A few days ago, as he was leaving with the seer, Richard’s doctor, a thin and elegant man named Newman pulled Duane aside and said, “Have you thought about our talk?”
“Yes, I’ve thought about it and the answer is no.”
“Do you think this is a good life for Richard?”
“Define a good life doctor.”
“Mr. Cushman, do you think this is what Richard would want? This kind of living? Don’t you think he’d hate this?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of life it is or how he feels about it but it’s all he’s got. I won’t take it away from him.”
“Laying in a bed? Someone cleaning him? Fed through a tube? Seeing nothing, hearing nothing? Do you think he’d want such a life?”
“Do you know what he sees or hears doctor?”
“Nothing. that’s what.”
“And you know this how? Have you spoken to him? Asked him?”
“The tests show…”
“The tests.” Duane stepped to the doctor so that they were nearly touching noses. “I think maybe new we’ve gotten into territory that can’t be tested. What’s the deal? Wrong squiggle on your little screen and you pull the plug?”
“Now hold on…”
“Hold on?” Duane laughed. “That’s all I do these days. Hold on my ass. How much does someone have to prove to you before you believe they have a life that deserves respect? What should people be capable of before you think they can be allowed to live? Small motor repair? Tying their shoes? Advanced calculus? Where exactly do you draw the line between a right to live and wasted space? When does killing change from homicide to mercy? What’s the protocol here?”
“What’s the rush doctor? You can kill him any day, it the resurrecting that’s a bitch.”
“No one’s talking about killing anyone.”
“What do you call it then? What’s the acceptable medical term?”
“Mr. Cushman, are you thinking about him or yourself?”
“Meaning do you think this is what he wants or are you afraid to let go? To lose your son?”
“Of course I’m afraid to let go. Of course I don’t want to lose my son. What do you think I am? How about you? What’s the big fucking rush? You need to free up a bed? The insurance going to run out?”
Dr. Newton turned away from Duane then saying, “I don’t have to listen to this.”
“No you don’t,” Duane said. “You can leave. I’m the one who has to stay here.”
The woman in the blue suit with a gray and pink tie leaned across the library table she used as a desk and said to Duane, “Atlantis is a myth. Mu. Now Mu is something else again.”
“An empire. It spread across the Pacific from Southeast Asia to the islands.”
“The stone works at Ponape were built by the Murians.”
“So was Ankor Wat. Have you heard of Ankor Wat?”
“Then you know. Mulaga is from Mu. She was a warrior princess.”
“She’s your spirit helper?”
“You do know.”
“I’ve read a little, that’s all.”
“You have to be careful what you read.”
“Why is that?”
“And you wish to speak with whom?”
“Richard. How old was he when he passed?”
“He hasn’t passed.”
“I think there’s been a mistake. I don’t look for lost children. I communicate with the dead.”
“He’s not lost. He’s in a coma. He was nearly five when that happened.”
“But he’s still alive?”
“I think so. That’s what the doctors say.”
“I can’t help you.”
“Can’t you try?”
“I don’t know, no. I can’t help you.”
That day as he went into the break room to put his lunch in the fridge Lorraine, one of the cashiers and a sweet lady as big as a house said, “Good morning Duane.”
He nodded to her, smiled and she said, “Duane, say ‘good morning Lorraine’.”
“Good morning Lorraine,” he said.
“How are you today?”
He shrugged and she said, “Say ‘just fine’ Duane.”
They walked together through the shelves loaded with non-perishables out to the store proper and he saw the line beginning in the cookies and bread aisle and bending back toward dairy; a line of dark people, the men bare-headed and the women scarved, most with either rosaries or clutched Bibles; a quiet, mumbling line and Duane asked, “What’s this.”
“They think they see the mother.”
“You know. The virgin mother, the Catholic mother. Mary.”
“Oh. See her where?
“I’m not sure. Haven’t gone to look. One guy said it’s in the condensation on the beer case. Another said it was in the ice in the ice cream freezer. Something…it breaks my heart.”
When she said that Duane looked at her, saw she was being serious.
“Breaks your heart?”
“Yeah. These wetbacks, they’re still too new. They don’t know yet.”
Lorraine pulled a small wad of crumpled bills from her pocket, waved them at Duane. “This is the god of America.”
“Trent heard about it?”
“Yeah. Colin said he called the police.”
“Isn’t there a new man in meat? Mexican or something…what’s his name?”
“Leon,” Lorraine said.
“Yeah, Leon. Is he Mexican Mexican? I mean, can he speak Spanish?”
“Yeah, he hasn’t been here long.”
“You know if he’s in yet?” Duane said.
Leon was a small man, about the same size as Duane; short and slightly built with graying dark hair in tight curls who managed to project determination and competency through an overall nervous anxiety.
“I want you to prop open the north door,” Duane said.
“The north door?”
“Yeah, the north door. It has the least traffic. Would you do something for me? Get some cardboard and make signs, in Spanish? Telling them to come in that way? You know, ‘this way to the mother’ or something?”
“Yes,” Leon said.
“And direct these people, the line of people, to come around that way?”
“Yes,” Leon said.
“Thank you Leon,” Duane said.
“Of course,” Leon said.
That day as the dark people shuffled out and then back in again through the north door freeing up the bread aisle for paying customers and filing down the wide outside aisle where there was room for everyone; as this was taking shape and the mumbling continued in the dairy section Colin and Lorraine both came looking for Lorraine. Colin got there first and happily said, “Trent wants to see you.”
Lorraine, three or four steps behind the beaming Colin, smiled at Duane as he passed and then sadly watched him walk back through the double door with the employees only sign.
The manager’s office was in a mezzanine perched high so that the whole store floor was in view and up there Trent said,
“What the hell are you doing?”
I’ve got the cops coming to roust these spics and you’re accommodating them.”
“I was getting the store in order, so they wouldn’t be a hindrance to our shoppers.”
“Listen padre Duane, I’ve called the cops. This bullshit’s going to stop real quick. Shit.”
“I made a call too,” Duane said.
“To the newspaper. They sending a guy over to do a feature on the religious phenomenon.”
“You called the paper?”
“The TV station too. They’re sending a film crew.”
“So maybe you should consider, do you take your head out of your ass for just a minute and go down, grin at the camera and get free publicity showing the store to be a sympathetic member of the community or do you let the cops break it up and show your true, dipshit self?”
“You think you can get away with this?”
“You think you can fuck with me and get away with it? You’d better start thinking about life after Ralph’s.”
“You think you can find somebody else who’ll do this job as long as I have, as well as I have? Someone who cares as much as I do, just hire them. All right. I’m sick of your shit.”
“You can’t talk to me…”
“Fuck you. I’ve been fighting the booze for seven years now, winning most of the time. There’s been slips, but I’ve always beat it back again. Seven years taking the licks every damned day. That means I’m probably the toughest damned son of a bitch you’ve ever met. You want to try me on, go right ahead and we’ll see who walks on whose guts.”
“Maybe I should reevaluate my options as well. Maybe I should just reevaluate finding another job. And maybe, before you come after me again, you’d better look down your pants and reevaluate just how big your dick really is.”
He slept walked, sometimes, waking to find himself standing in the middle of the apartment, on a night call, the voice calling ‘daddy, daddy,’ still echoing in his head.
Once he woke up standing in front of the open refrigerator, reaching for baby bottles a decade gone.
That day on his lunch break Duane drove down a street of small, rented houses where people parked their cars in their yards, yards worn to sandy soil, the surviving grass reduced to short, browning patches.
South 32nd Avenue was a little road off of Harry Street where the city’s authority and ambition began to wear thin. Some streets were paved, some weren’t and some partly.
Duane drove slowly looking for house numbers until he came to 1413 and saw Randy bent over looking in under a car’s raised hood. Duane pulled in behind the car and Randy walked to him.
“Randy,” Duane said through he open window.
“How are you Duane?”
“I’m okay. How about you? What’s up with you?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s up.”
“I’ve got you down as sick. Nobody knows any different.”
“Yes, I do. You can come back. Just like anybody. Come back and go to work.”
“No. I’m not just like anybody.”
“It wasn’t working.”
“What wasn’t working. Tell me. Maybe we can fix it, whatever…”
“You can’t fix it Duane. It’s not a thing you can just….fix.”
“What can I do for you?”
“Tell me what to do.”
“You can’t do anything.”
“Tell me what I can do.”
“Do what man? Do what?”
“What can I do to help you?”
“Who do you think you are? What makes you think you can change anything? Do anything about anything? Jesus Christ, just leave me alone.”
“The parole office’ll be calling.”
“What do I tell them?”
“For Christ’s sake, I don’t give a shit what you tell him. Tell him whatever you want.”
“Tell him the truth Duane, just tell him the truth.”
“I don’t know what the truth is Randy.”
“Duane, fuck. You’re a nice guy, but it’s not up to you you know. Sometimes there’s nothing to do. Sometimes you just have to let it play out.”
