Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Great Spirit (Blogophilia 2.10)

The trip was both as a lark and an escape. Route 66 from Chicago to his Daughter’s house in Santa Monica. At 55, he was at loose ends. In the last year, he caught his wife in bed with some jerk and his company went bankrupt. After everything settled, all he was left with was $20,000 from the house and the van they had used to camp at the lake. So, why not run away? The Ex thought he was nuts, but she never liked any idea that she didn’t think of. There was nothing left to lose. She could just enjoy riding the new brute. He didn't have to be there to watch them blow to pieces.For that reason alone, he was going to take long road and take his own sweet time to get there. 
 
As he drove across the red desert into Flagstaff, he marveled at the last few days. 
 
It had all started at the truck stop on Motel Row Sunday morning. It had been an easy trip to that point. A little storm driving up to Chicago and a flat outside Tulsa. But other than that, nothing but the quiet of his own thoughts and whatever bad country music that popped up on the radio. He had always heard of the tackiness that was Tucumcari and he had all the time in the world.
 
The steam from the cup fogged his glasses when first he saw her. Probably another lot lizard, he had to admit she was prettier than most. Crude oil colored hair cascaded down her back, held in place by a bright orange scunci. High cheekbones and slightly red tinted skin, indicated she was Native stock. There was a regal manner that reminded him of Cleopatra as she pled her wares to the truck drivers. Maybe he could be King Tut for her tonight.
 
As soon as that thought passed, the people at the table laughed and they got up. Not enough time for business, he guessed. The men headed outside toward their rigs and she walked down the aisle. Eye contact was made and she sat the chair across from him.
 
"Buy me a cup of coffee?"
 
He couldn't fault her salesmanship, and the price of admission was cheap. Her name was Chloe and time passed with her whiskey tinged voice. Most girls like her asked for a date and he usually refused. She wasn't in a hurry for a transaction, though. She was looking for something else, a ride to Gallup. Why not? 300 empty miles between here and there. The conversation would make a nice diversion. Calling for the check, he paid and they left.
 
The first thing he noticed when she got in was her scent, a mixture of tequila, tobacco and weed. He scanned her face closer. The smile was nice, so he knew she did smoke harder stuff. Age could be anywhere from a hard 18 or a much kinder 30, there really was no telling. As he started the van, their final destination was apparent. They pulled onto the highway and left the ticky-tacky tourist stuff in the rear view mirror.
 
The stark, windswept landscape had an eerie glow in the high noon sun. Random tumbleweeds blew front to back past them in the headwind. But none of it was noticed as the conversation continued.
Chloe had grown up on the Hopi reservation. Her mother was a Navajo, though and she had been looked down upon by the rest of village. Half-breed was they called her. But the truth was most of the tribal elders weren’t pure bloods. They all had white ancestors that took brides in the war. It didn't matter anyway, all of them were dirt poor, living in crappy trailers or hogans.
 
She left for Oklahoma after her mother died to be with a Cherokee man she’d met. He seemed so tall and dignified. It wasn’t until after she got to Tulsa she found he was a drunk like the rest of them. While she was there, she began working with a shaman who took a liking to her. Once a week he taught her old ways of the Eastern tribes. Spirit healing was what he had called it. It was more like wild sex and it wasn’t long before the Cherokee caught them and beat her up. She left that night with just the clothes on her back, never looking back. 
 
She had drifted slowly back west. Stayed a bit in Amarillo, working in convenience stores. Between real jobs, she would use her spirit skills to turn tricks. But she didn't like it too much. Most men were drunk, selfish louts who wanted the spirit to only go their way. But she did have one or two she enjoyed. Anyway, one of her mother's sisters had died and left her a trailer and she needed to get back to Gallup before some meth head trashed it.
 
"And so a free spirited Indian Princess could have instead?" He quipped.
 
She laughed and put her hand on his thigh.
 
"And you, my Knight, will have my healing spirit along for the ride."
 
Smiling, they were silent as they drove through Albuquerque. Traffic was still light and they passed quickly through. The desert on the western side of the state was slightly different, redder, drier and more forbidding. The scene reminded him of a trip he had taken with his family to England. Dad had some distant cousin in Cornwall and they had traveled through the Bodmin Moor. He had been fascinated. Random rock formations sticking out like some ancient God playing jacks in the sand and the rumor of some horrible beast lurking behind them, waiting to devour the unwary. He’d heard of gila monsters and jackalopes. Were they vicious? Uneasiness set in. Without a word, Chloe set her hand again on his thigh and his spirit relaxed and they went on.
 
It was almost sunset as they pulled into Gallup. Without saying a word, he pulled into a truck stop on the outskirts of town. The needle was on E and so were their stomachs. Gas, food, pits and snacks later, they climbed back in.
 
He didn't blink an eye when she said to turn on to 666, The Devil’s Highway. He had heard of it. Oh, why not. He'd been in hell already. Could this be worse? It turned out Chloe’s place was only a few miles north of town, on a small track overlooking the highway. It looked like an old tin can from a distance, all color bleached off the corroded aluminum skin. The windows were opaque with dust and time. But they were solid and the shanty turned out to be a good shelter from the desert heat. It looked like a discard from a better era, when someone had hope for healing in the low hills. Or maybe it was used it as an escape from real life. Both had happened here.
 
Pulling in, they quickly unloaded their things and closed the door. A low stool sat under the front window. Next to the kitchen area a table and two chairs sat waiting. No other furniture was in the room. Chloe reached into her pack and pulled out a cotton blanket and spread it on the floor. She beckoned him to sit with her. As he did, she released her mane from its bridle and shook out across her shoulders. 
 
Energy could be felt radiating from the walls and floor. She became the priestess of the spirit. Her hand disappeared again into the pack and came out with a paten and chalice holding a communion of tequila and peyote. With this, she sanctified him. Time disappeared. A voice from outside the room commanded a kiss.Compliance was mandatory, Soon, laughter screams, and ears came for for all the sin their lives and only they could hear their prayers. Forgiveness filled his mind. As they shared, his ex, his thieving boss, and his pain all fell away. Only this slender woman mattered in this moment.
When they were spent, the ghost of his mother appeared before them. They were still as she blessed Chloe for her service, that she should only find happiness from this point forward. They both fell into a deep sleep.
 
The sun now posed like a phoenix across the ravine, turning the valley from indigo to a soft tan. The black patchy snake of road outside slipped further up into the hills, but no traveler would notice it. It looked like a scene ripped from a Road Runner cartoon.
 
The temperature began to rise inside along with the sun. A single ray of light fell on his naked body, snoring contently on the colorful blanket on the floor. Across the room his clothes lay neatly on a small stool along with a few of hers. Scraps of their debaucheries were scattered about, along with those of the ghosts who had left as their business was settled.
 
Head pounding, he slowly sat up. Man, this place is dark. Grabbing his pants, he couldn't help but think: What day was it? Feeling down, his hand felt the phone and smiled. At least she wasn't a thief. Laying on the table, he finished dressing. He pressed the power button.
 
The screen came to life. Wednesday. Wow. Looking out the dusty window, he saw her dressed in a long t-shirt, drinking a cup of coffee. The black hair was still free and blowing out behind her like a mare's mane. The rickety door slammed shut in the wind as he came out to join her. She stood and kissed him.
 
"You need to go now."
 
"Yes." He stood quietly, taking in the harsh beauty before him. "Do you need another ride?"
 
A wicked grin came across her face and she gave him another kiss.
 
"Great Spirit was more than good to me, and to you. While it is tempting to stay with the moment, it passes and so will we. See your daughter and teach her the Spirit will be with her and all of your descendants. You are a good man. Now, go."
 
And without another word, he climbed into the van and drove back down the butte into town.
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Pic guesses: Cleopatra (in blog), Princess (in blog), King Tut (in blog), Asp, Waiting, Lover, Regal, hieroglyphics.

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