A Phone Conversation Overheard

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Overheard two weeks ago waiting in a very long, slow-moving line at Lowe’s standing behind a smelly, unbathed man in a pre-BDU era Army fatigue jacket. He had long dark hair striped with grey throughout. From his profile, he looked a bit like former Cardinals and Brewers catcher, Ted Simmons. The volume on his cell phone was very. It announced an incoming call with an odd, American Indian kind of ring tone.

“Yeah?” my smelly companion said.

“Ward?” I heard blast through his ear piece. “Paul.”

“Paul. Wow. I was just thinking about you. How’s it goin’?”

“Great, man, great. How’bout you?” the voice asked.

“Okay. Just pickin’ up some tools at Lowe’s—gettin’ ready for the Return of the Sun festival.”

“You mean Christmas?”

“Christmas! f*** no. My people celebrate Return of the Sun, when the days start getting longer.”

“Oh, yeah, the solstice myth of ancient religions wherein ignorant rabble, fearful that the sun was dying as the days grew shorter . . .”

The Army jacket guy cut him off. “What the f***, Paul. What are you talking about? Myth my ass, white man. Harvard boy white man who killed my people for trees to print your lies . . .”

Now it was Paul’s turn to interrupt, “Ward, Ward, Ward! Get a hold of yourself, willya? I’m just telling you that your Creek—”

Ward cut in, “Not Creek, Harvard boy: Navajo!”

“Oh,” the faceless voice said sounding confused. “I thought . . . never mind. Anyway, you should be proud that your adopted people . . .”

“ADOPTED! My ass, adopted. Orphaned, more like it. Orphaned by my race which learned to torture and kill its offspring observing the ways of the pale face who came to my land to rape my women and . . .”

Voice cuts back in, “Fine, sorry, orphaned—whatever. Anyway, I meant to say ‘your people adopted.’ Jeez. Did you ever learn about Newgrange, a beautiful megalithic site in Ireland. It’s a huge, circular stone structure estimated to be 5,000 years old, older by centuries than Stonehenge, older than the Egyptian pyramids! It was built to receive a shaft of sunlight deep into its central chamber at dawn on winter solstice.”

Ward: “The Irish! The f***ing Irish. Drunk bastards! What are telling me, that my people learned about the sun from the Irish?”

“No, Ward, all I’m saying is . . .”

The line moved a bit, but my neighbor was now livid—red faced and spitting. “All you’re saying, Paul, is that you’re smarter than me because you went to Harvard and I went to a government college on the reservation. Let me tell you something, pale face: I’m just as smart as you. And my religion is the true religion that guided my fathers until you and your blasphemers came and slaughtered us . . . . Ya know, Paul, screw it, man. I’m comin’ for ya, ya hear me? I’m comin’ for ya. I’ll beat your ass, man. When you least expect it, man, like some morning on your way home from the bar. I’ll tire-iron your silly white ass, man, calling me a Mick like I don’t . . . .”

“Sir,” a female voice called to me from my left. I looked and she continued. “Aisle seven is open if you’d like to check out.”