markwildyr.com, Post #86
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We pick up the second installment of our serialized story once again with Diego. How will he recover his memory of what happened to him last night?
Hope you enjoy.
Natala! The name popped into Diego’s head as he stood beneath the pulsing showerhead. As soon as he got home, he’d checked his time/date clock, determined it was Saturday, which meant he wasn’t missing work, and immediately took another long shower. And with that name, his distant past came flooding back even as last night continued to elude him.
Natala was curandera to the Huatani, a remote South American tribe. The tattooed woman from the dream was their healer… and his grandmother. As spiritually powerful as she appeared physically weak, she had been his nurturer, his caregiver, his teacher after his mother was stung to death by a serpent. Her strength came from her talisman, Jaguar, the God of the Underworld.
For a long time, he grew up without a significant male in his life. The Christian missionaries treated him, indeed all of the Huatani children with affection, but they represented only a collective masculine influence. He ceased simply being Diego and became Diego Bárbaro the day the Spanish authorities came to the mountains and hauled away the children, claiming they needed a proper education. For years, a dilapidated old bus took the youngsters to the nearest town so one set of foreign prejudices could replace the heresy of another set of foreign missionaries. He learned later of their little joke. Bárbaro was their name for a savage.
One day, a tall, slender white man named Dr. Walter Collins returned to the mission near Diego’s village after a thirteen-year absence and learned he had a son. The man and the boy were both shocked. Diego had always known he was different; his flesh was lighter, and he was taller than his playmates. His sharp nose distinguished itself from the flat nostrils around him. But a white man as a father? Why had Natala never told him?
Despite an obvious strain between his dark grandmother and his pale father, they tolerated one another rather than rend the boy in two. Natala disapproved but permitted Diego to spend time with his sire. Slowly, he discerned the difference between the two healers, so he understood when one was preferable to the other. In the event of an emergency in the village, he always knew which to summon first.
When Diego was fifteen, Dr. Collins was sent home yet again and insisted on taking his son with him. The youth feared an uprising of the clan when Natala set her mind against his leaving, but the white curandero and brown curandera huddled in her small hut for half a day, and when they emerged, he became Diego Bárbaro Collins and accompanied his father to the North American Southwest. Natala must have agreed to the decision, as his father did not fall to the ground and die in agony. Over time, he learned to love and respect the tall white man until his doctor-father went off on another mission in yet another country last year.
After drying off from his second shower of the day, Diego dressed and hunted around for his shades. He wore the darkest smoked glasses he could find, even in class and at the shop because the bright sun hurt his eyes. But when twilight came, he could see a crack in the sidewalk twenty yards away. He didn’t even own a flashlight; he could see adequately even at midnight.
Donning the smoked lenses, he walked over to East Central. He took it easy because he still ached in certain places. Chuck Thalman usually worked on Saturdays…that was why Diego did not. But today, the guy’d called in another press operator to cover for him.
Diego had a phone number for Chuck but decided to wait until Monday to talk to him. Realizing he was hungry, he headed up to McDonald’s for one of their salads. The food irritated his sore throat, so he went home and gargled with warm saltwater. Then he put a small blanket woven with tribal patterns in the middle of the floor, tucked his legs under him, and sat in a lotus-like position.
Friday. After work. He and Chuck ate at a restaurant and then went to The Stomp to to meet some girls. Diego attracted women like mosquitoes. They claimed he was handsome and sexy, but he thought it was just that he didn’t look like anyone else they knew. Whatever it was, he didn’t believe he hooked up with any of them that night.
But he did recall meeting two…no, three…of Chuck’s buddies at the big nightclub. The five of them collected at a table with five women sitting at another not ten feet away, obviously available…insistently available. Hell, Diego had danced with a couple of them, but each time he returned to the women’s table, one of the guys would call him over and get him involved in something.
He remembered drinking a lot, but they wouldn’t let him pay for a round. One of them kept saying South American money wasn’t any good up here, laughing every time. It got tiresome.
