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May 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

May 11 Flash Fiction Challenge, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills“A story? I’ll give you a happy one and a sad one.” She sits on a stool behind a long counter, displaying the most silver and turquoise I’ve witnessed in a single space. Her short gray hair and beautifully draped purple blouse suggest sophistication. Uncommon in Gallup, New Mexico.

But this trading post is not common.

“Okay,” I say, not sure what to anticipate but pleased that she’s open to my request. I’ve just cradled a carved turquoise bear in my palm as big as a croquet ball. Introspection. That’s the medicine of a Zuni bear fetish. A writer’s medicine, but the bear’s price-tag reads he won’t be going home with me.

I’ll settle for a story from this turquoise wonderland called Richardson’s Trading Co.

“There’s no place like this,” she begins.

The showroom is a fraction of the vaults that hold family heirlooms on pawn. I can glimpse through a partially open door and see rows upon rows of squash blossom necklaces, silver concho belts and endless pegs holding silver and turquoise. It’s a Navajo Gringots.

What follows is the fictionalized happy story this woman shared over the course of several conversations (because I had to return to fondle the bear again):

A boy squats in the dirt along side a Navajo man who is smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. They sit on the shaded side of the adobe building, watching the wagons kick up dust. Three women in colorful skirts, their black hair tied up in maiden fashion, laugh at a story one tells. The man nudges the boy and speaks in Navajo.

The boy smiles. “You’re just trying to make me laugh, Uncle.”

“The beauty way does not look for dust and tears. What beauty do you see this day?”

“I just see my Pa loading up the last of our wagons.” The boy studied his dirty boots, not wanting to watch.

“And?”

“And nothing.”

“Look at Norma Jean. See how her skirt falls just at the top of her moccasin?”

“So?”

“See how the green velvet shimmers with the beam of sunlight?”

The boy looked and noticed the light on the material. He saw motes of dust in the light and followed it upward where it dappled among the round green leaves of the tall cottonwoods. “Her skirt catches the light like the leaves. Kind of flows like it, too.”

“This is good. This is the beauty way.”

“But I don’t want to leave Tuba City. Why can’t we live with the Navajo? Why can’t I live with you, Uncle?”

“You are biligaana. This is land of the Dine. God’s children.”

“Pa says we can’t trade any more here because we’re white on white.”

The man nodded. “Trading here is for Dine. Sheep for pots, pots for sheep. Your father will start a new trade in Gallup.”

“They say Gallup is black with coal dust.”

“I have been to this Gallup. It’s where my father and others started the Long Walk. It has cliffs like Tłéé íigahiis’óóz.”

“White at night? You mean the flower my Ma calls a primrose?”

The man shrugged and rolled a fresh cigarette. “Could be. You see Norma Jean’s moccasins below her skirt?”

“Yes. Looks like a rabbit skin cuff. One of those snowshoe rabbit skins from up north.”

“Yes. The cliffs are white like that, but watch them carefully. They will change colors.”

“When?”

“You have to watch them. They change.”

“What colors do the turn?”

“You have to watch them.”

“But why?”

“Because they are beautiful.”

The boy moved away to Gallup, his family among the last of the horse and buggy traders to the Navajo Nation. His father established a trading post in their family name. Gallup had coal, to be sure. It also had rowdy saloons where men drank and played cards. In rooms upstairs there were painted women. They wore shiny material brighter than the colorful velvet of the Navajo. But the boy liked the way the sunlight pooled in velvet. It was deep, and the satin just shiny, a distraction. The boy grew up, watching the cliffs. At first he thought his friend, the one he called Uncle, told him a tall tale. The cliffs were just white.

Or whitish. Yet, sometimes they glowed with a light blush when the sun set at a certain slant. One spring night the boy saw them in the moonlight and understood the connection between the glow of the cliffs and that of the paper-thin primrose that opened in the cool night air. He began to ride his horse along the cliffs and meet with the traders at a place called Church Rock. He wondered why it was called that, and began to look at the shapes of the cliffs. He began to note different forms that changed with shadows. Light revealed stripes, and one summer day the boy followed them up a canyon. That’s where he met the girl with hair as glossy as a fine chestnut horse. She laughed when he told her so. “As long as you think horse are beautiful,” she told him.

After the Great War where he saw much blood, machinery and destruction, he wept upon returning to the cliffs near Gallup, to his father’s trading post and to his girl, now the woman he’d marry. The first thing he noticed were the colors of the cliffs. Why had he studied them so hard when it was so obvious? They changed color throughout the day, and day by day. He took his bride on a walk up the canyon and they watched a monsoon poor over its ledge. They were soaked, but he felt refreshed, alive. That’s when he took over his father’s trading post and began to fill it with the most beautiful things he could.

When he bought rugs, he noticed the colors of each weave and how no rug was alike. When examining squash blossom necklaces one day, he over heard a customer say they all looked alike. “No, look,” he said and proceeded to point out the shapes, colors and crevices of each nugget of turquoise. He greatly admired the Navajo silversmiths who could shape the metal into new forms, etching bracelets differently and yet portraying the ancient sacredness of the symbols. The trader began to gain a reputation as an art collector. He also opened a pawn the newspapers called “The Navajo Bank.” He safeguarded Navajo heirlooms and sold art to the new customers.

First the train came to Gallup, after the coal mines tunneled the place. Fort Wingate which had been at the base of the Continental Divide (or the Top of the World as Uncle called it)  expanded closer to Gallup and stored ammunition by the acres. Route 66 connected Chicago to Los Angeles. It became a stopover between Las Vegas and Albuquerque. When movie people began pouring into town to film out on the Big Reservation, Gallup catered to stars and production crews. The trader extended his expertise to historical and cultural items. And he sold Navajo rugs and baskets, Zuni fetishes, Hopi pottery and Southwest Pueblo silver to those who flocked to his trading post.

Route 66 was diverted, the trains added more tracks and tourists and Hollywood crews diminished. Saudi investors began selling Navajos and other artists beads and turquoise from China. They sold knockoffs online. Yet the trader continued to safeguard heirlooms, expanded cases like a growing museum and sold authentic gallery pieces. One day, he asked his employee, a bilagaana woman to sit on the floor with him in the Navajo Rug Room. $200 million dollars worth of pawn, art and jewelry now sat in five blocks worth of building. In the Navajo Rug Room, a single rug averaged $6,000. The trader and his ensuing generations wanted for nothing — they all had fine houses, cars, college educations. Yet he sat on the floor, told her to look up and describe the colors she saw.

He said, “It’s beautiful. And the colors always change.”

This is the impression of a story that came to me from the employee who told me her boss was the last of the horse and buggy traders, forced to move from where his family traded because they were white and the land reverted back to its rightful owners. Only native traders could continue, or those whites who married natives. He opened this trading post and he did ask her to sit with him on the floor and marvel at the beauty. She said he never lost the wonder of how beautiful it all was.

 

She smiles at me and her eyes tear up. She smiles one of those tight forced smiles. “Now want to hear the sad story?”

“Okay,” I say, already feeling the sting of tears in response.

“Yesterday, Mr. Richardson died at the age of 98. When this place goes, and it will, there will be no more Gallup.”

I understand her point. I understand business and economics. I understand life wavers. But there will always be beauty and changing colors in those cliffs. There will always be Gallup, in one form or another. And the Dine will be there, walking the Navajo Beauty Way.

This week, I took ownership of the turquoise bear the only way I know how — I gave it to Danni in this week’s flash addition to my WIP, Miracle of Ducks.

