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Sandy Fackler

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Member Since: Mar, 2003

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A Leather Bag
By Sandy Fackler
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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What would you do if a stranger forced a small bag into your hands and left you standing in the street?

Just a block off busy Central Avenue in Albuquerque, with its noisy traffic and hurrying humanity, George Lee found a place of peace and tranquility. The ancient cottonwood trees absorbed the noise and pollution of the modern world and beneath their boughs sat Old Town. Chunky, solid adobe buildings with small wooden doors painted bright colors, narrow windows with the rippled glass of the eighteen hundreds still held tightly in place. Vegas from the porticos over the sidewalks hung over the narrow streets around the central plaza. George strolled into the plaza and began to walk toward Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic church on the far side of the street. His copper skin, gift of his Tewa ancestors, glistened with sweat in the heat of the afternoon sun. Beneath his battered western hat, his black hair was styled in the old way, and hung down his back in two tight braids. He wore jeans, well-worn boots, and a soft, collarless chambrey shirt. As he stepped off the curb around the plaza, to cross the narrow street to the ancient wooden gate in the adobe wall surrounding the church, he noticed a small woman lurking just inside. She stood huddled behind the left panel of the gate rather like she did not wish to be seen. As George approached, she suddenly darted toward him, glancing fuertively left and right down the sidewalk. Clutched against her chest was a soft leather bag of pale cream, dirty from years of handling.George stopped as the woman ran to him and held out the bag. She looked up, into his curious face and smiled quickly. She nodded and shook the bag, urging this stranger to take from her something she seemed to cherish. Her urgency was compelling and without hesitation, George reached out and closed his big hands around the small bag. It was soft and warm from her touch. His hands seemed to tingle from the contact.Already the woman was turning away, toward a sound of running feet along the path from the graveyard inside the church’s adobe wall. A man appeared then, in the gateway. A disheveled man, with a face red with anger and a terrible look in his eyes. He reached the woman in two strides and grabbed her hair, hauling her head back brutally and slapping her across the face while he screamed obsenities at her. George lifted a foot to step forward, but the pleading look in the woman’s eyes stopped him cold. Silently, she begged him not to interfere, just to protect the contents of the leather bag.A black robed priest hurried down the church steps shouting the man’s name. He came fearlessly along the walk and gripped the man’s arm as he raised it to hit the woman again. At the same time, the priest looked straight into George’s eyes and with a quick and expressive motion of eyes and chin, urged him to go into the church. The priest’s eyes flickered across the leather bag and returned to the angry man in his firm grip.George stepped around the tableau in the gateway and walked quickly up the steps and into the church.He was not a practicing Catholic, but familiar feelings came rushing back as he entered the dark and cool interior of the building. Years as a child at his mother’s side in just such a place came flooding back. He slipped into the back pew and raised his eyes to the statues around the wall. The blood and the agony were still there. He heard his mother’s words in soft native-tinged English. Holy Mary, Mother of God…..His fingers worked at the knotted cord which held the leather bag closed. He felt the shape and firmness of something within the bag. Then it was open and the gold cross spilled out into his hand. He looked quickly at the altar and could see the matching cross there and the empty stand on the other side. Quickly he stood and slipping the cross back into the bag, took it to the confessional and left it on the priest’s worn seat. Bless me Father, for I have sinned…George shrugged his broad shoulders, shrugging off the guilt, the duty, the white man’s teachings. He moved quietly out of the church. He avoided the gateway, where the priest and the man still argued over the woman, and turning to the cemetary path, he found another way outside the adobe wall. As he walked, the soft words of the healing song came stealing into his mind. na ta hey owe ha en eway….. The tension drained from his arms and the muscles of his legs ached to dance. copyright 2003  

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