She’s sitting outside her hut, cross-legged on dried grasses and pine needles, when she hears the sound of hooves: clip clop clippity clop clippity clop clip clop. She’s got a basket of purple mushrooms that she’s stringing up for drying. A basket of apples for storing in a stone lined hole in the ground. A bundle of bright yellow flowering stalks. For drying. For later. For when the wind comes blowing and soft white glitter falls from the sky. Sparkly, it’s so sparkly then when her breath turns the air white, the stars in the sky take her breath away at night! The trees are naked then, creaking as their old bones groan, and the seeds rest: sleeping until warmth awakens them and they begin their ascent from in the dark earth toward the light.
A cognac mare appears on the trail. There’s a man astride her saddled back. He looks surprised to see her then points to the mountains up the trail. He speaks.
“Hear tell there’s gold up there.”
She looks at him. He speaks again, pointing at the mountains, repeating the word “Gold” over and over again. She shakes her head and shrugs. He leans back in the saddle, thoughtful. Something flashes in his eye. He gets off the mare and comes crouches beside her. Opens his mouth and points to something inside. He wants her to see his gold filling. She looks but all she sees are teeth.
“He needs to chew on some twigs”, she thinks, “To cleanse his teeth, his gums are swollen and inflamed.” She decides to make him some tea, so she gets up and goes into her hut. She’ll need leaves and boiling water. The man is calling from outside, on the other side of the heavy blanket that’s her door. She goes to see what he’s fussing about. He’s still pointing at the mountains, saying “Gold”, and now he’s holding a round piece of yellow metal infront of her. Pointing into his mouth. From here she can see yellow metal in his tooth. He’s pointing to it, then to the mountains. She smiles and nods vigorously; her braids bounce up and down. She points to his filled tooth, to a bead in her braid, to the mountains; nodding the whole time. He’s excited. She can tell from the way he grins and whoops, his eyes glint steely flint; the mountains will do him good. He looks pale to her, wintery, cold; yes the mountain air and water will put some color in him. He rides away on the trail, astride the cognac mare. She trots along, clippity clop, on the beaten path winding its serpentine way up through the ancient groves where the rough hewn visages watch and attendant ferns fan their bottoms, they like it cool down there.
“Darn fool woman told me there’s gold up here!”
He throws his hat to the ground and spits. He’s been looking for gold for days now. There’s a creek else he’d have run out of water long ago. His food’s long gone. He’s tired. Tired of the search for gold, it’s turned up not a lickity splickity flake to shake a stick at. There’s no gold up here, the woman was wrong, or else he’s a fool. He’s going back down, he’s been up here too long, everything aches and he’s hungry.
She hears the hooves again. Clippity clop clippity clop. Watches as he rides over to where she’s sitting weaving baskets with sweet damp grasses. He looks irate, meaner than a rattlesnake. Red faced. Hot. His eyes look yellow with gold rot in his belly, bilious, rising. He’s hissing, spitting words at her, throws his hat off his head, points to the mountains, shakes his fist, angry. What’s he angry about she wonders? He must not have found what he was seeking. She shakes her head and gets off the ground, beckons to him to follow her into the hut. He laughs a wild hollow sound, braces his knees, tosses his head back, screams at the sky, stomps a booted foot into the ground, scattering pine needles and grass with dirt and dust devils.
She moves the blanket aside, opening the door, beckons again, “Come, I’ll make you tea”, she gestures lifting a cup to her lips, drinking, pointing to him, to his eyes, to her bead, to his mouth, to the mountains. He stares then follows her inside.
Yellow, it takes purple she knows, combined they do their work well. Yes, the yellow eyes, the purple gums, the swelling, all need make welling. She has sacks with gifts from soft fuzzy blossoms gone to seed in a fuzzy puff of fluff from purpleish pink, gathered last summers end. The butterflies had sipped on them all the long hot days in the bright suns rays. How they didn’t catch their wings, snag and shred them, on the thorny bristly stalks, swords cutting away toward the sky, she didn’t know. Purple for yellow, yellow for purple, this she knew. The seeds, yes for the yellow in his eyes, pulverized on a stone slab hollowed from use. Ground out ground in dug from the ground in the golden glow of the suns rays fingering through naked branches, they’d lost their clothes scattered them to the four winds red, orange, yellow fire roots for ire. Pound crush seed and root, grind turn, the sickness burn. To this she added a pinch of fresh yellow flowers green leaves from the golden rod, setting them into an iron pot that she filled from a spring gurgling out through a blanket in the back of the hut. The pot went on a bed of coals and she sat on a rock and waited with the man. They waited together until it was brewed to her liking, a strong tea, a bittersweet drink, drink, she commanded imperiously. He drank of the purple and yellow brew. He drank and drank and drank until she gave him no more to drink. Then they sat and night stole over them swallowing them whole.
When they awoke his eyes were flinty steel again and he bade her follow to where his cognac mare stood waiting. They rode astride her, corkscrewing up the serpentine trail, up to the mountaintop where the creek began its song and dance from a hole in the ground over dirt and rocks down to the waiting valley below.
He points, where, where is the gold?
He points to his tooth, her bead, the bit of round metal, to the creek, gold? He says, you told me there’s gold up here, show me, no, go get me some gold!
She points now:: to where the sun shines through the branches, leads him by the hand to stand in the pouring light dappled spaces, spilling onto their upturned faces, filling his open mouth, golden air breathing deeply nostrils flared she runs to where petals like wings flutter, touching them while a bee rolls pollen balls busy, she’s a sprite and dances to a tree, pointing up to honey dripping from a hive, liquid sunshine alive, she points to her bead a kernel of corn with a hole through the seed, to the light, to the rough hewn visages of ancient trunks shimmering drunk with delight, she spins her arms flung wide open to the breeze, skirts flying around her knees, pointing to everything galaxies his eyes sees::
understanding::dawning rays breaking through the fog he throws off his hat and snorts with disbelief, blinking jaw dropped then howling with laughter he runs, from filtered bright space to sunshiny rock face hugging flower stalks to his chest, from petal to light to mountain to creek to the leaves to his tooth to her seedy bead, GOLD? He shouts with the excitement of something new gained, before falling to his knees weeping tears that pained till spent he rises again, looks around and good golly, there’s gold, everywhere there’s gold! Not a place his eyes don’t land by golly he’s ready to bite his hand, it might be gold! Why hadn’t he seen it before? He didn’t know, but he knows this woman, she’s made of the stuff!
Gold? He asks one last time.
She smiles. She nods. Her braids bounce up and down, vigorously. Then she takes off a yellow bead from where it’s strung, her braid comes undone, he watches amazed at the golden kernels of maize, the treasures she has in there, in her hair!! She gives him one, presses it into his rough-hewn hand, closes his fingers over it.
Gold, she says, pointing at him, smiling.
He takes out his bitty piece of round yellow metal, gets a hammer and chisel from his saddle bags, pounds a hole into it, smiles wryly.
He puts it in her hand, closes her fingers over it. Gold, he says, pointing at her, smiling.