Spell Blind – Snippet 02
I let myself into the trailer and started putting things away. The dishes and pans from the previous night’s dinner were still in the sink. I saw no evidence to suggest that he’d had any breakfast.
“I got you Rocky Road this time. You seemed to like it when I got it for you last month.”
When I’d finished with the groceries, I cleaned up his kitchen. Then I joined him out front, unfolding another lawn chair.
I kissed him on the forehead, then sat. “How you doin’, Pop?”
“This wind means rain,” he said, not bothering to tear his gaze from the desert hills.
I glanced up at the sky. There wasn’t a cloud over the entire state of Arizona.
“I don’t know, Pop. They’re saying clear skies all week.”
He mumbled something else that I couldn’t hear.
“How are you feeling today?” I asked, studying him.
No answer. He was squinting, but his eyes were clear, and his color was good. The doctors told me to check him closely when he was non-responsive like this. Most times he’d be fine — this state of mind was as normal for him as any other. But they said that if he ever did have any physical problems, his mind would be the first thing to quit.
My father was the only weremyste I’d met who didn’t appear even the slightest bit blurry to me. No heat-wave effect at all. I’ve thought about this a lot and wondered if maybe people in the same family vibrate on the same frequency or something like that, so that to me he’d look normal. But that’s just a half-baked theory. I could ask Namid about it, I suppose, but I figure I’d get another riddle in response. Whatever the reason, I could see him well enough to know that there was nothing wrong with him physically.
“Did you have any breakfast?” I asked.
He nodded, then frowned. “I’m hungry.”
“I’ll get you some cereal,” I said, standing and going back inside the trailer, grateful for something to do.
I filled a bowl, added a bit of milk — he didn’t like too much — and brought it out to him with his favorite spoon.
He took it from me and began to eat, spooning it slowly into his mouth, his eyes still fixed on the mountains.
A hawk circled in the distance.
“Swainson’s,” he said, without even lifting his binoculars.
I had no doubt that he was right.
“So I was in Randolph Deegan’s house yesterday, Pop. You know, Senator Deegan? There’s . . . there’s a new case and . . . Well, anyway, I got to go to his house. You should see it. It’s huge and it’s got this great view of–”
“Used to be you’d see Harris’s Hawks up here, too. Not for a while now. That brown air scares ’em off.”
I exhaled, deflating like an old balloon. “That right?”
“I remember cottonwood leaves being yellow in the summer before the rains came, and the doves would sit in the trees watching the leaves shrivel and fall. There wasn’t any rain for that long. Birds just died. The wind would blow like it is now, but it didn’t mean a thing. It was just dry, and blue, and yellow leaves, and doves looking like they were shivering. But it was hot. That’s all it was. Nothing else. Just hot.”
“When was this, Pop?”
“Dad and Mom drove me to water, to cottonwoods. But there were none to see. None with anything on them. None that weren’t yellow already.”
“So you were a kid? This was with Gran and Pappy?”
“‘S different now. Wind and rain. That’s what they say. Wind and rain. When it rains, at night, the sky over there is orange.” He pointed with the spoon, dripping milk on his jeans. “The colors are confusing now. Yellow and blue, brown and orange. Used to be I understood better.”
Something in the way he said this made me sit forward.
“When was that?”
He dropped his gaze, but now he knew I was there.
“Before what? Before you left the job? Before Mom died? Before I was born?”
“‘S harder now.” He glanced out at the desert once more. “It’s been a long time.”
“Do you remember Namid, Dad?”
I’m not certain what moved me to ask the question, but as soon as it crossed my lips he turned his head and looked right at me. Even after all these years, after watching his decline, after feeding him, and helping him take a piss and change into his pajamas on those really tough days, I still found his gaze arresting. Those pale gray eyes were so similar to my own that it was like staring into a mirror and seeing myself thirty years from now. The rough white beard and mustache, the long, lean face — it was me; me as I will be.
“Namid?” he said.
“You do remember him, don’t you? The runemyste. He taught you how to do magic. He might have come to you sometimes during–” I stopped. We hadn’t spoken about the phasings and magic in almost twenty years, since I accused him of being a drunk and stormed out of the house. I’d never told him that I could conjure, or that I understood now what it was like during the full moons. After all these years, I still didn’t know how to start that conversation. “During a case,” I finally said, knowing how lame it probably sounded; knowing that he wouldn’t notice. By then I’d lost him again. He’d turned away and the glimmer I’d seen in his eyes had vanished. They were unfocused again, the way they had been when I arrived.
“There was lightning. It was gray and cool, and lightning cut the clouds in half. The wind blew then. Colder than it is now, but it blew the same. And birds soared by like leaves. They couldn’t help themselves and they couldn’t fight it. They just flew by, black against the gray. I couldn’t hear them, but I saw them. They went sideways, like they were caught in some current, like white water . . . .”
I made myself sit through it, like I did every week. There were times when staying with my dad was a pleasure, when the hours passed as easily as an afternoon in the mountains. Most days, though, were like this one. I’d long ago given up trying to decipher all that he said, although I did think it interesting that as soon as I mentioned Namid he started talking about rain and white water, as if he could see the runemyste in front of him, fluid and as changeable in his moods as the sea. But after a time, even this thin thread was lost, and he rambled on about the desert and hawks and the damn wind.
At midday I went back inside the trailer and made a couple of sandwiches. Dad barely touched his, but I ate mine, happy for any distraction. After cleaning up the dishes and cutting board, I stepped back outside.
“I should get going, Dad. I’ve got work to do.”
“They treating you well?” he asked. “They made you a sergeant yet?”
He forgot sometimes that I’d left the force. I had told him several times, of course, and we’d had plenty of conversations about my work as a PI. But, hell, at least he was speaking to me instead of at me.
“No,” I said. “Not yet.”
“You can trust Namid, you know?”
I gazed at him, not knowing what to say. He was like this sometimes: incoherent one moment, lucid as can be the next.
“You hear me?”
“What do you remember about Namid, Dad?”
He shrugged. All the while he kept gazing at the mountains, but he was frowning now, wrestling with memories.
“Not much,” he said at last. “It’s all muddled today. But he was a friend when others weren’t.” He cast a look my way. “Know what I mean?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I know.”
“Get going,” he said. “Go work.”
I kissed his forehead again, and he gave my hand a squeeze.
“I’ll see you soon,” I said, and left him.
Funny how even that little bit of a connection can make the whole damn visit worthwhile.