In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl.
-- Mark Twain, The Awful German Language
"¿Y tú? ¿Qué piensas tú?" Cu asks, arms around Despina, eyes watching hers carefully.
“What do I think?” Despina retorts, her famed hot Irish temper in full spate. “¡Pienso que es ridículo! You won't even converse with me except to squire me back to the reservation, even if all I craved was to lave my body in hot, non-gritty water or launder my clothes in real soap and hot water. Nunca me hablas excepto para dominarme, y si me voy de la reservación, tú vienes para regresarme inmediatamente -- aúnque solamente puedo drucharme en la agua caliente!"
"That's one of the most erudite bilingual tirades I've ever heard, Dee."
She jumps when the sheriff speaks. Cu releases her, allowing her to stand free as the sheriff continues talking.
"No. Amend that,” Mick adds, shaking his head admiringly. “I think that's the ONLY erudite bilingual tirade I've even heard. Nobody I ever met before uses words that size in ANGER!"
"I don't know the small, common, words. I learned my Spanish by reading and translating the classics." Despina’s body softens as she speaks.
Shaking his head, MIck turns to inquire, "Is Cu fit to travel, Doc?"
"Depends on where,” Jacques replies thoughtfully. “Jolting around might not feel the greatest once the pain killer wears off."
Facing his shortcomings squarely, Mick replies, "I lost his brother at the rest area before the turn-off to the detox facility."
"What?" chorus Despina and Jacques in unison.
"The chief's son is Cu's older brother?” Despina continues, shocked. “They don't look anything alike."
"I wouldn't go there if I were you, Despina. Didn't you learn anything when you told Francisco he was 'obviously' of Indian blood? As you so elegantly put it, 'I believe Paul Peter and Tex are the only men here not mixed with Indian blood. Your distinctions are decidedly artificial and erroneous.' Range war words, for sure!" Mick reminds.
Switching his attention to Jacques, he continues, "I was to deliver his brother to detox as part of a deal to prevent an attempted rape charge from being filed."
Despina moves away from Cu to stand closer to the two.
"Get real! No woman around here would file..." Jacques stops abruptly as he catches the guilty look on Despina's face.
The sheriff approaches Cu on the table as Despina and Jacques talk.
"How could you?" Jacques accuses, holding his body stiffly.
"How could I NOT?” Despina puts her hands on her hips, leaning slightly toward Jacques. “Do you think I RELISH the experience of holding off 250 pounds of drunken Indian with the top of a broken beer bottle?"
Jacques draws Despina away as Mickey and Cu talk in rapid fire Spanish. "Wow!” Jacques exclaims, his eyes widening, deliberately keeping her attention centered on himself. "Wow! I'll bet that was a first for him! What a way to reject him!"
"Reject?” sputters Despina. “Reject implies interaction. What did I ever do to encourage him? How did he decide that I needed or wanted his attention?"
"He's the chief's first-born son. Of course, that makes him more in demand than his younger brother. But he's drunk so much of the time that poor Cu has to pick up the slack."
Confusion chases Despina’s anger away. "Pick up what slack? What are you talking about?"
"Oh, don't play innocent.” Jacques retorts hotly. “Surely even you must have heard the rumors."
"Are you referring to me supposedly snubbing him in town, again?" Despina wonders aloud.
Putting his hand calmingly on her arm, Jacques continues, "No. I am referring to 68 known, claimed children between them. Both he and his brother, according to tribal custom, produce on demand to 'improve' the 'stock'."
"Good grief!” Despina explodes in shock. “When he asked me to educate his children, I thought he meant the tribe's children, just his figuratively."
Giving her arm a fatherly squeeze, Jacques continues, "Your students are both his and the tribe's, not all his personally."
Relenting, Despina confides, "And for your information, I did dance with Cu that night."
"A whole part of a dance, huh?" smiling, Jacques withdraws his hand.
"It wasn't like that!” Despina is stung as she comprehends his thinking. “I was dancing with him, really enjoying it, when Paul Peter tapped me on the shoulder."
"Tapped you on the shoulder? And danced with Cu, I suppose?" Jacques retorts in disbelief and outrage.
Struggling for calm, Despina explains. "No. He was drunk."
"So you said.” Jacques’s body language signals that he remains unconvinced. “So drunk he couldn't tell from the man from the woman?"
"No, of course not.” Despina goes into a brown study, remembering. "He tapped me because he didn't like the way I was dancing with Cu."
"Which was?" Jacques begins, drawn in.
Despina hangs her head and mumbles. "Close. Very, very close. He said if I didn't back off a bit, I was going to start the next range war single handed."
"Ah, how astute of him. Was this before or after the water pitcher incident?"
