By Lucas, email@example.com
Jen Ho and I fell asleep waiting for our friends, and woke at the crack of dawn as the herders returned to camp. Tumbleweed and the gang looked worn out and in need of sleep. Jen Ho mentioned that it was a great opportunity to pick up some supplies. Jen and I set out on the lonesome trail in search of rations.
I know a place is close, Jen Ho intimated. Only three or four mile, he said holding up four fingers on his left hand.
We followed the road north through massive rock formations that looked as if they had been sculpted in clay by the hands of some skillful, giant, abstract artist. Jen hitched two horses to the buckboard, and we kept a slow and steady pace through the wasteland.
So what do you do when youre not chasing cattle?
Jen gazed at me.
I do the labor uh putting the loof on the house.
Thats got to be hot work.
Oh no, its not had, but it take many ouwahs.
I save the money to started own business.
I have brother, Kuan. We open the take-out.
Jen held the reins loosely in his hands. He made a clicking sound with his mouth.
I always order by number.
Number? Jen replied.
I had a number 56 once that Ill never forget.
Jen looked at me and smiled.
And I had a 22 that kept repeating on me too much garlic, I said pounding my chest.
Jên grabbed a pencil, scribbled something on paper, and handed it to me. The note contained nine numbers on it.
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6
Do you know what is magic square? he asked.
Magic square? No.
You added up the number any way it make fifteen, he said.
Youre right, Jen. Fifteen every which way. Aint that clever.
The house of Chinese ruler built with magic square, he said. Confucious call magic square river chart.
River chart contain book of changes, he explained, time of divine sages.
I was lost in Jens mystery, but the numbers did add up.
Bird that rise is symbol of time divine sage come. Sage understand river chart.
So, what youre saying, I said earnestly, is that the magic square is a kind of secret that only a sage can understand?
Bird is symbol of Divine One.
I sat pondering the meaning of the conversation. It was sort of an East meets West exchange. I told Jen Ho that we had a magic number as well, 666, and that people were tearing up road signs because of it.
He seemed as lost as I was.
Laughing Bear has a trained eagle?
He signals the bird from the sky.
Jen replied, Eagle.
Hes a medicine man, too.
Indian close to nature, said Jen.
He studies the plants.
Chinese have many, many herb. Herb balance nature -what we say- is Yin and Yang.
Yin and Yang?
Yin and Yang, Jen repeated. All things Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang no exist without the other.
Medicine based on Yin and Yang. Yang is sunny side, light, and heat. Yin is shady side, cold and dark.
Like night and day youre saying?
Balance of Yin and Yang is health. In China, we pay doctor when well.
Its just the opposite over here, I replied.
Yin place give Yang herb, and Yang place give Yin herb.
The conversation continued until we reached a boundary of the interstate. About one hundred yards in the distance, I spotted the fluorescent facade of a convenience store. The sight of this fortress of consumption excited me. Jen drove the wagon into the parking lot and we hitched up to a dumpster.
I had the two hundred dollars that I had made standing behind the rock. Jen and I split up and agreed to meet at the register. I picked up two six packs of cola, a bag of potato chips, candy bars, beef jerkies, and an ice cream sandwich. Jen emptied the shelves of converted rice. He also picked up baked beans, tuna fish, a loaf of bread, and a roll of toilet paper.
I saw a few other items that I thought that I might need. I picked up a package of razor blades, a can of deodorant, a cigarette lighter. Returning to the counter, the cashier rung up the bill on the register.
Forgot somethin eh?
Yep been in the desert. Ill take a few lottery tickets. Give me I paused and took the scrap of paper from my pocket, 492, 357, and 816 straight and boxed.
The cashier punched out the tickets.
Do you have herbal tea?
Yes, over there.
He pointed with his finger.
I picked up a box of tea and returned to the counter.
Thats twenty-one seventy-five. Oh! Oolong!, he said noticing the tea. I drink that all the time.
Really? You must be a Yin-Yang.
The cashier thought about what I had said, then lurched back and landed a blow over my left eye. I crashed backward against the mixed-nuts and fell to the floor.
I was stunned!!!
What did you do that for? I shouted.
Nobody calls me a Yin-Yang and lives to tell about it!
Take your things and get out! I opened my eyes and felt a dryness in my throat. The harsh sunlight beating down through a clear sky had scorched my skin. I raised my head and looked around. Alongside the buckboard, someone had stretched a piece of canvas and raised the other end with two tent posts. My friends were sleeping in the shade. Unfortunately, I had fallen asleep under the open sky and realized at once that the entire shopping incident had been a dream -like a desert mirage. Only now, I had a biting hunger and parched throat. I rose sluggishly and rummaged through the back of the wagon for something to eat. There were corn chips, a container of rice, and some baked beans. I took a warm drink from the canteen. A thought crept into my mind -spinning over and over again into infinity. Beans and rice, beans and rice, beans and rice, beans and rice . I had eaten enough beans and rice to fill an army. I glanced at the cattle, and a black thought crept across my mind. For an instant, I thought about feasting on Alphie. Vivid images of the way I would carve him up flashed through my minds eye. Eye-round roast, filet mignon, chip steaks. It was all there within my reach. All that it was going to take was a little courage. I dreamed of Alphies expression when he suddenly realized that his stampeding days were over. My skin was red, sorely sunburned.
Puck and Laughing Bear left the camp to look for special medicine man herbs. The young Indian walked quietly, his eyes fixed on the ground. He picked a few branches and held them to his nose. When he found a good branch, he stored it in the leather pouch slung across his shoulder.
Bear? asked Puck.
Yes, answered Bear.
Puck hesitated, and his voice spoke cautiously.
I want to talk about something.
The Indian boy listened silently.
What is it, Puck?
How long have we known each other?
The Indian though to himself, A long time, he answered, I remember when you came to the pueblo, when I was very small, we have known each other a long time.
Puck drew a deep sigh and exhaled.
Youre my best friend, Laughing Bear.
The Indian raised his head and stared into Pucks eyes; he smiled a gentle smile towards his friend, Yes, and you are my best friend.
Thats why I have to tell you something and its going to be very hard to tell you this.
What is it?
I hope that you wont laugh, or be mad at what I want to say.
Puck, Bear nodded, you can tell me anything.
Puck thought quietly to himself. He felt fear in his heart, but he tried to be brave.
I feel very close to you, Bear, and I want to tell you well I dream about you.
The Indians eyebrows raised, and he did not respond immediately. After thinking, Bear spoke.
Puck, when we dream, we become a part of the great spirit. We return to the place of our ancestors, and we join the river of souls. I have also dreamed of you.
Puck felt at ease.
I love you, Laughing Bear, I want to sleep with you.
Laughing Bear stopped walking; he stood frozen in his tracks. He did not laugh, or become angry. He looked into Pucks eyes, and raised his eyebrows.
Puck, the Indian boy confessed, you have been closer to me than any other. You always accepted me, but I have always dreamed of having children of my own, of starting a family, of finding a woman to share my life with. Now, I must think about what you have said, for I have found no other soul as close as you, and you mean a lot to me. I will think about what you have said, but I am confused.
I mean, it doesnt have to mean anything, answered Puck, I dont even understand my own feelings why I feel this way I just do. I know were supposed to raise families, and have children, and it seems like thats what is ordinary and logical but I still feel this way about you, like I want to lay with you, and hold you close to me, and share everything with you.
Laughing Bear calmly moved closer to Puck and embraced him. He rested his head on Pucks shoulder.
Puck, he said, there can be no greater honor than to surrender your soul to me in an act of love.
The two friends held each other closely for several minutes before resuming their search for the magic herbs of healing.
Three days later, we arrived at the perimeter of Pucks ranch. I was glad to come out of the lone prairie and finally settle back into civilization. I wasnt cut out for cattle rustling Windy Bob rose to his feet and attempted to add his sentiment to the backslapping that was going on.
I just want to thank you fine boys. I was in a terrible fix, and I thought that I was never going to see that herd again.
He drank from his cup, then cleared his throat.
And I want each and every one of you riders to share in the profits.
Windy took a deep breath.
Were splitting the profits down the middle! he exclaimed.
Windy sat back down, and we all looked at each other.
Windy Bob, youre a generous fellow.
After dinner, Tumbleweed picked up his guitar. Puck took out his harmonica. Laughing Bear picked up a drum. The music reached a feverish pitch as we sang cowboy songs, Indian songs, and folk songs. Laughing Bear sang a traditional Zuni song that is sung when grinding corn. He pounded his drum and sang in his native toungue:
He-ya, ha-ya, he-ya.
We accompanied him, and when he finished, I asked Laughing Bear what the song had meant.
Laughing Bear said that the song was a rain-prayer to the spirit of the mountain to make the corn grow.
As we were dreaming about our traveling folk circus and medicine show, a recreational vehicle came barreling down Pucks driveway hitting the potholes.
The lights bounced up and down to the sound of La Cucaracha.
It appeared like the vehicle was dancing to the music.
Finally, the buggy pulled into camp and the engine cut off.
Hola, amigos, It is I Paolo.
Why its Paolo Calor! said Puck.
Per done, por favor, said Senor Calor, I see that you are back from your travels. As for me, Paolo, I am still very much on the road.
Why greetings, Paolo. It sure is good to see you. Would you like something to drink? How about something to eat? offered Puck.
You are very generous, Senor Puck, pero espere.
We were just sitting around making a little music.
Thats muy bien. I, Paolo, also play an instrument musicale.
You do? Well, what kind of instrument do you play, Paolo?
I will tell you, but may I first sit down. My pies are killing me.
Foot trouble? asked Pa.
No me duele mucho..ah, that is, it doesnt hurt much, senor. Paolo grabbed a few corn chips, dipped them in salsa, and continued.
Now, as for the instrument musicale. I play la kena.
La kena? What kind of instrument is la kena?
Senor, la kena is a wooden flute, and I, Paolo, play la kena that makes the senoritas weep for joy.
Is that so. said Windy Bob in a long draw.
We were talking about putting a group together.
That is an idea excellente, Senor. I, Paolo, have traveled as a musician.
Why dont you just join us then? prompted Tumbleweed.
Where are you going?
New York City, answered Puck with an inspired look in his eye.
We met at Liberty Hall on a clear, bright Tuesday to bid on a used school bus at the Gallup surplus equipment auction. We had pooled our resources together and had set our eyes upon the old elementary school bus as our means of getting to New York City. We were anxious about the bidding, and our anxiety was heightened as we waited and watched office equipment, plumbing fixtures, old books, and furniture being sold to the highest bidder. Finally, the surplus automobiles were auctioned, and when the lot number of the old bus was introduced, Paolo color nudged me.
Senor, It is our bus.
The auctioneer started his rambling call.What do I hear for this bus?
The pace was quick, and the bidding war bounced back and forth between Tumbleweed and a stranger until the price had escalated to five thousand dollars.
The auctioneer slammed down the gavel, and that bus was ours.
We spent half of the entire profits that we had earned getting Windy Bobs Lost Herd to market
We set about tuning up Moon Arrow Bus as Laughing Bear had named it. The name had come about as we were painting the exterior of the bus. We split into two groups. Tumbleweed, Hollerin Holly, Jen Ho and I painted the left side, while Puck, Laughing Bear, and Windy Bob painted the right side. Neither group had the insight to check on the progress of the other group, and we wound up painting the bus in two colors. The dividing line ran clear down the center of the bus. The left side of the bus was light green, and the right side was dark blue. Laughing Bear painted a yellow crescent moon on the roof with an arrow piercing through it. He said that the arrow joined the earth and the sky, and that the moon would be pleased to see itself from the roof of the bus.
Tumbleweed was also a skilled illustrator, and he drew a sign on each side which read, Folk Circus & Medicine Show. On the back of the bus, he painted another sign which read, Salvation Or Bust. We all drew a personal symbol on the bus. Laughing Bear drew the image of a bird. Jen Ho painted a dragon for luck. Holly painted a rose, and Windy Bob drew a tornado. Puck painted a big red hot chili pepper, and Tumbleweed painted a raccoon tail. Paolo painted a senorita, and I painted the letters MAB on the front hood.
We spent a few hundred dollars on items that were necessary to make the trip: a spare tire, a case of motor oil, materials to make sleeping bunks inside the bus. We had to take several seats out of the bus to make room for the bunks. Jen Hos uncle donated a magnificent Chinese bird cage made out of wicker. The cage looked like a Chinese house with three tiers; it was so large that it spread across the back of the entire bus. Laughing Bear was pleased to bring Dollar Bill along. They were inseparable; it was the only way to convince Laughing Bear to join the tour. We also built an ice chest and installed a small campers gas grill.
We left Gallup, New Mexico in the middle of August on a hot Saturday afternoon crossing the Texas border as Tumbleweed and Puck burst into song: