There are certain men who women find irretrievable,
gone over into a kind of nightmare.
They know what being crushed is.
They’ve drunk too much coffee.
Circumcised, shaking in too many meaningless ceremonies,
excruciating their pain, driving them endlessly bending from self-love;
they have withdrawn to correct it.
They are made of feathers, children’s voices,
and the sound of difficult breathing.
They sit listening to each of the lights:
the kings and queens who drift past cities,
the saints who bleed above uncharted seas.
At times these men and women slip into the warrior show.
They catch fire.
The survivors of this bizarre attachment become even quieter
like wind rippling light.
They bathe in a true picture of their condition.
They hide their fire, solidly enclosed, a sweet science.
That "which would free the individual from the alienation
That tortures the self and makes of freedom a mockery."<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
I have been held in this Mediterranean
fortress for the last eleven years. My
apartment is appointed with paintings of the local terrain—all hillsides and
empty beach scenes. I can't tell where I
am. I have forgotten something vital to
European security and my jailers and I have been attempting to find what I have
lost. A nuclear device is buried
I was an undercover agent working with the
DIA when an explosion in
For the last eleven years I have been given drugs, watched endless film and video; my jailers even gave me a girlfriend. I've read and re-read my diaries. All the research, all the prodding, and I don't know who I am. I can't imagine being the person they say I was. Tonight my jailers throw a farewell party for me.
I read the last entry in my diary: "Feb. 18: People are mad. Each believes in their own fantasy. Sanity is for those who see this—the way it is: writhing and terrifying. People are mad for they remain oblivious to the power of the unconscious. I think people have always been afraid of me." When I was a child I would tell adults, "It's all in your mind." I infuriated them.
"You know nothing about it." "Wait till you grow-up," they would say. Now here I am. My freedom is all in my mind and I can't find it.
The very last note in the diary (the morning before the CIA attack) reads: "Large spirits tend toward domination. For those spirits to become great they must refine themselves and their desires. Concentration and restraint are the watchwords of dominating spirits." What could I have been thinking?
Roger, one of my guards, comes in. He stands inside my door looking like the languid Christ he is.
"Anything?" He asks plaintively.
"You know me. I gave up a long time ago. I can't live my life for them." His long face leans toward me.
"A lucky guess could postpone the party."
"Ah, I had not thought of that. Would you mind not disturbing me until perhaps a pot of coffee at four?"
"Okay Einstein," he says politely and retreats.
parents had been notified years ago of my MIA status.
why can't I see you?
I hold my head in my hands. I moan and bemoan my condition. I decide to write down and record everything I do remember. These thoughts, at least, may give me a clue as to who I was: what I am.
Saturday - Christine climbs down the steps to her garden and unravels like a snake. I can see her lashes closing down over her dark green eyes. I stand in front of her while she undresses, unbuttoning her pants, letting the blue denims slide down her legs to the dirt floor. I kneel and grasp her ankles as she struggles to lift her slender feet. My hands travel to the waistband of her butterfly patterned underwear, and I slide them down her coltlike legs. Lying down in one another, we are surrounded by a large wooden fence. "Become gentler," I can remember her saying on one particular brutal afternoon. And yet, I will nibble on her flowers, undisturbed, for an hour or so.
I love watching her masturbate. Suppressing cries, rolling over on her stomach, with her right hand she'll touch her buttocks. Turning to me and letting her tongue slip out to caress her painted lips, she'll moan quietly and say, "Fuck me good."
I enter her house. She has her childlike drawings and bulletins of the latest events taped to the walls. "Christine," I say, "are you home?" I can hear the shower. I walk down the hall and open the bathroom door. She is bending over, a full moon. A white terry cloth lies on the tile floor.
"Am I disturbing you?" I ask.
"Not at all," she says, "I was hoping you'd come back."
Her face is between her legs. Her body is tan and blonde. My cock is aching to break out of its skin.
"Take off your clothes and come on in," she says, "the water's warm."
"Did you plan this?" I say.
"Don't be stupid. C'mon, I'm not going to stay here all day."
She lifts her head up and turns to me, and puts her hands on the porcelain tub.
My clothes are off and I'm coming toward her, brushing her erect nipples, kissing her neck, easing my way into her. Our movement is slow and circular. The steam from the shower creates a sauna. She keeps looking over her shoulder. With a net I'm chasing her, driving her, across a rain soaked field. I think I might never catch her. I'm right.
Sunday - I call her. I thought I had been dialing Bishop, my psychiatrist. She says that what she was doing was trusting; she was trying to trust. That I should look at it that way, too. I tell her I love her. She says I don't like her tender, soft parts. I say that isn't true. She says, "You don't like the cracked part, that's the tender part. It's the same thing." My god, are we crazy!
I have to reply. I say, "I thought you said you didn't want to lose me?"
She says, "I meant that."
Then she starts to cry. She says she is sick, and she has too much work to do. She is crying when she hangs up.
I quickly dress and drive to her place feeling yes, I can see her again, and offer my help: rub her back, make tea (but she drinks coffee in the morning), buy her groceries, fix the bathtub handle (for the hot water).
When I arrive, I park at the top of the hill; there is a parking spot in front of her house. I look up at her window. There is a tall, young man, with black hair, sitting in the living room. I watch him for a minute, shrug my shoulders, and leave.
Sunday afternoon - This is my chance. My chance to prove how much I love her; cracked tenderness, romantic clown, sheer energy, that she is. I must hold fast and be calm.
I walk the three levels of my house, through the
terraced garden of rose bushes, and a wild backyard, around the orange and the
lemon trees near the mint growing in the corners. There is a panoramic view, from the living
room, of the
That jeep is ours. She's driving. I'm sitting next to her. We've returned to the desert in search of food, she and I.
Monday afternoon - Bishop is tall, blonde, with the battered, mashed-in face of an alcoholic; his eyes are bright diamonds, a cocaine blue. How innocent it sounds. What emotional junkies we are.
I like talking with him because he sympathizes with me, but he doesn't believe me. He knows or thinks he knows that I'm suffering from some egotism, a delusion; he thinks I really don't understand reality, the reality of human life, and so, I can't love. He doesn't understand that I'm being controlled by something other than myself, some force that is making a farce out of my existence. I keep monitoring my thoughts, sifting through, looking for the image, but I know when it comes. I can feel it.
I enter his office - stereotypical. He looks like he's sorry for me. I feel great. He says you look like you should be leading a Russian circus with Russian bears following you.
"The Christians and the scientists are dead," I say. He likes that. It's safe ground. I show him the letter I received this morning.
Dear Bill -
I am sorry for the negative things I said to you. It takes away from all the nice and special things that happened to us, with us, for us. It is not so much that something was wrong between us, not looking for something else, but open to it if it happened, I guess. Somehow I felt that what you wanted was a playmate and I was that. It never occurred to me that you were looking for a more permanent kind of relationship. You told me that you didn't want to live with anyone until you had a lot of money, and then you wanted children, etc. I knew I couldn't be the person you would want. If things weren't exactly what I wanted, I didn't worry about it. If I was sad, I wrote notes which I never sent, because I didn't think that's what "we" were all about. Looking back at it, I feel like I gave you my best love and attention and let you know me. That I didn't do what you wanted, I am sorry - but we hadn't made that kind of commitment - we had never even mentioned living together. Even now, I don't think you would want to be saddled with that kind of responsibility.
The qualities you admired in me at the start now make you angry. I can't be made to feel guilty and hurt because I didn't do what I didn't even know you wanted. I must feel free to do what I feel is best. But I am responsible to you - if you want to talk to me I will be available, without fear. I had hoped we could be friends, work together and whatever happened. I understand your hurt and I am sorry. I cared and still care very much for you and I know that you know that.
Right now I don't have anymore to add to the above and preceding except that it was good talking to you yesterday and I still mean it about talking more if you want to.
I don't want to sever all connections with you - but I do feel that I need to find out what the other thing is all about.
And I want to send you this book since I finally found it. And I'm glad that you brought the Tomato Soup writings back.
The Tomato Soup writings are her diary, which she had given me a few weeks before. I had been tempted to keep them. The book is Malamud's The Natural.
"There it is," he says, "it's all verbalized. Do you accept that?"
I nod my head and watch his eyes, very blue. Inside there, it looks like someone's lost at sea.
He says, "Have you seen your wife?"
"No," I say. I pause.
He looks at me. He must think I'm a fool to think I'd tell him the truth.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" I ask.
Without blinking an eye, but slouching, he says, "Trying to understand you."
"Fuck off," I say, and, once again, leave. He expects it. He just says, "See you later."
There are greater, less explored realities. Psychiatry has had its two deep sea divers. The rest, and all the divergent movements, are pale imitations, piranhas living off the Freud-Jung creation. For the past twenty years, the great field has been extrasensory, human telepathy, interstellar communication, Chardin's Alpha & Omega, the revealing common unconsciousness: In short, Jung's world.
There is an obsession in our culture with drugs, with books that speak of life after death. People die knowing these things. They spill their blood to the Greater Truth, for it is the only sacrifice the God will accept: the complete transformation of human reality. To go beyond this narrow plain of war and religion.
Bishop is a fool, but I will continue to work on him until he breaks through the mask. Someone says calm down. How can I? It's an exquisite, heartbreaking afternoon. The sounds on the street, the car horns, the whistling of children, birds, the large dog barking, its mouth agape: an orchestrated symphony of domesticity...a pleasure to listen to from a distance.
My concern is for the lower vibrations. I must keep myself in tune to the humming that one cannot hear, to the invisible engine that one knows is there.
Does Bishop realize that what he thinks and feels is the community, the intermingling emotions of what his group is thinking? The feeling of the forest is coming from the forest, from the inhabitants of that mind.
Tuesday morning - Sometimes, it's difficult to get moving in the morning. I like to lie around, in the early winds, catching those slow, cold explosions from the approaching sun. I like to stand on the stairs above the garden, especially after a rain, and let all the fragrance seep into my body. It's a sexual fatigue the plants and trees feel after a strong rain.
I've got my light blue jeans, maroon sweater, and
not quite matching levi jacket on. I'm
wearing buckle-over dress shoes, and a Russian hat. Liz, the blonde, hook-nosed bartender, from a
bar I frequent, the
"Wait a minute," I say.
"Oh no," she says, bending and giving me a kiss. "I'll see you later."
"All right. Bye."
I watch her walk up the stone stairs. She has trouble closing the gate, but she finally does, and leaves.
Rain clouds have appeared. I have to take the eggs and coffee inside. Someone has come and is standing near the orange tree. I can't make out the form. It's trying to say something. "You are loved by her. You must act on it." Slowly, it vanishes. Patience, somehow patience was what this was all about.
Tuesday night - Life in the city, the bee into the various beehives. The hummingbird in the garden of delights. The smoke, the ground haze that surrounds us. The drugged beauty. The dance of changing partners, and the constant money exchange for services rendered. Sleep in the city is fitful without sex. If not sex, certainly alcohol. The tensions are too continuous. There is no rest, no peace in the city.
I hear the grove of eucalyptus being rustled by the wind. I've always heard it, and the sound and sight transfixes me. It's as if I made the sound, when I was born, and will make it, again, when I die. A creaking. In and out. An almost leathery sensuality. A gentle passing, like the sound of ice melting.
I see Christine tonight. I feel there was hope for us. We talk, turning in the bed, aching. All night long, holding each other. I can't fuck her. She can't let me back in. "Remember," she says, "you feel right." She nods her head. Indicating she still feels that way? I tell her I’ll wait one month before leaving. I want to live with her. Have us become successful. Business, lovewise. Gently understanding the feelings. In response, I write her this letter: "Even now you don't think I want to be saddled with the responsibilities. Are we joyous people? Do we believe in love and experience, work and the healing of wounds (old wounds)? Of course, we do, of course, we are. If only I could have pulled off the road, and spoken to myself about the depth of my feeling, about my desire. If only I could have spoken to myself and resolved the conflict." I think she says she hates me and she loves me. I arouse all those feelings. Basically, she doesn't like me. So what am I to make of that? I continue. The car is burning; I have to jump out. My feelings unwind slowly. I wake up to myself. I have lost (for the moment); I went to the station, but the train had left. I look at it go away. I run after it; I run. I restart the engine. I love you. I wait for you. For the train that you are on. Return. But I'm in the past, aren't I? I have become another memory, almost a fantasy.
Wednesday morning - It's curious how weird I can become. People begin moving across the veranda. There's no end to them. Their faces are smiling; they all believe and are attached to God. They have a general, and he mutters something about stopping, and, as one, they halt the march. They break their lines and stretch out. A few lie on their backs to catch the morning sun; others sit in circles and talk. The general looks off into the distance. His wife has sent him a nagging letter. She says he's been away too long. Goddamn woman, he thinks to himself. This journey may be a delusion, but I must do it. "Do it, do it," the general says, hardly visible, staring madly out of the shadows. The creatures, hearing him, stand and walk back into line, leaving the sun and their circles. Why is he so obsessed? Why are they so obedient?
No one wants to buy the ping pong table, but I have sold the pool table, my car, metal desk and filing cabinet. The fuse has been lit. I'm leaving this shattered kingdom. To Bishop, I have given my papers. To my wife, Barbara, my appreciation and respect. I don't want to think about Christine: smiling, frowning, waiting, serious, businesslike, expectant, gone from my life, a kind of poetry, a delicate strength, a projection of my feelings. I feel there is more to say about this.
I am moving because I do not want to repeat the same cycle. I am hungry. I do not want to become an old cigar, or plain brown shoes. I'm diverging. Like a falcon, I must circle closer to the quarry.
Wednesday morning - Stars are roots. I replay one of our sex scenes; She moves into my bedroom and strips, removing her shoes, and then her pants.
"I'm here," she says.
Startled, I turn to her pretty legs.
She says, "I'm here to get fucked."
Now, she could say it, a stroke of independence. She says it again, "I'm here to get fucked."
"All right, I will."
I walk nakedly with a stiff hard-on pulling me along.
She drops to the floor.
"I hope this satisfies you," she says, tilting her head back. "Does it?" I slip her panties off, and kneel with her. Separating her, I unravel her.
"Oh, Bill," she says.
"I miss you," I whisper.
Wrapping her legs around me, she says, "I know."
Wednesday afternoon - I walk to the road above my house. I'm not really possessive. I just want to make sure, when I lose something, that I haven't been ripped off. Drifting, from moment to moment, without checking and balancing, is an escape from the depth.
For instance, the man I call my old man was given a blueprint of his contract, yet, chose not to believe it. He told me the story, at least twenty times.
They had been on their second honeymoon, a winter
Sometimes I feel like telling him that the man in the trap is him, his contract, but I think it would break his heart. In a lot of ways he's innocent, well protected, a good sport.
There is a wild bed of roses growing on top of the hill. I am not in tune. As I look upon it, I become aware of the struggle. Inside, there is a world. So, there is a world outside. They are not in tune. I've stopped thinking. I know because there is a creek that runs alongside the road, and now I can hear its glib gliding sounds.
It's true, though. From each of these confrontations, the tree that is me grows a little more, the soil becomes enriched by the psychic blood that flows through the trunk and into the roots. The blood is like paint and winds its way through the trunk and into the roots. The paint winds its way into a discernible form, a painting which vibrates and sends out messages. The picture is called Tenderness. I will not hide from my tenderness.
I call Bishop.
He says that I've been in this lush, vibrating
The happiness I feel at this moment is the result of a small glass of beer. My father sits across from me on his yellow recliner. We are surrounded by sun. The magnolias turn.
He nods. "Where are you going now?"
"I think I'd like to drive a cab, or maybe I'll get back into commercials but I won't be able to do that stuff for about a month. Can you loan me $500 until I get going?"
"I don't know. How much do you owe me now?"
"If you want to know the truth, Bill, I think you're wasting your life."
I stand. The old man tries to look tough, but age has softened his face leaving his brown eyes tender and domesticated.
"You think I could have been a pro, eh?"
Wistfully, he says, "Everyone thought so. You were the best end in the country, Bill."
"It was your dream," I say, "not mine."
He doesn't like that.
"It just shows how irresponsible you are."
I smile. "Right."
I can see him over sixteen years ago, on a cold evening, bowing down in his bedroom, and saying a "Hail Mary" for the team. Then, he rose from his knees to climb the stairs and knock on my bedroom door. "Come in."
