Sander's New Home Chapter 7 When The White Raven Flies

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Chap7The bright sun was shining in Sander's eyes through the bedroom window. He awoke with a start, catching his breath. He raised upright in the bed pushing back the covers, ready for the noisy running about of a room full of boisterous boys. In a few seconds, he realized where he was. He wasn't at the Home, he was in Aunt Mo's hotel in Compass Point. The bed was almost as nice as his own at home and he was alone in his own room. Sander jumped up and looked out of the window at the edge of the main street for the first time in the daylight, saw a well traveled forest trail at the end of the street. A few people were quickly moving about like they had every day destinations for their early mornings. Three older men were meeting and talking, laughing and then walked up the steps to Willie's Place. His bare feet felt cold and good on the floor. He looked around the room and saw that he had a bathroom of his own, but no shower or bath tub. His clothes were hung in his very own closet, and when he looked inside, he saw some of his familiar things from home. Peering high to the top shelf, he saw his picture album with the newspaper and magazine drawings and photos of his collection of favorite airplanes. Just to the right, he made out the shape of his black treasure chest. He got the chair from beside the bed, scooted it over to the closet, climbed up and retrieved his box. He took it over to the bed, got his key from his pants pocket and opened it. After a quick inventory, he gave a sigh. All of his treasures were there. Marta had made sure that he had gotten both of them safe to Compass Point. She had either given them to Unai or sent them in the mail to his Aunt Maureen. Sander carefully inspected each of the contents, as if he was taking inventory, almost like he had never seen them before. He vowed that he would hide them in a safe and secure place before anyone could take them from him again.

A quiet knock at the door, then he heard, " Senor. You are sleeping more?"  Sander quickly closed the lid, locked it, secured the key around his neck so it would be close and slid it under the bed. "Hello, I am awake. The door is open," he said in a clear voice. In walked a short, young Hispanic woman wearing a crisp black and white uniform. She spoke with a strong accent and said," My name Juana. I work for Miss Mo here in hotel." she said with a big and easy smile. Her eyes and her hair were as shiny and black as the night. " Nice to meet you, Juana, " he responded softly. "You are the Master Lysander,no?, " she quizzed. "Yes, I am, Juana. I am coming to clean the rooms." You can coming to me. Senor Unai, he is in the cucinero cooking the breakfast for you and we go to dining room. I am coming back for cleaning your room." He panicked. He wanted to secure his treasure chest safely. He knew that Juana would not take anything, but he wanted it back in the closet on the high shelf. It would make him feel better if it was back up there. Finding a better hiding place would be a priority later. " I want to wash up first, " he asked as he made the motions of rubbing his face. "Si.....si senor. You just coming downstairs to dining room. You can see easy when you are coming downstairs. I tell Senor Unai. I am back here later to cleaning room. OK?, " she said with that big smile again.

Lysander glanced at the old grandmother clock on the hallway wall as he headed downstairs. He had found his favorite striped T shirt in a bureau drawer, the one with the red, black and white stripes to wear. He hoped to bring his Brownie out today to take some pictures of his new town, but it was nowhere to be found. He knew that it was in his things that Marta had taken back to Palo Alto from St. Catherine's. Maybe he could borrow one from Aunt Mo or get another somewhere to take some pictures to send to Marta, and to his mother. They probably had film at Willie's Place. He would ask Unai later. "Over here, Sander," motioned Aunt Mo as he walked into the dining room. " Here is a good seat by the window and the sunshine. We haven't seen each other in a long while, have we Lysander? " she asked. He nervously said hello and nodded his head at her question. " The Yaqui is cooking up breakfast for everyone and he found out from Marta and Hanna how you liked your oatmeal prepared. I'll bring it right out. We open our dining room at six am every morning, except on Sundays, " she said firmly, as if to inform Sander for breakfasts in his future. He glanced around the pleasant, brightly painted room. The walls were a shiny white with pale yellow doors and windows. The curtains were pale yellow and ordinary, but matching. There were five other people in the bright and airy dining room having breakfast. One disheveled older man with uncombed, thinning gray hair, was huddled intently, clutching his coffee cup, and chain smoking while he read the newspaper. There was a middle aged couple with a young girl about his age sitting across from the man. The girl was chattering away, her parents not paying much attention to what she was saying, except for an occasional "Yes Dear". In the far corner was a young couple in their twenties, holding hands off and on. Mo arrived with an elegant, lace tablecloth covered cart and served them their order. She placed three plates in front of the young man, and a doughnut in front of the young woman. She poured her a fresh cup of coffee and the woman tore off pieces of the pastry while smoking, drinking coffee, all the while  smiling at him while watching him eat his breakfast with animated and quick motions, as if he had not had any food to eat in three days, fork after fork rapidly entering into his eager mouth. She finally grabbed his fork hand and stopped the action. She said something quietly and he stood up, leaned over the table and pecked her on the cheek, sat back down and scooped up more forkfuls.. Sander thought for sure that the young man would order more food before he was through with the food he had in front of him.

Aunt Mo rolled the cart over to his table, after serving the couple, and set his large bowl of oatmeal in front of him. She also placed a deep bowl of brown sugar, some warm cooked raisins, and a big glass pitcher of cold milk. Finally a large glass of orange juice was in front of him and announced very formally and with a big grin, knowing that Unai had gotten it all right, " Is everything satisfactory sir. " "Sander replied excitedly, " Oh, Aunt Mo. It is perfect. Thank you very much. Just how I like my breakfast! " " Please don't thank me, The Yaqui does the cookin' and he's the one who found out what you liked." Sander put as much brown sugar as he wanted on the oatmeal, which Unai had made a little thick, just like his Mommy fixed for him. Two heaping spoons of raisins, lots of cold milk almost to the rim and then he took his spoon and make 'rivers' through the cereal, like he had always done since he could remember. After taking the first bite, he thought briefly about that first morning at the Home. When everything had been so wrong. When he had felt so sad and helpless, and had wondered what he had done wrong that his own grandpa should make him stay in that terrible place. Thanks to Marta, Aunt Mo and Unai, he was now in a wonderful new place. He didn't have his mother there, but he felt that it would not be too long before he would see her again. Even the bed was comfortable, almost as comfortable as his own at home.All the food was heaven and he dug in for another big spoonful of his favorite. He stopped  mid spoonful, and pondered," Maybe this was his new home now? "

He decided that he it would be a good thing to learn about Compass Point and the all people that lived here. After all, learning was his favorite thing to do. He also wondered about his new school. He would ask Unai all of these questions and more, when he saw him later that day, which he hoped he would. Aunt Mo stopped by his table, " Lysander, I have a really busy day. We have almost all of our rooms booked tonight and I need to make sure everything is handled, all details are covered.. I'll find some time to sit and talk later today, maybe after dinner? That all right with you? " " Sure, Aunt Mo. That's fine," he answered." The Yaqui will meet up with you in about an hour to show you around, meet some of our town folks and see the sights. There is not much to do for youngsters in Compass Point, but you like to learn and he knows everything about the forest, the trails to hike on, the trees, the animals, the fish and the......" All of a sudden she stopped in mid sentence, and the look on her face was pained. " Yes. Well, ah. Everything about what goes on around here that you should know about, he knows it all.  I gotta get movin' and help out in the kitchen so he has the time to spend with you for part of the day. Just meet him on the front steps....in about an hour will be good." She turned away quickly and disappeared into the kitchen. What did she think of that would give her that look on her face and act like that?," he thought to himself. " Maybe it had something to do with that ever present White Raven, or those strange low growls and animal sounds he had heard when he first arrived last night. It was surely about all of the things that Unai had talked to him about at that gas station." He was determined to find out what was going on in Compass Point. This is where his life was going to be lived from here onward.

