An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
“The Fat Man is disgusting,” said the High Priest. “Why don’t you clean him out? We could make man corn out of him. It’d feed fifty of your warriors. Maybe more.”
“He’s too useful to us,” said Pok, chief of the Masaw Warriors. They were alone except for the High Priest’s fortuneteller, who sat like a statue saying nothing. Pok thought he’d rather make woman corn out of her than man corn out of the Fat Man. “He helps my warriors relax, have a little fun. If it weren’t the Fat Man offering these things, it would be someone else. It doesn’t make sense to take him out.”
“You talk as if he were your friend. I didn’t think you had any friends.”
“Friends are not something I need. Good warriors are what I need.”
“Do you trust the Fat Man? I always feel like he’s up to something.”
“Of course he’s up to something. He’s always scheming for ways to increase his power. Who isn’t? If he weren’t so fat I’d put him in charge of recruiting warriors.”
“Why don’t you?” asked the High Priest. “Then you’d have control over him. As it is, he’d turn against us like the shifting wind.”
Pok found the High Priest’s worries about the Fat Man amusing. What could possibly be threatening about a poorly organized petty criminal the size of two men? “He has no army. His power comes from low-quality corn beer, fresh prostitutes, and gambling. A half-dozen of my sorriest warriors could erase him before the shadows move.”
“He bears watching.”
“Oh, I watch him. I have my eyes and ears in his organization. If I find out he’s doing anything against us, I’ll take him down.”
A quarter mile away, the Fat Man sat in a council of men who ran operations for him at the other great houses in the canyon. His two bodyguards stood at the entrance to the room. He surveyed all the faces. Each of these men had questionable loyalty. Some, he knew, maybe even most, would jump to support the winning side of any confrontation regardless of any oaths of allegiance or duty. So he chose his words carefully.
“I know each of you suffers beyond redemption for the horrors we commit that make us rich.” The men’s eyes around the table glanced at each other under their eyebrows. The Fat Man grinned. Then laughed. “You mean you don’t? Of course you don’t. Times are better for us than they’ve ever been. Totec Canyon has become the center of the world, and all things of value flow here and you get your share of it because of me.” He breathed noisily through his nostrils. “We must do all we can to keep it that way.”
“What do you mean?” asked the man who ran the business at the High House on the North Road, above them on the canyon rim.
“The world will change. It always does. Sometimes from places we don’t expect. But there is something you can rely on until the end of the world as we know it. If anyone betrays me, they betray us, and I will deal with them in the most memorable of ways.”
He scanned the room looking into each man’s eyes.
“Do you know something we do not?” asked the High House man.
“You know it as well as I do. When times are good, something changes and they become difficult again. When times are difficult, something changes and they become good again. Times are good now. But something will change. I want to know that each of you has your head in the right place.”
The Fat Man noticed that one man paid more attention than any other. One man watched his face with wide-open eyes as if he were trying to memorize every word he spoke. The Fat Man had suspected him before of being disloyal. When the man left the premises, the Fat Man would send someone to follow him. That boy Lightfoot would be good for the job.
Back in the High Priest’s great house in a dark storeroom, the High Priest whispered with Chumana, his fortuneteller
“Is the Fat Man the threat you’ve been talking about?” asked the High Priest.
“No, it’s something else. It’s still vague in my mind, but it’s not the Fat Man,” said Chumana.
“So who do you suspect?” he asked.
“Beware the secret desires in the hearts of men. Especially those close enough to do you harm.”
“The Fat Man?”
“I trust Pok completely.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t,” said Chumana.
# # #
Question for readers: Do the point-of-view shifts in this disturb you?