November 6, 2000 11:32:00 pm
Oh, So True!
"Pina, ¿qué pasa con papi?"
"Ay, Berto, your father's had a hard time. He can't remember very well yet. You just have to keep telling him what it used to be like."
"I do. Every day, I tell him about us walking to the hospital to use the facilities at dawn every morning, but by evening, he's forgotten. He doesn't remember pulling you out of Man-Eater Arroyo just before the flood hit. He can't remember that Sarita and I are his children, or that our mother was shot by his old boss while she was trying to protect him. How can he forget such IMPORTANT things?"
"He had a bullet in his head. He's not like he used to be."
"But, he LOOKS okay now. He looks all healed up. He can run and do all sorts of things with me now that he couldn't last month. Why can't he remember WHO I REALLY AM?"
"He's only okay on the outside, Alberto. He's got to heal just as much on the inside now. If the outside didn't heal first, he could get hurt again very easily. You have to watch out for him just as if he were a baby. Don't let him chase a ball into the street, or swim when he's just eaten..."
"I want my REAL daddy back! I don't want to have to baby sit for him!"
Despina sighs in depression as Alberto stomps off. So do I, Alberto; so do I. I want to feel his arms around me, his lips warm against mine. I want his calm acceptance, his lightning wit, his balance, his breadth of understanding, oh, just everything he used to be. But as much of his brain as has had to be reconstructed, we're both bound to want in vain.
Ragnar taps lightly on the doorframe of the common room. "That was a pretty sad-sounding sigh, Despina. What's got you down? I've rarely seen ANYTHING daunt you, even the possibility of being trapped for life in a harem with no outlet for your intellect, creativity, or your genius for reforming things, whether they need to be, or not."
"I just caught myself telling a six year old not to let his father go out and play in the traffic. The absurdity of it is, ah... just, repulsive and defeating."
"And I bet you're missing a few of his talents, too, if you are honest." He sits carefully beside her, but does not dare to touch her yet. He plans to, but with great care, as if she were a wild animal he might scare away. He has a long back history of being able to get physically close to her, then twine her normally steel will around to his way of thinking. His mission today is to get intimate with her again, with the eventual goal of getting her pregnant, as the powers that be are increasingly unwilling to wait for Cu to grow up enough to be interested in her as a woman. They see Ragnar as a perfectly acceptable match. The outer hallway door seals silently, allowing Ragnar to breathe a sigh of relief. She is now isolated with him. She does not know it, yet, but she soon will. He relishes the coming storm. The making up is so delightful.
When another heartfelt sigh breaks the peace, Ragnar leans slightly closer, in fractions of fractions of inches, reaching up to rub her shoulder gently, tenderly, passing her the understanding and acceptance he's counting on to sidetrack her will.
She leans into his warm shoulder. His other arm wraps possessively around her, encouraging her to cry on his shoulder. Her head drops. But he gets talk instead of tears. "I told Berto he may never regain all of his old memories. Without reliving all the major elements that shaped him into the fantastic person he was, just having the same genetics available to imprint is not going to create the same result. The two places are too different; the atmospheres diametrically opposed. I told Alberto to just keep talking to him; to tell him EVERYTHING he could remember about the way it was, the way he was, over and over. And if he forgets, just tell him again. I'm so worried we won't be able to influence him enough."
"Patience, Pina, patience. He's only had a full mind to work with for a few weeks. He can't possibly replace all that missing data that quickly -- you couldn't download all that stuff into a computer that quickly, and it doesn't need to digest it the way a person does."
"Do you have your cell phone with you?"
"What are you up to now? You know how chancy reception is in this mountain."
"I could try! I want to call the Broken Lance sheriff. He was Cu's best friend as a boy. He has to sit out in the middle of nowhere for hours at a time, and I bet he could talk into a tape player without degrading his performance as a peace officer. He'd do it; I know he would." She grips Ragnar's biceps fiercely, pushing herself out far enough to meet his eye.
He hides his agitation, showing her mild interest and a bit of disbelief. When enough time has gone by for Tore to get taping equipment in place, he turns over his cell phone.
Pina is so agitated that she has to dial the number three times. Pretending to be respecting her privacy, Ragnar moves quietly into the other room.
When she finally connects, she gets Tony, who has obviously been awakened by the call.
"Despina? Despina? That lady that married Cu? The one who'd wake me up day after day ta use the facilities? That Despina?"
