ADVENTURE THE 49TH: THISTLE AND DARKNESS
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Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number.
If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made.
This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
ADVENTURE THE 49TH:
THISTLE and DARKNESS
The moon is bright.
She speaks to me.
Swimming on the winged rim of lunar afterbirth,
- a sacrament, most ethereal.
Tempting me higher,
as though by cruel unbound fate,
to draw and suck the breath from my ailing body
Until a last -
in tepid hollow gasps
my eyes fixed upon her dilated curves.
Never to catch that cratered hem,
- voluptuously still,
that magical orb of reflected light.
Solid and firmly mounted
in the eternal blast of mysteries profound,
Godless stratos -
beyond a penitent vista.
I hadn’t planned on becoming a corpse. Only, there I was, brittle and stiff like a stick of processed fish; tightly strapped down on a gurney in the back of an ambulance – two soft spoken Brits filling my ailing body with fresh plasma and evenly timed bags of pressurized air; counting down precise increments to the shallow rise and fall of my chest as I slip further from their lifesaving proclivity.
“We’re losing him,” one would say.
“His BP is dropping,” the other would then reply.
Another shot of something or other – hastily burying the tip of a very long needle into the already well established port jutting from my left arm; a few more light amps from the paddles, optimistically placed for maximum effect.
Remarkably, I lay there in a state of total peace; or rather, sat quietly at the side of my own bed, looking down, gently and in silence at the remains of that rigid frozen façade chaining me to earth.
It was over in a matter of moments. The one EMT turned to the other, sighing, “Well, that’s that.”
I am draped in a loose white sheet from horn to hoof – the blood from my wounds soaking through as the two men who had worked so diligently toward my preservation now casually sit back in complacent acceptance of my demise.
“Where should we go tonight for a drink?” the one says.
“You decide,” replies the other, “This pint’s be on me.”
. . .
I don’t remember the next few days. Perhaps ‘days’ is inaccurate to describe the modicum of time spent somewhere between this world and the next. If I dig deep enough, I seem to recall from my present slumber a dark meadow of hemlock, my bare feet scarcely touching a lush, thriving surface of tenderly moist, braided garden patch.
The drive unwound before me like a great orbiting corkscrew with no middle to be reached. As I say, all this comes to me now in fits of very fuzzy, unsustainable recollections that may or may not be true to memory. Certainly, they continue to seem very real to me.
There was a series of great halls ahead, open to the encroachment of nature from all sides. Towering cathedral-like glassless windows were imbedded into fragments of craggy rock and the occasional thistle jealously draped around like a salamander.
The ground beneath has turned to cold stone and uncomfortable small pebbles that occasionally get stuck between my naked toes. I walk the path in pools of stardust occasionally parting from the otherwise velvety blackened sky.
Occasionally, I pass the odd weary traveler also strolling amongst the foliage. We say nothing to one other, nor do I recall having set eye to eye with any of the ghostly visages teasingly concealed just ever so slightly from my view. Their bodies are more real to me somehow; proud and erect or portly or slumped; distinctive in their gate. They all appear to know where they’re going.
Except one man – at least, I recall him to appear as a man – dressed in fine linen and carrying a briefcase from which a series of crumpled papers protruded. There was a definite defect to his walk, as though his left leg were somehow not properly attached from the knee down and, as he moved onward I detected a curious slight hiss and steam coming off the whole of his shape. I thought him terribly lost and tried to intervene, for the way to my own destiny seemed more aligned with the absence of his than in any of the other souls I passed on this road to nowhere.
But when I reached to tap his shoulder, a great wind and violent dust arose from the earth beneath us – choking out reason and snuffing whatever confidence I had stored away for this journey. In the aftermath of this brief and frightening thunder cloud, I beheld that my feet now stood firm on a dusty surface of incredible debris, one foot holding down a loose sheet of business letterhead that might otherwise have been carried off with the stern breeze; as apparently both the man and his briefcase had been. As I knelt to retrieve this paper, I instinctively clutched my heart; for something inside of me suddenly felt isolated, hollowed out and ominously alone. One World Trade Center - printed at the top – was all it said.
. . .
You must understand something before I continue; realize now that none of what I am speaking of seems more than a dream remembered or perhaps nightmares re-visited. I do not see the whole - only pieces as they played out for me and cannot describe the many modules I drifted through or vignettes that seemed to rotate like a carousel of temporary diversions; this great mobile of missing fragments to a life that may or may not have had anything legitimately to do with mine.
I did not see the Virgin Mary, or Jesus or God, nor Buddy Holly or Elvis or even Marilyn Monroe on my travels. I did not unravel the mystery of the Blue Dalia or the Kennedy assassination. There was no great light or the voice of Cecile B. DeMille's burning bush to guide my footsteps; no pitchfork toting devil to leer up at me from beneath the thistle and singe my toes with brimstone.
Once, I think I attempted to speak to another traveler along the road – a girl about sixteen. She passed my way on that endless stretch of indistinguishable time; humming a polite little tune – “Goodbye, little yellow bird…”; the untied stretches of her cotton knit pink housecoat dallying behind her a moment or two as she dragged her feet loosely through the underbrush.