May 11, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about trading. It can be the profession of old or of modern day traders on Wall Street. It can be trading places or lunches at school. What is traded? Is it a fair deal or a dupe? Trade away and go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by May 16, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published May 17). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

From a Trader (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MillsTurquoise Bear,  by Charli Mills, @Charli_Mills

“Well, the bear fetish is invaluable during times of change. Turquoise is the stone of protection,” Danni explained.

Michael held it in his palm. “Bear is the Guardian of the West.”

Danni didn’t want to spoil their newly agreed truce. For Ike’s sake. Yet, it was also for Ike’s sake she’d placed the Zuni fetish by his photo. Keep him safe, Danni thought.

“Powerful medicine. Good totem for Ike in Iraq.”

Danni waited for the question she knew he’d ask.

“Where did you come by this?”

“A trader in Gallup.”

Michael’s grasp tensed. “Stolen. Danni, your bear needs cleansing.”

###

May 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

Someone has propped a frail and wrinkled woman on a metal folding chair by the entrance to Earl’s diner. The folds in her face are deep, like an dried apple doll I once saw in a folk museum. Her white hair is piled on her head in Navajo style, and she seems shrunken with thin arms drawn up. Her dress is traditional Navajo and I approach her with the respect due an elder. She’s selling beaded medicine bags and has a few dollars and quarters on her display tray.

“Ya’at’eeh.” I cringe at how poorly I form the greeting in my mouth, hoping she doesn’t take offense.

Softly, I hear her words, clicks and sounds I don’t understand. I kneel beside her and she touches her hand with bent fingers to each bag. I hear clearly, “$45.” More clicks, more explanation in Navajo, her hand on the next bag. “$45.”

I shake my head. I don’t have the money and won’t dishonor her by offering her $10, the only bill I have.

She moves on to each bag, “$45.”

“They’re beautiful. Thank you for letting me look.”

Then her hand with the bent fingers taps the change on her tray. With the saddest eyes she looks right at me and says, “All I have.” If it weren’t illegal to nab a woman from the streets, I’d have picked her right up and given her room in my RV, adopting a forever Grandmother. How could I leave her there? We gaze into each other’s eyes. Wiley old woman. Her black eyes twinkle. She knows she has me.

A younger woman, as in 70 not 240, steps up and begins to talk in Navajo and I’m let off the hook. As I walk away I hear another woman click in the Navajo way, but say in English, “I’d have offered you $35.” I smile. Humor in this culture is subtle, polite and true. Inside Earl’s I catch up with the Hub and we take a table in the full restaurant. Earl’s is the heart of Gallup. No matter which reservation or pueblo you come from, this is where you go. I’m aware that we are the only Anglo faces. Bilagaanas.

What is it to be a minority? Is it about culture, skin tone, position of power? I don’t feel like a minority in Gallup, the Indian Capital of the World. It’s not so much a reflection of my own sense of being, but that I feel welcome although a stranger to these parts. No one stares, or glares. I don’t hear snide comments or feel dehumanization of the other. Those are disconnecting experiences for any marginalized group. Toas musician, Robert Mirabal, sings a sad song about the disconnection that leads to the high rate of suicide among Native youth:

“Can you take it away,

can you kiss it away,

can you take it away,

can you kiss it away…

I’m the mirror that reflects all…”

I’m the mirror that reflects the forgotten and disenfranchised in America. I know what it is to feel alone and broken. I can recognize the brokenness around me in a place called Earl’s. And what I mirror is not disconnectedness, but acceptance, beauty and strength. There’s no pretense here. No one is on a diet, recovering from plastic surgery or driving the latest luxury car advertised for discerning tastes. I don’t know the stories seated around me, but I know they are rich with love and loss, pain and beauty. Beauty, not suffering. Recently a veteran therapist said to me and the Hub, “Pain in life is inevitable; suffering optional.” To me beauty is taking that pain and working it into something meaningful and connected.

Not everyone understands.

Since becoming stranded in Gallup, we’ve come to know that this is a busy RV park for travelers going elsewhere. This is not the destination. We’re the odd ducks who stay longer than a recovery day or two from driving what was once Route 66, America’s Main Street. Gallup emerged as an overnight hub for travelers going to LA from Chicago. Old motels with peeling paint and faded signs line the old Route 66 strip. Trading posts that once attracted tourists on the road now sell Chinese-made knock-offs online. Others sell plastic beads to local artists. A recent RV neighbor told us she went downtown and there was “nothing.” Gallup has nothing is a common phrase we hear from travelers.

Gallup has warrior-artists, people who battle the pain of displacement, irrelevance and poverty to produce visual treasures. I’m razzle-dazzled like the ghosts Mirabal sings of, “The dawn has come…” At Earl’s I anticipate the dawn, the parade of “sellers” as they are called, walking through the diner with their trays full of their art. Different genders, different generations, different clans or tribes. Each artist expresses their own designs, stamps artist initials to distinguish authenticity and politely shows what they have for sale. I’ve become curious to know about their designs, meanings and stories. I’m the literary artist seeking shades of words to tell the tale.

“It’s the sunset,” he leans in to tell me as if disclosing a secret. I’m chatting over a full cup of coffee with the Hopi man who makes pottery in traditional colors (black and white or red and black with white accents). Yet he has a few pieces with non-traditional hues. The one that catches my curiosity is a red clay pot with a band the color of butter circling its middle. Above lavender darkens to purple. Below is a band of dark green like mesquite. When he says it’s the sunset, I see it. I’ve seen it out my RV door. I can’t buy the pot but neither can I un-see the gift of its beauty, the sharing of its intent.

“Hey!” At the loud and friendly voice I turn to see my favorite silversmith. She’s the artist who walks to town on her Goodyear tires, in joking reference to her tennis shoes. KJ was the first artist we met and today she makes us feel like family. “You still here?”

“Still no transmission,” I say and she commiserates with us a moment then shows me her near empty tray.

“Sold ’em all. Ha! I better go make more!”

I’m happy for her. It’s like running into an author with a near-empty box of novels at a book fair. She tells us her son, one of three children serving in the military, has shipped out to Korea. Suddenly, politics have become real. How many patriots has this community lost? I’ve seen the profusion of American flags snapping in the wind at every cemetery we’ve passed on the reservations. Gallup is also known as the Most Patriotic Town in America. Home of Code-Talkers, medal recipients, those who gave their lives in service. It’s not a populist patriotism. It’s dedicated, honorable and non-partisan.

We don’t eat out often and usually we make it our one meal of the day, snacking on cheese and crackers or PBJs later. We don’t come for the food but for the community, the connection. I’ve ordered meatloaf, comfort food. The menu describes it as Spanish, which means it will have a red or green chili sauce. It wasn’t specified. In New Mexico chilis come green or red. You have to be careful. Red is actually mild. Green can blow your head off, especially if it has chunks of bright green chilis. Christmas is not just a holiday in New Mexico; it’s a combination or red and green chilis.

“Excuse me, I overheard you are having transmission troubles,” says the man at the next table, who had been quietly chatting with two women in Navajo. Turns out he’s a diesel mechanic. He and the Hub discuss the transmission and how to solve our problem. I listen, interject and continue to watch the walking art show.

Then my salad arrives and I’m transported to my roots. I’d ordered Thousand Island, a dressing not often on menus. Now I’m tasting the Thousand Island dressing of cowboys, a Depression-era recipe of ketchup thinned with mayo. It then occurs to me that meatloaf is also a Depression-era recipe, extending ground beef with saltine crackers. I once thought I grew up with traditional recipes, but now I’m facing the truth of that tradition — it’s poor food. I don’t mean the food is poor, I mean the people consuming it know poverty. The farmers, the fruit pickers, the Oakies, the Mexicans, the ranch hands, the transient. And I know why I’m struggling with the pain of my situation. It’s the shame of my impoverished roots.

I’m the mirror that reflects all. I realize my comfort in what should be a strange culture. We find comfort in poor food. We’ve gathered in a restaurant to pay money to eat poor food! The foodie in me wants to gasp and run away. Certainly for the same amount of money I can go buy some gourmet ingredients at the Gallup Safeway and whip up something tastier, fancier, richer. Instead, I own it. With absolute relish I eat my runny dressing, dig into my meatloaf with red chili sauce next to mashed potatoes with brown gravy and relish my plain pinto beans.

The beans I savor. Bare naked dried pintos hard boiled at least a day. This was the staple of my childhood kitchen. When you bite a boiled pinto, the fiber releases a distinct bean flavor. My grandmother grew these beans, dried them and boiled them with cloves of garlic. Even better, is to fry these beans in lard, mashing them as they fry. Refried beans. Mana of every westerner. Edward Abbey writes about refried beans and every initiate to the West eats them as the “Edward Abbey diet.” It’s my go-to. I always have a can of refried beans and a packet of corn masa tortillas. A little jack cheese and I’m transported to my comfort zone.

To realize this connection between my childhood and the those around me, I feel like I belong. Earl’s would not be the kind of restaurant I would have written about in my food column years ago, but it has given me a valuable insight. I’m no longer ashamed of my poor food roots. In fact, I didn’t realize I was and I’m pleased to have extracted that awareness. It brings me back to Mirabal when he sings about the burn of conflict we all feel because no one escapes walking in two worlds.

There’s the world represented by the ancient Navajo woman outside, the medicine world. Call it your spirituality, your Christianity, your Muslim or Hindi faith, your atheism. It’s your inner beliefs, your culture, your desire to know who you are and why you are. Mirabal says it has a dance, a language, the music and the arts. It’s all the beautiful things. The other world is that of confusion and computers, of cars and telephones. It’s chaos and yet we need it. He shouts, “Do you feel that burn of conflict? DO YOU FEEL THAT BURN OF CONFLICT? Yeah, I thought you did…” But then he prays for the next generation that their paths and transitions will be smoother, easier and that their fires will burn with hope, desire and love. “Do you feel that love? DO YOU FEEL THAT LOVE…”

Like the Taos People we live with our angels and demons. This is the dance between pain and beauty. Push into the fire, extract your art.

One concern I have as a writer it is that of right. What do I have the right to write? I’m all about diversity in books and making the literary arts available to all cultures. But do I have the right to write about other cultures? This was a topic at BinderCon LA in 2014. The grievous act is that of perpetuating stereotypes in fiction. In memoir, the concern is where does our story end and invade the privacy of another? I’m not sure I have the answer, but I’ll do my best to kneel in respect and try to understand. I’ll look for connections and common ground. I’ll share handshakes, art and laughter. I’ll be me and recognize you.

Writing Ike’s best friend, Michael Robineaux, as Native American initially felt uncomfortable to me. It wasn’t gratuitous. It was to honor a teenage sweetheart whose uncles had all been Marines. We worked together at a state park and he drove me crazy with all his boyish teasing. I didn’t know until later that he had wanted to ask me to be his girlfriend. I would have liked that, but I think we were both shy in that regard. I knew even as a teen that Natives were proud to serve in the military and I wanted to find a way to recognize that, thus my character’s creation.

What helps with developing any character is to think of him or her outside the frame of the story. What was childhood like? Did he move around or never leave until military service? What’s his favorite book, or does he like to fish after work? Is he neat or untidy? Who is his sister? What’s their relationship like? Does he hate a certain band? Why? And what food did he grow up with? What brings him comfort, or feels familiar?

May 4, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about comfort food. How can this familiarity influence a story or character? Is it something unusual, like Twinkies from the 1970s? Or is it something from home, from another place or time? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 9, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published May 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Normal Tastes (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Tobasco Sauce?” Danni sat down with Michael and sprinkled her eggs liberally.

“I tasted it once on raw oysters, and it was not pleasant. Might have been the oysters, though.”

“I love fried oysters. If we ever ate out as a kid, we’d go to the Red Lion in Elko. I’d have liver and onions or fried oysters.”

“No hamburger and fries like a normal kid?”

“Nope, but if I’m to eat slimy things I like them peppered, breaded and fried.”

“Hmm.” Michael sprinkled two dots of sauce on his eggs. “Not sure I like food that bites back.”

###

April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge

“My car broke down, too. Used to have a Nissan, ran it until it quit. Now I come to town on these tires.” The Navajo woman who’s about my age, just as tall but slender from being her own car points to her gray tennies. “Yeah, gonna need new Goodyears soon!”

The Hub and I laugh with her. She’s carrying two black velvet lined boxes filled with turquoise and stone silver rings. We’re eating breakfast, the cheapest we can find on the menu — $5 for an egg, bacon and roasted green chili pepper sandwich served with dark coffee. It fascinates me that we’re the only white people — Anglos — in Earl’s Restaurant. No one one pays us any mind except the artists who wander through the tables with their wares.

“My daughter is a Marine, and my sons are both Airborne,” she tells us, after learning the Hub is a veteran. He’s Airborne, too. In fact, he’s an Airborne Ranger so I tell her to coin him. Anyone claiming to be a Ranger has to coin up. If caught without one’s Ranger coin, he has to buy beer. She asks him to see his coin and he digs it out of his pocket. She holds it in her hand, flipping it to see both sides. “A Ranger,” she says, handing it back.

I thank her for her service, saying mothers deserve to be thanked, too. “That’s right,” she says, her face showing the love and pride she holds for her children’s military service. 100 percent. Her entire brood serves. I ask if that’s why Gallup, New Mexico has signs claiming to be the most patriotic town in America. She laughs and says it’s about the Code Talkers, too. And Hiroshi H. Miyamura, a Japanese-American Medal of Honor recipient. He’s known locally as “Hershey,” and is still alive, having served in WWII and the Korean War.

Hershey is known as Nisei. With close to a quarter million people living in New Mexico from pueblos and reservations who are Zuni, Toas, Tewa, Ute, Hopi, Apache and Navajo, Nisei sounds like another tribe. But it isn’t. To say Hershey is Nisei is to adopt the term to describe him as a second generation Japanese-American. During WWII the 100th Infantry Battalion of the US Army was 100 percent Nisei. Most had family held in Japanese-American internment camps. Many lost their homes and businesses. It was a cruel response to wartime, and robbed many of dignity.

However, Hershey’s family was never interned. They had their cameras, firearms and radios confiscated, but the citizens of Gallup signed a petition as character witnesses for the two dozen Japanese-American families living here. Hershey was born October 6, 1925 in Gallup, New Mexico just 13 years after it became a state, but his parents arrived earlier in 1906. Gallup was then a railroad and mining town with a nearby cavalry fort. According to the 1940 US Census record, Hershey’s father was widowed and operating a cafe and raising six children. Hershey says in a newspaper interview how grateful he was they lived in Gallup and escaped internment.

Not only is Gallup patriotic, it’s also called the Indian Capitol of the World because of its proximity to the diverse reservations and pueblos, including the largest — the Navajo Nation. From these southwestern tribes come the world’s most stunning art. Among the artists who walk past my breakfast table is a man selling his wife’s miniature Kachina dolls. Kachinas are spirit beings in the Pueblo traditions who assist with controlling the weather for crops. The Hopi, in particular, believe that it requires the supernatural to grow corn in the semi-arid high desert of the southwest.

The Hub is drawn to the dolls and despite being down to the last of our cash, he buys one for me — Morning Singer. The Kachinas represent harmony with the land, not dominance. Hopi men carve Kachina dolls from the root of cottonwood trees and dance as Kachinas to become supernatural. I find it curious that my little Morning Singer was carved by a woman, but collection of dolls has evolved into a large tourist trade and is not the same purpose. I’m dreaming of adding Native Art to Carrot Ranch, but reality is that artists are grossly taken advantage of and I could not stomach being a part of that system.

If I had the money I’d buy directly from the artists. One tall and lean young man in dark sunglasses and a hip-hop baseball cap walks up to us selling a silver squash blossom necklace with chunks of turquoise each the size of a walnut. I’m stunned. The silver-smithing alone is spectacular, and yet it is the high-grade turquoise that captures my attention. I know that a piece of jewelry like this will sell for $3,000 or more in a gallery. He’s selling it for $600 and offers it to us for $200. The temptation is to buy it and resell it at its value in the greater market outside Gallup. No way can I do this. I can’t devalue another artist.

It’s a familiar scenario for writers. Buy my book for .99 cents. Get published and you’re lucky to see 6 percent of each sale with the majority going to the publisher and distributor. And writers can’t bypass publishing and distribution. Gallup artists can’t compete with the online sales of knockoffs because they don’t have a way to get their art to the high-paying markets except through the trading posts and wholesalers. With great empathy, I show my appreciation for each piece as it parades by like an open mic night giving away words for cheap. My lame excuse for not paying the bargain price is, “We’re broke down.” They get it. We’re broke.

Most artists tell us their own broke stories, like the military mother who jokes that her shoes are her tires. “At least you only need to replace two worn tires, not four,” I jest in return. What is it with artists and poverty? We lead rich lives and create rich stories, rich horse-hair pottery, rich Kachina dolls, rich jewelry, but find no monetary wealth in the pursuit. We later stop at one of the trading posts and I notice the small Kachina dolls are marked off 20 percent. I ask how much and the “sale” price is $15. I bought mine directly from the artist for $5. Is it fair the trading post makes $10? If economics were my strength, I suppose I wouldn’t be a writer. Like one of our Rough Writers, Pete Fanning, wrote last week, “It makes my head hurt.”

I decline to buy one, explaining we’re broke down. I joke that if we can’t get a transmission we might live in Gallup. “Then you can get a job,” she replies. Ouch. Yes, there’s that, too. Despite my long hours, despite the material I’ve created and amassed for future publication, despite the articles and client content I write for pay, I don’t “really work.” The artists this proprietor takes advantage of to profit according to the religion of capitalism where, by God, where those who “work hard” deserve to make more than those slackers who merely create. How to even explain to her that my husband would gladly work, given a fair chance, but no one in his industry wants to hire a 50-something veteran with workplace adaptation issues due to PTSD.

That’s right; we’re a couple of homeless bums broke down in Gallup. But we are rich in other ways profits can never be. I’ll be a story-teller long after her shop closes down because the artists figure out how to work together for mutual benefit, cutting out those who take advantage of them. For now, I’m going to write from Gallup, collect stories as I catch them and explore the history of this region which is so unknown to me. I’m going to support other writers, and promote the value of literary arts from its rawest form to the possibilities of life-long mastery. That’s my job.

April 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a ring. Keep the definition to that of a piece of jewelry. Whose ring is it and what’s its significance? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 18, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published April 19). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Only the Ring Remained (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Don’t you tire of sifting dirt?” Michael leaned back on the porch chair, drinking a Rocket Dog.

Danni knew Ike had stocked his workshop fridge with his Ranger buddy’s favorite beer. A token of appreciation. Or a bribe. “I thought we buried the hatchet, Michael.”

“Just curious. Seems boring.”

“It’s amazing how much evidence past garbage holds.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“Garbage? No. The most disturbing find was considered a site contamination.”

“Contaminated garbage?”

“It was run-off from the 1956 Grand Canyon plane crash. A wedding band among Anasazi pottery. Identified as the pilot’s whose body was never recovered.”

###