"Surely you only know ONE Despina, Tony. It's just not that common a name any more."
"I s'pose you're alooking for Mickey, right? Ya know that now that Mickey and Alice are married, he don't put in the same kinda hours he used ta."
"Can you give me his home number?"
"Heck, you already have it, sure's your born. Alice's. Ya dialed it right regular from here, seems ta me."
"It won't hurt you to remind me a bit. It's been years."
But he relents, giving her the number. As soon as he starts it, she finds she can finish it, but overseas calls cost so much, she's reluctant to take a chance on her memory of a number she never dreamed she'd need again.
From the gruff way Mickey answers, Despina decides she's roused him from a sound sleep. Quickly checking the time and counting out the hour difference, she realizes it is 5 a.m. in Arizona.
"Despina? DESPINA?" The volume of his voice drops as he evidently moves the mouthpiece away as he wakes Alice. "Hey, Honey, Despina's on the phone."
She hears the rustling of what she assumes to be bed covers, then hears a click as an extension is picked up. "Does this make the connection too weak?"
"No, no, I can hear you fine."
"So, you are still an early riser, I see. Where are you staying?"
Her laughter tinkles, "I'm still in Norway with Cu's clone, Alberto and Sarita. That's what I want to talk to you about. Cu's gotten back a lot of rough motor coordination, but his memories are nearly non-existent. He can talk, Spanish, English, and Náhuatl, but seems to have no recollection of the man he was."
"Does he remember being married?" Alice asks softly, her voice filled with horror.
"Well, I'm not sure. Mentally, he's about, ah, two and a half or three, the women who have been mothers tell me."
A sharp intake of breath gives her an idea of her friend's reaction. "He... he's full grown, isn't he? When you said clone, you were just speaking figuratively, right?"
"Yes. Their reconstruction techniques are quite advanced. Alberto is really frustrated because he looks so normal on the outside, but acts like a baby. I actually caught myself cautioning Alberto not to let Cu cross the street alone. It didn't go over very well, and I can't say I blame him much."
"Are you sorry you let Ragnar drag you back there from Omar's harem?"
"Good grief, NO! Harem life is excruciatingly stultifying... I think I'm really over Omar. Now, Ragnar is another matter. I was with him a whole winter, and he's so supportive, and willing, now. I think he's going to be a problem for me. His views on monogamy in marriage are, well, he just doesn't believe in it. He doesn't think it is true to a person's humanity to be monogamous."
Mickey cuts in. "That's all very interesting, Pina, but I seriously doubt you called internationally to discuss varying philosophies of marriage and the meaning of the vows."
"You're right. I called to ask a favor of you. I want you to make some tapes about what Cu's life was like... anything/everything you can remember. I can send tapes, if you'd like. The exposure he gets over here to American culture is highly skewed, and his culture is not a mainstream one in the first place. I really want to bring him home to be 're-raised' in something similar to the environment that shaped him originally. I know you can't ever go back, but there are some values here I'd just as soon not see him adopt."
"Pina, there's no reason to send tapes. That's just double expense, two way shipping. They're so cheap, it isn't worth it. I'll gladly participate, and I know Mother will, too. I'll see what I can get from the people on the res, as well. Everyone respects the man he used to be. They ought to be willing to give their side of the memories, at any rate."
She is so content when she hangs up that Ragnar has little trouble getting her to drink doped milk, and soon is back outside, his dirty deed done.
By the time the first of the tapes from the US arrive, Despina has a problem she thought she would never face again. She is bleeding. How is it possible for someone with a total hysterectomy to bleed? The whole area is capped off. I need to see a doctor -- a doctor I trust! But, of course, she bumps into Ragnar before she gets much thought put into the idea. He, unlike her, is expecting some symptoms, and it isn't long before she's confided her secret to him. He gets her squared away with what she needs to handle the problem, then tackles the further goal that has been set for him. He is strangely reluctant to attempt to set up any informal housekeeping arrangement with her. He's come to admire her and has stated that he'd rather wait, but all that earned him was a nasty remark from Eric, and more questioning of his manhood.
Taking a ride with her on his Arabian stallion, they wind up back in the upper mountain cave where they first were married, before the remnants of Cu were traced down. Once she's back in that old setting, he has her nearly hypnotized, and they spend a pleasant, if rather passionless, night.
Soon, her hormones are wildly out of whack. She recognizes it as the same thing that happened before, but does not suspect that a pregnancy is the cause this time. The queen is watching her surreptitiously, and crows when next she sees Ragnar, "Well, you randy old piece of Viking glory, I do believe you are still fertile, as incredible as that is for a man of your mature years."
Ragnar accepts her praise half-heartedly. They have long known that only he of the original group is still able to reproduce. It is a bitter pill for the queen, who is actually younger by some 20 years. "Should I sit near her and knit baby booties, do you think? It may take a while for her to believe the impossible has occurred."
Laughing wickedly, Christina suggests he take her to a Lemans class. "Before she even knows she's pregnant? That ought to be good."
"Ragnar, I have a favor to ask of you, one that will tax the good will of everyone in Norway."
"That sounds ominous. What are you thinking?"
"It is imperative that I get Cu into his natural setting. I need to take him and the children back to Arizona if I want to see any lasting improvement in his mental state. I just refuse to give up without a fight." And, I want to get to MY doctor! I won't mention that, as the lack of faith I have in the treatments I get here is always a bone of contention between us. She chews nervously on her lower lip.
Ragnar is stunned. His first inclination is to give her NO hope. He quickly changes his mind, however, as if he accompanies the little family, he can reap any benefits that might be had by returning him to his native environment. Signaling Tore surreptitiously, he suggests that it will be quite a while before the arrangements can be made, even if the approval is granted.
"But you WILL help, won't you?"
Staring into her deep gray eyes, he knows he'll promise her anything, as long as he can stay with her. He is shocked. "I must be crazy. I KNOW what a storm of protest will well up when word of this gets out, but, yes, Pina, I'll try my hardest to help. Tore and I will need to go, too, as you can't physically handle him if he throws a temper tantrum like the one he did last night."
"How do mothers do it?"
"Well, most three year olds aren't a foot taller and 75 pounds heavier than their 'mother', you've got to remember." His words have the desired effect. Her shoulders lift and her mood lightens.
"I feel as if a thousand pound boulder has just been lifted off my chest!" Spontaneously, she reaches up and pecks him on the cheek.
He feels his face turning red. "I didn't think I could still blush at my age!"
Pina awakens in Ragnar's arms, and immediately suffers from a guilty conscience.
Watching her carefully, Ragnar goes immediately to the heart of the matter. “Quit chastising yourself. You're a perfectly healthy young woman who through no fault of her own has acquired an infant husband while married to a mature, virile man who just happens to love her a lot. He can't stand the haunted look in her eye lately. You Americans are so moralistic. You still have all the instincts of the animal, but you try to excise that part of your nature, to your own determent. How many of your fellow countrymen and women have been locked up, either in jails or in insane asylums because they got out of touch with their true nature? How long will this farce go un-righted? Look at yourself. You are crippling yourself emotionally trying to get the affection and love you crave from someone with a mental age of two or three. You'll crack long before he reaches puberty if you don't find an outlet for your perfectly normal urges."
"Oh, Ragnar, how can something feel so good and so bad at the same time?" The tears he'd expected before fall now with a vengeance. Just as he's about to offer her more physical release, Tore pokes his head in.
"Sorry to intrude, but one very upset little boy is headed this way. I avow he can track her right through the stone walls, and she isn't even his real mother."
Stepping out into the hall while still hastily rearranging her buttons, she spies not Cu, but Alberto. He rushes into her waiting arms, thrusting his forearm out for her to see. "He BIT me!" Alberto's sobs are heart-rending.
Blowing a puff of air into the hair falling across her forehead into her eyes, Despina offers up a quick prayer. Dances Dreams, if you're paying attention, I could sure use some advice about right now. "Here, Mommy will kiss it and make it all better." Gently, she lowers her lips and kisses the imprints of clearly adult-sized teeth on the narrow forearm. She barely suppresses her own sob. As she lifts her head, Ragnar reaches for Alberto, lifting him easily in one arm while examining the area carefully with the other hand.
Turning Alberto's arm back and forth, he says, "Now, where did you say those ugly teeth marks were?"
Standing, Pina glances down, then gasps. Alberto's arm is clear. "What'd you do?"
"Me? YOU kissed it!"
Last updated 5/28/06 (she soon WILL, changed from would). 11/7/04.
Word Count: 2788
Reading Level: 5.4