An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
The mid-day shadows moved with precision along the walls of the great house as if it were a giant sun dial. Against the north wall of the canyon, in contrast to the straight lines of the stone structure, ran a ramshackle course of lean-tos built with spindly sticks and scraps of cloth and animal hides. Beneath the shade of one sat the rarest resident of the canyon: a fat man. In a land of people made thin by constant physical labor and the threat of famine, the Fat Man stood as the best evidence that humans were capable of accumulating layers of body fat.
Lightfoot jogged across the canyon floor with two boys. The Fat Man’s headquarters sat in an indention in the cliff wall, a sort of corner in the long east-west run of the canyon, and men thronged there as if for a prize fight — which, indeed, the Fat Man sometimes sponsored.
Today, the action included only the usual games of chance, the endless supply of corn beer, and the draped-off rooms of the prostitutes.
Lightfoot knew the guards and they knew him. “Can we see him?”
“He’s busy,” said the guard with the broadest shoulders.
“He’s busy eating,” said Lightfoot. The guards laughed and allowed the boys inside. They passed the giant clay pots from which old women served corn beer and a room where a curtain had been pulled back showing two naked women with men on top of them, a crowd of men watching, some openly masturbating. Lightfoot looked away, but his two companions gawked.
They found the Fat Man with a platter of sweet corn dumplings, mugs of corn beer, and the picked-clean carcass of a roasted bird.
“Ah, my light-footed young renegade,” the Fat Man said. “Come, eat and drink.” He ignored the other boys, who alternately eyed the food and the ground.
Lightfoot sat facing the fat man and took one corn dumpling and ate it. The Fat Man handed him a mug, and he drank.
“Now, what brings you to the Fat Man’s house of pleasure?” His eyes gleamed with wetness.
“I have friends who need help,” Lightfoot said.
“What kind of friends?”
“This kind of friends.” Lightfoot pushed aside the plate of corn dumplings and from a pouch poured a pile of human teeth, each filed to a point.
The Fat Man leaned forward with effort, examined the pile of teeth, and grabbed a handful of sweet dumplings. “What kind of teeth are these?”
“Fifty-three pointed teeth from the heads of two dozen Masaw Warriors.”
The Fat Man stopped eating and stared at Lightfoot. “Somebody killed two dozen Masaw Warriors?”
“My friends who need help. Sort of.” The fat man’s eyes narrowed. Lightfoot told the story of the fifty-seven pointed teeth, of the boy, Tootsa, who kept four teeth for himself, and of the band of orphan warriors who waited in a side canyon to the southeast.
“What do they want?” asked the Fat Man.
“To get close enough to the High Priest and the Chief Masaw Warrior to kill them.”
The Fat Man’s eyes leaped back and forth across the room and he clasped his hands over his belly. He squinted at Lightfoot. “Don’t say that too loud, even here.” He stared into space, smacking his lips. “That’s ambitious beyond …” He played a greasy finger over his lips. “If they managed to do that, it would change everything.” Then more in a mumble to himself than a statement to Lightfoot, he said, “I would love to move out of this hovel and into the great house.”
He turned his attention to Lightfoot. “Send this orphan warrior leader to me. If he’s worthy, I may help him.”
He waved Lightfoot and his two friends away, and then struggled to his feet. He scooped up the pile of pointed teeth and put them back into the pouch, which he slipped into an inside pocket. Then he walked to the edge of the shade, where he stared long and hard across the bright canyon floor at the gleaming great house of the High Priest.