On the last day of class Ms. Wilson took me aside and asked if I’d like to attend a special writing workshop being held for 5 weeks during recess at the Delevan Avenue school. The workshop offered to students showing promise in their writing skills. The yellow brick and sandstone elementary school also serving as the area site for summer school classes. Where sick, chronically truant and slow students on the verge of flunking were sent to make up the required material needed to allow them to graduate up to the next grade level. With the dreadful implication of forfeiting their precious summer vacations.
Ms. Wilson’s offer suddenly presented me with an impossible conundrum as competing emotions pulled me in opposite directions. All winter long I dreamed of the coming summer vacation. Week by week my anticipation grew. I was bursting with thoughts of baseball, swimming, fishing and exploring. More than anything I yearned to be free. And now this. With no desire to be tied down to any responsibility. And least of all more school work.
But Ms. Wilson was like a mystic who could read my mind. Looking me in the eye she asked if I was ready to take charge and mold my own life. Y-y-yes, I stammered. I think so. But I wasn’t fooling anyone. No one had ever spoken to me like that before. Or on such terms. Abruptly pushing me out of my comfort zone. It was a monumental challenge. My intuition telling me here was an opportunity to advance and gain respect. Her eyes capturing mine as she softly spoke. You’ll like it, Tommy. It’ll be good for you. It’s just what you need to develop your raw talent. Don’t worry. You’ll be with other students like yourself. All the while assuring me it wouldn’t be anything like regular summer school. This would be fun, with an open format. Besides, it’s only 5 weeks long. Only two hours a day in the morning. In the fall when classes resume you’ll be way ahead of the other students.
More than anything I longed to be grown up and mature. And I didn’t want to let Ms. Wilson down. Still…There were so many things I wanted to do. I wavered between alpha and omega. When she gently placed her hand on my head and ruffled my hair my thoughts became a blur. I’ll be there to help you, she reassured me. Conducting the workshop herself. The barest whisper of lilac scent lingering on her skin. Her hair emanating pure rose water.
I can’t say what came over me. But I know my eyes surely sparkled whenever I looked at her. She, the living embodiment of the mother that all young boys long for. I was more than vulnerable. I was desperate to fill the empty chasm within my heart that reached into the core of my soul. Ever searching and yearning for the mother who left me years before and whose shadow was hidden away in the state asylum for the insane.
I rode my bike along the wide sidewalk of Baily Avenue. Past the rows of shining new cars on the street side lot of Mernan Chevrolet. Then several blocks more to the public elementary school at the corner of Delevan Avenue. The entranceway on the first day of summer school crowded with other kids as they arrived. I saw two sickly boys from my neighborhood who’d contracted rheumatic fever and missed half the school year. A kid from two streets over whose father had died and who we all thought had disappeared. And a boy I knew from Little League baseball. On the first week of summer vacation with a sullen, crestfallen look on his face. Tasting the bitter result of having squandered his regular school days in childish play and classroom antics. Still not fully grasping the consequence of his stupidity. Absorbed in self pity at the prospect of missing out on all the fun stuff of summer vacation. Summer school. Not the short two hour course I was enrolled in. His was do or die. Given an ultimatum to either bring up his failing grades in history, mathematics and science or repeat the seventh grade in the fall. When I said hey, he barely looked up.
I locked my bike into a metal back on the side of the building and ascended the stairs at the front entrance. Room 202 was on the second floor. Walking down the hall I peered into one classroom and then another. Looking in on the anxious faces of children sitting at their desks. Their expressions like prisoners trapped in a concentration camp. Their first day of summer school. Outside in the trees cicadas loudly buzzed. Inside the halls smelled of freshly waxed floors. Where special summer school teachers sternly admonished the students on how there’d be no latitude for misbehavior. This was summer school. No more fooling around. The great anvil of failure dangling precipitously over their heads. Either pay attention and complete all the required work or repeat your grade in the fall. It was do or die time. Last chance.
That was the ultimatum. Last chance. Like the last chance warning on the roadside billboard. The weathered picture of a gas station beneath the ominous heading: LAST CHANCE FOR GAS. No Gas Stations For The Next 200 Miles. Hey, you! Driving that car…This is your last chance. A smaller sign beside it read Pueblo Trading Post. Indian Turquoise. Fireworks. Kachinas. Next Right. The Caddy’s fuel gauge resting on half full. I did some quick math in my head. Maybe I’d better top it off.
I drove to the bottom of the exit road. Taking time to collect my thoughts. An electric buzzing in my ears trying to tell me something. A feeling that forces of a sinister or strange nature were afoot. The wind blowing clusters of tumbleweeds alongside a shallow drainage ditch and onto a rusty cattle fence. Bits of fast food wrappers and container trash helplessly impaled on strands of barbed wire fluttered in the breeze. Nearby a discarded truck tire and a torn piece of green canvas lay partially buried in the hard, red dirt. The desiccated remains of coyote or dog laying ominously next to the fence. Another reminder not to dally in this hostile environment . And without a gas station in sight. Instead, another sign with an arrow pointing to the right. Jack’s Quik Serve Gas. 5 Miles. Guiding gas hungry motorists down a funky, narrow, two lane asphalt road. Five miles? What could possibly be five miles further away into the middle of nowhere? Maybe I could make it with what I had. Turn around and take my chances along the main road. I’m pretty sure it’s what a more cautious and careful person would have done.
But something was pushing me. Urging me on. Hey look, you’ve already come this far. There’s no point in turning back now. So I kept on. Driving along at a modest 45 mph. A mile or so later steering around a big snake that was slowly crossing the crumbling blacktop road. The road winding back in the same direction from where I’d just come. Then another sign for the Pueblo Trading Post. Indian Turquoise, Fireworks and Kachinas. Three more miles to go.
The Pueblo Indian Trading Post was set back some fifty feet from the road in a slight depression. A small parking lot was gouged out from the rocks and red dirt. From the looks of it the place hadn’t seen any trading in a long time. All that remained were some weathered, boarded up shacks fringed with red dirt and tumbleweeds. Nothing left to sell or trade. The Kachinas and fireworks long gone. Even in its heyday it couldn’t have been much. I scanned the horizon in all directions. Looking out at nothing. Less than nothing. Who would think to put something way out here?
And still no sign of a gas station. Jack’s Quik Serve Gas. Last chance for 200 miles. My insides telling me to go back to the main road. Even if there was a gas station out here it would probably be like the Pueblo Trading Post. Indian Turquoise, Fireworks and Kachinas. Only more disappointment and tumbleweeds. A small dust devil licked the edge of the road, kicking up an explosion of dust and red dirt. The little voice wouldn’t let go of me. I couldn’t let go of it. I had to know. I aimed the Caddy down the road. One mile, then two. Then on the right past a sharp bend it suddenly sprang into view. Jack’s Quik Serve Gas. Last chance for 200 miles.
On the first day of the writing workshop there were 13 students in the classroom. I was the only boy. I didn’t like it. The odds were all wrong. What had I been tricked into? Maybe it was a mistake to sign up for the class. All of my friends were either sleeping late or playing baseball in morning pick-up games. Or sitting in the cool morning shade under the big canopy of elms that covered the streets of our neighborhood. The dew still moist on the lawns and the cicadas buzzing overhead. The first wafts of onions frying on outdoor grills drifting across back yards. With me impossibly stuck in a hot classroom. Imprisoned with a dozen idiotic girls that were at least two years older than me and wouldn’t stop whispering and looking over at me and giggling to themselves. Maybe it wasn’t summer school. All the same I felt like I was in hell.
Ms. Wilson wasn’t anything like the stuffy teachers I’d been accustomed to. On our first day she made her appearance wearing shorts, a sleeveless blouse and open toed sandals that revealed brightly painted toes that sparkled like enchanting rubies encased in soft velvet. Her skin slightly tanned. Her hair pulled back into a single tightly woven ponytail. Sitting in a most casual way at her desk at the front of the room. Looking over some papers while absently toying with the ends of her blond, sun kissed braid. She the epitome of cheerfulness and radiant beauty. Small wonder that everyone immediately fell in love with her.
Our first assignment was to read Jack London’s To Build a Fire. Then write an essay on what the story meant to us. She said there was no right or wrong way to interpret it. We should all just write down what we felt.
I poured over the story. Reading it once, twice and a third time. Trying to capture every nuance and emotion that London revealed. I wrote not about the drama of building the fire but about the intersection of time and growing emotion that the story conveyed. I wrote and then rewrote it a dozen times. Looking up words in the dictionary to be sure and pushing myself hard toward perfection because I was completely taken by Ms. Wilson and I wanted so much to impress her and have her like me.
Ms. Wilson collected all of our essays and took them home with her to read. The following day she handed them back to us and in turn asked each of us to stand at the front of the class to read them aloud for everyone to hear. I hadn’t counted on this. One by one each of the girls stood and read their stories. Mostly they sounded like robots. Without any emotion or flare. Finally at the very end it was my turn. Ms. Wilson called my name. Tommy, would you like to come up and read your essay?
In three days the girls had formed several distinct caste cliques. The wealthy snobs. The middle class and the poorer section. And me. A smattering of giggles as I approached the podium at the front of the classroom. Each step a march through Death Valley. My heart pounding and my tongue becoming as dry as stale bread. My brain seeming to flex with nervous energy. Just as I neared the front Ms. Wilson leaned forward from her place next to the small podium and softly whispered don’t be nervous, Tommy.
I stood in the front of the class and cleared my throat. This was my chance. Time to silence these silly geese and put aside all the nonsense embedded in the student social order. Release my inhibitions and really describe what Jack London was feeling when he wrote his masterpiece of a short story.
A tall man with a weather beaten face from the Texas Department of Public Safety was the first to come by. With a folksy voice like LBJ. Right off calling me by my first name. The way you’d talk to someone you’d been friends with for years. Telling me he just had a few questions. Curious to know about some things I’d written in my book. No one’s accusing much less charging you with anything. This is just an informal conversation. He wasn’t going to advise me of my rights so anything I said couldn’t be used against me later on. I could relax and speak freely with him. We aren’t trying to pin anything on anybody. Just hoping we could tie up some loose ends and gain some clarity. I nodded. Clarity. That’s just what we needed. And waiting for him to squeeze in the word “closure.”
He kept on in his plain folks, aw shucks, style. Subtly moving from hypothetical theories to more pointed questions. He opened my book to a chapter he’d previously marked and read aloud a few paragraphs. And asked if I could remember any specific dates and times. Saying he only wanted to have a more complete picture. I gave him a quizzical look and shrugged my shoulders. I still hadn’t uttered a word in his presence. Merely nodding in response to his questions. We’d like to know what you know…about some of the specific details. Details about the things you’ve written in your book.
Then one by one he pointed to passages that he’s highlighted in bright yellow. What concerns us is how you could know so much about these events. Because the way they’re written, well…The only way someone could have known so much about them…it’s like the person writing these stories was actually there. Do you see what I mean? His eyes hardening into an intense, piercing stare. It was the kind of tactic he’d used successfully throughout his career as a cop. A guy who underneath the slow talk and Southern drawl knew just how to push people and draw their words up to the top. From people who when they started out had no intention of ever talking to anyone but suddenly felt…almost compelled. Momentarily overwhelmed. Tricked into speaking about things they never intended to talk about. Not with anyone. Ever. Especially with a guy who was trying to slip a hangman’s noose around their necks.
I asked him if he’d ever read The Old Man and the Sea. He gave me a quizzical look and said he didn’t think so. It was written by Ernest Hemingway. A great writer and a truly remarkable book. Written in a very simple style. With short sentences and easy to understand words. Maybe that’s why it’s been read by so many people. It’s safe and uncomplicated. The thing is, when you read this book you begin to feel the same emotions as the old man who’s put out to sea in his little skiff boat. You can taste the salt brine and feel the aching muscles of the old man as he tries so desperately to hold onto his great fish. But in the end he loses it to the sharks and there is nothing that anyone can do.
I wasn’t registering any emotion from the cop. So I told him plainly as I could that if I were one tiny bit as good as Hemingway when he wrote his book about the old man out on the ocean…If I could even hope to one day stand in his shadow then I would have accomplished something that is very rare and precious.
By the middle of the third week our writing class had dwindled down to eight. The others dropping out for the usual reasons. Family commitments, boredom, etc. Ms. Wilson gave us several more reading assignments. The Scarlet Letter. The Call of the Wild. When I read them I thought…I could have written this. The writing seemed so free, simple and natural. But there was no point in trying to fool myself. I knew I didn’t have anything close to the skills of Hawthorne or London. Still…I was intrigued. One of the girls stood up and asked why we were doing so much reading when we wanted to improve our writing. That’s when Ms. Wilson said something very profound. That the best writers are the best readers. On the last week our final assignment was to write a short story of at least a thousand words on anything we wanted. The basic rules were simple. The first paragraph or two should give the reader a sense of the story line. The body should contain the main theme, a development and description of the characters and have a flow. The ending should wrap up the story in a way that made sense and gave the reader a message. She said there were other styles and ways to write but for now we should follow these guidelines and keep things simple. Later on we could write in more complicated styles. But content was always more important than trying to develop a fancy style.
I wrote about a mysterious dark blue bottle that was hidden in the floor joists of our basement. A square cut bottle with a dark blue tint. So dark that you could barely see what was inside of it. A bottle we had to pretend we didn’t see or know about. Because we were children and weren’t supposed to know about such things.
When I’d return home in the late afternoon for dinner I’d sneak past the kitchen and carefully, quietly step down into the basement. If I was discovered I knew to say I was looking for something and quickly move on. But I never was. Not even once. I’d close the door behind me and tiptoe down the stairs. The steady coolness of the basement providing immediate relief from the heat in the summer months. Midway across the space I’d find the string that turned on the overhead light bulb. Then pull out the wooden box that contained cleaning supplies and stand on it on my tip toes and slowly slide my hand across the wooden beam until my fingers touched the glass decanter. I’d carefully grasp its narrow neck and bring it down for inspection. Sometimes shake the bottle and hold it up to see how much was left inside. And think back to how it looked the day before and know everything. It was the way I knew to survive living with my adoptive father, Robert. If the line of stuff inside the bottle was a few inches lower, I could relax and not have to worry about being suddenly slapped in the face or cuffed on the back of my head at the dinner table. And if it was more than a few inches lower I didn’t have to worry at all. He’d be so buzzed that he wouldn’t bother with anyone around him. But if the line hadn’t moved or if he’d unexpectedly run out…It could be dangerous being around him.
What I didn’t know at the time was that there was always more than one bottle. Over the years Robert began stashing them all around the house. At one point he had so many stashes he couldn’t keep track of them all. In the confusion I started helping myself to them. With no one ever the wiser.
When our papers were handed back to us Ms. Wilson thanked everyone for making the sacrifice to attend the writing workshop. She said we all did wonderfully and each of us showed promise as writers. And then she revealed she was taking a permanent teaching position at a suburban high school in Williamsville and how this would probably be our last time together. She said she’d always remember us and gave everyone a hug and wished us well.
As the students began filing out Ms. Wilson asked me to stay behind for a few minutes. She was smiling in a very tender way and with a serious voice asked me why I’d picked such an unusual topic to write about. I didn’t know what to say only that I was writing what I felt. She said she’d never read a story like that before. With so much emotion from a boy my age. And that she was concerned. You know, if you ever need someone to talk to…
From the rise in the road I looked down at Jack’s Quik Serve Gas. Last chance for 200 miles. The Caddy’s door windows and wing vents open, bringing in the arresting, pungent desert air. The wind swirling. Kicking up dust and grit and pushing clusters of tumbleweeds across the road. A large wooden sign with the word GAS and a faded red arrow pointed to the filling station.
I wondered about the people who might have lived in a place like this. Who were they? What were they like? Why would anyone choose to live out here? Like shadow people suspended in time. Abandoned by the world. Stuck in the middle of nowhere. Eking out a substandard existence selling dusty junk to itinerant motorists and the occasional trucker from their ramshackle booths and shacks.
In all my travels it was always the same thing. No matter how miserable someone’s life seemed, in whatever part of the world they were from. Wherever they lived it was home sweet home. Imagining their crummy hometown to be a sweet slice of heaven. Neither knowing nor caring that they were stuck in an illusion of their own making. Lost in a chasm so deep they’d never find their way out.
The windows of the filling station were covered up with sheets of plywood. Just like at the Pueblo Trading Post. Indian Turquoise, Fireworks and Kachinas. I had expected as much. I did the math again in my head. Wondering if I could still make it with the gas I had. I’d have to drive conservatively. Keep my speed under 50. What other choice did I have?
The electric buzzing in my ears wouldn’t go away. Maybe I needed a rest. Take a short nap to rejuvenate and clear my head. Try to figure things out. Rest my eyes for a few minutes before moving on. I coasted down and pulled the Caddy around to the side of the filing station and parked beside a stunted tree. The sparse branches offering a slight bit of shade. Along the side of the building some empty bottles. A few warped boards and a rusted sign for Jack’s Quik Serve Gas.
I couldn’t have dozed off for more than a few minutes. Startled awake by a sudden rush of wind and a sharp cracking sound. Like the sound of ice exploding apart on a river. Only inches away from me the coolest little bird was perched on the steering wheel of the Caddy. So delicate and small he could easily have fit in the palm of my hand. With tiny red eyes and an iridescent bluish-green head and wings. Sitting calmly. Completely at ease. Watching me intently. In the way that a messenger might gaze upon someone in the moments before delivering his communique.
I was completely taken by him and spontaneously began singing. Softly, in the way a nurse serenades a baby in her charge. Hari bol, little bird. Hare Krsna. Jaya Radha Madhava. Hare Krsna. Don’t be afraid. I’m your friend, you see. As I sang in the barest of whispers he leaned his little head forward. As if studying me. Causing me to wonder…Who or what is this little creature sitting before me? The entire scene feeling…magical. Mystical.
Slowly, slowly he began moving his head and body. Gently swaying from side to side. Head bobbing in cadence with my song. Tiny taloned feet moving to and fro. Wings fluttering as they half opened and closed. Chest feathers undulating in sync with his steps. Hare Krsna. Hari bol…His body slowly changing in shape and color. Green becoming yellow. Yellow fading to blue. Shivering and puffing himself up. Growing in size. From that of a tiny hummingbird to the size of a sparrow. Then a wren to become a robin. And suddenly the size of a large raven. Singing in his own measured, melodious way. In a language that I somehow knew. And what he sang was this.
Please forgive your brother, the red man. Try to not think badly of him. He yet has a great weight upon him. And suffering the consequence of many things that people do not know. Struggling to acknowledge and accept his past. Coming from the ancient continent of Atlantis…Over time their culture split in two. With one portion remaining true to the old ways and the other becoming jaded with the allure of material technology. The latter thinking themselves more learned and sophisticated than their brothers. The achievements with the material energy bringing with it the curse of deluding pride.
As their power and influence grew they exerted ever greater domination over their brothers. Forcibly subduing and subjecting them to their will. While once kind and generous their desire for greater power slowly began to choke them. Covering their true nature. Bringing a subtle shift in consciousness and an undercurrent of arrogance that manifest as an attitude of disregard for other beings. A distain toward those considered less advanced or backward. Relegating them to the status of primitives while ignoring their true spiritual essence.
