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We Arrive in Carmel

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

WE ARRIVED IN CARMEL in the early afternoon. Peter had told us our objective was to find Ksen and Ward at the park in front of the mission. At first this seemed like a total joke. There were at least three hundred people preparing for the Salamander and Gnutes festival. I turned to Janet who had been on the same phone call for the last thirty minutes. She nodded disparagingly.
  “Sean,” I slowed the jeep down. “What do you see? Any Captain Ahabs out there? Little chubby squaws making sure Ahab isn’t drooling on himself?”
  “I’ll tell you one thing,” he said, standing on the seat in the back. “I don’t see any beer tents.”
  “As usual. You drive all f’ing day to these things and you can’t even get a beer. It’s like the Padres won.”
  “The Puritans did, at least,” Heany squinted. “Wait. There you go!” Sean jumped from the back seat “There’s the Captain Man. And Ksen.”
  “Watch the upholstery, Heany.”
  We parked and wandered over. Ksen greeted Janet with a bow. Ward looked me over and shook my hand. Then he reached for Sean.
  “There’s the little man,” he greeted Heany with a handshake, turning to Janet.
  “Little man?” Sean looked at me.
  “Remember, he’s senile, bud,” under my breath. “You can’t call him on everything.”
  “Where are you staying?” Ksen asked. “If we didn’t have a special guest--”
  “—None of us would be here if you didn’t have a special guest,” Janet assured her. “We’ll be at the Kisuna house, Myra and Boss. I’m really impressed how organized everything is.”
  “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Ksen said. “All these years, just waiting, preparing. And all the houses are connected. Decades of buying the right ones. When we first moved up here, we wanted the old Victorian down the street, but the tribe told us no—wrong house.”
  “How so?” I asked.
  “There’s a large boulder or rock configuration between it and the other houses,” Ksen replied.
  “It could be some kind of vessel,” Ward added. “Ancient.”
  “Janet explained the matrix of houses and tunnels in the area secretly owned by the Fornay,” I said to Ward. “She didn’t say anything about an ancient vessel.”
  “It’s there,” he assured me.
  “I love the little tunnels between each of the houses,” Sean said.
  “Of course you would,” Ward looked him over. “You’re little. If they were big tunnels, you’d feel overwhelmed. Right?”
  Heany slowly nodded, looking up at Ward in his sailor hat and coat. Then he laughed. “Alright, I get it.”
  “Where is your brother, Janet?” asked Ksen.
  “Here. But he’s going to stay out of the way,” she said. “You’ll see him. Have you contacted Father Sandoval?”
  “Yes,” Ksen said. “He’s on board.”
  “And Danskin?” I asked.
  “Back at the house, stuck inside until nightfall. He thought that he had half a day on you, so that by the time the show aired and you got word of it, the heart would’ve already been in mission hands.”
  “He has no idea we’re here?”
  “None,” Ksen said. “In fact, we encouraged him to do his photo shoot in one of our guest rooms. He set it up with white sheets and a table, lamps. He ought to get some nice pictures out of it.”
  “We encourage him to do all the documentation he can,” Janet smiled. “Peter will love to hear that. Danskin’s building our case.”
Sean noticed that Ward had a table set up for the festival where he would be demonstrating various scrimshaw techniques. One of the samples had fallen on to the grass.
  “Hey, Skipper,” Heany picked the piece up. “I love this scrimshaw stuff.”
  “Thanks, Pelican Boy.”
  He handed the carving to Ward. “What do you call this one? Is it an animal? A bird?”
  Ward took the relic from Sean and looked it over. “Actually, young man, that’s the plastic head of a lawn sprinkler. Hey, Rodrigo!” he yelled over to one of thegroundskeepers. “Weren’t you looking for this?”

Three blocks away, Gerry Danskin stood with his cameras, tri-pods, lights and reflectors in a makeshift studio, taking shots of Serra’s heart. He could hear the festivities getting under way at the mission.
  “Oh, dear,” Gerry hit the shutter and then ran to the window where he looked out from behind the curtain.
  The Mariachis, horns, children, the noon time bell, the smells of roasting meat and even the blenders spinning were hard for Gerry to be separated from. There was hardly an important mission festivity in the state that he hadn’t been to in the last fifteen years. As he listened through the window, looking out, he noticed the fog of his breath on the glass.
  Gerry turned back to the heart set in the studio light, pulling the shutter again as a drum roll and crash of horns, a bass and guitar, caused the formaldehyde to quiver in the jar.
  At the mission, Father Sandoval began to lead the procession out of the courtyard. The children followed, into the woods towards the creek. Behind them, a mixed crowd in amphibian costumes and old Spanish soldier and Lady Fiesta regalia followed. After them were the musicians, strolling guitaristas, guitarones, a local with his drums affixed to his chest, a saxophone player pal honking along, and at the very end Sean Heany, Pelican Man, all costumed up, had joined in, striding with wings high, beak up, and tail plume fluttering.
  It was nearly an awful sound and mix of instruments, but they were in time and in close key to one another—close enough—innocently clanking away as the entourage headed into the shade of the forest. All around, sycamore trees. laurel bays, live oaks, miner’s lettuce and ancient ferns sheltered the creek and the salamanders and gnutes that awaited their blessing.
  Sean looked over at us as he followed along. He saw me and I gave him the biggest wink of my life.

Milk Shakes for Dinner


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