THE STORY ARCHIVE
Tolar reminded himself that in two weeks he would be finished with the academic world after which the future reared itself in vague coloration's barely integrated enough to give him a semi-pleasurable sensation; much like those times when he stood under the night sky and felt the motion of the earth. He had never been able to articulate this feeling other than a crude analogy to an ant in the hold of a great steel ship turning into a wide harbor. He laughed at the analogy. Hopefully there were others in the world who would conjure this sensation in a more precise language suited to the experience. But after listening to even his enlightened friends he realized that precision would come from out of the provincial circle of his existence.
Ah youth; poised at the precipice of the real world yet already restless for the past! Tolar had been in contact with an old family friend who ran an advertising agency in San Francisco and when he had been younger had taken care of the man's handicapped son; a boy whose eyes seemed continually startled as if they belonged to another body or spirit. And when Tolar thought about the advertising man he invariably thought about the handicapped boy and the way the boy looked at him with gnomic knowledge or a secret or an indictment of the healthy.
His words came hurriedly out of his mind while his tongue attempted to phrase a clever sentence.
Tolar had not talked to the father in seven years. He was not sure what he was going to say to him. As a matter of fact the whole business of having to decide on a career seemed more trouble that it was worth.
Tolar had the kind of sense that absorbed situations all at once and the world told him, through his sense, that no man was satisfied with his choice; that at the center of a man was the ambiguity that the choice brought in its wake.
This meditation lifted a burden off his shoulders for a moment. He may as well be a butcher or a street cleaner as well as a newspaper man. He had always seen newspaper men as essential failures who evaporated their sense of failure in alcohol. Besides, he had known three or four people who had changed careers not once but several times and all before they were thirty so it wasn't a 'problem' yet. Perhaps in several years, squeezed in a brightly lit cubicle, shut-in, with the hovering specter of some authority always around, it would be a problem.
Everytime he imagined such a thing he would feel tired and go over to Bertha's apartment along the Bay.
He never claimed that Bertha was his girl friend; she was simply there. They had grown up together and she was always there though he didn't make the effort to keep together as she did. She was homely, tall, well-read; she spoke quietly, especially over the phone. More than once she had called Tolar up during the night and invited him over to her place.
"Now?" he would answer, his voice tired and even credulous.
"Well...it's just....that I want you next to me. I'm thinking how it will be when you are next to me....I'll put on coffee."
That was the extent of their relationship, other than their mutual interest in Cromwellian England. Bertha was a teaching assistant and was considering applying for an opening in the southwest. She wanted to go, she didn't want to go. Tolar found himself more and more irritated around her, especially that she was using him now and had probably used him the whole time they knew each other. Since, when he thought back on it, he was doing something for her all the time. But she had a patient ear and would listen to him so, in his mind, it all evened out.
He stood near the street in the hot noonday sun. The heat drove all desire to work out of him and he looked for his favorite bistro; the one that had ivy growing over the frontpiece and large, iron-encased windows.
The day was hot and silent with little traffic in the street. As Tolar made his way to the bistro everything reminded him of work; the bus driver standing at the donut stand while his bus idled in front of the BART station; the commercial jet arching over the Berkeley Hills toward the east; the road, the lamppost, automobiles, signs were all the result of purposeful labor and it made him feel insignificant; where would be the evidence of his own labor?
Advertising slogans, he answered himself in disgust. It was that or else obituaries and feature stories about immigration to the Bay.
Tolar entered the cool restaurant and took a seat against the wall and ordered a beer and sandwich from the tall and red-headed waitress who had a small purple tattoo on the back of her hand. He was glad now that he hadn't bought a newspaper so he could pause a moment in his thoughts. He was distracted by the red-headed waitress who reminded him of a woman he passed once in the hallway of the apartment building he lived in; an exotic creature who smelled like fresh tobacco and wore a string of gold around her neck.
Ah labor, he mused. Perhaps the last two weeks of school would be extended for another couple of years in pursuit of an advanced degree. NO! He had had enough of school; it seemed unreal. He had the ambiguous itching in him to begin constructing a significant career but it couldn't be done alone, no, someone else had to be there.
The day had been hot and oppressive. In several days he was to learn whether he had been accepted for the position at the University. His mind repressed the inevitable letter which would come for him. And if the letter was positive it meant getting dressed up and going to the interview and sitting in front of a stranger and having the stranger ask him questions which were always demoralizing and which he had turned into a minor art out of the pain of it. He would assume the voice of authority but edge it with a sublime irony and taking it as far as the interview would allow. If the interviewer became irritated at the tone of voice he would cut it short, bow his head gently and slightly and offer some comment about how ignorant he was of many things.
But now, under the influence of the Heineken and the passive reading of the newspaper, he had forgotten everything. Charles, the owner, seemed more than nervous. He would talk to the barmaid behind the counter and then stride from table to table without saying anything before disappearing into the back room which was used for poetry readings and musical auditions among other things. He was a big friendly black fellow who had served time in state prison but had now become something of a legend in Berkeley. He didn't allow riff-raff into his club. A big, hand-painted sign above the cash register read, "No dope, no dice, no games" and as a result of his efforts he got a clientele of university students, educated transients, local literati etcet.
This particular night there were few people in the place. Later that evening there was going to be an 'open mic' which meant anyone with talent was given fifteen minutes to do what they did best.
Tolar was one of the few in the bar reading the newspaper. Across from him was the woman and behind her sat a middle-aged man reading a soft-covered book. The room was fairly dark, lit only by the candles on each table and the light over the bar and in the light he could see the woman half-looking at him or looking at him before directing her face to the general mundane scene. In the dark he perceived that she was small in stature with an exotic looking face; perhaps east-European. Any other night he would have ignored the young woman but the atmosphere of boredom and anxiety that had come over him made him think that perhaps he would try to talk to the woman. For a long time he readied himself to go over to the woman. It was not in his nature to be so bold, nonetheless, an item in the paper had for an inexplicable reason made him bold. It had been an article about the war in Central America and the exploits of an American journalist to get various stories; the harrowing escape from a right-wing death squad. A brief biography had been published about the journalist and it turned out the journalist had gone to Tolar's high school five years prior to Tolar. And as he meditated on the journalist's name he realized that he had gone to high school with the journalist's brother or it appeared that way and this was confirmed by the grainy photograph of the journalist. This information brought the story to the most personal of levels since he had visited his brother's house more than once; had met their parents; had met their sister. This was a block style house in the hills, thoroughly immaculate with the reigning father an athletic, even bullying fellow; a former track star at the university.
If not startling him, the item in the paper pitched him into a whole imaginative universe where he followed the exploits of his friends brother thorough the strange land of Central America; through the political strife which was hardly intelligible and through the sense of danger the article imbued every move that the journalist made. It was while musing thus that he went over to the woman and stood in front of her table, an expression of awkward shyness on his red face.
"Would you like to join me at my table?"
The woman looked up at him. She was far more beautiful close up than he had pictured. She did have an authentic aura of the exotic about her.
"Why don't you sit here at this table?"
She did have an accent of some kind; possibly French. He quickly retreated to his table and took his beer and cigarettes and joined the young woman at the table.
"They would never do this in New York."
"Oh, is that so? What does that mean?"
"I'm from New York- people don't introduce themselves in cafes- they assume something is wrong with you. if you do that- maybe that's why I feel nervous."
Tolar leaned back in his chair and laughed. "Oh, I'm alright. You couldn't be with a nicer fellow."
The woman smiled and pulled a cigarette out of her purse. Tolar took the round candle burning in glass and tilted it toward her so she could light the cigarette.
"Actually I don't go up to people and introduce myself like that. I like to leave others alone. But for some reason I felt stupid sitting alone and the place isn't crowded. Had the place been crowded I wouldn't have come over."
He told her he was a student. He felt funny telling her that as if it weren't appropriate now. What was a student except a kind of intellectual bum? But he felt the need to tell the truth. Why lie he thought to himself? I'm never going to see this woman again. I may as well tell her everything she wants to know.
The woman was Sonia and she had left New York the previous week to enroll in an acting studio run by the local repertory company.
She seemed too sad to be an actress; too shy, sad and awkward to be an actress but she mentioned some of the productions she had been in back in New York and not only had he heard of the productions but had seen them on television; on the public television network and in a moment he remembered the exact place and time that he had watched the program she mentioned and how he had been living with a nut-woman at the time and they would sit in front of the TV and she would remove her blouse and he would scratch her back and smoke pot; years and years ago it now seemed.
"Well, an actress is a fine thing to be."
"I think so- it's difficult, competitive but worth it- if you can make it a career- this is why I came out to the Bay Area. New York is glutted with actors and actresses and so I thought the best thing I could do would be to get: connected with local repertory theatre and then, when I was more experienced, head down to LA."
There was a sudden clamor in the back, behind the heavy cloth curtain and Tolar turned and to see the local poet emerge and demand more beer from the barmaid.
"More beer or I won't perform tonight." The poet was a short, dark man with black clothes and a sinister, underground aura about him. He looked around the empty cafe. "Where are the people? Is this all that's going to show up? It's a disgrace." And when he had his pitcher of beer he vanished behind the curtain, his muffled voice now shouting to someone on the otherside.
The woman had moved the week before. She seemed reticent about talking any further about her personal life and so began to ask Tolar about himself.
"I'm just a student, although, in two weeks I'm no longer going to be a student."
"And what are you going to do when you graduate?"
"I don't know- that's an unnerving question- I've repressed that question in myself- it's repelling to my sense of the future."
The actress stopped asking him questions and they stopped talking to each other for several minutes. Tolar drank his beer while the woman smoked. More people were coming into the club. Students, old hippie types, a black man- perhaps Jamaican, dressed all in white his hair braided over his shoulders and down his back with a generous handful of green stems pressed against his chest.
"He's a poet. I've seen him before," Tolar said.
"It looks as though he should be one."
'"Would you like to watch the show? They have comedians, poets, musicians- people get drunk- occasionally an old European type professor will come down and read his poetry. No one understands them and he goes home mad. Then the wild poets will perform and the crowd will laugh and have a good time; no one famous or anyone who will be famous. I think all desire of fame has been burnt out of them- pot you know- that'll do it to you."
"I know nothing about poetry but the comedians sound interesting."
Within twenty minutes the cafe was filled with couples and single men reading political tracts in the dim light. People lined up in front of the cloth curtain and paid a dollar to get into the back room, larger than one would have suspected. A cavernous room actually with a good sized stage at the far end that was busy with activity and equipment. Tolar led the actress to a table after ordering a pitcher of beer and they sat watching the comedians first. Tall, clean-shaven men who looked like athletes and told dope jokes so the crowd whooped and laughed. As Tolar watched the comedians it suddenly occurred to him that these were talented people. Given a chance for exposure they would become successful. It wouldn't be difficult to refine the kinds of jokes they told to give their jokes a broader base of appeal; dope for the young students, sex for the women in their thirties, animal jokes for the old people. But at the same time he knew they would never be successful; that every comedian who stood at the microphone looking cynically over the crowd would never reach an audience other than the collection of oddity arranged in front of them. Then, slowly but surely, they would be absorbed back into the reality they were struggling from and become mechanics, technicians, even beauracrats if they had a degree. It depressed Tolar to think about so he didn't laugh when a bushy-haired man began to joke about excrement.
It was not simply their talent but their ability to get up and perform for strangers. This he counted as a oracle of sorts even if television had jaded all sense of courage in the act. It was a different kind of courage than mortal combat or flying planes and the like but it was courage nonetheless. It was as if they effaced their personality for the crowd; how did they recover from that?
The woman at his side was smoking and gazing into the stage without expression. "Was she judging their performance?" he asked himself, since, she too, was a performer and unquestionably gained courage from every performance.
The last poet left the stage. All during the performance Tolar questioned himself whether he should ask the woman back to his place. It was always a risk. She did have enough ambiguity to her that was for certain.
"Well now, "I'm drunk," he finally said. "Can you imagine that? Three beers and I'm drunk. ..do you have a car?"
"Yes, I have a car. Do you?"
"No, I don't like cars. Do you find it strange that I don't like cars?"
She seemed interested and more animated. "Oh, absolutely not."
"Cars have always let me down; they've never come up to my expectations. And then there's all the peripheral nonsense around owning a car...it's just a can that goes," and Tolar flattened his palms and described ridiculous vertical places in the smoky air.
They left the club. It was dark and chilly. There was another festive atmosphere along Telegraph Avenue. Tolar was not dead drunk but drunk nonetheless and pulled the woman into a corner bookstore.
The store was quite a contradiction to the festivities outside. A half-dozen students and oddities moved between the aisles of used books.
"I'm looking for something, " Tolar said to no one in particular. He had the woman by the hand. She was smiling slightly. "
Yes, it's still here." Along one shelf of books he found a thick paperback on mysticism and took it to the front desk. A sullen and arrogant looking fellow presided at the desk, rang the purchase up and with a limp gesture gave the package back to Tolar.
They left again. They headed up Dwight Way, off Telegraph when it suddenly became quiet and dark.
