Life in Salish had a long history for Herbert of Clay Banks. People come to depend upon you, expecting a surety of give and take because there were well-worn grooves that led from need to outcomes. The women who recognized him from the local documentary were both newcomers and Grange stalwarts. The Grange members knew him for the decades of repairs to every farm tool that needed a weld or a replaced handle. The small and the large mending to tractor hitches and the signage that was more than fifty-percent enchantment. Herbert wondered why the men didn't call out, "Saw you in the movie." Well not really. Many of his old friends were either dead or not fans of the more recently popular farm and market cliques. He knew men competed for a place in the volunteering pecking order and admitted he liked being alpha. A bit of a hard swallow, but it was true. To himself, though loud enough to be heard he muttered, "When did that happen?"
"What's that, honey?" Camilia had tucked her shoulders up around her ears, but heard her husband's comment. This winter his place in this town once comfort and well-fit wasn't. The cold had a lot to do with it, but there was more to it than that.
"Just grappling with old ghosts, or maybe the new ones," Herbert answered. He wasn't sure that was what was happening, but he didn't keep secrets from Camilia even when an idea or thought was still only half-baked. A stiff breeze had started up. The morning errands had been done: a bag of groceries for dinner, no mail in their post office box, The stripes of gray clouds over the Cascades had collected into a watering can of late Winter rain. The usual next stop would have been been the library but instead their two sets of feet headed through the alley between First and Second Streets. The familiar red awning, faded from years of wear, was nonetheless welcoming. The tiny fairy lights twinkled and with the rain starting to puddle the ducks waited at the door. Camilia felt the skin on my arms prickle as she remembered the first time she stood at the door to The Safety Pin Cafe.
Herbert pushed the door in, the ducks, four of them led by the drake, waddled in ahead of Camilia but not before he turned and looked up at the tall old man. "I do love a gentleman," he said. The drake winked then continued into the warmth of the place where every kind of being was welcome for warm almond milk, peppermint tea and hot slices of apple pie.
The menu remained mostly the same as it had always, but, switched up on Fridays when the current apprentice planned the menu, and the stage for his or her version of something warm, soothing and satisfying. Of course, today was Friday. From his vantage point Herbert spotted Aka through the split curtains dividing the cafe from the kitchen. Herbert whistled slow and low and caught the owner's attention. "Alex!" She was not onto the name change and the sound of Herbert's set-name flipped a switch something that was inevitable for certain people inside the cafe.
Two or three other customers were nestled over hot mugs of spicy drinks. The ducks were already assembled around the specially designed rugs, removable floor-setting for the two-step eating and excrement routine that was the ways of ducks.The smell that circulated was a mix of spicy and comforting. Alex couldn't put his finger or his senses on it, but Camilia knew instantly.
"Banana pie and ginger tea," the tropical genes of a woman who had been more than fifty years away from the warmth don't forget comfort foods and their smells. The once faceless woman was seeking balance not only for her husband, the balance was calling her home and to start The Safety Pin Cafe was serving up their common magic. "Bring it on," Camilia said that with such ferocity, Aka heard it, and her face lit up. But what sent the buzz going for Alex was the sight of the Raven-haired waiter who was helping a customer with her paisley wool shawl and coat.
How long had it been seen he'd seen Aka's twin? Reading his mind, the bronze skinned bird man who wore his fully present Raven self in his family's cafe, turned and walked toward Alex. "It has been too long, but I have never forgotten when and how to pull copper from the ears of the unsuspecting." With a dull but clearly minted 1947 copper penny in his left claw, Alex Santiago broke down with tears and allowed his emotions to spill and his confusion to unmask. Skeena enfolded his mentor in wings of blue-black as time slipped in the crack.
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