Thursday, August 7, 2014




BIRTH DAY

I don’t even know
how old I am and
that is a good thing
an honorable denial
a reliable referral
when those I have loved
passed with shadow-less grace
left me alone
left me to face
the crusades they began
I don’t always know
how good I am and
that is a question
often debated
in hearts overheated
when reading those maps
I don’t always know
how that river ran
through that dry cul de sac

how I got here
how I flowered
how I aged
doesn’t matter
the soil, the water,
the comfort of others
the ground and the sky
the reasons why

I don’t even know
how old I am and
will not pursue
questions so daunting
answers so nil
demand to choose open
the right to defend
those I have loved and
the ones who come next
emerge from darkness
with effortless grace
and grow ageless like me
in infinite space
leave me alone
for a while to diffuse
I will return
I will not lose

Friday, August 1, 2014

LISTEN HERE



“Anyway it had to be two minds one destiny.” 
John Lennon, Out of the Blue

OUT OF THE BLUE
For Susan Walker-Meere

“I have cancer.”

Her voice crept up on him like a shadow with attitude. They stood watchful at the end of the world in the hermetic air of pre-dawn darkness. It was early August. Breathing kept them mindful of the desiccated heat rising from the bone-dry furnace below.

“You don’t have cancer,” he said. “You have a torn rotator cuff. A bone spur is not a tumor.”
His reproof ricocheted across the great crevasse. It fell through a preternatural silence to the canyon floor more than a mile below. She nodded, a qualified movement of her head. Just to say he was right, of course.
They were novice hikers facing an unknown trail deep into the Grand Canyon. Tommy Kunze adjusted his backpack. Trudy Russo contemplated the void on her 50th birthday—the let’s-not-talk-about-it birthday. One of them readily anticipated the sunrise he’d envisioned. The other shouldered the galling uncertainty of age.
Equilibrium, which lately had been iffy at best, had deserted her. She peered through the darkness and willed the landscape to emerge. She deliberated tearing the pads from the TENS unit stuck to her shoulder before plummeting into the abyss. Instead she gingerly backed away from the edge.
Trudy groaned like a stalled motor, the sound that comes just before the burning smell. “Did we make a mistake?”
Tommy leveled an unbiased gaze at his wife. She was fearless once. Her rallying cry: “Fuck mistakes!”
“No, Tru. It’s all good.” He reached for her hand. “We decided if either of us felt uneasy we would call it off. No questions, right?”
She nodded vacantly. “Right,” she said.
He tugged her back to his side. “But we’ve come this far.”
‘This far’ had begun in New York, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They were urban cliff dwellers. They were not hikers. That’s what busses and subways were for. And taxis. She suddenly missed the insular back seat of a Yellow Cab, that familiar scent of Everyman in a hurry, the city speeding past her still self.
Trudy glanced over her shoulder at the ridiculous rental. Conscious of newly straitened finances they had requested an economy car, but the agent had overbooked and upgraded them. A black Lincoln Town Car, covered in a ghostly greyish dust, nosed a rock face that was only just visible. Above it a slice of moon winked among a cluster of morning stars.
“We’re not in the middle of nowhere, but we can see it from here,” Trudy said.
“Right, Thelma.”
“Louise,” she countered. “We could drive that thing off the cliff, ya know? Holding hands?”
He suggested it was a cruel thing to do to the natural beauty of the place. Someone would have to clean up the mess. And it was the wrong kind of car. It would remain where it was, an incongruous sight for the next five days, without even a view.
He looked annoyingly at ease in cargo shorts and tee shirt, not much different from his usual summer fare. The bucket hat sat perfectly at home on his head. Though his hair was thinning, he still wore it collar length. Always diffident and soft-spoken, Tommy never raised a fuss, not even when a cashier overcharged him or another driver cut him off. He was a working musician, a bass player. Steady. People loved him. They were drawn to him. She was a high earning editor at Hachette. Or had been. She had been coaxed out of her habitual black into the beige apparition she’d become. Her white skin shone like bathroom marble. The only clue it was still Tru was her jet-black hair recently renewed and cropped into a boyish cut. He was unflappable. She called it like it was and did not suffer fools. People were a little frightened of her. She’d insisted it would be better if she died first. She’d made him promise, no pictures.
