Evelina Zuni Lucero
It was odd, Reena thought, how time used to pass so slowly. One season melted into another in degrees of change so gradual that she associated significant events in her memory with particular seasons, with the slant and intensity of sun rays, with the presence or prolonged absence of rain, with varying qualities of light and shadows. Looking back, certain memories rose like prominent landmarks, marking her path through summers and winters, droughts and downpours. But that was back then. Nowadays, time, as well as the seasons, whirled relentlessly like the spin of galaxies in the deep ends of the night sky, pulling her against her will closer into the center of a vortex, where the terrifying calmness of eternity lay waiting.
September was ripe. The mornings were turning crisp, though the mid-day still burned hot. It was harvest time, the year, l955, when Isleta Pueblo was a village encapsulated, oblivious to the world. What white people did or said was of little importance to the Dae-ninh, the people. Community efforts turned toward picking the summer's crops from the outlying fields, roasting the corn and green chile, and drying the fruit, the apples, apricots and peaches. Chiles were left hanging on the plants in the fields to turn red, and then to be later strung into brillant ristras that hung from vigas and porches. Tata rode his horse-drawn wagon loaded with watermelons, Indian melons, tomatoes and chile to the highway intersection, where he sat all day in the shade of an overhanging cottonwood tree, selling to passersby.
The men of the village were talking of hunting rabbits and deer, and gathering firewood, and of hiding out so as not to be caught off guard by the War Captains and thus be apprehended to serve as ceremonial clowns for the harvest dance at month's end. Reena had suffered morning sickness all summer long; now it had passed.
Almost twenty years later the memory came washing back with the morning shadows, only this time without the dull pain. The need to block it out had passed.
Reena had remained in bed long after Buckley had left in predawn darkness. She hadn't slept, just watched the sun paint the room in different shades of yellow till it lifted above the sill and left the room in warm shadows.
She smoothed the bed covers. The house was quiet. She hadn't heard Carmel come in last night, but then Carmel had been with Trini so Reena didn't worry. She wished Carmel was more like her cousin, Trini, less compulsive, less like her father, Guy. A soft escape of air fluttered the threads on her bedspread with the raised imprint of Davy Crockett stalking a bear. Buckley was nothing like Guy, thank heavens. He was sensible and capable, and solid, not only in his body, but in his character.
Her marriage to Guy had had less substance. From the beginning she had carefully constructed it into a delicate dream that she smugly drew around her shoulders like a beautiful silk fringed summer shawl that she flaunted in public for all Have-Nots to envy. Wrapped in self-delusion, she had willingly ignored the obvious.
Reena sighed again. Adda-oori. The course of her youth had run into a pitiful dry end, leaving bitter memories that stood out as starkly as mud cracklings. And the sad part was that it hadn't had to be so. She thought of the way things might have been had she married Amos who event ually became the governor of Laguna, or any of the other Laguna boys who courted her at the Albuquerque Indian School. Even with Guy, she hadn't had to make the choices she had. The outcome could have been different.
At first she hadn't noticed that Guy was lazy. She had been too taken up with his easiness, eager to believe his promises that everything would work out if left alone. He had pacified her with pretty words, with false assurances that together they'd open a curio shop next week, next month, next season, that her working to support them was only for awhile. They wouldn't always live hand-to-mouth, scratching the dirt like pitiful chickens, he said. They would be one of the few to own an automobile, and it would be a fancy one at that. Just think, he said, Reena would work in the shop as one of the proprietors instead of in the grimy back room of a trading post like she did then. "Proprietor" would roll off his tongue like honey, soothing her anxieties and tiredness. Guy had briefly worked at the Thunderbird Trading Post, too, but when the owner saw how buyers gravitated to him, and sought information from him, he was told he was no longer needed.
While she tagged valuable, fragile Indian pottery, jewelry, and rugs hocked by gesturing Indians, few of whom spoke English, Guy spent most of his time, so he said, "making contacts" with potters and craftsmen, gathering inventory to supply their shop, an old family home which Reena's great-uncle was willing to lease them. Two Bucks had painted INDIAN CURIOS, TOURISTS WELCOME on the front, and added geometric designs around the windows.
She could think of Guy now; his memory was nothing to her. She pictured him stretched out on this very bed with the creaky springs, shirtless, cinnamon brown, lazy as a mountain lion in the sun. He moved with the elegance of one, cutting the air as he swung an arm over her, pinning her to the mattress, humming in her ear. She curved her own body snugly into his, ready, always ready, for a whirlwind dance.
She liked to study his perfect profile when he lay on his back staring at the ceiling, dreaming aloud in his soft-spoken, melodic voice. The ridge of his brow, and the hollows beneath his eyes and cheekbones lay in soft shadows like the northern slope of a mesa. On their own, her hands reached out to him, her fingers moving gently down his nose, his chin and down to his chest. She lightly traced the mounds of his nipples, then trailed down to his belly, taut as a drumskin, and back up again, over and over, as his chest gently rose and fell with the swell of his voice. He'd point with his forefinger at the vigas as if his motion could beckon his dream, their dream.
Excited by his own words, he'd slip out from her grasp, and leap off the bed, landing graceful as a dancer. When he walked, he stepped lightly, arms swinging, his body rippling in one whole movement of stealth. Reena smiled to herself: Carmel had inherited that same walk, that same ease, and that same restless hunger. And she, Reena, had once been willing to share his hunger. It was now hard to believe, but she had wanted to stay locked in that pose with Guy, to remain that enviable couple moving with such fluidity and grace, cutting through the thick of gossip.
Reena was so willing to believe in him that their marriage may have lasted even longer than it had except that she was rudely awakened by Guy himself. That act was quickly followed by the public humiliation she faced when the ceremonial clowns sang about her that autumn. Her fall from grace overflowed the tongues and minds of the community. Rumor drowned truth, grew bigger than life and overtook her.
Disquieted by thoughts of the past, Reena pulled at stray threads on the bedspread. She felt disloyal to Buckley even thinking about her ex. She frowned. Her Ex. His memory stirred buried emotions and demanded of her that she put the past in order, a gesture she felt she must make, like burning the clothes of the dead or discarding their possessions.
To begin at the beginning. But where was the beginning? What was real and what was imagined? What was the truth and what was a lie? The beginning and the middle and the end, reality, illusion and delusion flowed together like the silted waters of the Rio Grande, the river that was now itself a lie to its own name.
She wet her lips remembering the heat.
The story of the end went back at least to the evening in June 1955 when doings became too indistinct to separate.
