Sunday, June 8, 2008

Smoking coyote (old story)

“Last chance,” said Raven Bob stoically, “I don’t want to put bad ideas in your head but the insurance company tells me I have to let you know what you are getting into - one final time.” His voice was calm and unalarming even with the mention of that ominous word ‘final’. It was one of the two voices I had seen this bunch of Native Americans use. The other was the happy, playful, fun loving voice. That was the one to be wary of because you never knew what was coming next. One minute it is, ‘hey lets watch TV’, the next it is ‘let’s borrow Mac’s truck’ and finally it is ‘Wow, I didn’t think that truck would roll over so easily.’ The other voice, the stoic voice, calm as it was, could produce massive understatements. I once heard Raven Bob say “looks like bad weather” upon seeing the horizon fill up with funnel clouds. I guess there was no safe haven to be found in either voice.
I have to admit I was hoping to be a bit more relaxed at this point, but there is something about being shut tight in the earth that was disconcerting. There would be plenty of air but there would be no light. None. Not a speck, flicker, or twinkle. They say men have gone insane experiencing this total blackout, so why was I doing it and willingly at that ? The answer was either quite insane or logical, you get to pick. I would go with insane, myself.
This insane experience is last part of my Vusion Quest. What is a Vusion Quest? It is the trademarked copyrighted name that Raven Bob and his brother, Tim ‘Blind Gopher’ Johnson came up with. They wanted to call it Vision Quest but it was copyrighted and one of their tribal elders threatened to do bad things their anatomy if they degraded a sacred ritual in order to make money. Plus they could not spell too well which might be the real reason. Anyway, it was that spelling that attracted me. I figured it was a uber-vision quest, a vision quest that was fused with some new technique for even better results.
You might be saying, ‘yeah that’s nice but what is a vision quest ?’ To tell the truth, I don’t really know for sure but what I think it is a ritual in which you strip away all the factors that distract you and then you really look at yourself and then you see who you really are. Oh, I forgot one other thing - you meet your spirit guide.
You also might be saying, ‘Okay, now I know what a vision quest is but why in the world are you going into a cave with no light after having spent the last day and night ‘purifying ‘ yourself ? ‘ And you might be asking, ‘What does he mean by ‘purifying’ ?” Again, I have to say I am not an expert on these things but Raven Bob and Blind Gopher put me through a rigorous day and night ritual of sweat lodging and starvation - I said no to the Peyote taking but as it turns out Raven Bob’s cousin, Sister YellowTail couldn’t score any anyway.
You might be saying ‘what is sweat lodging ? ’ Well, you know you ask a lot of questions. Why don’t you look it up ? Everybody knows what a sweat lodge is - a place where you meditate, pray, and get rid of all the toxins in your body by sweating. When you do a sweat lodge, you are only supposed to drink water (no eating anything). Except a salt tablet or two because you need salt and you lose salt when you sweat.
So now you know what I know except you don’t know why I felt the need to ‘find myself’.
Well, that is another story that I will tell you now.

About a month ago, I am standing on a train, a crowded train, the kind of crowded train where one could lift both legs off the floor and not move. Packed tight, sardine can plus plus. There is an old lady in front of me. She is sleeping even though she is standing up. As the train stops to let off the first wave of commuters, the tension that holds us packed together eases. Ah,. I can breathe again. The old lady snaps out of her slumber and grabs my hand. She wears a crazy dazed look on her face.
“Tony,” she says, “where am I.?” I don’t know what to say.
“Um, I’m not Tony.” Best I could do at that moment. Not what she was looking for. Or expecting. I knew that by the look of terror in her eyes.
To say she became crazy at that moment might be a bit of a stoic understatement, similar to something Raven Bob might say. But he didn’t and I did so, I’ll take credit for it. Her name was Sara Borten. The police told me that later. Before I met the police, Sara made quite a scene, running up and down the aisle, swinging her umbrella, calling some people Communists, others terrorists and most of the females whores. Me, she called Tony.
“I don’t know her.” I protested to my fellow passengers. It did not matter, they sensed what I sensed - that I was the only one she would listen to. I had the power to calm her down.
And she did need to be calmed down. Although she stood barely five feet tall, Sara was terrorizing everyone, threatening anyone who dared to get near her. This was a problem as she was standing by the exit.
“I’ll kill you,” she screamed, “I’ll you kill all. “ Her voice then became meek, little frightened girl meek. “Tony, help me, Tony.” She was looking at me.
It all seemed surreal. I switched into a different me at that point, a me who calmly walked up to her and told her it was okay. Just sit down with me and it will be okay. She did, holding my hand while the all the other passengers quickly and carefully filed off the car. We waited together for the police and paramedics to arrive. She said nothing. I did not want to rile her up so I too said nothing. An eerie silence. I wondered what would happen to her, I wondered why me, and I wondered when this would end. There seemed to be an endless amount of silence to wonder in so I used it. I began to wonder about myself and when I was going to eat tonight and what I was going to eat; I did not want to eat fast food again, maybe Chinese would be good. I wondered if the Cubs would ever win the world series and I wondered if I would ever meet the right person, the girl who would complete me. I wondered why I did not think of my current girlfriend, Amy, as that person. I wondered if she would be mad about that. I wondered why I was dating a girl bigger than me. I wondered what would I do if I had to go to the bathroom ? Could I leave this crazy lady here by herself ? Luckily, I did not have to go.
I wondered why a million little insignificant things were all I could wonder about. Where was my depth ? Was this all I cared about in life? Wasn’t there something more important, more significant that I should be doing with my life ? I was all set to do some deep heavy wondering about myself when the cops showed up.
Not much happened after that. At first, the cops were not sure of who was the crazy person, Sara or me since we both were sitting quietly. However that problem was quickly solved. Sara, aroused by their arrival, stood up and defiantly challenged any and all to death by umbrella, lest they come near her. There is something amusing in seeing a barely five foot tall old lady holding four strapping young men at bay. To their defense, I must say that there is something ultimately scary about crazy people, the people who are clearing operating outside the limits of ‘normal’ behavior. I was there and although she was not attacking me, I felt afraid. I guess that there is the unpredictability of their behavior that makes these people the most scary; you never know what they will do next.
I saw one cop getting a tazer ready and again something inside of me took over. Time stopped for me at that moment. I saw the cop with the tazer, I saw Sara acting crazy. I saw fear in the faces of the other cops and I knew somebody had to do something or this was going to ugly fast. I jumped up away from the cops and grabbed Sara by the hand, looked her in the eyes and told her to sit down. I turned to the cops and said ‘back off’’. For some strange reason, they all did what I told them to do. I told the cops that I did not know this lady but for some strange reason she seems to listen to me. I asked them what do we do next and they said let’s get off the train. So we did and Sara gave them her purse when I told her to and then they found her Id card, asked if she had any friends or relatives they could call. She told them she had a daughter and suprisingly she knew her daughter’s phone number. I wound up riding with Sara to the hospital (psych ward) because when I started to leave she started to get agitated. The cops did not want to handle a crazy old lady if they didn’t have to so they asked me to go along. I did not have any plans for that night (which was strange because it was a Friday and on ninty-nine out of a hundred Fridays, I would have plans to do something). I went to the hospital, helped Sara check in, sat while they put her in a bed and injected her with relaxants. Her daughter arrived and thanked me.
“You must have some sort of gift,” she said, “or magic or something. When she gets crazy, she doesn’t listen to anyone.”
“So this has happened before ?” I asked. I was curious.
“Yeah,” she said, “Too many times.” She looked tired and anxious. “Look, I need a cigarette. You want to go for a walk ?”
I said yes and the next thing I knew, I was sipping coffee outside at a Caribou Coffee Cafe, surrounded by hospital workers who were also smoking and sipping. I deduced that from the way Liz, crazy Sara’s eldest daughter, proceeded here without any hesitation, this was not the first time she had been here. I was right.
Liz was smoking cigarette after cigarette, pausing between drags to tell me her sad story. She told me her mother Sara suddenly, at the age of fifty began behaving bizarrely. Perhaps, it was some sort of subtle genetic factor kicking in or latent effect of her divorce, either way life with Sara became very unpredictable. Her first sin, according to Liz, happened when she walked away from her job as a chief bear stuffer at the Teddy Bear Factory, a top scale toy store downtown.
“No, she did not quit that job. She just walked away. In the middle of a shift - just like that. And that was a really good job, “ said Liz, while nervously running her cigarette hand through her hair, “great pay, great benefits. Full Dental, who walks away from that ?”
“Well, that doesn’t sound too crazy.” I said innocently. I was trying to make sense of why I was here listening to Liz when I was so hungry. I thought about ordering something here but all they had was cookies and scones.
“Are you kidding me ? Are you kidding me ? It was insane. And do you know why she said she quit that job?” Liz’s question caught me off guard. I didn’t know what to say. Turns out, I didn’t have to say anything.
“Because she had to look out for me. She said she had to keep her eyes on me because I was getting off my path.” Liz stared at me. “What the hell does that mean ? And the kicker is she tells me she has no place to live and that she has to move in with me. So I says okay but just till you get another job and get your own place. Or a new lover. Do you know that she has been married five times ? No wait, (she counts on her fingers) six. And she lived with a guy for couple of years too. What kind of a childhood do you think I had. She uses people, especially guys. She just sucks them dry and then boom (Liz clicks her fingers for emphasis) they’re gone.”
“So then she moves in and stays for years. I haven’t had a date in over a year. I don’t remember what guys look like naked anymore. She either scares my boyfriends off or she throws herself at them. And some of the turds actually did sleep with her.” She sucked hard on her cigarette.
At this point, I began to lose track of what Liz was saying. It all seemed to be the same thing - my mother is crazy and I am stuck with her. It might have been the hunger I was feeling, it was now almost nine at night. Supper was calling me, but I couldn’t find it. There were no eating places around that I could see and going back to the hospital was out of the question, because Liz would not be able to smoke there. I wished I could go home but I depended on Liz to get me there or somewhere where I could get home from like a train station or a bus. Liz had told me she would drive me home so I sat there and listened and listened and listened to Liz’s story(s?). There might have been more than one but I couldn’t tell because her story telling was having a narcotic effect on me). As I looked at Liz, I realized that she was a fairly good looking woman who had slightly gone to seed. I began to have wandering eyes and before I knew it I was staring at her chest. With the top two buttons of her blouse not doing their job and the third one threatening to fly off any minute, I began to wonder what would happen if it did because I believed beyond a reasonable doubt there was no other pieces of clothing beneath that blouse. There was lots of movement within which reflected the enthusiasm with which Liz was speaking, or so I supposed.
There was a lull in the conversation. She looked at me.
“Well, what do you think ?” she asked. I have to admit that I had no idea what she had been saying and I did not want to admit that I had no idea what she had been saying so I guessed that she wanted some reassurance.
“Yeah, I guess “ That was all I got out of my mouth. I had wanted to say that I could see her point of view but these words seemed to be enough as Liz jumped out of her seat and began hugging me.
“Oh thank you, thank you. Oh god, thank you.” She kissed my forehead. She kept hugging me and jumping up and down. I was not entirely having an unenjoyable experience but I was also wondering why she was having such a reaction.
“Can we get something to eat ?” I asked and then added “Is there any Chinese places around here ?” I was still too hungry to think and being that way I prioritized my needs. Hunger first, what Liz is happy about, second. I was thinking eat, eat, and go home. Liz had other ideas.

4 comments:

dmSoulsearcher said...

Yep, it held my interest really well and I did not notice any gramatical errors. Keep going. I want to read what happens when the cops show up!

Lin said...

You always keep us hanging, Frank. Is that because you are hanging too? Don't have an idea on how to finish or do you just like us to plead with you?! Hope you finish this one. You are such a tease!

dmSoulsearcher said...

Definitely keep writing!

Lin said...

Ooooh, it's getting good! Why do I think somebody just got themselves an old lady to take care of? Please finish this one--and then mail it out somewhere. No guts, no glory!