Every year the Dead would visit him and when they did he would not tell them to go away nor would he welcome them quite. He was polite, offering them what little he had in his cupboard, and he would extend himself for tidbits of conversation. Outside his little house, witches would fly aloft like cardboard blacknesses, brooms tucked tight between their legs. On his porch were orange heads with glowing eyes and jagged teeth and candles guttered in sconces on his sagging walls.
When silences fell upon the little conversations, he would stay still as one does with Native Persons when there is no need to talk and so no one does. We ride in silence, we and the hitchhikers, in this case Navajo kids from Many Farms or thereabouts. In Navajo Country, the hitch-hiker will not look at you, walks quietly backwards so that when you stop and pull off to the side of the long red road and step out to motion him into your car, he is now looking at you for the first time. You must nearly beg him to ride with you and there is no conversation once inside and travelling. It was that way with him and the visits of the Dead.
When the Dead came visiting, they often wished to dance and drink beer. When the Dead came visiting, they seemed to want to forget, to get a little high, to talk a little loud, to sing a bit.
Dead in automobiles would slowly drive by outside his house, the booming thumps of their magnificent sound systems rumbling through the foundations of his house. Their blown V-8 engines purred like panthers, black in the Southern forests. The Dead preferred the big band sounds of El Salvador and the strange Norteno sounds of Los Tigres and would park their rigs and join the party. The strange skulls of the partiers were not good at showing emotion, but sometimes, as he sat in silence watching the dancers, he thought he could see a smile here and there.
“I’m hungry for sugar,” said the child and her mother said “Quiet, little one. The nice man will feed us soon. He asks for nothing and fears us little and is quiet and unassuming and genteel.”
“Still, I am hungry,” complained the child. She had travelled a long way from old high altitude caves where she had been bound in odd positions for some centuries, and her skin had shrunk down on her bones and the tragic story of her former wet and fleshy parts had been at least partially discerned by the producers of at least two semi-scholarly film documentaries commissioned by the Public Broadcasting System.
“We are proud people,” whispered her mother. “We will wait for him to offer us sugar.”
When he finished showing the big skull with the iron eyes how to plug in the CD player and the other skull thing with the necklace of thighbones had boosted the EQ to emphasize the rock-solid bass players of the South and the beer was flowing, he would motion to the skeletal child and offer her sugar in the form of little heads made of the stuff and other little things, butterflies and crosses and saquaros and woodpeckers, all of delicious sugar. All the Dead would eventually have a bite of sugar somethings, even the ladies with luscious hips and skeleton faces rouged and painted would have a tiny bite, so tiny that it posed no threat to their wonderful figures. The girls in the little skirts and halter tops and high, high heels who danced with each other out by the sulking lowered cars passed sugar from his kitchen each to the other. All the dead would eat and dance and have a beer or two and slide away into the night until finally he was alone.