Arthur, Greg, and Lucia left Tucson using the bridge across the fast-flowing rain-swollen Rillito River; it was February 21 and they would be in Second Mesa tomorrow. Today the sky was blue and cloudless, and the sun shone hot through the truck's windshield.
"You must see Charles Hawk. He will make you well," Nine Wells had said. He could not have been more explicit. As the weeks had passed, Arthur had wondered if and when he would see Charles Hawk. He knew that bringing about the trip was his responsibility, not Greg’s or Lucia’s, and since he quietly preferred that it not happen he had doubted that it would. He was disappointed he was not more excited by the contact he was privileged to have with the Hopi, but he lived with it. Lucia, too, had begun to think that the trip would not be made, but she felt real disappointment, not secret relief. Finally, March 2 fast approaching, she and Greg had talked, juggled their busy schedules, and made plans. Lucia had then spoken to Arthur.
"Well, Tony, do you want to go see Charles Hawk?"
"When?" he had asked.
"What day is today?"
"I have to check my schedule," he said. He believed that bourgeois Americans badly needed adventure and that he found his in political thought, romance, and writing. (His great adventure, he guessed, was to fail at writing, though in fact it was to succeed at not walking.) The trip to Hopiland would be an adventure and he could think of no good reason not to agree to it. He looked at his wrist as though checking a watch. "Okay, I'm free," he said. He hadn't had consecutive nights on the road, as he would this trip, since breaking his neck.
He winced as the truck hit a pothole and pain lanced through his right shoulder. "You okay?" Lucia asked.
"Fine," he said.
He felt strong for the journey. He wondered how it would mock him and thought about Love Twenty-two and predicting the future.
Larry Wagner was a west-coast promo-man through the 1960s and into the early 1970s; he had resigned from his job and legally renamed himself Love Twenty-two soon after his thirty-fifth birthday, on which it had been revealed to him in Mexico on Catch-22 Beach that the numbers nine and twenty-two are cosmic keys. He had met Arthur a few years later, and, of course, hoped to heal him. When Arthur and Twenty-two had become friends, Detroit Squint and Lulu and Twenty-two and Lulu's sister Aranada were living on Mount Lemmon in Arthur's sister and her husband's cabin. Detroit revered Twenty-two, awed by the audacity of his obsession.
A year ago Stoner, visiting from Flagstaff, and Arthur had been in front of the University Art Museum beside the statue of a 6-foot-tall woman bathing her child, who hangs from her extended right arm over the pool. Stoner, the legs of his white pants rolled to his knees and his khaki shirt unbuttoned, was wading in the pool, and Arthur was smoking a bowl of hash. "Thirteen," said Stoner, absent-mindedly counting aloud as he fished pennies from the pool.
Arthur had had two hits and was enjoying the sense of presence and prescience that the drug imparts and that he loved. There were more coins in the pool. "There'll probably be twenty-two in all and when we get back to the house Love will be there,” he said. “That's the corny kind of solipsistic universe I run. Love'll know it was a sign, further proof of my disciplehood no doubt."
"He'll probably be there," Stoner echoed, looking up.
"Whatever that’ll mean," said Arthur.
Stoner had turned back to the pool. Arthur now was also counting the pennies, albeit silently. "Twenty-two," Stoner said as he picked up the last coin.
"I know the f*@ker's gonna be there," Arthur said. "What a goofy way to waste clairvoyance! God, what if Love is my master?"
"Nice guy you are," Stoner said.
"It'll be good to see him," Arthur said. "I know he's going to be here soon; he was at Healing Waters on his way last I heard." He looked skyward and, aside, said to God, more affectionately than not, "f*@k you, wise ass."
"Look who's here," Stoner said as they approached Arthur's house.
Twenty-two flashed a peace sign and grinned from the front of his van. He was a thin-faced man with a long wispy black beard with gray in it; he wore a high black hat, part of his street act dressing up as Uncle Sam.
"We were just talking about you," Arthur said to Love.
Greg, Lucia, and Arthur were well out of the city. Riding was an athletic test for Arthur; he kept his eyes on the road for any bumps, slow-downs, or turns that might make him lose his balance. Before leaving Adams Street they’d smoked an Alaska-grown joint that Uncle Dave had brought south when he’d come for Stephen and Carol’s wedding; Arthur was ready for more but said nothing.
"You folks ready for a joint?" Greg said.
"Life is good," thought Arthur. "Twist my arm," he said.
