Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in circumstances confronting him.
-- St. Thomas Aquinas
"I've been watching you. Do you think you're being entirely fair to Alberto?" Despina opens seriously, now that she has Cu alone.
Cu’s stunning eyes swivel in her direction. "¿Justo?"
"Sí. Juan understands Spanish, Náhuatl, and English. You, too, if what Jacques says is true. Sarah also seems to know all three. The brighter the students, the more languages and better vocabulary they appear to have in them. But Alberto, who is extremely bright, is only fluent in two of the three. He has no trouble with his memory. If he hears something once, anywhere, he remembers it and can extrapolate how to use it correctly later on... and can generally spell and write it, as well.
"What happened, what changed, between Juan and Sarah's time, and Alberto's that he is being crippled so deliberately?"
Cu’s face is stoic. "Es privado."
"Bueno, but give a thought to Alberto's future.” Despina searches his face for signs that she is talking to a human, not an automaton. “He is growing up without knowing the native language of the people who will surround him for the rest of his life everywhere except here, where there is no outlet for his talents, no way for him to earn a decent living, or lead a fulfilling life. He will be constantly handicapped by his inability to understand and explain himself to those around him."
Cu relaxes his stance a bit. "¿Qué va a hacer para remediarlo?"
"I will do NOTHING to solve the problem, without your permission and approval,” Despina replies with some heat. “He's YOUR child, very beloved, and this is the life you have chosen to lead. Times change, but it is NOT my problem. However, seeing it developing, I'd be remiss not to at least attempt to address it."
Cu’s passion flares into elegant Spanish. "I'm afraid our tribe is going to forget our native language, our heritage, and live rudderless in a very crazy world, plunging over the abyss without so much as a rubber raft to help buoy them up. The strength and power of the old ways are not being replaced by anything substantial. Alcoholism, poverty, moral degradation, the disruption of family life, envy of the GOODS of others seem to be the only legacy of cross cultural exchanges on the Indian side.
"If I grant permission, what possible solution are you proposing?" He ends standing practically nose to nose with Despina, who has to really work to stay on task.
"I can't solve all the problems you described, of course, much as I might like to, nor is that my goal. But I can use both English and Spanish together as I teach, giving the material in Spanish, then in English. The bright ones will learn both, IF THEY CHOOSE TO, and the others will lose nothing in the process. There’s also the Raúl problem. He says he does not understand either Spanish or Náhuatl."
Cu regards her silently long enough for her to fidget under his intense scrutiny, twisting a curl mercilessly.
"Do you remember the library session you joined where Paul Peter and I were reading fairy tales to the children? Alice has located versions of various tribes' creation myths. I realize they are not from YOUR tribe, but yours are not mentioned in the literature. We are planning to schedule another Saturday morning session, using them. All I am proposing is using that same approach in the classroom."
"Bueno." He turns abruptly and leaves.
Did that go well, or not? Despina wonders to herself. At least he TALKED, for once. Shrugging, she goes back to her preparations.
When class starts, Raúl stops at the edge of the roof. “I ain’t goin’ ta school! This here’s summer vacation.”
Turning her back to him, Despina talks over her shoulder as she heads over to work with her lower elementary. “The res school year is different. It operates during the summer, then lets out for the hunting/corn husking season, when the winter meat supply is collected and stored while the women and girls collect and preserve nuts and berries.”
“I hate it here! It makes my spirit sick!”
“You may take your mind and spirit elsewhere, but the fact is that since your father’s law office here is doing a booming business, you body is here for the duration.”
Sullenly, Raúl stalks to his seat. Turning her head toward him, she continues, “Corpses left unattended, spiritless, in the desert rot. More slowly, but rot just the same.”
She has the elementary students and a quite deflated Raúl take turns printing the words on the board, first in Spanish, then in English, based on Cu's uneasy consent.
She has taped photos, drawings, or magazine pictures of common household objects on long strips of paper, which she attaches to the left side of the blackboard. Pronouncing the word in Spanish, she inquires what it is in Náhuatl, then says it in English. One after another, students approach and write the Spanish on the board. Despina then fills in the English as the student returns to his/her desk.
Soon it is Alberto's turn. Despina is circulating, helping the various students correct any errors appearing on their lists. Alberto announces, "I already know this word." He has written CAMISA next to the drawing of a shirt that appears to be dancing away from an ironing board. "SHOORT."
"Very good, Alberto." She turns back to Francisco. Suddenly Juan and Sarita begin to giggle. Turning to see the cause of the upset, Despina stares at what Alberto has so carefully lettered into the English column.
"Alberto, se escribe shirt con ere in inglés." She watches as his eyes grow wide and he erases the end of the word, inserts the r in the right spot and scuttles, chastised, to his seat.
