heartbeat Keiza and I were spinning at the crossroads. The next, we were standing in the middle of a circle of strange dirt. We were in a dark, cedar paneled room. To our right stood a startled older man. I went cold inside.

I had no doubts at all that I was staring at the infamous, feared Haitian. A sturdy, still vibrant man. He looked like once he had six-pack ab’s. Now, he had a keg -- along with a bad face and worse eyes.

He glared at me and rasped, “I-Impossible!”

I set Keiza down easily to my left, and she laughed, “Funny how people are always saying that about you, Toomer.”

His dark, lined face paled. “Erzulie’s cur!”

“That’s Mister Cur to you.”

He seemed to puff up, the humid air becoming electric. He pointed proudly at the circle of odd dirt all around us. He smiled wide.

“Yer Grim be useless to ya now. Dis protect me. Keep him out.”

I sniffed twice, thrice. Sulfur. Salt. Pepper, both red and black. Ash. Mold. Had to come from graveyard dirt. Probably iron filings from anvil shavings too.

“Goofer dust,” I groaned. “Hey, Petro --”

“How you know my name?”

I shook my head. “I’ve been taught by the best.”

“Erzulie,” spat The Haitian.

“Well, you call her that if you want to. But Petro, I’m the Heyoka. I’m the one who’s supposed to do things backwards.”

“You talkin’ nonsense.”

“Usually. But really. Didn’t you ever listen to Willie Mabon :

‘Getting sick and tired of the way you do,

Good, kind mama, gonna poison you,

Sprinkle goofer dust all around your bed,

Wake up in the morning, find your own self dead.’”

The Haitian growled, “You a fool!”

Keiza snorted, “See, Toomer, he thinks so, too.”

I sighed, “What I know is that goofer dust kills. It doesn’t protect.”

“You be mistaken, cur.”

I blew out my cheeks sadly. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“It be your last.”

He slowly held up his right hand, then in a spasm made a fist. Thunder rumbled right above us. Keiza jerked in fright. I shook my head at him.

“Molly was right. You really have strayed too far from home.”

His eyes deepened along with his voice. “I be carvin’ dem words on your tombstone -- tooms.”

“You’re the one that called up the thunder, Petro.”

“Terror comes wid the thunder, boy.”

“It comes from the West. As I come from the West. As the Thunder Beings come from the West.”

He sneered, “Da who?”

“The Wakinyan, the ThunderBird.”

“I be so scared.”

I shook my head. “You be so dead.”

“You in my circle, boy. No way out. You be a dead mon walking.”

I smiled with only my lips. “Well, you could say I am in guarded condition.”

He raised his right hand, and tiny lightnings sizzled from his fingertips. I shook my head. He should have stayed in Haiti. He knew that land and its rules. Molly had taken me the wide world over and taught me each region’s lore and legends. This whole planet was a friend to me.

And why not? Molly was its consciousness. And she was family. And somehow this swaggering bokor had hurt her. Hurt her in such a way that she could not hurt back.

I felt my face go tight. No one did that to my family. No one.

The lightnings grew into hissing snakes of power. Keiza started to do something with her own fingers. Nice to know that she was no wallflower.

In this moment there was no need. I made a face. But there was always tomorrow.

The Wakinyan brought storms. Not out of malice. Out of love. For when the storm has passed, the world is greener and happier. For whenever the truth of storm comes upon us, it is like the rain. The world is happier after the terror of the storm. More alive.

Have you not felt it after a brooding, hammering storm? Looked out and up at suddenly bright blue skies and felt renewed, lighter somehow.

That is the truth of the Storm. Truth comes into the world with two faces. One sad with suffering. The other laughing with the joy of life torn from the fingers of pain. But it is the same face, laughing or weeping.

As lightning lifts the shroud of darkness, so do the Heyokas with the storms of life. The two are linked. Lightning and Heyokas. I am Heyoka. And the power of the lightning is mine. It is my gift from the Wakinyan.

And none take it from me. With my will, my Orenda, I snatched the power of the lightning from the Haitian’s fingers. He staggered backwards, his jaw slack. His dark eyes began to hollow.

I called down to my heels. “Time to deliver that over-due letter, Puppy.”

“P-Puppy? But dat be impossible.”

Keiza laughed and sounded much too much like Molly. “That is his middle name.”

“My first is Not.”

