This chapter has scarcely been revised at all. I did little more than to move some parenthetical material to the note at the end.
The next day Heyes was happy to get up and go to the clinic, since he knew that he would get to do some real math with Miss Warren that afternoon. He started off the day with a tiring but productive therapy session – working on saying some school terms like book and pen. It felt ludicrously like a return to the first grade, but the thought of the math to come next helped to give him courage to face it.
Right after lunch, Joshua and Miss Warren began their first real session working together. Now he knocked at her door with much a much happier kind of anticipation than he had just the day before. He still felt nervous sitting across from his new tutor, but he it was kind an excited nervous. Miss Warren had already looked through all of the books she had given him to review. She raised her eyebrows at Joshua and asked, "Are you serious with all those check marks?" He nodded casually, ready to move on.
Miss Warren fixed an appraising gaze on her new student, "If you don't mind my asking, Mr. Smith, how old are you?"
Joshua didn't mind answering that question, although he wondered why she asked. He wrote his answer on the pad of paper in front of him and turned it to face his new teacher. Miss Warren wasn't surprised by this number. "32? So it's been, what, 19 or 20 years or more since you saw any of this material?"
Joshua shook his head. He wrote a "12" on the paper and showed it to Miss Warren. He couldn't find the vocabulary to tell her about his friend, well former friend, Robertson, the former teacher who became a gang member. What Robertson had taught him about math had come in incredibly handy in planning jobs. But it had also fascinated Heyes, and that fascination had stayed with him all these years.
"Only twelve years ago?" Joshua nodded. "When you can, please tell me how you wound up studying math when you were 20. I know you weren't in college! But even so, are you seriously telling me you remember all this material? You don't have to be embarrassed at not remembering things from that long ago. If I weren't using the material all the time, I can't imagine that I would be able to retain it. I ask you again, do you really mean all of those checks?"
Joshua nodded emphatically. "Well, alright," said Miss Warren, skeptically. "I just don't understand what a cowboy would use math for, other than maybe figuring up pay or counting cows. How on earth can you remember what you don't use?"
Heyes took a deep breath and concentrated. He managed to say, "I do." He wanted to say "I did use it," but that was beyond what he had re-learned to say yet. Even if he could have, it was not safe to explain how he had used this material anyway. Mathematics had been central to planning jobs for the Devil's Hole gang.
Heyes wrote from memory a fairly complex algebraic equation from the seventh grade book on his pad. He then added a series of solutions for it, and showed it to Miss Warren. She looked at the numbers appraisingly. "That's all quite correct. I guess you really do remember. I'm impressed. I apologize for being skeptical. It's just terribly unusual. If you were an engineer or something like that, I could understand it better."
Heyes took several deep breaths, wanting to somehow communicate to her that he had been much more than a cowboy. Of course, how very much more than a cowboy he had been, he wouldn't have wanted to say. But Heyes’ vocabulary thus far got nowhere near being enough to say what he wanted to say. All he could manage was, "Not . . ." There just wasn't anything that he knew how to say that would fill that gap. He held his head in his hands and then got up and paced the room agitatedly.
Miss Warren just looked away and let him pace. When Heyes came back to the table, he dreaded seeing pity in her eyes, as he had with Julia. But Miss Warren was utterly different. She grinned playfully at him and said, "Alright, are you ready to try it again, Smith? At this stage, I'm afraid you need to give up your dignity for a while and just lean on your sense of humor. Decide the joke's on you for the moment. You'll be able to explain all the great stuff in your head to me later. I'm a patient woman."
Joshua gave his teacher a quick smile and used that vital phrase that he was so glad to have back, "Thank you!"
Miss Warren, delighted to hear her new student speaking more fluently, said, "You're welcome! Obviously, you aren't just the cowboy that everyone around here has decided you are. I'm curious about what you used math for, but I can wait until you have the vocabulary to tell me. That is, if you want to tell me. I'm not here to force you to do anything – only to help you to do what you want to do. You do understand that?"
Heyes nodded and grinned again at his new teacher. This was going to be adult to adult. Heyes was really the one in charge. This was fine with him. He knew what he wanted out of an education and now, after years of waiting, he was in a position to get it. If this worked out the way Heyes hoped, it might almost have been worth getting shot in the head. Not quite, but almost.
The first day, Joshua felt very strange and self-conscious writing out simple problems and solving them in front of a woman whom he quickly realized was highly educated and had a keen intelligence. Trying to demonstrate how easy this early material was for him, Joshua raced along writing his answers. But his writing, never very good, became even more difficult to read when he went too fast. Miss Warren had to ask him to re-write easy equations a couple of times. At last she said, with a stern look, "Stop showing off, Smith! Just do the work." Then with a smile and wink, "We'll get to the fun stuff soon. I know you're smart!"
