Raven stole the moon, p.1
Raven Stole the Moon, p.1Garth Stein / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction
RAVEN STOLE THE MOON
For my mother,
who taught me how to tell a story
About the Author
Also by Garth Stein
About the Publisher
SHE CLOSED HER EYES AND HELD HERSELF UNDER THE WATER. She exhaled, sending little bubbles to the surface. It felt good to expel the used air, but then came the pain of empty lungs. She opened her eyes and looked up. She thought about opening her mouth and taking a big breath of water. That would do it. Fill those lungs with something other than oxygen. But she didn’t. She lifted her head out of the water and took a breath of air instead.
Jenna didn’t have the willpower to drown herself. Who did? It’s physically impossible, someone told her. The survival instinct takes over. It won’t let you. It will let you shoot yourself in the head because it isn’t smart enough to realize that when you pull the trigger a bullet comes out. That’s all. If the survival instinct were smart, more people would be alive.
She stepped out of the tub and wrapped herself in a thick towel. She secured her long, curly hair behind her head with an elastic hair band and began putting on her makeup, paying special attention to the pimple on her cheek. For Christ’s sake. Thirty-five and still getting zits. Her eyes went brown. Her lips, a rich, burnt color. Pencil outside the top lip to accentuate and enlarge. Bottom lip doesn’t need any help. Voluptuous lips. Give a pout, baby. Blot. Kiss, kiss.
Jenna hung up the towel and left the bathroom. The bedroom was empty, so she went into the den, turned the stereo on, and slipped Let It Bleed into the disc player. Number eight. She turned it up and began to dance.
She threw her hands over her head and spun around in a tight circle on her toes, dancing her way back into the bedroom. Robert, dressed in a black suit, a white shirt, and a bright-colored tie, sat on the edge of the bed. He pulled on his left sock, then his left shoe. Never both socks and then both shoes. Nice shoes, though. Always liked his shoes. He looked up at Jenna. She puffed out her lips, bent forward, and swung her arms around, then stepped out, kicking her leg high in the air in front of her with her toe pointed and the indent of her tensed calf muscle visible to all.
“Very nice,” Robert said, giving Jenna a perfunctory glance. “Maybe you could put on some clothes.”
Jenna continued dancing.
“Come on, Jenna,” Robert snapped, jerking on his right sock. “We have to go. I don’t want to be late.”
Jenna stopped dancing abruptly.
“Why do you always have to stop me?”
“Why do you always start your naked sex dance when we have to leave in five minutes?”
Jenna didn’t respond.
“I mean, I’d love it if you danced around like that on a night when there was a possibility of us fooling around,” Robert continued, pulling on his right shoe. He was on a roll now. “But you never do that. You only act sexy when you know we’re not going to have sex. Why is that?”
Robert looked up at Jenna, who stood motionless before him. He took her silence as his victory—silence equals consent—and moved to the bedroom door.
“Please get ready,” he said, softening his tone. “It’s nine. Everyone will be gone when we get there.” He turned and disappeared down the hall.
“I was just trying to get in the mood for the stupid party,” Jenna muttered, stomping across the room and into her closet. Fine. If Robert didn’t want her to act sexy, someone else would.
She took out her long black skirt and slipped it on. When she moved, you could see her thighs under the fabric. That was sexy. Maybe some nice young man would appreciate it, since Robert was only angered by it. She clipped on her bra, push up, but not too much, then her thong underwear, which always made her think of sex. Not that it would matter. There would be no sex tonight. Maybe she’d do it herself. Perhaps I’ll take a lover. Shall I take a lover? Jenna slipped on a sleeveless sweater that was cropped just above her belly button and jammed her feet into her big boots. Do my boobs stick out too much? She grabbed her motorcycle jacket off the chair next to the dresser and turned out the lights.
Jenna went into the kitchen, where she found Robert standing on a chair, digging through one of the cupboards.
“I’m ready,” she said, clearing her throat.
“Okay. Just a minute.”
Robert continued digging. He stepped up onto the counter and stuck his head in the cupboard above the highest shelf. He looked like a raccoon digging through a garbage can.
“What are you looking for?” Jenna asked.
“The candles. Do you remember where we put them?”
“Candles are in the dining room. Why do you need a candle?”
“No, a yartzheit candle.”
Oh, a yartzheit candle. A year’s time candle. Robert continued digging.
He pulled his head and arm out of the cupboard, producing a brown paper bag. Jenna could hear the clinking of little glasses inside. Glasses filled with wax and wicks. A blue label with silver writing. Yartzheit Memorial Candle. Her father always lit one on the eve of the death of his father.
Robert looked down at Jenna and paused.
“Is that what you’re wearing?”
