Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Zadayi Red"

Caleb Fox has lived in many worlds. Raised in Cherokee country, he received a scholarship from Columbia University and moved to New York. Later he moved to Los Angeles where he wrote for newspapers, magazines and movies. Raised white and Christian, Fox was intrigued on a visit home to discover that his family was half Cherokee. He began to explore the great myths of Indian cultures.

His novel Zadayi Red is a fantasy set in prehistoric America. After the last page turned, he caught one of the characters for a quick interview.

“Su-Li? Su-Li? Would you give us a few words?”

The buzzard turns his head and studies you and me. In my mind, and yours, he says, Okay, you’re the writer guy. Su-Li sounds incredibly weary. Who’s this?

“A reader interested in our novel Zadayi Red. I know, you’re about to go back to the land where the Immortals live, but may we just ask a couple of questions?”

I’m worn out with mortals, says Su-Li.

You whisper, “How does he talk without sounds?”

“Magic,” I whisper back. “Spirit power.”

You look at me impatiently. Su-Li does the same, but harder.

I speak to the buzzard quickly, before we lose him. “Su-Li, tell us what you did on earth.”

I was the spirit guide of a medicine woman.

“Did you like being on earth?”

Living around death... His voice is full of sorrow.

“Tell us something about your life here.”

“I want to go home. Why don’t you show him? Let him read, uh, uh, page sixty-nine.”

I don’t like it.

Hey, it’s just like he cracks the book in a store.

“Okay,” I say, “give him a little more help. Let him see it, like a movie.”

Su-Li nods.


When people got a got look at the intruders, they dropped their jaws. Tsola was blindfolded, steadied on one side with a hand on the back of a black panther. On the other side Sunoya bore a buzzard on her shoulder and held Tsola’s arm.

“That’s Su-Li on the young woman’s shoulder?”


“Spirit guide. I don’t believe this.”

“You’re seeing it.”

Courtesy swerved like a drunk. A child cried. People actually spoke aloud. Some of the twelve chiefs half rose—not a single Peace Chief or War Chief had ever seen the Wounded Healer. Every head craned toward the slight figure of the tribe’s Seer.

Sunoya didn’t know which was bigger, astonishment at the unprecedented appearance of the most powerful chief of the nation, or fear of the black cat.

“The old woman is holding that panther?”

“No, he’s like a seeing eye dog. He also guards her. He shifts shape at will from human to panther.”

“Who gets a guard like that?”

“The Wounded Healer, the Medicine Chief of the entire tribe.”

“Why is she blind-folded?”

“She lives so far in the Cavern that her eyes can’t take light any more.”

As we watch, the old woman sits by the sacred fire and begins to unwrap the hide bundle she carries.

“I have to stop the movie, sorry. You’re not supposed to see the contents of the bundle.”

“What’s in it?”

“The most terrible news the tribe has ever had. Su-Li, explain…”

As I speak, the Immortal Buzzard winks once and dematerializes.

“How’d he do that?” you say. “Where’d he go?”

“Home. To the Land beyond the Sky Arch, where the Immortals live.”

“I’d like to go there.”

“If you read Zadayi Red, you will.”
Read an excerpt from Zadayi Red, and learn more about the book and author at Caleb Fox's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue