Copyright© 2018 by Kraken
As I drove along the Camino Real I sang “Fever” to the mules. They didn’t seem to mind. Then I opened up my mind to them on the various situations I found myself in. I talked about waking up 160 years in the past as a fifteen-year-old who few people took all that seriously, but with the experience and attitude of a sixty-six-year-old. I talked about my unsuccessful efforts to determine if this was all real or if it was just a psychotic episodic loop I was stuck in. I talked about the strange conversation I’d had with Laura, while I was trying to decide whether or not to stop the Apache from ambushing Mr. Mendoza and of the promise I’d made to her just before she died. I asked them how I was supposed to live up to that promise. I talked to them about Anna, and the feelings I was developing for her. Feelings that seemed to be at odds with common sense and my devotion to Laura. Feelings for someone I didn’t even really know. They proved to be good listeners, never interrupting me or asking me to clarify anything I said. They just plodded along, shaking their heads in their harnesses from time to time as if to say it was all a mystery to them, too.
I pulled the wagon up near the house, unhitched the mules, and harnessed them up to the buckboard. Taking down the bricks from the cave entrance, I stored them outside of the house for the time being. I loaded the plastic bins and an entrenching tool and set off for the sand pits. After I got back with ten bins full of sand, I hauled ten buckets of water from the stream out to the side of the house, bringing another plastic bin with me. I mixed up three parts of sand, and one of lime, with just enough water to make a slurry. It didn’t feel quite right, so I dumped it in the creek and mixed another batch at three and a half to one. That one was good, so I kept making it that way, one bin at a time. I brought a bin inside the house and started on the ceiling inside.
I thought making adobe bricks was messy! Applying stucco, over your head, onto wood boards, made even more of a mess. I was happy to get done with the ceiling just as the sun was setting. I’d have to look at it in full light to be certain, but I was sure I’d missed some spots that would have to be redone. Thankfully, the floor was still dirt at this point, so all the stucco that had splashed and dripped, didn’t really hurt anything.
A hot shower, dinner with one of my rapidly disappearing Diet Cokes, and a DVD were the order of the evening. Tonight’s movie was ‘The Magnificent 7.’’
For the next week, I made messy with the stucco finishing off the inside first then it was on to the outside where the process started all over again. Finally, I was done. Now I needed some way to easily remove the first brick at the top to easily get the rest of the bricks down. To solve this problem, I cut a piece of sheet metal into a rectangle just a little smaller than the back of the brick. Then I drilled two holes through the brick and sheet metal. I took a piece of ¼ inch rolled steel and cut two pieces, nine inches long, from it. I used my dies to make threads for about an inch, along one end of both pieces. I used the vice and torch to bend a small hook shape into the ends opposite the threads. Finally, I inserted the threaded end into the stucco side of the block, and completely through the block and sheet metal. Finally, using two nuts I’d dug out of the coffee can I’d used to collect all the stray nuts and bolts I’d come across over the years in my previous life, I screwed it all together. With the bricks back in place, I now had convenient handles to pull the brick out, with as well as a place to set my ‘Indian rifle’ as camouflage.
The next day I moved the stove and all the furniture inside, and arranged it as comfortably as I could. I also stuffed the mattress case with straw, and added it to the bed along with the sheets and blanket. I put up the pot and pan, the plates, the cups, the silverware, and the lamp. I filled the chest with two sets of city clothes, and the clothes I’d worn to the quinceanera.
It was all neat and orderly. Too neat and orderly. It was obvious the bed had never been slept in, the stove never used, and the lamp never lit. I was going to have to actually live in this house for a time, to give it the ‘used look’ I needed. I also needed a wood pile outside, and food stores inside.
I lit the lamp and let it burn for a few hours. I also swapped the skillet and pot I used on my trips, with the new ones inside the house. I also added the camp coffee pot to the top of the stove. I moved the partially filled sacks of coffee, flour, sugar, and beans as well as the bottles of spices from the plastic bins underneath the trailer and carried them into the house putting them on the shelves. When that was done I hitched up the mules and took the buckboard out to find downed cottonwood trees for firewood. I ended up with more than I thought I needed but took what I found. Then it was back to the house to unload, and take the wagon back down to the canyon. I cut up the tree and limbs into lengths I could use in the stove, stacking it all up against the cliff wall near the house. I took an armful inside, placing it near the stove. I closed the door and dropped the wood bar into its holders to hold the door closed, and started a fire in the stove. A quick shower and dinner using a plate, cup, and utensils from the house and I was ready for bed.
I slept fitfully that night. Strange and powerful dreams woke me up twice during the night. The dreams were all of Laura. They started out well enough. I was reliving all the good times we’d had through the years; when all of a sudden, she was standing in front of me giving me a good dressing down as only she could.
“Paul McAllister, quit being such a stubborn ass. You promised me on my deathbed you would go back to being the man I fell in love with, and yet here you are, trying your best to ignore not only your promise to me but the promise of a happy future. You are just as attracted to that young lady as you were to me, yet you fight the potential happiness you could have with her to pine away for something that will never be,” she said in a stern and slightly angry voice.
“Damn it, Laura! What do you want me to do? I’ve loved you since the first time we met. You are my soul mate. I can’t just forget you and move on with my life. I don’t think there is any room left in my heart to love someone else,” I replied getting angrier and angrier as I talked.
Laura gave me that look of concerned love I knew so well, and with a soft shake of her head said, “Bullshit, Paul. You’ve had to kill again and you’re rebuilding those walls between you and everyone else you might care for, just like you did when you were in Saudi Arabia. Oh, you did and do love me. Of that there is no question. But you are using your love for me as a convenient excuse, and I won’t stand for it. I won’t allow you to rebuild those walls and I won’t stand by watching you live your life alone wallowing in self-pity. You promised me, Paul, and I will make sure you live up to that promise!”
I reached out to pull her into a hug and tell her she was wrong. In an instant, she was gone, and I was awake. I abruptly sat up, looking around for Laura before realizing that it had all been a dream. Rubbing my hands over my face I replayed the most vivid dream I’d ever had, over and over in my head. I finally decided the dream was just my subconscious trying to work out conflicting emotions I wasn’t even aware I had while I slept. Either that, or it was yet another one of my psychotic episodes increasing the likelihood that I was bat shit crazy.
With a sigh, I laid back down and tried to get back to sleep. I was eventually successful, because I started to dream again. Laura was suddenly back standing in front of me. Her posture and body language immediately told me she was really pissed. Standing completely erect with her shoulders back, head held high, her arms crossed over her chest, and one foot tapping, she glared at me.
“I’m really disappointed in you, Paul,” she said in a soft angry voice. A voice I’d rarely heard directed at me in all the years I knew her. “I’m a part of you. You know that, and yet you try to run away, to ignore me, by waking up. That won’t work, and you know it. I will always be with you. I will always protect and defend you to the best of my ability even if that means protecting and defending you against yourself. I’m not strong enough yet but eventually I’ll be able to do that even when you’re awake so prepare yourself, Paul.”
She glared at me, still tapping her foot, daring me to argue with her. When I didn’t immediately speak up she continued. “You are not crazy, Paul. This is your life, now. I expect you live up to the promise you made.”
The last thing I saw was Laura’s bright beautiful smile as the scene began to fade. I started to ask her not to leave. To beg her to stay for just a little longer. The scene faded too rapidly for me to get my words out, yet I heard Laura’s voice as if from a distance.
“Remember your promise, Paul. We will talk again when I’m stronger.”
I woke up again desperately searching for Laura. My mind was still churning from the dream and yet I knew that it was more than a dream. After sitting there for a few minutes, thinking about Laura, I got up. Between the adrenaline the dream had dumped into my body, and my mind continuing to churn away on the promise I had made and so far, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep for a while.
I walked out of the cave through the house and into the quiet of a night softly lit by a quarter moon. The night smells of the desert and the river wafted over me as I walked out into the warm night air away from the cave. Finally, twenty yards from the house, I did my best to center myself and then began the familiar movements of the Krav Maga katas. As usual the exercise forced me to concentrate fully on the moves, and helped bring me back down from the emotional high of the dreams.
Hot, sweaty, and finally tired enough to go back to sleep I headed back to the RV stopping in the bathroom to run water over my head, before returning to my bed. I finally fell back asleep while thinking about the promise I’d made to Laura in the hours before she died.
Day break found me on the way back to town to return the wagon and scaffolding; and, more importantly, to get some Anna smiles. That last part was an uncomfortable discovery given the previous night’s dream.
I pulled into Juan’s brickyard shortly after noon. Juan came out as I put on the brake and climbed down. I asked him where he wanted me to put the wagon and horses, but he waved at me, telling me to leave them right where they were. I thanked him for the rental, and told him I was off for lunch as I slung my guitar over my back. I untied the horse from the back of the wagon, mounted up, and headed to the restaurant.
I was greeted with my first Anna smile in ten days, as well as a hug and the quip that her Don Quixote was back.
“I had to see my Dulcinea, to fortify myself for further battles against the evils of the world,” I replied.
Taking me over to what had become my table against the wall, she said she’d be back in a moment with coffee and lunch. Lunch turned out to be a hamburger and fries! She set them down in front of me, and told me that they were huge hits, and they often ran out of them. She also said I was expected for dinner tonight. I could live with that. As I was leaving I asked her to take care of the guitar for me, as I had some errands to run. I would pick it up at dinner.
I left the horse with a stable boy and left to get the errands I needed done, before the end of the day.
My first stop was the woodwright’s shop, to see what he had in the way of flooring and flooring joists. I knew without a doubt that he didn’t have any flooring. Wood was expensive here, and most homes and businesses were still using packed earth floors, so there wasn’t much call for him to have flooring in stock. He did, however, have plenty of long raw cut oak in thicknesses that I could use for floor joists and floor boards. They weren’t a uniform thickness, to be sure; but with some work using my 21st century power tools, I could turn them into flooring easily enough. We worked out the measurements and added in wood dowels in a standard size for pegging the floor boards down, and he figured out a price I could live with. After I paid for the materials, I told him I’d pick it all up in three or four days.
Next, I went to Mrs. Amador. I told her that now that I’d finished building my house, I needed three pails, a water pitcher and basin, and a box for kindling and fire wood.
My last stop was the barbershop for a bath, haircut and shave. When I was done and in my new clothes, I went out to find Mr. Mendoza at the table in back of the stables. He asked about the house and I told him I’d finished the stucco work and returned the wagon to Juan. I would ride out tomorrow to pick up my buckboard, and come back into town to pick up the wood for the floor I was going to put in.
He nodded his head, put down what he was working on, and turned to me with a serious expression on his face. “I need to know what your intentions toward Anna are.”
Gulp! When I recovered from the surprise of the question I said, “Well, Sir, I’d intended to talk to you about this a little further down the road, but since you’ve asked, my answer at the moment is: I don’t know. With your and Mrs. Mendoza’s permission, I’d like to spend some time with Anna, talk to her, get to know her. I’m certainly attracted to her, there’s no denying that; but I’m also confused by this situation, and by both your and Mrs. Mendoza’s attitude on whatever it is that is going on with Anna and me.”
He gave me a small frown but then asked what I meant.
“Well, Sir, it’s my understanding that it’s quite usual for a young lady in Anna’s position to be protected and sheltered from suitors, to have her marriage arranged for her by her family. Yet you and Mrs. Mendoza seem to be fine with the idea of me as a suitor. The other thing that has me confused is how everyone in your family, regardless of generation, seems to have read Don Quixote. That isn’t a readily available book out here, in my experience, limited as it might be. Throw those two things in with my not being able to visit town more than a few days at a time, four or five times a year for the next three years or so, and I think you begin to see my confusion. Even if I was head over heels in love with Anna and wanted to marry her today, I’m not in a position to support a wife and family just yet and probably won’t be for quite a while.”
Mr. Mendoza gave me a long solemn look before saying. “The young man doth protest too much, methinks.”
I couldn’t help it! I gave out a deep belly laugh. The incongruity of the staid and down to earth Mr. Mendoza paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Hamlet in perfect English, was just too much.
I finally got myself under control and brushed away the tears of laughter. Mr. Mendoza nodded with a grin and said, “Now you know how we feel, when something unexpected comes out of your mouth, which is almost every time you are here.” When I nodded in understanding, he continued. “To clear the confusion away, I want you to think about my wife. She is Apache. Even though we have been married almost forty years, she still thinks like an Apache in most situations. How do you think she would react, if I or one of my sons-in-law decided to arrange a marriage for one of our granddaughters or daughters? Would she react like a Spaniard and accept it, or would she act like an Apache and demand the arrangement be rescinded, while throwing my belongings out of the house to indicate she was divorcing me?”
When he put it that way, their willingness to allow suitors to be of Anna’s choice and not arrange a marriage was completely understandable. Unlike many other tribes, Apache women were completely free in their choice of husbands. Marriages were never arranged. At my nod of understanding, he continued.