In their quest to advance material culture they colonized the adjacent lands of the Americas and the Nile Delta. Along the way often exploiting and mistreating the native peoples. Displacing whole populations and usurping their lands for their own designs. The remnants of their power still visible in the great pyramids they left behind. In a time before the world witnessed their own self destruction.
Today we bear witness to the many ills that have befallen the red man. Their lands stolen. Whole populations decimated. The once great aristocrats marginalized into pockets of poverty. Coming to terms with the rectifying power of nature. Neither good nor bad but simply the harvest of their collective and individual karma. The consequence that all men must accept as the results of their actions come to fruition.
A sudden lightness came over me as the inside of the Caddy became filled with an ethereal glow and an indescribably sweet fragrance. I blinked my eyes but was unable to focus. Thinking to myself…There is no past or future. Only this sublime moment. Here and now. Parked beside Jack’s Quik Serve Gas. Last chance for 200 miles. The place long since boarded up with sheets of plywood. Just like the Pueblo Trading Post. Indian Turquoise, Fireworks and Kachinas. Abandoned.
I remained feeling slightly stunned for several more minutes. Trying to collect myself and reflect on what had just happened. Could I have been dreaming? Who knows such bizarre, surreal dreams? Where do they come from? Like a sudden meteor falling from the sky. Crashing deep into my being.
It was time to get going. I backed up the Caddy and turned to leave when I saw three men sitting in the shade of the gas pump island canopy. Resting quietly on a makeshift bench made from milk crates and weather greyed planks. Red Indians. Dressed in mismatched bits of Army surplus green. Dusty black boots and Levis. Long dark hair flowing out from under weathered, sweat stained straw cowboy hats. I pulled the Caddy up to the pumps and turned off the ignition. I stepped out and did my hellos and they nodded politely. I didn’t see you fellows when I pulled up earlier. Pointing toward the side of the building I explained I’d been parked around the side. I was taking a little nap…The three nodded. Their flat expressions giving nothing away. So I guess this place has been closed down for some time, eh…? More blank stares. How far to the next gas station then? The man sitting in the middle sporting a bright turquoise hat band pointed toward the east. About 20 miles that way. Do many people come by this way for gas? The men spoke softly among themselves in a halting dialect I couldn’t decipher. Turquoise hat band offered that people came by regularly. On a good day maybe one or two in an hour…Well somebody should probably change the sign back there on the highway. I mean, it’s misleading. Having people detour all the way out here. If someone was having real trouble…More blank stares. How is it you guys happen to be sitting around our here? In such a deserted place. Out here in the middle of nowhere…
Turquoise hat band suddenly stood up. You need gas, mister? Gas? I still didn’t get it. Well…That’s why I drove out here. But where’s the gas? The trio started laughing. Turquoise hat band waved his hand around and said where do you think? You drove out here for gas, didn’t you? Yes, I did, but…Well don’t this look like a gas station to you, mister? I didn’t know what to say. You know what your problem is, mister? All you can see is three stupid Indians. Sitting around like dummies out here with the rattlesnakes. At that they all burst into uproarious laughter. You never saw an Indian gas station before, Mister? This is how they look out here. This is how we fix ‘em up for the tourists. That brought another good round of laughter. Maybe we should change the name of the sign to Middle of Nowhere Gas. More laughs all around. Things were getting really confusing. Okay. If you’ve got some gas I’ll take some. Go ahead and fill ‘er up.
I unfolded some bills from my pocket and handed them over. But I still didn’t understand what was going on. I swept the horizon with my hand. Look. Look…Come on man. Take a look around. What’s out here? There’s nothing here. Just dirt and tumbleweeds. Where do you guys live? I mean, I don’t see anything. There’s nothing for miles and miles…
Turquoise hat band pointed at my chest. Maybe you can’t see anything because your heart is blind. Where do you think we come from? Maybe you think we just popped up like gophers from the desert. That drew another burst of laughter. This is where we live. With our family and friends. We’ve been living here for a long, long time. But we’re invisible to you. You didn’t see us when you drove up. We’re like a mirage. We’re not real to you. You only see us when you need something. Always so busy going here and there. You need the gas so you can keep moving around. So to help you move along we invite you onto our land and sell you some gas. To you it’s the middle of nowhere. But to us it’s the middle of everything. It doesn’t mean anything to you because you can’t see. This, all of this…This is our home.
I didn’t know what to say. Except that everything I’d said up to that point seemed to infuriate and insult them. The realities of our lives as different as night and day. All the while in the back of my mind I could still see the little bird. Dancing as he changed in color, shape and size. Dancing and singing as he told his story. Wondering if it had happened or if it was all just a dream.
I squatted down next to the trio and told them I didn’t intend to disrespect them. I didn’t know what else to say so I asked turquoise hat band if he’d ever seen the little dancing hummingbird. The bird who changed colors, shape and size. It was like a bolt of lightning suddenly hit him. He eyes staring at me as though I’d just uncovered a rare, hidden treasure. He looked into my eyes. What do you know about this? You saw? So I started to explain how when I awoke from my nap I found the little bird sitting on the steering wheel of the Caddy. Then when I sang to him he began to dance and sing and then change shape and color. Turquoise hat band was both incredulous and mystified. You sang to him? Where did you learn this? How do you know about these things. Who told you about this?
I didn’t quite know what to say. I sensed I’d somehow entered a secret realm that these men held as sacred. Not just entered, intruded. Uninvited. I told them I was sorry. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I said I couldn’t explain any of it. I wasn’t looking for a mystical experience. I certainly hadn’t asked for it. I didn’t do anything to make it happen. Only that it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. I only did what I felt was right. No one told me what to say or do. When I felt my heart opening…things just flowed. I started singing to him and that’s when the little bird started doing his dance. And began singing to me. Speaking to me through his song.
The trio became very grave. Turquoise hat band chided me. Why do you pretend to be stupid. Our people wait their whole lives for such a vision. This is a great blessing from the spirit guide. You have been given a powerful vision. The spirit guide has spoken with you as a friend. Looking toward his friends he said the spirit guide and this man talk with one another as friends through their songs.
I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing or not. But I pressed ahead and told them what the little bird said to me. The story of how they were once a great and powerful people coming from Atlantis. And about the correlation of the past to their suffering today. Karma. The consequence that all men must accept as the results of their actions come to fruition. Something each man has to come to terms with. I could see that their world was completely turned upside down as they struggled to understand. How was it possible for the spirit bird to appear before a foolish white man? The suddenness of it overwhelming them.
They asked me where I came from and how I came to be there. I explained that I was an itinerant traveler. Something like a wandering mendicant. Trying to connect with the people wherever I go. Hoping to learn from those around me and sharing what I have with them. Never knowing where life will take me next. And that for some reason I was drawn here. To this very spot. It’s hard to explain. Anyway, here I am. And here we are…
Whatever was going on out there at Jack’s Quik Serve Gas. Last chance for 200 miles wasn’t about cowboys and Indians. It was time to see beyond the superficial layers that kept our minds covered. It was time to open up and see things as they really were. Beyond the covering of our skin. Past the land where we were born. Where we live and die.
Ms. Wilson leaned forward and put her hands on my shoulders. The slightest hint of jasmine on her neckline. The beginning of tears welling up in her eyes. I stood there like that for an eternity or more. Unable to find the words to express what I felt. She wrote down a number that I could call. Just in case…And we’d always have to keep it our secret because she wasn’t permitted to interfere.
That was what I always remembered as my best summer vacation. The summer that took me far beyond pirates and cowboys and baseball and fishing and the make believe things that boys stubbornly cling to in the time in between. Just before they begin to grow up and change forever. The in-between time. In the time when I truly learned something about myself and who I might one day become. Not at all like Hemingway or London but a writer just the same. And finding a voice of my own. In the time between night and day.
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