Joshua grinned and used another of his most useful newly regained words, "Sorry!"
"Don't mention it," Miss Warren replied with sparkling brown eyes. "Get back to work, Mr. Smith!" Heyes had the distinct feeling that his new teacher liked him. That helped to soothe his battered ego. She might not be particularly young or pretty, but she was a woman. And he respected her already.
After a couple of hours, during which they covered several seventh grade mathematical concepts that Heyes found coming back to him easily, Miss Warren correctly judged that even this enthusiastic student was ready for a change. She put a map of the United States on the desk and asked, "Where are you from, Mr. Smith?" The mere question wiped the eager smile off his face and replaced it with a wounded look that caught Miss Warren by surprise. She quickly tried to ease the concern on her own face, knowing that it would only make things worse for her uneasy student.
Joshua pointed at the center of Kansas, trying unsuccessfully not to think about the terrible events that had driven himself and his cousin away from their childhood home forever more than twenty years before. Miss Warren looked searchingly into her student's eyes, trying to figure out what nerve she had struck, but he turned his face away. Most of the men Miss Warren had taught had been eager to communicate about their homes and childhood years. But now she saw that she had to change the subject fast or risk damaging the connection she was building with Joshua Smith. Rather than asking anything, she would share something. She pointed at Maryland and said, "I'm from a little town in Maryland – Bethesda – named after a town in the Bible. It's a pretty little place on a creek just north west of Washington, D.C. I've never been across the Mississippi River, but I so much want to go and see the West. What states have you been in?"
"Wow!" Miss Warren exclaimed. "You sure do get around. You make me feel so provincial. I've heard a lot about the beauties of the West, and seen a few pictures, but I've never gotten there. Have you ever been to the Yellowstone? I saw a beautiful painting of it once in Washington - a really big one that hangs in the Capitol Building."
Joshua nodded. Then he shook his head and smiled, spreading his arms in a wide shrug to indicate that he could never describe the beauties of that incredible place, even with a full vocabulary. But there was something else he wanted to communicate about it and the thought of that painting gave him an idea about how to do it. He took up his pencil and pad. He drew a little stick figure with an out-sized easel and a brush; then he drew another figure next to the first. He pointed to that second figure and then to himself. Miss Warren puzzled for a moment, "That's you with the artist? The man who made the painting of the Yellowstone – I can't recall the name. Are you saying that you met him?" Joshua nodded enthusiastically. "When he was at the Yellowstone?" Joshua nodded and smiled. He wished that he could tell Miss Warren the man's name – it was the famous artist Thomas Moran. Heyes had found him a very nice guy and a wonderful artist, although the way they had met hadn't pleased Moran at all at the time. "Goodness!" Miss Warren was excited. "I'll be glad when you have enough words back to tell me all about your travels." But really, it was just as well that Heyes couldn't tell his teacher more about so many of the things that had taken him all around the West. That was decidedly the Hannibal Heyes outlaw part of his life and that had to stay secret.
When Joshua and Miss Warren finished their lesson, she handed him a text book to look at for homework and stood by the door as he walked down the clinic's long hall toward the stairs. In fact, she stood and watched her new student until he vanished down the stairs. A soft sigh escaped her lips. Miss Warren hadn't realized that Polly the receptionist was standing behind her, watching her watching Joshua. Miss Warren started a bit when her friend came up behind her and asked, "Enjoying the view?"
Miss Warren turned and smiled self-consciously at Polly, "Pardon me if I almost hope this one gets well slowly. He is a lot of fun to work with."
Polly giggled, "To look at, you mean! And he's a charmer, to boot!"
"Is he ever!" Beth Warren admitted, "But he's also incredibly bright. Let me tell you, he's been a whole lot more than a cowboy. He can't tell me about his past yet, of course. But for a man who didn't finish seventh grade, he's a prodigy at math. Dr. Leutze wasn't exaggerating there. There's something else going on, though. Some kind of pain. Not just the kind of loss we see so much. Something awful hurt him when he was a boy in Kansas. I think more than one bad thing happened to him in some other places, too. He's been all over the west. I wonder what he's been running away from."
Polly wasn't giggling now. She sounded unusually thoughtful. "Wounded he might be, but he's still got that charm. Maybe he hasn't just been hurt out west – maybe he's done some hurting, too. Watch out!"
*An historical note: Indian Territory is now Oklahoma and No Man's Land was then the name for the Oklahoma Panhandle.