"I've been meaning to buy this book. I love the crazy mystics; they knew everything."
The woman didn't seem moved one way or another. They stopped at her car, an old Chevy with torn-up upulstory in the back and a pair of tennishoes tied around the rear-view mirror.
"Now, where do you live?"
"Oh me?" And he pointed vaguely in the direction where he lived as the woman pulled the car from the curb.
The woman started asking him a series of questions:
"How long have you lived in Berkeley? Why are you interested in mystics? Where have you traveled?"
Tolar answered dutifully, afraid he had made a terrible mistake. The woman was only going to drop him off at this place and that would be that. He would never see her again except by chance.
He finally blurted out, "I love Berkeley because it's a hatchery for new life; a being hatchery!"
The actress was smoking.
When they arrived at his apartment she went with him up the stairs. He was nervous now, wanting to drink another beer. As they entered his apartment she said, "You know, I haven't believed anything you've said."
He let the comment pass for a moment. The apartment was in disarray. Clothes were laying over chairs and the sofa. Books were strewn about. The kitchen gave off a stench.
"Do you want a beer or some wine?"
Instead of answering she asked him if he had a stereo. He pointed it out to her.
When he was in the kitchen pouring himself a beer he could here jazz from the other room.
She had taken off her coat. She wore an old-fashioned green dress that fell to her ankles.
The actress was on the otherside of the room. He noticed that from that distance she appeared to have blue eyes. She had kicked her shoes off. There was a lull for several minutes as she stood in the room, rocking back and forth to the music. Tolar had sat down in the couch drinking the beer. The beer made him get up and when he came back he got another beer.
"Well, you know, mysticism is coming back in vogue these days. It's all the drugs and so forth but you don't have to take drugs to understand that stuff. Well, it's more interesting than jobs or school don't you think? Well, everything is a big mystery to me."
* * * * * * * *
The song ended and at the end Sonia sighed heavily, brushed her forehead then sat in a heap on the old couch that Tolar had purchased at the flea market. There was long silence between them, then she said. "I hate confusion."
Tolar shrugged his shoulders, clapped his hands and got to his feet. "My apartment has never looked better. I thank you and believe you deserve a reward. Come here."
He was standing at the entrance to the kitchen and gestured the woman to enter. The kitchen was small and smelled faintly with gas which the woman noted, 'ah, the owner of the place never fixes anything,' Tolar answered her, gesturing vaguely before opening the refrigerator- a small unit painted in red. The unit was packed with an assortment of goods; stale cheese, a carton of goats milk, anomalous shapes wrapped in tinfoil, a couple of slices of dried pizza, and wilting lettuce.
"It's not all that much. How about a can of soup?" The woman nodded.
So they ate the meal Tolar began questioning the woman carefully and without unnecessary probing about her existence.
"I am unfortunate I know that. I had a boyfriend several months ago who kicked me out of the house we were renting, over on Durant Avenue. He was a crazy fellow from Oklahoma who used to tease me all the time, then one day said he was never going to see me again. I did some unfortunate things after that."
"Oh, such as what?"
"Really stupid things. One night I stood under the window of his bedroom and began to sing. Like this..." and she began to sing in a falsetto voice that startled Tolar; a hefty male voice that seemed conditioned by cigarette smoking. "Well, I don't know I was crazy at the time, so, I was singing this song that was obscure in some way. I guess I stood there for an hour and a half like a dope and before I knew it I was surrounded by the police. They told me that I had to leave or they were going to arrest me. "But you can't arrest me, I don't have anywhere to go." One of the officers gave me a ten dollar bill and told me to get a room for the night but not to disturb anyone otherwise he was going to put me in jail. I remember one of the officers went up to the room and got my sleeping bag and personal belongings. So I Just walked around a bit until I found a park and slept there, then the next night went to a church and slept in the backyard of the church. Since that time I've just been moving along."
Tolar took the story in and was sympathetic- he felt an obligation to inquire about her state of being.
"Well, yes, I get a state check and that's what started the whole mess really because it was late and I couldn't pay my share of the rent and that gave Tom an excuse to throw me out."
Tolar was impressed with the ability of the woman to speak clearly, without emotion, about her travail. She took it as a matter of fact experience which would soon be forgotten.
There was no question about an exotic, nearly sensual aura around the woman. It had been something he had noticed since meeting her. Something which came from the woman herself and was communicated nearly telepathically to him but which was so strong Tolar felt suspicious of it. Her smooth limber face seemed indistinct in the dim light and he was suddenly aware of a pressure in him; of feelings in him which had been dormant for a time.
Then the woman smiled. "Do you have anything to drink?"
"I have some cheap wine, some old Chablis that's been sitting around for awhile. I usually reserve it for a friend of mine who seems to have left the state though I don't believe it. Anyway, if you'd like, I would be happy to share it with you."
"You are very generous. I can feel my fortunes change. Most people would throw me away like a ragdoll but you've been more than kind. I feel my health restored."
Tolar felt good himself and poured the wine. He was no longer uncomfortable with the woman. On the contrary he could see that she was one of the unfortunates who is misunderstood and so they have a rollercoaster of experiences which either defeats their spirit or makes it stronger. There was unquestionable intelligence about the woman, obvious sincerity, a kind of humbleness that he missed in women, especially the college women he had been around the past few years. For, whatever experience the woman had taught her something and sharpened her truest instincts. Al1 thought of taking advantage of the woman vanished. He would let her stay for two weeks at the least, until she was able to get on her feet again. During that time he would see if she had family in the area or what her work skills were and make sure she got her state checks- unemployment checks he imagined. In fact, the more he thought about it the more an apprehension left him- some weight that had been on him for the last several months began to leave and he felt that great opening which comes from compassion- which comes from allowing the best nature in himself to flourish and to help another person. A sudden vision ran in his mind that detailed how he would put the woman back to a respectable and healthy state. He could see it unfold in his mind and it excited him; all of the useless thinking he had done the past few months on the state of the the world, on his own future!
She had slipped into the other room. He heard her turning the stereo on. He had a tape on his tape machine of old 60's rock and roll. He heard the first strain of Satisfaction and then heard the machine stop. She yelled out to him, "Do you have any Rachmanioff?"
He went into the living room. He tried to place the name but couldn't. He apologized for his tape.
He went into the room and watched the suddenly alluring woman riffle through a stack of albums and tapes looking for something to her satisfaction.
"They're all old I'm afraid. Tomorrow I'm going down to the used record store and sell the; ah, sell them all and buy something decent."
"Don't you feel like dancing after you have cleaned? It must be an old instinct that comes alive. I feel like dancing!"