Tommy had planned everything months before. He secured the ‘visas’ required to drive onto tribal land. He’d arranged a spiritual cleansing with a Hopi medicine woman—just outside of Seligman, Arizona—to prepare them for the descent. Booked a room at the no-frills lodge for camping adverse, bush-league hikers to Supai, which was their destination. He’d offered to arrange a helicopter ride to the village to spare Trudy the strenuous journey a dizzyingly steep mile and a half down—a vipers nest of switchbacks—and some 8 miles or so to the village that had to be completed before the sun was fully overhead. They’d each be carrying a gallon jug of water, which she thought was excessive. Then, there were the 40-pound backpacks. But her admittedly irrational fear of decapitation by helicopter blade mitigated any qualms about the unfamiliar trail ahead.
They were nearly uncoupled in July when Tommy had urged her to break in the new hiking boots in order to pinpoint what he called ‘hot spots’. He’d estimated a dry run from South Street Seaport to their apartment on the Upper East Side would about cover the distance they were expected to trek. It had been an unreasonably hot and humid day. The pack she carried was stuffed with incidentals, testing what weight her injured shoulder could bear. She’d discovered just how many blisters her feet could sustain. A carriage horse had collapsed in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and wreaked havoc in midtown traffic. That cruelty aggravated a passive rage. When a stranger asked if she was lost she’d flung the backpack onto Fifth Avenue, slumped against the granite pedestal of the bronze figure of Atlas, and bawled like a newborn. Being taken for a tourist was more than she could bear.
And then she remembered in a hot flash that they—she—had very nearly called the trip off in Williams. Tommy had planned a couple of days to unwind in the last outpost before they reached the canyon. Trudy had spotted the familiar cartoon grins of Wallace and Gromit on the motel owner’s powder blue polo shirt. She’d clocked an accent. The man and his wife had retired to Arizona after an outbreak of salmonella in his factory back home in England. They’d been in the states for twelve years. They had not yet visited the Grand Canyon.
“Ridiculous,” Trudy had muttered.
“Leave it,” Tommy had warned.
Tommy and Tru were not carnivores but she’d wanted authenticity. Rosa’s Cantina had a great looking menu but she’d rejected the place. “We can get Mexican in New York,” she’d whined. After a dubious meal in the snuff-colored ambiance and charred miasma of the Rustler, Trudy had lurched into a dusty street bathed under a buzzing orangey glow. She’d collapsed in a heap onto a life-size fiberglass statue of a cow. “We had these everywhere,” she’d cried. “Remember them?” She’d hung from the neck of the thing. “That Starry Night cow? Remember?”
They’d carried on, at her stubborn insistence, past two grizzled cowboys with guns drawn and re-enacting a shoot out for the tourists who lined the unpaved street.
Music from a time-warped jukebox filled the vast interior of the Sultana Bar. Trudy had managed to both flirt with an altitudinous cowboy named Bill and enrage the female bartender whose girlfriend had shot come hither glances at Trudy from her perch the end of the bar while she’d mouthed Tracy Chapman’s hit song: You got a fast car and I got a plan to get us out of here.
Tommy had remarked that Trudy did not look well, that her face was kind of purplish.
“I feel sick,” she’d moaned.
“You ordered fish in a steak house, in a cowboy town that is landlocked. You ordered Manhattans from a bartender who wasn’t in on the joke. What did you expect?”
He’d wrestled her back to the motel. There was a clumsy, drunken attempt at sex that she’d instigated, followed by a tirade, also her fault. It was the shoot out at the not-so-ok-corral. She was still angry when they’d finally set out for the Canyon at some ungodly hour. From the highway they made out the Milky Way. When they’d turned off Route 66 onto a remote stretch shrouded under a pitch-dark canopy—and still a good way from Hualapai Hilltop—she was less touchy. Stars above picked holes in the darkness and deflated her inner grouch. When three enormous moose crowned with sweeping wing-like antlers appeared out of the blackness she’d shed irritation and yelped in childlike fear and delight before offering an apology to Tommy.
At the trailhead it was like someone had nudged a light dimmer up a notch. Trudy studied her feet, the cinnamon-colored, carpaccio-light moccasins she’d bought in Seligman on advice from the medicine woman. “You need something softer going down,” said Rennie Eagleflyer. “Boots are murder on the toes.” Minnetonka classics, Trudy reflected. Moose hide.
The session with Rennie Eagleflyer—whom Trudy had met for the first time in Seligman—was more like a visit with an old friend from another lifetime. Even as she remembered driving through the birthplace of Route 66 souvenirs, she recalled a rough patch of humanity, how embarrassed she’d been when they pulled up to the modest bungalow in the rent-a-beast. They were offered iced tea and had chatted easily in a cramped living room under the abstract gaze of a tribe of kachina dolls. Rennie’s two children, Dakota and Summer—twin teens in Iron Maiden t-shirts—were bashful in their manners, though wide-eyed and curious.
Lucy had felt compelled to explain the rental. “That car isn’t us…isn’t me,” she’d said.
“Cuddda fooled me,” Rennie replied, before her solemn look transformed into a wide grin. “Oh, I know it’s not,” she’d added kindly.
The ritual cleansing took place behind the house in a yard feathered in burnt grass. The huge tepee had startled Trudy. Long poles splayed from a topknot and anchored the thing to the dusty ground. Stiches zippered above the opening like a scar. She’d looked to Tommy, as if to say, “Did you know about this?”
“What did you expect? I’m Indian,” Rennie had laughed, putting Trudy at ease again.
They’d approached the tepee in a band. The teens stopped short at what seemed to be an invisible barrier. They’d run off singing: “Nice meeting you.”
Rennie had ducked inside leaving Tommy and Trudy momentarily at a loss at the entrance. Trudy ran her hand along the taut, bleached material. She’d felt like she was in the presence of something ancient, a ritualized return to magic.
Rennie had shouted from inside: “It came in a flat pack. The kids put it up.”
Tommy had gone first. Trudy had shuffled in place, unsure. “You are welcome to watch,” Eagleflyer had said.
Tommy nudged her into the present. “We’d better go. Remember what we were told.”
“I know, I know. Get there before high noon,” she said.
He helped her on with her pack, gingerly adjusting it to her shoulders. “You all right? Any pain?” Trudy nodded. She was okay. “Let’s get the water,” he said. 
The couple descended only a few hundred feet before a mule train forced them off the trail. Trudy slid the palm of one hand along the other in a reflexive gesture. She thought about Rennie’s advice: “Don’t mistake an Indian’s interior self for apathy.” She’d taught them an Indian handshake. “Should you be invited to do so,” she’d added.
Trudy could make out the words ‘Positive Vibration’ on the tee shirt of a dispassionate youth leading the mules. She glanced covertly at straight black hair brushing his thin shoulders, kept in place by a colorful headband: green, yellow, and red. He made no eye contact above his worn black t-shirt stenciled with the image of Bob Marley, and she knew that she would not be invited to greet him. He pressed on to a silent beat under headphones. A wiry indistinguishable breed of dog trotted alongside the boy.
“I wish we had a dog with us,” said Trudy.
Tommy looked up from retying the laces on his trainers. “What’s that about?”
She watched as the team headed up the trail. “What’s what about? It would be nice to have a dog. I’d feel better with a dog.”
“Huh. You don’t feel safe now? Tru?”
“Well no, not exactly.” She looked around at the scarred canyon walls, higher up an amaranthine cocoon in an alien landscape materializing in first light. “I’d feel safer with a dog.”