Cu and the sheriff head for the door. As they pass, Cu's arm shoots out, palm up, an invitation to put her hand in his and accompany him.
The doctor's eyebrows shoot up.
As she hesitates, the sheriff says, "I can't promise to have you back before school."
Her eyes widen. Shaking her head "no", she gives Cu a sickly smile. "Voy a regressar a casa. Necesito dormir un poquito antes de empezar la escuela."
"I'll take her back, since she thinks she needs her beauty sleep," Jacques promises.
"Thanks, Doc. I'd rather she not be out alone until I locate him," Mick confides.
She and Jacques follow Cu and Mickey out. As the patrol car's tail lights turn onto the main road, they reach Jacques's car. Jacques holds the passenger side door open for her.
As she settles into the seat, she asks, "Why does everyone think we're a duo when he won't even talk to me most of the time?"
"Just call it a combination of Indian stoicism and an accurate reading of body English," Jacques explains, starting the engine.
A startled laugh escapes her. "Funny. That first night, I told the sheriff when Cu entered, looked around, and strode over, that I couldn't work for him.
"I told Cu that my body liked his body, and, therefore, I couldn't work for him."
Pausing with his hand on the gearshift, Jacques admonishes her. "You shouldn't toy with him, you know. Ever since his wife's death, he's been vulnerable."
"How'd she die?"
"She took a bullet meant for him." His voice cracks with bitterness.
Despina draws in her breath sharply, murmuring, "Just like in the dream!"
"What?” Jacques’s head swings toward her. “What dream?"
Pretending a nonchalance she doesn't feel, Despina responds casually, "Oh, nothing. What was she like?"
"Oh, it looked like the perfect match. She was lovely, just lovely, bright, articulate, witty, compassionate -- everything a man could want in a soul mate. Alberto was only nine months old when she died."
"Excuse me if this is out of line, but your tone and word choice when you spoke of Cu's wife -- they were almost reverent."
Looking down, she hesitates, then continues. "Were you in love with her yourself?"
Drawing himself upright in his seat and clenching the steering wheel tightly, he spits through gritted teeth, "No, of course not! She was the wife of an Indian."
"And thus had sullied herself?" Despina guesses, fascinated by his reaction.
"No! I admired her! I admire him, and always have!” Jacques slips the car into gear and sets out, eyes fixed on the road unseeingly. “Everyone, male or female, young or old, White or Indian, could not help but be half in love with her. Cherylyn had an aura about her that instantly attracted all who came in contact with her."
"Hummm, a virtual paragon of virtue. Not much hope for drab little misfit me to stake out a true claim on his heart, eh?" Despina stares at her hands, folded in her lap.
They pull up beside her truck, blocked from the rest of the village's view by her hovel.
"How'd they meet?" she finally asks softly, not raising her eyes.
"I'm not exactly sure.” Jacques continues to stare straight ahead as if they were still moving. “It was while he was off at college."
"College?" She is clearly startled.
The sky has lightened as they talk.
"You're not going to get any rest if I keep bending your ear," leaning across her body to open the passenger door.
"I could no more fall asleep right now than I could walk on the moon sans space suitt," Despina opines, not stirring.
"We mustn't be seen together. It would be... misunderstood."
"They'd think WE were an item, you mean?" Despina’s head swivels of its own accord toward Jacques, who has withdrawn to the driver’s side again.
"He'd lose face, yes,” Jacques explains softly, “but more importantly, you'd be judged unsuitable."
"Unsuitable?” Despina’s voice grows shrill. “Unsuitable to teach? I already tried to quit the night I arrived. I got the feeling that I was eminently suitable -- a duly licensed teacher as required to continue their minuscule government funding -- a warm body, semi-fluent in Spanish with enough compassion to care terribly about my charges. Eminently suitable."
"Oh, they love your teaching,” Jacques praises. “Creative, innovative, sensitive to their heritage. I think you know more about Indian culture than most of the Indians alive now do."
"I boned up before I came,” Despina explains in a rush, hurrying on to what is important to her. “So, how then unsuitable?"
"An unsuitable replacement," Jacques ventures cautiously.
Her eyes widen. "For Cherylyn?"
He nods, then soberly indicates the open car door. "Keep the faith."
She stumbles out, heading into her door-less hovel.
Last updated 2/26/10 Added “tells”. Changed I refer to to I am referring to, and She’s clearly startled to She is, since it is NOT in conversation. 9/11/04. (Corrected past tense to present.) (8/30/04 Revised title, corrected spelling nonsense, minuscule)
Word Count: 1675
Current Mood: Star light/Star bright,/First star I see tonight/Wish I may/Wish I might/Have the wish I wish tonight. -- from "April" -- Simon and Garfunkle