Robbie is on a quest to find his real father.
|The Medicine Man gazed into the fire
Withered eyes transfixed by the glow
He watches the Great White Eagle soar
In the Land of the Buffalo
The Elders come, to the sound of drumming
Many have gathered in the heart of the flames
They tell of what will come for his people
And his sadness remains.
They feel great sadness in his heart
And tell him this must be,
In Many Moons to come, they say,
All people will be free.
Great warriors of Peace will descend upon Earth
They will carry the arrows of Light
The sword of Truth will be held in their hands
And these weapons will end man’s fight.
Then out of the fire comes The Pipe of Great Peace
And he takes it in his hands
And he smokes for the time Great Peace lives again
Throughout all his Father’s Lands.
By Lynne Hayes
I danced barefooted on the graves of forgotten warriors. Tears snaked down my smooth cheeks and dripped onto my naked chest as I circled and hopped across the rocky burial mounds. I stopped, looked up into the blackness above and gazed at the glimmering pinpoints of pale light; sprinkled across the night’s canopy. I cried out, “We came.” My words echoed across the hallowed ground; the place my mother had always called the Seven Hills.
I moved in a quick and lively way because my mother had said, “Save yourself and your sister, go to the hills and dance.” Tired, but driven, I continued to dance.
Near by, my sister sat on the rocky ground, her arms and legs bound with coarse rope. Over the left side of her face, like a weird half mask, a purple bruise pulsed against her pasty skin.
“Robbie,” my sister whimpered while struggling against her bonds.
I stopped my frantic jumping and spinning and approached my sister. My muscles ached from lugging her up the hill, followed by my frenzied dancing under the night sky. I knelt beside Gloria. Frightened, she tried to scoot away like a timid rabbit. I ran a gentle finger around the bruise. She winced. “Does it hurt?” I asked.
Blood trickled from the raw gashes around her wrists and ankles, the results of pulling and tugging against the abrasive bindings. She flinched from my touch and cried out in pain. “Yes, my face hurts, Robbie.” Again, she fought the rope shackles.
“Don’t struggle, Gloria. You will hurt yourself even more. You’re safe now.”
I looked into her wet eyes and saw my reflection. I moved closer and as I watched; the image changed into a cruel and ugly visage. Recognizing my step-father’s face, I gasped and stumbled away. A mocking voice, driven by the wind, echoed across the hills. “Look at Robbie and Gloria, aren’t you a pathetic pair?”
I clamped my hands over my ears, but the jeering went on. The growling voice came not from the hills, but from within, spurred on by a painful memory raging through my mind like a sudden storm. I bit my lip, hoping to drive the thoughts from my mind. The metallic taste of blood filled my mouth, bringing back the task before me: Finding my real father.
For a moment; the quiet prevailed. The hills went silent.
“Won’t listen to that no more,” I muttered. My focus darted away from Gloria to the rock outcroppings that broke the hill’s rolling surface. “None of us will listen to that no more,” I screamed.
The harvest moon cast a cold glow over the land. Goose-bumps rose on my flesh as a bitter gust of air, moaning like a child, swept over me, whipping my tangled hair.
“Father’s going to help us, Gloria,” I said. “Mother promised.”
The harsh wind continued to wash over the Seven Hills that stretched in every direction. Below, in the distance, surrounded by sweet-smelling pines; the twinkling lights of town reminded me just how far we had come. Then, a memory from long ago forced its way into my mind.
“Just a storm,” Mama said.
The old chair creaked as Mama rocked back and forth, cooing softly to me. I clung to her bosom, crying for hours. Outside, angry black clouds swirled above the pines. White-hot lightening streaked across the sky, tearing gashes in the churning clouds. Rain pelted the windows; the thick glass panes rattle, imitating the raucous thunder.
“Just a storm,” Mama repeated. “Nothing more.”
But it’s not the thunder or the lightening that sent a sickening shiver along my spine when I peered out the window.
Slithering across the clouds; my step-father’s leering face stared back at me.
I jumped to my feet, listened and watched the hills. Then I settled back into a sitting position and sighed. For a moment, I believed the ground had shifted beneath me as if something was clawing its way to the surface. But several minutes passed without another hint of activity underground, and I began to wonder if I had only imagined the tremors.
“What are we doing, Gloria?” I asked. She didn’t answer. “Was Mama wrong?”
A memory engulfed me once more and I shivered.
“Don’t think about the evil things he does, Robbie. He ain’t your real father and that’s all that really matters,” Mama assured me.
“Where’s my real father?” I asked.
Mama lifted me from her lap and led me to the window. She pointed at the rolling stone hills, lit by brief bursts of lightening. “He’s there in the hills,” Mama answered.
“Nothing out there,” I said, “Mr. Bond, down at the hardware store says there’s nothing but a bunch of old Indian bones in the hills.”
Mama shook her head, smiled and slouched back into her chair. Then her eyes narrowed and watered up. “You’re special. You are the first of many children that your father has brought into this world.”
“How many?” I asked.
“Thousands, just like you and Gloria. You will meet them someday,” she answered.