Grim burst from my heels. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of his true form. I almost threw up. To spare Keiza, I swept her into my arms, shielding her from the sight with my body. She glared up at me. Then, she heard the terrible screams of the Haitian. And worse. The wet, ripping, slurping gulps that seem to go on forever.

I shivered right along with her. I still loved Puppy. He was family. And you loved family in spite of things the rest of the world could never understand. That was the good thing about family.

I looked down into Keiza’s, no, into Kizzy’s gold flecked, gray/green eyes and smiled at what I saw there. My family had just gotten bigger.

More than a sister. Not yet a lover. I smiled at her knowing smile.

There was always tomorrow.



  1. I'm going to have to print this one off, or my eyes will indeed fuse together.

    Will pop in again later :)

  2. Almost an exhausting but energising piece of writing! Paradoxical tensions between feeling and learning.
    My favourite comment must be:
    "That is the truth of the Storm. Truth comes into the world with two faces. One sad with suffering. The other laughing with the joy of life torn from the fingers of pain. But it is the same face, laughing or weeping."
    A gem of an idea!

  3. I was midway your MS when it dawned on my who your writing reminds me of, James Lee Burke, from Lafayette (but lives mostly now in Montana). If you haven't read Burke's books, STOP, get the earlier Dave Robicheaux mysteries. I promise you, you're gooing to see the 'dark' that's in your writing. And I don't think you should drop this dark. It's you, run with it. What Burke did, tho, was give the dark a hook (Dave's a recovering alcoholic, has Vietnam memories) that allows him to balance the dark. Roland, I really like your style and today's post kept me reading, a compliment for I tend to skim if the author lags. Me cha, you just need a hook!!!!

  4. "That's Mister Cur to you."

    Thank you so much for this story Roland. I forget my way sometimes but you have found a way for me to get back to it.

    Heyoka and I were never really good friends. As a matter of fact, I despised him for he always showed me the error of my ways in all my foolish glory. Although now I find his 'games' more amusing. At least he shows me the error of my ways BEFORE I become foolish. Such is the wisdom of old age.

  5. Oooh, this was a fun read! My favourite line: "She had her reasons for doing that and love was only one of them". Thought that captured voice and emotion so well!

    Thank you for your lovely encouraging comment on my blog!

  6. I had my doubts over posting such a long story on my blog -- but a promise is a promise. Mentally, I can see Grim as he gives me 'That'll teach you to be careful of making promises' chuff.

    Wendy : Sorry to meld your eyes on this one. I promise -- Grim just gave me that chuff of his again -- ah, I'll try not to do that to you again. Thanks for caring enough to print it out.

    Gemma : Exhaustion from being on the road has kept me from commenting on your blog though I visit nightly. I promise -- Grim just laid his big paw on my lap -- I'll try to be a more regular commentor. Thanks for appreciating my words on the duel nature of truth.

    Kittie : James Lee Burke? That is high praise. I will get the series you mention. I try to balance the dark in Samuel McCord's life with the friendship of his best friend, the vampire priest, Renfield -- along with his small circle of other friends : Ada Byron {daughter of Lord Byron,} Margaret Fuller, {the transcendentalist of the 19th century,} and Sister Magda, {the gypsy who stole the infamous bag of nails from the centurion on Golgotha.}

    And yes, 'strange' is too mild a term for Sam's dark life -- but it is filled with friends who root for him, much like Jesse Stone's friends root for him in the Robert P. Parker crime series.

    Anne : When everything becomes dark for us, it is so easy to lose track of where we're heading. Friends can be our compass in those times. If things should go dark again for you, remember I am your friend, only an email away.

    Sangu : What a nice way to start the morning {for me} by meeting a new friend. I'm glad you thought I was able to meld emotion and voice with one sentence. Have a beautiful week, everyone, Roland

  7. Good read--love the names--and yes, us horror writers can get too "grim"--no pun intended, sometimes!

  8. Roland, there is nothing further I can add, which hasn't already been expressed.

    I love it. No surprises there.

  9. Woah man a huge post.. loved reading it!!!! i wonder what would have happened if the there would be no scroll button in the mouse :P. I would love to visit back again and read such wonderful posts..

    Keep writing

    and thanks for dropping by and posting a comment onto my blog



  10. That was an interesting journey. I'll admit to getting lost in the symbolism sometimes. Very deep; but with a humorous side.

    I'm not sure I got the point, but it was a fascinating trip through folklore.

    I'm glad he ended up with the girl

    Thanks so much for sharing this. Sorry it took me so long to get through it.