Young Life, Loves, and WordsProlog

I recently read Richard Le Gallienne’s ‘Young Lives’, clued to me by Jacy, which book described his younger life (he lived from 1866-1947), loves, and his written words of poetry and prose, enroute to his job as a columnist, novelist, and poet, his ‘young’ romances beginning around the age of twenty, these endeavors of love having been necessarily earlier restricted during the prudent Victorian era.

What a difference a hundred and fifty years makes—no more chaperones. Go back thousands of years, though, when the life span was only about forty, if that, and we’ll find marriage at thirteen. So it is that nature still gets our bodies ready for procreation, ever by twelve, now, and I heard that it may have even moved up a year.

Gallienne became relatively famous. I’m not, but Jacy had pointed out some similarities, such as lineage, history, general outlook, metaphysics, romanticism, elfin lore, and poetry/prose, not to mention the love of the female form.

My reading of Galliene’s exploits spurred me to write my own autobiography, realizing that there were enough twists and turns of fate in my life to carry it forth, and from even younger times, plus there were ever the universal themes that a general audience could appreciate. Plus, I had a reservoir of untapped material. I’m 66, and I’ve perhaps exhausted the other genres, having done near one of each.

Who really cares, though, about my life in particular? Probably not many, but I still had one of the easiest writing jobs, the retelling of actual happenings, and so a lot of words flowed out, rather effortlessly, they practically writing themselves. I had to take advantage of myself while I was still in the mood. There are also the heights of emotion that sweep one over and through and through while writing.

Do I have further research materials, beyond memory? Yes. I’d kept every note ever passed to me, as well as every letter received. I don’t see them playing a large role, though, but they provide a timeline.

The First Relation Ship

Our families spent a lot of time together,
And so we gradually got to know each other,
Especially since the others were much younger,
Proximity’s bonding begetting us fonder.

Amid the chaos before the dinner upstairs,
We found ourselves face to face, standing there, downstairs.
The kiss happened just before we knew it had to,
The first of our tween lives, so sensually new.

Twenty little ones hadn’t even noted us two,
But we knew it true, and floated on through the zoo,
Towards supper’s large spread, hardly even seeing it,
Mesmerized by love’s unexpected effect.

We sat across from each other—a tunnel view
Of love drawn between our eyes now opened anew.
We’d set loose an energy heretofore unknown,
That lifted us from our selves, as flying and flown.

We didn’t want anyone to know the secret,
So we averted, but underneath, our feet met.
This affect was taking on a life of its own,
As if we’d watered a beanstalk already grown.

After an hour of this blessed bliss from the kiss,
Dessert was devoured, and we were at last dismissed.
She went out the back, I out of the front, so light,
Into the delicious air of the balmy night.

We met midway, embraced, emotions running us,
Kissed again, then longer, and walked into the dusk.
There was a park, with a lover’s bench, secluded,
Mysterious, and tucked away, unfrequented.

She sat on my lap, a thigh glimpse adding to the fire.
That no one should know only deepened the desire.
We lived in adjacent towns, had different schools,
This another shield to conceal our love from fools.

We’d meet here once a week, with no calls, at twilight.
If it rained or one couldn’t come, due to some rite,
The rendezvous would move to the very next night.
Such we played, and read classics and poems by moonlight.

“It seems that we’ve fallen in love with each other,”
She said, happily, as if far from any bother.
“Better if we didn’t have the same Grandmother?”
“It’s special because of this way unlike others.”

Nature’s Promise

Sometimes I go to bed a bit early, just to feel cozy, and it is in this cocoon that my thoughts turn to so long ago, usually through a female focal point, and then laterally onto local events, which grants a correlation to the year and the season. It was summer, 1960. I was twelve and a half, adrift in boyhood’s time of June.

The school year had ended a week ago. The whole of Oak Park, Forest Park lay before me and my bicycle, if I didn’t feel ashamed to use it. I put my baseball cards in a box and gave them to the kid across the street.

1.

I walked down Wenonah Avenue, a block and a half, and then one avenue over, via Garfield Street, toward Ensweiler’s store, my destination, located at the corner of Home Avenue, but at the last second headed over, across Garfield, to strike up a conversation with a girl who was standing at a railing and watching the ‘Congress’ expressway being built.

I’m friendly, I said to myself, to ease my apprehension.

There were clunking noises much further down, which had been drawing closer each day, from the large and long metal and linking pieces being driven down far into the ground, to form the basis for a retaining wall.

Uh-oh, I thought, she might be young, if not just thin, but there was no turning back now.

As I approached her, she announced, “I’m Little Lulu.”

She’s not shy, I thought. “So, you’re a comic book character come to life?”

“That’s me, though I’m more serious than humorous, although at times comedic, but not on purpose. My life is upside down, but I like keeping track of the progress down there.” She pointed down and over the wide swath that soon would bear six auto lanes, transit trains in the middle, and freight trains on this side. It had begun in 1956.

“Lincoln, sixth grade, aren’t you?”

“Yes, or just was. It was boring.”

“I’m just out of seventh. I’m Patrick, which is my middle name. For my first year I was Austin, my first name, but since my father and grandfather are named ‘Austin’ too, sometimes all three of us would come when ‘Austin’ was called.”

“Oh.” She almost smiled, but didn’t.

“I would usually beat them, although I could only crawl.”

She just stared out across the expanse, which was not what I had expected. She was thin, and looked a bit worn.

I looked out and noted, “It’s about a block wide and twenty-five miles long.”

“I thinking of all those people that had to be moved, their homes torn down, and that we already poor South Oak Parkers in these last three little blocks of the village will be chopped off, isolated, from everything, living on the wrong side of the tracks.”

“Yes, we’ve been severed, or at least separated, Lulu, from all the rest, but the bright side is that we now have our own little corner of the world right here. There is to be a narrow walking and biking bridge right here at Home Avenue.”

Her eyes brightened, “So, you’ve been reading about it? I like information.”

“Yes, and, see, they’re starting one of the pillars over there, but you’re right, of course, and I’m a dreamy optimist, for the situation is now even worse while Oak Park and Harlem Avenues are closed and becoming bridges.”

“Well,”, she went on, in a downtrodden way, “I’m lucky to be out here, for I have to take care of my mother, but she’s sleeping now. I cook, I clean, pay the bills, everything. You can’t come over; no one can come over. We live in that big apartment building right across, there, but our apartment is on the Home Avenue side, so I can’t see the expressway from there.”

We watched some dump trucks still hauling dirt away, this having gone on for at least three years now, although concrete was being put down for the road portion. I thought, Hmmm. Perhaps her mother has alcoholism or the place is messy, or both. I’ll just leave it alone.

It was warm, so I looked over to Ensweiler’s, and said, “I’ll be right back. Are you still going to be here?”

“Yes, but just for a while.”

I returned with two orange double popsicles, presenting one to her.

She smiled, the first I’d noted, and happily took it. We then silently savored the ice particles being chipped away, the cascade of chill and flavor relieving our dry throats.

She looked me over, and said, “I like your shoes; they’re black and curvy, and your pants look tough.”

“You’re perhaps a toughie type of girl, with that bandana, the metallic stone necklace, and the silver studded belt?”

“I’m tough as nails, with the tender yet to come. I feel down today. Stay and talk to me.”

“Hmm, perceptive. Well, I’m tough in sports, and I can ride a bike for a hundred miles, way out to the prairie and beyond, but I also read a lot, and I love nature, adventure, and all things unknown, and so if that be a sweet spot for retreat, mystery, and enjoyment then my toughness be its contrast but also its protector.”

She pondered this for a while, as if some heavy pour from a thunderous word storm had just fallen out of the sky onto her fragility, and then asked, as if I was suddenly the source of all knowledge, “I like to know things, too. How come we’re so interested in that big long hole out there?”

“In short, it’s new.”

“Tell me in ‘long’.”

“Well, maybe you think I know things, and I do some, but I am ever learning. Probably something in us reacts to whatever is new, so that we might attend to it, in case it’s going to matter somehow, especially on this large scale, out of this world, monstrous undertaking, and perhaps even a plain old change to a parking lot might seem interesting for a day or two. I’ll let you know if I ever really figure it out.”

“I’m listening, but what else about the expressway?”

“Oak Park is not letting there be any exits totally within it, but just at the east and west ends, at Harlem Avenue and at Austin Boulevard, the last one being way down from here, at the border with Chicago. The ramp at East Avenue was even half done, but now there can’t be one there, the reasoning being that our two high schools are on East Avenue and don’t need to have any more traffic.”

“One is Fenwick, isn’t it—a Catholic school just for boys.”

“Yes.”

“Boring. Half the world shut out and gonesville, erased from nature.”

“True, and I’m making sure that I go to the public high school.”

“What else about this eighth wonder of the world? I’m serious. It dominates my scene. Somehow it helps me cope, but for that pounding noise.”

“The on-ramps at Harlem and Austin are in the center, so that Oak Park can have less disruption on the side streets of Garfield and Harrison that run all the way alongside, but that means entering and merging onto the expressway into the fast lane, a probable source of accidents, plus it limits the width here to three lanes each way, but with four lanes in Chicago, meaning that a bottleneck will form here during rush hour.”

“Dear old Oak Park. Those pounding and clunking noises are driving me crazy, and in a month or so they’ll be right here at my doorstep. I can’t take it; they obliterate my thoughts. Puts me on edge. I’m cranky.”

“Yes, and I can hear them at home. Every big clunk only seems to drive the pieces in only an inch or two. The concrete wall around them will keep everything from caving in.”

“Luckily, I may be away, and soon. How come you stopped to talk to me, anyway?”

“I like meeting neighborhood people. My Catholic school just seems strange, as not very normal, except for a few great kids here and there.”

“My life is far from normal. I had to grow up fast.”

“I do see a serious and weary look about you, but one from which your beautiful features still shine on through.”

“Her face lit up, but then went back. My seriousness will turn to wrinkles long ahead of their time. I don’t have much time to think or feel.”

“Need help?”

“You can’t come over. We get some help at times during the school year, and from my friend, Sharon, when I’m not around. You like my features, do you?”

“They mean business, but there’s a beauty and a gentleness, too. You look wonderful. You are on the cusp; maybe you need to eat more, if I daresay. You are as a flower opening, a dream solidifying to stake its root into world.”

“Where do you get all this stuff?”

“I read, I look, I learn, I listen.”

“Sounds like crossing a street.”

“I just did, to get to you, Garfield street.”

“What kind of a name is that, anyway?”

“Our streets are named after the Presidents.”

“Didn’t Garfield get shot?”

“Yes.”

“Great.”

“And Harrison, across this big ditch?”

“There were two; one died of pneumonia after about 30 days in office.”

“Wonderful. Are the streets in order?”

“At first, yes, for awhile, with some omissions, but they got mixed up around here.”

“We are the oddballs.”

“Eisenhower set up the money to build this expressway. Maybe they’ll name it after him one day.”

“You like me?”

“I feel a certain something.”

“I’m a goner, but you’re not that far ahead of me in feeling those somethings.”

“You’re too tough for that, and you’re in bloom.”

The next bit surprised me, when she revealed, “You know, my breasts just started popping out a few months ago, as pin points and pencil points and then as like felt marker size, and some more, but they’re not all there yet.”

“Well, that was bold,” I stammered, “and if I may be too, I wonder if they feel, you know, tender, still.”

“They do, so, yes, I am tough and tender, ha-ha, and I don’t know why I told you. Sometimes I just blurt things out. Back and forth talk and life is fine, sometimes, but time just has to move for me much quicker.”

“It’s because Little Lulu is torn across many worlds.”

“She is, and she has to go now. I’m not at my best right now. I’ll be away for a month or so, at my father’s, probably leaving as soon as tomorrow.”

“Next time I see you, you will be Lucille!” I called after her.

She turned and waved, ‘Yeah, I will be, won’t I.”

“See you then. Promise?”

“I’ll try.”

2.

What a strange afternoon it had been, it going just like that, so brief, and near mystical, yet holding the mysterious promise of the more enduring, she in her rare and younger maturity that could only flower and fulfill itself more grandly, this glimpse of magic and honesty coming during a week in which nothing else had really happened at all, but us getting our new baseball uniforms.

Well, we give ourselves happily unto the world, planting seeds of joy along the often barren and rocky way, but can never quite know the twists and turns of the seedlings, if they be, and if they can even form stalk, which may go on to wither and die or grow strong enough to spread and bloom to show their colorful, bright, and sunny faces to heaven.

She liked particulars, and so I’d given them. For a moment life had giveth, and then had takest away, ever the blessing with the curse. Well, the time had been fine, and then she had to walk away. If this was  our last goodbye, then it had come near before a real hello, although it had gone well enough.

Well, I wouldn’t say nothing at all happened, of late, for I had kissed my cousin a few months ago, and that was sacred, and I wanted it to stay that way, plus, with baseball, touch football, pool, biking, tennis, and friends, it wasn’t like I was going to give up all that to hang out with a now unavailable sixth grade girl; well, OK, going into seventh, but I was headed for eighth. Only a grade apart, but this was a gap seemingly as wide as an expressway at this time in life.

So then, why was I camped just a few houses down Home Avenue, on Michael’s front porch, the next day, with him, of all kids, at a place I’d never been, for he was an ungraceful type who had aggravated everyone, girls and boys alike. Maybe I could head him in a better direction. Well, yes, maybe, but he had seemed intractable. I’d tried before. He was hopeless, I thought, at least for now. I was here to watch for Lulu.

Half the day went by. I really needed to be practicing pitching somewhere. A car finally drove up. Her father stood about it, not looking happy. He tapped his fingers on the roof. He waited, then called out, “Let’s go Lucy.” Lulu came out, carrying a large suitcase, its size suggesting that she’d be gone for a long time. Did she look my way? I couldn’t really say.

After baseball practice, I returned to our expressway perch, and sat down to read a book, losing track of time. Nothing happened. I returned the next night, with another book, gliding away to exotic lands within its pages. There was nothing to expect; it just felt good to be here, to sense the aura, to prolong its lingering. Dusk fell.

A bit later, a woman came out of Lulu’s apartment, evidently her mother, and so very slowly walked down Garfield toward Forest Park. My head was still looking into my book, but I had slightly shifted my eyes to above the top of the page. I couldn’t make out her features, though. I didn’t have to follow her, for I’d seen her before, carrying a bottle in a paper bag, bought in Forest Park, near my St. Bernardine School, at Harlem Avenue, where there was a bar I’d seen her in, for we’d often gone bowling next door. Oak Park was dry—no where to buy a bottle, no bars at which to buy a drink. When she came back I was gone.

The next day, I gave Michael five dollars, asking him to keep an eye on Lulu’s apartment, you know, nothing obvious, but just when he happened to be on the porch or outside.

I then bought a popsicle, and checked on the expressway for a bit, then wrote a note on the popsicle wrapper and put it under a rock, but with some of the writing showing. I’d probably have to restore it if it got too wet or faded. I often used this street, and so I could attend to this little hope. I felt silly. I did’t know what might become of what I was doing, but it felt good to be doing something.

The note was still there a month later. I’d replaced it once, since it had been disrupted by the passion of  the pounding machine. Meanwhile, Michael had long since reported about a blond girl coming down the alley and out and around to Lulu’s apartment, on some days, she leaving a while later with a bag of trash that she’d deposit in the trash bin in the alley, and then walk on.

I had prompted him for more details.

“Mike, when she got to the end of the alley after throwing the trash, which way did she turn?”

Michael looked perplexed, as if why would he be watching her walk all the way away.

“Mike, I know you’ve dropped out of Lincoln School, but you do remember seeing her there, in your class, and she is beautiful, isn’t she?”

“I saw. She turned left. I watched her all the way each time. Couldn’t take my eyes off of her.”

“Did she arrive from the alley, too?”

“Yes.”

“Did she look happy?”

“Huh? Yes, she was prancing and maybe even singing. Do I get another five dollars?”

“Yes, and no, since I’m not rich, but here’s another three for your trouble, and in case anything else comes up.”

So there it was, ‘left’. There was but an apartment building there, on Garfield and Kennilworth, then nothing but the new expressway dig. This girl had to be Sharon, she taking the shortest way around. If she lived further down, then she’d take Garfield all the way, for her arrival, at least. I’d seen her at Carroll Playground, where we had softball games. There were not many things, events, or people that could escape my all seeing eyes. My best friend, also named Patrick, had liked her, but had noted her youth, she thus having been classified as still being on the underside of that great divide known as puberty. Wait till he sees her now or in a few months!

Her entrance had to be on Kennilworth, and so it was, for I looked, but didn’t proceed, for it looked like Lulu had everything taken care of. Plus, it wouldn’t be right to befriend her friend before I knew Lulu more. There were limits to this game, but information was still information.

So, they were close, Sharon and Lulu, a team, but kind of like sun and moon opposites: blonde brightness and a happy-go-lucky shine, at large, versus the brunette darkness and the worn life of a dark, gothic world of drink on one’s shoulders. The boys would eventually all fall for Sharon, on sight, yet Lulu was pretty too, though and an elfin waif, she more dwelling within, with deeper cares and thoughts, which would be perfect for one on one.

What was I? I was sunshine, too, true, but many lights shown for me—a wider view that went all ways, even studying mixing with sports, but ever a romantic overall: So I was the stars, the beautiful combination of light and dark, night and day, for the stars were suns.

I was happy for them. What more could I do? I’d not intruded. Spied, yes, but just out of love, curiosity, and concern.

Did I say ‘love’? No, it couldn’t be. It was just the newness, like the expressway, but it was a rather large newness, just the same. Catchy music kept playing in my head. Since it wouldn’t leave, I embraced it. I floated on its strains. It was her, yes, and then it came to be accompanied by Martin Denny’s A Taste of Honey.

Five weeks had now passed. We all been hanging out a lot with Judy, Vicki, Peggy, and some other from Maple avenue. Fun, but not worth much mention. Kid stuff.

3.

Michael had walked over to my house to give me an ambulance report; Lulu’s mother had fallen, outside, had been taken away, and then had been returned the next day.

“Her liver will fail before she reaches forty, Michael. Don’t drink, at least not excessively, best not at all, maybe some wine with dinner, years from now.”

No more reports arrived. Lulu was gone, gone, gone. August had turned a week ago. To me, this was the real mid-summer’s day.

So, too, I was part of a team named Hickey and Torney, each of us called ‘Pat’. I had mentioned to him that I knew where Sharon Dalton lived, and that he might happen to be around there or look about Carroll Playground to get another, updated opinion on her. He didn’t seem ready to pursue this.

I happened to have met someone, several weeks ago, Judy, down Maple Avenue, at McDonalds, technically in Berwyn, after asking about the flowers in her hair, and if she was a flower girl from SanFrancisco.

“I’m from Jersey, my sister and I,” she said, with kind of an accent, and we’re staying with my aunt and uncle, for six weeks, just across from the baseball field at Maple Park.”

I thought, They’ll be coming across to watch all the baseball games.” And they did.

Not that Judy wasn’t pretty, for she was, but she seemed, well, ungrounded to me. Perhaps it was also that why should I begin a short summer thing and then just have it end. It was also that little comic book kid, Lulu, she at that rare and precious time of being on the verge of womanhood. But she was gone, wasn’t she, and/or would have to eventually live with her father somewhere, probably.

Judy had glued onto to me, and I didn’t know how it would play out, but this was life, right, and summer time, in a youth that would never be so young again. I came to enjoy her company, although I couldn’t get into her Frank Zappa music, or her pot smoking, although I surely had more than a few, and had inhaled them, too.

“Isn’t it great, this stuff,” she always said.

I replied, “Yes, very relaxing, but I’m either too lazy to move or I’m turning into a monument.”

“You’re stoned,” she laughed.

Well, there was not any real chemistry between us, but this is not to say that we didn’t have some sweet and happy times in the land of eternal sunshine and moon glow. It just wasn’t fully romantic, but, to my relief, she let it be known early on that they didn’t do any deeply romantic/sexual things back in Jersey, and so would not here either. I hadn’t asked. Such things, though, didn’t seem to apply to her one year younger sister, who, while a rather plump girl, seemed to want to do everything with everyone. Well, one was in vacation mode and the other wasn’t.

Well, aside from true romance, these freer attitudes were still surprising to me. Of course, I was in a Catholic school, wherein the opposite seemed to be true, that probably the girls might have been taught to fear any contact with the boys, their holy of holies being so sacred that nothing should be allowed to even lead in that direction such as even kissing, which is surely a deep knock above on the basement door. What instruction did the boys get? None.

Lulu was right; I really wasn’t very far ahead, the Catholics perhaps having retarded me, although I personally gave up the faith in fifth grade. Of course, boys and men can be aroused even by just looking or thinking, so it wasn’t really that I was ever really heading toward the kind of chastity that many of the Catholic girls had developed. Still, I had been sheltered from one of human nature’s finer expressions. We did see a movie of some stills in sixth grade showing a things squirting all over the place, or that’s how it seemed from so many droplets pictured.

Way back in first grade, at Ascension school, in my only grade there, I sat across from a girl named Joanne, and one day I saw her dress rise up to show her thigh, and, boy, I was in love and lust for a day. I then promptly forgot about females for the next six grades and a half, with the slight exception of falling in love with Sister Theophelia in sixth grade until she quit and ran away with our young priest.

Love in first grade! Ridiculous. There was also a ‘Jody’ whom I walked home with, she revealing to me her butt once, but more interestingly, led me to a freezer full of ice cream and popsicles in her basement. Now this to me was heaven. We were friends, and had our pictures taken together, which shows that it happened, but I hardly remember any of it, but for the goodies in the freezer. My first day’s report from Ascension, by the way, upon first seeing a Mother Superior, was that she called herself ‘Mother Monkey’.

4. 

Well, back to the future. We kids busied ourselves with all things that were summer, until a really terrible heat wave arrived and remained for two weeks. It was even too hot to swim in the big pool. Some roads began to melt a bit. Day games were canceled. We retreated to my basement, to play pool and listen to music.

Elvis sang, It’s Now or Never. John F. Kennedy was running for President. I read his book, ‘Profiles in Courage’. It said that we should welcome new ideas, without rigid reactions. Shifty Chicago Mayer Daley would have dead people casting ballots. Illinois might just carry the day. A U-2 spy plane had been shot down. France had tested its first atomic bomb.

The heat wave broke, the rains coming for a day and a night. I ran out into the downpour, and around the block.

The next day was clear, and I resecured my note under the rock. A thought occurred to me: Lulu and her mother didn’t even have a car, for her mother had walked slowly a long way that night, to buy alcohol, or maybe it was that she wasn’t supposed to drive.

I stopped at Michael’s and asked him, “Did you ever see that Lulu’s mother had a car?”

“No, and there’s no car ever parked there overnight. Is this important?”

“No, I suppose not, but it means that they are poor. Have you seen her mother go out?”

“Just to Ensweiler’s. Came back with a big bag of stuff.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“I forgot.”

“What about at night?”

“I wasn’t looking.”

“Thanks, pal.”

“Oh, and Sharon hasn’t been around for a while?”

“How long?”

“About two weeks. I didn’t see her at the playground, either.”

“I looked, too. She must be on vacation.”

“Yeah.”

Hope she was at a lake or the ocean. That was some heat wave, wasn’t it?”

“The worst.”

“And, darn, I was planning to ask her if she’d talked with Lulu on the phone or had gotten a letter. Enough time has gone by for me to do that now, and for her to know something.”

“You never give up, do you?”

“The dauntless and the dreamers never do.”

“Which one are you?”

“I am both; one goes with the other.”

“And all these maneuverings, like the note and me watching… Do you really think they’re going to accomplish something?”

“One never knows, Michael, and they may already have. Plus, I was the last thing on her mind when she left.”

“And when she got where she was going, you may have become the really last thing on her mind, as in forgotten, maybe, everything there being different, freer, and better.”

“No, there were certain somethings going on as we talked to each other.”

“OK then. Tomorrow will be the day, or soon thereafter.”

“How come.”

“We are down to the last weeks of summer.”

“Yes, the time is nigh.”

“You know, Pat, you’re my first real friend.”

“See, something was accomplished.”

He smiled, and I shook his hand.

Well, the summer had flown by, and now it was near mid August. It really looked like Lulu was gone forever, despite Michael’s optimism, and mine, a “goner” indeed, she of my dearest glimmer of only one day’s meeting that had lasted only about twenty minutes. Judy would soon be gone, but, Thank God. I’m just too nice sometimes.

I went to sleep early, for there was a big game tomorrow, but I dreamt of her. she was walking through a field of sunflowers, which to me were like stars come down to Earth, and then she passed into waves of wheat and corn, the wheat waving in the winds, the corn ripening, she wearing a flowing dress, smiling, happy, and restored.

On the following evening, I was way down my block, in the late dusk, and across my street. I looked back, for some reason. I saw Sharon Dalton walking down the sidewalk my house was on; she slowed, but just a bit, and looked at my home, and then continued for a few more steps. I hid behind a tree. She was never around here, and Patrick Hickey lived way down the other way. My spine tingled; something was up. This would be the perfect time to talk to her, but my father came out, to drive the car around to our garage in the alley.

She bolted, soon achieving from her gallup a steady and  graceful pace, in near no time. She already had half a block on me, and more. I pushed hard off the tree, turned, and raced in the direction of someone’s back yard whom I didn’t know, but they had a fierce dog, and I barely managed to flip over the fence in time, using but one hand as a pivot, such as in gymnastics, on the pommel horse. I landed and became entangled in some laundry baskets and clothes lines. They had a dog, too, and so I raced toward their front gate, since I was closer to that end, doing the fifty-yard dash, jump right to the top of the gate, and then down, and back out toward the street. My father was still down there, fiddling with something in the trunk. I thus had to trace backwards, not really needing to be seen tearing down the street past my father when there was no chance to explain.

I could still do it, I thought, for I was a runner.  In High School, I would join the track team. Another house, but no good. Ah, Tracy’s house, the dear, older girl, by five years, or so, who had always played and watched over me when I was three, four, and more years old, when I played in the alley behind 1030 Wenonah, my Grandmother’s house. Tracy drove a car now, but her car wasn’t out front. I raced through her yard. Her car wasn’t in the garage, either.

I ran down the alley, faster and faster, and then added a bit of pace. My energy was boundless. It was going to be close.

I was nearing Lexington, the street before Garfield. I hadn’t yet seen Sharon run across the alley a block down, for Garfield had a perpendicular alley there, since the houses and stores faced Garfield, so there was still hope. Always note what you don’t see, in addition to what you do, like the dog in Watson’s Sherlock tales that didn’t bark in the night, and, yet, I knew she would take the alley instead of Garfield, so she had a gain on me there; however, I happened to have my sneakers on.

I turned right on Lexington, taking what would be a more diagonal path, overall, for Sharon had gone all the way down Wenonah, as I’d noted after nearly going to the dogs, so I soon quickly turned left on Home Avenue, and called in my reserves, a bit early, at least for a quarter mile race. It would help if she had slowed to a trot or a walk, or if I could get close enough to call or wave to her, yet I was still too far away for that. If there had been a truck going by, I would have jumped onto the back of it.

A blond streak crossed Home Avenue, hardly slowing down, she soon to be heading past the trash bins. I yelled and waved. No effect. Curse you stars. I should have run past my father. There was still a chance; she might slow, since she was now in familiar territory, or maybe have to fumble with the key and the lock, or wait for a buzz, at her front door that I knew the whereabouts of. I found a second wind, and then a third one, from love’s energy unspent, and entered the trash bin alley just as she had rounded left and onto the sidewalk of Kennilworth.

An unheard of fourth wind sped me along. I jumped a small hedge and cut across the grass, buying many precious  seconds. I could see the lobby now. The inner lobby door had just swung closed. So, she had stopped running and had walked, from the sidewalk to the door. There was still a chance. I literally fell into the lobby and knocked hard on the locked inner door. She would hear it if she was going up the stairs or waiting for an elevator.

The knock had gone unheeded; I knocked again; nothing.   I sat on the floor, exhausted, leaning against the wall. It was like that, after races. You just had to get through it, and you knew you would, so there was no need to give into a panic feeling. I looked at the list of names and their buttons across. There it was, first floor, the first one on the left. I was practically right next to her, but I was too late, and this was not really the best place to be lying around. I dragged myself up and out, somehow, which was difficult, for one did not have to do this right after races had ended.

It was late; the stars had come out, so clear and bright. The hot summer had broken, a few days ago, and the storms were long over-past. It’s now or never, I called out to the night sky, and Elvis, who was now recording, Are You Lonesome Tonight. Bless you, stars.

I went over and checked the rock note. Still there. I talked to Michael. Nothing. He’d been sitting out on his porch all day, reading a book that I’d given him. He assured me that there had been no arrivals, and that Sharon was back, and had made her rounds that day.

Michael said, “I liked the book of poems you gave me, and the mystery-detective book, too. I’ve learned a lot from both. When I said that Sharon was back, you didn’t even blink an eye or ask me anything more, plus you look like you just ran all the way here.”

“Good one, Michael. She was walking down my street, passing my house, and looking there, but she ran when my father came out to the car. I gave chase, but she beat me to her home.”

“Ha, she beat you. I’ve got to hear this one.”

“And I’ve got it to tell it; it’s just that I’m still a bit out of breath. Let me have a seat; I’m tired. I’ll tell it from the beginning; it only ended a few minutes ago. Then we can discuss the books. …”

“Ha, gigantic wild wolf dogs, getting cloths-lined and near choked to death, the race of a lifetime, a six foot hedge high jump, and a flying fairy!”

5.

The next day, at early afternoon, my note was still there, but, later the same day, I found that the rock and the note were gone, nowhere in sight, so I put another, waited around while, and then went home. I thought of ringing at Sharon’s, but for sure I would the next day. I could go and ask Lulu’s mother, but no one was supposed to go there. Well, I didn’t need to take that chance just yet.

Michael came over, after dinner. He had waited a while to come and tell me that Lulu was back.

He said, “I didn’t feel like walking over, plus I had to eat dinner.”

“It’s only about two blocks, but food is good.”

“Well, I figured she had to unpack and everything. She got here late afternoon.”

“Good thinking, Mike. You did well, but the duty is over now. Here’s another two dollars, for your retirement.”

“Please keep me informed. I feel as a part of it.”

“For sure.”

I checked the note early the next day, and the note was gone again, with another in its place, in an envelope, which said, Just got back late yesterday; had to unpack and readjust. Lucky us—my father’s taking his new girlfriend on vacation, so I get some summer after all. My mother and I have be at my aunt’s most of today, not too far away. It’s a homecoming party for me. Then I’m taking a nap. I’m coming to you, tonight, at 1029 Wenonah! I don’t know when. Probably late evening. Be on the front screen porch or outside. I am new on top of new. Signed, The Boss.

I left a note saying that I would be there.

Well, my family spent a lot of time on the porch, and I slept out there or camped in the yard all summer. Evening came, and my parents were on the porch, along with my brothers, and our dog. I kept an eye down the street. I would have to head her off, I supposed, or they would all gather round with me and a girl who I hardly knew.

Well, nothing happened for a long time, which kind of informed me about Lulu’s plan,plus she spoke of a nap.

My family went upstairs to sleep, our dog, too, to the hum of the large fan that exhausted the warm air out and drew the cool air in. I was the only one with a first floor bedroom, but it was too hot to sleep in during the summer, so, yes, I’d be on the porch all right, and all night. I closed the windows to the living room, so my dog could hear even less, drew the drapes, then untwisted some latches on my nearby screen, and stayed up reading. Couldn’t sleep; didn’t want to.

The street grew quiet. Magic has descended was in the air. Night had taken hold. The evergreens just in front of the porch swayed a bit in the wind.

I peered out the front. No sights. No sidewalk sounds. Nothing—and then in a moment or so I heard some pebbles bouncing off the near screens, and looked out and downward. There she was, happily smiling. I put my finger to my lips and indicated “quiet”, and held my hand in a “wait”, then opened the screen, and helped her climb, by grabbing her under her shoulders, her feet now able to dig in to climb the shingles, she rising up and in, we landing on my bed, which had a bedspread just like the one on the ‘I Love Lucy’ show, only the next production was to be ‘I Love Lulu”.

We embraced, and then kissed, and then more and more.

“Oh, Rick, I have so much to tell you.”

“I’m ‘Rick’ now?”

“Yes. It’s from the end of Patrick, for your friend is also named ‘Patrick’, and Sharon likes him, so, since it was confusing, I’ve renamed you ‘Rick’.”

“And you are?”

“I am Lucille. Want to see?”

She began undoing her blouse.

“You don’t have to…” I said, but then there they were.

“I need to show them to especially you and only you. I never forgot that popsicle. How funny is that? And the time we spent. I’ve been thinking of you for two months, now. Want to touch them? I don’t have time for pleasantries.”

“Let’s kiss some more first and then I’ll go for them all around.”

We celebrated the awakening of her nature for quite a while and I’m sure the readers really have no interest in this at all in the least bit. Nor does anything like this ever seem likely to happen in young life, but it did.

“I was at my father’s place, Rick, in the middle of fricken Iowa, with horses, cattle, and chickens, on a farm run by my grandfather. I read a lot of books, even studied alcoholism, dove into love stories, and more, in my spare time. I want to see and notice all of life. It was wonderful, but it’s not for me, really, long term. I’m a city girl, in a village, a toughie greaser even, almost. A cabin in Wisconsin would have been just as bad, unless we were there together.”

“Where are you supposed to be right now?” was all I could manage to say, overcome by the whirlwind that had swept me off my feet.

“Watching the expressway. They have big lights down there now, so they can work at night. It has to open this year, someone said. My mother conked out, anyway.”

“Wow, look at you! You’ve blossomed, in all places. Hips, curves, legs, everything, everywhere.”

“You cared about me, Rick, in my awkling ducking, moody stage, and I’d just had my first period that day.”

“Um, Ok. Yes, but you were well on your way, and I do like ‘awkling’ in place of ‘ugly’, and it even rhymes with ‘duckling’. But how did you know that I kept on caring?”

“Why would you look under a rock every day for two months?”

“Your mother saw me.”

“She did, and my aunt.”

“I had hoped so,”

“And that mean old Michael Bourell always looking around? And sometimes you were over there.”

“I’m helping him get along in life. He’s not so mean any more. So, he didn’t just look from his porch?”

“Well, yes, but early on he put a chair way out on his lawn and stared straight at my apartment all day long.”

“Well, he was a bit too dutiful in doing that.”

“And your friend Patrick has been talking with Sharon at Carroll after the games, for the last two nights, but way across, in the shadows of Lincoln.”

“Well, he didn’t tell me, but I sent him on that quest, long ago, since he said he liked her a long time ago but, you know, sixth grade and all that.”

“Girls are about a year ahead of boys, you know, well, most of them, especially those who still bring a frog in their pocket to school.”

“In Iowa. OK, we’re even-steven. The gap has been closed. And I plead guilty to spying, on all counts. Plus I was born in December, although I still have an extra year of schooling and being out and about.”

“You had to grow up quicker, too, Rick. And you’re not that far ahead. I read a ton of books on that farm, from the classics to romances and mysteries galore. And I’m January. Stress slowed me down; I read about it. I was too thin, too. I’m only a few weeks younger than you, if that.”

“Wow, I see, and I’m sorry about the spying. I’ll have to brush up on my Sherlock Holmes, such that those followed or observed duly remark, “But I saw no one.”

“Don’t be sorry; those goings on brought feeling to me in Iowa. It’s as if we have been together all this time when we weren’t. I felt connected to you. My mother back-dated her sighting of you to you being you of the rock-checker, as the one looking when she went out to buy a bottle.”

“OK, sentence me. I surrender.”

“I already did and am going to more. I am your noun, verb, and sentence, that is, if you’ve missed me.”

“I missed you with every clunk of the pile-driver machine, which has mercifully passed out of our area, it becoming replaced with your heartbeat, which it represented all along.”

“That’s what a girl likes to hear! You sometimes speak like some kind of poet or as beyond your years.”

“I’m not beyond any years, but behind, as you say, if it must be one or the other. I read, I learn from those beyond in years, and I like to write. It all comes to rest behind my ears. It makes the school day fly by. Then I leave it there, until perhaps late evening, turning into sports man in between.”

“Sharon cased your house the other day; she saw the porch, and then your father came out and she got so spooked that she ran all the way home.”

“I saw. I tried to catch up with her.”

“She didn’t see you.”

“I’ll tell you about it.”

“Later. I’m carrying out your sentence now, Rick.”

There went my night clothes that I had partially put back on.

“Well, Lucille, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of me.”

“But you’re a great student. And I really didn’t know anything much about this either.”

“Because you only just read about it, or saw it, on a farm.”

“Right you are, Sherlock, on both.”

“See, I’ll make a good detective yet.”

“I love the breezes out here. Wish I could sleep over.”

“You will. We’ll figure a way. I’m already on it.”

She smiled, “Rick, tell me more about the damn expressway.”

“We’re on it, in the fast lane, speeding along, daring to be ticketed.”

“Yeah, all the lightnings of the world can’t keep up.”

“That’s a good one! More?”

“The heavens explode and rain their blessings down.”

“Keep going.”

“The soft sweet liquids grow the plants—nature’s promise, of the toil from the soil.”

“You’re a wildflower all right.”

“I’m the wildest, a once thriving weed transformed to flowerdom. I am Lucille. No more Lulu.”

“And no more Lucy.”

“Hey, I thought I saw you when my father picked me up.”

“You did. I wanted to be around the glowing aura of our meeting place.”

“It felt so good. A future was unfolding before my eyes, which is what I told myself later. We looked straight at and into each other after a while, didn’t we?”

“We did. I saw the rarest of concoctions, one mixed by the gods.”

“Ha, they’re playing with fire. I’ve been hoping, so much that I’ve been planning and dreaming of this kind of get together for a week.”

“Sometimes things work out perfectly.”

“I am Lucille and I am yours and you are mine.”

The Everly Brothers just put out an album, with a song, ‘Lucille’, on it, about doing or not your daddy’s will.”

“I had to, and I’ll have to, I suppose. Now, really, about the expressway…”

“The speedway has yielded, to soft shoulders and more, for it has taken us out of this world.”

“Rick, c’mon.”

“OK, I’ve been saving this one. In Maywood, they had to relocate 4,000 graves so the expressway doesn’t run over dead people. Many of the High School kids worked on it for the last two years. How’s that grab you?”

“I don’t want any zombie reaching out of the road and grabbing me.”

“What am I going to down with you, my grown up comic book heroine?”

“Love me just as you do. I tread deep waters, and they are rough.”

“I do.”

“OK, that’s your sentence; we’re married.”

We kissed some more and then held on to each other for dear life.

“How is this happening, Rick, so magically, and so—I don’t know the word—so drivingly?”

“You dreamt of us during the summer, and then came right here to me, making it real.”

“But you made me do that after we first met. A seed grew, sown by you.”

“But you were out there, watching.”

“But you came over.”

“Um, in short, it was written in the stars a long time ago.”

“I’ll take that. Fate, destiny, luck… right place, right time, even if just for a few weeks of summer and the first part of the school year.”

We rested for a while. Hours had flown by.

“Goodnight, Rick. I have to go soon, maybe, just in case of, well, I don’t know what, really. It seems I am becoming terribly adventurous and will gladly allow that to take me over, but I have to see how it goes. I sleep in the front room, on the sofa, and my mother hardly ever seems to come out there during the night.”

“How come you might have a limited time here.”

“I’m going to school in fricken Iowa, eventually, probably, there for sure in December, but I’ll probably start here. I’ll know more soon; however, if my father can hurry up and get remarried, then they won’t want me around, or so I’m told, which is really because of her, but she’s OK otherwise. Oh, Rick.”

“Lucille, don’t worry about it, for the time is always now. Never wait, never pause.”

“Thanks, and as you see, and saw, I don’t.”

“Gusto; bravery; resolution.”

“Fearless; in love; spirited; valiant. Onward.”

“If if all goes ‘poof’ one day, then I’d say that I’d lived a lifetime already.”

“Me, too.”

“My friend Patrick and I are sleeping out in my tent tomorrow, if it isn’t storming.”

“I’ll bring Sharon. Maybe see you at the expressway after lunch tomorrow, too.”

“Hope so. I’ll be there. Wow, it’s way after midnight now.”

Lucille clambered out the window, whispering, “My mother had better be sound asleep and not having had to get up to go to the bathroom to deposit the drinks that she rents: in one end and then out the other!”

“You put pillows and things under your blanket to make it look like you were sound asleep on the sofa.”

“Yes, I did. Don’t you know me! Always have a backup plan.”

“Walk with the wind and move with the water.”

“Ah, Rick, I’m wearing black, and they will say, ‘But I saw no one.’”

“Take the alleys. Who knows who will be driving down the streets. Cross Wenonah right here and cut through my grandmother’s yard.”

“OK, and our love is our secret.”

“Agreed. We don’t need the wrong people finding out.”

I lay back, ready to sleep. Miracles do happen, after all, but this was no streetcar named desire; it was an express train, and I was pouring coal into the fire. Well, then, run me over.

6.

I found her the next day, out watching the progress of the expressway just after lunchtime.

“Still on for tonight?” she asked, even before our daring daylight kiss.

“On and on,” I answered. “You’re the Cannonball Express and I’m the tracks.”

“You are the trucks and I am the expressway.”

We kissed some more, but quickly. We’d need more restraint in public. This road was brand new for each of us, and we had layered down the pavement.

“Seems like I’m a new woman from the last time we were here.”

“Yes, you’ve been farmed, and have grown into the vision I’d reckoned you would. Nature’s promise came through for you, in America’s heartland. You are feeling your oats.”

“Sow me. They fed me well on the farm. So, you’re a student of human nature, Rick, noting the goings on of all ages in all places?”

“I’m a student of Shakespeare who was a student of human nature.”

“I read his love sonnets.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Yeah; you’re in for it.”

“And I’m asking for it!”

“Look, Rick, the freight trains are running. Guess they didn’t need that much to get on their wheels.”

“Yeah, and the transit lines are being tested. Harlem Avenue has a bowed bridge, as from before, but now the ramps are going down from it, on both sides, in the middle, as planned. Oak Park Avenue is still closed. We’re cut off. We live on a land island. How will we survive on this isle?”

“I like being alone together, Rick. Suddenly, we have an inner world as large as a universe.”

“We’re fast!”

“We’ll last!”

“To the moon, Lucille.”

“And around other worlds, Rick.”

“So here we are at the railing again.”

“This expressway project took more effort than building the darn pyramids, didn’t it?”

“I’d say so. They’ve been thinking about it since the 40’s, but the war delayed it, and then there were all the Chicago plumbing, electric, and buildings that had to be reconfigured or undone.”

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“But we were, in twenty minutes.”

“You carried us on your flying daydream horses while I went off and sprouted the wings to fly with you.”

“You’re becoming poetical again, Lucille.”

“Yeah, from backward Iowa’s timeless goodness and their heartfelt sayings, that I added to, but couldn’t show them, but I still can’t make it there. They’ll run out of books and I’ll tire of milking cows and feeding hay.”

“We can only hope. The fates have brought us this far—a jillion miles out, to uncharted territory.”

“I was a darkling duckling, Rick, on that day we met. What did you ever see in me?”

“I saw love, daring, promise, adventure, maturity, romance, fine talk, seeking, wishing, hope, a spirit that could not be quenched, even by a rough life, and beauty, aglow, behind the darkness, ready to burst forth into the light.”

“You can see through murky shadows and wearied eyes?”

“Yes, but it was really your father who saved the day and watered you, my summer flower. He got you away from the misery for a while.”

“You’re right, for he told me that. He’s a good man. The worst he ever does is to get a little impatient. And, of course, he’s been through a lot with my mother.”

“Yeah, he tapped on his car. I saw life in you, Lucille.”

“I borrowed yours for a while, to rekindle my own, the open Iowa fields of sunshine doing the rest. I needed that.”

“You’re a supernova now, my dear, over shining galaxies of sunflowers.”

“Aw. And you know, Rick, it’s scary out in life, and in the future, for one can see future all around here. Not to be dismal, or to get too deep, but look at the families around here, and on your street, too. They have lots of kids, have to commute to jobs, and work all day, and then get home tired, and have to worry about all kinds of things, many of them ending up either blanked out or crabby.”

“You’re a visionary; and give me ‘deep’ anytime. I like “deep”. But, yes, it’s often enough a blackness, as you say, although there are some happy families, and you and I both have empathy and feeling for all that goes on.”

“What do you see of the dark that is not just there on the surface?”

“I can see into the deepest dark; I’ve always been able to. Sometimes it’s like a plague, though, for I see, sense, and feel all the suffering that goes on for  mankind, but the happiness, too, thankfully. I have this feeling that a kind of automatic behavior just takes people over and then they go on its own pilot, they having to fall and follow their thoughts. It’s as if I’ve discovered some terrible but necessary secret of the universe’s workings, but people just doing any old random thing out of the blue would be worse, wouldn’t it?”

“Right, and I love your deep thoughts. My mother does the really robot thing. She gets counseling, but just ignores it. It’s a disease, you know.”

“Yes, sadly. Perhaps some cannot learn, which is a pity, as this is a state of doom from which there is no return, for it’s learning that enlarges the range of choices that, well, the brain still serves up, but at least the results can then carry one further than if there was no learning. Of course, that’s if you have the inclination to learn in the first place. The whole smash is is kind of insidious.”

“Got a book on this?”

“I’ll have it in the tent tonight.”

“We’re sailing along on automatic, too.”

“Yeah, but we like its track.”

“And, um, Rick, go to the drugstore and tell the man to get you a pack of some of those things from behind the counter that your way older brother that you don’t have asked you to please obtain for his honeymoon.”

“All the way, on our second day?”

“I don’t have time to wait, Rick, which I still would, but for love. I have to live months in a day and a year in a week. And so do you. We’re a rare conjunction, and at a time in live when we are relatively free from what chores will befall in the future.”

“You’re schooling in Iowa.”

“Yes, most likely, if I may predict, at some point. My mother’s been ill. I just found out. A kind of nurse in training from the neighborhood is already there and will look after her from time to time, and Sharon will, too. My mom will get better, and my step-mother to be won’t want me there after she marries my father. We have two weeks and more in paradise. We’re building a love pyramid unto the heavens.”

“I’ve heard of soldiers going off to war…”

“I’m going to study and do well. I’m free at last, for now, and my father’s going to let me take a bus back here sometimes, in the meanwhile, to visit mom, and thereby you.”

“Your father wouldn’t approve of you seeing a boy, would he?”

“He’d never allow it.”

“Your father arranged for the nurse, didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Want to go to the big Forest Park swimming pool? I’ll ask your mother.”

“So you’ll just go and ask her, just like that?”

“Yes, and maybe she could come outside, so I needn’t go into the forbidden zone.”

“I’ll see if she’s in any kind of shape, and get my suit.”

Five minutes passed, and they both came out. Mother didn’t look so well, though.

“Hello, I’m Patrick, from St. Bernardine Holy Catholic School, and I’m asking if Lucille can go to the great big pool near there, where there are many of our age to meet and greet and have fun with, for it’s summer and still warm, and, well, you know, I really like your daughter.”

Her mother just kind of looked at us for awhile, caught in this unanticipated atmosphere of life in the glowing daylight, such as perhaps Dracula might be, she seeming at a loss for words.

We didn’t say any more, either, but just stood there, hoping she would see her younger self, if only for a sane moment, in Lucille.

Mother finally spoke, “Sure, go,” and watched us walk away. We looked back. Mother waved us on.

“A miracle,” Lucille said.

“Sometimes, just what you think might not work is the very thing that will.”

“I’m in shock. I didn’t see that one coming.”

“And her unspoken words were, ‘I won’t tell.”

“Hey, yeah.”

“Plus, she could hardly say ‘no’, once she was on the spot like that.”

“You trickster, you.”

“We had to take the gamble, no choice, which made it necessary.”

“You’re a good poker player, and I guess that holy-holy bit didn’t hurt any.”

“I also needed to have a look at her. She’s slowing dying, Lucille, at best.”

“Yeah, I know, deep down. I didn’t want to tell you. I’ve already made my peace with it. But she takes liver pills, so there is hope. The nurse doesn’t let her drink or hide anything around the place.”

“We have each other, always.”

“We do, and each day that we have is as an eternal forever completely fulfilled to me, whatever that means.”

“It means that we find eternity in a moment.”

“I’m ready for tonight, Rick.”

“I have the things. Is your body ready?”

“Rick, I made it ready in Iowa, all by myself.”

After swimming, we went for a Green River soda at the fountain in the back of the drugstore, we sitting on stools, and pondering the night to come, when heaven and Earth would move, drenching us in its age old aqua-vita, we frontier adventurers, jumping off the cliff into deep waters, flying through the air, in our free-fall plunge, into nature’s abyss of love and sensation.

We took our time getting home, but she made it home for dinner, or rather, to make dinner.

I was not dizzy, but I was so lifted, high above myself, and that was near dizzying. Love had conquered gravity. I ran toward home, flying, floating, then running faster, doing the quarter mile again, intoxicated by love, raptured right out of this bluish green sphere, and probably even poking my head up into Heaven.

After dinner, I took a little nap. The whirlwind was about to become a tornado.

7. 

My friend Patrick came over about 8 o’clock or so. We packed some supplies and went out toward the tent, and sat on the grass on a slight hill just in front of it.

“Pat, we’re having a surprise tonight.”

“What?”

“Night and day are arriving; it’s an unparalleled  conjunction.”

“Yeah, day will follow night.”

“It’s more than that.’ I gave him something, saying, “You might need this.”

He gave me a surprising look. “When?”

“In about an hour or two.”

“How? Why?”

“I see that you are becoming speechless and have been reduced to using only short, basic words. That’s all I can tell you. They want to see the look on your face.”

“They?”

“Yes, sun-glow and moonlight. No more questions.”

We sat outside the tent and looked up to the stars, those suns that gave life to other worlds, upon which there would surely be life looking back at us.

“Wave to the aliens,” I hinted.

“The suspense is killing me.”

An hour and a half went by.

“They’ve begun their approach.”

He looked around, “I see and hear nothing.”

“They’re probably wearing dark clothes, and light leather jackets, and right this minute they are quite nearby and checking out the area, from the alley, or even from the next yard. They will be upon us before we can even know. So, let’s go into the tent and wait on the cots. It’s cool in there now.”

“OK.”

We went in and sat. He was straining his ears.

“You won’t hear any twigs snapping. They have elfin feet.”

“You’re scaring me.”

“They are scary; I can tell you, but their hearts are spun of gold. I’ve never encountered anything like this, even in literature. They are light-years ahead of their time, and from another world.”

“We’ll see.”

“A shooting star has opened some kind of doorway between the worlds.”

“Get out of here!”

I lit a small candle and placed it in the center. “Pat, my friend, a falling star truly hath come from behind the Earth and already touched me deeply, which living dream I carried with me all summer long, and it has just recently become a rising star. I know not the how, nor whence, or why, but just the where, the when, and this day thence”

“That’s like Shakespeare talk.”

“Yeah. We’re having a mid-summer night’s dream tonight, a play within a play. Lo, I sense the waves of their coming. Look, the candle flame flickers.”

He looked down for but a second, but in that time the soft screen doors had parted, from their slight overlap, and there stood stood nature’s angels, light and dark, like ninjas or fairies in the garden of good and evil.

They bade silence; they had a plan.

They let down their hair, then slowly disrobed, piece after falling and flowing piece, until there wasn’t anything left but perfume.

Patrick was stunned. He’d probably thought that something like this took months and months of attention and persistence to get onto.

They joined us on our cots and then took our clothes off, all this going on in plain sight. Sharon then picked up the candle and blew it out.

Now, I’m pretty sure that my readers here would really rather be out and doing some astronomy than hear about the natural and loving happenings inside the tent.

It became later and later, and I ventured, just before we were to sleep, “You each told your mother that you’re sleeping over at the others house.”

“That’s it.”

“And if the mothers talk to each other?”

Lucille reassured me, “My mother doesn’t know, meet, or greet anyone.”

“Her liver has acting up for a while now, hasn’t it?”

“That’s what they told her. She told them she was a dyer.”

We went to sleep. Comets and meteors crisscrossed the night sky, and they were soon mirrored in the stillness and peacefulness of our sleeping beings.

We got up at 7 AM and headed out for breakfast, in Berwyn, if being just across Roosevelt Road, the Lincoln Highway, which went to Iowa. It was Saturday; few would be up and about yet. So, we were invisible, even in daylight. Then we all went home and finished our sleep.

8.

