Dwayne broke down the lean to, as Sonny Ray poured water onto the dying coals of vigilance. The men were dusty from all their activity. Each man worked within the framework of their individual comfort zone. Neither had much desire to speak, as their minds braced for the set of emotions that began to roll in. Sonny Ray
shoveled dirt into the fire pit.
He placed the rocks back roughly where he found them. Dwayne untied his homemade ladder from the luggage rack of the suburban.
When he left Arizona it had little to no value. After crossing paths with the highway patrol, it had grown in value. So there were some perks for interacting with law enforcement. Not.
Sonny Ray loaded up the rest of their supplies. They did their best to restore the area. Their tire tracks was the major exception of their presence. Dwayne knew that the wind could blow fiercely out here, so most signs of their presence would fade. Other than that it was as if they had never come.
Dwayne carried the ladder over to where Cyrus was laying. Sonny Ray walked over and stood next to his friend. They glanced at each other. Dwayne tilted his head in the direction of Cyrus’ feet. Dwayne positioned himself at the head of Cyrus. They counted to three, and then placed him on the wooden ladder.
Dwayne covered Cyrus with a blanket his grandmother had wove for Cyrus many years ago. It was the aged man’s favorite. It was tomato red and dark brown. His grandmother had placed a story within the intricate weaving of her generation. A large black eagle was the centerpiece.
It was truly a one of a kind work.
She wove the story of how the large hawaiian met the black eagle dream, and a man from Morocco in a bombed out jungle in Northern Africa.
As Dwayne made a few minor adjustments with the blanket,
Sonny Ray walked to the suburban and opened the back doors. The two men struggled a bit, as Cyrus was a man of length, and girth at six foot five. Sonny Ray scanned the horizon hoping to see the black eagle. Dwayne looked around the campsite one last time. It would never be the same to return to this place without Cyrus. However, in time he knew he would return. Sonny Ray looked out at Shiprock. Like his dad, and his twenty one gun salute, Cyrus too had received the last request of his heart.
Sonny Ray felt proud to be a part of both, regardless of the pain incurred. It was about honor, and keeping your word. The two men loaded up as they began an unhurried return to reality. It would be a long dusty quiet ride. They drove without speaking for twenty miles or so. Finally they reached the hard top. The highway was presently deserted.
“Where to?” Sonny Ray asked. “Shiprock, the town. You remember I told you about Daniel Falls?” Sonny Ray nodded in the affirmative. “He is a mortician. He was one of my fathers best friends back in the old days.
He lives on the edge of town, not to far from here,” Dwayne said.
Sonny Ray nodded, gesturing in the affirmative. “Daniel Falls is an old mixed blood. He has lived off the grid since I was a kid. He is in his late seventies I believe. Don’t mention this in front of him, but in town they call him, ‘Daniel Falls down a lot,'” Dwayne said smiling.
“Okay so how did the old man get that handle around town then?” Sonny Ray was biting on Dwayne’s story now. Dwayne looked over his shoulder at Cyrus. He hoped he wasn’t being disrespectful for telling a story in the midst of all this sadness. Dwayne turned back to Sonny Ray. “Well the story I was told, was prior to the time when Daniel would make entry into this world, his mother had tripped, and taken a bad fall. He was born healthy, but as Daniel grew up he was forever tripping, and falling all over the place. His parents had him examined by several one trick pony doctors down in Phoenix; but they could find nothing wrong with Daniel.
Surprising enough it was his mother who assigned him the name, Daniel Falls down a lot, and the name just stuck,” Dwayne said, shrugging his shoulders now, with a smirk on his face.
“Now who’s full of shit?”
Sonny Ray asked quietly, raising his eyebrows. Both men feigned a smile. Dwayne brought the suburban to a stop in the dusty little parking lot of Daniel Fall’s mortuary. Dwayne stepped down. “I’m going to go get Daniel. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Sonny Ray swung the squeaky door open of the vehicle. He sat looking at a covy of quail as they quickly made haste, across the dirt road disappearing into the scant blind of protection the desert scrub and reddish rock that this part of the desert had to offer. The commander of the quail continued clucking signals as he cut his eyes back at Sonny Ray. It’s vow was taken in an oath of blood. Sonny Ray didn’t have a clue about the quail’s blood oath at the time.
After a few more minutes
Dwayne returned with Daniel,
and his beat up gurney.
Dwayne took the wheel and maneuvered the old gurney down the worn out plywood ramp. Daniel had offered to help but Dwayne assured him he had help. He stood on the porch, waiting for the men to bring Cyrus inside.
After loading Cyrus on the gurney, the two men struggled a bit in the dirt, and rock laden parking lot. Once reaching the ramp they were fine. Daniel held the door as they wheeled Cyrus in.
Daniel nodded politely at Sonny Ray. In turn Sonny Ray gave him the cowboy hat nod. “Right this way please,” Daniel said as held the two swinging aluminum doors open for the three men. Dwayne began to cut the rope that held the blanket fast. Cyrus used to say to Dwayne that the string used on bales of hay had a million and one uses. “A million and two now my old friend,” Dwayne said as he slowly took the blanket from Cyrus’ body. The large Hawaiian was tall but was wide in shoulders, and narrow in waist. It pained Dwayne to him lying there, looking so out place; so incomplete without his spirit.
Daniel and Sonny Ray filed quietly out of the room so that Dwayne could say his goodbyes. Dwayne had stood quietly for some time, unmoving, grasping firmly the wad of orange string as he searched the old man’s face. Dwayne gazed down at the hands of his old friend, remembering the kindness he held in them. After a few moments he came out. Sonny Ray stood waiting. “This will be your last chance to say goodbye.” Sonny Ray pursed his lips, and exhaled deeply. He slowly slid thru one side of the swinging aluminum door and walked in to where Cyrus lay.
Sonny Ray leaned against the wall as he looked at Cyrus for a long time. Sonny Ray found it hard to believe that this man he just met was his father, and without notice he too, up and died. He briefly wondered how he would approach his mother about this whole mess.
“I’ll do my best with your eagle Cyrus. Your timing kind of sucks old man; but I won’t hold it against you though.” Sonny Ray laid a large black eagle feather on the chest of Cyrus. He looked at the old man once more and walked noiselessly out of the room. Sonny Ray walked out of the front door of the mortuary refusing to make eye contact with the two men. After awhile they stood together out on the porch. The trio of men discussed the details of Cyrus’ requests. “Is there anything else I could accommodate you with for your father?
“Yeah actually there is.
I left a black eagle feather on my, on Cyrus. I would like you to cremate it with him.” “Oh by all means young man, I will ensure it is done personally,” Daniel said enthusiastically, not recalling Dwayne knew he was the owner/operator of this one man establishment. They all shook hands. Dwayne returned inside with Daniel to finalize
the arrangements, and sign on the dotted line. Sonny Ray walked down to the end of the long front porch. Daniel had a circular wood bench built around this wide and stout mesquite. The shade of this tree was tremendous. Daniel had the tree imported from Bolivia.
Sonny Ray plopped down on the bench. He placed his straw hat on the bench beside him. He leaned the back of his head against the cool bark of the large mesquite. He slowly opened his eyes. It was getting on toward the evening. The parking lot was empty. Sonny Ray rummaged through the front pocket of his faded jean shirt, and retrieved a semi freshly rolled joint of purple kush. He lit it, and exhaled into the dense underbrush of the tree. Sonny Ray looked up into underside of the tree. He closed his eyes. Sonny Ray heard the sound of sparrows.
The fragrant flower of purple kush ascended into the heart of the tree; offering a strong but restful odor of this ancient medicine. The sparrows began to increase in number and in volume. They spoke incessantly to one another. Then it stopped suddenly. Sonny Ray opened his eyes. The silence had arrested his attention. He opened his eyes slowly. He turned to see three adult sparrows, three females sitting comfortably on a flat plank railing nearby. The trio of ladies looked down on the young man with the long wavy hair. They were bouncing in a dainty rhythmical dance, shouting encouragement and or a challenge in Sonny Ray’s direction. Sonny Ray looked at the trio, then at his smoldering and twisted up kush.
The three sparrows were engaged in a heavy discussion about something. They would occasionally glance in his direction as if to reiterate their point more emphatically. Sonny Ray loved sparrows. He liked their distinct personalities, and the general interactions of their group. He had often watched them take little dirt naps. They made him laugh. These sparrows though were different. They carried on and behaved as though they were tame, or lacking inborn fear of man perhaps. Sonny Ray continued to blow lavender kush rings in the sky as it ascended and disappeared in the dark forest of the tree.
Without warning, one of the three female sparrows flew down at his feet. Above, in the upper deck of the mesquite tree was the sparrow dome. Everyone in attendance roared it’s excitement. Sonny Ray didn’t move. This was beyond way cool. He had never had a sparrow land this close to him in his life. The raucous crowd of little winged creatures seemed to embolden the distinguished elder who stood at the feet of Sonny Ray.
She hopped ever closer. Sonny Ray looked down. The plump sparrow arched her head upward without any obvious signs of fear. Again without notice another female flew from the plank railing and landed upon the shoulder of Sonny Ray. He froze. He had no words for the feeling he had at this moment. The sparrow dome was out of control. They chirped their approval as one voice. The sound was deafening. The sparrows suddenly began to fall rapidly from the tree landing on Sonny Ray wherever a spot could be had. Sonny Ray held his arms out smiling so hard his face hurt. The door swung open as Dwayne walked out. He stopped dead in his tracks. Sonny Ray looked at Dwayne. Dwayne looked at Sonny Ray. The sparrow dome and the three sisters grew quiet, looking at the two men. The two men gazed at the little sparrow people. It looked like an intertribal standoff with neither group willing to give any ground. The impasse was avoided as a signal was given. The celebration of the sparrows started back up again. Dwayne was stunned, his face in a frozen smile. The two men laughed as the sparrow people behaved like puppies, bonding with Sonny Ray.
The celebration however would be cut short as the three sisters heard the familial call that it was time to come home. Grandmother was calling them.
It was time for dinner. The trio of sisters departed, and in short intervals, like a shadow, the sparrows blended back into their home. Dwayne approached Sonny Ray, and whacked him playfully on the shoulder. Both men felt like a couple of kids. They had just shared an extraordinary experience. They slowly headed to the suburban ready to leave now. The men turned at the sound of the mortuary doors opening.
Daniel held up his arm to get the attention of the men. They turned in his direction as Daniel came off the porch. His foot was about to hit the ground when the cuff of his faded corduroy pants snagged a nail on the last step. Daniel Falls down a lot was sent sprawling into a full on header landing rudely onto the dirt parking lot. The two men instinctively stepped forward wanting to offer assistance to the fallen mortician. The old man rose before they could reach him. Whatever he wished to discuss would wait until tomorrow as he turned on his heel brushing himself off. “I will attend to Cyrus now. I will call you when everything is finalized.”
He quickly closed the door. A slight breeze blew causing dust devils to swirl upon the ground near to the men. They laughed lightly as they pulled out of the parking lot of Daniel Fall’s a lot Mortuary. They headed into the town of Shiprock to get something to eat. The lights of the vehicle faded from sight as the dust obscured the well traveled road.
The two men had not noticed the large black eagle as it sat upon the chimney of the crematorium. It sat tense, unsure if it should stay or follow Sonny Ray. For now, the large black eagle would stay.