He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.
-- Forrest Tucker
As the natural alphabets are completed, framed copies go up in the outdoor gallery. The old lathe she and Juan had collected from a dilapidated structure by an old mine office he'd found for her on their way back from Flag are in high demand as borders and frames. Students carefully remove plaster and smooth the edges next to the art so it causes no damage.
To insure the exclusivity of the tribe's work, a logo is designed and placed somewhere on all work done by members of the Stone Circles tribe, in addition to the signature of the individual artists or groups creating the artwork.
Following one tribal meeting, Despina's signature on her horses running through a decidedly Iowa-looking green pasture, flanked by green trees, not desert or mountains, suddenly sprouts the tribal logo.
As she contemplates the surprise addition, Bruno comments, "Is honor and acceptance. Is good."
She doesn't dare even whisper, "But I'm not an Indian."
The many afternoon trips to the library have resulted in skills now lost to the tribe thoroughly researched via the Internet. Reminding the students of their interview and documentation methods, she assigns each person an area in which to become expert.
Alberto interviews the last bow-maker. The resulting video is so complete, with close-ups as Alberto pokes his nose into everything, that lightly edited, Despina creates a version to sell to the tourists. Its initial showing is a success: the high school boys suddenly go into competition trying to create the best authentic bow. Their "shoot outs" will add a nice touch to the end of the video on later versions, Despina thinks.
Once the other students see what a process video looks like, they all vie for the right to use the digital camera next for their projects.
Late in the morning, an Indian lets Juan out of his truck. Eagerly Juan heads over, taking his seat, grinning.
Only one event mars the day for Despina: the advent of a surprise new student. The lawyer’s son Raúl Lone Eagle, who has been living White, resentfully slouches unannounced into Despina’s outdoor classroom shortly after Juan’s return. Raúl stands near the window, arms folded across his chest, scowling.
“Don’t bother getting a desk for me -- I won’t be here that long,” he declares defiantly. One earring, one nose ring, three tats.
Juan says pointedly, “We sat on the floor the first two weeks.”
“Where’re you storing it now?” Raúl sneers.
“The floor too good for you, White Bread Lover?” Juan retorts. He plops on the ground, then bows graciously. “Use mine, your highness.”
“Usas español, Juan,” reminds Despina, at a loss how to end the standoff.
Juan glares at her incredulously. “He ain’t bilingual,” he spits in the hated White language.
Despina rolls her eyes. “Y, ¿en que manera va a aprenderlo si usas inglés? En seis semanas, o menos si es inteligente, va a hablar bien las cosas diarias. Entender más rápido en esa manera.”
“Oh, yeah? With his rotten attitude, he ain’t gonna learn nuttin’ in six weeks,” Juan tells what he sees as the facts.
“Por ejemplo, la primera vez que su mamá llamará ‘almuerzo’ cuando su estómago dice que él tiene hambre, y todos los otros vienen corriendo - es natural!”
“Okay, so he’d run for his lunch. How’s he gonna do a project in español?” Juan refuses to yield his point just because he sees how simply language could be acquired in one instance.
Giving up on Juan, Despina addresses Raúl. “Bueno. Para su proyecto, va a hablar a la gente anciana. Puedes escribir sus historias en inglés, pero también en español y Náhuatl.”
Still huffy, Raúl glares at Juan. “What’s she saying?”
Mumbling, carefully not looking at Despina, he says, “Sit here.”
Stiffly, Raúl sits. “She’s assigned you a project.” Juan proceeds to give good concrete detail, including Despina’s interview techniques and the writing paragraph requirements.
As Despina monitors what Juan’s up to, she thinks, He’s being commanding, again. Definite leadership potential when he quits fighting the system.
Squinting his eyes at her to show his irritation, Raúl spits, “I don’t speak those languages!”
“Learn them, then,” Despina responds in Spanish in a no-nonsense voice. “This is your home, now, and those are the languages people here speak.”
“God, no way!” bursts from Raúl’s mouth. Her charges react as if electrified.
Reacting more to the horrified expression on Sarita’s face, Despina decrees, “Once you know enough language, the very first thing you are to do is to apologize to the tribal gods in a language they understand!”
My friend told me that the Lacuna tribe’s religion is dying because the young people don’t speak their tribal language. They believe the gods don’t understand the White man’s languages, not Spanish, and absolutely not English.
Despina, who has noticed a one-day or so lag on some words before the Náhuatl word appears, gallops off on yet another crusade. “Maybe your long-term project should be the creation of an English/Spanish/Náhuatl dictionary to help prevent that from happening here,” she continues off the top of her head.
Juan looks interested, she notices. Maybe they can work jointly on it.
Ana looks up, intrigued, as well. “What’s the Náhuatl word for telephone?”
Glad the tension in the classroom seems to be easing, now that Raúl appears to have been controlled, Despina floats a bit of nonsense. “That depends. Two puffs of smoke = ‘Hi, are you home?’ Obviously if the other tribe is off hunting, there’s no point in wasting fuel.”