Later in the day, we walked the length of the Oak Park section of the expressway, along Garfield Street, all the way down to Austin Boulevard, about two miles, stopping to inspect the progress along the way, and to note other scenes, such as a greenhouse, a park, old buildings, and such, things that makes a village a village.

On the way back, we stopped and ate at a cafe, near the closed Oak Park Avenue, this being our first real dining date.

“Remember, Rick, the big train gate here, and, at the lesser crossing avenues, at every street, actually, where there were those little gates run by someone in a small hut?”

“Yeah, it was a long four or five years ago.”

“We’re so ancient now.”

“Ah, very old.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be at baseball games?”

“Yes, but I’m having Jeff pitch for me today, and there are plenty of off days now, these days, for him to rest his arm. And our new backup pitcher needs work, too. We’ve already been seeded into the championship tournament. I’ll pitch in a few days, and also if we make it to the finals. And I got Dennis Hickey to play centerfield for me, on those days when I would, when not pitching; he’s really good now, and he’ll love the chance to play a wide ranging area. As an outfielder, one has to try to get a jump on any balls coming out that way, gauging the direction by the swing and how the contacts made, then gauge the intensity and the type of the hit by the sound of the crack of the back, which comes a split second later.”

“ Wow! See you on your screen porch tonight?”

“You bet.”

“My brother was still out on the porch, but soon went up to sleep. I waited a bit of a while, and then moved a statue over, to indicate ‘all clear’.

The trucks clattered and whizzed through the underpass, or it was that the trains rumbled on, and into the tunnel.

“Who lives around here?” she asked.

“Well, starting down on the corner, on this side, there are the Fowles, many of them, and somewhat chubby, their oldest boy usually out in the yard heaving a brick, to see how far it will go, the Father Sinkovitch and his really thin daughter, 5th grade Lincoln—referring to the grade just gotten out of, she telling us that they had come from Translyvania, then two houses of older people, then Mr. and Mrs. Stennel, he sometimes taking our football if it goes int his yard, keeping it for a while, then the Crosleys, a bunch going to the dogs, via a beer drinker father, and Charlene Faust also being there, the sister of Betty Crosley, and in my class, not an attraction to me, then the older Delores woman and her mother, then my house, then the Nelson’s, they having older kids, by about a year and two, Jimmy and Ann, the father being a John Birch Society political nut, then old Ilka, a crab, then I don’t know for two houses, for they never come out, then a red-headed Sharon, 5th grade Lincoln, then who knows who, then Jeff and Tim Anderson, 7th and 6th grade Lincoln, and on our baseball team, then Dennis and Pat Hickey, as mentioned before, Pat being in my class, and then two more houses of older people that yell at us.”

“Who or what really made the recipe for humans?”

“I’ve been slowly trying to work it out.”

“And on the other side.”

“Crossing the street, we have the Walshes, a lot of them, Christine being in my class, and of no interest to me, Pat often playing with my brother Mike, Bobby being on our team, at second base, their father being the biggest crab for miles around, then the Kennedys, with young kids, then some blanks, then Janice Igardo, 5th grade Lincoln, then the Carrahars, a big bunch, attending my school, Billy being an alternate on our team, Bobby a friend of my brother Jim, then who knows, for a bit, then Peggy Tyler, 5th grade Lincoln, who doesn’t say very much, then my grandmother’s house, then the Tennerts, the Mrs and the older, high school girl always sporting a bouffant hairdo, and Phyllis, in my class, and of no interest, she mature in an odd, sexless, way, ever coming over see my mother to talk politics and community, and as if I wasn’t even there, and then the rest I don’t really know but Tracy’s family, a lot of them, she having watched after me when I was very young.”

“Who or what made the tiger the lion, and humans, to be just as they are?”

“If I knew that I’d know a heck of a lot toward everything, but I’ve been reading on evolution.”

“What do you see, deep in the darkness?”

“I see that time has been very long and that space is so very large.”

“So we are time and space, as of it.”

“And dust.”

“What dust?”

“Stardust.”

“Hi dust.”

“Hello, star.”

“What are the good courses yet to come in high school?”

“Biology, for sure, to answer your questions about the species, their origins, and habitats, long term, and some chemistry, about how things happen within us and around us, and a bit of physics, for the mostly lower levels of reality that we don’t see right off, though often expressed in large machines. So those are the sciences, presented top down—as kind of backward, but for an easier progression.”

“And on the other side?”

“Closer to our everyday life, there are the liberal arts, such as music, art, literature, business, home economics, Life 101, if they had one, and more.”

“And in between?”

“History, geography, the trades, math, and more.”

“Life gets heavy in high school and college, but if one is open to learn….

“Yeah, and a job after school, but there are always the weekends.”

“What’s good where we are now?”

“Just lunch, recess, gym, and walking home from school.”

“Ha-ha.”

9.

On the next day, we saw two movies, then played in the pool hall, Lucille fitting right in there. Although I was young, I’d been readily accepted there, for I could shoot.

On Another day, we rode our bikes to River Forest and back, looking at the mansions, a new place for us both. We had lunch and ice cream.

I had taken a big advance on my allowance. My parents hadn’t asked what it was for, just saying, “Enjoy”.

I had never expected to be on a honeymoon so young. It was as if there was a full moon and a high tide everyday, with bigger and bigger waves rolling in, as perhaps from a hurricane way out on the ocean of impossible dreams.

Or it was that the fates had conspired and turned all of the good levers upward, rigging the wheel of fortune, against all odds, sending us to each other, this perhaps begun as some hilarious experiment, but now, since it had exceeded their expectations, caused them to raise all the levers to the max, so that life and love could be lived completely fully now, to see if we would crack, or in case during future heavy life and strife we could never live so much again.

Whatever it was, I thanked the stars some more. Whenever is it or will it be in life and love that all goes so perfectly? Where the flaws, the problems?

(Writing and loving can be so thoroughly enlivening. The time moves ahead from what your thought it was, but several hours, and one feels so awake and alive that sleep doesn’t even get thought of.)

The next game night had arrived, at Maple Park, our home field, and I was pitching. Lucille was there, and Sharon, and they were both getting on well with the spectators, many of them our peers, some of whom she knew from Lincoln, most of these kids sitting in the dugout with us, it getting crowded there when the other team was on the field.

Lucille didn’t say why she was there watching, and no one had asked. When we were at bat, she neither moved to sit near me, nor away from me; it went according to how the seating happened to work out each inning.

We were ahead, by three runs, but we were playing the third best team, and so they would get their due. Anything could happen on any given day. They were up, in the top of the last inning. Sure, we would have the last at-bats, but we didn’t want to fall behind and then have to depend on that. We needed two more outs; however, they had men on second and third, one from an error and one from a hit.

The manager came out and told me to intentionally walk the next batter, who was their best hitter, which, secondly, would fill the bases and give us a force play at every base, especially home plate, and which, thirdly, could lead to a an easy double play, begun at any base. Well, it was a gamble, too.

The next batter was no slouch, but I still had a lot of speed on my pitches. The count was three balls and two strikes. I had to throw one over the plate now, and did. He hit the ball, though forced to swing late, and it went high up in the air, being but half hit, but toward right field, where, unfortunately, the fence wasn’t that far away, due to Harlem Avenue, but the fence was triple high, about twenty-five feet. We didn’t need an unpredictable, uncontrollable carom off the fence, going who knows where, or worse, a grand slam home run.

I headed off to the right of the catcher, in case a throw to home from right field went long, or was fumbled or knocked away by a collision. The first baseman started out very quickly, to look for a bounce off the fence, or to take a relay throw, since he would have nothing to do at first base. The second baseman stayed at second. The shortstop moved to back up the third baseman, in case of an overthrow there. The left fielder moved in, too, so as to do the same, or to help if someone got caught in a rundown. The center fielder moved fast toward right field to look for a ricochet.

It was a really lazy fly ball, but deep, and darned if Dennis Hickey didn’t climb up the fence a few feet, stick up his glove up and catch the ball, which threw him off balance. He then fell to the ground hard, and held onto the ball, but didn’t get up.

The runners had been in a kind of limbo, they could but move to a halfway point, or more, and did, but not so far as to risk becoming an ‘out’ if the ball was caught and it got back to the base before they did. So now they quickly ran back to their bases, tagged them, and then could freely move on, which they did, taking off like bats out of hell.

The first baseman, Dennis’s brother, Pat Hickey, had continued all the way into right field, and took the ball out of his brother’s glove, then turned around and looked. He didn’t have an outfielder’s arm, nor the trained ability to have mentally envisioned where the runners would be after a hit or a fly ball went out to him, but he still had his wits, and some practice that we’d given him.

He knew that precious time had gone by, that thus the runners on third and second would easily make it home, if not the runner from second having it in sight more than a throw to the plate could catch him.

So, then, it was the runner from first who would have taken a much bigger stride into limbo, as per usual, plus there being no first baseman there to take the throw, which wouldn’t come to there, anyway, with runners headed toward home. Yet, this last runner, from first, would thus have all the longer to have to run back and ‘tag up’ and then take off again, effectively having to run even longer than an extra base path’s length.

We had all practiced these things, or had run into them in games, doing postmortems on them, these outfield things even involving infielders, for in a pinch they might have to play out there. Yeah, we were serious.

So, it was Pat had but the last runner in mind, who was a bit big and slow, too. Pat turned, and at the same time both seized on the last runner and got ready to throw, as we had taught, he noting a fair chance for a play at third base, which was a good bet, even if the guy made it there, for that’s where he’d have to remain.

A throw to home would have been double safe, but we didn’t play that way. One needed to try for the third and final out instead of letting another batter come up, especially with the tying run on third.

He unleashed the throw of his life, a line drive kind of throw, for there was no time to go to a cut-off man or bounce it in. It was a bit high, and a bit toward the home plate side, though, and Norm Neilsen jumped up, but couldn’t reach it; however, recall that the shortstop, who happened to be his brother, Lanny Neilsen, had run behind him to back up third; In fact, he was out near the street, as far as he could be, up against a car.

Darned if Lanny didn’t jump high and catch the ball, coming down and bouncing off the hood of the car, but not falling. The runner heading toward third had slid into the base, his coach having instructed him to. Now he had half slowly gotten up and was quickly heading toward home, having seen the throw go past. His coach tried to call him back, but it was just a bit too late.

Lanny didn’t have a clear sight on home plate. A small tree and the edge of the batting cage were in the way. Meanwhile, I had run all the way round the catcher, to his right side, the first base side. Lanny had taken a step out; he couldn’t throw though a metal cage, but maybe he could throw it just under the tree branches, but to whom. He must have spotted me when he had stepped out. He threw low, a bouncer; he had to. It just missed the tree trunk, and I eyed it all the way. The bounce was true. I flipped the ball to the catcher, Tim Anderson, who caught it, and held firm in his place. There was a big collision. Tim was thrown back, falling into the dirt. The ball stayed in his mitt, plus he’d had his other hand over it. He didn’t move right away. The game was over. We didn’t need our last at-bats.

Jeff Anderson, our center-fielder, when not pitching, had run all the way in now, to check on his brother, who soon stirred, and then even got up on his feet.

 

Dennis was still down, out in right field. We all grew quiet, and started out there. Dennis moved a bit, with Pat still checking him over. Dennis began to stand up, and did, looking a bit foggy. He then made us laugh, by saying. “What happened? Where am I? Heaven? Who won the game?”

He seemed OK. We headed back. The other team applauded Dennis, then even came and walked back with us most of the way, even past their own dugout.

Lanny came limping over, his brother Norm helping him.

There was a lot of excited talk for a long time, such as about playing on crutches, then most of them melted away, toward home, or said they were going to McDonalds. Pat and Sharon walked home, with Dennis in the middle, they keeping an eye on him, Tim and Jeff followed just behind. Our manager, Lanny’s and Norm’s father, drove them straight home, so they could check out Lanny.

There were but two of us left, one in each dim corner of the dugout. We could barely see each other.

I walked over.

“What an ending!” Lucille remarked.

“Many games have a lot of action, and, sometimes, even miracles on top of miracles, but never anything quite like this, with three players getting knocked around on the same play.”

“I’m going to miracle on top of you right now.”

“Here? Where?”

“Out there, to the right of right field, under that big tree, near the bench.”

“That’s the lover’s bench.”

“How appropriate.”

“Of course you know that I’m all sweaty.”

“Good.”

“Do we have one of those things?”

“I brought one.”

“And our clothes will form the blanket, right?”

“Yes, and it will be wonderful.”

“You’re the boss.”

10.

We had almost ten days of summer left.

We took the new transit line to downtown Chicago, and walked all around. On another day, we saw a play, and dined in a fancy restaurant. Yes, we were the youngest there, living an eternity in a moment.

Another time, we took a big train all the way out, as far as we could go, towards Aurora probably. In between, and especially at night, we nested on the porch or in the tent, secure in the larger remnant of Oak Park lopped off.

Life’s dim shadows had fled at our every Midas touch. Even Michael had perked up all the more.

One night, just after midnight, we walked the alley behind Garfield all the way down to Rehm Park, which was large, to look at the stars, and so we made our way to its center, it being a darkness within the dark, far way from any lights. The night was cool, and so the air was clear. The moon had set.

We laid a thin blanket next to a small bush and put out a bottle of water, allowing some minutes for our eyes to get even more used to the dark.

“The stars are ghosts,” Lucille told me, for their light has traveled so very far, we seeing it only now. Some of the stars may not even exist any more.”

“And so then is everything a kind of a ghost,” I remarked.

“But the stars are more so.”

“You studied them in Iowa.”

“Yes, and I learned all their names, and the constellations they’re in.”

She proceeded to name them all.

“That’s more than I knew.”

“We forget about the stars, living in the city.”

“Yeah, but for the bright ones, which are not stars, but planets.”

“I thought and studied a bit about what you said of time, space, dust, and our origins, and I came up with something. It’s deep.”

“Deep me.”

“They’ve been growing old all this time, and dying, in order to make us young. Some of them began forming just after the beginning, like in a few million years after.”

“They are our ancestors.”

“Yes, as our ancient mother and father.”

“What else?”

“They are not just white. See, there’a blue one and a green one.”

“And a red one, and an orange one.”

“Night’s rainbow.”

“Good stuff.”

“Oh, a meteor!”

We waited, breathlessly.

“And another!” I noted.

There were no more. She turned to half lay on my chest for awhile, and then focused intently through the bush, so I looked, too. A beam of light was sweeping the park.

“A police car,” she whispered. “Don’t move. What will we do.”

“Nothing, for now, would be best. It may just be routine, for the park is closed after dark. There is a sign. We play ball games here.”

“And if he gets out and starts walking this way?”

“We’ll move off slowly, in a crouch, keeping the bush between him and us.”

“It’s a long way to the other side.”

“If we see that he’s spotted us, we’ll run, to the tennis courts. There is a hole in the fence at the back, leading into some small woods, and then to an alley.”

“This is so exciting.”

“You always turn fear into excitement, don’t you?”

“As do you.”

The beam searched all over the park, end to end, and from to back.

“He’s not looking at any one spot in particular,” she noted.

“He ought to know that campers would settle next to the bush. It’s the only one out here; however, nothing much happens here, so he won’t come over.”

The light soon went off, and we could see his car pull away.

“He won’t be back for quite a while,” I said.

“I can feel my heart beating.”

“Mine, too. Let’s wait for them to calm.”

We stayed still. The wandering airs caressed us, the stars kissed us, and the music of the spheres played their rhythms to us.

She sat up. “Time to make hay.”

“Where the sun don’t shine.”

11.

All good things, like summer, must ever draw to an end.

Meanwhile, nothing else mattered. We ran through the sunflowers, and they bowed their heads to us. The marigolds spoke to us, telling us that we were as free as ever now. Would we, like they often did, last through the cold and the dark, and well unto the life’s final frost?

What whims of fate had thrown in their lot in us? What the co-incidence? Why the jeweled gem of a star that shone on us? Wherefrom sprung this perfection? Where were the wishes unread, the dreams unrealized?

The time flew by.

We had but two summer days left, this day Lucille having to attend to her mother, leaving us with but one precious day to come. We won the championship game, without Lucille being able to be there. Well, we had won last year, too, and probably would the next. We just had a luckily constituted team, but we’d also played together a lot, for many years.

I was resting on the sofa, when there came a banging on my front door. My dog went crazy and I quieted him down, and then went out.

“It was Michael, huffing, puffing, and breathless.”

“She’s dead,” was all he could get out.

“Who?”

He paused to take a breath or two or three.

“Lulu’s mother just died; pronounced dead on the scene. You don’t have to pay me. I was coming home and caught the middle of it. Maybe it happened an hour or more ago.”

I put my arm around Michael, and then he unexpectedly hugged me, and cried. He was really growing up, passing out of a stage. I cried, too. It took a while for us to compose ourselves.

“Thanks, Mike. It doesn’t bode well, does it?”

He spoke, gently, “Now your dear Little Lulu will never be able to come back, since she’s still way too young. She’ll have to live with her father and her stepmother to be, and he won’t want any part of what was sad for him back here, nor any relatives on her mother’s side of the family reminding him of…”

Michael couldn’t go on; he had just broken down.

After a time, I told him, “You care about us, don’t you, Michael, having live empathetically though our endeavors?”

“Yeah, Pat. I was routing for you two. Me, well, I’ve always been behind the eight ball.”

“Your day will come; hey, it has; the dawn is here.”

“Am I right about the situation?”

“Yes, spot on. A child has to live with a parent when there is one. That’s the law. We are lost to each other.”

“But, Pat…”

“If she has to go away, then that’s what has to be done, Mike, terrible thing that it is.”

“She could run away from home.”

“And then be caught, eventually, ending up in a juvenile home or school, ruining her life, her chances for a career.”

“We are all children yet, Pat, I guess. I’m so sorry that I was mean to Little Lulu at school.”

“There are stages that we pass through, Mike; sometimes they take us over for a while. We are the great sum of all the fears and hopes that made our mixture, good or bad, over eons of wiles, ever versus the strife.”

“I’m going to read and learn things like you know.”

“Right on, Michael, my friend, right on. I’ll walk back with you.”

“So what about you and Lulu?”

“We’re alive, and will eventually be bright and glowing again, having painfully striven on, through our tears, and back into this often wonderful world. We will have our memories forever and will always know the other is out there.”

“Brave and fancy talk, but it’s not good enough, is it?”

“No, it’s not good enough, and it never will be, Mike. It’s just a kind of a consolation. For sure, our last faint hope has been crushed, ground into the dust, even. It’s over, Mike. Fate’s, other, wretched hand has arrived at our door and knocked us out of the skies for good.”

“Life goes on?”

“Yeah, someday, I hope, and though no greater sadness has ever come to my step, life must and will stumble on, and then will some day rear back up into its sure but rare glory, triumph, and gladness. It will take some time. I have been to the highest heights, and so now the fall must thus be the greatest plunge. It hasn’t all hit me yet; I’m just trying to think while I still can.”

“She will wait for you, and you for her, like in a fairy tale.”

“Lulu would want us to live fully, even all the while as this new and larger expressway blocks and severs us from each other for a very long time, if not forever.”

12. 

We soon came upon the scene. Lucille’s aunt and some of the tenants were still gathered round. The coroner had come and gone.

Michael and I walked in. The place was indeed a mess. Lucille was in a heap on the sofa. She sprung up and took me outside.

“Later, Michael,” I called.

We walked and walked, five blocks, all the way to Maple Park, alone with our thoughts, and then sat on the lover’s bench.

She began, “This is our second last day. I called my Father. He’s coming the day after tomorrow. My aunt is holding the wake the following day. My father and I won’t be there, for school is going to start. There’s no way out. It’s a one way dead end street, Rick. Today I have to console my aunt, and she, me, so we have but one day left—tomorrow. Today we will be sad, but tomorrow we will not speak of it, nor will we speak of any future, for we’ll take care of that now. Tomorrow is to be just one of our regular days, as if we had not a care in the world. May I ask of you?”

“I’m ready.”

“What we already expected has now been cast, in stone, a bit soon, yes, but here it is: I really have to live with my father. I told him on the phone that a boy liked me, and he said that we were much too young, which I suppose we are, as far as the world goes, and that I have to look forward, because I won’t be coming back to live with my aunt or any such thing, plus, all boys were out, done, finished.”

“As I thought but didn’t want to think.”

“We really pulled a fast on on this old world, didn’t we, Rick!”

“Yes, we did. I’d say it was stupendous. I am awed and thankful for the magnificence that you and this life have given me. It is… was… unsurpassable. You will always be my summer flower.”

“There is no better thing I have lived or done, Rick. The colors will be forever brighter for me, my tastes deeper, my thirst for knowledge depthless, my love of life never deeper.”

Tears rolled down my cheeks. “The same for me.”

“I grow, even now; your tears water the flower.”

“What I have lived with you has taken me to places never dreamed of, first hand life not obtainable from books, feelings direct before me and in me that previously I had only faintly echoed, at best. It’s been more than fine.”

“We will not write and hope and all that jazz, Rick. You must live and love to your greatest capacity, holding nothing back. Remember me, yes, with all your heart and being, but let it not interfere with your life, slow up down. I command you; I beg of you. You had better be married by the time I am eighteen and free in about five or six years.”

“I wasn’t going to get married that young. There’s college, then finding a job, and then saving, and then maybe having enough for a small house, and so on. It’s way over the rainbow.”

“You know what I mean, Rick. Don’t let me hear from Sharon that you are moping around and not going out with anyone, or not being full of life in any way.”

“By your command, but I’ll need some recovery time.”

“Yeah, perhaps, but plunging right back into life would be the best course.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes, I am the boss!”

“You always were, and I loved it.”

“My pleasure is your pleasure.”

“You must live, too, Lucille, or I’ll come out there and shoot you!”

“My father would shoot you on sight.”

“Yeah. He’s a toughie, but you’re a sweetheart.”

“You’d better come up with a sweetheart now and then. Sharon will be spying on you. She’s getting along with your best friend very well, you know. You must go on some double dates to prove yourself.”

“I’m at the mercy of you both. I will live and love again, some day after tomorrow, that is.”

“And don’t try to fake it; it will be seen through.”

“Some part of me can still wait for many years, can’t it?”

“No, it can’t and shouldn’t. You have your orders. We have to live and not pine, Rick, both of us. We are not mopes and dopes and cannot be. There’s no reason for me to ever be sent back here. My father’s girlfriend doesn’t like Iowa, nor big cities, and wants to live somewhere in between those two kids of places, as in out west a lot more.”

“Maybe you are in shock.”

“No, I’m as clear as a bell and I’d better hear of you ringing someone’s chimes.”

“‘Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for everyone.’”

“Yes, for my mother, you, me, and everyone.”

“I will know that you are out there, as my pot of gold.”

“Yes, that part is difficult. We have to hope that it will fade enough to let us get on.”

“You know that it won’t.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Someday, somewhere, somehow, we’ll meet again.”

“One never knows, but our youth is against us.”

“Yes, and in that regard, the world has just pulled one on us.”

“Oh, Rick,” she teared. “I don’t know if I can be so brave.”

“It helps that we have to be, which is the only saving grace.”

“This is all but brave talk.”

“Yeah, I know, some of it.”

“We’ll both fall apart at the seams. Emotions that we’ve never known will rise and try to drown us.”

“But we will revel in it, meet it, encourage it, stepping forth into the arena of the storm’s fury, living it and loving it for what it represents, which is love.”

“We have been to the stars, and have written our names there.”

“I’ll look there often.”

“Me, too.”

“We’re already brave; we stayed together, morning, noon, and night, never holding back, even while full well knowing that it was likely to end.”

“Yeah, we lived in the now.”

“And that’s what I mean about staying in it and enjoying life. Hope, yes, ever hope, but don’t let it take you over.”

“We’d better get back.”

“Yes, I’ll drop you at Wenonah. While I’ve mentioned you, Rick, the real secret is still ours to keep.”

“It’s locked within us. See you tomorrow, Lu.”

“Now I’m Lu?”

“Yeah, just for tomorrow.”

“And, remember, I want tomorrow to be a regular type day, frozen into my memory forever, normal, just as it is. There is to be no talk of missing, death, or anything out of the ordinary, which, of course, for us, will be pretty special.”

“Will do.”

“Oh, and one more night in the tent, just us, until sunrise, to the last moment of the last hour of the last day. I can sleep in the car on the way to the middle of nowhere in Iowa.”

“You’re a great commander. I’d work under you anytime.”

She saluted and marched off, toward her home on Home Avenue where the dark angel of death had just visited, tumbling and shattering our last tottering pyramid of hope into fragments.

Mike was still there. Lulu gave him a hug. He’d been forgiven. He’d just run back to tell me this.

12.

The next day and night were ours to know, with none of it to ever be told, the final events etched into time’s grand clock that moves the universe along, bit by bit, though all the infinite but little parentheses that make up eternity.

I couldn’t be there when she was going to be picked up by her father, lest her father obtain any inkling of our seriousness, but several days later I went over to our favorite expressway viewing point. I wrote a note, put it in an envelope, and taped it under the new, wider railing, where it couldn’t be seen, but by perhaps a toddler, who wouldn’t be able to reach it.

It read:

Lu,

When we grow old and have some pains and creaks,
We’ll still remember we lived a lifetime in a few weeks.

My eighth grade soon began. What an abrupt change. I chose a seat in the back, whereat I could do other than school things to pass the time. I let myself be sad, wallowed in it even, to fathom the depths of emotion, and loved it, this going on for a month, in between a little fun and the joy of a young life yet alive and ever refreshed by that rare point in time which had opened up and swallowed us whole. It was the gift that kept on giving.

When an Angel Comes to Visit

The past is never past, at least while we’re alive.
Memories, while re-cognized and ephemeral,
Still have a very basic core of persistence.

How does this past remain, and what kind of substance
Could there be that lives so completely outside time?
What makes it so strong that it can ever survive
The merciless climate of the well trafficked brain?

In what storm’s eye does it reside, in the center
Of the maelstrom of the change and growth of cells?
What are these indestructible grains that persist
Among the shifting sands of time, bare and alone?

A memory returns from a taste of butterscotch,
From which Grandma’s olden days home then arises,
And then related connections further become.

Reminiscence stirs connections within the mind,
Each little germ of recollection ballooning
Into a wondrous and glorious revelation.

How do such apparitions reappear, sink and swell,
Float and change, withering the acids of time’s reflux?
We know why—prions, but this essence pales, compared
To the sensation of life’s enjoyments redux.

Associative memory is a storyteller
Of those glorious and golden times which yet glow,
Those which ever and yet become all that we are.

A park bench last Christmas reminded me of this tale
Of once upon a storied and magical time…

It was the winter of ’61—in eighth grade.
Though living in Oak Park, I was contained within
The flourishing parish of the grand sixteen-room
Saint Bernadine Catholic Grammar School/Church
In Forest Park, Illinois, just across from the
Once world famous Atomic Fireball Factory.

I had been instructed here in this holy place
Since the early to middle nuclear 50’s.

The wall clock hardly ever swept the time away,
But for when I wrote, the rest of the time stalling.
The school library was geared towards the low grades,
And so I’d borrowed books from the town library.
I sat in the back row so that nun wouldn’t know.

As the interminable hours wore on and on,
I wrote the germs of some of my later stories,
Dissolving the time away by roaming dreamlands.

The disastrous seventh grade experiment
Of separating boys from girls was long over.

What had the hand of fate newly brought before me
In the bright, sinuous form of Karen Nichols?
Whenever she spoke, I would put down my pen.
At last someone normal, yet exciting, I thought.

An atomic fireball soon rolled across the floor,
Her vision glimmered and twinkled; I’d caught her eye.
She returned the look, giving an eye for an eye.

A while later, ‘bad’ Frank Santoro, a reject
Remanded back here once again from another school,
Was carrying a big stack of books ‘cross the room,
Toward a shelf, when he pretended to slip or trip,
Sending the books scattering in all directions.

Of course there were laughs galore, all over the floor,
And he was really a well-meaning, funny guy,
But in a few days he was gone, to some reform school.
So it went, but there’re too many such tales to tell.

My seat was in the back corner of the classroom
So I could peruse more meaningful offerings,
And so I could sneak out the door now and again.
Upon return, a kid would signal me back in.

In the basement of the school there was a lunchroom,
And an all purpose room, having a large stage
And basketball hoops—a gym-auditorium.

On the weekend, and especially after church,
It was a musical round and round roller rink.
I was putting my skates on next to Karen Nichols
And we shyly said “hi” to each other again.

She had asked me to skate during the “Ladies Choice”
The week before,
and so we had whirled ‘round the floor.

She showed that there were several nail or screw heads
Sticking out on the inside of her skates, which was
A constant problem with these ancient rolling shoes.
I went to the counter and got her a smoother pair.

She smiled. and put them on, and went out to the floor,
As I finished securing the wide black laces
Of my own pair from the 1800’s.

There were times when cupid’s thrown darts stuck
and stuck in hearts.
Lady Karen chose my hand and we glided and rolled,
Ever a-watch of the four pillars, while our eyes
Met to look within; it was too noisy to talk.

On Monday, I moved my coat to a hook near hers,
Taking my sweet time, until she bright-eyed arrived.
I asked for her hand and held it, keeping it there
While I put my other hand over hers, she doing
The same with the one she had left. This girl had life.

I wrote notes to be passed on to her, accounting,
Through and across many rows, this one recounting
The rolling feet with which our hearts had gone along.

She read it, and turned back and looked,
between the heads,
Her desk being way up and across, near the front.

She scotch-taped closed a reply already written,
Echoing the heightened joy of being smitten,
Of two skating as one in the new rink of life.

Her name cam up for the cleaning of erasers,
And so after she went, I crept out the back door.

If the Sister had noticed my empty seat,
Then maybe it was that I had gone off to pee,
Yet down the stairs I went, on through the bottom floor,
And out onto the front stoop of the three stone steps.

There she was, my literary world come to life,
Within the clouds of chalk dust and the big snowflakes,
Banging the erasers on the stone. The dust cleared,
And she emerged, as an angel, like one sprung up
From the snow. I chanced a hug out there in the cold;
She said snug, “You must be so cold with no coat on.”

She then soft whispered, although no one was around,
“I liked what you said in class about care and love,
For I knew it was about me, and told for me.”

“What heavenly scheme brings you forward unto me?”

“As you can well see, I’ve become reality.”

Back inside, a snowball crashed off the slanted panes,
As Frank Santoro was probably mad, then glad.
The showers gave us a cheery feeling, later dripping.

Human nature was quite a funny thing, I wrote,
It often being so predictable and primitive.
If only we knew what demons haunted the soul,
But otherwise, it’s such a surprise not knowing.

William Fox played his violin for the class—not bad.
Emil Hunt showed his rock collection
and baseball cards.

The class went Christmas caroling around the town
One night, and there she was, singing right next to me.
All crowded from the cold, some closer than others.

We sang all God’s tunes under the moon of the Yule.
Then came winter break, and many went far away,
On vacation, she too. When we returned to class,
It was 1961—the same upside down.

Though apart, our love had grown, and we dared to hug
A coatroom “welcome back”, right after all had left.

She’d traded seats and was now but a row away,
And so the loving notes flew much better this way.
I heard stories of Christmas past—knew that we’d last.

Frank Santoro was back; he was an OK guy,
With much fun in him, but that didn’t sit well
With the clergy, who were as strict missionaries.

When our nun was out of the classroom for a while,
Which for some reason was rather often enough,
I found my self sitting at her desk, telling jokes,
Frank soon arriving, sitting on the edge of it.

We carried on about life and school and everything,
‘Twas one of those spur of the moment things working.

Several days later, Frank took out some curtains,
And wrapped them around him, along with an odd hat,
And pretended to be the very old Monsignor,
In a chair upfront, handing out our report cards,
As he was due to do, hardly looking at them,
And telling all how well on Earth they were doing.

Well, the Monsignor walked in right then and there.
Good old Frank was never seen or heard from again.
Me, I knew well the limits and so I had managed
To remain on the bright side of sin’s good twin: fun.

In our geography book, someone found a figure
Of a naked woman within a large picture
Of the Amazon Jungle and its tribal members,
And so quite soon everyone was on the same page.

We didn’t have geography class for awhile, but then
It resumed with part of that picture blacked-out.
Still, many could not help smile when we read all about
The traversing of hills and valleys thereabouts.

There were no art courses, nor physical education—
Just the old playground, plus baseball and basketball.

Tom Jameson, an excellent student, stayed home
From school for months,
not even his mother knowing why,
And ended up being run over by a freight train.

One of our priests had just married our sixth grade nun,
Whom I had greatly admired way back then, they having
Run off together, then halfway through my sixth grade.

Now Monsignor’s gone to Heaven and wasn’t replaced.

I went out into the empty hallway, one day,
For yet another stroll, but meeting Karen out there.
Then it just happened somehow, our very first kiss,
Right next to a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Did Our Lady smile at us for but just a second?

Winter still held its wretched, cold, and icy grip,
But I had begun walking Karen slowly home,
Sometimes with James Fitzgerald and Mary Fabrini,
The other love couple, the fun now multiplied.

Karen’s mother eyed me at times from the window,
Through the slightly parted curtains of the parlor.
I’d already known that boys were not welcome there.

Parting wasn’t easy, but that only made the minutes
More precious; however, there was always skating.
From then on, we parted ways a few houses away.

After the bell ending the lunch recess had rung,
We would always end up next to Jim and Mary,
In a little nook of a small indentation
Next to the convent—so here we would bend the rules
And then hurry in as the end of the long line
Began to disappear. We learned history, English,
Math, and religion, but not any biology,
So this we had to remedy all on our own.

Warmer weather had arrived, on some lucky days,
And when Jim and Mary would duck behind a tree,
Karen would lift her eyebrows, and hugs and kisses
Became, years ago, in the shade of a large oak.

Spring had now sprung, and I’d told her of Maple Park,
Just across the border, in Oak Park, where we boys
And some girls sometimes
played touch football after school.

In the next section of the park there was a bench,
Out to the side of the baseball diamond’s right field,
Secluded by leaves and branches overhanging
From maple trees planted a hundred years ago.

It was near to where I’d warmed up my pitching arm.

My life was much freer than Karen’s. Here we passed
Some longer times of warming up just after school,
She supposedly out rehearsing for a play.

Spring fever and Mother Nature gave their blessings.

That no one really knew to what lengths our friendship
Had gone to in mind, body, heart, spirit, and soul
Only made it all the more special and wondrous.

If only her mother had known that she had crossed
A busy street to get here, and was with a boy!
We honor our parents; sometimes we humor them.

The baseball team was of kids from the neighborhood.

Lanky Pat Hickey played first base, with a long glove,
Quick Bobby Walsh at second, scooting all around,
Rangy Lanny Neilsen at shortstop, throwing long,
Staunch Norm Neilsen at third,
with quick reaction time,
Chunky Tim Anderson catching, blocking the plate.

Two of our three main pitchers were in the outfield,
Like Jeff Anderson and myself, or alternates,
Including sometimes the crippled Billy Caraher,
Who would catch the ball
with with his one good arm then
Take the glove off and throw the ball
with that same arm.

I was playing center-field one fine evening,
We just having enough players that day, as noted,
Upon seeing our empty dugout when we were out
In the field. Jeff was pitching a good game, with heat.

There’s not always a lot to do in center field,
Although I loved it out there, it having a range,
And I was a runner who had a studied knack
For getting to the ball and catching it just right,
For, when we were just in the park any old time,
Patrick Hickey would hit ball after ball for me
And his brother, Dennis, to catch, even near trees.

While pitching a game was all action and bearing down,
Center field was a calm, meditative retreat.

I saw that a girl had come to sit on our bench.
Who was it that could be so bold and wonderful?

You know who. Just about then, a screaming line drive
Suddenly came bouncing hard into center field,
But it was right at me. I picked it up and quick
Unleashed a throw to home on the fly, just in case.

It sailed right on into the backstop, for this is
How pitching-outfielders who are deep in love throw.

It took a lucky bounce right back to the catcher
And they caught someone in a run-down; he was out!

“What kind of throw was that?”
soon asked Tim the catcher.

“She throws me,” I said, pointing to Karen right there.

“Well, it worked out.
The guy thought he could make it home.”

I headed toward the dugout, looking at Karen.
“What are you doing out on a school night, my dear?”

“My mother had to go to my aunt’s, the kids too.”

“And here you are.”

“In the flesh.”

After the game, we walked two blocks to one of the
First McDonalds, for our first “date”. Dusk thus fell
And we crept back toward her home in the silent dark.
Was she really out here? I asked myself later.

Recess was outdoors now, the school boys all playing
Sixteen-inch softball across the street from the church.
Baseball gloves were not needed for this size of ball.
Sometimes freight trains would go by,
making so much noise.

There was too the building of a large expressway
That would pass thirty feet below the main crossroads.

These were the wonder years, when the lilacs of love
Had bloomed, and so one is never the same again.

The years yet come and go, but the love flowers remain
Ever freshened as a daisy in the hallowed shrines
Of the memories that can stand up against time.

Love’s first emotion rose from the Lilac,
For it blooms when Nature is first aroused;
It is love’s youngest dream to us come back,
Where it will ne’er again remain unspoused.

Karen could not usually escape on weekends,
She not only not allowed, but ever needing
To care for the younger siblings, all six of them,
And so these were a long two days
filled with more sports
And playing poker and all that boys do, like sleeping out—
For we had a tent—and setting off firecrackers.

Everyone had been playing with yo-yo’s, day in
And day out for a few months, for that was the craze.

There was a contest every few weeks in the school.
We did “walk the dog”, “rock the cradle”, two hundreds
Of ‘loops the loops” and many more we invented.

School days plodded on, but for her love and friendship,
All of us getting quite restless as June began.
It was just too nice outside to be stuck in school.
What would the summer bring us?
Without school, recess,
The after school rendezvous, and Karen’s other
Infrequent escapes, where would that leave us two?

It occurred to me that we need not go to school
On some days.
Back then, the school didn’t call your house.

Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.

(John Greenleaf Whittier)

The neighbor kid, Jimmy Nelson, had a tree house.
He smoked cigarettes up there, and in the future
The willow tree and its tree house
would go up in flames.

Karen called me up just before bedtime, as usual,
And we made a grand risky plan for the next day.

After breakfast, I went out the back door, as always,
But stopped first in my tent
and grabbed some sleeping bags,
And then fast climbed up into the tree house next door.

I lazed around a while in the haze of a day
That was not all that rare in June, waiting for her.
I lit up some smokes that had been lying about,
Noting the curved roof, all seeming like a pipe dream.

She, the ever adventurous one, would manage
To get here with the school-goers still on the streets,
And so none would be the wiser. Here we would stay.

My heart leapt as I saw the rope ladder jiggle.
The soft airs waved the curtains
and the warm balm breezed
And breathed upon us as we kissed and snuggled and
Told life and love stories through that long day in June.

A few days later we were back up there, snug and dear.

The last week of grammar school was soon upon us
And then the last day was at hand—the party time.

I had been on patrol-boy duty all week long,
At the street near the school, guiding the little ones
Safely across this last street to the church and school.
I wore the white belt that went diagonally
Across the chest and over the shoulder and down.

The school bell rang to start the day as the last batch
Of latecomers waited to cross. One last duty,
Then I would roll up the patrol belt in a certain way
And tie it with a rubber band into a package.

A truck suddenly veered into another lane
On the busier street of this corner and caused
A lady’s car to go off the road, heading toward us.
I spread out my hands,
as if that would protect the little ones
And stop the car. A telephone pole stopped the car.

Fortunately, she wasn’t going very fast,
But there were no seat belts in those days, and so she
Must have bumped her head, for it was bleeding a bit.
She half slid out of the car when the door burst open.

I told the kids to wait and I went to care for her,
Situating her back into the seat and tilting
It back so she could relax until the ambulance came.

I was a bit late to school, as I had to tell
The police the story of what had happened.

At school, although the big party had just begun,
The faces were somewhat looking sad and somber,
At the prospect of the end of the eight years here.

The Oak Parkers would go on to their town’s high school
And the Forest Parkers to theirs—a separation.

I was caught up in the scene and didn’t mention
The accident. Karen had been selected to speak,
And the speech went so well that tears came to my eyes.

We didn’t say a whole lot during the walk home;
We didn’t have to, for we were joined at all points.

I went off on vacation with my family
To a lake in Wisconsin and sent her a letter.

We got back in time for an important baseball
Game the next Saturday at an away field.
I pitched that day, and it all went well enough,
Except for taking a hard line-drive in the shin.
Jeff pitched the last two innings
and sewed up the game.

During the final inning, a dented car drove up,
The one that had encountered the telephone pole.
Karen and her mother got out and walked toward me.
What the heck! I’m in trouble now, I thought.

There was but a bandage where the blood had been,
And then Karen’s mother gave me an unexpected hug.

“Are you the one who truly loves my daughter?”
She asked with a smile.

“I am he.”

“It wasn’t the accident, per say”, she offered,
“Although it did knock some sense into me,
But of my daughter’s eloquence all along
Persuading me of you.”

“She’s like that in school, too.”

“She is a child beyond her times,
But still a child like you.”

“We grow together.”

“That you have accomplished, and I…
I have just been… too Catholic.”

Karen interjected,
“You were just looking out for me, mom.”

“Anyway, can you join us for dinner tonight?
I need to get to know you.
Karen says Shakespeare lives in your school desk,
As well as many other books
That you find time to read in school.”

“Love is an ever-fixéd mark.”

“I agree. You will always show kindness to her?”

“I can do no other.”

“I like that. You didn’t just say “yes, ma’am”
Or some standard phrase.”

Whew, I thought. This mom is sharp.

“How’s your injury?” I inquired.

“I’ll be fine,
But I have to admit that I was spying on you.”

Karen couldn’t resist,
“God sent you crashing into a pole
So you could meet him.”

“He works in crazy ways,”
Her mother replied,
Purposely altering the quote.

Dinner went well,
The little kids knowing me as a patrol boy,
And so we could now go out on real dates,
At least as well as we could,
Walking to the movies
Or to the gigantic circular swimming pool
And sharing a green river soda afterwards.

And ever to the bench back we went as well.

The summer of love flew by
And we entered our separate high schools,
But whatever social lives
We had in there were of no concern, for:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

—from a Shakespeare love sonnet

A few months later, the world crashed
When Karen’s father’s company
Transferred him and the family to California…

…Nothing much mattered for a while.
I was at the edge of doom…

…But her letters soon perked me up.
She had plans to return next year
And live with her aunt in Oak Park.
She would be going to my high school.

The letters strangely stopped around Christmas,
For about a week or so,
And then this last one came from her mother:

Heaven has recalled our angel;
She died in her sleep;
The doctor said that her heart was too large.

She lives within you now—
As that ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come.

I had now gone well beyond the edge of doom
But, strangely enough, there was beauty there:

As sadness brooded over the morrow,
I visited the deep well of sorrow.
There enshrined, inseparate, Beauty said,
“It’s from me that sadness you borrow.”

Intermezzo

1.

It was March, 1962, a year begun with the devastation that Karen’s death had brought. I was well into my first year of Oak Park and River Forest High School. I’d applied myself. I was on the track team. Our neighborhood baseball team had continued on. I had a job at Parky’s Hot Dog and French Fries place, in Berwyn.

So, I had once again recovered. JFK was President. The Soviet Union had tested a very large atomic bomb. The Beatles were on their way in the UK. A chimp had been sent into outer space. Well, they couldn’t send a dog, for it would stick its head out the window and ruin the mission.

Patrick Hickey and Sharon Dalton had long since drifted apart. He didn’t realize what he had, plus he had gotten into pot smoking and beer drinking, two wrong roads, both of which led to perdition. I headed Rick O’Kane, my former St. Bernardine’s classmate, in Sharon Dalton’s direction. (They eventually got married.)

Nothing of any romantic note had happened, nor had I much looked. My father had been sick for a while, but had gotten better, and was as good as new.

Summer arrived. Lazy days. Judy from New Jersey came back, for six weeks or so, with her sister, they having missed last year. Judy was friskier now, and so we had a summer fling. She lit up a funny cigarette in my basement once. I didn’t indulge. I didn’t like hardly being able to move.

Later, my mother had asked, “What’s that smell?”

“Incense,” I told her.

No more just so-so relationships, I told myself.

My family and I went on vacation, 500 miles away, to Lakewoods, in Cable, Wisconsin. I met Penny, in the lodge. She called me over to play cards with some others. I did, and she pulled me aside on our ways home, and kissed me. I was stuck there for a week with her. It went well enough, but she wasn’t for me, but, well the week would soon be over. She talked, talked, and talked. No one else could even get a word in.

2.

It was now March, 1963. I was in my second year of Oak Park and River Forest High School. The Viet Cong had had their first victory. The White House had become Camelot. Nothing romantic had come my way; it had been a long drought, although there had been some moderate rainfalls. Perhaps fate had already given me my due in life, and more, and was now withholding all. Well, I had been working a lot, too.

Well, I had been blessed twice, although both had ended, one tragically. I still looked at the experiences as good luck, for without them the bad luck would not have applied, and there would have been no experiences.

So, since it had happened twice, then it could happen again, given the necessary conjunction of depth, maturity, feeling, love, and adventure woven together into a golden braid.

My new best friend was Joe Gaynor, from Clarence Avenue, in South Oak Park. He was both funny and adventurous. (He lives in Hawaii now, all because he came to visit me there once.)

There was kind of an informal caste system at the high school, for the River Foresters and the North Oak Parkers were well-to-do, many wealthy even. Earnest Hemingway’s family had lived in North Oak Park, and he had gone to my school, long ago.

Another dividing line was the one between the DOOPers and the non, which, for lack of a better words were called ‘greasers’. ‘DOOP’ stood for ‘Dear Old Oak Park’. They were mostly the ones having crew cuts, wearing white socks and brownish shoes, and sporting a sweater with a sports ‘letter’ on it, or at least a rich and fancy sweater. The greasers wore black socks and black shoes, with more than a few having motorcycles, but most of them were just ‘cool’ guys, and hardly any of them overly greased their hair. Some of them weren’t all that interested in school.

Another, slighter line, was that between the studious and the not so. Another, larger one, was that of the juniors and seniors vs. the freshmen and sophomores.

I was from the ‘poor’ section, the southern end of Oak Park, although we were not poor-poor, ‘cool’, but I was in sports, and studious, but not to the extreme. Staying within the top 20 would be fine. So, I guess I was hard to pigeon-hole.

I had an after school job, at Gerber’s Hardware, on Oak Park Avenue, just over the expressway. Then it burned down and I got a job helping to build a new Gerber’s Hardware down the block.

As for romance, I had been on kind of a break. Winter had been cold and icy, and it was still going on. At least I was making some money toward college, which I planned to commute to, in Chicago, this being the cheapest and only way for me to go.

3.

Geometry was going well, Mr. Rosseter’s humor making it bearable, as was English, it being OK, but taking a plunge when we had to read ‘Ivanhoe’; History, boring, in that humans made the same mistakes over and over again; Also had French, and Philosophy. Last year, Biology had won the grand prize of interest, and this year it was Philosophy.

The Philosophy teacher had seated me next to Don Light, who was #6 in the sophomore class, because I was #7, since, I suppose, we would do most of the talking, and thus should be in each other’s hearing range. How did I know this? Because my mother worked at the high school, she telling me that the teachers loved having the higher students. On the first day of class, Don and I went on and on about ‘Natural Law’. His descriptions were more generic, while mine were more practical, after I took care of the scientific parts. The teacher talked me into joining the debate team, which I did, although it seemed that it would be a drain on my time, but it proved to be exciting.

Here’s an essay on ‘Natural Law’ that I polished up decades later, changing it to a poem, meaning that this isn’t exactly how it was in Philosophy class:

UNIVERSAL NATURAL LAW,
AND THEN ITS VIOLATIONS

You will always be caught,
So don’t even give it a thought.

The violation of universal natural law
Is the cause of our problems, all,
Of everything that becomes rife
That plagues individual and national life,
These stresses only leading to more strife,
From lowlifes leaving their wife, for the wildlife
Of nightlife, to cutting someone with a knife.

So stem problems of national health,
Crime, the economy, education, wealth,
And the black environmental sins,
All of them having their origin
In a widespread law violation
By some portion of the population.

Universal Natural Law is very terse
In governing the entire universe,
It being the orderly principles
That regulate physical events/processes.

Science defines the universal law of nature,
A precise description of how nature matures.

Universal law pervades everything,
Of all that is in passage and being,
From the motion of particles
To the evolution of life’s articles—
Operating at every scale:
The subatomic, atomic,
Molecular, biological, geological,
Astrophysical, and cosmological.

The universe is structured, hence,
In these many layers of existence
As worlds within worlds,
Distinguished and not only furled
By vastly different time and distance scales,
But that every level has its own set of details;
For example, an electron/nucleus system
Is not analogous to that of a planet/sun.

The more superficial macroscopic levels of nature
Can be seen as fragmented expressions, for sure,
That are manifested from the more unified laws
Governing deeper levels with their scrimshaws—
The reflections of the dazzling symmetries
Of what once were inaccessible mysteries.

The outer ‘becomes’ are based on inner ones,
The only fountainhead of all the rhythms.
And the converse is not true.

Nature’s governance is maximally efficient,
For it is frugal, as not a spendthrift—
It following The Principle of Least Action
In all of its action and protraction.

This is why a ray of light refracts
When going from air to water’s tract,
Minimizing the time
And saving every dime.

From this maximal economy of nature,
All classical behavior can be scriptured.

Entropy is a count of quantum states
Accessible to a macroscopic system’s estate,
This available number ever increasing;
The nature of life is to grow, ever reaching.

The path of least action’s welcome
Is just the macroscopic outcome
Of the simultaneous superposition
Of multiple coexisting paths’ auctions
At the microscopic level,
The outcome ever of the least income.
The law to which all must succumb.

All is rooted in the verses
Of the Constitution of the Universe.

Life takes advantage and cause
Of the universal natural laws,
Even such as in merely walking,
Which is an immensely complex undertaking.

We employ technology
In all of its variety.

Everything that we fail to accomplish
Is but due to the total failure
To apply universal natural law effectively,
This being the source of all difficulty.

In the absence of knowledge of a lever,
The simple task of moving a boulder
Becomes complex and arduous to the shoulder.

Not learning gravity has caused non-mild
Injuries to many a young child;
The old uses of radiation caused cancer tumults;
The use of DDT had many adverse results.

Smoking cigarettes, heavy drinking, being out late,
And other addictive obsessions surely violate
Universal natural law, at whatever rate,
Resulting in negative consequences,
While psychological violations dispense
Stress directly in a sequence immense.

While fulfillment of desire can bring happiness,
It also raises the scope and standardness
Of future desires, making the duress
Of frustration an inevitable process.

Over time this causes psychological stress,
Which in turn impairs creativity’s success,
Stalling future desires
By watering their fires
And also leads to problems of health,
These then causing further stealth
And violations of universal natural law—
Resulting in the nonsense
Of a life out of balance—
Leading to aggression, anxiety,
Impulsive violet behavior, hostility
And substance abuse—
A vicious cycle of refuse
That, among other effects,
Fills up the prisons to correct.

4.

What about the 400 females in the sophomore class, with even some freshmen thrown in, whom I was never in class with? Well, I’d run into them all, one way or another, such as at sock hops and football games.

What with the school divisions, the fact that some females were just bland, or slovenly, too religious, already taken, or whatnot, the pool had been drastically reduced, my new and higher standards born from my ‘good luck’ possibly even subconsciously placing more reductions upon.

I didn’t want to be in any old average type of relationship, for I had noted many of those, and they weren’t all that worth it. Nor was it likely, if I even could somehow qualify, to be walking 3-4 miles to North Oak Park or River Forest for a relationship, regardless of their higher class.

Lois Gamboney had come out on top, and she lived in a nearby section of South Oak Park, but right next to Joe Gaynor, and he had already romanced her. He had to of had.

He told me to go ahead, though, since he had his eye on a ‘Christine’ a few blocks away, she attending an all girls school, and sure enough, he went straight off to walk over there, sight unseen, to ring her doorbell and ask her to hang out or such. It worked. I gave it some time, and then it stopped working, due to a religious thing.

Joe asked me still, “What about Lois?”

“This still seems awkward, Joe. Are you sure? She’s a prize!”

“It’s too close to home, Pat. I wouldn’t have much freedom.”

“I don’t know, Joe. She probably loves you, since you are very likable.”

“You are too.”

