Wednesday, October 31st, 2001 9:08 pm (pandemo)
Refrigerator Art -- Intermezzo
He helps others most, who shows them how to help themselves.
-- A. P. Gouthey
Late that afternoon, catching up with the first load of refrigerators to arrive, duly stripped of their motors, coils, and as much meadow crud as would come off easily, Despina is depressed. Eying the shape they are in, she begins to wish she had done more than just pick up brushes and assorted enamel outdoor paints.
Why didn't I suggest running them through the spray washer at the local gas station? Hauling water from the river to scrub them down is really going to be a pain.
Seeing the look on her face, Paul Peter winks, then quips, "Think Tom Sawyer."
Saving the largest one for outside her hovel for the personal belongings she doesn't want buggy or damp, Despina has the rest placed outside the "back door" of the school in a semicircle.
Clapping her hands together for attention, she asks, "Which group can wash their refrigerator the cleanest the fastest?"
The high school boys quickly get her fridge unloaded, then head for the river with every available pail they can scrounge. Targeting hers for their project, the thing soon looks as good as it is going to, inside and out, without a paint job.
Another project is started under Bruno's supervision. Excess washers are collecting the supplies needed to build sturdy wooden frameworks to support book shelves inside the various fridges.
Miguel comes up and begs to look at her paints. Selecting a few bright shades and one of the medium sized brushes, he dashes off. Soon Guillermo appears. Another brush and most of the rest of her colors abscond to school with him.
"Horst bring more," offers Bruno, holding out his cell phone.
Gratefully, Despina dials the hardware store from the number on her receipt, putting in an order for several more brushes of various sizes and the colors HER project will need.
Taking a marker, she begins an outline that wraps around the refrigerator, inside and out. Starting on the right hand side, small horses are running across a field. As they turn the corner to the back of the unit, they increase in size. They become even larger as they move onto the left panel, and come face first at the viewer, full size or slightly larger, on the front. When the door is opened, one explodes from inside onto the door, larger than life, nostrils flaring.
"Very dramatic. Do they have names?" inquires Paul Peter in passing.
"Of course. Once they're painted, you might even be able to call some of them correctly."
"Let me guess. Raven on front and Debut inside, right?"
"I want to be here when the children see what you're doing. It ought to cause quite a stir."
Horst walks over, glances at the work, then corners Paul Peter, launching into a rapid explanation of an upcoming court appearance, back to Despina as if that stoppered her ears.
"Mateo's court case comes up Monday. He was just protecting Inéz, but because an altercation followed, he was charged. Had he been White, I doubt anything would have been done. Now, he has to plead his case in court, but Judge MacFitz is using 'tightened budget constraints' as grounds to refuse to hire a translator."
"Now, that's what I call a stupid reaction. I wonder if he thinks hiring a translator for a few days is REALLY more expensive than feeding a prisoner for a month or more?"
"Maybe he feels justified by the power of his convictions. 'English only', you know. And the Indians are just about as bad. According to the Chief, all the grown men are 'too busy'."
"That sticks in my craw. It's probably the 'Spanish only' edict of the tribal council. The 'contamination by US culture' issue is rearing its ugly head again. If they go and use English, they are being disloyal, and their values will come into question."
"The men ARE legitimately busy, but still..."
"I think I might be able to help," Despina inserts.
Both men look discomforted. "Despina, the Indian will clam up around you. You don't know the facts in this case. It needs to be a MALE and an Indian. Don't get all 'sex discrimination' on me! I see that look on your face. But the attitudes of the defendant are NOT up for repair at the moment."
"Uh, is there an age limit?" Despina inquires, tapping the end of her paint brush against her cheek.
"What are you thinking?"
"Juan. I noticed when we were reading the fairy tales that he and several of the older children were reacting correctly to the contents in English, before I got to the Spanish translation. The way he hates White Eyes, I seriously doubt he can be contaminated."
"Someone would still have to take him over, which would still stop the work during the construction season. Their project has already been interrupted by the building of the school. They just don't have the manpower. Not only do they suffer from 'brain drain' as the bright and ambitious move away, but they are also bereft of able bodied men to keep things up."
Confronting the alcoholism problem would alleviate some of THAT!
"If I closed the school, I could take him and stay with him for support. Or, maybe some of the mothers will help keep the kids using the new math flash cards or leveling the ground where the desks are going to sit..."
Horst looks at her thoughtfully. "I'll run down Chief Quantico and see what he thinks."
Fat chance. He'll be too drunk to think straight at this time of day.
Despina blows a whisp of her hair upward out of her face.
Who knows? Miracles happen. Maybe he'll be sober.
Last updated 8/12/04.
Word count: 969