Home > All the Crooked Saints(6)

All the Crooked Saints(6)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Tony blew more smoke. “What the hell do you want with a box truck?”

“I’m going to start a moving company.” As Pete said it, he caught a flash of the logo in his imagination: wyatt moving, with a friendly-looking blue ox straining against a yoke.

“You youths get such funny idears these days.”

“It’s a fine idea.”

“A moving company’s what you want out of life?”

“It’s a fine idea,” Pete repeated. He gripped the wheel and drove in silence for several minutes. The road was arrow straight and the sky was dream-black and every landmark was the same post with barbed wire nailed into it. He could not see the desert, but he knew it was out there still. He could feel that hole in his heart pretty acutely. “Why are you going to Bicho Raro, then?”

Here was the truth: Every morning before working up the nerve to go into WZIZ for another fun! fresh! friendly! broadcast, Tony drove across Philadelphia to Juniata and idled near the park there, where he could be surrounded by people who he was certain had no idea who he was. Many folks find this an unpleasant sensation, but for Tony, who felt he lived life under a microscope, it was a relief. For a few minutes he was Tony DiRisio and not Tony Triumph. Then he put the car in drive and went to work.

One morning several weeks before, a woman had knocked on his window. It was raining outside, and she had a grocery bag over her hair to preserve her curls. She was about fifty. She was the sort of lady Tony would usually ask to be on his show, but she was no eager housewife. Instead, she told him that her family had talked about it and they’d decided he needed to find the Soria family. Tony could see that they were all standing several yards behind her, having sent her as head of household to do the reporting. They knew who he was, she said, and they didn’t like to see him like this. The Sorias were no longer in Mexico, so he wouldn’t even need to worry about crossing the border. He just needed to start driving his car west and listen for the sound of a miracle in his heart. The Sorias would give him the change he needed.

Tony had told the woman that he was fine. Shaking her head, she had given him a handkerchief and patted his cheek before departing. Tony’s eyes had been dry, but when he’d turned the handkerchief over, written upon it in felt pen were the words Bicho Raro, Colorado.

What Tony asked Pete now was, “You superstitious, kid?”

“I’m a Christian,” Pete said dutifully.

Tony laughed. “I knew a guy who used to tell all kinds of hair-raising stories about staying out here in this valley. Said there was always strange lights—flying saucers, maybe. Said there were mothmen and skinwalkers and all kinds of critters out here walking at night. Pterodactyls.”

“Trucks.”

“You’re absolutely no fun.”

“No, there.” Pete pointed. “Doesn’t that look like a truck parked over there?”

Although Pete didn’t know it, he was pointing at the very box truck that he had come all this way to earn, the box truck that was currently holding the Soria cousins, including the one he was going to fall in love with. As he squinted to see more, the rear door of the truck closed and the light went out. In the resulting blackness, Pete wasn’t sure he’d seen anything at all.

“Lizardmen,” Tony said. “Probably.”

But Tony had glimpsed something as well. Not outside of himself but, rather, inside. A curious tug. He remembered suddenly what the woman had said about listening for miracles. Only listening wasn’t exactly what he was doing right now. He didn’t hear anything. He wasn’t intercepting a sound or a song. His ears weren’t doing any work. It was a mysterious part of him that he had not used before this night and would never use again after.

Tony said, “I think we’re almost there.”

 

 

Bicho Raro was a place of strange miracles.

When the Mercury scuffed into the compound, dust bloomed and died around the bumper as it lurched to a stop. The egg-colored station wagon sat among an odd collection of cabins and tents and barns and houses and sagging barns circled close to one another, dead cars run adrift in barbed wire, and rusting appliances sinking into the banks of the feeble water share. Most of it faded into invisibility in the night. A sole porch light shone from one of the houses; shadows darted and fluttered around it, looking like moths or birds. They were not moths or birds.

Before the Sorias, Bicho Raro had been barely anything at all, just the elbow end of a massive cattle ranch that had more in the way of fields and less in the way of cattle. This was before the Sorias had left Mexico, before the Revolution, back when they’d been called Los Santos de Abejones. When they’d been Los Santos de Abejones, hundreds of pilgrims had come to them for blessings and healings, camping outside tiny Abejones for miles, right up into the mountains. Merchants had sold prayer cards and charms on the road to those who waited. Legends had crept out of the town, carried on horseback and tucked in people’s satchels and written into ballads played in bars late at night. Amazing transformations and terrifying deeds—it did not seem to matter if the stories were good or bad. As long as they were interesting, they drew a crowd. The impassioned crowd had christened babies after Los Santos and had raised armies in their name. The Mexican government at the time hadn’t thought much of this, and they’d told the Sorias they could either stop performing miracles or start praying for one to save them. The Sorias had turned to the Church for support, but the Catholic Church at the time hadn’t thought much of the dark miracles and had also told them they could either stop performing miracles or start praying for one to save them.

But the Sorias were born to be saints.

They’d marched out of Mexico under the cover of darkness and had kept walking until they’d found another mountain-edged place quiet enough to let miracles be heard.

That was the story of Bicho Raro.

“This is it, kid,” Tony said, and climbed out of the Mercury with some of his usual swagger restored. There is a certain confidence to coming to the end of a two-thousand-mile road trip, however uncertain the next beginning might be.

Pete remained behind the wheel, his window rolled down. He was reticent for two reasons. For starters, his experience in Oklahoma had told him that places like this were often populated by unleashed dogs, and although he was not properly afraid of dogs, he had been bitten by one as a younger child and had since preferred to avoid situations where large mammals ran directly at him. And also, he saw now that Bicho Raro was not a proper town, as he’d thought it would be. There would be no motor inn where he could stay the night, and no easily accessible telephone with which to contact his aunt.

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