"I wonder where they learned THAT word?" Despina, whose back is to the road, does not hear Mick approach, so her jump at his words causes the students to giggle again.
Brushing her bangs off her forehead, she answers breezily. "Hi, Mickey. Oh, tourists use it all the time."
His eyes crinkle briefly with amusement, then grow more serious. "Have you got a minute?"
Apprehensively, she pauses. "I can always declare a water break," she ventures tentatively.
When the students have scattered out of earshot, Mickey straightens from the post he's been casually leaning against. "Have you seen Cu?"
Thrown off by the suddenness with which he comes to the point, she affects a casual tone. "Sure. He joined us on our morning constitutional."
"At 5:00 a.m.?" he presses.
"Well, I don't wear a watch, but dawn hit the cliffs while we were walking, and we watched the pink progress to the valley floor. It was spectacular." Her eyes dart from paper to paper nervously.
Bearing in on the crucial point, he continues in his official voice. "Where was he going to be today?"
I thought we were friends. I feel as if I’m guilty of a very heinous crime. "I don't know. It didn't come up. I'm not even sure he said anything at all other than to answer my questions. Why?"
Some of the sternness drops away. "I need to talk to him in my official capacity."
Hopefully, Despina suggests non-serious excuses for the summons. "One of the drunks in trouble again, or is it one of the women?"
Mickey looks down, guiltily.
"How official, Mickey? As in 'arrest' official?" Despina’s face is beginning to resemble the sun-bleached sections of her hair.
Mickey is silent.
"Rabbit trouble?" she says tightly, her anger threatening to flare out of control.
Mickey’s eyes widen, his mouth twisting off to one side. "Huh?"
"Surely you've heard of Roger Rabbit. I thought he was a media icon." Instantly she regrets her sarcasm, knowing how impulsive she has always been when in the grip of anger.
"Oh. Um. I'm not at liberty to say." Struggling to re-establish a more friendly feeling tone, he places a hand on her arm.
"Then, I presume contacting someone using the base radio would not suit your plan?" She softens her stance.
Mickey purses his lips. "Not exactly."
With an exasperated sigh, Despina says, "He doesn't strike me as the type to run from his responsibilities."
Mickey carefully considers his words before speaking. "I don't think this qualifies as a responsibility."
"Obligation, then," substitutes Despina, irritated.
"No. Not that, either." He considers, a vertical line appearing in his forehead.
"Harassment?" Despina supplies.
Mick taps his nose. "Ah, now that one has possibilities."
Taking a step closer, Despina inquires, "Who were those men who invaded the motel?"
Mickey puts his feet together as if standing at attention, stiffening his spine, eyes twinkling. "Ah, I'm not at liberty to discuss pending official matters with members of the general public."
"Was Roger by any chance Cu's old boss?" Despina presses.
Staring at the mountain behind her, he says, "Let's not get off on that topic."
"Then WHY are you here?” Despina’s temper thunders through her. “YOU don't strike me as the type to support harassment."
Mickey does not flinch. "I have a warrant for his arrest."
Leaning her upper body toward him, she shouts, not caring if her charges are within hearing range, or not. "HIS ARREST? Say WHAT? Why do you want to ARREST him?"
Mick shouts back, "Who said I WANT to arrest him?” Catching himself, he continues more reasonably, “He's one of the few true friends I've ever had. Some of my happiest boyhood memories are of visiting my uncle's house, and Cu was always there. We grew up running wild on this river, in these mountains."
"Your uncle?" Despina’s anger melts away as quickly as it came, overcome by compassion.
"John Quantico. My mother is his sister." Mick’s eyes search hers.
"And Cu his son?" Despina extrapolates.
"John was never married," Mick reiterates a time worn phrase.
Despina thoughtfully holds the sheriff’s eyes, noting not for the first time how similar to Cu’s they are in shape and coloration. "That's not what I asked."
Last updated 3/20/10 Changed interpolate to extrapolate. 3/19/10 Added Raúl material. 3/14/10 Corrected jump...causes; 3/10/10 Corrected tribes’. 2/23/10 Added more tells. 2/13/10 Changed with exasperation to irritated. 1/31/10 Smoothed “tells”; 1/29/10 Added “tells”. 7/31/08 -- changed it to yours are in the line about myths in literature; with to based on Cu’s uneasy consent; reversed pending and consent; added Despina thoughtfully holds the sheriff’s eyes, noting for the first time how similar to Cu’s they are in shape and coloration. (9/14/03 Moved Roger bit from "Pinch Hitter". Added quote 9/10/03)
Word Count: 1705