to voice over artist Tim George
the part of Hank Peabody
Tim George's website to learn more
about his work
Returning the Heart
from The Reeducation
of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody
THE WHITE Jamba juice bag, Ksen walked back into her house to find Ward
and Gerry sitting in the kitchen. Ward was scrimshawing a piece of soap
with Gerrys likeness on it.
Ah, Ward got up, dropping the soap. The
Allow me, Ksen said, looking into the bag and
pulling out Gerrys cup. Gerry . . .
Thank you, Ksen. So kind of you to go out and get
something so healthy.
And Ward, for you, she handed her husband his
malted, picking up the piece of carved soap and setting it on the counter.
There she saw the black bag on the counter. I see youre
all set to visit Father Sandoval.
Were ready, Gerry fingered the bag with
the malt in his other hand.
What do you think? Ward asked him. The
greatest green tea malt in the state of California, eyeing his
Gerry sipped, leaving a light mint mustache on his upper
lip. Splendid, he said. A nice balance of sweetness
I find it so much better than a heavy meal,
Ward told him. I sleep much better. And dream. Lovely dreams.
I once saw a walrus on a rock who talked to me all night long.
Above the kitchen sink the wind chime tangled as a draft
passed through the house. Gerry looked at the swinging chime as Ward
and Ksen glanced at one another.
Wheres that draft coming from? Gerry asked.
Forty minutes later, Ward
knocked on the back door of the mission chapel.
Are you ready to rumble?
Gerry looked at him. Hows that?
The door opened. Father Sandoval, in black slacks and sweater,
white shirt and collar, stood in the yellow light to let them in.
Ward and Gerry came in and found themselves in the gift
shop area of the interior. Shouldering the bag, Gerry knocked over a
rotating stand of postcards. It hit the tile with a crash, postcards
fluttering up and onto the floor. He grimaced.
Dont worry, Father said to him, herding
the cards and stand into the corner. No ones here. You could
knock over a case of brandy and no one would react. He looked
at Gerry holding the bag. Follow me.
The three of them passed through the gift shop, past the
side room displays and into the sanctuary.
My God, were here, Gerry whispered, eyes
wandering about the ceiling and walls.
Oh, you can speak if you like, Father Sandoval
said. Like I said, were alone. Cry out if you need,
he and Ward laughed.
Gerry took the bag off of his shoulder slowly.
Go ahead, Gerry, Ward said. Dont
be shy. Its right here. He pointed to the floor of the sanctuary.
Gerry could see the imprints of the padres names on the tile.
This one here is Father Serras tomb. Put the heart on it.
Gerry placed the bag on the floor of the sanctuary and lifted
the jar out. Father Sandoval and Ward softly exhaled at the sight of
it. Gerry floated the jar in the air and laid it on the tile. Then he
pulled the bag to the side and kicked it into the corner.
Perfect, Father Sandoval said. A perfect
spot to place it.
Gerry looked at the both of them. How will we . .
. he paused. Merge the heart with the body, Father?
We will, he placed his hands on each of Gerrys
shoulders. But first, Gerry, I want to say that because of your
efforts we know that you have given your heart to us as well, whether
you know it or not . . . Father looked at Ward, who nodded with
approval. Before we leave this sanctuary tonightbefore you
leave this sanctuary tonight, I want you to sit with the heart.
I want you to sit with the heart and pray. I want
you to meditate on what you have done.
But, Father, Gerry reached. It is you
that has kept the legacy alive. You should be the one to stay and pray
with the heart.
I will, Gerry. I will pray with this heart after you
have left. But now . . . Father Sandoval turned away.
Father Sandoval, you represent the long, unbroken
line of holy men, the Spanish padres that built this church, that built
these walls, Gerry began to sweat and readjust himself. He thought
he detected sparks coming from the side rooms, flairs of pictographs
inching their way in.
I did build this church, Gerry. But not as a padre.
Not as a Spanish padre.
How do you mean? Gerry cleared his eyes which
were beginning to water.
I built this mission as an Indian, Gerry. My grandfathers
grandfathers grandfather made tile to fix the roof of the first
chapel. My great, great uncle helped disinter Father Serra in 1882you
can see him in the photohis legs dangling in the tomb. Have you
seen the photo, Gerry? You must know the photo. Father Sandoval
looked at Ward who stepped forward.
The opening of Serra's
grave in 1882. Father Sandoval's great, great uncle
is seen sitting, legs dangling, in Serra's grave.
Ward spoke quietly.
Gerry began the sweats, Father Sandoval doubling in front
of him, Ward and his white beard becoming fiery at the edges. Gerrys
rods and cones began tuning in and out. Sandoval? Gerry
reckoned. Sandovalyoure not Spanish?
Gerry, Im an Indian, the Father said.
Sure, Im a U.S. citizen, but Im an Indian. My father
and mother are Fornay Indians. . . Spanish? Of course, he looked
at Ward. In name.
Gerry came to his knees, feeling his kneecaps on the tiles.
He took a deep breath. Maybe youre Mexican then?
Many Mexicans are Indians, Gerry. Thats the
whole ideasomos Indios.
Ward looked at Gerry as he lay flatter on the tile floor. Are
you alright Gerry? Are you going to knock over the jar?
No, Gerry said. Im just tired .
. . A little confused.
Relax then. Sit with the jar. You deserve it,
Ward said, putting a hand on Father Sandovals shoulder. Well
be back in a little while, after you pray.
Gerry went to speak and only air came from his mouth. Taking
a deep breath, he began to pull at his collar. Hail, Mary, full
of grace . . .
Father Sandoval and Ward listened to him as they exited
through the gift shop, past the spilt postcard stand, across the tile,
out the back of the building.
In the basement at the house on Lasuen, we watched Sean, in full regalia,
finish his second Heineken, then step into the tunnel.
Wish me luck, compadres.
Ive run this drill many times, Peter said.
Youll do just fine, Sean. handing him a flashlight.
I know that part, he said. I mean wish me luck I dont
have to take leak after the two Heinekens.
There were a dozen or so tunnels that led to the mission
from each of the properties. The breezy draft had a tendency to build
the longer the doors were open, pulling dust, bugs, pebbles and hair
towards the openings. By the time the wind reached Serras tomb,
the bones and calcium powder of the man from Mallorca would rise up
in the small space it was contained in, banging off the edges and chatter
about. Tonight all the doors to all the tunnels in all the basements
of all the houses owned by the Fornay were wide open, in cahoots, for
the long awaited moment.
Pete, Sean asked, hip deep in the dark. Whats
that Indian name that I am? Sexy Puss Man?
Hew Saxlapush Yan, Peter corrected him.
Hew Saxlapush Yan. The Pelican Diviner.
Sean tried it again, You Sassafrash Man. You Sexy
Fringed Fan. You Fan of Cineplex Man . . . You Sasquatch Dan.
Peter shook his head with a half smile. Dont
sweat it, Pelican Man. Do the job.
At that, Sean disappeared into the dark of the tunnel headed
towards the mission, the yellow light in his hands casting small feather
In the sanctuary, Gerry
continued to pray over the heart. He couldnt believe how much
the moment had taken him over. He was being filled with the spirit,
he realized. He could feel it on his shoulders, up from his legs and
filling his heart. Sometimes the light would go completely out of the
roomeven the moonlight would shut outthen it would return
in finer color than before, odd insects and frog patterns splaying from
the edges of his eyes upon the walls.
Soon he heard voices. Spirits? he wondered. The Holy Spirit?
Gerry looked at the heart. It quivered lightly in the solution.
Beneath the engraved names of Lasuen, Serra and Crespi the voices rose.
He stopped praying for a moment to listen. There was tension beneath
the stones. In the moonlight he could see the movement of thumping beneath
the tile work covering Father Serras tomb. The jar shook, the
formaldehyde moving again in the glass.
He is here! Gerry held his arms up. Then, feeling
that he had lost his modesty in a moment of exaltation, he knelt again,
feeling the movement on the tiled floor.
Harder and harder the motion came from underneath him. Contact had been
made. With a giant motion upwards, the tile cracked loose. It hit again
and came up, broken and to the side. Finally, the tile flipped forward,
knocking the jar over, breaking the glass. Gerry exclaimed. Blessed
Father! You are here! You have come to reclaim your heart.
Gerry pushed his hands through the formaldehyde and glass,
touching the flesh of the organ. He cried out, pulling back. The stone
was knocked up again, dust and broken tile mixed with the fluid. The
smell of the preservative was overwhelming. Gerry laid sideways, seeing
the light rise up out of the tomb as a feathered creature with a beak
thrust up, its legs straddling the grave. Gerry cried. The creature
danced in the formaldehyde and broken glass. Light flashed around the
tomb, backlighting the display of feathers swinging to and fro. It spoke.
Glass, dammit, all over the floor.
Gerry slid back, away from the opening to see the figure,
with lighted hands, push its wings into the shards and solution, gathering
the heart into its chest.
At that moment, Gerry realized how disturbed Father Serras
existence had been. The noise and fear and diabolical figure that accompanied
him seemed necessary proof of the two-century old condition he had endured.
You must take it! Gerry called out, pushing
farther back from the tomb. Take it, Father! The creature
came back to hiss at Gerry and spun around. It held tightly to the heart,
with the sound of glass wet in the solution falling from its chest,
until it disappeared finally into the tomb. The head and feet lasted
for a moment, outlined by light, then shot into the darkening hole.
Gerry sat up, breathing heavily. He looked around. It was
gone. Only flashes of silhouettes remained. For a moment he calmed himself
to wonder about the images. His left foot dragged through the glass
and formaldehyde. There were long wet feathers on the floor and the
smell of fish. He closed his eyes and found comfort not seeing. He laid
back on the tiles. His minds eye filled with a sunset, at the
edge of a field where he had grown up. From the scrub, a black animal,
just larger than a cat, came to him. It had a tall tail and a large
white line running the length of its body. It showed its teeth and raised
its stalk as it began to speak.
Gerry Danskin had found his dreamhelper, which then sprayed
him with its stinking heap.
Holy Mephistis mephistis. Gerry was blinded then
Turd Peddler's Epilogue