A Hint of Wind

Published here:  Microstory-a Week, 11-30-2011

The young priest cut the outboard engine half a mile from Horseshoe Bay off the Marin Headlands. He had no fishing pole, no crab pots.  He spent most Mondays off from his stagnant ministry in this rowboat.

He tipped the engine up and back, put the oars in their locks, let the blades hang in the water.  He waited, bow pointed across open water toward old San Francisco.  Outside the mouth of the Bay, the barren Farallons called and the immense Pacific offered to take him.  The boat drifted dully.

He closed his eyes.  His seminary enthusiasm had met polite tolerance.  He just couldn’t engage these natives with roots as old as the Bible.  Power-Points were useless.

Small waves licked the side of the boat; the hungrier ones slapped it. Continue reading

Hands and Knees

first published as podcast:   Nov. 12, 2011

The priest woke up knowing how they should dig the channel to the garden. Under his tireless direction, dream natives from both sides of San Francisco Bay had already appeared to contour the site and bring water to the precious vegetables near their new healing Mission, recently christened San Rafael. He could taste the earth and smell the new onions, peas, garlic, beets, carrots, corn and greens.

Father Corazo threw back the cowhide and pushed himself to calloused knees on the compacted dirt of his room.

He recited the morning prayer of thanks to the Father.  This green, fertile land of fog was so different from the heat and dust of Baja. God’s humor had replaced the harsh sun of treeless Loreto, in Baja California, with these towering redwoods that obscured the sun all day. Continue reading

Drake’s Cook

Oak of the Miwok near Bodega

Published here

Eagle must have made the Golden Hind, with its massive wings stretched across bones of wood, its hold full of strange smells, clothes and implements. The white men, that sailed it in from the sunset, must have come straight from Coyote. Odd, agreed the old Miwok men in the sweathouse of the village nearest the beach, and surprising, that the passengers in Eagle’s basket with wings seemed to have forgotten so much about life, unacquainted with the simplest things, like atole, black eggs and pinole.

The seamen brought gifts, but demanded food and supplies of water in great volume in a rude way. They impatiently sucked their teeth or rattled beads or copper pieces, as if to say: “Right now!” Their speech reminded the People of duck quack and squirrel chatter and many shouted in a loud, coarse way. The strangers that were sick and losing teeth, hair and body fluids were nurtured in the village.

One day, the People noticed that these visitors weren’t mingling or courting the single women. They weren’t staying! During a daylong sweathouse meeting, it was decided to hold a feast and offer a dance directly to the aloof Admiral Drake, as though to Coyote and Eagle. This might evoke pity for the People’s loneliness. Single women could do a flirtatious dance and entice at least some visitors to stay.

Young men set up the fire, with heaps of extra firewood. Boys and girls spread mats over the rocky path all the way from the village to the feast area between the boulders. The women cooked for hours and used many of the village’s reserves to make this feast spectacular. Continue reading

Tempeche, b. 1799 d. 1824

photo: outlaw chapbook c/o bannock street books

published here

Tempeche willed one of the bullets into his own skull. The fusillade threw his corpse backwards, still tied to the iron ring.

Monterey’s angry court officials were not to be swayed, so he had sung them quiet forgiveness. He chanted thankfulness to the four directions, to the earth, to the sky. While they convicted him of murder, he recalled the lush taste of raw salmon, the heart-pounding scramble ahead of a grizzly, the brief eternity of taking a woman.

Fickle Coyote was elsewhere, though he’d inspired Tempeche’s other escapes. Tempeche knew that even the chance to slash the Corporal’s throat while in custody was just a final trick, not a path of escape. Caught immediately. Execution guaranteed.

*** Continue reading

Runway

stormcoming c/o petergreenberg.com

Published here

We were in starry sky stretching to glimpse the lights of San Francisco past our seat-mates one minute and the next we were surrounded by dark fog bouncing and knocking shoulders, certain we would collide with Mt. Diablo or another plane. My ears were ringing like Christmas at the cathedral. Our jet shook and dipped and maybe dropped through the fog and then, Bam! we felt a huge hand-like slap on our plane. We startled and were screaming and trying to inventory the engines while the Captain’s voice apologized for turbulence. We dropped out of the fog into dark night with bright lights and smashed onto the concrete runway like a carton of eggs.

Rattled, hurried, subdued, we were herded to the jump chute exits by a terse, pale steward, who was ignoring a forcefully cheerful forty-something stewardess whispering behind her teeth like a ventriloquist: “Is it on fire?” They had us hop outward feet first, while crossing our arms on our chests. A woman seemed to snare her feet on the inflated ramp and bounced face forward onto the pavement where she lay still. Two uniformed men with Red Cross insignias on their sleeves bent over her while the police gathered the rest of us into an old yellow bus out of the drizzle that had already penetrated my light jacket. The bus said ‘St. Francis Academy’ on it. Continue reading