He got down off the counter. Jenna felt dazed. As she watched Robert, she could feel a thickening in her neck. Her feet were getting heavy. Robert took one of the candles out of the bag and placed it on a plate. He lit it with a wooden match from the Rain City Grill. Jenna watched silently.
When the candle was lit, Robert moved to Jenna’s side and took up her hand.
“It’s the anniversary.”
The anniversary. The second anniversary. In the year of our Lord. Year two, A.D. After Death. The Lord, Jesus, will protect and shelter you from harm. Blessed be the fruit of thy womb.
Robert lights a candle on the anniversary.
You can drown in a mud puddle. Hit your head, drown in a puddle. Like Gram’s brother when he was little. Got hit on the head with a swing. An ocean. A river. A bathtub. But you can’t drown yourself. No way. It only comes to those who don’t want it. You can’t always get what you want. The tears filled her eyes, rolled down her cheeks. Hot tears. She stood, shaking, looking at nothing, tears rolling down her cheeks, hitting the floor. Robert watched her, not realizing what he had done. She cried black tears. Her lip quivered as she breathed. She looked so nice. So nice for a party on the anniversary. Little drops of hot black water on the floor. She couldn’t move. Her arms and legs were numb. Paralyzed. He looked at her. He cried out. He said, Mommy, Mommy. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. A sweater filled with water weighs eight hundred pounds. Holds your arms down at your sides. Makes it so you can’t move. Survival instinct isn’t smart enough to beat a wet sweater and waffle stompers. Like a rock. Straight to the bottom. Little, less, nothing. No more to build on there. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
JOHN FERGUSON STOOD ON THE DOCK NEXT TO THE SEAPLANE and watched as the small figure in the Boston Whaler approached. The blue boat got closer and the sound of its big outboard engine tore into the peaceful Alaskan morning, forcing a cluster of geese to take to the air in retreat.
Fergie had to laugh to himself. He was paying some Indian specialist five grand to come and check the place out. At a community board meeting in the neighboring town of Klawock, people suggested that he call Dr. David Livingstone, because he’s the best around. Fergie jokingly said, ”I didn’t know witch doctors got to use the title ‘doctor,’ ” and he found that he had offended almost everyone in the room. Turns out the guy is a shaman and a Ph.D. Go figure.
The boat was within twenty yards now, and Fergie was surprised to see that Dr. Livingstone was a young, good-looking man, not the old, shriveled-up Indian in a canoe he had expected. He waved at the boat and received an acknowledging wave in return. The boat pulled up and the young man hopped out.
“Ferguson?” the young man asked, tying the boat to the dock.
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”
Fergie had been working on that line for about a week. He had been dying to say it, but he was desperately afraid it would offend. It didn’t seem to. Dr. Livingstone smiled.
David reached into the boat and pulled out several old burlap bundles. He arranged them in a row on the dock. Fergie didn’t know if he should offer to help or if the bundles were Indian magic and he would taint them by touching them. He uncomfortably shifted from foot to foot, watching.
“Well, what do you think? Do you have any first impressions?” he asked hopefully. “Any spirits of Tlingit past haunting the place?” Fergie tried to pronounce the Indian name correctly, so as not to sound ill-informed. Klink-it. Having heard a real Indian pronounce it, he knew that it was actually supposed to sound more guttural, like a big bite being taken out of an apple.
David finished unloading his bundles and stood upright. He was not tall, about five six or so, with black hair that grew down to his waist and a soft-featured round face. His open brown eyes seemed to celebrate vision, and when he turned to Fergie, he appeared to draw closer.
“How much do you know about the Tlingit, Ferguson?”
“Oh, I don’t know . . .” Ferguson hedged. He had figured he would be in for a pop quiz, so he studied the entry in The Encyclopedia of the American Indian. “I know that the Tlingit and the Haida were the two biggest tribes in this area. Their main economy was fishing and trapping. They traded with the Russians and the British. In the late 1800s the government outlawed native languages and potlatches, but that’s over now.”
“Well, that’s not exactly true,” Livingstone corrected. “You understand the spirit of the law but not the letter of it.”
Ferguson’s sigh was a bit louder than he had intended. He closed his mouth and looked past Livingstone’s shoulder at the white-peaked blue mountains in the distance.
“The government didn’t actually outlaw native languages and potlatches,” David explained. “What they did was define civilized Indians as those who didn’t associate with any other Indians. Indians who did associate with other Indians were considered uncivilized and were sent to reservations or Indian schools. So the effect of the law, as you correctly deduced, was to eliminate native languages and potlatches. But that wasn’t the law itself.”
Ferguson nodded slowly. He had just met Livingstone, but already he wasn’t sure he liked him. There was something appealing about him, but it was buried under a cockiness and arrogance that turned Ferguson off.
David knelt down and unrolled one of the bundles. Inside were strings of beads and animal claws.
