Hopi Prophet Chooses a Pop

by Heid E. Erdrich
The light and air? They are mountain-perfect, here in Taos, near
some tennis courts, our conference room door open, all that clear
sun whisking in while we carry on our hot debate in a think-tank of
artists and healers.
We are out to save the world.

My own insomniac clarity lets me see how powerfully ordinary he is,
that Hopi elder, who says humbly, simply, what we somehow knew
was true all along. How sweet his words, clear water rushing cold to
our lips, all the drink we'd ever need --
Until coffee break.

I go outside and find him there, nothing between us but bright air
and a tonal vending machine.

That stuffs not for me,  he says, glancing back to the foyer door, now
blocked by three stainless coffee urns.
No, I reply.

He pats his pockets for glasses. The vending machine sighs.
We approach it respectfully, as do teens juke boxes, as gamblers
do slots.

Read what she's got, he squints through yellowed lenses. I will admit
it: I hope to divine what he'd like, that my right choice will somehow
reflect how much of his teaching I get - There's sparkling water. I try
jingling my change.
No response, but a slight, expectant shift.

There's apple juice, veggie cocktail? I ask, thinking he'd like something
natural. Or Bubble Up, ginger ale, cream soda?

I am on a roll call of beverages: root beer, Crush, Nehi? As if that
machine contains all the liquids ever canned by human hands,
I list tonic, sarsaparilla, Coco-yahoo soda, diet this, caffeine-free
that, and all your regular colas.

I appeal to the horizon, source of inspiration, and make one last
certain offer: Mountain Dew.
A pause, but no, no response.

Finally I feed in dimes. The coin slot gulps, my own favorite choice
rolls down. Just then the button flashes -- machine's all out -- And
then, of course, he cries: That's right! That's right! That one I like.
I'll take that Dr. Pop.

From Fishing for Myth , New Rivers Press.
© 1997 Heid E. Erdrich

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