Almanac of the dead, p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Almanac of the Dead, p.1

           Leslie Marmon Silko
Almanac of the Dead

  Thank you for downloading this Simon & Schuster eBook.

  * * *

  Join our mailing list and get updates on new releases, deals, bonus content and other great books from Simon & Schuster.


  or visit us online to sign up at






  Unanswered Questions · Exile · The Stone Idols · The Ranch



  TV Talk Show Psychic · Memories and Dreams · Flying · Storms · Decoy · Texas · Miracle Mile · The Stage Coach



  Famous Criminals · Business with Calabazas · In the Backseat of a Chrysler · Sterling’s Room · Hollywood Movie Crew · The Water Bed · Old Aunt Marie · Banished · Working for Lecha



  Abortion · Suicide · Art · Kidnapped



  Childhood in Mexico · Cottonwood Trees · The Failed Geologist · Boarding School · Dried-up Corpse · Coyote Years · At War with the U.S. Government · The Indian Way · Yoeme’s Old Notebooks



  Locating the Dead · Lover’s Revenge · Daytime Television · Dogsled Racer · Tundra Spirits · Eskimo Television · Burning Children · Plane Crashes · Severed Heads · Sudden Retirement



  Root’s Grandpa Gorgon · Root’s Accident · Shallow Graves · Arms Dealer · Lust · Memories · Drop Points · Mother · The Weight of Ghosts · Falling Forever · Horse Races · Family · The Happy Ones · Tucson Witches · Homeless · Imaginary Lines



  Resistance · Mistaken Identity · Old Pancakes · Wild Ones · Two Sisters · Gambling Debt · Marriage · The Monsignor · Journey of the Ancient Almanac





  Mestizo · Universal Insurance · Tidal Wave · Arms and Munitions · Alegría · Iliana · Video Surveillance · Adultery · Marble Stairway · Love Tryst · High Risk · Exposed · High Command of the People’s Army · Air Force · Disgrace and Ruin · The Fall



  Terrorist Bombs · Communists · Comrade La Escapía and the Cuban · Vampire Capitalists · Crimes Against History · Bulletproof Vest · Reader of Dreams · General J. · El Grupo Gun Club · Strikes, Unrest, and Uprising · Blood Madness · Spirit Macaws · Police Interrogators





  Ambush · Wheelie · Blue Skies · Golf Game · Leah Blue · Desert Real Estate · Family Business · Marilyn · Change of Heart · Venice, Arizona · Steak-in-the-Basket · Diaries



  Bio-Materials, Inc. · Green Beret · Plasma Donors · Army of the Homeless · Vacant Houses · First Black Indian · Spirit Power · Ogou, the Knife · Creole Wild West Indians · Army of Justice · Liberation Radio Broadcasts



  Sonny’s Secret Sideline · Brother’s Keeper · Organ Donors · Kill the Rich · .44 Magnum Has Puppies · Men in Love · Jamey Love · Cop Cakes or Nude Cop Pinups · Owls Club





  Angelita, aka La Escapía, the Meat Hook · Twin Boys · More Friends of the Indians · Wacah the Spirit Macaw Interprets Dreams · Swarms of Squatters · Village of Sorcerers and Cannibals · The Opal · Riots Worldwide · Sonny Blue and Alegría · Emperor Maximilian and Charlotte · Unease and Suspicion · Illegal Refugees · The Test · Work of the Spirits · The Heat Is On · Miracle of High Technology · How Capitalists Die · This Cuban Should Return to Cuba · Angelita La Escapía Explains Engels and Marx · Sexual Rivals · On Trial for Crimes Against Tribal Histories



  Mr. Fish, the Cannibal · Sangre Pura · Alternative Earth Units · David’s Infant Son · Secret Agenda · Biological Warfare · Baby Pictures · Lawsuits · Games · Bad News · Rapture of the Plain





