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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Other · #1218305
Grandpa Ed passes to Dalton the legend of the Desert Rose
"Look, Grandpa!" Dalton cried, digging into his pockets, "I made out like a bandit!" He pulled his treasures from his clay-covered jeans, carefully arranging them on the table for Grandpa Ed to inspect. "Are there any artac . . . arfac . . artifactu . . . .relics?"

"Hmm . . . these are some fine treasures. There just may be an artifact or two. Let's see what we have here." he said, picking up a twig. "My guess is this was used by the little people to dowse for water. Do you know what a divining rod is?"

"Yeah, you told me that story last week." Dalton snatched back the twig, "I think it's just a stick. What about this one?" Dalton picked out a slightly bent bottle-cap.

"Oh! I've only seen a few of these." Ed said, following his words with an exaggerated gasp. He turned the bottle-cap between his fingers and gave Dalton a have-I-got-a-tale-for-you wink. "This is from the Milk Tribe. They hail from Old Milwaukee. Legend has it they were a cave-dwelling folk. They forged iron and drank heartily of ale . . . uh, ginger ale. Not much is known, as they no longer exist; but, a great meteorite struck the Earth with such force that --"

"Grandpa! That's the people of Rolling Rock."

Ed grinned. "Yep. I think you're right. At my age it's hard to remember sometimes. Let me think here a minute . . ."

"That's okay. What about this one?"

Ed took a small roundish rock from Dalton and studied it closely, fingering the rust-colored cluster. "This is a Rose Rock. It's known by many names, Cherokee Rose, Sand Rose, some call it Desert Rose. This one's made of Barite, Barium Sulphate. It --"

"Who's Bear Right? How'd he make it . . . Was he Cherokee?" Dalton asked in a gush, his eyes bigger than the bottle-cap now forgotten.

Ed was just about to tell him of the Cherokee's Trail of Tears, when another tale came to mind. It was one his own grandpa had told him when he was just about Dalton's age, passed on from his grandfather before.

Ed scooped up the wide-eyed weasel and set him on his lap. They passed the stone back and forth, admiring the rosette's simple beauty while Ed recounted the legend he had heard, and forgotten, so many years ago.

"Once, long ago, before the sun gave birth to the moon, the world was covered in desert. It was a dry and barren wasteland of rocks and dunes. The people themselves were very tired, no one knew when to sleep as there was no night. The sun above seemed to grow each season, getting fatter and fatter, bringing more and more heat.

"One day, a little girl, Nightsong, prayed to the great sun god to close her giant eye, to blink relief upon the bright world. Nightsong asked for a giant shadow so her people might rest. She built a little stone table and layed upon it her favorite doll. It was made of hand-stitched lizard skin and stuffed with cacti blossoms."

Ed smiled at his own cleverness. He had forgotten exactly how his grandfather described the doll; but, he knew it was filled with cactus flowers. The lizard skin was his own imagining, a detail only little boys could truly appreciate. Dalton's smile confirmed this; and Ed continued.

"Nightsong left her prized possesion on the alter and returned home. Time passed. No one knows how long because there were no days to count, just eternal sunshine. Nightsong was a young lady now. She was to be wed to a warrior whom she loved very much. The night before the wedding ceremony, he fell ill with a terrible sickness that took his mind. He howled and cried like the animals of the desert. Nightsong made him tea and sprinkled his bed with herbs; but her young warrior was just too sick. No medicine would take, and he passed on.

"Nightsong ran out on the dunes screaming and stomping. Around and around she went, her anguished feet beat the ground in a steady drum. Her cries echoed off canyon walls. Again, no one knows for how long; but it was a real long time. Her warrior had, by this time, wasted to sun-bleached bones upon his funereal pyre in the sacred grounds.

"The people watched as blackened clouds gathered overhead bruising the sky in smokey purples, before swallowing it completely. Still she continued. Rain fell from above in heavy endless sheets. She stomped in the water and wailed even louder. The sky's tears shower -- "

"As loud as mom when my tarantula got lose?" Dalton asked.

Ed arched his brow and eyed the boy, "I don't know. It might be a tie." Dalton snuggled his head against Ed's chest with a satisfied nod and listened as Grandpa Ed finished.

"A monstrous thunderclap tore through the land, growling and eching and growling again. None like it had ever been heard before, nor since. Nightsong's voice was lost to the grumbling sky. The world seemed to grow dark. In fact it had; for when the clouds drifted away a little sun hung in the sky. This sun did not shine as the other; but glowed rather. The people called it Moon, meaning "Pale Son."

"They searched through this new darkness, a hazed light, for Nightsong; they found only her doll. It had been carried by floodwaters and rested, alone, on her warrior's pyre. When they picked it up, the doll ripped, spilling stone blossoms upon the ground. Rose rocks, Desert Roses.

"They feared the great darkness at first. It would come and it would go. Sometimes the Pale Son was bright with his mother's kiss, other times he was barely visible in the shadowed skies, snuggled in a blanket of twinkling gemstones.

"The people called this new blackness, Night, in honor of Nightsong. They believed since the sun could not bring back her warrior, that it had tried to relieve her grief by answering her childhood prayer. Now her ghost roams the riverbeds, searching for her warrior's bones, so she can place him back in the sacred grounds and they can rest together under the moon's shadow. And everywhere her fingers sift the sands, another desert blossom forms."

"So, what do you think," asked Ed, "better than the Milk people tale?" Dalton's soft snores gave no answer.

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