A friend raises the Soupster’s consciousness about “the worst thing”.
“Hi, Soupster,” called a voice from behind the mask.
The Soupster squinted in concentration, struggling to recognize the pleasantly crinkled eyes above the mask. He almost had it… wait, wait…
“Anastasia Anarchy! It’s you!” he finally said triumphantly. “So good to run into you, Stace,” he continued, striving to use his best, Ethel-Merman-projecting abdominal voice, and to enunciate carefully from behind his mask. The last time he’d spoken with Anastasia, she’d shown some signs of a hearing deficit.
“Yes, wonderful serendipity, chancing upon each other in front of this grocery store pop-up cello concert. Though maybe not total chance, eh, Soupster. There are patterns everywhere.”
“Is that your truck over there, Stace? Let’s go chat a bit over the hood while we listen to the music.” They got to the truck and the Soupster glanced down through the open window at the passenger seat.
“What’s that, Stace,” he said. “It looks like a DVD of Wagon Train???”
“Yeah, that it is, Soupster. I used to watch that on T.V. all the time when I was a kid. I was,” she said with twinkling eyes, “especially enamored of the scout, Flint McCullough.”
“Oh, I remember him,” said the Soupster. “Wasn’t he played by a guy named Robert something?”
“Yup. Robert Horton. That’s him. One time, when I was about eight, I even had a dream about him,” said Anastasia. “He was out doing his advance scouting thing and he was fording a river. He was walking through the water towards me, and I walked in to meet him…But maybe I’d better leave it there.”
“I get it, Stace. Sometimes you don’t know what something means until years later.”
“I was fascinated by cowboy movies, Soupster. Sometimes I wanted to be a cowboy and have those special skills – you know, like swinging a lariat and yodeling. Not much to do with guns except maybe twirling them round your finger. Later on, in high school, I learned some basic bow-and-arrow skills, like not hyper-extending my bow arm and receiving a terrible burn.”
“All that cowboys and Indians stuff, Soupster – it was really a thoughtless world I grew up in.”
The Soupster looked steadily at Anastasia and said nothing.
“One time, years ago, when I was working as a young lab tech at the hospital, one day I went in to draw some blood in one of those four-person rooms. I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday afternoon. This must have been, like, back in ’82.
“There were these three older guys sitting around watching T.V. I was getting my tourniquet and stuff ready and I saw they were watching a western. They seemed really quite absorbed in it. A couple of them were older Tlingit guys. They were just, patiently, sitting there and watching the show, and I asked them, ‘Does it ever bother you? Watching westerns like that?’
“And one of the old guys said, ‘Well, some of them are pretty bad, but at least we’re up there on the screen. We’re not invisible. That’s the worst thing, you know. Being invisible.’”