Throughout the day today, I am posting short excerpts from my new novel, Owl Dance. In the first excerpt, Sheriff Ramon “Búho” Morales heard about a troublesome new healer in town. As we left off, Ramon was about to break up a bar fight. As it turns out, he was grazed by a bullet and decides to pay a visit to the healer.
Back at the sheriff’s office, Ramon collected his horse and rode down toward the Rio Grande, past Old Man Seaton’s farm and up a slight rise to where the new curandera had moved into an old adobe. Next to the house was the fancy wagon that Mrs. Chavez had mentioned. It was painted and built all of wood, not covered with a canvas tarp like so many others. It reminded the sheriff more of a chuck wagon or a gypsy wagon from Europe than a Conestoga.
As Ramon climbed off his horse, he heard odd little whistling sounds. When the whistling stopped, he heard the chirping of a burrowing owl. Stepping around the wagon, the sheriff saw a woman dressed in black, sitting on an old crate near a fencepost. Atop the fencepost was a small owl. The woman whistled and then paused. The owl would move from one foot to the other—almost like it was dancing—then it would chirp. Enchanted, Ramon watched this for a few minutes, but the orange glow of the setting sun reminded him that time was short. He had probably not seen the last fight of the evening. The sheriff cleared his throat.
Startled, the woman looked up and the owl flew away.
Ramon was struck by the woman’s bright green eyes and lovely, smooth features, which quickly shifted from astonishment to impatience and finally to concern as her eyes settled on the wound. Noticing the direction of her gaze, Ramon realized he should say something. “Pardon me, ma’am, but I heard that you’re a curandera.”
Without a word, she stood and stepped close. Carefully, she extracted the fabric of Ramon’s shirt from the wound so she could see better. At last, she nodded without taking her eyes off the injury. “Come this way,” she said. She led Ramon toward the house and paused to light a lantern that hung outside the door before taking it down and going inside. She reappeared a few minutes later with a black bag, like a doctor’s.
She opened a door on the back of her wagon and instructed Ramon to sit down. He could smell assorted herbs from within and wondered what all she had in there. Opening the bag, she retrieved a bottle and some cotton. Far more gently than Doc Corbin would have done, she cleaned and dressed the sheriff’s wound. “You’re new in town, aren’t you?” Ramon asked as she worked. “What’s your name?”
“Fatemeh Karimi,” she said. “I’m from Persia.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” He watched her climb into the wagon. She might not be a local, but somehow her gentleness and concern for a stranger reminded him of many good people from his youth, who had since moved on. She searched through a few drawers and finally climbed down next to the sheriff. She handed him a small bottle.
“Drink this, it will help ease the pain but it won’t cloud your mind.”
Ramon sniffed at the contents of the bottle and made a face, but he did as she instructed. “That was quite some trick you were doing—whistling at that ol’ hooty owl,” he croaked, trying to hide the tears that came unbidden to his eyes from the potent flavor of the herbs. “It was almost like you were talking to it.”
She smiled. Ramon wasn’t sure whether she was amused by his reaction to the herbs or by the question. “That was no trick.” She stepped over to the well and retrieved a ladle full of water. “I am Bahá’í. We believe that all humanity is one family and that family should live in harmony with the world. The owls are my neighbors. As you’d say, I’m doing my best to be neighborly.”
I hope you’re enjoying this sneak peak at Owl Dance. If you are, you can order a copy at: http://flyingpenpress.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=49