“What are you playing out?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ll find out I guess. We all have to find our own end Duane. Like it or not. Go back to work Duane don’t get yourself in trouble on my account.”
That day the first beer after all those years led to seven more, as he knew it would from the moment he walked into the club. At home at the bar, his little assemblage of props set out; glass and ash tray, the pack of Luckies close to hand, the Zippo atop it; the resigned man looking back from the mirror.
Drinking he could see things, not fantastic things or the future, but ghosts, resurrected shades of past times and lives and if he drank enough he could, just for a bit, put himself back there, in those gone days and feel them again, bring the old dead joys to life once more and believe, just for a bit, that such things were still possible.
The pick-your-own strawberry field was, like most things, the sum of its past. Plow-ripped and planted, it had been packed down again by the rain, seared by the sun and, on the day the fruit was ready, lay scarred and granulated, smelling like sieved stone and easily stirred by any breeze to catch in the throat and choke you.
The boy, sneezing, ran down the rows, his calling parents lagging, the boy wrenching the berries loose and eating them before they could be sacked, weighed, paid for. Galloping, he grinned, his collar soaked with juice. His father and mother, laughing, called “Rickie, Rickie!”
“Hey, what you doing?”
The channeler, Duane had to think a minute to bring the name to mind – Eugene, Eugene Martin. He’d touched Richard’s head and found dreams.
“I’m having a relapse,” Duane said.
“Can I sit?”
Martin sat his own glass down beside Duane’s, pulled the stool out and slipped sideways onto it, smiling at Duane and looking across the room. Then he looked back to Duane.
“Well, is this a slip or a full blown relapse?”
“Don’t know yet. You sound like you’ve been to a meeting or two.”
“Oh yes, shopping. Damaged goods. I can’t resist.” His gaze jumped over Duane’s shoulder, then back again. “Jesus, can I pick them. How’d you like my reading?”
“It was very nice.”
“It was bullshit.”
“Yes. Of the highest grade. I work hard on my bullshit. How long’s your son been this way.”
“Almost fourteen years.”
Duane waved vaguely at the room. “Gone, somewhere. She didn’t take it well.”
“Was it something she did?”
“No. She thinks it was but it just happened.”
“And you’re here?”
“Yeah, I’m here. That’s what I do. I’m the one that stays here.”
“A precious quality, that.”
“Maybe just a lack of imagination.”
“The world could use more loyalty like yours.”
“Maybe. Maybe it’s just inertia. I love my son and he’s still here to love. Maybe I’m just not strong enough yet. For the grieving.”
“Won’t let go?”
“Yeah, well. You make your living off of people who won’t let go.”
“That’s the truth.”
“It ever bother you? I mean, isn’t it taking advantage?”
“Oh yes. It is taking advantage. Taking advantage of grief and mourning and human suffering, but it’s treating them as well. You think I’m just bullshit. You’re right but I’ll tell you something. They know it too. You think I’m a con man, I don’t. I’m in the service sector.”
“These people, my clients know this is bullshit. They don’t admit it to themselves, but they know. They’re whistling in the dark here. Going through the motions in the faint hope that there might, possibly, be something to it. How many people in church think that they’re prayers will be answered? For certain sure? Just the crazy ones. The rest are making insurance payments. Just in case.”
“We’re all playing the game here.” I know better, they know better but they want to pretend. So we pretend. I have the ability to make people feel good about their delusions, the will and performing skill to, for a few minutes, make them think they’re right, really believe. For a little bit, before they have to walk back into the hot, bright sun.”
Duane wasn’t listening anymore, but drinking and looking into space. He said, “People say ‘get on with it.” Get on with what? They don’t tell you that. You supposed to just forget everybody, everything, make a new life? How many lives do we get, are we supposed to have? How can everyman’s life be exciting, historic? What are we supposed to do? Not everyone is creative. Not everyone is talented. A lot of people aren’t even particularly smart. What the hell are they supposed to get on with? Finding their one true love? What kind of bullshit is that? What…you give a marriage a few months and if it doesn’t turn out to be the one true one just say, ‘sorry, my mistake’ and forget about it?”
Duane looked at Martin, nodded and said, “My mother did that you know. She was ahead of her time, getting shed of the culls and looking for something new. Didn’t believe in living with her mistakes. I can’t blame her for leaving my father. Nobody with any sense stayed around him. And the two in between, I don’t know…they didn’t last. The fourth one she’s stayed with and seems to be happy, but I wonder. Is that her one true love? Is it or did she just decide, this is it. Does love happen or do we create it? Just get tired of looking and make do with whatever we’ve got?”
