Friday, October 1, 2010

Dust of the Earth, chapter 16

Welcome to the continuing serialized version of Phantom Limbs' bassist Jim Parks' novel, Dust Of The Earth, a Tucson story about Tucson history, mystery, other worlds, desert mojo, forbidden love, and the fledgling Tucson music scene... (c) by Jim Parks, reprinted with permission

We left off last time with our narrator interviewing Don Pedro. They were talkin' 'bout Carlos Castenada...

Pena Blanca Lake is a small man-made reservoir a few miles from the Mexican border. Just before you get to Nogales heading south, you turn west into the rolling highlands that abut the border in this region. Dipping and winding along a dirt road, you pass through desert scrub and grassland, winding up in a sparse oak woodland - encinal in Spanish. The lake is situated amid limestone bluffs whose color at certain times of day gives the area its name. Pena Blanca is a popular destination for fishing and camping - or just a lazy Sunday afternoon picnic that the Mexicans love, their corrida music piped in from radio stations across the border.

    Don Pedro and Ana Socorro had invited me on an outing here, a rare trip outside the house, much less out of town, for Don Pedro. It took some finegeling with Raul to permit such a trip. Ana Socorro's aunt would be along to protect her honor. She wouldn't like my presence, but being the sister of Ana Socorro's mother, her loyalty was more to Ana Socorro than Raul. Don Pedro assured me my presence would be a secret. Ehmet, of course, would watch over everyone with his intimidating size and penetrating gaze. I would drive down myself in my VW Super Beetle and meet them there. 

    Before I left, I had rummaged through some old camping equipment in our garage at home. There was a time when my father had taken us on camping trips to various destinations in the region - cool summer escapes to the White Mountains in the high forests of east-central Arizona were a favorite. We even owned one of those trailers that popped up into a camper. Times like those were simpler and happier. By the time I was getting to know Don Pedro, my Mom was getting quietly stewed in her bedroom every night, and Dad was finding new obsessions on which to spend obscene amounts of money. There were dozens of boxes of stuff in the garage, some new and unopened, representing different stages of his hobby and collecting mania. But that's a different story. I had actually been on two camping trips at Pena Blanca with the Boy Scouts, so I knew what to expect and was looking forward to the outing.

    I pulled up to the Pena Blanca Lodge, built next to a boat dock where you could rent a rowboat or paddle boat for the day. I met Don Pedro and the others in the restaurant - they were eating a late breakfast at a table next to a large picture window overlooking the lake. I sat with them and ordered something for myself, watching them work on their food while I waited for mine to arrive. Don Pedro and Ana Socorro spoke to me between bites. Ehmet and the aunt ate silently, eyeing me from time to time. 

    Don Pedro was dressed in khakis and a pith helmet, looking ready to hunt big game on the Veldt. Ehmet was dressed more casually, and looked more dangerous than I had ever seen him, wearing a plaid sleeveless shirt and Levis tucked into high moccasins. Ana Socorro and her aunt were dressed nearly identically, in Levis rolled up to mid-calf, Keds sneakers, and sleeveless blouses, pink for A.C. and mauve for the aunt. A.C. radiated her usual serene beauty, syncopated by giggling, eye rolling, and other expressions more suitable to her age. When the aunt's expression lightened, you could see she was actually an attractive woman who had maintained her figure and aged in the graceful manner I had seen in many Mexican ladies. Ehmet seemed to notice this about her as well, which provoked consternation but not entire distaste in the aunt.

To Be Continued...

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