I’m a packrat from the word go, have been since I was a kid, even these days people see me in my daily walks, stop, retrieve some object from street or gutter, and stick it in my pocket.
The forest of the gods of torn jaws? Sure, I know it. And it’s pretty easy to get to — once you’re out of Bismarck here, jump on the I-94 and head west. Drive to the sun.
There’s a heap of luggage unceremoniously dumped on the floor: a heterogenous mix of rucksacks, coats, shoes haphazardly placed into order. The clickity clack of a moving wagon indicates that arrival is imminent but not yet achievable. The window pane thrums with a barely concealed impatience for the wild swishing-night of the seaside. It’s an unplanned trip and everyone knows that all unplanned trips have a different sort of underbelly. And if time passes differently, if the group feels that they just rushed in when they rush out again, then that’s just part of it.
I saw it all, from the very beginning, heard it all, too, every word rising on the air … in our first classroom, in church, everywhere it happened, you name the place and I was there. Unannounced it came. From the heavens it must have come, taking over his soul, his body, his mind for a few bare minutes of magic. Once, and once only, every five year like clockwork, it came on him, as if grabbed by the heavenly spheres or ignition itself lighting up his lungs from the inside. My pal Victor, classmate for 16 years of schooling, teammate for 8 years, inseparable companion, fifth year custodian of miracles that made him, for the nonce, an extraordinary singer without explanation, an indescribable tenor so gifted I have to place the cause on an element beyond us mere men.
V for Victor, dit dit dit dah, dit dit dit dah, dit dit dit dah.
Know this, what I tell you is not true. It is just a story, just words. It is important that you do not forget this.
First, there is a forest. Or a jungle. It does not matter. It could be a town, even, abandoned many years before. But it is not, it is a forest.
The last time I saw M. Renoir, he was sitting beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, leisurely drinking coffee and glancing through a newspaper. M. Renoir, every inch the French gentleman with closely trimmed mustache and beard–gray streaking at his temples–was usually impeccably dressed, his hat and cane placed casually upon the seat of an adjacent chair. I say “usually” since, on this occasion, he appeared not altogether unlike a much poorer and less refined version of himself. I was, I confess it, rather taken aback at his appearance.
The Union of Pennames, Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters (UPIFFC) has gone on strike. The reasons for this are unclear, but there’s a bunch of them outside my office window at this very moment alternately singing We Shall Overcome and making unflattering chants that feature my name and the accusation of miserly behavior on my part: “SAY HEY FREEMAN/HOW ABOUT A FEE MAN.” Don’t blame me, I didn’t say these were good chants.
Anyway, my penname, Ms. Leila Allison, seems to be the brains of the outfit, which is the only good news I have to report. Until she either gets bored with this rebellious activity, or the situation is in some other way resolved, I am forbidden to use the alias. Until that time, however, the show must go on.