When her students’ soft laughter indicates all is again right in their world, Despina moves on. “Juan, Ana, and one more person might all work with Raúl.”
“I will,” pipes up Enrique. “I can illustrate the finished volume.”
Maybe friends will help Raúl find his way home here, Despina thinks.
At the campfire that night, Mick shows up. He steps in quietly, paying close attention to Paul Peter, who is in “story narration” mode. His hands wave through the night, lit by the tip of his ever-present cigarette.
“You really impressed the natives, today, Despina. I can’t believe you actually told an INDIAN to ‘get religion’ without introducing him to Jesus! You’ll be drummed out of your gamily if they get wind of that one.” He draws deeply on his cigarette, blowing out a perfect, somehow smug-looking smoke ring.
Bugged, Despina reacts, even though she knows better. “Where’d you hear that already? It just happened this morning!”
“Mothers talk, ya know…” Another puff of circular smoke floats upward from his face.
When the topic under discussion seems extinguished, Mick starts, smoothing back his hair as he soothes the turbulent waters surrounding Despina, threatening to engulf her. "Well, that's one trial I'm glad to see end. Missed your pretty face at the defense's table today, Despina. Did you decide to throw your student to the wolves?"
Confused, Despina is defensive. "I resumed my duties in my desert 'classroom'. Juan told me Cu would be taking him in today. I just assumed he'd stay for the trial and help him if he needed it."
"Well, Cu was present at the lawyer's table for the rest of the trial, but he never said another word. Juan did it all."
"Don't keep us in suspense. How did it come out?" Horst bursts out.
"Gregorio was released with only 'time served'. Old Stone Face would never say it, but I think Juan impressed him." Mick lifts one eyebrow as he taps his nose.
"Stone Face? That's nearly as bad as what Juan called him. I'm glad to see he doesn't enjoy universal respect. He's a pretty poor excuse for a judge, in my opinion, but then, I can't vote in this area, so I don't suppose that matters much."
Despina intercepts eye messages between Cu and Mickey just before they excuse themselves. I bet that has to do with the motel attack, she guesses pensively.
As they wander out of earshot, Despina decides to take the offensive with Paul Peter instead of waiting for his attacks. Remembering how queasy he got over the events in the medicine woman’s cave, she returns to that topic. “Cu took me back to visit his mother’s cave, then was disgusted with me. How should I deal with what we both know we saw, but which the physical evidence doesn’t match?”
Rolling over, Paul Peter lay his hand across his eyes. “I thought we already discussed that.”
"We discussed what WE saw, not how angry Cu acted over it.
“After Cu looked at the jeep tracks, he came and got me to show me the cave area in daylight. He made me go up and over the top of the mountain, with scary drops on all sides, and no possible place where a jeep would fit with its wheels on the ground, yet the marks of our passage were clear. Then he wanted me to show him the cave, but I couldn't recognize anything.
"Once we got to the tree, all these vines were blocking the entrance. Even though I knew where it was, I couldn't see it in the daylight, couldn't see it at all without her guidance. He ripped the vines out until the opening showed. The hole seemed smaller, tighter, than when you,” Despina flings both index fingers at Paul Peter to emphasize her point, “PP, and I used it. I don't know how someone Cu's size even fit.
"When we got inside, the only footprints were the ones we made that day, and there obviously hadn't been a fire in there, or plants, for a long, long time. He was genuinely angered when I told him I followed his mother's directions, that we not only saw, but also talked to his mother." She shivers as she finishes her broken narrative.
Paul Peter's muffled voice critiques her story, "You've been to too many Girl Scout Camps where everyone sits around the campfire and tells ghost stories to scare the younger children. This time, you're scaring yourself. So we found an old cave nobody had been in for years. The hills around here are honeycombed with them. Grow up. You're in a place unlike any other you've ever been in. Life is strange. You're coming in contact with people unlike any that you've ever dealt with before. Get used to it. Quit trying to turn it into a cosmic mystery." Standing, he kicks the nearly dead sagebrush fire apart and heads back to the hovels.
Thanks, PP. That was very helpful, as always, Despina thinks as she dispiritedly heads hovel-ward.
Last updated 3/20/10 Added Despina, Mick and PP at fire circle. 3/19/10 Added Raúl material. 3/10/10 Corrected hovel-ward. 2/19/10 Moved future info to As the Wind Blows. Added line about other student videos. 2/18/10 Changed When to Once. Changed silently to pensively. Dropped repeated material and smoothed transitions. 2/13/10 Smoothed Despina’s telling of events in the cave with Cu. 1/11/10 Need to get the flash forward material moved elsewhere! reworked pretty thoroughly. 7/30/08 corrected neededed. 8/23/04 Combined with "Refrigerator Art -- Benediction"; 4/5/02 Removed from "Pest Invasion".
Word Count: 1787