"Would you like to share a brandy with me?" he asked shyly.
"I'd love to," came my voice from the other side. "I'll be there in five minutes."
"Fine. I'll see you downstairs."
Carefully, he closed the door.
His brandy was excellent. He boasted it was his only drinking
weakness. Above the television, in a
I accepted the snifter. He sat across from me, in a chair, and sipped the deep amber colored wine. I can remember I felt like telling him that this was all a joke, that he shouldn't take it so seriously but I knew he'd think I'd gone completely crazy.
"I know what you're thinking," I said.
The old man moved forward. "What?"
"You're worried about the game. You're wondering what happened, aren't you?"
"That's what's been on my mind, yes."
"All right. Let me tell ya. I was tense. It's true. I, also, felt disoriented. Now, what blows my mind is your taking one lousy performance so seriously. I'm fine. The team's fine. We had a let down. We don't feel good about it. But it happened. We don't think it will happen again."
"I think it will."
"I can't say, this is a delicate subject. You're a football player, maybe, a great one. You should just stick with it. You know?"
"I know what you mean."
"You know...good. There's plenty of time for women. You've got to stick with it."
"That's up to me, I think."
The old man nodded his head. "Alright." He raised up. The brandy glass in hand, a red Pendleton on his back, he turned to the fireplace.
"You know, I love you," he said. "I want the best for you." Against the fire he, looked like a monk.
I looked clearly at the brandy, at its silken texture. I touched it, raised it to my lips. I looked up. "I love you, too," I said.
I felt the old man was crying. "What's really wrong?" I asked him.
He kept his face from me.
"I don't know."
I watched the left side of him. He looked bloated.
I left the brandy on the table and came up to him. I touched him on the shoulder and said, "I love you."
He said, "Go on."
I turned and left the room, flickering a deep orange and red.
"C'mon," I say, "I'm hurting; I need your help. Goddamit!"
"I've got room for a truck driver. You can have the job.
"I can't work with you."
I feel like we're aching there in the sunlight, linked like two dogs in heat, needing someone to throw water on us.
"You're a fool," I say.
He peers up from beneath his baseball cap. As I pass by, he stares at me. He says, "Don't hurt yourself, Bill."
After quitting football, I got up to 320
pounds. It took three years. I hitchhiked down to a fat farm in
There's nothing I can do to prevent all this from happening. Nor do I have any desire to. I am receiving pictures from the past, or the future, and occasionally, I can feel, but not see, all the steps in the movement, all the moves in this chess game have been played out. I am a hunter who looks for an opening, a clearing, a clarification of will, a demonstration of clairvoyance. A madness is growing in me.
On top of Russian Hill, a fire is blazing. Sirens arch through the city heading for what
I have been there before. The last time I was unsuccessful. This time I will complete the process. I have the feeling I created this situation and have done it many times. Each time failing to complete it. This time I know I will not fail.
What is the purpose of it all? Wouldn't you like to live and let live, to build on the old, create from the new, survive and raise your young? If so, it is within your grasp by disarming and learning to share. Too simplistic.
The fact is that is not what you want. People the world of your imagination, with your desires, crown it with your dreams, and the phantasmagoria that arises would put any single genius' portrait of hell to shame. The true picture of man is in Sappho, Aeschylus, Bacon, Balzac and Melville. Obsessed with power, a gabby mouth, a desire for salvation, a cunning unmatched in creation, he walks about glum or smiling, repeating old worn out phrases, which he knows will enable him to pass by unnoticed, and undisturbed.
I might have a drinking problem. I should go to Triple A and get towed away. I close my eyes, and picture the painting, Yradsgil, A Tree of Life. It's a masterpiece of light greens, whites, browns, and greys. The tree is the center. There is an unmistakable fish in the left hand corner. The rest is shapes and half-forms, a Rorschach. It hangs in my wife's living room. I see a white tiger hurling itself through the upper branches. In the upper left, looking toward the nearest frame, a sea horse, and to the right, four legs tucked under him, sitting on a branch, a smiling ram. Above the ram, a strange creature with a large moose's face, but without the antlers or hair, and with a patch over one eye, and a long, flaccid penis lying on its back. I think it is somehow connected with scholarly work and manipulative desires. At the roots of the tree, above the fish, is a football, and a host of half-creatures in the process of being born.
At the top of
At the end of
I've calmed down enough to smoke. I light it in the wind. In a '56 Chevy, two white kids in their late teens pull up alongside me. I'm sober enough to sense trouble. I look over at them, and unzip my coat. They're "good times" kids, punks riding the 50s crest of nostalgia and aggression. I want them to know I'm no one to fuck with. The one driving, a younger version of the "Fonz," rolls down his window and says, "Eh, man, you got a match?" I look at him. He doesn't seem too frightened. His buddy raises a can of Coors.
With the left hand I scratch my beard. "No, I ain't got no light," I say. "Sorry."
The driver nods and rolls his window up. I don't want to turn my back on them, and I know they're not going away. I begin walking backwards. I'm tempted to blow their tires apart. The passenger opens his door, stands up and walks to the back of the car.
"Hey," he yells, "you got a couple of dollars we can borrow? We're almost out of gas."
That does it. I take the .32 out and point it at him.
He panics. "Wait a minute," he says.
"Tell your friend to get out of that fucking
car." The young "Fonz"
ducks. I can't do it. I fire two shots into the air. The passenger falls behind the fender, and I
run for the hill adjacent to the
I watch them take off. From where I am, it looks like they'll go off the road, but they make it down. I wonder if they'll head for a bar, or go home.
I feel trapped, but safe. This has suddenly become my territory. "Who’s next?" I yell to the pastel rows, the jigsaw puzzle of cheap Mediterranean style housing.
I look out over the water. It has become dark. Slowly, I climb down the mountain. At the
From a hill above her house, I watch her in a chair reading. I don't think anyone else is there. I climb over the back fence. Standing on top of her stairs, I look down on her garden. She is growing greens, mints and lettuce, amid the flowers. A bust of a woman with a Harpo Marx wig sits near the bottom of the door. It is locked, but the window opens easily.
What does it matter that she has redecorated her kitchen, or what book she is reading. I unzip the jacket and place it cautiously around the arms of a chair. When I walk into the living room, she looks up from the book and doesn't bat an eye. She doesn't register fear or surprise as I point the .32 at her.
She sits in the chair with a yellow bandanna around her neck, wearing a black and white cowboy shirt, and a pair of Levi’s. No shoes. Her legs are tucked underneath her. There are three neatly rolled joints on the table at the base of her lamp. Vibrating, in back of her, the diamond lights of the city look like so many stars.
"T'ai," she says, "fast and clear as a mountain stream. You know, I was just thinking about you when you walked in. Put that gun down and come over here and kiss me."
"Dearest Marilyn, I can see you walking in the fresh morning grass. With your right foot you'll find a small rock; your toes will curve around it; to lift it and fling it into a blackberry bush.
I cannot hide from my sorrow. I am bound on all sides by this past winter's
snow. The patterns and traps of
I loved your sun, your water, your tent, your dreams; why haven't I returned sooner? My hands go up; I got lost in a whirlpool, without a memory, in a fantastic country of my own making.
But finally, out of necessity, I am planning my trip back to you. I am leaving tomorrow. I want to talk with you, see you, kiss you. I think if only I can let myself into the warm folds of your country, again, I'll be safe.
“I'll be arriving on the 22nd, 7:00 o'clock -
She folded the letter and slipped it into her back pocket. She sat in the grass, drawing her legs toward her, tilting her head toward the light.
The note of desperation puzzled her. Six months ago an article in Newsweek hailed him as one of the country's leading therapists. Newsweek had spoken of him as a realist, a man in touch with practical solutions. There was a hint, in the article, of Joseph's political ambitions which she found alien to her knowledge of him. Possibly that, the political pressure, plagued him. She jumped the two feet into the shallow brown water and began walking toward the road.
Like a bird arranges and rearranges its feathers after a rain, her feelings and thought reconstructed themselves. His power to make her believe in what he said, to feel for him, attested to her affection. Watching the light play in the trees, she knew that was what she liked. Little black Joseph, gentle and strong, placing himself in her so she could not forget.
Once she had described a place, a jar that someone had given her. She said she lived in the jar. On one level were flowers, another pots and pans. She lived at the bottom of the jar on a floor coated with raspberry jam.
"My God," he exclaimed, "do you really?"
She said, "Yes," her soft brown eyes laughing.
"Don't you feel trapped in that jar?"
"I feel secure."
He had nodded.
The sweet smell of cherry blossoms brought her back. Sliding over rocks she felt the snakelike turns of the creek. She moved onto the grassy bank.
Across the Bay, in Japantown, the streets were lined with the signs of festival. Lights, plastic flowers, parades, and demonstrations of ability exploded into sight. In the spirit of the season she turned her body into a tent, an old Japanese custom.
If one could appreciate the little things in life, the grains of soil at the bottom of the grass, strife and conflict would evaporate. To become absorbed by life was its secret. Her one great enemy was this dream she had about thinking there was an end to her flight for survival.
To her right she noticed a bluejay landing on a small eucalyptus. It frightened all the smaller birds from their perches. He, or maybe it was a she, looked at her. "You're a bad bird," she said. She scowled at him. Unmoving, it stared back.
She moved toward the road. It cut her property in half. There were no cars in sight. Quickly, she ran across the old stone bridge, then into a small meadow of poppies to reach the front door of her house.
She stood in the doorway staring at the piece of paper tacked to the wall years before. She was naked, the beads of water drying, being absorbed by her skin. "If you are to live, you must fight, gently, quietly. Against you are all the enemies of the past. You must always go forward." Her first husband had written it six days before his plane crashed.
She turned to look through the bay window at the hills and admired the red texture of its soil, the clay and grass surrounding it. She noticed two figures, people scrambling on all fours up the side of it. The sight gave her a warm feeling, as if she had created the hill and placed the people on it. She knew there had been a time when she had first come out of herself, when she wasn't sure. After his death it seemed quite plausible to her that she was the Creator. Now, she only flirted with the feeling.
Joseph turned the tape recorder on.
He heard himself say: "I'm going to give you one chance to redeem yourself, one opportunity to show me that you are alive. What is this?"
A boy's voice, a high tenor, replied: "A knife."
"What do you propose to do with it?"
"Against the wall."
"That's a good suggestion. Do you think you can make it stick?"
"I don't know. I've never thrown a knife before."
"You're lying. I want you to throw it. But I also want you to make it stick."
"Is it okay if I throw it at your head? I think I can make it stick."
A robust, incredibly intelligent ten year old, his orange hair and blue eyes were running, churning somewhere outside of him. Joseph shook his head. In a way they were both walking across the same street, a long nightmare stretch of white and blue, the absence of darkness, the heat of a thousand dreams.
He pushed the button down. "The child must be given every opportunity to channel his aggression." He shut it off and lay back against his seat. Looking out the window he saw himself in the glass. There was no joy there. His face had been scarred and stretched by the American changes of weather.
So many changes of clothes. So many disguises. Was nothing real? For what? Now, I am another illusion, he thought, being chased by the sky. The making of another memory...
At 7, the train pulled into
He hung his head, smiled. She was probably right, it would have...
Six years ago in
On the bus it was a good night, clear and
bejeweled with the lights from the Casino, yacht harbor and two bridges. A former maximum security prison had been
transformed into a gambling casino, a sign of the times. The hills of Marin stood overlooking the bay
like prehistoric monuments, gentled and quieted. The mystery of this region remained in
E. M. Ciroan had said, An Age of Self-Pity. The people had lost their sense of humor. The time that had spawned a Cioran (who had understood the peoples' powerful and sometimes subtle rush to destruction) did no more than count the splinters from the wreckage. Did Newsweek understand how conspiratorial his methods were? How he wished to overturn the American system?
The bus floated down the
Outside, three cabs leaned against the curb. Petaca walked. He knocked on the first cab's window. The driver, a small long-haired, white man of about twenty-seven rolled down the window.
"Can you take me to Marin?" Petaca asked.
"I sure can," the driver said.
They turned left on Pine and down to
They were flying down the
"Can we turn off at
"Maybe you should turn on that radio."
"It's not necessary," said the driver, "unless you really want to hear it."
"No, that's all right."
"I envy these people," the driver said.
Petaca nodded, "They in turn envy something else."
The driver looked in the rear-view mirror. "What do they envy?"
"A vacation in
"I'd like to blow a few of their heads off."
"You ought to spend more time out here," Petaca said.
"Not a bad idea," said the driver, rolling down the front window.
"With the trees and flower bushes, and horse trails," Petaca said, "this is another country, a dreamland. That's what you're envious about." The driver snorted.
"This is our version of
In front of a large yellow mansion set far back from the road, they stopped. Petaca gave him fifty, thanked him for the ride and stepped out. He was caught in the magic of the place. The fragrance was alarming. After a moment his breathing returned to normal.
Jack Monday, prematurely grey, former head of ITT, sat at the top of his stainless steel desk reading the speech that had galvanized the country three years ago. Cocaine dripped like honey into his throat. A ping pong table occupied the middle of the room, paddles lay on each side of the net. The sight of it, through the green netting, momentarily took his mind off the speech. He adjusted his glasses and turned back to the sheets of onion skin, his eyes skimming over the rocklike surface of words. "I believe in repression as a means of managing human life," a gruff statement, fascistic. But then he lightened up. "The rules of the game I intend to play are governed..." His mime, dressed in jogging clothes, stood watching him from the end of the room. She smiled. He spoke aloud, "...by the extent to which I am able to compress this fever we have been gripped by these last twenty years. We have lost faith in ourselves, as watchers, gaugers of our own spirit. Our way of life has been distorted by rising prices, shabby goods, a loss of value. As a nation, we act as if we no longer know what any given thing means: a kiss, an apple, a job well done.”
"We must repress our desires and begin to look more clearly at the things that surround us, at ourselves and our country, our friends. We must kick the money habit and focus our attentions on the qualities of the goods we produce. We are still the richest, most fallow nation on earth...etc...etc."
He threw his hand away. "I want to talk to Barber."
She arched her eyebrows and lifted her paddle. She squeezed the ball between her index fingers and tossed it in the air.
"Now," he bellowed, "I'm in trouble."
She turned, paddle and ball in hand and, military-style, marched from the room.
Barber headed what was fondly known as the Bloodsucker's Division, a political surveillance wing, whose job it was to key into anyone who was becoming politically active, find out who they were and what, if anything, they were capable of.
The Barber maintained a thick head of brown hair with short, well clipped sideburns; the cut exposed the trombone shape of his ears. His eyes like a boa constrictor's riveted the watcher to a stop. His cheeks were slightly puffed, mouth hard and turned up at the edges. The face of a cowboy. He never spoke of his business. Indeed, through two Presidents he had never been called upon to divulge his information.
He held a pen in his left hand as a pool player would hold a cue stick, first finger pressed gently over the thumb. He looked down at the photo of Joseph Petaca. He met Petaca's large, spidery eyes. There was intelligence, compassion, a normal sense of calculation there. The light flashed above his door. He picked up the receiver. It was Monday's secretary.
The appropriate buttons pushed, Barber was now on the line with Monday. In response to Monday's order, Barber said, "If he's as politically disruptive as you think, why not charge him with a crime and let the publicity do the rest?"
"He's committed no crimes, and besides, I don't want to take a chance on making a martyr out of him. Do you have any other suggestions?"
"Then do it."
Barber hung up a moment after Monday. He called his secretary. "Gimme Karl Marsh," he yelled.
Marsh was in
Hoop acted as if Marsh was one of the most fortunate of human beings. He didn't talk about what a great product he had.
"Knowledge was what we were both after," he said. He wanted to know where Marsh had heard about it.
"From a friend."
"What friend?" He stopped, not wanting to be too serious. "I'm just curious."
He couldn't have been more than thirty years old, yet his hair was white.
"A friend of my father's," Marsh said. "He's a man interested in news; he keeps his ear to the ground."
"What did he tell you about it?"
"He told me it was something that would be good for the government."
"I think he was quite right. If he was speaking religiously. I think it could revolutionize our world, if handled properly."
"What do you mean?" Marsh asked.
"You'll see, Karl. The bottle's finished."
They passed the waiting customers and out the swinging doors.
"You know, you look different," Hoop said.
"What do you mean?"
"I think we knew each other a long time ago Karl. But you don't remember, do you?"
Marsh looked puzzled. "No. When did we know each other?"
They moved quickly into his car, a '69 grey
Ferrari. The drive out of the financial
district and up the long, high
He responded as they approached the bridge, "The gestalt of the robotic culture, twenty channels are better than one."
Marsh said, "I didn't understand any of what we had listened to."
Hoop shifted into low gear, easing the grey machine through the passageway.
"Good for you," he said, almost yelling, and roared onto the bridge.
This manic, self-absorbed creature was not the human being Marsh had been talking to in the restaurant.
"What's your real name?" Marsh asked.
"My real name," and he turned to him, "is Geoffrey Hoop. What's the matter, Marsh, am I scaring you?"
"Machines scare me," he said. "I don't understand them."
"Would you open the glove box, Karl, and get my glasses? The sun should be here in Marin."
Marsh reached into the box and picked out a typical pair of aviator shades. He handed them to Hoop and asked, "Are you on this chemical now?"
"Once you've been on it," he offered "you're never off it. Right now, see if you can enjoy going down this hill."
Marin stretched out before them, an exquisite water-filled land of rolling hills and boats in harbor. The Ferrari roared wiping out the curves.
They pulled into a gravel driveway. In front of them was a rustic, two-story, on stilts. It overlooked the Tiburon lagoon.
"The chemical was imported from the Amazon. They had a distilling process which turned the plant into an easily transportable liquid, a gallon of which would sell for $100,000. A lifetime supply," Hoop said, "for one thousand people. As necessary as water. A drop is too much. Lightly wet your finger, that's all that's necessary."
"What is it?"
"Come inside. I'll give you a glass of white wine."
They moved through the spacious house and out to the back porch.
"I put some in your drink. Here. Actually," he said, rolling his eyes, "you are about to learn to fly, Karl."
Marsh sat down. Hoop moved to the railings of the porch.
"That water is sacred."
Marsh nodded his head.
"You know, some day I think I'm going to go for a long swim in that water."
Marsh wanted to say, 'this is a nice house you have.' As he began bringing the words up, he felt his heart enlarge. He could barely breathe. He wanted to call out to Hoop to tell him he was in trouble. He made an effort to get his attention but Hoop looked out to where a light breeze had appeared, rippling across the surface of the water.
Marsh released himself; a bubble burst. The cords and muscles in his body vibrated like birdsongs. The sun felt like a shower of pure mountain water. Hoop turned. Marsh took him in. Hoop raised his upper lip and tilted his bead back eyeing him. Marsh felt a warmth, an ease in the other's manner. It was funny because Hoop looked grotesque. Marsh remembered where he had seen Hoop's face - he was the spitting image of the old archeologist priest, Teihard de Chardin. His nose was not as hawklike, his eyes not as piercing, but he looked like that man.
"Do you wanna try and stand?"
"I'm just beginning to talk," he said, "but feeling better about it. I feel like a plant...sprung from the wood."
Hoop smiled, "Well, I'm gonna have another drink." He started to move into the living room. Marsh began to laugh.
"Yes, I...maybe I'd like one, too," he said.
"What do you want?"
"I don't know, something..."
"How about Bull's Blood?"
"It's a Hungarian wine."
He had never felt so rooted. A benign monster had been released from him and now it sat in the sunlight. He could see why the officials were interested in it, the sensation of raw power created a feeling of self-confidence. Happily, he sat sipping the Bull's Blood, enjoying the weather.
"C'mon, you have to stand up, Karl."
"I don't want to."
"C'mon, I'll help you."
Hoop took his hands and helped him to his feet. Marsh felt a rush of blood, his head a bloody flower.
"I'm a thousand and fifty years old," Hoop said. They were standing.
"What's your real name?"
"You've already asked me that."
Marsh was not actually interested. He wondered what would happen after Hoop was busted. Would he tell the government about his age, the Amazon, all the rest.
They passed blackberry bushes and stunted trees.
Marsh felt sorrow for all their branches, reaching out, extending hopelessly. The bushes entangled in one another. Like us, he thought, they are trapped in a density of their own making.
Suddenly, they were standing at the water, the lifegiver. Marsh's face shone above it, a bland, calm, clean-shaven face of no distinction.
Karl said, "Do you see that?"
Hoop said, "Yes, you're beautiful."
Marsh laughed, "How can I be beautiful? I am dull and flat." White fire crackled all around them.
"Energy from our own bodies," Hoop said, and smiled.
Across the lagoon, across the bay, the buildings of the city stood like electric mannequins, a bright army of computers.
"It's breathtaking," Marsh whispered. He meant it.
"I can arrange to have the money tomorrow if you'll drive me back into town. Now."
Hoop shrugged. "Fine," he said, and they walked back to the car.
On the way to the city, Marsh saw the ground, the people, the colors of the sky, the birds, the sun, roads, and tires, for the first time. It was the work of a great artist. All existing in one space, one frame. He shook his head at the wonder of the balance.
The Bureau had placed his account with the Bank of America. A fitful night's sleep where he would awaken to find himself hanging from the ceiling had not done anything to restore him.
On the fourteenth floor of the calliope-shaped building, he received two hundred five hundred dollar bills, all marked.
He could go no further with Hoop. Barber was calling him. Others would take over and it would be up to them to decide how to use him.
To Marsh's surprise, because he thought they'd possibly go back to Hoop's place, they made the exchange outside the bank. Hoop produced a large gift-wrapped bottle and handed it to Marsh.
"Try not to drop it, Karl," he said.
Marsh gave him the attaché case. Flamboyantly, Hoop turned to the street and walked into a standing cab. "Airport," he said to the driver.
The garage smelled clean and efficient. Karl had just left Barber. A small drop of rain, a pinprick, hit his windshield. The road was curving to the left, he turned the wheel. About half a mile ahead on the right hand side of the road stood the "two temptations from hell": twenty-four foot female nudes, sculptures, that "encouraged the people," as the President said, "to fuck and devour one another." Like so many of his contemporaries, Marsh was impressed by Monday's rhetoric but, unlike many of them, he did not believe much of what the President said.
Looking up at their legs and hips, he traveled slowly around the circle. The rain began to pour more steadily. He reached over and tapped a button. The wipers swept away the rain.
He crossed the bridge and turned into the deepest parking lot. He was surprised to see only nine cars. Petaca was scheduled to give a speech at noon.
Crazy, he thought; he felt like going for a long walk in the rain, but sat tight. He imagined a pretty blonde woman about his age passing him and holding a tan umbrella above her head. He was surprised to find himself smiling at her and she returning the grin.
The sign said
Petaca stood on the stage and said nothing. He looked gentle and unassuming. A few in the audience coughed.
"I'm sorry," he said. "We communicate too much with words. In this silence I can hear what's really going on. Generally, I don't want to hear it. The words that I use are playful or serious tools which are supposed to mirror thought. When I laugh or cry it is caused by feeling, not words. We have lost touch with our feelings. Real feeling is expressed in silence. Yes, in lovemaking, in gestures, in the way we look at one another. Not in words. Words are great deceivers.
"As I stand here talking, I feel two definite things. You want to be fed and you want to fight...fight me, I suppose. I'm not sure I can fight you. Possibly we can talk. I'll take questions later, if you have any."
A few people nodded their heads.
"I'm going to tell you about a boy, an extremely powerful boy, that I've been working with. His basic interest is murder...His name..."
As Petaca talked Marsh watched a pretty blonde woman sitting off to the right of the stage. She looked like the one he had imagined, the one holding the tan umbrella. Apparently she was with Petaca.
Marsh left the hall. It was still raining. Their car was easy to spot. Obviously the rented automobile. He tried the driver’s front door. It opened. Marsh took the explosive device from the black bag in his trunk and placed it under the seat. The pressure switch would complete the job. With the first plop on the driver’s seat Joseph Petaca and his lovely blonde would begin their final journey.
Marsh started his car and drove out of the parking
lot. He was on his way to the airport,
eventually to Marquesa, an island off the coast of
"A place of lofty peaks," Barber said. "Massive head walls, plugs of volcanic stone, bare, grotesquely curved turrets, a land where a thing called the 'no-no fly' lives. A perfect place for a man like you."
At the gate, John Mouton, a short man with a beard, waited. Approaching him, Clifford Mason, the entrepreneur, held out his hand. Mouton, barely making contact said, "Your car is parked in a restricted zone reserved for police. We better get moving."
"No hurry," Clifford said, "they aren't working at this time of the morning. How are you?"
"Terrible! I've gotten a lot of tickets because of that car. I wish you'd have stored it."
Clifford said, absently, "Parking tickets?"
"One for parking, and one for crossing a double yellow line. After that, it was about a week ago, I stopped driving it. The fan belt broke too, but I put it back on."
As they rounded the corner, he saw the right front fender had been bashed in, giving the car a kind of snarling grin.
"What's that?" he said.
"Bob Cracker ran into the side of a mountain. Do you mind?"
"Funny world. No."
Mouton did not reply. His shop, at the bottom of
As they entered, the radio voice warned of rain. Clifford sat on a half-broken wooden stool, adjusting the leg beneath him.
"There is a hole in the ceiling and a pail in the corner. So watch it!"
"Have you got any grass?"
"No. But Yanno has. Do you want me to check on the price?"
"Whatever it is, I don't want to pay more than three hundred a pound. I've got a little money. I've got to make it work for me."
He nodded. "I'll ask him."
"What have you got there?"
"It's just a cigarette."
"How is Yanno?"
"Fine . . . " Mouton paused and chuckled. "I've been drinking for four days. Yesterday, I started feeling a little guilty about it, a little scared." He laughed. "I told myself, 'I've got to tighten up.' Sometimes, I think I'm losing my mind. Way to much. I was at a party two days ago and everybody left around nine thirty. I was the only one left. I didn't even know where the host was. Drinking white wine. I walked home. It was about five in the morning. I was flashing around. It was a weird space, and a cop stopped me. No big deal, that's what they do.”
"Did he think you were a burglar?"
He was coughing. "That was kinda weird. I was so high, so stoned . . . "
"Did he get out of the car?"
"Oh yeah, he got out of the car. He wanted ID and all that."
"Then what happened?"
"Not much." His voice trailed off. "I told him who I was. I told him I understood what he was doing -- it was his job. I'm walking along, people don't do that at five in the morning. I told him it was my business. The cop seemed to understand."
Clifford smiled. "You could have told him you were a stock broker."
Mouton nodded. "Listen, I want to lay low, but there's another party tonight at Bruno's. He's moved in with a woman named Jule."
"They're having a party?"
"Yeah. At 2610 Chestnut."
"Do you want me to pick you up?"
"No, that's what I'm saying; I don't know if I'm going."
"Okay. I'll call you before I leave."
"Cliff," John said, "you don't look too good either."
Carlos Yanno was everybody's rich friend. His house, a large Victorian, contained the finest collection of Tiffany stained glass in the West. Yanno's hair, like Orphan Annie's, came out about two inches from the sides of his head; his arms were short and his eyes were shiny.
"I know what you want," he said to Cliff and strolled to a Captain's sea chest set against the far wall. Opening the lock, he said, "This is Mexican sensimilla."
Yanno said, "It's worth a hundred an ounce." He placed it on the scale and weighed it. With his back to Clifford he said, "How come you weren't at the party last night?"
"I was sick. How was it?"
Yanno took a deep breath. "Very important." He came back and dropped it on the table in front of him. "Sit down. Bruno was talking about G.I.V.E. Though I don't think it can solve any real problems, it's a happy medium, good to talk about. I mean it has no sign-up sheet or proposed fee. Basically, Cliff, it's a simple, fun-loving notion. Besides, I don't think you take it too seriously."
"No, but the time is right for G.I.V.E.," Cliff said. "Look at the way Hakeem puts the people on a positive wave length. They're willing to contribute ten dollars apiece to him, rather than going to dinner. He gets maybe two hundred people a night."
He walked along Broadway. A Pinball Factory stood invitingly at
Pacific. He walked past the restaurants;
the Butcher Shop and the
He stood across from Jule's apartment and looked up to her window. A hand tapped him on the shoulder. "Mr. Mason," a voice growled. "It's too bad you missed the party, you would have been appreciated there. I met quite a few of your friends . . . "
"Bruno," Clifford said, "can I buy you a beer?"
Bruno nodded. "I'll follow you."
Bruno wore white pants with a light blue shirt and a blue blazer. With his salt and pepper beard, he might have parked the yacht and stepped off for a stroll.
"This is not chance," Bruno said.
"I'm familiar with those ideas. And chance as far as I can see is not ruled out. I suspect you're making something of this. I'd like to know what it is."
"Matter of fact," he said, "I'm interested in your religion."
"You're an honorary member. Cheers."
"All right. What have you been doing with this G.I.V.E. thing? I've been looking for an idea like yours for the past year. We've entered an age of renewed religious fervor. Your idea could be expanded."
Bruno's cause was found in the
Ferris wheel turning, in the circus smells.
When they first met, in the
"I'm interested in . . . "What I'd like," Clifford said, "are your straight legitimate answers and your promise that you will stick to them, just in case I do let you in on this. I am planning a move. You'd be invaluable, but I don't want people laughing and hooting at me. For instance, what's your background?"
"I'm a magician." Bruno smiled.
"A stage magician?"
"No. A real magician."
"Good. What did you do before that?"
"I've never done anything
else. I was born in
Bruno's hands were on his thighs. He seemed relaxed. As he spoke, Clifford watched for any nervous movement, any sign of drugs, but there were none. He seemed wise and giving, a champion of the world.
"Actually, I'm glad you're here. I can't afford any fuck-ups. My idea is the same as yours."
"What?" Bruno said.
"Expand it. Turn it into a big-time religion. There's a need for giving. For spectacle."
"Then let's do it together."
Clifford nodded, and finished his beer. "I'll check back with you in a couple of days."
She had been Yanno's mistress, an ex
Clifford said, "I'd like you to meet Bruno and you can tell me what you think of him."
She said, "I don't want to meet him. I don't want to have anything to do with your friends. I don't want to hurt Carlos' feelings." She walked into the kitchen; he rose and followed her. "C'mon," he said. They walked back into the living room. She had him sit. She was giving him a haircut.
In the living room, she stared out the window, and said, "I don't know what you're all upset about anyway."
"We're not upset."
"You are. Sometimes you talk complete nonsense. I think I'd be better off going to
"I'm not upset."
"There's something ugly about what you do. Sinister and fragile is the way I see it. Carlos too. It's repulsive."
"You've got to strike out more on your own. Spire. Are you still seeing the carpenter and the lawyer?"
"They're no better."
"It's this town," she said. "It's a breeding ground for malcontents."
"You protest too much."
"Actually, the men here don't stick around," she said. "I get turned on, and then they leave. I need a change of scenery."
"Every time I come back here I appreciate it more."
"Oh sure," she said,
"you can have the pick of the litter.
I had a dream about you last night.
You were walking through a mess.
It looked like dead bodies. It
took place in
She placed the scissors on the couch. Pulling away and pointing at him, she said. "Now you look like a German." She moved closer to him, and said, "I won't tell you anything more about yourself if you're nice to me."
Clifford stood. "I have a lot of work to do. I'll be back."
"I wish you could stay," she said. "It's another beautiful day."
"Spire, I'm going to give Yanno your number."
"Oh, so that's it," she said. "I'm a pawn in the game."
Clifford pictured Yanno saying it again: "She's too young; she's got too much energy. When she learns how to control it, she'll abandon me. I'm too old besides." She was 28 to his 40.
High expectations. No return. Either they didn't know what it cost, or they didn't have the strength to hold on to it. Everyone wanted to be taken care of. In the coming time, would the people be able to see the necessity for getting down on all fours to pray and kiss and kneel in front of one another?
From the highest hill in the
He walked down the hill to
"Mouton," he called. "Mouton," but there was no
answer. He walked around a glass case
and into Mouton's workroom. Mouton's
legs were sprawled, arms at his side.
His eyes looked like Greek sculpture.