Diego shifted on the mat and frowned. He couldn’t remember anything beyond that point. Had he gotten so drunk he passed out, and the guys dumped him in a motel? He’d drunk himself into oblivion a few times, but not lately. And he’d never felt like this when he regained his senses. He didn’t feel rotten enough, sick enough for a hangover that major. Something was strange.
Diego had learned a few things during those formative years with his bruja grandmother. He closed his eyes, inhaled and exhaled deeply four times, one for each of the cardinal points, and then took two more deep breaths, one each for the underworld and the upperworld.
His mind reeled backwards until the dark, tangled jungle of home became imprinted upon his closed lids. Towering trees crowded the shore of a broad, muddy river. A cat, a huge tawny beast with dark rosettes, lifted its head from the water and stared through yellow eyes while its muzzle trickled water back into the river.
That was good. Jaguar was Natala’s kinsman. His mind raced down the river to the spot where it broadened and swept past a thatch and mud village, his village. Natala materialized, wrinkled and old and strong and mystical, inspiring fear and love. She smiled, giving encouragement to his efforts. That, too, was good.
Wisps of clouds obscured his vision as he traveled through time and space, arriving at a raucous table in a crowded, smoky nightclub. And then as if he were a disinterested party, he stood apart to watch the interplay of five young men huddled around a small table. One he thought of as Headhunter tried to isolate a woman at a nearby table while his companions vied for his attention.
His eyelids fluttered as his mystical self saw what the women at the next table saw, an uncommonly attractive group of men, all of an age. Diego’s spirit eye regarded each.
Chuck, the guy he worked with, was a stocky, brown-haired, likeable man. He was attractive to women because he represented stability.
John, a diminutive, bantam rooster-type with mousy hair, was loud and obnoxious. Diego dismissed him as Pipsqueak.
Ruggedly handsome, the dude called Rocco looked somehow foreign with black hair and brown eyes that roved restlessly and saw everything with the same watchful wariness as Headhunter.
But the last guy, Ritchie, was the one to keep an eye on. With his open, yellow-haired, pretty-boy looks, Leader had choreographed the whole evening.
Allowing his mind to float, Diego saw the party break up. The four men ushered Headhunter outside and piled into two cars. The procession stopped at a motel on East Central. They practically had to carry Headhunter inside. Using the deep, hypnotic trance of his bruja grandmother to part the chemical clouds of his mind, Diego watched the entire night unfold.
Headhunter had been helpless, weak beyond belief. They stripped him and laid him on the bed. The four men chattered like excited monkeys as they examined and poked his flesh. The duskiness, the difference fascinated them. They fanned the strange orange-gold patterns in his hair and rubbed curious hands through the gold-flecked black mat on his chest.
Diego’s eyes opened in shock as those lost hours were revealed to him. His breath came in short gasps, his skin prickled, his heart raced as he understood what each had done to him. Then a calmness settled over him as his grandmother’s instructions came through the ether. No, he wouldn’t take their heads. He wouldn’t even kill them. But as the grandson of a bruja, as a man, he couldn’t let this pass. It wasn’t the sex so much as the way they’d done it. And he would use all the skills Natala had stuffed into his head to pay them back.
It looks as though a gang rape might have consequences, at least if Diego has his way. What’s he up to? Revenge, most likely.
Amazon permits you to read a short passage of my novels, Cut Hand and Johnny Two-Guns. I also believe the STARbooks-published River Otter, Echoes of the Flute, and Medicine Hair are still up. I sure would like to get the final book in the Cut Hand Series, Wastelakapi… Beloved, published, but it’ll take some help from readers to get Dreamspinner interested.
My contact information is provided below in case anyone wants to drop me a line:
Website and blog: markwildyr.com
The following are buy links for CUT HAND:
DSP Publications: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/cut-hand-by-mark-wildyr-420-b
And now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!
Until next time.
New posts at 6:00 a.m. on each Thursday for the life of this serial; thereafter, the first and third Thursdays of the month.