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Off to Carmel

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

SO IT WAS Gerry all along.
  “Danny Kaye gone bad,” said Heany, standing with me on the steps of the historical society, our bags packed for the trip to Monterey. “I told you.”
  “You didn’t tell me,” I threw back at him. “Nobody knew it would be him.”
  “Oh, come on, Hank. He’s a freak. Blond highlights, khaki shorts, Hawaiian shirts, the James Bond pistol.”
  “That doesn’t mean a thing, Heany. That’s three-fourths of the population around here, the shorts, Hawaiian shirts, funky middle age hair. And freak doesn’t mean a thing.”
  “Yeah, but the goldy locks pistol?” Sean waged. “That’s fantasyland right there—lot of fantasyland around here, Hank.”
  “Who knows what kind of guns anyone has. It’s like the last private moment. Show me your gun—I don’t know what it looks like.”
  “People got real guns in this town, Hank,” Sean went on. “The Indians alone I hear are stockpiled like freaking Hamas. There supposed to have arsenals hidden every where up there. Gerry Danskin’s sounded to me like a bowling trophy crossed with a cigarette lighter. I even looked it up on the web. ``For The Discriminating Gun Owner,’ it said. Like, discriminates against reality.”
  “He’d never use it.”
  “Sure scared you, though, huh?” Sean darted a finger. “You stayed home all night thinking about him, your own pistol loaded up, tryin’ to sleep in your underwear.”
  “I wasn’t wearing underwear.”  
  “That makes it even weirder, bro.”
  At that, Janet pulled up in my jeep and waved to the both of us to get in.
  “You drive,” she stepped out and moved to the passenger side, looking over her cel phone.
  “Wow,” I marveled. “Relinquishing control.”
  “I have phone calls to make.”
  “Yeah, well. What about me? I got turds to rehydrate.”
  “Not on this drive,” Sean said, piling his pelican costume into the back. “Not while I’m in the car.”
  “You don’t think so?” I tossed. “Drive with one hand, prepare and rehydrate with the other?”
  The three of us were to rendezvous with Peter and Targuman in Monterey, where Gerry—and the heart—were being put up in a safe house. We had talked about taking Darby along but what was there for him to do? Sourcing the fake heart at the medical supply company was an expertise none of us had. Plus Peter was in charge and wanted low key. He hadn’t even contacted the police. The entire deal was to be run by the Fornay.
  “We planned for this scenario for years,” he told me. “It’s all rehearsed. Everyone has a role.”
  “Even the white man?” I asked.
  “Always the joker, eh, Hank?”
  “Always the white man, Pete.”
  “I wish you wouldn’t think that way.”
  “Well, which way should I think?”
  “What’s up with you?” he looked me over. “Haven’t you been writing about the heart? Even the afternoon it was stolen?”
  “You must’ve been talking to Janet.“
  “Janet and I talk all the time, Hank—we’re brother and sister, remember?”
  “And I think of you as being her brother as well.”
  “I guess everybody does,” I muttered.
  “Consider that an honor, Hank”
  “I understand that, Pete.”
  “Look,” he continued. “Janet and I have decided that you should do the complete history on this part of the story.”
   “Yeah. Are you up for it, or do you have another smart ass joke you want to respond with?”
  “I actually have a smart ass joke I’d like to respond with, but—“
  “But you won’t,” he finished for me. “Because you know what that means. Anything you write becomes part of tribal narrative. Few non-Fornay have been given the chance, and certainly none in the last sixty years.”
  “True,” I nodded, feeling the weight of the thing just dropped in my lap—no accompanying Negro Modelo either.
  “Plus, the manuscript would be yours to keep should you want to shop it around.”
  “That would be cool,” I nodded. “I could use a by-line that discussed more than dried turds.”
  “I know that resistance is part of your deal, Hank. It’s not a bad character trait. But I say it to you as an older brother, your only older brother, and the leader of the tribe, just this once—go along. I’m certain that the old man would love the idea that you, Hank Peabody, son of his pal Frances Peabody, were contributing to tribal narrative. Even your father didn’t do that.”
  “I know,” I said quietly.
  “You have never not been part of this family. We share a common bond.”
.   “Oh, yeah?: I looked at him “And what’s that?”.
  “By my calculation, about three-hundred bowls of Lucky Charms dating from grade school up until college.”
  I laughed. “Wow, Pete. You made a funny.”

I pretty much accepted Peter’s offer right away. Not that I didn’t brood for about twelve seconds—what else could I do? “Resistance,” as they say, “is futile.”
  Peter understood me more than I thought. He obviously had been paying attention all these years. Instead of embarrassing me about my dweeby, Little Herr Friedman love for Janet, he was willing to throw me a bone and make me part of the larger body. He knew that I would never go Native, not like Danskin or even the old man. It just wasn’t my style to be a white guy wearing a loincloth in a sweat house. But there was one thing I felt lacking about the trip to Monterey.
I hated leaving Lo in town.
  “Good luck up there, Peabody,” she said before we left. “Don’t screw anything up.”
  “What’re you gong to do when we’re gone?” I wondered.
  “I have emails to answer. Like about the ICA conference in the spring. I think that Siberian anthropologist is going to show up,” she let. “That Russian guy with those old time tundra coprolites.”
  “Really?” I answered. “That’s encouraging.”
  Then Lo mentioned that she wanted to dust off the fake heart and put it in the place where Junipero Serra’s real heart was supposed to be.
  “I think I’ll write up a new card to put with the display,” she said. “Any suggestions?”
  “Say what you want. I trust you.”
  At that, Lo toddled off to the office and we headed to Monterey.

The Heart Arrives in Carmel


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