Cowboy and ranch hand Patrick has been mourning the mysterious disappearance of his lover, Johnny Crowfeather. Every night he looks to the horizon, aching for Crowfeather to return. Which he does, one chilly night, reappearing just as mysteriously to warm Patrick’s bedroll and tell him the wondrous, unbelievable reason he vanished. However, is this passionate reunion the real thing, or just the beginning of the end?
Johnny Crowfeather, where the hell are you? The question echoed in Patrick’s mind for the millionth time since Johnny’s disappearance. Resting his brush against Snoopy’s neck, he scanned the darkening landscape, as if somehow Johnny would walk out of the shadows, smiling at him.
Damn it. As usual, no Johnny. No one but him, Snoopy, and that crow on one of the fence posts Patrick had come out to the edge of the Double L to repair.
The bird had seemed to make a game of tagging along his fence-repair route, the one Johnny and he used to do together, that is, until a month ago. The bird now stared at him, its ebony head cocked to one side as dusk swallowed the last of the sunlight.
“Yes, you’re pretty,” Patrick said. Not that he understood crow talk, but the bird seemed to like it.
The crow opened its beak and let out a shrill caw. Patrick chuckled. “All right. As soon as I rustle up my own supper, you can have some.”
Seeming satisfied, the bird cawed again and lifted its wings before settling down to watch Patrick brush Snoopy.
A shiver ran down Patrick’s spine. “No,” he said out loud. For a second there, he’d allowed himself to entertain the whole skin-walker idea. If he started listening to Johnny’s grandfather, he was going to start believing that Johnny had become a skin-walker.
The last time he’d spoken to Nathan Crowfeather, the elderly man had shaken his head. “I kept telling my grandson he must not stare so long at you each time. It is not bad that he loves you, Patrick, but staring at you has made his soul vulnerable.” Apparently, in Navajo culture, staring at someone for a long time was a cultural taboo and a person who broke such taboos ran the risk of becoming a part-human, part-animal shape shifter, or something like that.
- Ai Press, June 2010
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