Just ahead a muscular black hound appeared—it’s face covered with a tannish mask like a canine Lone Ranger. It stared at Tommy who advised Trudy to turn really, really slowly.
“You wanted a dog,” he said quietly, indicating with his chin. He recalled Eagleflyer telling them about the many abandoned dogs in the canyon. They belonged to no one. Be careful, but don’t be afraid, she’d said. He grasped a reminder. “Let’s just keep walking, see what happens.”
The dog trotted ahead of them, turning his massive head toward them now and then. Tommy was frankly nervous. Trudy was surprisingly at ease. “He looks like he’s a mix of some kind,” she said. “Maybe a Rottweiler?”
“Rennie called them Rez dogs, I think,” Tommy said.
“Sounds about right,” she said.
They reached the canyon floor and changed into hiking boots. After a while the dog sprinted ahead and darted around a bend. They suspected he was gone. As they neared the turn they heard a low, snarling chorus. Cautiously they peered around. Like some fiendish dog orchestra, a disparate pack of mangy curs—fangs bared—formed a semicircle around their dog while he leveled his dark eyes on Trudy and Tommy. The dogs snarled and bawled until their conductor turned to them, lowered his head and bared his teeth, silencing them while the couple scooted ahead on the trail.
Trudy looked back but Tommy urged her to keep going.
A few minutes later the dog bounded ahead of them. Trudy suggested they stop to eat. “All of us,” she said and shared her peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the dog.
They hiked until they came to what looked like a washout on the trail. Tommy was sure of one direction. The dog barked in disagreement. Tommy insisted but the dog heaved against him, pushing Tommy in another direction. The sun was arcing higher. It would be dangerous to be lost.
“Follow the dog,” said Trudy.
They kept on and soon reconnected with an obvious trail. A savory aroma of cottonwoods and willows rose around them in the keen light of morning. The heat was fierce and hours away from high noon.
“Can we stop for a breather?” Trudy asked. Before Tommy fussed over the question of her shoulder she said she just wanted to sit for a bit, take it all in. He scanned the area looking for shade. Trudy filled the empty sandwich bag with water. She told him she was fine, he should feel free to explore. “I’ve got my hat,” she said. “And the dog.”
Trudy shed her backpack. The dog slurped the water greedily and then slumped against her leg. Trudy watched as Tommy stepped cautiously off the trail, camera in hand. She tried to raise her arm to wave but the injured shoulder was frozen. Nothing would change until the surgery that was planned on her return. Still, the TENS unit went a long way in easing the pain into manageable discomfort.
She drifted back to the recent past. Losing her job in June and the farewell office party debauchery. How she’d stumbled drunk from the cab, fallen, and hurt her shoulder. The ridiculous story she’d made up for Tommy: She’d held the cumbersome back door for an old lady and that act of kindness had wrenched her shoulder. He’d eyed her warily, doubtfully assessing her condition. “You took the bus?” he’d asked.
They were loopily in love at first sight. She was 16, a student at a public high school that specialized in the arts. He was 18 and had dropped out from that same school in his freshman year to be a musician. He was bad boy handsome in an urban Johnny Cash kind of way. She was a slender, dark-haired, sharp-tongued poet who knew the back streets on the Lower East Side like every corner of her chaotic bedroom in the Jacob Riis Houses. Tommy migrated downtown from the Bronx when he’d left school. He’d seen her read her poetry in Tompkins Square Park. He fell hard when she’d torn a hole in a heckler—a guy twice Tommy’s size—at an open mic. Two years later—defying their parents—Tommy and Trudy hitched a ride to Baltimore and came back married.
Thirty-two years. Trudy shivered a little. An icicle of memory slid down her shoulder, prickling her arm.
Trudy warmed to the comforting heft of the dog as it leaned into her. She’d counted on Tommy once for that mass, the emotional padding that allowed her to explode unhurt and with minimal collateral damage. He’d kept up the reassuring backbeat to their marriage while her job as an editor had given them a comfortable living with a trove of perks.
