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The Final Reeducation

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

THE ARRESTING OFFICER SAID of local cable show practitioner White Elk, of “White Elk Speaks,” Channel 17—he whose typeface was Zapf Chancery--“Camping in the woods wearing a jock strap and smoking dope is not a spiritual retreat, sir. Although, off the record, I admit it’s got to have some kind of, fingers quoting, `transcendent’ component’ to it.”
  White Elk, nee Robert Hasseldorf, got six months for conspiracy and three-hundred hours of community service for his role in the “Heart in the Jar” case, as the papers were calling it, not that they cared in the beginning. The stipulation on the community service component was that all three hundred hours need be performed under the name “Robert Hasseldorf” and that within the county of El Fornio the name White Elk was never to be used again, professionally, spiritually or delusionally. To note, a few months after Bob Hasseldorf’s release, a man calling himself “Dolphin Swimmer” began hosting a show on community access down in Santa Barbara and he looked suspiciously like White Elk, pony tail, jock strap and all.
  To fill the vacancy left by “White Elk Speaks,” Elihu Targuman, on the recommendation of Peter Librado, Janet and myself, was given the weekly time slot at Channel 17 for his new show, “A Shot of Reality.” Part of the show’s unexpected appeal were the encoded credits that rolled by at the beginning and end of each episode, challenging viewers to decipher their significance. A number of blogs have opened discussing their meaning.
  As for the show’s theme song? The opening riff to Heart’s “Magic Man,” of course.
  The week of Gerry Danksin’s arrest, Father Sandoval, Ward Craven and his wife Ksen all formally resigned from SCOFS. The organization then spent the next year cleaning house to see who the loyal really were.
  The same week, Father Sandoval accepted a check for twenty-five thousand dollars from Peter Librado on behalf of the tribe to go into the Mission Carmel Public Education Fund.
  “We don’t want to destroy the California missions as they currently are,” Peter said upon handing the check over. “We want to use them to tell the real story of what happened here.”
  Father Sandoval accepted the check with great humility and thanks—the recent damage to the tile work alone was about ten grand.
  In kind, Ward Craven’s doctor reported that, after a battery of tests, Mr. Craven was “completely cured” of his dementia. Ward was happy to make the rounds amongst old friends, play bridge and, in his words, “have complete and logical conversations. Everyone loves that I don’t talk like Yoda anymore.”
  Darby Hipper continued working for Delfina & Company, giving people from all over the world the ability to swim with—or be attacked by—the local dolphins. In addition, Darby produced a select line of limited edition “Junipero Serra Hearts in a Jar™.” Each beauty consisted of a human heart in a jar, with glass replicating the jar containing the heart the day it was stolen. Each cost one hundred dollars, came with a free t-shirt (“I Saw Junipero Serra’s Heart in a Jar”), a handout discussing the history of the heart and a signed certificate from Peter Librado, leader of the Fornay.
  Sean Heaney a.k.a. Hew Saxlapush Yan, Pelican Man, North High mascot, feathery maitre’ d at the Rusty Pelican—and my pal—dutifully returned Father Serra’s heart the night of the big hand-over by wrapping his wings around the fleshy grail and handing it over to Myra Kisuna when he emerged from the tunnel.
  “Covered in formaldehyde, dude,” he looked at Peter, shaking the fluid, now an ether, from his costume. “You know how to say `dry cleaning bill’ in your language, right?”
  The Fornay were rightly impressed with Sean’s latest addition to his Hew Saxlapush Yan act--he would be entered into the narratve history of the tribe. His real moment, however, came with guest appearances on Oprah, Good Morning America and a walk-on part in the new “Flipper” movie.
  “I don’t do Today,” he let everyone know. “And I don’t do Larry King. I’ve always been a GMA kinda guy, you know.”
  “You’re the Pelican Man,” I said.
  “I’m Sean Heaney,” he remarked, arms out like he was ready to take all comers. “Oh, and I’ve also decided that Robin Roberts is going to have my children.”
  Junipero Serra’s heart finally arrived to the Hall of Jars—two-hundred and twenty-six years late. In keeping with the “We’ll work something out” agreement between Peter Librado and myself, the $99.99 heart that Gerry Danskin bought as a decoy we decided would be used at the historical society.
  “No one will know the difference,” I told Pete. “And I can still sell t-shirts. Let’s be honest—the question is not whether it’s really his heart, but why do we have his heart at all? We could have anybody’s heart there. People love an Oooh Factor.”
  “You know, Hank,” Peter nodded. “The heart is a special commodity to us. I just hope that someone pays the right amount of respect to your coprolites. They look so great in those mahogany cases.”
  “Thanks, Pete,” I replied, knowing that Janet had told him to say that. Sometimes Peter was more canned than vintage dolphin meat. I did, however, talk him into our first beer together.
  “How about one of those Heinz Cans?” he suggested, referring to Heaney’s favorite beer.
  “A Heineken, you mean?”
  And so we drank a beer together, his first, my nine-thousandth, and Peter turned red underneath the chestnut glow, laughing like a little girl.
  The morning Gerry Danskin awoke at Mission Carmel, he found himself matted and damp, smelling of skunk, with formaldehyde and post datura hallucinations clouding his eyes. He was cuffed to an iron ring in the room Father Serra used back in the day, the bed of boards, a wooden chair and rough desk supporting his back. Gerry was finally autêntico.
  His sentence found him at the state prison at White Hills on charges of grand theft, conspiracy and perjury. Catering to Gerry’s fondness for things historical, he was placed in a cell across from the carcel that held Abraham Librado during the Mayor’s incarceration in the 1930s. Janet remarked, “That ought to be a good place for a person to start their memoirs.”
  Last Fall, the September issue of National Geographic featured a large article on the California Missions, complete with a fold-out map. An entire section was devoted to misconceptions about the missions and the prurient romanticization heaped upon them by tourists, photographers and travel writers. To support the author’s contentions, photos by Gerry Danskin were included in the lay-out:

“One of the worst instigators of false missions history in the last quarter of a century is Mr. Danskin, now currently serving a two year sentence in state prison for the theft of Junipero Serra’s Heart. Note the affected, whispy edges of the tiled roof of the mission in the background. In the foreground, however, Mr. Danskin has nicely placed what he has identified as a vintage hitching post (notice the orange poppies—California’s state flower, the Qupe—growing around them) when indeed it is what historians have identified as a whipping post used by the padres and soldiers to punish recalcitrant neophytes.”

  On a more clandestine note, tribal members of a silent committee in the Pass voted to remove Gerry’s heart upon death and place it in the Hall of Jars (Father Sandoval: “. . . You have given your heart to us as well, Gerry, whether you know it or not.”).
  To be “positive,” as people are akin to say, with Gerry photos in National Geographic and his heart secured in a jar, he will have finally accomplished two of his goals: visiting the Pass and getting work in National Geographic.
  Eventually, I discovered the reason for Janet’s foul mood in the last days leading up to the retrieval of the heart: The test results on the water coming out of the Pass were not good. She would have to sue the tribe, which she did, essentially for compliance.
  It wasn’t like it was a surprise to anyone. You shit that long in one spot and things are going to get foul. The upside of the suit was that the Fornay and the county of El Fornio would be footing the bill together to build a water treatment plant. The plant would be situated on the site of the old mission, built in Mission Revival Style, and employ a largely Fornay Indian workforce. From the highway, passers-by will be able to see actual California Indians working at a mission. No word on a potential salsa line produced at the plant.
  As the weeks and months passed, I began to shift my compass away from Janet. She was right--our love for one another was total, but not the kind I thought it was.
  Watching her go through the machinations of suing the tribe, her own people, literal blood, made me very proud of Janet. Indeed, she was a kind of sister to me—“Sister, cousin, cousin, sister,” face slapped back and forth like Chinatown. It would have to do. I had no real blood in the world, much less someone sitting by my fireplace.
  My reeducation went beyond the bearings of local history. The wandering heart of the padre became nearly as important to me, a common turd peddler, as it was to the Fornay. I just hadn’t figured how personal the reeducation would be. It was so much tighter, up and inside—right where my heart lie—like the riser with junk on it I tried nabbing as a kid catcher, shy of splitting my chest open. Peter was right when he said that whoever controls the heart controls history. But what of your own heart? How do you control that?
  As you can see, “The Reeducation of A Turd Peddler” was published this year—part of which became a Fornay complete history for the tribe. Paramount Pictures took a quick interest—I threw Paul Giamatti’s name out there portraying Yours Truly—but it looks like they might be more interested in remaking Twain’s “The Trails of El Fornio” with George Clooney playing the Mitchum part, Julia Roberts in the Ava Gardner role and Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz as Abraham and Maria Librado. You could do worse. They even suggested I might get a cameo as old man Peabody had, standing amongst the Indian extras, looking on. Would I appear as befuddled as my father, I wondered?
  Because of “Turd Peddler’s” mild success, I’m in discussion with the publisher to write “A Drive Up 101” as well as a biography of Francis Daddy-o Peabody. I toyed with the idea of naming it “Gone Native: The Story of Linguist Francis Henry Peabody.” I don’t know if he would have been proud of me, and I don’t care, finally. I am just happy in life to have landed on both feet with a dusty coprolite betwixt them. That’s my job, after all, to look out for that stuff.
  Which brings me to The International Coprolite Association Conference. It turned out to be a hit. We had over a hundred coprolitist colleagues attending with their wares. Heaney said to me quite ebulliently, “If you have ever thought this town was full of shit, dude, this week it really is full of shit.”
  The amount and quality of specimens were amazing. We used the historical society just for receipt of goods and the opening night reception—yes, the mahogany cases were well regarded. Lo managed to coax the high school into letting us use the basketball gym for the main event. People came from all over, both aficionado and looky-loo, to see this one-time collection of artifacts we had contrived from all over the globe. Our T-shirt, “I Saw A Lot of Shit at the El Fornio Historical Society,” outsold the “Heart in the Jar T-shirts” three-to-one.
  My Siberian expert was a hit as well. Dimitri Vladeskiskykzy. After he left town, we wondered if he was so well liked because people just enjoyed calling someone Dimitri, or was it that his collection was so outstanding (it was ancient and well catalogued)—or was it that he showed El Fornio, California how to drink vodka?
  “I never thought you could make a margarita with vodka,” someone said.
   “I think it’s the fresh lime and salt.”
  Dolores can tell you why she liked Dimitri. When his initial specimen shipment arrived, it was covered in English and Russian markings. We immediately registered it, popped the lid, then sat and wondered.
  Was this what Siberian coprolites were supposed to look like?
  The container was full of brand new chairs and tables. Not a coprolite in sight. Each piece had a sticker with a familiar logo on it.
  Dimitri explained over the phone that afternoon. “I loov’ Ikea. I found shipment of `dis stuff `dat somehow ended up at University here and thought it vould be just `vight for the conference. My actual specimens should `arrive in the dah next few dayz, yah?”
  Dolores wondered. “You think he might be interested in a collection of early 1960s, hardback English language electronic engineering manuals?”
  I thought for a second. “I think my fireplace would be more interested.”
  Lo agreed. “You’re right. It would. I’ll help you do it.”
  The day after the conference, Lo and I stood in the lobby of the historical society. The place was empty. It had been such a good time. But not a scrap of paper or lick of dust was left of our visitors. We were on to new things.
  The sun came in across the main hall, passing through the jar with Serra’s heart in it. I put my hand on Dolores’ shoulder. She turned to look at me and we fell into one another’s arms.


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