September 29th, 2001


Class Projects (7/14/08; WC 1581) Q

Saturday, September 29th, 2001 5:46 p.m.

Class Projects

    Imagination is more important than knowledge.
                -- Albert Einstein

Monday morning, before setting out on her 5 a.m. trip to the local hospital, Despina checks her clear coat when she notes puddles from a small squall that blew up during the night, refreshing everything, hurting nothing.

Fortunately, the rain waited until the protective clear coat is dry, she thinks as Alberto again joins her. On their way, Cu comes up, catching his son and throwing him high into the air, a familiar ritual. Alberto squeals with delight.

Sending Alberto back to Adriana's for breakfast, Cu looks at her and requests, "Ven conmigo," holding out his hand and heading into the desert.

“Shouldn’t I get my notebook to record the plants in?”


Soon they pick up the trail the jeep made coming out of the hills. Following it single file into the steeper parts of the ridge separating the road from the village, they ascend, surrounded by the glorious colors of early morning playing on the rocks. The sheer drops and steep angles are breathtaking. They climb clear to the ridge where the jeep had started its slide. Touching a fresh gouge along one rock, he eyes her speculatively, but says nothing.

"¿Dónde está la cueva?" he asks, as they return.

"The cave? It has to be around here, somewhere. We pulled away a tree, and the firelight showed in the opening." But she can't find it.

Finally Cu shows her. After pulling the vines and branches away, Cu enters. She follows. The light from the enlarged opening shows the footprints she and Paul Peter had made in the long-undisturbed dust. They hike back to the road in a silence that feels uncomfortable, accusing, somehow, to Despina.

"De dónde vienen Uds.?" Alberto greets them upon their return.

Laughing, Despina ruffles his hair, leaving his father to explain why Alberto was not included on their extended early morning walk. She heads into her hovel to write in her journal, dress, and revise the day's lesson plans.

As the school day starts, seeing how uneven the desk area still is, Despina sighs. The sun still beats down mercilessly, with a few scattered shadows cast by the ring of posts and beams defining the area. Trying to involve the students, interest them in anything even remotely educational that she can, she assigns a project.

"Each student needs to come up with something to investigate."

Desperate, she puts no constraints on it. Not many respond at first, but that soon changes.

Alberto pipes up, "¡Una bañera! ¡Una bañera! A bathtub! I want a bathtub!" Popping out of his seat, he does a lively dance to punctuate his words, "Bathtub! Bathtub!"

"Bueno, Alberto. We all hear you." Turning, she carefully letters bañera on the borrowed blackboard. "Who else has a project idea to present?"

Sarita, a thoughtful expression on her face, says, "I think we need electricity. Then we could have our own light in the school, and not have to cancel class when dark, rainy days come."

Despina studies at the mountain off to the right, absentmindedly reaching for a chunk of her already tangled hair. Ah, Sarita, what an optimist you are. On dark, rainy days, we'll need more than a light. A roof, and walls, doors and windows, cupboards, books, oh, my list is as endless as it is unlikely to happen.

"We could get our own computer like the one at the library."

Yes, I remember how powerfully impressed she was when I could call up a site that talked about herbal medicine, and she saw some of the plants her grandmother had told her about. That would let her get in touch with a piece of her heritage lost to her in any other manner.

...Well, any other NORMAL manner, her puckish inner voice quips. Her grandmother could always decide to talk to her...

"Bueno, Sarita. Es muy ambicioso."

Nobody else will present any other ideas, so after another bout of ground-leveling, in utter frustration, Despina dismisses the group for lunch, knowing full well that will be the end of class for the day. As they dash off, whooping and laughing, she thinks, And now, I get to contrast that with the stoical behavior of one lone Indian, who knows what he saw written in the dust of the cave floor doesn't match what I said.

But I have totally vivid memories of what makes no sense at all when I tell it truthfully, as it really happened.

Why didn't I SAY something?

What believable thing could I possibly have said?

Plunging from elation to despair, she trudges after her dismissed students.

Looking up, she catches Paul Peter just returning from Mound in the jeep. She is surprised. If he's here now, nobody will take it amiss that I released the elementary students. I wonder what his excuse is. His school has a roof.

Approaching she inquires, "Where're your students?"

"Kinda hot out, ya' know? They went to the old swimming hole. You ought to try it on some of these beastly hot afternoons."

"Deliberately let them play hooky?"

"Who can focus on learning when the temperature is over 100 in the shade?"

"True." The idea feels alien to her.

Maybe that's what I need to do -- unbend a little. They sure aren't very enthusiastic about learning. I expected to have them all fired up by now. She frowns.

"Will you let me bum a ride into Broken Lance the next time you go?"

"I'm heading that way now as soon as I get changed. I volunteered to pick up the tribal mail en route."

He heads into his hovel as she returns to hers, quickly staking the still-damp tomato plants with soft strips of a worn-out shirt demoted to "rag" status. She exits nearly at once as he returns with his billfold. "Hop in. Ready for a payday loan, yet?"

"I'll get back to you on that."

As they travel she innocently inquires, "I just realized nobody ever said what time school is supposed to get out."

"Yeah, no 'start at 8:00 and go 'til 4:00' here. It's more 'go as long as you can stand it.' One of the benes of limited government funding -- sensible regulations." Paul Peter reaches for his missing pack of smokes, then stops the gesture abruptly, looking quickly around.

She has him let her out at the library, where she approaches Alice for enough cash to fund buns, hot dogs, and marshmallows for a cook-out down by the pond. "I just hate to be beholding to PP. He takes advantage."

"So Mickey said." Alice quickly tucked her pencil behind her ear, settling herself for a good gossip.

"How come you two don't date?” Despina separates some damp hairs along her neck, holding the end out to look at. “You seem to get along quite well. You fit. I know he admires you."

Startled, Alice admits, "We did, a little, in high school” Pulling the pencil from her hair, Alice taps silently against the desk with its pristine eraser. “But when he came back home from the academy, well, he seemed intoxicated with Cu's catch, Cherylyn. They were a dynamic trio. It was obvious I couldn't compete." The rhythm slows with the end of her speech.

"Oh, I think you must've been selling yourself short. I think he's shy with women." Despina’s eyes cross as she tries to see the knot she’s working on.

"Possibly.” The bouncing pencil pauses in mid-strike, then resumes double time as she begins to talk again. “Maybe I didn't give him a chance.” Alice jabs the pencil into her unresisting hair. “I don't know. She was so perfect in every way."

Despina arches her eyebrows. "But, now?"

Alice gives an embarrassed shrug. "I don't know how to start anything up again."

"That's a shame. I think you'd both like it." Despina’s gaze focuses on a painting of Spirit Mountain hanging above the check-out desk.

"I think he's sweet on YOU." The pencil falls silently on the blotter as Alice lays her hand along Despina’s arm.

"Hummm... I'd sure be interested.” Despina closes her eyes briefly. “But, like you, I don't know how to start. I keep tripping over Indians. I KNOW that would be a BIG mistake. Disaster is written all over that one. Mickey was with me when I met him, and he SAW how I reacted, I'm ashamed to say. He looked disappointed that I wasn't immune to his attractiveness."

Sincerity softens Alice’s library voice even further. "He told me you were 'smitten' hard. That's a quite predictable reaction."

Despina grimaces. "But Mickey, on the other hand, is comfortable, engaging, and totally interesting. I wish he weren't always in uniform when I bump into him. I don't know if I bring out his 'woman in need of protection' instincts, or if he's genuinely interested. I KNOW I'm shy with men."

A patron enters, so Despina boots up the computer, searching the topics that interest her charges for URL's she can safely guide them to on the next visit. She doesn't look up until Paul Peter taps her on the shoulder.

When she reaches for her purse, she notices a $20.00 bill beside it. Looking around, she catches Alice's eye, smiles in thanks, and packs up.

As they exit, she casually inquires, "Before we leave, do you mind a lightning dash into the store for some lunch supplies?"

Last updated 2/2/10 Changed Cheryl to Adriana (Where’sMeKilt) 1/9/10 Added refrigerator reference. 1/8/10 dropped Juan in Court, added Cu and Pina’s visit to the cave. 12/28/09 Added “tells”. 7/14/08 add financial news. 7/12/08 added Early the next morning...Falcon. changed her to the; - 1/2/06. (Removed letter reading) 6/17/02.

Word Count: 1581
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