He finished his breakfast and went to his room and looked to see if Juana was was still in his room. The bed was made neatly and  clean towels were folded neatly on the racks. The place smelled clean and fresh. He searched every nook and cranny for a safe hiding place for his box. Finally, he saw a small door above the top shelf in the closet that he pushed open after much effort. He looked up into the darkness while balancing himself on the chair. The door hadn't opened easily, so he assumed it had been sealed shut for a long time. Without a flashlight, he could not see well, but it qualified as a good spot, safe enough for his treasures. He finished and went down the steps, out into the sunshine to wait for his meeting with Unai. He still had about one half hour until he was supposed to connect with Unai, so he decided to explore the sights and see some of the  new places in Compass Point. He looked all about and decided to head out of town a short way, around a bend on the main street and see where it went. He walked a short distance, the main street was not very long, past a little old white church and steeple with a small cemetery behind, past some empty ramshackle wooden buildings with boarded up windows, next door to a row of four buildings with a large white sign and peeling paint propped askew over the top of two of the buildings. The sign read," Compass Point Garage and Repair. We Wreck or Salvage Anything That Rolls . Heavy Towing Available 24 Hours a Day- Call Eucalyptus 46- If It Can't Move We Will Give It A Push"  As he walked by the big wooden, padlocked gates, he could see and hear a loud barking, a dog's nose was snorting and it was feverishly scratching at the bottom of the gate, desperately trying to dig under the gates that were partially moving to and fro. The garage door in the next space was open and a big fancy yellow roadster was on a lift, Big Melvin was working on a rear wheel, dirty rag in hand, applying grease to the axle. "Good morning, Sander," he said loudly as he waved hello. " Gettin' to know the town, are ya?" " Hello, Big Melvin," he answered. Melvin had noticed his hesitance at coming closer to the garage and he said," Don't worry about Crankshaft none. He's a protectin' his home, that's all he's a doin'. But don'cha go comin' over that fence and I ain't bein' 'round. I'm 'fraid he'd be doin' some terrible damage to ya limbs and such. Otherwise, it's OK." Sander smiled meekly, as if to agree with the information, kept on walking, waving good bye as he continued down the street.

At the end of the short road opposite the forest trail he had first seen this morning, the hard packed gravel under foot ended and a vast jumbled dump lay before him. Every imaginable piece of household or vehicle cast off, used up or damaged debris and rubble from many years was there. In the middle of the almost one half acre of land, were two metal barrels, black, smelly smoke arose from where anything that would fit was burned. Farther on the other side of the huge lot, he saw a crude patchwork tent made of some various shades of canvas, with patches from what appeared to be a discarded pair of blue denim jeans, some old soiled sofas with the cotton stuffing protruding from  rips and tears and an odd collection of chairs set around a well laid-out stone campfire topped by an old dented coffee pot and a cast iron pan with the handle missing.  Sander could smell meat cooking, was curious and walked towards the scent coming from the permanent but odd encampment. As he approached, someone shouted ,"Who goes there? Who's a comin' into my camp, God damn it?" A dirty, scruffy, wiry and bearded little man emerged from the tent. He took a defensive stance from just outside the entrance of the beat up old tent, battered baseball bat in hand, ready to defend his territory, just as Crankshaft had done ten minutes before up the street. " Who the fuck are you? I ain't got nuttin' to steal. Ain't got nuttin' but some old fat squirrel meat to eat and you ain't a gonna get that." "Please don't be afraid, I am not going to take anything from your camp, " Sander pleaded. " I am Sander Urquhart. My Aunt Mo owns the hotel. I just moved here yesterday, " he continued, still frightened. "Oh, shit. You is Mo's nephew, is you? That's OK with me. Folks around here call me The Wheelbarrow Man. Mo and Unai, now they is good folks. They is real good to me. I sometimes does bits of odd jobs and they has give me left over food afore too. " he said proudly, scratching his scraggly gray , curly beard." You gotta 'nounce yer self comin' in ta camp like that. You gotta member that, now. Unnerstand?  Some old fucker'd throw some buckshot yer direction ifen ya don't. Ya got me?,  " he said firmly. "You had breakfast? Ya want some squirrel, do ya? Ain't got no bread , no other fixins neither.. They's pretty fat and sassy 'round here, lots ta eat fer the little fuckers." " Thank you very much, Mr. Wheelbarrow Man. Unai fixed me my favorite oatmeal this morning." "Oatmeal, ya say? I likes me some oatmeal, ifen it gits cooked up right 'n proper. Won't eat it fixed soupy- like though." Sander smiled and said. " That how I like it cooked. Not soupy." The old man found that hilarious and was grabbing his sides. "I ain't a had me no good oatmeal fer a long time now. You 'n I got somethin' da same 'bout us, good lumpy oatmeal. That's a good'n, that is, youngster," he said breathless from his prolonged laughing "Well, I have to go and meet Unai now. He is going to show me the town and meet people. I can tell him I met my first Compass Point resident, " "You bet you can, 'cept that my 'dress is Number 1, Town Dump. " With that he busted out in gales of laughter again, nodding his head at his own humor. Sander waved good bye as he continued to roar with another laughing fit, he also nodded as Sander ran back towards the hotel, knowing he was late for his meeting with Unai. He proceeded to break down his camp. Folding up his tattered tent, dousing the fire pit, packing all of his collection of odd belongings and piling everything on his wheelbarrow, tied down securely for the day's travels up on the highway, while looking for more " highway treasure " as he like to call his findings that are tossed from the cars and trucks that sped on their way east and west, most drivers never having a clue that they are passing by Compass Point. He always made a point to wave and wish them a safe journey, although he never had a conversation with any of them. He even picked up the litter because he was proud of his job and what he did to live another day.

