Baltha did her best to help, took wing and alit on the nice guy’s podium for the cameras one day, timed it perfectly. His smile was so cute. But alas, it was not enough. She felt it when she was there that day, it was not enough.
People weren’t thinking of birds, and miracles, they were thinking of bills, thinking of children and fathers gunned down in the streets for the crime of color, just as her own friends and family members had been taken for the crime of place.
Simply being born in a place was enough to make her an enemy, and she could feel it, even there, not from all of the crowd, no, but from many, she felt it when she shifted back into Baltha in burkha, just to get a sense of things. She felt fear of her, fear of the unknown who had been painted as enemy for a very long time. She decided not to go to Philadelphia, stayed in California with Yanaha and Forest and Sea, the human and non human family members.
When Arnold returned, he had a sad story to tell, one that wouldn’t make its way to the surface of the public media, not in time to change things.
The America he’d learned about as a boy was a myth.
“In the streets, it was good, almost like the old days,” he smiled, briefly “we were shouting, and marching, even the cops weren’t so bad. They were mostly just keeping the peace. It was hard not to get caught up in it, the vibe was really positive, people smoking grass, and the cops didn’t even care.” He paused, and his smile turned around.
“In the Convention Center, there where the delegates gathered, it was criminal. The woman stole the nomination, didn’t even try to hide it, just said sorry, we have the money, we buy the votes, the people don’t get one,” he choked up a little, caught himself. Old habits die hard, that catching of the self. He sniffed, and went on. “There were a few brave souls, a few who stood up and walked out. But not enough.”
He broke down for a minute, composed himself, or rather, Yanaha composed him with her warm embrace. “After the vote, after the people marching in the streets, thousands of them, in the stifling heat, marching and chanting for democracy, feeling good, we were so sadly mistaken in our belief that we might still live in a democracy, not something owned by big business, it really hurt, all over again. Breaks an old man’s heart”.
“Maybe you all figured out then and there that you never really did live in a democracy.” Ja wasn’t so moved, he’d seen enough of what the Imperialists had done to the world he grew up in. That and he was his mother’s son.
“Baltha is going to flip when she gets here and finds out you didn’t bring Tante back with you. I can’t imagine what you were thinking, letting her go off on her own!” Yanaha was alternating between holding Arnold while he wept and pacing the floor, frantic over the thought of Tante, Disturbance Personified, out stirring up the wrath of the Ancient Ones.
Ja wasn’t even a little bit defensive.
“Hey, the guy she took off with was a cop! And he wasn’t hauling her away, they were talking like old friends!” The past week had been exhausting, and Ja was in no mood to talk about it.
It had been the wildest thing.
First, the cop. He sure didn’t look like a cop, but then, Ja had mostly only read about them and seen them on TV, that and a few around town in Berkeley and San Francisco. The New York cop was riding a horse, and while he’d seen a few of those in Golden Gate Park, that wasn’t all that odd, this guy had really long hair. And feathers in his hair. His uniform was fine, NYPD all the way, but since his hair was so long, he had it tied back with a bandana, with sure as heck freaking feathers.
Then, the cop’s horse. Tante’s Teva broke during the march, the ground so hot that the bottom layer just melted and peeled right off of it, and she started hobbling, and bitching, and crying, because really, she’d had Right Shoe with her most of her short long life, so the ground rumbled, just a little, as much as it could in Philly, the City of Brotherly Love.
When the horse saw Tante it went nuts, like, totally berserk, starting rearing up, threw the guy down to the ground, right in the middle of all that marching and chanting. Ja thought there might be trouble, a cop down in a crowd, cops all over the place, but it was fine. He landed in the middle of the folks carrying the giant joint, and they picked him right back up, still laughing and singing as they carried him along. The Hot Chick at the front of the Weed People’s float, a topless mermaid, managed to calm the horse and give it back to the cop as he was rave waved to the front, up to his mount. He kissed the mermaid, thanking her.
Since Tante had caused all the fuss, she was really apologetic for making his horse crazy, and told him so, was walk trotting along beside him, one foot sticking to the ground with every step, the crowd’s pace not too fast, not too slow, as he was transported to the float with the mermaid, where the entire procession stopped for a minute, in unison.
He told her not to worry about it, it happened a lot.
He’d introduced himself.
“My name is Tȟašúŋke Witkó. My friends call me Cop, short for Copper, the name given me based on my skin tone by the people who stole me from my family. They were into Native American tradition. I was part of their rather extensive collection.”
Ja had been trying to keep up, hindered by the sign he was carrying. Before he knew what had happened, the Copper had pulled Tante up onto the horse and they’d ridden off together. He decided to tell himself that maybe the horse was Baltha. He sure hoped it was. Her continued absence in Mendocino was reassuring.
The End is Near