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Further Phoenix
at Rio's Attic:

Mike Waters
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix

  God Damn a Potato E.C. Kasalivich  

        After an hour of sweating, when they felt good and cooked, Johnny led a dash to the rock pool where they plunged into icy water.
        They toweled off quickly and returned to the sweathouse which had been allowed to cool. Now it was pleasantly warm, pushing the ice-water chill out of invigorated bodies. The second part of the ceremony began.
        'Okay,' said Johnny picking up the rattle. We'll start to get the feel for this by trying to empty our minds. Concentrate on the sound of this rattle, and nothing else.'
        'Jesus, Johnny,' protested Jay. 'What's with the rattle? I'm sitting here buck-naked an' as if that's not enough you're gonna start shaking some rattle? What's with the Goddamned rattle?'
        Johnny stayed calm, much to Mike's relief. 'This rattle helps make the ceremony. Just flow with it. No rattle and we're just a bunch of junkies getting spaced.'
        'But nothing Jay. No one's making you stay. You feel uncomfortable with all this, off you go an' no worries.'
        Jay shifted his weight as if about to turn of take Johnny on his word.
        'No, Jay,' said Mike. 'Don't go. I mean, I can see why you might want to, all this old Indian stuff and being naked and all. But like Johnny says, relax into it. I can do it, and I'm white. It's cool.'
        Jay settled down again, crossing his arms over his lap. 'Yeah, well okay. But Johnny, you start dancing an' hollering like a dog soldier, I'm gone - slicker an' quicker than a goose goes to shit.'
        'Fine. You comfortable now?'
        'Oh I'm comfortable, Johnny - as comfortable as you can be with grass tickling your nuts.'
        'So. We'll go for it again.' Johnny started to shake the rattle, once hard, once soft then back again. SHUSH-shush, SHUSH-shush, SHUSH-shush. Mike half-closed his eyes and concentrated only on the rattle. He, and Jay, concentrated to the extent that they did not notice Johnny. He kept up the rhythm with his left hand, while with his right he began to prepare the peyote - the little button-shaped cactus plants that would help to open the eyes of the participants. He dropped them into a tin cup, poured on a little water and held it over the fire. Then he began to chant, slipping the words in with the rattle-sounds, then expanding them so that eventually they replaced the rattle altogether.
        He stopped, not abruptly, but trailing off until the only sound was the crackling of the fire.
        Mike became aware that Johnny was holding out the tortoise-shell towards him. Mike took it, and reading Johnny's gesture, he drank the liquid it contained. Tasted like peppered puke, but he managed to swallow it without gagging. He handed the shell back and Johnny refilled it for Jay.
        Then it happened. Right on queue, as always, to rob Mike of another experience. The shadows began to dance in triple time, sounds thickened and echoed and distorted. Mike could feel his fingers start to shake. Not now. Please, not now. How many times the same plea? How many times ignored?
        And then, miracle of miracles, the sounds regained their clarity, and the shadows started to behave themselves. Mike was a little confused, as it had never happened before, but he had actually beaten an attack. That the peyote had many of the same active ingredients as the medication he had once used to control his condition was a fact unknown to Mike, so to him it was as if his plea had actually been answered - for once.

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