An Ill Wind
All that I care to know is that a man is a human being - that is enough for me; he can't be any worse.
-- Mark Twain
Sarita's project eventually bears some fruit. A representative of Edison Electric, the local electrical company, drives his repair truck close to Despina's hovel, rolls down the window, and shouts to attract her attention.
"Hey, School Teacher! Ya in there?"
Reluctantly, Despina's head appears around the open doorway.
"Yes. What can I do for you?"
"Didja send this here letter?" Waving from his hand is Sarita's missive.
"No. It's from one of my students."
"Now, why would a Injun kid care about having electricity lessen ya put the idea into their heads?"
"Maybe because they're human?" Despina replies dryly.
He frowns. "And how'dja expect to get 'em ta pay a monthly bill, not ta mention on time? What kinda headache're ya asking us ta take on?"
"Headache? I don't think that's a very safe assumption to make. They pay ME on time."
No sense telling him I haven't been here long enough to get paid, yet...
"But that's jist one individual. We're talkin' 'bout a whole tribe a ne'er-do-well's."
Despina’s eyes narrow. "And I suppose all your White customers pay their bills on time? I suppose the idea that Indians won't is another of those things 'everybody' knows?"
Sneering, he quotes from Sarita's letter, "'What are the construction costs to put up a line on the reservation?' Ya honestly 'pect me ta believe a kid wrote that without help?"
Putting her hands on her hips, Despina tips her head back. "I really don't care what you believe. The question is quite clear, and she expects an answer."
Clearing his throat, he spits, then continues, "Well, ya kin tell 'er that it costs $532 per foot, and we kin get started on the construction about 2005, if nothin' better ta do shows up first." Rolling up his window, he roars off, coating everything along the way in acrid dust.
"Nice guy," comments Paul Peter, emerging from the adjacent hovel.
"Oh, I'm really going to write a barn-burner now!" fumes Despina as she disappears inside.
"Go get 'em, Teach!" cheers Paul Peter. "Want a proofreader?"
"Sure. Give me a minute," comes her muted voice.
Sarita appears, giving a light rap on the adobe next to the doorway. "Shouldn't I write the letter? It IS my project."
Faced with such implacable logic, Despina surrenders her pad and pen to Sarita, who sits down cross-legged outside the doorway and begins to concentrate intensely. Despina can't help hovering. Paul Peter drifts closer, inconspicuously trying to read upside down.
Finishing, Sarita stands and reads, "It is with deep sorrow that I write to report on the visit of a man to tell us the charges for putting electricity on the reservation. The rates were five times what they are for other customers in the area, as listed on your web site, and those charges for your regular customers are well above the national average. The time for beginning the work was also very silly, being nearly half of my brother's lifetime before it starts. To me, it seems as if your company does not want to do business with us. The man spat in our street, was very rude to my teacher, and insulted the honor of my people. I hope this matter will be taken care of at once so that I don't have to write another letter."
By nightfall, Sarita has become a folk hero.
The campfire group is discussing the sale of the painted refrigerators again when Despina arrives. Paul Peter, fingers in his pocket, fiddling away, reports in conclusion, "The eventual consensus of the tribal meeting was to send Guillermo's once-discarded fridge west, enriching the tribe by some $500.00 plus shipping."
Following a conversational lull, Despina begins to address the mystical elements again. “Have you ever read any Arthur C. Clarke stories?”
Paul Peter shakes his head no.
“He has a quote: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. After what you told me about interpreting the medicine woman’s cave mystery, I feel as if I need to stand that quote on its head.” Despina looks down. “Nobody will talk about anything of substance on this topic. Let’s have some academic freedom and explore what we obviously don’t understand.”
But nobody rises to her bait.
This group is as apathetic as my students, given the right stimulus.
Last updated 2/23/10 Added tells; rewrote material that followed what was posted on summercircles. 7/31/03. 4/30/02 Removed from Oh, What a Beautiful Morning; 4/5/02 Removed from Pest Invasion.
Word Count: 751