The moon’s on its way to November, sailing a sullen sky. I think the whole world breathed a sigh of relief tonight, when the major told us to find shelter, get some shut eye before tomorrow. We’re too close to the enemy for camp fire, all of us hiding behind trees, and under bushes, keeping as quiet as smoke, settling into the dirt and leaves like animals on the prowl.
“You expect me to speak to the Archbishop? Your ideas are somewhat radical Father. For you to get on in your career you need to know how to play the game.”
“Radical? I don’t see it that way Your Grace. I think we could do a lot of good. We would build bridges. We could now bring together two sides once and for all. We need to do this, not just with our religions but with them all! But we can start with what we know.”
The mountains were sunlit, like glory loose of heaven, dark as old souls at their valley roots, in the clutch of earth trembling from a sky-high battle with its last aerial shot not yet fired, its last echo of death riding the sweep of air, when the screeching, not identified, began on high. The sounds of death had breath to spare, and the U.S Air Force’s F86 Sabre pursuit fighter plane from the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing, out of Suwon Air Base or Kimpo Air Base, both in South Korea, tumbled from the sky, the roar, the screech, the scream of air being sliced nearly by its atoms or other miniscule thinness not measureable by any of the troops facing each other on the ground.
Pahuac rested his head on the sacrificial stone. He would have to go through this if he wanted to find his way back home. Why couldn’t he remember?
“Ahhh.” The palm reader sighed heavily. Such was his power that we all exhaled lightly with him, and then leaned forward to hear what would come next.
In May 1726 Voltaire sailed up the Thames, London-bound. He was thirty-two at the time, a scrawny Frenchman with a big mouth. Everyone was after his ass. Back in France he’d had a run-in with someone called the Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot, got himself arrested, and was graciously allowed to leave the country in lieu of becoming a full-time resident of the Bastille. It was a fine day and it made him fall in love with England. The King was out on his barge, a thousand little boats were in his wake, and some music was being played. Was it Handel’s “Water Music”? Let’s say it was so that you can understand what Voltaire felt that day. Later he saw some fat merchants in town and thought he was in paradise.
Watching every move about the campfire, studying each face lit up by the flickering flames, the fiddler Sam Plumbeck idly held onto his instrument, waiting for the proper moment. Time, he could feel, was pressing down on him; it had different parts that moved in different ways. The stars all the way to the horizon dip were many and miraculous, the horses silent for the most part even though a coyote cry filtered in now and then, and the darkness beyond wrapped them like a giant robe spread under those stars. He had ridden in, apparently aimlessly to all the trail hands, and joined up with them on their way back to their ranch, the promise of music being hailed by all the hands who had delivered the herd, were through with the drive. He alone, out of all these trail hands who had hit the jackpot, knew what was coming down on them. Nothing is supposed to be perfect or fair; at least this side of heaven, or the mass of a blue sky, or the dash of sunlight on a rainy day. And he, just a picker of strings, with not a coin of the gold in the lot having his name on it, could only wait it all out, hoping for the best and only seeing the worst coming up.