"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com

"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com
Still available on Amazon for Nook and Kindle, hard copy booklett to re-print November 2013

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Prologue: "Mystery of the Chiasmus Cipher"

Spring, 1778
Bagootsoo Mesa
Territory of Spain

      NeZhoni sat atop the towering pillar of stone drinking in the sight of swaying spring grass.  
     “Finally, the treasure is hidden ̶ ̶ the duty done.” 
     Her gaze went to the embers of the dying fire and settled on the baby nestled in her lap. She put him to her shoulder, patted his broad back and secured the front of the leather wrap over her creamy skin. A lone hawk circled in the warm updraft and squawked in surprise at the intruder invading his realm.
     The many years of hiding secrets from the man of my heart are over and my spirit can lie still.
     The cavern had been cool for most of the work, but now after the steep climb to the mouth of the hidden shaft, she was hot and red dirt dusted her hair and filled her ears. She finished the task by dropping strings of garnet stones into the burial tube. Then after she levered the heavy capstone into place, NeZhoni arranged cactus and sifted fine dirt into the seams.  The fire burning atop the stone would add ash to the camouflage and finish the disguise.
    The plump baby in her arms looked up with his dark green eyes flecked with gold. They were her eyes, the ones that had attracted the men who took her from her family. She knew she was treated better than most taken to be of service. Yet she had no regret about keeping the secret of her theft.
     “Dulce hijo, all is in place to follow the guide I’ve preserved for them. Only the hidden message has knowledge of the way to obtain this legacy. Those who come after us must follow carefully or they will meet their end." I must have faith it will be found, for I shall never see this land again nor shall you. 
     For ten springs, because of the agreement with travelling men, NeZhoni had been brought back to spend time at her father's hearth. Always, on one of  those days, she put on her ceremonial robe and went to Bison Mesa to mediatate. Diego, the man who had claimed her, honored the pledge and allowed her this time.
     When the strangely dressed traveling men came to winter camp she was afraid. The tribal council had long ago learned they could fight the men with shining hats, lose many braves, end up with nothing—or they could barter, trade and gain new tools and weapons for their people.
     On that day long ago, as she peeked out from behind her father she was noticed by one of the men. He longingly admired her fair skin, and emerald eyes. Several weeks later as the caravan of horses and wagons prepared to leave, the bargain was made.
     “NeZhoni, you will go with these men as payment for the mustangs we gain for the hunt. One man has promised to care for you. If you serve him well he will return to this place so you may see your family. Escalante, a man of God, has promised this to me.”
     There was no choice. NeZhoni knew she had to go. She walked slowly over to the man, Diego, and stood behind him. He, from that day had treated her kindly, and after some time had made her his woman. He taught her his language and ways of worship. He also taught her to read so she could study his holy book. In return, she taught him the medicine of plants and bore him many sons. During their travels she saw lands—amazing and precious things that she had never seen before.
     As she went quietly about her duties, the men of the quest ignored her as if she was mist. Not realizing she had learned their language they spoke freely and NeZhoni discovered the hiding place of their treasure. At first, she took only a few coins to cut into trinkets for hair adornments. Later she stole larger amounts and hid it among her belongings. There was so much. No one ever missed what she removed.
     As the days and weeks became years  she forgot many of the ways of her people, so making the trips of renewal to her homeland became important. Along with women’s learning and ceremony, each time she returned NeZhoni deposited the growing golden treasure in a hiding place she had discovered. Always silent to Diego and telling no one of her theft—ever firm in resolution NeZhoni never knew why she felt so compelled to carry out such a deception. Today was the last of her trickery, and she was glad she no longer had to fear discovery.
     Gently she placed her fifth son on the carrying board and wrapped the soft straps around the wriggling bundle to secure him. His eyes were closing as she put the sun cover above his head and lifted him upon her back. Shielding her eyes from the brightness, she took one last look at the mountains across the valley to ensure she had all the signs precisely written on the underside of her gown.
     The setting sun had turned the hills blood red and the sky violet by the time she reached the encampment. Her man was patiently waiting with their sons at spring camp on the prairie.
     “Diego, por favor toma tu hijo that I may take leave with my father”
     She gave him the sleeping child, and gestured she was going to the structure across the clearing. Her father, Chief Toohoo-Bagootsoo sat cross-legged on the dirt.
     In the corner of the enclosure, she changed back into the woven cloth dress and bonnet that made her look like the other women traveling in the wagon train. She laid her ceremonial gown out across the stone used to grind grain. Then she took out a knife, and carefully cut around the part of the soft leather where she had written the guide. 
     On the day of her vision, six years ago in the women’s sweat house, she had eaten the ‘Flesh of the Gods’ mushroom, and asked the spirits how she could help her suffering people. In her waking dream, she saw a future where a spider spun its web across the land, white roads were made tall on stilts and people traveled in metal boxes. Homes were shut from the sky and everyone sat entranced before flickering lights. She also saw how to conceal her stolen gold.
     “Do this,” the spirits said, “Or, your people will fade to nothing from illness and greed. You can save them from this suffering with a great gift from the past—your gift.”
     She saw the way to prepare a guide and asked faithful ones to assist in following the plan she was given. None of them could understand the reasons for the peculiar work, but trusted in NeZhoni's vision to ensure the treasure would be found at the right time. They were saving their hope-dream for children unborn.
     Now the task was finished. Only she and her infant son knew the final secrets. She twisted the hide into a roll, positioned it within a Bagootsoo horn and gave it to her father. "Honored father, I have done as the spirits wish.
     As she placed the horn in his hands she said, "This will show the way to the gift for those who seek. But who ever attempts the quest must do so with a pure heart. I give warning  to follow only when the time is right and the sign is true or the journey shall end in tragedy.”
     She saw sadness in his eyes, “Father, have not sorrow in your heart, for my life of exile has become a blessing to our people, and also to me.”
     NeZhoni reached out to touch her father’s hand and stroked his sunken cheek. They both knew their next meeting would be in sky-clouds. The parting was heavy and silent.
     Overhead there was only a slice of moon and few stars. She could barely see the children in the wagon entwined in the rhythmic unity of sleep. Diego saw her coming, rose quickly and with one motion was in the wagon seat with the reins in his hands.
     NeZhoni lithely climbed the wheel and slid across the smooth board to be at his side. She felt the warmth of him and looked up at the wide shoulders and strong profile of the man she had learned to love. He slapped the reins and urged on the horses.
     The wagon pulled free of the muddy ruts with a jolt. They had many miles of travel to join the others for their journey across the rolling waters. NeZhoni did not look back. There was no need—her world was with her in the wagon.

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