Nothing happened as planned. After all the hoopla the Millennium turned out to be a non-event. 2001 had brought rumors of layoffs in January. By June she was out. She’d made the big money. In some ways she felt she was paying for the creative life she’d given up while Tommy had gotten to keep his. Now, without her income and his dwindling gigs, she had no idea what they would do in September. There were not many artists out there like Patti Smith still hitting it with older band members. What paid jobs he was able to wrangle were mostly folk, backing up some too old or too young singer songwriter who wrote from the same thesaurus. Tommy said it would be all right. She’d countered that the Mayans still had a chance to blow it all up in 2012.
The three of them carried on along the trail. They discovered wet soil in parts and a puddle of what looked like tadpoles skimming the greenish surface. When sunlight covered the canyon wall it was with an intensity that stared right through you. The greys and browns gave way to the meatier red rocks. Rennie’s warning about dehydration and heatstroke reminded Trudy to gulp often from the plastic gallon jug.
The dog barked again, a staccato rush of excitement. He bounded from the trail and disappeared behind a cluster of willows and scrubby thicket.
“This time I know where I’m going,” Tommy said. “And that is not the right direction.”
They heard a splashing sound, like wet cheers. Trudy asked him to help her off with her backpack. She ignored his questioning look. “Trust the dog,” she said. They followed the noises and discovered an oasis. The dog romped in a pool of the bluest green water they had ever seen. Bootlaces were quickly undone.
Refreshed, they approached the entrance to the village. Behind a rough-hewn corral a feeble looking horse gazed languidly at the newcomers. Undistinguished wood frame houses appeared. Peach trees offered fruit and shade.  Trudy turned to thank the dog and discovered he had gone. She emptied her water bottle in one gulp.
In the days ahead they were never without a dog.
A runty tan mutt with pink nose and pink lips slept at the door to their room at the lodge. He arrived in the evening and left as soon as they emerged in the morning. Another that looked like a re-packaged Doberman escorted them to the monumental Havasu Falls. The currents were strong and swift and non-swimmers like they dared not venture too close to the spumescent whorl at the bottom of the falls. The hound settled on a shaded picnic table until Tommy and Trudy had fully exhausted themselves in the deliriously bracing liquid mineral that seemingly spilled from the sky.
By the third day Trudy’s shoulder pain was becoming unmanageable. She’d kept it from Tommy, unwilling to dampen his obvious pleasure in that supernatural environment. And she had to admit, the rugged harmony of the place went a long way in distracting her from herself. A stage was erected for an upcoming festival where the village girls had been rehearsing for days. It was a perfect place to lie down in the dark and stare at the breathtaking arena above. Tommy found constellations in swathes of luminous lace. Trudy squealed unabashedly at every shooting star.
“Did you make a wish?” he’d ask.
“I did,” she’d say.
A worker at the café befriended them and provided a bland meatless chili with their frybread at every meal. Trudy never once thought about bruschetta and garlic and pasta or that self-generating candle in the back room of John’s on East 12th Street. That same woman told them about the great flood of ’97, four years ago that week. August was prime time for flash flooding and the village had been decimated. When Tommy asked about safeguards she replied: “We are indigenous people. We don’t build walls. We let Nature take its course and we rebuild.”
They sat at a long picnic table on the shaded porch of the café. The heat was stultifying. Cicadas shrieked in a teeth-clenching chorus, like a glee club on amphetamines. Reggae music billowed from the kitchen, comforting as slow-rising yeast. Dogs of every size lay motionless around them, a taxidermist’s display. Tommy sensed she was in discomfort. Trudy brushed him off. One of the older dogs rose stiffly and hobbled over to her. He placed a blond paw on her shoulder. He threw his toothless head back and howled.
After a session with the TENS unit the following morning they stepped over Pink Lips and headed for Mooney Falls. They had saved the precipitous sandstone challenge for last. A low-riding, spikey-haired mongrel—halfway between a schnauzer and a dachshund—led the way.