There were three envelopes by his right side. One was addressed to Paula, his second wife,
one to Cliff, and one to his parents, who lived in rural
"I'm leaving you my sword. It hangs over my bed. The sheath goes with it. I think I told you I found it in the desert
They said, "What's the address?"
The paramedics were the first to arrive.
Clifford sat while they pounded on Mouton's chest. Then, he watched them lift him onto a stretcher and carry him off. He had not moved from the stool when Gordon "Red" Knightsbridge walked in. He had been an outspoken critic of the mayor, homosexuals, and the Police Chief. Red had the face of an orange peel.
Red looked over his glasses, and said in a loud, raspy voice, "You came in."
Clifford extended his hand. "My name is Clifford Mason."
Red said, "What else? Tell me the whole thing. Give me that sword."
"I walked in. I wanted to see John, he was a friend of mine. The sign on the door said Closed. I pressed down on the latch, the door opened. I walked in and found him here. There were three letters, one to me, which I have in my pocket, and the two you see on the floor."
"Give me the letter." He handed it to him.
"You'll have to come down with us."
"Am I being booked?"
Clifford widened his eyes.
"We want you to fill out a report, Mr. Mason."
"Mason." He said it as if the name had gotten stuck, like a chicken bone, in his throat.
The coke was on top of Yanno's
armoire, gleaming crystalline flakes in a cellophane bag. He brought down a large oval mirror and put
it on the bed and dropped about four grams.
He opened the armoire, put the coke inside, closed it, and left the
room. The magnolia strains of Nina
Simone came on at about the same time as the central heating. "Oh,
The night air, cool and foggy, was an appropriate shroud. Some people could be seen at the edge of the yard near the bougainvillea. A shadow behind a tree looked like Yanno's cab driver, Michael Manley, the Padre. He took a few steps and then looked down at the Padre, who had his face turned to a tree and his shoulders slightly hunched.
The Padre turned his head from the tree to look over his shoulder. From the hill Clifford yelled, "Unclap thy hands and you will find your life hanging in the balance."
The Padre chuckled, a deep-throated, mucous-choked laugh.
Clifford turned and walked back into the house. There had been a slight chill in the wind, and he thought he could use a shot of brandy and a nosefull of cocaine. In the kitchen, he poured the brandy into a crystal snifter.
A woman hung over the street vomiting.
Bruno, the Great Bruno, for that was how Clifford really thought of him, answered his sister's buzzer with a friendly and comical "Hellooo."
Cliff said "Hello." "Are you receiving?"
"Mr. Mason," he said through the intercom, "please come up." Bruno laughed as Clifford came up the last flight of stairs. "You look tired, Clifford." Bruno stood with one hand on the balustrade. "Why didn't you take the elevator," Bruno continued.
"I need the exercise. I guess you've heard of Mouton's death."
Bruno nodded. His sister's apartment was sparsely furnished. They sat at the kitchen table with an overflowing ashtray and two yellow cups.
"I've decided to take you up on your offer," Bruno said. "Yes, I'm pleased. I've been thinking about it and I believe the first step is finding and then applying the money."
Bruno raised his eyebrows.
"I'm keeping an eye on ya."
"That's a good idea, eh?" Bruno said.
"Mmm. This is going to be a celebration. I don't think right now you can believe what's going to happen, but the one thing I'm not, in this, is an idealist. You must remember this is not a vehicle for your own expansion. This is something for everyone. Do you understand?"
"I am myself." Bruno spreads his arms. "I am a big man, as you can see. I love crowds, I love the stage, I love people. I should have been an opera star, but I had no voice, or a transvestite, but I wasn't partial to dresses or make-up. You can't suppress it . . . and you, Clifford, no longer have the stomach for it."
"George, what role do you see yourself in, besides the organizer of publicity?"
"I want to be the master of ceremonies."
"You got it."
In front of a large audience he couldn't help but impress them with his large spidery eyes.
Clifford stepped back onto the street. In the bus stop three boys, maybe eight or nine years old, spun a broken wine bottle kicking the pieces of glass against a liquor store wall. An old woman wearing a ski cap, curls coming down over her ears, fished a half-eaten Neato Burrito out of the garbage. No doubt about it. The town was falling apart.
Carlos and Clifford sat in the garden overlooking the pool. Carlos's upper lip curled over his teeth and his mouth was slightly open.
"My plan," Clifford said, "is to make t-shirts with the letters G.I.V.E. on the front, and the explanation on the back, to organize an event to kick off with, and to eventually build a center, a kind of clearing house for new ideas, a club where everyone is welcome."
"That's what a church is, isn't it?"
"Yes. It would be member-supported. We would need a half million to begin with. I think you, Bruno, and I would be on the board of directors."
"What about Spire?"
"That would be nice if we could manage it."
"Yeah." He looked out over the pool. "I think I'm going to go for a swim," he said. "I don't know if I like the sound of this."
He stood up, slipped out of his robe and walked, bare ass, down the hill. He turned. "I'll think about it while I swim," he said, and nodded as if to agree with himself.
Cliff went back into the house for another cup of coffee. He wondered if Yanno had proposed to Spire. It would be easier for Yanno to change gears if he had Spire to keep him company.
Yanno came back up the hill. He was talking. "You know we have to incorporate, now, before they rewrite the non-profit organization laws. We'll need a lawyer. Probably Kennedy. I'll have the money transferred to the corporate bank account with only you and I having withdrawal signatures." Yanno reached over his chair and pulled on his gown. "Is that okay?"
"It's going to be a lot of fun, Doctor."
Carlos nodded, and said, "It's a new life."
"Don't look so sad."
"It's not sadness."
"It looks like a frown."
"Like the barber says, one learns you can't please everybody."
Clifford leaned forward a little.
"What d'ya mean?"
Yanno closed his eyes and smiled.
"I mean you've got to take care of yourself," Yanno said. "You've got to make yourself happy."
"It's the ways people have of doing that which surprise me," Clifford replied.
"Well, I have something else to tell you, and it may not make you very happy, but there's nothing I can do about that."
"It's about Mouton."
"I killed him."
Carlos squinted at him. "Mouton was blackmailing me. I suffer from an emotional condition, something like consumption. People excite me to the point of madness. My whole body begins to shake, including my brain. I know it sounds crazy, but you see, I can't control myself. It's degenerative. I need certain drugs to keep me calm. Like sedatives, only the opposite. Cocaine, occasionally did it, but it was a degenerative drug. I've been experimenting for years. At first a derivative of Ayahuasca, a South American liana, harmine, did the trick. I was getting very used to it, you could say, bored by it, and I was in the middle of concocting a new chemical compound, a combination of two drugs in conjunction with harmine. John was here. You must know."
Yanno leaned toward Clifford.
"I had the drug prepared. I asked him, 'How would you like to try this experimental drug,' you know? He asked me what was in it. I told him. About a month ago he had drunk Ayahuasca for the first time."
Yanno stood up from the chair. His face was twisted; his nails dug into his skin.
"Life is an experiment," he said, calming down.
"Of course, Doctor, what happened then?"
"He took the drug, and about an hour later had a massive coronary."
With his left hand, Yanno began to squeeze his eyebrows together and pull the hairs.
Clifford put his arms around him. "Come on, let's go inside."
"He knew he was taking a risk," Clifford said.
"Yes, fuck, yes," he repeated. "It was horrible."
"Let's go inside."
"I'd better go to bed now."
"Yes. Who else knows."
Together they opened the door.
"The Padre drove the body over."
"It's amazing no one saw him." As they went through the door, Yanno looked up at him in horror. "Maybe someone did," he said.
He slid into his covers. Clifford stood at the foot of the bed. Yanno propped himself up.
"Before you leave, bring me the phone. No matter how we may feel, we still have business to attend to."
"Did you type the letters?"
Yanno placed the phone on his stomach. "Yes."
"Thanks for the sword."
He wasn't aware of any laboratory Yanno might have had, but then maybe it was portable. He was staring at the sun. It was a question of honor. He had to swallow. The closer he got to Yanno, the crazier, and more of a liar, he seemed. Clifford was nodding his head, but he had no idea what to think. It was too late to back down now. Clifford thought of his first year in a Jesuit military academy when the freshman president had declared that the new quarterback was to be his prize whipping boy. For protection, he had aligned himself with two of the largest linemen, Cioti and Laughlin. They spent most of their time outside the school. Clifford always felt a little ashamed that he didn't challenge the other freak's authority. Now, here he was in a similar spot. Deep down, he must have harbored a feeling of inferiority. The other boy was stronger and smarter than he was. If he had applied his energy, concentrated, he knew he might have taken him, but he had drifted. The other boy must have known.
He pushed the faded velvet curtain
Gunnar said, "Clifford Ray, how are you?"
"Look at this. Five hundred," Clifford said. "It's the best."
"Oh, I know," Gunnar said, and took the package and handed Clifford five $100 bills.
"Well, George, did you get the news?"
"Mr. Mason, I've come to the conclusion that you are a genius. It's fantastic. My instinct has again been proven correct. A fine instrument for survival. Dr. Carlos Yanno called me in and in no uncertain terms outlined the corporation and where I was to sit. It's fine with me."
"What did he say, George?"
George's voice dropped. This maneuver made it sound like a trigger being cocked.
"He told me about the money. How he was setting up a non-profit and asked if I would be the advertising manager."
Bruno burped and said, "Excuse me."
"Would you like to handle the public relations, that's what he said. I hear you have some knowledge of the field."
"That was it?"
"That was it, except for saying that you'd call and give me the details."
"Okay, I'm going to take $40,000 out of the bank and I want one-tenth of that to go into the making of t-shirts with Dr. Yanno's name on one quarter, 'The Padre Lives' on one quarter, G.I.V.E. on each of their backs and the other half just the letters G.I.V.E. on the front and the explanation in small lettering on the back, 'God's Inner Vision for Everyone,' 'For Everyone' in bolder letters. All colors and one style. I want at least 3,000 of them. For fifteen grand I want you to reserve full page ads in the local papers and take space on billboards. Set up your checking account. I want money shifted into your account this afternoon. I'll call you later and give you the rest of the information. Your salary is $400 a week."
"Adequate," he chuckled. "Actually," he said, curling in upon himself, "that's very generous. You know it's all done with press releases."
"Bruno," Clifford said,
"did you ever hear of the 'mental patient manifesto'? It was something that was being passed around
in the cities two years ago. It went,
and I quote, 'mental patients are part of the untouchable class of humanity in
"They were really getting fucked over. Reagan had thrown them out of the hospitals."
"Fine," Bruno said. "Excellent. This movement is for everyone."
"All right, I'll talk to you later."
A familiar voice called out to him from the kitchen as he entered his front door.
"Who the hell is that?"
It was Detective Knightsbridge, leaning against Clifford's stove, his eyes cocked.
"How the hell did you get in here?"
"Doing a little investigating, son."
He looked electrocuted. His hair seemed a mass of light, red waves. His face, a battered orange to begin with, was grimy like a little boy's. He wore dusty overalls and construction boots.
"I find it a lot easier to go right to the source. You clean your own house?"
Clifford was flabbergasted.
Red laughed. "I wouldn't want to be your age. From where I sit, the party's over. I'm gonna retire and put a machine gun on my
terrace. It'll overlook the front steps. Out back will be a sheer drop. Me and the rest of 'em over here will defend
our territory. There are going to be a lot
of people scrambling for crumbs. Look at
your poor friend on
"Where did you miss the boat, Red? If you don't mind I'd like you to leave."
"Call me if you come up with anything."
Bruno moved smoothly across the floor talking into his instrument. He cradled it, gripped it like a scepter, purred into it, summoning yesses from the other side.
"Fine," he said. "I'll send you a check in the morning. "Fine," he repeated loudly, as he slammed the phone down. "That was a t-shirt manufacturer."
"We have to line up some celebrities," Clifford said, "before we break these ads."
Bruno looked at Clifford.
"Yes, my friend, I sure would like to get Jule in on this, but she has a terrible phone manner. I don't know what she could do." He let his words drift. "I know just who I'm going to call," he snapped back, "Just in case, I kept, Mr. Mason just in case something like this occurred, a notebook with the names and addresses and phone numbers of all the stars on the left coast. This is good."
He nodded again. "How about a glass of wine?"
George returned from the kitchen holding two plastic yellow glasses filled to the brim with red wine.
"Louis Martini, Cabernet, 1970," he whispered. "To you, my friend," he said. "The first time I met you at the amusement park, I knew we were linked to share a great adventure."
"To your health, George," Clifford repeated, "and to the fact that we are doing this for others and not solely for ourselves." He raised his eyes.
"Of course," he replied, and drank the wine.
That slightly sinking feeling Clifford had toward Bruno was his knowledge of the egotist.
"What about Knightsbridge?"
"Mouton's death doesn't interest Knightsbridge, Clifford, and the police department wants him out. The town no longer has sympathy for his kind. I think you have to watch your paranoia. I don't have time to do any thorough checking."
"Okay, we've got the ads
breaking in three weeks. I'm renting a store
front at Fillmore and
"Good touch," Bruno said.
"Now listen, we're going to tie the centers into a job exchange. After the pre-publicity has made its way, I want you to have three celebrities come up and participate to dramatize the event, the idea would be for them to work regular jobs. It will be a demonstration, an alternative to the present philosophy of employment. Instead of training people in one job, G.I.V.E. will propose a job exchange. Bankers will exchange jobs with construction workers, successful actors with construction workers, cab drivers with insurance salesmen, fishermen with farmers, farmers with salesmen, waitresses with dress designers, architects with cops . . . Ultimately, we hope to see a broader educational base. People would still choose professions, but they would get a chance say once every eight years to see, to try something else, to see what the other guy is doing. My reasoning is that all professions become incestuous. Lawyers deal only with lawyers, waitresses with other waitresses. This begins to encourage idiocy, and that permits our barbaric foreign and domestic policies.
"Idling with one's own kind has created a nation of dwarfs. It's an old story," Bruno continued, "Man is driven to market. Do you know Keyes?"
"You mean Francis Scott?"
"No. This one has written a number of books in our time. He has shown, Mr. Mason, how in a picture advertising a scotch, a crystal filler with ice cubes is, also, a picture of something quite different. Inside one of the cubes is an elaborate air brush painting depicting torn limbs, monsters, and death masks. These bloodsuckers, and I know them well, have found that the consumers buy more when there are images of death, perverted sex, and destruction slipped in. The idea is that we receive the message subliminally."
"That's close to treason."
"Maybe Keyes is hypnotizing everyone else into thinking these images are there. Do you have a copy of the book?"
"No. I don't think so. These artists are paid to put those images there."
"I can't understand," he said, "why they constantly appeal to self-destruction instead of self-creation."
Clifford peered into his friend. He saw him leafing through his little black book, saw him sitting in his robe, pitching them, then listening to the effect his sound made. If there were arguments, protestation, he would launch into the financial, moral, aesthetic, and political virtues of his project. When it came down to it, Bruno offered the same as the other advertisers, from the first oracles to the pompous Ogilvy, protection from day-to-day friction, a place to hide.
Tuesday, the ad broke; Tuesday, the
doors would open and by Wednesday the actor, Paul Newman, would begin a two day
stint driving a cab. The Padre had
generously supplied his. Thursday and
Friday, Barbra Streisand would wait on tables.
Friday, Liza Minelli would be included among the mimes at
Ghirardelli. The topper would occur on
Sunday afternoon; Luciano Pavarotti, the Earth's greatest singer, would perform
Sunday arrived. He awoke with a headache. With poached eggs and wheat toast, he went out onto the back porch to watch the white stuff gather in one corner, billowing like parachutes. Today, it would surround the bay, a luminous wall of protection.
The phone rang. Bruno said, "I guess you haven't
heard. Moscone and Milk were shot this
morning. Dan White shot them in their
offices. I was listening to it on the
radio. Then, it was reported that a salesman
"There's going to be a scandal."
"Going to be?" he laughed.
"The t-shirts are doing nicely. And gold is beginning to rise."
The park was crowded. People hung from the limbs of trees; they spilled out onto the museum lawn. Clifford stayed at the perimeter. Standing on the stage, in front of a half-orchestra, Pavarotti, in black shirt and white tie, and Bruno, resplendent in a white Russian shirt and jogging togs, had their arms about one another. Behind them one large banner, with the letters G.I.V.E., stretched across the bowl. They swayed back and forth to the sounds of the orchestra.
