My Talk with Sam
“About time you came around for this,” he said.
I opened it up. It was the Robert's answer to my radio message from a week ago.
I was quiet for so long that finally Sam said, “Looks like you went to a lot of trouble for nothing, killing people in the dead of night and getting us mixed up with a mafia.”
I shoved the paper into a pocket, refusing to look at him. “How was I supposed to know? You said Robert probably couldn’t get the copper.”
“But you said maybe he could, and you were right.”
“Well, it’s not like I knew at the time we did it. Lee said we probably wouldn’t have to kill anyone, and I trust him. He’s a good person. He goes to church.”
“Plenty of bad people pray to God. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”
My thoughts drifted back to the man who organized the raid on my valley and ordered the death of my mother. He went to church all the time, the bastard. “Well, sometimes these things just turn out different than you think they will.”
There were no customers in the shop, and Sam locked the front door. When he came to where I stood, I thought he was going to hit me, he was that mad. “There is no worse liar,” he said, “Than someone who lies to herself. Did you or did you not tell me you came to Kentucky because you were tired of killing people?”
My face grew hot. “I said that, and I haven’t killed anyone before now. If Evans hadn’t—“
He took a step closer and I could feel the heat of his body. “Cut the crap, Diana. If you don’t want to kill anyone, it’s real simple. Don’t go riding around late at night threatening people at gunpoint.”
He turned away in disgust. “I know you’re not stupid, so quit playing games. Or are you stupid, after all, and I’ve just been giving you too much credit?”
Friend or no friend, he wasn’t going to get away with calling me dumb! “I didn’t come here to be insulted,” I said, stepping toward him. “And if you don’t—“
He looked at my hand resting on the handle of my knife. I had no intention of hurting him, of course. None at all. Placing my hand on a weapon when I was angry or scared was just instinct. It was how I had survived since the raid on my valley. “It’s a natural reaction,” I said, stumbling over my words. “I grew up in a dangerous country. I’ve always had to defend myself. It doesn’t mean—“
The look in his eyes brought me up short.
I took off the belt containing my gun, knife and extra ammo and threw it on the floor. “There. Happy now? I’m completely defenseless, but at least I’m in the moral right, which will be a fine comfort to me when I get raped or robbed, or when I’m dead, or—“
Sam’s features softened and he shook his head slightly. “That’s not what I meant at all. Pick your stuff up. Quit acting like a child, and let’s have some tea and talk.”
He walked toward the back room without even waiting to see if I would follow. I thought about letting myself out and leaving, but after a few minutes, I tagged after him. “The other thing I came here to get away from,” I said as he set a kettle on his electric hot plate, “Was people telling me what to do all the time.” When he didn’t answer, I rambled on a bit about my mother, Auntie, Will, and Unitas, but when Sam continued to work in silence, I finally shut up, sat at the kitchen table and waited for my tea.
When he set the steaming cup in front of me and took the other chair, he surprised me. “Actually, it’s immaterial to me whether you seek work as a hired killer or whether you head up the NeoChristian Pacifists’ Association. It just worries me that you say you want one kind of life, but behave in ways that seem precisely calculated to keep it from turning out that way.”
“What are you talking about? I said I wanted to live in Kentucky on a horse farm, and it took five months of travel but here I am, doing it.”
“And you’re doing a fine job. But don’t you see you’re risking it all by behaving in old ways? If you want your life to be different, you have to live it differently. And that means all the way different, not just your address.”
We talked a long time and I drank so much tea I had to use the toilet twice. By the time I was ready to leave, we were friends again, and I told him I was going to the church picnic with Lee and might even join his church if they seem like nice people.
Sam raised his eyebrows. “Are you and Lee becoming an item?”
I asked what he meant by “item.”
“Well,” he said, “I kind of had the impression you were in love with this Robert friend of yours back home.”
My hand touched the pocket where the crumpled message lay. “What’s the point in loving a person fifteen hundred miles away who always signs their messages, ‘Regards’?”
“You take the world at face value, don’t you?”
Another cryptic statement. But I thought he looked a little sad, so I didn’t bother asking what he meant this time.
I’m just glad Sam isn’t as mad at me as I had initially thought. All the way home to Northwind, I considered the things he said. He gave me a lot to think about, like he always does. That’s what makes him such a good friend.
The picnic is coming up soon. I’m looking forward to it. And maybe we can still find a use for the copper Robert says he can arrange for us. Sam is so short-sighted sometimes. I bet we’ll be able to run the phone lines halfway to Missouri now!