Read an Excerpt
A Sonny Baca Novel
By Rudolfo Anaya
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2005 Rudolfo Anaya
All rights reserved.
Do dogs dream?
Sonny awakened slowly, opening his right eye first, then the left. He stretched like a rubber band until every nerve and muscle twanged. His vertebrae cracked and he relaxed back into the warm blankets.
Beside him, Chica stirred.
Do dogs dream?
That's the question, Sonny thought. He yawned and looked at the light filtering through the window.
The denizens of the City Future weren't discussing the depressed economy, terrorism, Iraq, tapping the Rio Grande for water, the silvery minnow, drought and fires, or politics. For weeks now the regulars at Rita's Cocina had tossed the dog question back and forth. The discussions had grown heated, some arguing yes and others adamantly denying it.
Sonny rubbed his eyes and looked at his watch. Dead battery.
I dream therefore I am, he thought. In last night's dream he had only one eye, like Cyclops. A one-eyed man lived in ordinary time, like Polyphemus. Odysseus had blinded the giant and the poor Cyclops ran out of his cave, crying I am blinded! Noman has blinded me! Chingao! Noman has blinded me!
Sonny had taught the Greek myths to his literature classes at Valley High. That seemed ages ago. He always acted out the part, working like hell to get their interest. But the ancient Greek stories were far removed from the memory of the land-locked Chicanos of the valley where the phrase we sail with the tide had never been heard. So he told them the cuentos his grandfather had taught him, incorporating them into New Mexico history. The history of la gente was embedded in the oral tradition, but it had to be mined if one was to know the ways of the ancestors.
The teachers were alchemists, turning raw material into gold, but they had to compete with teenage interests: cars, video games, rap music, after-school jobs, family troubles. And hormones.
"I was a good teacher," he said to Chica, rubbing the head of his one-eyed dachshund. Raven's demons had scratched out her left eye. So much loss in that winter-solstice nightmare where Raven killed don Eliseo.
For the past three months Sonny had been reading don Eliseo's books. He couldn't sleep, so he read till two or three in the morning, and the more he read the more he understood that ordinary people go through life thinking they see, but what they're seeing is only the surface of things. The trick was to see beneath observed reality, and for that one needed to develop a new kind of sight.
"The Egyptians painted the all-seeing eye on their temple walls," he said to Chica. "Horus had one eye cut out by his uncle Seth. Seth had killed Osiris, the Ruler of Eternity, as the ancient Egyptians called him. It was the eye of Horus that restored Osiris to life. A lot of powerful magic there."
Seth cut Osiris into pieces and threw him in the Nile. Isis and her sister had brought Osiris back to life; that is, they gathered the dismembered body and sewed it together. The first mummy. One thing was missing. His penis. The organ had been thrown into the Nile where a goldfish ate it. Centuries later, a poet Sonny knew wrote that the missing organ had washed up on the banks of the Rio Grande. History belonged to those who wrote its poetry.
So many allusions to sight in the old stories, he thought, and still, most of us go through life half asleep, one-eyed men, tuertos searching for the truth, a purpose, the meaning of life. Somnambulant, we stumble down the road, unto the burning sheets of the malpais. Unconscious. Why?
If you are unconscious you feel less pain, he thought.
Yeah, that's it, we don't want to feel the pain. A man can get along with one good eye, lead the ordinary life of Polyphemus, until along comes Odysseus and drives a stake through it.
Bile rose in his mouth. Raven had driven a stake through his heart.
"Maybe I opened a few eyes," Sonny whispered, thinking nostalgically of his teaching days at Valley High.
But the classroom was confining, so he quit and learned PI work from Manuel López. He liked the independence.
All seemed normal until he moved to La Paz Lane and met don Eliseo. The old man became a mentor. The bond between them grew strong as the old man taught Sonny how to walk in the dream world. The world of the shaman.
Chica shook off her covers, stretched, and yawned.
"You know, don't you Chica?"
The small dachshund had followed him into that fateful winter-solstice nightmare where she lost her eye.
Did his dream become hers?
I dream therefore I am. People in deep comas continued to dream. Death came when one could no longer dream. But what if, as the Bard asked, the dead also dream? There's the rub. La vida es un sueño y los sueños sueño son. Life is a dream and on the other side waits another dream. Maybe?
Do dogs dream?
Several weeks ago Sonny was having a drink at Sal's Bar—actually he was sipping on a Pepsi—and taking a ribbing from some of his North Valley amigos, weekend cowboys who once a month gathered at Sondra's Magic Acres stable to ride along the river bosque on borrowed horses. Reliving the Old West. Pretending to trail ride. They spent more time downing beers than riding. Chicano male bonding.
Quite innocently, Sonny had said, "My dog dreams."
The amigos knew Sonny had been depressed lately, but claiming his dog dreamed was too much. An argument ensued, the staunch Catholics in the group protesting against dreaming dogs. After all, a dog cannot recite the Nicene Creed.
"It's, 'I believe in God,' not 'dog'!" Mike challenged.
Sonny shrugged. What did Mike know? He was from Tucumcari.
"Yeah, d-o-g is not g-o-d," Vivián, the attorney in the group, added.
Anagram madness. A shouting match broke out between those who agreed that dogs could dream and those who said no. Two off-duty Bernalillo County sheriffs hustled them all out of the bar. The "dogs don't dream" amigos hadn't spoken to Sonny since. The innocent comment had taken on serious proportions.
The story was then spread by the barmaid, a woman of philosophical bent who used to teach Shakespeare at the university, an aficionada of Lone Star beer. She told the story to her customers and it spread along the valley like an unchecked virus. Suddenly conversations erupted into arguments, shouting into fisticuffs, and friendships ended.
The debate, which soon became known as the Great Dog Dream Debate, spread into the neighborhoods, into the restaurants, into city hall, into the schools.
An Alameda Elementary School teacher invited Sonny to her class. The students fell in love with Chica, the dreaming dog. The dachshund became the poster dog of the Dogs Dream camp. The following day a group of Dogs Don't Dream parents boycotted the school, pulling their children from classes. Sonny became persona non grata to a small camp of anti-dog-dream neoconservatives.
In the meantime, scientists at Sandia Laboratories recorded a rise in the decibel rate over the city. A long mantra-like hum had settled over Alburquerque. Zaaaaaaaaaaa uuuuuuuummmm, something akin to a Buddhist chant. In some of the barrios the hum became aaaaala, alaaaatuya, daaaaale chingasoooos.
The hum seeped into homes, inciting family arguments. The city libraries reported a run on dog books, people trying to figure out which came first: the dream or the dog. The police department reported a surge of fender benders. DWI's rose; so did divorces.
The metaphysical argument invaded classes at the University of New Mexico, where just before spring break the philosophy department sponsored a symposium. If it were proven that dogs did indeed dream then the entire history of western civilization might have to be rewritten.
It didn't get that far. Baptist students on campus boycotted the lectures, claiming that, like the Harry Potter books, dogs dreaming were the work of the devil. But what if the dog is baptized, fully submerged? an innocent voice had asked, a sylph sitting at the back of the room, and the debate took on a Reformation frenzy.
Dogs were like women, the fundamentalists argued, meant to serve the master. On this we agree with the Taliban: the man is the head of the household. Then the feminists on campus boycotted the boycott, shoving and pushing broke out at the picket lines, and the university cops had to break up the confrontation.
Recalling the events, Sonny slipped back into that sleep of the just-barely-awake, until a hullabaloo of crows, raucously cawing and crying as they ripped through his garbage can, roused Chica. She tossed off her blanket and, barking furiously, ran through the kitchen and out her dog door to challenge the birds.
Flocks of crows invaded the valley every winter. By day they scavenged in back yards and at the city landfill; by night they roosted in the cottonwoods of the river bosque.
The morning sun had just cleared Sandia Crest, filling the Rio Grande Valley with a golden hue, the same aura that often shines on Jerusalem, a sheen on Temple Mount.
Last night the crescent moon, the Water Carrier moon of the spring equinox, a goddess to lovers of long ago, a bowl moon to New Mexicans, had tipped and spilled its contents, dusting the Sandia Mountain with a thin coat of snow. In the valley the spray had fallen as a holy mist that barely dampened the tired but awakening earth.
Sonny blinked and looked at the east window. He kept the curtains slightly parted so a slice of sunlight landed on his bedroom wall, a crude calendar marking the movement of the seasons, from one solstice to the next.
Just like the sun calendar at Chaco Canyon, don Eliseo once pointed out. Here is the light on December 21, here June 21. In between, sacred space, life unraveling, our days on earth, and in March the spring equinox, time of earth's renewal. Remember, time on the clock means little. It moves in a line. The time that encircles you is the time that provides a center. The soul is like an antenna, gathering the unity of cosmic time.
The old man had been a friend of the Pueblo Indian people, attending many of the dances and ceremonies. Don Eliseo had taught Sonny how to construct his dreams, as one would tell a story or act in a play. Sonny learned he was a dream person, one who could create his dreams and play a role in them.
If I dream a butterfly, I am that butterfly. If I dream a dog dreaming, I am that dog dreaming. If the dog dreams me then I am in that reality and not this.
One had to be master of the dream if he were to understand the message inherent in the dramas that unfolded in the unconscious, that realm so deep in the psyche that only its images gave hints of its geography. The ancients knew this. It was written on the walls of Karnak, etched on the petrogylphs all over the Southwest.