The June days that followed the longest day of the year were unfailingly dry and hot. The heat lingered in the house long past sundown, baked them like in an oven, with no relief till early morning. She couldn't employ the old method of sprinkling the floors with water to cool the rooms since the earthen floors of her home were covered with linoleum . The best she could do was to wet down the dirt in front of her home which faced east and to sit quietly in her nightgown after she got home from work. She was sitting on the bench, observing the long shadows cast by the setting sun, idly fanning herself with a folded newspaper. The smell of the damp earth before her brought some comfort as did the distant rumble of thunder from the Manzanos. A trail of low-bellied clouds had promised rain all week, but all that came each afternoon was wind and flying dirt. The children, Maria, called Ria by the family, Lena, and three-year-old Bunky, earlier had gone across the village to Nana's. Her teen-age sister, Rosalee, was taking them with her to the Gallo to watch the young men showoff on horseback in the plaza as they tried to pluck up the chicken planted in the ground. The sound of cheering and yelling occasionally carried from the plaza, wrapping her in solitude. Such events no longer interested her. Leave that to the young and to the idle. She debated whether to cross the village to bring the children home or to leave them there overnight with Rosalee, who had more patience with them. Guy startled her from these thoughts when he rounded the corner.
She stared in surprise. He had not been home for two days. Now he swept in like a cool breeze, a sight as mesmerizing as the blue of a flame. Despite the heat, Guy looked fresh and well-groomed. His short hair was oiled and carefully combed back so that his hair fell into neat even rows. His best white shirt with the mother-of-pearl snaps was freshly laundried and ironed, and his jeans were sharply creased. His caramel-colored boots gleamed with wax. Had he gone home to Laguna?
He stopped before her and grinned, one end of his lip curling downward. Wordlessly, he pulled her up to him. Before she could voice the questions forming in her mind, his mouth was on hers. He tasted of red berry wine, and smelled sweetly, innocently, of soap. He nuzzled his chin smooth with a shave against her neck and shoulders, and she struggled to escape the tickling. He muffled her protests with hard kisses, and the more she pushed away from him, the harder he held her. Finally, she yielded, and he took her by the hand and drew her inside. He latched the screen door behind them, and led her to the back room where the whole family slept in beds neatly lined up dormitory-style. He stopped beside their bed.
He bent to pull at the heel of each boot, then kicked each one off in turn.
He kissed her gently this time. Then he drew back to look her full in the face. She closed her eyes. He whispered to her in Keres, the Laguna tongue, nothing she understood. Then he rained kisses on her face and neck till she forgot her questions and was only glad to have him home again, to feel his muscled back, and to be locked in his need for her. She slid her hands up his chest to his neck and ran them into his hair. She felt the tuft of hair at his crown that stubbornly refused to lie flat no matter what he did to it.
As he continued to shower her with kisses, he slowly inched her gown up till he worked it over her head. He let it drop carelessly from his fingers, and he knelt to slip down her cotton panties. As she stood in expectant nakedness looking down at Guy on his knees before her, she suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of power over him. But before she knew it, she lay on her back on the bed, and Guy was on top of her. The denim of his pants scratched her bare skin, and the brass buttons pinched her. She pulled at his shirt front. The snaps popped, and his shirt flew open.
The room was slowly deepening in blue twilight as the sun slipped below the horizon. She could no longer see Guy's face clearly. He undressed quickly. Then he was riding her on waves of pleasure, at first moving as softly as clouds and then with a driving force, till she was soft and limp. It was always good with Guy, but the unexpectedness of their lovemaking and her silent compliance lulled her into a pleasant drowsiness. She sank under his weight into a dreamless sleep.
She didn't know how long she slept. It was fully dark when she stirred. The night was hot and sticky. She extended her arm, feeling for Guy beside her. The bed was empty. She sat up, disoriented, wondering if night was falling or working toward sunrise. The crickets chirped steadily.
She sat on the bed edge and spotted her gown on the floor. She covered herself. Moonlight spilled in the windows as she walked through the middle room to the kitchen. The house was empty and quiet, the screen door unlatched.
She stepped over the front threshold expecting to see the glow of Guy's cigarette in the dark. The moon hung full and white in the east, a beautiful mother-of-pearl. The cool air penetrated through the light material of her gown. She opened her arms wide to embrace the cool but instead slapped at a mosquito. As she turned to go back inside, a movement down in Old Man Reyes' orchard below their home caught her eye. Someone in a white shirt was walking down the slope toward the apple trees. She thought to call out to Guy, but a sudden thought stopped her. Was she awake?
She watched the form walk a short ways then dip out of sight near the ditch. What she saw come out caught her breath. It was a white horse luminous as the moon with a short-cropped irridescent mane. The horse pranced a few feet then tossed its head. Was she asleep? She fought against a tremendous weight to rise to consciousness, but nothing happened. She struggled to voice a prayer but her mouth felt heavy with sand.
Dark movement among the trees caused the hairs on the nape of her neck to rise. She shivered, unable to move. A woman with long hair walked from out of the trees. She had something in her hands. A rope? She strained to see better, to see details. Her eyes watered with the effort. Then she was puzzled. She could see with sudden crystal clarity: The horse was no longer merely a horse, but a man in a white buckskin shirt who moved with a peculiar arch of the back, his gait swift as a pony. Reena gasped. His long hair was unrestrained, flowing over his body; he wore some sort of Plains Indian headband with a plume that bobbed gracefully atop his head; the top half of his face was painted white. Her heart pounded in her ears. Panic lodged in her throat.
The woman tossed the rope over the man-horse, pinning his arms to his side. She straddled the arch of his back and rode easily in tight circles. With goading, the apparition pranced wildly. The woman's hair flew about her, tangling with the man's, but she held on clutching, scratching at the man's face. Abruptly, the pair turned from the shadows of the orchard and crossed the open alfalfa field. In a blur of movement, the woman was tossed in the air, her limbs flaying; the buckskin shirt now stretched prone in the alfalfa covering the woman. Reena heard no sounds, yet she had the distinct impression of hooves pounding the earth. Flying clouds streamed across the sky heading towards the moon.
Without any remembrance of doing so, Reena was back inside the house. She saw the latch of the screen door slipping into the hook, the front door shutting and the bolt sliding in place across the door.
She woke to bright sunlight and to stifling heat in the closed home. She looked around her. She wore her yellow gown, and the bed was only slightly rumpled where she'd lain atop the covers. There was no sign of Guy.
He came home that afternoon drunk and disheveled, and went straight to bed, sleeping through the night. The next day he offered no explanation of his whereabouts, and Reena feared to ask. The night before never happened, she told herself.
