In Black Elk’s vision as a boy, he’d been given a red stick by the Fourth Grandfather that he plants at the center of the nation, right where the good red road, meets the black one of difficulty. When he does so it blooms, and all living things are happy. Stepping out of the camper that morning, on my way to return the Mountain Bluebird, I saw that the plum tree we’d planted over my father’s ashes six years ago was full of leaves.
That was a nice change. For two years it had stood there, just a dead stick, never any change at all, until the third year some tiny leaves unfurled from it. By now it had blossomed a few times over, but in all that time had only produced two plums maximum, both in the same year. We’d taken that as a sign, however, that miracles and healing can happen over time.
I don’t know why I didn’t take the Mountain Bluebird to be washed before returning it. My feeling was that I was going to get called out on something more substantial on whether the car was dirty or not. Sixteen thousand miles is a lot to drive in six weeks. I can tell you how many hours you need to drive a day to match that. Mendez didn’t seem to be paying attention when I brought the keys and paperwork into the office, however. I asked about the incident in Mississippi, where they’d tried to get me to bring the car in. He said the lease had been in two parts, one for a month, the other for two weeks. There was no issue,
He went out to check the car, but didn’t say anything when he came back in. I thought that was it, but as I turned to go, he shouted out. Hey! I wheeled around in alarm. What he said was that the car was really dirty and that they’d charge me five hundred dollars to clean it. There was a car wash right across the street. I could avoid the charge if I had them wash it myself. That was no problem, even though it drew out the suspense. I drove over and told them to give me the platinum service, to make sure they waxed it and even did the tires.
When I returned, Mendez was busy with another customer. He stepped to the door and acknowledged the shine coming off the car with a satisfied nod of the head. What a brave, plucky little friend it had been. I owed everything to it.
Once home, I started dispersing the pile of things on the bed. The real challenge would be getting the tent back into the bag it came in, the one I hadn’t used once the entire trip. If I could do that, I could do anything.
That night I had a dream, one that would come off as contrived if it didn’t happen to be true. I am driving the Mountain Bluebird, racing down the road. I pass beneath a red arch. The road began to go through hills, that same roller coaster ride, and on one bump I get bounced out. The car continues down the road without me. I start walking down the road in the direction it has gone. I see a black raincoat and pick it up. Then I see a blue jeep, but it is not the Mountain Bluebird. It has traveled for miles now, and I know that I will never catch it, but if it happened once, it could happen again. Given six more weeks, I believe we could do the whole of South America. They’ve got a lot of Indians down there. At least that’s what I’ve been told.