Unai was sittin in the middle of the street, facing the sun, eyes closed and seemed oblivious to the world around him. "I am so sorry for making you wait, Unai. I met The Wheelbarrow Man and we were talking at his camp." Unai said nothing as Sander stood there by him, breathless from running to the meeting. He was quiet, eyes still shut , for what seemed like a long time. Finally he opened his eyes, smiled, squinting from the bright motning sun and said," Curious. This man is not an easy person to get to know. His history is one that is quite remarkable. It is a good sign that you and he were talking. Did he laugh profusely?, " he questioned, not even mentioning Sander's tardiness. "Why, yes he did. He seemed to laugh at everything, " he answered. " That is very good. He has accepted you. You may now consider him a trusted friend. He is much maligned around town, they do not understand him, which is understandable. It is unlikeable that you will hear a good word repeated about this man. He can be very difficult and irascible, he often threatens to "throw some buckshot" in a person's direction. I do not believe he even has a firearm, and his eyesight would unlikely support any action such as that. His demeanor is not one laced with positive social graces and motives. You will come to need this person at some future time."  Sander did not really understand what Unai meant by needing him at 'at some future time', but then he was learning that Unai knew things that one did not learn by normal channels.

They proceed back up the main street a short distance, walking casually, and Sander remarked, " What are those odd shaped buildings, that collection farther up at the end, all jumbled together, Unai? " " That my young friend is Fong's. It is Compass Point's  little Chinatown. We won't be going there today. You will learn about that place and be meeting the people that are there in good time. One young woman that you will meet works there. You must not judge her because of her endeavors are not accepted in normal society, but here in Compass Point, what she does is a necessity for her at this time in her life. She will have a strong presence in your life, but that will unfold naturally." " I do not understand, Unai," he answered while sensing the importance of Unai's strong statement. " Let me just say this. Her name is Grace Suarez. Her mother has always called her Gracie, but ever since they both moved to Compass Point Gracie has preferred to be known as Grace. Guess it goes hand in hand with her job here at Fong's. She works as a whore because life has dealt her a difficult path. Her mother works there with her., but again, you can not judge these women. You will learn about them later.