July brought no rain, but it did bring the realization that she was pregnant. By figuring the lapse in weeks, she knew it had to be that night that she was impregnated. She wondered about a child conceived on such a night, worrying the thought ragged. Several times she almost confided in Nana, in her sisters, but she kept the matter to herself.
The summer dragged on. Many times it was all she could do to get up in the mornings, and a distressing nausea lasted until noon. Fatigue settled in her bones like silt. All she wanted to do was sleep, which may be why Guy and the dream she shared with him slipped out of her control.
Suddenly Reena was seeing Cousin Rosie as she was back then in the Fifties, her youthful figure already rounding out, her chin perpetually jutting forward in self-importance. Her full name was Rosenda but after her years at the Indian school, she went by Rosie. Nosey-Rosie, Guy called her, because she was always poking her nose into his business.
The relatives gathered the weekend Tata butchered a pair of sheep. The yard buzzed with activity, with careless laughter and joking and feasting, and furtive bottletipping among the men. Cousin Rosie, with her sharp righteous nose, had been the one who pulled that two-bit tramp out from under the table in the storeroom where she'd been doing Lord knows what with Guy.
"Right under her nose!"
"While she roasted sheep guts!"
"Can you believe it?"
"She's p.g. again, you know."
Reena's face burned with remembered shame at the clucking tongues and smothered giggles, and her own staunch defense of Guy.
That was late July. In August just before the San Augustine feast, Reena was peeling potatoes for the evening meal when Cousin Rosie came to tell her about her husband's discovery. Rosie's chest heaved indignantly; her nostrils flared as she recounted how Ulysses, the undersheriff at the time (naturally the one to discover such indiscretions, she was quick to point out), had come across the two of them, Guy and Inez, down by the river in the apple orchard. Reena peeled the potato with a viciousness as she listened. Rosie's mouth moved with great satisfaction over the details as if she was enjoying a juicy apple: "Just minding his own business, my man, on his way to the field when he hears these strange sounds coming from among the trees. He thinks that maybe somebody's pig broke out and is having a feast on the apples. Tah-titah! Well, let me tell you, it was something else, all right! They were..." Rosie clutched the collar of her blouse tight. "Well, as a married woman, you know what things a man and a woman do when they're buck naked."
Reena struggled to maintain her composure. She stabbed the paring knife into one of the potatoes.
"Get out!" she yelled full-force in Rosie's face. Rosie's face flamed red. She puckered her lips in indignation, and swallowed and re-swallowed several times. She puffed up with the effort of containment. Then she stormed out.
A few feet from the door, she whirled and yelled, "Don't ever say I didn't tell you!"
Reena marveled at the effect Guy had had on her. She had always rallied to his defense, saying and doing things she'd otherwise never do, things of which she didn't even know she was capable. He drove her to it, clouding her mind with the vain ambition of being a Someone. She had desperately clutched at that dream, slapping the impudent faces of women who flirted with him. She had even ripped the blouse of Ella Rose when she laughed in her face and said she'd been with Guy. Liar! Can't believe a woman like that. She had closed her ears to Nana's warnings and had insulted her sisters when they hinted about his indiscretions. Peeping Toms! Bernice's baby was not Guy's. She shut her eyes and defended him with blind ferocity. Jealous Peeping Toms were all they were! Guy would be who she made him, not what others said he was. She was determined to accomplish that one thing at all costs. She should have known the danger.
In September, in the brief lull between the harvest and the Dance, they came near to opening the shop. Guy was shoveling clay taken from the riverbed onto the roof of the shop and packing it down with water to prevent leaks. Reena was planning to apply a fresh whitewash to the walls now that she was past the morning sickness. On a sudden impulse, she decided to take lunch down to Guy at the shop. She packed slices of headcheese, tortillas and a can of purple plums into a paper sack, and walked the short distance to the highway. She didn't see him on the roof, but maybe he was resting in the shade. As she neared the door, she saw the shovel standing upright in a partially sunken mound of earth.
The air was still. The buzz of horseflies was loud. As she pushed the door open, she heard a woman laugh, a low, intimate murmur. Her heart jumped. With a sickening feeling swiftly overtaking her, she pushed the door open all the way so that bright light overtook the dark interior.
A woman squealed, and as her eyes adjusted to the shadows, she saw a woman pull at a blanket to cover herself. Guy sat up, his shirt open to the waist, a wild look in his eyes.
"Reena!" he shouted.
Numbed, Reena looked at the scene before her. Discarded clothes, shoes neatly set aside, tangled hair....
Grief rose up in her then gave way to rage. There was no mistaking what was before her.
She swung the paper sack in her hand at the woman she now recognized as Inez. She wasn't even an attractive woman. Guy's hand reached out to stop her. She yanked the bag back, striking him on the mouth with the canned plums. The bag tore, spilling the contents. Inez scrambled, snatching up clothes as fast as she could. Holding them in a ball, she ran in a half-crouch to hide behind the counter.
Guy held a hand to his bleeding lip, now swelling purple as plums.
Reena took in his crumpled appearance.
"You...You..." Then she broke down, unable to speak, turned and fled.
By the time she reached home, her side burned, and she couldn't stop crying. She retched in the yard. She sank to her knees and gasped for breath. Nana tore out of the house, wiping her hands on her apron. She was shouting but Reena couldn't hear what she said. Nana helped her inside where she made her lie down while she bathed her face with a cloth. Nana pieced the story together somehow through Reena's sobbing.
Thin-lipped, Nana said, "I think Tata better do something about this."
When she heard that, Reena swallowed her pain. Her sobs reduced to hiccups and then to a waiver in her voice. Despite Nana's commands to stay in bed, she moved about the house, stuffing Guy's belongings into two cotton flour sacks and called the neighbor's son to summon the tribal police.
Eventually, Eloy responded, and after listening to her, he toed the dirt. "I dunno. We don't do things like that." He spoke to the ground.
"Don't tell me that! I want that man off the reservation now! You go pick him up, and take him and these," she thrust the flour sacks at him, "and drive him to the edge of the reservation, and tell 'im to get! Tell him to git back to Laguna and don't ever come back. See if that mama of his will take him back now! You understand? Whatta ya think this tribe pays you for but to protect us? Lord have mercy on us if we ever have a real emergency!" Her words rolled out of her with such authority and force, Eloy stared at her dumbstruck. Nana joined her and she directed Eloy to obey Reena or she would report him to the elders and to the governor. Eloy reluctantly agreed.
By evening Guy was back begging forgiveness. Eloy had driven him to Los Lunas, and after they shared a couple of swigs of peppermint snaaps, Eloy had given him money for a bus ticket to Laguna. Instead, Guy made his way back to the village.
"She's an evil woman, that Inez. You know that. Before I knew what I was doing, I...we...she made me do things I didn't want to! She's a witch. She must be!" Guy spoke softly, his eyes on his hands, repentent. "She's just jealous of you. Your beauty. Your goodness. She wanted to get at you through me." He looked up for a moment, his river-brown eyes indignant. In the light of the bare bulb, his face looked sallow. His lip was puffed, distorted. "You know she has never liked you. She says that you think you're better than everyone else, that you're Miss High and Mighty! She was using me! Reena, believe me."
It sounded so plausible the way he told it, but that's how it had been all the times before when she was desperate to be convinced. He knew that personal criticism enraged her. Now she heard the whine in his voice, and she despised his cowardliness, the way he danced around the truth, hiding behind another woman.
She picked up the cast iron skillet. Thickened bacon grease ran down her arm. "I'm not a fool! You're no good! Get out of here, you...you dog! Just like a dirty dog!" She swung blindly at him. Guy leaped out of the chair. The grease made her hold slippery, and the skillet fell to the floor with a heavy thud, splattering grease across her feet. She heard the flat slam of the screen door.
Reena collapsed to the floor, cradling the mound of her belly, swaying in the intensity of her sorrow. Ria appeared from the next room, standing uncertainly. "Mama?" she called. Reena waved her away.
When the room filled with evening shadows, she rose and washed her face in the tin basin, moving as if she dragged deadweight. It was the saddest day she'd ever known, but then, of course she didn't know there were sadder days ahead. Two weeks later, her story, with all its sordid details embellished, was sung into the dark, into the curious crowd gathered around the ceremonial clowns. The people's pleasure at the clowns' chiding was as deep and wide as the river flow, silky as the feel of water on a hot summer night, and the telling and retelling of her story brought them equal pleasure. Her domestic woes spilled into the night along with the follies of others.
That year they also sang about the one they dubbed "Tankcovers" because of his fondness for women's underwear. He was in the habit of stealing the best of women's underclothes off the laundry lines, even brazenly fighting with two women who caught him in the act. And they sang out about "Samson and Delilah." Frederick, whom they called Samson, had stolen his mother's old Indian pottery and with the money he received, went on a week-long drunk, bringing home skinny, washed-out, white women. When the money ran out, the women disappeared. His irate girlfriend, Florentina, finding him flat broke and passed out, grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off his long hair which was wrapped and bound in a chango. Then she threw his hair in the road. "Samson" lost his power with women after that, they teased.
To think she was exposed to such open ridicule. Those other fools were in need of social reproof, not her! Didn't people see that she was guiltless, that she had been the wronged party? The unjustness of the situation filled her with anger and despair.
What followed was all foolishness on her part. Reena could see that now, years and years later. Fury and hurt confused her judgment. She became sick with crazed jealousy when Guy took up with Izzie soon after she threw him out. Reena had always been wary of that woman even when she had cause for indifference to her presence. An air of haughtiness that knew no shame surrounded her, assailing the senses like cheap perfume. And her eyes! Her eyes were hard; not even her complexion, smooth as the porce lain dolls in the dimestores, or the seductive tottering of her hips could soften that discomforting gleam of malice.
Who could say exactly what caused Izzie's eyes to harden? Reena remembered her as a high-spirited girl. In defiance of the grandmother who raised her, Izzie had dropped out of the Indian school to run away with a white boy, the son of storeowners. She left the village, presumably never to return. After her young husband left for combat in Korea, people said the white grandparents took her two children from her. Whether they thought she was incapable of raising them or whether they feared she'd raise them as Indians, no one knew for sure. Izzie returned home alone then, her eyes sharp as arrowheads.
Years after her husband was killed in the war, Izzie received a belated settlement from the government or from insurance. Whatever the source, the money had been tied up in the courts by the white grandparents who contested the settlement, feeling the children should be the sole beneficiaries. People whispered that the sum Izzie received was quite a bit.
Looking at the situation more objectively now, she could see that Guy was only after the money. Together, he and Izzie opened up the curio shop Reena had worked so hard to birth. Old Meh-meh Lemus was easily persuaded to put aside family loyalty when it meant quick money in the pocket, and for a small sum, he allowed Guy and Izzie to use the shop that Two Bucks had painted, and Reena had furnished. Reena heard of how they laid pottery and katchinas atop Navajo rugs spread on the shelves that had been bought piece by piece with the sparodic leftovers from Reena's paychecks. There were bows and arrows, trinkets for tourist children, postcards and candies. Baskets hung from the vigas along with ears of Indian corn. She heard of the Zuni and Navajo silverwork they kept inside the glass display case given to Guy and Reena by Mr. Jaramillo, their teacher at the Indian School, in gratitude for their faithful visits to him during his sick bed days, visits which had been Reena's idea and to which she had had to drag Guy. No doubt Guy and Izzie used the green cash box with the hidden drawer that Reena had bought Guy as a special present.
Jealousy burned like hot coals in her bones. A desire for vengance raged unchecked. Not only was her dream stolen from her, but her man as well. But her every attempt to vindicate herself was frustrated. First, she tried to charge them with trespass in order to take them before the tribal council to get them evicted out of her shop, but the governor that year was related to Izzie, and Reena got nowhere with her complaint.
Meh-meh Lemus went deaf when she confronted him with his betrayal, but she pestered him nonetheless. Finally, exasperated by her persistance, he told her, "Who made me a judge over you and your affairs? Leave me alone! I'm too old for this."
She demanded that the parish priest publicly ex-communicate Guy and Izzie from the Catholic Church as adulterers. When Father James balked at the suggestion, she berated him, the father, the priest! "You're more afraid of what people will say about you than you are of God!" she charged.
"Who do you think you are, saying such a thing to me?" he raged. But her words must have saddened him for the old priest retired shortly afterwards, though without offering any rebuke to errant sheep.
Reena couldn't stand to see them together, Izzie acting as if she was Someone! She wanted to scratch out her hard eyes, to draw blood and to wipe that insolent smile off her face. She wanted Guy, to beat him with her fists, to break him with her tears, and despite all, she wanted him back to collapse in the shelter of his arms.
She exhausted herself in her efforts to thwart Guy and Izzie. Ria and Lena, who she sent to spy on them, continuously came back with glowing reports of their prosperity and their generosity, which only weakened her further. Guy was prospering at a time when only Spanish people owned stores, when Indians were thought to be only dumb, ignorant, good-for-nothings. He possessed the natural talent for business that she had poured her hopes into. People had always wanted to buy from him. When he sat with Tata in the wagon selling melons and chile, they had always sold out. When they went to the Belen train depot to sell felt trinkets and small potteries, tourists pressed on him, and bought all they had. This time though, she had no part in his success. He wasn't hers.
Reena felt awkward and ugly. She had carried Carmel low, and her belly swelled unbecomingly. Dark half moons lay under her eyes like evening shadows. Her face was blotchy and bloated. Her pregnancy hadn't started out well with all that morning sickness, and it worsened. She lost her appetite completely. In fact, she couldn't hold anything down. Nana grew alarmed, fearing that Reena had been witched, that she was being made to go crazy with love for Guy. It had been known to happen before though t hat was long ago. Nana initiated a full-scale cure for Reena.
"Nonsense. This is all nonsense," Auntie Lena told Reena when she heard about the Big Doings. She sat beside Reena's bed, smoothing her apron with her bony hands. The women had labored in the early morning, baking bread in preparation for the Doings, and Auntie had come straight over when the work was finished.
"The people are not saying nice things, hita." She said this while she studied her apron.
Reena looked up at the vigas, smelling the sweet aroma of Indian pies that lingered in Auntie's apron. Strangely, the smell did not nausate her. Reena didn't ask what was being said about her. More than likely, the women were talking about how she had recently gotten into a screaming match with Izzie that turned into a brawl, and how they had to be pulled apart by men. Auntie smoothed hair from Reena's face. Her lips moved several times as if she were about to speak; instead, she sat in silence, continuing to smooth the cotton apron over her thin housedress.
Reena watched Auntie's hands, already dotted with age spots even then, and covered with raised veins that coursed like blue rivers across the tops. She remembered the feel of those hands, cool on her hot forehead when, as a child, she cried after being severely scolded, or more likely, whipped with a willow or beaten with a broom stick by Nana for making some childish error like spilling bean juice on the stove top, dropping firewood into the woodbox with a thud, or scattering a bucketful of chile on the ground when a dog chased her. Sometimes she was beat for no reason at all.
Auntie always held her till long after she quit sobbing, endlessly repeating into her hair, "Tah. Tah. There now." Then she rubbed salve on the welts, and gave her something to eat. Auntie had been the only one to visit the Indian school campus, so frightening and lonely the first year. She brought Indian bread each time, and gave her a nickel for a treat. Auntie Lena herself was a graduate of St. Catherine's Indian School in Santa Fe, and she had great respect for the sisters and teachers, and for authority in general. Auntie believed all that the sisters had taught her about the Church and Jesus and the Blessed Mother, but she never dared express her deep faith in the Church to anyone except the children.
Reena stared at the split in the thick viga above her, remembering the comfort that Auntie always offered. She wished one of Auntie's bowls of beans and red chile could smooth out her life again. She heard Bunky whimpering in the next room, and then it was quiet.
Auntie Lena finally broke the silence in the room.
"Why are you allowing this? I don't think those Lagunas do that sort of thing, making people love sick. Especially that one! He just has wandering eyes is all. If he'd keep his pants on, he wouldn't have half the problems he does."
Auntie Lena's eyes burned into hers. Reena thought then of Izzie and her eyes that rip and tear, and of the Mexican woman at the trading post where she worked, who was suspected of doing any number of wicked practices for a price. That one liked to touch Guy at any opportunity with her dark, heavy hands that smelled of herbs. But Reena felt too weak to point out the possibilities to Auntie Lena. Those had been Nana's ideas, anyway. As for that night in June, well, she hadn't told anyone about that. Anyway, it might have just been a dream. A bad dream.
"You know yourself that no one witched you. You're just eaten up with wanting. Ooh-teh," she turned her head away in disgust. "You want that one who's just like a dog. He can't control himself and runs after every woman. And to take up with one such as that Izzie!" Reena's head hung in shame.
Seeing her, Auntie Lena's tone softened. "You know better than that. But sometimes we women make mistakes like that. I, myself, once did. Yes." She smiled, seeing Reena's surprise. "But I ran the man off. I said to him, 'Oh you. You use me all up and throw me away like an old shoe. I'll show you. I don't need you!' I said that to him," she told Reena, drawing herself up proudly.
"And your mama, too. She was first married to one of those wanderers. They're just boys who never become men. Finally she could stand it no more! She went to her parents and said, 'You better find me someone else because I can't live with that one no more.'" Auntie threw her hands in the air with a look of exasperation, continuing, "They didn't used to let us choose our own husbands, you know. They said to her, 'All right, smarty. This time you choose your own. See how well you do!' Well, she did all right if you ask me! She married your father. Rooster, they used to call him because of the red in his hair. He was always a good man. You do the same thing. Don't give up your life for a dog! Get well. Be happy. You must think of this child inside you, and hope you have not harmed it with your thoughts."
Her hand, slightly damp, rested a moment on Reena's shoulder. They lapsed into a silence as thick and heavy as if they mourned the dead. Reena noticed the worry around Auntie's eyes. As Auntie aged, her broad face had melted into soft folds; only now, the folds looked pinched. She held her rosary beads in one hand; her lips moved in inaudible recitation. She stopped and looked at Reena. "Forgive him, poor thing! Forget him! He's not right in his heart to know what he's doing."
Auntie Lena was the one Reena turned to for help when she and Guy decided to marry. She didn't go home to inform her parents of their desire to marry or to get permission. Instead, she told Auntie Lena that they were to be married by a Justice of the Peace like some of their classmates who married outside of their villages, and that they were going to live in Laguna afterwards. Timid as she was before any elder or person of authority, Auntie Lena agreed to inform Nana and Tata of her plans. Reena caught the hurt in Auntie's eyes before she carefully lowered them to the floor. She knew the very idea of a JP wedding distressed Auntie greatly for she valued the sanction of the church and the blessing of the family on marriage. Before Auntie left, she shook Guy's hand and said almost mournfully, "Take good care of my niece, please, mister."
Guy and Reena went to Laguna following the brief ceremony. Reena felt so proud and happy to be his wife, and she purred with excitement on the bus ride to Laguna. Once there, however, Guy's mother, Santana, and his older sister, Minnie, made no fuss over the bride, and didn't so much as offer the newlyweds a meal. Minnie flicked her plain brown eyes up and down Reena, taking in the white dress that she had made in sewing class and her new white pumps, then dismissed her with a blink of pale lashes and a turn of her head.
Reena couldn't understand but a few words in the Keres tongue, but the tone alone told her Santana was not pleased at being put out. Guy's father sat silent throughout the exchange, merely watching the women. Finally, impatiently beckoned by his wife, he rose from his chair to drive Santana and Minnie to the store to buy groceries. He paused briefly beside Reena and awkwardly patted her shoulder with a clammy hand.
She and Guy sat in the windowless kitchen, feeling more than seeing the afternoon wear on. Finally, Guy rose and turned on the old brown radio above the sink. It crackled with static. The radio was tuned to a Spanish station. A song so plaintive and sad filled the room. "Mi corazón" were the only words Reena understood. Guy stood in front of her holding his arms out; she rose to enter them, and they turned slowly, Reena's hot tears splashing on Guy's shoulders. He rubbed his hand up and down her back, then kissed her neck again and again. They shuffled in tight circles, their dress shoes crunching on the dirt on the linoleum flooring.
Reena spent her wedding night sharing the double bed with Santana. She lay on the edge of the mattress, fearing that if she moved in, she'd slide toward Santana's stout body set like a rock in the bed. The thought of accidentally touching Santana terrified her. Guy slept on the kitchen floor alongside his father.
They returned to Albuquerque early the next morning, and so began Reena's job of supporting them. They stayed for a short time at the home of their former teachers, Fred and Iris Jaramillo, while Reena cleaned homes for old, frail, white women whom she had worked for on weekends while at the Indian School.
It was from the Jaramillos that they got the idea and the encouragement to open a curio shop. Fred's brother owned a trading post on Fourth Street, where both Reena and Guy were given jobs though Guy was dismissed within a short period of time. "Know the value of what you have," Mr. Jaramillo told Guy. "You've got yourself a wife and a partner smart as a whip. Yessir. She's got plenty of horse sense, son."
Eventually they moved to Isleta as Reena always knew they would. Nana and Tata gave them a one-room home in the village. Reena never asked Auntie Lena what she had told her parents about her JP wedding, but whatever she said had soothed them, and they welcomed their new son-in-law. "Oh no, Laguna is too far," they told Guy. "You stay here with us."
Their first year of marriage was their happiest. Guy, with Two Bucks' help, added on two more rooms to their home, and Reena became pregnant late in the year. Reena always knew Guy was a flirt; he'd been that way during their school days, continuously fluctuating between Reena and other girls. Reena herself had done the same. She figured he'd grow out of it, especially once he became a father. But as her waistline expanded, then rounded, and she grew increasingly touchy and fatigued, Guy's itchy feet carried him away from home. Reena tried as best she could to ignore it in the face of those eager to tell her what they saw, what they heard about Guy. She held her head high, and let it be known that she would listen to no gossip instigated by those jealous of her happiness with a good-looking man.
Four children later it came down to lying weak and helpless in bed.
Nana entered the room carrying a steaming cup. She scolded Auntie Lena for tiring out Reena. "She needs the quiet," she told Lena. In earlier years, Nana didn't seem to have much tenderness, but now she gently nursed Reena, bringing her bowls of atole and cups of boiled Indian tea, smoothing her bedcovers, brushing her hair, and shushing the children. She burned sage, and for extra assurance, lit candles in tall frosted glasses with pictures of the Virgin Mary. Never had anyone fussed over her like this.
Nana thought she was going to die, Reena realized. Suddenly it seemed cruel to mislead the woman. She wasn't going to die. Auntie Lena was right. It was pure foolishness; no, it was stupid to carry on over a man who wasn't worth the trouble it took to keep him. The thought hit her like cold water on a blaze. She broke into a sweat. Reena felt the dampness on her exposed skin, felt the clamminess beneath her gown, felt her feet cold and moist. Her cheeks were wet with tears she didn't know she had shed. Oddly enough, Guy had bought her perfume called Fire and Ice. She'd never worn it. The scent was too strong for her, but she kept the bottle with its pretty label, a blaze amidst sheets of ice. The amber-colored perfume sparkled like flames inside the bottle, cut in facets.
She sat up suddenly in order to get a look at the bottle atop her bureau. A wave of nausea washed her. She started to refuse the cup of broth Nana held out to her, then changed her mind. Nana stopped her before she could drink it all.
"Take it easy, hita! Don't try to get well all at once," Auntie laughed.
The community marveled at how soon Reena was back on her feet, attributing her health to the curing ceremony. Reena knew otherwise. She knew her strength had recovered the day of Auntie Lena's visit. Her words had cut to the heart of the matter as neatly as a willow whip on tender skin. Once she had refused to feed the fire of her jealousy, it ceased its rage, and in a short time was cold ashes.
Soon after Guy left Izzie or Izzie left him, Reena was never sure which it was, she heard that he was living with Buttons. She was indifferent to the gossip. A few months later, he moved on to live with Sophie for almost a year. After Sophie's weak attempt to shoot him, he went back to Laguna. Reena heard of him every now and then. He lived with his mother in Laguna, painting pottery. Apparently the blaze died down in him, too. Either that or nobody wanted him anymore, used up as he was.
She had never looked back once she had resolved to go forward. Yet she knew what devastation lay behind her: The sky was without color; charred tree trunks stood amidst blackened debris and greyness on a flat endless plain. And there on the far horizon, following her like the moon, was her pain. She consented to suffer it till it became a familiar and constant companion. It provided a strange comfort that not even children in her arms or the baby at her breast could equal. It made her strong and grow in stature though she remembered herself as a petite girl. It pinched her feet so that she quit ceremonial dancing even when the War Captain came to her home and asked her to dance. Her lips drew increasingly tight so that she forgot she had been a laughing, careless tease.
Reena determined that there'd be no further cracks in her public image. She would quiet the voices - the voices that only she heard, that everyone else pretended were silent - the voices of the ones who sneered at her and who said she was nothing, that she wasn't a woman who could keep a man. And even if Nana and Tillie and Rosalee couldn't hear their talk, there was no denying the malice in people's eyes, in their sly smiles. But she knew how to silence those kind. She fixed the most elaborate baskets for dances and doings, strictly observed all the ceremonial events, and held up her children as polished images of herself. The pious daughter of the village, she attended every gathering, doing, doing, doing, helping all, baking bread, comforting the grief-striken, executing ritual, doing, doing, doing. She exceeded social conformity, becoming more Dae-ninh in herself than all the people collectively were. She set a high standard from which to look down at others. None dared criticize such exactness.
But she couldn't erase all the signs. Long after Guy's affair with Izzie ended, the curio shop with its brightly painted front stood an empty shell to mock her. Graffiti covered the boarded windows, tumble weeds grew thick as bushes, and plaster peeled off the walls. Amidst the neglect, TOURISTS WELCOME continued to blaze, reminding her she hadn't done things properly. She hadn't prepared the way.
Oh the years, the years, the intervening years so hard and bitter. The years that were made up of thousands of petty little details she had allowed to consume her, because living was easier when she walked around dead inside. She felt beyond the shadow of any man, that any man would be swallowed in the depths of her own shadow. How blind she had been, cheated of good years by the lie that she didn't deserve better.
That's what Buckley made her see.
By mutual consent, without even needing to discuss it, she and Buckley had agreed to keep their affair a secret. Now she wondered why. Buckley's wife was dead now so many years that she was just a wisp of memory. His sons were grown and married with problems of their own. And Reena, herself, certainly had no reason for shame. Or did she? She had never directly told her children about Buckley, yet they all knew of his overnight stays. Carmel and Bunky, the only ones living at home now, said little about Buck. It was the fact that they all ignored him, and didn't acknowledge or challenge his presence that made her uncomfortable. Reena twisted the stray threads on her bedspread.
She wondered if Tillie and Rosalee had wind of their affair. A fine bunch of Catholic schoolgirls the three sisters turned out to be. Rosalee thought she was so smart - wouldn't listen to what anyone said about Calvin. Nana nailed him on first sight. She said she could tell what kind of man Calvin was and always would be by the way he avoided eye contact, always hiding behind those fluttering eyelashes and distracting attention with those pretty hands of his.
Reena could still see Nana in the kitchen, vigorously rolling out tortillas as she admonished her daughters, "Don't be taken in by appearances. You can't trust people on their looks alone. Good looks mean nothing! Too much you are becoming like white people who look with their eyes without seeing. Be careful! People can't hide what's in their heart though the crafty ones try. You can't know people, whether they are good or bad, till you have listened to completeness. Pay attention to people's words and to how they speak. Watch their eyes and hands, and listen for the meaning between their words, and to what they're saying with their whole self. Then you will know them as completely as you possibly can."
But Rosalee thought she knew what Calvin was saying with his eyes and hands and body. By that time, Reena already had learned the hard way that there was truth to Nana's words. But she also knew how a woman could get so tied up by a man's fancy words, by his fast sidestepping.
Tillie had the least excuse of the three. She ruined her marriage singlehanded, and although Ernest was no prize, still he wasn't a womanizer or a wifebeater. Tillie wanted too much too fast. She demanded things of Ernest, money and possessions, and then made him believe that's what he wanted, too. Poor thing. He was a gentle, quiet man, always struggling to become whatever it was he was trying to become. Tillie belitted him when he couldn't rain heaven on her, and tormented the man's soul till he had to leave in order to keep it. It was the Indian School that did that to her: those mean old dormitory matrons and the sisters at the Catholic school who called Indians dirty, and who scrubbed at their skins with a vengance and pulled hair with their tombstone hands. Tillie didn't protect her soul like Reena had with polite outward compliance and inner resistance. She believed their lie - until Indians became like white people, they were worthless.
Reena heard the kitchen door open. What could Carmel be doing? She lay in bed and listened to the sound of water running in the kitchen sink. Then muffled sounds came from the bathroom. She heard the quiet shut of Carmel's bedroom door. Carmel's bedroom was next to hers, separated only by a thin partition Two Bucks had constructed to divide one long room into individual bedrooms.
What time had Carmel come in last night? How long was it now that she kept late hours? In those early weeks of late spring when Buckley began staying overnight, Reena lost focus of everything else. Sometime around the Gallo in June, she realized that Carmel was rarely home, and she was shocked at the long-haired strangers wearing mirrored sunglasses who drove into the yard in beat-up cars, beeping the horn, lacking the decency to knock at the door. The more she tried to talk sense to her daughter, the less she heard. Even Buckley, who usually had an answer for all her problems, had absolutely nothing to say as if he hadn't heard her either.
She lay awake in bed summer nights listening for Carmel to come home, searching in the dark for the words to tell Carmel about men like her father, to warn her that men could and would and did betray women. The sound of Buckley's soft steady breathing beside her in bed reassured her one moment, and the next created panic within her. Who was to say he was any different than others?
As the summer wore on, she grew edgy with worry about Carmel and then about her mother's failing health. It seemed there wasn't enough night for all the worry in her. But Buckley began to fill the void within her slowly and steadily till it took her by surprise to realize she was sleeping at night again, and waiting eagerly each evening for the lights of Buckley's pickup to flash in the kitchen window as he drove into the yard.
Buckley dropped into her life as sudden as an apple dropping from a tree; the time was ripe. She had gone to the fiesta at Cousin Rosie's home for the christening of Rosie's first grandson, expecting only to pass bowls around the table, wash dishes and maybe catch up on the latest goings- on. Instead she had the incredible luck of being seated at the dinner table right next to Buckley. He was swarthy and full in his blue BIA police uniform. With his large frame, he naturally dominated the table. She listened to him talk about the different reservations he'd been to in the Dakotas and Utah and Arizona. He talked of tribal politics, social problems, reservation skirmishes, all subjects Reena had considered the rhetoric of radicals. She listened like Nana had told her to listen, and she heard his voice flowing, rippling like water. His words had depth.
The people nodded their heads at his words. The attending women fussed over his food, flirting with him with their laughter and attention; after all, he was an eligible widower. Reena felt a strong undercurrent pulling at her, drawing her to him, but she resisted, keeping her spine straight against the chairback. Buckley talked on about his retirement plans, of returning to farming and cash crops and investment capital. Rosie teased him about trading in the police cruiser for a tractor.
"I'm ready for the simple life," he responded, the tone of his voice and his subsequent silence implying he had seen many things too deep to talk about.
Reena sipped her coffee.
"Chile rellenos, Doreena?" he offered graciously to her, his voice rippling across her consciousness. In accepting the bowl, her hand grazed his, and she looked directly into his eyes, seeing past the black flecks in his brown irises to their centers, dark and intense. She lowered her gaze to his lips and saw his mouth closing around her name. His nearness loomed. He held her gaze and she was unable to pull away, again feeling the insistent pull of an undercurrent. In that unguarded moment, she let g o, feeling an exhilarating freedom in release as she slipped under and then emerged to a blur of voices around her. Staring into the bowl of floating sweetcakes, she almost forgot where she was. She barely found the breath to murmur, "Thank you."
Reena was disappointed that he left the fiesta immediately after dinner, smacking a peppermint candy, and leaving behind his shadow that trailed her into the spring, flitting into her thoughts unexpectedly, and hanging on the edge of her dreams where he stood quietly singing in sweet blue light. He took a pinch of corn pollen from a small pouch and sprinkled it in a line before him. The pollen fell like flecks of sunlight. He sang all the while, his song indiscernible but simple and comforting. It was a song that hummed steadily through days and nights, transforming a dream to reality.
His name kept coming up in casual conversations, some new aspect of his personality taking her by surprise. Whatever was said of him, it was spoken with cautious respect. She heard he was as forceful as a summer storm: lightning, rolling thunder and driving rain all in one. He drifted like cloud shadows or marched ceremoniously like dazzingly white thunderheads. He kept people on guard, everchanging and unpredictable as the weather, ever constant and steady as the turn of the seasons. He flashed by on the highway in his patrol car, leaving fleeting images of his intense face that she studied at night. She thought long and hard, and listened to completeness.
By the time she saw him months later at a wedding fiesta, they had no need for words. From the doorway of the community center, she spotted him filling a pitcher with soda, his back to her. He spun neatly on his feet heading towards her to a nearby table. He stopped in his tracks when he saw her, and in a flash of perception she saw the longing in his eyes. She saw it in his taut muscles, in his sudden lack of composure. He looked down at the full pitcher dripping on his shoes, and wiped the sweating container with his free hand. She knew he knew she knew. She smiled her acceptance of the fact. He resumed his advance on the table.
Buckley saw to it that she was seated quickly and then attentively waited on the table she sat at, making sure her cup was constantly full, and that she was served steaming bowls of red chile and rice, sending back cooled food to the kitchen. When she finished her meal, he handed her a paper sack, urging her to fill it with the candy, fruits and Indian pies set on the table for the guests. She smiled warmly at him, clutching her sack, glad she had taken Carmel's advice and worn her red dress with the large belted bow on the back waist which smoothed the bulge of her tummy. Red was her best color. It created a flush in her cheeks and made her laugh. She grew full in red.
That evening at the wedding dance at the Manzanita Lounge, Buckley asked her to dance. They swayed like bluespruce in the mountain wind.
When the song ended, Buckley led her from the dance floor, regretfully saying, "I have to be leaving now. I have the night shift."
She avoided his gaze, afraid of the depths there.
"Is that right? It must be hard to work nights." She smiled, surprised at how her voice fell softly around her like snowflakes.
"No, it's not hard at all," he said, "Actually, it's the shift I prefer. Quiet most times. I get off duty in the wee early morning hours, and on my way home, and the times I'm assigned to patrol Isleta, I always patrol your area."
Reena stared at him, remembering him filtering her thoughts, even in sleep. "Yes, it's a high crime area." She attempted to joke; instead her words were an icy blast.
"May I..." he cleared his throat loudly. "I mean, would it be all right with you if I stop by to see you sometime?"
Reena's head jerked up. She felt a flush creep onto her face.
Seeing her eyes flitting like startled birds, Buckley added quickly, "I mean, sometime during the day, or the early evening when I'm off-duty." In the mirrored tile behind him, Reena saw the birds in her eyes turn to a dark hunger and then to the glossy sheen of polishing stones. She looked down so Buckley wouldn't see.
"If you'd like," she said in a toneless voice, neatly turning on her heels, hearing the wind screeching in her ears, and feeling again the pull of an undercurrent. From a distance she heard him call behind her, "I would like to. Very much I would like to."
She felt her cheeks flaming, and she veered toward the ladies' room, almost colliding in the doorway with girls too young to appreciate the merits of a man like Buckley. As she pushed past them, they stared at her with glazed eyes painted bright as peacock tails. In the reflection of the mirror she saw them shrug at one another and saunter out.
"Merciful heavens," she laughed to herself. "I just may be the apple of his eye."
It took Buckley three weeks to show up. By then Reena was a nervous wreck. She snapped at Carmel and Bunky, insisting that the house be kept immaculate at all hours of the day and night.
As she flipped back the Davy Crockett bedspread to get up, she realized with sudden clarity that that was when Carmel took to staying away from home.
The smell of cigarette smoke wafted through the wall heater set between her and Carmel's bedrooms. Carmel must be smoking those stinky cigarettes. The nerve of her smoking in her house! The dormitory matrons had always said that there was not a more telltale sign of cheapness than a woman who smoked cigarettes or popped her gum. She was just about to yell through the thin partition to put the cigarette out when she heard an exchange of voices. She quietly moved to the edge of the bed nearest the heater. Reena caught a glimpse of herself in the dresser mirror: a woman with graying, tousled hair, crow's feet at her eyes, and a pale face straining her body to unabashedly eavesdrop.
"Get in? I'm just now coming home!" Carmel bragged.
"You're kidding me!" It was Trini's voice. "Does your mom know you were out all night?"
"Of course not! Think I'm nuts or something? She was still in bed when I came in. I fooled around in the kitchen making coffee just in case she walked in and saw me up." There was a pause and then Carmel added with a laugh. "I don't usually get up before noon on weekends, y'know."
Reena sucked in her breath. Carmel hadn't come home all night! What had she been thinking that she could trust Trini, what with all those perverted ideas she learns in California and brings back here. Where in the world had Carmel been all night? She leaned closer, listening hard.
Were those two at odds over a boy? Reynard. Reynard L. Reena's mind raced, sorting families. That must be Jose L's son. Lasalupe's grandson. Good family. Hard workers. Good-looking boy. She frowned. What had she heard about the boy? She couldn't remember if it was good or bad.
She chewed on a fingernail.
So Carmel had been with Reynard all night. Reena knew he lived with his uncle, though of course, his uncle was a fargone alcoholic. The boy was probably appointed by the family to watch over him to make sure he didn't burn the house down or hurt himself. Reena liked demonstrations of responsibility like that. She caught her expression in the mirror. Pleased. There could be worse things than her daughter spending the night with Reynard L. She had thought of all of them last summer. Besides...well, times were changing, eroding. She frowned. The truth was that she was in no place to preach morality to anyone. What she could do was to be quiet about what she had overheard. Carmel would be sure to balk like a mule if she tried to give advice. Instead, she'd make a point to say hello to the young man's mother, Virginia, after mass tomorrow. She smiled. Good family. Respectable.
Reena sat up. It was unbecoming to listen in on others' conversations. That was something Nosey Rosey would do.
She sat stock still, oblivious to the girls' continuing conversation. Rosie. Guy. She recalled the slow turn in the kitchen in Laguna on her wedding day. She and Guy had never divorced. Buckley was right. They were too old to be sneaking around, living in sin. It was time to marry.
She moved off the bed, humming, gathering her clothes, shutting her dresser drawers hard so the girls would realize she was up.
From Northeast Indian Quarterly, Fall 1991: 31-42.
© 2004 Evelina Zuni Lucero
Return to the Evelina Zuni Lucero website