“Making do,” Martin said. “That’s the secret to happiness.”
“What’s happiness got to do with it,” Duane said.
Martin looked across the room, then cut his eyes quickly back to Duane and said, “Your car here?”
“Can I get a ride?”
“Been here too long. I’ll be calling a cab I think.”
“I’ll drive. I’ve got to get out of here.” He pointed with his chin at a lean, t-shirted man with tattoos and long hair. “That guy’s scary.”
“Well, come on.”
“Come on, please. Leaning forward, Martin put his hand on Duane’s arm and squeezed it. “I’ll buy you a beer somewhere else.”
Duane looked down at the hand gripping his arm and said, “Now I know I’m drunk.”
“Didn’t jump when you touched me. Makes me jump, usually, when someone touches me.”
Martin yanked his hand away. “I’m sorry.”
“No, that’s all right.”
“You don’t like to be touched?”
“Sure I do. I mean I like it fine. It’s just I’m afraid of it. Makes me nervous. Don’t know why.”
“You’re afraid of being touched?”
“It’s not their touch I’m afraid of, it’s what they’ll feel and then the tall, thin man with long hair and tattoos that Martin had been trying to dodge was beside them saying to Martin, “What’s this? Trying to act your age?”
“Just trying to remember what it’s like to be with a man.”
“I’ve spit out more man than he is.”
“If you could only live up to your imagination, what a world it would be,” Martin said.
“I only have to live up to your’s dear.”
Martin stood then, tugging at Duane’s arm, prodding him to stiffly push himself to his feet. “Listen, I’d love to chit chat, but I have to take my friend here home.”
The young man said to Duane, “What’s your name friend?”
“He likes it rough, Duane.”
“I’d tell you to go fuck yourself,” Duane said, “but I think it’s too late.”
“Well, he does speak.”
While pulling Duane toward the door Martin pretended to look at his watch. “School’s letting out Buck. Maybe you can pick up a special ed student or something.”
“I don’t really.”
“Like it rough. Not really. That was Buck, he gave himself that name.”
“That’s the guy in Midnight Cowboy, you know? The movie?”
“Yeah I know. Book too.”
“Oh, do you read?”
“I used to.”
“Can’t concentrate anymore. He your lover?”
“Oh lord, more like a breathing vibrator. He doesn’t have enough soul to be a lover. Or character. Or intelligence. Listen, you want to have sex?”
“I’d rather not.”
“Want me to suck your dick?”
“No, thank you. I don’t swing that way.”
“Good. I don’t really want to have sex either. You have to get that out of the way before you can just be people with each other, seems to me. Want a beer?”
“Sure. You think I’m gay?”
“No. Guys crossover you know, especially when they got a few drinks in them. Want to try the big no-no I guess. It’s not that uncommon. Just curiosity.”
“I’m not curious.”
“Hey, man, that suits me fine. I get so tired of looking, finding, seducing or being seduced. The whole sad game. Sometimes I just want to clip that little fucker, get it all off of my mind.”
“It doesn’t bother me much anymore.”
“You don’t get horny?”
“Not so much.”
“Quick trips down to Grand Avenue?”
“How long’s it been for you?”
“Since I’ve had sex?”
“Since the last pounding.”
“Jesus Christ, does it still work?”
“I think so.”
“I envy you. You know, I don’t really think I get that horny either, not really. Just want love. Sex is as close as I can get I guess.”
“You’re breaking my heart.”
“No, no. I’m not being a wise ass. I mean it. I went through a period, back in my thirties. Used to go to adult bookstores a lot. Wife and I weren’t getting along. I used to go to the booths, put in my tokens. Skip from one channel to the next watching people fuck. Don’t really know why. Didn’t get me off or anything. Just wanted to see people coming together in passion. Even if it was fake.”
“Anyway, there used to be all these guys, hanging out. Gay guys I guess. All of them so lonely, trying to touch, make contact. Standing alone, back there in the booths. Never said anything, just looked. Their eyes, so much loneliness, pain. They broke my heart.”
“Ever since then I’ve seen the gay life not as bad or anything, but so sad. Just so sad.”
“We don’t have a monopoly on sadness. It’s not just a gay thing.”
“I know. I’m exaggerating. You get these impressions, they stay with you.”