Their path found them at Willie's Place, as they stood at the bottom of the steps, looking up at the big wraparound porch and rows of windows in front, Sander remembered that this was the hub of social action in town. It obviously had been an elegant home in the past, and Sander remembered when they had arrived. The building was well maintained, seemed to have a new white paint job, the windows were clean and the porch did not have any unnecessary clutter strewn about. Next to the main house were several out buildings and a large barn out behind, where, several neat, large stacks of lumber, piles of roofing materials and rolls of wire fencing was arranged orderly beside the barn. He remembered how Willie had opened a second story window, when he and Unai had arrived from Northern California, and brusquely inquired about who was out front so early in the morning. Sander and Unai walked up the steps, opened the door and at first it was the smell that caught their nostrils, then a tall, shapely woman with dark hair, bright red lipstick wearing a much too tight red dress and high heels, reeling from a bit too much drink and smoking a cigarette brushed past them. She stopped for a moment, grabbing the hand rail to steady herself and glanced back briefly and said with slurred words, "Good mornin' Yaqui. How's tricks?" With a toothsome smile, she continued on toward Fong's, her stylish black and white high heels maneuvering the gravel. They both stood there and looked after her. Sander was speechless, and Unai saw the effect she had had on him. " Who was that, Unai?," Sander said finally, when he could speak again clearly. "That, young Sander, was Grace Suarez. It appears as though she had gotten off work at Fong's, and several shots of Four Rose's became her breakfast here with Willie and the gang, and is now heading to her rooms that she shares with her mother at Fong's. Old Man Fong takes care of his women, that he does."  Sander went back into a lack of speech mode and Unai had to grab his arm and said, " I was not planning on your meeting Grace for the first time quite like that, Sander. Now, let us meet your new friends inside." "Huh? Oh, yes. OK., " he answered, the picture of her walking away permanently in his mind to bring up another time.

Willie is a large robust man, quick with a sarcastic quip or a practical joke. He carries many an account for people who come up short on money when purchasing , especially the more impoverished individuals. Not able to walk easily without the aid of a cane, he holds fort at the end of the counter comfortably in his big brown leather chair. He has created an interesting type of place. Auto parts store, hardware and building supplies, gifts, household and clothing. In addition, one can buy a good selection of anything that  the J.C. Penney or Montgomery Wards catalogs have to offer. The most popular activities that take place are as an all day diner and bar, closing at 11 pm and opening again at 530 am for the U.S. Forest Service workers and the men who are building the highway heading east. Cal Sorley has a minor ownership in the diner and can be seen here manning the grill and stove everyday but Christmas and his birthday, which is the only day of the year he has some of his favorite Booth's High and Dry gin, in fact, quite a lot of High and Dry, straight up several bottles of cold 7 UP to accompany.. Folks who come in for a meal the day after his birthday are likely to get some food that doesn't measure up to Cal's normal high standards. Dotty O'Shea is the waitress, although she does get some part time help from a few of the working girls from Fong's. There is a warren of rooms behind the front counter and the diner, some of which not everyone can enter easily without Willie's OK or the price of admission. Much of Willie's profits come from the ongoing poker game , some evenings still operating until the wee hours of the AM. You will find Willie visible and in charge, his pearl handled and nickel plated Colt .45 close at hand to quickly solve any extreme disputes that may arise.

Dotty has an independent, part time business in the far, back corner room, which is really the liquor and beer storage space. It has a small window on the outside wall , about eye level, protected  by heavy bars that were welded securely by Big Melvin. It was rumored that Melvin's welding fees for the window were paid for happily by Dotty in that room. Dotty makes her extra money on an old Army cot of Willie's from WWI. At least it is well padded and is covered with an old heirloom quilt sewn by his Mother, that she keeps nice and fresh. Many of the guys in the bar have dared to suggest sneaking a peek in the window when Dotty takes one of her breaks and retires with a bar or diner customer, maybe a traveling salesman or a sailor from the eastbound bus that stops in Compass Point briefly for a quick bite or to pick up passengers. Willie either encourages her side business or turns a blind eye while she makes two or three dollars for her fifteen minute break, money that she then slips into the slot in a green big piggy bank on a shelf she keeps over the back counter by the toaster. The regulars call it her " Cash Hog " behind her back.

"Good morning everyone, " Unai announces cheerfully, as the two come through the door. "I want you to meet my young friend, Mo's nephew, Sander." The Hello's, Hi's and greetings were almost all in unison by the few people sitting around, acknowledging young Sander's arrival in Compass Point. Willie got down from his perch behind his precious row of tattered auto parts catalogs and firmly extends his left hand, " Welcome, my young friend. I was the one bellowing at you two this morning from my apartment upstairs. Name's Willie and this is my place." A large imposing man, his presence made more dramatic from the sight of the prominent  mustard gas scars on the right side his face, arm and neck from WWI. This injury also left him with the loss of his right eye, where he now had a glass eye that often has a mind of it's own and will work itself around in his skull where he is looking in the opposite direction than his good eye, consequently giving him an odd, almost comedic look. He always shakes with his left hand, still self conscious about the large scars,especially to new people he meets. He hobbled back to his chair, in obvious pain from shrapnel still floating around in his leg from the same attack as the mustard gas injury. Willie has a water glass filled not with Coco-Cola, but with Four Roses, his pain medication of choice. Front and center at a wobbly round table sits a quite elderly large man, his aging eyes are clear, blue and sharp. It seems he is deaf in one ear because he  faces you with the left side of his face when conversing. At the table with him is a man wearing a tattered Chicago Cubs baseball cap, a day old beard and dressed as if ready to fell tall timber all day, about fifty years old who announces, " Name's Phil. They call me ' Doomsday Phil ' . This here is the real boss of the joint, Old Bill," he said with a sly smile as he nudged the elderly man with his elbow. " That's right, youngster. I'm the real boss here. Everbody knows it, but you ain't a gonna hear Willie say it. " Evidently the rumor was that Old Bill is actually Willie's father. He has been in Compass Point for at least seventy years and had worked with The Wheelbarrow Man when the gold rush was bringing thousands of fortune hunters to that part of the mountains. Most would also agree that Old Bill has made a chest full of money from those days, buried safely in the foothills, but his cohort from the gold rush days did not, or he would not be searching the highway daily for cast offs and junk to sell.He would not be going to bed hungry many night either. He wouldn't be sorting through the trash dump and the town's trash cans at night looking for food every day. None of the parties will offer any details of their relationships or the events of past days, hence the stories and rumors are many. "We have been rude to our new friend, " chimed in Dotty, interrupting the introductions. I'm Dotty, head waitress and baby sitter for this bunch of misfits." This statement brings reluctant laughter all around, except from Doomsday Phil, who seems to have a perpetual grouchy nature about him. " Do you like pie Sander? Cal makes some damn fine pies and we have three kinds today,"  she said as she motioned to Cal Sorley, who then waves hello from the pass through window, but says nothing being while busy getting ready for lunch customers. "Yes, I do. Do you have chocolate cream pie? I like chocolate cream, " he answered enthusiastically. "You are in luck. We got custard, chocolate cream and peach from peaches Cal and I put up last summer. She took the whole pie from the case and started to cut a big slice when Old Bill spoke up loudly, compensating for his one deaf ear," Get the boy some milk, fer Christ's sakes, Dotty." " Hold on to your drawers Bill, I'm not lettin' the boy go thirsty!" Sander then responded, " Can I get a cherry Pepsi cola with my pie?" " You'll have ta settle for Coca Cola. Is cherry Coke OK." " Yes please,"  he said to Dolly politely.

Sander sat on a stool at the end of the counter enjoying his pie and cherry Coke while dotty smoked a cigarette. Unai excused himself, explaining he had duties back at the hotel to attend to and he would see Sander later in the day. No one was asking sander any questions, preferring to answer any that he had about the town, the people or any other goings on that Sander may be curious about. " Dotty, what about a school? Are there many kids in town and where do they go to school." " Responsibility Ryan is the man your aunt needs to talk to about school. He is the preacher and he has set up a pretty damn good school over to the church. Did you see it this morning? " she inquired. " That is an odd name for a man. He is the preacher too? How many kids in town. Are there any my age?, he continued. " Hold on there, buster, Willie joined in." I know a little about that. There are about five of us in Compass Point that keep things in line, you know-run the show so to speak, and this fella shows up in town about seven years ago. On his way to San Diego from the Midwest, his car is busted and he was just about broke, out of money. He sells that old beat up car to Big Melvin just for the scrap value and he was pretty much stuck here. That was back in the middle of the depression. No jobs to speak of to be had. Next thing we know he starts a church in the old abandoned chapel. Just pulls the boards off the windows off the place, sweeps it out and has services the next Sunday. Folks in town have him over for dinner or bring him a casserole, Cal and I contribute and we got a preacher in Compass Point." "No one really knows much about what he did or where he comes from but he was pretty popular with the families who didn't want to drive all the way to El Cajon to go to church," offered Dotty to the conversation. " Is that his real name," Sander asks. Willie adds, " Evidently it is. His parents saddled him with it and I think in his early years he didn't do a very good job living up to the meaning of that name. Now, he does a damn fine job, if you ask me. We all asked him to get the school going about five years ago. Had a meeting. The county decided a long time ago that because of the eleven miles of dirt road, we didn't deserve a school with such a small population. Hell, we don't get any services at all that any normal town receives.. If it weren't for Ryan, Joe Martin, Old Fong , Mo and myself, this God damn place would probably be a ghost town in two weeks." " Hey, don't forget, I'm the boss here,"  Old Bill loudly blurted out, hearing more than people gave him credit for." Quiet you old bastard, Phil interupted,"  " No one wants to hear that more than one time a day." Enough of all of this, all of you. This bunch would go on and on about the state of affairs in Compass Point if you let them, Sander. At least we have a pretty good school and your aunt will follow up on that I am sure. But if you want to learn about the world and life in general, The Yaqui is your man. You probably got a taste of that already since you both drove down from Northern California yesterday, " Dotty said as he decided that Sander had had enoug of the town gossip and stories for one morning. " Dotty, may I ask you a question? " Yes you can, honey. What is your question? " " When were coming up the steps, a young and pretty dark haired woman was leaving, Unai said her name was Grace. She seemed to be an important person for me to meet. I think she was drunk and Unai said she worked at Fong's.

"Well, honey, I guess the Yaqui wouldn't mind me telling you about her if he has mentioned these facts already about her. First of all, she is not a woman. Grace is only twelve years old!" Dotty noticed the surprised response that this information got from Sander immediately, his face was stunned into a blank stare.. " Yes, I know. Twelve years old. She looks all of eighteen, bein' so tall and all. She hasn't been here long. Came on the bus with her mother, who had worked as a whore in San Diego. For some reason they will not talk about, they had to leave town quickly, but her mother got jobs for both of them at Fong's where they have become very popular.Now it's old Fong's practice to only hire young Oriental women, and Grace and her mother are of only a few who have worked here that are not Oriental, of some type or another. I believe they are originally from Hawaii and they both have an exotic look, which is very popular with the forest service and the cutomers that are building the new highway. The Mexicans that sneak over the border after dark, that ones that have the price of admission, so to speak, are part of their regular clientele, even for such a short time here, probably about four months." All the time Dotty is explaining about Grace and her mother, Sander's face stays in that same blank stare, barely blinking an eye. " You OK, honey? " " Huh....oh, yeah. I am fine, Really. I am fine," as he finally has some expression back in his face after the shock of learning that person is not a woman, but a girl about his age. " Anyway, we don't judge nobody 'round here. Fong's provides too many jobs for the town and him being here brings in a mighty large amount of greenbacks for just about everyone in town. You got any more questions, honey? I gotta get cleaned up and ready for lunch. We do a pretty good business at Willie's at lunch, she said. " Hey Cal, what's the special today. Gotta write 'em up on the blackboard with the three pies." " Today we have my wonderful stuffed peppers. You get two and got 'em topped with a slice of American cheese, all melted and runnin' down the sides, just like always. Got two specials today. The Yaqui got me some calves liver. His Mexican buddy with the ranch over the border knows I like liver. Grillin' it up with a bunch of onions and some mushrooms The Yaqui brought me from back in the forest. Those damn injuns can find 'em when no one else can," as Cal proudly describes his creations. " How much do I charge?", she shouts back trying to be heard over Old Bill,  who is having a tirade discussion with Phil over the Nazis and Hitler invading and taking over France. " Best charge six bits for the liver. That old Mexican wanted a lot for it from an animal that he had to shoot after it broke a leg, fallin' into an old fence post hole. Thirty five cents for the peppers,"  he responds, as Dotty is writing in a elegant script on the chalkboard.

Sander said his goodbye's to his new friends at Willie's Place. He had spent so much time there  that it was already time for lunch. He would have liked to have the stuffed peppers that Cal had as a special today, but Mo said that he was to have his meals at the hotel and since she was so kind to let him stay there, he felt that it was a good practice and best to listen to her instructions. Besides, he knew that he would be spending more time at Willie's in the future. As he walked the short distance back to the hotel, he couldn't help but think about Grace once again. He would ask Unai if there was a chance to meet her some time, since for some strange reason, there was a connection between them which he felt very strongly about. The sun had traveled high in the blue sky overhead and he noticed that it was now very hot. He noticed in the middle of the street a dark shadow overhead, casting it's image as much larger than it could possibly be. He looked for the source of the shape and there perched on the highest corner of the roof was that white raven again. Sander stopped and  looked intently at the big bird. It just stared right back. It was as if those dark eyes would stare right through a person. He thought he would get a rock and see if he could hit it. That was his first inclination, but thought better of it. What if he missed or the rock slipped from his sweaty hand and it broke a window? Trouble would be coming his way for sure. Without realizing it he has picked up a rock, but when he looked at it in his hand to discard it back in the road, the raven flew off with a dramatic and elegant flapping of it's wings and landed high up at the top of a huge sycamore at the entrance to the forest trail. It was if he was now spying on him from that lofty perch. Sander stopped on the steps to the hotel, turned and sat on the bottom one. He kept looking at this voyeur of a bird intenely. Unai's words were echoing and he was remembering at that gas station where they had stopped under the trees, sitting on the picnic table were coming back to him now, more vividly than anytime since, and those words kept circling around in his brain. Before they went to bed after arriving yesterday Unai had said, "She is the eyes." Those words were haunting him now. He must find a time for Unai to explain further about what he had shared. After all, the answers had a overwhelming influence on his future life. He could not tell anyone else about these things. They would not understand. All this was just too fantastic for anyone to believe.

He stopped in the rest room off the lobby to wash his hands. After drying his hands, he entered the dining room and saw that his table from this morning was open. He sat down and soon aunt Mo came and gave him the one sheet luncheon menu. "Did you have a good morning? The Yaqui said he left you at Willie's and you were listening to their stories and meeting that bunch over there. I really don't approve of what goes on over there, other than the legitimate things they sell and such, but they are pretty good people, all in all." He looked at the menu as his aunt was serving other diners. Soon she returned and asked,"Anything look good to you, Lysander?" He made a mental note to make sure he told her that he preferred to be called Sander, not Lysander. "I think I'd like a grilled ham and Swiss sandwich on rye bread with French fries. Can I get some potato salad too?" "You want french fries and potato salad? " Sander nodded yes with hesitation, knowing that his Mom would have made him get one or the other. "Is there anything else. A glass of milk?" "Yes. I would like some milk. Do you have chocolate cream pie today?," he inquired. "No, not today. We have butterscotch, lemon meringue, wild mountain gooseberry and apple. Do you want to pick one of those?" she asked,wanting to get to her other tables. "I'll have the wild gooseberry, that is new to me," he answered. She wrote the choices on her pad, stuck the pencil in her hair behind her ear and quickly went to help other diners. As he was eating his sandwich and then his pie, he could not get the morning's happenings out of his mind. Grace Suarez was only twelve years old!  But she looked just like a real woman. He did not like the fact that she did the same things to make money that her mother did.. Why did she do that? What happened that made them both leave San Diego quickly? The mystery of it all was daunting to him, and scary too. He could not get this real woman off his mind. He needed to learn something, that would surely help him to focus better. He would find out all about the school, and this preacher Responsibility Ryan, when the lunch crowd was gone from his aunt Mo. Right now, whe would see if there were any newspapers or magazines in the hotel to search through for some articles and pictures of airplanes for his album. Maybe there would be one he did not have. He hoped that would help him not continue to think about Grace so much. He suddenly wanted to get her off his mind and then he did not want that at the same time. He was only eleven years old, but she was so beautiful. He couldn't really understand what that meant to him now. He had to ask the only person he could ask, Unai. In other times in his life, he would ask his Daddy, but he was not there. All of a sudden he was very, very sad. Better not cry, not here in front of people. Had to be strong. Had to be very strong he kept repeating to himself, but he was not very convincing at all. The articles and pictures would have to wait. Finishing his glass of milk, he left the dining room without saying anything to aunt Mo or Unai and ran quickly upstairs, threw open his door and fell onto his bed, sobbing. He was a very, very sad eleven year old boy in a strange place. He wanted to go home.

 

 

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