Being an actor in the dream was the only way to stop Raven and his mad plan. Raven was also a dream person. That's why he was dangerous. If he controlled your dream, he could drown you in the chaos that was his nature.
So, dreams had to be opened, as we open our eyes after sleep. Dreams not brought into the light remained gook, troublesome dark stuff, detritus floating in the cosmic waters from which the first consciousness sprang, those first retinal cells responding to light.
But any damn psychologist knows that, Raven had once cursed. He didn't like their ilk peering into his psychic space.
The trick was to participate in your dream as if you were the main actor. A person who could create his own dreams was a brujo, a shaman. Unfortunately, the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century no longer believed in the role of the shaman. Such persons were suspect, labeled witches or druids, shunned, set apart from their fellow human beings, ostracized.
Sonny didn't care about the labels, but he did wonder if he wanted to enter the dream world again. Going into Raven's dream had cost don Eliseo his life. They had gone looking for Rita's unborn child. Sonny believed that Raven had caused Rita's miscarriage. And during the past few months he further convinced himself that Raven somehow kept the soul of Rita's child a prisoner.
He swore he had seen the soul of his unborn child in Raven's nightmare. He was sure the light he saw shining was the soul of Rita's baby. Raven had said as much. For three months all Sonny could think about was how to rescue the unborn child from Raven's dark circle.
He knew the miscarriage had put dread in Rita's heart. They had struggled through the winter, nurturing Rita with the remedies Lorenza prescribed, herbal teas from China, osha from Taos, massages, anything that would ease the loss. And they worked long hours at Rita's restaurant, serving meals to the working people of the North Valley.
In work they found some respite, but at the end of each day Sonny would drive her home, kiss her goodnight, then return alone to his apartment. Rita was still grieving.
He knew she needed time to recuperate.
"I appreciate what you do," she had told him. "Really. Having you at the cafe is more than ... well, it means the world to me. I'm not afraid to be alone at night. It's just something I need to do. Give me time."
So Sonny waited, and three months later they were both stronger. She laughed and teased him more often. "Any day now," she had whispered yesterday.
"Any day now," Sonny muttered, jumping out of bed, hoping a shower would wash away the night's images. He had seen a man drowning in a large tank that resembled a baptistry.
Wish I could just flush bad memories down the toilet, he thought, or wash them away in a hot shower.
But what was engraved in the soul was eternal. And Memoria was a tough old dame. She bedded in the cells of the body and just lay there forever, awakening at the oddest times and flooding the mind with the damnedest memories.
Memoria also lived in the petroglyphs scratched into the volcanic boulders on the West Mesa escarpment. The ancient symbols were the memory of the Anasazi. A few of the Pueblo elders whispered stories. One glyph, they said, was carved on a boulder called the Zia Stone. That sacred symbol was a unifying sign that would reveal the mystery of the universe, the meaning of life. It had been given to the ancestors long ago.
Searching for the Zia Stone, Sonny and don Eliseo had explored ancient Anasazi haunts in the windswept mesas and canyons of the state. Like penitents searching for a holy sign in gothic cathedrals, they sought the glyph that held the answer to life, a unifying theory of the universe.
Learn to enter the dream, don Eliseo said, and Sonny had followed the old man into the dream world. He became a winter shaman, a brujo who could construct his dreams. And to what end? To meet Raven. He was always there, always waiting.
"Revenge," Sonny whispered, flushing the toilet. "I want my revenge. I will find a way—"
The struggle with Raven had gone on too long. Maybe don Eliseo was wrong. Maybe a well-placed bullet between the eyes would kill the bastard. What the hell is a dream good for if I go there only to meet my shadow?
He showered, toweled himself dry, and shaved. He put on a pair of freshly pressed jeans and a blue cowboy shirt, still thinking of revenge.
Don Eliseo appeared, as he often did when Sonny's thoughts stampeded.
Won't do you any good, the old man said.
You keep saying that, Sonny replied. Why?
When your thoughts are confused Raven has the upper hand.
I can take care of Raven! Sonny retorted. I know what he wants. The Zia medallion. I'll tempt him. Hold it out to him, then shoot him—
Damn it, Sonny! the old man shouted. There you go! You're not thinking straight. You can't kill him with a bullet!
"I'll find a way," Sonny said aloud, pulling on his well-worn boots.
No time to shine them, he thought, slipping the Zia medallion around his neck, the gold medal engraved with the Sun symbol, an amulet as magical as the precious stone once suspended from Abraham's neck. Mojo power.
The medallion was Sonny's now. There had been no contact with Raven the past three months.
He walked into the kitchen, started the morning coffee, fed Chica, and was pouring himself his first cup when his cell phone rang. Something told him it was no good; still, he answered it.
Excerpted from Jemez Spring by Rudolfo Anaya. Copyright © 2005 Rudolfo Anaya. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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