Read an Excerpt
The Wind Caller
By P.D. Cacek
Copyright © 2004
All right reserved.
The hot summer day was gone, conscripted against its will into
the army of rolling black clouds that had been marching in
from the west since mid-afternoon. And it wasn't happy about
going, either. He could still hear the day complaining about
its forced enlistment, rumbling and gnashing its teeth from
somewhere deep within the boiling mass of clouds.
Gideon Berlander leaned against the front porch railing and
licked his lips, smiling up at the random lightning flashes
and nodding. To a casual observer, he might appear to be
nothing more than just another dry-land farmer, silently
beseeching the heavens to open up and save his crop from ruin.
But looks can be deceiving.
Gideon Berlander was no farmer and there no one, casual or
known, observed him without his permission. And permission
was something he didn't give often. The wind was the only
thing he allowed to have free reign on his land.
If it behaved itself.
Gideon watched a tiny dust devil dance across the parched
front yard, inscribing unknown words into the dirt with its
tail, and wondered if the message was a curse of a blessing,
not that it mattered. The rust-scent of water was stronger
now and whatever had been scratched into the ground would soon
be obliterated by rain.
"And it'sabout time, ya greedy ol devil," he muttered at the
whirlwind as it spun itself out, "Ya think ah don't know what
The wind suddenly shifted, gathering in strength as if swept
in from the ridge above the cabin. Gideon watched it come,
flattening a path through the dry grass like a herd of
invisible buffalo, and shook his head when the wall of air
coiled over on itself and slammed into the widow-maker next to
the cabin. The twisted oak, that had been struck by lightning
thirty-odd winters ago, disintegrated into a mound of
Gideon yawned. "Was that supposed to impress me?"
And when a smaller gust, littered with aspen leaves and pine
needles, swarmed at his face, he lifted one hand and brushed
it away. The heavier needles beat the leaves to the ground.
"Gettin' a mite playful in yer ol' age, ain"t ya?"
A rumble of thunder answered him.
"Quiet down now," he yelled up at the densest part of the
clouds. "It's gettin' on to mah supper time and ah don't want
to have to listen to yer bellyachin' all night. Likely to
ruin mah digestion."
The wind softened to a gentle breeze.
"That's better, now, stop playin' nice and start the
waterworks. Mah ridge's been lookin' poorly for long enough."
The growling in the sky dissolved into the sizzle of rain as
the wind gently wound itself around his legs like a pet cat.
"That's better," Gideon said and leaned out into the warm rain
so he could watch the thirsty ground take a good long drink.
And that s when he saw it, the thing that didn't belong on his
He smiled, but felt the muscles tighten across his shoulders
as he watched it pick its way through the dense brush that
surrounded his front yard. It whimpered when it saw him. Poor
little thing. Too small to be a coyote and nowhere near the
"Hand Jesus another nail, Mary."
He hadn't meant to scare it, least not yet, but his sudden
laughter sent it belly-flat into the newly formed mud. It was
a dog, or at least its ancestors had been dogs. From where
Gideon stood, dripping sweet rain, it was hard to see any
connection between the half-wild, rawboned hounds of his
boyhood and the lump of nothing cowering in the muck at the
edge of his yard. The miserable thing was no more dog than an
old biddy's canary was an eagle.
"Hell, yer hide wouldn t even make a decent pot-holder."
At the sound of his voice, the creature, Gideon still couldn't
think of it as a real dog -cocked its head and whined with
the sound of a rusty gate opening. A bedraggled pink bow, the
same color as the sparkly collar it wore around its scrawny
neck, flopped down over one bulging brown eye when it lifted
"Yer one of them ugly son-of-a-bitch Frenchy dogs, aren't
cha?" Gideon kept the tone of his voice gentle even though he
had to shout above the constant hiss of falling rain. "Ah
seen pictures in books, but damned if ah ain't never seen one
of yer kind in the flesh. Homely as it is. So, ya get
yerself lost, did' cha?"
Gideon smiled when the dog sat right up on its haunches and
pawed the air with both front legs. Damned if the thing's
nails weren't painted the same color as its bow and collar.
Someone had gone to an awful lot of trouble fussing with it.
"Well, ah suppose yah'd like to get in outta the rain, huh,
The animal brought its tiny paws down into the mud with a
slash and barked. Gideon could see its sodden tail whipping
the mud into a froth. Sometimes it was just as easy to fool
an animal as it was a man, not often, but enough times to keep
"Well, what'cha waitin' for," he said. "C'mer."
Sopping ears twitching at the familiar command, up on all
fours, the little animal took one tentative step forward.
"That's right," Gideon coaxed, "c'mer you mangy runaway from a
freak show. C'mer, little fella."
It began to move forward, picking its way between the larger
puddles, tail wagging a mile a minute.
"Poor little mite," Gideon crooned at the animal's simpering
advance, "bet yer folks are goin' crazy lookin' for ya, ain't
It was less than six feet away, snapping its jaws together and
whining like it was trying to talk. Like it was trying to
thank him for his kindness.
Gideon backed up to the center of the porch, putting a little
more distance between them.
"Well, what cha waitin' for? Git it."
The animal stopped, not understanding that the command was not
directed at it, and cocked its head. It managed to get out
one think, ear-splitting yelp out just before the funnel of
rain-jeweled wind sucked it up like candy.
Gideon leaned down and watched the speck of muddied fur spin
inside the swirling void -three feet ... then five ...
then ten feet off the ground ... tumbling in midair, tail
over head, legs over spine while the wind stripped the flesh
off its bones. Thin ribbons of rain-diluted blood danced
around the outer edge of the cyclone like a devil's halo.
It was a beautiful thing to behold.
Smiling, he let the wind play with the denuded carcass and
ruptured gut sack for a few more seconds, before nodding that
playtime was over. On its final rotation, the wind shot the
frayed body toward a clump of old-growth pine. The remains
joined those of other "Missing/Beloved Pet" (Reward/Please
Call/Owner Worried) that had wandered up from the new
development butted up against the foot of his property.
Damn people and their damned animals.
He kept hoping that one day one of those worried owners
wouldn't stop at this posted NOT TRESPASSING/VIOLATORS WILL BE
EATEN sign and join their beloved pets. Now that was
something he d love to see.
The rain lightened into a mist as the wind funnel died.
"What do yah think yer doin'?" he asked, glowering through the
drizzle at the twisted thing that lay in the middle of the
yard. "Yah ain't finished yet."
The wind brushed against him, tugging at his beard.
"Ah thought ah taught yah to pick up after yerself."
Gideon pointed and watched a mist funnel instantly appear
above the sparkly collar and pull it from the mud. A few of
the glittery stones were missing by the time it reached
Gideon's outstretched palm, and there was a small patch of
fur-covered skin wedged under the metal buckle, but once it
was washed off it would make a fine addition to his
"This'll make 'bout twenty-seven, ah think," he said, flicking
the skin away. "Just don't appreciate uninvited guests, man
nor beast ...
... and that goes double for Indians."
"Ah woulda thought yah d know that last part by now, Joseph."
Gideon waited until the soft sounds of boots in mud stopped
before looking up. And when he did, he couldn't help but
The old Hopi was soaking wet.
Water trickled down the gullies and arroyos of wrinkles that
covered his sun-leathered face and dripped from the twin
braids he had wore since they were boys. Keeping the
traditional ways even after the once raven's-wing black had
turned the color of tin. There were some traditions worth
keeping, and Gideon had fought hard all his life and would
continue to fight to keep those ... but things that made a
man look like a Dime Store dummy went far beyond ceremony and
Even to the gods.
"Don't remember invitin' yah up for a visit, Joseph," Gideon
said and felt a small chill race up along his spine when he
noticed the man was standing in exactly the same spot that the
animal had occupied not a moment before. "And yah know ah
don't like unexpected guests."
