Every once in a while the clash between my wife Lorrie’s need for quiet and my need to be heard will rear its ugly head, causing her to flee the house for a period of time lasting anywhere from ten minutes to however long it takes to drive to the nearest movie theater, watch a movie, take herself out for a drink and a burger, and return to the nest. Last night she went to see “There Will Be Blood.”
“I’m home,” she gave the all-clear signal at about eleven. But as I have my pride; and as I was just then in the middle of a particularly gripping section of the page-turner I was reading (Black Elk Speaks – Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux), I did not deign to respond. Two can play this game.
Well, eventually I finished the chapter and capitulated, sharing with a now-sleeping Lorrie details of the joy that had attended a particularly fruitful hunt in the Moon of Red Cherries (July). Lulled by the gentle rhythm of her breathing, I fell into a deep sleep.
“Who are Running Antelope and Big Elk?” Lorrie uncharacteristically broke her unwritten “absolute-silence-until-I’ve-had -two-cups-of-coffee” rule the next morning.
“Oglala Sioux warriors,” I told her. “Why?”
“How do you know that?”
“It’s just something I happen to know. You know things, don’t you?”
“Not things like that.”
“Anyway, why do you ask?”
“Because you were talking to them in your sleep. Someone named Afraid of Hawk too.”
“Yeah, Afraid of Hawk. Talk about a misnomer. That guy’s not afraid of anything.”
“Well I’m a little afraid of you this morning.”
“Hetchetu aloh!” I answered, which means nothing that I know of; but sounded like a suitably fear-inspiring response. “So, would you like to hear about my dream?”
“I was dreaming about names – well, really about my name. You were in the dream. You were lashing together frames on which to dry the bison meat from the afternoon’s kill. In fact, you were the one who encouraged me to attend the tribal council.
“’All the other guys have such cool names,’ I remember complaining to you. ‘And me: Talking Bear. What the hell kind of name is that?’ I mean, it’s not like I don’t kill my fair share of soldiers.’”
“’Well if you’re not happy’, you suggested, ‘go to the tribal council. That’s what they’re there for.’”
“So did you go?” real Lorrie asked.
“And we made a pact. They said that if I could be absolutely silent for one moon – that’s a month – I could pick my own name; and that no one would ever call me Talking Bear again.
“A month?” Lorrie couldn’t suppress her laughter. “You couldn’t go a day.”
Ten o’clock. I am two hours into my ordeal as I write, and already I have had to get my own coffee twice and not answer the phone three times. But the stakes are high, and I must prevail.
“If you can be completely quiet for one whole day,” she’d offered; “not only do I promise to respond in a timely manner to every question you ask me for an entire week; but I will also wear, to a restaurant of your choice, both the fringed suede mini-dress and the beaded moccasins you bought me.”
She, for her part, would win a weekend for two in Bermuda with her friend, Katie.
I had thought initially that I would be permitted to express my thoughts, wishes and feelings in writing, but this was disallowed by the Rules Committee, who assured me that in any event she would simply refuse to read anything I wrote. I might have protested; but how?
“Pack your bags, Katie,” I overheard her on the phone. “We’re going to Bermuda for the weekend… No, I’m not kidding… Slow down and I’ll explain… All right, you know how he’s been reading those cultural anthropology books? …Right. Well, whatever he reads, that’s what he dreams about. So last night he dreamed that he was a Sioux warrior…”
Lorrie went on to explain all about our wager and how she intended to cash in. Well, let her try.
“I’m going to the store, hon. You want anything?”
She was going to have to do better than that.
I took advantage of her absence to find the roll of duct tape. No harm in a little extra security.
“You know, you didn’t kiss me good morning,” she taunted me when she returned from the market. “Anyone call?”
No one said I couldn’t give her the finger. It was going to be a long day.
“Do you want rib eyes on the grill or tuna melts for dinner?”
Six p.m. Ten hours down, fourteen to go.
I swallowed my tuna melt and headed for bed; but not before a quick trip to the medicine cupboard, where I now reached for the sample packet of Excedrin P.M. that had come in the mail years ago. Two tablets and ten minutes later I was out like a light; and whatever demonic machinations she might have had planned for the duration would henceforward be falling on sleeping ears.
“I win! I win!” I exploded down the stairs at 8:02 the following morning. But that look on her face seemed to tell a different story.
I watched as she hit the “play” button.
“Hey-a-a-hey! hey-a-a—hey! Hey-a-a-hey! Hey-a-a-hey!”
“What’s that?” I was afraid to ask.
“Well,” Lorrie answered. “Unless you can come up with someone else who was in our bed at midnight – and who’s been boning up on how to send a voice to the spirits of the cloud (it's on page 168 of your book) -- I’d have to say that that is the sound of my passport to turquoise waters and pink sand beaches.”
“I’m just curious,” Lorrie asked when I deposited her in front of the airport. “If you had gone the month in your dream without talking, what were you going to change your name to?”
I hesitated before speaking with an un-forked tongue “Talking Horse.”