Rafael Garcia Meets the Devil

Published in anthology here:  6-9-2011

The Spanish horse patrol was on route to Bodega on the Pacific. Rumors, then reports, had come to the fort beside St. Rafael near San Francisco Bay that other Europeans had been seen in the headlands around the mountain called Tamalpais.

The five leather-coated soldiers, their priest companion and the native servant stopped awhile to stretch their legs and barter food at a poor village.  The missionary, mildly drunk, was still able to talk with the village elder in Bay area pidgin.  The man had apparently seen nothing.

Private Rodrigo played with the kids.  They got him into line with them in the field and passed a rawhide ball from one to the next, then faster, then two lines formed and raced to see who was fastest.  They laughed; he laughed; no one used words, but cheered and yelled and slapped each other’s back.

It turned into tag and racing through the woods.  The Miwok kids were quick as deer and knew the paths, but Rodrigo’s heart made up the gap. Continue reading

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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

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