The songs we sang those years
were their own false witness.
Cries of pain that drove us witless
through a maze of loneliness and fear.
Artists all, we sketched desperation in the shifting sand.
Our secret hearts drew together
outlines of the parts.
We joined one to another.
Hand in hand we raised a citadel upon the beach
among drift-wood and the song of shell,
rang in the farthest reaches of it’s boundaries where they fell
without regard for tides reach.
When, finally we laid enthralled,
careless banners crested higher than the waves.
We surrendered to sleep like exhausted slaves,
and were lost to the tide, one and all.
Robert King/ JOURNAL
I was hard at work.
The rawboned blonde drawled on about cotton and the texture of some special dust that hung like a delicate flower over the pan handle, and how the sharp shadow of a buzzard cut the sand.
Her boot print dug into the worn pine floor like a dry stream bed.
“...an’ y’all would really like it durin’ the heat, darlin’. Ah do. Ah jus’ love the rain. The way it settles the dust an’ the way it smells.”
“How long have you had the ranch, Charlotte.”
“Oh God darlin’ ah sure ain’t tellin’ you my age. I mean ah hardly know y’all.”
I must have looked distracted. She reached out and tenderly squeezed my arm.
“My family’s had it kickin’ around forever and me...” she leaned forward, conspiratorially “...well I got some good use out of it.”
With a shift of her head she shed the shadows of her years. Sunlight polished her to burnished gold.
“Ah’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout doin’ somethin’ different for years! I’m too old for ranch work. It makes you old. I mean really darlin’ just look at my skin.” She laughed as she lifted her golden arms. The tight muscles were supple support for her rubenesque sand rubbed flesh.
She smelled of sagebrush and hot flowers. Her dusky, rose cotton Mexican blouse mellowed the sharp sun that flowed across her languid figure. An enormous diamond flashed on her finger.
“What about you darlin’? You ain’t sayin’ much about yourself.”
“What’s to say?”
Now I know all about your man a mystery. God knows there’s room enough for all kinds a’ mystery...” She winked “...but that ain’t all you are is it?”
Cool eyed she studied me over the top of her 4th Bloody Mary.
“No, that’s not all. Why? Do you think there needs to be more?”
“Well God knows I ain’t the one to be tellin’ you darlin’! My daddy was one of those strong silent types...” She sipped her drink. “... an’ I just loved daddy. Ain’t found anybody better yet though I sure have given ‘em a lot of chances.” She set her empty glass on the tray.
“You know daddy was the one told me to get hold of y’all. It was just before he died.”
“How did he die?”
She stood up, walked to the window and closed the drapes.
“Bastard went out for a ride on his new buckskin, Sand. Well, Sand was green broke. A hell of a horse. Daddy wanted to break him in himself. He never would admit he was gettin’ old. Goddamn rattler spooked Sand an’ daddy fell off, BANG! right on a rock. It was just like daddy ta’ do that. Well, this time the rock was harder. So...” She turned and spread her arms. Her sleeves unfolded like wings. “... Daddy left me the ranch an’ fifty square miles of oil”
“Plus a little cash money.” She added.
“He said ‘you talk to Robert King, darlin’. Jus’ like that- jus’ before he died... ‘You talk to Robert King.’” she mused. “So, here we are.”
“What do you think he wanted us to talk about?”
“He said if I was going to survive I needed to be a part of somethin’ bigger ‘n I was. I've always been a selfish girl. An stubborn, shoot! I’m hard as nails.” She paused for breath.
“Now I ain’t interested in bein’ any god damned GLORYGIRL. I mean I’m not bad lookin’ but I don’t have the personality for it. Know what ah mean?”
“So what do you want?”
I leaned back against the stretched cow-hide couch. My feet raveled the ancient Indian blanket tossed carelessly on the floor. The room was museum quality, lived in, South West Rancho. An enormous, smoke stained adobe fireplace towered over the burnished knotty pine floor.
Her back was to the window. The bleached window frames behind her glowed softly as the sun sifted through the pearl silk curtains.
“I’m not a stupid cow-girl, King. I see where the goddamned world’s headed. One damn fool bigger than the next tryin’ ta’ lie long enough ta’ make his little piece a’ the pie an’ in the mean time stealin’ from everybody else. I want ta’ be a part of some kinda revolution just like daddy was, only his was oil and cows an’ cartels. That ain’t for me. You can’t imagine how much crap gets tossed up at me. The whole world’s got an idea how I should spend my money. A bunch a’ little peckerheads flockin’ around me like I’m wood for the winter.”
“Daddy told me the only way a woman’s going to make a difference is to be a part of something that makes her stronger because she is a woman. Daddy loved strong women. He said ‘a weak woman’s just a whipped dog hangin’ around waitin’ ta’ get kicked.”
She took a breath.
“I promised him I wouldn’t turn out that way so now I got ta’ make good on my promise by joinin’ the war. Nothin’ gets won by hidin’. I ain’t one ta’ let somebody else do my job for me. I never was the cocktails an’ tennis type. Two big an’ clumsy, I suppose.”
She hefted her pendulous breasts.
“Ah guess you can tell ah don’ pull any punches.”
“That’s refreshing. How can I help?”
“Well, I suppose you got a girl friend so it ain’t that.” She said. A lightning smile flashed across her face. “I figured the next best thing would be to invest in you. I’m a practical girl.” Cautiously, she pushed back her hair. Her bracelets marked a muffled tolling of silver on silver.
“We’re not desperate for investors, Charlotte.”
“Oh shoot darlin’ I got more on the ball than spreadin’ money around. That ain’t goin’ ta win no revolution.”
“So what do you have in mind?”
I settled back.
“Like I said, I ain’t the tennis type but I got more money than I know what ta do with an’ that makes me important in those circles.”
“You know, The rich society snooty circles. God knows those folks are more frightened than RVs in a wagon train. ‘Fraid of Indians behind every bush. Shoot!”
She gave me a limp wristed wave.
“Talk about hang ups. It must be the inner breeding. They got more hang-ups than an ol’ tick hound has bugs. Well, I figure I could put a few well-chosen words in the right ears an’ every one of them, plus their families, and all their friends will just pack up and start takin’ all kinds of workshops with y’all. Well, these folks need a little guidance. They bring their money and connections with them to the party. Shoot, these folks never do nothin’ alone, if one gets hooked all of ‘em get hooked. That could be my little contribution to the revolution, tippin’ over their little ol’ apple cart. Hell fire I might as well. There ain’t none of em’ doin’ anything now but takin’ up space.”
“What’s this?” I gestured toward a low sided, round box made of rough wood, about 3 feet in circumference. It sat on the table between us. The box was half full of white sand.
“That’s a dream mandala.”
“The Indians would hold ceremonies during the winter months when it was too cold to hunt or plant. They’d clear a big area and draw a circle in the sand. Then they’d dig a hole, ‘bout 12 inches deep an fill it with ghost sand. That’s what they call that sugar sand. Then they’d get all fired up on peyote tea an’ dance around that circle an’ beat drums ‘til they were all pretty well gone and take turns sketchin’ in the sand.”
“They thought their sketches would reveal visions of their future. They also thought they could rid themselves of ghosts by sketchin’ them in the sand an’ then erasin’ the sketch.”
“Oh.” I drummed an aimless rhythm for a moment in the soft, yielding sand and then, like the finger of God I drew a primitive pole ladder whose rungs reached for the stars.
I reached out and brushed the sand smooth.
"I don’t feel any different.”
“You will.” She said.