Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Preamble" by Keith Harvey


Spring shifts into his summer,
one year after their garden,
theirs because it was theirs to name and define.
Now, he sits on the edge of a cornfield
dressed in his crow feathers,
listening to the wind rustling among dried leaves,
mice seeking desiccated kernels among weeds.
She tell his first-born,
marked by a blood red scar
that he is an agrarian
and that the cornfield is his.
In her magical thinking,
she sacrifices corn to Him,
as an eternal return.
She holds the past in cupped hands
and her son drinks her memories
of green days naked.
But he has another plan,
a quest that seeks their future
in deeper depths.
For this he needs a song.
He chants and rocks,
transcending the sand.
She hears only the crow caw.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch"-Conclusion


At dusk, Vogel sat at the brasserie on the Isle St Louis, watching a bateau mouche loaded with tourists slowly pass the island, while he waited for Coyote.

He had been unable to find the pup, although he smelled his scent on the wind and he was sure that with the bruja gone Coyote would not have any trouble locating the boy. In fact, Vogel doubted seriously that Coyote would show up or pay the price for finding the pup.

As the sun set and a cold wind blew off of the Seine, Vogel ordered an armagnac and a cigar. At seven, when diners began to arrive, Vogel stood and started home. On a narrow street without any curb for pedestrians Vogel heard a scooter rumbling over the ancient cobblestones and he pressed himself against the side of an old building.

The scooter stopped at his elbow and he heard, “want a ride home, wolf?”

Vogel turned and smiled at Branwen who was dressed in a tight red dress that matched her helmet. A matching red sweater was tied around her shoulders.

“You look lovely.”

“Stop it old man and get on.”

She delivered him to the door of his apartment and as he climbed off, she said, “Coyote found his pup and they are on their way home.”

Vogel leaned forward and kissed her on each cheek. She turned the scooter around and said, “It is time you learned to fly.”

He laughed and said, “I thought I was a wolf.”

“Do you know what the ancients called the raven?”

He shook his head. She continued with a shake of her head that reminded him of the bird on the dresser in the hotel room, “The wolf bird, Vogel, the wolf bird.”

With that she drove off and the old man punched in his code and the door of his apartment building opened.

The End

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch"-Part Four


After lunch Vogel walked home. It took him almost an hour and half but since he was shot twelve years ago in Berlin, he always walked, unless it was bad weather or too far to go in a couple of hours. He intended to keep going no matter what was thrown at him-age, bullets, knives, witches, or coyotes.

At eleven that evening he was reading Thomas Mann’s Joseph and his Brothers. He had already fallen asleep once and he was nodding off in his chair, when the buzzer on the ground floor sounded. He walked over and buzzed the person in. After a few minutes there was a faint knock at his door. He opened it to Branwen.

She was wearing black leather pants, gloves, boots and an American motorcycle jacket. Her cheeks were flushed and her black eyes twinkled.

“You found her?”

“Get this, she is checked in at the Hilton across the street from the Tour d’Eiffel. My birds spotted her at ten tonight crossing the street. She has a powerful spell up but they were able to track her to the hotel after they discovered her emerging from the Bois du Bolougne in coyote skin.”

“Did they see the pup?”

“No, we haven’t been able to find him. I think she sensed us searching for her and changed into her human form to escape us.”

“She is not a coyote.”

“No, she is a shape shifter but she’s human. Sort of human.”

“What should we do?”

“Get a good night’s sleep and be at her hotel at eight tomorrow morning. Somehow get in her room and open a window. I will take care of everything else.”

“How do I know which room to go to?”

“She’s checked in as Mrs. Rose Red. Cute isn’t it?”

She kissed him on each cheek and he smelled her scent, which seemed to be a combination of chocolate and musk.

As he was closing the door, she turned and said, “I almost forgot. When you get the window open, blow this.” She handed him a silver whistle. It was about two inches long and a quarter of inch around. He took and blew into it softly. He heard nothing but she covered her ears and said crossly, “are you crazy? You will have every crow in Paris sitting on your ledge if you blow that thing.”

She smiled and then walked toward the elevator, pulling her red helmet onto her head.

Vogel slept fitfully and rose early. He took the first metro across town and was sitting in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel at seven forty. He did not know how he was going to find the woman in the huge hotel. He had walked up and down the lobby sniffing deeply, trying to pick up her scent, but he discerned nothing but the usual hotel odors, some of which were quite unpleasant.

He went to the flower shop next to the Hermes Boutique in the lobby and ordered a dozen roses for Madame Rose Red. The shop girl looked at him as if he was mad but he assured her that was the woman’s name. He paid in cash and then returned to the lobby.

At eight fifteen, a young man wearing green pants with a yellow strip on the legs and a tan jacket emerged from the flower shop carrying a vase with a dozen red roses and walked to the elevator. Vogel jumped up as best he could with his leg and followed the man onto the elevator. He pushed four and Vogel said in English, “same as me.” The boy smiled.

Vogel followed the boy down the long hall, walking slowly, exaggerating his handicap. The boy stopped at room 426 and Vogel continued past him and turned at the end of the hall into another bank of rooms. He waited until he heard the boy leave and then returned to Room 426 and knocked.

The witch pulled the door open, her face contorted with rage at being disturbed again. Vogel knew immediately that she suspected a trap and he noted that she was dressed to go out.

“Who are you?” She leaned toward him and sniffed. With her so close, Vogel detected a hint of pollen, mesquite, baby powder, and desert flowers on her cheek. Against his will, he felt himself becoming tremendously attracted to the woman and he wondered if this was part of her magic.

She had disguised herself as a forty something French woman, with short black hair, tanned skin and hazel eyes. She was dressed in a gray skirt and a white silk blouse. A tailored matching gray jacket hung on the chair in front of the dresser and a Birkin bag rested on the chair.

She stepped back and examined him closely, so closely that Vogel felt an urge to turn away from her gaze.

“I see a man, a human man, but I detect both the scent of a wolf and a bird, a rook, I think. You must have ancient blood. You don’t know who or what you are do you? Oh, I can see a little training around the edges and I suspect that you are good at finding things and maybe solving problems but you have a violent side that takes over sometimes and when it does there is blood everywhere. I understand that side. I don’t hide from it but you do. I can see it.”

Vogel said nothing because he did not want to give away anything to the woman. Her power came from her knowledge and the more information she had the greater control she could exercise over him.

“Are you a shape shifter or a shaman?”

He did not answer.

“What’s your name?” She crossed over to the dresser and pulled on her jacket. When he did not answer, she shrugged and said, “You are not unattractive but I have business to attend to and I cannot waste time on you.”

“I am here for Coyote.”

She paused and then sat down, “I thought I smelled him in Madrid. He got close, real close.”

She laughed and pulled a pack of Marlboro Lights from her purse. “He thought he bested me but he was wrong. He is such a funny character, everything that he attempts backfires on him.”

“I want the pup.”

“You can have him if you bring Coyote to me.”

“Now. Do you want to see him now?”

“No, not now and not here,” she said, as she sucked hard on the cigarette and expelled a blue cloud of smoke.

“Mind if I open a window, the smoke bothers me?”

“Overly fastidious for a wolf,” she said with a smirk. “Sure open the window.”

He opened the French windows and pulled open the curtains. Below, across the street, in a soccer field, several grown men were playing. Beyond it the Eiffel Tower stood blocking his view of the city and the river beyond; it was so close in fact that he could see people climbing the stairs and hear them laughing and talking. He also heard music and the voice of barkers selling mementos to the tourists, waiting for their turn to climb the stairs for a view of the city.
With his back turned to her he pulled the whistle from the pocket of his coat lifted it quickly to his lips and blew. There was no sound except the witch pulling on her cigarette. He placed the whistle into his pocket as he returned to his chair.

“Where shall we meet for the exchange?”

“He can pick up his pup in the desert where we met in three weeks.”


She waved her hand as if to say, take it or leave it.”

“But the pup is here in Paris now.”

“So, I have some things to do here, which involve the pup. I am not ready to relinquish him yet. I must thoroughly house train him. He is a bit wild and completely innocent.” She ran her tongue around her lips, as if checking her lipstick. “Well, you should be off because I have things to do.”

Vogel looked out the windows, wondering where Branwen was. Had she heard the call? The once clear blue sky now turned a dark purple, as burgeoning rain clouds rushed with a mighty wind from the north. Suddenly, a lightening bolt split the air and a few seconds later, they heard the thunder. The witch hurried to the window. She looked toward the North, as the room’s temperature began to plummet. The north wind tore at the woman’s hair and Vogel smelled rain. The woman turned to him and walked toward him, her face contorted with anger. “What did you do, Wolf? Who is coming in that?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Vogel, backing toward the door.

She raised her right hand as if to hit him and began to chant in Spanish. Vogel was caught now. He could not move or speak. Something over her shoulder caught his eye, a glint of steel and blue flash.

Branwen stood nude on the ledge as the rain lashed down on the building. Her hair was braided in hundreds of strands containing bits of colored glass and rocks and feathers and she had painted her face and body dark blue and green. She stepped into the room and the witch saw her reflected in Vogel’s eyes and she turned immediately to cast her spell against Branwen but Branwen had lifted her sword with two hands over her right shoulder and as soon as the witch turned she brought the sword down with an amazing strength and severed the witch’s head from her body in one stroke.

Blood gushed up and about the room. Vogel fell back against the wall, splattered with the witch’s blood.

Branwen smiled a crooked smile and walked to the bed and cleaned the blood from her blade.
The witch’s head rolled beneath the dresser and stopped with a thud and Vogel turned and saw her wild and angry eyes, which blinked twice and before the witch spoke.

“You bitch. You think you can end this with a sword. You stupid cow, I shall release all the fury of my sisters on you and on you, you pitiful stupid wolf.”

Branwen stood above the head and said, “Talk on witch, I have heard your threats before, maybe even your threats.”

As Vogel watched the two, a shimmer appeared in the room, like a heat wave lifting off the desert’s floor, and then Branwen began to change; black shiny feathers sprouted from her body and shone and glistened in the light of the lamps and where the young girl stood naked now appeared a large raven with purple black feathers, black beak and eyes.

The raven hopped under the dresser and snapped the witch’s hair up in her beak and dragged it, as it cursed her and Vogel in both Spanish and French, across the floor to the edge of the bed.
The sky cleared and all remnants of the storm disappeared. The raven, quorked, cawed, snapped and hopped onto the bed, where it dropped the head and then flew toward Vogel, who fell back against the door.

After a few turns around the room, the raven landed on the dresser and moved its head back and forth, one black eye watching Vogel, before it hopped onto the bed next to the head and fastened its beak once again onto the witch’s hair. With two strong flaps of its massive wings, the raven flew through window.

It was some time before Vogel dragged himself into the bathroom where he vomited into the toilet. He stared into the mirror afterwards and noted he was splattered with blood. He cleaned himself off as best he could and then took two wash cloths and cleaned every surface in the room that he had touched. He also wiped up the bloody tracks he had made when he had walked through blood.

Before leaving, he thought about every step he had taken before he entered the witch’s room. He was most worried about the flower girl, who could describe a senior American, who walked with the aid of a cane and who ordered flowers for the decapitated woman in Room 426.
He was finally ready to leave when he detected a faint scent on the wind, a scent he had smelled before in the desert, a feral smell like a large cat’s lair. He walked to the window and guessed it was coming from the southeast. He also picked up another similar scent emanating from the northwest and guessed the witch’s spell was broken because he could now pick out from the multitude of odors he was now receiving the distinctive odor of both the Coyote and his pup.

Before leaving the window, he noted hundred of birds wheeling about the spire on top of the Eiffel Tower and he thought he discerned Branwen carrying the witch’s head in the middle of the murder of crows.

Friday, November 03, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch" -Part Three


Vogel crossed the bridge, passed the cathedral, pausing for a few minutes on the island, to watch two bus loads of German tourists disembark and line up for a tour. A young French nun, speaking German, began a history lesson on the cathedral and he tarried under the trees to listen to her. When she finished, he continued his march to the left bank, where he walked a hundred yards along the Seine, before he turned into the Place Triangle.

Once in the Place he sniffed the air and smelled hundreds of nests in the old trees of the park and noted that the birds-the ravens, rooks, and crows-were away, flying about the city, scavenging for food.

He walked slowly down the park’s gravel paths, hoping for Branwen to appear.

Vogel didn’t know what she was exactly but he imagined her as the spirit of the Place, the mistress of the birds. All he really knew was that she inhabited the park, in some form, and the birds belonged to her. Sometimes he believed she was a bird herself.

He remembered an old Netsilik Eskimo origin story that said that in the beginning the world was dark and at that time men and animals existed in the darkness and they spoke to one another and mated with one another, not knowing if their mate was animal or human. Animals could shift their shape to human and humans could become animals. Animals and men were one and both spoke freely to the gods. When the light appeared they separated according to their kind but by then some humans were part animal and some animals were part human. Over time many forgot their origins and fell into a great forgetting.

Vogel suspected that Branwen and her twin brother, Brandon, were ancient animal people. He also believed that Branwen was very old, as old as the earth itself, although she liked to speed around Paris on a red Italian motor scooter and appeared to be a twenty year old Parisian.

If he were to catch the bruja, he would need her help. The problem with her was that she appeared when she wanted and where she wanted. There was never anyway to contact her, no trick, no address, no prayer, and no call. More often than not she was traveling with her twin, Brandon, following the memory lines of the earth, looking for sacred places that the Christians, Jews, or the Moslems had not covered with a church, synagogue, or mosque.

Vogel walked the whole length of the Park but he could not pick up any scent of her. He turned toward the buildings on the south side of the Place Triangle and crossed the street, walking slowly, tapping his cane on the concrete.

Felix Beinix was serving a coffee to a customer sitting at a table in front of the café. When he saw Vogel, he waved and walked toward him with his free hand outstretched.

“My old friend,” he said, “have you come for lunch.”

“Of course, why do you think I would walk from the Marais.”

“You should rent a place here. I have a nice apartment on the fourth floor, facing the east.”

“If I lived here I would have to have a view of the Park.”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sorry, there is nothing available now.”

“Then I will have to stay in the Marais.”

“Do you want to eat outside today?”

“That sounds right, yes, outside.”

Marc de la Croix, a history professor at the Sorbonne, sitting inside next to the window, waved at Vogel and Vogel smiled and waved back. De la Croix rose from his chair and came outside to shake Vogel’s hand.

“My friend, I just read your book on Georg Löwe. It is a masterpiece.”

“That’s high praise coming from you.”

Beinix pulled out a chair for Vogel. As Vogel sat down, de la Croix stood over him talking. “I am just at the point where the Russian shaman takes him into the woods. Is it true, this story?”

“From everything that I have been able to determine, it is true.”

“Your notes indicate that you went to Siberia and met both the shaman and his son.”

“I spent four months in the village where Löwe was imprisoned and I talked with the people there. I then traveled north into the forest where I met the shaman and his son.”

“Strange. It is a very strange story.”

“Strange but true. The shaman recounted the story to me exactly as Löwe wrote it in The Siberian Idyll.”

Vogel suspected that de la Croix wanted an invitation to lunch but Vogel did not want to talk shop with the professor of history; instead, he wanted to think and to ask Felix if he knew where either Branwen or Brandon was at the moment.

“Do you think the shaman read The Siberian Idyll?”

“The man did not speak Russian or German so his son interpreted for me. It is highly unlikely that he has read The Siberian Idyll or any other book for that matter.”

“Maybe someone told him the story.”

“It’s possible but I prefer to believe Löwe and the shaman.”

Vogel wanted de la Croix to go away but he didn’t seem to get the message. Felix returned with the menu and de la Croix simply moved out of the way for a moment and continued to ask questions as Vogel looked at the menu and then ordered the rabbit.

In the distance, Vogel heard the sound of a scooter and he noticed a red one turning the corner and heading for the café. It was Branwen and she stopped at the curb near Vogel’s table. She wore a red helmet, a black linen shirt, and black woolen pants. A black cashmere sweater was tied around her shoulders. She pulled the scooter up on its stand and then pulled off her helmet.

She smiled and waved at Felix and shook de la Croix’s hand, as she moved toward Vogel. He was rising to greet her when she placed her right hand on his shoulder and pushed him back into his seat. She then kissed him three times on the cheek and took the seat opposite him.

“I am sorry to be late but I had pressing business on the other side of town.”

Felix presented her a menu, which she looked at cursorily and ordered the rabbit and a glass of the Lalande de Pomerol. De la Croix stood awkwardly behind her.

She turned and said, “Marc, you are still here. If you don’t mind I have some business to discuss with Dutch.”

He bowed to her and then returned to his table inside the restaurant.

“He is in love with me,” she said, turning to Vogel.

“What can you do?”

“Exactly,” and then she laughed.

She switched to English and her thick Irish accent always surprised him.

“I heard your call. How can I be of service?”

Vogel told her about Coyote and Snake and the lost pup. She listened carefully and said, “After lunch return to your apartment. I will contact you there if I find anything. It seems that she has placed a spell on both the pup and herself to prevent Coyote from tracking her.”

“Why would she come to Paris?” he asked later, as they ate.

“I agree with Coyote. I think she is one of our witches. She could be really old-one of ours that migrated to the New World with the Spanish or the French.”

“Why steal the pup?”

“Because she can and because she has a score to settle with the old man. I don’t care who you are, you don’t let a man use you the way he did with impunity.”

“Use her?”

She smiled and said, “I know that she started it but she intended to end it as well. He pulled a fast one on her, had his way, and then hit the road. She is paying him back. It’s sexual politics bruja style.”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Coyote and Witch-Part Two


He sat at a table in the front of a brasserie on the Isle St. Louis. For a fall day, the sun shone brightly and he wore a pair of dark sunglasses to protect his green eyes. The waiter delivered a second espresso but he did not touch it; instead, he watched a young couple kissing on the bridge, with Notre Dame Cathedral in the background. A hundred pigeons circled above the small square in front of the brasserie, circled once, twice, and then finally landed near his table.

Besides the sun glasses, he wore a gray linen shirt, black wool pants, a grey tweed jacket with three buttons, a fisher man’s wool cap, which was odd for such mild weather, and black leather boots that shone and glistened in the sun. The boots gave him away because anyone looking at the shoes would know immediately that he had been a soldier and that the shine on the boots came from a spit shine.

He used a cane to walk, which was leaning against his chair. The cane was hand carved and its handle was fashioned into the shape of a wolf’s head, identical to the silver pendant that hung around his neck on a silver chain. A second smaller chain held a Celtic cross that hung above and over the wolf pendant.

He was fifty-nine years old, six feet tall, an American, who had lived in Europe for almost twenty years and thought of his apartment in the Marais as home.

It was Saturday and Dutch Vogel believed he had the day to himself. He had made no plans for the weekend, other than a trip to a bookstore on the Boulevard St. Germain. He had set off from his apartment near the Musée Picasso earlier in the morning, walked through the Place des Vosges, crossed the Seine on the Pointe de Sully, stopped at an atelier of a friend and then paused at the brasserie and ordered an espresso.

He planned to lunch later at the Café Corbeau at the Place Triangle and to visit his friend Felix Beinix. From his table, he could see the buildings on the south side of the Seine that formed one side of the triangular shape of the Place. He even imagined he could see the crows that made the park at the Place Triangle their roost, flying above the ancient roofs of the buildings. He mentally compared the crows, ravens and rooks of Place Triangle to the pigeons here on the Quai D’Orleans and judged the pigeons outclassed.

The waiter asked if he wanted anything else and he shook his head no. He paid the bill and then quickly drank the espresso. He stood and reached for his cane but sat back down when he saw her. He rubbed his eyes to make sure she was real. She walked toward him slowly just as she had walked twelve years ago on a snowy night in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He didn’t know her name; he simply called her Snake. He quickly looked around to see if the old man was here as well because they always traveled together. They were a couple or a pair, always together, never alone, never one without the other.

Suddenly he felt a sense of vertigo and the sun, so bright before, seemed to dim. He removed his sunglasses because it was too dark now with them on. He felt as old and weak as she seemed young and dangerous and seductive. There was always that with her, always an invitation or a leer, always a possibility that something might happen.

Vogel scanned the sidewalk and the bridge. Where was he, he thought, the old scoundrel, and then he saw him walking across the bridge, taking his time.

He wore jeans and a cotton shirt, deerskin moccasins, even in Paris, and a black felt hat. His long braided hair hung to his waist and he carried a leather jacket over his shoulder. He looked ridiculous in Paris but there he was fresh from the desert of New Mexico.

Vogel turned to Snake. Her long black hair was unbraided and she wore a blue jean jacket over a denim shirt, jeans and deer skin moccasins, like the old man. She was short, like most Apaches, and Vogel focused on her black eyes that seemed to laugh at him whenever she looked at him.

“Snake,” he said nodding at her.

“Vogel,” she smiled and Vogel concluded her smiles were really smirks.

She smelled like mesquite smoke and tequila and jicama. It was not unpleasant and there was something sexy about it.

He, the old man, on the other hand, smelled like tobacco and sweat and sandalwood with something else hidden underneath, something feral, wild and rotten. Vogel knew he could pick them out in a darkened room with a thousand people pressed together just by their smell.
When Coyote arrived he said just exactly what Vogel knew he would, “Buy me a drink?”

Vogel moved his left hand to indicate that they should sit.

The waiter appeared and took their drink orders. Coyote ordered a double tequila and Snake asked for a hot chocolate with whip cream. Vogel took a cognac.

“What brings you to Paris?” asked Vogel.

“What? No how are you?”

“Sorry. How are you?”

“Not good, not good.”

“What’s wrong?”

“This place is wrong. It is not our home. I can’t sniff my way around. I don’t know the smells. I don’t know the people. I can’t sleep in this city.”

“It’s different.”

The waiter put their drinks down and Coyote swallowed his in one mighty gulp, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and ordered another.

He pulled a corncob pipe from the pocket of his jacket, which he had hung over his chair, and then asked, “You have any tobacco.”

“No. Wait.” Vogel signaled the waiter and asked if they had any pipe tobacco.

“Oui, monsieur.”

The man hurried inside.

While they waited, Coyote said, “she‘s a beauty, isn’t she?”

“Yes. You are a lucky man.”

“She’s not mine. She just travels with me.”

Vogel sipped his cognac and leaned back in his chair. He knew Coyote was simply trying to establish his dominance. He would wait and hope that Vogel would ask him to go on. Vogel, however, was a patient man and he knew Coyote’s tricks.

The waiter returned with the tobacco and the drinks and Coyote swallowed the tequila and ordered another one. As he filled his pipe, he watched Vogel, lit the match and touched it to the tobacco and took a couple of puffs. He whispered a short prayer to the gods and then he said, “I have lost a pup.”

Vogel straightened up in his chair and leaned forward and said, “Pretty hard to lose a pup. What happened?”

Coyote leaned back in his chair and looked over at Snake, who shook her head, as if to give Coyote permission to tell the story.

“He’s here in Paris but we lost them in Madrid. We know he’s here because we received word from some acquaintances.”

Vogel looked at him and thought that it would be very odd for Coyote to have any acquaintances in Europe so he asked, “Which acquaintance would that be?”

Coyote smiled and reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a piece of newspaper print, carefully folded into a square, and handed it to Vogel.

Vogel unfolded the paper and placed it on the table in front of him. It was an article in Spanish from a newspaper in Madrid. He read it out loud in Spanish, translating it into English as he went.

On Saturday night residents of the sixteenth arrondissement awoke to the sounds of coyotes emanating from the woods of the Bois de Boulogne. Jean-Pierre Testia, a taxi driver, told police that he saw a pair of coyotes cross the Avenue du Général Serrail on Saturday night around two a.m. and enter the Bois.

Vogel looked up from the article and said, “I see what you mean? But this says that there were two of them.”

“One pup and one mad bruja,” said Snake.

“When we read the article, we took the train here but we could not pick up their trail.”

“Why not? You found me easily enough.”

“She is blocking us.”


“The bruja, the one that stole the pup.”

“Maybe you should start at the beginning.”

Coyote took a puff on his pipe and blew blue smoke straight up into the air, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes for a few moments. Vogel looked over at Snake, who rolled her eyes and then smiled.

“It started about six months ago. I was on my way south to Mexico. I was alone because Snake had shacked up with this cowboy Apache up in the four corners.”

Snake shrugged her shoulders as if to say, what are you going to do when you find someone attractive?

“I was walking, taking my time, talking to the creatures I found along the way. A day’s march south of Las Cruces, I stumbled onto a fox who warned me that a bruja had an adobe house a few miles further south. He told me she was beautiful but very tricky and several of our brothers had gone that way but never returned.

“I continued on my way but I was intrigued by fox’s description of this bruja and I became more and more curious as I traveled south. Eventually, I turned toward her house. As I moved, I continually sniffed the air because I did not want to be taken unawares.

“The strange thing was that I could not pick up a scent. It was as if someone had purified the air, drained it of every possible odor, except the wild flowers, the mesquite and the cacti.

“That night I stopped on a small rise above a dry creek bed. The moon was full and I let out a few yelps just to let the neighbors know I was around.

“I heard nothing, which is strange because usually in that part of the world there are a lot of my brothers and sisters about, especially on a summer night with a full moon. But that night there was nothing, no response to my call. I built a small fire and smoked my pipe. A carpenter in Santa Fe had given me a pouch of sweet tobacco and I was near the bottom so I was enjoying it, savoring the smoke and praying to the gods.

“I must have fallen asleep because at dawn a horned toad was standing in the red sand at my feet, watching me.

“’What is it, little brother?’ I asked. ‘You are close to her, Coyote, turn back now or you will end up in one of her cages.’”

“I laughed and told him not to worry.”

“I had no food or drink and I was hungry and as soon as the toad ran off into the mesquite I headed southwest toward the bruja’s place. As I walked, I thought that I smelled chili and beans and frying tortillas. My mouth began to water and so I hurried on toward the bruja.

“Toward noon, a hawk landed on the arm of a cactus near the trail and waited for me to reach her. ‘Turn back now, Coyote, or it will be too late.’

“I ask, ‘Did she send you to frighten me?’

“’No one sent me. I came to warn you. She is no one’s friend.’”

“And yet I continued southwest to her house because now I smelled roasted lamb and green chilies.

“At dusk I climbed a small hill and from the top I could see her place. There was an adobe house, a shed made of mesquite, a corral that held two donkeys and a mule, and hundred or so cages of various sizes scattered around the property. Each had one or two animals in them and yet I could not smell a thing except for roasting lamb, green chilies, and a hint of pollen. My senses should have been exploding with smells with all those little brothers in those cages but I could smell nothing except food cooking. I should have taken this as a sign of her power and run in the opposite direction but I am curious and vain. I could not imagine anyone out witting me.

“Never,” said Snake.

Coyote cleared his throat and continued.

“As soon as the sun set, I walked toward the house. She was outside of the adobe, disguised as a Navajo woman, sitting on her haunches, in front a large fire made of mesquite and dried cactus spines. It was aromatic and I wondered if that fire was part of her magic.

“I knew she saw me but rather than acknowledge my presence, she turned her back to me and squatted on a Navajo blanket, where she had spread some stone bowls. She was grinding corn for tortillas and singing a song under her breath. It was song about the wind and how one day the wind fell in love with a red deer. It was a new song for me and I found myself listening rather than paying attention to the old woman because that was what she was, an old woman. She wore a long dark red pleated skirt and a white peasant’s blouse. She had long hair that was sprinkled with gray and white and she was fat and burned dark brown by the sun. Her eyes were black and her pupils were large like black plates of coal. Around her fat neck hung several milagros- a rabbit’s foot, an owl feather, a rattlesnake’s rattlers, a wooden cross and a silver one, a leather pouch filled with bear teeth. She had it all. I sensed she was powerful and old.

“When I was just a few feet front from, she said in a deep voice, ‘I smelled you ten miles away Coyote.’

“’That’s funny because I cannot smell you at all, old woman.’

“’It’s the magic, old man,’ she said. ‘I’m hiding from the spirits.’

“’Which spirit is chasing you?’ I ask, knowing she will not give me a straight answer.

“’What do want with me, old man?’

“’Nothing. I am just curious.’

“’You know what happened to the cat?’


“She laughed and said, ‘no, you don’t.’ She pointed at one of the wooden cages that contained about ten cats, lying and sitting on its wooden floor.

“She invited me to sit on the rug with her but I shook my head and walked to the other side of the fire and sat on my haunches. When she returned to her work, grinding the corn, I noted that the other stone bowls contained ingredients for chili and beans and tortillas and as I thought of the food, my mouth began to water.

“’You hungry?’

“’No, I am fine. I have some jerky and tobacco.’

“”Suit yourself.’

“I pulled my pipe out and filled it with the last of my tobacco, lit it with a twig from the fire, and watched the old woman. Soon she gets up and drags a black cast iron pot over and hangs it over the fire with two pieces of metal. She then pours the ingredients from those bowls into the pot and begins to cook the beans and chilies. The smell is driving me crazy and my stomach is rumbling.

“As she cooks, I notice that she is growing younger and slimmer. I rub my eyes to make sure I am not dreaming or imagining what is happening. Soon, however, I know something is happening because the peasant blouse falls off her left shoulder exposing a small round breast, with a large brown aureole and a firm nipple. She casually pulls the blouse back up on her shoulder but I know that she performing for me; she is stirring all my hunger with her magic just like she is stirring those beans and chilies in that big black pot.

“She cooks the beans and then she takes a large frying pan and places it over the fire, holding the cast iron handle with a rag, and begins to cook the tortillas.

“’Sure you don’t want one?’”

“I look at her and she is now no more than twenty. Her long black hair glistens in the light of the fire and the fire warms her brown skin. I see little beads of sweat on her upper lip and I note its fullness. I now guess how she captured all these animals.

“’If you aren’t going to tell me about yourself, then tell me a story while I eat.’

“’I will tell you a story for a tortilla.’

“She looks up from her cooking and I know she is thinking. She is thinking that I am smarter than the others and that I might not be so easy to catch.

“’I’ll trade you one tortilla, one bowl of chili and beans, and a glass of mescal, if you will prepare me a bath.’

“’Where will I find enough water for a bath?’ I asked.

“She pointed off to the south. ‘There’s a spring there, about three hundred yards from the house. I have a couple of buckets in the shed. I think eight buckets should be enough. I’ll boil the water while you eat.

“I stood up and moved toward the shed, when she said, ‘one other thing. I want you to satisfy me tonight.’

“’I will want three tortillas, two bowls of beans, some lamb, and two mescal. And one other thing we don’t stop until I can’t perform anymore.’”


“I trudged back and forth nearly all night but she finally got enough for a bath. She had this ancient tin bath tub that I dragged from the shed. When the water was hot she stripped down to her bare skin and stepped into the tub. I watched her bathe while I ate the beans, lamb, chili, and tortillas and drank the mescal.

“There is something I must confess. I was so hot for her by the time she finished splashing around in the water that I could have mounted her like an old mangy dog in heat as soon as she rose from that hot bath. Her skin glowed from the heat of the water and her hair was wet as she walked across the red dust of the desert to the door of the adobe house. She stood in the frame of the door, her legs spread apart with water dripping from the hair between her legs. I felt a howl emerging from my chest and I was ready to go.

“She said, ‘you coming or not?’

“I finished my food by wiping all of the chili from the bottom of my bowl with my last tortilla and then ran to the house.

“We rolled around her bed for hours, tearing at each other like savage animals until, finally, near dawn we fell asleep. Sometime in the afternoon, I awoke with my arms and legs around her and I realized that she was awake, waiting for me to stir.

“’Maybe we made a baby,’ she whispered.

“’It’s possible. I have dropped pups off all over this country.’

“”Like where?’ she asked sweetly.

“’The youngest one is up in Taos working at a dude ranch.’

“’What’s his name?’

“’Thomas.’ Then I know I have done it. She tricked me and I have given up my youngest pup but I don’t say anything. I don’t want her to know that I know that I have made a mistake. Instead, I roll her onto her back and have at her for another hour or so. By dusk I am back on the trail, heading south to Mexico. Now, I have to move fast, conduct my business and get back to Taos and warn Thomas.”