That night, after Duane had Martin drive him to the VA and he checked into the substance abuse ward, when he was in the smoking shack, the man who came in was young and bowed, bearing, prematurely, an old man’s hump, his long black hair hanging straight down past his ears to the floor. He walked past Duane and sat on the bench, then turned his head sideways looking at him on an upward angle through the blind of his hair and Duane said, “How you doing?”
The young man had a wide face centered by a cluster of small, fine features that smiled at Duane and said, “I’m having it easy this time. I was only drinking a week. They let you smoke in here?”
“You got another one of those?”
Duane held out his pack and, as he took it, fished out a smoke the young man kept speaking. “They pump you so full of drugs you need to piss, you can’t find your own dick. Sitting in a corner in a puddle of piss and you’re happy as a clam, they’ve got you so fucked up.”
He got a cigarette out and into his mouth, was looking up to ask for a light and saw that Duane was already holding out his lighter. He leaned forward, pulled on the cigarette, exhaled smoke, nodded thanks, then leaned down and spoke to the floor.
“Used to they’d stone you. Then they took to nailing you to a tree. Then they tied you to a tree and burned your ass up and then they hung you from a tree and maybe burned up your ass too.” He shook his head, took the cigarette from his mouth and tipped the ash very carefully into the ashtray.
“Now the drug you into a zombie. Don’t know which is more diabolical.”
He looked up at Duane, grinned. “I’m Lynn. Don’t mind me. I’m just one more crazy Indian. Go ahead, ask.”
“Ask me what tribe I belong to. Isn’t that what you’re wondering about?”
“All right. What tribe do you belong to?”
“I’m part Native American.”
“You look white.”
“But I’m not, not all. I’m Indian and Jewish and white.”
“What brand Indian?”
“Seminole on my father’s side, Cherokee on my mother’s.”
“Cherokee. Every white man has a Cherokee in the woodpile. Seminole’s different. Not many claim Seminole.”
“Well, Oklahoma Seminoles, the ones that gave up.”
“All Oklahoma Indians, exile Indians.”
“Yeah, I guess. What did you mean, not many claim Seminole?”
“White wannabees. People start telling you how they’re part Indian, native they say now. I’m part native. They usually say Cherokee or, these days Lakota is big. Real popular tribe, the Lakotas. Not Sioux anymore. Lakotas. Jewish too?”
“Yeah, my great grandma Kennison was a Jewish lady.”
“Is Kennison a Jewish name?”
“No. She married an Anglo.”
“Married away from her people.”
“Maybe you can tell me. I’ve always wondered about this. Your Jewish people, are they white or colored? I mean they seem white, but so often other whites treat them like coloreds. I’ve never got a handle on how that works.”
“Neither have I, now that I think about it. I don’t know.”
“Was she a practicing Jew?”
“No, she converted. She was Pentacostal.”
“One of them.”
“You want to hear something funny?”
The young man, Lynn, sucked smoke from the cigarette, then looked up sideways at Duane and spoke, letting the words come out with the smoke.
“I’m the son of God.”
“Yeah, isn’t that a hoot. Wouldn’t expect it would you?
“No, no I wouldn’t.”
“Drunk goddamed Indian in detox being the One.
“You mean you’re the second coming?”
“No, no. It’s happened before. Many times. I think I’m the twenty fourth, but I could be wrong.”
“I thought there’d only be one.”
“So did He,” Lynn said, but best laid plans…just hasn’t worked out…nobody listens.”
“Oh,” Duane said.
“Yeah. It’s getting to be a pisser too. I mean we’ve been preaching love you neighbor for over two thousand years and you’re still kicking his ass. You’d be mad too. I’m pissed as hell. You have kids?”
“Then you should know what I mean. It’s not easy, we know that. Life can be a pain. People who want to be alone can’t find a quiet spot. Lonely people can’t find anyone to talk to, much less fuck.”
“People who don’t want kids have them every time they turn around, have em until they can’t think what to do. Desert them, shove them out on the highway or toss them in a dumpster. Kill them and people who want a baby can’t get knocked up for anything.”
“You want a thing and they’re all out. Don’t care and you’re knee deep in the shit. Nothing works. Take the Army, train you to be a medic, a medic during a war when there’s a world full of people needing medical attention and you end up typing forms in a company clerk’s office.”
“What?” Duane said and Lynn looked up at him, smiling.
“I don’t do that very often. Spooks people out.”
“I…” Duane said.
“Look, take it easy. I mean you guys haven’t got a chance anyway. Look, you put some fool into a position where the only thing that keeps him from being a lion turd is a sharp stick, guy tends to worry more about sticks…is it sharp enough…do I have enough….Than about the universe, the meaning of life, God. Only natural.”