“When will I meet them, Mama?” I questioned.
“One day your father will call us and we will sneak away and meet him.”
“My real father?”
“That’s right. He’s a powerful man. He dwells in the spirit world like an angel. One day though, his children; his many children will usher him into our world. Then he’ll…
The front door of our old house came crashing open. The heavy tread made by clumsy work boots echoed from the hallway. Mama chewed on her lip, shushed me and sent me away to hide. I found refuge under a stairwell.
I sat on the ground, still listening, and still watching. I felt cold and numb and moved my hands about the ground feeling for movement below. I felt a sharp pain, looked down and found a stone jutting from the hillside. I pried the oval stone free from the earth, smiled and held it in my palm. A perfect groove encircled the smooth polished surface. The stone warmed my hands, sending waves of heat through my body.
“I’m sorry I hit you, Gloria. We had to come to the hills,” I explained.
The bruise under Gloria’s eye reminded me how I had treated her and what I had to do. I hadn’t wanted to strike her, but she had pulled away, laughing at first as if it were only a game. When she realized I was serious, she struggled like an animal afraid of being caged.
The anger I had felt had drained away. Now I was burdened with guilt and felt sad and scared. I wondered if I should have believed everything Mama had told me. I knew better than to doubt what someone as good as my mother swore to be the gospel truth. Still…I had trouble believing my real father was some kind of angel or god.
Mr. Bond had told me there was only one true God and that God was always watching, and to believe in false gods would condemn the non-believers to burn in hell. I didn’t know whether to believe him or my mother. I figured my father wasn’t a god, but a long-dead Indian medicine man. The Seven Hills were supposed to be full of Indian graves. Maybe my father was a spirit like my mother had always described and one day he would return from the dead. When I thought about it though, if a man could return from the grave, shouldn’t he be considered a god?
I looked over at my sister. She needed our real father more than I. Maybe he could make her whole again; the way she was before the accident.
Gloria chased after a yellow butterfly, stepped onto the road and tires screeched. I tried to pull her back, away from the road, but I was too late. A Buick’s polished steel grille slammed into her. She rolled over the hood and into the windshield, which shattered into a million small shards.
“Mama,” I screamed.
Gloria thumped face first onto the pavement, shearing off her front teeth. Blood oozed from her mouth and ears.
“Mama,” I yelled again and I bent to my knees next to my sister. Her blood spread over the asphalt, soaking her dress. The Buick’s driver stammered, “I didn’t see her.”
A station wagon passed by. A child in the back seat peered through the window, their face pressed against the glass. Their distorted features mirrored Gloria’s face, but absent the blood.
Mama rushed, screaming and crying, to the street, scooped Gloria into her arms and wiped bloody hair from my sister’s face.
“Is she...,” the driver started to ask, but he’s unable to finish his question.
“Dead,” I said as I followed Mama back to the house.
Gloria healed, but she was never the same.
My thoughts raced as I sat on the hillside. Maybe my real father could help Gloria. The two things I wanted more than anything else in the world were my sister back to normal and Mama back…back from the dead. Hadn’t Gloria been waiting all this time for our father to return from beneath the burial mounds and make her well? Hadn’t she, in some simple way, understood?
Another memory clutched my heart as I waited in the Seven Hills.
“Herbert?” Mama called from upstairs.
“Get down here,” the man roared. Then he dropped a body onto the floor.
“What is it?” Mama asked as she descended part way down the stairs. A grimace of horror washed over her features when she saw my step-father’s grisly burden.
“Is this him?” the angry man asked. “Is this the one who you claimed to be some worthless god?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mama lied.
“Don’t lie to me woman.”
I watched from my hiding place as my false father hit Mama. She cried out in pain as his meaty fists struck her face again and again.
“Let me go, stop,” my mother begged.
Mama’s words trailed off into a frightened wail when she tumbled down the stairs; her bones popped and cracked. When she stopped falling and twisting and hit the floor; she went still. Bubbles of blood formed on her lips as she whispered, “Can’t kill an angel.”
My false father stormed away, without a second look at his fallen wife; leaving the unknown dead man’s body sprawled on the blood stained floor.
“Mama, you’re hurt bad,” I sobbed. I knelt next to my mother and cradled her bruised head in my lap.
“You know what you have to do, Robbie.” She said. “Take your sister and go to the Seven Hills.”
“I can’t,” I said.
“You can do it, Robbie, you must,” she coughed. “You must go and dance.”
Mama went limp; her eyes lifeless and her breath gone. “No,” I screamed as I held her in my arms and choked back my weeping.
I heard a noise. My excitement grew as I listened. The sound grew louder and louder. Footfalls on the rocky hillside came closer. I hurried to a higher point of ground and peered down.
“Daddy,” I started to cry out, but bit the soft meaty flesh of my tongue for even considering such blasphemy.
“Robbie,” the man called. “Robbie, what the hell are you doing, boy? I’ve been by the house and I saw what you did.”
“Get away from here,” I yelled. “You don’t belong here.”
