Pasayten Pete

Chapter Nine: Legend and Illumination

"No sir, I don't think the Pasayten Pete stuff has got much to do with my dreams," Graydon explained. "I mean, there hasn't been much sense to the stories that Purdy and Patch told me, except that nobody agrees on anything. There's only those ideas about somebody or something that they call Pasayten Pete. It seems that the only thing in common is that he — or it — is supposed to be bad, scary bad."

Jim Brightman and Graydon relaxed in the front room while Vi busied herself at the kitchen table, mixing and kneading a batch of bread dough.

Jim smoked his pipe, hazy tendrils of blue smoke rising up while he mouthed the stem. The old man pulled the pipe away; a smile flickered across his face while he gazed out the window at the snow-blanketed field above the house. Graydon wondered what he was thinking. Jim seemed gripped in some self-amusement. Maybe he knew his own version of the legend, something he hadn't told Graydon.

"Well, don't let it get overblown in your mind. People love to take a little bit of nothing and blow it up to something wild and improbable. But your dreams have this one person in common?"

Graydon had briefly shared his dreams. He explained his confusion and worry. He worried that he might be going a little crazy. He'd never heard of anyone with dreams like his: wild, ghostly, full of danger and death and mystery.

"Yes sir. There's been this one man... it's his eyes, his face, and his long hair. Strange hair, like it's in ribbons of black and gray, almost white. First time I saw his face, he popped out of a thunderstorm. That is, I was dreaming and this big storm came up, and then I was standin' next to the creek and this person, an old man, in buckskins and paint... he kinda came out of thin air and stood there, and he held out his hand like a greeting. Then he disappeared.

"Well, I kinda figured, later, that was just some weird dream because we'd moved here and I'd been reading about the Indians and local history and such. Then I kind of forgot about it."

Jim sat nodding, nursing his pipe.

"Then I had that long dream, after I got in the fight and the trouble at school. That dream was like something out of a movie. This man with his rifle came up on some bad guys and he was in a gunfight with them. I'm standing at one side, like a ghost, watching it happen. We're in a hot desert, there's sand and cactus and this fight's going on in a dry wash. He shoots the guys who're shooting at him, and he get's 'em, kills 'em. Then I see he's saved these two Indian kids. The boy, he's younger, and he's hurt; and the girl, she must have been the boy's older sister, she's got her clothes half torn off and she's scared really bad. This guy helps 'em, he patches 'em up and covers her up, and then these two Indian men ride up. Then they all ride off, and this man looks at me... just like he sees me! And it's him! The same guy I saw in the first dream, only he's young and he doesn't have that long black and gray hair... but his face... it's the same face!"

"And you say that last night, you had the worst dream of all, one that has you seriously frightened now?" Jim asked, reaching out with his pipe to tap it into the ashtray at his side.

"Yes, sir! I spent last night at the old lodge, the one I told you about, at the base of the ridge across the canyon."

Graydon had shared his secret with two people: his mother, and Jim Brightman. He'd said nothing about it to Purdy or Patch, or anyone else, and most especially not with his stepfather, Alex Sr. He knew that his step dad would throw a raving fit about something like that.

Graydon went into considerable detail about the dream, finally telling Jim about the disturbing ruckus raised by the coyotes that circled the lodge.

After Graydon guessed he'd told it all, he sat back and rested his arms on the soft overstuffed chair, his head laid back against one of Vi's crocheted doilies. He closed his eyes and tried to shut out the visions brought up by that dream. Nothing more was said. There was only the rustling of Jim's tobacco pouch while he refilled his pipe, and the scratch of a wooden match when he re-lit it. More moments passed. Jim sucked air through the glowing ember in the pipe bowl and exhaled small clouds of bluish smoke.

"Graydon, trust me. Those are strange and vivid dreams, and that last one is certainly frightening if you take it as it looks. But there's a good chance that it's not what it seems to be. Dreams are something else, a different reality, a different way of seeing things."

The old rancher let Graydon soak that in for a few moments. Graydon sat with his head back, his eyes closed. He was listening, carefully listening and considering.

"Some day, when you get to be an old man like me, you'll know that not all things are what they appear to be. Some stories don't mean exactly what they say. I don't suppose you've learned about myths and allegories in school yet, but you've heard bible stories and fairy tales, right?"

"Sure," Graydon agreed. "Mom explained some of that stuff, like the bible stories. It never made sense that Jonah could be swallowed by a whale and come out alive, or that a flood could cover the whole world, or that Noah could carry two of every creature that ever lived on a boat that he built." Graydon looked nervously at Jim, knowing that some people got really upset if they heard him blaspheme against the bible like that, but he trusted that Mr. Brightman wouldn't.

"That's right, Graydon. Did your mother explain why stories are told like that?"

"Yes. She said they're simple stories meant to teach something bigger and more complicated, something not easy to understand."

"That's an allegory, Graydon. Some other time we can discuss some of those, and I'll bet you can figure out the message behind those stories. But right now, let's just agree that dreams can be like that: what you see in the dream might be a vision of something bigger or deeper, like a small window on a big truth, perhaps?"

"I sure hope so, Mr. Brightman. That part about the knife was awful. I saw it. I felt it. And I fell down like I was dead, into that bottomless nothing."

"I agree. It had to be terrifying. But you're forgetting another common element in those dreams, aren't you? Didn't you mention the nighthawk? It must be important that the nighthawk was in your first dream, when you saw the old man; and it was a significant part of this new dream. You saw what had to be a magic ceremony, the man being transformed. And you shared it! You were involved in the dream; you saw it from three views: from your own eyes, from the eyes of the man being transformed, and through the eyes of the shaman who did the magic. And at the moment of climax, the nighthawk guided you, channeled the magic. That sounds profoundly significant to me. What do you think?"

Graydon recalled the scenes, the darkness split by the nighthawk, and its sudden dive when the sacred tobacco dust blew into the open chest wound.

"Sometime when you get home, you might ask old Purdy. He's quite a student of Indian culture. There's Indian blood in his family and I think it took pretty deep root in him. Be respectful and subtle, and I'd expect that he'll tell you why the nighthawk might be so important in your dreams.

"Another thing to consider is that knife and the exposed heart. Maybe that's a mystical way of being reborn or transformed into something powerful. It takes big magic to produce a powerful result. It might look like bloody murder, but then again, so does birth. You've seen what a bloody mess it can be when a calf or colt is born, right?" Jim sat back, chuckling at his own ghastly example, and blew a smoke ring.

Graydon stared at Jim and shuddered, first thinking of that awful knife scene, and then remembering the afterbirth mess from the last pair of twins birthed in their little goat herd. Then he remembered: the naked man tied to the poles was the man he'd seen in the shootout; the naked man when he healed was transformed into someone far more imposing. With his piercing hawk-like sapphire eyes and long hair reaching his shoulders in bands of black and gray... that new man was profoundly different.

"Powerful magic for a powerful result. If that's true, then who, or what, is that new man?"

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Pasayten Pete © Graybyrd 2010

Last modification: 2016/8/25 at 19:05