“But many do, worry about God, meanings and that’s the point. Despite it all. Despite the lions and stiff pricks and empty bellies.”
“Look at you, the heart you’ve got, the soul. The way you feel, after all these years. Feel so much sometimes you can’t even move, just have to stand there and suffer.”
“These things are noticed. Fifty years you’ve been at it and you haven’t let up. If emotional scars were visible, printed on the skin like tattoos, you wouldn’t have any plain skin left.”
Lynn lifted his head, looked out the shack window and looked down again. Then he said, “You see that guy, the oriental guy sweeping the sidewalk? He’s Vietnamese, a little older than you. He’s lost two families, wives and children. Three if you count his parents, siblings, cousins.”
“Gone. Dead and scattered. Disappeared. Lost a country too, his property, career, legacy, every goddam thing.”
“So what’s he do in this hard white land of gutteral speech and no respect? He tries again. He’s keeping the faith with wife number three, and they’re trying for children. This is frankly beyond belief, but there it is. And that lady, his wife. She’s from Cambodia and her story makes his look like a fairy tale. That lady once had to watch a child of hers slaughtered like a pig, right in front of her.”
“And she’s trying again, trying again.”
“That’s the goddam miracle, the meaning of life, the secret of the universe. That’s the point. That’s God’s true name.”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know. Look, would you give me one thing?”
“The proposition that most people, fucked up and as stupid as they are, do the best they can. Would you give me that much?”
“Don’t say I guess. Say yes or no.”
Duane looked at him without comprehension and Lynn winced.
“Well then, so do you. The best you can. Duh….”
The next day a nurse named Susan who had checked Duane in came in to tell him he was ready to go.
“Yes. We think so. You have a pretty good record of sobriety. We don’t think this slip is terribly significant.
“No, we don’t. And your friend has come for you, asking if he could take you home, so we decided, since you have support, you might as well go home.”
“Yes.” She looked at a clipboard on her desk, searched with a forefinger for a moment, then said, “A Mr. Martin.”
In the hall, holding a hand full of discharge papers, he knocked on Lynn’s room door and stuck his head in.
“I’m out of here,” he said.
“Yeah, going home.”
“Good for you. Good for you.”
“They ever going to let you out?”
“All in His good time. By the way, your son is fine. Doesn’t suffer. He does dream, Martin was right. His dreams are made of memories. The memories you gave him. They’re happy ones, thanks to you.”
“Will I ever be able to talk to him?”
“You do it every day buddy.”
“I know it’s hard to believe, but there it is.”
“Listen to me. I know. I’m as crazy as a pack of rabid dogs. That’s why you can trust me.”
In the car Martin said, “I hope you don’t mind.”
“I mean I didn’t know if your had a way home. I asked them how you were doing and they said you could go if there was someone, you know, to help out and I said “Me. I told them you have no family, that I’m a friend.”
“Is there? Family I mean?”
“Yes. Richard. We need to talk about that.”
“We’re not all fakes you know.”
The day after that they gathered in Richard’s room, Martin leading Duane in and helping him take a seat by the boy’s bed. He stood there then, at Duane’s shoulder as the rest spread woven straw mats and sat on the floor.
This channeler was a middle aged woman, Asian and dressed in ceremonial garb. She sat a silver bowl before herself and put rice in it. Then she sat three eggs in the rice and connected the eggs with white string. Several people, men and women on their straw mats droned prayers and three musicians played, a drum, a flute and an odd looking stringed instrument Duane had never seen before. Sitting, the woman swayed to the music.
A sharp, single word Duane didn’t know, but obviously meant stop or no. She held her right hand out, palm out and fingers spread in a signal to cease and jumped to her feet. She criss-crossed the room in a staggering stalk, pulling up short in front of the musicians, glaring at them, then rushing to an empty corner and leaning against the wall where she suddenly went rigid, her back arced, head back looking at the ceiling, then relaxed.
Leaning there, against the wall, the channeler rotated her neck as if it were stiff, closed her eyes and rubbed her head. She spoke then in a young man’s voice mouthing clear, flat toned middle western English saying, “Man…”
The channeler spoke then, to everyone as her eyes fell on them saying, “Hi” or “Hey” or “How you doing.” The channeler waved at everyone and grinned. Then she spotted Duane and stepped to him, looking into his eyes as the grin deepened and he channeler grasped his hand, said, “Hi dad.”