The Library After Lunch
In the 10th century, the Grand Vizier of Persia took his 117,000 volume library with him everywhere. Camels were trained to walk in alphabetical order to carry it.
Collecting the students for the return march to the library proves to be more difficult than releasing them. Several trucks have returned with their loads of stripped refrigerators, and some of her group have gone along.
Those that remain eventually run wildly through the street, whooping and shouting. As they near the building, Despina calls vainly to them, "Children, formen Uds. una linea. We don't want to enter the library as if we were a pack of wild Indians." Fortunately, she says this last bit in English, which causes Paul Peter to go into paroxysms of mirth, but does not dent the exuberance of her charges.
Alice is very curious how Despina and Paul Peter can work so well together, and quickly draws out the story of them both coming to work on the reservation from the same Iowa school, without knowing the other was going to be there.
Each student is allowed to check out one book, several of which are in Spanish. Alice likes the idea of the refrigerator storage to keep things from getting damaged.
As Despina shows the children how to locate information on the Internet, Cu again enters, the sheriff with him. Despina looks up, startled to see two sets of extremely blue eyes in two very differently colored faces regard Sarita’s screenful of herbal lore written in English. Cu speaks to her in Náhuatl, then, satisfied, announces, "Está bien que ella aprende de su herencia."
I guess a minimal affirmation of my efforts to get her in touch with her heritage regardless of the language the information comes in is better than out and out condemnation!
The sheriff catches Despina alone as Paul Peter helps the students select books for those who have left, spearing her with his vivid eyes. "I want you to take this cell phone back to the reservation with you. I'll bring out a recharged battery later. If you insist on having adventures, I want you to be able to notify someone. I had quite a little conversation about how Alberto came to be in that arroyo. Yes, you saved his life, but Paul Peter is also right in saying you were not properly prepared to go into the desert."
"I had no intentions of walking into the desert that morning,” Despina retorts. Tearing her eyes away from his she fiddles with her fingers. “Accidents are, well, ACCIDENTAL. Once I knew Alberto was missing, I couldn't NOT go find him and still live with myself.” She looks up pleadingly. “I was the person in charge."
The sheriff’s face softens at her look, then visibly pulls himself together. "Cu offered to show me the marks the jeep left on the rocks,” he replies more sternly. “He seemed pretty freaked by where you drove."
Exasperated, Despina snaps, "I can assure you, if I'd ever seen the area in daylight, I would NOT have driven there."
Hiding a smile, Mick continues as if she had not spoken, "And one more thing: Promise me, no more lone adventures out of sight of the road or the pueblo of Stone Circles."
She reluctantly agrees, accepting the cell phone. "Well, if you insist. I'll use it for emergencies only."
"You seem to have emergencies once a day," quips Paul Peter as he walks up. "Maybe that phone will help keep you out of trouble without involving the entire tribe."
They walk to the pickup together, filling the bed and cab with book-hugging children interspersed with refrigerators.
Alice comes over as they exit, eager to get the full story. Waving good-bye to the Indian children in the bed of the truck as they drive off, Mickey fills her in.
Looking after them, Alice responds, "When I heard how she put Tex in his place, I guess I shouldn't be surprised she can find the medicine woman's cave after dark in a jeep or track Alberto through the desert. I think this is shaping up to be a pretty lively summer."
Alberto, who supposedly had left with the others, has hung back, hiding in the stacks. "Sí, es un verano vivace," he says, mixing musical Italian with his Spanish.
Mickey grabs him up and dashes outside, putting him on the front seat of his patrol car. "Of course, I have to have an emergency I can't use the base radio for as soon as I give her the cell phone! I guess the solution is one apiece!" He overtakes her carefully moving pickup with its load of refrigerators before she hits the turn-off for the reservation. Letting Alberto turn on the lights and siren, he pulls her over, turning over her most missed pupil.
Late that afternoon, catching up with the first load of refrigerators to arrive, duly stripped of their motors, coils, and as much meadow crud as would come off easily, Despina is depressed. Eying the shape they are in, she begins to wish she had done more than just pick up brushes and assorted enamel outdoor paints.
Why didn't I suggest running them through the spray washer at the local gas station? Hauling water from the river to scrub them down is really going to be a pain.
Seeing the look on her face, Paul Peter winks, then quips, "Think Tom Sawyer."
Saving the largest one for outside her hovel for the personal belongings she doesn't want buggy or damp, Despina has the rest placed outside the "back door" of the school in a semicircle.
Clapping her hands together for attention, she asks, "Which group can wash their refrigerator the cleanest the fastest?"
The high school boys quickly get her fridge unloaded, then head for the river with every available pail they can scrounge. Targeting hers for their project, the thing soon looks as good inside and out as it is going to without a paint job.
Another project is started under Bruno's supervision. Excess washers are collecting the supplies needed to build sturdy wooden frameworks to support book shelves inside the various fridges.
Miguel comes up and begs to look at her paints. Selecting a few bright shades and one of the medium sized brushes, he dashes off. Soon Guillermo appears. Another brush and most of the rest of her colors abscond to school with him.
"Horst bring more," offers Bruno, holding out his cell phone.
Gratefully, Despina dials the hardware store number on her receipt, putting in an order for several more brushes of various sizes and the colors HER project will need.
Taking a marker, she draws outlines of horses that wrap around the refrigerator, inside and out. Starting on the right hand side, small horses race across a field. As they turn the corner onto the back of the unit, they increase in size. They become even larger as they move onto the left panel, and come face first at the viewer, full size or slightly larger, on the front. When the door is opened, one explodes from inside onto the door, larger than life, nostrils flaring.
"Very dramatic. Do they have names?" inquires Paul Peter in passing.
"Of course. Once they're painted, you might even be able to call some of them correctly."
"Let me guess. Raven on front and Debut inside, right?"
"I want to be here when the children see what you're doing. It ought to cause quite a stir."
Horst walks over, glances at the work, then corners Paul Peter, launching into a rapid explanation of an upcoming court appearance, back to Despina as if that stoppered her ears.
"Mateo's court case comes up Monday. He was just protecting Inéz, but because an altercation followed, he was charged. Had he been White, I doubt anything would have been done. Now, he has to plead his case in court, but Judge MacFitz is using 'tightened budget constraints' as grounds to refuse to hire a translator."
"Now, that's what I call stunningly flawed reasoning,” Paul Peter reacts hotly. “I wonder if he thinks hiring a translator for a few days is REALLY more expensive than feeding a prisoner for a month or more?"
Reaching for a cigarette, Horst replies, "Maybe he feels justified by the power of his convictions. 'English only', you know. And the Indians are just about as bad. According to the chief, all the grown men are 'too busy'."
Bumming a cigarette, Paul Peter gripes, "That sticks in my craw. It's probably the 'Spanish only' edict of the tribal council. The 'contamination by US culture' issue is rearing its ugly head again. If they go and use English, they are being disloyal, and their values will come into question."
"The men ARE legitimately busy, but still..." Horst pauses, blowing a smoke ring.
"I think I might be able to help," Despina inserts.
Both men look discomforted. "Despina, the Indian will clam up around you. You don't know the facts in this case. It needs to be a MALE and an Indian,” Paul Peter elucidates. “Don't get all 'sex discrimination' on me! I see that look on your face. But the attitudes of the defendant are NOT up for repair at the moment."
"Uh, is there an age limit?" Despina inquires, tapping the end of her paint brush against her cheek.
"What are you thinking?" Paul Peter inquires suspiciously.
"Juan. I noticed when we were reading the fairy tales that he and several of the older children were reacting correctly to the contents in English, before I got to the Spanish translation. The way he hates White Eyes, I seriously doubt he can be contaminated."
Paul Peter blows a smoke ring the equal of Horst’s. "Someone would still have to take him over, which would still stop the work during the construction season. Their project has already been interrupted by the building of the school. They just don't have the manpower. Not only do they suffer from 'brain drain' as the bright and ambitious move away, but they are also bereft of able bodied men to keep things up."
Confronting the alcoholism problem would alleviate some of THAT! Despina thinks, hands on her hips.
"If I closed the school, I could take him and stay with him for support. Or, maybe some of the mothers will help keep the kids using the new math flash cards or leveling the ground where the desks are going to sit..." Despina’s hopeful voice trails off.
Horst looks at her thoughtfully as he draws a slow puff. "I'll run down Chief Quantico and see what he thinks."
Fat chance. The chief'll be too drunk to think straight at this time of day. Despina blows a wisp of her hair upward out of her face. Who knows? Miracles happen. Maybe he'll be sober.
Last updated 3/10/10 Corrected capital on Internet. 2/20/10 Added “tells”. 1/31/10 Changed he to The Chief 12/20/09 Deleted from the between hardware store and number; combined with Refrigerator Art -- Intermezzo; Changed who was supposed to have to supposedly had; 12/28/08, added material about Cu and the sheriff having the same eye color... added and siren -- 10/15/04.
Word Count: 1818
Friday, November 9th, 2001 8:51 p.m. (pandemo)