CHARLES De LINT
Four directions blow the sacred winds
We are standing at the center
Every morning wakes another chance
To make our lives a little better
– Kiya Heartwood,
from “Wishing Well”
This day Coyote is feeling pretty thirsty, so he goes into Joey’s Bar, you know,
On the comer of Palm and Grasso, across from the Men’s Mission, and he lays a
Nugget of gold down on the counter, but Joey he won’t serve him.
“So you don’t serve skins no more?” Coyote he asks him.
“Last time you gave me gold, it turned to shit on me,” is what Joey says. He
Points to the Rolex on Coyote’s wrist. “But I’ll take that. Give you change and
Coyote scratches his muzzle and pretends he has to think about it. “Cost me
Twenty-five dollars,” he says. “It looks better than the real thing.”
“I’ll give you fifteen, cash, and a beer.”
“How about a bottle of whiskey?”
So Coyote comes out of Joey’s Bar and he’s missing his Rolex now, but he’s got a
Bottle of Jack in his hand and that’s when he sees Albert, just around the
Corner, sitting on the ground with his back against the brick wall and his legs
Stuck out across the sidewalk so you have to step over them, you want to get by.
“Hey, Albert,” Coyote says. “What’s your problem?”
“Joey won’t serve me no more.”
“That because you’re indigenous?”
“Naw. I got no money.”
So Coyote offers him some of his whiskey. “Have yourself a swallow,” he says,
Feeling generous, because he only paid two dollars for the Rolex and it never
“Thanks, but I don’t think so,”
is what Albert tells him. “Seems to me I’ve been
Given a sign. Got no money means I should stop drinking.”
Coyote shakes his head and takes a sip of his Jack. “You are one crazy skin,” he
That Coyote he likes his whiskey. It goes down smooth and puts a gleam in his
Eye. Maybe, he drinks enough, he’ll remember some good time and smile, maybe
He’ll get mean and pick himself a fight with a lamp post like he’s done before.
But one thing he knows, whether he’s got money or not’s got nothing to do with
Omens. Not for him, anyway.
But a lack of money isn’t really an omen for Albert either; it’s a way of life.
Albert, he’s like the rest of us skins. Left the reserve, and we don’t know why.
Come to the city, and we don’t know why. Still alive, and we don’t know why. But
Albert, he remembers it being different. He used to listen to his grandmother’s
Stones, soaked them up like the dirt will rain, thirsty after a long drought.
And he tells stories himself, too, or pieces of stories, talk to you all night
Long if you want to listen to him.
It’s al ways Coyote in Albert’s stories, doesn’t matter if he’s making them up
Or just passing along gossip. Sometimes Coyote’s himself, sometimes he’s Albert,
Sometimes he’s somebody else. Like it wasn’t Coyote sold his Rolex and ran into
Him outside Joey’s Bar that day, it was Billy Yazhie. Maybe ten years ago now,
Billy he’s standing under a turquoise sky beside Spider Rock one day, looking
Up, looking up for a long time, before he turns away and walks to the nearest
Highway, sticks out his thumb and he doesn’t look back till it’s too late. Wakes
Up one morning and everything he knew is gone and he can’t find his way back.
Oh that Billy he’s a dark skin, he’s like leather. You shake his hand and it’s
Like you took hold of a cowboy boot. He knows some of the old songs and he’s got
Himself a good voice, strong, ask anyone. He used to drum for the dancers back