A humble village girl…
by Cloyd Campfire
Lots of people have Holy Mary stories to tell. Something happens & they blame Holy Mary ~ as if a miracle occurred. These stories are always true. But not everybody believes the Mother of Jesus Christ has anything to do with them. These kind of people believe the storyteller is just fooling him or herself. But what do these non-believers know?
I was almost broke in San Diego, jewel by the sea. I was sitting in my humble comfortable little monk cell. I was partaking in a half-pint of Jim Beam that, mixed with a cold can of coca-cola, became a fine thirst-quencher in my cup ~ and a bountiful blossom of bold thought in my brain. It turned out that this blooming thought was, “I can’t find a job, but I’ll be dog-gone if I’m gonna go broke in this dog-gone city.”
Outside the sky was baby blue. The bay was deep buffalo blue. The grass was conspicuously green. The park was a rhyme mover. Sea-gulls dipped and children skipped. And in this beautiful month of May, late ‘90s, I was not going to go broke in San Diego.
I, the Book Man, flipped the flap & flopped into the driver’s seat of the sand-storm brown, with dusty blue trim, Book Mule ~ painted thusly a few years back with a brush. I drove to the liquor store. I bought another half-pint with the last of my coin.
The one-ton had a little more or less than a quarter tank of gas. Rush hour was perking up. It was time to get out of town. Again. My real & only career seemed to be to leave my hometown. Again. And again.
My father used to tell me to quit writing about myself. When he was on his death-bed I asked him what I should write about. “High school,” he said. “What about high school?” I asked. “All of it,” growled the going, going, soon to be gone, arthritic, old electrician. Fat chance I’m going to write all about high school. I have to tell one more tale about this extraordinary mobile book-store ~ and t’was me who was driving it.
There was a plateau on the other side of the bay, a-top which stood a Catholic university. I detoured up that-o-way to scribble thru one more job application ~ for groundsman ~ furiously slammed the door on my way out. I’m sure a secretary somewhere wrote in a margin somewhere that I’d been drinking. Oh well. I don’t condone such indulgence. It just happens to be part of the story ~ this desperate escapade. The detour up to the university’s employment office was a last-ditch effort before I totally gave-up looking for work in a hoity-toity, snooty, jewel by the sea. Consider this detour the last offering in an ongoing unanswered prayer.
As I poked along in rush-hour traffic on Interstate 8, up to the City of El Cajon, my eyes snared a gracious gift to a desperado. T’was a residential avenue ~ perhaps ten-miles long ~ straight as an arrow ~ heading into the hills! Obviously, this was meant to be.
I glided up this street thru yellow traffic lights, onto a roly-poly back-highway, thru chapperal & granite boulders, passing by & by cock-a-doodle-dooo-ing country homes. I had made it out of town. Thank God. I mean, by “out of town,” out of general urban sprawl.
I rode into the night, leaning this way, leaning that way, upon the roly-poly country road ‘til there were less n’ less country homes. The world turned darker, darker. The engine coughed. I knew what that mean’t ~ out of gas. The van (which I always called a truck ’cause that’s what it looked like) coasted into a fair clearing on the other side of the road. With headlights eyeball to eyeball with a fence post, the engine died. I tapped the lights off, locked the doors. I would sleep here tonight, where-ever here might be.
With the vents open ofcourse, I cooked a bite o’ dinner on the portable one-burner propane stove. One lit candle was all I needed to get my mind to rove. It looked as if my desert excuse was slippin’ out from under me. It looked as if I was gonna take a hike & abandon thee. Ohhhhhhh holy temple Mary, whyyyyyyy am I so contrary? What is gonna be? What is gonna beeeeeee?
In the pretty country morning, birds a-tweeter, occasional car rolling by, I decided to do what I always do. Rather than take a hike, I opened the book-store. Lo’ & behold, let me tell you about the book-store.
If you stood in the middle of the store & twirled, it was a first-class trip. But before you stepped up into this engulfing emporium of poetics & tall tales, explanations & histories, journeys & higher realms ~ before you stepped up the two irrigation-valve covers that served as steps ~ you might note that smiling down upon you in an inviting subtle manner was a portrait of none other than ~ Holy Mary. She was a ways back but right in front of you, on the narrow plywood door that led into the monk cell & book-storage area. More than one customer had actually kissed this framed picture of ~ the Queen of love, the Queen of mercy, the Queen of peace, the Queen of angels.
In front of this picture, the tilted-back, pine-wood shelves full of volumes to ponder, ranged themselves to the left & to the right & moseyed up to you on both interior sides of the box. By the way, you entered at the rear, where the two backdoors were thrown open & stabilized on crooked paloverde sticks & if the wind was up, tied down.
