Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Repositioned Corpse. I originally envisioned a novel, but it seems that I don't have the desire or stamina to write something so long. Still like doing short stories, though.


                                    THE REPOSITIONED CORPSE

On a repositioning cruise,while a cruise  ship moves  from one sea  to another,

murder stalks a petite dancer, who refuses to divulge her secrets, or to disappear.


Prologue:  When I left Russia, going to my adoptive parents in San Diego, I took little but the bright designs inked on my child’s skin.  My Nana had always told me to show them to no one.  I grew up keeping them covered, although I wasn’t sure why.  My new parents assumed I was very modest and respected my privacy.  But even when the little pictures were removed, they weren’t done with me.


“When you’re on the sea, you’re nowhere, and yet sort of everywhere, like dead people.”

            Peter said that to me once, not too long ago.  I thought it was just Peter trying to be profound, and slightly succeeding.  I’d no idea that I would be able to investigate his theory such a short time later.  We were already on the sea, and now I’m dead. 

            People think we spirits, incorporeal entities, can see everything from our unearthly vantage point, but that is not precisely true.  We have access to almost everything, but

we see only what we focus on.  Unlike God, whom we assume sees it all, at the same time.

I haven’t met God, but if I do, I have a bone to pick about the manner, indeed the very fact, of my death.  I am – was – only twenty-nine, a successful entertainer on the good cruise ship Zuider Zee, and in love with my sweet Peter, also a singer/dancer aboard the ‘Zoloft’, as he called it, because of typical ailments of many of our passengers.  My death wasn’t supposed to happen; it was a plan gone wrong.  Hard to say who is more upset, me or The Responsible.  

 When I became aware, I was on my bunk in the cabin I share with Peter, on my back with my feet in first position, heel to heel.  Peter came in, saw me and screamed softly.  Then he was bending over me, pleading with me to wake up.  I blurred out and when I came back, he was taking a picture, which seemed awful, until I realized that steady, meticulous Peter was making a record of the scene.  Then he rolled me up in a blanket and draped me over his shoulders like a rug.  I guess he’d have said I was a part of a stage backdrop if anyone had asked, but he saw no one as he carried me along ‘I 95’ the long below-guest-decks passageway that served crew and staff from bow to stern.  There was no one in the ship’s clinic, so he put me in a small room, turned out all the lights and closed the doors.  One of the health personnel should have been there and was no doubt nearby, maybe stealing a forbidden vape.

            And so I waited for what happened next.  I desperately wanted to tell Peter who had killed me, but of course, I couldn’t.  I pondered psychic mediums or ghost-induced telekinesis, desperately wanting to communicate.  Then my Filipino friend Boy Araneta, head steward on the tony A deck, and my self-appointed guardian, entered purposefully but stealthily.  Boy picked me up, put me in a laundry collection  basket, and wheeled me to the down elevator, then to the laundry, where he unceremoniously dumped me into a ‘to be washed’  cart and pushed it into a dark corner.  Dark is hard to find in the laundry, which runs 24-7, with six monster washers, several dryers,  and quite a few  workers under fluorescent lights.  Boy waved amiably at the launderers and they didn’t bother him, although delivering dirty towels was not usually part of his gig.  But why had he put me here?  According to protocol, I should be in the hospital, or possibly a freezer compartment until we reached the next port with a coroner.

            Boy answered my silent query, as he covered me with towels.  “Sweetie, Natalya, I’m so sorry to put you in the dirty linens, but whoever did this could throw you overboard if they find you.  I think I scared them – I saw someone leave your cabin fast.  When I saw you.(here he gulped audibly)…I ran to find Peter.  But he came from the other way. I saw him take you, and I followed him to the hospital.  I ran to get this cart, because I knew we can’t have anyone find you until we find out why….  I’ll tell Peter what I’ve done right away.  We’ll keep you safe…We should have kept you safe….”  Here he had to swallow, swipe away his tears, and heroically engage in cheerful lies with the laundry staff about his surprise visit.  He did ask them to leave this load until later; he said he would be sending room stewards with more towels.  All very non-standard protocol, but everyone likes Boy.

            He whispered, “I won’t let anyone put you in that cold, dark, sea,” and left.

 Like most island dwellers who spend their lives on the water, Boy couldn’t swim, and nurtured a strong fear of any water outside of a glass or a shower. Also like many of his countrymen, he was fiercely loyal to family and friends and would have jumped into the sea to save he if the need arose, swim or not.  But I was pretty sure The Responsible (can’t exactly say murderer, since it was not the intent to kill me, just sloppy planning and execution), anyway, pretty sure my body was needed until they found what they wanted.    But I couldn’t tell Boy that.

            I ruminated, staying close to my earthy remains out of habit or maybe standing guard.  I shouldn’t have worn those teal shoes with that aqua dress, I was musing, when I noticed a pair of Romanian laundresses pulling ‘my’ cart toward the huge washing machines.  Oh, no, don’t dump me in there, I silently screamed as Gulya, the heftiest washerwoman, grabbed my ankle and stopped me as I was flying into the mouth of the gurgling beast.  I thumped to the floor in a grotesque horizontal pirouette, as the pair of them ran off, shrieking.

            Unfortunately, The Responsible, who had been searching for me since Peter first sneaked me away from our cabin, happened to be outside and were able to get a garbled but informative account of my whereabouts from the rattled ladies of the laundry.  Again I was scooped up, this time dropped into a clean-linen delivery cart, beneath some sheets.  The cart rattled back down I-95 and into a staff elevator, which took us to galley level.  Usually, people are working in the galley all night, baking, cleaning, and so on; but, incredibly foolish and lucky, The Responsible actually managed to carry me, wrapped in a sheet, all the way to one of the walk-in freezer compartments.  I don’t know what excuse would have been proffered if anyone had stopped us – This is a large sausage from the homeland – but it never came up.

            Once in the freezer, it became clear pretty quickly that what was sought was not there.  The former me was face-down on the cold floor with one leg raised in a rather elegant kick.  My sweater was pulled up, my lower back exposed.  My tights were ripped and rolled down on my right leg I heard frustrated gasping and swear words in Russian that I had not heard in a long time.   I was raised in Russia for several years until my parents, believed by the villagers to be spies, disappeared. Then I was further orphaned when my grandmother died.  I was sent to America as an adoptee, with small memory of my native language, and two lively tattoos on my lower back and upper thigh.  These I  had removed when I took up dancing, since they sometimes showed through the tights or low-backed costumes.  Wait….was that what….?

            I had no time to pursue that thought, because the freezer door opened, a sous-chef entered in search of tonight’s steaks, and fainted.  Another staffer found us both and managed to call ship’s security.  While the two kitchen staffers went around a corner for water and aspirin, Peter and Boy, drawn by some mysterious insights, came in, Peter again with camera at the ready.  He snapped the scene, then he and boy wheeled me away yet again, this time on the bottom shelf of a meal cart, hidden behind a long table cover.

            ‘Now where?” Peter demanded anxiously.  “We don’t know whether they still need her, so we can’t go where we’ve been, but we’re running out….” He stopped, staring at Boy.

            “No, no empty cabins in my patch,” Boy said.  “Full up.  How about the art gallery, that’s closed until Thursday, because they’re putting up a new show.  No, too many people in and out.  Computer lab…no…hmm.”

            “I think I’ve got an idea,” Peter said, somewhere between doubtful and inspired.  “Can we get this thing to the stage area, as though we’re bringing snacks?  The trick will be not to run in to anyone actually wanting snacks.  I hate this, we’re running around like clowns with the woman I love, I can’t even cry….”  He stopped.

            At this point they had gotten into and out of an elevator and were on  passenger level C, with no one currently in the halls.  They could walk all the way to the stern, where the theatre is, as long as they could avoid any officers or crew, who were now fully aware there was a body dancing around their ship.  They managed it, only once ducking into a utility closet to avoid the First Engineer.  As we rolled, they discussed a plan to expose The Responsible, which was as crazy as the rest of the day, but just might work.  I was intrigued and a little amused, as well as deeply sad, extremely angry, and more than a little astonished at my present state.  And I was proud of Peter.

            He knew my history, and he had an idea about who The Responsible might be.  He was right.  We had speculated about the ‘Polish’ couple who performed dances from Eastern and Balkan countries during our ‘international’ stage shows.  I’d told Peter that I was sure they were speaking Russian, not Polish.  But why would they lie?  Maybe they’re your e long-lost parents, Peter opined, she does look like you.  She did; we were both petite, pale, with dark eyes and hair.  Her pretty but stern face was like my grandmother’s.  But why would they lie?  What did they want?  And I remembered my grandmother warning me to keep my tattoos covered, always.  As a child, I had to wear shorts and tee shirts when I swam.

