Day One Hundred Forty Two
Who needs coffee when you’ve got a cot?
I got to my feet and set the cot right again, then went into the other room, where I found Sam sipping coffee and reading a newspaper. He looked up when I came in, and his eyes were red with shadows underneath, as if he hadn’t slept well, but he smiled and gestured toward the pot of coffee on an electric hot plate. “Pour yourself a cup,” he said. “Then have a seat. I’ve got a message for you.”
I hurried over. To hell with the coffee. I took the folded paper and opened it.
This was good news, but. . .
“There’s a funny story about that message,” Sam said. “Apparently the lady in Texas who tapped into Miguel’s network got one of his students. The student brought your aunt to the radio, and she went into some very entertaining hysterics. First she thought you were dead, and then she had a hundred questions before she calmed down enough to hear your message.”
“What’s so funny about that?”
He motioned toward the paper in my hand. “Read it again, then you tell me.”
I read it again. No, it didn’t read at all like the words of a woman who had been worried about me.
“That’s Auntie,” I said. “She's probably embarrassed that she got so excited. It’s a sort of honor thing with her not to show emotion.”
I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down, laying the message on the table and smoothing out the creases. I knew Auntie hadn’t touched it, but it still felt like something from home. “I wonder if she got any of the letters I sent over these last few months,” I said. “Or the postcard of the Mississippi River.”
Sam shrugged and stood up. “No telling.”
He went to a cabinet and started taking out food.
“Hey, let me do that.”
“Guests don’t cook. They sit and enjoy their coffee.”
“But I feel like I’m a burden. I’m sorry I was weak last night. Can’t I help?”
He didn’t let me help with breakfast, but I was able to convince him to let me clean up his shop before he opened, and I figured once the day’s business had begun, I could tidy the back rooms, and maybe cook lunch and dinner.
After breakfast, I took Flecha to a local park to have some water and crop the grass for awhile. When I returned, Sam was busy with a customer and didn’t seem to want my help. Sweeping and cleaning the back rooms kept me busy, and tried my best not to move things very far from where I found them. Scrubbing and organizing was a good distraction and kept me from wondering too much when I would get my next message, and what it would say.
It was nearly time for Sam to close up shop and I was stirring a pot of beans and sausage for our supper, when he came into the room and handed me a piece of paper. Like the one this morning, it was neatly typed. Even in my excitement, I had a moment where I thought what a silly thing it was for him to type the messages when he could just as easily write them by hand or call me to the radio to hear them for myself.
I opened the folded slip of paper.
It was from Robert. I stared at it, trying to understand. Sam had gone away and I could hear him typing again in the next room. The sound filled my head and made it hard to think, so I sat in a hard wooden chair, supper forgotten, and tried to make sense of the message.
He had called me “my dear,” but he had signed off with a mere “regards” and his initials. So did he love me, hate me, or what? And what did he mean by saying he owed me favors? What a crazy thing to say! Why didn’t he say where I could contact him?
Okay, that part was obvious. He must be on campaign, not at a fixed location. He didn’t want to risk giving away too much information. Maybe once I was settled, I could send him my address and he would send me a proper letter. Maybe he would call me his “dear” again, and maybe...
Wait a minute. He was giving me a reference. Someone owed him a favor. With Robert’s reference and the one from Yvonne, I might just get a job. A real job, and a home, and—
I jumped up and ran into the other room, in time to see Sam put a folded piece of paper inside an envelope.
“Is that my reference?”
“It sure is.” He dripped some candle wax onto the envelope flap and stamped it with a metal seal.
“Can I read it?”
“Not any more. But you can read the handwritten version, if you like.”
I found his notes on his desk and read them with a growing feeling of elation. I sure sounded brave, talented and important! “Robert said all these things about me?”
Sam shrugged and fanned the cooling wax with a piece of paper. “So my network says. They tell me you’re famous back home.”
I felt my face grow hot. “Some rumors got started, but it’s all an exaggeration, when it’s not a bunch of outright lies.”
“That’s what marketing is all about, kid. You should learn to take advantage of it.” He handed me my letter of reference. “When you’ve got a name, you don’t need a reference, or even any talent. People will give you what you need just for the privilege of being able to say they know you.”
“I don’t think I’d like to live like that. It’s not honest.” I examined the spot of blue wax on the letter. The seal had Sam’s business name and a license number on it.
“That’s so the person you give it to will know it’s legit,” he said. “Otherwise anyone with a typewriter could go typing up messages and passing them around.”
I nodded. I had been wondering about that, but didn’t want to seem like I didn’t trust him.
I helped Sam close up shop, and over supper he described how to get to Northwind Farm. Apparently it’s about twenty miles to the northwest, and has an excellent reputation.
Tonight I’m so excited I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. I’ve packed and re-packed my gear half a dozen times already. Sam is typing up some messages for customers who will be picking them up tomorrow, and I’m sitting by the radio, listening for a signal, in case someone on his network needs to get through.
I wish I had made Miguel show me how these radios work when I was living on the mountain. Then I could try to contact Auntie myself. Or even Robert. I wouldn’t be able to hear their voices, but just talking to someone who had talked to someone else who heard their voice would be good. Instead, I have only these pieces of paper, folded up and tucked inside my shirt, against my heart. Stupid sentimentality, I know. I’ll put them in my diary instead.
My diary is starting to fall apart from all the times I’ve written in it, and all the extra papers and things I’m keeping wedged between the pages. I’ll have to reorganize it in some way once I’m settled. But for now, those leather cords from when I had my hair long are coming in handy.
Time to tie up the diary and put it away. I’m heading out in the morning. I’m praying that by this time tomorrow night, I’ll have a job.
◄ Previous Entry
Next Entry ►