Without Greg’s physical energy there could have been no Desert Light Linking. He kept its creditors at bay and its books balanced. Although many seemed to smoke cannabis in lieu of doing anything else, it served Greg as it did Arthur, as fuel.
"What'll it be?" Greg asked, "Hawaiian, Colombian, or Thai?"
"Hawaiian," said Lucia.
Her resolve to quit had again waned. One suffers one's tendencies and wends one's way, cigarette in hand or not; pot was the chief of Lucia’s vices.
After passing nothing human for miles they came to the mining town of Winkelman, a cluster of trailers next to a great mound of dirt about which Arthur would have asked were it easier to hear. North of Winkelman, from miles away, Arthur could see tall cable-supporting towers that looked like huge insects marching to the horizon on either side of the road. He was fantasizing malign machines as the truck passed under the cables and Lucia lit the next joint, a sweet Colombian gold the taste of which seemed indistinguishable from its aroma. Could homicidal cars loosen their own bolts, fatigue their own metal? Any vehicle speeding toward them could maim or kill them by veering only slightly from its lane. He tried to switch his train of thought to another track, failed, and sought to savor his irrational fear.
He saw a dark cloud through the top of the windshield. Was it smoke? He leaned forward to make sure he was not being fooled by the tinted glass. No, it was smoke billowing westward from a smelter's high stacks. Machinery's short-term vengeance on its creators would be accidents; long-term it would be the effects of pollution, radiation, and dehumanization.
"We're in shock," he thought. He meant industrial humanity, all of it, each of us, experiential overload a burden of the age.
Greg looked at Arthur to see if he was noticing the landscape and saw that he was not and that his focus was on the road. He leaned toward him. "Has driving bothered you since your accident?"
"It didn't seem to for years. Then it started to. I notice it."
They were descending. The winding road was of course man-made, a machine itself. Paved and smooth, it was two lanes running between miles and miles of barbed wire; between the lanes was a yellow stripe, broken if it was safe to pass, solid if it was not. Barbed-wire sheath, long hard road; Arthur thought of the Dallas cheerleaders.
"Shall we see if Nine Wells is home?" Greg asked. “He has a house on the Apache reservation and we go within a few miles of it.”
"Yes," said both Lucia and Arthur, though Arthur would have preferred to drive on and be out of the truck as early as possible. He was sweating some, as he often did when sitting out of his chair.
The road was rougher and straighter when they entered the Apache reservation. Arthur's left hand, on which he was leaning and with which he was pushing his left leg away from his right, was growing numb. He shifted his weight and leaned with his right forearm against the dashboard of the truck. He was so stoned that he couldn't sit back without immediately whiting out; leaning forward on the dash he felt like a shock absorber.
"This is the best land in Arizona, I think," Greg said. Arthur leaned to listen. "The Apache here were pretty poor until they got started on their lumber company; now it's the biggest in the State. It was the Fort-Apache Apache who tracked all the other Apache tribes for the White Man. They were good at it, and they were given this land for doing it."
The land was high in the mountains and covered by lush range grass. The town comprised a few mobile homes and hundreds of close-packed 1-, 2-, and 3-room 1- and 2-family houses made of wood. The three travelers pulled off the road and parked in front of two small brown houses that shared a common wall. The paint wasn’t fresh but the building and yard were neat and well-tended.
"William's truck isn't here," said Lucia.
She and Greg got out, stretched, and went to the door as Arthur luxuriated in the cessation of movement; he hoped he would dry out during the stopover. He thought about the Fort-Apache Apache who had tracked the other Apache. His companions returned from the old medicine man's front door.
“No one’s home,” Greg said when he returned to the truck.
"We should leave a note," said Lucia.
She was disappointed they’d missed Nine Wells, and his absence made her wonder whether Charles Hawk would be at Second Mesa when they got there.
"Charles is at Second Mesa, right?" she said.
Arthur had assumed they knew but Lucia was clearly asking Greg.
"The Bean Ceremony just ended," Greg said "He'll still be recovering. He'll be there."
"Recovering?" Arthur said.
"He had to fast in preparation and he probably danced; it's arduous and there are strict requirements."
Greg wrote a note and left it on Nine Wells' door. Arthur leaned forward and reached as best he could under the dash to gauge the pressure on his feet.
"Okay?" Lucia said.
"I think so," said Arthur. He hoped neither foot was hitting anything but foam; he knew he couldn't really tell. He also checked the weight-distributing cushion on which he sat to make sure he was on it; he thought he was. As they pulled away from Nine Wells' house they smoked more Colombian, and finally he stopped sweating. He was sore but full of well-being. Every year since he’d been hurt he had grown stronger.
