Susan Smith Nash


She lost her identity, so she had to steal it back.

It happened the same week the crystal skulls at the British Museum were sent to a lab for testing. Someone suspected the real ones had been stolen and replicas put in their place.

That did not help Tinguely Querer.

In the short grass prairie in the high plains north of Amarillo, Texas, she forgot her wallet, her garage door opener, her last paycheck, and her mother's maiden name.

Tinguely was forced to steal back her own identity. In the process, she learned things about herself she never knew. It was a deeply unpleasant experience.


A girl has got to eat, right? Even if she does not officially exist….

The woman at the local Food Court was disorganized. Tinguely noted how dirty the place was. There were flies in the taco salad, chunks of salsa on the greasy stainless steel countertop. Tinguely was offended by the entire scene, and thought of calling the restaurant's headquarters. Every other Food Court she had ever visited was absolutely immaculate.

In contrast, every single Burger Prince she visited in this part of the Texas Panhandle was cramped, dirty, and awkward. Men and women used a single, unisex bathroom. Perhaps it was the norm. The toilets in government buildings in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, came to Tinguely's mind. A porcelain chamber pot was positioned in the center of porous concrete, a water closet with a chain for realizing the water was positioned overhead. Toilet paper was not a consideration. The only positive was that the area for washing one's hands was expansive, with scalding hot water and three or four varieties of soap. Tinguely had no idea why she had that memory.

The tune of "A Horse With No Name" floated through Tinguely's head.

Losing her identity had unintended consequences. She started to forget. The years she had wasted in a loveless marriage began to slip away. No memory, no pain.

The years she had scrambled to create herself as a brand and to "build the brand" were gently erased, blurred, rubbed out.


A deeply tanned man with lean lines and a kind face drove past farmhouses and neatly painted barns. A round Shaker barn caught his eye, and it made him think of the woman he had committed his life, heart, and his "troth" to, just before something inexplicable happened.

He would never forget her. Someday he would find her.


After the action adventure movie featuring a quest for an ancient Mayan crystal skull was released, it was determined without a doubt that the life-sized quartz crystal skulls the British Museum had acquired in 1890 were fakes.

According to legend, and the interpretation of glyphs carved on a light green jade-appearing onyx, the end of the world would occur in the Mayan calendar year of 2012, when all 12 crystal skulls would be placed in alignment with the stars.

No one asked if the jade glyphs might be fake, too.

Someone assumed that the original was a fake. But, then it was clear that the original had been stolen and replaced by fakes.


Tinguely turned on the radio. It was a Sunday evening, and someone speaking in Spanish was explaining that God speaks in parables to mankind. The voice continued in Spanish: "God has knowledge of all things."

Tinguely looked down at her hands and had a sudden craving for a cigarette. Grabbing a pack from a light plum-colored leather pouch, she extracted on, lit it using the cigarette lighter in her car, and rolled down the window. The warm breeze carried the scent of sage and half-remembered rain.

The voice continued: "You have been given a glorious victory so that God may forgive you your past."

The words made her uncomfortable. Reaching to change the channel, and turn off the radio, Tinguely found, to her surprise, that the radio was not actually on at all.

Slowly inhaling and exhaling, the cigarette slowly burned to the end. Reflecting upon the drought conditions, she decided to extinguish the cigarette in the inch of old coffee in the styrofoam McDonald's cup in the mug-holder conveniently located near her right hand. She did not want to inadvertently start a grass fire. The sound of the cigarette sizzling out made her think of the crinkle of impossibly thin paper.


Tinguely's boots were vaguely western, vaguely 60s bohemian hippy. Cowboy, with hand-tooled designs, the boots had a few painted onto the beautifully tanned and buffed leather. Four-leaf clovers were positioned over each toe. She hoped they were making both a fashion and a political statement.

"Luck goes to the lucky," she said to the woman who brought her a few packets of ketchup.

She was in a truck stop off I-40. It was not easy to make her cash last, but she did not know who to call. By this time, all phone numbers, names, and even her own name had slipped away from her.

A slender man approached her. On his face was an expression of recognition and deep joy.

A dozen crystal marbles cascaded from a pocket deep within Tinguely's hobo pouch-styled leather bag. Someone in a call-in talk show was discussing how it did not really matter if the Mayan crystal skulls are originals or replicas – either could just as easily be used in the bringing on of the end of the world.

As the tiny orbs scattered and bounced on the pavement, Tinguely noticed they were not cat-eyes, nor were they perfectly round. Instead, they were the oblate spheroid shape of skulls, or the earth.