Chapter 62:     Pokey's Promise

ART writing--

I have not given much space to Pokey Snowchild in this document, 
probably because I've had such ambiguous feelings about his place in 
Adam's life.  Not that I disliked Pokey, he was basically a good kid: 
scrupulously honest, often amusingly witty and as loyal a friend as 
anyone could ask for.  

But in Pokey's own words: "I'm going to be a Drunken Indian when I 
grow up!"  And by the age of 20 he had achieved his life's ambition.  
It was tragic, awful to see.  So it was also difficult to accept that 
someone so exceptional as my son could be best friends with such an 
absolute loser as Pokey.

They had known each other since the 4th Grade, when they were both 9 
years old.  Pokey was fine back then, they played cowboys and Indians, 
or some odd variation of that theme.  But he started getting stoned 
on marijuana already in Junior High School, due to the influence of 
his doomed brother Tony and by High School he was drinking excessively.  
Adam was a good influence, Pokey managed to control his misuse around 
him, but when Adam "died" Pokey dropped all attempts at restraint. 

Elaine and I had known Pokey fairly well, he'd often been at our house, 
ate dinners with us, helped out on the ranch.  We felt affection for 
Pokey, tried to help him, but he seemed to be a sinking ship.  

He did manage to graduate from High School, with lots of help from 
family and friends.  And he did write that surprisingly coherent and 
relevant chapter for Book One of this document about Adam.  

But when Adam disappeared, Pokey's drinking and drug abuse became 
worse and so did his life.  He became a loser in the most literal sense: 
lost jobs, lost fights, lost money to underage-drinking fines.  That he 
did not lose girl friends was only because he was too much a failure 
with women to have any.  Fortunately he didn't have a car to lose or he 
would certainly have died as young as his brother Tony.  But we knew 
Pokey was doomed too.  

He had telephoned us frequently after Adam had vanished, to ask if "his 
bro" had come home yet and he had been drunk every time.  Sloppy and 
sentimental drunk, crying, incoherent, disgusting--we had to hang up on 
him, or he would just go on and on.  Finally he stopped calling and we 
lost track of him for a while.  

I admit it; I had given up on him, did not believe that he could be 
saved.  Since then, my opinion of Pokey has improved considerably, but 
that would be getting ahead of this story.  

Let's go backwards instead, to the day after Adam had arrived from 
his adventures among the Nokhontli.  We'd slept late after having 
been up all night talking, Adam came downstairs from his room with an 
urgent matter on his mind.

"Jeez, I've got to call Pokey, let him know I'm alive!"

Adam had asked about Pokey earlier, but neither Melly nor Elaine nor 
I had any contact with him those days, no one knew if he was working 
or studying...or dead.  But we did have his cell phone number, if it 
was still active. 

Adam's arrival was still a secret at that time.  "Maybe you should 
wait until you're ready to publicly announce your return," I advised 
Adam, "Pokey might not be able to handle a secret, he could easily 
blab everything to some tavern full of drinking buddies."  

Adam nodded, "Yeah, I thought of that too, but I'm going to trust 
Pokey.  I feel that he's going through all that crap because of me, I 
can't just let him go on wondering if I'm dead."

Adam's voice had taken on a quality that startled me, convinced me 
that an Orator had just spoken Wisdom.  I nodded; this was Adam's 
shot to call.

We agreed that I should talk first, just in case Pokey actually WAS in 
that very tavern right now.  But we only got his cell phone answering 
service, into which I recorded: "Hi Pokey, this is Art Forest.  Call 
us--but keep it confidential."

It was two days before Pokey finally did call back, I happened to take 
the call.  He sounded sober when he said, "This is Pokey!  Adam's 
there, isn't he?"

"Are you alone?" I asked first.

"Yep, confidential coming at ya."

"Okay, Adam's outside somewhere right now, but he'll be back soon.  
He wants to see you, but we also want to keep his arrival secret for 
a little while longer, so it's best you come out here to us."

"Holy shit, he IS alive!  Aw man, aw man..." I heard him choke up and 
was reminded that Pokey had been as heartbroken as Elaine and I while 
we worried that Adam was dead.  For a second neither of us could speak.

"You can have dinner with us," I offered, "Do you need a ride?" 

"No sweat, Art, I've got a motor scooter."

I shuddered to think.  "Are you in any shape to drive it?"

"I'll drink some coffee first."

"Let me come and get you," I insisted.  

He hesitated, then agreed, admitting, "Guess I have tied one on pretty 
heavy these last few days."

Pokey was staying in a shabby little wooden house just outside of Sultan, along with some of his tavern acquaintances, where he slept on the sofa. I didn't want to go in; he came out to my car. Pokey was a mess, wearing a disgustingly dirty rumpled once-white shirt and was also sporting a black eye. But he HAD washed his face and his long hair was pulled back into a neat pony tail. He was embarrassed about the shirt, having wanted to look good for his reunion with Adam. "Cleanest dirty shirt I could find," he said, his breath a blend of toothpaste and booze. We stopped in a local thrift store on the way and I bought him a new shirt. He was very grateful. Adam had been for a run up in the hills, together with Melly and Elaine on horseback. They were all home when I got back with Pokey. Fortunately, Pokey and Adam met outside the house, because their greeting was very physical. Pokey almost attacked Adam, throwing himself at his big friend, pummeling him, grabbing and laughing. Adam tossed Pokey high into the air several times. Then Pokey started sobbing, so we all went back into the house and left the two of them alone out there, Adam's arm around his relatively tiny friend. By the hour we spent making a festive dinner, Pokey was happy again and apparently sober. Actually, we were all in good spirits, reunited because Adam was alive. Pokey was "awsomed out" about Adam's amazing experiences with the Nokhontli. Actually so were we, talking animatedly as we ate dinner, having a nice evening together. Later, Melly excused herself and went home to Lissandra, to give Adam and Pokey some guy-time. The conversation became more serious. Adam, Elaine and I heard Pokey describe his experiences as a drunken Indian. He tried to tell it light-heartedly, just how ruined he got every day, but he wasn't even trying to fool himself. "...wish I could stop, I've tried, but I'm your typical Indian who can't leave the fucking Firewater alone. My dad could, but I can't." Elaine said, "Well Pokey, Adam's back now, so you can stop punishing yourself." "Yeah? okay--whew!--glad THAT's over," Pokey joked. Adam said in his no-joking voice, "Pokey, maybe it IS over...if you really want to stop?" "Hey bro, you think I like this? Man, I know it's self-destruction city. I'd do anything to be able to stop drinking, but it's in my blood, it's the curse of the Red Man! Nothing can..." Adam lifted one hand in a dramatic stop gesture and Pokey was silenced. So were we, convinced that something significant was about to be communicated. Even without speaking, Adam was an Orator. "As mentioned," Adam speaking in that special voice again, "the Nokhontli insist that I have been bred to be an Ay°'utla, an Orator. And I might just have an Orator trick that can help you stop drinking." "Yeah, ohhh-kay..." Pokey sounded dubious, but waited to hear more. "I've learned some squatch magic," Adam went on, "but you'll have to be serious about wanting to stop, because I don't know how to un-do it." "Squatch magic? Hey, far out man, I'm ready. Magic me. Cure me. How does it work?" "You know how I can't ever break my promises, right? I found out that's because I'm an Orator. So I can promise not to drink alcohol, then TRANSFER that promise to you. It becomes YOUR promise and you can't break it any more than I could." Elaine and I shared a moment of disbelief, but not Pokey. He was being "awsomed out" again, already believing in spirit magic. Then he recovered, shook his head and said, "Naw, bro, I've already promised not to drink, lots of times. Doesn't work for me." "That's because you are not an Ay°'utla, a squatch Orator," Adam orated, "which I am. My promises CAN'T break. Want to try one?" "Just like that? Like you think faith's gonna get me through, or something?" "It doesn't matter if you have faith or not, it's magic, you still won't be able to get drunk. But are you ready for that?" "Hell yo, bro. Let's do it!" Adam stood up in gigantic mode and spoke in that Orator voice: "I hereby promise not to choose intoxication over wisdom. This is the sacred promise of an Orator, inviolable and eternal." Then he looked Pokey in the eyes. "And now I hereby transfer that promise to you, Pokey Snowchild: do you accept that vow as your own?" Pokey evidently did have some faith in Adam's magical authority, because he certainly looked tense, frightened, darting eyes, sweating upper lip, stuttering "I...I..." He couldn't say the right words: that he accepted the transfer, so he said, "...never drink again? I...I can't do that, bro. Sorry, not ready." "Oh, you can Drink all you want," Adam explained, "the trick is to not WANT too much." Pokey got up from the sofa, looking frantic, "Yeah well, hey bro, I'm sorry. But I've gotta go think about this before I buy into that promise." He backed out of the room and on outside the house, into the night alone. "Oh great," Adam called out after him, "Hey, thanks a lot, Pokey, now I'M stuck with that promise!" I couldn't tell if Adam was kidding or not, since he never got drunk anyway. But Pokey was definitely not kidding, since he did not come back that night.
We lost track of Pokey for the next few days, during which time we were busy announcing Adam's return to the media world. When Pokey finally did show up, three days later, he really looked ill. The clean new shirt I had bought him was smudged and tattered, his hair was a mess. He had, of course, been on a binge for three days. It was quite extreme, actually. But exaggerated to a degree of comedy instead of tragedy because Pokey announced: "I'm ready for that promise now. Where's Adam?" Adam was up the hill in the Mother Meadow, practicing guitar under the old apple tree. I sent Pokey on up there to find him.
"Hey, bro!" Pokey said when he approached Adam, who was squatting under the tree like some kind of guitar-playing Buddha. Adam stopped playing, said nothing, but gave Pokey a quizzical look. "Yeah, okay bro, you win," Pokey admitted. He was abject, humble, shamed. Adam put his guitar down and focused his attention on his friend. "I'm not competing," he said without a smile, his voice in Orator mode, "I want YOU to win." Pokey nodded, "I'm ready, bring on that promise." "You're sure?" Adam questioned, his voice normal just then, sympathetic, "I don't know if there's any going back." "I don't WANT to go back! I CAN'T, this is killing me! The charm has gone out of my career as Drunken Indian Brave, believe me." Adam nodded for Pokey to sit before him. Pokey sat on the grass Indian style. They squared off to each other ceremonially, silently breathing, both meditative. "Okay, good. Now that you're sure, let's discuss the promise you need to make, in your own words..." "Naw bro, you've always been better at words than me. And what you said last time--I've been thinking those words over and over-- about CHOOSING intoxication over wisdom... That's what I do; choose intoxication, every time." "Very well, then remember the wording of the promise we do make here. Definitions are important." "Okay, you're the shaman." Adam assumed a very formal posture, spoke in his magical voice: "I hereby promise not to choose intoxication over wisdom. This is the sacred promise of an Orator, inviolable and eternal." Then he looked Pokey in the eyes. "And now I hereby transfer that promise to you, Pokey Snowchild: do you accept this vow?" Adam held his great hand forward for Pokey to take it. Pokey hesitated, then committed himself by taking Adam's big hand with both of his. "Yes, yes, I accept. I really--WOW!--do." Pokey's "WOW" was his reaction to being zapped by a charge of energy that flashed between Adam and himself, palpably shocking, the both of them jerking in unison. "Then it is done," Adam formally announced, "that is now YOUR promise, Pokey Snowchild, which you can never break." Then he finally smiled, "Congratulations." "Uh, yeah, thanks," Pokey said dazedly, looking at his hands as if for signs of some change. Nothing to be seen.
I saw them come walking together, back from the hill to the house where I was sitting on the back terrace, drinking a cold bottle of beer in the shade. "So did it happen?" I asked. "Yeah, we did it," Pokey said. "Who knows if it'll work though?" "Well, let's test it," I said, "how about a beer, Pokey?" "Huh? Yeah, right." Pokey was confused, we never offered him alcohol in any form. But Adam caught on, "Yeah, Pokey, I'll get you a beer." He went into the kitchen after one. "Hey, I thought you guys were going to help me stop...oh, I get it." Adam came back with two beers, handed one to Pokey, saying, "All the Firewater you can drink Red Man...if you choose to." Pokey looked at it, the condensation running down the cold bottle on a warm day. He was resisting, fretting. "Who's the other bottle for, Adam?" I asked, mine being nearly empty. "Oh, that's for ME," he said, mock possessively, taking a swig. "What's up, bro?" Pokey said to Adam, "You never drink." "I never get drunk, but I don't mind a beer now and then. Besides, I'm celebrating your emancipation from intoxication." Adam held the other beer toward Pokey, tantalizing him. "So you're testing me? So what the fuck am I supposed to do with this beer? Drink it? Refuse it?" Pokey sounded frustrated, stressed. "Remember the wording of the vow," Adam reminded him, "was there any mention of ascetic denial? total abstinence? forbidden fruit?" "" Pokey relaxed, "All right, I'll have that beer then..." took a chug, considered the good taste of it with eyes closed, then shrugged, "...and see what happens next." Nothing happened next. We sat on the porch, drank our beers, Adam strummed a melody on his guitar, Pokey thumped a rhythm on the porch. After a while I asked if anyone wanted another beer. Adam shook his head, so I looked at Pokey. "No thanks, one was just fine," Pokey said. None of us made a fuss about it, but he has not been drunk since then.

Chapter 63

Adam out of Eden