Akna, the iguana, stood in the open door, her cold eyes focused on a carefree fly. Akna was Ah Puch’s best friend though only Ah Puch was aware of it. Iguanas think nothing of friendship.
But they do know magic.
* * * *
Ah Puch was born 1,008 moons earlier just north of the river now named Usumacinta though in those far times it was called nothing more than “the river” because no other river was known.
Ah Puch’s father was often absent on hunting expeditions and when he was at home he enjoyed perhaps too much the powerful drink named nautzitle. Ah Puch’s mother pounded maiz into flour and baked bread and stirred beans with chochoc leaves.
That, combined with monkeys in the tall trees, was the childhood of Ah Puch. He came to know lizards, especially iguanas, much later.
* * * *
At age 18 he was drawn to a girl from the next village. He saw her naked on 12 occasions, so her father said it was time to dance the ceremony, and they did. A child was born.
But in those days, Ah Puch’s heart was scattered and foolish. He was soon drawn to girls from other villages, so the father of his wife proclaimed the ceremony canceled. The wife returned to her village with her child, and Ah Puch was free again.
He became a traveler through the trees, and he developed a fondness for nautzitle and sitting on stones.
* * * *
Sixty moons passed before another girl caught Ah Puch’s eye in a meaningful way. There was another ceremony and, being somewhat older, Ah Puch settled in. I am a man, he thought.
The new girl was firm and lovely, though a bit on the defiant side. Her name was Ixtab, and her hair was long and black, as was the hair of all women, of course.
They lived beneath a grass dome the two had built together and, though Ixtab was often naked, no child was ever born.
Ixtab became a rare, trading woman, often out of the grass dome even though she managed to fulfill her duties of pounding flour, baking bread and stirring beans with chochoc leaves after the sun fell below the tree line.
In spite of her strange ways, Ah Puch loved Ixtab. She was lovely when naked, had a sparkling smile and the laugh of a songbird.
So when he returned to the grass dome earlier than expected one day and found Ixtab naked with a young man named Jonquali, Ah Puch was gobsmacked. Again, the ceremony was canceled.
* * * *
Ah Puch tied his spears, tools and soft hides together and wandered far away into the woods. He walked for many years.
One sunny winter day, Ah Puch was passing amid capirona trees when he spotted a clearing where sat a straw hut. An iguana stood motionless at the entryway. No real person was in sight.
But as Ah Puch neared, the iguana ran into the hut and a man appeared. Ah Puch knew they were one and the same, the iguana and the man, who was middle-aged, muscular, tall and handsome.
That night they sat together by a blaze in the hut and spoke of their lives. I have something that will help you, the tall man told Ah Puch.
He handed Ah Puch a gourd filled with brown liquid, which Ah Puch drank. He had been very thirsty for a long time, even though he had not known it. A few moments later, Ah Puch was dancing with iguanas and unicorns to music he had never heard before.
There were drums and strings and swirling beauties and faces that came and went and returned again, all with smiles and loving eyes. A light, warm rain fell from sunshine.
Then morning light through the hut’s west window struck Ah Puch’s face, and he awoke from he knew not where or what.
The iguana sat by the door. There was no handsome man.
* * * *
Ah Puch gathered his gear and walked farther into the capirona trees, but he did not travel long. An hour later, another clearing appeared. There was a straw hut. An iguana stood in the entrance.
The lizard stepped inside and a beautiful woman appeared. She was young, younger than Ah Puch who at that time had attained 672 moons. The beautiful woman appeared to have no more than 420.
She said her name was Ix Chel.
She stood straight as a shin bone. Her hair flowed long and curly, and her eyes possessed an enticing Oriental slope.
It was love at first sight. They danced their own ceremony and vowed to live there till death.
They chose a nearby clearing, and she helped him build a tree house so large and grand that it spread across the top of three capironas. Nights they built fires, and she strummed a vihuela and sang.
As all men must do, he hunted the days, and she tended the tree house, pounded maiz into flour and baked bread and stirred beans with chochoc leaves. Nights she would dance naked to firelight, and he had never loved anyone so much in his long life.
Years moved along until that deathly day when the world stood still.
* * * *
Tuesday, September 2: Ah Puch opened his eyes, and felt a stirring beside him. Ix Chel’s face, just centimeters away, was smiling at him.
Ah Puch glanced toward the doorway where the iguana Akna stood, almost smiling.
Never trust an iguana. They know nothing of friendship. They feel nothing of love. And they are jealous and know magic.
Stir the beans, Ah Puch said to Ix Chel. And build a fire.
We’ll have Akna for breakfast.