Signs advised to use extreme caution, and risk figured largely in the trail’s description. Tommy started down. Trudy followed, slower and far less confident. She stepped carefully through a small cave and then panicked in the open. Trudy eyed the wet rocks, the rusted chains. Tommy shouted above the roar of the falls that the ladders were slippery and he motioned for her to wait. He started back for her. She imagined a gory scene two hundred feet below. She’d be injured. He would have to climb back up with her tied to his back. Encumbered, they would fall to their deaths.
Trudy pointed to her shoulder. “Have fun,” she croaked. “Take your time.”
She was red-faced and lathered with sweat. Hikers were forced to back up and press out of her way as she scrabbled up the trail. She was sure they heard the hollow sound of fear in her chest. She aimed for the blinding sun above.
Trudy took stock of her surroundings. The little dog was nowhere to be seen. She shuddered at what might have been. The roar of falling water did nothing to assuage her anxiety. Dragonflies zipped and dived, snapping her into the present. She skirted around head-bobbing lizards and Monarch butterflies immobilized by the heat. At the creek she removed her boots and socks, lowered herself carefully to the bank and sank her feet into the cool rushing water.
How is there a verdant oasis in the middle of such a parched landscape? She thought about what Rennie Eagleflyer had told her in the tepee right after Trudy’s spirit had been cleansed with turkey feathers and just before she’d plunged her arm, up to the elbow, into Trudy’s stomach to remove bad spirits. That just like Supai village, often parched and still battered by floods, there is still fresh water in every living soul. “The gods watch over us in many forms,” she’d said.
So, here she was. Tommy had come up with the idea for the trip. She’d rejected it immediately. They were going to have to tighten their belts. He was persuasive and kept bringing her attention to links he’d found on the Internet. When she stopped objecting—showed some interest—he’d reacted as if it was settled. He threw himself into planning the adventure with what she could only describe as joy. Trudy had felt a return to a bit of their common hilarity.
She’d called herself a poet once. Published a few chapbooks and her poems appeared in downtown zines. She performed in venues like the disused gas station on B and 2. She’d met a punk rocker named Suzie Q. They were freelancers at Hachette and would remain best friends. They’d riffed on everything their synergy afforded them. They’d fought the good fight clutching shot glasses like grenades. They’d stabbed the late night air with joints like bayonets and struggled through a corporate day. By the time places like Nuyorican Poets Café breathed life into the downtown scene Trudy’s life as a poet was gasping for air.
She’d gone back to school at night. Susan went home to Ohio. Trudy rose up through the ranks at Hachette when you could still get in on the ground floor. Susan remade herself, homeschooled her kids and then got her Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree. When Jim Carroll died they’d reminisced over an hour’s phone call and wept immodestly. They called those days of poetry and rock the blue times of torment.
Trudy drew her head from side to side. The creek ran through a cathedral of whip-thin willows that fanned under the taller sturdier cottonwood trees. The water lapped at her bare feet making a sound like a quiet hymn and calming her immeasurably. She twisted as best she could and looked over her shoulder. She was utterly alone. How long does it take, she mused, to learn how to listen to the tree people, and the rock people, and the water people? Would she ever gain that eagle-eyed vision?
She ducked suddenly, an involuntary reaction to a growing shadow skating overhead. She saw the wingspread first as it fanned its innumerable greyish blue feather fingers, nearly touching her. It was a majestic creature that she would later learn was a Great Blue Heron. It stretched its dark wire-thin legs like landing gear and lit soundlessly onto the creek. It turned its head and looked directly at her. Trudy’s breath quickened and she held its gaze for the split second it took before the bird stretched its serpentine neck. And seemingly lifting it’s massive body with the strength of its beak it soared out of sight.
She never thought to ask Tommy about his Mooney adventure, so caught up was she in the sighting of the heron. Later in the day, when she moaned that she was getting old overnight, he said she was far from getting old.
“I am,” she insisted and added that she once turned heads.
“But you hate that, being objectified,” Tommy said. “You always told me how much you hated that when men…when you wanted to be taken seriously.”
She felt she should have managed things better. He was a working musician. She worked so he could do that. Only she didn’t really. She thought being an editor of other people’s writings was what she wanted to do. She lamented her invisibility.
“What’s wrong with that?” he said. “You want to take writing seriously? Isn’t it better to be invisible, a spy?”
“I’ll give you some space,” Tommy said. “Maybe get a little rest, eh? We have a long night ahead of us.”
Trudy heard him greet a dog outside the door. She lay on the thin covering of the double bed in their characterless room. She shivered in the air conditioned-less room at a troublesome memory. It was a sorry bunch that had accompanied her to an Irish bar in Times Square the night of her going away party. They had all recognized the foreboding handwriting on the office wall. She’d just wanted to raise a little ruckus for a change. When a man approached her from another party of revelers she returned the flirt. Many drinks later she followed him to a dark corner in back of the bar and though she could not remember it entirely she knew she had gone too far.
Maybe she was mediocre, listed in the Who’s Not of the undistinguished.
Just before midnight they set out for an open field where an all night ceremonial pow wow for sacred loved ones was in progress. It was pitch dark. They flicked off their flashlights as soon as the sound of bells displaced a cricket chorus. They drew closer to—yet remained a respectful distance from—an open air shed constructed for the occasion. An ever-changing group of celebrants in full ceremonial costume came and went to pulsating drumbeats. One or two participants would rise and dance when others sat down. A low chant, like a magnified heartbeat, echoed across the field. Trudy could just make out their ankles and wrists encircled by bands of tiny bells.
Onlookers from the lodge and campsite bunched together like a wary herd of sheep. Trudy and Tommy remained apart from them. She turned her back on Tommy and she tried to conjure a sacred loved one. Soon her father appeared. There was no evidence of the physical and emotional pain that had ravaged him in life. He reminded her of the kinds of things he used to fix when he restored antiques. Sometimes he persuaded a customer to have an old ceramic vase or lamp repaired and gold leaf applied to the cracks. He said he could tell what kind of person would accept or reject the idea. “You are more beautiful for having been broken,” she heard.
They prepared to leave the canyon the following morning and headed for the makeshift helipad at sunrise. It was nothing more than a dusty clearing dotted with debris and dogs. An inebriated Indian man, whose face seemed to collapse, motioned for them to wait. There was no one else in the queue. They were still on Indian time. Pink Lips bounded from the pack and settled at Trudy’s feet. She had been persuaded to helicopter out when Rennie had explained how difficult the return hike would be in the dark for inexperienced hikers. Trudy heard only the words tarantulas and snakes.
“I saw my father last night. In the field, during that ceremony,” Trudy said. “He spoke to me.”
Tommy hesitated. “It wasn’t your dad,” he said finally.
“Who was that who was talking to me then?” She acknowledged the drunken man who waved them into the helicopter. “I swear it was my dad.”
“It was me,” Tommy said. “I was reminding you of what your dad used to tell you. About the gold leaf and being broken.”
“Am I lost?” Trudy asked as they moved toward the helicopter. Trudy allowed Tommy to carry her pack. She gripped her hat tightly as the man and dog backed away from the moving blades.
“No, you are not. You are found,” Tommy said as they settled into their seats. “You just have a funny way of getting there.”
The helicopter rose like an armored dragonfly.  Trudy gazed at the receding floor of the canyon, retraced their steps to the village and gasped at the sunlit palette that striped the canyon walls.
“I have something to tell you,” she shouted over the deafening whump-whump-whump above them.
Tommy focused the camera lens at the window and with his back to her he hollered in return: “You may get your head chopped off so it might not matter.” He turned to her, eyes narrowed. “Better to wait and tell me later.”

OUT OF THE BLUE is an original short story by Linda Danz.
STORIES ON THE AMERICAN FRIEND Writers Guild of America, East #R28299
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business organizations, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The use of names of actual persons, places, and events is incidental to the plot, and is not intended to change the entirely fictional character of the work.
© AUGUST 2014.