I don’t know why, but I think I chased her – or that is, pursued; quietly at first, then calling her name that, strangely enough, I knew.
“Ramona,” I’d say here and there, somehow not caring if she heard me, “Ramona? Are you deaf?”
But always she passed a little ahead of me into one of those deep and never-ending shadow lands just beyond the horizon of rich life-giving light pools that had begun to be less few and far between.
At last, I made a pact with myself to hide inside the hemlock and await her return. I was sure she would come. And so she did, this time closer and prettier than ever. I reached from my place, feet stepping firm on the ground beneath me this time, and suddenly struck by how charred the ends of her housecoat and collar were.
I felt myself resort to a look of stunned absolution as her head turned ever so slightly from left to right to reveal the caved in surface of her skull; the mat of her richly dark and sweet smelling tresses suddenly giving off an acrid scent of burnt flesh and bone – her angelic features dark and peeling until the skin hung from her apple shaped cheekbones as a scorched mass of brutalized sinew.
Raising an exposed bone from the vacant back flesh of her index finger, she pressed momentarily this thin wicket to the edge of a very brown lip – discolored as though it were a baked apple left too long to cook in its own juices – and blowing me an insinuating kiss of last farewell she suddenly dissolved into ether. That was all, and the last I ever saw of her. I would come to wish that I would never see her again.
. . .
I awoke on a Friday, in a hospital in Trieste, the whiny echo of Giorgio Conte cooing in my ear – “Gne, gne, gne, gne.” A pretty little nurse stood at the foot of my bed, smiling when she realized that my eyes had suddenly opened.
“Buon giorno,” she said.
“I suppose it is,” I reasoned, each word clotting like a thick wad of gauze in my parched throat, then – just to brush up my foreign languages a bit for the local color, “Dove sono?”
Another smile, and a hint of an even more polite and gentile curtsy. “In ospendale.”
“Ringraziamento,” I sputter.
I haven’t the heart or the energy to tell her I’ve already figured that one out for myself.
She’s a goddess; a sort of Florence Nightingale for the Tuscan set, with long dark curls falling neatly beneath her nurse’s cap; a set of full Botticelli inspired breasts pressed tightly against the white tunic and long sleeved navy shirt she wears, with even her collar button neatly pinned into place.
“Sogni d’oro,” she tells me, fluffing my pillow with the most tender of care and subtle attention to every detail.
I’ve rated the quality stay at the ‘Comfort Inn’ of all hospital care; something no HMO back home would have afforded me unless I was a ward of the state. And it’s a good idea too – to sleep. I take my Tuscan savior’s advice and nod off – my one regret that she won’t lay by me and pray for that eternal adventure to begin.
. . .
The human body is a marvel – at least, so I’m daily told by Dr. Bartelli, a stout, bald man of impeccable dress and carriage who comes each day after two in the afternoon to observe my progressive mend on the road to wellness again.
“You’ve made remarkable progress,” he tells me.
And I believe him implicitly. Why shouldn’t I. I don’t feel as bad as I expected to.
“How did I…” I begin.
“You were air lifted from Germany,” Dr. Bartelli explains.
“But how did I get there?” I reason.
“You mean you don’t know?”
I shake my head.
“Amnesia is not uncommon,” the doctor explains, “And probably not permanent.”
“When can I go…” I pause, catching myself in a delusion of self importance.
Where? Where would I go? To whom would I go? Those that would care enough to worry have long been dead and those that have only an interest in my whereabouts will plan to finish the journey I started between thistle and darkness.
“You wish to go home?” the doctor asks.
“No hurry, I guess,” I tell him, with no concept of where ‘home’ is.
He speaks very good English, the doctor – much better than my Italian – and spends a great deal of time over the next few days getting to know me as a person, rather than as a patient and from the ground up. I can’t quite say whether it’s my weakened physical state that permitted the loose waggling of my tongue, but I confided a lot of water under my bridge to this man.
We talk of life and women and the importance of establishing families of our own as time begins to betray our tenure on this planet. Only a month earlier, I would have told this same man to take his blarney from the cobblestones of Venice and toss it into the backwoods wading pool of Tammy and the Bachelor. I would have been glib and cocky and so sure that he didn’t know his own soft ass from a bowl of melting gelato.
Only now, it’s all sort of quaint and philosophical, yet stimulating and life affirming. For the first time in a really long while I’m inspired to expect something better for myself. I’m not exactly certain what that may be, but I sure as hell know it’s not what I’ve been getting.
Then the good doctor hits me with the holy of holies when I least expect it – revealing a piece of the puzzle that even I hadn’t counted on.
It seems that I have sustained major nerve damage to my spinal chord in the ‘accident’. Although I can move my legs ever so slightly, the good doctor is realistically doubtful that I’ll ever walk again.
Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure – The Crippling Confessional on May 5, 2009.
@Nick Zegarac 2009 (all rights reserved).