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Counting Sheep (Part One)
~ Christopher Julian
There is a picture of desolation. The sun has
baked the ground bone dry. Living souls are
scarce, prairie dogs scamper and crows
caw overhead. The wind howls, chokes, and
spews clouds of dust. It’s a lot like the Sunday
evening after the Northern Navajo Fair ends.
A solitary figure emerges from behind the dust screen…
“I think it’s me, but a Mad Max version of me,” says Gilvert, “I couldn’t get a really good look. My neighbor was gunning the engine to his ride. Woke me up.” Gilvert’s beauty sleep and strange dreams were interrupted, as per the norm in his neighborhood. His neighbor has his own Fast and Furious dreams. That disturbing automobile sounds like a weed trimmer stuck in an aluminum garbage can. “Kids think that’s cool, I guess,” Gilvert continues, “like uncles with their old Chevys and Ford pickups held together with duct tape and bailing wire.”
“That’s a good movie, MAD MAX – the second one. We saw it at the drive-in when it came out back in the 80s.” Sam always has cool stories about back in the day. Nothing about being with A.I.M. at Alcatraz in the 70s, he’s not that old. He’s a respectable Navajo, dresses nice and drives a classy Toyota Camry the “handles like a Cadillac, aye.” Sam and Gilvert aren’t exactly relatives in the classical sense. One day Sam started showing up, being “Auntie’s friend”, at birthday parties and other get togethers. And he’s been there since. He’s a good guy, treats Auntie right and hauls wood in the winter. Navajos are a matriarchal bunch, so when a respectable male enters the picture, you pray to Creator he stays.
“Hey man, where you’re going today. Just keep that story to yourself. It’s not that it’s not interesting, but some people are just waiting to get bent about something.” Sam is also a Public Defender. It’s not much of a stretch to say he saved Gilvert from jail time. Instead, it’s community service. Unfortunately, this isn’t the type of community service where Gilvert will lead a team underdog kids to a championship. Sam’s Camry pulls into the parking lot of a clinic like building. Sam parks the Camry and looks out the side window, “You have to check in with Bernice.” Gilvert squints to try and activate his warrior eyes to see through walls, but it’s not working this early in the morning.
“Do you think they’re going to feed us in there?” Gilvert asks.
Sam shrugs, “I don’t know.” He reaches into his billfold and pulls out a twenty, “Grab yourself something for lunch.”
Gilvert, speechless, takes the money. He opens the Camry’s door and steps out. “Need a ride afterwards?” Sam asks.
“I should be okay, who knows how long I’m going to be here? Do you?” “
Probably ask Bernice.”
“Thanks for the ride.” Gilvert shuts the door and stands up straight to watch Sam’s Camry drive away. He turns to the building and starts towards it. In his mind, Bernice is a no-nonsense middle-aged Navajo woman. He has no idea on how to navigate a conversation with her without pissing her off. It’s a lot like talking to his own mother after one of the girls came around claiming to be one of his baby mamas. At the entrance, he takes a deep breath and steps inside.
Gilvert approaches the reception desk, a young woman is slouched over her phone, texting. Gilvert greets her but it takes her a few moments to give him the slightest acknowledgement. He requested Bernice. The girl has no idea who he’s talking about.
“What can we help you with?” asks a burly female voice from behind. The voice gives Gilvert a jump scare. He quickly snaps to, turns around and is face-to-face with a no-nonsense middle-aged Navajo woman
“I’m looking for Bernice.” Gilvert meekly states.
“She’s out today. Can I help you?”
He pulls out his court order and hands it to the burly woman. She skims it and a devilish grin comes to her face, “So you’re the criminal she was talking about. She won’t be in until later, but you are at our service until then.” That grin only gets a bit larger and a lot more disturbing to Gilvert. A few hours later…
Gilvert’s legs reach out and dangle with his upper body and arms tucked into a cabinet with sound of tools clanging against pipes. He’s in the office break room. The burly woman walks in and announces, “You can go to lunch.” Gilvert grunts, “I need a mask. I hope that’s only crumbs in there.” The burly woman responds, “Go get some fresh air then!” Gilvert jumps at this opportunity.
Sanctuary is found under a tree with a bottle of soda and a burrito wrapped in foil. Gilvert leans back against the tree and within seconds, it out for the count.
In darkness, there is a woman’s voice, a lot less burly but equally strong…
Are you sure he’s capable of what we ask? He doesn’t look like much.
A male voice intervenes…
I’m as sure as I would be in myself.
He chuckles a bit at the tail end of that. The woman interjects,
But he’s not you.
Gilvert’s eyes open ever so slightly to reveal a Native GQ version of himself looking down at him and smiling, “It’s kind of like looking in the mirror, aye.”
…TO BE CONTINUED