Tears of Salt
By Laura Schiller
Based on: Dangerous Angels
Copyright: Francesca Lia Block
"See, my dad, he was that guy – drunk, womanizer, pissed off. He beat the shit out of us. I was becoming him at sixteen but I didn't want it. So I changed my name and left my family and tried to be perfect." – Coyote, Necklace of Kisses
Coyote Dream Song did not know what to expect from his friends' daughters after they had stolen the horns. The morning he discovered them missing from his shelf, the lines in his face hardened with disappointment; he had believed that Cherokee was better than this. Hadn't he warned her not to use her powers lightly? Angel Juan is the only one without a present, she had argued, as if that justified it. It was one thing to make a set of wings for a girl literally burying herself in mud, or even use the goats' fur for a boy burying his god-given talents with fear and cigarette smoke. If Cherokee had really wanted to make a gift for Angel Juan to stop feeling left out, she should have relied on her own creativity and made him something purer, something kinder. There was no need to steal.
At first he waited for her to bring the horns back and apologize, or even slip them back onto the shelf while he slept. But the weeks passed, and the summer grew hot and dry, and the air was thick with ashes from the fires burning in the hills. Coyote spoke to no one, and no one spoke to him. He disliked confrontations; he told himself he was a peace-loving man, but in truth he was afraid. Afraid of losing his temper, of becoming like the angry, spiteful father who still appeared in his nightmares. Afraid of disgracing himself in the eyes of these people who admired him as a mystical medicine man – an image he cultivated with deliberate care. There was nothing admirable about Jerry Weaselhead, an alcoholic's son from a shabby reservation. Better to be Coyote Dream Song, who meditated on hilltops and prayed for the polluted earth, detached from the messy, tangled concerns of everyday life. Better to live in the past.
That was what he told himself, at least, until a red-faced, sweaty, terrified Witch Baby charged into his backyard on a bicycle, tumbled off right in front of him, and grabbed his arm.
"You've got to come," she said breathlessly. "Please, Coyote. I'm sorry about the horns, really I am – "
"You took them?"
She nodded, her black curls trembling along with the rest of her. She was dressed in shredded black jeans, platform shoes and a tight wine-red tank top. A thick layer of stage makeup had melted in streaks over her still-childish face. She must have come straight from one of the Goat Guys' concerts. Coyote forgave her on the spot.
"What happened, Lily?"
"There's this party," she said. "At our house … they're going crazy, Coyote. Sniffing coke, running round naked … and the boys, Angel Juan and Raphael, I saw them each with a bunch of groupies and they weren't doing anything to stop them. Cherokee's got all the animal things on at once, and she's not herself. She was heading for the roof. Please, Coyote, everything's out of control. Will you help us?"
She looked up at him so trustingly out of her tear-streaked purple eyes that (even though of all things Coyote hated, loud noise and substance abuse were the very worst) it was impossible to say no.
He nodded to Lily and set off at his fastest run.
The partygoers at the cherrywood house, even in their most intoxicated state, were not too high to notice when a piercing feedback surge screamed through the sound system, followed by an abrupt silence as Witch Baby pulled the plugs. At the same time, a ray of summer sunshine cut through the dim, smoky air as the front door, then the living room door, were flung open by a tall figure in fringed leather and beads, his long black hair sweeping around his face like a thundercloud.
"OUT!" he roared, in a voice that made the cocain granules rattle on Lulu's mirror. "Everybody leave this place at once, or I will call the police!"
In spite of a few snickers and the odd curse in his direction, nobody wanted to tangle with this man; he looked, especially to a drug-fuelled mind, like a Native chieftain from the history books out to avenge his conquered people.
He dumped an amorous couple out of Max and Weetzie's bed by pulling the blanket out from under them; he used Duck's tennis racket as a tool of persuasion for people reluctant to leave their chairs and sofas; he interrupted Raphael and Lulu in mid-kissing session in the blue bedroom and glowered at the latter until she left.
"Raphael Chong Jah-Love," clapping his hands in front of the boy's face as he looked up in dazed recognition. "Where is Cherokee?"
"I dunno." Raphael flushed guiltily and shook his head; in spite of his height, his dreadlocks and his impressive physique, he looked about twelve years old.
"Help me find her, then." Coyote helped the boy off the bed and led him up the stairwell, avoiding spilled drinks and other liquids on the floor as best he could. On the way, they were joined by Witch Baby and a very pale Angel Juan, who still wore a black lipstick print on one cheek and was rubbing his temples as if they ached. The house was emptying rapidly as they walked, the silence a blessed relief after so much pounding music and loud voices, including their own.
When they reached the casement window on the third floor, it was Coyote who climbed through first. He could see Cherokee standing by the edge, looking like a mythical animal in her wings, haunches, hooves and horns. At first glance she was surreal, inhuman, but the slump of her thin shoulders and the tension of her arms wrapped around her body spoke of a loneliness that was human through and through. Coyote saw a girl who hated herself, who put on a façade of power and sensuality to hide the insecure teenager she really was. He saw a girl who, with the best of intentions for herself and her friends, had created a monster and was losing control.
He saw himself at sixteen, the same age, stumbling home from a bar through the shadowy streets of the reservation. No one had stopped him then.
Before she could take one more step, Coyote ran forward across the roof and held her back, the wings crushed between them, her small body trembling in his arms like a butterfly.
"Cherokee, my little one," he sobbed, not even knowing if she could hear him. "Forgive me. Please forgive me."
"They were not the tears of silver – moons and stars – she had once imagined, but wet and salt as they fell from his eyes onto her face."
– Cherokee, Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys