The Minstrel

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He walked around the house early the next morning. There was snow; the first he’d seen this year. There were still orange and red leaves hidden by white splendor on the trees. It was a marvelous sight to behold.

He went outside and sat in the snow. So quiet, so vastly empty, yet he did not feel alone, or lonely. He was wrapped with a warm blanket of love. Forever did he have his Friend.

Perhaps today he would make breakfast. The girl, she had the Spirit with her, bless her. Today was Sunday, he believed. She could have rest. Him, he always rested. God saw to that. Today he could be a servant.

The heat inside was a joy after the cold. So fortunate was he to have friends who cared for him so. To be able to live in such luxury, he though as he scurried through the numerous pots and pans, preparing the meal. He did not deserve this; there were so many that he met that more deserved to be where he was today, like Sunya, the girl he’d met with four childrenshe’d spent so much time working to feed them, kept them warm with no home to come to, and Carmen, his dear cousin trying to keep Carlos out of his trouble, his rabble-rouser cousin, and of course, Lupe; he prayed that she was warm.

He turned before he saw her, sensing her presence. “What are you doing?”

“Making breakfast,” he replied, smiling.

“With tomatoes?” she scrunched up her nose.

He nodded. “Tomatoes, onions, some chili powder and jalapeno cheese mixed with eggs. Except I don’t think Mr. Greenwood has Jalapeno cheese. We might have to settle for cheddar.”

“I like cheddar. What’s jalapeno?”

“Jalapeno cheese is a spicy cheese. It’s my favorite one.”

The girl wrinkled her nose again. “I don’t like spicy food.”

He smiled. “So I’ll cut down on the chili powder just for you. Deal?”

She smiled for the first time. “Deal.” She sat down at the table. “My dad makes fruit pancakes on weekends. From scratch. Totally homemade.”

“What kind of fruit pancakes?”

Raven shrugged. “All kinds. It depends on what’s fresh. One time he took me to pick strawberries on a farm. Kind of like this one. Then we made pancakes.”

“Well, then, next time I’ll make pancakes.”

“Okay. But I like eggs too. I just wanted to tell a story.”

The minstrel chuckled. No guile yet in this child. “Stories are good for the soul.” He went back to cooking and the girl separated the sections of the newspaper and began reading one.

In her sorting, one section fell open to an article. The minstrel suddenly saw a rude sketch of himself staring back at him and stopped his cooking to read it. The words of the article, which were in English, hovered back and forth between his native tongue and the adopted language of his adopted home. The article remained in Spanish for a short time, then reverted back to English. The minstrel, at first panicking that the article was lost to him, was startled to find that he could understand what he was reading, as he was when he was six and reading books from the mainland’s authors on the island he had called home. He felt like a part of himself had been reunited with the rest of him. He wondered if the article contained good news for him.

“She’s a smart girl,” he said to the father.

“Too smart. Sometimes I worry about her.”

“That’s your job. But she will be all right. She has fire.”

“Yes. Something like her mother used to be. Then, well-”

“She died.”

“She, had a drug overdose. She never was the same after that.” Raven saw her once and she went berserk. I couldn’t take her again.”

“She was Cherokee?”

“Yes. Three-quarters.”

“The tribe wanted to take care of her, I’m sure.”

“Sure. Of course. But I wanted to stay with her. And after losing Jenny, I couldn’t stay there. So one day I took Raven and packed all I could into the trailer, and came back here. I never could go back.”

“You did what you had to.”

“Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision. Life was good there on the reservation. Hard, but good. I would wake up every morning with joy. There was a river right outside my window, and I would feel like the world was rushing in to greet me. The world felt alive. I don’t feel the same way about here. It is gray and rotten here. It smells of death, and it is as if everyone here thrives on it. Things of life are sissy here.”

He shrugged. “And who cares?” Do you live your life for them, or for you?”

“Sometimes I don’t know. Things are so confusing here. I don’t know what I’m living for. Things were clearer to me back then.”

“Your spirit lies everywhere. Everywhere you go, life can be found. If you have to turn a rock over to find gold, isn’t it worth the toil?”

“Sometimes I get weary. No one else tries. Why should I?”

“Because if you live your own life, it matters. Live for yourself and God so you can sleep well at night and face God with a clear conscience. Isn’t that reason enough to try?”

“And what about Raven? She has a chance. Children are still pure. If you don’t have the strength to do it or yourself, do it for it. Let her grow strong through you. God always gives rest to the weary. Ask him for help. Try it once. No church, no religion. Just in your time, ask for His help. You’d be surprised.”

He watched Jonathan as he stared into space. He felt compassion for him. He had been through so much, and God seemed far away to him. He had seen it so many times before. It was hard to believe in the light when nothing but darkness seemed to reign. Faith could be hard to come by. It was like a friend letting you down.

They all were seated at the table. He was happy to serve them here. Seeing them all before him gave him a profound sense of joy. So much love was here. He was fortunate.

Prayers, they were always answered. As he led in grace, he prayed in his mind for his friends gathered. He knew that all would be well in the end.

The Frawley home was silent tonight. It had an abandoned echo emanating from each of the rooms, as though no life existed there, the artifacts all remnants of a bereft museum. It was a collection in mourning.

Included in the set was a lone motionless figure sprawled on the verandah. Next to her was her companion, a half-filled bottle of Seagrams Seven. Somehow her fingers knocked it over. Little by little, the life ebbed from the bottle and it became as vacant as everything else.

Nothing had gone as planned for the lone figure. When she tried doing the right thing, what was best for everybody involved, everyone turned on her. Destroyed her plans. Threatened to demolish her artwork, including the exquisite bustheads of the American presidents. And, to add insult to injury, they had fired her. Fired her! From her own committee! The shi- no, the jerks. No use to sink to the cretins’ level.

And why? Because the shi- no, jerk Haines were cut off in the final plan? She was accused of having no compassion or concern for those who had suffered. Didn’t she want to protect those who had been so savagely devastated? She had been attacked. Did she not care?

And where were they when her son died? She’d shot back. When the savages (like Jackson) had poisoned her precious Quentin with drugs. Where were they then? Because he was a shy child, he did not matter, just the life of the captain of the football team? Who the fuck did they think they were! And she’d marched out with her dignity in hand.

Until she came to her empty house. The beautiful old-fashioned, spacious barren house. Not even Quentin wanted her. He rather follow the blacks and let them take his life, just to be away from her. No one wanted her. She was alone.

The rain fell, but she did not hear it. She heard nothing, hopefully ever again. No more did she want to be tortured by everyone about her. Never again did she want to wake up.

Wishes sometimes did come true.

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