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CALDERA'S WEST 
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(From CALDERA - A MAN OF BLOOD - a work in progress) 

            Smith led the way into the street. Caldera looked out left and right and followed. He was surprised at the number of people walking quickly up the street - store owners, the blacksmith, miners too busted up to go back underground, and a straggler or two passing through Rayeburn. He felt a sense of excitement in their movement. The pack continued out of town to a tall, rocky hill and there stood Eli - tall, thin, ageless and still dressed in his black suit. His black top hat, faded nearly brown, was held in place by a stampede string pulled tight against his chin. The wind whipped in bold gusts that occasionally shoved him back a step or two.

            Eli held on to a kite made of an old newspaper affixed to a crosspiece made of thin mesquite strips. A long tail of torn cloth trailed on the ground. "Brothers, we stand in the forefront of manifest destiny. Like Moses and Aaron, we lead the people to a better place. But we have sinned, sinned on our pathway through the desert."

            Caldera nudged Smith. "Is he a politician or a preacher?"

            "Same thing ain't it?"

            Eli raised his kite high above his head. The cross holding the paper in place was backlit by the sun. One of the busted up miners crossed himself and muttered something in Latin.

            "Preacher," said Caldera.

            "Old Eli would deny that. He claims he's just the ‘conscience of the community.'"

            "What's the kite for?"

            "Watch."

            Eli pointed to the assembly, his boney index finger stopping at Bianculli. "Our

brother from the land of Romulus and Remus, are you ready to unburden your sins?"

The saloonkeeper stepped forward. "Yes, Eli," He handed over a small slip of paper. Eli used an Agave strand to tie it next to several others affixed to the tail of his kite. He looked back to the people below him. "Brother Torsie?"

Torsie stepped up and handed over several slips of paper. "From me and a few others," he said. Eli carefully affixed them to the kite tail. He looked again to the assembly and focused his attention on Smith and Caldera.

            "Brother Smith, have you not sinned this week?"

            "Only in my head, Eli." A few of the men chuckled, but no one laughed.

            "And you, Mr. Caldera?"

            "Just Caldera."

            "Have you no sins either?"

            "They don't make a kite big enough, mister. You go on ‘bout your business."

            Eli starred at the newcomer a moment, nodded and held the kite even higher. "We have all sinned and come short of the glory - the glory of the Lord, the glory of our nation, and the glory that is within us all."

            "Amen!" The man in the crowd spoke with conviction.

            Eli continued. "'Tho we live in an unforgiving world, the Divine is a forgiving father...if we confess our sins."

            Caldera lowered his voice to a near whisper. "They believe this?"

            "This is mining country. They got to believe."

Eli let the wind catch his kite and slowly almost inch by inch he let it rise into the air. His voice was loud and clear when he shouted. "He that covers up his sins shall not prosper; but he that confesses and forsakes his sins will surely find prosperity of body and soul."

            Caldera whispered again. "Hell, that could be a miner's prayer."

            Smith watched the kite slowly gain altitude. "Around here that's about the best they're going to get."

CALDERA III - A MAN OF BLOOD will be released in paperback and e-book formats January, 2015.