INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO
I woke to hear the st ream running in the night, my mind filled with lonely thoughts. I thought about what Houston had said. I had not known the history of Pop or the history of his father. So Buck was like his grandfather. An old man before he married. Bachelor, essentially. OMB's playground had been the state of Texas, while Buck's was the world. Not because Buck was more adventurous, but because by then the airplane had been invented, as well as bigger and better wars. Buck had been in more places in the world than I had been. But often for the military, or as an unofficial politico so his views were more slanted and less naive than mine.
But when he married, he married me, an "old" woman so he didn't have, hadn't even planned on having a son in his seventies. And neither had Houston. There wasn't any Texas Brawley to carry on, but no one mentioned that. Somehow around the Brawleys history was history and if it stopped still, that was all right, too.
Baby Brother, of course, had his kids, but they were no more Brawley, it seemed to me, than I was. Though I'm sure they would consider it a sign of my un-Brawleyness to think that. History was history, as I just said.
They would get the ranch one day, and that'd be the end of Texas in the mainline blood. It'd be Eastern "blue blood" by then, you can be sure they'd lie about that until it was true. They'd keep raking the leaves over the truth of the land until the mulch would change its character, and the Brawley Ranch would be some kind of anomaly, some kind of plaything they had come upon accidently in the family tree. A bauble, an ornament to show their friends, to laugh over indulgently.
Well, at least I'd be dead. I mean it wasn't my heritage either. But I guess a lot of Buck had rubbed off on me -- probably in bed. Probably a lot of Brawley sperm got mixed in my blood, went to my brain, affected my thinking. Or maybe it was the air of Texas, going in and out of the lungs. In and out, in and out, all of us in Texas breathing that same air.
They say everyone in the world breathes the same air. That the air circulates all around the world in seconds, and from the past to the present in less time than that. I breathe Gandhi's breath left in the wind, just as quickly and as much as I breathe Buck's left up there someplace in No Palms. But stamping around in the dirt of Texas, I'm sure we get an overdose of Texas molecules. Changes the compostion of the brain, you get a Texas brain, a fried Texas brain.
"Equal justice under the law. . ." "Life, liberty. . ." "Honor. . ." "Generosity. . ." Buck was a born Texas fighter. It was my mistake to talk to him at the Alamo. But no slimey creature from the California desert or a whole group of scum-bags could be permitted just to dispose of him. What was I going to do about avenging his death?
In the movies when someone dies by foul play, someone immediately steps forward with an avenging sword. Someone investigates. Take a murder mystery. Everyone knows what to do and does it. I hadn't clue one. I mean I had never brushed with the police in my whole life until Sheriff Green called me one day to tell me to take Buck back to Texas. I heard the menace in his voice but, for all that, I didn't pay much attention, because I told Buck and Buck told me to forget it.
The San Berdu people weren't any better. They assured Havana that Buck's bones only proved that he had been eaten by coyotes, that's all it proved. You couldn't accuse anyone on the basis of that. Reality is not like a TV show. They can declare you paranoid faster than you can detail reality to them.
It made me recall one of the reasons I had quit the ad agency. I mean I was already stressed out and ready for the looney bin, but then one night. . . The agency was in this gorgeous building with a garden around it, almost big enough to be called a park. It had been a school at one time, so AAD had almost enough land to be called a "spread."
One night they find a woman who has been raped with her throat cut in the bushes. The story gets around but only very hush hush. I can't figure out why it's so hush hush. But later when I mention I never saw it in the papers or on TV, the director tells me to be quiet, it's not good for business. If word about such a gruesome murder gets connected to our new offices, he says, it's not good for business. It's not good for our image! It's not going to get in the papers, he tells me.
I've been thinking about that one for ten years. What else doesn't get in the papers? On TV? We're so keen on every murder being reported -- I mean, I hate the news because it is all murders. Then one day you understand that only the ones that aren't going to "hurt somebody's image," some "important" person's image, get on TV. I mean, if you don't see it in the papers or you don't see it on TV, how can it be real?