I had assumed it was because ‘nice girls’ weren’t tattooed in childhood, especially with the rather garish peasant-looking designs mine had been.  Apparently, the reason was more sinister. Had I been the bearer of state secrets on my skin?  Even after I’d had the tats removed, I was careful to keep the sites covered – never wore backless dresses, and when I danced, I made sure that makeup or flesh-colored bandages covered the scars that were left.  So Arman and Dima, for those were my parents’ names, had no way of knowing that the tats were gone.

Their plan had been rather simple-minded, but it probably would have worked if my parents had been more efficient spies.  But it seems that prior to Operation-Retrieve-Information-on-American-Daughter’s Tattoos, they had been in deep cover for over twenty-five years and had gotten a bit rusty on their chloroform skills.  When they came into our cabin,  ostensibly for a quick talk about a dance idea involving Peter and me, they lost no time in slapping the chloroform – soaked rag over my face and holding me down on my bunk until I passed out.  Unfortunately for them, they held it too long, I actually swallowed some as well as breathing in much more that my weight class allowed, and I died.  At that point, they heard Peter coming down the hall, and managed to slip out of our cabin before he rounded the corner.  But Boy, coming by for a quick chat, saw Dima furtively ducking ack  into her own cabin.  He was too far away to make a positive ID, but when he heard Peter’s theory, it all clicked.

“Natalya will dance one last time, to catch a killer, or two,” Peter vowed, as he carefully removed me from the cart and placed me, in fifth position, into a tall armoire just offstage.  “Don’t let anyone touch this until show time,” he warned Boy, who took up guard duty, standing by faithfully for over three hours, despite having worked a full day.

“We will probably both lose our jobs over this,” Peter said to Boy. 

“You’re a great dancer, you’ll get another job.  And I have enough money saved to buy my wife the sari-sari store she wants in San Fernando.  Let her work and I’ll drink beer and play with the kids,” Boy replied. 

Peter had to run a short rehearsal for tomorrow’s show, then get a bite to eat and do a stint in the piano bar, where he was substituting for a pianist who had broken a finger playing pool in an Azorean port.  By the time he returned and dressed for the show, everyone knew I was dead, and missing.  Boy made some excuse about needing to give something to Peter to explain his presence backstage, and he never left off leaning on the armoire, so no one looked inside.

Despite the crew’s knowledge and distress, the Captain had decreed that the show must go on.  My understudy, Maya, had red eyes from crying, but she gamely dressed and made up her pretty face to fool an audience already cruise-happy and full of good food and good will.

Peter appeared to have been crying also, but he was resolute and ready to dance.  From my vantage point, wherever it was, not clearly up or next to but definitely there, I could see both the stage and backstage, where Boy guarded my closet until it was wheeled onstage for the Doll’s Closet  number.

            Doll’s Closet was a Nutcracker-ish emsemble number featuring many armoires like the one I was sequestered in, stationed around the stage.  Two of the smallest dancers, dressed as children, would open one closet at a time and a dancer-toy would pop out and dance with them.  There was a teddy bear, a rag doll, cowboy, a panda bear, and a race-car driver whose dancer maneuvered the tiny wheeled vehicle he carried throughout the dance with amazing car-like skills.  I was in, of course, the rag-doll closet.  Dima, who danced as the children’s nanny, and Amar, who was on stage as a hidden parent enjoying his children’s fun, saw me when, instead of hopping out and dancing, I fell with true verisimilitude, into a rag-doll face-plant on the stage.

            Then I really heard some Russian swearing!  Dima was yelling and Amar was trying to shush her.  To no avail.  Terrified of ghosts, much less a ‘dancing’ corpse, she screamed the whole story to whomever was listening – in Russian.  Peter was smart, he recorded the whole thing, as well as asking Victor, a Russian singer in the ensemble,  to use his language skills to translate.  The security people, who Peter had alerted, along with the Captain, slipped quietly backstage and took the couple away as soon as Peter and a couple of the other male dancers waltzed them offstage.

            Then Peter danced to me, picked me up, shook me in seemingly playful reprimand,  and carried me offstage.  The ‘children’ danced to the same armoire and a fully alive rag doll hopped out and danced.  I was never sure what and how much Peter had told the various actors in the arrest scenario, but everyone seemed to know just what to do, and did it.  When Peter brought me backstage, one of the ship’s doctors was ready with a gurney and I was whisked away below decks and back to the ship’s hospital. Tomorrow was a port day and I’d be removed from my floating home, my friends and my fiancé, who would go on to marry another dancer, and to always feel slightly haunted at sea.  I am somewhere in between, in a poignant space I know I will leave at some point.

            I am not yet forgotten.  After the passengers debarked, the entertainers held a memorial for me, onstage, open to anyone who had known me.  Most of the officers and many of the crew came, for we had been aboard the ‘Zoloft’ for over a year, and it had been a happy ship.   They started a fund to support young dancers, administered by my adoptive parents.   Through the youngsters, a little of me still dances.   Peter built a small garden with a dancing gnome in his parents’ yard in Iowa.   He visits my adoptive parents and will as long as they live.  Boy named his baby daughter Natalya. 

Peter made a kind of scrapbook of those last pictures of me, in first position, the pirouette, the kick, the fifth-position face-plant.  Natalya dances into heaven, he calls it, and the final picture is one of him and me in the final dance.  He holds me aloft, both of us facing upward, staring into a future that had changed beneath our feet.


Non-Apocryphal Ode to the Calypso Dancers of the Apocalypse. Written in 2017 but seems so apropos for 2022, given events thus far.

Non-Apocryphal Ode to the Calypso Dancers of the Apocalypse

(after “Gavage”, by Revolutionary Poet Dian Sousa)


The day came when God finally threw down

the all-seeing telescope and thundered,

            “That’s it!  Again, they’ve gone too far!

            We’re cleaning up that cesspool!”

“Yo!” God  bellowed to Buddha, who was nearby,

“Summon the angels, the saints, the cherubim, etc.,

 and tell them to bring their weapons!”


“Yes, Sir!  Yes, Ma’am!” the legions of Heaven

bugled, sang, trumpeted, murmured, or,

in the case of the cherubim, burbled.

Yes, Sir?  Yes, Ma’am?    Indeed:  God

is not He and/or She, but He/She.


Yes! Unctuous homo-lesbo-trans-bi-fearing

Fascio-Christians, God is hermaphrodite,

either and both. Not to mention, when He/She feels like it,

a swan, a lion, an eagle, a snake,

or your neighbor’s Chihuahua

barking all night.  Sometimes God can be petty. 

But we digress.


“We need not enumerate their sins,”

God intoned solemnly.  “We know.

They know.  The willfulness, the greed,

the carnage.  And now, while children perish

from starvation, abuse, or their inane parents’

guns, we have this creeping, pernicious,

self-righteous, mean-spirited idea

that it’s OK to be a bastard, that WE

want them to be asshole mother-raping

father-torturing baby-killing “martyrs”,

or politicians, which is pretty much the same thing,

or weapons-toting neighbors making house calls.”


“What’s the plan?” demanded

the celestial cacophony, as

God thundered,

            “First, shut down the Internet;

            second, neutralize all weapons;

            third, send a series of targeted

            hurricanes, floods, droughts,

            and plagues – of locusts, or

            hummingbirds, or nail salons,

            just long enough to do serious damage,

            but not end it.  Yet.”

Pausing, Gods took a big swig from

the milk-and-honey fountain.  All that

thundering is hard on His/Her throat.


“And then?,” squeaked the cherubim,

caroled the angels, hissed Lucifer’s minions

(who had been summoned and pardoned

on the premise than many worse things

were happening on Earth than in Hell),

murmured the saints, and so on.


God conferred with Him/Herself.

“We need some prophets,

some community organizers,

some angels brave and foolish enough

to get their wings dirty.”




“Here’s what you do,” God rumbled

to the volunteers.  “Plant some ideas –

about cooperation, altruism, empathy,

self-reliance, taking responsibility for

your own life, and losing without

throwing a tantrum.  Then watch, and wait.”


Whoever emerges on the side of the angels,

literally, encourage them.  Give them whatever

help you can.  If you need a little intervention –

a rainstorm, a low tide, a brace of oxen

eager to pull a plow, say a prayer.  Loudly.”

“BUT, when you find those

inevitable insects out for power

or money or sexual exploitation,

mark an X on each one’s forehead.

Make it look like a tattoo – they like ink.

Those people are so egotistical, they’ll

believe they’re the chosen.

And so they are, but not

the way they think.”


And so it came to pass that

angels walked among us, recognized

us for what we were, and helped us,

 or chose us, as they saw fit.

At the end of that millennium,

the angels summoned all

citizens of the world

to Celestial Celebrations,

to be held at sacred places

of the earth.


As the people assembled,

no X-rated persons were seen.

They had simply vanished.

But there were still many

dodgy characters, who were

provisionally included on the basis

of pleas from family and friends,

or wily lies, or bribes.

As a crowd, this fringe group was

paler and more testosterone-riddled

than the majority, but every human

group was represented.  Greed never

sleeps.  Rapacity knows no color or

gender, etc.


Then the music began,

the steel drums, the marimbas,

the gourd rattles.

It was irrestible.


“Form up a line,”

angels cried in bell-like tones,

as heavenly bugles blared the beat.

“We’re dancing to heaven –

this place is toast.  Storm coming.

BIG storm.”


Raindrops as big

as Gods’ tears splashed down,

the skies parted and a golden highway

(or, yes, Dorothy, a yellow-brick road),

rolled right down to our pick-up point:

Avila Road and the 101.


People began to calypso dance

back to back and belly to belly

up the golden roads toward Everything,

just as people were dancing upwards

from Sedona and Krakov and Timbuktu

and Varanasi and Pagan and

holy places all over the globe.

            They danced for hours,

            they danced for days.

            It rained for hours,

            it rained for days.

            Of course.


Just as the last dancers shimmied

onto the golden roads, just as

the Irawaddy, the Ganges, the Nile,

the Amazon, the Mississippi, and even

the cement-stricken Los Angeles River

overflowed their banks,

waters chortling with greedy glee,

there was a disturbance in the ranks

at the Earth ends of the yellow roads:

the fringe group, last to ascend, saw

other roads, sinuous, black, shiny,

leading down and down.


“Uh oh,” said God.

“They have a choice,” said God,

and tootled his/her Kokopeli flute.

“Oh sinners, look here, other paths…”


At the ends of the long, singing, dancing, lines,

fat white CEO’s and multi-colored potentates,

dictators, child-eaters, weapons dealers and

their molls peeled off, to take the downward paths

to the Bad Place.  It seemed a better choice.

No pussy-whipped gender-crossing miscegenist

utopia for them.  Straight to Hell with their guns

and spears, machetes, rocket launchers, badges and name tags:

            Hello, I’m Dick Head,

            Founder and CEO of

            We Own Your Genome, Inc.

Better Hell than ‘love thy neighbor.’


But Hell was turned off.

No ponds of boiling oil,

no rooms filled with sulfurous gases,

no razor banisters.

It was all tidy and quiet.

(Lucifer’s minions were nothing

if not neat).  Nonetheless, the unholy fringe came,

they saw.   And then,

while battling for dominion of Hell,

they wiped themselves out.  Ashes

of their withered souls

clogged up the River Styx for months.

No angels wept.


In fact, no angels noticed,

Because things were hopping at

The Calypso Apocalypse.

“This is more like it,” God

said, smiling as

S/He shimmied to the beat.



“Sir-Madam,” an intrepid

shamaness from Guinea-Conakry

dared to ask, “do you think

maybe someday, you might

try again, a new,

improved human species?”


God shook His/Her heads so vigorously

that the ensuing wind flattened

five miles of unperturbed dancers

and parted the swollen Red Sea, again.


“Not for a long, long time,”

Gods said.  “Party on!”


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Summertime, summertime, road trip time, everything is fine!

Where did my picture go?  First time trying to write this from Ipad (in recent history.  Tried several years ago but didn’t work).  We leave in two days for our road trip and I’m hoping to blog as we go.  Heading east and south into head and possible hurricanes, because that’s where our children our!  Two of them are there, anyway, Garrett in North Carolina and Sulae in South Carolina.  Granddaughter Alyssa is in Florida, as are our friends the Sicard’s.  So all of that, then a jog through Delaware to Rhode Island, where old friends Carole and Steve and new friends Cynthia and Malcolm live.  That will complete my roster of 50 states visited!  And both sets of friends were met on our travels, Carole in 1970 and Cynthia and Malcolm on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in 2018.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Summer Tales Coming Up

 Trying out accessing blog from IPad.  Hoping to blog as we jog (figuratively) along our road trip.

Meanwhile, here is a butterfly artist currently working in Korea.

Monday, June 7, 2021



   Crazy Horse kept watch for three days while the body of his daughter swayed in the tree boughs like a cradle.  He mourned her, then fought the whites with the ferocity and bitterness of a consecrated enemy.

    But I married the enemy.  My Ariel – silly name –isn’t dead.  She’s alive and half-breed, and living in Baltimore with her loving grandparents, whose tolerance embraces an Indian son-in-law but not his reservation life.  Not for their granddaughter.

   Crazy Horse named his daughter They Are Afraid of Her.  But I am afraid of them.  They have what I most want, and I cannot think how to get it.


   When I first saw Astrid, I thought she was way too beautiful to be interested in an Indian med student from Shiprock, New Mexico, even one who’d gone to Harvard.  She shimmered onto my horizon like moonrise over the mesas, stole my heart with her blue-eyed medicine.  We wed, we produced our luminous Ariel, her name courtesy of Astrid’s Ph.D. thesis, “The Uses of the Supernatural in Shakespeare’s Comedies.”  Then Astrid’s moon set on my horizon and rose on that of Clyde Trevor-Mathis, art historian and Shakespeare buff.

   Long after I was still gazing at the metaphorical moonset, Astrid and Ariel, my lodestars, had gone off to shine in Clyde’s heaven, and in his perfectly-appointed apartment.  Clyde’s neighbor, an attorney sharpening his claws for the long climb to the top, helped Astrid help herself.  She got the wedding presents, the community bank account, my mother’s buffalo nickel antique necklace, and sole custody of Ariel.  I ended up with my M.D., my grandmother’s Navajo rug (red and black didn’t fit into Clyde’s décor), and visiting rights – in Maryland.

 Now it’s Ariel’s sixth summer.  Astrid and Clyde are pursuing their muses in Europe, and Ariel, staying with grandparents Janice and Jim, is pursuing the life of an upper-middle-class white child in Baltimore.  Marie-Louise Odakota, my mother, has much to say about this.  She starts with her great-grandfather, who once outwitted Kit Carson and trapped him for three days in a cactus corral near Canyon de Chelly.  Unsatisfactory comparisons are made.  Great-grandfather would never have surrendered to an art historian.  Here Marie-Louise’s nostrils flare.  She forgets nothing, not her grandfather, not her buffalo nickel necklace, and particularly not her granddaughter.


      “Bye, Daddy,” Ariel says.  Then a pause, and she returns.  “When are you coming home, Daddy?  I miss you, and Mommy…..and Clyde.”

   A tomahawk straight to the heart, I think, from my Chesapeake Bay Navajo princess.

   “How would you like to visit me?” I offer.  This is strictly forbidden by the terms of the custody agreement that Astrid’s wily attorney had slid past me while I still dreamed of reconciliation.  I am just testing the waters. 

   “Gumma says I can’t do that.”  Clearly, Janice is monitoring our conversation and has shaken her head – NO – at Ariel.

   “Could I ride ponies?” my daughter asks quickly.

   “Every day,” I say.  I hear a scuffle as Janice takes the phone.

   “Say goodbye to Daddy,” she orders.  “Run along with Teresa and have your bath.”

   “Bye, Daddy, I love you,” my daughter calls from two thousand miles away.  “I want to ride ponies,” I hear her say determinedly, as Janice comes on the line.

   “Honestly, Chay, I don’t know why you do that.  You know you can’t take her out of Maryland.  Why get her all stirred up?”

   “She’s my daughter and she’s half-Navajo and she should know that about herself.”  I’m somewhat surprised at my own vehemence.  For so long I have kept myself from thinking about the girl who is, despite time and distance, a part of me and a part of my people.

   “You’re always welcome here, Chay, you know that.  But Ariel has a routine.  She’s already been through divorce.  Don’t upset her more.”

   I hang up without answering Janice.   I review all the reasons to work hard, keep my nose clean and my head low.  No time, no help, no room for a daughter in my life.  For a long time, I stare at my map of the United States, the thick red and thin blue lines running like veins and arteries across the body of the country.  The history of my life.


   For weeks I plot a kidnapping.  I dream up decoy phone calls.  I make escape maps.  I think up take names for airline reservations, new home, new job.  I plan how Ariel and I can live in hiding on the reservation.  Finally, I call my parents-in-law.

   “I want Ariel to live with me during the summers,” I say.

   “That’s not possible,” Janice says.  I picture her in pastel cashmere sweater set, gold chain and St. Christopher medal, trim wool slacks and expensive Italian shoes.  I picture Ariel in her exquisite dress from some Italian designer for children, a tiny St. Christopher on a delicate chain like her grandmother’s, black hair chic from L’Enfant Salon.  I want to see her in jeans, bareback on a pony with the other res kids, braids flying straight out behind her.

   “She’s my daughter, too,” I reply.  Janice hangs up.  I call Sam Arnaz, an attorney who represents tribal members in custody cases.


   Where do you want to spend your summers, Ariel?” the judge asks.  It is now Ariel’s seventh summer.  It  has taken a year to get my case together and a court date set.  Astrid and Clyde are again in Europe, trusting in the original custody agreement an in Janice and Jim’s impressive appearance to keep Ariel safely suburban.

   “With my daddy, in New Mexico.”  She is so sure.  “I want to ride ponies.”

   “All summer?  Won’t you miss your mother?” the judge inquires.

   “She’s in Europe,” says Ariel.

   A pause.  “Your request for summer custody of Ariel is granted,” the judge rules.


   As we cross the waiting room toward the gate entrance, the P.A. system booms our names:  Mr. Chayton Odakota, Miss Ariel Odakota-Trevor-Mathis.  Poor kid.  Although I will not let Clyde adopt Ariel, her mother insists that she use his last name. 

  Not in New Mexico, I’m thinking.  I keep walking, holding Ariel’s hand firmly.

   “Daddy!” Ariel yanks on my arm.

   “Hurry up, honey,” I say, bending to scoop her up.

   “But Daddy,” she insists.  “Look!  There’s Mommy, and Clyde.  And Gumma and Gumpa.”

   Shit, I think.  Shit, shit, shit.  Palefaces on the horizon, again.

   Wary, I stop and wait.  Ariel wriggles until I set her down, when she runs to Astrid, who catches her in a hug.  Their war party marches up, my daughter once again in their clutches.

   “Let’s go, Ariel,” I say.  “We’ll miss the plane.”

   Her face falls.  “But Mommy has a present to give me,” she cries.

   Yeah, in London, I am thinking.  Outgunned again.  I am about to try the lure of the ponies when Astrid says, “Leaving without saying Goodbye?  Or Hello, for that matter?

   “I thought you were pacing the halls of the Uffizi, communing with Botticelli’s brushstrokes and quoting the Bard,” I reply gruffly.  “What do you want?  We’ve got a plane to catch.”

   “Clyde’s daughter Katie is very ill.  So we came back.”

   I feel a fleeting flicker of sympathy for Clyde; his daughters also live with his ex, who moved to Chicago.  Still, I scoop Ariel up again and turn to go.  Astrid puts her hand on my arm, not a forceful gesture, but a tentative one.

   “Wait, Chay.  I see how Clyde misses Katie and her sister, how he worries…I realized…well, you’re Ariel’s Dad.  She should spend time with you.  And I wanted to give her this.  It’s hers by right.  Maybe Marie-Louise can keep it for her, and explain the history of it to Ariel.”  She slips the buffalo nickel necklace over Ariel’s head.

   “Oh, it’s pretty, Mommy. Thank you!  Listen, Daddy!”  Ariel jingles the coins.

  “Have fun riding ponies, honey,” Astrid kisses our daughter’s soft cheek and Ariel clings to her for a few seconds.  Clyde reaches over to pat her shining hair, awkwardly, with an abashed but defiant glance at me. 

   Ariel pats his hand and says, “Bye, Clyde.”

   “I hope Katie gets better,” I say.  He nods.

   Janice and Jim stay back as Astrid and Clyde walk towards them.  Once again, Ariel wriggles down from my arms and runs to hug her grandmother and grandfather.  Janice’s face is wet with tears and Jim looks stern.

   “Sir,” the gate attendant calls, “your flight…”

   “Ariel,” I call anxiously.

    All five look at me.  Then Ariel breaks away and runs to me, her necklace ringing like bells,

or the calls of desert birds in summer.



The Repositioned Corpse. I originally envisioned a novel, but it seems that I don't have the desire or stamina to write something so long. Still like doing short stories, though.

                                      THE REPOSITIONED CORPSE On a repositioning cruise,while a cruise   ship moves   from one sea   to an...