Eight Second Hero
By Dannell Lites


Ah do not own the concept of The Common People. That belongs to
Kielle. Charlie, however is all mine. He's an old friend. This is
moi's first Common People fic, so be kind:):)

Rated G for absolute purity of content! No sex, no drugs, no rock and
roll. And only a little C&W music! Hee!

He's an eight second hero
The pain don't count, 'cuz it's a matter of pride
But, sometimes the pay's awful thin
And this eight second hero knows that someday
The bull's gonna win ...

"Eight Second Hero"
Randy Travis - a song about rodeo cowboys

He's an Indian cowboy in the rodeo
And I'm just another little girl who loves him so ...

"He's An Indian Cowboy At The Rodeo"
Buffy Sainte-Marie

I am Charlie By-And-By.

And I have found the center of the Earth.

My parents were both Human Beings. No, that is not right, is it? I am
a Human Being (which is to say that I am Cheyenne who call ourselves the
Human Beings among ourselves), but my parents could not have been
totally human. I am a mutant. The hairless pinda - likoye in the
strange mechanical chair explained it to me very carefully. He did not
want me to misunderstand and I am not an educated man such as he is, so
he was sparing with his simple words; unlike most white men, the pinda -
o - likoye.

"Mr. By and By," he began.

My name is Charlie. I have many others, after the customs of my people,
the Cheyenne. But they are not for his ears. Not being white, I have
never been a "Mister". But I did not correct him. It is impolite to
interrupt a man when he is speaking. Even the pinda - o - likoye say
this. So I, being a polite man, did not speak. And I sensed he meant
well. Unusual for a white-eyes. He seemed to be in a great hurry which
is not at all unusual for a white man.

"You are a mutant," he told me. "Born with abilities that others do not

"The animals," I agreed. "The animals understand me. And I understand
them." I shook my head slightly. "But this is because I listen when
they speak. This is only polite and I am a polite man. Winterwolf
speaks louder and more strongly than I." This white man who mimics the
air of a patient saint slowly trudging down the Jesus Road leaned
forward, curious now.

"Winterwolf?" he asks.

I schooled my face to silence and said nothing. It is better that he
not know of Winterwolf. Not yet. My grandson has wondered far from the
center of the Earth, but he will not find his way back with this man's

Never found much use for white men. My mother ran off with a white man
from Yucca Flats. Left me and my father alone.

"Don't worry, Charlie," my father said, then. "She'll be back by and
by. She'll be back by and by." Whenever anybody asked about my mother
that's what he always said. "She'll come back by and by." But she
never came back. Perhaps that was the reason for the whiskey. I do not
know. But the name stuck. From then on, I was Charlie By and By. My
heart-name is Rain on Dust. But that is only for me to know. My totem
is the horse. This is also a secret thing. A sacred thing. I saw the
free running stallion in a vision quest and knew what I must do with my
life. But this is a great secret and I may not speak of it or the
strong medicine will leave me. That would be bad. I would lose all my
friends if I could not talk and understand the animals when they speak.

Even now, when I am no longer allowed to ride for the money, I take care
of the horses and teach the younger boys how best to ride them. Often,
they do not listen but this is the way of the young.

The white man speaks.

"Your talent for controlling animals must have been very useful in your
line of work," he remarked, smiling. "Five times All Around Champion
Cowboy in US Rodeo Association competition, wasn't it?"

It is good for a man to have his bravery and exploits recognized. I
smiled in return. The feasts and campfires of yesteryear, when a
warrior spoke of his accomplishments and gloried in the praise of others
... those days are gone, bkwon away with the wind. The hotr wind from the South, the Black direction. But there are other things that have replaced them. Modesty is a white virtue.

"Six," I reply. "Then they ruled that no one man could hold the title
more than three times. Or I would still be Champion."

"I don't doubt it," he returned, still smiling politely. "You're still
a relatively young man." He is flattering, but nevertheless, I frowned,
shaking my head in denial.

"But I do not 'control' the horses," I told him, attempting to explain
the inexplicable. "You do not understand. Once, in the long ago time
all the animals could speak. We were all brothers under the fur. It
was Coyote, the Trickster, who fooled them into foolish quarreling and
the talking was no more. They had nothing to say to one another. And
when one has nothing to say it is best to be silent." The other man
nodded in agreement.

"It was Coyote who tricked them and Corn Woman who blessed man with
dominion over them in payment for their foolishness," he observed,
cheerful in his knowledge of my people. I said nothing.

It is useless to speak to white men of the ways of the world. They
cannot see the truth. Always with them, it must be winning and losing.
One thing besting another and, in the end, destroying it. The ways of
others are unknown to them. And that is *their* way.

Their curse.

Cat leapt up onto my shoulder, a small bundle of lithe, black,
quickness. Feline fur-folk need no names. They know who they are. And
it does not matter to them if *you* know or not. Insistently, she head
butted me and rubbed herself against my cheek, whispering, purring, in my ear.
Gravely, I nodded, but when I turned my attention again to the white man
Xavier, I was grinning. But only at Xavier.

Never laugh at a cat.

"Your friends outside grow inpatient," I told him. "The Short Snarly
One is straining at the bit but, so far, the Red Eyed One has him
leashed. Cat does not like the Pretty One. He smells like a bird.
Does he really have wings? Like the eagle? Why does he hide them?"

Xavier chuckled.

"Yes," he replied, "I should imagine that Logan *is* growing quite
restless. But Scott will cope. He always does. He's gifted that way.
I've advised Warren to wear a restraining harness in public to conceal
his wings. That's why he hides them." I frowned before I could stop

"That seems cruel," I gently reproved him. "The Folk of the Air are
meant to be free. The sky is their home. Their right."

The white man's smile faded and his face grew very still, like stone.
It was only his crisp blue eyes that showed his displeasure at my
words. His reply was quick, like silent lightening, and no less sharp.

"Warren is a wise, obedient young man. He knows the necessity for his
restraint and discomfort. Not everyone understands or approves of his
wings. When I pointed that out to him, he agreed immediately that they
should be concealed in public."

I say nothing, only spreading my hands in defeat.

Tonight I will sing a Blessing Way for the troubled, unhappy spirit of
the young man Warren Worthington. His wings are beautiful. But they
cannot fly him away from the truth. A crippled eagle, he cannot seek
the sky as he wishes.

We speak a bit longer of many things. He is a wise man in his way, this

For a pinda - likoye.

In the end I must refuse his offer of training and sanctuary. I have no
need of it. I am content. A simple man, I only want to help with the
horses. This I understand. This thing I know. Of the white man's
world, of this struggle Xavier speaks of between good and evil, I know
nothing. Nor do I care. One man's good may be another man's evil. Who
is to say? Not I. I only know what is right for Charlie By And By. I
only know the horses. This thing I know. And a man should stick with
what he knows.

A man in Tucson with the strange name of Mustaffa told me a story once.
It was a good story. All about how the One True God (whose name,
Mustaffa says, is Allah) took the hot, dry South Wind (which Mustaffa
called the Sirocco), gave it form and substance to create one of His
greatest gifts to his Children: the horse. It is a very good story.
And a true one, I think. I have never even ridden, much less owned, so
fancy a white man's horse as an Arabian ... but the swift-hoofed kind
are much alike, I think.

Horses I understand. White men are a mystery I shall never piece with
the sharpest of knives. Am I wrong to have sent the bald pinda - likoye
away? Was he right to urge me to train my "skills" with my friends, the
animals? It did not seem so to me. But .... What of his warning? Of
this other gatherer of mutants? This Magneto? Again I can hear the
almost pleading sadness in the voice of the white man Charles Xavier ...

"He's not an evil man. You mustn't think that. He's simply afraid. So
terribly, terribly afraid. He ... has no reason to think well of common
humanity ... "

There is more to this than meets the eye. Many unspoken things lie at the heart of these simple wrds. I am not fooled by their plainess. Xavier's eyes are hooded and closed when he speaks of this Magneto. His heart is sore and troubled by thoughts of this one. Great sadness lies between them. Great sadness... and great joy. The joy of brotherhood and a common soul.

But this is a private thing and I wisely do not speak of it.

The last I see of them, Xavier and his students, is the still face of
the boy Warren Worthington as he glances at me nervously over his
shoulder. Eyes the color of a clear, cloudless summer sky lock with
mine, which are the color of our Mother the Earth. Our spirits join.

'Fly free, feathered brother,' I say to him and he smiles, brightening
the world.

Never before have I called a white man brother. But this brotherhood is
a truth I have only just learned. For a moment I regret my refusal.

For a moment.

The dust of their passage from my life has barely began to settle in the
late afternoon twilight before I go and seek out another brother with
whom to speak. Someone to balm my troubled spirit. The odor of horses
is strong but familiar as I approach my small corral. I breath it in

"Ho, Wind Runner!" I greet my companion of many years. Arching his
neck, the stallion stamps his foot and paws the earth. I smile. Like
me, Wind Runner is not so young as he once was ... but he refuses to
admit it. Wind Runner has never known the burden of a saddle.

"Patience, Swift One," I council, stroking the velvet nose. He snorts
his impatience with hot breath upon my cheek to remind me of his
nature. It is good to be so reminded. He whinnies, tossing his head
and pointing his nose at the red and gold and purple of the darkening

"Yes," I agree. "Wakan Tanka paints the skies with bright colors
tonight, my friend." For long minutes we sit, enjoying the beauty that
the greatest of spirits, Wakan Tanka, has provided for those who will
pause to look.

And then Wind Runner playfully nips my ear to once again remind me of
his impatience. I laugh with him, flicking his ear with a finger in

"Go yat ho hey, old friend," I assure him. :Let us go then and greet
the dawn."

I spring upon his back and he receives me gladly, a most welcome burden
in his eyes. Now we are complete. Now we are together.

I shut the corral gate behind me, breathing in the heavy scent of
sagebrush and pinyon from the dry desert air. My eyes caress the
horizon. The land is the same. It never changes. It is eternal. The
grass grows and the wind blows.

It is only people who change and betray themselves.

This is another thing I know.

I have no more doubts about my decision. This is where I belong. This
is my place.

This is *me*.

Wind Runner stretches his legs. With a smile, I give him his head and
let him do what he was born to do ... run. The thunder of his hoofs
shakes the earth. Our blood races and pounds.

Wind Runner is content.

I am content.

We are one.

My name is Charlie By And By ...

... and I have found the center of the earth.

The End