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Donna Pacini-Christensen


Donna Pacini-Christensen is a published novelist, poet, and reviewer. She writes novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, songs, literary reviews, and music reviews. She is a vocalist and a photographer with a passion for photographing live performances. Many of her photographs are on web sites and in print publications. In 2004 she started A Starry Night Productions with her husband Tim Christensen. From 2010-2012 they hosted 27 poetry/music showcases in Lodi, California.

Prompt Option #7

Seņora Gabriela is a respected storyteller. Her age has never been told, but everyone knows she is more than 90 years old. One Saturday, at the close of a warm spring afternoon, Seņorita Margarita, a young woman whose strawberry blonde hair is silky soft, unlike the coarse black hair of everyone else, decides to spy on Seņora Gabriela. It is a desperate decision that grieves Margarita. Seņora Gabriela and the others have been so kind. Margarita is cherished, fed, clothed, and since she was an infant, she has lived with Seņora Francisca and her large family in their modest hacienda. Margarita does not wish to spy, but she doesn't know what else to do. Seņora Gabriela is unwell. She will pass on soon. Where does she hide her treasure chest of untold stories? Everyone knows there is such a chest, but nobody knows where it is. If it can be discovered, they will be able to have wonderful new stories after Seņora Gabriela is gone.

At twilight, Margarita tiptoes to a window of Seņora Gabriela whitewashed adobe at the edge of town. Seņora Gabriela is relaxing in her dwelling that is sparsely appointed, but it has everything anyone could ever need---a rectangular kitchen table and tiled bench, a creaky rocking chair, a woven rug, a tidy stack of raffia ribbon bound notebooks on a low stool, a comfortable bed, a carved dresser, a wrought iron lamp, and a mural of magenta begonias. Margarita has always felt comfortable in Seņora Gabriela's humble home.

Suddenly, the old storyteller stops rocking in her chair. She leans forward and folds the faded rug back, revealing a worn leather pull that is nailed to the floor. Her gnarled fingers tug on the strap and a square section of the floor lifts up. She reaches down and retrieves the small and unadorned treasure chest. Margarita had always imagined that it would be large and elaborately jeweled. To Margarita's surprise, Seņora Gabriela opens it and removes a clay-colored stone that is about the size of a mango, but flatter. Next, she removes a miniature hammer and a slender chisel. She carefully taps off a tiny chip of the stone, and then puts the stone, hammer, and chisel back into the chest, returns the chest to its hiding place, replaces the square floor piece, and smoothes the rug.

Seņora Gabriela's feeble hands take a notebook from the stool. She unties the raffia ribbon binding, opens the papel picado cover, and sets the stone chip on the top page. Miraculously a puff of smoke begins to swirl like a tiny tornado. As quickly as it materializes, it disappears. Margarita is flabbergasted to see four fresh parchment pages. It is a new story! Seņora Gabriela binds all the pages with the raffia ribbon, slips the notebook into her tapestry bag, and retrieves her walking cane.

Margarita hides while Seņora Gabriela hobbles to the community courtyard where everyone congregates each Saturday evening to sing, dance, converse about interesting things, and listen to stories. When Seņora Gabriela takes her place, all the others---including Margarita---gather to listen. Seņora Gabriela smiles and speaks with a frail but persuasive voice, "Dear ones, I cannot tell stories anymore, stories that encourage us, and fill our hearts with joy. It is time for me to choose someone to come live with me so that I may teach her the art of storytelling. When I pass on, my home will be hers. Respect and cherish her because she will be the trusted keeper of our stories. Seņorita Margarita, take this book and read to us; you are our new storyteller."

(In 1000 words write the story that Margarita will read.)

The Brave Coyote
By Donna Pacini-Christensen

(1000 Words)

This unusual love story begins seventeen years ago.

Gerardo and Javier, two yellowish-gray coyotes wait for the orange sun to sink. They have hunted all their young lives together. Now they are grown, formidable, and agile. They both know the desert intimately. It is abnormal for them to remain together in a pack, but their mates insist on sharing a den and nothing can persuade them to change their minds. Female coyotes can be as stubborn as human females, perhaps even more so.

