THE OPEN PALM PENDANT.
After seeing the Open Palm pendant around Pearl Gonzalez’s neck, my first impulse was to chase her down the hall and immediately ask her about it. But then my zombie self-preservation inner voice said, “Hold up, Lazo! Think this through.”
Okay, I said to myself, let’s be logical. First, either Pearl doesn’t know what the Open Palm pendant means, that it’s related to being a zombie. Or else she does.
So let’s look at the first option. Say she doesn’t know. It may that she just picked up the pendant innocently at some jewelry store and doesn’t know that it’s some kind of symbol or alert to zombies. But I can’t very well ask her.
But if she DOES know what it means, then how does she know? Does she know La Señora Falcón? Could she lead me to her? But then my asking her about it might alert her to the fact that I’m a zombie. I’d be exposed. Vulnerable.
I couldn’t just pretend I hadn’t seen it. This was too important to my identity–something still very much confused. I was very much in need of answers. And I was certain that the pendant, or a least the Open Palm hand symbol, was a key to my identity.
I finally decided the prudent thing to do was wait until the next time I saw her. Whether she was wearing the pendant or not I’d ask her about it. I’d tell her I was interested in getting one for my mom’s birthday. That should get a conversation going and perhaps from her responses I’d get a better sense of how much she did and did not know about the significance of the pendant.
All night long, all I could think about was Pearl and the pendant. By dawn I was determined that I wouldn’t wait to run into her. I’d seek her out the minute I got to school.
I arrived early to my first period class in the Four Hundred Building and waited outside the entrance to room 323. I figured we could talk before class started. But the passing bell sounded and it was time to go inside and still no Pearl. I took my seat and Mr. Hanna started the class by telling us a joke. This was Hanna’s way of warming up the class– a joke a day.
The joke was about a gorilla walking into a bar and asking for a beer.
“So the bartender serves the gorilla the beer,” Mr. Hanna said, “and tells him, that’ll be ten dollars. The Gorilla digs into a waist wallet he is wearing and pulls out a ten dollar bill and hands it to the bartender. The bartender says, “Hey, if you don’t mind my saying so. We don’t get too many gorillas coming into this bar.” The gorilla takes a sip from his beer and says, “At ten dollars a beer, I’m not surprised!”
The class erupted into laughter and just then I saw Pearl enter into the classroom. She went to her seat and smiled and waved to me as she sat down.
She was wearing the Open Palm pendant!
The forty minute class seemed endless! But as soon as the passing bell rang, I jumped up and got to Pearl as she was walking out the classroom door.
“Hi, Pearl!” I said.
“Hey, Lazo. How you doing?”
“Oh, I’m cool. Hey, got a question for you.”
By now we are out in the hallway. I pulled her aside. I figured I’d start off casual, not make to much of the pendant.
“Pearl, that sure is a cool thing you got hanging around your neck.”
She seemed a little taken aback.
“Oh yeah, it was a Christmas gift from my dad.”
“Yeah, pretty cool. It’s an open hand, eh?”
“Yeah,” she smiled “With this crazy little butterfly inside.”
“Right a butterfly.”
There was an awkward moment of silence. Then a strange look came over Pearl face. She looked into my eyes.
“Do you know what time it is?” She asked very pointedly.
“Huh?” I said.
Did this have something to do what Mrs. Falcón had told my mother? It was Mrs. Falcón who had given my mother a carved version of the Open Palm Hand to hang by our door when she had resurrected me from the dead. She had told my mother that I would understand the meaning of the symbol when the time was right.
I could see Pearl was getting a little fidgety. She was waiting for an answer. Was this some kind of code or password situation? Some signal to which I was supposed o respond? I didn’t know what to say.
Suddenly Pearl looked at the clock in the hallway.
“Look it’s almost 9:05. Passing period is almost over. Got to get to my second period class,” she said quickly, “Gotta go Lazo.”
“But wait. That pendant, Do you know where your dad bought it?”
“Not sure,” she called walking away. “I”ll ask him for you.”
I barely made it to my second period class on time–it’s a little hike down to the football field bungalows.
I could hardly focus on my biology teacher Mrs. Hewitt’s lecture on the Mendel and his pea experiments. I was just as confused and ignorant about the pendant and Pearl as I had been yesterday when I first saw the pendant.
I kept going over and over my conversation with Pearl. She had been very deliberate when she had asked me, “Do you know what time it is?” Like she was expecting me to say something special. Like she was waiting for a password or something. What should I have said? Or was I making all of this up? Was it all in my imagination?
I wasn’t until after lunch (I had gobbled my brain tacos in secret under the football bleachers) that it hit me what I had to do.
I had to stop pussy-footing around. I had to get at the bottom of this mystery once and for all.
I tracked Pearl down as she was leaving her last class in the One Hundred Building.
“Pearl, “ I called out.
“Hi, Lazo. What’s up?”
“I know the answer to your question.”
The smile left her face and a very serious look came over her face.
“Yes, I know what time it is.”
“It’s time for the butterfly to take flight.”
Pearl was perfectly still for a long moment. I couldn’t read her face. What was she thinking? Then, a smile slowly spread across her face. She stepped forward and gave me a warm hug. She held me for a long moment. Then she stepped back, shaking her head back and forth to herself. “Oh, Lazo, I knew it! I knew it! You ARE one of us!”
“Us?” My head was reeling. I must be dreaming.
“Lazo, I’m a zombie too!” Pearl said.
Copyright 2012 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.