Vogel shifts in his chair and says, “She somehow got her hands on Thomas and brought him to France?”

“She went to the dude ranch in Taos and masqueraded as a rich woman from Madrid. While there she seduced Thomas and persuaded him to come with her to Spain.”

“We think she came to the New World with the Spaniards,” added Snake.

“She’s not a home grown witch?”

“Exactly. That explains her power. She is very old and very tricky.”

“Why would she waste her time on Thomas?”

“To get back at me. I didn’t fall under her spell and I rode her hard for almost a day and then walked off into the desert. I wounded her pride and escaped.”

“I don’t get it.”

Snake said, “You don’t have to get it. She is a witch. She likes power and domination. Coyote got under her skin. In her mind this is a mating dance. She wants him to steal Thomas back so she can do something else. She tasted him and she is now attached to him.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Find Thomas.”

Vogel looked over at Notre Dame and saw hundreds of pigeons enter the air and fly in a great circle around the spires.

He rubbed his chin with his left hand and squeezed the cane’s handle with his right.


“Deux cigars, s’il vous plaît.”

“Three,” said Snake.

As they were puffing away on the cigars, Vogel asked, “If I find the boy and take care of the witch, what do I get?”

“What do you want?”



“Good luck for the rest of my life.”

“That will cost me in the spirit world.”

“That’s not my problem.”

Coyote looked at Snake and she nodded yes.

“Meet me here tomorrow at dusk.”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch" by Keith Harvey

I plan to post a long short story from my urban fantasy collection, entitled The Darker Age, in several parts over the next few days.


“The boy entered the bar at midnight alone.”

“How did he seem?”

“What do you mean?”

“Was he drunk or angry, happy or sad?”

The bartender sucked on his cigarette and blew a blue cloud of smoke into the air. His eyes were half shut and he looked gray from not enough sleep and too many cigarettes.

“He looked fresh.”

“What do you mean?”

“He had a tan and his long black hair glistened. He was healthy, you know, like he lived outdoors. He didn’t look like the average kid that comes into this place. He was sober. His eyes were clear and lucid. He knew what was going on. He was not like most of them, either drunk or stoned or wasted from one thing or another.”

“Who started the fight?”

“The French kid. He came on to the Spaniard. He kept rubbing his hands around on him and the Spaniard told him that he wasn’t interested and for him to leave him alone and then some of the others, regulars here, started in on the Spaniard.

“I was getting nervous at this point because these boys, the ones who come here every night, are dangerous. They carry knives and guns and they hurt one another. They may be fags but they can hurt you. Don’t ever underestimate their anger or their hostility.”

“Who threw the first punch?”

“Remy. He hit the new kid in the stomach and the kid looked shocked at being hit, like he had never been hit before.”

“Then what happened?”

“One of Remy’s mates kicked the Spaniard in the face as he bent forward from the blow to the stomach. The kick threw him back onto the bar and his face was covered with blood.”

“Did anyone else hit him at this point?”

“No, that’s when she showed up.”

“What did she look like?”

“She was in her thirties, slim and dark.”

“A black?”

“No, she had this great tan and she was wearing a black vest, with no bra, and tight black leather pants and boots, cowboy boots like they wear in Texas. You know, what I am saying?”

“Yes. So she walks in and Spaniard is leaning against the bar and she stands between him and these young boys?”

“Exactly. They tell her if she doesn’t move away from the boy, they will hurt her sexually.”

“What kind of sexual violence did they threaten?”

“Not rape, just things they are going to do her private parts. These kids are crude, man, really crude.”

“How does she respond to their threats?”

“She laughs at them and calls them little bastards.”

“What do they do then?”

“They go nuts and they start toward her and that is when the blood really starts to flow. She has a straight razor in her hand and she begins to start hacking and she doesn’t finish until half the bar is on the floor.”

“Where were you during this melee?”

“I am hiding behind the bar for most of it with my ears covered because I can’t take the screaming. And I am scared, really scared.”

“What happens when she stops?”

“She calls out to me and tells me to pour her a shot of tequila and then asks for a bar rag.”
“Do you do what she says?”

“Are you kidding me? Of course I do what she tells me.”

“Where is the kid?”

“He was standing next to her looking terrified.”

“Then what happens?”

“She drinks the shot, cleans the blood off her arm and hands and then she tells the kid to follow her and he does. At that point I call you but I already hear the sirens and I know that someone has called.”

“Leave your name and number with that female officer near the door.”

“Can I ask you how many she killed?”

The policeman rubbed his right eye and then said, "two dead and eight wounded. So far.”