So come on in, affable patron. Don’t be shy, just watch your step & don’t bump your head if you’re over 6-feet tall. Here, let me give you a hand if you’re over 70 or a fair damsel. Oh! Let me tie your shoe. Would you like a cup o’ hot coffee? I just brewed a pot. Want some whiskey in it?
Welcome to the Holy Mary shrine ~ of flighty devotionals, desert mirage gathering, Indian star walking, & western paperback pulp.
I, a younger brother of Rita, the middle brother ‘tween Mike & Pete, contrived this thing probably because our own beloved Ma had died not too long before these glory a-bump times. In fact, it was my share of the selling of Ma’s house that payed for the truck & the initial foundation of books, not to mention a new radiator, u-joint, etc.
I must also gratefully acknowledge that yours truly had gotten a lot of help from a good friend & his good neighbor, in the construction of this humble happening. Thank you, Karl & Billy-Bob!
Individual spirituality can be simple, strait forward, unresearched. Or you can delve deeply. Monolithical religions like Christianity, Islam, & Budhism, provide road maps. Sometimes books do too. Where do these road maps lead? To your own mystical experience of LOVE, of course! Plus, you get to greet the infinite mystery of God Almighty!! You might even become a Renaissance Prince!!!
If you’re lucky.
Anyway, some school kids skipped past the stranded Book Mule, said they’d come back later.
I brewed a pot of coffee, had a cup. Time passed. I was lounging in the monk cell, working myself up into a fatalistic, head-nodding doze, when somebody outside smoothly warbled, “Knock knock, anybody home?”
I got up to greet whoever. “Hello,” cock-a-doodle-dooed I to a tall gentleman younger than myself, as I bumbled out my cell’s narrow door into the book-store.
He stepped up the steps & bought 4 or 5 of the more practical books on display, cheaply priced, for 6 or 8 buckeroos all together. The store was not amply stocked. It was time for me to buy more books. That’s why I was in need of a job. Please, please, curious reader, do not question my business sense. I have no answers.
I asked the customer about work in these parts. He said he didn’t know of any. I wondered outloud about a chicken ranch on the other side of a rise, which I had spotted a moment before yesterday evening’s landing. He crowed, “Might be a possibility of employment there. I don’t know.”
I happened to inform him that I was out of gas. He informed me that he happened to have a full 5-gallon can in the bed of his hefty red pick-up, parked next to the Book Mule.
“Well shucks, now I have just enough money to buy that 5-gallons of gas from you,” I chortled.
He hummed & hawed, then stepped toward a particular book that had been patiently waiting for a long time to be bought.
The smooth-sailing stranger caw-ed, “I have a sister who is crazy about Mother Mary. I mean, my sister is a total devotee. She has a picture of Mother Mary with a candle infront of her ~ on a little altar in her room.” He smiled broadly as he explained, “And the candle’s always lit.”
He pulled out the book he’d been side-stepping toward. It was the fattest tome that I possessed concerning the Mystical Rose, the Morning Star, the Refuge of sinners.
The tome, the tome ~ t’was an abridgement of a 20-volume biography of the Mother of Jesus, divinely revealed to a 15th-Century Spanish nun, Sister Mary Agreta. It was a beautiful piece of writing, beautifully translated. “My sister would really like this,” said the young feller.
Incidently, according to legend, Sister Mary Agreta visited the Pima Indians up & down the Gila River in Arizona way before Padre Kino set foot thar. How’ed she get thar? T’was via a spiritual avenue.
The tome cost 7 dollars.
“You can have it for all the gas in that can in the back of your truck,” chirped I.
“It’s a deal,” the stranger piped. (What are we, birds?)
Now, here comes the funny, the peculiar, the eye-blinking part of this yarn: T’wasn’t but two minutes after the stranger emptied the can of gas into my empty tank & left, that a cop pulled over & told me I also had to leave. Hmmmmmmm.
This makes me wonder. Did the Mother of God want this rolling so-called shrine not to be abandoned? So, thusly, did she in actuality intervene with a little bumpity bump nudge ~ to get the thirsty tank quenched in the nick of time? Or, in reality, was the visit by the kind feller before the policeman’s arrival just chance?
Holy Mother of Divine Grace, Mother most pure, Mother of good counsel, may I be your unworthy, worthless slave for the rest of my life!
When I reached a filling station, I spent all my recent earnings on gas, which allowed the Book Mule to hee-haa all the way up to Mount Laguna, where a friend o’ mine set me to raking leaves. Great huge piles of leaves, I raked & wheel-barreled them away from his cabin for days, so that his rustic abode was less likely to burn down that summer. He payed me. And I drove away ~ back to San Diego.
I asked a happy couple I knew, if I could use their phone & kitchen table for a few days, in that democratic jubilant jewel by the sea. They said, “Yes.”
Within a week I had a job ~ a grounds job ~ that lasted all the way up ’til Christmas.