“Don’t talk back to me.” The man bellowed. “I ain’t in the mood; you have some explaining to do.”
“Go away,” I repeated. “I’m not going with you.”
“I don’t give a damn whether you come home or not,” the man said as he stomped up the hill. “You can rot out here for all I care; stay until the sheriff comes to claim you for what you did to your mama. Gloria’s coming with me.”
“You killed Mama,” I spat.
“That ain’t the way it looks to me. Ain’t the way it will look to the sheriff either, once I fetch him.”
“Leave us alone, you bastard.” I yelled out.
The man’s laughter echoed over the hills as if all the spirits had joined in, ridiculing me.
“Bastard?” the man said. “Bastard? Mighty strong word coming from a boy who doesn’t know who is real father is.”
“Don’t say that. Shut up, I know who he is,” I hollered.
“You know so much about him, tell me who he is,” the man badgered.
I went silent, struggling to find my voice. I glanced at Gloria, who sat motionless on the ground and then looked back at my step-father. I then looked at the hills that rose in all directions like sleeping heads rising from under the blanket of earth, grass and stones.
“Your father is just some old bum who came through this way every now and again. He told your crazy mama he was some sort of ghost or some shit so he could take advantage of her.”
“That’s not true,” I wailed. The wind rose up, carried my words and the hills seemed to answer, “True…true…true.”
Unable to withstand another word, I screamed and hurled myself at the man. We tumbled to the ground. Drawing all my strength, I kicked him away.
Red moved over my false father’s face. He scrabbled to his feet, his tobacco-stained teeth showed from behind a furious scowl. He reached for me as his thick fingers twitched.
“You’re dead, you little shit,” he growled.
I ducked to the side, but I wasn’t fast enough. I was jerked back; my neck snapped forward and my feet left the ground. The man’s strong fingers squeezed my shoulders and slammed me onto the rocks.
He hovered over me like a hungry beast, ready to make its kill. “Think I’m a fool,” the large man said. “Think I’m a damn fool, don’t you?”
With a wheezing breath; I begged and without thinking, I cried, “No, Daddy…don’t.”
I ran my fingers across the ground and found the smooth oval stone. Summoning every ounce of my strength; I swung my arm in a wide arc and hit my false father’s temple with the stone. He blinked and fell over into a heap upon the ground.
Wiping tears from my grimy face, I yelped like a savage gone wild, “This is done.” I lifted the stone above my head and struck him three more times. Then, I dropped the oval club to the ground. I wiped my nose with the back of my hand and gazed down at the stone, which was now caked in glistening blood and torn flesh.
“You don’t believe any of this, do you, Gloria?” I said as I waved my arms like a bird caught in a downdraft. “You don’t believe a word Mama said.” I paused and waited. Nothing happened. “I believed her, Gloria. I believed.”
For the first time in years, Gloria’s eyes seem to focus and clear. She nodded, “I believed, Robbie.”
I kicked at the ground, shrugged, grabbed the ropes that bound my sister and cut her free. “Don’t you dare run. We’re going home.”
The wind picked up once more, screeching and stinging my eyes. I grabbed Gloria’s hand, leading her away. I glanced down at my false father’s body and thought for an instant that the dead man took a breath.
Sniffling, I watched for several seconds, but the body didn’t move. The wind caught his shirt tail and flipped it over his mangled face. I sighed with relief and nudged the corpse with my barefoot, and then turned to walk home.
I didn’t believe…not anymore…that my true father would return from the spirit world. I didn’t know who or what Mama believed in. I didn’t care. I had done my part. I had come to the Seven Hills and danced, like Mama had ordered.
“We came,” I screamed like I had never screamed before.
We started down the hill in silence and then, I heard the hills groan as if the earth were stretching. Dark clouds rolled over the Seven Hills. Lightening bolts struck the pines, bounced to the ground and ricocheted across the rocky hills. The night became day as the tall pines became a raging inferno. The turbulent flames reached for the sky and mixed with the howling wind.
The tempest seized my voice when I tried to comfort Gloria. “Don’t be afraid,” I said when she squeezed my trembling hand.
Out of the half-light, a man appeared, dressed in a loincloth. His dark-braided hair, bound in leather and decorated with eagle feathers, covered a part of his glimmering breastplate of quills. In his left hand he held Arrows of Light. His right hand held the Sword of Truth.
As the man thrust the Sword of Truth into the earth, he hurled the Arrows of Light against the four winds.
Silence prevailed over the Seven Hills.
The man crouched down on one knee and beckoned to me and my sister. He held out his hands, palms up and motioned for us to come to him.
My sister bolted forward and ran to him, and I followed.
He took us away. We went to a better place. We found kindness and peace like we had never known before.
I woke up staring at the same faded wallpaper that smothered my cold bedroom. The paper’s pale purple flowers sitting in yellow pots were still peeling away from the walls just like they had been the night before. I shivered under my sparse blankets and a cold chill ran up my spine when I remembered my dream. Then, from another part of the house, I heard Mama crying, begging my step-father to stop hitting her.