What are funerals for? The psychiatrists say it's for something called closure. You're supposed to need closure. People stop worrying about things that are closed.
What are the flowers for? The chaplain says it's to remind us there's something beautiful in the world when everything seems bleak. People forget their troubles when they see something beautiful.
What are the eulogies for? My brother says it's a purification. Public grieving. People feel better when they've admitted to the world they hurt so much they can't stand watching life go on around them.
What's this goddamned life for, anyway? You said it was to love, but when I did that all that happened was I got killed and my body forgot to die.
And then she smiles in the firelight and I forget all of it.
"What are you smiling at?" Jenny asks me.
I say what every unimaginative male in the world says to the woman who loves him: "Nothing."
The Yaqui blanket is falling from her shoulders and I help her pull it back up. The desert mountains rise like sleeping gods against the stars. The plain drifts away flat forever and the breeze runs across free across the land whispering sleep. The medicine man's face floats in the firelight like a hieroglyph chiseled in the world at the beginning of time.
I leave my arm around her shoulders until she winces slightly. There's no touching Jennifer without hurting her and she wouldn't dream of telling me to stop. I pull myself away slowly.
I want to battle the thing that's killing us. Why won't it show its face? Give me a sword and a field to stand in. Let the monster loose. I don't care how big it is. I don't care if it breathes fire and has razors for eyelashes. I'm not afraid of the pain anymore. I think I'm not afraid to die.
I'm much more afraid of watching it kill people I love.
"What are you thinking?" she asks. She always asks.
You always ask me what I'm thinking and every time you do, you remind me how I never ask you.
"This is a good moment, isn't it? This one right now. If we could freeze it and keep it for a while, life would be worthwhile. Wouldn't it?"
Cinders rise in the blue yellow flames that flutter warm before us.
Carlos says, "A fire makes a universe," and I know he means that for us the light and warmth have become a world beyond which it takes courage to travel.
Stars salt the night sky making nothing a place. Jennifer looks up and I pray she's not thinking about getting lost there. Stay here with me just a little while longer.
"The world is full of invisible things that teach," Carlos says, his gravelly voice cutting through the night like another fire creating another universe. "Sometimes the only healing you need is the knowledge of how to negotiate in the great father's river." He gestures to the Milky Way that stretches over us.
"You are too small to fight the current. All of man's medicine is too weak to fight the great river of fire in the sky. It's hard to stay away from the rocks. You cannot keep your boat upright. So sometimes the healing is simply learning how to drown gracefully."
He looks at Jennifer when he says it and I get angry.
"No. She's not going to die. She's going to fight," I say to him, as sharply as I can. We didn't come out here to be told there weren't answers.
A smile cuts across the face that seems like stone. He says, "Of course she will. It is her duty to fight death. But she will die. We all die, Baby Bird."
They both laugh at me when I tell the old man to stop calling me names. He raises his arms to his armpits, flaps his elbows, and whistles.
Jennifer complains when I get up and walk away from the campfire.
"What the hell am I doing out here?" I say to myself, I say to the world. Darkness envelops me as I walk into the brush. Thorns and tiny dry branches are sharp against my shins. I stub my toe on a rock and grunt. I have to stop.
"Why give me life just to give me cancer? Why kill such beautiful souls?"
The answer rises from the ground in front of me. Something like smoke becomes flesh. Something solid and black. Shadow upon darkness, seen only because its movement disturbs the static death of lightless night.
I can't stop the fear that runs up my spine like shattering glass. I can't stop my fists from clenching. Lungs full, I can't breathe out.
It's right in front of me. Its voice is in my face. A cold breath against my eyes.
"This lesson is helplessness. There is nothing else for you now. So be."
Something dark and massive strikes out toward me and I duck and stumble.
I scramble back to the fire, shoving my arms in front of me to break my fall, sputtering in squeaks as the air bursts from my lungs.
"There's somebody out there."
I'm thinking to hide Jennifer. Cover her. Stand in front of her.
But she's laughing and Carlos is laughing. They're rolling to their sides. Tears run down Jennifer's face.
"You should see yourself..." she manages to say. The fear dribbles from my body slowly, the vestiges turning to anger. My heart slows.
"He did that, didn't he?" I say, pointing to Carlos. The guy is starting to really piss me off.
Jennifer is laughing so hard she can't speak. She nods, her eyes drawn to thin slits as she drops her head to her hands.
"What the hell is so funny?" I ask both of them. Then to Carlos, "How the hell did you get in front of me without me seeing you? How'd you do that?"
"Fear is your best part," Carlos says.
"You came back flapping your arms and tweeting. Carlos said you would," Jennifer says, wiping at her eyes.
"But he went out there and scared me."
Jennifer says, "Oh crybaby. He never left. He's been here talking to me the whole time."
"That's impossible. Then who was out there?"
Carlos answers me. It's not what I want to hear, but it's what I expect.
"How should we know? It was your trek and if you had stayed in your nest a little longer instead of flying away, Little Wren, you might have learned an important lesson. But you gave us a good laugh, and so your adventure wasn't wasted."
Jennifer touches my back when I sit next to her, annoyed. I think to snap at her but I can't when I see her smiling.
"Thank you," is what she says to my grumbling. "This is a good moment. A very good one. To me the hardest thing about life is recognizing when the moments are good while they're happening and not ten years later when they're gone. But maybe that's what it's about. Finding people who make you feel the good in the time you have to live."
Last episode: A duck meets God at a bar
Next episode:Water stained halos
First episode: Somewhere there's a god who wants me