Pavarotti, sweet and gangster like, began the first aria. It lasted three minutes. There was a tumult of hand clapping and then roses were flung onto the stage. He gathered one up and looked out, with seal eyes, at the clapping and then raised one finger to his lips and the crowd boiled down. He began again, seemingly flinging open the vault of heaven. After each song, the roaring of the crowd became a kind of song in itself. Even the police, sitting on top of their horses, seemed beside themselves. Pavarotti took everyone into his private conversation with God. After the first hour, he daubed at his face, his handkerchief in constant, but hopeless use.
Clifford noticed Detective Knightbridge to the left near the first horseman.
Cliff craned his neck and caught a glimpse of him again before someone moved, obstructing his view.
The songs ended. Pavarotti scooped as many roses as he could and bowed deeply to his orchestra and then turned to the crowd. From the wings, Bruno came on, dancing, walking on a cloud. Again, they threw their arms around one another. Bruno bent down to the microphone. "Will you, please, make way for the man who made this magnificence possible. He's in the back, the co-founder of G.I.V.E., Clifford Mason. Please, Mr. Mason, I saw you. Come up."
As he moved toward the stage, he received blows on the back. Instinctively, he threaded his way toward the steps and looked to the left and saw Knightsbridge moving across his vision. Pavarotti embraced him. Clifford turned to the audience. "We're always about to begin," he said. Knightsbridge was now below him; his face a neon pomegranate and in his hand he held a toad like thing. Clifford saw a flash. He noticed Pavarotti hold out his hand and the last thing Clifford heard was Bruno scream like a bird.
A man in his late twenties in a large overcoat and
carrying a camera case and a tripod walks toward the
“I always know when I am out of sorts when I cannot bring myself to write or call you, and this past month has been difficult. In ‘difficult’, I mean I find myself unable to explain myself, and the longer I wait, the greater this difficulty becomes.”
monitoring station a mile from the
“Code blue at the W.M.. Looks like he’s wired to blow.”
There is a reporter. She is, also, a spy. She is concentrating on completing a story about the young man George Fenn who blew himself up that day. George looks like a young Abraham Lincoln. She met him at an anti-globalization rally. Now there are two parcels on her desk. She shuts down the PC. The first envelope contains an invitation from her boss, Colonel Alexander Rand. The second envelope contains a disc. She slips it into the Sony vid cam.
George says, “I always know that I am out of sorts when I cannot bring myself to write or call you, and this past month has been difficult. In “difficult,” I mean I find myself unable to explain myself, and the longer I wait, the greater this difficulty becomes. Finally, I have no choice but to send this to you. Follow me.”
George walks a few feet.
“As you can see, Heather, I’m strapped in.” He tugs at the explosives wrapped around his waist.
“Originally, I was going to take a few tourists with me. But your remark the other afternoon got me to thinking. You’re right. I wasn’t made for this world.”
Heather stops the P.C. and moves away from her desk. She reads a note from. Colonel Rand.
If you’re free this afternoon drop by my place.
Colonel Alexander Rand.
She returns to George who explodes. She toys with the image- speeding it up and slowing it down.
Colonel Rand, a tall, gray-haired man of 55, waits for her in his apartment. He sits in a big, easy chair listening to a Stockhausen recording from 1959. Hearing the buzzer, he stands to let her in.
She slumps into his easy chair. Colonel Rand comes back into the living room with two Becks and pulls up a chair to sit in front of her. He hands her the bottle. She takes a swallow.
“I can't believe that prick did that to me. I was this close to a complete analysis.”
“Who's doing the psychological autopsy?”
“I don't know.”
Colonel Rand reaches into his attaché case and brings out a file on Dave Anders, Ho Sin Mae and Jonathan Canne.
“This is big, Heather. Your father will be proud you are assigned to this. Have you spoken to him recently?”
“Last week. He was in great shape.”
Colonel Rand tosses the photos onto the coffee table.
“I've never seen such a devoted couple as these two. They have discovered a new energy source. We're introducing you to the younger one tomorrow at the White House. A few days later you'll fly to where this gentleman works and... you know the drill. We want you to get close to him. As close as you can get. We have to know what he's thinking.”
“Would you mind putting on another musician?”
“Sorry, honey. How about Ofra Haza?”
Colonel Rand stands and slides in the latest Ofra Haza disc.
“Do I communicate with you?”
“No. You stay on the ground. Close to him. That's all.”
She picks up the dossier and reads:
Dr. David Anders,
mathematician/scientist, currently working for The Center of Exploration. The Center is a branch of the State
Colonel Rand says “He has contacts everywhere. Even with your father. We don't know who he's backing at this point.”
“What's Canne’s relationship with my father?”
“They worked on the carboatplane together. Dr. Canne was one of the first pilots.
“Oh. That’s great. Have you ever flown it, Alex?”
“No. It’s more of a toy than a fighting machine.”
It’s hot in D.C. The night wind is blowing. Guards like human shades stand against the walls, under trees, and close to the bushes. A large gate opens. A limo enters through the gate. The darkness of the limo is pierced with light. Colonel Rand sits next to Heather. The door opens and the shoe of a man appears, and then the other. The man steps out. Heather’s legs appear from inside the limo. Her hand reaches for the door. She starts to walk. Her heels get stuck between the stones. She is falling. He grabs her. He wants to hold her, but she gets away with a polite ‘thank you.’ Small ground lamps light the way to the great White House. Her hat covers her face as he leads her by the arm to the door.
The rooms are large and men in tuxedos and women in evening dress are scattered throughout the Great House. As they walk inside, people say ‘hello.’ Waiters walk round with trays of champagne. Dancers move across the massive seal of the U.S. Eagle. The party, being led by a 30-piece band, is gracious and elegant.
ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to welcome you, on behalf of the President of
General applause as the President walks up, shakes the hand of the Announcer and has a short laugh with him.
“Hello. Well… This time, I think we can safely say we’ve done it.”
He looks once to the left and slowly, with a smile, turns his head to the right. He sees everyone in the room looking at him.
“I would like to end this Conference by expressing my overwhelming gratitude to all of the individuals who compose this team. This has been the most exciting conference I’ve attended. Period. Every person here tonight is very special to me, to my family, and to this country.
Col. Rand notices David Anders and Ho Sin Mae standing at the bar. He nods to Heather.
Dr. Anders, dressed in a black suit and loose tie, stands next to Ho Sin. Ho Sin is a man in his 50s, 5’8” with a round, clear face. He is dressed in a dark gray, Chinese-style outfit. His black eyes stare at Dave.
“Well, Dave, I must be going soon. The gentlemen await.”
Dave bows slightly to Ho Sin.
Two Chinese diplomats wait at the corner of the bar.
“You see what I
see?” Dave points at
“The bait is in the trap.”
Ho Sin stares at
Follet says, “Between you and me, I’d kill him.”
Heather raises her eyebrows. “That’s an interesting point.”
Follet turns and looks at Ho Sin, then turns back to Col. Rand.
“I thought you’d like that.”
Follet grabs Heather gently by the arm.
“This is a very big deal, my dear. And I know your way of doing things . . . Well, he’s over there. Go to him now.”
Across the room, Anders stands idly by the bar. Heather walks up to him.
“So, are you one of us or them?”
She laughs. “Which one are you?”
“A Saving Sanity Scientist.”
“Good. Then I’m one of you.”
“Really? What’s your field?”
“Telekinetics and energy research.”
“Oh really! That’s interesting. I’m one of the main men in that field. I mean energy research.”
and Research in
“Oh, that’s even more interesting. I’m being transferred there.”
“Well, this is actually some good news. I’ll be watched by you.”
She looks up to him. Her self assurance lapses slightly. “Is that so?”
Inside the surveillance room, large TV screens and security monitors cover most of the walls. Security guards stand in front of the screens. Some move around passing papers. There is a big wooden table in the middle of the room, on top of which is a complete holographic model of the House and the grounds. Dr. Kaplin and Colonel Rand stand next to it. She looks uneasy.
“The trade-off with the Chinese and the absence of Dr. Mae are going to backfire.”
“We gain nothing by giving him up, and we loose our trump card in case Dr. Anders doesn’t make it. I think we’re going to miss the boat on this one.”
“That remains to be seen.”
Dr. Kaplin turns and leaves the Surveillance Room.
A thirteen-piece band begins a song by Cowboy Junkies, ‘If I Were a Woman.’
In the main hallway, people are moving in different directions. Dr. Kaplin is walking down the hall. She says hello to people who recognize her, and keeps walking. Dr. Canne, who is Anders’ boss, is talking to a man and a woman. He sees Dr. Kaplin coming down the hall. As she approaches his circle, Dr. Canne moves into position to get her attention.
“Good evening, Dr. Canne.”
Canne replies, “Ms. Kaplin. I was hoping you’d make it here to charm us all.”
“Well, I couldn’t miss it, of course.”
They shake hands.
“Yes, of course.
“The time of my
“Stretching is the word I prefer to use. Always expanding its horizon.”
Colonel Rand stands watching the television monitors. He lights a cigarette. He stares into space as the music and conversations feed in. He looks at the screen showing Anders and Heather dancing. Anders says something to Heather and they walk off the dance floor to the balcony.
Vines are climbing by the side of the railing and the gardens look ghostly. Heather walks out to the railing. She touches the railing with her hands and looks up to the sky. She turns around and lays her back against the railing.
“It’s really nice to have someone to dance with,” she says. She stops and turns her head and listens.
“Sometimes I get this feeling that I’m aiming too much to please. Yes, away, somewhere, alone. Or …” She turns back and looks at him with a sad face.
“I was just thinking a friend of mine has been taken away but now I've found another.”
“Scientists do dance. New evidence confirms theory.”
Dr. Canne appears on the balcony. Canne says, “Well, there you are. And just like you to try to keep the most beautiful woman in the party to yourself.”
“Oh. Does the gentleman have a reputation?”
“Other than having a possessive nature and being an introvert, yes, probably.”
“Yes. But it’s all classified.”
Canne looks at Anders. “Especially his good side only the trusted few see. I’ve read your resume Dr. Ahmid. I’m pleased you are joining us. You have a very impressive background. Did you know I worked for your father?”
Canne moves around. He turns to Anders.
“We must go.”
Anders takes a couple steps back.
“I go. Jonathan knows best.”
“Well, it was nice to meet you. A friendly face will be good to see.”
Heather is trying to stay on top.
“Oh, the tortured scientist. I’ll be lucky if you look up from your work to say hello to me.”
“Good evening, Heather. See you at the fort.”
The band is in full swing with an elaborate jazz version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Colonel Rand strides across the dance floor onto the veranda. Heather has her back to him.
“How did I do?”
“Thank you, Colonel. You’re very thoughtful.”
Together they walk
to the foyer and out into the night.
Inside the car,
“I thought Ho Sin Mae was better looking.”
“Probably not for long.”
Drawing up to the entrance to her apartment building, the limo stops.
“I’ll let myself in.”
She bolts out of the limo and walks quickly into the building.
Lin Yee speaks, “We had access to the Russian research years ago. We pointed you in that direction.
Ho Sin Mae replies, “I know. There is something unpredictable there. We can capture it, but we can't seem to contain it.”
“Your mathematics indicate otherwise.”
“As Descartes established the infinite as a fact using numbers, so have I created the possibility of containment by using numbers. None of us know if either proposition is true.”
“We're sending you two of the finest minds to assist you. They should be ready to join you in three days.”
A peasant walks up a hill with a basket on his back. Inside the house Lin Yee stands at a window and watches the peasant struggle up the path.
Lin Yee says, “Did you know the Americans are implementing the system in hospitals?”
Ho Sin Mae stands behind him.
“They are behind schedule.”
Lin Yee, his hands crossed on his chest, turns his upper body and looks at Ho Sin.
“The energy is our future.”
“The power of numbers. Our quantity cannot overcome the quality.
“You are the genius. It was your mind that discovered it and you will complete it for the good of all. The Americans would have taken this from us.”
“Now I’m here and the experiment has not even been tested. Time must be taken.”
“You will solve
all problems. As a son of
“You have a sharp ear. Be happy it is allowed to you so freely.”
Ho Sin watches Lin Yee go out the door. A football is perched ceremoniously on a writing desk. Ho Sin picks it up and twirls it in the air.
Heather stands amid the flowerbeds and trees as she tosses a set of keys in the air. Dave walks across the grass and stops in front of her.
“Hello Doctor,” she says.
“I see you've been given the guest house. Would you like to go for a ride?”
“Let me throw a few things together and look at this cottage. Can you pick me up in ten minutes?”
“Will do, Doctor.”
Inside Heather’s cottage the walls are painted a rust color. The solid wood black doors make the cottage look very old. There is a straight back chair, a twin bed, and a small couch.
Heather takes care of some paperwork. She gets up and walks down the hall and into the kitchen. She walks to the refrigerator and opens the door, picks up a can of soda and takes a few sips. The buzzer rings. She walks to the door and opens it.
“Hi. You’re on time. Would you like to come in? I’ll get my jacket.”
“Do you have gloves and a scarf?”
“Bring them with you. It might get cool.”
Heather walks to her closet.
“You have a convertible?”
“Yes, the ultimate convertible.”
Heather gets a black leather jacket. They walk outside to a new BMW motorcycle.
Anders jumps on the bike. Heather puts on a helmet and hops on behind. He maneuvers out of The Center and takes a left. Heather holds onto him as they speed up the winding road toward La Honda. Trees fly by as the BMW picks up speed. The sky is clear and the sunlight reflects off the trees.
“I love this.”
He turns to her.
“You know I’m glad they sent you. I tell you, I feel like I’m busting out of a cocoon.”
Heather says, “Afraid of who might be listening?”
“Part of the price”
“Do you hate them?”
“No. Hate would be too strong an emotion. Pity is more like it. A world of followers bothers me.”
“I’m surprised anything bothers you, especially that. I’d have thought you’d be amused.”
He slows down to take a curve.
“While some see, others look.”
She makes a face. “Huh?”
“See or look?”
“Both, I hope. I’ve been tested for it continuously.”
He speeds up.
“Do you work for them or with them?”
“I think scientists are supposed to be a little more specific in their procedures of evaluation. Who is it you’re talking about?”, she yells.
“I’m glad you cleared that up for me. I had hoped so.”
“Are you now answering for me? I don’t like to have someone else put words into my mouth, thank you.”
“None of us does, it’s the nature of the beast. Changing our minds, making up our answers, controlling our actions, reacting to what others think.”
He turns on to Skyline.
She smiles. “Putting on a pretty face.”
He slows down to let a car pass him.
“Listen, hear me out. A lot is involved with my work. I don’t know if you know all there is or anything at all. The dangers of being with me or against me seem to be the same nowadays, depending on the day. I have to provoke an answer.”
“And do you feel I’ve answered your provocation?”
“Yes. I know you’re not just a researcher, which is good. We all need to be more involved, and being here is part of your job. But being with you is part of mine. We are on the same side, just seems different at the moment.”
“And which side is that, at the moment?”
“The one in which everyone wins. It’s the best game there is, but the rules are a little undefined.”
“You should function well, then. Why be vague about everything?”
“Can’t read your mind.”
“You. I thought you could.”
“Some I can.”
Heather is contemplating the discussion as Anders pulls off Skyline and on to a lonely dirt road.
"My house," he says.
Colonel Rand sits
in Follet’s office. Both are dressed in uniform. Follet sits facing
Follet says, “Her position with him is of the utmost importance; it cannot be put in jeopardy. I want no one to contact her outside of regular communications. Is that clear?”
“You surprise me sometimes, Colonel. Always the most difficult. In your field, you’re the best, but you might be doing some injustice to yourself. You trained her. Now if she seems to be attached too quickly to him, and though this might upset you, you must remember we’re racing.”
Colonel Rand scratches his chin with his right hand.
Follet continues, “the President seems to like the State Department on top in this one.”
“Then why are we even there?”
“Where would you like us to be on the verge of one of this century's greatest discoveries?”
“What’s happening to us?”
“You know I think we’re being superceded. Maybe we’re not organic enough.”
The intercom flashes on his desk. He extends his heavy frame and reaches for the button. “Yes?”
“Professor Kaplin, sir.
“Thank you. Please let her in.”
Professor Kaplin enters the room. Follet rises from his chair. “Well good to see you, Isabella. Thanks for coming over.”
Professor Kaplin says, “There’s no information yet on Dr. Mae’s progress, but we expect the Chinese to finish within a week.”
Follet waves his hand. From his desk he retrieves an electronic device. He presses a button.
They all turn and look. A section in the middle of the bookshelves moves to the right, and a large screen appears. At the same time, dark drapes cover the windows. On screen, through an infrared lens, we see Anders’ cottage. Follet taps a button and now we see a close-up of the house. The focus is the bathroom. Anders is urinating, flushing, then turning the light out. He goes into the bedroom and kisses the woman in bed then leaves the room. Anders stands in front of his computer. He reads the message on the screen.
The animal is
I am permitted to
disregard my surroundings
I have no real retreat
I am the hunted
shudder across a lake.
On top of the computer is a note: “Change code every day, the NSA never sleeps”
Anders types back.
ice is thin
Follet looks at his watch. The intercom flashes.
“The President, sir.”
Follet shuts down the monitor.
The President enters Jack Follet's office. Col. Rand and Kaplin stand.
The President says, “Good morning. Shall we get right to it.”
Professor Kaplin stands in front of one of the chairs and stares at the President.
“Mr. President, we are facing the dilemma of using human energy, so to speak, to build what could be the ultimate weapon.”
She stops and looks to see if everyone is paying attention. The President reassures her.
The President nods, “Continue, Professor.”
“We are dealing with a new type of fusion, that of a sub-element, the potential of which hasn't been determined until now. This is the basic, fundamental element scientists have been looking for since the first nuclear experiment. This idea goes back to Einstein's work in 1917, but no one has ever made this sizeable a leap.”
“Is Anders cooperating?”
Dr. Kaplin takes a breath and holds her hands together.
“As far as we can tell. Certain equations are vague but we believe Anders has already figured out how to contain it. We have five platinum boxes at Stanford. We trap the energy as it leaves the body but it keeps escaping. That's what we are working on now: containing it.
The fact that energy is released by humans at the time of death has long been a principal of ancient cultures, cultures in which sacrifices of the ‘soul’ were used to satisfy their deities or gods. They believed that the emanation of the energy associated with death was ultimately powerful. This power was perceived as having the ability to render phenomenal supernatural status. The Egyptians classified it as a type of ‘spirit’ that hung around the burial sights in the after-life. This spirit or ‘soul’ was a permanent fixture in the world of the dead. Similar versions of this belief have been made by other cultures including Tibetans, Eskimos and Christians. We believe this is the power Ho Sin Mae and Dr. Anders have discovered.”
The President leans forward. “Are you saying that death is itself the ultimate energy source, the final power of future society.”
Dr. Kaplin continues, “The technology that Anders is trying to develop could make all present forms of power obsolete. Once containment is perfected, it could end the world's quest for resources. It might be a perpetual energy source.”
stands. “So far, Anders' work has
remained covert. We have successfully
maintained the highest level of security.
Dr. Kaplin continues, “The discovery of an energy source derived from human
emissions at the time of death will pose many problems for all world powers and
their societies. Questions of the
economic value will be raised. In the
pursuit of expansion, the determining factor will be the volume of energy
produced by the dead. Eventually this
might even be promoted as the ultimate form of dying for one's country. It will be ones duty to be recycled. Of course any attempt at implementing the
program is likely to cause problems with the religious communities. Undoubtedly
“Well, we can deal with that when the time comes. Right now, we must assure ourselves that Anders’ work is completed. If we’re going to achieve our goals we must provide him with the safest, most secure environment possible. We must have every assurance that Anders will remain in our custody. I have to go. Stay on it, people.
Dr. Canne stands in Anders' office. Dave is upset.
“The Public Relations people have already begun the groundwork. Imagine the ad campaign! You’ll still be here after you’re gone, giving ‘til eternity. Located wherever the dying congregate. Along freeways, in hospitals and in high crime areas.”
“Listen, we both know the pressure you’re under. That’s why I’m worried about your safety. But you have to understand, the corporations know the potential of this and they are determined to beat the Chinese. The economic repercussions have made tensions very high.”
“I’m sure that if they plan something on that level. Heather will tell me.”
“If they tell her, of course.”
Anders and Canne leave the room and travel through the Center. They walk through an atrium that looks out onto the garden. Canne stops and says, “Representative Clark is waiting for you in the game room. Be nice to him, will you?”
Anders turns right and walks down the hall and opens the game room door.
Jerome Clark stands next to a snooker table and says, “Hello, Dr. Anders. How’ve you been?”
“Fine, Congressman, just fine. And you?”
“Well, to be honest, Dave, I need some information and I think you can help me. That’s why I asked Jonathan Canne to arrange this meeting for us.”
“You see, it’s about the project you’re currently working on. I realize it’s not public knowledge yet, but some of my constituents have asked me to look into it. “The corporate community to be exact. To find out where you’re headed with this thing.”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss that, sir. Besides, it would be completely premature at this point to even consider any practical sort of application.”
“But it isn’t even finished yet. We’re way ahead of ourselves here. We can’t control it. Hell, we can’t even contain it. You think this is a substitute for nuclear power? You could light a whole block of flats with the equivalent of one-thousandth of what we use to make a car run today. You could, but we haven’t figured out how to break it down. There seems to be something irreducible there.”
Anders turns and
looks to the side, then turns back to
“No, it is not! My God, have you thought about it? Any of you? We have no idea what its effect will be, but the military is raring to go, to start marketing and selling it. First as a weapon, then to run the street lights.”
“You know, David, we are reaching the end of politics. Soon, there will be no external control that can be exercised over any people. You can help make that day energy-efficient by doing the right thing for your country.”
“What! My God, are we all insane?”
Jerome Clark gestures to Dave. He taps the right side of his nose.
"I've got to go. See Jonathan about continuing appropriations for your fine facility here. We're racing, Dave. And you know what that means."
In a remote section of
He steps into the garden and stops by a gigantic rose bush and examines a single rose’s petal. His hands play in the air. He brings his hands close to his chest as if he were holding a ball. He goes back inside and makes his bed. He sits down in front of his computer and speaks.
Our pincers raised
we moved one another
in and out of the shadows.
See you in the Shadows.
He strides off to his meditation chamber. He kneels down against a shimmering blue neon background. In front of him, a knife. His right hand extends upward as he throws an imaginary bird skyward.
Anders rolls out of bed and stretches. The cat walks up to him while he’s bent over and Anders pets her. He then walks over to the computer and reads the message:
Our pincers raised …
Anders goes back into the room and gets his clothes and leaves the bedroom. He dresses in the dark, the only light coming from the computer screen. He sits forlornly in front of the glowing computer and says, “At any cost! Any cost? It's in us. Our job is to discover the secrets.”
Heather appears. “Dave …”
Anders lowers his eyes.
“Can you cry?”
Heather says, “Yes.”
“My friend and I were too dumb to know the difference.”
“Between what and what?”
“Between crying and not. Living without that peculiar luck. He’s dead, Heather.”
Heather watches Anders move toward her. He stands in front of her.
Heather shakes her head.
“All the movements indicate more control over our destiny, don’t you think?”
“Yes, I think I’m more concerned about you than your goddamned contribution.”
“You don’t. How could you understand the beauty of it; the perfect mathematical reality of it.”
“I know . . .”
“I know what to do. If I give them perfection, they’ll use it, and that will destroy us. It’s better that I die than the entire human race, don’t you think? Don’t you think there is something in each of us that wants to die?”
“That’s nonsense. We want to fly, become greater . . .”
“Ah yes to take our rightful place on the Earth.”
“I'm sorry. Come back to bed.”
Hand in hand they walk back to the bedroom.
Dr. Anders awakens. He is staring at the ceiling. He leans over and picks up his watch. It is 6:30 A.M. He gets up. Heather is still asleep. Anders makes himself a cup of coffee and munches on a croissant. He walks outside and stands on the porch.
Colonel Rand emerges. “Morning, I'd like a word with you.”
“You’re on my private property.”
“I’m holding the thread you’re hanging by, asshole.”
Anders smiles and walks over to him. “Spun from the hands of In God We Trust?”
“Don’t tell me you’re a hate-America type. I’ve always considered you a thoroughly unprejudiced person. I thought you hated us all equally.”
“All this could have been avoided if our research could have remained theoretical.”
“We live in a practical culture, Doctor. Theories turn into tools. Is this theory of yours going to work?”
“Wrong again. Someone thinks you and Einstein have gotten together to destroy our world. You think you can doodle away while the Final Chaos begins. Wrong. The President has changed his mind.
Colonel Rand slides his right hand through his coat and retrieves a Glock 9 mm. “By God” he says, “we’re not all insane.”
He squeezes the trigger and pumps two bullets into the other man’s admirable brain. He kneels down and feels for a pulse. Then, quickly, slips away.
The Last Killing
I am bent by a sense of the absurd. Was it mother who wove it into me by pointing, during one of my rages, and saying “Look at yourself in the mirror, Lyle?” I did and I was absurd. Is it because through the millennia we constantly talk about changing ourselves but never do? I feel I am standing on a precipice overlooking a chasm. Behind me, there is nothing but memories. I'm shooting a porno movie.
I put my shoulder holster on and
place the 9mm Baretta in it. We have a
meeting today with the prospective actors.
Judy L. has been assigned to be my assistant. We pare it down to seven actors. The two leads are college students. The supporting five are veterans of the skin
trade. We meet in the
We’re in the 21st day of shooting. Rumple thinks we’ve got a hit.
“This film of yours might inspire a trend toward fidelity,” he says. “Anyway it’s great work. We’ll have no trouble selling it.”
“What’s the next step?”
“I think we’ll have a party. To celebrate.
I’ll make copies and send them to my compatriots in
“When’s the party?”
“How about this Friday.”
“Who are you inviting?”
“The usual cast.”
“You won’t show the film?”
I’m disturbed that I won’t allow myself to get too close to people. I think the film is teaching me about my need for intimacy.
Surrounded by lit candles I sit
alone in my apartment and look through old photographs: My first wife,
brown-haired with granny glasses and large teats standing next to me, in our
I turn on the TV. A good looking pudgy and tan Newt Gingrich gives a speech on the abolition of adolescence and the reformation of our mutilated educational system. God knows our educational system needs abolishing.
The day of the party I feel a little gloomy. I call Rumple and tell him I’m coming. I dress in a white shirt, silk pants, and a black merino wool jacket, and take a cab to the warehouse. Rumple’s got a pair of guards at the door. Apparently, Rumple is charging fifty bucks to get in unless you know the password, which I don’t. I step back a bit and say “Will you please ask Mr. Mesbusch to come to the door?” Rumple appears and throws an arm around me.
The warehouse is loaded. Subdued lighting surrounds the dancers. The music is the pounding, thumping techno variety. Nothing to soothe my nerves. At the far end of the room, a five foot sculpture of a vagina is encased in plexiglass.
“Jack and Jill aren’t coming,” Rumple says.
“Too bad,” I reply.
I am staring at the nipples of a dancer in her thirties who wears only underpants and no shoes. She moves languidly and then jerks up and forward to a hip-hop tune. She begins to slink, her left hand on her left hip, her right hand on her head. I start laughing. There is a child-like openness in her face framed by dirty blonde hair. She ends her dance with a twirl and comes up to the bar where I am drinking.
“Are you in the porno business?” she asks.
“I’d like a Becks, Please.”
“You seem to be enjoying yourself.”
“See that couple over there in the corner, the two men kissing. They brought me here. I’m looking for a man. Do you dance?”
“No,” I say, “but I can take you outa here.”
“Who are you?”
“Lyle. Desmond. I developed the movie some people are celebrating tonight.”
“You’re a porno…. developer.”
“Not really. It was my first and probably my last. Something I always wanted to do.”
“I love to watch myself fuck.” She has a slight, Swedish accent. She takes a swig of her beer.
“If you still want to take me out in ten or fifteen minutes, I’ll let you.” She puts her beer down and walks away.
I haven’t wanted a woman in 2 and a half years. After another Becks I walk through the dancing crowd and find her with two men. She's putting on a coat and shoes.
“Shall we go,” I say.
“Do you have a car?”
“I do. Let me tell the boys goodbye.”
I see Rumple watch us as we walk out.
She stops in front of a white 80’s
On a corner a block from my apartment, they are tearing down a Jack-In-The-Box; cleaning the debris and paving. The sounds of shovels and pulleys, the pounding and twisting of concrete and metal I find soothing. She left a few minutes ago. Rumple calls sounding out of breath and panicked.
“We’ve got a disaster on our hands. Someone broke into the safe after the party.”
“When did you last check it?”
“On my way out last night.”
“What was in it?”
“Our negatives and $20,000 or so.”
“Have you called the police?”
“Wait till I get there. I’d like to look at the safe.”
The party ended around 1:15 A.M. The place had been cleaned by Rumple and Judy L. They had left around 3 A.M. Rumple came back to the warehouse at noon. The front door and the safe had been opened by a pro. There had been no force involved.
We start calling the people connected to the film. The only anomaly is both numbers for Jack and Jill are disconnected.
Rumple says, “If they planned it from the beginning, their resumes will be phony.”
Jack, whose name on the resume is David Isralow, had completed his third year of a Baccalaureate at UCLA Jill’s name is Heloise Jonah. She had graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology. I check with the schools and the names are real. Would the faces match?
“I guess you’ll be going to
I call Jasmine and leave a message. I feel like inviting her, but I don’t.
At U.C.LA. I check with Admissions and sure enough their faces match. I call Heloise’s mother (her only surviving parent) and tell her Heloise has interviewed for a job at IBM in Customer Relations. I ask to speak with her. Mother volunteers that Jill is in Vegas, but she doesn’t know where. I give her my name and cellphone number. I call David’s house but there is no answer.
On the third night in
“They called a little while ago. They’ve sent it back.”
“Do you have it?”
“It’ll be here tomorrow.”
“They’re getting married in Vegas. I guess they were going to burn it.”
“They said something to that effect.”
“They decided against it?”
“So they say.”
“Yeah well… you wanna bet they made a copy?”
“What do you want to do about that?”
“It’s in the contract, right? All pirated versions etc…”
“Definitely. But bootlegs overseas, down South?”
“Let me think about it. Call me when you get the package. And let me know the return address, sender and the postmark. What did they say about your $20,000?”
The package arrives the following
day. The negative is in fine shape. They are honeymooning at the
“Jill,” I say, “it’s Jack Rack.” (my stage name)
“Oh, Mr. Rack, how are you?”
“Better now that we have the film back.”
“We’re sorry, but you have to understand…”
I cut her off.
“Jill did you make a copy?”
“We did, but it’s just for us. Dave wants to talk to you.”
“Mr. Rack, we were afraid. Our parents… they really don’t know about us. I don’t know when we decided to do this but we now know we were wrong. Do you accept my apology?”
“No. David, I want your copy.”
“We can’t give you that, sir. Heloise wants to say goodbye.”
“You really helped us, Jack. You’re a valuable man. We’ll never forget you.”
“Will you come back to
“We’re not there anymore.”
“Jill, do not under any circumstances pass out copies. Capisci?”
“I said, we’re sorry.” She hangs up.
Should I go and grab the copy? Will they be there? How many have they made? I fly back to S.F..
That evening, Jasmine comes over. She brings a six pack of Becks, and wears a black silk Chinese pants suit. She moves lovingly about my apartment asking me about my life.
“Other than making me so happy, what do you really like doing?” she asks.
“I like cooking vegetables.”
She stares at me. I feel loved.
“I used to be fond of hand to hand.”
“Combat. I boxed and wrestled as a kid. It’s all on the line. Taking it. Standing tall.”
“I knew it,” she says. “That’s why I feel comfortable.”
“When I was nineteen I killed a man in a knife fight.”
“Did you go to jail?”
“No. It was ruled self-defense.”
“When was your last fight, Des?”
“Ten years ago.”
Suddenly, she is in my arms.
“Do you have a lot of friends, Des?”
“You know over the years we’ve sort of lost contact. I was very much in love with a girl named Jill three years back.”
“Is that why you named the girl in your movie, Jill?”