And with that the woman turned several times and moved gracefully across the room. "Join me, join me for the dance," she called out to Tolar.
They danced for what, to Tolar, seemed hours but which was only a few minutes. It was the first time he remembered swirling around, breathing heavily until the room, the simple room that he lived in felt alive, pressing in at him; not abstract and a place or utility but a kind of home.
The woman had a determined expression on her face as though she knew she was going to teach the man something he didn't know before and that the impression she left was of the utmost importance.
"I Just want to play something that is soothing. I don't like rock and roll anymore. It's not complicated enough."
He suddenly felt ashamed that he was still listening to rock and roll. He listened to it because it brought back specific memories And he need those memories to gain depth to his existence which on the surface was always appearing ludicrous.
* * * * * * * *
She became an obsession without question. Now he forgot about finding a job or his "girlfriend," as she put it and concentrated all his effort in helping the poor actress who cleaned his house two or three times a week. And well within a month's time, Tolar found himself begging to be let in to his own apartment; as though, now, he had to prove to her that he was capable of whatever bargain had been at the beginning. She had assumed a great deal. He had assumed nothing and, in fact, was in that paradisiacal but unreal space of everything "being good." "It's all good." That was his favorite saying. It didn't matter what happened because he would have memory; his hard experience would be turned into memory and he would treasure it, take it with him in whatever stage of development life offered to him.
"Life, you odd word," he thought.
MADELEINE AT THE WINDOW
Madeleine was at the window looking out over the noon crowd that moved in and out of the street with the awkward, persistent desire to be somewhere they weren't.
It was noon and the university in the distance
stood white and clustered around the green
corroding tower against smooth, low and brown hills. There were blocks of great solid buildings;
replicas of ancient porticos, temples, agoras,
squares and filled with a new generation ready
to succeed to their dreams of authority. And it was hot this late spring because no wind came up out of the bay to the south of the city.
Madeleine held her head in two closed fists and stared at the large marks on the window sill of the poor hotel she found herself living in. It was one of those hotels no one notices among the shops and stores of the decaying section of the city. The first two days at the hotel she had cried out the window in the back which led to a maze of metal conduit and boilers and venting apparatus. She cried hard until someone on the other side of the wicked maze had yelled in no uncertain terms that if she didn't stop crying he would find where she lived and pull her onto the roof until she stopped crying or the man had yelled, 'sing at the very least' and, in fact, she did quit crying only to begin again one half-hour later in mute solace with the window closed. She could laugh at it now because she knew she was going to leave the bitter hotel and move in with her new found friends who lived in the south of the city. Half of her belongings were already in the house she was moving to while the other half were packed in orange crates and shoe boxes and dress boxes piled one on top of the other behind where she stood at the window.
They would come and take her away in an hour or less that was for certain. That's what he had said. She liked the man but he belonged to Susan. She didn't want to upset the delicate balance of her position. Perhaps, in six months, things would change. But it was enough for the time being to simply get out of the old hotel and go on to new kinds of friends though she couldn't quite be sure but yes, they were friends. She was still able, maybe more than at anytime, to distinguish qualities of friendship.
There were differences for sure. And in the new living arrangement there would be no more tension. She couldn't stand for anymore tension at having to adapt to others adjusted to their scheme of things. That first meeting they were sitting around the large oak table laden with good food and soft music in the background and she could feel the silence of the strange eyes follow her until a tingle of dim recognition fluttered in her heart. This is where she is. Say a clever thing she could nearly hear them say. What have you been doing with yourself? Not
in the accusative tone but rather the tone of curiosity that is communicated in a fine, articulate answer such as that fine written paragraph in her mind she wrote as the bus rolled into the downtown station, She knew her father would be waiting and wanting an answer which tumbled over a curious gesture of her hands.
She finally told them what she imagined they wanted to hear but did not forget the feeling of tension. Now, she felt a bit tired. She had slept late. It was embarrassing to sleep late when others were round about. At the moment of awakening she heard the traffic noises drifting and pulsing up from the long avenue and into the crack of her window and it set off a train of images of strangers doing a thousand things she would want to do but already would be too late now that she had gotten up at this hour. To do anything would necessitate a break in what was being done already and it would be a great useless fight to do such thing. What else could she do but pretend that they were little fishes in the caves of a great reef- it was that television show she'd seen. Now she remembered. And how the light of a divers
lamp in the night sea became a cloud of plankton. And that-what did they call it- that symphony of the natural worlds that no one knew about but a few rough and ready deep-sea divers. A world of its own the announcer had
said. What a wonderful and stirring idea! No- it was a fact- in the sea somewhere or along the great coastline where the living matter was just like life in this city and the other cities she had known.
So she lay in bed for a few minutes and while listening to the imperturbable sounds of the traffic she saw it all moving as the natural world of a small tide pool. So she got up and dressed and finished packing the few remaining items before he came and took her to her new residence. She had half-looked for him from the window three stories above the avenue. Where she was going was decidedly more quiet and mellow. Children had dogs and arching elm trees moved shadows over the street. And it was walking distance to the Marina and that pier that ran out half a mile into the Bay where the poor people fished. The poor black kids would get on the bus downtown all smiles and excitement with their poles and buckets in hand and fish the whole day, come back during commute with stinking fish in their pail,
laughing and subdued at turns. Then on week-ends the road perpendicular to the pier would fill with the cars of the poor-old broken down Chevrolets, black Continentals with
bashed in doors etc. and the poor families, the Mexicans, black and white families would clamber over the rocks into the bay water or find a niche along the pier.
So she waited. It would begin again when she was settled in the new place. She would pay more attention this time to what people actually said and demanded of her. It was necessary under the circumstances; a part of the bargain. Oh, they truly were nice people she would do nothing to disappoint them. The more she thought about it she realized she was in the process of getting rescued. One more day in this hell world and I'll go mad she had thought. Last night, that crazy fellow on the stairs who turned as she followed him and stared at her with those spooky eyes-all knives and confusion. And then that fellow who yelled at her for crying.
Her drift into the hotel had been necessary. Below it was the porno book store where the creeps and at-the-edge rapists gathered and the guy who owned it had his daughter working for him and he seemed about the lowest of the low. And even out away from the hotel and porno book store there was nothing but an array of buildings, shops, and crowds wandering dazed it appeared to her though she knew that wasn't the complete truth of it. But from where she stood it seemed as though they were all dazed and tricked into necessity so moved foreign to their own nature. The campus seemed far away. She felt good about going there and buying a bag of peanuts to feed the squirrels by the stream, under the oily smell of the eucalyptus. Sometimes there would be lovers on the banks of the stream pressed up against each other, huddling against the cool falling day and smoking a cigarette between them. Or a man walking with his small daughter, she laughing gleefully after the squirrels who had become tamed and expectant over the years.
But it all seemed far away from her now. It was the objects in front of her; the passing faces and vehicles and sad looking cafes and strange creatures she had come to know over the past few years. These drew her attention, fastened into her and she was glad she was leaving it. She would leave it and some day wake up and it would appear a dream to her and she would see the same people, the same buildings, streets and it would only be a memory tugging on her new sensibility. She would even laugh at it and laugh at their little part in it and go on.
The man came and they took her boxes down to his car parked along Shattuck Avenue. He was average height, broad shouldered with a bushy
mustache. He spoke pleasantly to her. She was flustered in the beginning but as they drove down Dwight Way and through the residences
of the flatland she began to open up and ask him questions about where she could shop, where the bus stop was etc. etc. He laughed, 'Now, wait a minute, we have to get you settled first. We'll have a big dinner tonight and then we'll talk.'
She was remembering the room now; how it had smelled like urine and how the old guy retched all night into the sink and how she imagined his germs were coming through the walls so she dug her head into the pillow and as the old man coughed and hacked into the sink she was confused about what to do; whether she should go and help him or wake the manager and see if he was all right. And how she was afraid of the bathrooms so would wait until she was on the street and go into the
restaurant across the way and then go down to the YWCA and take her showers.
Ah, she was through with her self-pity! Away with it, no more! From now on, she dreamed to herself, I am part of the grand motion of things. 'I will identify, even, with the planes that fly overhead.
She did not realize it but at that moment at least eight people were thinking of her, of her future and how she would turn out. She did not realize she was being observed and commented on in places she did not even know existed. Had she known of the monstrous rivalries she would be embroiled in, the petty jealousies, the deathly stares, the gamesmanship as people attempted to disillusion her of all she thought was true and perfect maybe she would not have gone down to the corner of Shattuck and University as the students milled and turbaned east Indians unlocked gas stations. In the end she would have gone to placate her curiosity; to give herself another option. But, then, there was likely to come a day when driving past these old haunts she would have an unrequited feeling that something magnificent was lost that day. She would remember one book left unread in the unopened box of paperback books she had collected from jaunts to Moe's and Shakespeare's. That one book revealed the path not taken; the self not assumed. But when she returned she noticed that one book had been carefully, almost surgically removed from the box as if it had never existed. 'The world is this way,' she thought before she had a chance to get angry. The contents of the box were exactly as she remembered them and when she removed the top layers of books to find the one book it was gone. 'But I did not even remember the author's name. Is that important?' So now she stood in front of the large bay window before the quiet, elm lined street not observing the two dogs playing in the street or listening to the soft piano music in the background or the door closing to the bathroom but picturing the book hovering above the street, illuminated by the minds desire to find any vehicle of escape until the afternoon vision became painful and oppressive to her and she turned and walked back toward the shadows of the house.
The Fat Man
The station, a cave of silver machines, was somber and light. Mosaic
tile patterned the walls and the light reflected them along the vinyl floors and metal railings
surrounding the platform below where people waited to leave.
He wandered while listening to the voices in his ear; a feminine singer, in a chamber, who softly died in the full, sad trembling of her voice. He turned the volume down as a man announced, 'things to sell, things to sell.'
The station's activity had waned in the mid- morning. A few students and elderly people purchased tickets from the silver machines. A Chinese gentleman tapped his cane into the automated entrance and fell forward, up righted himself, taptaptap against the vinyl, his face shriveling in sunken fear as he heard a voice amplified out of a concealed speaker telling the old, blind gentleman to move this way, now that way, yes go forward now and through the gate the Chinese gentleman tapped his cane toward the stairs leading down to the platform. He was led down the stairs and the fat man watched from the railing above as the gentleman was given a seat on the polished bench waiting for the train.
The fat man, too, watched for the train. They came fast, shouting out of the tunnel like a silver umbilical cord. He hummed from his throat. He pushed his belly in and out from the diaphragm as the teachers had said and then got his throat cleared.
Near him he didn't see the young woman, too, looking over the railing and beginning to light a long white cigarette. She threw her head back and put her purse on the railing half-looking from the periphery at the headphones the fat man wore on his ears. It wasn't the headphones but the streamers from them of all colors-the kind of things a kid might stick on the handle bars of his bike. Then she heard what sounded like a voice. She was not preoccupied at the moment but soon enough would be and until that time became fascinated by the fact that the fat man was mumbling to himself or she believed it to be mumbling- a distinct mumble without words or several words hunched together like sexed animals frozen in a voyeurs camera. A small grin crossed her pretty, oval face. It was unpainted and pretty, early exotic but plain too as though she had tried many things but had finally given up out of failure to live up to a fleeting image of herself years before. She dropped an ash on the floor and crushed it with her foot. The fat man could smell the smoke and resisted the urge to turn. The words were forming at his lips hobbling
outward as newspapers snapped below along the bench the old blind gentleman sat on.
The fat man took one cup off his ear and bent it in the direction of the tunnel where the train would come at any moment. His eyes shut and he seemed to grip inside himself with a kind of frenetic tension no one could tell unless they looked up closely and for a long time, looking at his neck quiver and bulge.
The woman was waiting for someone to arrive from below. He would come and take her away. But until that time came she listened, even competed to form in her own mind the inarticulate sounds forming at the lips of the fat man and then escaping into the air. They were like mud cakes. And the fingers of her mind bent through the soft tissues and lifted them lower, drawing a long circular design.
Now the sounds became guttural. The sounds of senility.
At that moment an old red-faced man sat in the public library
on Kittredge Street and played his senility on his old throat,
his body shuddering under his inhuman noise. People left him alone.
And bent over the map table, looking through the demographic maps
and then the aerial maps, he grunted against his will and again
and again against his will and yet in a kind of despising song as
though he'd been a bullfrog in a former life. He did not leap or jump
from behind the table but shuffled away, straw hat on his head and shuffled with all the impunity his grunting conjured.
The fat man was not grunting. He was mumbling with the headphones askew on his head. The woman finished her cigarette and dropped it to the floor and took out of her purse a pair of dark glasses she slid over her hair and onto her ears. The sound in her mind had been shaped into a cone and around the cone a figure cut a spiral trail to the top. She was tapping her foot. The cigarette was crushed. She looked at her watch. The mumbling at her side was a thing now. The mumbling had frozen into a thing- a kind of window on which was drawn a round bare head smiling abstractly ear to ear though there were no ears but pin holes where one could fit a string.
Suddenly, "The...they...they will come soon...and..an...the yellow
moon. ..w. ..will ...shimmer over the...hills of...o
those hills of ..." It was breath in half-song.
He sneezed. "T...those...hills...were
brown...trees green...these hills...of long ago."
He had remembered it quite often; how the days after rain provided wild cat tracks and though the cats were never found cows were. Usually they huddled grazing at the bottom of the valley and the three boys followed the fresh prints in the soft muck along winding trails cut into the hills by the constant movement of cattle. Bravely they hooted the cows. And teased the bull who stood dazed along a thick green pond. And who roamed half
seriously as the boys chanted together those words not permitted in any other valley; but the
dried yellow eyes fixed as flies buzzing dung. So, the boys picked up a grassy stone the size
of a fish and onetwothree bounced it off the hide of the bull their brains excited about
the prospect of the bull drawing its hooves through the yellowing ground and their hearts
beat half- rhymed and soon the valley filled with a melodious chorus of moo's.
They were standing now below him on the platform. A young woman gripped the arm of the blind Chinese gentleman. Before long the train would arrive- a train he'd taken only once and it seemed to him to be only a ride through dark lit tunnels and blue flicking light.
And afterwards he had run into Pickett. This happened the summer before- that summer that had turned into a sweaty beast and by the time he had reached the station his tee-shirt was dry and cool. The station had been cool as a good night and empty except for a young man swinging a little angel between his legs before he swooped her on his shoulders gracefully. The fat man wandered through the station for an hour inspecting it as though it were the ribbed hull of a Viking long ship newly discovered at an excavation site.
When he returned from the train ride he wanted to revive into the fastidious cool air of the BART station and stood for a long while at the colored map by the ticket machine tracing with his finger the steps he had recently made and deciding then and there that the next ride would be under the bay to San Francisco. But after a time he felt a sharp jab in his shoulder and turned around to find himself face to face with a tall, thin man wearing a blue uniform and a name-tag over his breast reading simply, PICKETT.
'What are you up to?'
The man had a long, scarred nose which beaked slightly-at the end and wide-set eyes that appeared to roam.
'Nothing,' the fat man replied. The attendant stood erect, hands held tightly against his hips. His neck grew red.
'It looks like nothin' ...sure looks like nothin'.'
The fat man turned away to the map. He felt the presence of the employee behind him and the hairs along the surface of his skin pricked. Finally, without turning around, the fat man said,
Pickett nodded like men at a dinner table. 'I bet you are. But look here...loitering is a criminal offense...Five hundred dollars fine and six months in the pokey. Now get your...three legs...get' em up the escalator and don't...no, don't stay around here.'
The fat man smiled and turned around. 'I will not loiter.' And he walked over to the railing, ambled to a stop and learned over, humming, until Pickett caught up with him and demanded to know what he was doing.
'I'm serenading the train.'
Pickett took a deep look into the fat man's eyes and he reminded the fat man of a stranger in the street who always asked for a dime or quarter.
He whistled in the accompaniment to the feminine singer who sang in a chamber and who softly died behind the half-sad trembling of her voice. Then a train sped below. He bent over a railing and watched the doors slide open and they opened then closed like the hills of Hamlin.
The fat man straightened himself and sucked through his nose.
'I am a great composer of music and go by the name of Garabaldi- Sergio Garabaldi ...ever hear of me?'
The attendant held his hands in front of his face and spoke through his fingers. Facetiously he said, 'You're a bum.' Well now, the cows moved on and the boys dipped their glassy jars into the mucky stink and caught the silver pollywogs and kept them home until they were frogs but some of the frogs escaped through a hedge of pyracantha that made the birds drunk and crazy like abandoned planes.
'You don't believe me?' the fat man asked.
The attendant rubbed his chin. 'No, hell, I believe everyone.'
'A concert will be played Friday in this
'It is .a fifty dollar fine for loitering' the attendant said quietly.
'There will be a hundred musicians dressed in white tails all with chrome and wood instruments and I will lead with a baton...'
After a long pause a train came into the station and as it slipped onward the attendant said, 'Well now, you just do the Fat Man's Waltz,' and then he grinned eagerly, 'the Fat Man's Waltz up the escalator.'
The fat man's finger withered in the air.
'Ah, children...everywhere I am stuck with children.'
And then he went away back to the ticket machine to buy a ticket though there was no thought of going on the train but rather, to spite the beaked-nosed man and his refusal to 'Waltz' to the beaked-nose man's arrogant tone of voice. He bought a ticket and in hand the ticket passed him through the
automatic gate and as he stood on the first step in a long series of steps leading to the arrival and departure area he turned his head and said to the observing attendant.
'But you'll have to listen, won't you?'
And then the trip occurred and unexpected things happened which made the fat man wish he had been arrested in fact and thrown one night in the city jail rather than feeling the knives of complete and true strangers ripped his soft, heaving flesh.
Now at the beginning of winter he felt calm and assured as he listened to a new singers voice; a roughish voice that turned the fat man's brows into triggers.
The song was a complaint by a desperate woman and the fat man turned the volume up and he surveyed below him a silver train pulling like umbilical knots into the station.
After the train left he looked around for Pickett. In the information booth two attendants were surrounded by television monitors and neither of them had beaked noses, in fact, one had a nose pushed slightly into his face like an old boxer's nose.
Lowering the headphones his eyes widened and words lit in his brain, 'an air of tempest' and he smiled to himself as if jesting inside with banjo's and swords.
'What can I do for you?' An attendant asked stepping to the oval window cut into the information booth. The man immediately felt in his pocket for cigarettes.
'Just wondering where the man with the...that nose is...is he here?'
'You mean Pickett? Naw, Pickett left months ago to start his own business. Has his own truck and tools now. Calling cards.
The attendant lit a cigarette and wiped a drop of sweat from his forehead. His head turned to the side in a kind of pose.
'You a friend of his?
The fat man shook his head. 'Curious, that's all.'
He put the headphones back on and headed for the stairs. The song was over. A voice announced the accidents of, the past hour.
'ON THE FREEWAY- IN THE BAY- RAIN TODAY AND TOMORROW, CLEARING BY FRIDAY- PATCHY FOG
INLAND- GYPSIES SPOTTED ALONG THE SCARPS OF MOUNT DIABLO- WILD FROGS IN BODEGA-
NUTATIONS IN AN EQUATORIAL LABORATORY A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR.'
The station was beginning to fill with the noon crowd, wet, buttoned-up, moving from machine to machine.
He moved like a sloth to the top of the stairs and let the light mist settle in his eyebrows. Patches of light alternately obscured and revealed, drifted eastward on clouds and for a moment he felt like a man in a fight rolling on the ground and getting to his feet fears he's on a different planet and everything around animates with wild motion like enthusiastic crowds.
He drew in the orange and gibbous library across the street and waited for the light to change. Then thunder broke and echoed like porcelain jugs and drops of rain came heavier and he lifted his head, opening his mouth wide- ever wider to let the rain fall into his mouth and dissolve on the soft palate like a sweet candy.
The light changed and he half-danced, head up, to Dolly Parton across two lines of windshield wipers cutting clean the faces staring at him as though he were a Modoc Indian; the black tongues of his shoes flapping crazily.
THE MOTHERS ARE ALWAYS BETTER
Once upon a time in a time that should perhaps be
buried under stones of impunity, two people came
together to mate and when the mating had been done
they moved away from each other like strange
ships in the harbor.
Perhaps one was a devil and the other an angel or so they thought of themselves. They were fully conscious human beings that we know. Or spirits or animal spirits or clods of thought unloosened in dirty September when the rain started to distract the people.
We assumed that they did not speak to each other. At least, whatever words passed between them were of no consequence and did not reveal anything of significance about one or the other. They sexed like all the species do among all the tribes, all the organics, all the Earth bound and other-bound. Good, heavy thrusts and it was over in moments, the seed deposited, the miracle of life started again. They were patient with the child and much more conscientious than anyone gave them credit for.
Is it upon us now, the tale we have to tell?
Without the confusion and false starts that in
themselves would startle even a sentimental era?
Enough said that two beings came together for
the purpose of mating and in the confusion of
that act understood they had come for no other
reason. Two people, then, and a time forever, which
they will squirm in the memory of it; tantalizing
the present and future with exotic scents and
fashionable clothes as if the ornaments have
some power over memory. They believed in the array and ostenation of art and demanded colorful hats to be worn at the celebration of the first year of the birth.
And I? I sit in a tree with a flute against
my lips and watch the moon rise and fall. A damn
pretty site through the black, naked limbs of
this tree. And the road below me, half complete,
leading from over a concatenated roll of hills
towards a vast city in the distance where a night
is a sequent burning fire one can observe from the air.
They have removed the wheat, here, stalk by stalk.
This was not a pretty sight. Prisoners from the
local jail were driven by convoy trucks down this
road and pulled to a turn-out half a mile down the
road; angry men in brass chains. I could hear ever
faintly the orders barked by the uniformed gentleman
to the effect that every stalk was to be uprooted, tied,
and then laid in bundles by the side of the road until
a machine being driven, at that moment, from another
town was to come and devour the bundles with an iron
tongue at fifteen miles per hour without a pause; at
fifteen miles per hour.
All day the sun crept over the backs of the prisoners
until they were stooped in the field and by nightfall
the side of the road lit in precise bundles of yellow
wheat. Then they were taken by the trucks and disappeared
into the night and then under the morning star,
came the brute, strange machine exposing its tongue out
its side until all the wheat had been taken in.
It was nonsense to me. I who know the night. I knew the government had
a sudden urge to buy farmland for god knows what reason;
perhaps to build a wonderful government building or make a common investment. The business
of government as it revealed itself from point one of
my innocence and into packets of profound disgust, didn't
concern me at all. It didn't matter to them what I thought. I was sinister in their eyes. But they had all the power! Yet, they feared the little power I had. It put me at odds.
I was simply one who was trying to find his way. Damn the parents! Damn the world! But so it is.
The land here spreads, I reckon, a thousand acres from
both sides of the road. At the perimeters of the land
runs a dilapidated barbed wire fence. On the surrounding
hills cattle graze, at times alone and at other times, when
it is very hot, close together. I noticed them first as I
walked down the road now below me, without a care to be
truthful about it but reveling in a unique freedom I had
won out of the most ungodly circumstance. My mission was
to walk until I could no longer walk. Many famous men had made these senseless walks for upteem miles, unimaginable miles to show the world that man was a walking animal. And I began past the
little village behind me, where, perhaps because of an aura
that lifted from my body or the fact that I was a stranger
carrying a small, black rectangular case- for whatever
reason -a seduction was attempted involving myself and two girls. I call them girls. They were young women, of age. In my book until a girl passed through many humiliations and deaths she couldn't be considered a woman. And I had them all. Mothers and daughters.
Let us say they were not quite women but then they were not little
girls either but preparing to leave some formal school, perhaps high school, perhaps junior college. I'm thinking now
that in this little valley they had only seen coastal people
on television screens, so the three-dimensional reality, the
flesh of it, astounded their imaginations. I don't know. Pure speculation on my part. It's a sport, privileged among the wanderers of the Earth.
I was in my room and writing inside my flute case notations
I had heard in my head, carefully remembering what they had
looked like for they were real images and not simply sounds
I would wrench to retranslate in notation but
the notation itself. As I wrote them I could
hear the notes play back to me. If I may say so, without
sounding pretentious, there was something about these
disparate notes that was profound. A melody began to mimic itself from node
to node. That's when the tapping came at my door.
I was startled. I was, after all, a stranger. I had expected
complete aloneness; had even prepared and gone through
a kind of initiation for isolation, a kind of self-hatred or self-mocking. I think it is entirely perfect human behavior.
I certainly didnt want disturbance but the knocking was
persistent, then timid, then loud and insistent.
-In, in! I yelled.
The door opened gracefully and the two sisters or friends (I never found out which) stood nonplused at the door. One of them was tall and pale like a moon drop but slim and carrying three or four magazines under her arm. The other was pleasantly plump and dressed in the freshest green dress I'd ever seen as though she'd bought it that morning and ironed it later in the day so when the
sun came out it would take in a strangers eyes. It was fully green without design and fell to her ankles, held at her waist by a thin white belt. She had her hands on her hips and of the two I could immediately tell was the more arrogant.
-Yes? I closed the flute case with an unobtrusive gesture, an instinct I had learned so no one would ask me about the curious notations serpentining through the large yellow label inside the case.
-Are you from San Francisco? The tall one asked; she with the magazines. I was not from San Francisco proper to tell the truth but from a suburb which these girls had never heard of and which, at times, I was ashamed to admit coming from because it had a reputation for a gross kind of wealth and a crass population who rode in maniacal automobiles through secluded ways and courts winched into the hillside.
-I know the area, I replied. At this the girl broke down into giggles.
-Oh- he's from San Francisco!
-Maybe he has some pot from out there, the plump one said pointing her arm in an indistinct direction.
I had already guessed they had come to me for marijuana or pills of some sort. I knew young girls loved their pills.
But I told them I gave smoking it up years ago.-Smoking it gave me a more profound view of things in general. But then I always ended up contemplating hanging myself somewhere for, after a time, even the roots of trees appeared like sick worms ready to eat me alive given half the chance.
I have no idea why I confided in them like that. Perhaps I knew my intimate thoughts were safe with them because I would be gone in a day or so and never return.
I became nearly frenzied by their innocence and stupidity.
-I am a passer-by- a wayfarer leave me alone- what do you want? I felt the pressure increase in my own head and sealed my lips closed for fear that the provincial girls would become hysterical or frightened and bring the authorities to my little room. I did not know it at the time and only found out later in a very embarrassing situation, that the two women greeted all strangers who appeared out of the ordinary. It was a shock to me that I seemed out of the ordinary. It is a custom of mine, for instance, to cut or trim my hair
with my own hands and to do this I used two mirrors. I held a small mirror in front of my face and turned it obliquely so the back of my head was reflected off the reflection. This is for pure utility, to save money but I admit now that more than once I've paused and turned my head this way and that to catch an image of my face in different poses. Then I effected a smile and pretended I was someone else observing my smile, who judges ever preciously the contents of the two lips. I imagined a situation where I would be caught unawares in a restaurant or running along a beach and smile for a passing scene and while smiling another human being would be observing me and judging my character, potential, and class in the curve of lips or little show of teeth. During this process I've noticed that my face is completely normal appearing with a wide swath of dark beard covering both sides and a hanging bit of fur under by lip. I admit and admit again my solipsistic ingenuity in believing I am an old Patrician that belongs in the Roman Empire instead of the age I was raised in. Years ago, as a matter of fact, I had decided on an athletic career with the intention in mind to bring the crowd to its feet by a shuddering display of muscle and speed. I had been told that if one wanted to be; that the opportunity was there for anyone. And anyone being myself I trained every opportunity I got for the time I would grace the cover of a sports magazine and had, in fact, perfected an autograph which I still carry around with me. But I was diverted from my goal by temptation. I guess one could call it temptation or voices and yes voices can tempt but these were voices with a temptation I'd never encountered before and they led me to a Hell I neither have the time nor courage to articulate for fear I am still in it.
The thought came over me that I was at the vertex of Hell as these girls stood quietly in my room without any intention, it seemed, of leaving. Finally the plump one in the green dress announced that she intended to remove her clothes if I desired. She said it matter-of-factly as though there was no choice (and later my suspicions were confirmed) that it was a chore much like milking cows or shoveling horse droppings into the pig trough. Something her mother had taught her how to do when she came of age.
I say that fully disgusted at the thought but with no alternative, for I fear love is such a thing and now these two innocents were confirming my fear.
The girls had stepped into the room without invitation and were but three strides away from me. They did not do anything to those mating instincts which are always an embarrassment to me when they appear. I was excited by their temerity however. They had come to my room without invitation and had asked personal questions and now stood inside the room with half smiles on their faces; smiles that were not at all demure but stank of television itself as though being from a city like San Francisco I now had to perform for them. We stood looking at each other for a long time.
Soon, the tall one with the magazines sat on the brown chair next to the bed and began reading or flipping through the magazines on her lap. I did not catch the titles of these magazines but the pictures were familiar. I mean, the eyes of movie star's and athletes are as recognizable as anything and apparently this magazine filled itself cover to back with popular heroes. Don't think I'm trying to be derogatory. Kudos always belong to the popular heroes to the ones who can perform well; and my kudos also extend to any man or woman with the soul to perform well.
And I had once been romantic. Not in the vague sense either but in the actual sense of one who feels all is possible and that love between a man and a woman leads to the infinite or heavenly spheres or sublime music; any place but where the flame of nerves demands satisfaction.
I believe this on experience. And too, I believe women though I have reservations on that point. They fought to be free, I fought to be free, we all have fought to be free and felt free or at least as free as the women.
I was, however, in the middle of an experiment with myself. I bet on repression being better than the freedoms of the imagination.
How many ghost stories have been told lately? And who believes anything any more? How can there be without an incursion into our vaunted freedom?
Well now, people are doubly afraid you say. But it's all a fear of abstractions. A fear of a wisp of mind lifted to a latitude one actually believes exists over the contours of the planet. And out of of this, one tries to love.
There is no conclusion to be reached in this tale. The young women wanted me to penetrate
them as the clock struck midnight and then play my flute. Yes they found out I was a musician! But, they weren't interested in any song
I had to play for them. I waited until midnight and then began to play despite their presence. I allowed them to watch late night television and they
turned, immediately, to the music video station where men were painted in all the signs of black magic and were attempting to conjure the haunting season. I was going to warn the young ladies of this but decided that they must find out in their own time, on their own terms. They would have to discover the difference between the light and the dark. They would have to discover the moment when the devil himself dances from the end of some innocuous object that dangles like an old utensil in the shopkeepers window. I wanted to tell them,
"but, young ladies, you must come with me, at this hour, and sit on the rock high above the road and watch the strange
dance that occurs when the moon is full. Then, then you will know not to fool with these powers." But I didn't. I longed for the city. I was suddenly ashamed of my adventure and my feeble gestures.
They demanded to search me for drugs. They wanted to escape through dope, in the room I let, in my presence, as I tried to play my music. I dismissed their inquiries with contempt and suggested that it was time for them to go. -Go home girls because I have important things to do. I have more rocks to climb. I have more scenes to witness. I have more sounds to hear. You girls believe I will satisfy your curiosity for the perverse. I will not. Now, please go and leave
Reluctantly they got up and left. It was cold and dark and they sped away in an old car I had seen driving around the valley all the time here.
Two days later I was through with my private business and started my trek down the old road in early morning. I heard the sound behind me. It was the machine and its slow, voracious tongue. It was devouring the bundles of wheat laid neatly by the roadside. It was dawn and a few birds had collected on the fence, tiptapping along the top before flying to the shuddering machine. I knew the machine would, eventually, devour the town itself. I knew the young girls would be its victim. I knew that the scarecrows would be carted away on its metal tongue. I knew that there would be no trace of the town, no record of it, no memory of it, no spot on the map, no stories, no sound, nothing but my notations, my mere scribbles inside my flute case. So, it was very predictable to me that as I reached the border of the town an old car passed by me; whizzing with glee, with the young girls hanging their heads out the windows, winsome, as in some movie of youth discovering the parameters of its derangement, a beautiful American gesture of contempt for the mere will to witness and transmit. They yelled something obscene. They made me to understand that they were not devastated by my rejection of them several nights before. I knew I had a startled look. I knew I had not a thought in my mind. I only remember mouthing the words, 'ah, the Mothers are always better!'
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