Saturday, November 24th,2001, 2:31 pm (pandemo)
If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.
-- Tom Peters
Without knocking, a custom developed in places where houses have doors, Alberto bursts into Paul Peter's hovel.
Not only does he NOT knock, he SHOUTS. Raising himself on one elbow, Paul Peter tentatively opens one eye, then, wincing, closes it and drops back onto his pallet. "Alberto, no es tiempo de levantar. El sol no está en el cielo."
Gritando, muy agitado, Alberto dice, "Dónde está mi maestra?"
Paul Peter leans on one elbow, facing toward the sound of Alberto's voice. Both eyes are shut. He is wincing. "¿Su maestra? ¿La profesora?"
Paul Peter's shaky Spanish leads him to check for understanding before taking the message seriously enough to react to it.
"¡Por supuesto! No está en su casa."
"Not in her hovel, huh? Is she walking in the desert?" When Alberto doesn't respond, he tries Spanish. "¿Está andando por el desierto?"
"¡NO!" Alberto puts his all into his denial.
Wincing again, Paul Peter repeats, "¿No? ¿De veras?"
"¡No! Yo la acompaño todos los días."
"You go with her when she walks in the desert every morning?" Rolling over preparatory to getting up, Paul Peter mumbles to himself in English, "Leave it to Despina to find another early bird." Gazing at the forlorn Alberto, he continues, suggesting other destinations she might have had, "¿Quiza se va a Broken Lance?"
"¡No! Su camion está aquí todavía. Ella nunca anda tan lejos."
Climbing to his feet by stages, Paul Peter staggers as he steps into his jeans. "Not took off for town, wandering around loose in the desert, or taking her morning constitutional... No stone unturned, eh, Kid? You're right. If her truck's still here, she's not in Broken Lance. She's learned better than to try to walk that far."
"Por favor, señor, ¿dónde está?" Alberto looks up at him forlornly.
Paul Peter is not big on sympathy, as a general rule, but he tries. "Where's your teacher? No sé, Alberto."
He looks so close to tears that Paul Peter ruffles his hair and promises to look for the wayward Despina more to calm the distraught child down than out of any real concern for her whereabouts. It is way too early in the morning for curiosity to take hold.
Wandering inconspicuously toward her hovel as though looking for a place to relieve himself, he muses, "Come to think of it, I haven't seen Cu lately, either." He scratches his unshaven chin.
Motioning Alberto back into his hovel, he slips into hers, hoping to go unobserved. "I've no hankering to anger my boss, or give him any reason to see me as competition," he grumbles. Pausing inside to allow his eyes to adjust to the dimness, he looks around. The hiking boots she'd borrowed the money to purchase are gone. So is her floppy sombrero.
Suddenly finding Alberto beside him, he says, "Well, Kid, I think you're just out of luck. This escape is planned, not a kidnapping." Taking Alberto's hand, they slip out.
She stays gone for nearly a week, but nobody but Alberto notices it.
Finally María sets Paul Peter straight in her typically blunt manner. Even blind, she sees more deeply than most. "Nobody bothers those on spirit journeys."
Paul Peter stands, staring at her, transfixed. "Despina has undertaken a vision quest?" His eyes glow with excitement, but he swallows twice before he can speak. Wistfully, he admits, "I always wanted to try one of those..." His voice trails off. Without thinking, he blurts out, "I always thought you did those alone."
María hisses at him, turning her back.
Last updated 2/28/10 Added “tell”. 9/12/04. (Quote added 8/30/04)
Word Count: 602