Scapegoat

 

     The night Nuva was born was like too many other nights that autumn.  The 
wind raged across the land shrieking like a spirit come face to face with Masau, 
God of Death, himself.  But it was  barren, as all the winds that season had been.  
It brought the cold, but no snow, not even a cloud to shadow the mesas.  A barren,
old-woman wind.

     Tiyo huddled against a juniper trunk where he could keep a wary eye out for 
coyotes and cursed.  The wind meant a miserable night and most likely his uncle's 
wrath the next day.  Mana, fat as a cow though she was only a goat, had been restless
and crying all afternoon, and Tiyo was sure she was ready to kid, goats always picking
the worst weather for birthing.  Her babies would have rough going in this cold.  And 
if they died, his uncle would probably blame Tiyo, as if it were his fault that Mana had
bred late and had to kid in the fall when the wind blew endlessly, sucking the life from
the land.

     Tiyo's eye caught a motion among the goats bedded down in the hollow. His hand
tightened around his bow.  But it wasn't a coyote.  Mana bleated and struggled to her
feet then sank back to the ground, as if Tiyo's very fears of her kidding had brought 
it to pass.  Grabbing his bundle of rags, he ran to her side.

    Now his uncle's best goat--she usually had triplets--would probably lose her kids 
and maybe even her own life to the cold.  If he had been closer to home, he could 
have sheltered her in the goat pen that sat below Second Mesa.  He could have run 
up the twisting, rocky trail to the village on top, to his uncle's house on the plaza, 
and sought help.  But there hadn't been any grass or forage within a day's journey 
of the mesa since the snows stopped coming, and it seemed that every day Tiyo 
took the goats farther from home.

     Still, his uncle expected miracles and Tiyo wished with all his heart that he 
could provide one.  He didn't want to see the anger twist his uncle's face or hear 
the words spat out like rattlesnake venom.  Hear him ask, to anyone within earshot, 
why he had to be burdened with such a clumsy child, too young to be any use, 
why Tiyo's mother couldn't have raised her son before she died.

     Mana heaved, breaking her water, and the first kid came sliding out. Tiyo rubbed 
at it furiously with a rag.  Hadn't his uncle known that Tiyo's mother had had no 
choice, that when Masau called there was no refusal?  Tiyo wiped the kid dry and 
felt the inside of him chill the way it always did when he thought of his mother.  He 
had shed no tears the day he had helped carry her body to the crevice and cover it 
with stones, but the cold he carried within made the wind now seem warm by
comparison.

     A second kid followed and then a third.  He dumped the bundle of rags over one
while he dried the other, racing against the wind's deadly bite.  Finally, they were dry.
He tried to coax Mana to her feet so that the babies could nurse.  But Mana wouldn't
budge.

     "Get up!" he said angrily.  Couldn't she hear her babies crying as they shivered 
in the cold?

   Then he saw it.  Another kid, a fourth, slid to the ground, bloody and still.  Dead, 
he thought, but instinctively picked it up, wiped its face and blew gently into its
nostrils.  With a snort and a shudder, it began to breathe.

     Mana struggled to her feet and nuzzled her babies, calling to them in urgent, 
throaty tones while they bobbed underneath her thrusting for milk.

     Tiyo held the last born in his arms.  A doe, so tiny that with her long Nubian ears
she looked more like a rabbit than a goat.  He knew what his uncle would want.  
He'd want her dressed out and in a pot of boiled corn before midday.

     "Puny," he'd say.  "She'll only rob the milk from the strong ones.

     And there was no milk to spare, Tiyo knew.  Not while the Cloud People ignored
their prayers and the land lay gasping for water.

     The doe trembled in his arms as he fingered the handle of the knife at his side.  
But then she suddenly cried out and nuzzled him, and he was undone; the cry was 
too close to a human infant's.  Releasing the knife, he rooted through the pile of rags 
for a clean one and rubbed her dry.  He pulled away one of the other kids and gave 
her a turn at Mana's teat. 

     Finally, Mana lay down heavily and the other three kids crowded against her.  
Tiyo tucked the little doe inside his shirt and eased to the ground, bending over 
Mana and her kids to use his back as a windbreak.  Suddenly tired, he forgot about
coyotes and wind and even about his mother, and fell asleep.

   The silence woke him, the silence and the sun on his back.  He sat up, stiff and
disorientated, jolting the little doe awake so that she cried out in a high, plaintive 
voice.  The other kids wormed out from under him.  Mana lumbered to her feet, 
and the kids began competing on wobbly legs for her milk.

     He put the little doe on the ground to try her legs.  She was pure white and her 
coat glowed in the light of the rising sun.  Watching her stagger about, the only 
white against the dull browns and greens of the desert, he named her.  To the west, 
he could see the sacred mountains that his people called Nuvatukya'ovi--snow-covered
peaks--but they had not been white once in the last three winters.

     So he named the little doe for his heart's desire, for his people's desperate need.  
He called her Nuva, snow, and plotted to hide her from his uncle.


                                                                      *    *    *

     Tiyo was sitting by the goat pen, a stone and stick enclosure built at the base 
of Second Mesa, when he saw someone on top start down the trail that wound its 
way to the bottom.  Maybe it was his uncle coming to check on the herd.  On top, 
the village houses, made of the same white and tan limestone that formed the bulk 
of the mesa, blended so well with the dusty brown rock as to be almost invisible.

     Every four days, Tiyo brought the goat herd in for a night so that the villagers 
could add some milk to their corn and beans.  They would be adding some meat, 
too, this time, butchering the weak and the sick.  Better in a pot of corn than in a
coyote's stomach, but the winter had been hard and the weak were beginning to
outnumber the strong.  Another year without rain and Tiyo doubted that there 
would be any herd at all.

     What would his grandmother have thought of that?  She had started the herd 
from three does and a buck left behind when an Anglo family fled the reservation 
at the beginning of the war that emptied the world.  She was only a child then, but somehow she and the goats had fought their way through the long years of sickness 
and starvation.  Bahana goats, the villagers called them, because they had come from
the Anglos, but his grandmother had always insisted that they were purebred Nubians,
the best milkers of any breed.  When she died, just three years ago, there were over
eighty goats in the herd and the villagers had long since learned to depend upon the
yogurt and cheese they produced.

     Tiyo sat while Nuva slept curled beside him, her head on his leg, and watched the
trail until he recognized his uncle.  He must have run all the way down the mesa, for
when he trotted up to Tiyo, he was panting from the exertion.  "You're wanted up 
on top, Rainmaker," he said between gasps.  "In the kiva."

     Tiyo winced.  What had he done?  His uncle only used that name when he was
 angry--an insult to Tiyo's mother and her far-flown ideas. 

     He jumped to his feet, rousing Nuva.  "Tiyo's dog" the villagers called her because
she followed Tiyo everywhere, never straying from his side.  There had been some
anxious times for Tiyo at first, those days just after Nuva's birth when he had watched
for his uncle, hearing his footsteps in the rattle of every breeze.  But his uncle hadn't
come on the first day or the next, and while Tiyo waited, Wuuti, the old doe, delivered
and lost her kid.  When his uncle finally showed up, on the fourth day after Nuva's
birth, Tiyo was able to pass the little doe off as Wuuti's.

     "She had twins, uncle, but only this one lived," Tiyo told him.

     His uncle scowled as he watched Nuva guzzling milk from Wuuti's teat.  "Early, 
by the size of that one," he said.  "That doe's getting too old."  But he had accepted 
the story, and the Nuva had thrived on Wuuti's milk and Tiyo's love.

     "You'd better not take that goat into the kiva," his uncle now said sourly.  "It 
might end up on the altar. On the altar and then in the chief's pot."  He gave a bitter
laugh and Tiyo winced, then stroked Nuva's neck.

  "What does he want?" asked Tiyo.

     His uncle spat into a greasewood bush, which Tiyo imagined was grateful for 
the moisture.

     "What does anyone want these days?  A miracle.  A way to stay here and not 
be dead by the end of summer.  But what he wants you for, I don't know.  I'm not 
sure he does.  Masau should have called that old man to the underworld a long time
ago.  Sometimes I wonder if they aren't working together -- Masau lets the old man 
live in exchange for his keeping all of us here to die."

     Tiyo stared.  How could anyone think that the old chief was a two-heart, a witch
who traded others' lives for his own?

     "Well, I'm not going to stay here and dry up till I die," said his uncle, easing to 
the ground with his back to the sun. If there's no water here, there's got to be water
somewhere.  We'll just have to go find it."

     "Or find the renegades instead," said Tiyo.

     "Better that than starve to death."  He waved a hand toward the trail.  "You'd 
better get up there."

     Tiyo started up the trail, Nuva on his heels.  Near the top, a spring dribbled out 
into a little pool.  He stopped as he always did to get a drink, cupping the water in 
his hands and averting his gaze, lest a water serpent catch his eye, enchant him, and
rry him down to the underworld.  But this time when he dipped his hand, his fingers
came up muddy.  The pool had shrunk to a puddle and the spring's dribble to a 
damp patch on the rock.

The top of Second Mesa seemed to Tiyo like the top of the world.  The desert 
beneath seemed to stretch endlessly under the hard blue sky, broken by protrusions 
of red rock and distant flat-topped mesas.  To the west stood Nuvatukya'ovi, naked
without its coat of white.

     Tiyo left Nuva by the entrance of the kiva, worrying some after his uncle's talk 
about goats in pots, and climbed down the long ladder alone.

     The chief sat at the other end of the dark, oblong room.  No fire had been lit. 
Shivering, Tiyo crossed over to him and sat on the dirt floor beside him, in front 
of a sand painting and some prayer feathers.

     "I've come as you asked, grandfather," said Tiyo, giving him the traditional title 
of respect.

     The old man turned and faced him, gentle eyes in a ancient, sunken face, and 
said without preliminary:  "Let me tell you a story."

     This was the last thing Tiyo expected.  The time to tell stories was during the 
cold moon before the winter solstice.  That was when all were supposed to tread 
lightly on the earth and let it rest, and so the people gathered in the kiva and listened 
to the stories that recounted their history.  But winter was loosening her grip now 
and the season for storytelling was over.  So why one now?

     "Listen!"  The old man began it in the usual way, his voice almost chanting.

     "A long time ago there lived a man. We have forgotten which mesa he came from."

      The old man paused, the sadness in his eyes reminding Tiyo that before the 
war, his people had lived on all three mesas, each group with their own stories to 
tell. Now, the few that were left struggled together on Second Mesa, pooling their stories but often forgetting the sources.

     "The man belonged to the rainmaker clan."

     Tiyo's heart sank. So that was what this was about.

     "The village leader came to this man and said: 'Our best spring is dying.  We 
need a rainmaker to carry the transplanter jar to a living spring and fill it there with
water.  Then he must return, running the whole way without stopping, and plant the 
jar in our spring, so that the living water can take root and renew it."  The old man
paused.

     "Yes," said Tiyo. The traditional response.

     "The leader said to the man: 'You have lived a pure life for four years.  Will you 
be that rainmaker?' The man agreed, and after many prayers and ceremonies in the 
kiva, he was ready to go."

     "Yes," said Tiyo.

     "Four days he ran, as fast as he had strength to run, until he reached the spring.  
He offered his pahos  to Paloloqang, the serpent that owned the spring, and said: 
'Accept these prayer feathers, O Paloloqang, and let me fill my jar, that this water 
might bring life to our spring at home.  And send us clouds that we might have rain."

  "Yes," chanted Tiyo.

     "He stayed by the spring, resting for the journey home. On the fourth day, he 
prayed again to the serpent and filled the jar.  Then he began to run.  He knew he 
must make the whole journey without stopping."

     "Yes," said Tiyo.

     "But on the way back, the rainmaker came across some evil men.  'Look,' they
cried, 'a rainmaker.'  The men beat the rainmaker; they grabbed the jar and drank 
the water from it. Then they taunted him saying, 'We are still thirsty.  If you are a
rainmaker, where are the clouds?  Where is the rain you are supposed to bring? 
Our springs are dry and we are thirsty.'"

     "Yes," said Tiyo.

     "The men beat the rainmaker until he fell on the ground thinking surely he would 
die, and his people would die, too, for he had lost the living water.  He stretched out 
on the ground and began to pray.  He begged the Cloud People to hear him; he asked
the Kachina People.  Finally, he called on the serpent, Paloloqang, to bring rain and
save him. Even as he asked, a cloud formed above the men.  It was small at first, but 
it quickly grew until it was dark with anger.  The cloud poured its wrath upon the 
men, torrents of water falling from the sky, until they all washed away in the flood."

   "Yes," said Tiyo.

     "Except the rainmaker.  He was unharmed.  But how could he return to his village? 
The water had been lost.  Sadly, he picked up the transplanter jar, expecting it to be
empty, and found to his surprise that it was full.  But would it still work?  As he
wondered, the cloud took the shape of a serpent.  'Take the water and return,' said 
the cloud-serpent.  For it is my water.'  Then the rainmaker took the jar and ran 
back to the mesa without stopping."

     "Yes," said Tiyo.  Beaten almost to death, but he ran back to the mesa?  Where 
was this leading?

     "There he planted the jar in the spring, and soon it had new life; it was no longer
dying."

     "Yes," said Tiyo.  He waited for the old chief to go on.  But the old man sat 
silent, limbs trembling, eyes closed for a long time. 

     At last, he looked intently at Tiyo. "Your mother said she belonged to the 
rainmaker clan."

     So that was it, after all.  Tiyo felt his face heat up in shame.  "Everyone knows,
grandfather, that the rainmaker clan died out a long time ago. Before the Bahanas
way back, even before the Spanish first came to the mesas."

     "There were still people of the rainmaker clan at the time of the Spanish," said 
the chief.  "Your mother said that one of them, a young woman, was captured by 
the Navajos.  She passed her clan line on to her daughter and her daughter's daughter,
and so on, until, in the times of the Bahanas, the daughters of this clan rejoined the
Hopi."

     "I know what she said, grandfather."  Had she ever talked about anything else? 

    "Tiyo," she used to say whenever he disobeyed,  "You carry my blood, you carry
my clan, the rainmaker clan passed through generations of women."  And when he'd
slip into her lap for a hug, she used to whisper in his ear, "It's been prophesied: 
will live to see you bring rain to your people."  But she hadn't seen it, she had died.

     Tiyo scratched at dirt floor of the kiva, trying to ease the anger out of his voice.  
"If my mother were right, why didn't my grandmother or great-grandmother claim
kinship in the clan?"

     "How do you know they didn't?  The clan passed in secret from mother to
daughter."

     "All those generations?  I don't think it could happen."

     Another long silence.  Then the old man said:  "I believe your mother."

     "What does it matter?  If the clan somehow survived, it died when she died." 
Tiyo thought of his mother, bent over the grindstones or filling the green corn leaves
with sweet corn pudding as she sang the old songs.  Always working, even through 
the pain at the end, but no one seemed to remember that. Only this crazy idea that 
she couldn't leave alone. He felt the cold inside him grow.  "She's dead," he repeated. 
"And the clan with her."

     But the chief didn't seem to hear him.  "Our best spring is dying,"  he said in a
remote voice.  "I need a rainmaker to bring it water from a healthy spring, to transplant
the life back into it."

     His uncle was right, thought Tiyo.  The old chief was lost in dreams, unable to 
help his people.  This time Tiyo couldn't hide his anger.  "If you want to save your
people, move them to a place with water. A place where the corn will grow."

      "I hear your uncle's voice through your lips."  The old chief spoke calmly, but 
he choked on the last of his words and coughed violently.

     "Your uncle thinks I'm a two-heart," he said when he got his breath back.  "But 
this body gives me no joy any more.  Only pain."  He smiled sadly.  "Your uncle
doesn't know how much I'd like to die before I hear of another villager dead, before 
I see the land thirst another day under the rainless skies, knowing my prayers have 
failed and my people have lost faith."

     His hand grasped Tiyo's arm, and Tiyo felt its weakness as it trembled against 
his skin.  "We will all die here if we don't get rain this season.  But there is nowhere 
else to go.  The clouds have forsaken the world, Tiyo, and the sun is drying it up. I
know.  I have seen it."

     Had he seen it? Tiyo wondered, or had the gods abandoned the old man, leaving
him only memories of the powers he once held? The old man's hand shaking against 
his own arm drained Tiyo's anger, but he found no hope in the old man's vision.  "If
that is so, grandfather, what is the use of a transplanter jar?  All the springs will be
dead."

     "When I saw the vision of the dying world, I saw a spring flowing sweet and 
strong. The great water serpent, Paloloqang, swam there, calling to the clouds as 
a woman calls her lover.  The spring was where the two rivers meet, the large and 
the small, near the bottom of the world.

     Tiyo knew of it, the place where the two rivers met.  Before the war, his people 
had made regular pilgrimages there.  It was a long hard journey, four days at least, 
with a treacherous descent to the bottom of the great canyon.  A journey one could
easily die on.

  Another round of coughing racked the old man's body.  "You make the choice,
Rainmaker," he said hoarsely.  "Take the transplanter jar and fill it where the two 
rivers meet, or go with those who are leaving the mesa."

     Tiyo sighed.  What good were choices when neither of them held out any hope?
 
Did the old man actually think Tiyo could make the journey alone?  But the chief sat
waiting, and Tiyo's skin burned from the old man's stare.

     "My mother was wrong, grandfather," Tiyo said finally.  "I'm no rainmaker.  
But I'll do as you ask."

  

                          *    *    *

 

     Planting season was only a moon's cycle away by the time Tiyo was ready to 
leave.  He had spent much of that time in the kiva, learning from the old chief the
ceremonies and secrets he would need to accompany him on his journey.  He 
learned, too, how to make and bless the pahos, the prayer feathers that he would 
take to Paloloqang.

     When he wasn't in the kiva, he was running, Nuva bounding beside him--up 
and down the mesas, over jutting rock and through the soft, gripping sand--
conditioning his body for the grueling ordeal ahead.

  The rest of the time, it seemed to Tiyo, was spent eating.  Once news of the 
journey was out, a day didn't pass but several villagers would come to him, and 
hand him food from their own scant supply.   "Take |this," they would tell him.  
"You need to be strong for your journey.  Eat so you can run fast."  He tried 
at first to refuse, but the chief reprimanded him.  "Let them do their part," he said. 
"They can't run, but they can feed the runner."

     Those who didn't have food gave advice -- how to run so that he would not 
tire quickly, how to keep from falling victim to the serpent, and, most often, how 
to avoid the renegades.

     No one that Tiyo talked to had actually seen a renegade.  Some said they were
Bahana, some said Navajo, some said Mexican.  Some claimed they were all those
races mixed up.

     "But they speak the Bahana tongue," said one old man, thin and withered as last
season's corn stalks.  He and his wife had invited Tiyo for a bowl of stew.  Tiyo sat
across from them on the floor of the one-room stone house and spooned down the
boiled corn as the old man talked.

     "How do you know?" asked Tiyo.

     "My brother saw them once, before he died.  He went on one of the trips to the
great river to get salt.  He was hunting a rabbit in the great canyon and almost ran right
into their village."

     "Not a village, really," his wife offered.  She had evidently hear
times before.  "They live in the open without houses."

     "But that's not all," said the man, leaning forward to make sure he had Tiyo's full
attention.  "While he was creeping away--now he was the rabbit--he ran past the
renegades' bone pile."  He paused for dramatic effect.  "It was filled with human
skeletons."

    "Bahanas!" said the wife with contempt.

     Tiyo heard echoes of his mother.  "An evil tongue for an evil people," she would
say in disgust when she caught Tiyo and his grandmother conversing in the language 
of the Anglos.  But Tiyo's grandmother had ignored his mother and had taught him
anyway.  She needed, she told Tiyo, to hear the sounds of her childhood.

     In spite of the stories, it wasn't the Banana-tongued renegades that worried Tiyo--
it was Nuva.  He felt her warmth at night as she lay curled beside him and dreaded 
his return from the journey.  Dreaded it because the feeling haunted him that if 
somehow he made it back, he would not find her there.  If he left her, she probably
would be put with the herd.  But would the goats accept her now?  They had been
known to butt a newcomer to death.

     He worried, most of all, about what his uncle might do with her.  When his uncle
had first heard about Tiyo's decision to go, he had stormed up to the kiva.  The
shouting that had gone on between him and the chief was still moving the mouths 
of the old women in the village.  His uncle had emerged tight-lipped with smoldering
eyes, and had marched past Tiyo without a word.  Tiyo thought his uncle's anger 
came from fears that Tiyo would get killed on the journey, but he didn't know if the
anger was out of concern for his welfare or because his uncle would lose a worker. 
Whichever it was, since that day his uncle had only spoken to him in terse commands. 
What would his uncle do with Nuva?  What if he moved from the mesa while Tiyo 
was gone and took the goat herd with him?

     And so Tiyo worried, because he had no choice but to leave her. Five days |
before the journey was to begin, he put a leather thong around Nuva's neck and 
took her to his uncle, who was with the goat herd half a day's walk to the east.  
His uncle said nothing as they approached.

     Tiyo handed him the strap.  "I go into the kiva tomorrow," he said.

"Four days of fasting and prayers to the gods to save you from your own stupidity,"
answered his uncle, but his voice was mild.

     Tiyo watched an ant crawl over his toe.  "What will you do with her?" he asked,
finally.

     He was surprised to find himself in an embrace, his uncle's arms thrown roughly
around him.

     "I don't look for your return, foolish son of my foolish sister," he said gruffly, 
"but if you do come back, your goat will be here."

     He pushed Tiyo away as abruptly as he had embraced him.  "Now get to the kiva
and see if you can make the Cloud People remember us."

     Tiyo turned then and fled back toward the mesa, hoping with each step to escape
the sound of Nuva's frantic crying.  But it echoed through his mind long after he had
reached the mesa and  gone down into the kiva.

     Then came the four days of fasting--eating no meat or salt--and the final rites and
prayers needed to sanctify the journey.  Tiyo attached eagle feathers to the slender
sticks that he had carved, a hand's length long, and he and the chief blessed them,
asking that these pahos would be acceptable to the serpent.  The old chief taught 
Tiyo sacred songs, handclasps, and names, making him swear to keep them secret 
even at the cost of his life.

     Then the chief summoned his sister, a renowned potter, to the kiva.  She had 
been fat and jovial when Tiyo first knew her; now she showed her bones like the 
rest of them.  But she hadn't lost her smile and she climbed down the ladder beaming,
chattering, taking great care with a pot in her hand.

  It was the transplanter jar.  "See?" she said.  "It's perfectly formed.  This is a good
sign."  She sat on the ground and held the jar so they could view it.  It wasn't very 
big, the size of a small muskmelon, and it was turtle-shaped--flat on the bottom so 
it could rest against a woman's back or a man's chest and rounded on top, with a 
short, narrow neck that widened slightly at the lip.  A handle looped out of each 
side.  In the center of the rounded top, she had painted a serpent, black with turquoise
plumes extending out of its head, and red fire breathing from its mouth.  A corn cob,
cut to size, served as the stopper.

     "It was nearly a day's journey to get the right clay," she said, "but it was worth it." 

     Tiyo and the old chief thanked her warmly, and she climbed back out of the kiva,
still smiling.

     The old chief blessed the jar and set it carefully aside next to the pahos. Then 
he squatted beside the altar--a sand painting of the serpent that he'd created on the 
first day of the fast and surrounded with pahos and sacred clay figures.  He began 
to sing in a voice so soft that Tiyo couldn't catch all the words, though he knew it 
was a song about Paloloqang.  The song had many verses, but finally the old man
stopped singing and sat still, almost trance-like in his concentration.  After a while, 
Tiyo stole a glance at the bedding piled at the other end of the kiva.

     "We are not done yet," said the old man.

     Tiyo blushed and waited, but the silence stretched so long that if the old chief's 
eyes had not been open, Tiyo would have thought him asleep.  His own eyes watered
and begged for rest.

     At last, the old chief turned to him.  "Now I must teach you how to call the 
serpent," he said.

Tiyo blinked and suppressed a yawn.  "Paloloqang?"

     The old man nodded. "Long ago, before our people came up from the south, 
the serpent Paloloqang taught a young boy and girl his secret name.  He taught them,
then, the way that they should pass it on, and told them to whisper it to the village
leader.  Only one person was to have the power to use that name at a time, and only
when death threatened was that person to pass it to another."

     Suddenly, Tiyo was no longer sleepy.

     "Help me up."

     Tiyo lifted him to his feet and bore his weight, supporting him as the old man
clasped his arms about Tiyo and whispered the name in his ear.  He hugged Tiyo 
hard and said, still clinging to him:  "There is only one place that you may ever speak
this name.  When you stand before the pool, place the pahos at the edge of the water
and call Paloloqang in a low voice by his true name saying, 'I offer these pahos to
you.  Hear me please, and bring my people rain.'"

     Tiyo nodded and gently set the old chief back on the dirt.

     "Remember, too, don't fill the transplanter jar until after you have rested and are
ready to return."

     Fill it last, thought Tiyo, because once it is filled, I must run back to the dying 
spring without stopping, without ever putting the jar down, lest it take root in the 
wrong place.

     The chief sighed and gestured to the bedding.  "No more prayers," he said.  
"Now we sleep."

They would rise before dawn, and when the sun appeared on the eastern horizon, 
Tiyo would be on his way.  He slept fitfully, dreaming of serpents and water, hearing
over it all the plaintive cries of a goat.

 

                          *    *    *

 

     The cries weren't his imagination.  When he came out of the kiva, Nuva leapt up
against him as he had taught her not to do, a broken strap dangling from her neck.

     "Nuva!" he scolded, and then despaired.  What was he going to do with her now? 
He looked helplessly at the old chief.

     "Can you find someone to watch her?" he asked, but the old man gaped at Nuva 
as if he'd never seen her before.  Then, to Tiyo's astonishment, the old chief cupped 
her head in his hands and bent over her, stroking her face.

     "It's a sign," he said, his eyes still on Nuva.  "Take her."

     Was the old chief crazy?  Did he forget how little food Tiyo was carrying?  With 
the pahos tied together and slung like a quiver over his shoulder, and the transplanter 
jar in a leather netting against his chest, he had room only for a few bundles of corn, 
his knife, and a water jar strapped on his back.

     "She'll have no food or water," he said.

     But the old man didn't seem to hear. He straightened up and said in a stern voice,
"Take her!"

     "Grandfather, she'll slow me down.  She won't be able to make the journey."

     The old man clutched Tiyo's arm with a ferocity that made him flinch.  "Tiyo, 
take her.  The goat will live and return with you."

     Tiyo hesitated.  Maybe she would have no problem keeping up after all the 
running they had done together.  But it was foolishness to risk all their careful plans--
it was craziness.   The chief's fingers dug deeper into Tiyo's arm.  "Tiyo.  She'll 
return.  I swear it!"

     How can you know enough to swear? thought Tiyo. Reluctantly, he untied the 
strap round Nuva's neck and called to her and then started down the trail.

     So, with Nuva by his side, Tiyo ran over sand and rock, under the sun's fierce 
light and the deep blue of the sky, allowing the rhythm of his legs to dominate his 
body and set the pattern, leaving his mind free to wander through the dreams that
 ran alongside him.  Sometimes he felt as if he and Nuva were running in place while 
the world slowly moved past them.

      When they stopped to rest, Tiyo gave them each a few swallows of water, then 
he stretched out under the sun while Nuva ranged from bush to bush, eating as fast 
as she could fill her mouth.

     At night, he lie in a wash where the sand was soft, and Nuva would lick the salt 
from his neck while he watched the moon, each night a little less rounded, finish its
journey across the sky.  Sometimes he woke late in the night, after the moon had 
gone,and felt the calm of the stars, so clear and so remote.  Each star was a world, 
he'd been told, or a fiery sun.  The mystery of it kept him awake while Nuva, her 
head on his chest, slept until the sun's first light.

     Early on the fourth day, they reached the rim of the great canyon.  The sight 
stopped Tiyo cold. Peaks and buttes rose from the bottom of the earth where the 
great river ran, as if a giant playing in the sand could not make up his mind where 
to dig.  It seemed impossible that there could be a trail to the bottom, but the old 
chief had promised that Tiyo would find a marker.  They skirted the canyon's rim 
until almost midday before Tiyo spotted it--stones stacked beneath an outcropping 
of rock that was filled with ancient carvings.  Several sticks protruded from the 
stones, remnants of pahos with the feathers now long blown away.  And beside 
the shrine was a trail.

     He didn't like the look of it.  Narrow and jutted, the path twisted down the steep
canyon side.  He had run up and down the mesas for as long as he could remember,|
but the depth of the canyon made the rim seem higher than ten mesas.

     Tiyo picked his way down at a walk. By the time the sun was leaning to the west, 
his legs bore scrapes and bruises, and ached miserably, and his ankles trembled from
the constant strain of going downhill.  He began to worry that they wouldn't make it 
to the bottom by dark.  The thought of a night on the trail made him push his legs 
faster in spite of the danger.  Nuva, he noticed, followed quietly behind, sure in her
steps and untiring.  She had done better on the journey than Tiyo imagined possible. 
Why had he worried?  He was grateful for her company, grateful the old chief had
insisted that she come.

     At last they reached the river, nothing more than a busy stream now wandering
through the immense river bed it once had filled.  Tiyo sank to the ground and 
scooped the icy water to his mouth till his stomach hurt.  Tired and bloated, he 
could barely make himself get up again and continue, but the sun was low and 
he hoped to find the spring before dark.

     They followed the river until, round a bend of sheer rock, the canyon walls 
suddenly spread wide.  Not far upstream, another, smaller canyon funneled into it, 
but he could see that this river bed was dry.  Was this the place where the smaller 
river met the large one?  From the shrunken size of the large river, Tiyo was not
surprised that no water ran in the smaller.  He searched for the trees that would signal
the spring's presence.  Unless the old chief had been wrong and the spring was dry
now, too.

     He was about to give up and find a place to bed down for the night when a 
motion caught his eye high against the canyon wall on his side of the river. In the 
fading light, it took him a moment to make it out.  When he did, his heart dropped. 
Smoke.  In all his worries about finding the spring, he had forgotten that he might
encounter people along the way.   He couldn't see any fire; the rise of the land in a
series of hills reaching to the canyon wall blocked his view.  But the gruesome 
stories about the renegades crowded his mind.

     Calling softly to Nuva, Tiyo scrambled up the first hill.  From the top, he could 
see the cottonwoods clustered against the canyon wall.  The spring must be there.  
To the right of the trees, barely visible now in the darkening sky, the smoke rose.  
A camp of some sort, he guessed.   He crept along the ground, keeping to what 
cover he could find, although in the dim light he doubted he could be seen. He 
climbed over another small rise and then down a slope to the edge of the trees 
and stopped.

     The trees blocked his view of the fire.  He wanted to get closer and see what 
the situation was before he tried to find the spring, but he didn't dare take Nuva 
any nearer for fear they would be heard if she cried out.  He debated whether to 
move Nuva deeper into the trees so that she wouldn't be visible to anyone coming 
up from the river but decided against it.  The dark of the night could hide her, and 
there was more danger of her being heard than seen.  Every step into the trees was 
a step closer to the camp.  This was as good a place to leave her as any.

     Setting the pahos on the ground, he stripped off the leather strap that had 
bound and held them over his shoulder.  One end he put around Nuva's neck, 
making surethat the knot couldn't tighten and choke her.  The other he tied to 
a young cottonwood,slender enough not to take up too much strap, but strong 
enough to hold under pressure. It was a short tether, but he planned to be back 
soon. Nuva lay down without complaint, tired, he was sure, from the long trip 
down the canyon.  Stay that way, he begged her silently, stroking her face in 
farewell.  Don't cry out, please. Darkness, he knew, would not last long for the 
moon would be rising early.

     When he couldn't see his hand in front of his face, he left Nuva and made his 
way towards the fire, now visible as flashes of red and orange in the night.  If he 
angled to the right, he ought to run straight into it, something he didn't want to do 
until he was sure there was adequate cover.  Instead, he headed forward toward 
the canyon wall, hoping the rocks might shield him as he approached the fire.

     He worked his way through the trees, but before he'd gone far, he heard another
sound, the drip of water on water.  Even as he heard it and stepped more carefully, 
his foot jammed into a rock and he toppled forward, his hands splashing as they landed.  With a speed more instinctive than conscious, he jerked himself back onto 
the dirt, then cautiously stretched out a hand.  He felt a ridge or short wall of rocks 
in front of him as far he could reach on either side of him.  Leaning over the ridge, 
he lowered his hand until the icy grip of the water enveloped it.

     He had found the spring. In the dark he had no way of knowing how far the pool extended or how deep it might be but it looked as if the only way he'd get to the 
canyon wall in the direction he was going would be to swim.  He shuddered at the thought--the cold black water with the serpent at the bottom--and turned away 
from the pool and toward the fire.