North from Fort Apache there were big trees everywhere and, suddenly, snow. It had been seventy in Tucson.
Earth was paradise and Arthur loved it, but then there were its people. He loved them, too, but also thought them, us, desperate, and modern America an experiment run amok. Shortly before his thirty-fifth birthday he had read Wonderland by Joyce Carol Oates, the first Oates he had read, and felt subconscious stirrings that he could neither define nor control. His identification with her characters discomfited him; she revealed how dangerous human being is and that sanity is largely a convention. In the next year, his thirty-sixth, he had felt his spirit's flame guttering and written Failure. Had the genocidal American settlers, he mused, been cursed by their victims? Undoubtedly! Arthur prayed as a mortal for mortals, subject to event.
"The Hopi wise men prophesied our highway system," Greg said. "They said before the end mirages of water would appear to men who traveled in machines, and that wires would carry words and power from sea to sea. They knew they would be conquered but that after the arrogant conquerors had spread across the continent they'd be rapidly consumed because they abused the Earth and Earth's creatures, including themselves."
"Wow understates it," Arthur said.
Pine Top, where they were to spend the night, was a resort town, cool in the summer and snowy in winter. Greg turned and turned. There were deep puddles in the muddy street and the houses were even tighter packed than in Fort Apache. Each by itself might have been distinguished; crowded as they were Arthur thought them ugly. Greg's was a handsome 8-sided structure made of logs with other houses twenty feet to its left and right.
"When we started building," he said sadly, "there were no cabins in sight."
They were not staying at Greg's but nearby at Jerry and his wife Alberta's, Jerry the Desert-Light-Linking founder Arthur hadn’t met; exhausted, he was relieved they didn't linger.
Warm and comfortable, Arthur sat in front of a cast-iron woodstove; Alberta, also facing the stove, sat on the couch nursing her and Jerry's new baby; a friend of Jerry’s from San Diego who helped with Desert Light Linking was beside her on the couch and Lucia, Greg, and Jerry were standing. The talk swung to business and Arthur listened carelessly to Jerry’s friend describe a battle in the San Diego holistic center between its director's supporters and a group trying to oust him. One of the San Diego dissidents had drawn a flow-chart of Desert Light Linking that showed Greg and Lucia were the work horses of the organization, which Jerry said he thought unhealthy.
"It'll be that way till we get more input in Tucson from other people," Greg said. He tried not to sound abused but failed.
They smoked Thai before dinner. Arthur had begun to wheeze slightly but smoked anyway, knowing it might stop his sweating and dry a runny nose he was developing--he hoped from proximity to Alberta's cat, not from smoking with Greg, who had a slight cold. Even if Arthur were to catch cold, he thought, he would not be dangerously ill till sometime after this ordeal was over and he was back in Tucson. He knew a cold could kill him by March two; he wasn't normal, and as often as not his colds were prelude to pneumonia. But he might not catch it, and he'd probably survive it if he did. After dinner was served but before they started to eat they silently held hands and gave thanks.
After dinner Greg produced a chunk of hash Arthur guessed was from Morocco and they smoked. By eight thirty everyone was ready for bed; Arthur was to lie on a 4-inch foam pad on the floor, his head toward the stove, which Jerry had stoked for the night. Greg lifted Arthur from his chair and Lucia took the heavy pad on which he sat and laid it on the foam pad to take the weight of his buttocks. Arthur's only night in the past year out of his waterbed had been after a party at Jan's on a mattress on the floor with her for a few hours before dawn; he had escaped unscathed. The plan here was for Lucia to turn him several times in the night and once she did appear, naked and half asleep, to roll him from his right side to his left. Before she came into the room he was awake, soaked and sweating heavily; her beauty startled him. After she turned him he dozed, waked, and laboriously but surprisingly effectively rolled himself back onto his right side. He dozed again. When he next woke he tried to turn back onto his left side, but the covers were too heavy and he failed. He was almost off the special pad and hoped Lucia would come turn him again soon. She didn't; it was a long night; he seemed to himself not to be sleeping but he knew from experience he probably was, some.
To go to the next part of THE HEALING click here.
To go to the THE HEALING & LOVE NOTE DISCUSSION FORUM click here. I want to hear almost anything you are willing to say, including whether you have had similar or contradictory experiences. Criticism of my behavior and beliefs is also solicited and will be (more or less!) welcome.
Edited by Coach, 09 March 2006 - 09:17 PM.