“Yes. Do you want to see it?”
“I’m not into that. I like my movies straight and if not enlightened at least not insulting.”
“What are your favorite movies?”
“The Secret of Roan Innish, Burnt by the Sun, Central Station, Gods and Monsters…”
“Never heard of them.”
“Did you see Sixth Sense?”
“Yeah. That’s good.”
She got a lot out of me that night. After dinner, she led with, “You won’t always be a mystery man, but I like your mysterious side, Des. Don’t worry about me getting too close to it.”
Killing a person, for me, is not easy. The hardest part is deciding who needs killing. I observe the behavior of the marked individual for one week. At the end of the observance I’ll know if I’ll take the job. A fellow traveler, Jack Burner, calls himself a travel agent. I prefer the term cleaner. Sometimes the client gives the cleaner instructions as in the case of Bobby McKnight; dismember him, grind him up and throw one body part, other than the head, into the Bay.
This anonymous culture I live in, which has no philosophical vision, no juicy gut, is, with its absence of critical support for the new, either killing itself from self-hatred or unconsciously ferreting out weaknesses and thus readying itself for a New Heroine, a New Hero.
Rumple calls and tells me he’s close
to a deal with HotZone. They are
offering ½ mil for all
trying to get 10% of the gross but it’ll only be for the
“Are you sure?”
“You see the problem. Whoever killed them…”
“Stole the tape.”
“I’ve called the D.A. and told him of our involvement. I’m sure it’ll go through the proper channels. We might help them find the bastards.”
“Idiots. I can’t believe this.”
An assistant D.A. calls and would
like a word and permission to view the film.
She would like to make a copy to send to the
That night Bobby McKnight’s knee
cap floats above a stormy
The sun rises in my kitchen and
travels around the apartment to set in the bathroom above the
“The director appears,” Rumple says.
“Hi,” she says with an upbeat English accent.
“I’m Frances Sheffield.”
“Desmond,” I say.
She has a sharp nose, frizzy blond hair, and an easy sensuous manner.
“I was telling your boss, here,
we’ll make another copy for ourselves and send this to the
“You’ll see what wonderful kids they are,” I say.
Rumple looks a little glum. She hands me a piece of paper. “If you’ll sign this, I can be on my way.” It’s a release form. It makes them responsible for any bootleg copies that may derive from their mishandling of the tapes.
Rumple says, “if it gets out we’ll sue.”
“Don’t worry,” Frances Sheffield says, and stands. She says with a wink, “I’ll let you know what I think.”
Rumple walks her out. He comes back and says, “these people have their own agenda. I wouldn’t have given it to her if Hallinan wasn’t her boss. I met Hallinan at Dennis Natale’s wedding. I knew Dennis.”
“Yeah. Any word on HotZone?”
“They said they’d talk it over and give me an answer by Saturday. What are you doing today?”
“I don’t know.”
As I walk out I think of Dennis Natale. I didn’t know him. Natale had been assassinated a few blocks from his house by Vietnamese hoods. Apparently he was the lawyer bagman for his killer’s competition. Natale and his client had been murdered on the same night within minutes of one another.
The phone rings. Jas tells me she is going to
“It’s going to be non-stop work, Des,” she says. “I’m with a negotiating team which will try to untangle the Verizon problem.”
“Well that’s too bad. I was looking forward to tonight.”
“I’ll be back next Wednesday. I hope. See you then. Gotta go. Bye.”
Days go by. I should have taken the
Million dollars hits are high profile evil doers. Million dollar deals are death warrants for the assassin. At least, the Giants are leading the West. Fall and football are around the corner.
I tried for two decades to become a peaceful creature. I decided I was kidding myself. The only time I really felt peaceful was when I fasted. I, being a typical representative of humanity, am not peaceful. I am restless yet disciplined. I am fiery yet cold. The reservoir of anger in me is deeper than most.
After my two decade meditation on
violence I found only the expression of violence could make me happy. It looks as if most of
I dream that night I’m with my
second wife, blonde neurotic Allison.
We’re on the
Another job comes up from Global Security. It’s the United Nations Millennium Conference. I take it without thinking. I see in the protocols the founder of Global Security, Terry Kingsberry, will be there. Terry started me out. Eight years ago, I was his fifth employee. Now, he has three hundred plus people on board. I give him a call.
He answers. “You remember that July 4th party last year?” he says.
“That was intense. Did you go to
“No. Just paddling away under the fluorescent skies. You should see some of the insane money that’s moved into my neighborhood.”
“I’m going to
Kingsberry, who is 6’6”, 270 with a
scarred boyish face, looks awkward in an expensive black suit. He’s originally from
“She keeps me on my toes. Why don’t you come up this Halloween?”
“I’d like that.”
“I’m looking at the detail. I think you could be the lone wolf. You can go anywhere in the building except to private meetings. There. Your pass will be at the front desk. If you hear anything talk only to me. This will be my number 415-555-2024.”
“I’m cooking lamb. I’ll see you there.”
I call my father. He lives in a little apartment in
stare at the perky, deluded faces in the crowd before me. I’m on edge.
In my room there is a message.
“Des,” she says, “I’m sorry I didn’t call. I’m a mess.
Dad died. I called you a few days
ago in S.F. I called your work. They told me where you were staying. I’m meeting a school chum at
I am wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying the Baretta. In the bar I see John Barnes and Semel – the only female operative of ours at this convention. Semel is part German, African and American Indian – a slender beauty, tough and cruel. John is from the Bayou. They’re schmoozing. I’m tempted to join them. Instead, I start a conversation with a Mets fan. He thinks the Mets beat the Braves and the Giants go all the way. Finally, I take off.
city streets are a labyrinth of cordoned off areas and construction sites. At 28th I cut over to 9th. I unbutton my coat and walk on the left side
of 24th to stop at 450
“I’m wearing a bullet proof vest,” I murmur.
“Well you’re arm isn’t.”
They lift me onto the gurney and drive away. One guy is taking my jacket and vest off; the other guy works on my arm.
“We’re going to look through this jacket and tell the police who you are so they can start working this up.”
I’m a little drowsy. At the hospital they remove the bullet and give me pain killers. Two hours later I’m in the hotel with a stiff left arm; it hurts like hell. I pop two more Percocets and order dinner. The phone rings. It’s Kingsberry.
“Des, what happened?” His voice ends on a high note. “I just finished talking with the Gestapo. You don’t want to talk?”
“No, it’s not that, Terry. I’m trying to figure out what happened.”
“Do that out of town. That’s my advice. And run. I certainly expect to see you on Halloween. Right?”
“You get full pay. Injury and all. I gotta go. See you in the morning.”
In the morning I call room service for the Post. My story is on page eight.
GUARD BUSHWACKED IN
assailant pumped two bullets into a man standing at
I start up the laptop and tap into my home files. I search for a connection. I start with the last first. There’s a knock at the door. It’s Terry. He crushes my right hand.
“I’m heading to the opening ceremony. Let me see the arm.”
“Was it a flesh wound?”
“It didn’t break a bone.”
“The police aren’t going to follow this. It seems like a random sniping incident to them – weird gun and all.” He stares at me. His eyes seem to be searching for something.
“We’ll talk later,” he says and reaches into his suit pocket and hands me a little gun.
“It’s a 22 Baretta subsonic model 21A. What the Mossad use on their up close and personal friends.” He drops a box of bullets on the table and walks out.
Bobby McKnight's file is deeply layered. It takes me half an hour to get in.
was born in
must have been lovers. What else could
account for her behavior? She could have
killed me in the beginning, but she wanted to taste my flesh, to have me merge
with her as Bobby did when they were young and secretive. Why not be a good girl and go back to
wear a black merino jacket over a new vest and gray slacks with the 21A in my
pocket. I walk vigorously through the lobby and onto the bristling
street. I’m a little panicked. I walk
cautiously among the crowd and hail a cab and ask him if he’ll take me through
the tunnel and into
greets me at the door with a hug. He
looks frail and kind; sides of him that were non-existent when I was growing
up. He’s been in
“What’s the matter with your arm?”
“Why don’t we stand side by side – eyes to the front,” he says.
I laugh. He nods his head. His turtle-like face grins. He hasn’t bothered to pop in his dentures.
“I was thinking of Ruth all morning before you called.”
He lights a cigarette and starts coughing.
the time we went to
“I miss them.”
“War is the great defiler. When you got the college deferment I was happy. I am sad to say it but I was.”
walk into his bedroom where Grandma’s two earliest paintings hang. The first a snowy scene in
I go back into the living room. We talk baseball. We sit together locked in a kind of dream state. We’re the last of our clan.
The Inner Life
In San Francisco Gordon Hickok, the great grandson of Wild Bill, is my tutor. He stands 6’5”, with flaring blonde hair just like his ferocious relative. We’re sitting in his office on the campus of U.S.F. For the last three weeks we’ve been processing Elizabethan England with an emphasis on Elizabeth and Bacon. This last week he instructed me to read Frances Yates’s bio of the Renaissance magician, Giordano Bruno.
As I sit in Gordon’s office he gestures for me to begin.
contribution as a tireless proselytizer for the theories of Copernicus got him
in trouble all his life. He was a martyr to the cause. He attacked the
“A Copernican, first.”
“Yes. Of course.”
1590, he was certainly teaching there should be a United Federation of Europe;
Copernicus should replace Ptolemy in the Catholic Church’s canon. In 1598 he was lured to the
“Why did he go?”
“He was a true believer. He thought he could convince the Pope that he was not a heretic.”
heretic, indeed! What was it he spread
“In a way I suppose he was attempting to merge the Catholics and the Protestants; to persuade the two forces to join in embracing the New Cosmic View. The discovery of ancient writings, specifically the writing of Vitruvius on hydraulics and the like combined with Copernican theory regarding the structure of the solar system and certainly the hermetic tradition into a sort of unified field theory . . .”
“Doesn’t that sound nuts?”
“You mean the length of the sentence? Just kidding.”
“Was he an agent for Queen Elizabeth?”
“There’s no proof of it.”
he knew Philip Sydney and was welcome at
“Have you read his published work?”
“As much as I could stand. It’s ponderous and boring. I guess you could say he was a P.R. man.”
“Then, he paid dearly for presenting his idea to the wrong client. What did he believe?”
“That the Universe was completely animated, infinite, and the planets had people on them just like us.”
“You don’t seem to like him very much.”
“I think he would have been fun to be with, a kind of Orson Welles type, a bore, but ultimately I guess I see him as a hopelessly naïve egoist. He knew the dangers inherent in his position and yet he blundered into that tea with Clement. There was so much more to see – twenty years of marvels. He would have loved it and he could have played an important part in laying The Foundation.”
referring to the work completed in
“All right. Continue reading Bacon and I’ll see you next week.”
night I feel bad about tearing into Bruno.
I light a candle in his memory. I
write: “The Elizabethan Age is the continuing crucible of the modern world sans
the literary tradition.” I work into the
night. “Bacon was a beautiful boy – pure
and bright. When Liz the Lion sent him
on his European tour (he was 15 or so) she had no idea how much
The following week Dr. Hickok and I are comparing Bruno and Bacon.
I say, “there’s no comparison.”
Gordon says, “what about a link?”
“Bruno was the old school, Bacon the new.”
“That’s good. Bacon would say he’s the old school and he shares the classroom with Giordano.”
“You mean the Egyptian connection? Obviously, one man was modern in our sense and the other . . ..well Bruno’s style is hokey and hermetic . . .”
“What you’re hinting at is one of the great mysteries of the modern world. There has been, for 2,000 years, a battle surrounding the Catholic Church’s legitimacy. This battle initiated by the varied and conflicting reports concerning the life of Jesus has been extended by the Church’s continuing treachery and murder. If you read all the Gospels including the suppressed now revealed like the Nag Hammadi you may find an accurate picture does emerge of the events of that time. In my opinion, Jesus was a Rabbi descended from the House of David. He was the Lion of Judah. He came to free the Jews from Roman occupation. All great religious leaders come to liberate mankind from the tyranny of the ego and to free us from the Territorial Imperative which makes us slaves and murderers. Many commentators, scholars, and gospel experts indicate that Jesus did not die on the Cross. Basilides, around 120 A.D., is one such scholar. Check him out. The second Treatise of the Great Seth says, “Jesus did not succumb to them as planned. It was another on whom they placed the crown of thorns.’ Read all the Nag Hammadi gospels and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Now imagine if Jesus was a Rabbi, therefore married, and bore children. Then his line might have persisted to this day.”
“Does this relate to the war between the Protestants and the Catholics?”
Sometimes, often when he’s laughing, Gordon looks a little like the Cookie Monster.
“It’s essential,” he says.
In the hall, he asks, “is everything O.K. with you?”
“I could use some work.”
“I’m having a party in a couple of weeks. You could work on it.”
Can I bring my girlfriend?”
“I charge $600 for an edited one hour video, and $300 for 20 stills.”
“Do you catch them in action or pose them?”
“I think I can swing that.”
continue to study the life of Bacon. During
years before she ascended to the throne her sister Mary (by Catherine of
Aragon) had dispatched her to the Tower.
She spent two months there with Robert Dudley whose family had been
instrumental in attempting to overthrow Mary.
Elizabeth and Robert had been childhood friends and became lovers and
central fact of
It’s not credible that Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper, a man of impeccable business sense, would have kept his youngest son, Francis, out of his will. He took care of all his other children and his wife, Anne. When he died, he thought the Queen would, if not acknowledge Francis, at least support him.
G. H. leans back. He says, ‘maybe you don’t understand the importance of the Nag Hammadi.”
“I can’t see it right now.”
let’s talk about Bacon. What was
important to him? Start with when
15 or so. He travels with her Ambassador
to the French court. He falls in love
with Marguerite de Valois who is engaged to the Huguenot king of
“I think what most impresses me about him, Gordon, is his willingness to accept his situation, at least, on the surface: his survivability if you like. Underneath, he is unlocking his inventions, forming his secret society and most of all developing his psychic power: ‘How more are letters magnified which as ships pass through the vast seas of time and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations and inventions . . . I leave my name to the next ages and the charity of foreigners and to mine own countrymen after some little time be passed’.”
Gordon laughs. “Bravo,” he says. “I haven’t heard that in quite a while.”
I stand. “There is no Excellent Beauty that hath not strangeness in the proportion.”
“Sit down, James.”
“Thank you. Speaking of his own time and probably ours but hopefully not for all time. I do not think ourselves yet learned or wise enough to wish reasonably for man.
I wait for harvest time and not attempt to reap green corn.”
I walk around downtown S.F. and notice a painting in the front window of the Art Vault. I walk in and buy it. Helmeted Nazi statues face me. Behind them, lurking in a doorway stands a living Nazi guard. He smokes a cigarette. It’s black and gray with various shades of acrylic blue. I take it home in a taxi and hang it in the living room. I invite my girlfriend of the moment over to view it. That night we make love under the picture and our sex is rougher than usual.
I’m reading Bacon’s Hamlet. I think he began writing Hamlet in his thirties while in the House of Commons. Nash knew of Hamlet in 1587 (an early version). In 1589 Love’s Labour Lost is published under the pseudonym Will Shakespeare. In 1596 Lodge mentions an expanded Hamlet in Wit’s Miserie and The World’s Madnesse. There are further versions in 1602-3-4. Of course, all the plays were reworked after Bacon’s Fall (1621-1623). He and his many pens (Jonson, Marsden, Fletcher, Dekker, Chapman, Heywood, etc.) sat together in Twickenham Lodge, (his home). What urgency they must have felt in compiling the Folio.
I’m realizing it takes a monster to live and I don’t like the feeling. I am a knife. I dress for Professor Hickok’s party in grey slacks and black leather jacket. I’m going alone. It’s a job. I take a cab and get out at the top of Green. I walk up the stone stairs to the penthouse. Gordon is decked out in grey slacks and a blue blazer.
James, glad you could make it. Welcome.” He extends his hand. He ushers me through the doorway and into a
small dining area. We walk through the
kitchen and into a huge dining room with a picture window overlooking the
“A new friend,” he says, “James Talbot. I’ve told you about him.”
There are three men and two ladies: Josie Kurahara, Berit Markem, Richard Fryar, Eric Shapiro, and Ferdinando.
“Sit down”, Gordon says. “Would you like a drink?”
“A Beck’s, please.”
Berit, a clear skinned, dark haired beauty in her early 40s, says, “what do you do that you’ve come into contact with our dear friend, Gordon?”
“I live a kind of tai-chi existence, Berit,” I say, leaning closer to her. “I find myself in a world of amazing danger. I move from place to place escaping death and studying with teachers hoping to enlarge my knowledge.” Gordon returns with three beers and pulls up next to Josie. He says, “Ferdinando is a computer whiz, Mr. Shapiro owns a record store – ‘Grooves’, Josie is a volunteer, Richard there is a business consultant, and Berit is a psychologist, and James is our videographer for the day. He’ll commemorate this party by photographing you and the other guests with or without your permission of course.”
Richard, a stocky dog-like man says, “James, I’m curious about your travels.”
Fryar, I’ve been to
“You’ve been taping these travels?”
“Regretfully no. I’m a writer. I’m going to do some stills of you all if you don’t mind.”
Gordon says, “we’ll resume the conversation we were having before you walked in. To sum up we had digested surrealism as an historical reality. Berit completed a point on the overall value of surrealism.”
“What I said,” Berit says, “was that the movement has been turned into a tool which keeps people further from the real.” I kneel and get a picture of Josie leaning towards Gordon.
Shapiro says, “I’ve tried Breton, Paz, Lamantia. It escapes me.”
“What was your favorite surrealist work”, Gordon asks him.
“Well, Paz, Lamantia, and Breton are interpreting the concrete’s effervescence. Look at Paz’s celebrations of water or Lamantia’s grasp of history.”
“I can’t identify”, Shapiro says.
“The older you get the less you can tolerate what you don’t understand”, Berit exclaims. The doorbell rings and Gordon stands. I follow him.
For the next two hours I trail people around with the camera, and Berit is trailing me. By six p.m. there are twenty-five people or so in the main dining room. I’m done. Berit suggests we go back to her place. She tells me she’s fascinated by me and I suppose this is what I want to hear. As we leave I ask,
“How can he afford such an extravagant place?”
“He bought it in ’92. I met him that year.”
“You were lovers?”
“For about two years. Gordon tries very hard to keep his ex-lovers friends. He doesn’t always succeed. In my case, he directed me to a new field where I have been thriving. I work for an investment firm analyzing the states of mind of corporate boards and individual managers.”
“That sounds cool. Is Josie his present girlfriend?”
“Yes, but I think she tires of him. I was hot for you when he spoke of you. And I will tell you something about him I’m sure you don’t know. He’s a professional gambler – very successful and extremely good with money.”
Once inside her apartment we begin kissing. She wants to open me up, to explore me. I ask Berit who Josie is.
“Josie has been
here for five years. She speaks four languages and comes from a very good
family. I think from
“Oils, acrylic, water colors. Gordon has a Foundation. You didn’t know?”
“It gives money to artistic teenagers, scholarships to unknowns. Josie is now on the board.”
“Was she any good?”
“Fair, average. Do you understand why I am fascinated by you?”
“You might be the only free person I’ve ever met, who has never had a love affair that lasted more than two years. Am I correct?”
“How did you know that?"
“I can see you're alone.”
“I’ve been dealing with motivation therapies as long as I can remember. Literature and history are tools to keep me going in a world I find weak-kneed – without a memory. My pursuit of efficiency and serenity are additional forms of therapy. But I am alone. Yes.”
Sleeping in her bed that night I dream of a fabulous court where the great magical worlds of the forgotten perform. Machine birds flit about the cavernous hall while hydraulic water fountains shoot rainbow colored water 30 feet into the air.
I’ve told my girlfriend of the moment a lot about my studies with Gordon. Her eyes widen when she hears the details of the cruelty and intrigue that rules the world. It’s my habit when appearing in the city of my choice to seek out a tutor and to study with him or her for the year I’ll be there.
We’re in the tattered part of the
“It was a cliché,” I say.
“Right. You were embarrassed for them?”
“And the angle:
the beautification of Mary. Actually it
was pretty good, but they left out Bacon, Essex, Raleigh, the whole gang. It wouldn’t take that much extra money to put
them in but they didn’t have the knowledge.
Bujold was great as
“Oh yeah, thanks for bringing me.”
"My mother's sick. I'm leaving for the East Coast tomorrow. I'll call you when I figure things out."
"Do you want me to watch your place?"
"I'll call you when I get there."
Look at the depth of the individuals the Western World generated from 1880 to 1980 and propelled into the main arenas and compare them to what is now on the stage. The Western World has been literary for about 4,500 years. Replacing such an ancient tradition is bound to take its toll. Maybe we are shedding our literary roots, as Marshall McCluhan suggested, in order to create a global village. If so, we're doomed like the children who dive off cliffs rater than starve to death. In my opinion, what plagues us is our stubborn refusal to admit the full extent of our criminal past. The truth is not going to kill us. Indeed.
The word resonates across mountains of time. The image is noumenon--the thing in itself. Painting and sculpture are the finest examples of the image. Their meanings can be iconographic, representational or projective (as in abstract painting), but the image does not reverberate. Unless, of course, the image is primal, sexual or violent in the extreme. Up until now our history has been kept alive by the word. From the Sumerians of 3000 B.C., to the Indians and Hebrews and to the Greeks and the Chinese, to the European Renaissance, our life has been maintained by the word. Words simply say more, create more within our minds. Richness upon richness, the most fertile field imaginable, and hardly anyone, in our time, pays any attention to it.
The mythologies we Americans have created with our images are remarkable, but there is no underlying pathos to our individual hero. He or she is made out of papier maché.
At our next and final meeting I hand over the tape and stills. He pays me. I ask him if he thinks his passion for rummaging through the past is an escape from the now. He’s clearly intrigued by the question.
“I’ve never thought in those terms, James. For me there is no escape from the present. In fact, all the excavations and ruminations into our histories have given me a firmer understanding of our own current predicament, which is remarkably similar to what has gone before. If I can be so bold as to presume to tell you I would say you need a stake in this world. Something to fight for. You look like money. You travel freely. You’re good looking. You’re of the age when you should want to start a family, but you don’t.”
“I’m sure you have your reasons.”
“I don’t seem to have any ambition. I like meeting various kinds of people, hanging with them, then leaving.”
“Yes. I like moving, changing the scenery, but I’m not going to keep it up.”
“How do you know that?”
“I don’t want to
Gordon looks at me. He smiles his hideous grin and reaches into his desk and hands me a form.
“Read this and meet me at my house tonight if you want.”
He stands. “You’re a wonderful student”, he says.
“And you’re a magnificent teacher. Thank you.”
I wait till I get back to the apartment before reading it. It says, I so and so, residing at . . .do, so and so . . ..he’s inviting me to join his non-profit foundation. I, too, can become a board member. I read it a few more times before signing it then tear it up and start to pack.
I’m graduating from
I have an uneventful but swift journey across the States and arrive at the docks fresh and ready to go. I present my letter to the shipping agent. He reads it and then shakes his head.
“Sorry, lad,” he says, “but we can no longer honor these commitments. The company has changed hands. Sorry”
a moment I panic, then I remember where I am.
Not a bad place to be. Outside in the City the people are friendly and
elegant. There’s a lot of space. I find a cheap motel to stay in on
It turns out Johnny Valentino’s got an inferiority complex, and since I’m the youngest (most nonjudgmental) and seem the smartest guy in the place (he can tell this by my written language) he’s decided he’s going to take me under his wing, and, at the same time, enrich himself. After the meeting’s finale which is and always will be you’re either an oyster or an eagle—choose now, most left. Johnny singled me out for a private conversation.
I like it when people pay attention to me. I’ve always prided myself on my thinking ability—judge of character, analyzer of material. I thought I had an ability to intermingle. What Johnny saw in me was somebody he could mould. I wasn’t an eagle yet, but he could make me one. I can’t remember how he spoke. I only remember at the time thinking he was a hustler and I would let him do all the talking.
For the first month or so we drove around in his white Cadillac. He bought all the meals. All I did was listen and give him a word a day, which he would then try to include in his sentences. I was now part of a team, and just like in any other sport I had to prove myself.
About three weeks
into breakfast with the crew, driving around and listening to Johnny (while the
crew knocked on doors) I was given my first assignment. We were in a ramshackle, poverty stricken
She was pale, in her late twenties and sweet. It was around 4pm, and hot. I was wearing a madras jacket that Johnny had bought me. We sat in her little living room and drank Coke. I think she had two children. I had no awareness of what I was saying. I remember that. In order to close the deal I had to have her husband’s signature. Fortunately, he arrived around 4:30. A cup of coffee a day, a lifetime of knowledge for you and most of all for your children. I brought out the teaching machine, a blue plastic rolodex. As I turned the dial it asked a question and then the answer followed.
About an hour after
entering I emerged with a $100 down payment and a signed copy to pay more. The entire package cost $360. I would get 20% of that. Johnny would get 20% more. The idea was to sell 3 sets of encyclos a
day. After a month or so I began to hear
what I was saying and to whom I was saying it.
I had misgivings. It’s not that I
didn’t think it was a good deal. I just
thought the poor people I was selling the accumulated knowledge to wouldn’t
avail themselves of it. I suppose their
oppressive living conditions began to get to me. One early evening in
I had saved enough
money to book a ticket to
I was not a
stranger to business. Before leaving for
I said, “I’d really like this job.”
He said, “You don’t. You just think you do.”
I must have looked nonplussed.
He said, “Here, I’ll show you.”
He pushed a white button on the side of his desk. A few minutes later a young man, my age, dressed in a suit, came into the room. The advertising man behind the desk asked if I wanted something to drink.
“Two, Alex, and thank you.”
Alex turned away without a glance. After he left the advertising executive said, “Could you do that for a year and keep a straight face?”
What did he see in me? It would take me another 20 years to understand the nature of business and why he didn’t hire me.
In my first year
of college at N.Y.U. I had three things going for me. A
I’ve met so many young people today who started fucking at 14. There is something hard about their attitude toward sex, and for that matter life in general. It’s not that they don’t have reverence. It’s more that they feel they were robbed. Given something they didn’t need. Instead of studying they were fucking. It is far better to dream about fucking when studying. To their credit, many of these young people are back in school. Still, I find that there is a weariness about them. They know too much, too soon, about the intricacies of sexual behavior.
I met a fabulous lady who popped my cherry in Anthropology class. She was Sarah R.—a Myrna Loy type—witty, graceful and smarter than I. She was my age but had been raised in an upper-class Protestant atmosphere. She invited me out for a drink. We talked about Whorf, Eisley and Claude Levy-Strauss. I reciprocated by inviting her to a basketball game. After about a month into the class she asked me to a party at her place, which turned out to be a modest penthouse on 24th and 9th at London Terrace. There were four couples including Sarah and I. We sat in the garden and talked and smoked and drank.
The other six were all from Sarah Lawrence. She treated me like her date. I was surprised, the more she drank the more her passion for me became evident. One couple left early. The other two planned to spend the night. There were three bedrooms. I had been debating whether or not to tell her I was a virgin. I wasn’t anxious, but I was wondering whether this was really going to happen. It did. Where I was inexperienced, she was a magician.
Naturally I had studied my cock, my sensuality, but she knew as much about me as I did. I later learned it was very unusual to have this kind of virile all night ride the first time out. We fucked, sucked and talked like that throughout the semester. I became a satyr. Truly she was a wonderful way to live. Creamy delicious sexual feelings. My golden cock in her pink linen, our expressions of love for humanity through our sex and conversation. I became fascinated by the subtle differences in her moods, differences in the shape of her clitoris and her response time to orgasm. At the end of class she said she was transferring to Sarah Lawrence.
She taught me to crave a no holds barred tidal wave of passion, a subtle build-up, a delay in the climax, a kind of sweet torture of the libido until it all broke free in one tumultuous heaving: That was her gift to me. In the intervening years we saw each other infrequently (which was the key to our longevity).
Of the foreign
girls I’ve met I’d have to say the Kiwi gal is tops, the French second, and the
Thai tied for third with the English. My
criteria is simple: How truly affectionate are they toward me? The greatest sex is always based on technique
(pressing down on the sphincter muscle, delaying orgasm) but what makes it soar
is it’s genuine expression of love for God-if you will. It’s as if men and women released themselves
from bondage singing their praises to creation.
It’s rare. In my experience I
found this intensity in only 8 women from a very large sampling. I suspect it’s the same for men. I prefer women who are sexy but act
intelligently. Sarah was the most
spectacular woman I met in my 20’s and I would have married her if she had been
willing. She became a theatrical manager
for stage actors. She had offices in
After graduation I
“Hey, I’m Paul Murphy, Sarah suggested I call”
“How are ya Murphy,” his Irish brogue twirled in my ear.
“Can I see you today?”
“You can come down to the office in one hour. Please be on time.”
He was in downtown
It didn’t turn out
the way I thought it would, but it had sold.
I carried on an affair with one of the porn stars. A gamin like girl about nineteen, but I found
I didn’t enjoy being involved on the set.
Even though the environments were warm and inviting (certainly with a touch
of class) the actual shooting was too mechanized for my taste. After viewing the finished product I declined
credit and flew back to
My neighbor was a
special forces combat vet. His name was
Bill Kingsberry. He was a huge man who
“Hey, what are you doing in there—jacking off.”
He knew I was cool. He had watched me. I looked up. He stood on the border line of our property. He looked a little beat but solid as a fucking oak. About 6’3” and 230 lbs. I could tell immediately he was a dangerous but very sweet guy. It turned out that was his reputation throughout the valley. In my life I’ve cultivated guys who were bigger and tougher than I was.
He told me about himself all afternoon and into the evening. Apparently, he was the fastest man on the battlefield.
“Mother fucker this, mother fucking that. I’ve got to throw hammers at some of these kids; I ran around the other side of the shack and blew off his head then moved to the other side. Sand still oozes out of my hands.”
I said, “I’m going to throw a party and meet the rest of the fucking assholes around here. You wanna help?”
“You want me to help find you some pussy? There isn’t any unless they got kids.”
“That’s fine,” I
said, “I love kids.” Bill spread the
word and I had the party the following Saturday afternoon. The food in the
Though I was prepared, people brought food. That night I met people who would become friends for life. Later in the evening I wandered into a conversation at the edge of my property. Bill had his back to me and as I moved to his left I caught a glimpse of a man I hadn’t yet seen. There was something about his shadowy face that frightened me. As I walked toward them Bill turned and I could see them clearly silhouetted against woods.
“Paul”, Bill said, “This is a partner of mine—Steven.”
Steven’s face was scarred by obvious slash wounds. He was around 6’ tall, wiry, bald, face creasing.
“Nice to meet
you,” Steven said in a hard
“I don’t partake myself, but feel free.” I returned to the main party, all the while feeling his cold blue eyes on me. I mention this because that particular Steven was Steven Albricht, the man who organized the simultaneous killing of 23 famous media people five years later. I’m sure you remember it. Thank god Mr. Kingsberry wasn’t involved. One other thing stood out at that party. I think all of the people were organics. Skin not taut, smiles not so bright. It struck me the next morning while I was ruminating on the night’s events.
After a year of
living out there I could say for sure, the organics had a major stronghold in
I drew a theatrical crowd; poet’s, actors and painters. One evening in particular I remember. It was my sixth month on the job and my birthday. All my regulars were in attendance: Keith Oliver, a fourtish poet who recently had his teeth whitened. Dan Burbank, a burly old stage actor who shaved his head and was fond of telling stories about famous dead actors. Peekaboo Benam, an up and coming literary agent; R.D. a professional gambler, and Larry Morez the Greek painter. They all seemed to be on a roll. Oliver was reading his latest poem: “Circumstances/place me/in a casket/at an early age./I will not let them/close the casket/I have grown a snake/inside me. It’s eating itself./My lips tighten/the whole of my face./due to my confusion/I think. I’m blank/and round.”
“It’s very touching,” I said.
Down at the end of the bar Peekaboo was listening to Mr. Burbank.
That conversation between Burbank and Benam has reverberated in my mind all these years, for I never did have an acting or writing career. And I never married. But I did buy the bar and have lived a pretty happy life.
Drekmeier, C. 1962. Kingship and Community in Early