“Politics ain’t personal,” Jimmy K said and lit a cigar. The sea breeze ruffled his silver hair, and dawn light gave his face a rosy glow. “All politics is local though. You know who said that?”
He glared at the Congressman sitting across from him.
“You don’t remember, do you? It was Tip O’Neill. Speaker of the House. A great man. Don’t know your history, huh? Guess that’s why you been such a disappointment.”
Jimmy K shook his head and puffed on his cigar, his great jowls billowing in and out like bellows. “It’s a sad thing when you forget your friends. When you forget where you come from.”
A man appeared from inside the cabin. He finished wrapping chains around the Congressman’s body.
“The Congressman don’t have much to say this morning, Jimmy.”
“It don’t matter. He’s on permanent vacation.”
Gulls swooped low when the Congressman’s body hit the water.
Jimmy K said, “Throw them birds some food.”
Lightening forks down from the indigo sky while thunder roars loud enough to shake the stones beneath our feet. We tremble, falling deeper into the mountain fortress and praying to the gods for mercy.
The gods do not listen.
Instead, the clouds open, and rain pours in a torrent so thick that life beyond these caves becomes a memory. The wind shrieks with glee. Pieces of rock break and smash into the raging ocean below.
The priests cower with the rest of us until the child rises and walks to the edge of the cliff. She is no one. But she raises her arms to the sky and cries, “I am ready.”
For a moment the wind lifts her and folds her in its embrace before setting her down. Then the clouds begin to roll back, and the rain slows. A ray of sun slips through the darkness, and she catches the light in her hands.
Pru, really didn’t think U’d be at Henry’s last night. Was there totally by chance. U looked great tho. Miss U much.
Saw U & Henry today. U looked happy. RU together?
Saw Henry today buying flowers.
How long have U been w/Henry?
FU FU FU
I just want to talk.
Saw Henry at bar this afternoon.
You sick bastard. I called police.
Too late for Henry. Too late for U.
We stand a solemn watch
The young ones fidget
Most bow their heads and murmer
I think they pray for their own immortality
They say you were too young to go
You lie so quiet in your earth furniture
Your body of flesh and bone
Waiting to return
To the cycle of all life
But your soul is a winged creature
That has already taken flight
You travel the night sky
Waiting just beyond my window
Inexorable as time
I see you in the pale streams of gold
That pour through the windows
Your warmth envelops me
I can almost hear the flutter of your wings
Wait, I whisper, I am coming.
The train gains momentum as it moves down the tracks. I am not so fond of trains as when I was a boy. Then they seemed like an adventure; now only a necessity.
I hear voices behind me. American voices. A girl says, “Mommy! Mommy! It’s just magical.”
“Hello, Monsieur.” A little girl with blonde ringlets and wide blue eyes appears before me. She gives me a wide smile. “What’s that?”
I smile. I have not smiled in a long time, and my muscles ache with the effort. “It is my treasure.”
Her mouth opens in an “O” before her mother leads her away with a quick apology.
I think of another child with dark hair and eyes. My joy. Gone for over seventy years now, she lives only in my heart. Taken from me by another train. Now I carry her mother, my last treasure, to meet her in the air at Treblinka.
They say that climate change stuff’s gonna get us in the end. Could be. Snow don’t lay right in the mountains no more. Weird kind ‘a fog comes over them in the spring. Real fast like. Sometimes it just creeps on you like your eyes is wrapped in gauze. Then the dark comes on and the world turns blue, and it seems like anything’s possible. Like that afternoon Earl and I was out. One minute the sun was bright and yellow in the sky; the next, the world was hidden behind a blue-gray veil.
That’s when we seen them. Walkin’ in the mountains, just across the Divide, we see the woman and dog, just walking. Earl even got his fancy binoculars to be sure. We called and called, just to see if she needed help, but the fog got real bad. When it finally lifted, well . . . she was gone. And her little dog too.
Some days exercise stirs my memories, and I rest my bicycle against the wall of the covered bridge to breathe in the cool air. I think of home then.
The Authorities say I’ll forget my old life. Eventually. But they’re wrong.
Lilith has cooked some kind of fish for dinner. I eat it dutifully and try to forget the steaks and martinis I had to leave behind.
She says I’ve been given a second chance. I say prison is prison. But Lilith never did understand the real world. She always had a soft heart. Maybe it kept us from being sent to Alpha 10. I’ve only heard rumors, but they say the inmates don’t last long there. I’m glad I wasn’t in petrochemicals. Most of those boys were sent to Alpha 10. They’re gone now. Just part of the yellow dust.
At night I sit with my special telescope and stare at my home so far away. A perfect blue and green sphere. They say it’s finally healed.
If only they’d send me back.
I slump in the plastic seat, staring at my feet encased in high, gorgeous Jimmy Choos. Look great hurt like hell. I probably should have worn running shoes, but that would have been too obvious. In the early morning, the train is empty, and I listen to the sound of its wheels clicking over the rails.
“Ya almost made it,” a voice from behind me says.
I never heard him come in. That’s what happens when you spend the night moving from subway to subway. By morning, you’re so tired you get sloppy.
“Detective Moore,” I say. “This is a surprise.”
“Sure it is.”
“I don’t suppose I could interest you in getting off at the next stop and letting me go on alone.”
“Don’t suppose you could. You’re a person of interest.”
“Only to Donald.”
The brakes squeal and the train slows as I shoot him in the face with the .38 I carry in my left pocket. I walk to the door without looking back. Donald didn’t warn him that I’m left handed. Too bad for Detective Moore. And to think I was ready to get out for good.
Now I have to tie up that final loose end.
I spin around in my new white toe shoes just as Mrs. Morrison showed us, except today I get to hold these oversized red, white and blue balloons. Later we’ll give them to the wounded boys–that’s what Mrs. Morrison calls them. Some just a few years older than me, so I must remember to be kind and not look away from the horrid burns and missing arms and legs.
“Be kind, Alicia, imagine how pleasant it is for these boys to watch such sweet young girls dance and twirl for them.”
I wouldn’t feel happy at all to be wheeled outside only to sit and watch, unable to move, like the big Yank with the awful burns. The nurses say he’ll be dead soon.
I offer him a balloon, but he shakes his head and smiles a lipless grin.“Dance, child, no war here.”
He’s wrong. At night I dream of his horrible face and hate him.
He’d made this jump before. Then the night had lit up with anti-aircraft fire, and he stood in the plane with Jack and William waiting for the light to turn from red to green. Only boys they had been, their hearts slamming against their chests, their bodies so pumped with adrenaline that they barely felt the cold air. And when the door opened they stomped in unison, terrified yet exhilarated. Ready for battle. Uncomprehending.
Now all that is past: the blood and horror, Jack’s fast grin and bright blue eyes, William’s soft voice when he spoke of his family, his home. All is wind and sky, forest and mountains.
He feels only the sway of his body beneath his canopy as he descends effortlessly. Frosted mountains surround him as the verdant earth grows closer, and he sees now what he couldn’t then. There is no glory in war. There is only the futility of death.