“Do you know anything about our beliefs?” David asked. “Our legends?”
Ferguson decided to play it safe. No more stupid answers. Not another possibility for an embarrassing reply. Sometimes silence is your best defense. He shook his head.
“I see. But you think this place is haunted by our ghosts?”
Ferguson swallowed hard. Caught again. He wanted to tell David what he really thought, that this was all a big pain in his ass. That he was doing it because a group of Japanese investors were going to put up a lot of money, but they insisted that the resort be “spiritually cleansed” before the deal was finalized. But Fergie knew better than to say something like that. That would be too straightforward.
“Look, Doctor, as much as I would have loved to study all about the Tlingit culture, my hands are real full trying to get this place up and running for some prospective investors in July. I apologize, but I haven’t had the time.”
“Don’t be defensive, Ferguson, it was a simple question. I wanted to know where we stood. Now I know.” David’s innocent and sincere look made Fergie even more uncomfortable. He desperately wanted to fill the void between them, so he spoke.
“The general partners have made a commitment to being as sensitive as possible to the history of the area and the culture of the Tlingit peoples,” Ferguson said. “We don’t want to move ahead and find out later on that we have a . . . uh, you know . . . a situation.”
“A lawsuit-type situation or The Shining–type situation?”
Fergie squirmed. Damn, this guy really knew how to put a guy on the spot.
“Uh, well, I would say, definitely, well, both.”
David smiled at him with his big, warm eyes, and Fergie settled down. He hated talking with these people because he always managed to say something offensive. You can’t use your normal language with minorities. You start worrying about what words you can use, and then you sound uncomfortable, and then they take that as your being racist, and then it’s all messed up.
“I tell you what, Ferguson,” David offered. “You have your lawyers use their magic to take care of the lawsuit situations, and I’ll use my magic to take care of the ghost situations. How’s that sound?”
Ferguson exhaled deeply and grinned. “Sounds good to me, Doctor. After all, you’re the doctor.”
David unrolled another bundle. Ferguson could see a part of a deer antler.
“What exactly are you going to do to take care of the ghost situations? Out of curiosity.”
David looked up. “I’m going to dress up in feathers, shake a rattle, and throw some magic dust around. I’m an Indian, what do you think I’m going to do?”
David laughed. And Ferguson, surprised but pleased, laughed, too.
JENNA HAD CHANGED INTO A SIMPLE BLACK SUIT. SHE HAD cleaned her face of makeup streaks, changed her clothes, and pushed the past back down where it belonged. Way down. Into the darkest part of her soul. A place where she never looked and nobody ever knew. Ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies.
She stood on the terrace of the apartment across from the Public Market and looked down on the empty street below. Behind her, boys in white jackets served food on silver trays. Nice pad. Lots of cash. There were only six apartments in the building. Each one had great views of the water and huge terraces. Robert was not in this league. He was in a league, but not this one. The place belonged to Ted and Jessica Landis, real estate brokers to the gods. They had two sons, both out of college, one in grad school and the other in the business. Michael. Probably called him Mikey when he was little.
It was a cool evening in July and a breeze blew off the water. That’s the thing about Seattle in the summer; there’s no humidity and it cools off nicely. The summers are beautiful, but the winters are bad because of the rain. But at least there isn’t a ton of snow like in Cleveland.
Jenna watched the ferries chug across the water against the backdrop of shimmering lights on Alki Point. She sipped her wine and stood at the edge of the terrace. There were some other people outside, but she didn’t want to talk. The Jefferies. They have two girls. The Thompsons. She just had a boy and needs to work out. Why can’t we all be like Demi Moore? Pop those suckers out on the StairMaster.
A loud voice cut through. It was Christine Davies. Mercer Island. Summer house on Hood Canal. A son the same age as Bobby would have been. David Davies. What a clever little name. Did he think of it himself? He’s so clever. Is he in college yet? I hear he’s the smartest alien child ever born of a humanoid. Have another drink, you don’t look like you’ve had enough.
“Jenna, I love your suit. Do you buy all your clothes out of town? I go to Barney’s and I never see things like that. It’s gorgeous! You’re looking wonderful. I wish I had your hips. Have you lost weight?”
“Hello, Christine.” Jenna squeezed out a polite smile. “Thank you. No. How’s little David?”
“Oh, would you like to buy some Campfire Girl mints? David is selling them. I know, he’s not a Campfire Girl. Our oldest, Elizabeth, is selling the mints for her troop. If she sells a hundred boxes, she gets a gift certificate at Nordstrom’s. She loves clothes, but she hates to sell anything. So she and David have a little deal. David sells the mints and Elizabeth will split the prize with him. He only needs to sell twenty more boxes. He’s a wonderful salesman. Peter knows he’ll be a broker one day. The little round mints. Only four dollars a box. It’s for a good cause.”
Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes