Excerpt #1 from upcoming Book 2 of the Moojie Littleman Trilogy: The Boy Who Killed Time
I’m going to share random excerpts from my next book on the 25th of each month. Please feel free to comment, I learn from you! Book 2 is a continuation of Moojie’s life, but I want it to stand alone, as well. Boy, am I having fun with this! The following section introduces eighteen year-old, able-bodied Moojie, and his sidekick Abu, ranch hand and former grocer with uncertain origins…
Continuing the trials and amusements of the valiant Moojie
Littleman, with dubious input from his loyal companion, Abu,
and other incidents worthy to be recorded by
the most able historian
The world has ended many times. Ask Moojie Littleman. Four years after the disaster of the century, he was riding his aging horse, Ulysses, over sand-covered ruins. It had occurred on the 18th day of April, one thousand, nine hundred and six years following the birth of Christ. He took into account Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the blood-splattered Mayan pyramids, and the fertile Cradle of Civilization—cultures wiped out, scrubbed, reduced to ash. Maybe he survived the pandemonium for a reason. He liked to think so. After all, he had the word of a priestess who left the Earth in a swirl of light the world had never seen.
Moojie was sick with dread over an object he had lost the day before. In the old days, such a coin wasn’t worth a red cent. Romans tossed them to beggars like breadcrumbs. But he valued it as much as his own life. He felt resentment, forced as he was to minister every Monday, rain or shine, happy or sad, sweet or sour. Marvel at his healing wonders and the demands of his practice. Ask him where it all got started, and he was known to show you this antediluvian medallion stamped with a ghostly male figure sporting a nimbus.
In the distance, motorcars and buggies shared the road, marking the divide between yesterday and tomorrow. Yesterday, San Miguel de las Gaviotas had been a beachfront fishing village of shacks built from shipwreck timbers that had washed to shore. An astronomical clock had towered over corrugated tins roofs and terra cotta tiles, rippled and mottled as Stone Age artifacts. Tomorrow rang in the changing times: a town hall with a telephone, a bakery, Nickelodeon, and market, a general store specializing in livestock feed and fireworks, a cedar jailhouse with shingled rooftop. Clinging to superstition the way zealots cling to scripture, the villagers of San Miguel believed the 1906 pandemonium was the fiercest act of occult-retribution since the Indian Removal Act. They believed Native ghosts had wreaked havoc from Purgatory in an effort to even the score. Of the survivors—some say the greatest survivor of all time—Moojie Littleman never believed a word of it.
It was like any other day in November—wan and misty. In the winter, the sun never fully appeared, and the flat light made time stand still. Fog curled in on an easterly breeze, and the sun occluded San Miguel de las Gaviotas like a yellow cataract. Villagers were so isolated from the world that they got the latest news from newsreels at the Nickelodeon and old newspapers left on the train. And yet, every week modern life threatened to disrupt the troposphere of superstition. First it had been the horseless carriage, then the gyrocompass, then instant coffee. Never mind the scientific marvels, astronomical wonders, and wars of which the villagers never heard.
On this solemn winter’s day, Mrs. Latchkey, an aproned matron who possessed the long stringy limbs of an insect with a monumental thorax, was causing quite a stir outside her bakery. A crowd gathered as she tacked up a poster, and exclaimed, “He’s not a doctor, I assure you, not a priest. He’s a holy man!”
The tide was low. Four years prior, the pandemonium, which started as an earthquake and ended with a tidal wave, had devoured the former village. The residual rubble, beetle-bored timbers and a stairway leading nowhere, had the look of spit-out bones. Above the beach on a southern cliff stood the rustic chapel where Moojie had been abandoned as a baby. Sand, waves, the ghostly fog, and his horse’s plodding steps were all the company he could bear. Some wonderworker. He didn’t even know how to cure the ache in his own heart.
He pushed on, stubborn, hopeful, willing to do whatever it took.
Moojie was a kind of cowboy-Romeo who contended with rivaling natures rather than feuding families. Human on one side, Light-Eater on the other, he was both mortal and immortal. The Light-Eaters called him a halfkin. As a child, he had been called many names: a hostile, Claw Hand, pea-brain. His adoptive mother, Kate, may she rest in peace, had referred to him as diffabled. But once he mastered his healing power, he abandoned his taut legs and cramped left arm the way a tree outgrows its bark—only one example of his staggering abilities. In the isolated hamlet of San Miguel de las Gaviotas, he was, quite honestly, something more than a healer, more of a wayshower, really, because his capabilities violated the laws of nature.
Riding along the beach, he tied his shirt around his head like a sultan’s headscarf. His torso was sun-bronzed, his arms—the left, once intractable—well-hewn by ranch work. His abdomen was sunken, as if hungry with youth. He was listing to one side of the horse, eyes fixed on the ground. He simply had to find the medallion, his only link to Babylonia, the star child of his universe.
His dream that morning wasn’t just another carnival ride in his imagination, made surreal by its motion picture quality. It wasn’t just his mind. A cage held together by snakes. A bird with Babylonia’s face. A malevolent presence that sent her into a terror. The thunder in his heart and the bird’s flapping wings had conspired to ring him up, like he was a radio or a telegraph receiver, all cable and wire.
That wintry day, the world appeared so monochromatic that nothing bore distinction. In order to focus he squinted his eyes.
Horse hooves came thundering up the beach behind him! An attacker raced past, ripping off his headscarf. “ATENCIÒN!!!” a male voice trumpeted. Moojie’s horse startled, nearly throwing him off.
The attacker whooshed past and vanished in the fog.
“Whoa boy! Whoa!” Moojie said, calming Ulysses.
The attacker circled back.
“You crazy toad!” Moojie said. They called him Abu. Like Zorro or Geronimo, he had only one name. Paunchy and stiff as a banker, his dirigible-shaped head and fig-colored lips gave him a certain charm.
“’Tis the job of your squire to keep you at the ready, is it not?” Abu said. He cut a theatrical shape in the landscape: knee-high boots, waisted vest, hat with feather, and leather gauntlets.
“You get paid for rakin’ poo, milkin’ goats, and mendin’ fences. No one said anything about playin’ Sancho Panza.”
“The heart of this unworthy slave pours out gratitude beyond measure. It is upon my honor that I would serve a wonderworker such as you.”
“You’ve been readin’ Don Quixote to Teresa, again.”
“Why, of course! For as long as I live, I will commit the knight-errant to memory, for you, sahib, are my Don. You cured me of a life-threatening condition!”
“It was a toothache.”
“I could have died! It was but one of your many wonders. I will never forget before…you know…when your legs were strapped in metal and leather, when you limped around with crutches. Then, that remarkable day…the day you walked alone for the first time, when you cured yourself of all cripplement…well, you might as well have walked on water!”
“It was a long time ago,” Moojie said, waving away flies.
“Anyhow, Teresa is my most rapt audience.”
“She’s a pigeon.”
Moojie continued searching the sand for the precious object. Abu shadowed him, looking left and right, as if he were the rearguard of a famous general. Ever since Moojie had healed him, Abu promised undying allegiance. He shaped this noble gratitude into Sancho Panza antics that drove Moojie nuts. Moojie had no desire to sit on a pedestal, but Abu had taken the matter to melodramatic extremes. He made it a habit to ambush Moojie for his own good, to keep him on his toes, so to speak, to keep him safe from the “dark and stupid world.” Until recently, Moojie would have been amused. Normally, he would turn his horse around and chase Abu like a bandit, and once he caught up he’d take him to the ground in a vice lock, raise a knightly hand, and paste him.
But times had changed.
“You’re losing your touch, Kemosabe,” Moojie had said the day before, after he won the horse race along the beach.
Subsequently, Abu rode up next to him. It galled him that he could never catch Moojie off guard. “You have the eyes of a wolf spider, sahib. All over your head,” he complained. “I am fierce. I am strong. I am deft as a wildcat. One day you will not be able to evade my pounce. One day my famed exploits will come to life, and some sage historian will recount my incomparable feats, and my face will be stamped on a coin. This I promise, oh sage enchanter!”
“No doubt,” Moojie said. He suspected Abu confused King Morpheus of the Little Nemo in Slumberland comics with Don Quixote. All the same, Abu was a keeper of secrets. For one thing, Moojie had not been able to get out of this bookworm dressed like a shady cigar peddler the reason why he knew how to get to Uta, Babylonia’s homeworld.*