Up with going down. The risen flesh commands: let there be love.
∼ Anonymous, as far as I know.
Just at sunset, Mickey's squad car pulls up on the far side of Despina's hovel. The group at the campfire watches him curiously as he passes around behind it, then joins them. As he approaches, he hands Despina a barrel sack as a fresh fusillade of sounds inundate the area.
"Is that a wild animal?" inquires Despina a bit apprehensively.
Groans, gasps, moans, and screeches punctuate the conversation around the fire circle, periodically disturbing the still-hot air.
"Someone's really going at it in the cave," Paul Peter explains.
"If that's the sound of expressions of passion around here, I'll pass."
A sustained series of howls and unintelligible rantings echo across the campfire, obviously NOT emanating from a wild animal.
"I'm afraid our 'improvements' are not being universally appreciated," she continues with anguish.
"Improvements? What on earth could you do to a high and dry flat spot, moonlit on bright nights by a strategically placed moon hole, cooled and shielded from prying eyes by a romantic backdrop of cascading water?"
She looks thoughtfully at Paul Peter. "That sounds like the voice of experience rhapsodizing on a favorite remembrance."
"Maybe," he admits smugly.
Looking up, Mickey inquires, "Do we know who's responsible for tonight's serenade?"
Shrugs pass around the campfire group. Turning to Despina, he says, "I was curious, so I took a look at your 'tomatoes'. Did you REALLY put rocks in there?"
Hanging her head, she nods affirmatively. "The black stalks aren't very much bigger than the day I planted them."
“If any of the tribe venture to give you growing advice, follow it, no matter how strange it may seem. My mother hooked up with someone out here in the mid ’30’s, who imparted a “secret” she’s kept ever since.”
Bruno adds, “They horticultural geniuses.”
Paul Peter adds, “The county extension agent told me they cultivate plants eminent biologists consider totally unsuited to the area – like the saguaro cactus.”
Mick passes Despina a bulging bag.
Peeking inside the heavy sack, she squeals appreciatively, "Oh, look! Lovely HUGE fresh tomatoes! Wherever did you find them?"
"My mother. She starts them indoors and always has her first ones by the time everyone else is just getting around to planting theirs. It's a matter of pride with her. It also allows her to prevent anyone seeing her secret ingredient.”
"How'd YOU hear about my lovely garden?"
"Word gets around, you know. Rocks? Really?"
She joins in the good-natured chuckles that follow.
“So, spill it. You can’t talk ‘secret ingredient’, then not come out with it.”
Mick raises his hat, smoothes his hair, and replaces his hat, then settles in beside her to tell his story. “When the tribe first came into the area, they sent runners back to the lake they originally lived by for the fish they used as part of a religious fertility ceremony. By planting one at the base of each corn/cacti/whatever plant, the missing ingredients in the soil were furnished. Thus, their tribe flourished, while others trying to subsist in the same area using a hunter/gatherer lifestyle died out. Centuries passed before White science caught up with Indian religious practices. Mother collects dead goldfish from the local pet shops. Any fish seems to work...”
Tapping a finger to his nose tip, Mick switches to a new topic, frowning slightly. "Where are all the tribesmen tonight?"
"Tribal meeting. They'll show up eventually. After the letter I delivered today, a tribal debate ensued." Paul Peter studies the tip of his glowing cigarette.
"What kind of a letter?" The sheriff’s eyebrows shoot up as he speaks.
Although Despina well knows Paul Peter can answer that question fully, he gives a shrug of his shoulders, remaining silent. Well, if he's not willing to explain it, I'm sure not going to bring it up and have to reveal how I know! Despina’s nose wrinkles.
Smiling, Mick focuses on Despina. “I hear they’re going to take you up on the offer of Juan to defend Greg Falcon.”
Despina’s eyes widen in surprise. “Oh? I’ve not heard a word. I hope they give me enough lead-time to plan something the mothers can handle… Where are the trials held?”
“This one starts Tuesday in Flagstaff.”
Despina frowns, pursing her lips, her eyes focused in the distance.
Eventually, her frown easing, Despina directs her attention to Paul Peter. "I took your advice the other afternoon. I carted buns, weenies, and cut willow branches to the water hole."
"What? Why willows?" Paul Peter leans up on one elbow, studying Despina’s face.`
Rolling her eyes and wincing, Despina flips her hand disparagingly. "They did droop alarmingly, and tend to burn through."
"Burn? Maybe you'd better start at the beginning of this tale." Mickey elevates one eyebrow.
"After our nature walk to locate a more suitable location for the fire circle, I sent the girls off to gather brush and dried sage while the boys collected basketball sized or smaller rocks. Then we carted it all into that neat cave behind the waterfall. Afterward, I let them swim for a while."
"Okay, I can follow that. But the willows?" Paul Peter leans back, releasing another circle of smoke.