Anyway, they never liked us to work late after that. But one night . . . about a half a year later, I'm working -- there are two colleagues there with me. It's the middle of the night -- maybe eleven o'clock -- we're working on Branston's Campaign and a group, three or four Chicano guys, come into the building, leering in at my office door. We look up. They look like apparitions, evil apparitions.
But then it turns out they're more scared then we are. One of the guys kind of steps forward, his hand on the doorknob, shaking, white at the knuckles, he asks: "Are there devils?" I mean his eyes are big, his voice soft -- awed, "Are there devils?" he wants to know.
When we find out they're not going to mug us or rape us or kill us, we all kind of laugh and assure them we don't know.
"Why are you asking?"
Well it turns out we have a big poster of the Virgin Mary out front from some Italian advertising job we have just done. These guys have seen it and they think we're some kind of religious organization -- like do we do icons or something. AAD does look a little like a temple in the middle of its park. They've come to ask us about devils, real live devils. They think we might have a priest. They earnestly want to know: "Are there devils?"
Those two incidents, the rape/murder and the devil question, prey on my mind. I hate the job and the pace and the fear and the soulessness of my whole way of life. So I quit. I sell my house, my stuff. There's enough to start off on a quest to learn not to be afraid. I spend eight years wandering around, finding out how not to be afraid. It led me through India and Asia, on pilgrimages, to getting rid of the rest of my possessions.
To not be afraid, I learned not to have anything that provokes greed and envy and wanting, need, desire. I mean, I am just beginning to learn this. After I spent my nest egg, I just worked at what came along. Someone always wants you to do something.
Then along comes Buck.
The Desert Truth.
The Desert Eye.
I'm back into the terrible scenario of all that was wrong with my life before, working too hard, worrying too much. Stress. But now I am with somebody and something even worse is happening to him, to me. How could it be worse than AAD? But it is.
Then the threats begin.
Then they kill him -- Oh God, it's so hard to say that.
And I came back to Brawley to hide.
I keep thinking I'm trying. I keep thinking I'll learn enough so that I will know what to do. But I am also afraid. For my Life? I don't know. I mean my life doesn't seem worth shit, but I seem to be afraid. Like I always used to be before. But then it was just anxiety, stress, how to pay the bills. But now it's. . . I know there is evil in the world. Devils. And I don't know what to do.
I feel that no matter what I do or who I speak to, no one is going to believe me. They're going to laugh at me or lock me up. I have no proof, I have nothing. Not even a body.
On TV they investigate every little thing, but in actuality, you get a Sheriff Green or a CPH Officer Richardson, you have no recourse. You think I got a lot of proof. I got a basket full of tapes and a box full of bones -- and why don't I do something about it? Why don't I do something about it?
What I got as a reputation early in my first days of grieving for being "that Crazy Mrs. Brawley."
"Husband ran off and she went crazy." That's what they propagated about me all around No Palms, all around the desert. There was no murder. Buck disappeared and it was simply a case of a lover run off. That was the first big gossip. He'd come to town to stir up trouble and he had left in the same dumb way when the injunction was brought against him! He just lit out.
Ever tried to live that one down? If I hadn't been close friends with Havana, no one would even have mustered the Search and Rescue Posse out to hunt for Buck's bones.
Why don't I do something about it?
Hey, Sagalen! Why don't I do something about it?
JJ! Why don't I DO something about it?
But she doesn't know of course because I have never told her. Never told Adam. Never told Houston. What am I going to tell them?
But if the bones come from a Texas Monument like Buck, I should do something about it.
After this not very encouraging review of my situation, of my need, and of my bewilderment of just how to vindicate Buck's death, I decide to do something about it.
I call Johnnie Beaudeauin. No answer.
I call Havana.
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: email@example.com
Former Website address was: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~jhaag
Complete novel, approximately 80,000 words
Jan Haag is a novelist, poet, painter, textile artist, and former Director of National Production Programs for the American Film Institute.
INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO