Reuben Moon

February 5, 2017

Reuben Moon (Excerpt From Journey)
November 18, 1833
Mescalero Apache Territory

Tonight’s storm, with its cannonade of cosmic
fireballs, took Reuben Moon back to one similar
, from
sixteen years past, when he happened upon a creature that
clung to him forever. That night, Wild Horse Canyon had
funneled a fury of water down from Trapper Peak and sent it
raging through the canyon like a battering ram. The night
before had been so crisp and clean that the stars seemed near
enough to grab. Then, when dawn came and the sky should
have lightened, it darkened instead as if a blanket were dropped
over the morning sun. Reuben rode with his back hunched to
the storm and let the paint horse pick its way. It was a good
mountain pony and had seen worse, as had its rider, but this
storm featured a stabbing rain that chilled to the bones.

Reuben could have searched out an overhang or hollow in the
rocks where he might build a fire and wait out the storm, but
he was certain the baby would die if he stopped. It was only a
few hours old, a little girl no bigger than a puppy that Reuben
cupped in his hand inside his buckskin shirt, and kept warm
by the heat of his bare chest. With his other hand he clutched
a buffalo robe closely around them. The horse didn’t need any
guidance from him. The baby’s lips searched his chest until
she found his nipple, but Reuben did not like that, and of
course there was nothing to be found there, anyway. Instead,
he held a strip of buffalo jerky to her lips and let her suck on
that. She was hungry, but it appeared to soothe her.
Reuben had held foals and calves and lambs in his arms,
even a cougar kitten and a bear cub, but never a human this
small, and rarely a human at all. Women and children had not
been part of his life, but he was strange only insofar as it was his
need for solitude that kept him away from others. He disliked
few people; nonetheless, he entertained few of them and courted
none. Reuben Moon had lived through more than two hundred
seasons and knew things you couldn’t know otherwise. If you
came to see him he was pleased enough to see you, but was also
glad when you left. Then the silence settled in, and when it did
he could put his ear to the ground and hear larvae under the
earth and worms burrow through the soil. He would put his face
to the wind and search for scents that interested him. He might
fly with the birds and look down upon the tops of trees. He was
not a shaman and never pretended to be, but still people came
with their dreams and asked for mixtures that cured things, and
listened when he told them to plant with the waxing moon.

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