"We arranged the rocks in a ring on this raised level spot in the middle that was just ideal. It even had a convenient hole centered above it so the cave wouldn't get all smoky."
Paul Peter shades his eyes with his hand. "Rug rats invading the boudoir. There goes the neighborhood."
"The brush had gotten damp and wouldn't start on fire very well until Miguel tore the pages out of an old catalog he found behind some boulders." Despina’s eyes are on Mickey, not Paul Peter, as she talks.
"Uh, oh; there goes Toño's copy of 'Sam's Sexual Delights', I'll bet," Paul Peter speculates, naming one of his more curious young charges.
Despina purses her lips, frowning. "I'll bet no adults go there in the daylight. I didn't think about other uses for the cave..."
Paul Peter raises his voice to distract that line of thought. "So, WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE WILLOWS?"
"Rammed them into the weenies lengthwise to cook them.” Unknowingly, Despina’s hand gestures mimicking that action are highly suggestive. Paul Peter again covers his eyes. Mick’s eyes pop wide. Horst sniggers. Despina continues blithely, unaware of the impact she’s having, “Sage doesn't make a nice bed of warm coals. I'm afraid the meat was hopelessly charred, or just barely warmed. Shades of the cooking job your lost Indian children did under Coyote's tutelage. Lots of kids got ash in their food, but they all ate them anyway."
"Care to take a walk, Despina?" Popping up, Mickey offers Despina his hand, easily pulling her to her feet. Have you seen where all the noise is coming from then?"
"Only in the daylight." She smiles into his blue, blue eyes.
"Where's Cu tonight? I thought he came here to sit with you," the sheriff asks Despina, moving toward the cave as if it were bright day.
"Sometimes. Sometimes not. I never know when he'll show." She shrugs off her irritation at his inconstancy.
They are approaching the pool, but from the low side, not the place between the two rock cairns where the students stood to dive into the rock-free portion of the water. Despina could see the tops of the piles peeking over the cliff face like sentinels on eternal duty.
"I think he's been here with you." Mick slips his hand into Despina’s, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
"I think you're right. I've been with him every night I wasn't so exhausted that I fell into a blessed sleep the instant my head hit the pillow for the past few years."
He pauses, swinging her body to face his. "For years? You've only been here a little while!"
"Oh, but I've been dreaming him realistically enough to have nearly constant feelings of deja vú." Her eyes burn into his, then she drops her head.
"Wouldn't a REAL man be preferable?" A hopeful smile crinkles the corners of his eyes and very kissable mouth.
"Are you offering?" Her eyes seek his as she raises her head timidly.
"Well, I'm no seasoned lover like Cu is…" Despina expects to see him scuff his foot sideways in the dirt as he disparages himself.
"Are you bragging, or complaining? I can't decide from your tone." She squeezes the hand she’s still holding, then drops it.
Mickey takes her hand and guides her into the blackness of the cave.
"I can't deny the passion I feel for Cu, but the cultural differences are daunting. Food, dress, education, housing, language, gestures, especially facial gestures, or rather, the absence of them… and all these infernal unwritten rules that everybody knows, but remain a secret until I fall flat on my face over them… Today I discovered that I can’t even GRIND CORN in a bowl properly."
“Okay, I’m game. How does one mess up corn grinding . As I remember, pushing the pestle into the bowl with sufficient force to crack the corn and reduce it to rubble is all it takes. Even seven-year-old BOYS got to do it when they’d irritated María enough.”
“Laughter is good for the soul.”
“I used the wrong end.”
“Oh, a serious crime, for sure. You are doomed.” Growing brave, Mick hugs her gently.
Mumbling, she hangs her head and admits, "I'd also like to see more of you." She looks up, trying to see his eyes. "I can at least TALK to you and receive sensible answers… which is important to someone as highly verbal as I am."
As he moves her further into the cave to get away from the mist from the waterfall, they pause directly under the smoke hole. Just as he wraps his arms around her, clods of dirt pepper their heads.
Mickey puts a discrete distance between them, then stares up, circling to see if he can spot an "attacker".
Virtue saved via collision with dirt clods?
Last updated 12/27/15 Added a second space after end punctuation; switched -- to –; and -- to to ∼ match Travelsfar; 3/17/10 Corrected good-natured, lead-time, smoky, and reworded the place between the two rock cairns where the students stood to dive into the rock-free portion of the water. Despina could see the tops of the piles peeking over the cliff face like sentinels on eternal duty. 3/14/10 Removed selling from pet shops. 2/5/10 Added more expression of the cultural conflicts she faces. (Where’sMeKilt) 1/10/10 Added tells. 12/30/09 added fish story. 7/15/08 Moved first two paragraphs to the start of Pesticide. (7/9/08 weenies; 1/2/06 - last line, added reaction to moved camp site; 11/23/04 few weeks changed to little while;10/17/04 Added Pinch Hitter.) 5/8/02.
Word Count: 1697