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Lunch with Ward and Ksen

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

WARD CRAVEN AND HIS WIFE Ksen put Gerry’s car in their extra garage after he arrived at the house. While they had a place in downtown El Fornio and another in the Pass, they would only stay through the summer. By September 1 every year, they would move back up to Carmel, down the street from the mission on Junipero Avenue, always in time for the Blessing of the Salamanders and Gnutes Festival.
  “Gerry,” Ksen said, over tuna sandwiches and tomatillo salad. “Your arrival is just perfect. Tomorrow is the festival. I know that Father Sandoval will receive the information about Father Serra’s heart with extraordinary emotion.”
  “Really good work, Gerry,” Ward said to him. “Great. We had no idea it was you—or did we?” he turned to Ksen.
  “No one did,” Ksen said.
  “There are so many things that people don’t know,” Gerry fancied. “Your commitment—the two of you. The risks you have taken as secret members of the society. Ward, your condition.” He looked at Ksen, “Respecting the tribe yet knowing what the right thing to do is. When all is said and done, the rewards will be great.”
  “I’m sure they will be,” Ksen said, lifting her glass of iced tea.
  “Oh, yes,” Ward followed. “Unimaginable,” he lifted a glass, followed by Gerry, as they toasted. “I never thought that joining SCOFS would be so much fun.”
  “To the reuniting of Father Serra’s blessed heart,” Gerry said. “With his body.”
  “Here here,” said Ward.
  “Seconds!” Ksen said, drinking a sip of the tea. “Next you know, Gerry. The rebuilding of the mission at El Fornio.”
  “Now, that’s a dream,” he turned and looked at Father Serra’s heart. “Think of it—over two hundred years ago it left the blessed body just a short distance from this spot and soon it will be reunited. What a journey.”
  “Great work.”
  “Splendid work,” Ksen offered. “But I think that we should be a bit discrete and place the heart out of sight for the time being.”
  “I agree,” Ward said. “Gerry?”
  “Well, if you don’t mind. I’d like to keep it in my room tonight, like we had discussed, before tomorrow’s plans.”
  “Of course, Gerry,” Ward said. “I wouldn’t think of anything else. Did you bring your pajamas?”
  “Of course,” Ksen said quickly. “It will give us all a chance to get some sleep and take care of things.”
  “Thank you,” Gerry offered. “It has been a long time coming. To sainthood,” he lifted his glass and took another sip. On the coffee table Gerry noticed a Citizen’s Federal Savings ashtray with the imprint of Drake’s Plate of Brass on it.
  “Now there’s a grail that was never realized,” he picked the ashtray up and looked it over.
  “Yes, old Bolton never knew it was a scam,” Ksen said.
  “No, he didn’t, did he?” Gerry mused. “You can look all your life for something and never find it.”
  “Or,” Ward chuckled. “You can fool yourself into thinking what you found is what you were looking for. Or what you were finding was what you were, um, finding that you looked for . . . “ He looked at Ksen.
  “Well, like anyone,” Gerry offered. “Bolton just wanted to think he was living an interesting life.”
  “Yes,” Ksen said, raising her glass again. “May we all live interesting lives.”
“I think we are,” Gerry matched.
  “Oh, yes, we are,” Ward said, reaching for his glass and knocking it over.
  That night at the Cravens, Gerry tucked himself into bed in the guest room, looking at the heart sitting on the dresser in the moonlight. By this time tomorrow, he mused, the heart would be down the street, back at the mission. He had brought his best cameras and film for the event. Tomorrow, he would shoot the heart in the back room studio he had constructed. The cover of the Geographic, he wondered? Could it be? Or would those shots come later—at the hand over ceremony at the mission?
  It was all coming true.
  Making Ward and Ksen clandestine members of SCOFS was the final stroke. He had approached them in the second term of the Reagan administration, when Mrs. Reagan visited the site of the old mission. She remembered Ward from the early days, when he played a young sailor in “Hellcats of the Navy.” It had been her cajoling, her politicking, that brought Ward and Ksen on board. As a sign of good faith, Mrs. Reagan bought one of Ksen’s baskets, which she brought to the Whitehouse. The “Thank You” card that Mrs. Reagan sent the following week let Ksen know that it was one of the President’s favorite places to keep his jelly beans.
  On the other side of the house, Ward was turning out the lights to tuck in for the night. Ksen came into the shadows in her nightgown.
  “I feel a draft, Ward.”
  “I was just down and opened the door to the tunnel. I wanted to air it out, let it flow for a while.”
  “When do the others arrive?”
  “They’ll all be here tomorrow for the festival.”
  “Just think,” she whispered to her husband. “All those years playing the captain.”
  “All those years playing the rube,” he replied. “I’m about to get my mind back.”

We Arrive in Carmel


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