Gerardo's keen eyes scan the landscape. In spite of the failing light he sees movement in the distance. The animal is small, probably a vole. Gerardo dismisses it, such a rodent is hardly worth the effort this early in the game. Life is undeniably harsh, but hunting is measured as half game and half survival, unless you are famished.

"Javier, I'm heading over yonder. What catches your fancy tonight?"

Javier glances in the opposite direction, "I'll wander that stretch for a spell. I'm catching a whiff."

Javier draws a deep breath through his nostrils and pretends to be excited by the not yet identified prospect. He smells nothing of importance, but he says to Gerardo, "Yes indeed, I definitely smell something."

Gerardo leaves in a huff. It aggravates him that Javier can smell many things that he isn't able to smell at all. But frustration is bad for one's health, so Gerardo relaxes his body and calms his thoughts. Soon he is hunting with contented purpose. He takes a moment to appreciate the stars. They are exquisite this night. Unexpectedly he sees a wagon ahead, but he does not know it is a wagon since he has never seen one. The peculiar contraption smells like horses, but no horses are in sight. Apparently they've been stolen or set free. Two embracing creatures lay inside the wagon. They have no fur, and they look similar to the brown skinned creatures Gerardo has occasionally seen riding on the backs of horses, except they have light skin and pale hair. They are warm but the scent of death is on their bodies. Gerardo yips and howls, calling Javier to come.

Gerardo hears whimpering and cautiously approaches the area where it is coming from. The creature looks like the larger creatures, but it is as small as a rabbit. He is a loyal parent to his own pups and as a tenderhearted father he tries to comfort the little one.

"Do not be afraid. I will not bite you. I am only using my sharp teeth---ever so gently---to wrap you in your covering. It is the only way I can carry you. You can trust me. I won't let any harm come to you."

Where is Javier? The lingering scent of the horses is pungent, and several foreign odors are saturating the air. Gerardo takes hold of the covering with his teeth and hurries back to his den. Along the way he has an astonishing epiphany that would make him laugh if he could open his mouth. Javier, his trusted friend, his comrade, his brother by another mother, is a relentless trickster. Javier does not have a superior sense of smell. If he did he would be here by now!

When Gerardo enters the burrow the human pup dumbfounds his mate Rosa and Javier's mate Teresa. Rosa is alarmed by the condition of the pup, "Gerardo, it will not survive long. You know what you must do. It will be dangerous, you may not accomplish the task---but you must try." Worry fills her eyes.

Teresa stammers, "Go, go---go now---go quickly!"

Javier races into the den. He instantly recognizes that a grave moment is at hand. Rosa is trembling and huddling her pups closely. Gerardo nuzzles her affectionately and speaks to her with a deliberate confidence. Javier knows that Gerardo is trying to reassure Rosa. When he looks into Gerardo's eyes there is no confidence looking back at him. Gerardo will do what must be done, even if it costs him his life.

"Javier, I have to trespass across the territorial boundaries to where the brown humans dwell."

He stares at Rosa and their pups, seizes the bundle with his teeth, and leaves the den. Outside he speaks privately to Javier, "My trickster friend, I am on to you but there is no time for playful retaliation. If I do not return, please take care of my family."

Gerardo's one chance of survival is to remain unseen. Only the shroud of darkness will protect him. He calculates the distance he must travel, and he estimates the limited time before dawn breaks. He runs as fast as the wind---will his lungs burst with his next breath? His paws are raw, his muscles cramp, it feels like there is a knife in his side. At last he nears the remote township. He quietly enters an area that is a courtyard. It is a place he has never seen. A strange tall structure surrounds the courtyard.

Gerardo creeps to a dimly lit section of the structure and leaves the human pup where it will be seen. His bloody paw prints show that he had the courage to come far inside the enclosed compound. Morning floods the courtyard with brightness. Seņora Francisca rises to prepare her family's morning meal. She hears a crying infant! It is a familiar sound to her---she has six children.

Over the years, since the cherished girl was nobody's child, she became everybody's child. They named her Margarita. She longs to know where she came from, but no one can tell her anything except that a brave coyote had saved her life. A few times when she was a youngster she saw a yellowish-gray coyote standing at a distance watching her before it turned and ran away.

This morning she saw it once again, old and decrepit now, standing at a safe distance, watching her with kind eyes---before reluctantly limping back into the desert.

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