  From the Ancient Almanac · The Great Influenza of 1918 · Old Yoeme’s Advice · Family Cemetery · Adiós, White Man! · Great Lord Iguana · Cocaine Glut · Communist Priests and Nuns · Souls of the Dead · One Who “Reads” Body Fat · Tucson, City of Thieves · Kilo of Cocaine · Barefoot Hopi · Close Call · A Series of Popes Had Been Devils · The Hopi Has Answers for Everything



  Getting Old · Dead British Poet at Yaqui Easter Dance · Tucson Police Brutality · Ambitions · Suitcases for Mr. B. · The Thursday Club · The Young Police Chief · Golf Game · Beloved Basset Hounds · Tucson’s Sex Mall



  Luxury Cruise · A Short Walk · Enemy Lightning · Solar War Machine · Turn Out the Lights! · Ferro in Love · Undercover Special Assignment · Shoot-out at the Stage Coach · Scattered in All Directions





  The International Holistic Healers Convention · Wilson Weasel Tail, Poet Lawyer · Medicine Makers—Cures of All Kinds · The Return of the Buffalo · Green Vengeance—Eco-Warriors · Destiny’s Path · Meeting in Room 1212 · Rise Up! · Smooth Sailing · Adiós, Tucson! · Home

  To Larry,

  For all the love


  THANK YOU, Robert and Caz, for your patience, love and understanding these past ten years.

  Thank you, Gus, for being there.

  Special thanks to J. Roderick MacArthur (1917-1984) and to the John D. and Catherine T. Mac-Arthur Foundation for the 1981-1986 Prize Fellowship which launched this novel.






  THE OLD WOMAN stands at the stove stirring the simmering brown liquid with great concentration. Occasionally Zeta smiles as she stares into the big blue enamel pot. She glances up through the rising veil of steam at the young blond woman pouring pills from brown plastic prescription vials.

  Another old woman in a wheelchair at the table stares at the pills Seese counts out. Lecha leans forward in the wheelchair as Seese fills the syringe. Lecha calls Seese her “nurse” if doctors or police ask questions about the injections or drugs. Zeta lifts the edge of a sleeve to test the saturation of the dye. “The color of dried blood. Old blood,” Lecha says, but Zeta has never cared what Lecha or anyone else thought. Lecha is just the same.

  Lecha abandoned Ferro, her son, in Zeta’s kitchen when he was a week old. “The old blood, old dried-up blood,” Ferro says, looking at Lecha, “the old, and the new blood.”

  Ferro is cleaning pistols and carbines with Paulie at the other end of the long table. Ferro hates Lecha above all others. “Shriveled up,” he says, but Lecha is concentrating on finding a good vein for Seese to inject the early-evening Demerol.

  Zeta stirs and nods: “Old age.” The day a woman put on black clothes and never again wore colors. The old-time people had not gotten old season by season. Suddenly, after eighty-five years, they’d catch the flu later in the winter, and by spring their hair would be almost white.

>   The old ones did not believe the passage of years caused old age. They had not believed in the passage of time at all. It wasn’t the years that aged a person but the miles and miles that had been traveled in this world.

  Lecha is annoyed that Zeta is being so dramatic about their sixtieth birthday. Lecha keeps the black dye for her hair, not her nightgowns. “Who said anything about getting old?” Zeta answers without bothering to turn from the stove. “Maybe I don’t want to be visible at night.”

  “Like a witch!” Lecha says to Seese. They are all laughing, even Zeta. Ferro laughs but watches Lecha intently as he rubs the barrel of the 9mm pistol with a soft rag. Paulie goes months without saying more than yes or no. But suddenly his pale rodent face widens with excitement. “In the joint they don’t allow dark colors. No handkerchiefs or socks dark blue. Nothing black. No dark brown.” Paulie pauses. “Night escape.”

  “If you’re quiet, Paulie, no one will know you’re here,” Ferro says, shoving an empty rifle case at Paulie. But Paulie’s face has already settled far from the reach of human voices.

  Paulie came home one night with Ferro years before and had never left. He asks for nothing but to work for Ferro. What Ferro says or does to Paulie makes no difference. Zeta, not Ferro, keeps Paulie around. He is utterly reliable because they are his only people. This is the only place Paulie can remember except prison.

  Seese gathers up the dirty cotton and used syringe. The pharmacy has sent a box of small clear cups. They remind Seese of shot glasses at the bar. But no whiskey for Lecha. Not as long as she can get Demerol or codeine. The kitchen table is littered with paper wrappings from sterile bottles or rubbing alcohol and boxes of disposable syringes. Tiny bottles of Demerol line the dairy compartment of the refrigerator. Lecha gets chatty right before the dope makes her dreamy. She laughs and points at all of them together in the same room. No food anywhere. Pistols, shotguns, and cartridges scattered on the kitchen counters, and needles and pills all over the table. The Devil’s kitchen doesn’t look this good.

  Sterling, the hired man, is standing by the dishwasher studying the instruction book. Sterling is in training for a special assignment. All of them are in the kitchen because of recent developments. Sterling has been told very little; Ferro is coiled tighter than a mad snake. Everywhere he looks, Sterling sees guns.

  Ferro says the needle slips in like a lover’s prick and shoots the dope in white and hot. That’s why Lecha wants them all to watch her get off, Ferro says, but he doesn’t watch junky orgasms not even for his own mother. Zeta shakes her head, her lips tight with disgust. Ferro laughs, then jumps up from the table with the 9mm in its holster and bolts out the door to the garage. Paulie’s expression remains calm. He is alert in case Ferro calls him. But the remote-controlled garage doors and security gates light up the control panel on the kitchen wall. Paulie presses the display key on the video monitor screen: Ferro is skidding the big black four-wheel-drive truck down the driveway.

  Seese looks at Sterling, who shrugs his shoulders as he hangs up a dish towel. Lecha has sunk back into her wheelchair, with her bliss dreams. Zeta runs the sink full of cold water to rinse the clothes she’s dyed. She has been dyeing everything she wears dark brown. No reason, Zeta claims, just a whim. But Lecha had warned Seese not to be fooled. Nothing happens by accident here. The dark brown dye stains the white grout between the Mexican tiles patterned with blue, parrot-beaked birds trailing serpent tails of yellow flowers. Lecha’s mysterious notebooks have drawings of parrot-beaked snakes and jaguar-headed men. Leave it to Zeta to have the kitchen counters redone with these Mexican tiles only two weeks before Lecha returned to transcribe the notebooks.

  The first time Zeta had seen Seese, Zeta had told Lecha the white girl would have to go. No strangers around the ranch. Zeta still called it “the ranch” although the city was crawling closer month by month. But Lecha had lied to Zeta, claiming that Seese already knew everything anyway.

  Zeta had stared at Seese for a long time, and then she had laughed. Seese could sense the old woman knew when her twin sister was lying. Seese had known very little then except that Lecha was a well-known psychic who was returning home to Tucson after many years because she was dying of cancer. Lecha had come home to get things in order before she died.

  Seese could tell by the way Zeta had searched her eyes the first week that Zeta had suspected she was Lecha’s lover. It wasn’t true. Lecha had hired Seese as a secretary. Lecha wants to transcribe the old notebooks and needs Seese to type them into the word processor. There are two conditions of employment: two subjects that are off-limits, although a job was not what Seese had been searching for when she came to Tucson. What Seese is searching for is one of the forbidden subjects. The other forbidden subject is that of Lecha’s personal life, including that of her son, Ferro. As for her lost child, Lecha tells Seese she must wait. Seese must be careful never to ask Lecha directly to find her baby son.

  Lecha cannot predict how long the wait might be. Well, Seese thinks, this is better than what I was doing in San Diego. Working for Lecha has got Seese off cocaine; still, she only feels secure knowing she still has the remnants of the kilo Beaufrey had given her as a “go-away” present. A suicide kit from David’s faggot lover. As long as Seese knows the gallon-size freezer bags wrapped in newspaper are safely in the back of her bedroom closet, Seese feels no craving for the drug. Seese had been an addict the night she went crying and pounding on the side of Root’s old house trailer, searching for Lecha. But playing nurse to a woman taking Percodan and shots of Demerol all day long had taken away her cocaine appetite. She had weaned herself down to glasses of burgundy and fat marijuana cigarettes. Seese likes to think the cocaine was part of another life. A life she no longer knows or remembers very well. She had wanted Lecha’s help more than anything, more than she had wanted the drug. Lecha was her last chance, or maybe the only chance she had ever had. That is how it had begun, with Seese so desperate for Lecha’s help, and so afraid to do anything that might cause Lecha to refuse to help Seese find her baby. The cocaine hidden in the back of the closet was her rainy-day account, as good as cash, legal tender in Tucson.

  Lecha had brought up Seese’s old connections with Tiny and the Stage Coach because Root, Lecha’s biker boyfriend, had recognized Seese as one of Tiny’s nude dancers four or five years before. All Lecha said was she preferred that Seese stay away from Tiny and the Stage Coach. Zeta would not like it. No other reason was given.

  “Well, there are a lot of unanswered questions,” Seese told Sterling the first day he was there. She had noticed him wandering outside the house with a rake although nothing was growing there but the desert itself. The old ranch house is low and long, lost in the brushy foothill paloverdes, giant saguaros, and thickets of greasewood. Seese figures this location, this house, is no accident either, but part of the old woman Zeta’s secrecy about herself and everything she and Ferro and Paulie are doing.

  Sterling looks too harmless to be working here. He is graying and chubby and brown. His eyes look a little lost and sad. He rakes the pebbles and smaller rocks, and she can tell he knows how to appear busy when there is nothing to do. He sees her looking at him and gets bashful, looking down at the rocks he is raking. “Hi.” Sterling looks up at Seese and smiles. He says he was hired to be the gardener. He gestures with his chin at the paloverde trees, jojoba bushes, and big barrel cactus surrounding them. He is a little bewildered at this “Tucson-style garden,” he says. All of it looks like rocks and sticker trees to him. They both laugh.

  Seese had wanted to tell Sterling how much alike they were. That she had been hired to nurse an old woman who is not so much dying of cancer as she is addicted to Demerol. But Seese had said nothing then because Sterling was new, and part of the job here was minding your own business. Sterling had been anxious to talk that first day. The ranch was a lonely place. Hiring was based upon the employee’s willingness to pass weeks at a time without going into Tucson. Sterling says he doesn’t know
anyone in town anyway. “Like me,” Seese says, lying a little because she didn’t want to talk about Tiny and the Stage Coach Bar or Cherie. Seese and Sterling like each other right away.

  Seese follows as Sterling rakes small orange stones around the swimming pool. Sterling checks the surface of the water. Two small lizards float blue bellies up. “It’s mostly this pool of water that takes up my time,” Sterling says as he uses a long pole and net to skim the corpses off the water. Seese watches the dead lizards fly over the edge of the pool, down the embankment. Sterling says he thinks other creatures will eat them. “That way their lives aren’t wasted,” he says hopefully. Seese would like to tell him as far as she can see all lives are wasted, but she doesn’t want to scare the old Indian guy too much. And if she made a remark like that it would bring on that choking feeling in her throat. Sterling sees something is wrong. He tells Seese how nice it is to have someone around while he is working. Because all those years on the railroad section gang had got Sterling used to working with other people. “Then when I retired—” He starts to tell her something but stops.

  “Retirement is a big change!” Seese says, feeling sorry for the old guy. “Changes are real hard.” Seese closes her eyes and shakes her head. Right then Sterling had decided he didn’t care if they fired him for talking to the young blond woman. He hadn’t had anyone to talk to for such a long time.

  “Well, this is mostly easy work,” he says, “these drowned lizards don’t weigh very much.” Seese laughs and is surprised to feel the laughing go deeper than she can remember feeling it for a long time. “And everyone wants to retire to southern Arizona,” he continues. Seese laughs some more and Sterling can’t help stealing a look at her breasts when she is laughing. He hasn’t even had the heart to look for such a long time. He remembers his Reader’s Digest magazines—“Laughter, the Best Medicine.” So maybe this job wouldn’t be so bad with a pretty blond nurse to joke with.

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Add comment

Add comment