     Softly, silently he crept toward it until the smoke stung his nose and snatches 
of voices floated above him like pieces of ash. Just as he feared, the trees began 
to thin.  Afraid to go any closer, he climbed a cottonwood, inching up until he 
could see the camp clearly.

     A small group of men, five or six maybe, sat close to an enormous fire.  Behind 
the fire, Tiyo caught the glint of water and was surprised that the pool extended this
far.  Some of the men fed the fire chunks of wood, and others dragged logs and
branches to the clearing from the trees.

     No women, Tiyo noticed. Just men, skeletally thin.  Never, even with the hunger 
on the mesa, had Tiyo seen a group of people who looked so starved. Their skin
stretched over their bones, making their faces grotesque. They wore filthy, ragged 
shirts and pants that were ripped off at the knees.  It was hard to tell in the firelight, 
but Tiyo thought they had the light-colored hair and beards he had been told belonged
to the Bahanas.  Renegades.

     From the emptiness of the camp and the absence of women, Tiyo guessed that 
they didn't live there.  Was it a hunting party, maybe? But how long would they stay,
and how would he ever fill the transplanter jar if they didn't leave? 

     He could find a place to hide upstream for a few days, but how long would he 
last living among the rocks with nothing to eat?  And how could he ever hide Nuva? 
She would need to forage, and if their hunting party found her . . .

     He thought about it.  If he hurried before the moon rose, he could whisper the
prayers in the dark at the pool's edge and fill the jar now.  But he was exhausted.  
How could he ever make it back to the mesa, running without stopping?

     Somehow he had to, because to wait with Nuva was to invite discovery.  If he 
filled the jar now, by the time he reached the trail up the canyon he'd have the 
moonlight to light the trail.  It chilled him to think of it, the canyon trail by moonlight,
but not as much as the thought of being in the hands of the renegades.

     He eased to the ground, and slipped back through the trees to where Nuva was 
tied.  She was sleeping, head curled on her back, snoring slightly as goats do, and
didn't so much as move when Tiyo took the pahos and left again.  He would untie 
her on his way back, after he filled the jar.

     When he reached the edge of the pool, he replenished his water jug and tied it 
on his back.  Then, carefully sticking the pahos in the rocks lining the water, he 
bent his face towards the pool and whispered the serpent's true name, saying:  "I 
offer these pahos to you.  Hear my people's prayers and send us rain." And help 
me run.  Please help me run.

     For an anxious moment, Tiyo wondered if he would get a response from the
serpent, but no sound came from the water. He could make out the shape of the 
pool now, and it was much bigger than he had imagined.  He remembered the glint 
of firelight on water at the camp and realized the pool extended farther than he could
see.

     He had to hurry.  Already the moon was on the horizon, bathing the world in light.
Pulling the transplanter jar over his head,  he plunged it into the icy water. His fingers,
cold and awkward, fumbled with the knot to reattach the filled jar against his chest, 
but at last it was secure.

     He ran back towards Nuva, racing the moon, dismayed at how much more he 
could see.  The shapes of trees and rocks took on detail and cast long shadows.  
He moved as fast as he dared; he couldn't risk falling and breaking the jar.

     Then, just as he was almost to where Nuva was tied, he heard voices, heard loud,
rough laughter.  In a panic, he darted into the shadow of a tree, but remembered the
jar--he wasn't allowed to stop.  He ran toward Nuva, crouching, keeping to the 
shadows as much as possible, thinking that the voices were coming from the camp
behind him. But then their torches flared ahead--they were coming up from the river, 
the same way he and Nuva had come earlier.  The trees hid her from the camp but
offered no protection from that direction.  How stupid of him not to have hid her 
inside the trees!  And then it came to him--it was a trail the renegades were traveling 
on, a trail leading to the pool, the same trail Tiyo and Nuva must have fallen onto 
earlier. And Nuva stood tied right in the middle of it, under the bright moon, waiting 
to be caught.

     He raced toward her, but even as he saw her, standing taut in the moonlight, she 
let out a loud bleat.  He hesitated, his hand on the sacred jar.  The men must have 
heard it.  If he rushed up and cut her loose, could they outrun the renegades?  
Maybe. . .maybe. . .but if he got caught, his people died with him.  Only a second 
to decide, a second to weigh the risks of losing the jar, his people's lifeblood, against
the chance to save Nuva's life. A second to realize there was only one choice he 
could make.

     "Oh Nuva!" he cried silently. "Nuva!" 

     And he ran back into the shadows, away from her, not able to tell if the screaming
he heard came from Nuva or from inside himself.

     He circled, hoping to rejoin the trail below the men before they thought to come
looking for him.  Shouts of discovery rose from where Nuva was tied.  Even as he
sickened over what that meant, he hoped it would give him a little time. Moving from
shadow to shadow, as fast and as low to the ground as he could, he listened for
footsteps behind him.  Someone was coming, he thought, and looked back over 
his shoulder. Nothing moved. Suddenly, two shapes sprang at him from the 
shadows ahead.

     He reached for his knife, but one of them seized his arm and wrenched it 
backward, yanking it brutally behind his back.  The other hit him in the stomach 
so hard that for a moment he couldn't breathe. He twisted away from them, his 
arm hurting as if it were being ripped out of its socket. Then his other arm was 
caught.  He kicked wildly at the man who had it, but a blow from behind knocked 
his legs out from under him.  He fell face down into a clump of grass,  his arms 
still pinned behind him, throbbing.  
Somehow the jar had remained intact.

     They tied a rough, scratchy rope around his wrists, then another through his 
elbows, tightening it till he couldn't think for the pain.

     The two men pulled him back to his feet and without speaking, half-dragged,
half-kicked him back to camp.  Whenever Tiyo lagged, they jerked the rope round 
his elbows, sending spasms of agony through his shoulders. He watched his feet,
concentrating on moving where his captors wanted.

     Abruptly, they stopped.  They held Tiyo tight, one on each arm. Tiyo looked up
into the face of a man, tall, bearded to the chest with matted red hair.  The leader, 
Tiyo guessed, from the deference of his two captors.

     "We got him," one of them said. "Trying to run back towards the river like 
|you thought."

     The leader slid a dirty finger down Tiyo's cheek. "Only one?"

     Over the answer, over the shouting and commotion at the camp, Tiyo heard 
the bleating of a goat.

     "Damn Indian," the bearded man said softly. "Thought you could climb a
tree and spy on us?"  He grabbed Tiyo under the chin and pushed his head back 
until Tiyo thought his neck would snap.  "Not a lot of meat on this one."

     Then his hand moved to the jar. "What's this?"

     Tiyo stared in horror, unable to answer.

     "What's this?" the man repeated. He took the jar by the narrow neck in one 
hand, pulled out a knife with the other and sliced the strap holding the jar round
 Tiyo's neck.  Then he smacked the jar across Tiyo's face.

     Tiyo gasped.  He searched for words, but found only pain singing through 
his mind like the wind in a cave, like the wail of a goat.

     An impatient voice somewhere behind Tiyo asked, "Are we going to eat that goat?"

     And the bearded man gave an ugly laugh and tossed the jar on the ground where 
it still didn't break. "Goat today, boy tomorrow."  He took Tiyo's face in his hands,
bending so close that Tiyo gagged from the foulness of his breath.

     "Ever been roasted alive?" He gestured to the men holding Tiyo.  They pushed 
Tiyo backward toward the fire.  The flames sent spasms of agony up and down his
back, and in spite of himself, Tiyo screamed.

     The leader laughed again and motioned to the men, who pulled Tiyo away from 
the flames and released him, though the ropes still bound his arms behind his back. 
"Just so you can look forward to it," the bearded man said. With a sweep of his leg, 
he tripped Tiyo, pushing him down on his back.

      He lay there, the pain from the burns and the pressure on his arms almost
unbearable. He wriggled over to his side.  There was a moment of bliss as the 
pressure came off his arms, but the burns throbbed unmercifully.

     But the rope should have been burnt also.  If only he could find a weak spot.  
Tiyo worked his hands, blistered and raw, against the rope.  And then he heard 
Nuva's cries clearly.  He saw one of the men drag her, struggling, bleating, near 
the fire.

Two of the men grabbed her feet, and held her upside down by the legs so that s
he hung head down.  Another put a knife to her throat. 

     Tiyo thrashed against the rope, but it wouldn't give.  Maybe the fire... He rolled
closer to the flames.

     "Easy! Don't kill her outright," he heard the leader say.  "Just enough of a cut 
so she can bleed out real slow.  The meat's better that way."

     The man with the knife moved his hand and a thin red line marred Nuva's white
throat.  But before he could draw the knife away, Nuva screamed and twisted into 
it, deepening the gash so that the blood flowed freely. The men holding her feet gave
way and she dropped to the ground.  Lunging to her feet, she darted toward the 
trees and for a moment Tiyo's hopes soared, but then one of the men caught the 
strap, breaking her escape until another man could fling himself at her and pin her 
to the ground.

     They pulled her up, two on her back legs and one at her head, and the blood 
poured down her shoulders and back, crimson staining the white until all was red.  
She stopped struggling and sagged, limp in the men's hands.

     "Christ, she's dead," said the bearded man and swore heatedly at the others.  
"Dress her out."

     Dead, thought Tiyo.  As dead as the transplanter jar lying broken in the fire, 
as dead as his people's hopes.  He turned hard, rolling into the fire.  Let it burn 
away the ropes that held him helpless while all that he loved died, and if the rope 
didn't give way, let the flames consume him.

     He heard the shouts of the men around him, but the fire searing his flesh,  
searing his soul, made them seem distant, as if in another world.  His world was 
fire and pain, and he writhed with it, crying out |because he could not contain the 
cries,his voice roaring with the rush of the flames, "Paloloqang!  Paloloqang! 
Ina-Ingu
!

     And then the men's shouts changed to screams of terror and there were flames,
nothing but flames raging higher and higher, white hot, blackening the sky with the
smoke, the whole world burning around him, through him, Masau's fire come to 
take him to the underworld, his death fire rising to the stars.

     And just as suddenly, the fire melted and washed over him cold and wet, numbing
him, soothing him,  until he could hardly find air to breathe. Rain.

     Finally, it stopped.  Tiyo lay, eyes closed, stillness covering him like a blanket.

     Then a voice spoke. "You called my name."

     Tiyo opened his eyes.  From the center of the pool rose a serpent, as large as 
any tree Tiyo had seen, with brightly colored feathers growing out of its head.

     "You called my name," the serpent repeated.

     Tiyo whispered,  "Paloloqang?"

     "Not Paloloqang," said the serpent.

     Had he got it wrong then?  He couldn't think.

     "I am Paloloqang, but that is not what you called me."

     The secret name, then.  Tiyo should have known. It was only to be whispered 
at the pool and in his agony he had shouted it for all to hear.  He waited for the
serpent's anger, but the serpent didn't speak. Did he want to hear it again?  Tiyo 
waited, the silence lengthening.  Finally, he tried it.

     "Ina-Ingu?"  My Father-My Mother?

     And the serpent moved, but it wasn't one, Tiyo realized.  There were two.  
Two serpents so intertwined he could scarcely tell one from another.

     "Give it to me the way you received it."

     The way he received it?  He saw himself in the kiva, supporting the old chief,
embracing him as he received the name.  But the serpent--serpents, Tiyo corrected
himself--rose from the center of the pool.  How could he do that? He stretched his 
arms and legs tentatively and was hit by a wave of pain and nausea.

     "Come!"

     He couldn't stand so he rolled, each movement a thousand knives in his skin, 
until he reached the pool, thinking he might drown when he hit the water and not 
caring much if he did. But as soon as his hand broke the surface of the pool, he 
was swept up to the serpents, encircled by them, only now it felt like arms clasping 
him, burning through him, caressing him as a parent might caress a child.

     "The name."

     He whispered the name as his whole being seemed to split apart from the light 
that coursed through him.  It made him ache with a yearning that he knew would 
never leave him, joy so intense that it was almost too painful to endure, and through 
it all, love.

     "My son.  I will send rain."

     It was the last thing Tiyo remembered.  He awoke under a bright sun, and found
himself stretched out on the sand by the pool.  Had it all been a dream?  Lying on 
the warm sand, he wondered.  But he had only to think of the serpents and the 
yearning came back, whispering joy.  

     He moved and his hand hit something.  Sitting up, he saw that it was the 
transplanter jar, blackened from the fire but intact, the charred corn cob stopper 
neatly stuck in place.  He stared at it, amazed, and then looked around the camp site.
The bodies of several men, black and stiff, lay not far from him.  Did the rest escape?
He looked around anxiously.

     And then he saw her. Nuva. Once white as her name, she now lay bloated and
rotting under the sun, her coat black with flies and crusted blood.

     Nuva!  He stared, motionless, until his eyes hurt from the looking, but what he 
saw, again and again, was Nuva tied to the tree, Nuva left to the renegades, while 
he ran the other way.  And each time it played in his mind, the memory of the 
serpent's love faded and the cold inside him grew.

     Finally, he turned and walked backed toward the river.  He could do nothing for 
her now except give her a proper burial.  She at least deserved that.  He searched 
until he found a yucca plant, then cut the root out of the ground with his knife, 
peeling away the outer layer. With a stone he pounded the root until the pulp was 
soft enough that it would yield suds when wet.

     Then, kneeling beside Nuva, he cradled her face in his arms, gently washing 
the crown of her head with the yucca suds.  This was the rite of burial; she would 
be sent to the underworld cleansed.

     When he was finished, he hoisted her over his shoulder and searched the canyon
wall for a crevice deep enough to contain her.  He would not leave her to decay 
beside the bodies of the men who killed her, would not let her bones mingle with 
theirs. He climbed until he came upon a big enough crack, and dropped her in.  
And then he piled the stones upon her, one after another, just as he had piled them 
on his mother.  And, just as he had shed no tears the day of his mother's burial, 
his eyes now stayed dry.  But the cold inside him soaked through his bones and 
sent icy fingers up and down him.

     Returning to camp, he picked up the transplanter jar.  He had that, at least.
Something to give his people. 

     He started down the trail.  The running made him suddenly aware of his body, 
of the strength in his arms and legs, of the absence of pain. He looked down at 
himself in wonder. No burns or bruises.  He ran with a strength he had never 
before known, with a speed he had only dreamed about.

     The god had healed him.  The thought of it made Tiyo sick with anger, made 
him want to shatter the jar against the rocks.  He was whole while Nuva lay rotting 
in a crevice.  Why the one and not the other?

     He pushed his legs as fast as they would carry him, helpless in his wrath, running
from the god, running to the old chief whose promise stabbed at him every time he
remembered the knife at Nuva's throat.  And as he ran, the coldness he first knew 
at his mother's death deepened with every step until he felt frozen through the very
center of his being, and he marveled that his heart didn't stop altogether, trapped in 
the block of ice inside him.

     He didn't stop until he reached the spring at Second Mesa and placed the
transplanter jar in it, but once on the way he slowed a little and looked back 
over his shoulder. 

     He saw a small cloud.

 

                          *    *    *

 

     The sky was black with clouds, and the air hung heavy with the promise of 
rain by the time Tiyo reached the kiva. It was dark inside, too, so dark that Tiyo 
thought at first no one was there.  But then he made out the old chief's shape, 
sitting without a fire at the far end of the room.

     "Grandfather," he said, announcing his presence.

     "Tiyo!" The old man struggled to his feet and shuffled over to Tiyo, arms
outstretched.

     But Tiyo stood back and didn't touch him.

     The old man dropped his arms and faced Tiyo, silent.

     Finally, Tiyo said,  "You told the story wrong about the rainmaker."

     The old man raised his eyebrows and Tiyo spoke again.

     "You said he came back unharmed."

     The old chief said nothing and Tiyo wondered if he could see that Tiyo had 
frozen, that there was nothing left now inside him except the suffocating cold.

     "I'm sorry," the old man whispered.

     "You swore she'd come back."

     "I know," said the old man.  "I thought I had to.  When I saw the goat, I knew 
what Paloloqang would ask of you.  And I didn't know if you would be willing 
to give it."

     "You had to lie to me?"

     The old man said in a tired voice, "We would have all died, Tiyo."  He paused. 
"But I was wrong.  It was your choice and I tried to make it for you.  I tried, but 
I didn't."

     Tiyo closed his eyes and saw Nuva tied to the tree as the men bore down upon 
her, saw himself abandon her as he tried to save the jar.  It had been his choice and 
he had made it and now the spring would have water, but he felt no joy from it.  
Only the cold freezing him solid.

     "No," said Tiyo, "you didn't."

     "I'm sorry, Tiyo."  The old man's voice was husky and he coughed, his whole 
body shuddering with the spasms.  "When I knew who she was, I knew what her
choice would be.  But I was afraid of yours."

  "Choices!" Tiyo couldn't keep the anger out of his voice but the old chief didn't
react.  He stared at Tiyo steadily as if waiting. . .and suddenly Tiyo heard what he 
had said.

     "Knew who she was?"

     "Your mother, Tiyo.  Back from the underworld in the form of a goat to 
accompany her son.  To help him become a rainmaker and save his people."

     It was a long time before Tiyo could speak and when he did he said, "I don't 
believe it."

     "When I looked into the goat's eyes that morning, I saw your mother's face."

     Tiyo stood motionless and the old man sighed.  "Believe what you will.  But 
Tiyo. . ." he leaned forward and placed a trembling hand on Tiyo's arm, "know  
this.  I'm sorry.  I prayed that I might live until you returned so that I could ask 
your forgiveness."

     His voice was now a coarse whisper.  "I know how much you loved her."

     Who?  Did the old man mean Nuva or his mother?  It was more craziness, 
this idea that they were the same.  And yet, he heard his mother's voice coming
unbidden into his mind:  "I will live to see you bring rain to your people."  His mind
filled with images:  Nuva dangling a broken strap the morning that he left, Nuva crying
out just as Tiyo thought he might be able to cut her loose and slip past the renegades. 

    
"Please," the old man's eyes were wet now and the effort it cost him to stand
showed in the sweat lining his face.  "Forgive me."

     Tiyo searched for his own anger and saw instead the worry the old man carried 
for the villagers, felt its weight and knew it was as heavy as the rocks that filled Nuva's
grave.  He tried to speak, to move, but he was frozen.  Surely if he bent his neck, it
would crack.  And if he didn't, the cold would kill him.  He wrenched the gesture 
from his body, a nod.

     The old chief spread his arms.  "Then come here.  Bless me before I go to the
underworld."

     He drew Tiyo to him, and clung to him, weeping comfort and forgiveness.
Somehow, the touch from the old man's frail body ignited a coal deep within 
Tiyo's heart and a tiny part of him began to warm.  But his own eyes stayed dry.

     Finally, Tiyo helped the old man to his mat.  "I'm going to find my uncle," he said.

     "Be careful," said the old man as Tiyo tucked the blanket around him.  "There's 
rain in the air."  And his face split into the widest grin Tiyo had ever seen on him.

     Tiyo climbed out of the kiva and started down the trail leading to the bottom of 
the mesa.  A flash startled him, made him raise his head to the clouds.  Lightning.  
It began to rain.  Before he could move, a drop hit him squarely in one eye and 
then the other.  And it was as if those drops ended not only the drought outside 
him, but the drought inside as well, and his eyes began to brim with their own water.  
And as the rain poured upon the aching, thirsty land, Tiyo's eyes poured out the 
grief that had frozen his soul.

     "Nuva!" he cried with sobs that racked his whole body.  "Mother!"

     It didn't matter whether or not the old chief was right and they were the same.  
He cried for them both, and cried for the world in which choices that saved could 
also kill, cried until the cold inside him warmed into a pain that was fiercely, 
wonderfully alive.

     And finally, when there were no more tears, he sprawled on his back and gazed 
with wonder at the rain upon the land.

 

                          #    #    #

     Susan J. Kroupa 2001