"Was that necessary?" the old man asked, pointing to the
collar in Gideon's hand.
"My land, my laws," Gideon answered, forcing himself to keep
the wry smile in place. Joseph had always made him feel like
he wasn't good enough, that whatever he did was tainted by
being white. One day he was going to pay for that
condescending attitude. One day. But not today. "And mah
first law is - No Tresspassin' ... thought yah'd see that
sign, ah made it big enough."
The collar almost slipped from his fingers when Joseph shook
My land ... my laws. His own words mocking him. You still
understand nothing, little brother.
Little brother. The buckle bit into Gideon s palm as he
tightened his hand.
"Yah dare to come onto mah land and say somethin' like that?
What's the matter? Gone brave in yer old age? Ain't like yah
Joseph ... yer were always so scared. Goddamn coward who
couldn't even face the greatest gift a man might get without
hiding. Hell, Joseph, yah wanna have it out now, go for it.
Yah can even have the first" -
A cold gust of wind - heavy with wet leaves and smelling of
blood - hit him full in the face.
Sputtering a curse as old as the tradition that had kept
Joseph in pigtails, Gideon wiped the debris from his lips and
threw the collar. It hit the muddy ground exactly where
Joseph had been standing. Had been.
"God damn yer black soul, Joseph!" he shouted at the empty
yard. "Yah try that again in person and see what happens."
The wind trembled in the tall weeds that had overrun the
abandoned tomato patch. His daughter had loved tomatoes,
couldn't get enough of them ... ate them at every meal. He
should have burned it off right after she died and sown it
with salt. He should have done a lot of things.
A distant rumble of thunder in the eastern sky brought him
back. He glared at the shivering grass.
"Yah think that was funny, Joseph?" He spoke into the wind,
letting it caress his face in atonement. "Ah swear by the gods
that if ah see yer face again, real or not, ah will take it as
a challenge. Yah hear me, ol'man?"
The wind whispered against his ear, tugged at the thin hairs
at the back of his neck.
"Yah take him that message."
Gideon followed the wind out across the front yard, watching
the shallow puddles ripple as it passed. When he bent down to
retrieve the collar, he could hear it singing down through the
cottonwoods of the lower canyon. A minute or two and it would
reach the new development's cookie-cutter homes. A
half-minute later it would reach town and then it was a
straight shot across the desert.
"Yah tell that ol' man and make him understand. This is mah
land and ah will defend it. Even against you, brother."
* * *
The wind delivered the message hidden in a puff of sand.
Joseph Longwalker brushed the sand-colored grit from the front
of his shirt and shivered even though the wool was dry and
warm. His other self could still feel the clinging dampness
against his skin and smell the bitter-sweet stench of the poor
He hadn't even been thinking about the man who had become his
brother so long ago, he'd gotten up to go into the kitchen to
make a cup of tea and then, suddenly, he found himself
standing, drenched and shivering....
Joseph shook the image away from him and focused on the voice
of the wind. He had always pictured her as a child'a thing of
whim and little direction, full of mischief and pranks who
needed a firm hand to hold when she was frightened and to
guide her and keep her from harm. Gideon, his brother, saw
none of this. To him, the wind was a slave to do his bidding
and nothing else.
His bedroom window rattled softly.
"I know, Little One," Joseph whispered as he placed his hand
over the narrow crack in the pane. His daughter-in-law was
only a few yards away, preparing dinner in the kitchen.
"You've done well. Don't worry, I understand."
The wind brushed against his palm, tickling his skin. He
smiled and watched it dart away, dancing itself into a tiny
funnel as the first rain drops began to fall.
Shivering again, Joseph lowered his hand and watched patterns
form on the dry earth.
There was another message there, one that would change things
forever unless he was very lucky.
"Yopancha," he mouthed without speaking, "help me."
Excerpted from The Wind Caller
by P.D. Cacek
Copyright © 2004 by P.D. Cacek.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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