“A Red-Tailed Hawk” by Diane Joy Schmidt

Frank and I decided to get away for the night and drove down to Socorro. It was Halloween, when the veil is torn. In the final evening light, the El Camino sign shone outside the
motel window like a ghost skyscraper.

In the morning we went to the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge. There was a large bird landing on a snag out in the water and a man who was just leaving the viewing platform told me that it was an immature golden eagle. After a while a woman in khakis and waders arrived. I told her it was an immature golden eagle. She demurred politely, and averred as how her specialty was the semipalmated plover. Frank said that the bird that had eyed me steadily was a red-tailed hawk and that, like the eagle, the red-tailed hawk has great healing powers.

At noon we headed for green chile cheeseburgers at the Buckhorn Tavern. There I opened
Red Calvary by Isaac Babel. Babel had joined the Red Army in 1918 at the suggestion of his
mentor, Maxim Gorky, who told him he needed more life experience. I read:

I was greeted by Pani’ Eliza, the Jesuit’s housekeeper. She gave me amber tea and sponge
fingers. Her sponge fingers smelt like a crucifixion. A cunning sap was contained within
them, and the odorous fury of the Vatican.

After reading that blood-soaked language a few times, I noticed the page itself had taken on a reddish cast. I looked up. Above us, a crucifix hung dolorous, bathed in the red glow of the Budweiser sign.

At the far end of the room a woman waited for a table with her husband. In a red
jacket, her long black hair pinned with a rise like a rooster’s coronet, an enormous jangle
of keys hung from the jeans of her short body. Her face was set in sufferance, like an Italian actress waiting for her cue to go on. Her keys might have opened the church, and she
the one to serve sponge fingers like death.

I went to use the bathroom. Marilyn Monroe was there to greet me with a smile, a refreshing Michelob in her hand.

On the way home, a gigantic airliner crossed the highway right in front of us coming in
low to land at the Albuquerque airport. A rush of adrenaline flooded me and with it a strong
thought, that someone had called to tell us that we’d been robbed. It was rather unlikely. Still, I called the house phone.

Sure enough, being startled by the jet had triggered a sixth sense—there was a message from the bank that had been left while we’d sat in the Buckhorn under the red-limned crucifix—and they’d found unauthorized charges on a debit card.

When we got home the dogs demanded a walk. The acequia madre, the 400-year-old mother ditch, was making a long sinuous slow bleed into the dirt, carrying the last irrigation waters of the season.

And the raccoon family’s baby had made little paw prints to dry in the mud alongside her


Version 2Diane Joy Schmidt is a writer, screenwriter, and photojournalist in New Mexico. In 2019 she earned a dual MFA in screenwriting and new media from Antioch University Santa Barbara. Her picture-stories have appeared in Sweet: A Literary Confection Issue 11.2 and in Geometry Literary Journal Volume 5.