Under Construction -- The Recurring Dream
Much of what makes up the fabric of truth cannot be touched or proven.
-- Lynn Andrews, Windhorse Woman
As the sun sets that night, Despina dutifully shows up at the campfire sans escort. Parking in the dirt by a rotting log, she frowns. 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."
With a wiggle of her nose at his vehemence, Despina inquires, "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?" An unaccustomed frown mars Paul Peter’s forehead.
"Yes.” Despina nods her head decisively. “Anything else?"
"Well, the fire."
"Yes." She draws the word out, her pitch rising a couple of notes at the end.
"Lots of plants."
"She was a medicine woman." Using just two fingers of her left hand, Despina untangles an unruly strand of her hair, letting it fall back in even greater disarray.
"Maybe. They could have been that kind of plant." He pauses. "Cu's mother was the tribe's medicine woman.” Paul Peter’s eyes rise heavenward. “She died about three-four years ago. Supposedly quite a powerful person. She couldn't live with his father, so I've heard." He purses his lips.
"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."
"Yeah, right." Paul Peter’s pleasant face twists into a sneer.
Ignoring his mockery, Despina changes tack. "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." Affecting disinterest, he rolls over and nods off.
Determined, Despina continues. "Have you ever contemplated dreams as teaching techniques for how to or not to behave in certain circumstances?"
“Dreams? What a nightmare!”
Despina 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 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." Intensity burns in her eyes, glittering in the firelight.
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."
"Yes." Suddenly tired, she gives up, standing, intending to head back alone.
Even though the evening is drawing to a close, the sheriff's car pulls up. Stopping, Despina, greets him dispiritedly.
Smiling, Mickey turns toward her. "Was that you this morning I saw rushing back to the reservation?"
Despina nods, "I made a used refrigerator run, surely hitting every pothole in that entire stretch of road, but managed to arrive before the start of school." She rubs unconsciously at some red and green marker residue on her underarm.
Behind them, Paul Peter kicks in the fire, and all head back en mass, pretending not to see Despina and the sheriff in conversation, even though all can clearly hear what they are saying. After a few steps, Paul Peter separates himself, hanging back.
Spying Paul Peter eavesdropping as the group passes, Despina hails him.
"There's a slight hitch."
Bruno walks over, listening intently. Bruno continues on, several Indians breaking off toward the rest of the town, and Jacques to the hospital.
"The refrigerator doors are still on, but the Freon's still in, too."
"And the motors?"
"Presumably. And the piping, as well."
Rubbing his jaw reflectively, Bruno offers, "Need more hands, tools, and how you say? Assemble line for Friday?"
Turning briskly, he sets off toward their hovel, where he houses a first-class tool chest.
"Spoken like a true engineer," Paul Peter says as he fires up the jeep for a fast trip to town to tipple. “I’ll bring the English students to town then to facilitate the loading process.”
As Despina and Mick return to her hovel, she thinks, as long as Paul Peter doesn't have to dirty his hands, then chides herself for being waspish when he is helping her.
Reaching into the car to flip on the headlights, Mickey examines her arm, raising his eyebrows in inquiry.
Despina grumbles at him. “You don’t have to look at me like that! I didn’t get them in a concentration camp or prison!” If the math flash cards stick to my arm like this afternoon, I'll just have to prepare them in the mornings. I hate having red and green numbers all over my skin!
"Flash card preparations."
Looking as if he’d like to kiss her pique away, he laughs, lifts his cap to smooth his hair, then climbs into his patrol car now that the campfire group has broken up.
Last updated 1/31/10 Added She rubs unconsciously at some red and green marker residue on her underarm. (Where’sMeKilt)
"Flash card preparations." Added “tells”; 12/30/09 Added end of Jello, rewriting it to smooth the transition. 12/28/09 Added still more “tells”. 12/22/09 - Removed Cu/Pina visitation of cave; added new last paragraph. 12/20/09 Fixed format on journal entries; added “tells”. 11/23/04.
Word Count: 1519
Reading Level: 3.8