Under Construction -- The Recurring Dream
Much of what makes up the fabric of truth cannot be touched or proven.
-- Lynn Andrews, Windhorse Woman
Around the campfire, talk tails off. After several minutes, Despina addresses the nearly asleep Paul Peter as she reclines against a crumbling log in a “nest” she has constructed of loosened crust.
"Do you remember the night I arrived?"
"I can assure you, I will NEVER forget it."
"Were you sober enough to remember the trip out here?"
"Parts of it... It's hard to think about," he admits in a rare instance of complete honesty.
"What did you see in the cave?"
"You mean, the two old women?"
"Yes. Anything else?"
"Well, the fire."
"Lots of plants."
"She was a medicine woman."
"Maybe. They could have been that kind of plant." He pauses. "Cu's mother was the tribe's medicine woman. She died about three-four years ago. Supposedly quite a powerful person. She couldn't live with his father, so I've heard."
"Yes. She was Cu's mother. She guided me over the hill to the cave, then back to the road when I lost Cu's headlights."
"Did you ever go back and look at where we drove in the daylight?"
"No, can't say that I did. I had more pressing matters to sleep off."
Switching tacks, she asks, "Did you ever contemplate dreams as teaching techniques for how to or not to behave in certain circumstances?"
"No, can't say I ever have." Affecting disinterest, he rolls over and nods off.
Recognizing his sham, and accepting the reason behind it as a given, she still tries one more time to engage him. "I dreamed Cu for the past three years..."
His head comes up. Their eyes lock. She continues, "...before I met him last weekend."
"Urmph." Paul Peter’s eyes slide away.
"I dreamed that his mom was dead. I dreamed that I meet her with a fellow teacher. I dreamed it before you had ever worked here. Before I did. Two years before I knew you worked with Indian children during the summer last year."
"I wrote some of the dreams in this journal." She holds out a tattered, stained green journal, open to a page near the front.
Giving up, Paul Peter rolls over and takes the journal, leaning up on one elbow to read, spilling the fire light over the page. He starts with a date over three years old.
"He drives the jeep over the top of the mountain, following her directions, ending up stalling out on a steep slope. They spill out of the jeep onto the mountainside, grabbing a small, stunted tree to anchor themselves on the edge of the cliff face. 'It's a bit steeper than I expected,' he said. Under their combined weight, the tree bends, revealing a small opening. "Look, a cave," she points, releasing the tree to explore the cave mouth, entering tentatively. With a sigh, he releases the tree as well and joins her. Both slowly look around. On the hearth a fire burns quietly; smoke from braided ropes of some kind of grass spiral up, lost in the darkness. Bowls, pots, baskets, and other medicine woman's accouterments are stored in niches in the stone wall behind the fire. Blankets are spread neatly on both sides of the fire. On each lays a drum with fantastic images painted on the surface. Beside these lay what appear to be rattles made from deer hooves and snake tails. She remembers reading about medicine women and shivers."
Paul Peter stops. "This is really hard to read. You need to paragraph," he adds, handing the journal back negligently.
"It's a journal, for goodness sake, not a published work."
Bruno, who has been following the conversation intently, extends his hand. "Please?"
When Despina nods, he turns a few pages, then starts, tipping it toward the light. He reads the date, over two and a half years ago. The ink is faded. "Here one say no school. Incredible! I am here!"
"Yes. So is Horst. Not named. Almost nobody in the journal is named, but you can still recognize them, and the general situation. It's pretty spooky. At first, I just thought it was a weird coincidence, but things are matching up way too well.
"After the campfire last night, I dreamed the part about the school again. Not as it really happened, but as it is written somewhere in there, with one exception. The characters had names this time. Look at the end of the journal."
The date was last night's. The ink was vibrant.
The German read:
Dismayed, she gasped, "That's not a school! That’s a flattish piece of dirt covered with sage bush! No! It doesn’t even deserve to be called dirt; it’s just sand…bare sand…!"
Eyes twinkling, Cu responded in Náhuatl, with Bruno translating, "Yeah, well, we're running a bit behind schedule."
Looking up, he adds, "You me flatter. I speak not the Náhuatl."
He continues reading:
"That seems to be epidemic in this part of the country."
Bruno's impeccably clipped British English sounded strange in these surroundings. "Actually, celebrating nature, being out in the great out-of-doors, is very appropriate for Indian students. Keeping/getting in touch with their heritage, and all that sort of thing."
He again breaks in at mention of himself, "I speak not so good the English, but is ideas I t'ink."
He continues reading:
"That's fine for you to say! You're teaching biology inside a building!"
"¿Qué, qué? ¿Hay un problema?" asked Cu.
"No, no hay problema. Voy a enseñar sin libros, sin escuela, sin materiales, y sin sueldo. No, no hay ningún problema."
Shaking his head, Bruno returns the journal. "He pays. He is honor."
Paul Peter breaks in, "Bruno's right. We get paid once a month, same as in Iowa. I know you have some post holes instead of a school building, but I didn't realize you didn't have books, either. I can see where that would be a problem. It's a good thing we go to the library on Friday."
She returns to her first topic. "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.
"When 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 PP and I used it. I don't know how someone Cu's size even fit.
"When we got inside, the only footprints were from PP and I, 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 you, PP, and I saw and 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.
Last updated 11/23/04.
Word Count: 1309
Reading Level: 3.8