HOT COALS - COOL MOSS:
THE SAGA OF MIKE AND SAVANNAH
Day 37 Red Hill to Quemado
today: 25 miles cumulative: 726
While I was sleeping Cosmo crapped all over the mayor of Red Hills office. So the morning starts with a rush to clean up and cover up. But he comes in just as I am scooping poop and he is not too worried because he has 3 dogs and he knows that dogs are dogs. Before I leave he gives me a package to deliver to Quemado by hand, Pony Express Style. The stagecoach pulls out early, we should be into town well before the sun sets. 4 miles into the day my blisters wake up and I start limping. Athletic tape and duct tape and another sock and anything to stop this ridiculous pain but nothing works and the liming continues. A good enough reason to get a ride to Quemado I keep telling myself, nauseous from the pain. A truck stops to talk to me and offers a ride. I hesitate, but I will not take it. My resolve will either make me strong as hell by the end of this journey or it will cripple me, it could go either way.
Today I know what it is like to walk on hot coals. Not for 25 feet, but for 25 miles. At first it is like walking on broken glass, gasping breaths, then warm feet, then hot feet, then numb feet someplace past pain. After 3 miles of serious limping with my weight on my toes, trying to adjust to protect the larger blisters on my heels, my calves begin to cramp. I have no choice but to let down my heels and go through the steps, gasping, warm, hot, and then numb, just throbbing numbness. I am supposed to envision cool moss right now, but I am just staring at the horizon envisioning Quemado 15 miles closer than it is.
The fields are still white, holding only the color of the sun. In some places the grass lays over in patterns like crop circles, and smooth hills rise like waves in the ocean, not cresting waves, just rising and sinking in place. The day looks somewhat generic but it is a beautiful generic with blue skies and wispy clouds and no turns for as far as the eye can see. No end in sight. It would be harder if I could see the end, like I see towns when I am getting close at night, and I walk and walk and cant stop staring at them and two hours later I am still not there. If there was a big neon sign at the end of everyday that said the end and I could see it from the first steps of the day I would stare at it and curse it for not coming sooner. I am glad there is no end in sight. And there is no end in sight because there is no end, when I get to the other ocean this trip is not over, and when people have said goodbye to my body on top of some colossal funeral pyre it is still not the end, so why do I mark "the end" of any of these days. And search the horizon for the end of each day.
16 miles into the day my feet are not complaining anymore, if they try to stop walking this maniac will beat them and swear at them, someday they will run away to Hawaii, but for now it would be better to just go along so no one gets hurt. My left foot I like to call Mike and my right foot is Savannah. I am glad that they are not giving up on me, and yes, it is true, I would beat them if they tried to leave me. Mike is especially in bad condition because of two very deep blisters beneath two old callused blisters. I dont trust Mike and Mike does not trust me. I think we will have to seek some kind of counseling when we get to a bigger city. For now Savannah is helping to keep us on the same page, but how long, how long must we sing this song, Sunday bloody Sunday.
At New Mexico mile marker 27 I raise my right hand to wave to a mountain, and then to 2 prominent clouds. This is a first on this journey, waving to inanimate objects. I start laughing out loud, at my self, at this situation, at this walk, but also because life is so beautiful. The mountain and these clouds reminded m, so I thanked them, acknowledged them with a wave. Exhale. A rush of cold through my body makes me shake and laugh again. I have been holding my breath for 16 miles. I just have to remember to breathe, remember to wave at mountains. Cool moss.
Mike and Savannah are making good time now that we are all breathing. 6 miles out of Quemado I am offered a ride by a small woman in a big truck. A woman in the passenger seat wants to give us leather to replace out duct tape dog boots.
No on the ride, yes on the leather and meet her in town at the local thrift shop. Thank you maam, tip the cap, hobble into town, my whole body is numb, it does not hurt, but it is a strange kind of numb like the day after a swarm of red ants covers you with bites. You know what I mean? A the Largo Cafe, on the edge of town, my meal has already been paid for by the little woman in the big truck. Giddyup. A man they call Mr. Nick is eating at a table next to me. He tells me that he got blood poisoning from blisters once. He wears an old felt cowboy hat stained with sweat that looks just like mine, but Nick is a Cowboy and I am a fake cowboy, a poseur a la gypsy. And I am fine with that, I would rather want to be a cowboy than actually be one. High schoolers gather in the corner by the coffee pots. And a group of older men in cowboy hats comes in and joins Mr. Nick and they talk about how dry it is and which cows are sick, and nutritional supplements for cows, and cows that are acting up, and other cow subjects.
The woman who offered the leather owns a thrift shop across the street tells me I have to stay and I am not going to argue with her. Jeanne has short fuzzy brown hair and is stuck in 5th gear. She wears a red leather jacket over a howling wolf sweat shirt and has an accent foreign to this place. She says its from the east coast but I think she is a foreigner hiding from the FBI. And that is OK with me, I am very experienced with aiding and abetting criminals but mostly in the former Soviet Republics and only for money laundering, so I am not sure if I can help this woman. She is good though, the thrift shop is a good cover, and she claims to be what she calls a "Latter Day Saint." Jeanne, youre a genius!
So the spy has already laid out cardboard and some carpet by a big metal drum stove in the back, and she has made 2 leather boots for Cosmo to try on. 3 little Indian boys and their sister are running around wearing thrift shop hats and clothes, playing with the thrift shop toys. "Welcome to our house." the smallest one says to me, "We live here with Jeanne sometimes." Kivan is the boys name, he looks different than his brothers, he looks Asian, like a little Tibetan monk. His brothers are bigger and ride scooters around the front of the store, his sister Sheronia is older, she is quiet, she has a pretty face, she is the star of the local basketball team.
Their mother doesnt want them living on the reservation. Drug addicts and alcoholic street fighting dog barking suicide shitty schools. They stay here with Jeanne as often as they can, they teach her Navajo. They sing Navajo songs, one of them is a dog song, so they change the words and add Cosmos name. They know more English than Navajo though, so they will probably lose most of it, maybe all of it but their childhood songs. It depends on how long they stay off the reservation. But how do you go back with all that violence and depression?
Jeanne the Romanian spy, I am sure she is Romanian from the tattoo that I saw on the back of her neck, the symbol of a military group that was instrumental in the coup of 1989 in Bucharest. She is a kind woman though, and perhaps she has really left all of that behind her now and she really is a thriftshop owner and "Latter Day Saint." She has made a bed for Cosmo out of coats, and when everyone leaves for the night she tells us the store is ours, see you in the morning. From where I sit stoking the fire I can see painted cow skulls, a framed print of the last supper. a wall of inspirational quotes, figurines of angels (6 different kinds), ceramic dogs and metallic dolphins leaping. Foam gliders, a rack of bell bottoms and ski pants, blue cowboy boots, fake furs, books about Navajo legends, a big bowling trophy ($5), framed prints of Indians and bison, cowboys and sunsets, and rivers and mountains, painted over with some clear gel to make them look like originals. Hunting vests, salt shakers, a mallard duck lamp, tennis rackets, a red suitcase, plastic hand cuffs, comic books, roller skates, a stall with information about the "Later Day Saints," rhinestone American flag pins, and horse shoes welded into gun racks.
2 big logs in the fire will keep us warm tonight. Tonight there is no cold wind, no frost on my sleeping bag, no camping by a barb wire fence, thanks to a new friend in Quemado. My friend Jeanne the Romanian spy. And thanks to Jeanne Mike and Savannah are clean and happy, resting close to the fire, I will tie them together tonight so that Mike does not get any funny ideas.