Vegetarians are people who are unable to hear the tomatoes scream.
-- Gry Jannicke Jarlum
Despina is hungry for fresh tomatoes. Frustrated by the cardboard taste of the store-bought models and inspired by views of several bounteous Broken Lance gardens, on the way home from church, she talks Jacques into stopping at a farmer's market specializing in seeds and plants when the actual fruits and veggies are still out of season. The true gardeners among the populace have already picked over the plants, but with Jacque's indulgence, she buys a set of four "Big Boys" that don't look terminally scraggly.
When Despina and Jacques pull up to the school site to unload the blackboard, a row of huge beams have been added to the posts, creating a framework to support the roof. This evidence of progress heartens Despina far more than warranted by the scanty amount of additional shade they'll provide.
Once Jacques has deposited her at her hovel, she takes off in Baby Blue Ram. Two new fridges, I see. Cool! Despina notes as she drives through the village. Stopping at the river, she pulls her shovel out of the back, positions the tailgate over a black-bottomed area, dons her borrowed work gloves and begins to scoop.
When her arms start to shake, she decides she has enough muck. Along the edge of the road, she spies some "road apples" still steaming they're so fresh, so she adds them to the black glop, then drives around to the back of her hovel, out of the sight of prying eyes.
Digging four holes, she places a bed of gravel-sized rocks in the bottom of each.
A soft Spanish query interrupts her, "Why do you bury the rocks?"
"Oh, hi, Alberto. You startled me. When I repot my flowers, the rocks aid drainage."
Rubbing dirt on her forehead as she brushes sweat off, Despina asks, "Why does it seem strange?"
With little-boy aplomb, Alberto continues, "I've watched a lot, and nobody does it that way."
"Well, it may be extra work, but I doubt it will hurt anything in the long run," Despina replies with asperity. She sighs as she adds a 2" layer of manure in the hole facing her.
Shaking his head, Alberto leaves abruptly when he hears Cu's distinctive truck engine.
Slowly she follows the layer of manure with black dirt, then adds the tiny plants, which stick up as an afterthought. They seem exceedingly sickly, Despina thinks.
By the time Despina finishes with her tomatoes, she discovers that her fridge has dried. She adds a last protective coating, then cleans her brush with finality, eying the sky apprehensively. I’m sad not to have another project to paint on, she realizes.
Since the hovel pretty effectively blocks her personal fridge from view, it is not until things are practically dry enough to accidentally touch without damage before her project is generally discovered. The students are too involved in the painting going on behind the school roof support posts to do their normal round of visiting.
Juan discovers her efforts with a shout that draws all the rest. "¡Mira! ¡Una rumada!"
Guillermo, eyes wide, approaches reverently.
"Abrelo," suggests Despina.
Opening the door wide, he leaps back, staring at the two-tone stallion seemingly about to trample him.
One by one, each person opens the door, gaping at the image that pops up.
"Necesitamos más," says Guillermo, afire with new ideas.
As sunset approaches, Despina, her green journal and pen clutched in one hand, seats herself in her impression before the rotting log. Writing busily, she describes the scene around her, trying to capture the essence of the experience.
Re-reading what she has just written, she mumbles, "Trite, Pina, hopelessly trite," then scribbles out a phrase, replacing it with one that really pleases her.
"Ah, so that's the title!" she crows at one point, labeling the page Cathedral-like Silences, then continues writing quite desultorily, not contributing one word to the discussion. Bruno is trying to determine the Latin name for a new botanical species he's discovered.
Cu is describing several possibilities for the unknown plant and their habitats as Despina glances up.
Watching his hands describe elegant loops in the air to match his eloquent words, she is entranced.
"You're awfully antisocial tonight. A penny for your thoughts, Pina," muses Paul Peter. "I'll bet a dollar they have nothing at all to do with desert flora and fauna."
His eyes are really blue, Despina thinks, glancing quickly at Mick, not even registering Paul Peter's comment, but continuing her internal reverie, as blue as Mickey's, not dark like the cigar store Indian's!
Paul Peter lobs a pebble at her, sharply calling out her name, “Pina!”
"What?" she asks in confusion. "Flora who? I don't remember which one she is."
Soft laughter greets her remark.
"Gregorio Falcón got arrested last night," begins Jacques settling in with the White Eyes around the campfire. "Anyone hear what he did?"
“No, but Charley’s son, Federico Lone Eagle, who is a lawyer in Phoenix, has offered to take on his case pro bono,” Mick contributes. “The scuttlebutt is that the tribal leaders nixed it because they feel that he’s angling for work to support an ailing transition into the White world.”
"Not sure about that,” Paul Peter dismisses information from a source he has no way to infiltrate, “but the tribal leaders came into my English class to see if anyone had the skills to translate from English to Náhuatl. Nobody felt as if they could handle it. I have to agree."
"That's new,” Jacques remarks. “When Mateo had his little problem, I heard he went to jail -- no representation. Didn't you approach the Chief about using Juan, Horst?"
"Maybe if I bring it up again," suggests Jacques. "If they are willing to consider PP's students, maybe..."
Her concentration on her idle speculation about Cu’s mysteriously blue eyes in a brown-eyed world has been broken. "I bet Juan could handle it," Despina interjects, "I've noticed that he and several of the others seem to understand everything they've ever heard before. I think he's got an eidetic memory."
“Wat is das? asks Bruno.
"A memory that allows them to recall things totally. Sarah and Alberto might have one, too," Despina explains patiently.
"Ah, is good."
Nobody else adds anything. Despina, tired out, sits silently, mesmerized by the flames' hypnotic dance.
Last updated 3/13/10 Corrected tailgate, black-bottomed, out of the sight of, and gravel-sized; removed the between of manure (twice); added Charley’s son. Changed he’s to Jacques has. Added more “tells”. 3/8/10 Inserted lawyer material. (Where’sMeKilt’s “increase cultural conflict” comment.) Changed duplicate refrigerator material. (Sydney) Inserted blue eye mystery into Despina’s thoughts to be brought out and explained later (Sydney/Where’sMeKilt) 1/31/10 Combined the on-line version with this. 12/30/09 Changed out of sight from to out of the sight of; 12/28/08 Added as blue as Mickey's, 7/14/08 added tribal council debate about refrigerator art. (6/11/08 changed vegies to veggies; 1/2/06 on the way home from church added in 1st paragraph. 10/15/04 - Added start of Black Thumb; 8/30/04.) 4/30/02.
Word Count: 1076