“I’ll pass, for you two might really get going again, she being right next door and all.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Well, we had both goofed. One of us should have gone for it. Such is life, but at least we were still the best of friends.

I liked Janet Kammerling, but she turned out to be deeply Jewish. That wasn’t going to work.

One day Cindy Rose came up to me, looking all loving and serious. She was gorgeous, but was at the bottom of the list, for she went with anyone and everyone at the same time. The tales of her exploits were all over town and the school. One day, she caught up to me walking home, near Madison Street, where she lived. She wanted me to give her a ring so we could go steady. I said, “No, I’m seeing someone.”

“Who?”

“Myself, in the mirror.”

I bided my time, and actually I was pretty busy with non-romantic rings. I’d gotten a job on the weekends, too, at the end of my street, at A&H Fasteners, putting away packages of nuts, bolt, screws, and all kinds of fasteners. They had a joke sign, of a lady nut and a man bolt heading into each other, she saying, ‘No, not without a washer!”

Winter had continued on, even into April, but not into May.

Joe had a friend, Kurt, a gymnast, down and over a block, on Gundersen Avenue, and so we began going over there to play pool. Kurt’s sister, Beverly, a freshman, played with us, and they, brother and sister, talked all about gymnastic moves, and meets, meaning tournaments, and a Sokol gymnastic club, in Berwyn.

Joe suggested, “Ask Beverly out.”

“You’ve kissed her, haven’t you, Joe?”

“Well, yeah, but that’s all.”

“What am I going to do with you, Joe?”

“Well, she’s very pretty.”

“Their whole life is about gymnastics.”

“Yeah, true. They taught me how to do a handstand. I’ve even done it on the high diving board at Forest Park pool. I’ll show you, this summer. So, no Beverly?”

“I think I’ll wait until next year.”

Well, the next six on my top ten list were already taken, but I had put them there, but not others taken, just so I’d know what I was missing. My policy, though, was never to try to take a girl away from her boyfriend. I brought happiness to the world, not misery.

It’s not that I was picky, although I guess I was, but I had been to the mountain tops. What about just seeing someone for something to do? I would give my all, of course, or try, even with my heart not fully in it, but sometimes these things then go on and on, and then you don’t really want to shatter a heart that you shouldn’t have led on in the first place.

And then there was personality to be considered, which I had categorized, much like Myers-Briggs would go on to do. I could do extroversion, and quite well, when needed, but I was never one yo perform for a faceless audience. I didn’t act in plays, although I could have. It’s just that the rehearsals would kill all of my time, and also that I didn’t want to, which meant that it was something which would take energy away, not add it. Give me one on one or one on a few, those few being people that I knew.

I had plenty of intuition, as well but also being sensing, such as with sports, so call it a near tie, but in favor of intuition, for I never got into playing the piano or the violin, plus, sports had aspects of intuition to it.

I felt things deeply, but thought a lot, as well, school and reading having greatly deepened my thinking aspect, as it may in anyone. The preference had to go to feeling, though.

Was I orderly or perceptive? Well, order was useful when it had it be, and so I wasn’t messy, but neither did I have to plan out my whole day, such as my mother would always try to do for us all. I was a writer, and as an artist I was naturally spontaneous. Every darn thing didn’t need closure, but for when one didn’t want something hanging over their head.

I didn’t know it then, but INFP types are just 2% of the population. I only vaguely felt somewhat apart from the crowd, but I was fine with it. Turns out, thought, that this 2% writes most of the novels, screenplays, poems, and TV shows. Why, because they understand every other type, and can thus portray them.

I crossed off Linda McElroy; she had been Lucille’s friend, plus she had a dark streak. She soon took up with a guy from the pool hall, and I thought, good for them—I’m no longer tempted.

I danced with a girl from North Oak Park at a sock hop, and she seemed really strange. After it was over, she hung around with me outside, She wanted me to walk her home, for safety reasons. Well, everyone our age walked everywhere, for we couldn’t get driver’s licenses yet, and it was safe. Incidents were so infrequent and far between that we didn’t really know of any. I went partway with her, and then told her I lived in the complete other direction.

At school, she presented me with a notebook that had my name written in it 10,000 times, which had taken her a week to do. This wasn’t going to work out, I told her, and she was sad. Better to say it now rather than later. Well, she was really rather strange, in a scary kind of way.

Peggy Hartless’s father had died at work, he having fallen into some kind of mixing machine, and they were going to have to move far away. She lived only one street over, on Wisconsin Avenue, and was ever a part of our local ‘gang’, she now having grown into a very sharp girl. I reluctantly crossed her off, although still daydreaming that I could travel far and be with her in her misery. We had even stolen a few youthful and playful kisses way back.

Both of my grandmothers and one of my grandfathers had died in the last few years, too, but at least they were over sixty. I thought of Karen’s death, which had jolted me to my foundation, as well as Lucille’s mother’s.

My list had grown short. I considered Joann Tucker, who was in my homeroom. She was deeply religious, ever telling us that God did this and God did that. Why was she on the list? Well, she was spectacular. I quickly crossed her off.

Next, and last, was Patricia McElliot. She smoked a lot. No good. So long, dear thing, it seems. But wait, something told me. I had to roll the die, although I knew little about her, for we weren’t in any classes together. I made a new list, with her on top, added a few more names, mostly of offbeat type girls, but then tore them off. Do or die.

Irish Spring

1.

Well, it was May, and school would be out in June. I had gotten essentially nowhere, but at least I had no spare time, anyway, but, you know, I would have made some. I quit the track team and the debate team. The Gerber’s Hardware rebuilding job had finished. Now I worked at a Pharmacy store, as a cashier out front, for general merchandise. Patricia McElliot’s very little sister came in with some money and a note, which said that her mother needed cigarettes. It seemed to be an ongoing thing, so I gave them, and added to the note, “Enjoy these, Patricia. —P.T.”

Later, Patricia herself came in. I had piqued her curiosity.

She bought a pack of cigarettes, paid, and smiled, but still stood there.

I took up the slack, “You look pretty nice,” I said.

“Thanks. What’s your name?”

“Patrick. And I wrote to you to ‘enjoy’”

“And you know mine, somehow.”

“I saw you at school, and on the bus, and I liked what I saw.”

“Really?”

“Truly.”

“You work here every day?”

“Yes, I do now, and all alone up front here. Just finished my two weeks training at the back register, with Mr O’Hare, the pharmacist. From back there I saw your sister come in some other times, to buy smokes up front.”

“Is this job hard?”

“Not any more. Some items aren’t taxable, and they all need to ring up in the right category, plus I have to make the right change. Long lines can be stressful, but mostly only to those in the line.”

“Is it OK that we’re talking here?”

“Yeah, for another minute or so. I’m supposed to engage the customers and be cheery and friendly.”

“I think I might like you, too, but… I don’t know what to do.”

Where do you live?”

“Just behind here, across the alley, in the blue house.”

“I can come over a little after eight. I’ll tell you a great story about you. It’s amazing the way it turned out.”

“Oh, um, please do. I’ll be at the basement door.”

“See you later.”

What was I doing, I asked myself.

The answer came back, It’s spring.

Somewhere, deep in the night sky, one of the Fates had just blinked and winked.

2.

I went out the front door of the pharmacy, then took a quick left, going between the buildings. There was her house, across the alley. I unlatched the gate and headed toward the basement door, through overgrown grass, passing all kinds of junk. She was sitting just outside the door, smoking Some steps led down.

“Hello, Patrick,” she said.

“Hello, Patricia,” I replied.

“So we’re Pat and Pat.”

“Both Irish.”

“That’s good. What do you do?”

She wasn’t going to let me in just yet.

“Sophomore. I work every day right after school, and Saturday. I play sports when I can. I study hard, which is mostly only during my three study halls, and I sell cigarettes to little kids.”

“Ha-ha. When they bring a note.”

“Yeah, and especially when they have your last name.”

“How did you know it?”

“I asked the person who has the locker next to yours.”

“Well, I appreciate that. Wow, I’m flattered. Come on in, Patrick, and tell me more.”

We went into the near finished basement. She showed me around, and then invited me over to the sofa. She sat right next to me. It felt good.

“Who lives here?” I asked.

“My father, and Maeve, my sister. I’m a permanent baby sitter.”

“Mom left?”

“Yeah, a year ago.”

“Your father and her didn’t get along?”

“It was bad, and it still is, for me. It’s like I’m Maeve’s mother and father, now.”

“What does your father do?”

“My father does nothing here. He works construction all day, six days a week, comes home, and then I make dinner, after which he sits in his big chair, drinking heavily and watching TV. He’s in a stupor now, just like every evening. When that begins, Maeve turns the channel. If he can’t get to bed, then he sleeps all night in his chair. He even drinks at breakfast, and at someplace just after work, sometimes, but he can’t drink on the job.”

“Sounds like a bad, Irish thing, gone way over the edge.”

“It is bad. Mom couldn’t take it anymore, He does the same, night after night. I put Maeve to sleep about 9, otherwise I can’t bear to be up there.”

“What do you do down here?”

“I read books and listen to music.”

“Sounds like a good Irish thing.”

“Yeah, and if Maeve needs anything, she comes down.”

“No TV down here?”

“No, and just as well. It’s mostly junk that’s on.”

“Your mother couldn’t take you and your sister with her?”

“No. My father is king, and my mother is scared. He’s abusive. She had the courage to leave, though.”

“He hit her?”

“Yes.”

“You or your sister?”

“No he just yells.”

“Does he bother you or her when you’re sleeping?”

“No, he sleeps all night.”

“Well, at least he works.”

“Yeah, that’s one good thing.”

“What will I do with you?”

“Keep me company?”

“I can do that.”

“Get me out of this place?”

“I wish, but I can’t do that?”

“I can still hope.”

“Does your father come down here?”

“No. He doesn’t like to have to go back up the steps. He’s overweight.”

“But he does construction.”

“He drives a bulldozer thing.”

“He’s going to screw up one day, you know, driving, or on the job, or perhaps he will just keel over.”

“Yeah, I hope so.”

“And which is the story of my life so far. Things ending. And then it takes a while for all the king’s men to put me back together again.”

“You never know. Life is  chancy.”

I had put my arm around her while she had been unfolding the story. She didn’t resist, and then she laid her head on my shoulder. She touched my hair. I didn’t resist. This was really going well, perhaps because we’d had no time to worry about it.

I spoke, “So, you’re kind of a prisoner, but comfortable?”

“Yeah, I make breakfast, go to school, come home, maybe do some laundry, make dinner, and then go relax down here, then sleep, from about 11-7.”

“He pays the bills and does the shopping?”

“Yeah. It’s not so bad. I have a lot of free time to spend, as long as I do it at home.”

“Well, here we are.”

“You feel good with me, don’t you?”

“I must say that I do. And my life is rather restricted, too, by work.”

“But you can quit; I can’t. I’m here every night.”

“Friends?”

“Maureen, across the street, but she has a boyfriend now, just recently.”

“Are you looking for a boyfriend?”

“I am now, for some reason. I was daring today.”

I kissed her, she saying after, “Is that your answer?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t hardly go anywhere.”

“We’ll manage. Can’t always have everything.”

“It’s always nice and cool down here, even during heat waves. Like I say, I’m always here.”

“I’m in.”

“Are you sure you’re not just enamored by my coming over to the pharmacy, as like infatuated, or just telling me stories on the spot, such as what I’d like to hear, as in being friendly with the customers?”

“I did promise you a story about you, Patricia. Wait till you see this!” I pulled out a piece of paper, dated Friday, which had her name at the top, the rest of my list having been torn off and thrown away. Under her name, in smaller writing, was, “Not in any of my classes, but I wish I knew her. She’s calm and steady, but alive, bright-eyed, hopeful, and lithe, shapely, mysterious, beautiful, and Irish. Address unknown. Different lunch period. Gets on the bus at Harrison—be there and get on the bus with her Monday or forever have regret.”

She gasped, “This is some kind of miracle!”

“Yeah, the cigarettes connected us, too—a double miracle.”

“I came to you, as all the while you already had me in mind.”

“Yes, I was going to manage to run into you. In fact, I was going to walk to your bus stop this very morning, but it was pouring, and so my mother gave me a ride in later. She works there, for the Principal, and also does the attendance.”

She said, “Wow,” and jumped up and sat on my lap, adding, “I recognize you from the bus. You and a boy always sat together, but you’d always notice me and Maureen getting on, although you were not staring, but glanced, with gentle and wishful eyes, toward me.”

“It all sounds like Irish luck to me.”

“Oh, yes, yes, something like that.”

“Yeah, and the wheels were turning, but I had only your demeanor and your appearance to go by.”

“Yeah, we don’t share any classes, study halls, or lunch. That’s rare, but it happens.”

“Just the bus, with everyone still sleepy-eyed or studying.”

“You still came into this near blind, as a shot in the dark. That takes guts. I appreciate that. Bold!”

“Well, it worked, and the long shot is already in the homestretch.”

We kissed, much deeper this time. It was suddenly as if we were already far along.

“And you were going to say what, at my bus stop?”

“That I was waiting for you and the bus.”

“To which I would say something like, ‘Me?”

“Yes, and then I would say that I like you.”

“And then we’d sit together on the bus and you would tell me more, such as your hoping to get to know me. Good plan! Direct. I love it. Just flat out asking, with no beating around the bush.”

“We’ll try it tomorrow morning.”

“That will work. This is so unbelievable! Stranger than fiction, as they say.”

We kissed again, even more passionately, which was ever the ultimate invitation to something more. It went on and on, building…”

The Fates had been playing around again, with the levers and dials, outdoing themselves, going for some kind of record. The drought was over, and the flood was on.

“Oh, my,” she exclaimed. “The clouds abound, and glow, golden, under the rainbow.”

“What’s that from?” I asked.

“It’s from my book of poems. Here it is. You can look at it while I go up and put Maeve to sleep.”

Oh Fates, she’s a writer! I had read half of it by the time she came back down.

I stood up, with the book in hand, to read it, and act it out, but first asked, “Will anyone hear me?”

“No, the TV is always on loud. I can’t stand it up there.”

I read the words the way they were meant to be read, along with some pacing, acting, and emoting.

“Don’t tell me you’re a writer, too!” she exclaimed.

“I am.”

“I’ve never been able to even get people to read my poems. They just sort of flip through the pages quickly and then put it down.”

“Patricia, we’re going to live life’s poetry, savor every word, and love every verse.”

“You have to make love to me! God, did I say that?”

“Let’s wait a week or so. We hardly know one another.”

“OK, I’m just so excited. I don’t even know what I’m saying.”

“You’ve been cooped up here. Ever been made love to before?”

“No, but Maureen told me about it.”

“We’ll talk about it. It’s too soon. Best to let everything build.”

“They made whole, on the elfin knoll, and then off they strolled, with the hills around them rolled.”

“From the second part of your book?”

“Yeah, it builds.”

“I’ve hit the jackpot.”

“Yes, we have.”

“And, you know, we might have been in a class together.”

“Which?”

“You’re Irish, and so you’re Catholic, and you live on Euclid Avenue, so you’re in Ascension parish.”

“And?”

“I once lived on Euclid, two blocks down from here, at Jackson Boulevard, from four years old through first grade.”

“Oh, yeah. I have all my class pictures right over here.” She went over and looked through them, bringing the first grade picture over.”

“Here I am,” she said, pointing.

“And that boy standing right next to you is me.”

“Holy Christ!”

“Wow, are you some kind of detective or something, or did you just remember me?”

“I don’t remember anything from first grade but Mother Superior looking to me like a big gorilla on the first day. I just put it together now, from our talk about classes.”

“Ho. I’m living in some kind of dream world tonight.”

“Oh, Patricia, and what dreams may lift us.”

She stood up and walked all-around the room, her hands up in the air and waving, as if flying through some dream realm. I joined, and we met, embracing, floating, near weightlessly.

“Patrick, we’re going to live everything that I wrote in my book, and more. We may have to go out to the forest preserves to act some of it out.”

“To the ends of the Earth and into the depths of the inner spirit.”

We talked some more, and sat very close for about an hour.

“Have you had other girlfriends, Patrick?”

“Three, and two were very good fortune given to me.”

“What happened?”

“The first had to move out of state, and the third one died.”

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“It’s been a year and a half or so.”

“I won’t let you down, Patrick, but, as you said, my father might.”

‘I’m in, for all I’m worth. Let all the joys, triumphs, comedies, and tragedies roll on, for all are experiences, as all that the stars throw down to play in this great theater. It’s priceless just to be a part of it all.”

“Play on, play, in which we play, as the leads. Oh play on, poetry’s wishes and heartfelt tales,” adding, “That’s not from my book, but I’ll work on it.”

“What a night!”

“We’ve outdone ourselves.”

“What’s better to say, ‘It’s all downhill from here,’ or ‘It’s all uphill from here’?”

“They both sound bad. It’s ever onward, from here to there, through all the hills and valleys.”

She walked me out, around 10.

“See you in the morning,” she called, “at the bus stop.”

I ran all the way home, exhilarated, and then spoke to the stars, “You’ve slipped, and have accidentally dumped a pot of gold on me. Will it last? Whether you toy with me or not matters not. I live for this day, and it brings on the synergy of romance, for one plus another, together, is greater than two, or it is that two together are much greater than one plus one apart. Do your worst and you will still not break me. I took a shot in the dark and hit the target that you’d been hiding in plain sight. And now ye gather your forces, who can but be pleased, thinking to hold back their meteor sorrows from raining down. Come, join in this new and everlasting gladness.”

2.

We kept to our nightly rendezvous. Patricia’s father never came down. Sometimes, I would get off work at seven, if business was light.

A week and a half had passed. We were more than ready. It just felt good to lead right up to it. Any longer and we would have had to take cold showers. (Unfortunately, my dog ate the description of it.)

She began bringing me dinner at the pharmacy. We had become a total couple. So, there was still magic in the world, even if it was scarce, the rarest of light that was so ethereal and out of the mainstream that it was wont to fall through life’s cracks and disappear, ere you had a glint of it, much less laid your eyes upon it, but which usually was more like a stab in the dark, yet now a thousand suns shone, as if a telescope had found all the glory of a dark night.

We wrote poems together, alternating the lines. In school, which was now bathed in a radiant light beyond that of spring’s shine, we passed notes on the stairs. On the bus to and from, we sat together. When Maeve went to her friends to play, we could go out together, at least to somewhere nearby, but only then, and only if I could arrange for the earlier pharmacy cashier to fill in for me, which she usually wanted to do, and did. Now and then I had a day off, too.

One night, Maureen brought her boyfriend over, to introduce him to us for the first time. She needn’t have introduced him to me, for he was my best friend. Well, we had both been mysteriously absent from the local scenes lately, and since we both were not around, didn’t realize that the other wasn’t either. The Fates had been working overtime on this one. Now the fun had been doubled.

Time marched on.

One of her notes read:

Melt, in the music of the folk,
Until I am you and you are I.
We’re far away, on holiday,
In the bright centers of our eyes.

Merge, as the honey and the suckle,
Twisting and turning into one growth.
We’re in a forest dark and deep,
Rooted in the soil, ever nourished.

Move, to the rhythms of the winds,
Flowing with each others bends,
Dancing in the glow of the orb,
Feeling me upon your mind.

We danced in the moonlight, out in the jungle of her yard, which to us had become an enchanted forest full of ancient mysteries.

School ended.

We took Maeve with us, on many occasions, such as to the park, the playground, and for ice cream. It was if we were married, with Maeve as our child.

July was steaming hot, but we had our cool retreat, any time and always, as in living happily ever after.

She wrote:

Our love burns the sun away,
So now it throws its fires out,
Roasting the Earth this year,
But here we abide, underground.

My father had been working hard at his job at Campbell’s Soup Company, and so he hadn’t had time to paint our house, which needed it, so he told us that we might have to cancel our vacation cabin, for which we’d have to pay a fee.

I offered to stay home and paint the house. My parents asked, “Are you sure?”

“I said, ‘Yes’”.

It was a big job, but I had off from work that week, and so it easily got done, using many gallons of grey paint, and a big ladder. I even painted the trim white, and the doorbell, too.

It was a win-win for all. Besides, Penny might have been at the vacation place, but, more importantly, Patricia was here, and oh was she here. Many of the kids our age tended to be a bit blank, or rough around the edges, or interested in other things, or just aimless and sitting around, but Patricia had energy, oomph, passion, insight, and more, plus she was well read. And to think that she had almost fallen through the cracks.

Just to look at her was to be moved. She was a masterpiece, with flowing brown hair, with an alive, bright look, a healthy featured and beautiful face, her breasts prominent, slim where slim was good, and looked as fine as anything on Earth, especially in the white shirt she was wearing today, kind of a vision of old Ireland lit by modern photography.

Summer did what summer usually does, otherwise, for me, with her there, sometimes, which goings on I needn’t repeat.

We were supernovas lighting up her subterranean abode, in a refuge from the inaneness and the insaneness of the world.

We were back in school, now, as juniors, and still the summer had not broken, this not happening until the end of September.

The leaves fall early now,
Baked out of their skin.
Lawns are a patchwork quilt,
None of it can be undone.

We walked down the block one day, the day not hot, for once, and halfway through the next, whereat I paused, and said “I have a popsicle for you. Want it?”

“Right here?”

“Yeah.”

“Out of thin air?”

“Yep. It’s right here.”

“In your pocket?”

“Ha, not that.”

We knocked on a door of a house. A girl who was probably ‘Jodi’ answered.

“Jodi?”

“We were in first grade with you.”

“Hey, hi!”

“Do you still have a freezer full of popsicles in your basement?”

“Yeah, come on in.”

We visited, and then continued walking, cross in Jackson Boulevard.

“Here it is,” I pointed, “number 648, the house my family used to rent.”

“And Fox Park right across.”

“I used to play by myself over there. I’d hide in the bushes and watch the people walk by. They didn’t know I was there.”

“You’re parents didn’t watch you?”

“I suppose they did, from the front porch.”

She looked back at the house, as did I.

“A coal truck use to come by in the winter and dump the coal down a chute. Then we’d go down to the basement, where I’d watch my father shovel it around, and put some into the furnace.”

“I should have come over.”

“And I’d have said that I don’t want anything to do with girls.”

“No, you wouldn’t. You were friends with Jodi.”

“Right you are. It was from the next year on that we boys shied away from girls, claiming that we’d never get married.”

“What did your father do, back then?”

“He worked at Mars Candy Company, and brought home Milky Way bars and other treats. Now he brings us dented and unlabeled soup cans home, of Campbell’s Soup. There a three digit code on the bottom of the can. We liked 014 a lot, which was chicken noodle, and 023, mushroom.”

We went down a few more blocks. I pointed, “There’s my old nursery school.”

“It was mine, too.”

“We’re old friends, aren’t we?”

“Yeah.”

“I would walk there and back, by myself.”

“Your life seems so free.”

“It had to be. I had a baby brother at home, and another on the way. I walked to Ascension and back, too, and all over the place, probably near your house, too.”

“My mother took me to school.”

“Still Catholic?”

“No. You?”

“No.”

“The old tales just don’t hold together,” she noted.

“How come?”

“Well, the ongoing stuff of always, all of the sudden, in religious minds, out of nowhere, is claimed to be a God person instead of just stuff, but people only come to be later on, and they’re made of parts that have parts that had to have come earlier.”

“So, a higher being might be of the future, but not of the past.”

“Yeah, and the perfect person God makes creatures of His own chosen design and then surprisingly gets disappointed with their behavior, then gets mad and throws them out of paradise, to suffer, toil, and die.”

“And the same story before that, with the angels.”

“See, it doesn’t wash. The God was irresponsible, placing the fault on his creations that He made just as they were to be and act. And He has an unloving emotional system, then, and after, too, putting all kind of plagues and more onto the Earth.”

“Amen. Adam and Eve even failed right away, right off the bat, like children touching the very thing that they’re not supposed to touch. Should we go over and tell Mother Superior Monkey?”

“She wouldn’t listen.”

“People have to do as they are.”

“Yeah. Blah, blah, this, and blah. blah, that.”

“Should I write it up as a philosophy paper?”

“Sure, and put that we still got blamed, through that dumb Original Sin thing—and that after almost everyone got killed by the Great Flood, the humans still performed as designed, from sinful to goodness.”

“What about the free will thing?”

“It’s not really free. One will burn in Hell if it doesn’t match.”

“You’ve really thought this through.”

“And put that the design still expresses its created nature and meant recipe, even after a supposedly divine human arrived. So why the punishments?”

“You forgot Moses.”

“Yeah, and the humans still goofed after he brought down the Ten Commandments.”

“Plus God had already broken his own ‘Do not Kill’ commandment, via the Great Flood.”

“He’s not even a good role model to follow. And He did other bad things, too. Not a leader at all.”

“So we can even outthink the creator, in terms of our goodness, in not wanting to kill, or blame people for their ancestors’ misdeeds, or blame the thing if we make a thing that doesn’t work?”

“Yeah, so it’s all baloney, but some get comfort out of it, but all this ‘adoring’ stuff, for something that always had to be there, with no choice to it being so. Cripes.”

“Sounds like God was made in man’s image, during olden times, as a strict father figure, an extension upwards kind of thing.”

“Yeah, punishments and all that. And that life requires a bigger Life behind it, etc.”

“The ‘etc.’ regress is troublesome.”

“Yeah. It all falls apart, since it never ends.”

“Well, people have always invented their mythic tales.”

“And then pass them on to their children.”

“And the children think that their parents know things.”

“Yeah.”

“What to do?”

“Nothing. The world is as it is. Ignore it, along with much of politics, too, and those who are catty, or often troublemaking.”

“A good plan. The only behavior you can really control is your own, unless you’re a parent, the law, or an employer.”

3.

October and November came on. JFK was assassinated. I was sitting in the school library. A friend came over and told me, “They got him”.

A bit later, in philosophy class, a bell sounded, at an odd time. President Kennedy had died.

December, January, February, March, April, May, and June had now rolled on, too, treasures stashed away, in love’s safety deposit box, never to be undone, I opening them for this writing, we now having had a year and two months together, which had to be some kind of a world record, at our age.

A new summer had started. The Fates had finally given in, had they not?

One day, while walking to work at the pharmacy, I saw police and fire truck lights blinking. A car had veered over and beyond the sidewalk and had crashed into Woolworth’s, the store right next to the pharmacy. A tow truck was on hand, to extract it in a while.

I went to look, and soon overheard, “Two kids were run over, and one was dead on the scene.”

I knew that car, although I’d never met the driver. I went over to Patricia’s instead of to work. She was in the yard.

“Oh, Patrick, it’s terrible!”

“Did your father survive?”

“He has a broken arm. He was drunk, of course. He’s at the hospital, a with police guard. Then he’s going to jail. A kid died, and another one might. The police just left here. I talked them into letting me stay for a day.”

“And after the trial, he’ll probably go to prison for a long time.”

“Yeah. I called my mother. She lives in Ohio now.”

“And…”

“She’s coming to get us, tomorrow.”

My world had just crashed, too. “I love you; we’ll find a way.”

“You can’t leave home or school, and you also need to stay here to be able to attend the inexpensive state college in Chicago. And if you don’t go to college you’ll end up in the Vietnam War.”

“We could get married, and then you could stay here.”

“I’d love to, but we’re only sixteen.”

“Yeah. I’m thinking crazy.”

“Love does that, but I’ll ask my mother about giving her consent. Slim chance.”

“Send me poems.”

“I will.”

“You’re free of him now.”

“It’s my only consolation.”

“I’ll go explain to the pharmacist.”

“Come back soon, as thou hast come so many times, steadfast, dear, loyal, and loving, partner of my deepest self, who gave me a life. It’s over now—the beautiful music of the spheres. The curtain drops. The audience of the starry night applauds. We come back out to take our bows, first to them, and then to each other, over and over, to our dear selves.”

Short Interlude

1.

I didn’t quite know what to do, so I let the void fill me for a week, which doesn’t fill, so I let the waves of memories sweep over me, those swells never to be forgotten.

Beverly, the gymnast, a year behind her brother, Kurt, and I, had asked me to take her to the prom a few months ago, but I’d said that I couldn’t, because of Patricia. I felt bad, although I don’t really know why I should have.

I gave her a call. I don’t know why. Perhaps I was delirious. Perhaps it is that if someone liked me then the relationship is already partway along; however, I knew her from before. She was, well, pleasant, but…

She said she’d like to go out, but she had a busy schedule, plus her mother and stepfather had been watching her like hawks, after she had gotten into some kind of unnamed trouble. Well, they knew me, for I’d often been there, with Kurt, playing pool. It didn’t look good.

I could use my parent’s second car, so I went over to see Kurt, parking around the corner from Gunderson, on Roosevelt Road, a busy road. After a while, Beverly and I snuck out.

I drove down Roosevelt Road, soon looking in my rear view mirror, There was Bob, her stepfather, driving about three cars back. Boy, was he good or what!

“He’s following us,” I told Beverly.

“He does that,” she answered, “but he never admits to it.”

“Ditch him?”

“I guess.”

“This may not end well for you, but just for fun…”

I drove around a big truck, and then pulled a quick right, hoping for a block-out from the truck. Bob didn’t see us turn, but I’d noted that the truck now had its left turn signal on and was moving toward the left lane.

“No good,” I told her. “Bob will see that we’re no longer there up ahead.”

“What will he do?”

“He’ll take the next right, on the next block, then drive fast and try to pick us up again, even see us right away,if he make a lucky guess.”

“So, what now?”

“We have to turn around—a three point turn. No driveways. Time is short.”

I performed it as quickly as possible. We were back at Roosevelt; however, it was clear to cross, and so we did, and thereby had entered Berwyn.”

“He won’t look here?” she asked.

“No, he won’t, at least not yet, and it’s hard to get across; we were lucky.”

“And if we hadn’t been lucky?”

“We would have ended up taking a right on Roosevelt, the same way we were headed, and that wouldn’t have been the best thing to do.”

“But we still would have gone into Berwyn when possible.”

“Yeah.”

“Know anyone in Berwyn?”

“No, not really, but I went to a party there once.”

“How was it?”

“All the girls had bee-hive hair-do’s, and they were chubby.”

“Are we safe, now?”

“No, Bob will comb the Oak Park area, at least the parts we could have reached, as blocked by the expressway, and then he will figure out that we have to be in Berwyn. Is he always like this?”

“Yes, but more, lately.”

“What did you do?”

“I drank beer with some friends at a park, after we’d won a big meet.”

“Bad, bad!”

“Now where, since he’s going to come back this way?”

“Cicero. That’s between Berwyn and Chicago, and in a direction away from Bob, which will widen the distance—our best course”

“He’ll give up?”

“Probably.”

“Isn’t Cicero full of mobsters and bad guys?”

“Well, yeah. We’’ll have something to eat at one of their joints.”

Beverly looked scared.

I added, “They like customers.”

It occurred to me that this kind of escaping, while somewhat exciting now, might tend to get old rather quickly. You had to know when to fold ‘em.

We drove for a while.

“We’re here. This inn was Al Capone’s old headquarters, a refuge far form his rivals. The North-Sider’ had hoped to lure him near a window here, which didn’t happen; however, they still shot up the whole place with tommy machine guns.”

“Let’s go home.”

“OK.” Good!

Next time, we had a walking date, but no real chemistry was evident, plus she wasn’t very talkative. How do I get out of this! 

My friend, Joe, had since gone on from Maureen to go with Elena, a Spanish girl, who he’d just walked up to in school, having told that her she looked pretty. Way to go, Joe, I suppose.

Joe and Elena picked up Beverly and I, one day, somewhere, as planned, and we were driving down Roosevelt, toward Harlem, and I guess Joe wasn’t watching the road very well. He got into a minor crash; we got out; we were all OK. A police car arrived.

Wouldn’t you know it, of all the fluke happenings, Beverly’s mother and her stepfather, Bob, happened to be driving by a minute later. Unbelievable! Beverly had to get in the car with them and go home, and, well, that was the end of that.

Well, fine, I thought, she didn’t seem too lively, anyway, plus she was always busy, plus there was ‘Bob’. Three strikes and out, out, out—a rather large blunder.

Time for a break. Romance wasn’t everything, was it? There was, um, my job driving a truck all around, two days a week, and there was, oh, I don’t know, sports, and there was summer, and…

Give it up, I thought. Just relax. You’re all out of miracles.

2.

I was reading a book on evolution, one of my favorite supplemental studies, then put it down, to ponder life. Life in the past was no picnic, but now we had it relatively easy, so to speak, and in the future, we might look back upon these times as the ‘Good Old Days’. Some did that now, referring to the beginnings of the 1900s to the half century mark, but those were also the days of polio and influenza, the first World War, the Depression, and the Second World War.

I considered the evolutionary eras, thankful that I wasn’t around for those millions and even billions of years. Well, though, those times had to have been—that long climb ever trying to spell success. By and large, though, the world was still a mess, but this was mostly in lands further away, but for some areas of Chicago.

The species had not appeared separately, as is, independent from on another, nor were they immutable. There was a tree of life, one that had branching upon branchings, from a common ancestor. All was one, and the same for all the plants and flora. We humans were as organic as anything else.

I pondered life some more. Why do people so naturally eventually get married and have kids and responsibilities? Because they wanted do? Because they chose to? Well, yes, they ‘chose to’, but a lot of this was probably Nature speaking and choosing through them, but that was still them, though. It gave me a philosophical headache.

‘Now’ was all we had, whatever our stage of life, and now I was happily and peacefully doing ‘nothing’. In the old days, people even went away for the whole summer, as if they hadn’t had a care in the world for what went on without them back home, going up north to a cabin, boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, and sitting out on the porch.

We couldn’t afford a vacation this year, even for a week, but we didn’t mind. Life was good, the family was good, and some of the neighbors were good. We never got bored.

Well, I still had work, and games, but there was plenty of time left over to do not much at all.

Secret Places

A great logician, in a cave in the dark,

Could infer the universe from a grain of dirt.

1.

I still slept on our wide front screened-in porch, enjoying the wonderful night breezes. It had become mid summer, 1964, and I was 16 and a half. I was in between relationships, which was not the worst thing, I guessed, but had been a time to recharge, although now the balmy morning airs were really mixing from the fumes of nature, within and without, spurring ever onward the feelings of life, love, and adventure, which took two. I guess I’d lost touch with the rest of the world, and school was in session, of course, and so they were mostly all hidden away in their houses, for these days had been hot. I fell asleep.

This was yet Oak Park, Illinois, just outside Chicago, it being the largest village in the world, having over 70,000 people. After I awoke, I paged through the weekly ‘Oak Leaves’ edition, noting the happenings of what sounded like Pleasantville. Ah, there it is—I had submitted a piece of writing on the Vietnam war, a poem, actually, and there it was.

I made some hardboiled eggs for breakfast and then went out and cut the grass and put new spark-plugs into my motorcycle. What would this day bring, I wondered. I thought of dropping everything and riding out to Ohio to see Patricia.

Jimmy Nelson was already up in his treehouse, and Charlene Faust had just said good morning from the yard one over in the other direction. As my two neighbors nearest my age, they had become part of my life on that account, but ever mostly as just a part of the scenery. I went back in. I couldn’t really take off for Ohio.

An few days later, a most fortunate but totally unexpected event arrived at my front door. It was Cheryl Dykstra’s little sister, bearing an exquisite card from Cheryl, with her clear handwriting inside. This was a surprise—a unique happening in my life as it turned out, a one-and-only kind of beginning. Someone had been tracking me, and I hadn’t seen a thing of it. I’d known of Cheryl and her family, but I didn’t really know them, but for some times when I saw them in their front yard from the playground adjoined to Lincoln School, where our group hung out at night. The sisters may even have sat with us on a bench on one of those nights some time ago, and in the summer before. Cheryl was a year behind me in school.

The writing inside the card said that she, Cheryl, liked me, as of even a while, and hoped that I would come over, right now even. She said she had planned to come over, herself, but she was grounded, to her house, the yard, and the alley. Now this girl had initiative, I thought, to bravely come out of the blue like this. As I recalled, Cheryl must be 15 or more by now, I having also noted her at high school catching my eye through hers, once, but I couldn’t really be sure. She had come a long way from her days at Lincoln, though.

My heart literally jumped as I read the card, and so I told the little card bearer to tell sister Cheryl that she had a deal, with me as her new boyfriend—another shot in the dark, I supposed, but she had summoned me. I gave little sis a kiss on the cheek, telling her to send my love and greetings, with me to follow in a while. She told me that 12 noon would work out well, the time when Cheryl could surely escape her temporary grounding. Here I go again, and it looks good. So long to doing nothing, but enough of that had been enough already.

So, Little Miss Lady Luck headed back to Dame Fortune with my information, which I had also written down on a paper for her to give to the bold and the beautiful one. Of all the things to happen, I thought. Where and when did this all take form without my even realizing. Had I missed something? Or was it just luck? And that card! Such literacy for a junior-to-be, much less anyone. It’s written composition was so excellent that it seemed to be a perfect mini essay in itself, or at least a beautiful abstract of one, in order to fit on the card.

2.

It was time to find out. High noon. I started my motorcycle and rode about three blocks. I stopped near the end of Cheryl’s alley and parked.  Maybe I’d walk from there.

I observed that a car had just pulled off and away from Cheryl’s garage, presumably her parents going off on an outing to the relatives or something. They went, fortunately, in the other direction, not that it would shave mattered much. I then saw Cheryl come out, she wandering about in the alley, and then looking at a flower. I would have waited until she’d come out, anyway, as per instructions.

I started up my motorcycle, and looped back into the street a bit, then headed back into toward the alley, quickly turned off my motorcycle, turned, and quietly coasted up behind her, quite surprising her. We embraced and kissed, and that feeling was still as new and fresh as ever. She had been grounded for smoking.

“Sure you don’t want to wait until you’re free?” I asked.

“No. It’s a good chance; I’ve sized it up. They’ll be gone for quite a while.”

“How did you know I was home, and free?”

“I have spies, ha-ha.”

“Peggy Tyler, across the street?”

“Maybe.”

“Feeling adventurous today?”

“You don’t know the half of it! I’ve had my eyes on you. I’ll tell you later.”

“OK, let’s roll.” She hopped on.

We rode down the alley, though, she holding on snug behind me, and onto Lexington Street, riding down to Maple Avenue, taking a left there, and then a right, onto the large and busy way of Roosevelt Road, heading on down to First Avenue, as a left, on which we picked up great speed, with good vibrations, then all the way out to 31st Street, where there were motorcycle trails, with many hills and jumps that soon sent us airborne. After going around twice, we headed off on a spur into and through some deep woods.

“Hey, that was quite a thrill!” she exclaimed.

After about a half a mile we arrived at a train bridge that went over a river, and so we set up camp with a blanket on a grassy area, just in front of a large rock wall that was just to the side of the trestle. A train rumbled by and brought unto us a new and exciting vibration. Then it was peaceful again.

She looked fit, sporty, even.

“You look to be in good shape, Cheryl.”

“I do exercise.”

“Sports?

“Badminton, and some baseball. Want to play?”

“Yes.”

We looked at each other, kissed for a very long time, and then laid down, and eventually played with each other, half  in the buff, these happenings greatly enhanced by our being in the outdoors of sun and breeze.

“I like the outdoors,” I said.”I often go out to the forests and the prairie.”

“I’ll be free, soon We can go.”

“So, you’re lovable, charming, fun, literate, romantic, and adventurous, too!”

“I am the city and the country, the winter and the summer, the Earth and the sun, the flower, the butterfly, and the soil.”

“A woman for all seasons.”

“I’m the butterfly of love who has just landed on you.”

“Yeah, I’ve just been sitting around lately, perfecting the art of of doing nothing.”

We leaned back against the rock wall and lit up some smokes, although I didn’t really smoke as a habit. The prisoner had been sprung and I’d surely get her back home long before anyone could notice. Then one more day or so and she would be free. I now had a new and adventurous girlfriend, just like that, arriving out of the blue, and one who was very literate. Amazing. I took out her card and held it to my heart.

“Why me?” I finally asked. “How did this gift from Heaven befall?”

“I like your writing and also what I’ve seen of you,” she said, as she showed me the note I’d sent back with her sister, joining it onto hers to show our union. I thought to myself that we both knew that my note came after her initiative, but I just said, “Thanks.” How did this person know my other writing? I couldn’t figure it out.

“You’ll know more about it tomorrow,” she added, and I accepted that, because I liked working out mysteries.

I wrote down something of the moment and handed it to her:

What is this Earth with these pastimes so fine? It must be the gift of the universe’s fine sweet valentine. What loveliness brings such soft summer breezes that caress? These winds are the pressured airs mixing up the rest.

She answered, in speech, “Good first draft. We can reduce the syllables. I love it, and I like it here in this lovely place. I didn’t want to wait another day. There are no tomorrows. My grounding was loose; they let me be in the alley. I’ll bear it out, though. There’s only one more day.”

We soaked up the peace and serenity of the place. Had she read my Oak Leaves piece? She had said ‘writings’, plural. So, it sounded like an ongoing thing. Now, who knew my writings? Friends, my parents, school. 

So there we lay, afloat, kind of. The deal had been signed. I’d been taken unawares, and had gone with the flow of it. No real negotiations.

Yes, these were the times of life, love, and nature, I thought to myself. We had retrieved for ourselves the wingèd hours, those that drudges had ever stole and overpowered—hours gentle and mild, like cleansing showers that fill the cup and freshen the flowers. I wrote it down. Funny how living helps writing to just about write itself.

As such, these facts of life had so easily and naturally come to us, as with those fresh winds that had made love to the blossoms of May, causing the spring flowers to reach for the light of day

We went through some of the words later, she adding, Drinking deep droughts of life’s sunny delight, the woods burst with the joy of love’s bouquet. 

We would tell people of this place, we said, but never where it was, we swore—this wild land within the crowded suburbs. This forest and it river train place was to be for us.

With her I walked the wooded scene, beholding wonders that were, around here, seldom seen. The leaves breathed deep in the wandering airs, with the growth of summer thrust upon them green. 

“We can tighten up the beginning a bit,” she remarked.

So in this secret wilderness, we wandered, as a couple made whole, all of it made possible by the delivery of a card of love, and then we returned to the blanket.

She lay down and closed her eyes. Meanwhile, I wrote some more, altering some verses I’d been working on in the days before.

She is sweet, soft, and inconsummably wild, even as she just lay there beside me like a sleeping child. Our quiet breathing stirred not the wooded scene as we rested silently on the forest green.

I caressed her tresses in romantic rhythm to the contented sighs she sent toward Heaven. We slumbered where the grass fledged the stream, half-awake or asleep in love’s peaceful dream.

Above us the branches slowly swayed and fanned away the little creatures that tried to land. The trickling waters played tinkling lullabies, while flocks of birds flew the skies. 

This new relationship had all the signs of life. For a little while more, we lay beside the brook, reading with life its most wonderful book, then merged with each other in this sweet nook—and this of her and me was all it took.

And ever on it would be fine. Where this rare river ran, far from any home or throne, we’d ever rest by the stream-side, just us alone. We’d found the perfect equilibrium: we were poor but rich, home yet free, great but unknown.

That this could go so well, and why, was still a mystery to me. That I was totally taken unawares was fantastic, plus it was a delight to be on the receiving end—of someone else’s love search, of someone’s plan. I was in heaven again; the world was no longer plain.

I brought her back home, to her plain and regular alley. We had been to another world.

3.

On the next afternoon into the evening I went to hang out at the playground, for Cheryl was in her last day of grounding and wanted to safely see it through. Seeing that she and her family were on out on her front porch, I walked over to the fence, for a better view, having to carefully wade through some pricker bushes. “Holy Christ! Cheryl’s mother was my high school English teacher. I really had to smile to myself, for just recently, inspired by Patricia, I had poured forth my mind, heart, soul, spirit and dreams into a paper that began with “Love is the finest refreshment of mortal life…”

Essay On Love

Love is the finest refreshment of mortal life, providing as it does a glimpse into the heavenly state, a vision which, if maintained, can last well beyond the initial perception and for all of one’s life. So, I say that any time not spent on love is time squandered in absolute waste, that if you are idling, not loving, or, God forbid, hating, then life is a-wasting, for love is the greatest experience on Earth, and so I have often sought it out, found it, received it, given it, and lived it as life’s one great happiness, for there is no other joy that compares—love being the truth of all truths.

Who has not forgotten that first kiss and the magic that attended it? No one, for first love touches one deeply and forever. People newly in love glow for weeks on end. There is nothing like love, although, strangely, some do not actively seek it out, perhaps for fear of rejection. But, even love’s worst pain is sweeter by far than any other pleasure; there is, indeed, no contest—and to love and lose is second only to loving in triumph.

Not merely just a pleasure, love refreshes, creates, invigorates, and provides sustenance of spirit and life itself.

Without love there is no life, at least none worth living. When you give up on love, you begin to die. Love knows no laws or restrictions, for mutual passion is a law unto itself. Love is the cure-all, both for those who receive it and for those who give it. The one tragedy in life is not death, but that some people do not love—aye, nor do they live, for the fear of the one is fear of the other. So, by all means, if you love somebody, go to them and tell them so right now.

It is said that the loving are the daring, perhaps because they seek the ultimate adventure, often risking all for that which lies far and above the commonplace, that vision into paradise. Imagination weaves a fairy tale of love and romance, and the mind that is alive soon brings forth the phantasm into reality.

Placing our very life and happiness in another through love is the greatest gift one can give, for it is the gift of oneself. Unconditional love is a true gift, one without strings attached, one without any motive for gain in return. Oh, of course, we are human and often love for the sake of being loved in return, and this is not in itself wrong; but, when one loves for no other reason than for the sake of generosity and loving, then this is a saintly type of love which is above all the other kinds.

True love loves people for what they are; not for their qualities in particular, but for the person. It’s not that we love someone because we need them—for this is quite immature—but that we need someone because we love them. It is, you see, love that is the origin. Love begets love and love, in turn, begets more love, and so on, making us even more loving to others, until Heaven is indeed brought down to earth. Real love is its own reward.

Identity is not lost in love, for true lovers do not sit looking only into each other’s heart, but, rather, look outward, both in the same direction. It is a seeming violation of arithmetic that in love two become much greater than one plus one, and that the two do not become one, but remain as two, yet still share the same vibration in their souls.

It also seems to be a paradox that love, when divided, is not at all diminished, but that each individual love multiplies to exceed the lot. One can never run out of love! It is a miser, indeed, who withholds love from a capacity that is boundless. Hoard not that which can be given. Give love, and even more love comes back full circle to you.

What a joy is it to experience life’s wonders with someone you love—oh, walks, and plays, and dinners are great enough pleasures when taken alone, but note how much better they are when you have someone to share them with.

Another bonus of love is that with it behind your actions you may soon find yourself doing the impossible, as love’s inspiration carries you along through any kind of difficulty. For me it was an inspiration to write. Love and a kind heart are much alike, and one is equivalent to the other, love being a triumvirate of truth, beauty, and goodness blended into one great purity. We do not merely love—we are love! We do not create—we are creation itself. We don’t just live life—we are life!

There are many forms and faces of love, such as brotherly, sisterly, motherly, fatherly, romantic, spiritual, professional, and physical; and it often depends much upon the circumstance which one is the most appropriate form to give to a particular person, but I think you may agree, that, in all of the above forms of love, there is much more that could be given in any case.

So, she figured that I’d know more about it ‘tomorrow’, and that had turned into today. I looked at her family on the porch some more, noting that mother and father got along very well. Here was normalcy.

4.

The wonder times continued on, unabated, with Cheryl, my sweet champion of adventure, love, and literature. In between the regular fun with friends, to whom she had even right away joyfully told everything about our first meeting, very much straight out, but for our secret refuge location, with flawless speech, this endearing all to her, we often read to each other from books from her mother’s great library and from our own writings during much of our own sweet time, while lying in the shade on a hill toward the back of the playground. We’d even fall asleep back there sometimes.

Near to the front of the shelter house of this grand Carroll Playground and Park adjoined to Lincoln School was what turned out to be a very large monolith, in the shape of a dome, the top of which rounded shape now carried a lot of dirt, plants, and flowers, but it was hollow inside, with the entrance concealed behind some bushes, yet little sister knew of it and showed it to us one day.

The cavernous inside smelled of earth and cold stone, which, of course, is what it was, and very solid, as if it had been there since the beginning of time and would continue to stand until the very end of it. We really couldn’t fathom how it came to be, yet it was there, of all places. Here we would go to light some smokes during the day and have some privacy later in the evenings, even during the cooler night, adding a fire or a candle. And I still don’t know how it had formed, but it was our home close to home.

So it was that we developed an interest in finding more semi-secret places in which we could hang out in peace and read and play or whatever. We knew they wouldn’t be as easily discovered, nor so fortunately located as the ones found so far, such as this magical domed cavern that was right under our noses and our feet.

Meanwhile, we read Longfellow, as that was the name of one of the other Oak Park elementary schools, especially a poem about a leaf falling and fluttering, for which we tried various voices, as well as Whittier, another school’s name, and Hemingway, who had even lived here, as we explored Oak Park and its namesakes. How on Earth can one live happily and harmlessly in the world as-it-is with people as-they-are whilst one nurses malice and sorrow in one’s bosom?

We sat on her porch in the rain one day. We were in a fortunate solar system near the edge of the Milky Way, out on a spiral arm, on the third planet, wherein the ongoing curves of life had blessed us, for we lived in a civilized time, standing upon the shoulders of all those who had paved the way during millions and billions of years into the present, in the summer’s warmth that was flooding into us two who were so happy to be alive, as lovers and poets seem to know all too well.

We were sitting on an outdoor couch on the open fronted porch with the beautiful and heavy rain pouring down all around us and sending a few refreshing droplets spraying our way every so often.

We smelled and inhaled the delicious moist air, as its sensuousness enveloped us, enjoying the sounds of the drenching that was so nearby and the gurgling sounds of the water coming down through the house gutters. We drew a blanket over us as it got a bit cooler. Snug was the word for it. We were the field that was beyond right- and wrong-doing. We made plans to search the world locally first.

We toured the areas around the schools of Emerson, Irving, Hatch, and Beyes, and then returned to Longfellow and its park, at which we met another social group of hanger-outers, as some we knew from high school, who gave us the idea of following some rivers, of which Oak Park had none.

5.

We mulled it over in the meanwhile. Most of the parks were too open to contain any more hidden places, but for a few benches only made so semi-secret by the night and the overhanging trees, especially in Maple Park. (I just now looked on Google street level view and found that those benches and their nooks were no more.)

One end of Maple Park had a large fenced-in garden of secluded wonders that we found by climbing the fence to sneak in. There were vines upon vines about and upon the old and shuttered caretaker’s hut from the 1800s, and so it was here that we often lived, too, as like time travelers in a time capsule, being careful not to disturb anything. We stayed as late as we could, each time, noting more and more artifacts, for the guy had been quite a collector.

(This garden, too, and its hut, is gone now, as confirmed by Google.)

Ridgeland Avenue was said to be named after a ridge that was once a shoreline, and so we dug a bit into the ground of Rehm Park and found sand, and so it went.

The entire village of Oak Park lies on the shore of ancient Lake Chicago, which covered most of the city of Chicago during the last Ice Age and is today called Lake Michigan. Ridgeland Avenue in eastern Oak Park marks the shoreline of the old lake, and was once an actual ridge. One of North America’s four continental divides runs through Oak Park. This divide, a slight rise running north-south through the village, separates the St. Lawrence River watershed from the Mississippi River watershed, and is marked by a plaque on Lake Street at Forest Avenue. — Wiki

Then there was the famed and feared Peabody’s Tomb, but the night and its built-in fears can be conquered, so we found ourselves at the site late one evening. It was quite an expensive monument, there being at least six stone nymphs pouring water into a clear pool that reflected the moonlight. Life is indeed full of delicious sights and senses.

We soon obtained a map of the county, looking into the more outlying and undeveloped areas, and then rented a boat to explore the DesPlaines River, finding beaches, shores, and coves that were not accessible by land. We would try for the best ones, in the weeks to come, via land, as a challenge. Old Illinois was at hand, some of it as intact as when the Indians were around, and we ever rechristened those nooks with love.

The DesPlaines River had taken us through a gigantic cemetery that served all the outlying areas and some of Chicago too, and then through a golf course and a large forest preserve. The cemetery was ever where the ducks were fed, where we lovers feasted on wine, verse, and bread amidst the flowered trees and quiet streams—the home for both the living and the dead.

One day we took 12th street / Roosevelt Road, which was once called ‘The Lincoln Highway’, all the way out to Galena, and then to the Mississippi River, and crossed it, into Iowa.  We were in ‘Driftless’, meaning the place where the glacial drift hadn’t reached, and it was full of caves, gorges, and deeply carved rivers.

6.

Way back, in my freshman high school biology class, we had a revised textbook that was so new that it was paperback-bound. It told us how natural selection explained the mysteries of evolution, and of the variety of life, which continuum extended from animals to us. It seems that ‘we’ were once a lucky shrew, at first nervous and darting all about, until the dinosaurs died off, and then we mammals attached to a favorable evolutionary line in which every single one of our forbears on both sides was attractive enough to locate a loving mate, as had we now each other, being born in a civilized time, and now free to roam in a democratic country. Yes, asteroids, volcanic eruptions, or a virus had swept away most of the species millions of years ago, but later on, two monkey chromosomes had fused, leaving the other chimps behind, DNA/RNA ever remembering all the survivors. Good fortune had smiled on Homo Sapiens.

Of what stars did we shine of their stead? Across what ink black river did we have to swim? To what ends at length did we search for food? In what deep entangled forest were we bred?

All this and more we talked about and relived during our travels. William Smith had noted a correlation in fossils in rocks to find the relative rock ages that were possible. At every change in rock strata, certain fossils vanished, while in others they carried on into subsequent levels. What a glorious history we stood upon.

School began. Now she was a junior and I a senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School A tunnel ran under the land to the fieldhouse gym.

Our High School was a massive four story building, it serving for both Oak Park and River Forest. No wonder I had hardly seen Cheryl there before, but now she was ever-present, as a glowing spark.

In our high school here was a large and long tunnel going down some steps, and underground, over to the field-house for physical education, so that the students could avoid the weather, and eagle-eyed Cheryl had noted an unused door on the school side, just to the left of where the tunnel steps began. The room looked to be small, but we couldn’t really see into it through the frosted glass on its door. We went around outside to look through its shade-drawn window, seeing not very much, but noting some outlines of desks through a tiny hole in the shade. Perhaps most of the classroom had been sacrificed to the creation of the tunnel entrance, yet about a third of it seemed to remain.

We kept an eye on it for weeks but no one ever opened its locked door, not even janitors during, before, or after school. This we knew all the more since we had put a thread across the door at its frame, up above, it not having been disturbed.

So, it and its door had become long forgotten, its entrance even sitting there in plain sight, but not even having a number on it or above it. The door looked ancient, it no longer matching those of the other classrooms. A new secret place for us?

We each had an honor study hall during the same period, which meant that we didn’t have to be in it, and so we could be in the halls after the bell rang, presumably on the way to the library or the labs. The old door latch of the neglected room easily succumbed to the old technology of being undone by a thin piece of metal. We could get in unseen, but how could we get back out unobserved?

The ambient light coming through the window shade was enough to show the severed room in its remainder to be still in the state as it had been left in its use very long ago. We quickly shut the door, going off to the library to figure out our next move.

We decided that it would be best to try to exit the room when the hallway was crowded, rather than when classes were in session, thus not risking being seen by a hall monitor walking by and chancing upon us. We went in for a real good look the next day. It was an educational tomb, covered with dust, and was much more interesting than Peabody’s Tomb.

Shock! A calendar left hanging on the wall said that the year was 1937. The vase-like wastebasket full of crumpled sheets of paper had not even been emptied, and all of the dust was unmarked. There was writing on the blackboard: the news of the 30s. A shelf contained old books, some of which were probably valuable, so we made a list of them for Cheryl’s mother to analyze. I can’t say anything else, however amazing it would be, for I promised to keep it a secret. It is so astounding that you wouldn’t believe it anyway.

7.

My next high school English Class essay:

On Adventure

Boredom and dull routine have little place, if any, in a life, and it is only by one’s own laziness that they are allowed to exist at all, languishing nearby on the doorstep, as it were, as uninvited guests, as all the while terrible complaints are hurled against them.

‘I’m bored’, some say, halfheartedly hoping that some new entertainment will appear out of the blue and carry them away from a dreary commonplace existence, perhaps into a fairy tale. So, adventure calls constantly to us as a cure for the blahs, for routine dulls the senses—even the greatest music soon begins to fall unheard on our ears, and gradually degenerates into that same old song. 

Although breaking the chains of routine often requires a burst of energy, adventure can become self-sustaining once the seeds have been planted. Yes, initially, some hard work must be applied, since adventuring is not every-day free and easy in this world, but remember, that before all realized realities must come the dream, the creative vision, the attitude and the outlook that will bring adventure into one’s life.

Even before the dream comes the yearning, though perhaps dim at first, glowing as a faint phantasm in a fleeting daydream struggling to maintain its shape before it fades into the noise of day. As these shadows pass over the adventurous mind, the vision must be enhanced and then steadily pursued until it at last becomes three-dimensional and real. We often look back later, quite amazed at the wonders that we have wrought, but we had the vision and gave it life. 

Daydreams are filled with thoughts on promenade: Wishes, fantasies o’er the mind cascade. Listen well to these plans already made, for by sundown the phantom shapes may fade. 

The rewards of adventure are many; stimulation, experience, and growth are practical results, but foremost comes joy, exhilaration, and thrill—the feeling of being alive. Who has not known the adventure of walking to school alongside a stream, dallying here and there, then crossing over the water on a log, nearly slipping off, but catching one’s self at the last instant while skipping a heartbeat? Who has not known the electricity of the first kiss at summer camp? Or of the reading or writing of a great poem or story while basking warm and cozy in the winter sunshine? Or the thrill of a job well done?

If we no longer know such things then perhaps now is the time to stop worrying about getting our hair messed up. 

It’s all a matter of style, purpose, and vision. To plant the seeds of adventure one must seek out the uncommon, the unusual situation, the exotic, even in one’s own backyard, looking for the odd character, although certainly not those who are unhealthy, the pleasantly eccentric (by today’s staid standards), the person willing to try just about anything that isn’t illegal, the offbeat but upbeat person, the optimist, the exciting prospect, the person with those excitingly wonderful qualities. 

And so it is that once you find it, adventure begets more adventure, for ideas from all over soon begin to interact and build, until a person rises above mere existence and really lives! Oh, there can be dreams of far-off adventures, from romance in the south seas to mysterious intrigue in the villages of France, but travel and romance are only a general means to adventure. There are many more, mostly personal, for it depends on what you want from life. Adventure can be had right here in one’s own town.

Of course some adventures entail a minor amount of risk-taking and rule breaking, for that which is often uncommon is often the most extraordinary and therefore may draw undue attention from those of the straighter world, but, I ask you, does not the element of danger often greatly heighten the excitement? Who has not, in the throes of spring fever, slyly disappeared from his school or place of employment on some exciting romantic mission, and found adventure in that ‘forbidden’ quest? 

Yes, adventure is lived in that delightful middle state in which one is neither drunk nor sober—nor ever reckless, but ever balancing excitement with responsibility, each paying for the other as we walk the thin line between foolishness and safety—the log across the creek. 

So I say to you all, prime the pump; seek out adventure, embrace it. Use your emotions, get up out of your chair and into the arena; open up and invite adventure in, give it, take it; live life with a reasonable passion and with a passionate reason, for adventure will become a living situation that becomes automatic! Then you will say “I’m excited, there’s everything to do in this town, the people are mostly wonderful, and I marvel at life’s wonders each and every day!”

8.

The next day, we found something in the old and secret classroom from 1937. There was a shelf with some old rocks and bones, and we had found this in the wastebasket vase of the old classroom.

This part was typed:

Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, is also the patron saint of arsonists. As Christianity slowly strangled the life out of classical culture in the fourth century it became more and more difficult to be a pagan. There stood in Alexandria the great temple of Serapis called the Serapeum and attached to it was the Great Library of Alexandria where all the wisdom of the ancients was preserved. Now Theophilus knew that as long as this knowledge existed people would be less inclined to believe the bible so he set about destroying the pagan temples. But the Serapeum was a huge structure, high on a mound and beyond the abilities of the raging Christian fanatics to assault.

Faced with this edifice, the Patriarch sent word to Rome. There the Emperor Theodosius the Great, who had ordered that paganism be annihilated, gave his permission for the destruction of the Serapeum.

Realising they had no chance, the priests and priestesses fled their temple and the mob moved in. The vast structure was razed to it foundations and the scrolls from the library were burnt in huge pyres in the streets of Alexandria.

This part was handwritten:

However, this was foreseen by the curator, and a good portion of the books and art were secreted out of Egypt, and even out of the known world in 391 A.D.

58 days… treasure safely stashed… 7 hills…

Big river… barbarians appeared… all soldiers lost… all ships but one burned… escape… 

Storms… repairs on sandy shores with dwarf pines… driven northward… cold… frozen… 

The end is near…

The teacher who had written the above had also traced a coin onto paper by rubbing a pencil on it. The coin itself was gone.

When we’d met, some months ago, the music of the night had been in the breeze, a prelude borne by airy musicians of the trees—the mating calls of the birds, those that had opened for the cosmic symphony. And mighty Zeus had been there, full to the brim with the jollity of the fat man’s belly. By Jove, came Saturnus, so very gray with age—lumbering into the party. That summer, the sun had filed the waking and breathing world with the fire of her imagination.

I read,

Fresh winds made love to the blossoms of May, as the spring flowers reached for the light of day. Drinking deep droughts of life’s sunny delight, the fields had burst with the joy of love’s bouquet.

And added,

Spring had kissed the earth, leaving flowers there, like those whose perfume first scented virgin air, as again, the fragrant glen, in Heaven’s prayer, had hailed Earth’s anniversary with flowers fair.

And now the season was leading to autumn. In a month, the chrysanthemums would drink the mellow day as the falling petals carried the light away. The autumn fog would enswirl, and that mist would upcurl. Into the nothingness of winter the wisp would slowly unfurl.

9.

“Today we will work on incomplete thinking,” said my martial arts instructor.

“Suppose you go to an assassin’s house to wait for him to return so you can do him in, but you are running late and can’t find a parking spot, so you park in front of a fire hydrant. Then what?”

“Hope for the best?” one student responded.

“That could turn out for the worse,” replied the instructor, “for it will look odd, and the target will note it, plus he may even feel the hood and find that the engine is still warm. Besides, your car is not one that is of the neighborhood. The assassin may then even sneak up on your associate, who is watching the house from the outside while you are in it, and take him out. All this from bad parking planning.”

“Park far away and walk?” asked another student, “even if we we’re running late?”

“Now you’re getting it. And don’t be late.”

“Ah, yes.”

“And don’t wait at their house; it could have sensors or be booby-trapped.”

“OK.”

“Good, now, another quandary. Suppose you and your associates are protecting someone from attack in a hotel room. How do you deploy?”

“We would have people in the room, plus in the two adjacent rooms and also those across the hall.”

“That’s all?”

“That should be enough.”

“You have become a victim of incomplete thinking, “answered the instructor.”

“We’d also have people outside and in the building across the street in case they were going to shoot through the window.”

“That’s good, but is that all?”

“Should be.”

“The thinking is still incomplete, for it is only two dimensional.”

“How so?”

“The attackers could rent a room beneath or above and shoot through the floor or the ceiling.”

“Uh, oh.”

“Yes, and what would be even better, as a fourth dimensional answer?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have the person just be a decoy, keeping the actual person to be protected somewhere else. Then you can capture the attackers without any other worries.”

“Wow, these are tough.”

10.

In these days, on the houses’ steps still rested newspapers and the sturdy rounded bottles of milk, compliments of Elsie the cow, truly a vision from the grazings of childhood, in which we were now teenagers.

This was existence over essence. As we adventured along, we told the tales of the joyous forest to the birds, who soon carried them aloft, thence back into human ears again: the songs of streams flowing freely, and stories of a glowing sky. The birds were as a species never deeply known but seemed to share a special closeness with us—which we knew and felt and saw as kinship.

Our senses were heightened: touch went deeper; our eyes saw colors beyond the spectrum; we reached into living things, knowing them, And the odours called, mixed with emotion. All things we felt continuously now, as in other time some knew only in rare moments of ecstasy when melded happenings had lifted them heavenward.

Our ambition’s mist drifted upward each morning, outlining daydreams, although still forming, but rising still into the clear sunlight, and taking shape, sculpting clouds, then sailing, as we were on and ever on. There were country roads, quaint inns, and dilapidated barns. We danced the song of evening bells rung, in a twilight zone in nowhere’s middle.

We began to study the history of libraries, and especially with Cheryl’s mother, she being a big help, for she was an academic, and also my English Literature teacher, as noted.

The Great Library and Museum of Alexandria was the chief wonder of the ancient world, containing an incredible mass of literature, art and knowledge, from the complete works of Homer and the golden coffin of Alexander the Great to priceless charts of lost gold, mineral and oil deposits that could change the balance of power in the world today…

The loss of the library, burned in 391 A.D., has been considered by scholars one of the world’s great tragedies.

We pondered all this during our travels.

“How could some old high school teacher have know that some treasures were taken out of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and hidden somewhere?”

“Because he found an old coin.”

“Or someone else did that he knew.”

“We’ll have to get the tracing looked up in a coin catalog.”

“There’s a coin shop on Lake Street.”

“And he never came back to his office for any of his things, such as the books, rocks, and bones.”

“True, and the tunnel that carved away most of his classroom was built in the summer of ’37.”

“Maybe the janitors thought he would return in the fall and so they left the remains of his room alone.”

“Indeed, but he had somewhere better to go, plus his his room wasn’t really usable, and one ever worried about his room again.”

“They didn’t even use it as a broom closet or anything.”

“No, and there is a broom closet across the hall, so they didn’t need to.”

“Yet he left some clues on a paper in his wastebasket.”

“Somehow it never got emptied, as he had expected it to be. Looks like those last note fragments were from a ship’s log.”

“Yes, but why didn’t he come back?”

“Either he couldn’t come back or he found what he was looking for and lived happily ever after somewhere.”

“His name and address is still on the blackboard.”

“302 Lombard, not far from the school.”

Of all the lost treasures of the world, the systematic and wanton devastation of the greatest sanctuary of knowledge in the ancient world, the Alexandrian Library, is the most stupendous of losses. The destruction of the world’s great libraries has been commonplace through history; the great collections of Thebes, Nineveh, Baghdad, and Louvain were all destroyed, but none of these libraries can compare to the myth and legend surrounding the library and museum that was the jewel of the sophisticated culture of ancient Alexandria, Egypt.

Legend tells us Alexandria contained a library and museum that eventually held every great work of literature in the world. Every great literary work of the Greeks was there, as well as other collections of Roman, Jewish, and Arabian scholars. What became of all these treasures has been the collective wonderment of historical detectives for centuries.

Aristotle, Plato’s brilliant student and eventual tutor of Macedonia’s Alexander the Great, was one of the first scholars to collect and preserve the written word. Aristotle’s collection included versions of Homer that were certainly different than what we know today. Aristotle bequeathed his collection to a favorite student who subsequently left the library to a relative (Nelius of Serpris).

It is believed that Nelius eventually sold part of his collection to Ptolemy who was responsible for starting the Alexandrian Library.

11.

We found the teacher’s house, on Lombard Avenue. It was long shuttered, and in great disrepair, with paint peeling off.

“Dare we enter?”

“Might as well.”

The porch door pretty much just fell off in our hands.

There was nothing interesting in there at all. Just furniture, and for two pictures on the wall in what may have once been the teacher’s study. Scribbled on the wall between the two pictures were the words ‘Fire and Ice’.

“Who the heck keeps a picture of Newfoundland and Texas on their wall?”

“Well, he was a geography/geology teacher, which can involve landforms and archeology. The map show the topography of those places.”

“This place is a dead end.”

“Seems to be.” I looked in the phone book and there was a lady on the next block who had the same last name as the teacher.

We walked over and inquired. She was the teacher’s sister, who immediately put us at another dead end by saying that she hadn’t heard from her brother for near thirty years.

Furthermore, there were no more living relatives.

“He has vanished,” she told us. We left.

Outside, Cheryl suggested, “Perhaps he’s taking all these years to decode the logs or the scrolls that he came by.”

When Alexander died there was tremendous in-fighting among his confederates as to who would rule his domain. Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals and reputedly a half brother, seized control of a large part of Egypt, which included Alexandria. Ptolemy became the most successful of Alexander’s successors.

Alexander the Great, son of Phillip II and Olympias, inherited the crown of Macedonia at the age of twenty when his father was assassinated in 336 B.C. Until his death in India of malaria in 324 B.C., he conquered most of the known world in and around the Mediterranean and spread Hellenistic culture into Asia, Persia, and Egypt. His astounding accomplishment in just twelve years – though at a tremendous cost of human life – left a mythical aura around his name. In 332 B.C., he established Alexandria, which became Egypt’s largest city for 2000 years.

Alexander was embalmed by eastern masters, swathed in malleable plates of gold to fit the contour of the body, and set in a golden casket that was paraded through his kingdom behind sixty-four gold-bedecked mules. For months the funeral procession journeyed from Babylon through Mesopotamia, over Syria, to Damascus and was eventually to end at Aegae, Macedonia where Alexander would be placed with other royalty. Ptolemy realized what a great political coup it would be to have the remains of the great king in Alexandria. He took an army to the procession and persuaded the leader to allow him to perform the last rites. While Alexander rested in Memphis, Ptolemy built an impressive mausoleum in Alexandria made of the rarest Greek and Egyptian marbles. This became Alexander’s final resting place that lasted three centuries. In 89 B.C., Ptolemy IX, in a great need of money to continue his reign over Alexandria, had the gold sarcophagus melted into coin. The sarcophagus was housed in colored glass and eventually disappeared completely in the centuries that followed.

Ptolemy went about creating the most comprehensive library known in the ancient world. The organization of the library was trusted to Demetrius Phalereus, who was familiar with the library at Athens.

Ptolemy went about purchasing scrolls and copying those he could not purchase. His goal was to accumulate all of the known literary works of the world, which was an estimated 500,000 scrolls. Ptolemy ordered that all books on ships that called on Alexandria were to be copied; copies were returned to the ships and the originals were confiscated and stored in the library.

12.

Meanwhile, we traded poems and sayings:

“A complete life sparkles like a diamond. Each facet of the diamond contributes its view of the world and adds to the lustrous effect.”

“Friends and interests are the shimmering glints and gleams of reality’s sparkle.”

“Each face of the diamond enriches the view of the other faces.”

“All of the facets reflect off each other, combining and then building into the overall brilliance of life.”

“Which makes you a more rounded person.”

“Which in turn adds to the luster of your individual pursuits.”

“Which therefore makes the diamond even brighter still, and so forth, and so forth—it is self perpetuating, and of infinite growth.”

We had gotten the coin tracing identified. It was circa 400 A.D.!

I noted, “Yes, the teacher had a ship’s log, which means he might also have had the remains of the ship.”

“Ship logs could last that long?”

“They were carved into tablets in those days, for protection at sea, over frail papyrus.”

“A 58 day voyage. Now that is really far.”

“It could have been slowed by weather?”

“Maybe, but why would they want to go such a long way from Egypt?”

“They had to go very far or someone would find them.”

“And the notes say they stashed the treasures that must have been the cream of the Library of Alexandria, and then were beset by barbarians, at some unknown point, only one ship surviving to escape.”

“Maybe to a very cold place, where they met their end.”

“Or not, but maybe on a ship somehow preserved there for 1600 years, in the ice perhaps.”

“Greenland or Iceland or Siberia?”

“Iceland was populated. The ship would have been noted. Greenland was and is still pretty empty, but they may have stopped there. Siberia is hard to get to.”

“Now how would they even get as far as Greenland?”

“I don’t know, but the teacher had a picture of Newfoundland on his wall in his study, the next stop after Greenland and Iceland”

“That he did. Let us go back and take a closer look.”

Her rose was the flower that the bee ever cruised, meeting there the butterfly that love chooses. The bee unfolded the petals of the blossom, then drank the nectar of love’s sweet juices.

We flowed along, immersed in the romantic afterglow, the water sinking into the sands, half drying before wetting again—the moisture rising up into the air.

We were fully immersed in love’s boundless dream, floating in peace on beauty’s quiet stream. Truth was clearly seen—it was so bright and right, for purity’s goodness swelled each sparkling gleam.

Awash on the love-made shore, we overcame our senses, leaving them behind, unclaimed, as we floated free, quenched in a sunset sea, basking in reflections of the scarlet flame. As ghostly phantoms—specters with human powers known from myth, we lay, awash, on some distant shore, our senses shining forevermore.

Our blood ran warm with the sun’s heat at noon, and at night our spirits swept by the swelling moon. Air surrounds us and the ocean flowed through us. Earth’s rhythm was always playing our tune.

Minutes, hours, and days do ever sequence the whole, as month after month seasons the year all tolled. Youth, prime, and old-age actualize a life, and generations bridge the centuries old. Castle builders laid stones across the sky and dream merchants gave gifts of unreality; mirages sprang to life at slightest touch; the impossible became our reality.

By the third century A.D., Alexandria had become a cosmopolitan population with conflicting philosophies and religions that eventually turned the city’s cultural melting pot into a boiling cauldron of civil dissent. Under the rule of Aurelian (272) and Diocletius (296) the library suffered several destructive assaults. Areas that contained scientific, alchemy, and other pseudo-science texts were burned but much of the rest of the library remained intact.

In 391 A.D. the last great director of the library fell out of favor with the Christian Bishop of Alexandria, Theophilos. It is believed that Theophilos considered the library a hotbed of paganism and convinced the Emperor Theodosius, also a Christian, to burn the library. It is not known how much of the collection was destroyed due to the fact that the library was stored in several buildings.

There are reports that only one building was destroyed, and the main collection stored in the Library of the Serpeum survived. After all of these disasters the Alexandriana scholar Parsons wrote in his book The Alexandrian Library, ” . . . if there is one outstanding characteristic of the library . . . it is its genius in surviving destruction.” 

Throughout the entire history of the library, scholars have found conflicting stories as to how much of the library was destroyed during each assault. Only one thing is certain as of today – it has completely vanished.

13.

“Could it be that something remains of the contents of the great library?” she wondered, as we went back to look at the pictures in the teacher’s house again.

“Yes, the library’s curator, a scholar with the gift of action, spirits its treasures away. With a company of Roman mercenaries, a small army of slaves, and a fleet of ships, he transports the priceless treasures of the ancients across an unknown sea to a barren land, where they are hidden in caverns tunneled by the slaves, only to see his company slaughtered by a horde of barbarians, except for the crew of one small merchant ship that manages to escape…”

We found nothing on the first picture, no pencil marks, nothing, nor on the other picture.

“And they made repairs in a land that had dwarf pines.”

“And this was somewhere between where they’d first stashed the treasures and the cold place where they ended up dead.”

“Fire and Ice.”

“The treasures were buried in Texas. That was the other picture on the wall.”

“There are dwarf pines on the Jersey Shore. I’ve heard about them. That was only part way though.”

“Perhaps nor’easters swept them too far north to recover.”

“Sailing was rudimentary in those days, with little tacking, for example”

“So, this library/museum curator sailed a fleet to America in 391 A.D.?”

“Why not, for what other place would be safe?”

“A risky voyage. But no one knew of the new world back then!”

“True, but it’s still amazing what knowledge would have been in that library!”

“The barbarians who wiped them out were American Indians!”

“Which happened after the treasures were stashed. They were heading back home.”

“But we have no idea where to look in Texas.”

“Big river.”

“The Rio Grande.”

Ptolemy founded a massive museum and library from scratch. The inventory became monumental. His descendants, through Cleopatra, and later successors all continued to acquire manuscripts and art objects until the museum, and especially the library, became one of the largest storehouses of art, science and literature that has ever existed.

This vast collection of knowledge lasted until A.D. 391. In that year, Emperor Theodosius and the patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilos, who was a religious nut case, decided all reference to anything except newly fanned Christian principles was paganism. They masterminded the destruction of the library’s contents. Statues, fabulous works of art in marble, bronze, gold and ivory, incredible paintings and tapestries, countless numbers of books inscribed on lambskin or papyrus scrolls, even Alexander’s corpse: all were to be smashed into dust or burned to ashes. 

Researchers and scholars pretty much had the run of the place to examine, catalog, translate and edit, and to publish their findings. You see, the Library and its adjoining museum went far beyond being mere depositories. Their halls launched the true science of creative scholarship. The Library became the first true reference library, as we think of today, where books were systematically catalogued. In fact the complex was known as the Place of the Muses.

Later empires and nations owe a staggering debt to the Alexandria Library. Few institutions of knowledge have produced so much. Pliny, a celebrated Roman of the first century A.D., invented and wrote the world’s first encyclopedia.

Aristophanes, head of the Library two hundred years before Christ, was the father of the dictionary.

Callimachus, a famous writer and authority on Greek tragedy, compiled the earliest Who’s Who. The great mathematician Euclid devised the first known textbook on geometry. Dionysius organized grammar into a coherent system and published his ‘Art of Grammar,’ which became the model text for all languages, written and spoken. These men, and thousands of others, labored and produced their epoch achievements while working at the Library.

“This is describing a university.”

Together the library and museum were considered the university of the Hellenistic world. The immense structures of white marble contained picture galleries, statuary halls, theaters for poetry reading and lectures on everything from astronomy to geology. There were also dormitories, a dining hall, cloisters along colonnades for contemplation, and an animal park and botanical garden. Ten great halls housed different categories of manuscripts and books. Hundreds of thousands of them were handwritten on either papyrus or parchment, and then rolled into scrolls and stored in bronze tubes.

14.

We took several weeks to think it over.

The thirsty sun had raised the morn’s dewdrops, and sculpted a mist, forming clouds of airdrops. Long the world lay dry in afternoon’s beam—till quenching darkness cried forth its tear drops.

We then looked to the Earth as from the night sky. As the sky began to fall, all around, the sequined stars floated down to ground. Oh, it was a crystalline cathedral, built from falling stars in the holy night. Among the lights that danced in the sky, this haven waited for she and I—a world where flowers bloomed and fountains sprayed—we were on it—a paradise called Earth to glorify. Now to those of you who ignore life’s romance: ignorance, like shadow, has no substance. The shade is removed by the light within; feel the rhythm of the universal dance!

Willy-nilly, we went, whence all there is to knowing… Hence thither we went on hither flowing to find that we were truly free to be in body and mind. Quenchless, boundless, ever bright and burning, our minds’ light searched every dark cavern, probing, imagining—its beam alighting upon the Earth or high atop cloud mist. We found that there’s an urge between root and flower, plant and soil, leaf and sun, air and water, day-star and planet, valley and mountain, wind and mist, man and woman—for ever.

We heard woodlands that once only whispered, meadows where there was once but a murmur, and prairies and grasslands, unhushed, full of wondrous sounds—the music from near beyond the human range. Like living lenses, we mirrored our love, in feedback loops—images spiraling above, echoing as infinite reflections that filled up the scene, for that’s what love’s made of!

“We’re stumped again.”

“Yes, stumped and more stumped.”

“Let’s go back and take those pictures of Newfoundland and Texas and analyze them some more.”

“Somehow, those pictures have the answer on them.”

We went there and folded them up and took them with us on our travels on some extended weekends.

A 120-volume catalog of the contents of the library was written by Callimachus, but nothing of the catalog has survived. It is estimated that the total accumulation swelled to 400,000 to 700,000 at the time of Julius Caesar’s infamous arrival in 48 B.C. These works included every major work of the ancient Greeks.

It was also the home of great sculpture and the workplace of distinguished scholars like Aristophanes of Byzantium and Apollinius of Rhodes.

The complex of rooms for the library and the museum that contained art works was known as the Place of the Muses. In it contained the sacred writings of the Egyptians and Jews, music scores, medicine and science texts, and philosophy. It is believed that the entire works of Sophocles, Euripides, Aristotle, Plato, and Homer were present, though what was lost from these masters is unknown. Claudius wrote a history of the Etruscans, a civilization occupying northeast Italy from 8th to 1st century of which we know very little at present. Pliny wrote the world’s first encyclopedia from sources in the library during the first century A.D.; Euclid wrote the first textbook on geometry; Dionysius wrote Art of Grammar, which became a model for much of the world’s grammarian ordinances. The last curator of the library, wrote over a hundred books covering two thousand years of the world’s known history to that time (350 A.D. ?).

We wrote and wrote, meanwhile.

And some I know, deeply and humbly see that our species and the rest have no special and designed place here in this entangled forest. As for we, we cherished every moment of existence blessed.

Starlight was the origin of our being, the source of matter, energy—everything after. Permanent, reassuring, unquenchable—it’s our radiant soul—a self-winding mainspring. 

Men and women can’t exist in isolation, for, like valleys that give rise to mountains, the nature of one makes necessary the other—when they’re joined in love, there’s wholeness again.

The spirit flows from moment to moment, connecting and savoring life’s events, drinking-in the sounds, currents, textures, scents, and subtle delights—creating a being that is self-content.

Never struggle against the way things are, but rather, become the way that things are. When you give yourself to the moving whole, natural currents can carry you quite far. Breathe in all that’s good, breathe out all that’s bad; peace flows into you—it’s warm, wet, and glad. Feel it spread throughout your body, and then say, “This is the best life that I’ve ever had!”

“Holy smokes, there’s a city in Texas on the Rio Grande named ‘Roma’.”

“Perhaps it has seven hills, and the treasures.”

“And is ever in the middle of drug trafficking, for there is a bridge to Mexico there.”

“We’ll be safe. The danger is on the Mexican side.”

“Could a ship sail up the Rio Grande to there?”

“No, not now, for it is too shallow, most of the river having been siphoned off by many other towns, but back then it would have been much deeper.”

“I’m ready to go if you are.”

14.

We revolve, rotate, turn, and go round the sun; we whirl, gyrate, and circle our most loving one. So thus we wheel, twist and turn, twirl and sing, ever swinging, swiveling, pirouetting, and pivoting. Time on its lovely stream brings all sweet things to us, for time’s the drink that quenches human thirst. Water of life—we drink time, it drinks us! Time on its stream bears all sweet things from us. Yet it is always now and that’s where life is found.

Time, always gray with age, ever hurled its changes ‘gainst nature’s rock, time and time again. Reminiscence weathered, but could ne’er wither; in those mists of time, yesteryear yet appeared. So it is that about every thousand years the Bird of Time flies over a mountain. A feather falls. When the mountain has worn itself away, the end of forever has thus arrived, that day.

Where came it all? Whatever is eternal and is so well defined, could never be as so, for it was never defined in the first place, for that there never was, to define all that it forever did and does. Yes, our mental fabric quilted truths have long been sewn, by evolution that wove and woofed the known. At first we admire but a few strands unknown, but then we blend the weave and weft to all its beauty shown.

Roma, Texas

We had regained the summer weather by taking a road trip to Roma, Texas.

Indeed, some of the buildings and gas stations had a Roman motif, some selling faux items from that period. Someone must have found some stray objects long ago.

We traveled out to the hills, noting one that had a road leading to an excavation in it, which had happened long ago from the looks of it, most of it washed by blowing sand that had settled everywhere.

We looked in. It was empty. We walked to the far wall of the cavern, checking it and the ground with a flashlight.

“There are still some indentations in the ground here, where the footsteps would have been few.”

“They look like bases of…”

“…sculptures.”

“The great library lives on…”

“…somewhere.”

“We are too late.”

“Yes, probably 25 years too late.”

We returned to Illinois.

Autumn had well since arrived and gone on, but it was a long one. The rustling of the trees came to our ears, in this, the most mellow time of year. The harvest brings fulfillment, yearning, too, for autumn is both a smile and a tear.

Riverside, we raised our cups to the zephyr: a diamond wealth sparkled upon the water, seen, gleaming, through rosé-colored glasses, as we relaxed on the noon thereafter. A fish swam in the reflected sky; sunset’s image had burned the water dry. I looked in the pond, but saw her face, for we had merged in love, she and I.

Over there, the blinding luminosity of Sunflowers, as now. We dried the seeds and ate them, each still a glowing ember of memory of the bright days among a thousand suns.

Evening songs had tucked in the planetary paramours, and Jupiter and Venus had pulled the cover of night up and over their bed. Then sunk the crescent, sideways into the sea. With sparks from passion’s smoldering embers, we reignited all that our love remembered, then steamed through emotion’s ocean, in the Relation Ship—of which we were the crew members.

Cheryl pondered, “The treasures and scrolls of the ancient world are still being decoded somewhere by that old high school teacher.”

“A whole ship’s worth—the one that escaped?”

“No, probably not, but he may have some of it.”

“He brought them to Illinois from Texas.”

“That he did.”

“They are in the ‘Driftless’ area.”

“But we’ll never find them.”

“True, we probably won’t. It’s a large area that touches several states, although the Illinois portion is the smallest.

“He would have been partial to Illinois, to it’s caves and caverns especially.”

“But it’s large enough. Too much to search.”

“But it is enough for us that we know that some of the treasures from the great library survived.”

“Yes, and there will be revelations one day.”

“And then we will know where to look.”

“We could have your mother check with some historians in case anything has already popped up.”

“Actually, I did, some time ago, but she’s heard nothing back yet.”

“It was still fun, though.”

“Yeah, the best, and all because we liked secret places.”

15.

Oh never did I hear a sound so sweet as when she moaned like a panther in heat. She took me on a wild jungle ride, then purred like a pussycat at my feet. We kissed at the boundary of day and night, our-selves merging in the blend of twilight: She and me, me and her; hers, mine, and ours—as the day-gold melted into the jeweled night. Kissing on the rocks, down by the riverside, our rhythm rippled the water, raised the tide, rang ship’s bells, danced lights across sea and sky—all vibrations from hearts that were satisfied. Where might we be? We are astride the duality of the yin and the yang.

Winter had come and was going on. Perhaps we could go somewhere over the break. If only we knew where the cream of that great library was. Well, we could only scan the news for some related revelation.

We were in the crystal-caverned dome at Carroll playground, camping out, having brought a small gas heater, placing it outside the entrance but blowing in. We stepped outside later.

The Earth’s day-star had set, the twilight dusk putting it to rest. Even if one had never seen the night sky, one could infer the existence of many distant suns shining far away as stars in the black velvet.

There was no moon and we were away from the Chicago city lights and so we could see thousands of the glittering jewels of various colors. If these gems had been diamonds on our carpet, we would have been rich. Arcturus was orange, Betelgeuse red, and Sirius blue, with a green companion. We could also deduce the planets of those solar systems. Such can things be foretold from existence.

A misty wide and white highway crossing the night sky was the Milky Way galaxy, seen edge on, and we could also see the Andromeda galaxy through our binoculars. It was no great shakes to intuit many more.

It turns out that in every dark patch sky no larger than a grain of sand that there are over 10,000 galaxies. The universe was surely much larger than it needed to be.

If this universe was here at this time in this place as from an inflating bang, then surely there could be more, making for the extrapolation of an endless Cosmos. There was truly much more out there than there needed to be.

So it is that we surmise, reason, interpret, gather, understand, presume, and assume that there are countless numbers of stars and planets out there, as well as endless numbers of universes. What the heck is going on? Why so many? They were perhaps even near infinite, whatever that means. Why is it so overdone?

Well, infinite largeness is so vast because the infinitesimal is so small, but that’s not the direct reason, but more like a reason to a reason, which is that Totality would not be as such if it were limited in extent—and from that line of thought we also know that it cannot be limited by duration. Eternity must accord with infinity.

Yet, there is nothing and nowhere for this everything to have come from, so now we understand that nothing and everything must complete the package begun by the figuring in of infinity and eternity. It is the ultimate reckoning.

Everything happens everywhere forever from nothing.

16.

Many months had passed and the school year was already into spring. My graduation would soon be at hand. And that was when Cheryl’s mother gave us some news from a historian friend who was another historian.

“My mother got the word that some purported pages of a lost book of Plato’s were anonymously dropped at a historical society two years ago. An attached note said only that more would be revealed every month.”

“How did it go over?”

“They declared it to be a most excellent fraud.”

“Yes, so excellent that it was real.”

“But no more of was ever sent.”

“That’s odd.”

“Not if he died.”

“If he was dying then that may be why he was going to release it.”

“Or he was well and just had second thoughts.”

“Or it is unrelated, but he would have been more than 80 years old. Where was this historical society?”

“Galena, Illinois.”

“What! That is in Driftless!”

“I was trying to build up the suspense.”

The picturesque town of Galena lies in the northwest corner of Illinois where you can find dramatic views of the Mississippi River, lofty geologic precipes, scenic farms as well as historic buildings. It is one of the most unique areas in the state, harboring rare plant species found nowhere else in Illinois. The highest geographical point in the state is in Scales Mound, the next town northeast of Galena, and the darkest area in the state occurs at Apple River Canyon State Park, located in the eastern part of Jo Daviess County. Because northwest Illinois — and also portions of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa — escaped the continential glaciers of the Pleistocene Epoch, it is known as the “Driftless Area.” 

A few interesting facts about the natural wonders here: 

Approximately 271 bird species regularly occur in the Driftless Area of Illinois. This represents almost 90% of the 300 species of birds that regularly occur in the state. Of these 271 species, 138 breed or formerly bred in this area.

The species diversity of the area is due to its geographical location and its topographic complexity. Here several species of birds reach or are near their geographical limits.

Dry cliff communities are found on the bluffs facing the Mississippi River, with the most spectacular examples in Mississippi Palisades State Park where the cliffs rise 280 feet above the floodplain.

There are approximately 1,632 miles of rivers, streams, and shorelines in the Driftless Area of Illinois. The three largest streams are the Plum River, Apple River, and the Galena River.

42% (915 species) of Illinois native flora occurs in the driftless area, an area that comprises only 1.7% of the state’s total land area.

The Driftless Area is one of the most rural areas of the state, so its public land holdings are relatively large and contiguous, helping to reduce the negative effects of fragmentation.

45 species of mammals occur here, representing 78% of the state’s mammal species. The state-threatened river otter and bobcat can be found here. The main breeding population of the river otter in Illinois occupies the backwaters and tributaries of the Mississippi River in Jo Daviess, Carroll, and Whiteside Counties.

The Driftless Area of Illinois supports 89 species of fish, 39 species of mussels, and 9 species of large crustaceans. Eleven amphibian and 25 reptile species occur here, including the state-threatened western hognose snake and the timber rattlesnake.

“I guess we’re going to spend some long weekends in Galena.”

“I guess so.”

“If he lived in Galena, why would he still deliver it to that society there, for chances are someone would connect it to the great library and find him.”

“He was too ill to travel far. And since there were no more of these deliveries, it was all thought to be a hoax then no one pursued it and him.”

“The teacher is dead.”

“His sister might have known of that.”

“Which means that he changed his name.”

“We’re stumped again. So close…”

“Yet so far.”

17.

In Starved Rock Park, we walked the cliffside trail to the rock that was ‘starved’, meaning that it stood all alone. For some humans, being alone could mean that one was in bad company.

Yet, I would hope that one alone would never be lonely since one would still be with their best loving friend. Today we were together alone together, but as soul bridged to soul, standing on the rock of the Illinois river near the Iowa border.

When I was six, I sat on the edge of this cliff, my legs dangling, my mother holding on to me. There are 18 canyons formed by glacial melt water and stream erosion.

Horses took Cheryl and I 8 miles out and back on a sunny autumn day.

Meanwhile, we had found an old and ancient churchyard, a large one that yet yawns to receive the deceased, as it has for 300 years. Real cobwebs stretched across the archway…

Angel statues beckoned us in, but were really just there to carry forth the souls of the dead to the heavens…

An inscription read:

All the world’s wealth can’t extend the power

That drains the cup and withers the flower.

What would be the price of a moment’s breath

Purchased from Death’s hand at this final hour?

For several centuries the library had served as the greatest treasury of learning known to the world and successfully escaped any threats of destruction. What eventually happened to the greatest collection of knowledge and wisdom of the ancient world, as well as the sculpture, and the tomb of Alexandria is unknown, but the beginning of the end most certainly began with Caesar’s arrival in 48 B.C.

There were many reasons for Caesar to visit Alexandria: to collect debts; to gain political prestige with Egypt by settling a dispute over the will of Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy Auletes, which had created friction between Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy; and to enjoy the culture and civilization of the world’s most literate and aesthetic city.

Cleopatra offered Julius Caesar, the present day master of the world, a great gift of hundreds of rare scrolls and art objects from the library and museum. A banquet was scheduled to celebrate agreements to the will. As Cleopatra and her guests reveled, Ptolemy’s general Achillas seized the opportunity to attack the palace with a force of Egyptian soldiers and slaves. Caesar sent for reinforcements, but realized the Egyptian navy would cause the Roman ships difficulty in rescuing him, so he ordered some of his remaining soldiers to sneak into the harbor and throw burning torches onto the Egyptian ships containing the treasures. His gift from Cleopatra was destroyed as were books stored in warehouses along the waterfront, but Caesar escaped with his life. It was estimated that 40,000 books were lost.

We pored over the microfilm of newspaper obituaries at the Galena public library, finding nothing for the first month, and then going into the next one, and the next.

“I think I’ve found it. Just says he was a teacher near Chicago and a geologist, with one sister surviving.”

“It’s under an alias, Augustus Alexander.”

“Holy Christ, that’s him, with a latin Roman first name and the library as his last.”

“The obit is so short, but totally revealing.”

“He suspected that he might die and so he wrote his own obituary, just ahead of time. Maybe that’s all he could put.”

“And he took his secrets to the grave.”

“Maybe.”

We found the remains of his house in Galena. It was scheduled for demolition because it was a run-down eye-sore.

“Where are the treasures?”

“I’m sure we’re standing on them.”

“That’s the only place they would be safe.”

“Let us go inside and root them out.”

“And then donate them to the world’s knowledge.”

“For sure, but we’ll spread it around so it doesn’t get lost again.”

Our hearts skipped a beat when we saw it.

“There’s a scroll wrapped in bronze on his desk.”

“It looks as if it might fall apart if we even took it out.”

“Which is why it is back in its tube.”

We explored the basement with a flashlight.

There was nothing apparent, just a furnace, much empty space, and a coal bin room, which we looked into, finding it musty, with a few inches of coal, a rolled up rug, and a lot of cobwebs everywhere.

We stood dejected, then went out to dinner, hoping it would recharge our brains, we to return later.

18.

The Kid From Hell

From last night’s dinner outing:
We ate at the Pancake House for a change,
Not knowing that it was “Kid’s Night”,
But that was fine—for awhile—
And I will get to that.

There were but kids and their young parents
And a really lot of really old people, as well,
Whom I guess must go all of the time.

I looked at the menu,
Skipping over “Half Baked Chicken”.
Thinking that it would be half raw
And so not as good as a
Baked half chicken,

And, too, bypassed the liver and kidneys.
For who knows what hour of the night
They came in and from where and who.

I ordered a “Farmer’s Omelet”
That had been grown by agriculture.

We began hearing the screeching of a child,
Who was maybe 5-7 years old,
That was much worse than a cat in heat
And more disturbing than
The scratching of a blackboard.

So, we didn’t detach from it
But followed it to its source,
As it grew even louder
Like howls from the depths of Hell.

The mother began to drag the kid out
But he began a sit-down strike halfway,
For which we knew he’d be dead, 
Deader, and deadest.

So he continued to resist getting to his feet,
Flailing away in every direction
And manages to knock
An old guy’s full dinner plate onto the floor.

The old guy was seemingly unfazed
And picked up his food off of the floor
And resumed eating it,

But we could kind of tell 
That he was turning into Satan.

Well, this kid’s mother was
Whacking and whamming the kid
And then the old guy got one in too.

Beautiful silence soon ensued,
With even the laughter quieting down,
Until, a few minutes later,

The mother and child returned
Amid some apprehension,
She ordering a new dinner
For the poor old guy.

The screeching soon began anew
And heard wham, wham again,
But the novelty had
Somewhat worn off

And so our dopamine systems
Didn’t really send out
Any more high alerts
And we had a fine meal.

(But we moved our plates
More toward the center of the table.)

19.

We returned to the house.

“Even the coal is crushed and useless,” she noted.

“But for some whole coals on the sides of the bin.”

“The rug has coal dust on it.”

“Because it was laid over the coals for some reason.”

“And whatever was rolled over it had crushed the coals in the center.”

“Ah, ha. Let us examine the wall at the end of the coal bin.”

After some pressing and pushing the wall folded down, and a light went on, revealing a seemingly endless room. An old sculpture of a black cat greeted us.

And there it was, which was some, but not a large amount. About ten pieces.

I noted, “By the size of this room, I’d say he expected a lot more to be found.”

“Or to be moved here, if he has it somewhere else.”

“Yeah, he must, but we have no clues to that.”

“This is still more than we can handle ourselves.”

“We’ll make an anonymous call.”

“Yeah, we’re really not supposed to be here.”

Sisters

1.

I was alone once again, for Cheryl’s mother had taken a wonderful offer to become a high school principal in Nebraska. They’d left right away, needing a few months to find a home and get settled in during the summer.

I no longer spoke to the Fates. It had only been a kind of a play thing for me, a way to speak at large, to express myself. If there were Fates, which their weren’t, they’d at least been kind enough to variegate the many colors and shades of my life into a stained glass window that now had many glorious wonderful panes, all of them still shining, although shattered.

It was summer, 1965. I had graduated high school. Many of my high school classmates would go off to war sometime in the near future, at least those who were already eighteen.

I still had a summer job of delivering kegs of nuts and bolts from A&H Fasteners around Chicago, to the far flung suburbs, and even to Indiana. I knew all the shortcuts and so I often had some time leftover, at the end of the work day, plus I’d had lunch on the run, so I’d usually stall around somewhere in my neighborhood, as a work/home transition kind of thing.

I was driving past Maple Park, in the company’s red pickup truck, when I noted a ball rolling across the road, it having come from way further over in the park. I stopped, parked, picked it up, and brought it over to where it had likely come from—from bunch of kids that looked like they were all related.

There I discovered the two older sisters, Catherine and Trish, along with their eight younger and assorted siblings. They had a ball team unto themselves.

Catherine talked with me for quite a while. They were from Forest Park, were Irish, and Catherine was a to be a sophomore at another University of Illinois, in central Illinois, at Urbana, and her sister, Trish, was to be junior there.

So, they were ahead of me in school, and thus had escaped my radar the couldn’t see the past. I was just out of high school, a freshman to be, plus their high school would have been Proviso East.

Well, it was a wonderful talk, except for something about that they’d been sexually abused when younger, by their drinking father, and their not wanting to be back here, but I had to get the truck back to work. Catherine gave me her address on a piece of paper. I may be living out a kind of a rerun here, I thought, at least the alcoholic part.

Well, Catherine looked and seemed fabulous, with Trish similar, although a tad less so. I was seeing shades of Patricia McElliot in Catherine Kennedy, which brought back both a smile and a tear.

I summed it up, after work. They already had their own social scene at college, and, as for here, they wouldn’t be back, if they could help it. If they had no boyfriends, they soon would have, what with dorms, sororities, and all the parties.

Well, what else did I have to do? It was summer. I took out the address and looked at it. Cripes! Elgin Avenue, and the address number was even on the block where St Bernardine was, near it, very close, even, and across from it, this known by the even and odd number scheme used everywhere. I knew most of that street, having walked down it every day, and having noted people on their front porches and such. This place, with all of its kids could not have escaped my attention, but it had. My all-seeing eye had a blind spot.

After dinner, I rode over there, on my motorcycle. There was no front porch on the place, for it was Bill and Betty’s little store where all we school kids went to buy goodies. The area always had kids milling around. I hadn’t realized that some of them lived there, above or in the back.

2.

Here’s a story I wrote way later on, for a class reunion, in 1990, which I didn’t go to:

A Taste of Memory

Upon arriving at St. Bernardine’s Catholic grammar school each day, I would always stop at Bill and Betty’s little store, which was just across the street, and buy two honey dipped donuts to eat in the classroom after mass; this was a privilege for those saintly students who had fasted and received Holy Communion. For me, as a 6th grade boy, it was the ultimate treat, considering that the staying-in-one-room school day provided little other diversion until lunchtime.

Oh, how delicious those donuts tasted to a growing boy who had starved since dinner the night before, fasting all night and then sitting through a seemingly never-ending mass during which special prayers were said for nearly everyone’s grandparents and sick relatives. But, it was well worth the wait, for breakfast never tasted better than it did for us, the famished holy of holies. Imagine, eating right there in school during class, without even having to sneak in the bites, such as one had to do with candy snacks later in the day during hunger attacks. And out there, cooling, on the window sill, in all its glory, was our free chocolate milk, there only for the deserving, the healthful drink that washed down the honeyed donut. All in all it was a morning feast truly fitting for us young Christian warriors.

To get milk, one needed only to have the foresight to sign up the day before, and, of course, to sit through a Latin mass, most of which time was spent either in looking over all the minute details of the person just ahead or in nudging someone’s shoe or lunch box along the floor until it had quite disappeared. Of course, to kill even more time, one could pretend to climb the wall buttresses barehanded and to maneuver among the ceiling arches, sliding down the lamp wires and such—until rudely bumped back into reality by the nun siting behind, the nun with eagle eyes that could detect the slightest lack of attention. Or one also could look and see which of the girls had forgotten their veils by the sorry napkin and handkerchief assortment draped upon their heads. Yes, a mass was a long and difficult time to suffer through, especially the endless periods of kneeling, but it was the tasty dreams of milk and honey donuts that carried me through, and now and then I’d catch a whiff from my donut bag of the breakfast, which everyone knew meant breaking-the-fast.

I also had, from Bill and Betty’s store, some of those penny candy sheets, the long narrow ones with about thirty rows of three dots of candy across—the kind of candy that you could never seem to cleanly remove, and so you always had to ingest some of the paper lining as well.

And, too, some brand new packages of the latest baseball card series. I would slowly and secretly open them later in class, at some boring moment, which came often, and hope against hope for a Mickey Mantle card, which everyone knew appeared but rarely. Me, I was a real collector, using my own allowance to buy the cards, not like some other kids whose mothers gave them enough money to buy an entire box of baseball card packs.

Yes, all this, plus more could be had from Bill and Betty’s store. It almost made going to school worthwhile. Bill and Betty were both quite old, and I can see now, looking back, why they were often crabby and impatient with all the little angels and near saints who would crowd into the store each morning to lay their pennies on the counter. But, to me then, it was a kind of rare freedom to roam the store.

Old Bill never said or heard very much, wearing a hearing aid and often pretending that he was deaf, but old Betty—she would always ask us what we were doing in the back of the store and yell at us to stop loitering and to either buy something or go to school. Looking longingly at the popsicles, I would move on, always remembering the time when they cost only four cents instead of five, still upset at the price increase that broke my budget. Once there was a time when our teacher would bribe us each with a free popsicle just for going to communion, but the principal soon put a stop to that, after seeing the entire sixth grade class dining on popsicles day after day, probably reasoning that holiness was not something that could be bought. Yes, those were the days of luxury.

Since our new sixth grade teacher was a lay teacher, not a nun, we had many such adventures. I remember, one time, when she marched the entire class over to my house on Sunday morning because I had missed choir and mass—since I had slept in my backyard tent with my friend and had stayed up all night and now needed my sleep. Luckily, we saw them coming and so we went in the back door of the house and right on out the front door, and we never stopped running for blocks, although it was hard to run and laugh at the same time.

Then, one week, while buying my communion breakfast, I noted that old Bill was missing behind the counter, having been replaced there by his young granddaughter, Patricia; so I asked where he might be. “Sick,” she told me, “very sick.” But, in a week or so, old Bill was back, although he was moving much slower than before, and so I started secretly staring at him. Some months later, a sign was put up in the door, saying that the store would be closed for a week, and within a few days I heard that old Bill had died, and we students, of course, lit numerous votive candles for him in church, obtaining at the same time the pleasure of playing with fire. We prayed for his salvation and were of course very penitent and remorseful for ever having caused him any trouble in his last days. Taking no chances, I, as always, invoked an Act of Contrition so as to wipe clean my slate by gaining a plenary indulgence, which, amazingly, was said to work even for murderers.

After a week without donuts I was a nervous wreck, and often had severe withdrawal pains after mass during breakfast time, but survived somehow on some Hostess cupcakes and some imitation donuts that my mother bought at the supermarket, but these donuts just weren’t the same. The store reopened as scheduled, old Betty running it alone. As I prepared for school that morning, I brought extra money for an special treat—some of those wax bottles that contained, as now I see it, mere colored water, but, then, as I thought as a boy, some sort of elixir of the gods. I bought donuts, too, and I swear, to this day, that there has never been a better donut made, probably because, back then, the neighborhood bakeries made them fresh at 4 AM without preservatives.

Many years have passed between this and then, and through those years my tastes have somehow strayed away from donuts, to more exotic foods, even to fruits and vegetables, and so it was that I had long forgotten about the old school store until just recently, when I found myself at Dunkin’ Donuts ordering a freshly baked honey dipped donut. As I bit into one, the taste of my grammar school memories came rushing back, all of them apparently contained right there inside of that donut, and I have so written them down just as they came to me.

3.

So, there I was, stopped, and sitting still on my motorcycle in front of the little store. Did I really need to go around to the side or the back and go up there, to meet some strange Irish father? A little kid came over, after a bit. I recognized him from the park.

“Hey, kid, can you go tell Catherine I’m here?”

The kid didn’t say anything, but he quickly ran off and around the side of the building.

Catherine came out and hopped on, saying, “Quick, go. My mother doesn’t want me riding on these things.”

I motorcycled to the far end of Forest Park, which was just down a ways after the big swimming pool, where there was a park, just before Maywood. She had been holding on for dear life.

“I’ve never been on one of these,” she remarked.

“Exciting?”

“Yeah, with the rumbling, the vibrations, and the air rushing by.”

“What can I do for you, ma’am?”

“It’s like I’m on vacation, right here in my own hometown.”

“Enjoying it?”

“Not really. I’ve been free and now I’m not so much.”

“I’m kind of on vacation, too, between high school and college. My last hurrah.”

“But you work.”

“Yeah, I drive all over the place, from strange Chicago warehouses to a nowhere land way out the other way, but not every day. More like every other day, on average.”

“Can I come with sometimes?”

“Sure. I can pick you up around nine or nine-thirty tomorrow. There’s an extra run this week. I have to load the truck first. You’re really bored, aren’t you?”

“That’s for sure, and at college, too, but it’s great compared to living back here.”

“You’re very good looking.”

“So maybe the boys are scared of me.”

“I’m not scared, and those boys will come around, eventually.”

“I’m only here for the summer.”

“Life still has to get lived.”

“OK.”

“Ice cream?”

“Sure.”

We walked over to a stand at the edge of the park. Another rerun, I thought, but a good one. We sat down to eat. All because I had picked up a ball.

We stood up, looking face to face. Somehow, a kiss happened, just it had long ago with my cousin, also named Catherine, although she went by ‘Cathy’.

She rode with me on my truck route, several days a week. She turned out to be even better than I’d expected, on a par with the best, minus the literary aspect.

Soon her older sister, Trish, rode with us, too, and then Trish began kissing me, too. Two girlfriends at once. Fate was overflowing my cup.

I had a really old van that had been given to me, although I didn’t really need it, plus I always had to add oil to it. Nor did I drive it, much, for I didn’t want to have to pay the insurance on it, but perhaps I would in the winter. So it just sat, near an auto repair place. I only had to pay five dollars rent a month to have it parked there, which was a steal. I camped in there sometimes. I fixed up the back of it some more, and so now we had a love retreat, on the nights that were not too warm.

Well, this was a part of what summer was for, and it was my last one before college. I would probably have to get additional jobs in the summers to come. Life was going to become extra serious.

Soon Catherine’s sister, Trish, came to the van with us, too, making for a romantic threesome. What was I doing? Well, it wasn’t illegal or anything. It was just unusual.

The summer was soon halfway through. I would have married Catherine, I suppose, and she me, if possible, with some more time to consider it, perhaps, in our transient haze of the moment, or someday, if the locales and the ages and the times had been a bit different, in some other reality, but, here, and in-between, we’d be in different Universities. That arrangement would be prone to failure; there was still a lot of life to be lived, at both ends. No complaints, though.

Summer ended; they had to back to school, which was hundreds of miles away. I put all their stuff in the van and drove them. We unloaded and then camped for a day, waiting for the dorms to open.

On the way back, the van blew its engine. Oh, well, it was old. I hitchhiked back to Chicago, and then took a transit train.

4.

I began college, at the University of Illinois, Circle Campus, majoring in Information Engineering, in the field of Computer science. Viet Nam would have to wait. I would be eighteen soon. It was September, 1965.

I was really alone now, for everyone commuted to this university, and then went home, plus there were but a few women in my engineering and science classes, and they looked and acted like they ate circuits for breakfast.

It looked like anything was going to happen, and it didn’t, nor did it matter, for I had to apply myself. My glory days appeared to be over. I had to study hard, and work, too. The whole College of Engineering was sterile. I got to run computer programs on one of the first mainframes. I learned calculus, and other great things. I’d joined a fraternity; they were a bunch of drunks; I gave it up.

My real love was the liberal arts, but they would not likely pay the bills in life, so they had to be pursued on a  personal basis, and put on the back burner, too.

In a feat of artistry, I managed to arrange all my courses to be on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which gave me Tuesdays and Thursdays off, to drive a truck around, but for some labs that I didn’t go to.

Nothing fell from the sky onto me but rain, and then leaves, followed by snow.

I had no romantic life, and winter had come on early and hard, but it seemed I’d had enough memories for a lifetime. I applied myself in school, for that had to be done, to get off to a good start. Anyone good would have to find me, as it had happened the last two times, with Cheryl, or by accident, as with Catherine. The winter was cold.

I learned assembler language, and PL/1, which was a high level language, along with file systems, searches, sorts, and other numerical analyses. I liked it; I had aptitude for it. I’d taken a Fortran course in high school, and now Fortran was even on its way out.

Catherine wrote me a letter, in early December. It was full of “Sorries”. They wouldn’t be coming back for the month long winter break. Well, I’d known that. It was either because of their father or because they’d obtained boyfriends, or both. Well, all in all, I’d been blessed again.

I’d turned eighteen, and so I had to register with the draft board, and then the year turned to 1966. I had a college draft deferment. My draft lottery number was 106. Surely they would get to that number, if the war was still going on when I graduated, although I might get through six months or more thereafter. These numbers went from 1 to 365—the days of the year. One of my friends had number 363, and so he was as safe as he could be. No use worrying about it, though. Life had already gotten more serious, from college. For now, though, I was partway through the winter break. Nothing came my way but more snow. Only icicles tried to fall on me.

I worked on some computer programming functions that would allow me to program at an even higher level, these obviating any low level errors that could have crept in.

Some of my friends were already getting drafted into the Army. Not a good time to go, I thought.

My school break was now about halfway through. More snow was forecast for the evening. Well, nothing to do but stay home. Not a thing was going to happen, just like during the last four months, much less a miracle. I had gotten used to it. It also seemed important that I not be with anyone at this time, for I had a hope fluttering around with the butterflies in my empty heart.

Love Redux

1.

On this blustery night, Sharon Dalton and Rick O’Kane came knocking on my door. I invited them in, and we went down the basement, to the sofa near the pool table.

“What brings you here?” I asked.

“Our feet,” Sharon answered.

Rick added, “Actually, we drove.”

Sharon began, “Are you seeing anyone?”

I answered, “No. Should I be?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have someone for me to go with?”

“Yes.”

“Is her name Lucille?”

“Yes.”

“Today is her birthday, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“She’s free to do as she pleases now.”

“True.”

“Tell her to get back here!”

“One or two days.”

“How come you’re not saying much?”

“She wants to be the one to tell you everything.”

“She’ll be living with her aunt.”

“Yes.”

“And finishing her last year of high school.”

“No, she’s done; she took summer school.”

“You’re telling me too much, perhaps.”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s go up and use my phone.”

“She’s already on the road. She was coming, regardless. She’ll be calling me, partway through, at some point.”

“Two days on the road?”

“Yeah, maybe, they moved way out west. She’s on a bus.”

2.

I only had to wait a day. Lucille came knocking at my door, ringing the bell, even. Everyone jumped up and went to the door and stood around, for I had told them I was having a surprise visitor, but that I could say no more.

She was even more beautiful, her features even sharper. She’d grown a few inches. She came in, shook the snow off, and kissed me, in front of everyone. They stood astonished, for they had never seen or heard of her. She looked like a snow elf.

She told them, “I just fell from the sky, off of Santa’s sleigh; I’m the miracle of Christmas past, present, and future. I’m the ghost of summer—of 1960. I told Patrick I might be back in five years, if I could be, if he was free, which he is, and so here I am, back where I belong, to sing our song that was frozen in time. Oh dear, it’s been so very long! I’m sorry to shock you all like this.”

She took a bow. They all clapped. A dead world had just sparkled itself into life.

My family evaporated away. Lucille and I sat on the sofa.

“Hello, Patrick.”

“I’m Patrick again?” I asked.

“Yes, because Sharon’s boyfriend is named ‘Rick.”

“Our moment frozen in time has just been defrosted.”

“And may it ever warm our hearts.”

“If I survive the war, I’d love to marry you.”

“Will do, and ‘I do’.”

“I never dared to hope.”

“Nor me.”

“But we did, somewhere deep down.”

“Yeah.”

“Happy New Year 1966!”

“Let’s celebrate.”

“We’ll spend the weekend at the Oak Park Arms.”

“Excellent. We’ll bring our hands, lips, and legs, too.”

“Let’s go out for a walk in the snow.”

We went out into a steady snowfall.

She began, “Our names have been written in the stars and now they’re falling all around. I haven’t seen snow for years.”

“What did you see?”

“I saw mountains, valleys, fields, and farms. I learned to shoot and ride, sow and harvest, fish and swim, in Wyoming, and then we moved to Oregon, minus my stepmother, who left for a while. My father is fine, but I like my mother’s side of the family better, and the city here, although I had some good times out there. I’m going to find a job next week. Downtown, I suppose. I took business courses.”

“I drive a truck filled with nuts, screws, and bolts two days a week, and then take courses, and study the rest of the time.”

“We’re on our way, Patrick, toward forever.”

“Welcome home.”

“At last; I’m home at last.”

“A bright star shining in the dead of winter!”

“An explosion to rock your world.”

“A bolt from the blue.”

“A jolt to the ice.”

“The Titanic has risen and sails once again.”

“Nothing can stop us.”

“Are you safe from the draft while in college, Patrick?”

“Yes, and my degree takes four and one-half years, so I even have some extra time.”

“I’m not going to college. I can’t afford it. I got a job, though, in an office on Canal Street.”

“Good going.”

“And everything great just keeps on going. One thing leads to another.”

“You came through for us.”

“Love is the best thing to come through for.”

3.

A year passed. Lucille lived with her aunt and I lived with my family That’s the best we could do, but it was enough. Our relationship was as an extended honeymoon, which was an optimal state of being. Perhaps life would always be like that. No kids; no big worries.

My friend, Joe, got drafted and ended up as a helicopter door gunner. He sent letters, detailing the horrors of war. One time, a bullet passed between his fingers and killed the soldier sitting next to him. Another time, they’d just landed to pick up some soldiers and got attacked on the ground, which was the worst place. They all got out and engaged the enemy in a firefight, which they were losing, but then help arrived, from another chopper.

Another year passed. Joe wasn’t sure he was gong to make it, but he returned alive and unharmed from the war, and told us more harrowing stories, putting us on he edges of our seats.

People who I’d been with in high school were getting killed, right and left. We went to several funerals. The war showed no signs of letting up.

Two more years passed. Now it was February, 1970. The U.S. was in a recession, and I had but one job offer, but it was the one I wanted—at IBM, in Poughkeepsie, NY. I would start in February or March. Lucille was to come with me. It’s difficult to write about this time of my life.

The fates took my Lucille from me, along with her aunt and cousin. The fire had started in the lamp store beneath their apartment, in the middle of the night. They all died of smoke inhalation. They were all asleep and never woke up; they never even knew their lives had ended.

We had had four years together. A lot happened, but my brevity and near silence of description in this section is a tribute to her.

RIP: Little Lulu. You were one of a kind.

Life is never fair, of course. Why was I still alive, while Lucille, Karen, and many of my friends had perished? Time would tell. I’d likely be in the Army within a year.

All That’s Left Behind, And What Comes Forth

The Computer Age

1.

Near the end of February, I graduated, then rented a small U-Haul, loaded a few things, and drove my motorcycle up the ramp into it, which was really what I needed it for. I wasn’t likely that I’d ever reside in Oak Park again.

I was still in a depression called ‘mourning’. I’d have to fake being alive on my new job, and to myself, too, in order to get a good start there, at IBM, for perhaps that would save my life somehow.

…New state, family far away, Lucille dead, depression, no friends, the stress of beginning a high level job, had to find an apartment, the Army breathing down my neck…

No matter; I was an adventurer; I could survive even at half speed for a while. Her love would give me life. Bring on the world, even unto the valley of the shadow of death in some unfriendly foreign land!

I arrived and rented a room, among two other residents. We had a common kitchen and living room, with a TV area.

I was assigned to share an office in the 705 building, with Mike. He was already Staff to the Second Level Manager, Frank Hackle. Mike had liked my college grades and courses, and so had made room for me in his office. Four and half years of study had gotten me a good seat.

Mike was a go-getter, and would likely do well in management, but at the moment he was saddled with updating a simulator written in assembler language, among other duties that were an extension of Frank’s management of the whole area; however, programming wasn’t Mike’s thing. I soon found out why.

Mike left a note on my desk, one day, asking me to write a ‘Mome’ (instead of Memo) on the features to be added to the simulator. He’d also had trouble telling a Load from a Load Address, as the first loads the contents of an address into a register, and the second loads the address of the contents into a register. So, he had dyslexia.

I told Mike, “I’ll update the simulator, test it, and write up the features, and even put out a user guide.”

He said “Great. I hate programming. I’m better with ideas at large.”

“And so then you can deal with the users and the meetings and the publicity and all that higher level management type stuff that is your destiny.”

“Hey, I like that. I’m trying to get into that, and more.”

“As a first line manager?”

“No, too low to for my grand plan. They don’t set direction.”

“Waiting for Frank to leave?”

“Yeah. He’s grouchy, and that’s not going to work around here. Maybe they’ll send him to Manufacturing.”

“I heard they run it like the Army down there.”

“Yeah, they do, and that will suit Frank and IBM just fine. Around there, we have to treat people like the professionals that they are.”

“Mike, one day you will be the head of the corporation.”

(And he did so, as Lab directer and Head of IBM U.S., and then as the Head of IBM Japan.)

“I just had a meeting with the Chairman of IBM.”

“You just made an appointment with him, simple as that?”

“Yeah, I went over everyone’s head, and I made it at 4 PM, hoping that it would continue after hours, which it did, and so we had dinner together.”

“And?”

“OK, I feel like I can trust you, Pat. I laid out a grand vision for the future and the Chairman bought it.”

“Wow, and here I am at the start of it.”

“I need your software expertise. I didn’t go to college. I started here four years ago, in manufacturing, and then moved up here. I’m the last of that breed. From now on, college degrees are needed for one to work in the Lab here.”

“Is this going to be some sort of coup or something.”

“Yeah, kind of, for they’re all content here just to sit on the initial profits, and if so, other companies will steal our market. RCA, for example, has a good machine.”

“It sounds like a grand adventure. You can count on me.”

“I already am.”

2.

I took on some more programming jobs, turning crap into gold. They were impressed. I often had to rewrite the whole thing in a higher level language, such as leveling an old house is often the best way to end up with a truly working one.

Were there great minds at IBM? Well, yes and no, with the logical, reasoning types being the ‘yes’, and the feeling, emotional types being the ‘no’. There was also a dearth of females, and yet, for all the lack of them, the males didn’t even seem interested. The place was a kind of a nerd-world. Many would stay and work late, even those who were married. Well, one can’t have everything—and at least the pay was good.

I bought a car, a new four door 1970 Ford Maverick, deep blue, with a black vinyl roof. Not bad, for $2000. I was coming out of my depression. I wasn’t totally myself again yet, but I was well enough to attract the attention of Patty Hernandez, a Columbian beauty. We started going out to lunch a few times a week, and then dinner. I told her stories. She was so easy to talk to, and she loved that I was a poet. Or did my nature pave the road of love? Or was she the one looking? Was everyone else deaf, dumb, and blind? Or did they just like it better to work through lunch?

We became closer, and so her saga eventually unfolded, for it is then that secrets get revealed, which, in turn, cement the friendship even further.

She had a nice apartment at Kaal Rock Manor, right on the Hudson River. She had made dinner for me. This was getting serious. ‘Dessert’ made it for sure.

The next day, during lunch time, we went walking on the river cliffs behind IBM, very high above the Hudson River, where there were No-Trespassing signs, for I guess someone might fall off and sue the company. The waters sparkled; the day was perfect. A miracle had descended on me.

“Patrick, I’m torn. I love us, but I’m supposed to get engaged to someone who I don’t know, although we’ve met. Our families have arranged this, back in Columbia, and I’d been stalling. Then I got a job here, a year ago, thank God, but I think I have to go through with it, just to show I tried, to respect the old folks.”

“So, if it works, you’re fine, and if it doesn’t…”

“Then I can eventually get out of it, but I may have some bit of unknowns in-between.”

“And yet you are so alive, so powerful, so happy, and so joyous that it wouldn’t really get you down, would it, if that’s how it went? Your smiles say it all.”

“True. I’m fairly invincible.”

“So, what can I do for you?”

“Keep on being my friend and lover and going out with me, no matter what.”

“Well, you’re all I could ask for, and more, but I may get drafted this year, plus you should really give your marriage a chance, if it comes to that. Sometimes, people grow to love each other in those situations.”

“Well, for now, you and I fine, so let’s not worry about it until we have to; however, I called him yesterday.”

“And?”

“He feels the pressure, too, but he doesn’t want to get married. He’s not interested. Says he would run off. He just wants to keep on doing whatever it is that he does in Columbia. I didn’t want to know what he does, and he didn’t bring it up.”

“We’ll take it as it goes.”

“Thanks, Patrick.”

3.

My officemate, Mike Monachino, who was married, still got all worked up over seeing Patty, for she’d stop by my office to ask me to go on a coffee break with her, or to lunch. He’d wondered how this had begun, and if I was going out with her, and more, but I’d managed to relate that she didn’t want it publicized, which took me off the hook as to be the one able to tell him. He got the picture well enough, though.

I did tell him how it began, a few days later, for he was dying to know, after she’d come over for another coffee break.

“Well, Mike, when I first got here, I walked around a bit, to a different area each day, to get a feel for what people were working on, and to see if they need software support, most of which you know about. I ran into the error domain analysis area, in which they had to find out what parts had to be replaced when an error checker came on. They were kind of guessing at it, but in an educated way, by meeting with the logic designers to see what was connected to what, but there are millions of circuits to consider now. The simple days have ended. I began formulating a programming solution, letting it percolate in my mind.”

“Yeah, we’re on the cusp of the big time. Soon there will be trillions of circuits. So, you automated it? I just heard today that they’re going great all of the sudden. Their manager didn’t even know why yet.”

“Yeah, I’d been putting it together in my spare time. They just began sing it. So far, I have something much more than just rudimentary, which is working out well so far. My software traces back from the error checker for however many cycles they want, even crossing module boundaries through the cables.”

“You got through cables, into the rest of the system?”

“Yeah, I got the cable person to make and maintain a cable database. It’s only approximate, now; it needs some more work; however, cables don’t change all that much, compared to the modules.”

“Wow, but they always thought that we didn’t have the computing power to trace all the circuits back.”

“We don’t, in real time, through all of them, and no one does, to trace it all at once, through all the internal circuits, which need not be done each time, since we only need to know where the traces stop, so I first carved the system into what I call ‘segments’, tracing them one by one, at night, and saving them on disk, which, then, as shortcuts, tell us the inputs to to every latch, up to the module boundary, for I throw away everything in between, although I keep a simple list of it, in case it may find use, seldom having to go through it again, until it changes, which design takes months. Then, for any given error checker, or any latch, for that matter, I can just connect the segments together, sometimes having to use the cable database. The users set some ‘stops’, such as the controls, and/or some important internal signals, so only the data segments continue on in the trace back. Often, we get to places that the designers didn’t even think could be gotten to, for they each only deal with a small piece of the pie. All we have left to do is to build the segments for all of the rest of the modules. It can run at night.”

“And so now we have a better Field Replaceable Unit strategy, and we don’t end up wasting money by replacing working FRUs, or everything, when replacing what we guessed at didn’t work. Those things cost $50,000 apiece.”

“Yeah, and so we get it right the first time.”

“You’re going places, too, Pat. They had some people trying to trace everything all at once, but all they could do was trace through about half a module, which ran for days, usually getting halted when the machine went down or bursted its capacity.”

“It’s not logically possible to even get through a module, much less the whole system, plus our machines are pipsqueaks, yet. We save up the segment traces. We don’t lose everything if the machine goes down.”

“Yeah, the computer age has just begun, and I can see where its headed. Everyone’s going to want more power.”

“The Error Domain Analysis Group is on the verge of coming over to ask you if they can borrow me to soup up the program some more, condensing the output more, and even blue sky, like letting them point a pen on a screen to control the traceback instead of having to type in a name, although that’s easy enough, since they only have to do it once.”

“I’ll think about the pen part. Sometimes, you end up putting a lot of time in on what turns out to be a diminishing return. We’ll be lucky to even get some terminals this year, much less pen technology, like the CAD machines have, plus they are all in use. But, yeah, make the improvement on the output.”

“True,and I at least need someone to do some of the busywork, but it’s straight forward. We need to keep up with the engineering changes to the modules, so we can rebuild the segments right away.”

“Sounds reasonable. It’s all great, actually. Thanks. I hadn’t expected so much so soon.”

“I got lucky.”

“No, you made it happen.”

“Right time, right place. One thing led to another.”

“I didn’t hear anything about Patty in all this.”

“Oh, yeah. She’s responsible for the I/O processor error domains.”

“Yeah, that processor is different from the rest, to the degree that it doesn’t have the data support the others get, although it is smaller. They thought they didn’t need it.”

“Now it’s bigger, so, we had to do more work in her area, so she kept calling me over. We built some of the data by hand.”

“And when that was done?”

“She still kept calling me over.”

“Ah-ha. I see.”

“Yeah, it all just snuck up on me, just like that, sort of.”

“You couldn’t help but be charming, though.”

“Have to keep the customers happy.”

“When did you suspect romance?”

“When she began sitting closer and closer to me.”

“I’ll be darned. You go off and do great work, and then out of nowhere she falls into your lap.”

“That’s how it was. I wasn’t trying anything, me being new and all that. One thing leads to another.”

“Don’t say that you were lucky.”

“How come?”

“One often makes their own luck.”

“As you are.”

“Yeah. I’m really into this business. My home life is what it is.”

“How is it?”

“I’m not sure I should have married my wife.”

“How come?”

“It felt kind of rushed, by my attending too much to my work ambitions.”

“Sometimes, we can have the one thing we really want, but not all the things.”

“Yeah, it would have been better to start with love, and then the other thing more easily come along for the ride.”

“What else about your wife?”

“She has depression, which she always had, but sometimes she has a lot of energy, which is great.”

“Manic-depressive.”

“Yeah. I felt compelled to help her, and I thought marriage would assist that. I didn’t feel like I should look for someone else, for then her depression might worsen. We just all of the sudden decided to marry and get settled in.”

“Unconditional love.”

“Yeah, plus I didn’t want to have to look all around through the scarce resources. I fully resigned myself to her, for better or for worse.”

“Depression is hard to deal with. Thoughts don’t come. The mind goes blank.”

“Sometimes, Pat, one’s role in life ends up to be to take care of someone less fortunate, and so that is mine.”

“Yeah, I’m seeing that with Patty. She’s totally modern, but has ties to the old world in South America that are tugging on her. She was dying to freely live and love, and there I was.”

“She’s always upbeat. Fantastic personality. Perhaps she’d been waiting for the right person.”

“Yeah, probably. That’s one of the things I like about her. She rises above all pettiness and politics. Just lets them sail right on by. I read her some poems on our first outing, and she liked them.”

“She’s a good engineer.”

“Yeah, and the funny thing is that she didn’t have to be beautiful for that.”

“She’s dedicated.”

“Yeah. I’m taking her to a special place for lunch today: Mariner’s Harbor, right on the river, just across it and almost under the bridge. It just opened for the season.”

“Take some extra time; it’s a beautiful day. And you two have a drink on me, and then wait there until it wears off. Here’s ten dollars. If anyone comes around looking for you or her, I’ll say you’re in a meeting not to be disturbed, until two PM or so.”

“By your command, and it’s true that we’ll be in a meeting.”

“Live it up. You’re free.”

“I know how depressions feels.”

“What happened?”

“My girlfriend back in Illinois died in a fire. We’d been together four years.”

“I’m so sorry. Does one ever get over something like that?”

“No, I’ll be under it, until some more time passes. I make the good times bright in my mind.”

“You didn’t show any signs of depression.”

“I couldn’t afford to, but it’s passing.”

“From work, this new place, and Patty?”

“Yeah.”

“You have great strength. Can’t imagine what you might do on full speed.”

“Thanks, Mike,”

“What about Donna over there?”

“IBM had her pose for a photo with the new machine to be announced. Sometimes, she goes to lunch with us. She’s a good friend. She’s married, but she doesn’t talk about it.”

“How about that—she’s an IBM model! And I saw her husband out carousing in a bar where I was drowning my sorrows the other day.”

“Sometimes, Ray Venditti goes out to lunch with me, Patty, and Donna.”

“He’s an upstanding guy.”

“Which means he has an eye on Donna for the future, but is being careful of the situation.”

“Tough spot. Not too many women at IBM.”

“Yeah, and a lot of the single men couldn’t care less, for there’re really into their work. Some even have a mattress in their office, behind the door.”

“They’re going to ruin this place. We can’t have stand alone people being the only experts on just one thing. What if they leave or get sick?”

“I overhear some of the married men getting calls from their wives to come home for dinner.”

“Or to cut the grass. They come in on the weekends, too.”

“They probably say to their wives, ‘Honey, I’m going out to have an affair,’ and their wives say,”You can’t fool me! You’re going to the lab again, aren’t you!”

“Good one. Have a wonderful lunch. I hear heels coming, way down the hall.”

“We’ll be pretending we’re in Tahiti there.”

“I’ll be here, getting ready for a big meeting later.”

“That’s how it is when you’re moving up fast.”

“Yeah, stuck to my ambition.”

“I think IBM wants you to take over Frank’s spot soon, jumping you right into second level, where decisions really get made, bypassing the mundaneness of being a first level manager.”

“How did you get wind of that?”

“The secretary did.”

Mike perked up. “Thanks. I’ll act surprised at the big meeting later. Then I’ll present my plan. I’d better get working on touching it up.”

“You’re on your way into higher management.”

“What about you?”

“Nah. Someone has to do the work!”

“True. IBM needs both kinds, especially when they understand each other.”

By the next day, Mike had become the second level manager, getting a larger office. They moved Sudai in with me, an Indian logic designer.

A  month passed.

4. 

Mike came over, one day, and said, “Hey, we can use your trace-back software to help us make Validation Tests. We’re calling them VTs. I’m putting those other trace-back people on it, to develop the test patterns.”

“It will already work; we just have to set a parameter to have it trace back one cycle, which means always ending up at latches. Simple. We can keep those new kind of traces around, separately.”

“Hey, great, and I’ve just hired an African graduate to help you keep all the module segments current. Lots of design changes are coming. Her name is Mary. We’re supposed to have more diversity here. IBM’s orders. I had a hand in it.”

“She’s starting soon?”

“Next week. We’re moving the Indian guy out of your office, and her in.”

“We also need a Correspondence Data Set, Mike—call it a CDS, to relate facility names to net names, to give us more readability. We can keep it in scan-ring order, and so then the VT guys can save the scan rings, put in the patterns they want to test with, and then restore the scan rings. Other groups can use the CDS, too.”

“I’ll expand them to a full department.”

Another month passed.

Mike sent the secretary to have me come over to his office.

I entered. He said, “Congratulations!”

“I did something?”

“You’re on staff to me now. You get a pay raise and your own office. Good work. Mary’s doing well?”

“She’s doing great.”

“She’ll be next door to you.”

“And I’m putting you in charge of hiring interns and summer workers, because you always talk to people as people. Hire from the ethnic out groups more, but mainline, too, and hire more women than men. We have some catching up to do. I have a list, and their college grades, and their resumes. Hire about twenty. Check with the first line managers to see what they need. We’re going to be building way bigger and better machines, in the years to come, and many of these workers can get hired permanently then. Hire half for hardware; half for software. After they accept, have them call the Personal Department, which we now call Human Resources. This is the reverse of normal, but we can’t wait to go through HR first, or out to colleges to interview, and all that jazz. Besides, it’s summer. Time to speed up the old IBM turtle. Have Sudai double check the logic design prospects. Give the software guys the basics.”

“Yeah. No, slow linear searches, and that kind of stuff, plus to use our higher function library.”

“Do we have such a library?”

“I made one in college. Coding errors happen more at the lower levels, which we can minimize, through functions, and more functions.”

“What a revelation! You’re making my life easy.”

“It’s still going to be a tough year or two, it seems.”

“Yeah, and I’m going to be betting the company on it. Do or die.”

“We’re already getting informal orders for the machines we’re planning, which aren’t even in design yet. There are forecasts in the hundreds of billions a few years out, after the recession ends.”

“Don’t tell me—a secretary heard this and told you when she went out to lunch with your group?”

“Yeah.”

“Why am I always the last to know?”

“They have to take a day to type it up, copy it, and then send it around.”

“Cripes. We need terminals, and I’ve already ordered the first ones off the line. Then we can send things electronically. I’m ramping up this place like crazy. Hey, Pat, hire thirty people instead of twenty!”

“They gave you a free hand.”

“Yeah, because I’m in the center of it, between the workers and the armchair executives above, and we’re going to build a 707 building next door, starting in a month. There will be a catwalk connecting.”

“I hadn’t heard that one.”

“That because I’m telling them this afternoon.”

“No wonder.”

“Those marketing people are going to be hounding me like crazy.”

“You love it.”

“Yeah, I do. How’s Patty?”

“She’s finer than fine can be.”

“Does she have to marry the Colombian guy.”

“Maybe, maybe not. It’s still in limbo.”

“Cripes.”

5.

“Hey, Mike,” I said, as I walked into his a  week later. Everyone’s been hired and have been here for a week. Where have you been?”

“They sent me to a useless manager training school. And, yeah, I noted some new faces. No one told me anything while I was away.”

“They’re like a new United Nations.”

“That will shake the place up.”

“The first line managers have all given them something to do.”

“Great.”

“The only problem is that they are all coming over in their spare time and gluing themselves onto me as some kind of big brother or best friend. I can tell that it’s going become difficult for me to get my work done.”

“The ladies, too?”

“Especially them.”

“Don’t be tough on them. It wouldn’t suit you, anyway. They like that you got them a job. Entertain them for a while more, in the mornings. Work is supposed to be fun, too.”

“And then I’ll hide out somewhere?”

“Yeah, bring your work to the river restaurant. We don’t have the damn terminals yet.”

“Really, and really?”

“Yeah, it will be peaceful there after you have lunch. Bring Patty sometimes. And I just put out a million dollars to speed up the terminal work. We lead the company in revenue, so we can spend. Our big fat executives just above me wouldn’t spring for it out of their pocket. The Chairman is keeping some of this to himself for  now, so the executives don’t feel insulted. They would have been slow to ride the wave; they like the status quo. The recession will begin to end, and then they’ll begin to come around.”

“They’ll get neither the glory nor suffer any downfalls.”

“Yeah. Too safe. I’m willing to take both of the chances. There’s all kinds of businesses out there who haven’t even heard of computers yet. I’ve steered the sales force to them, for what else do they have to do on their way back from the big calls who are already in our fold.”

“All this will take time.”

“Two years to make a new and better machine.”

“You can cut it to one, on average, later.”

“Ha, I’m ahead on this one. I didn’t tell the secretary. I’m gearing up to have people designing the future system at the same time the current system is being worked on. Then their roles will switch, and so forth.”

“They’ll be in part of the 707 building.”

“Yeah, and we’re making it larger.”

“Right place, right time, Mike.”

“Yeah, it going to be a heyday. So, what you hear from the Selective Service? We’re losing people like crazy.”

“Nothing yet, but based on the draft rate, I’d say I have up to January, 1970.”

“Good. Lot’s of time left to get things rolling. And maybe they’ll make peace, not war.”

“They’re not even close to talking about any peace accords. North Vietnam wants the whole country.”

“You worry about it?”

“No, I let Nixon do it.”

“He’s being suspected of doing secret things behind the scenes, without the approval of congress. Kind of like what I do here—ha-ha.”

“But you have a much better chance.”

“That’s for sure.”

6. 

At Mariner’ s Harbor, Patty raised her wine glass against mine, and we clinked.

A train crawled across the river bridge, limited to five miles an hour on the old structure that was built in 1888, it being the longest of its type then. Another train lumbered by just next to the restaurant; it was a long one. Ducks and seagulls landed near our outside table, asking for bread. The waves lapped at the edges of the platform. Boats went by, or took off from the docks. The afternoon wore on; we usually had the place to ourselves at this later time, with but a few early dinner eaters drifting in. The river was wide at this point, and the sun shone its brassy glow upon it. It was not much of a stretch to imagine one’s self in the South Seas.

I was writing JCL, which means Job Control Language, for the new VT process. Mostly, it relates programmed file names to the right data sets to be connected, or generated and passed on to the next step. Patty was designing the new I/O processor; she’d been promoted. It was a good move, for now she could also size up the locations for the error checkers.

“We have the river surrounded, Patrick. Day here and night over there.” She pointed to her apartment across.

“I sleep well there, Patty.”

“I’m happy to tire you out.”

We’d go straight to her place, on these types of days. No use going back to work to read the notes put on my desk, some of them even silly love notes, from Laura. My cup over floweth. Well, maybe some would pan out in the future, for IBM.

I’d meanwhile heard of many more deaths of my high school associates, and here I was, in heaven. Perhaps it would be my last way station. I’d already lived about six lifetimes.

Patty put her work aide, got up and slowly danced for me, to the soft music that ever played in this place. Her eyes were round and bright, her figure well formed, her hair jet black, her near Columbian style dress made such that her cups would tend to runneth over.

“And they pay me to be here,” I remarked.

She sat on my lap. “I’ve liked your poetry so much that I’ve begun to write my own, Patrick. I’ll show it to you tonight.”

“We can read it out on your porch, under the full moon.”

“What got you into poetry, Patrick.”

“Everything I ever wrote was for or about love.”

“Ah, it’s the best subject.”

“And the best reason for living, too.”

“We’re as married now.”

“It is like that.”

“It’s been five months.”

“And I suspect we’ll have about five more.”

For once in my life, I would be the one to have to leave.

“Don’t go off and die in some far away land.”

“I’ll have to go off, but I won’t die. It seems that I am invincible. I’m ever within the eye of the hurricane of death.”

“I’m still so high everyday about us; it’s even still increasing.”

“Whatever it is that makes for love, it’s the most superb combination that Nature ever came to form. Its existence seems hardly even hinted at by its essence.”

“Why did there have to be a war?”

“Somehow, the zest for life and love is intertwined with with its necessary dark side, which got us through tough survival situations, from which violent capabilities we were able to continue on, not in spite of them, but because of them, at least in part, and now they’re stuck in us.”

“Even like our company having to sell more and more computers.”

“Yeah, sort of, although businesses want them.”

“But we’re out to beat the Japanese; Hitachi, for example.”

“Yeah, in that sense.”

“Can we be together always, no matter what?”

“If I know that it’s OK all around.”

“Maybe my life won’t come to that. I hoping everyone just ends up dropping this arranged marriage thing.”

“Enough time will do that, maybe. They’ll forget about it.”

“It’s a big thing to them. For now, they are very firm about it.”

“You’re here and they’re there.”

“Yeah, that helps, but they’re planning to move here next year.”

“Yikes, and I’ll be gone.”

“You’ll never be gone to me.”

“Two long years.”

“Dreadful years.”

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen you sad.”

“Our love has swallowed me up, and even now I urge it on, unafraid to plunge into the very depths of it. NO holding back. All out!”

“Quench your whole being in it, for I do, and I’ll never let you down.”

“This is what amazes me so. We don’t have any conflicts. It’s like a dream movie. You just let me be me, even in some silly areas. You don’t even wince or bat an eyelash.”

“You’re behavior is yours to direct alone, and the only behavior I can direct is my own. Your outlook is like that, too. Early on, I noted you bypassing any and all bickering at work.”

“Yeah, shouting and yelling just drive people away.”

“And sweetness, as likened to whispering, brings them closer.”

“Remember that day that some people here liked talking with us, and took us on their boat, and even said that we could use their boat any time?”

“Yeah, but we haven’t yet.”

“I know. It’s like once you’ve seen the river, up and down, well, you’ve seen the river.”

“Yeah.”

“But it’s over there,” she pointed, “and they’re still away, as they said they would be.”

“Make love to you in the boat?”

“Yeah, let’s make waves.”

“And they pay me for this!”

We soon had most of the ‘United Nations’ workers going out to Mariner’s Harbor, about twice a week, not for lunch, which would have been too short for their break, but for dinner, after work, for then we could stay as long as we wanted. Mike came, sometimes, too, with his wife, and paid for everyone.

There was Chinese Linda, Chinese David, Indian Rachna, American Laura, American Susan, French Lily, Soviet Elena, American Ken, Korean Janice, American Judy, African Mary, and many more.

At work, the rosy future was lumbering along in its preparations, but much quicker than a snail’s pace, thanks to Mike’s lead. What ever we needed, we just invented on the fly. No regulations stifling us; no Underwriters Laboratories poking around.

7.

On some weekends, Patty and I went out twenty miles or so, to the Shawangunks, a mountain range south of the Catskills that had glacial lakes on the tops, namely, a stye big ones, Awasting, Minnewaska, and Mohonk. We ate at their resorts, and went swimming in the lakes. It was a glimpse back into an eighteenth century way of life. Some of the hotels were call mountain houses.

We found a trail that led to the edge of the cliffs, after ten minutes or so, and there we lay, on giant slabs of rocks, looking across and down into the forest from such a height that the trees looked like grass. We called our story there, ‘Living on the Edge’, which I wrote down (back then)…

The sweet-scented manuscript of our love relationship is open to a most delicious page, on which we live ideally in an intermediate and perfect honeymoon state, delicately and intentionally balanced so as to forever prolong that magic hour between night and day that often passes much too quickly for a man and a woman.

Soft breezes blow the edges of the page on which we live, but our book remains open to the page we’ve selected.

We bought a picnic lunch, wine, wine glasses, and, after some difficulty, a corkscrew. Soon we found ourselves parking near the Traps Bridge, and undressing in front of each other in the car so we could put on our walking clothes.

For some reason my clothes were out on the hood of the car and I had to keep reaching out the window to get the next new piece. Patty was amused.

The sky was as clear as we were and we could see right into each other. She started up the gradual rock face that was the beginning of the trail. We followed the blue markers and reached several false summits, sitting and enjoying the view.

We were happy that it didn’t matter how far we would get towards that point known as Gertrude’s nose. As we sat close, we could see the Catskills, to the northwest, and the Walkill Valley, to the east, the only spot from which both views could be seen.

We followed the trail through the woods for a while and came out to a grassy knoll on the edge of a cliff. The view was breathtaking, and any fall would have been deathtaking.

Here it was that we decided to live life on the edge in every tempting way, yet safe and secure in the leaves of our glorious open-paged book. We were miles from civilization, alone with each other on a mountaintop without a care in the world.

Our eyes swept in the view and it was almost too much for the brain to take in in one glance. We were about 1300 feet high on a cliff-edge, facing a sheer drop straight down, with a view of farmlands, lakes, and cities which stretched all the way to Connecticut. What looked like grass and bushes down below were actually treetops. We looked and looked, trying to drink it all in.

The cliff was triple-tiered, and we selected the second level, feeling that the first level would serve as a buffer zone should we drink too much wine and fall off the second level. We spread our blanket and filled our rose-colored wine glasses. We slowly ate our sandwiches and cheese, and spoke to each other in rather hushed voices, perhaps in a sort of reverence to the grandeur of it all.

Again and again we would look up and out over the never ending vista, and the immensity of it all was always overwhelming. We were already bonded to each other on all of those speechless levels that soul and memory ever claimed, and we wanted to let our feelings and senses run free and communicate with each other in that way.

My utter soul was bared and snuggling against hers in an ultimate joining which far transcended the physical. We had achieved it before, even in crowded rooms, but here there was no one to distract us, and so we could take it to new heights and depths, surrounded by the natural world of earth, air, and sky that we loved so much and saw too little of.

We lived on the edge of the wine, achieving that pleasant state in which one is not sober but not drunk. On top of that, we were inebriated with Nature and with the happiness that we were each other’s friend and lover.

We later laughed and talked about life and love and hopes and dreams and people, and oh yes, about us, for our relationship was also a meta-relationship: we can be in it and involved in it and can still step out of it to talk about it, as if we were spectators talking about two other people.

The remainder of the day was one long, deep, and all-pervading sensation. The sun was getting warm so we moved to a shady spot on the lower level of the cliff where there was no defense against death, and propped ourselves up against some rocks. Now we were truly living on the edge.

As we were romping there, gravity began to draw us down a slight slope, little by little, and soon my feet were near hanging over the edge. I sat up, held onto a tree, and peeked over the edge.

Off in the distance we could see the Skytop tower at Mohonk.

We next lay face to face on a large rounded rock, cushioned by our blanket. We drew close to each other until we could get no closer. I pulled her leg up and over mine and we began to become one with the rock and with each other: warm, cozy, and secure. I melted against her, dissolved by love. We became one: we were about, around, next to, and within each other: one mind, one soul, one heart, one body: we were surrounded on all sides by our unified being.

It was a unity, a oneness, a joining of two beings, …it was an indescribable closeness in which normal notions of time and space disappear. We were surprised to feel that our ‘bed’ seemed to be floating through space. I joked to her that she was truly between a rock and a hard place, but it was no joke.

Driving back, she sang Broadway songs to me and I felt like I was really hearing them for the first time. We stopped in a little town for a cold soda.

I’m writing this essay in the morning twilight just before dawn because that’s the time of day that represents our relationship. It’s no longer night, yet it is not day. Twilight is the only time when the night and day can meet each other and kiss. This is the page to which our book is open. This is the time when we can glimpse Camelot and live in an ideal world. We don’t fight, we don’t argue; we confide in each other—we live in each other. We live in a perpetual sunrise. It is always morning and the world is always bright and fresh.

Sometimes I feel in my descriptions that I am grasping at shadows and fleeting images that defy being captured into words because they exist only in the soul’s wordless realm. However, some haunting apparitions persist in their rising to the surface, still in their formless and mysterious ways, which the writer can try to translate.

We were drenched in the alluring fragrance of the vapor that permeated on through to our souls. The inundation of the ever present bouquet of aroma was irresistible in its redolence.

Although we had set out on the trail to walk to Gertrude’s nose, we had only made it to Getrude’s little toe.

8.

On other days, in the Shawangunks we took long loops, walking the old carriage trails, through mountain laurel and rhododendron. I was already making sure that I’d be fit for the service.

“We didn’t have anything like this back in Illinois.”

“Give me a summary of your childhood,” she requested.

“I lived with my parents in my Grandparent’s house at 1030 Wenonah Avenue until I was three or four, learning of the flowers and plants there in the backyard, where there was a little pool and a sandbox, and of the fine swing on the front porch on lazy summer days.

“The bread wagon would pull up in front while the scary scissors-grinding man would come up the alley. I learned to unhook the back parch door with a broom and go out wandering, where I met Tracy, who was several years older, who always watched over me in the alley, where I sometimes pedaled a red fire engine, even stealing her sister’s tricycle one day, a day on which I forgot to wear clothes.

“There was an unused model T in our garage, gathering dust, for Grandpa could no longer see well enough to drive. He had had a big job in the B&O railroad, to which he had been called back to during WWII. A giant green horseshoe wreath hung in the basement had been his retirement gift. There was also a library of old books that I began to read in later years.

“The adventures in the alley ever called to me, and still do, across the decades, where there was also a basketball hoop, and I can still remember when a girl showed me her butt, under the back porch, my first introduction to female anatomy. She was another of my guardian angels. Then we ate the rhubarb from the yard and spit out the pulp.

“We moved to a rented house on Euclid Avenue when I was four or five, across from a park in which I’d take shelter under the wide bushes, by myself, for these were not yet the days of danger for children wandering about. From here I spied on those walking down the sidewalk from work or school.

“Brother Mike was born, and I stood up in bed on one of his crying nights and told him to please be quiet, but it was more like ‘Shut up!”.

“I walked atop the picket fence in the back yard and went up into a tree from there, another spy outpost. There was a bad dog in the next yard and I had to stay well away from the fence on that side, lest I get nipped.

“I concealed and brought home a little wooden truck from the pre-school and had to bring it back.”

“I was in heaven when I met Jodie on the next block, for she had a freezer full of popsicles in her basement, a wonder of wonders. We palled around all over, and I showed her the fort in the bushes in the park. I only remember some of this from old photos.

“My father worked at Mars Candy Company, and brought home many treats, as well as he working a stuffed monkey when he got home.

“We moved back to Wenonah Avenue, at 1029, after a year or two, right across from my grandparents. My father began working at Campbell Soup Company and brought home dented cans with no labels. We got a dog, one of many. We played hide and seek, as well as kick the can.

“Dressed in black as Zorro, I would sneak around the neighborhood, looking into basement windows with Tracy, who was now 11, with me about 8, and in 2nd grade, in which I learned penmanship.

“Brother Jim was now about 2, Mike, 5. Grandpa died while playing solitaire. I saw him keel over.

“Marble games, hula hoops, and then yo-yo’s came and went as grade school went on and on. I built a wooden fort in the back yard, where we also had a cherry tree, a grape arbor, and a tent, and also where I’d dug a deep hole, showing it to Tracy.

“We had touch football had in the park, after my 6th grade day was over, the kids from the neighborhood joining in with me and my classmates. I saw Judy Shea’s new breasts peeking out one time. Then it was baseball for the next few years, and some tennis.

“I am skipping over my seventh grade summer, and eighth grade, which was next, for that story that is very long and sweet.

“High School was three miles away, and I’d get up early, have some hard-boiled eggs or cereal, and graham crackers crushed in milk, and walk to the village bus, six blocks away. After school, we’d walk all the way home with friends and sweethearts—Joe Gaynor, Pat Hickey, and I, the trio of mirth.

“I wore a leather jacket and rode a motorcycle, but was a good student, a rare combination. I remember the football games at the stadium on the autumn evenings, the ‘tail-light’ parking areas, the dances and plays, and all the school note passing, as well as the Beatles coming into vogue. The near to mid 60’s were at hand. War had called to some, but I was going on to college, and so I had a deferment.”

“And then I met you, Patty.”

“Very interesting,” Patty replied. “You have spared me the details of your romances for now.”

“There were several great ones.”

“I’m glad. It’s great for me to be with someone who appreciates and understands females. I love it that you had wonderful girlfriends. You can tell me more next time. I love romance and adventure tales.”

“We’re living one.”

“It’s the best of times and it’s the best of times.”

“A Tale of Two Cities?”

“A tale of two continents.”

“The Americas joined?”

“Yeah, by Panama. Ha-ha.”

9.

“Columbia is on the ocean, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and the whole place is beautiful. I may never see it again, what with my career here.”

“We’ll go there, one day.”

“It’s dangerous there, too. They make drugs.”

“A lucrative business. What was it like for you there?”

“It was somewhat primitive, very Catholic, and full of myths and superstitions, which my engineering spirit abolished in myself. I lunged into schooling, and then sought on and found your modern world here.”

“Myth-takes.”

“Yeah. Give me more of your funny takes on religion and the mythic ages that persist into today.”

“OK, get ready. Better sit down on this boulder. First, some serious stuff. The God believer is but the result of indoctrination, the sources of which may be geographical, sociological, or familial, and I shall move on, in a bit, to those who utilize introspection and/or felt sensation.

“Either way, they want it that the zillion galaxies of the universe are all there for their mammal, sapiens-sapiens cause, which is the beginning of wrong thinking, to which is added on that life requires Life behind it, but that, surprisingly, Life does not require LIFE behind. They’ve thrown away their template after but one usage. We can see that there can be some emotional comfort of being taking care of being gained by this here and in an afterlife.”

“Good, Patrick, for the mistake is to posit a Being as fundamental, which no being can be. They want not just any old Being, but even an infinitely advanced one. No go. The complex composites form later on.”

“I’m preaching to the choir?”

“Yeah, but I like it.”

“Nor does the eternal basis of stuff or even nothing admit to any creation, as it was forever, so to speak, but more like timeless; however, emotion trumps logic, for some, and they will neglect reason or not care, for they want what they want—as their own exaggerated importance in the scheme of things. They don’t wish to be humble material creatures who have even been shown to have evolved from little things over 4 billion years, for where’s the glory in that. Pride trumps humility.”

“Brains do odd things to us, sometimes,” she added.

“Yes, for the wires that fire together then wire all the more together, they then going on to rule the show.”

“My parents are both holy-holy. They say they feel things.”

“The right hemisphere of the brain is much more holistic than the left, and may even emit a felt sensation of a  presence that is wordless, it being a felt sensation. The right brain itself is felt as a presence. One can even feel the right brain side getting a bit warmer when, say, considering a piece of furniture as a whole instead of when inspecting its details.

“All in all, the experiences of presences or gods is but the ‘second story’ atop the neurological first floor, but believers are prone to neglect science or even bash it to keep their notions safe.”

She noted, “The mythic ages will die out as new generations come along, as already seen in Europe and in the once stable U.S. northeast.”

“There is nothing to show for God, as expected, and everything to show against, a double whammy, yet emotion from introspection strives on, the blind leading the blind. It’s only human to do so. Live and let live,  unless they ask.”

She noted, “They grasp for unscientific proofs, such as in OBEs, which are but of sleep paralysis and can even be chemically induced, and also by employing terms, right and left, like ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’, which are ‘just said’, having been invented just for the occasion of the God beliefs, and even then proclaiming them as gospel truth, which is surely an overstatement, and further, a deception when stated factually.”

“We’ve always had myths, but we didn’t always have science. As God vanishes and the world closes in, especially in these uncertain times, there will still be some who wish to appeal to magic, as something to hold onto to: yet, ‘magic’ ever has strings attached. A little more thought beyond the almost automatic stopping point of thinking no further reveals that we are already free to be, there being no need to restrict one’s self to the idea of some strict family father figure of ancient times, whom they. amazingly, even go on to speak for. Alas, myth will not save the world, but will only retard it.”

She looked dismayed, “The world is not a safe place. Asteroids, earthquakes, and weather may devastate us and our cities. There is no sure refuge; no hands of God saving us. Extinctions come and go. There were many more near extinctions than the Noachian Deluge.”

“We have advanced via science, not myth. All types of people wish to run their cars, heat their homes, and use appliances. Light shines upon us; the darkest ages are past, but this is no insurance against the same.”

She continued, “Life on this little spec in the cosmos is ever precarious. That it came about at all is both the curse and the blessing. We exist in the middle of nowhere, formed by little or nothing, but in a time of relative ease, for some, and to nonexistence we will return, but hopefully living gloriously in the in-between, doing good but for good’s sake, the highest ideal.”

“We’re getting serious, but I’ll come up with some funny stuff in a while.”

“That’s OK. I can do serious very well. Why do they neglect the paradoxes, Patrick?”

“Some believers don’t wish to deal and respond to the self-contradictedness of the concept of God because then they may have to actually consider it, but their emotions sway them away and back to their suppositional notions, wherein they conceive of invisible beings, and talk to them, and even speak for them, concocting more invisible notions such as souls, layered on, not caring or even wanting to know that these entities would have to be material in order to talk the talk and walk the walk of the material; however, appeals to magic can take care of that problem.”

“I’ve seen it, Patrick. As anywhere, they  say “huh?”, plead ignorance of science, employ tired old deflections upon the person, or on emotions as saying the ideas are to inflame and bring ‘hate’. It’s no wonder, though, for what else do they have? Even more piles of invisibles? After a point that begins to look really silly, and so they just outright neglect the ideas, instead adding made-up words to support their own position, such as ‘soul’, ‘angels’, ‘immaterial realm’, ‘spirit’, and other such obvious unshowables, along with the chutzpah to even proclaim them as the truth. It’s an Invisibility Disorder. I only talk about these things with you.”

“As long as we’ve made-up without proof that an infinitely advanced Being just sat around for most of forever marveling at His non God-given talent until he decided one day to create the whole entire universe that had in it a special place called Earth, we might as well extend these suppositions to say that this Divinity of Emerson’s incorporated a kind of soul transponder into our highly evolved mammal brains to animate us and to perhaps provide some outside help for our chemistry exams in college.”

She sighed, “Might as well make up more. This immortal immaterial light body thing of a soul lets us talk to God, back and forth, and is also what leaves the body at death to go back where it came from, which is perhaps a Heaven in which all wishes can come true, along with great peace and happiness. While on Earth, a Devil may attempt to retard us, so, watch out. What a tall tale.”

“That’s my cue, Patty. So, God, who was much older than dirt, in fact, infinitely old, decided to perform some lab experiments one day, around 14 billion years ago, or else it was only 4000-6000 years ago, supposedly, producing mammal sapiens as his pride and joy; however, he was evidently a poor craftsman, perhaps because He was so old, and so these mammals goofed up left and right, and even up and down and sideways, building and worshiping golden calves and so forth, so He sent Moses, the same Moses who had wiped out so many tribes, to bring the Tablets down from the burning bush on the mountain to them, but this didn’t have any real effect, so God killed everyone on Earth but for Noah and his wife, Yesah (she always had to say ‘yes’, as that’s how it was in those days), and, no, she was not really named ‘Yesah’, but was Joan of Arc, and then the new mammals’ descendants  still screwed up, in and out, and so God sent some prophets, but this still failed, and so God impregnated a virgin in some magic way, Jesus being the result, Jesus then converted from Judaism to Christianity, but the people crucified him and still acted horrible for nearly two millennia, when upon He sent Our Lady of Fatima, but still his creatures were full of evil and so now the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012.

She smiled, “Now, that’s funny. Now, what about the The Tallest Tale of All.”

“As evolution never happened, the fossils being planted fakes, it is that God made Adam and all in immutable forms, as is, and separately, about 4096 years ago, seeing that Adam was good, although not that great, placing him in the mother of all gardens, Eden, where the lion and the lamb lay down together, this not even producing any lamb chops.

“Adam was lonely, being the first and only mammal sapiens, plus not even having any childhood memories, for a child he never was, nor even a teenager. In fact, x-rays of his brain showed nothing. God, too, had no earliest memory, He having been around forever, so He felt sorry for Adam and asked Adam if he would like a perfect and very attractive kind of opposite partner with whom he could have love and companionship.

“Adam said, ‘Yeah, sure; I’ll go for that perfect creature!’

“God replied, ‘But she will cost you an arm and a leg.’

“Adam, rather liking his arm and leg said, ‘What can I get for just a rib, as I can surely spare one of those?’

“Well, then,” God answered, missing the humor of it, ‘How about a less than perfect one, but still a very good partner?’

“‘OK.’

“God made Eve right there on the spot, while also adding some lust into Adam and her, although greatly overdoing it.”

“Well, Adam glowed with excitement over this beautiful naked lady, as if he’d never seen one before, which he hadn’t, saying, ‘Holy hot tomato! Wo, man! This is fantastic. I’ll take her. What a great date!’

“‘OK, she’s yours,’ God said, ‘and we’ll call her ‘woman’, as you said. No trade-ins allowed. But she won’t cut the grass, take out the trash, or paint ceilings.’

“‘So what, for I don’t even know what those are, or care.’

“‘And don’t touch  the apple from Newton’s tree. Thou shalt not. This is firm.’

“‘OK, what the heck would I want to touch that for when I have Eve!’

“‘True, Adam,  and before you get married she will say that she wants only one thing: you, but, after that, then she will say she wants everything.’

“‘Hey, no sweat, for everything is right here in this garden.’

“They immediately married and lived happily together for a few minutes, he harvesting her pomegranates and more, and she enjoying his ever-green and growing stalk, Adam telling her right away about the apple since he didn’t have much else in his brain but it and her, as really he had no other previous memories.

“Well, God must have not been very much all-knowing, for He didn’t know that telling these children of his not to touch something meant that they surely would. It didn’t help that a snake tempted them into doing so.

“A few minutes later, they not only touched the apple, but ate it, and so they were cast out, but Eve, who still wanted everything, stole all the flowers we’ve ever known, spreading them unto the Earth.”

“A good tale, Patrick. So here we are, to suffer, toil, and die—our Designer all sad, mad, and disappointed in Himself.”

“At least there is love.”

“Yeah—that’s the great part.”

“How did I find you?”

“You’re asking because you didn’t find me; I found you.”

“I let myself be found.”

“Yes, you did, and you didn’t come on with silly surface flirts, like some do.”

“Those are like power plays, near insults, even.”

“Yeah. You let your inner nature shine through, naturally.”

“And you reflected yours.”

“Any more comedy? Whatever happened to Adam and Eve?”

“Well, Eden’s line and longevity was very strong, and such as even Methuselah, who lived for but a mere 969 years. He died on the 11th of Cheshvan of the year 1656 (Anno Mundi, after creation), seven days before the beginning of the great flood. According to Rashi on Gen  7:4, the Holy One delayed the flood especially because of the seven days of mourning for the righteous Methuselah, in his honor. Methuselah was son of Enoch, and the grandfather of Noah. Methuselah had crossed a path without looking both ways, and had been run over by a horse cart.

“The recent find of Austi 2:5 scroll tells us that Adam was yet alive on that day, he, too, boarding the ark of Noah, being 1655 years old at that time.

“In fact, I ran into Adam just the other day, looking innumerable years old, at age 4095, but aging quite gracefully. Eve was at his side, yet gleaming with the ripeness obtained from Eden’s apple.

“They revealed to me the formula for true apple cider, which would result in an elixir, not a vinegar. Eden’s sinful apple, the cause of it, made for harsh apple cider, but, when it was heated with sulfurous brimstone it soon turned smooth, the Hell boiled out of it!

“Adam was was still going strong, but one day he didn’t look both ways when crossing the street and was run over by a truck. Eve found a new guy the very next day, a senior citizen.

“Oh, boy,” said Patty. “I like the stories. Got more?”

“Yeah, ‘Sand Trek’.”

“OK.”

“Moses was a basket case from the beginning, when the sweet little guy was set adrift in what must have been the high seas to him. Saved by his new step-parents to be, he was to become a merciless killer of many tribes, but his main claim to fame, as it turns out, was his getting lost in the desert for 40 years with 650,000 people.

“Being a man, he couldn’t and didn’t ask for directions, and God certainly wouldn’t give him any. At times, some manna from Heaven fell and bonked everyone on their heads, but these were still very tough times. I’ve walked on sand, and it is really tiring and wearing.

“Moses, giving rise to the term ‘moseying’, led the parade around in circles, often arriving at the rear of the long train, then lapping the whole thing, getting nowhere very fast.

“The manna ran out, but they ate the ‘sand which’ was there; however, they still had to go 40 years without water that is not there in a desert. They were so thirsty they they became somewhat refreshed by drinking mirages. No archeological traces remain of the Sand Trek, but the Bible says they were there for forty years. They were also immutable on a fixed and flat Earth.

“Arriving in Canaan, they discovered that all was for naught, for their kind was already there. Moses then retired for the next 1000 years, doing nothing much. I think he’s still alive somewhere.”

So, there we were, lying on the long rock slabs that were sightly tilted downward, into some oblivion that we didn’t want to go down and look at.

Life was good, and on it rolled, ever toward a future unknown. …

10.

Summer ended, and the leaves began to fall, through October, and even during an extended warmth into November, which month,  at last, revealed its dimness, then December, as darkness, but for the light of the Christmas to come.

In late November, after Thanksgiving, Patty had announced, “We each have a week of vacation left.”

“What a coincidence. I’ve just been looking up Caribbean places.” I showed her some brochures.

She looked them over. “How about the Bahamas?”

“I’ll book it for mid December.”

We landed on Great Bahama Island, for the first part of our trip. The waters were bluish green. They served drinks on the beach. I swam a lot, to get more fit. We visited some Casinos.

After a few days, we took a boat to Nassau. I swam there some more, and took longs runs through the sand.

“You’re increasing your fitness for the Army,” Patty noted.

“Yeah, I’m already pretty fit, but the Army is going to put us through a heck of a lot in Basic Training, through its eight intense weeks.”

“You’ll do well.”

We went back to IBM. Christmas came and went. My time was probably near up. The war was still on.

My father got sick, with diverticulitis. It was a serious case, and he’d already lost a lot of weight. My little brother, Jim, now near to finish high school, brought his homework to the hospital. My brother, Mike, did, too, he being in college.

1971 turned. I was 23 years old, which was a long way from 18. I’d been at IBM for ten months. I’d already delegated most of my work.

Programming was an art and I was an artist. In my programs, I lived in a world of endless possibilities and contingencies, all of which had to bc ingeniously foreseen and provided for, so that the computer could operate at blinding speed, with my program handling any and all eventualities which might disrupt its smooth operation.

Like a chess player who must look many moves ahead, I juggled all the plans in my head while writing the program, visualizing the paths and alternatives in a way that was both poetic and logical—a mixture of intuition, creativity, niles, and the sheer exhilaration that propelled the solving of the task. And it was all very satisfying.

I left work a bit late, driving past the waterfalls that gave Wappingers Falls its name. I could see that they were partially frozen, but were still trickling and gleaming in the moonlight. I turned and drove down my favorite road, the one that paralleled the creek. I passed the wonderful old barns, stone fences, and snowy fields. I checked the mail, and it was with the dread of being issued a death sentence that I opened the letter giving me greetings from Uncle Sam that told me to report to the Army for induction.

As I sat down on the steps, my recent life flashed before me. So they finally got me, I said softly to myself, they finally got me!

I would learn the M-I6 rille, small arms, bayonet, and how to twist an ice pick into the enemy’s brain. All of us soldiers, each in our own way, would have to prepare for survival or death. Some would go AWOL, and some would go crazy.

I had about a week to get back to Chicago. Mike held a farewell party for me, and said he’d send the Army a recommendation.

I brought the Simulator card deck over to Mike’s office and put it on his desk. He jumped up and shied away from it, as if it was full of contagion.

I told him, “We just need a place to keep it. It’s been stable for a long time. Carl Dimsey down in the machine room knows assembler language, if it needs anything.”

“OK.” He quickly stuffed it in a drawer. “This place is really going to be humming when you get back.”

Patty told me to live it up while away, much as Lucille had, that I shouldn’t necessarily wait for her, that she didn’t know what she’d have to do—didn’t want to hold me back, etc. Well, she did want to, but she was acting brave.

She went on, “My parents are great, but for the marriage thing. They brought me up well, and nourished me into the one you could love, and do. I feel a responsibility to them, although it really should be up to me to how I live my life now. I will decide, and only me.”

“I understand. And you must live, too, for I could die over there.”

“And you had better live and love there.”

“In an Army?”

“Well, yes, if you can.”

“We’ll see.”

“Our relationship has been going so well, Patrick. Near nine months. Where are all the problems, the flaws, the character defects?”

“True love perfects the whole show.”

“Come back alive.”

“I’ll try.”

I put what little stuff I owned into my car and drove to Chicago. She watched me take off, and stayed there, not moving. I felt like turning around, but didn’t, heading off for all that lie beyond.

The Military

1.

While some of this may get repeated in a later section, ‘Cambodian Adventures’, I’m still putting a bit of it in here, for there are large, surrounding episodes not revealed later, these mostly near the beginning and the end of my Army service.

I reported to the Army induction center in Forest Park, Illinois, at 6 AM. We just sat there for the next twelve hours, because Fort Hood in Washington State had been snowed in. Good, too cold there.

At 5 PM, we got onto a bus to Midway Airport. Many of the inductees looked and were very young. We were going to Fort Polk, Louisiana. Good, it’s warm there.

We arrived and were taken into a reception area, and stayed there about a week, having our pictures taken, getting uniforms, and taking written tests. Well, I still knew things, from college, and so I did well. They wanted to know if I wanted to extend my Army career to three years, by taking up Vietnamese language study at first. I said ‘No.’ Then they wanted to know if I wanted to extend my service to four years and move up quicker, and such. I said, ‘No.”

One day, we saw an elite infantry in advanced training running by, they grunting something like ‘oomph’ every fourth step. They looked tough. The sort of kid hippie looking guy in charge of us said to yell something back at them like ‘ha-ha’.

Next we took physical tests. Those who failed would get extra attention when we got into the eight weeks of basic training. We had to swing hand to hand from 24 bars three times, making for 72, crawl thirty yards in under 20 seconds, throw a dummy grenade into a small circle from about fifty feet away, get through an obstacle course, and do a mile run under a certain time.

Well, most of these seemed easy, but for the crawl; however, I’d noted that the best finishers moved their arms and legs all at the same time, not in a sequence, going really fast, so I copied that. For the grenade throw, I gauged its weight fairly well. It was like throwing a small brick. The mile run is never an easy thing, especially when wearing boots, but I did fine. I’d been on the track team, and knew what to expect.

I’d made 480 out of 500. Those scoring under 300 had failed, and would have to retake it after a few weeks.

We were sent to the basic training barracks elsewhere in the sprawling fort. The Drill Sergeant came on tough, going nose to nose with some of the recruits, telling them, by yelling, not to call him ‘sir’, but ‘Drill Sergeant’, as in ‘Yes, Drill Sergeant’. Some still said ‘Yes, sir’, even to that.

I was older than most, and had tested well, so Drill Sergeant Perry made me the squad leader, giving me a special room at the end of the barracks. He came in to see me. His whole demeanor suddenly changed.

He said, “I have to yell at them, so they learn to take orders without question. For off hours matters, I’ll be going through you. I won’t be dealing with them, directly. Here’s a list of jobs, such as fire and guard duty to be assigned every night, all through the night. Lights out at nine. Any questions?”

“No, Drill Sergeant.”

“My brother is over in Vietnam. I’m worried. I haven’t heard from him lately. Have any brothers?”

“Two, one in college and one in high school.”

“Hope this damned war is over by then.”

“Me, too.”

“Carry on.”

We got up at 5:30 AM each day, then went to the Mess Hall for breakfast, and then stood in formation outside to hear about our day. At first, it was a lot of exercise, such as doing push-ups until our arms burned, or jumping jacks until our legs burned. Those who tried to cheat by not going all the way down for push-ups had to do more, right under the Drill Sergeant’s nose, which gave the rest of us a slight recuperation time.

Then we practiced marching in formation. Someone was always marching off in the wrong direction. They had to write ‘left’ and ‘right’ on their hands.

We learned how to take our rifles apart, clean them, and put them back together, even in the dark. We went off on long marches to the rifle ranges, having to march on the soft shoulder of the road. Some fell by the wayside, and if they were really in bad shape, got picked up by a truck that followed us.

We had a few hours left over in the evenings, usually. I went to the library and played symphonies on the record player there, or had beer and pizza in the place we weren’t supposed to go to. I’d noted that no one ever checked. Two people had a big fight outside, a brutal one.

We camped out, for days, sometimes. They gave us little cigarette packs, each only containing three cigarettes. I traded mine for meal packets.

One day, I had KP in the Mess Hall, as most of  us did, eventually. It was raining really hard out there. Lucky me, for I couldn’t go on the long march that day. I didn’t need any more rifle training, anyway, for I could hit the target at 300 yards.

Some kid in another Company had turned his rifle on his Drill Sergeant, on full automatic, cutting him in half. We then heard stories about some troops in Vietnam rolling grenades into their Commander’s tents. This war was a sore spot for both Congress and for some of the troops.

Halfway through Basic Training, while we were on bivouac, the Captain came up to me and asked if I wanted to work in a Nuclear Facility. I said, “Yes, Captain.”

It sounded crazy, but it was then that I knew some wheels were turning somewhere in the Army’s paper mill.

One day, they called us in and asked for our preferences on where we’d liked to be stationed. The guy looked over my stats, just saying, “Your test scores are good.”

I filled out a destination form: 1st: New York; 2nd: Chicago: 3rd: Hawaii.

“Not much going on in New York or Chicago,” he said. “We can’t promise anything.”

The training became tougher. Some troops were thrown out, and would have to start their training from scratch. Some troops were conscientious objectors. We never knew where they were sent. We took more physical tests, Double tough, but doable for me. I scored 490, having improved my grenade throw.

We learned how to kill in every conceivable way, from bayonets to hand-to-hand combat, to planting mines, and more. We even crawled through an obstacle course studded with barbed wire, with live fire tracing over our heads.

I was allowed to call my father. He was still very sick, and here I was, stuck in the middle of bayous and swamps, becoming a finely tuned instrument of war. My gambits to out wait the war had failed. After another eight weeks of advanced training, in whatever field, which was yet to be determined, I’d be off to war, most likely.

Our basic training now became triple tough, but I’d reached into reserves that I never knew I had. Now we had to do a two-mile run, with a pack on. I felt powerful, but what would that do against a bullet.

We received our advance training destinations. Mine was to be at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in artillery. Must have had to do with my math skills.

Two weeks to go. They finally gave us a weekend off. I took a bus fifty miles to St. Charles, just to be somewhere normal. Some of the other troops did, too, and a few deserted, probably heading for Canada.

I called Patty and told her that I might be launching artillery shells or nuclear missiles.

She said, Stop joking.”

I said, “I’m not.”

2.

Basic training finally ended, it seeming to have gone on forever. I packed my large duffel bag and went out to wait for the bus to Fort Sill. It came. I was about to get on it, when the Captain came running out, saying, “Don’t get on; you’re getting new orders.”

“When and where, Captain?”

“I don’t know; it will probably take a few weeks. This doesn’t happen very often.”

I lounged around in my squad room bunk for a week, doing nothing and not much, although reading and writing, and then a new batch of trainees came in. Sergeant Perry made me a temporary assistant Drill Sergeant. He even gave me one of those Drill Sergeant hats. I still have it, to this day.

It was easy, for now I could walk on the road surface instead of on the sandy shoulder. Once in a while, I would remind the troops to say in step. It was rather a walk in the park for me now.

Several weeks passed. I got my new orders, but they were hard to figure, since they said ‘Oakland, California’.

“Am I to be stationed in Oakland, Captain?”

“I guess so. Fort Ord.”

“Isn’t that a transfer station, Captain?”

“Well, yes, but I guess they need you to work there.”

My Captain seemed to be at a loss for an explanation. Perhaps no one had ever bypassed Advanced Training to go directly overseas.

I also had a week’s leave given to me, to get ready. I flew back to Chicago, via Houston, the only way to get there from my no where land.

I called up Joe Gaynor, who had worked at the post office. We went checked the APO mailing address on my orders. It was for Honolulu. Well, that was good to know, in case I had been thinking of driving my car to Oakland.

My father was improving, according to my mother. I went to the hospital to see him. He wasn’t so optimistic. (Well, he was wrong, for he would live to be 91, but little did we know of that then.)

Old Oak Park brought back memories, but I had now outgrown the place, it seemed. I slept out on the front porch for a week, causing me to think of old times, and then flew to Oakland, on the Army’s dime, took a bus, and then got off at Fort Ord.

They fitted me for a khaki uniform, with both longs and shorts. The place was run like Basic Training. We had formations every morning. Some had their names called to leave, and the rest were given silly jobs like guarding dumpsters or whatever, these to be done in the middle of the night.

After a few days, they called my name, along with a few others. We got into a truck and were driven to an Air Force Base, where we boarded a cargo jet, which also carried a large tank. It was so noisy that we couldn’t even hear each other.

After four or five hours, the Big Island of Hawaii appeared out the window. We flew on, passing Molokai, and Maui, and then landed on Oahu, at Hickam Air Force Base.

A short shuttle ride then took us to the adjacent Honolulu International Airport, which was open to the air, where all but me were told to get into a bus that would take them somewhere, they telling me to just walk out of the front door and make my way by myself to Fort Shafter.

Walking excitedly, I passed the gateways to such exotic ports as Papeété (Tahiti), Guam, Saipan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bali, and Japan.

Hari-Khrisnas played tambourines for me outside.

So, here I was, near Waikiki, all alone, with my heavy duffel bag. The air was full of scents, and the Pali Mountains and their cliff-sides loomed in the distance. What kind of an Army unit was I in? It seemed to good to be true, and yet there I was. The fates had sent me to Paradise.

I was struck for the minute by the lush green and fertile majesty of the mountains, whose tops were shrouded in mist, for this new reality was almost too much to comprehend at first glance. My brain just wasn’t used to it, and so I didn’t really know how to look at it.

“Those mountains are where the Tiki gods live,” said the lovely airport greeter as she placed a flowered lei around my neck. No one can see them, because the clouds never lift, although some of the old Hawaiians claim to have seen the tops clear once or twice in their lifetime.”

I said nothing, but stood still looking, as the perfumes of my flowered necklace and the balm of the ocean breezes told me that l had reached the place whose pictures from the National Geographic I had plastered all over the walls of my room in Illinois, a long time ago.

I hailed a taxi, and about six miles later we arrived at Fort Shafter, the home of the Computer System Command Pacific, or CSC PAC, the MP at the gate looking over my orders, telling the driver something, and then waving us through. He dropped me at Sergeant Shafer’s office.

Old Sergeant Shafer looked weary, but I guessed it was from his age. He was a lifer. I sat down, and he talked to me about a lot of things, non of them military, finally saying, and instructing, “Take two weeks off, free of charge, and then come back to see me. You’re going to be working in that compound across Palm Circle,” we then going outside and he pointing to it. “They’re mostly civilians and civil service. You won’t be working for me. I’m just here to give you your paycheck, to set up visits to the doctor or the dentist, handle leave time, which is a month a year, and such. Go there and say ‘hello’, and remind them that I gave you two weeks off.”

“What do they do over there, Sergeant?”

“Heck if I really know.”

“But you’ve heard rumors, Sergeant.”

“Yeah, I’ve been here a long time. Look at my hash marks. I’ll tell you in the jeep. C’mon, I’ve give you a ride over to the barracks. Here’s your new insignia; you’re now a Specialist 4, Spec-4, for short.”

“Thanks, Sergeant.” I’d never heard of a Specialist 4 rank, but I didn’t mention it.

We drove about a quarter of a mile, the Sergeant calling attention to places like the movie theater, the library, and some statues. We had to stop to let someone pass.

“There goes Paul,” the Sergeant noted, carrying some worthless piece of paper.”

“He’s useless?”

“Yeah, practically. Some screw-up sent him here. We’re going to have him run our Xerox machine.”

“Good that he didn’t get sent to a nuclear facility. Any of those around here?”

“Nope. Ha. They told you that?”

“Yes, but way back in the middle of basic.”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same in this man’s army.”

“So, what do those civilians and civil service workers do where I’m going to work at?”

“Um, mysterious things having to do with intelligence, logistics, spying, and probably some off-the-wall hush-hush operations. I’m guessing. They don’t inform me as to the details.”

“But they still have to report to the Army.”

“Higher up, I suppose. Hey, here’s the barracks and there’s the PX across the street.” Be careful in the barracks. Lot of rowdies there. I don’t deal with the barracks. Sometimes a Captain from there might come around to do a surprise inspection, which he will advertise beforehand. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

“Yes and no. Thanks, Sergeant.”

So then, the Sergeant, my work place, and the barracks seemed to be completely separate operations. I went in and took a look at the barracks. There was music blasting, people seeming to be on drugs, and even one fight going on.

I need not officially check into this place, I thought. I’ll go stay in Waikiki, especially during my two free weeks, and then probably stay there longer.

I found an empty bunk in the barracks that had been thrown up against a wall, dragged it to a far corner, and cobbled together some empty lockers, as as kind of a wall, then went down to the quartermaster’s and obtained sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. I made the bed perfectly, which would be its first and last time, for I wasn’t ever going to sleep in it.

3.

I walked over to the mysterious compound across Palm Circle, and on into the building. No security. They were indeed mostly civilians, but for three privates.

Lt. Dauphanais came over, out of some back room, saying, “Heard you were coming. Sorry for the delay back at Fort Polk. We were finishing up your background check. You’re clean as a fish from the White River in Mississippi.”

“Happy to be here, Lieutenant.”

“Glad you could join us. I’ll show you around. This here’s the computer programming area.”

He introduced me to a Mr. Freeman there, an ordinary looking American, along with his shapely oriental secretary, who seemed part Japanese, and then to Ben, the computer leader person.

We headed down a hallway.

“Mr. Freeman runs this place, at least for what happens in computer programming over there. Out in the field, you’ll be on your own, although loosely under the General’s umbrella, which you probably won’t even have to deal with, but if he needs you for anything he’ll find you.”

“What General is that, Lieutenant?”

“Just the Commander of the entire Pacific region. He’s based here, but he’s hardly ever here.”

We then went into a kind of map room that showed various locations throughout Indochina.

“Here we gather Intelligence from the field.”

They had but one terminal, with a large screen, with a few civilians gathered around it. Wonder how they got that?

“I’ll show you more next time.”

“More back rooms?”

“Yeah.”

“The sergeant gave me two weeks off.”

“Great. That means he likes you. You might want to check out our computer center just down the way.” We went outside, and he pointed to it.

The lieutenant lit up a smoke, and offered me one. I took it, for then I didn’t have to walk off. What it meant was that he wanted to pass the breeze, and do it out here.

“Times are a bit slow this week,” he said, “which is good, for when they move, they really move.”

“You’re not really a lieutenant-type lieutenant.”

“I’m higher. Hey, you’re the first to catch onto that right off, although when I’m here at this compound I’m a lieutenant. What gave it away?”

“The computer science center, supporting logistics and supply, is real enough, but it’s also a front for Intelligence, which need is also routine enough, but it probably has an operating arm, which is where the missing soldiers are, and the newest, perhaps getting trained or briefed at Schofield Barracks or somewhere else.”

“Very good. And me?”

“You’re above Mr. Freeman, and he’s probably a GS-11, with Ben as a GS-9.”

“What else?”

“You’re not a good old boy from Mississippi, since your affect is not through and through. Tennessee, maybe. Your grandfather is from France.”

“Hey, good. Kentucky. I’ll have to work on my deep south thing some more.”

“And the White River isn’t in Mississippi; it just runs close to it.”

“Whoops. Did Sergeant Shafer tell you anything?”

“No, he said he didn’t really know, but that told me everything.”

“What else?”

“Your compound has a ‘U’ shape in the rear, connecting it to the MP compound. You perhaps employ their combat units sometimes.”

“What else?”

“The bus from the airport had a Marine driving it, and he took a right, towards Kanehoe Marine Base. For Schofield Barracks, he would have taken a left. So, our General may even have a multi-service Command position.”

“Perhaps the bus was full of Marines.”

“They spoke of being happy to leave Carolina, so they are special forces from Fort Bragg, which is Army. They weren’t in uniform, but they looked seasoned.”

“We’re doing a big push now. You’re going to do OK, here. Welcome.”

“It’s some kind of a miracle.”

“Yeah, and that’s our job, too. Ben needs someone in a five or six weeks to bring our update tapes to Korea. Your Army ID will serve as your passport. Wait for Ben to bring it up; he just lost a good friend in a helicopter crash in Vietnam—our previous courier, your predecessor.”

“I’ll do it, and the other runs, too.”

“Thanks, I was going to ask you, and you get points for volunteering first, but otherwise, we’re planning to keep you mostly in software here, but other needs could arise. Your IBM boss, Mike, wrote us a great letter, and your test scores were great. Korea will be a fairly safe adventure, but the place can be rough and tough, too, and the whole place could boil over at any time. You’ll have to heed their 11 PM curfew. Call me from there if anything comes up. Keep your eyes and ears open. We’ll send Vince as a backup, but you won’t see him, I hope, but he’s, well, kind of a scared kid, a COBOL programmer from the Bronx. After that, there’ll be Okinawa, and Vietnam deliveries. Don’t worry about all this now. It’s more than a month away.”

“Sounds good, Major. See you in two weeks.”

“I am that, and I might have been a Colonel, but we don’t have those in this area, because those pencil pushers would only get in the way of the action, which is what we’re all about. We try to look low key around here. I started in software, too, and I still dabble in it. Enjoy. Times are slow, for a while.”

I walked over to the computer center, and went inside. I saw Vince coming out. He was but a private first class, and very young. Cripes. I talked to him; he was nervous, and his Bronx background was genuine.

There were some oriental ladies in the office. They sent me on into the computer room. They didn’t have an IBM machine; it was an RCA Spectra 70.

“What assembler language does this this thing use?” I asked the Army person who was running it.

“The same as IBM’s, but this machine is cheaper.”

Wait till Mike hears this one, I thought.

I looked at the card reader, it stopping, pausing, and then restarting after a while, and asked, “Does this process the input cards in real time, or do the cards decks get put onto disk first.”

“In real time.”

“So then the computer has to spend time doing nothing but waiting for new decks to be loaded, for they don’t get cached.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“What’s the name of the Random Access disk?”

“B2.”

“OK, try this.” I keypunched a four line program, and then made a copy of it. “It’s called CDRA, for Card to Random Access. Run it once and then you can put as many card decks in as you like, not having to wait for each one to finish computing, as before.”

“OK, thanks. I’ll try it.”

On my way out, I asked one of the ladies to file the card deck somewhere, and then headed off for my two weeks free vacation. I could hardly believe my luck.

4.

I changed into civilian clothes at the barracks, had a short meal at the mess hall, and then walked outside the fort, and took a bus to Waikiki, and got off, whereat I changed into my swimming suit, which I had just bought, and waded out into the ocean to celebrate, just standing there, all amazed and grateful.

Catamarans and surfers swept by on their way out to catch the waves. I retired under a large and far spreading Banyan tree and drank a small Mai-Tai, wondering just where in the heck I was going to live.

Then I got dressed and walked the beaches, behind all the hotels, intending to go to the west end, where I’d noted an R&R center, near Hickam Air Force Base, and then back the other way, to Diamond Head. I didn’t call anyone. They wouldn’t have believed me. Besides, I had to process it all, first.

I was about halfway back, near to the Sheraton Hotel, when a Japanese girl asked me to take her and her friends’ picture, she just motioning to me to do it. I took several pictures. She was stunning, and older than her friends, who were not as mature, as they were at some kind of giggling stage. I told myself, keep on walking after this, or risk being hit by a love meteor falling out of the sky.

Her friends then went back into the hotel, which turned out to be the pink Royal Hawaiian, but she remained, we looking at and into each other. Time had frozen; my feet hadn’t listened to my mind. She made some hand motions, or else she was doing a slow dance. She was relatively tall, and wore a skirt well above her knees. Perhaps I was about to be hit by an asteroid, and just when I had other important things to do.

Just then, a beach waitress came over and asked if we wanted to buy drinks. I said, “Yes, waitress,” and ordered two Singapore Slings, before I could tell myself not to. Well, that clinched it. We sat at a table, taking in the view of the waves that had rolled all the way here from Japan.

I’d like to say that I talked with her a while, but she spoke very little English, although some, she often having to refer to a Japanese-English dictionary, and, of course, I spoke no Japanese. Her name was Kimiyo Wada. I found out that she had just arrived, and told her somehow that I just did, too. We employed a lot of sign language, assisted by her broken English, that I found myself soon using, too.

We passed the time. She was wonderful, and she liked me, and I liked her. We’d both been captivated. I felt guilty, though. I had been instructed to live and love, true, but in the first hour of the first day? The fates had evidently just put one over on me.

After a while, Kimiyo, somehow, after a few false starts,  asked if we could see all the sights together. I said, “Yes, tourist,” but in Japanese. I thought deeply, Why do these kind of things happen to me?

Well, it would be more fun to see the sights with someone, even if we could hardly communicate to each other. It was a challenge, and I still felt powerful, or was high on the air we had here, not to mention the stiff drink. Well, I suppose we both felt extra wild and free from being on vacation.

We walked off together, as if it was our destiny, and took in the local scenes first, wandering here and there, for many blocks, then heading inland for a block.

I noted a ‘Room for Rent’ sign, and told Kimiyo that I needed a place to live.

A girl named Colleen answered. I inquired, telling her it was just for me. She was Irish, and good looking, with red hair, freckles, and long legs, but she was all business. The renting length was informal. I could rent even by just the week. She showed us in. I could tell from the decor and the posters that Colleen was an antiwar protestor.

“I am Colleen O’Donnell.”

“And I am St Partick!”

“Good. Now I know I can trust you. You can sleep on the back porch. Cheap. We have netting there.”

“It’s a deal,” I said. “I love porches.” I paid her for two weeks, noting that I’d most likely end up staying longer.

Jane Fonda is coming to town,” she remarked. “For an FTA rally.”

“Sounds like quite a spectacle. I wouldn’t miss it.”

“What is that scent?” I asked.

“Jasmine, Plumeria, Hibiscus, Orchid, and Passion Flower. I have them all out on the porch. Come see.”

She held out a pink orchid for me to sniff, then said about herself, “I was once another kind of flower child, but I suppose that I outgrew it, and now I am a much too serious grad student, but, I graduate in a few months and then it will all be worth it. I already have a job waiting for me back in Oregon, where I can also attend to my sick mother.”

Colleen tried to speak to Kimiyo, but got no answer.

“She doesn’t speak much English,” I told her. “And I don’t speak Japanese,” I added.

“Ha,” she said. “The perfect couple.”

“Or if the man is deaf and the woman is blind.”

She laughed again, having now having relaxed her business posture.

“I’ll be back later.”

Colleen waved, “Have fun.”

We left. I didn’t really need to tell her that we’d just met a few hours ago.

5.

While we were touring the International Market Place, I picked up a newspaper, and then conveyed to Kimiyo that I needed to buy a motorcycle, and had just picked one out, a 180cc. We went over to a hotel, and I called and inquired about it. It was still for sale, and we could come over in the late afternoon. We strolled around some more. The place was casting its spell on us.

We found a bus to Waipahu, which was out past Pearl City, which route would also let us see some sights.

From the bus, we had to walk about a half mile, though a country like area filled with sugar cane fields. I paid for the motorcycle, got the papers, and we rode off, picking up the H1 Freeway. Now we could go anywhere. It was near dark, which happens around 6:30 in the sub or near tropics.

We stopped for dinner near the University of Hawaii, in the Manoa Valley. We discovered many and various more ways to communicate, beyond words, but we still had to resort to the translation dictionary.

I located the graduate level computer center at the university. We went in and looked around. They had a small IBM computer. I helped someone, named Alice Wong, with a computer programming problem.

Alice was grateful, and said, “You work IBM?”

“Yeah, I do, but I’m in the Army now, on a military leave of absence. See you next time, maybe.”

“OK. Me here.”

We rode around some more, along the well lit Ali Wai Canal, then got off and toured a park full of gardens, and then sat on an ocean wall in Waikiki for quite a while, translating words.

[I have to scan in some of Kimiyo’s writings on paper, that I saved, and put them here, or later, probably.]

The moon rose over Diamond Head, just like on a postcard. It was 9 PM.

We rode off, and put the motorcycle away at my new place, then walked over to the Royal Hawaiian. She signaled me to wait, while she went up to her room. She came back with a blanket, and we headed through the hotel and out onto the beach.

We lay there, talked, and then cuddled and kissed, eventually. Well, I was supposed to live and love. People must have thought we were newlyweds.

It wasn’t, really, that I wanted to make a life of meeting tourists. It, well, it had just happened. What could I do? The atmosphere was overpowering.

Kimiyo covered us with another, lighter blanket, and she opened her blouse many buttons down. I felt guilty again, but then remembered again that I was supposed to live and love. Well, Kimiyo would only be here for three weeks, so this wasn’t going to turn into a permanent relationship. She took my shirt off, but we kept everything else on. She was thrilled with the hair on my chest. Now and then someone wandered by and smiled at us.

So, this is the Army, I thought. Truth had once again proved stranger than fiction. Around 11 or so, we parted and went back to our separate abodes. Not bad for the first day.

I was tired. I bid Colleen a “Goodnight and thank you,” and went off to sleep in my fine porch room. She followed, telling me of a fine swimming hole that I could take Kimiyo to.

I didn’t think Colleen had figured me as being in the Army, for my hair had grown out from the ‘basic’ style during the last few weeks. I even said some words about how could our troops even know why the North Vietnamese should be their enemy.

We talked a while.

6.

Well, Kimiyo proved to be a beautiful, bright, and wonderfully warm human being. I was still asleep when she came over the next morning, waking me up slowly by stroking my hair and my chest. At first, I thought I was dreaming, and then I remembered that the stars had fallen on me yesterday, out of nowhere, again.

I got dressed, Kimiyo still sitting there, and we went over to the all-you-can-eat breakfast at her hotel, and we were soon away on the motorcycle, traveling along the oceanside cliff roads, through rich Kahala, then passing the snorkeling paradise of Hanauma Bay, and then winding down around the southeast shores, passing the famous body surfing beaches with their massive waves, especially Sandy Beach, and were soon roaring on toward the quiet cove where they had filmed ‘From Here To Eternity’, wherein we lunched and swam and walked from one lava pool to the next, soon finding the attraction called the ‘blowhole’, where the crashing waves underneath found their spraying way through a lava tube, splashing out of the hole like a whale blows out water.

Then, after watching the waves blast against the rocks, we were off to see the Japanese temple in the Valley of the Pali’s, which was actually a Buddhist temple.

Nearby was a bamboo forest with shoots at least four inches thick, and it had many paths leading off to quiet places, with macadamia trees and ponds with swans and tropical fish. It was a warm afternoon, although the temperature in Hawaii hardly ever exceeded 84 degrees, and I was lucky to find the native swimming hole that Colleen had told me about, Kimiyo and I having had to walk about two hundred yards through a jungle path before coming out to the surprising vista, for this was a spot well hidden, far off the tourist path.

Some very brown-skinned Hawaiians were jumping from the high rocks into the water. Before I knew it, Kimiyo was diving off the cliff and was dropping about thirty-five feet into the water at the base of the waterfalls, the deepest part of the water. She called me from below, saying that they did this in Japan, and so I flew at once through the air like some kind of Tarzan and splashed down into the cooling depths. (I took a picture of it and have it in my home to this day.)

We took a shortcut, heading back, through the Pali tunnel, stopping at the Pali Lookout to see the place where King Kamehameha had won a decisive battle long ago, by pushing the enemy over the cliffs to fall to their deaths below.

I brought Kimiyo back to her hotel to have some social time with her tour group, promising to meet her in the vacant lifeguard stand later in the evening.

I told Colleen about the swimming hole as soon as I got back. “It was like you said, well hidden, with the entrance close to the Likelike highway sign.”

Colleen seamed eager to know more, and so I went on to tell her of my day, as if she was my new confidante.

“You will be in Japan again tonight?” Colleen asked.

“In a manner of speaking, but not as ‘again’, for tonight will be the first time, if it goes that way. We just met two days ago, an hour after we’d each arrived in Waikiki.”

“Holy love! Hawaii can have a romantic effect on all who pass her way.”

“It’s like I just woke up inside a fresh and sensuous scented flower.”

“Bring Kimiyo over, if  you want, and we’ll entertain the evening walkers. I’m really starting to enjoy my evening social hours with the passers-by. I think that I need you two here with me to work it better.”

“We’ll be there,” I said.

“Good. What shall we do?”

“Let’s have a spaghetti party tonight; we’ll invite perfect strangers to eat with us. We’ll just grab them from the beaches and the street—anyplace.”

“Can we do that?”

“Start boiling some water, Colleen. I’m going out to buy some spaghetti and to gather some people.”

“But, …” she said.

“It will be wonderful,” I called back to her. “Hawaii is a very friendly place.”

And it was, for most of the people invited were delighted to join us, and we had many a insight that evening into the most eccentric and wonderful offbeat, characters, from runaways to Chinese junketeers, surfers from Australia, Chinese refugees from Hong Kong, sunburned tourists, to natives, and even a Hari-Khrishna devotee who invited us to his temple for a feast.

We had many laughs, stories, and good times, even offering people sips of wine. Here we were, at the crossroads of the world, meeting Polynesians, Brazilians, Japanese, Samoans, and, of course, many wonderful mixtures and half-breeds, for this was the city where all the points of the compass met.

The spaghetti and sauce really flowed that night, and I noted that Colleen had a happy smile that perhaps she hadn’t known for awhile, for whatever reason.

“A toast to our grass shack, everyone,” I said, “May we be in heaven a half an hour before the devil knows we’re dead!” I supposed that few knew where that saying had come from.

Kimiyo half acted and half told us of some Japanese tales, in her broken English that she’d learned in school but had ignored and left unused until the need arose in Hawaii. All applauded.

We lit some torches and sat back drinking Kona coffee, as one story by one person led to one by another. Soon we’d all joined in with the kind of memories that made everyone warm and overflowing with emotion.

Colleen told about her activist days as an anti-war, protest organizer, how she’d come to Hawaii on a campaign had stayed on to live here. The surfers talked about their roaming of the world, looking for the perfect wave, and, here, riding the tubes of blue up on the North Shore.

It wasn’t until 11 PM that Kimiyo and I arrived at the lifeguard stand. It was about twenty feet high; it was a covered box and it commanded a wide view. It was never   occupied after six at night and now it belonged to us. The moon’s glimmer path bounced along the waves, coming right under our feet.

We talked about the melting pot of Hawaii. The Japanese number the most, almost 25% of the population, the native Hawaiians only amounting to 10% or so, having long ago succumbed to western diseases brought by Captain Cook. As for Haoles, or white people like me, we were about 20%, the rest of the place being a mixture of the entire rest of the world, although heavily oriental, and with many beautiful blends also, as when a Portuguese would marry a Tahitian and have children showing the best traits of both.

Near midnight, we took our blanket down to the beach, having the infinite energy that love brings, thinking to get by on a few hours less sleep.

“You know where those waves come from, don’t you?” I managed to get across to her.

“Yes, I know, she said, “from thousand miles to call me home. I with you on wonderful vacation. I in love you, amn’t I? I wait in Japan for you anytime, excited by infinite future.”

“And I love your spirit,” I said, in Japanese, having just looked up a word and added it to a standard phrase.

For all I knew, I may have just told her to kiss a camel; however, such a romantic look came into her eyes that I thought we weren’t going to wait until two in the morning to make love on the beach when all was really quiet. She held me closer and we waited for the last song from the outdoor torchlight show to die out—the famous Hawaiian Wedding Song that visitors always requested.

*** Error in scanning my old notes here. ***

7. 

In the morning, Kimiyo came over and woke me up in a rather interesting way.

After breakfast, we were soon cycling through the maze of streets and housing behind Waikiki known as the ‘Jungle’, then past the Ali-Wai canal, next passing the zoo, and then coming around and passing the Outrigger West, and heading down the alley behind the Princess Kialani Hotel, and back around to the Pacific Beach Hotel, all just for fun.

We went off on a bus with her group out to Paradise Park and the Polynesian Cultural Center, for the day, which both had everything interesting to see, from gardens, to tropical birds, to bamboo jungles, to old Hawaiian setups. (The readers can imagine it, or look it up, as with the other attractions, too.)

We saw a good stage show that night, one about old Hawaii, followed by some really funny comedians and magicians who soon had us up on stage. That will teach us to sit in the first row.

In the days to come, there were fern grottos, glass-bottom boats, mountain climbing, starlit skies, and romantic nights drenched in the fragrances of sensation that made Hawaii’s influence undeniable to even the most love-impaired person.

Kimiyo kissed me like there was no tomorrow, and perhaps there wasn’t, for her, since she’d be back in Japan in a few weeks, slaving away, as she told me, on a production line.

What a wonderful place Hawaii is, I thought; it’s filled with friendly natives and tourists primed for adventure.

One day, we circled the entire island, even a stretch on the northwest shore that cars couldn’t get through.

The ‘back’ of Oahu is composed of a volcanic mountain chain, the Koolau Range. On windward Oahu, the range drops in sheer cliffs into the sea. The leeward side forms a beautiful background with foothills for the city of Honolulu.  Many who get lost in the mountain country are given up for dead.

At times, dark thunderclouds come hurtling over and crashing through the mountains ever so threatening, but they have spent their energy and rain on the windward side, and give but a refreshing drizzle. There is always a rainbow.

In the mountain valleys are found such things as waterfalls, pools, bamboo forests, and groves of fruit trees, including banana, mango, breadfruit, tangerine trees, wild oranges, and passion fruit. There are also sugar cane and pineapple fields.

There are no snakes, and no poison ivy. Could this be the Garden of Eden?

The Hawaiian alphabet has but twelve letters, giving rise to such names a Liluokalani St., Maunalua Bay, Kupikipikio Point, Mauna Loa volcano, and Waipahu City.

Honolulu is a city of intrigue, but racially democratic, and is centered on Diamond Head, which had its last eruption in 5000 B.C., named much later on, when some British sailors picked up some gleaming crystals and though they had discovered diamonds.

When my two weeks of freedom were up, I went into work, and so I could only see Kimiyo in the evenings and on weekends. She had extended her three week vacation to four.

Ben gave me tens of thousands of lines of computer code to look at, for starters, pointing out the problematic areas. It took me about a week to get through it all, and this was but the beginning of it.

Meanwhile, he’d brought up the tape delivery job, touting it as a great opportunity to see the world, although he and his team had seen enough of it, thanks.

While I couldn’t speak or learn Japanese all that well, I could read computer programs like a novel. I was able to patch the code, making Ben very happy. He gave me some more, and he said I could take more with me on my travels, in the future, in case I got bored, but that I didn’t really have to work on it while traveling. I absorbed it all, now even quicker, having noted its styles, and fixed it.

I went down to the snack bar for awhile to talk with the other soldiers. One guy, namely Paul, had made it all the way to the Computer Command on the basis of his taking only one night course in Basic Programming, which he failed, but the Army kept every warm body that came its way, and so they’d put him to work running the Xerox machine when they discovered his ineptitude.

Another soldier, Vince, my supposed backup in the field, had indeed come straight from the gangland of the Bronx, and he was ever amazed at this seemingly foreign territory that was even a part of the United states.

I passed through the barracks, on my way to the PX, after work, and saw the drugged out men playing poker and otherwise shuffling aimlessly around the game room, looking like they had somehow brought the ghetto with them.

8.

My first month had passed.

On the night that Kimiyo left Hawaii to fly back to Japan, I still walked to the lifeguard stand, and sat there for a long time, just basking in the beauty and peace that Kimiyo had brought to me so lovingly.

I looked out across the waves and wondered what strange lands lie beyond. For now, I knew nothing of those, and it was but a dream to muse about the far eastern side of the world. Well, I was to leave for Korea in a several weeks or so, and find out.

The next night, as well, I retreated to the lifeguard stand, after dark, not sad really, but needing time to make a transition. Well, thanks to Kimiyo I was much the better man. She’d told me that I’d better be alright after she left, she unselfshly instructing me to find love if I couldn’t come to her, which we both knew the Army wouldn’t let me do, for underneath all my apparent freedom, I was still, in the end result, a man of military servitude.

Nevertheless, she’d given me her address, and we both knew I’d at least come to visit someday.

As I sat up there in my lifeguard perch reading some poems by moonlight, I heard someone climbing the ladder, and looking down, I saw Colleen carrying something up to me, some food perhaps.

“You miss her, don’t you,” she said.

“I miss her a lot,” I confided, “but it’s manageable. Kind of the story of my life. All good things… must eventually come to an end. You brought me food?”

“Don’t eat yet; I have something else for you first,” she said, as she rolled some cigarette papers around a substance. Maybe it will help.

“It’s Maui-Wowie,” she encouraged, as she lit it. I took it and inhaled deeply, holding it in, as I had learned to do.

“It’s good,” I said, already feeling myself turning to stone and craving potato chips.”

“Remember that night we all smoked together during that big storm,” she said,  which was actually more of a monsoon, when you went out in the torrential downpour in search of potato chips, jumping over the deep puddles, but missing one and falling in and getting soaked.”

“You saw that?” I remarked.

“Sure, I followed you to know that you were OK, seeing as you were a relatively new smoker of heavy weed.”

“Thanks” I said, taking another deep puff.

“This is my only vice, Patrick, and it grows wild in Hawaii!”

“Yes, it does; it is bountiful, and you are ever quite sensible aside from your one vice—a throwback to your hippie days, I suppose.”

“I have come full circle since then,” she said, “perhaps even too far, what with my apartment business, but I’ve saved myself from destruction. I don’t own the apartments; I just sublet them. It pays for school.”

“And afraid to let go in other ways ever since?”

“No, not anymore, and I have to return to Seattle in June, where I must be responsible to my only surviving parent.”

“I understand,” I said, trying not to lean against her, although there wasn’t much room up there for two, but she laid her head on my shoulder in a romantic way which I hadn’t expected at all but had wished for all the same.”

“You kept your promise to me all too well,” she said, about that I could trust you to be living in my place.”

“All too well?” I asked, now feeling her touch me very much as a woman, and certainly not like a sister.

“Yes, all too well—about my trusting you, although looking back, that’s what I meant. How was to know, when you’d already had Kimiyo, that you were a sincere person, unlike some others I’ve known, but I could tell later on, by the way you confided in me about her.”

“I knew, as well,” I said, “And I appreciated you from the beginning, but a promise is a promise. Neither of us were ready for the other at that time, for whatever reason. Maybe you knew a lot of hippie bums, and maybe I was too new here. As for Kimiyo, she had little time here, and so we had little choice but to accelerate our love by mutual agreement.”

“I have two months left.”

“I see.”

“That time will be difficult, I know, if we have a love affair, but perhaps less so since we’ve seen ahead about it.”

“No, it will still be difficult, after you leave, ” I replied, “for I’ve just spent a few days enduring the same, but,” I stammered, “love is worth it and should never be kept away, even for a day—two months is two months! Let us enjoy what we can of it together. My life is to be a beautiful quilt, it seems. There is something you should know, though.”

“Doesn’t matter. A minute should not pass without love,” she answered. “I should know—I’m from the love generation, love-ins and all that. Oh, I’ve wasted my time in going from one extreme to the other! Oh, Patrick, I liked you and your Irish brownish red hair and your adventurous spirit from the beginning.”

“I’m in the Army, Colleen, in computers, at Fort Shafter. And, yes, I was drafted as an instrument of war, cannon fodder, as you might have called it at the war rallies when you were the love child. Oh, they wished to get me while I was in Engineering School, to send me off to some distant land to die, but I’d gained a deferment, although it was a very close thing. I needed the luck of a mid-range lottery number, which, at least, prevented me from being drafted immediately out of college and allowed me to graduate and to look for a job. I tried hard to get a job, but there was a recession on, and I could obtain only one offer, but it was from IBM, amazingly, and so I quickly took it, although I had to move far away from home and family. Of course, having a job wasn’t a guarantee of deferment, and I was drafted right out of IBM, after ten months.”

“It’s OK, Patrick. I knew you were a soldier.”

“By that time, even a lot senators and congressmen were against the war, and there was certainly no rah-rah or gung-ho attitude to-carry me through. I had worked hard, in school, and to see where a young man’s youth and laughter would go to die was a lot for me to consider as the young man that I still am. It was then that I decided, should I be spared, that I would live and love and give to the world at large, and that every minute should count. What do you say to that, Colleen.”

“I say that I love you, Patrick, is what I say to you.”

“I’ll give you what I have, Colleen. I’’ll be here and away, making deliveries of tapes, and who knows what.”

“Anything will be fine.”

For a long time, we cried in each other’s arms—the army soldier and the war-protester. I still craved some potato chips since I had been absent-mindedly smoking pot the whole time we’d been talking.

“Oh, I forgot,” she said, pulling some potato chips out of her bag; I brought these for you yesterday when I was still afraid to come to you.”

“Afraid?” I asked.

“Yes, Kimiyo just left two days ago.”

“But you are certainly here now,” I said, kissing her.

“I am, with you. I have done it. I’m happy. I am Colleen again.”

“Welcome back,” was all I could get out, overcome with the emotion of all the years that had gone before, overcome with love and freedom, from both war and anti-war.

“And so you’re supposed to be living in the fort all this time‘?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m single, so I can’t live off-post; and yet, I do, and I am here, am I not? It shows what can be done when you have a dream. I even wrote my own name on the list for latrine detail, to allay any suspicions.”

“And here we are, together, taking advantage of good fortune.”

We walked slowly back to her room that night, knowing that an eternity could be found in a moment, and that an infinity of moments was to be found in the Hawaiian time that she had left—because every day mattered.

Somewhere, far across the sea, people hated, and people fought, and people died. What it all really meant, I couldn’t really know yet, fully, but here, on an island created by a volcano in the Pacific, two people loved, and the scented wind softly blew the curtains at the window where we lay.

There was never a breeze more full of balm, nor any airs more laden with flowery perfume than the ones on this night in Waikiki, which drifted in through the window.

(I can’t find the words that I wrote long ago that describe the lovemaking. Sorry.)

9.

Colleen and I went snorkeling the next day, swimming at least three or four miles, in the shallows, down past the aquarium and the Kahala Hilton.

Do not think that we exerted ourselves too much; we did not, for swimming face down in the water, and wearing a mask and propelled by fins, was a most effortless activity, and we could easily have swum to Molokai, the next island, visible to the naked eye, it being only about twenty-five miles away.

The fish were of every hue and color, like a living rainbow, and they were everywhere that we looked, swimming in and out of the coral formations just a few feet down, another reason for snorkeling and not walking on the bottom, and the coral is very sharp.

We stopped and bought lunch at a little shore stand, paying with wet money, where we listened for a long time to a man playing a flute.

Colleen and I were now just an Irish lass and lad driving the sheep out into the green hills as we sat and day-dreamed away an hour or so while digested our lunch.

“We’re a long way from home,” I said, “the old Irish sod.”

“Home is where you make it,” she answered.

“And every day counts.”

“We can go to Molokai,” she said, excitedly, now a girl who was very much with it, for love has that effect on a person.

“Sure we can,” I answered. “I have thirty days vacation from the Army, none of which I’ve needed yet, and I can take any number of those days anytime; however, I’m leaving for Korea in maybe a few weeks, or more or less.”

“And I’ll be done with my graduate finals soon! They finish early, but I’m staying until June, finishing my paper.”

“And don’t forget Kauai, the Garden Isle, and the big island, Hawaii, which still has live volcanoes on it.”

“We’ll go to them all,” she said, “like honeymooners.”

“Yes, and we’ll spend some money, too.”

“Of course, that what it’s for, and besides, we’ve been scrimping, saving, and starving ourselves and then feasting at Smorgy’s, for three dollars and ten cents.”

“And you’re paying Waikiki rent,” I added.

“Yes, money really goes fast in Hawaii sometimes.”

“I’ve been thinking about how I could live for near free, after you leave. IBM doesn’t pay me while I’m gone.”

“How?”

“Well, I’’m doing it somewhat already. My motorcycle, for example, gets me all around, 200 miles per gallon, and a gallon is only 24 cents at the army gas station. It’s easy to park, too. And those delicious chicken parts that we roast on the hibachi, they’re only ten for a dollar at the Army Commissary, so sometimes we’re eating for only 30 cents a day.”

“Where will you live?”

“I’m thinking that I can use my motorcycle to ride up a mountain trail to some little spot that no one will know about.”

“Some Hawaiian natives live up there. The little people.”

“Yes, but they’re friendly; I met some up there behind Fort Shafter, on day when I was exploring a trail. It was beautiful up there, and so quiet, and I could see the ocean on all sides of the island; I could even see planes landing at the airport without even hearing them!”

“Take me there, Patrick, and I’ll help you scout it out some more.”

“Good. You’re still here for a while.” We looked at each other sadly.

“Am I ever, but I want to make sure you’re alright after I go. That’s all I’ll say for now, because from here on out, we shall not talk of my leaving.”

“Looks like my life is meant to be a mosaic of beautiful experiences.”

We had each cleared as quickly as the Oahu sky clears after one of those famous late afternoon sprinkle events that practically evaporated before hitting the ground.

The next day, we entered Fort Shafter and headed up its mountain path, on my motorcycle, Colleen hugging and holding on snug behind me, holding tighter with every bump and a vibration.

Based on her idea, we took the most difficult fork at every opportunity, some very shadowy, so as to insure that few could ever find the end, and finally, being able to go no further, hid the bike behind a large rock, crossed higher,  and walked a short ways, heading down and around a bit, hoping for a surprise there.

We came out on a most wonderful ledge that fronted a cave-like indentation, the whole place an under-hang that was not visible from above. There we sat and rested on the grass, in front of the rock face. We broke out a wad of her special stuff, and we found ourselves still up there the next morning, laying on our big beach towel. The night had been warm and it hadn’t rained, a plus for us.

“Your place already has three natural sides, plus most of a roof,” she noted, “and a sleeping bag will keep you warm, for starters, and this place is nearly invisible, and not easily found by anyone. We may not even find it again if we don’t pay attention on the way out. I can see part of the path way down there. It looks like an ant trail from here.”

“I’ll put a tent in the cave indentation, to keep the grime and the bugs away, and I’ll bring other things up, piece by piece, when ever I come up.”

We headed back down, on the motorcycle, in first gear, for its braking drag, carefully noting the way, descending into the valley between two mountains, and then rode out of the fort and towards the ocean, where we’d have brunch at Smorgy’s, with all that you could eat, especially the one behind the Outrigger South, right on the beach, whose spread was amazing to believe, but the truth was that the hotel lost money on this but could make it up elsewhere by drawing the people in to dine.

We surfed away the day, and fell asleep exhausted that night, in Waikiki, Colleen’s head and red hair and my chest, the winds from the open window caressing us in our garden of eden.

10.

I’d fixed up many more programs for Ben, and then took a week of leave. My delivery trip had been put off a bit. Meanwhile, he’d have people testing the system.

“It will work, Ben.”

“Great.”

There were never two people more free than Colleen and I. We sailed to Molokai on our own, in a rented boat, she teaching me how to run a sail, for I had lived a landlocked childhood.

Along the way we saw the great humpback whales spawning, as they did every year. We arrived at the base of the huge green cliffs where there had been a leper colony a long time ago, then rode a mule up to civilization and poked around all the old western style towns.

By this time, I had become so brown-skinned that I could hardly remember what color white was. We stayed in a first-class hotel, feeling like two bums suddenly turned into royalty.

The next day or so, we took a tiny airplane to Maui, and climbed the Haleakala crater, where there were still some steaming vents, and watched the sun rise, a revered Maui tradition. We saw it from above the clouds; it was almost a religious experience!

It was said the the Demi-God, Maui, lassoed the sun and held it prisoner until it agreed to shine on Maui’s island every day of the year, and so it did, practically. As luck would have it, a hurricane was passing by the day we were there, very close, but to the south, and high wave forecasts had cleared all the beaches; however, the sun still shone on Maui, just like always.

When Colleen saw marijuana growing wild on the hillsides, she almost fainted with ecstasy. Soon recovering, she gathered a few samples.

Having already run low of money, we chanced upon someone, who, not so strangely as it turned out, was running a mushroom farm, and we, having become rather overly social from our days on the Waikiki porch, easily made a friend of him and had him laughing with some of our tales of adventures and misfortunes, and so it was that he invited us to stay there for a a few days.

It turns out that mushroom farming is indeed a useful business on Maui, and only a few of the mushrooms were of the magic variety, and I’m sure we had some, for there were several days during which we knew not whence we came nor where we went.

Another useful occupation in Hawaii was picking macadamia fruits. The reason that macadamia nuts are so expensive is that 1) they are so hard to extract; only one measly nut can be obtained from a fruit the size of a plum, and 2) they are so delicious that you just can’t stop eating them, and so the demand ever exceeds the supply.

So, we went a little nuts for awhile and had many a mushroom pipe dream, but it was time to return to Oahu. Both of us were rich in love, and well steeped with the outer island experience, for we’d seen two more pearls of the Pacific.

I remember strolling the International Market Place that night, looking at treasures from all over the Orient, and noted that we, having not much more than each other had wished for nothing more.

11.

My trip to South Korea was at hand. I’d be gone for a week or so. Colleen didn’t have much time left in Hawaii, but I would have to miss some of it.

Colleen encouraged, “Have fun with the Korean girls.”

“It’s like a police state over there.”

“Free love. Kiss someone.”

“I’ll bring one back here.”

“Great!”

“You’re very magnanimous.”

Mr. Freeman’s secretary gave me two tickets for first class on a jumbo jet, one for me and one for the tapes, along with a card that would let me change and/or add flights without having to go through any red tape.

Lt. Dauphanais gave me a pistol and some written instructions, along with a wad of cash, adding, “I’m sending Vince as your backup, separately. Enjoy; see the sights.”

“Is Vince ready for this?”

“No, but he’s been here a while, and so this is just to give him some fun, but he can handle the installation if anything happens to you, which it won’t. He’s supposed to stay out of sight; that will give him something to concentrate on. He’ll think he’s back in the Bronx, being ever vigilant.”

I arrived at the glorious Honolulu International air terminals, noting the little river and waterfalls everywhere. I passed a gate to Papaette, Tahiti, looking at it longingly.

We took off over the ocean, and lifted high, on the way to a landing in Narida, near Tokyo, after which I would take a commuter flight to Osaka, stay in a hotel for a night, and then be off to Seoul.

I took a walk to the rear of the plane, but didn’t see Vince; however, one person was holding a newspaper up.

I went back to my seat, noting that the tapes were still there next to me. Well, I could talk to them, pretending that they didn’t know my language, for first class was pretty empty.

The stewardess brought out a fine lunch, and I looked over some computer programs afterward, and then she sat down next to me, telling me of the world out there.

At Narida, I showed my Army ID and was whizzed through, and then I found the gate to Osaka.

There was a baseball stadium near my hotel in Osaka, and so I took in a game there, noting that the fences were closer in, and that some American has beens were on the teams. I thought I saw Vince, across the way, but I couldn’t be sure.

12.

In Seoul, I barely made it to the Army Transient Center before the 11 PM curfew, but I’d had tapes to lug. Vince was probably already in there, hiding out. I wasn’t going to look.

I looked outside, to see the effect of the curfew: Everyone started running, taxis screamed down the streets, prostitutes made their last propositions, and suddenly the streets were empty and quiet. I went to sleep.

Our main fort was relatively nearby, so I walked there, the next morning. It wasn’t the best part of town. The homes of the people were crumbling, and the streets were lined with thousands of persons, bicycles, and carts, producing a sort of bedlam. The smell of waste was ever present, since the sewage runs through the gutters, where the little children, wearing hardly any clothes, often played or wandered unattended. People traveled in all directions, loaded down with bales of hay, cases of beer, cabbage or just about anything imaginable on the back of a bicycle. No one obeyed the traffic lights.

I entered the fort and located the computer center and gave them the tapes, both the Supply ones and the Intelligence ones. They were Americans. They made a copy and gave me the originals back. Everything worked. They had an RCA computer.

I told them, “I have another delivery to make, way down south. I’ll be back in a few days or more to see how things are going. Meanwhile, I’ll call you.”

I skipped staying at a hotel, and soon found the train station and boarded an old train to Tageu, some 300 hundred miles to the south, where there was a kind of a back up fort, I supposed, in case the North Koreans ever stormed into Seoul across the nearby dividing line, which had been and still was a constant specter of tension over the many years since the Korean War.

As I rode the train and looked out the window, the poorness of the country sunk deeper into me. The lady of old on my side sang lullabies in an ancient tongue as I waved to the peasants in their horse carts—such poor people, with shutters on their dreams. Here was an ancient culture still chained to its old days of the grinding wheel. I couldn’t understand very much of what people said on the train, so I took out the computer programs again.

Later, I walked up and down through the train, not seeing Vince. He was doing well in his tracking exercise, if he was here. Perhaps I had given him the slip in Seoul.

At Tageu, a lot of people got off the train, from all the cars. I couldn’t tell if any of them was Vince, off in the distance.

There were bit a few taxis, and they had taken off while I was busy dragging the tapes along. Beggars followed me. I took an ox-cart, for a very long way, to the fort. This old province was as about as far from Seoul as one could get. Beggars followed me again. I gave them a few dollars.

There were some Americans in and around the fort, but none in the computer center. The center was predominantly ROK—Republic of Korea. I gave them the Supply tapes only. They weren’t supposed to get the Intelligence tapes. I told them I’d be around for a few days. So far, so good, but this fort was really in the middle of nowhere.

The ROK barracks scene looked worse than the one in Hawaii. Did I need to go all the way back to Tageu for a hotel? It looked like it, but I couldn’t make it by the curfew.

I stood outside the gates of the fort, noting the camouflaged jets nearby, just behind a fence right next to the road, easily spotted from the ground. Where was Vince?

13.

In the ‘town’, there were the usual assemblage of places that always sprung up near a military base.

I was still rolling the tapes around, in an ordinary looking luggage bag, which also contained my clothes. Vince was probably supposed to try to capture the tapes and spirit them away.

It was a cool night, and a bit foggy, but a full moon shone through. It looked scary, as it did on the Korean postcards I’d seen. Where the heck was Vince, anyway?

I went into a tailor shop and got measured for a light leather jacket, blueish black, with a blue collar. It would be ready by late afternoon the next day, just in time for the next cool night. I walked back outside, and looked around.

There were still the open sewer trenches all about, for garbage, and for people doing their personal business, which they did, in plain sight. I didn’t know what smelled worse, the trenches or the kimchi, Koreas’s favorite dish.

A girl came out from a place, asking, “Short time or long time?”

I answered “Dinner time,” for who knew what diseases the girls in there had.

“We have,” she answered.

I sat down in the front—the restaurant room, which was nicely decorated, and looked at a menu that I couldn’t read. There were a few Korean soldiers eating and talking there. I couldn’t decipher a thing they said. I hadn’t really been able to talk to anyone for the last two days.

I took out a magazine I’d picked up on the jumbo jet out of Hawaii and was going to page through it. Nothing was going to drop out of the sky onto me around here, not even a good place to sleep, which all the more meant that it would.

And then it came. I heard, behind me, in perfect English, but with a sleight accent, “Good evening, sir. We have roast beef, steaks, hamburgers, and more American fare, as well as delicious Korean dishes. And I’ve been waiting for you.” She eyed my luggage sitting next to me on the floor.

I turned around slowly, in case I was hallucinating, from jet lag or something.

She was real, and she was Amerasian, and looked about 18, with round eyes, her face full of the beautiful features that a blend often results in.

“I’m your miracle man,” I told her, not really knowing was I was signing up for, but just to go along with the air of mystery of her waiting for me.

She instantly pulled up a chair, and said, “The guy like  you didn’t come last month.”

“He’s dead. His helicopter got shot down in Vietnam.”

“Oh, my, that’s terrible. He thought he could help me when I turned 18, but I don’t think he meant it.”

“When is your birthday?”

“In two days.”

“We’ll talk.”

I gave her my dinner order, and she took it to the kitchen, and then she had to wait on the only other table. It was probably getting near closing time.

Some others came in, with the advertising girl from outside, and they headed down a hallway. I went over and looked, making sure to bring my precious luggage. The walls of the cubicle like rooms didn’t reach up to the ceiling, and I could hear and imagine everything that was going on.

I called out, “Vince, I know where you are. No use staying quiet.”

I called it out again.

“I here, Pat, but I’m kind of busy right now.”

“OK, carry on. I won’t tell.”

My steak arrived, but the waitress had to attend to another new table. I was so hungry that I was willing to stay and get trapped in here, for it was already 10:30.

I finished my meal, and then ordered dessert. It was now 11:01, and I could hear the curfew orders being called outside. Anyone out there would get picked up and put in van and get carted off. Meanwhile, I’d figured out her dilemma.

She came over and sat down, looking relieved that her shift was over, saying, “I’m sorry I got busy and that I may have worried you. You must be wondering.”

I held up my hand. “Let me guess.”

“OK. That should be interesting.”

“You want to get out of this place, out of the country, even, because they don’t accept you here because of your round eyes and your mixed features, as well as your good English, they considering you not to be pure Korean. They shunned you in the Korean School, and in Korean society, so you switched or were switched to the American School in the fort, learning English there, and gaining some American and foreign friends, with whose help you bettered your English even more, which, while useful, made you stand out all the more here, plus, well, you have larger, American size breasts, from your father’s side—the GI who engaged your mother as a prostitute here some nineteen years ago. You’re tall, for here, as well.”

“Perfect. And I’ve already graduated school. Are you a spy or something?”

“No, you?”

“No. I nose around; not much else to do.”

“You don’t like Korea, but you bear it well, and, by the way, you look pretty nice.”

“Thanks, but of course they don’t think so here. To them I’m an ugly outcast, but they have to think that way.”

“True, but you are still well adjusted, given your turmoils, but you don’t want to have to work the back rooms when you reach 18 or whatever decides it, it perhaps being possible at a younger age, but your English speaking ability delayed it, or something else, but the time is drawing nigh. I can tell, by your anxiety.”

“Got you, every word. You’re good, and you work in Intelligence, just like the last guy.”

“Well, sort of, and I will be working there. I’m rather new, but I know someone there who is good at everything, and he’s a friend.”

“So, you can call up your cohort?”

The word ‘cohort’ floored me, and I could only say, “Good word, ‘cohort’.”

She retorted, “The Assyrians came down like wolves from the fold, their cohorts gleaming in purple and gold.”

“I know that one well,” I replied.

She answered, “It’s an Army poem.”

“Yeah, it would be, in the Army School here.”

“Oh, and my mother runs this place, and she does want me to work the back rooms. I have to get out of here!”

“And your father is long gone, but he was an American in the Korean War about 19 years ago.”

“Yes, and I have a stepfather now. He’s a farmer. I’ve even considered running away, but I’d rather not get into that position, in this country. I need to try to do it right. I’m getting desperate; I’ve already made some moves towards getting away.”

“Such as?”

“I snuck my birth certificate away, and when I traveled to Seoul a while back, on the pretense of visiting my relatives there, which I also did, I applied for a Green Card. I called the embassy a while back, and they said it takes time, plus I had to be 18, which I nearly am, now. Two days.”

“Good move. You’re a gem in the wild here. I must be dreaming. What else?”

“I think you have to buy me in order for me to be able to leave the country. I also have the photos that your predecessor asked me to take.”

Now I was really floored, for I hadn’t imagined this ‘buying’ thing, but then again, here I was in a third world country, and in an older and more remote part of it.

“Well, hmmm. What if I told you that I could take you to a place where there was no prejudice against foreigners, where all shapes of eyes were considered beautiful, where cultures mixed, where intermarriage was not unusual but even common?”

She said, “I’ll go, and you won’t be sorry.”

We were both still sort of lost in time and space, worlds apart; but, at least the touching of our cultures had begun. Her face broke into a lovely smile.

I said, “You would even be considered beautiful in America, for you look both American and Oriental; you are a perfect blend; you got the best from your father and mother.”

“You care, don’t you. I’m so happy. You came out of nowhere.” This was no longer a time for words. I met her eyes in a glance of wonder and feelings that could not lie.

“Do you have a phone? I have to call Hawaii and check in, anyway, soon, although I’m kind of a day ahead in my work, so I might as well call now, and see what we can do.”

“So you will help me?”

“Yeah, for sure. I already thought about it, and it’s the right thing to do. The green card thing has to get going; foreign nationals from certain places can’t get in, even with a temporary visa, and they have quotas, too. You’re also a beautiful enigma.”

She led me upstairs, saying, “My mother is out for the night.”

“With your stepfather?”

“No, with someone else.”

I had to relay the call through the base in Seoul.

It rang a few times, then I heard, “Lieutenant Dauphanais speaking.”

“It’s DA43,” I replied.

“Howdy, Patrick. How’s it going? Glad you called. We almost had you going on to Okinawa, but that’s been delayed.”

“The tapes are operational; no problems encountered. They’re happy in both forts.”

“Good. I told Vince to try to steal the tapes from you, as another fun thing, to draw attention to keeping them secure.”

“I kept them in sight at all times, and so I still have them, even here at the phone.”

“Great, and that’s a good thing to get used to doing.”

“Seen Vince?”

“No, but I might have heard his voice once, from afar. I guess he’s having fun.”

“Good. You’re calling a day early, so something else must be up.”

“I have a puzzle for you, and maybe it’s even half solved.”

“Good, I like puzzles.”

“In short, a near 18-year old female Amerasian product of the Korean War, two days to her birthday, has already applied for a green card, using her birth certificate, at our embassy in Seoul, to escape having to work in a house of ill repute run by her mother just outside the fort near Tageu. Says she has the photos that DA42 asked her to take. And she’s some sort of genius.”

“You’ve got heart, Patrick. You could have turned her down. Is she listening?”

“No, she’s watching out the window.”

“I didn’t know about the photo assignment, and I didn’t know about the girl. I guess DA42 died before he could tell me. Anyway, good. I’ll have Mr. Miller at the embassy in Seoul expedite her green card application, which is all legit and on the up and up, for she was born after 1/1/1952, and looks obviously Amerasian. Ask for him when you get there. Go there on or after her birthday. Meanwhile, find her stepfather and have him sign her over to you, if he agrees. $300 would be more than a good price. That’s more than he makes in two years. Do you have that much left, and more for travel incidentals?”

“Yes. I skipped two hotels already, including tonight. I may have to sleep in a chair. The curfew time passed.”

“Good, that’s it, then, and it helps the process. OK, you are, unfortunately, in a very backward area. Getting into the U.S. with a green card is relatively easy, but getting out of Korea, in her case, requires you to own her, thus her stepfather signing her over to you. Any old piece of paper with a signature, address, and date will do. Her mother can’t so it; only a man can do these things in Korea. If it works, then go to the main courthouse in Pusan, which isn’t all that far away, and ask for Sung Lee. He will validate the ownership deal and speed it up; he may have to call on the stepfather, but he will probably accept your vouch, since he know me. Do you think she has any intelligence information for us?”

“She the waitress here, and so I suppose she encounters just about everyone around, eventually, and she looks out the window a lot, and takes pictures.”

“Those must be what the photos are of—people, and perhaps of some suspicious street traffic. We’ll have to figure it out, later. Sometimes these things pan out, and sometimes they don’t. Mail me the photos. More of our supplies go in to that fort than it seems there ought to be. It’s only a curiosity at this pint, but if it increases… Anyway, if the stepfather doesn’t accept the $300, then go to the Adjutant General’s office and ask for $500 or more, if you need it. Tell them it’s for Okinawa travel. Mention my name. We’d rather avoid that, though, but if you have to, then it’s fine. Enter the U.S. in Guam, not Honolulu. Ask for James Gallagher, in immigration. He’ll make it smooth for you. Sometimes they give Koreans and others a hard time. And see the sights, everywhere. Take you time. Enjoy. Oh, and there’s one more thing.”

“Uh, oh.”

“That’s right. Owning a female by a young adult non related male is considered to be even higher than marriage, and so it includes it.”

“What!”

“Don’t worry. That validity only applies in Korea. She may give it more importance, though.”

“Wow. Guess I can’t get married again in Korea.”

“Right. And give the tapes to Vince, and tell him to return, if it’s a go, so then she can have their seat on the planes. I don’t have any other stops to add for you. Next time, though, or the time after, we may have a lot, in a month or two. Aloha.”

“Aloha.”

She was still over at the window, looking.

“Anything out there?”

“No, but sometimes there are ordinary trucks going by after the curfew, but only about once in a month or two. Strange.”

“Shall we go to see your stepfather tomorrow, early?”

“Yeah, I’m off until mid afternoon, and he’s dying to sell me. You’re going to own me for life.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes you are. You are taking a big chance on me and for me. I could sense that the other guy wasn’t going to do that.”

“You’re so on the ball that you rolled me over.”

“But you were going to do it, anyway.”

“Yeah. It seems that my whole life has turned out to be a preparation for helping people out in strange circumstances, and they’re always female, beautiful, and caring.”

“We’re going to be as married, too, besides your owning me.”

“Only here. I have a girlfriend in Hawaii. And I can’t own people as property.”

“That’s fine. I’ll be happy to meet her. I’ll pretend that I’m not married or owned.”

“And I have a girlfriend in Japan, and one in New York, too.”

Perhaps that’s not what I should have said, for she replied, “So, what’s one more?”

“You’re pretty sharp to have become like you are in this far off place. This is really quite a rare happening.”

“Yeah, I am, and it did happen.”

“You seem like some sort of a spy who was planted here, but that’s not possible.”

“I feel like one, but I wasn’t.”

“Yeah, the Lt. would have known about it.”

“What now?”

“I don’t have anywhere to sleep, my dear.”

“I’ll take you to an empty, clean room; you don’t even have to kick a girl out. This whole place is a hazard to everyone’s health.”

“Yeah, that’s for sure.”

“Will I like Hawaii?”

“You’ll love it. It’s much an worldly-oriental mixture, and there are many worldly blends there, such as yourself. There’s no shunning. All is friendliness.”

I gave her the magazine from my back pocket, so she could look at the Hawaiian scenes and people. She took it off somewhere, saying, “Goodnight, husband.”

I rolled the tapes over to the far side of my bed, and soon I could hear soft and enchanting flute music playing somewhere. That’s a great touch, fates, just wonderful.

In a while, she came over, and gave me a light kiss on the lips, saying, “Thank you so much,” and left.

14.

In the morning, we slipped off, before her mother’s return, and got a taxi to take us to her stepfather’s farm. The taxi waited. She explained to her stepfather that I wanted to buy her, and I’ll be darned if the guy didn’t quickly agree, saying that it had to be $200. I gave him $300, and he beamed so wide that I though he was going to hug me. She wrote up the papers, and he signed.

“Easy, huh?” she noted.

“Yeah, I’ve never seen things go so quickly in all my life. We even have time to go to Pusan, now. Things are really moving along.”

“And we’re married now.”

“Only here.”

“Well, we are here.”

“And I’m five years older than you.”

“So what. I owe you, for life.”

“We don’t even really know one another.”

“We do, a little, and I’m sure that we will more. The sounds are good.”

“Sounds? You mean the vibrations?”

“Yes.”

The trip took an hour there and an hour back, plus ten minutes to put the ownership papers through and obtain a document. Simple.

I noted, “This is going so fast that we even almost have to wait for your birthday to come, tomorrow.”

“We’re right on time. I’ll pack today, and we’ll be off to Seoul on the train in the morning, and then we’ll go right to the embassy, with time to spare.”

“I’ll book our flights, through the Army post, and any changes or hotels along the way on my special card. We’ll stay in Guam for a while, to celebrate. I’m supposed to tour and have fun, according to my cohort.”

“It’s a world record engagement and marriage.”

“We’re not married.”

“We are here. And I’m a virgin, so don’t worry. I didn’t want to go out with the Koreans and they didn’t want to go out with me. The Americans liked me, and wanted to rent me, but I don’t rent; so, that’s why I am a virgin.”

“You can stay that way. I’m too old for you. And too new. You’re caught up in the moment, like it’s a romantic adventure movie.”

“It’s better, because it’s real. Am I not ‘old’ and ‘mature’ in the way I present myself?”

“I’m afraid I have to say, ‘Yes. You also seem quite worldly, which is an oddity that I haven’t quite figured out yet, or it’s just how you are, but a part of you is still stuck to the ownership custom thing, and that’s a really old days thing. Women are no longer chattel.”

“Cattle?”

“No, chattel, as in personal possession.”

“I’ll work on not being owned so much.”

“I un-own you.”

“We’ll see about that. I’ve dreamt of this day. We still need to consummate.”

“Oh, fates, I bet you’re rolling around the floor laughing at me hesitating to deflower my virgin wife on her marriage night.”

“You’re talking to the ‘fates’?”

“Yeah, like to the stars.”

“I usually talk to the moon.”

“Great. Hey, hold on a minute. I have to get rid of these tapes.”

I wheeled the tapes into the hallway, and attached a note, about Vince returning to Hawaii with the tapes, and called, “Vince, you there? Vince? I’ll be right back; I have to go to the bathroom.”

No answer. I waited a while, hiding out of sight. Vince dashed out and and stole the tapes, and then read the note.

Cho packed a suitcase, hid it in the empty room, and then waited on the tables, just as if it were a regular day. I ate and hung out there, reading, and talking to her, in between customers. I would have to support this person i Hawaii.

“Let’s go to sleep, my not new wife and my not property; we have a big day tomorrow.”

She said, “OK, maybe. I admit that I’m love-starved, though.”

I went to the room she’d given me the night before. She followed.

I stripped down to my underwear and got under the covers. She did the same. We lay there and looked at each other.

We soon hugged and kissed in the near dark. Emotions stirred in me, and I could tell they had in her. I knew this would happen, and so did she, only hers were brand new, of that magical first time. The fates had signed us as actors in this real life movie.

She spoke, “I’m changing my name.”

“Good,” I’ve trouble pronouncing it. “What’s your new name?”

“Cho.”

“That sounds Chinese.”

“It’s from ‘chosen’. I’ve been chosen.”

“By me?”

“Yes, by you. And I need more kisses.”

“OK.”

They were intense.

“Good night, Cho. We can get to know each other more in Guam. It’s kind of been all business so far, but we need to close it out, to be sure of it.”

“Ha-ha. Or now.”

“We can fall asleep holding each other.”

“We can sleep on the train tomorrow. I’m too excited to sleep now. I know you’re, well, like trying to be business like, Army like, and like a big brother protecting me…”

“You’re under 18.”

“No. It’s after midnight, so I was just born, technically.”

“I’m not sure I know how to initiate a virgin.”

“Yes you do. You know a lot. Be slow and gentle.”

“Well, I was going to be, anyway, unlike those in the rest of the rooms around here. It’s going to make us feel very close, though, for now and in the future. I’m spoken for, at least temporarily, for a while. Remember? My girlfriend in Hawaii.”

“Um, and the others, too. How about ‘short time’?”

“‘Short’ can become long.”

“Try short, in case my body cannot yet take long.”

She took the rest of her clothes off, and mine, too.

It was only now that mattered; we put ourselves into action with both body and heart. Mind and soul would have to wait until we knew each other better. We made love to the Korean flute music that was wafting in through the window; it washed over us and ran softly through our bodies.

There soon came an understanding: two people of the world began to see other for what they were, not just for what they appeared to be. She played the Yin, and I played the Yang. Our circles would soon intersect and all  the more link as we each merged deeper into the other. Night had touched the garment of day, and the day had given a twilight kiss to the night. Short had become long.

(A censor came by and erased my further descriptions here.)

15.

We got up early and made the train, and somehow slept on it.

We got off and walked through the gates of Seoul for a hearty meal of cabbage and saimin to carry us through the afternoon. We passed the shrine of ‘A Thousand Buddhas’.

Everything went well in emigration, and we soon left Korean airspace. The Eighth Army remained behind to guard the country from itself and the hands of fools, and now the hills of Japan had come into view, for we’d slept some more on the flight.

In Tokyo, one could hardly see the rising sun through the shroud of smoke that blanketed the city. There were people in every nook and cranny between all the factories and electric billboards. The pretty young girls sported their gaily colored skirts and their bright red lipstick.

So much for my plan to divert to see Kimiyo.

We caught a flight for Guam, with several obviously honeymooning couples. We breezed through customs and immigration. Talk about life in the fast lane! A world record, indeed.

We went straight to our hotel. Though somewhat confusing at first, the sight of our life and love would eventually become clear.

As we lay awake for a while that night, there was intrigue in the air, and the beating of wild hearts played rhythm for the music of our plight in the midst of the strangeness of the situation. Relaxing in the arms of Cho, I felt so nameless, yet somehow so human, now away from the ancient land of the Yin and the Yang, yet now whirling in its revolving symbol.

Our lovemaking went all too well, as exotically erotic. The fates had paved our path with otherworldly flowers and fumes from the depths of the deep. We’d been swept up by events that were beyond our control.

We went out to the beach the next day. Here was the Pacific ocean—the sea that was a mother to all Polynesia!

There we lie, on the sand, listening to the hypnotic crashing of life’s never ending waves, watching the rising sun setting on the other side of our minds. It was through each other’s eyes that we began to experience a new consciousness of reality. We felt spacey, but not lost.

We had left the Earth, as in a dream. We floated away; we flew high, low, and underwater. She took me far beneath the coral sea: from Saipan to Bali Hai, from Paradise Pacifica to Atlantis, and beyond, to the shades of Avalon, then back to Bora Bora in Tahiti. Our hearts beat fast, and on our floating thoughts we were both borne away all the more! We flew towards the most innermost sphere, too, till the world`s dark walls were all past and had all disappeared.

We swam some more, far beneath the enchanted sea: It was wet and mild, like a cleansing shower. Soon we were witness to all of the winged hours that time empowered.

Cho’s silky hair flowed, as weightless minutes, through the hours. We saw the most wonderful underwater flowers; we saw the halls of Good and Evil, tasted feelings both sweet and sour; we saw and savored all of those fleeting visions that speechless memory had devoured.

Then we saw a Lady sitting on a throne, though disembodied. She was a living spirit, and spoke to us softly and sweetly: “You have found me; you have found Love.’ This I freely give to you! Knowest thou this: that all the Good which shines forth on this Earth, that all the caring shared in this world is but a portion of One power which is mine—the power of Love.”

We allowed our emotions to gain control; our thoughts rolled on as we lay there, enjoying the breezes. We felt more with the world now, and we could see it all out there before us. Oceans away from our cultures and homelands, we had bought a silver cloud to ride on. We were our own saviors as we continued both our hearts beating life into each other.

We went for dinner.

Day was now nearly done. We looked out on to sea: the ocean was imbued with a heavy tint of gold, a sort of a brassy gold. Boats and piers creaked, and ship’s bells were jostled into ringing. Such days can never be too long! Dessert was guavas, and the nighttime was delicious.

Soon the twilight flute music recalled the Korean tune of centuries past as it filled and haunted my mind, a mind which had never heard, but its music was not in my mind; it was real, and it was coming from Cho’s flute. Cho’s mother had given her the flute as a young girl, and she’d treasured it, and had brought it along.

The Southern Cross could be seen about 6 degrees above the southern horizon; and there, rising on the Northern horizon was the North Star. We had reached the crossroads of North and South; I had come from the West, and she from the East. The twain had met, although Mark had thought it never would.

We had stayed a week in Guam, now signed, sealed, and delivered by the fates. It was the universe’s idea, as with everything.

While we packed, Cho said, “Onward, owner and husband, to the great archipelago of Hawaii.”

I asked, “Are you sure you want to be so tied down at a young age?”

“Tie me down and tie me up. You saved me. I am yours forever; guaranteed, no matter where you are or where you end up, or with whom.”

“The universe did it.”

“I’m according it to you.”

16.

We flew into Honolulu the next day, walking in as if we owned the place.

We gazed in wonder up at the mountains shrouded in mist. The air was filled with the scents of plumeria, ginger, jasmine, orchids, birds of paradise, and hibiscus. We looked up to the mountains where the fern jungles and the bamboo forests grew, where the good-luck Tiki Gods resided, where the Garden of Eden was surely located.

Cho was as a child in a candy shop. Hawaii was three times better than Guam, by climate, size, and wonders.

I had four girlfriends now, and two were in Hawaii. This ‘live and love’ thing had gotten out of hand. Being in Hawaii and in foreign lands was like pouring gasoline onto already flaming passions. A reckoning was now at hand, though.

We went to Colleen’s, and Colleen gave me wild hugs and kisses, while Cho stood back.

“Who’s this wonderful creature?” Colleen asked, eying Cho standing around.

Cho came forward, saying, “So happy to meet you Colleen. Patrick told me how he loves you so much. I’m so happy for you two. I have Intelligence for the Army. They asked Patrick to bring me back, plus I just had to get out of Korea, too. It’s a miracle happening.”

“Well, I predicted it,” Coleen noted. “I told him to bring a Korean girl here.”

“I’m a half-breed, although I look more American than Korean.”

“Well, then this is the place for you. Need a room?”

“Yeah.”

“You can have Patrick’s old porch room; we’re both in mine.”

So, Cho was going to cover for me. Well, I’d have to tell the truth to Colleen.

Cho went in to see the porch room.

“Colleen,” I said, “I’ll tell you the whole story, later. I own her now, by old Korean law, for I had to purchase her from her father, and, well, while that’s only for over there, it’s a near unbelievable tale all around, and the ownership thing includes marriage.”

“Don’t worry about it, Patrick; I hope you made love to her.”

“I did.”

“That’s wonderful; I mean it.”

“Free love?”

“Free as the wind.”

“But you don’t do that here.”

“No, not now, but I’ll have to find someone or two in Seattle. I know better what to look for, now.”

“Wow, that was too easy.”

“It’s the least I can do for my entering into a romance with you that I knew I’d have to leave, plus, I rode into it on Kimiyo’s shirttails.”

“We were headed together anyway, Colleen.”

“I know, and it’s fabulous. Sorry that it’s short.”

I went in to see Cho, and said, “Colleen accepts our love relationship wholeheartedly. You were honoring her, as you’d promised, and now she’s upped that and is honoring you.”

“What a rare and gracious lady.”

“Yeah. I’m doubly blessed for a little while.”

“And I am triply, for I have you, her, and Hawaii; before that I had zero.”

We went back out, and Colleen called us over, and embraced us both, at the same time, saying, “We are all one, now, at least for a while, until I have to go home.”

17. 

Cho Ling snuggled onto the back of my motorcycle, such as the day might become one with the night at twilight, or as when the moon kisses the sun during an eclipse, or as a soul might meet another soul when the intersecting and closing circles of ‘me’ and ‘thee’ conjunct and merge to form the Yin and the Yang of love in the union of two merged, inseparable selves, like Adam and Eve, each containing the key to the other’s self.

We rode into Fort Shafter, and went over to CSC-PAC to see Lt. Dauphanais. He interviewed Cho for some time, while I caught up on some things from Ben, and from Lina, who ran the Intelligence side of the programming. I saw Vince sitting at his desk, smiling.

Cho and the Lieutenant came back out, he saying, “I’m giving her a weekly allowance for twelve months, and I hear she has a place in Waikiki for now. I’m also sending another CID undercover operative to the fort in Tageu, as I already sent one a week ago, based on nothing more than a hunch, and then we’ll find out more about what’s going on there. Some of our more sensitive equipment may be going off to China, sailing across the Sea, right there, just a few hundred miles away. Cho’s truck photos are of vehicles from a seaport, and she has Chinese customers on the same nights. This kind of thing happened in Vietnam, too, and we stopped it. I suppose they’ve moved on to try it in South Korea, but that fort is second tier. Nevertheless, we don’t need the Chinese getting their foot in the door. One of the operatives is going to have to follow the trucks, somehow, or even hide in it, due to the scarcity of traffic at night, but I don’t think it will come to that. Well, this was a lucky find, indeed.”

“Good hunch, Lieutenant!”

“Routine. You should see what the General does.”

“Dare I ask?”

“He’s in Cambodia, with the special forces you saw at the airport. One last, long effort.”

“Cripes!”

“Yeah, double cripes! We’re not supposed to be in there.”

“Holy Moly!”

“Our General has heart.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“For quite some time. Nixon knows, so we’re covered.”

“But Nixon isn’t.”

“True, man, the buck stops there.”

“Truman.”

“Yeah.”

18. 

We returned to Colleen’s, and went out to dinner, eating outdoors, near the ocean, to celebrate. I had entered some kind of uncharted forest of double love. They sat on either side of me, as two elfin wonderlings, making me their love sandwich, with kisses raining from both sides. Some tourists gave us a strange look. The fates were probably falling over in shock. I hadn’t pulled it off; Colleen had, as some kind of all-encompassing Mother Earth figure.

“To us,” Colleen said, raising here glass. “To the east and the west, united by Patrick and the good old Army Intelligence.”

We all kissed, even Colleen and Cho. More tourists stared.

Cho added, “We each love Patrick, so let us both keep on loving Patrick.”

The moon rose over Waikiki, it seeming to rise right out of Diamond Head Crater. We breathed deep the scented air: every breath was fresh and full of life!

We returned, much later, to Colleen’s. It was Friday night, and so we would be free all weekend. Where would I sleep? We drank a bit of wine.

Needless to say, we all squeezed into Colleen’s bed, later, automatically, without having discussed it. Things happened, which words for I have lost. Colleen fell asleep, and Cho went to the porch, waving me after. Guess I’d be dividing my time.

We all slept in. Cho had woken me up earlier and had sent me over to sleep and wake up with Coleen.

The fates had recovered, but they weren’t done fooling around with me, but it worked out OK. Alice Wong came over, with a PL/1 computer program that had a problem, telling us as much in her not so good English. I’d given her my address.

We all gathered around the printout, while having breakfast at lunchtime.

“I introduced Alice to Cho and Colleen, “These are my girlfriends, Alice.”

Alice lifted an eyebrow, “I not allow boyfriend in China. All live one house.”

“And so you just put it out of your mind?” Colleen asked.

“I guess; I no think it.”

“Why not?” Cho inquired.

“Chinese Tradition. Marriage arranged. I marry once, but he mean. I come Hawaii, by Hong Kong. Uncle pull string.”

I’d noted that Alice was getting pretty good good at programming. I found her coding problem.

Alice said, in her typically fractured English, “Fun Kung La! Thank you too much.”

I gave Alice some advice, “One only needs to create subroutines for storing and retrieving data, and for a few other common functions like sorting; therefore, most any program could be created out of these few prime constituents. The programmer is then relieved of thinking and coding at a low level of detail, the very area in which most problems occur.” Alice had an aptitude for all this and she was a very ready student, having had all the necessary courses to be able to fill in the background behind what I was teaching her.

Alice next brought out a Cobol program. I called Vince at the fort to come over. There was a pay phone just outside the barracks, in an open to the air hallway, that I called, and usually someone walking by would answer it, and then they’d go in the barracks and call out the name of the person or leave a note on their bunk.

The next thing we did was to work on Alice’s broken English, which actually only had but two simple faults: 1) omission of pronouns and articles, and 2) not adding an ’s’ to verbs in the third person present singular (I walk; they walk, but she walks), a very silly and non-sensible rule anyway, now that I thought about it.

We began inserting prepositions for her in whatever she said, so it would sink in better than in isolated drills. She would gain a whole extra dimension of communication. Not  that she couldn’t talk before, but many people, upon hearing bad English, wrongly associated it with lack of intelligence and sincerity. We also spent some time on verb tenses.

My girlfriends asked Alice and Vince to stay for the weekend. Later, Vince and Alice passed out on the couch, together. I walked by them during the night. Situation solved.

19.

On Monday, I went in to work. In the afternoon, the Lieutenant came over, and asked, “How’s your marriage going?” He stepped back, smiling, as if I might swat him with a printout.

“My girlfriend likes my wife, and vice-versa.”

“That’s a good one.”

“It’s true, and they live in the same place, too. It’s wonderful, actually.”

“You’re going to have to start taking a lot of vitamins.”

“That’s for sure.”

“We need you to take some tapes to Okinawa, in a few weeks. That will give you a break. See the sights, there, and in Japan proper.”

“AOK.”

“It should be routine. Know any girls in Japan?”

“Yes.”

“When did this happen?”

“When Sarge gave me two weeks off.”

“Cripes.”

“She has an older sister, Lieutenant.”

“I have a girl here, who is even relatively near by, but you and everyone won’t be able to figure out who she is.”

“OK, but I’m not going to try.”

“She’s a real sweetheart. We’ll probably get engaged soon.”

“Congratulations.”

The Lt. had probably thrown in the word ‘relatively’ to throw me off, but it wouldn’t be polite to go nosing around.

I worked on computer programs for the next three weeks. After work, I began bringing pieces of things up the mountain, a few at a time, towards completing my mountain retreat. I had brought up the tent, a small grill, and a wide cot, along with sheets and pillows, and a few other assorted items, such as cookware, a lantern, and some waterproof bags. Great things could get accomplished a day at a time. The tent was the toughest thing to bring up, it tilted up, with one end tied to the back of the motorcycle and the other end dragging along.

I left for Okinawa, and the Philippines, too, which they had added on—and it was really too damn hot in Manilla.

In later years, I would write:

Oh, Olongapo, fleshpot of fertile flora,

Pinatubo reseals your box pandora.

Fiery ash freezes your beauty in time,

A poem in stone, like Sodom and Gomorrah.

I then dropped in on Kimiyo for a week, on the large island of Kyushu, and met her friends and family. I thought I owed her that much, and told her I’d come by every so often, hopefully. I also reminded her that I was stuck in the Army, and might have to go on dangerous missions, and so she should live and love, too.

She really loved her family, her home, and her culture, but she was still the dreamer of all of them. Her sister, Junko, waxed more practical about the love situation, ending with, “We need you here, Kimiyo, and we need help with the apartments. Patrick is in the Army, and after that he has to go to work in New York. Real life is not like a vacation in Hawaii.”

“In love it is,” Kimiyo replied.

Fukuoka had it all, from castles to parks to ocean beaches, and across those waters, not really very far off, was Pusan, Korea, a place that neither Cho nor I ever wished to go back to, or hear of.

Upon the jet’s approach, back toward Honolulu, I could see all the Hawaiian islands—stranded like pearls of an open necklace on a blue sapphire sea.

I got back to work on the computer programs, and to finishing the mountain retreat. I was always an outdoors type of person, anyway. Life would be great up there—the dream of a lifetime.

Colleen’s time to go had arrived. Cho and I bid her a very fond farewell, holding a dinner party for her and her friends.

We’d have to move out of our apartment. We’d already checked around Waikiki, and the places about were all expensive. I’d been lucky the first time around, with Colleen’s place, and her generosity.

Cho and I went to the lifeguard stand and sat a while. We would both miss Colleen, the giver of all Givers. We smoked the last of Colleen’s pot, in her honor. We went back to the apartment, and gathered up our things. I told Cho that she was in for a big surprise.

Cho and I packed the motorcycle bags, and rode off. Flute music drew us ever onward and upward, ever enchanting. We rode for about seven miles. There was no more East and West, nor North or South; there was no direction; the world had shrunk to the point from which love emanated.

We passed through a gate, and I clicked the shifter into low gear; we headed up the mountain trail, towards home.

20.

I hadn’t told Cho about the mountain top camp and its scenic view, for I didn’t want to lessen by anticipation her first and glorious impression of it.

On the near torturous way up and up there was only the dense and lush vegetation and forest to be seen, with even the trail itself steep and faint at times, although near an edge toward the top, where glimpses of the Likelike highway could be seen far below. Then the vista revealed itself.

“*^&%#$@! Wow! I’ve never been this high, Patrick.”

“And it’s not from pot. We’re up near Heaven.”

“It’s fantastic. I can see forever. Good temperature and air, too. No one knows how to get up here?”

“To keep a secret, tell no one.”

“It’s so beautiful; it’s near unbelievable! I’m in happy shock.”

“It’s for us—our new home.”

“Thank you, Patrick. I’m speechless, for once.”

“It’s just us, Cho, from here on.”

“I’m yours, completely and lovingly, but you’re free to have someone older…”

“No ‘buts’. You own my heart.”

“You have only three girlfriends, now, Patrick.”

“Well, not even two, really,” I replied, “for it’s not like I can go live in Japan after my service.”

“I’m moving up fast.”

“And I haven’t heard from Patty in New York for a while. She’s probably afraid to tell me that she had to get married to satisfy her parents.”

“So, you have but one sure girlfriend—me, but…”

“My pleasure, and I don’t need any more. No ‘buts’.”

“Hurray! But what if they still want you?”

“If possession is nine/tenths of the law, for things, then being together is ten/tenths of the law of love. And we’re together, period. It’s just us, from here on out, and beyond, from here to eternity.”

“That’s wonderful. I’m way more than happy. I’ll skip the ‘buts’, but just for now. Oops, I almost said something.”

“I’m happy, too.”

“This place and its view is so beautiful that it’s startling.”

“It’s magical, entrancing, spellbinding, bewitching, beguiling, fascinating, captivating, alluring, enthralling, charming, attractive, lovely, delightful, beautiful, dreamy, heavenly, divine, and gorgeous.”

“Are you reading from a thesaurus?”

“Yes.”

“They don’t have enough words for this. And no one noticed you building it?”

“I smuggled it in, piece by piece. The idea came to me in a pipe dream, and now it even looks like one!”

“This is a dream, Patrick. You own me doubly now.”

“No owning. The love is unconditional.”

I had a gas lamp inside the the tent in the three-sided indentation that was the ‘cave’ heart of my mountain camp retreat, the front being open, with overhanging branches above the tent’s front screen doors, and further.

The air circulated well, around the tent, and any rain water ran downward and off of the cliff.

Cho was delighted to see my bookshelf, and picked out a Sherlock Holmes tale and set it aside. She was surely overqualified for her old job in the restaurant, and had also ever considered herself as more American than Korean. She would make it here just fine. There was no finer thing that I’d ever done.

A double cot nestled against the back wall. The tent was large enough for us to stand up in and walk around. It hadn’t been easy getting it up here, which took two trips, first dragging the big tent box by a rope tied to my motorcycle, and then the tent poles. I’d had to go really slow, but steady, without stopping.

We had simple but very cozy living conditions here in the scented air above Fort Shafter, with the city and the Honolulu airport way off in the distance.

Cho might be able to continue onto college, either in the fort or, much better, at the University of Hawaii, at which place I might take some graduate courses, if possible.

Outside, on the ‘lawn’, there was a gas grill, a table and chairs, two light loungers, and the motorcycle, as not much else was required. Beyond that space was a sheer drop. We could eat at the fort or bring food and drink up here from the mess hall, the PX, or the Commissary.

Few back at IBM would ever believe this place, perhaps not even Mike, but I did send Mike a letter, including some Korean paper currency. (Years later he would still talk about having received money in the mail.)

That night, we looked up at the stars amid the blackness. The scary Korean moon was long gone.

Cho lay in my arms that night, high atop the Koolau mountain range. We talked about computers, oriental customs, and sayings, old legends, nature, and enjoyed every sensation of the tropical air washing over us.

It was then, with Cho, that the Orient captured me forever, with its heartfelt simplicity, with its eastern, less hectic way at looking at life—the deeper caring for all things, and all the mystique of the eastern philosophy. It was then that I was transformed into the ‘egg’—white on the outside, but oriental yellow on the inside, and it was an awakening that was to last throughout my life.

We learned the names of the stars during the nights up there, and I was surprised to find out that the Big Dipper was called the Great Plow in the Orient. In this way we also learned about the Dragon’s Head, the Snake, the Monkey, and the Rat.

“There, a shooting star,” she said. “Quick, the doorway to heaven is open for just a second; make a wish!”

And so I wished for Cho to have a good life, with or without me.

“Look,” she pointed, “there’s the Coal Sack rising from the sea, and the Pole Star has not yet set—that’s the best luck that can happen to anyone—to see both at the same time, according to old legend, and it means that life will be long and prosperous.”

I looked at her lying there on the blanket, her dark brownish hair blending into the shadows, the peace of her smile, the wonder in her eyes, the absolute sincerity of her heart. “How do you know the sky?” I asked her.

“It was dark where I first grew up. Each house had only one light bulb for the year. Look, there’s the Grand Warrior with his sword fighting the Giant Water Buffalo to save the Emperor.”

“To me, that’s Orion the Hunter fighting Taurus the Bull.”

Our camp was looking pretty good these days and it now had more of a front roof of some more branches, a Hibachi, a writing table, and a hurricane lamp.

On the days when it rained heavily, we’d pull down a canopy on the front of the tent, and when the really severe storms came, we’d hibernate, hope, and be brave.

We lived, loved, talked, and traveled around for many a day, at least on weekends or when I wasn’t working, ever returning in the evening to the enchanted place.

We got onto discussing everything, even wars and politics, and concluded that it was usually North against South in the many civil wars within countries, although there were some almost seeming East vs. West cases, but these came from without rather than within, such as in the East/West division of Germany.

Out of the blue, I asked her the origin of the words ‘news’, and she understandably replied that it was NEWS, the letters for North, East, West, and South that could be seen on a weather vane from a certain direction. I knew then that there were some fine old books in the library of the fort in Korea.

We came to the subject of meaning, happiness, and completion in one’s life and she again astounded me with her insight.

“It is not about one’s individual pursuits that does it all,” she said, “but the relations and connections, and it is certainly not about an unlived or solitary life, for that kind of life is worthless and ultimately not satisfying, although some of that is necessary at times to support one’s entire and glorious endeavor.”

I asked, “And what would be the one summation in its highest form, although still the same motivation in all of its forms?”

She readily answered, “It is to be as close to another as one can ever be, as suitable, of course, whether as friend, helper, or life partner, for it is this otherness that completes and joys the individual self into happiness, meaning, and fulfillment.”

She knew, she knew that one could not be a self all alone, that others brought forth and defined a fair portion of one’s self and being.

She then completed the thought, “And this is why we are together.”

The breezes swept over us at night, as we slept on the wide cot at the back of the cliff cave, which was even in a nook, somewhat, by a tent extension.

This retreat was one of the things that made us akin with nature in this land which was as open and free as the people in it. Warmth in climate begat warmth in human outlooks all the more. Other places could never be quite as Hawaii was.

Cho was an all-in-one, meaning everything in one person, a rare find, such as in she being learnéd, yet also aware, wildly adventurous, friendly, and romantic—a full-sided fit to life. She had finished reading the Sherlock Holmes compendium within a week. The odds of us having run into each other were astronomical, and yet it had happened and it was ever deepening.

I gave her a puzzle that was not in any of the Sherlock tales: “A man receives a neat and handwritten but unsigned letter in the mail that tells of it being from an old friend who knows him so well that he could even guess what number would be thought of right then and there, between 1 and 1000, the answer being contained in a smaller envelope that was enclosed. The man does not peek, and seeing that he had a thousand numbers to choose from picks one at random, unrelated to anything in his life, which was whatever popped into his mind, this being the number 723. He then opens the enclosed envelope and is astounded to see that exact number written on a slip inside. It seems impossible, but it really happened. How?”

Meanwhile, I gave her an easier puzzle of a similar nature: “The same man gets a phone call in which he is asked to pick another, different number between 1 and 1000, and so he picks 436 out of the air and tells it to the caller, who tells him to open today’s mail. The man hasn’t brought in the mail yet and so he asks the caller to hold on while he goes out to his mailbox to retrieve it. Of course there is a letter there containing the number 436 on a slip of paper, again amazing the man. How?”

“The second one is easy,” she replied, “but I will have to think some more about the first case, for there must be a perfectly reasonable answer.”

Closeness and consideration of a partner is key in the rise and continuance of synergy and love in a relationship. Even a detached neutrality will never amount to anything, and certainly anything to the opposite effect will eventually produce a great distance. And yet many could not know this and so their lives of love and even friendship rode on to ruin. Yet all comes rather naturally when one is as close to another as can be, when that relationship is true.

The origin of the universe and then life is the ultimate detective story and the enjoyment of living is its ultimate manifestation. Some, like the Khmer Rouge, and others, could never know this, and so it would become a part of my job to dispatch them.

I had helped the Army finish the development of software that could track movement. The enemy carried long metal objects known as rifles and shorter ones known as pistols and general weapons, and these were what were tracked, not the people, but of course they were usually with or near the soldiers.

21.

The motorcycle churns the dirt of the trail, its first gear pulling us up and up, through twists and turns, over roots and rocks, towards the camp retreat, in late afternoon, raising up the sun a bit, or sometimes even at night, raising up the stars, with water and goods in the saddlebags.

Here the tent, the soft moving airs, and the lightness of being, then, later on, the soft pillows of sleep, into the dawn, below the shooting stars.

Existence ever trumps essence. Here today, gone to-Maui.

Twilight dawn or dusk are

The still points of the noise,

The day-night neither here nor there,

But in equipoise.

As the motorcycle races down the Pali highway at 90 mph the ultimate symphony begins to play, as emotions in the state of being. Miss Adventure rides on the back.

We then cross the deep blue ocean, aboard the ferry to Maui. We had come upon the mushroom farm on Maui, whose owners I had known from a previous excursion. Jake and Jill (really) resided on the hazy boundary of legal and not, but we would keep their secret.

During our magic dreams one day, we decided to learn more about fungus when we returned to the U of H on Oahu. This was of course above and beyond the usual machinations of people in some inebriated state of joy making glorious plans that never came to pass, and so we actually ended up in the lab at the university, using drawings and microscopes to investigate the natural realm of fungi. We didn’t know it then, but this was to be the germ of Cho’s interest in taking biology courses. So it is that no one should ever hesitate to do whatever, even when not informed of the possibilities that may stem from it.

We next took a ferry to Kauai, a rare destination. It’s a quiet island, one good for honeymooners, and sightseeing, containing the legendary Bali Hai and the Waimea Canyon, which is lined by a cliff road that was not much of a road at all, and there was no fence or railing.

We had next driven to the end of Kuhio Highway 56, reaching the exotic Ha’ena State Park located on the north shore of Kauai, often referred to as the ‘end of the road’.

We were tucked against the Napali cliffs in this Ha’ena State Park. ‘Ha’ena’ is usually translated as ‘red hot’.  When the sun is down on the right side of the Napali cliffs, the scene turns to a deep and perfect red, and this is where many couples have envisioned a beach wedding.

The 230 acre park is situated at the terminus of the North Shore drive and is host to Lumahai beach, Ha’ena beach, Ke’e Beach, and a spectacular 1,280 ft cliff named Bali Hai. The cliff and these beaches have also been the locations for several well-known songs and movies, as in the film almost titled Bali Hai, set in the South Pacific—and then given that name.

One mile to the east is Lumahai Beach, which is actually three beaches in various degrees of connectedness, depending on how the sand builds up. It is visually stunning, with black lava cliffs, white sand, blue ocean, and green jungle. It’s always great for running on the soft sand, then swimming in the fresh water of the mouth of Lumahai River, and playing in the waves where the river meets the ocean.

When I was seven years old, my mother had taken me to see the movie, ‘South Pacific’, and somehow that had steered me to Hawaii, and now here I was, at Bali Hai. It had glued to me across the years.

On our way back inland, amid the endless sugar cane fields, we came upon yet another tin shack, among so many, but this time we stopped, and gave them some goodies, and talked and stayed, into the night, with this Filipino couple. They knew the names of the stars, and that, therein, hydrogen was being converted to helium, and that that was why the stars shone!

In the quiet of the night we could hear the waterfalls rushing, way off in the distance.

On the ferry ride back from Kauai to Honolulu, we could still smell the scents of jasmine and many other flowers in the midst of the open sea, and it was in these types of moments of bodily sensation that we felt most alive, and so we knew, like Walt Whitman, that a life of only the mind would never do, as emotions and feeling arose so much from that which the body does.

We had returned to the mountain camp, and there Cho gave the answers to the puzzles:

“In the second case, when the man goes out to the mailbox to see that someone had predicted the number they would pick over the phone it is that the call was made from the road right near the mailbox and the letter with the answer quickly put there as soon as the number was known.

“The first case is more difficult, in which the answer to the number was already contained there with a smaller envelope, which was of course completely sealed and opaque, offering no see-through, which means the the number chosen was a true match. This could only happen to a few people, out of perhaps tens of thousands of letter mailed, each handwritten to indicate a very personal touch and interest, although I’m sure that only a general familiarity was intimated but nothing really specific.

“The amazement of the receiver has much to do with what we discussed before, that his self is what seems to matter most in the world, this drawing attention away from the possibility that thousands of handwritten letters could have been sent out. Some had to match the number chosen.

“If this was the beginning of some shady scheme, then only those so amazed by the number prediction would respond, perhaps to some anonymous PO box, wishing to know more, and so the perpetrators could thus compile the hits, perhaps then later calling on the phone to add more confirmation through the mailbox trick in case 2.”

I gave her another puzzle: “The first snow of the season had begun just after midnight and stopped before dawn, there being an incident taking place sometime in between. Boot tracks led to the scene from the plowed road across the lawn and then off into the woods where they suddenly stopped. There was no hearing of any helicopter or anything like that possibly dropping a rope down to the person whose boot tracks had just stopped, there also being no road, tree, fence, or any way for the person to have otherwise continued without leaving tracks. Nor could the person have retraced by stepping in the boot tracks or even have walked backwards to begin with, for the tracks were clearly that of a normal walking pace and had been stepped in only once, but for the last track in the midst of untrodden snow all around, which seemed as if the person had just stood there a while, shifted his feet. How could tracks just end, as if the person had flown away, which he didn’t?”

“This is even much more information than I need,” she replied, smiling. (I’m leaving it up to the readers.)

Well, she knew a lot, even that even from only knowing of a drop of water that one could infer the existence of Niagara Falls or the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s still a mystery to me how she did this.

We got to talking about evolution, viruses, bacteria, and influenza, for some reason, and so I offered that if only we could annihilate time and come up with some living fossils then perhaps they could help treat some diseases.

She startled me with an observation. “The old times are still here, deep within the oceans, and those creatures are even more dynamic and useful than those of the land’s past, having great antibacterial and antiviral potential. There are miracle ‘toxins’ from jellyfish, for example, that not only paralyze the prey but even keep it more healthy and fresh.”

I thought to my self that biomedicine and epidemic prevention could become her fields of study, within marine biology, perhaps, as a starter, and noted that she had surmised the range of the teeming sea life without ever having seen it.

We went snorkeling, across the entire Diamond Head Bay, an easy endeavor, considering the use of fins and goggles, and there we saw just about everything under the water. Later, we took the Glass Bottom Boat tour, it going somewhat further out.

We moved on to other topics.

I offered, “Let us say that an Intelligent Designer is proposed as an answer to life and intelligence here and the existence of the universe.”

“It is short-sighted,” she said, “and not an answer, but just a larger question excused away by that same short attention.”

“What else?”

“The Christian Bible reads like a feat accomplished and it is a glorious triumph of wrong information, but for some tribal history. Its foundational sections on cosmology and the origins of life have been shown to be wrong. Life forms were not made all at once, as is, immutable.

“It all came from man’s need for satisfaction, and that was what produced the error in thinking that life and substance could only have come from a higher life, with no ‘and so on’. They had gone one simple level upwards, which was in the complete wrong direction, to answer complexity with but more complexity and in effect had doomed their own argument beyond repair.

“But they could no longer care, for it had taken root for several millennia. Only now do we see the opposite and correct direction, that complexity is reducible to its simpler and simpler constituents. Yet, the blindness to what is found and known within and beneath continues, they still wishing for the above and beyond that is neither found nor known, having been declared invisible, a necessarily infinite regress of Intelligences to account for each in the chain of them that they had suddenly broken off right  away, for no reason than the simplicity of satisfaction of what had previously been a much lessor case of dissatisfaction in the first place. Turn around. If man’s intelligence cannot be explained without more behind it then all the more God’s cannot be. Wrong way on a dead-end street. Look to the future for more, not the past.”

We had long since found Cathy’s Lounge, a Korean restaurant not far from the fort, and there they had fine teriyaki platters, and more, and she had made some more friends, and so we’d eaten there often—and now we were back. They didn’t shun her, but embraced her blend.

Cho now had a small motorbike of her own.

Aqua Vita

What flaming forge fires all that we know?
What do we seek? We long for the TOE—
As the human mind turns to the inward sown
And thence outward as well to find its way home.

Why do we wander around in the starry dark,
In the middle of the night as this lighted spark?
Well, if we knew the answer to our vertigo,
We would have been home some hours ago.

Where do we go to know, climbing mountains,
The Himalayas, to find there the wise old man?
No, for a mountain is but a little piece of straw
Blown off into the sheer emptiness of the All.

What shall we feast on? The before and the afterly?
No, for we taste this minute our time in eternity.
We have wet our robes in the shallows of mirth;
Then we dive deeper, under the fathomless surf.

Where is the light that shines to make us so?
It was born of the many stars in that milky glow,
And so there is a light seed grain deep inside you;
You fill it up with yourself, or it dies, to embers few.

And what of her, the beloved beyond?
There is a window open across the pond.
How’s that? The quiet airs mix our beings.
There’s a unified field. Go forth, singing.

And then do we see the bright light of day?
Ever this day that we sought is inside the way
Of living and dying, sunrise, sunset, and noon.
Blossom, lest the petals wither much too soon.

Did we not tire, ever walking, looking, lame?
At first, we did, yes, but then the beauty came— 
The grand moment of wings grown; lifting, new.
That rhythm flies us—our music plays through.

Where have we been through all of these scenes?
Well, everywhere, and nowhere—as but in-between.
Come home! There was never the less or the prime—
And then you will know this place for the first time.

22.

In our existence over essence, we are again up at our mountain retreat. A cat has adopted us. Fort Shafter lies below, with the city and the ocean much farther out. Sometimes Cho paints while I read, these days. The cat perches at the very edge, looking out over all creation.

We cook prime rib on the gas grill. The scents are on the breeze and the life is in the living.

Dinosaurs still fly, as birds, and the bacterial kings of forever are still with us. Sometimes we imagine the graceful forms of the australopithecines, as those who are yet in your heart and ours.

There is swimming in the ocean, on some days, in the late afternoon, followed by a dip in a freshwater lagoonish type of pool at a hotel in Waikiki.

When night falls, the sun plummets like a deadweight, relatively speaking, with but a short twilight thereafter, and yet the sunsets are often glorious ones, since the colors are more rapidly changing.

Then closeness, later, in the tent, and wonderful sleep… oh, beautiful sleep. Eat, sleep, play, drink, nature, love, thought, and sex are what we are made of, a rather beautiful meld beheld.

Here’s a good, but solvable mystery: Look at your eyes in a mirror, trying to see them looking and moving, even far to the left of right… You don’t see them move at all, but only being still, yet, we can see other’s eyes move. How come? (Left to the reader.)

23.

Cho had finished reading all my books, so we were in a bookstore one day, in the Science section, it being on the left, with the Dogs and Cats section on the right.

A redheaded lady, finely dressed, was sitting on the floor, reading ‘Antimatter’, trying to find out what particles are, for we had inquired of her.

A kind of ‘mad-scientist’ then arrived, looking for a Science Dictionary, his hair much worse than Einstein’s, plus, he was all shabbily dressed, with really baggy clothes and had probably gone without a bath for weeks. Cho went off to hide somewhere.

I asked him if he was a scientist. He said “No; I would be, but the pay is not good.”

Another lady appeared, looking for the ‘Poodles for Dummies’ book. Someday, all bookstores and libraries will have to double in size to hold all the ‘for Dummies’ and ‘for Idiot’s’ books.

As you can imagine, some karma spread unto these people, and we were soon all sitting on the floor and having some kind of informal class on Anything and Everything. I had become sort of a Professor for Science Dummies.

“What’s a particle?” the redhead asked.

“Electrons, neutrinos… You can find them under ‘Standard Model’, in a physics book here, so, don’t waste money buying a book.” The redhead wrote this down, along with everything else that got said.

“Maybe God is the particle,” she offered, “but where did the antimatter go?”

“Maybe a lot of it glommed together and went down a Black Hole or something. At least we have mostly uncle-matter around here, Thank God.”

“Could God be the particles?”

“That sounds very restrictive, as well as being a lot of information to manage. Let’s just let the particles be the particles, and simply have them do their thing.”

“Oh. Well, energy comes from the stars and planets. I’ve kept a log and there are different effects, depending on the time of day, plus those energies, of when I was born.”

“Astrology?”

“Yes.”

“Well, the doctors and nurses Surrounding your birth Would have had far greater effect and influence on you at birth than some stars and planets far away, although they do emit some amount of energy.”

“They determine our lives with that energy.”

“Yes, true, there is energy but I don’t think stars and planets just sit around, thinking, ‘What should we do to this guy;  what should we do to that person’.”

“They decided that I would get hit by a tractor-trailer truck, which nearly killed me.”

“Wow! Glad you made it.”

“When it happened, I had no memory for a while, being somewhere else in another dimension, in some blank space.”

“Let’s just say that you got the hell knocked out of you.”

“Could be.”

The shaggy hair guy was listening, too, and he was still getting perturbed at not finding a ‘Dictionary of Science’, but the Poodle lady was taking it all in, never saying a word.

“There has to be a living cause for life, professor.”

“Causes of LIFE making Life making life can’t go on forever; so, no go on that one.”

“Ever see someone turn into light Right before your eyes?”

“No, you?”

“Yes, and these are like spirits and angels.”

“Then it returned to normal?”

“Yes. And the spirits are here right now.”

“I don’t see any; hey, who bumped me!”

“You can’t see them, but they’re here.”

“Hey, where’s Cho?” She had played a fine joke on me, skipping out, leaving me stuck with all this hocus-pocus stuff. Even the ‘mad scientist’ had gone, looking for a store clerk. The Poodle Lady had remained.

“Are you a Buddhist? You sound like one.”

“No, for they believe that all is illusion; otherwise, fine, as they always serve the task, like always picking up litter, not worrying if anyone is watching, although they don’t have a God, but just a human guy, Buddha.”

“All could be a dream, Such as us being here now.”

“I’ve heard this one. I knew the Great Lama of the Eastern United States. He owned a restaurant near the New Hamburg train station, and I got to know him pretty well, his bodyguards retreating. He even offered to take me to India with him.”

The bushy-haired guy reappeared, with a store clerk. They couldn’t find a ‘Science Dictionary’, and so the guy got mad and left. The store announced that it was closing. Cho peeked around the end of the aisle.

The redhead offered, “I’m inviting you guys to have dinner with me and my friends.”

I looked over at Cho. Cho said, “Great; we’ll go.”

And a fine dinner, it was, with much further and grand discussion, that which spurs even more thoughts, in a fine mansion, no less, the redhead telling us we could stay As long as we liked and/or visit her, whenever, coming and going.

And such the karma was flowing, so we are having a vacation from our tent, there being servants and all.

The redhead looks like a rail, frail and thin, but energetic nonetheless. She is really old looking, being just 60. Too much sun, perhaps, plus, there was that tractor-trailer accident long ago. She is a combination of the dreamy but fun, along with a positive glee, but having an open and wishful scientific-to-be path, one that comes and goes, vs. the non-conceptual invisibles.

Rare that a caucasian owns a plantation, but her deceased husband was oriental.  These plantations, of which there are many in the level interior of the island, raise cane and whatever else in this fair climate.

Kind of a laid-back atmosphere here, the workers coming and going with ease, even into the glorious white mansion and its outbuildings.

The cook here is fantastic, blending all sorts of seafood and vegetables with the hardier stuff. Protons and wantons abound here.

Cho and I can see the back and the side of our mountain, way off in the distance, as it calls to us from this lowly point, and so we will come and go, and Cho could have a job here during the week.

24.

Cho had begun working at the redhead’s plantation during the week, and we stayed there at night, often. On the weekends, we retreated to our mountain camp.

At work, Lt. Dauphanais came over, giving me some travel papers, saying, “The time has finally come. Four stops, for the tape deliveries, all in Vietnam. Flight out in two days. See the sights. Be safe. Take your time.”

“Thanks.”

I flee though the jungle, as the boy who was once on the cross country team. Then I will come to you, my love, with the passing of the days, and I will set you free each time, your round-eyed, half-bred beauty to be more appreciated in Hawaii, where East ever meets West, and blends, and will remove the chains that bind the heart and the mind.

Innocents may die, and wiser men will yet remain the same, but you and I will take our place in time, and find a better way to fly, far beyond the roughest seas. I hear all your whispered dreams, and the endless signs of the ones who loved; they live on in the stars above.

Then I will come to you my love, with the passing of the days, and I will set you free each time…

(See ‘Cambodian Adventures’ that I’ve put at the end of the book, either now, later, or anytime.)

(Some of what I write here goes on in parallel, as mostly the Hawaiian side of things.)

I ended up being gone for a month. I had worked with the General on his campaign. He was, after all, my boss.

Upon return, I headed over to the redhead’s plantation for a reunion with Cho.

“Too long, Patrick,” she said, after hugs and kisses.

“It was rough. Our helicopter took a hit. We shot up some NVA at a firebase that was being overrun, and then we barely made it to a landing much further away. Then we met the General, and he employed us. I killed some more enemies, and then nearly met my end, in a firefight, and near again, when running through the jungle. The thought of you carried me on, energizing me. I wrote it up.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through that, Patrick. You’re alive, but I was really worried.”

“Crap happens, and there was a whole lot of it, right and left. Some kind of a big push going on.”

“I’m starting at the University in September, in biology. Lt. Dauphanais and Mr. Freeman got me in. They told me you’d asked them to. Thanks, so much, and so now you triple own me.”

“Great. It will triple our pleasure.”

“I’m going back to Vietnam in a month or so, and then maybe once again. They’re using me as an Intelligence Agent-Analyst—as an oversight helper kind of person. The General is my employer, of course, so I can hardly say ‘no’.”

“You’d better come back alive.”

“I intend to. It’s a long, big drive, and it’s probably the last of that. I think I’ll be on easy street when this next one is over, for I sense that the war will be winding down, and some of it already is. A lot of the troops are hoping and getting ready to come home.”

“Hope so.”

“It’s Friday; let’s go out to our favorite dance club.”

“Yeah, enough of this beautiful valley. I do like Waikiki, but just to visit.”

The place was already jumping and throbbing when we got there. Vince and Alice Wong were out on the dance floor. Well, how do you like that!

We got a table, and ordered a drink. I kept visualizing the jungle in my mind, as a kind of afterimage. I’m back, I told myself; I’m safe, for now.

When the dance floor cleared, I spotted Lt. Dauphanais and Mr. Freeman’s secretary sitting across the way, and they spotted us at the same time. The Lt. waved us over. He stepped out onto the floor and saluted me. I’d never been so honored in all my life. We sat with them for a bit.

The Lt. opened his shirt top and showed us a scar, saying, “I almost bought it over there last year. I’m lucky to be alive.”

He went on, “This is my sweetheart, Jane. We’re engaged.”

“Well I’ll be…” I replied. “I never picked up on it. There were no signs. She was in plain sight.”

“True, and, well, there are now.” Lia showed us her ring.

We all got up and danced, Vince and Alice, too.

Later, we talked to Vince and Alice about all of us renting a very small apartment together, in Punahau, near the University, Cho and I to stay there just on some weekdays, when school was in session.

And so we did. I’d gotten a rank and pay raise, from the General. I’d give some of it to Cho.

My friend, Joe, and his friend, Jeff, came to visit for a few days, and then they headed over to Maui, to the magic mushroom farm.

I’d gone to Vietnam again and had returned again, two months later.

I called Cho, “I’m in Tripler Army Hospital.”

“Are you OK, Patrick?”

“Yeah. They’re just checking me for a day or two. I lost about ten pounds, and I have a sore ankle, some nutritional needs, and some cuts and scratches, one of them near infected, but I had it treated over there. I had to walk a long, long way, Cho. You carried me on your wings again.”

“I’m coming right over.”

She arrived.

“Patrick, what happened over there?”

“I’m not supposed to say, but I’ll tell you more when I get out of hearing range here. In short, I rose from the ashes of a dead helicopter, all shook up, but well enough find a way through a very large and spreading inferno, and walk a long way back through the jungle. I’m fine, but am kind of all tired out, now.”

“%$#@*&%#!”

“Yeah, and double that!”

“That was too close, Patrick!”

“I was the only survivor of the crash.”

“Miracle man! Thank your lucky stars!”

“Thanks, stars.”

“How did you walk on a sore ankle?”

“I only had it near the end, and so I found that walking on my heel helped, plus making my boot laces very tight.”

“I’m sleeping here.”

“OK”

25.

“I’m doing well in school, and I love it.”

“I knew you would, on both counts.”

Months passed, and it was now a week before Christmas, and Cho was on a Christmas break from the University. I hadn’t had to go back to Vietnam, or anywhere. Vince and Phil had done the last trip to Korea, months ago. Cho even had Vince raid her old apartment to retrieve something.

We lay back on the grass outside and looked at the stars.

“Time to begin work on The Theory of Everything,” she said.

“Indeed.”

“But, first, we must wait a few minutes for midnight to come.”

“For?”

“Your birthday. You forgot.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Happy Birthday!”

“Thanks.”

“You still can be free, you know, Patrick, and if things work out with Patty, during and/or after you go back to New York in a year, and I remain here for two and one half years to finish at the University.”

“And then we three would live happily ever after together?”

“Sure.”

“Good one.”

“My logic accepts over my heart.”

“You may end up working far away from Poughkeepsie.”

“Maybe in New York City.”

“The rest of the world isn’t like Hawaii.”

“I know, and I don’t care where, as long as we can be near.”

“You’re being brave, like Colleen was?”

“Yes, for I’m much younger than you.”

“Do you really want more than the two of us in our relationship?”

“Of course I’d rather not, but maybe you deserve to be with someone older, and with me, too, or if I’m not around for a while.”

“Do you really want me to be with someone else?”

“No, but Patty got established before me. And maybe she’s getting something out of the way while you’re gone.”

“She told me to live and love, and I did and I am. This is now. We’re together and we’re in love, Cho. Seven months.”

“Yes, and I always will be, with you only. I am yours, and will ever be, whenever and wherever, but I can always be second, if you want to be with someone else, older, or whatever, or if Patty is still available.”

“No thanks. You’re not a second-class citizen.”

“Are you sure you don’t wish for someone else, or older?”

“I’m sure. I’m not thinking of giving you up or having two loves. What do you really want, Cho? You get a first class vote.”

“I’m married to you, but you are free. I want us, and I want there to forever be an us, even if we sometimes have to be apart, due to school or work or whatever. I don’t need or want to experience any other loves for myself. I’m not being short-sighted, or infatuated. I just know that I’m all set.”

“That’s a beautiful birthday present. And no ‘buts’.”

“But I shouldn’t make you wait for me in New York.”

“That’s a whole year off; we can’t worry about it now.”

“OK. Let’s not. I just can’t believe how, why, what, and where we are, and have been. It’s just, so much, and it drives and continues to heights and depths that I never even knew existed! Of all the things under the stars to happen!”

“Good, for here we are, and our love is ever and always. This is the time and it is now. Possibles and maybes don’t matter. We are permanent, and that’s all there is to it.”

“Thanks, Patrick.”

“What I need to do now is to survive the war, and it looks like I have. No trips, lately, or even proposed. Something is up.”

I turned 24 that night with Cho. She would be 19 in the late spring, with one year of college finished. I’d have to put her through the rest, somehow.

I signed up for two graduate school courses. Now, we’d be at school together.

Patty sent a Christmas Card and letter. Not only had she gotten married, some time ago, with the guy running away, right away, as predicted, but she had volunteered for a temporary one-year assignment in the new IBM Germany startup, since it offered a promotion. She also said that she’d be back before I would, and hoped we could date.

I wrote back that I was married, too, kind of, but certainly attached here, since I had lived and loved.

26.

A week later, 1972 arrived, and then, about two weeks later, we were surprised at work to see that Lt. Dauphanais had set out bottles of champagne.

Vince asked, “We can drink here?”

The Lt. answered, “We can today. The long draw drown in Vietnam grows much larger soon. Our foreign allies will be pulling out first, and then we will slowly begin to. The General will be retiring. By next year, the South Vietnamese Army will be on its own, along with a peace treaty that won’t be worth very much. Whatever happens then, will happen, good or bad. We will probably be totally gone from Vietnam in 1973. We’ll be getting a new leader just for this base. Pop your corks, people.”

They all popped the corks, amid cheers and hurrahs.

The Lt. spoke again, “Everyone can take Fridays and Mondays off, with pay. Those of you in the Army are still in the Army, for the same term, but now you have no more IndoChina worries. This strange war so long ago begun now approaches its even stranger but popular end. Don’t ask me; I just got an early indication, that’s all. The General will call a meeting to make it official.”

I had one year left in Hawaii, and soon I only had to come in two days a week. It would be rather a holiday on vacation from retirement in paradise on a very long honeymoon, whatever that meant, for it was a first, for sure.

I told Cho that I was no longer assigned to IndoChina, but just to here—Hawaii, for my last year in the Army.

Triumph, glory, redemption, bliss, safety…

She jumped up and down, and then performed a hula dance. I was so happy that I joined her. I had survived. All I had to do was not to fall off of a cliff or something. (Don’t worry. Nothing bad happens. It’s all good, better, and best.)

The General soon held a meeting at the Kaneohe Marine Base and made our status official. No more combat pay, though.

 

After that, I rode up to the mountain retreat. Cho was sunbathing naked. Oh, fates, you have outdone yourselves.

27.

“Cho, the war was all for nothing. How do you like that?”

“Silly world.”

“Ridiculous, too.”

“One needn’t follow customs, rites, and rituals, nor religions, politics, and disputes.”

“Yeah, and those who went to Canada, although they disrupted their lives and had to give up their jobs, may get amnesty one day, for this war was an unclear one.”

“The inputs make for the outputs, silly or not. The Korean War is still going on, officially. No armistice was ever signed.”

“The South Vietnamese won’t be able to hold out, and the North Vietnamese will eventually take the south, regardless of any peace accords, and then unify the country, which, I’d say, is better than warring forever, as has always happened there, although they’ll still have some problems.”

“You and I won.”

“Yes, the Northern U.S. unified with South Korea.”

We asked the night to reveal its mysteries of all that is, but it did not answer us directly; however, we had retained the presence of the night within us, vibrating with its rhythm and resonance. We’d sensed a soft sweep across our heartstrings, for we were willing spirits, and it ever carried us through, in peace, undistracted by any of the day’s bright noise of life in busy Honolulu.

In harmony, we realized that we each held within ourselves the seed of the other, that Yin reaches climax, then retreats in Yang’s favor, in a cyclic movement of rotational symmetry, for a rounded life is the blend of Yin and Yang.

Still atop the mountain, we took another look at the lights twinkling in the night sky, before retiring to the tent.

I pointed to a twinkling red star in the night sky, and asked Cho, “Do you think there are any people living around those lights?”

She replied, “Yes, for sure,” pointing to that reddish ‘star’.

“I bet there aren’t,” I answered, figuring it to be a red giant star that had already expanded into the orbits of its planets.

“You lose,” she said, happily, “for that is an airplane full of people!”

“Damn. It is, and now I see that it’s slowly moving.”

We laid on the grass, pretending that up was down and that down was up, we then seeming to be glued onto the Earth, and about to fall into the bottomless deep of the night. It was a scary feeling, but, we knew from a ‘Gravity is the 4th Dimension’ poster in the Whole Earth Catalog that space was expanding, and that the Earth’s inertia was slowing down the expansion of local space, a drag causing gravity to hold us down, as like a small piece of flotsam is attracted to a log and its less moving wake in a flowing stream.

The night sky glittered with blue sapphires, emeralds, diamonds and other gems of stars. Photons that had traveled millions of light years reached our eyes from stars that may have been long gone, and caused electrons to be released from the rods and cones of our eyes, the three different types of eye cone proteins rotating according to the amount of primary color wavelengths received.

From our mountain view, we could see the 747s noiselessly landing and taking off onto/from the coral reef runway that stretched out into the Pacific.

Upon asking Cho if all that is had come from nothing or from something, she replied that, “The answers are in two locked boxes, each of which contains the other’s key,” and that, furthermore, this analogy “was really more of the way things worked, as the yin in the yang, and vice-versa, than the ultimate answer”.

She continued that, “We had to think outside of the locked boxes to gain the ultimate answer”, that “normal reasoning would not get us very far,” that “we had to look to ‘unusual’ reasoning and logic,” and that “then we might get lucky and guess the answer”.

Meanwhile, she added, “We have to make our own meaning in life, and that it was on us if we didn’t, for that is perhaps the best one can do”. Her guess was that “form in motion came out of the formless-timeless, since all options would have been open ‘then’, except for nonexistence, which is not possible, for we are here.”

I summarized, “‘Fundamental Possibility’ is the ultimate basis of reality, and has always existed, since nothing could become of nothing. It is fundamentally every possibility at once, in a kind of superposition, since the ultimate ground can have no certain way imparted to it.

“Note that a fundamental particular state of something actual was totally impossible, for how could the choice have been made as to its specific properties and its total amount? A fundamental state of absolute nothingness was totally impossible, too, for there is indeed something that our consciousness interprets, but nothingness may still play a role, as does infinity, eternity, and everything.

“Fundamental Possibility projects the waves that made our local reality—the penultimate reality, of electrons, quarks, mass, energy, charge, and such, and/or strings, or whatever. All is as it is in our local reality because it works.

I read,

Beyond Local Reality

Time, space, stuff, change, and form were real-ized from
The Fundamental Possibility,
Becoming our penultimate reality;
One possible from all probabilities.

Quantum-like Superposition

Reality came not from just nothing,
But existed always, as possibility,
One that amounts to something workable,
Among all in superposition.

The First Impossibility

No form of our penultimate realness
Could have existed by itself before
Everything was quantum-known-all-at-once,
For what could have made the choice among many?

The Second Impossibility

Nor came it from just absolute nothing,
Since there can be no such action of it;
So, since either way is impossible,
Fundamental Possibility is.

Something actual having been forever and the getting of something actual from just nothing are both impossible.

The solution gets down to the reason: that the All must be without limit, or it wouldn’t be the All; so it must be both eternal, which is more like timeless, in its potential, of anything and everything. That there is nothing to make things of still haunts; however, the All must be creative, of nothing, perhaps, which is still a something, and we do observe a balance of polarity of charge, matter and antimatter, a weak and a strong nuclear force, and gravity’s negative potential energy said to balance the positive kinetic energy of stuff, not to mention fields making particles and particles making fields. So, there has to be a balance of opposites, which must sum to zero. One could say that Nothing cannot ever be or stay because it is perfectly unstable. The fundamental potential/possibility is neither nothing nor is it something actual. Somehow, it is in-between, yet a something in other terms.

“In a Theory of Everything forum long ago, in the 9th century, Abunasr Farabi wrote:

Vague and unrefined did the secrets of existence remain.
Unpierced did that highly revered pearl remain.
Each person said something according to his reason.
Yet untold did the point which was of essence remain.

“And Abulhasan Kharquani replied in the 11th century:

The primordial secrets neither you know nor I.
The words of the puzzle neither you can read nor I.
Your discourse and mine are behind the curtain.
When the curtain falls, neither you remain nor I.

“But they didn’t know how far science would advance and that we would actually be able to see the curtain and derive the truth from it. So, we may say more…”

“Right on.”

“I’ve been thinking about this Fundamental Possibility,” I said to Cho, continuing. “It solves a lot of problems! It’s also what I’ve been leaning toward lately, although the wild revelations from imaginations have clarified it.”

“Like what?” she inquired.

“Like how the penultimate reality, the fundamental substance, could still have existed ‘forever’, or at least in its potential form, as timeless, and how its particular form was specifically one that worked, instead of one that didn’t.”

She replied, “It existed forever because time was born with it, from possibility, the two of them always there as potential.”

“Yes, there was what just what is, rather than what was not, for a nothingness could not cut it, for there is surely something here; yet, maybe the actual needs to balance to nothing since there is no other source.”

She surmised, “The fundamental wave substance was the most probable of all possibilities. Time requires the imbalance of all imbalances to of forward, a kind of rare grouping order.”

“Yes, and perhaps it was the only possibility that would work, so all the superposed imbalances had to trace back to the largest one of all.”

“Or the others fizzled and failed by going nowhere, sort of a survival of the fittest—of all the scenarios of consequences of what could serve as reality—a brute force solution, since there could be no thinking, planning, and designing.”

“And Fundamental Possibility had to exist, rather than not, for possibility is all there could be as First, it needing nothing but itself ‘before’ or ‘outside’ of it. Yet, I’m still trying to adjust to this new way of thinking.”

“True,” she chimed in. “Fundamental Possibility is a bit like your mind sifting through the eventualities of possible actions—only this Possibility forms substances, not thoughts. It may even be forming some now, here and there, but on a lesser basis than when the universe came into being and expanded, for then all was wide open, and it is that even the low probability events of huge bangs must ever and eventually happen in Eternity’s Waiting Room. Of course, this Possibility must remain simple, it producing simple, continuous functions like waves, in pairs, that being the price of being Fundamental, but, we, a 13.75 billion-year complex composite, are much more advanced, and that is where real and meaningful life occurs, not in the past.”

“If Fundamental Possibility could talk, which it can’t, for it is not a system, it might say something much the same as I would now in my quest for the Theory of Everything:

I’ll follow every single avenue,
Whether it’s brightly lit or a dark alley,
Exploring one-ways, no-ways, and dead-ends
Until cornered where the truth is hiding.

“And now we’ve arrived in that dark corner and so we can live life better by knowing who we are and how we became.

Some simple substance(s) gave rise to everything,
‘Chosen’ as probable, above the rest,
‘Knowing’ at once that they would function well,
The most promising, the possible ones.

In other words, their paths of possibility went further; however, unlike the simple beginnings, the further possibilities of the actual complexities of everything are unbounded, and that’s the greatest thing:

As to how complex, there is no limit
Except perhaps when it forms a black hole,
And the smallest is the Planck distance,
So size is absolute, not relative.

“All in all, we are the lucky ones, standing atop the pinnacle of time, change, form, and substance. Life is waiting, and when we have the right attitude we will come to not even know what sorrow is.”

We continued on through the entangled forest.

She proposed, “Our minds do seem to make the actual from the possible, don’t they?”

I answered, “Well, Possibility was our birthplace, so perhaps we retain a version of it.”

“We create thought.”

We went then back into a superposition, as sleep’s circles soon arrived and drew us in…

False dawn came and went, and, in other words, it dawned on us that morning had arrived. A nuclear furnace appeared in the sky, namely, the sun, and we lounged around until duty called.

28.

We rode the tubes of blue and snorkeled over to Molokai, for a three-day weekend, a distance of 25 miles or so, but our fins made it effortless. The spawning whales, our mammalian cousins, cheered us on. We scaled the high cliffs. But really, we had taken a boat most of the way and had only snorkeled the last mile or so, and the high cliffs had a ladder, but it sounded true, didn’t it?

The former leper colony made us welcome with drinks and a roast pig. All these islands formed from volcanoes that rose from the ocean floor, and we could feel ourselves getting higher also.

The Army soon offered a religious retreat to the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii, and so we went. It wasn’t too bad, for a lot of it was free time for meditation. We meditated on going places, and when we were hitching a ride somewhere a scientist picked us up and let us go to the Mauna Kea astronomical observatory with him, a stroke of luck.

Snow was on the Mauna Kea mountain top, and from there we could almost see forever. As twilight began its end, the scientist let us look through the telescope, just before darkness arrived, along with all the more serious astronomers, who had time reserved on it. I saw the wonder of wonders of a million galaxies and nebulas whirling away, as another forever. We also toured the control center at the base of the mountain, where one could also observe, via what others were focusing on.

We flew back to Oahu, to our tented nest in the mountains, and slept in.

It was time to explore the mountain trails some more, the parts outside the fort’s land. We walked a bit round and about to get up to the ridge line, which was but twenty feet up. We looked down at our camp spot from there. No sign of it. Good. (In a future fiction story, I would have it that we had to jump down about fifteen feet near there, to escape something or other.)

Here was the enchanted forest that I’d dreamt of long ago, of slivered moonlight, rich flora, and day views towards the Pali Mountains and the tunnel through them.

Here, the rare Loa tree, crowded out below, and the patches of the red flowers amid the greenery. Here, the undisturbed portion of the hiking trail that got hiked later on. Here, we owned the world.

The Circle of Life and Energy

The bluish-green marble of the Earth
Rolls its colors of the sea onto the forest,
Making a pale turquoise dot of fluff
As seen from afar, a pearl in the rough.

On Earth, all is so close at hand
That some myth takes over the band,
Yet upon far away shores the waves roll in,
For there can be no end or begin

To this Cosmos we’re living in.
Energy flows through its paces set
At the speed of time’s patient steps,
Yet, during eternity out there, aware,
Other selves walk through every ‘there’.

All is done time and time again,
In every possible way and yen,
And then it happens all over again,
In every locale, time and time again.

I thought of disappearing off of the face of the Earth, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, here, with Cho, although I’d run out of money, in no time.

Everything and Nothing Forever More

Another leaf falls, then the branches,
As the trunk rots away its chances,
Then sinks and mixes into the soil,
Within which the molecules toil 
As they of atoms formed the mortal coil—

Which of stars and electrons and protons became
From the quantum vacuum fluctuations names
For the positive and negative balances of nonexistence,
That penultimate compositioning of our persistance. 

Something ever is and must be, for nothing cannot.
Energy restrained by time paces its way a lot,
This lot neither frozen nor totally reactive to be,
Forming all and any that is possible, eventually.

Here we are in this parentheses of eternity,
That of nothing’s paternity and maternity.

We walked back, noting that next time we could ride our motorbikes through there, and beyond, in the daytime, via connecting trails, all the way to the north shore, although it could be dangerous.

I offered, “Life on this spec in the cosmos is ever precarious. That it came about at all is both the curse and the blessing.”

“You fought those who would have done away with doctors and professionals, killing them, as all such are ever destined for a bloody end.”

“Such is their life and death.”

“We exist in the middle of nowhere, formed by little or nothing, but in a time of relative ease, for some, and to nonexistence we will return, but hopefully living gloriously in the in-between, doing good but for good’s sake, the highest ideal.”

“Onward.”

We were the King and Queen of love and the world. Nothing could stop us, and nothing did.

29.

We went away for the school break, to celebrate our safer lives and our long lasting love, to French Polynesia, via Papeete, Tahiti, which was truly in the south Pacific.

We were also going to visit the retired General. Of course, in this new year, I had another month’s leave.

In Tahiti, the sea is neither blue nor green, but is a color in between. The deep dark hole of cold of old is not here, just the warmth aglow. Our egos are neither gone nor overblown, but in balance, as the known. The calming waves roll, amounting here their toll from the other side of the world.

I am beside her, astride the duality of the yin and the yang. There is brightness all about these shifting sands of time, a heart warm beside mine.

The birds come down from the sky to pick the table dry, as the ghosts of Pacific walk the waves, the captains of old.

The wind on through the curtains of the hut flew, as I wrote some poems anew. After love was made, we, connected, stayed, and, in each other’s embrace we laid, still in place, while our senses melted away, and were felt no more that day,  having been replaced by a new sense, a joy that lay beyond sense—a realm of calm deeply felt, as everywhere it dwelt, a sensation both mystical and totally magical.

In it we drifted, crossing the oceans filled with good emotions, and floated down through deep caverns; oh, deep we flew, rising and falling through a space where no thoughts could race, weightless, unlimited, unmeasured, in the poetic land of many pleasures, there becoming near invisible, losing our bodily presence, choosing to remain as one, although to even move would have required too much effort—of which we had none, for, in spirit we had one become—ghostly phantoms, specters with human powers known only in myth, lying, awash, on our love made shore, our senses shining forevermore, like the sun, a scarlet flame above, as beings quenched in the sea of love.

The pulse of love was still much with us as we lay awash on the shore, resting, entwined, within the paradise of lovemaking, where, we rode upon the waves, receding And returning, wet with liquid peace, fulfilled, as now and yet again small wavelets from the soul’s ocean of emotions swept on through us, in ripples, echoes of the storm’s mighty swell, vibrating and rinsing.

Waves seemed to come from within us, yet, from all around, relaxing us, as each other we kissed, while rivulets ran back into the sea, every drop tingling as it found us in caress, then another, and yet another drop quivered its waving way over us, cascading, while we yet embraced, connected all the while in with one All, flowing, immersed in the romantic afterglow, with water sinking into the sands, and half drying before wetting again, moisture rising up into the air, in one fluid motion, toward the sun, then, yet one last whisper of watery sensation, calling us back into the sea.

“Come, new friends,” said the General, “To hear of the dark, the light, and the never.”

“We are here, being ever.”

“There are books unwritten and never told.”

“We can listen until we get old.”

“By what muted shore of the dark river did its strand call us forth?”

“We’re sure that we’ll never hear worse.”

“By what far edge of furrowed forest didst the Khmer Rouge seek our name?”

“Oh, General, through what hazy depth of gloom hast thy warriors and thou tread and threadest?”

“Gather thee round and you shall knowest.”

He had found his ‘Enchanted Evening’, in his love lady, a nurse, in an echo of ‘South Pacific’.

(For now, I’m leaving the readers up in the mountains, in peace, stressless, romancing, enjoying, and pondering the Theory of Everything, unless the readers complain a whole lot. I need a writing break, at any rate.)

(But now it continues.)

A Long Way Through Time and Space

30.

Somewhere in Time

I still had nine months to go in the Army, but was now free of the occasional trips to Indochina that had ever made my stay on Oahu a mixture of skulls and roses, death amid romance—a rare conjunction the likes of which never occurred again but in its continuance.

Ever love and live what rains forth from the all-giving skies of the Tiki-Gods, who even operate far away and way up above, gathering the forming vapors into clouds that cross the ocean, picking up moisture on their way, unto climbing the Pali Mountains and cooling with their fine, refreshing sprays of mist.

Cho rode her motorcycle over to pick up Alice from her class at the University of Hawaii, as on every alternating day, to take a short ride over to ‘Bananas’, where they would serve up sangria and light meals. Alice didn’t look exactly like Alice that day.

“Hi, Cho Ling. It’s me, Princess Alice Chow Wong.”

“I nearly didn’t recognize you, with your painted face.”

“It’s my mid-term project for my Cosmetics-Fashion elective course. Most of my computer courses are done.”

“It looks sad, although its quite lovely and very well done.”

“It’s supposed to be sad. I am ‘Painted Sorrow’. My uncle died in China, a month ago, and now my money is low. Although I’ll still graduate in three months, I can no longer afford my rent. I keep my clothes and stuff in a gym locker, and shower there, too—even sleep there.”

“You can live with Patrick and me in our tented mountain retreat, and squeeze in and sleep on the edge of the cot near Patrick; I’ll be on the other side of him; I sleep toward the wall. We’re returning the favor from when you let us stay with you and Vince.”

“Really, I could do that? Right next to him? Squeezed?”

“Any problem? There’s a grand and beautiful view up there. We have peace and quiet, with a table, and food.”

“Yes, the problem is that I like Patrick. He’s always helped me do program, and is trying to get me a job.”

“I know you like him; I could tell as soon as I came along.”

“I wasn’t ready then, anyway, but I was more and more drawn. I’d pretend to sleep in the computer center, to lean close to him, and I’m sure he knew I wasn’t really asleep. It felt great, but I was all involved in schooling.”

“I know; you were his friend from before I arrived.”

“Then I went with good old Vince for awhile, strange as he was, since Patrick was with you, so I respected you both, but there’s yet another problem.”

“Thanks, and I think I know what it is, but please tell me anyway.”

“The big problem is that I love Patrick.”

“We’ve done three with Colleen; don’t bring pajamas; we don’t wear clothes to bed. If something happens, just go with it.”

“Will do.”

“I’ll call Patrick right now and tell him and ask him be–fore we start work. He’s at the fort doing his one day of work a week. The war has long been winding down.”

Cho smiled, and Alice said, “And the answer is?”

“The answer is that he’s going to buy a roast duck in

Chinatown for us to eat to celebrate your arrival.”

“Thank you; my spirit is lifting; I am growing wings.”

“It’s 4:30, Alice. It’s time to go and ascend the mountain. Grab three bottles of sangria-allegria; it’s OK.”31.

Alice Rising

Alice hopped on the back of Cho’s motorcycle, and they picked up some of Alice’s clothes and things, and then took off on the H1 freeway toward Fort Shafter.

The white-gloved MP waved them in, and Cho pulled to the side a ways off, near a pond with rocks and water–falls, and a bench, which they sat on.

“Alice, I’m stoping here for a moment to tell you what to expect, for its a difficult approach to weather, but I’m good at it. I’ll have to go a bit faster since you’re on the back. It’ll be noisy, bumpy, and quite heart pounding.”

“OK, I’m feeling emotional, in a good way, and raring for adventure after all these years of college study. Are we going all the way to the top?”

“Just about. Hold on tight; it’s winding and curving.”

“Describe it all to me; I’m wide with anticipation.”

“The extent of our mountain camp retreat is actually within the confines of Fort Shafter, in a scenic part unused for anything else. There are points atop the mountain from which one can see Diamond Head, Tripler Army Hospital, Honolulu International Airport, Hickam Field, the Punchbowl crater, Pearl City and Pearl Harbor, and everything in between.

“Down the road a ways and off to the right, we will approach at high speed a seemingly near impossible steep embankment to breach, and yet we will surely accomplish it, and after after powering up it there will a long jump through the air, from which we will land well, and then a sharp left and sliding turn onto a path six feet wide or so that goes up very slightly, at first, as it rounds the base of the mountain, but we will keep up some speed, until a wide right curve brings us back to another, higher angled traverse, but not that steep, yet, really, but ever gaining height on its long way around, which will be about the mid-point. So far, it’s relatively easy, although slightly rough. Don’t try to counter balance on any of the curves; just go with them; we will not fall.

“Then there is a tremendously steep climb right up towards the ridge, and, upon getting there, I must be very careful riding along a two foot wide path, for only some bushes separate us from a terrible fall down to the Like–Like highway running far below. I will keep to first gear, for power, and so it will be a grind. No stops.

“There is then a leftish turn onto the higher ridge toward the back of the mountain and here the trail apparently ends, but the rest of the trail around and down is really just blocked, and very treacherous.

“We could use the other trail for an emergency escape if a fire were coming up the front of the mountain.

“It seems as there is no retreat there, nor anything much at all, but it is slightly down and beneath, tucked into the cliff-side, and so one must walk and climb down a rope ladder or jump to it; however, there is also an invisible and more circular route to it if one is not in the mood, although it is laced with jutting rocks.

“There, in the nook of an open cave type of arrangement, our tent is tucked in, with the wide double cot placed in the back, where the ceiling has sloped down somewhat. The tent doors can usually be left open on the usual fine day.

“There is a slight grassy ‘lawn’ out front, with enough room for lounge chairs, and a table, and beyond that is a sheer drop, so be careful. The view faces toward the air–port and its reef runways jutting out into the Pacific.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Alice replied. That’s what I call living on the edge. What a wonderful arrangement! You can do this ride with me on the back?”

“I could do it in my sleep and I’ve done it with a load of stuff on the back nearly as heavy as you.”

“Nearly?”

“I’ll go a wee bit faster. We’ll start in a moment or two.”

They got onto the motorcycle and veered off to the trail, while no one was in the vicinity, up the short initial hill, and vaulting through the air, and coming down square.

Nearing the top, they caught the view from the back–side, of where the mountain chain headed off.

“We’re here. I’ll go down first and hold the rope ladder steady; just climb down, holding with two hands.”

The dinner table was set, out on a kind of porch built from some reddish wood, in an oriental style.

I came out to greet them, receiving a hug front and back, Alice saying, “I am your shadow and Cho is your light; we ladies are as sundown and sunrise.”

I said, “Wow!… There’s a clothes rack inside, Alice. I’ll carve the duck and pour the drinks. This is now your home; no more sleeping behind rolled up gym mats.”

Alice took in the view that was hard to process all at once from this higher point, wherefrom there was so much to see, afar, and then nearby, where the birds flew below us, while the wisps of clouds seemed to be well within one’s reach, along with a sense of being above it all and beyond the nonsense on the ground.32.

The Hint of the Project

I related, “I just received a strange postcard from Mike, my boss at IBM. It had an image of a computer on it with a lightning bolt superposed, with a short message on the back in big letters that read, “Help! Big Opportunity,” and in small print at the bottom it read, “Will call at 6 PM, your time, Tuesday, and each day, as needed, to make contact. Think silicon!”.

Cho responded, “That’s four days from now; he’s moved up his monthly call to you by more than two weeks. He’s has a dilemma, and it’s probably related to some programs and data that you worked on.”

Alice added, “Computer chips have silicon as a major ingredient; maybe an improvement has come about.”

As we devoured the crispy duck, and drank, the sun shone its warmth on our skin, it heading for the ocean, into which it would plunge in about an hour.

I looked at Alice, “We’ll say ‘Yes’ to Mike’s needs, that we can help or even do it, from here, by you, I, and Cho, and with probably someone coming out here from Poughkeepsie. Mike said last time that he was going to IBM Germany but was coming back for a big meeting in Fishkill, which is where chips are made.”

Cho realized, “It’s not something that was planned, for it is an ‘opportunity’, as something unexpected, such as Alice hinted. It is a much faster chip, one that Mike’s just confirmed or will, in Fishkill, today, Friday. On Monday he will gather his plot in Poughkeepsie, sizing up the ways to go forth, and then call us on Tuesday.”

Alice went on, “He wants to bypass all the usual testing and time-consuming procedures, given that he already has a working logic design implemented in the current slower chips. He wants it to be somehow cleanly but quickly remapped into the new and faster but very different chip technology, in a new oxide process, perhaps, even radically non bi-polar, maybe, with no changes but for the clocking and the other latch pin placements, with no new features to the machine. The new chips are both blessing and curse.”

Cho deduced, “The urgency is because there’s lot’s of money to be made! That’s Mike’s reason for being.”

They were right on the nose, I thought, saying, “The new technology needs to be more than twice as fast to warrant a new machine. Customers can easily get that the speed has been doubled. Meanwhile, a new and improved logic design on a truly revamped future machine can go on normally, though its two-year development time, or more, since one of the features is to be 32-bit addressing, up from 24, which will affect all the compilers as well as all the ‘dirty’ type programs that too cheaply used the extra 8 bits of the 4 byte address word to store flags. What a mess!”

Cho remarked, “‘Help!’ perhaps means that Mike might not know if a remap can be done. Their regular process is going to be too slow, maybe, with all the pins having to be readjusted by hand, although all the same way, which could introduce errors, or the process has been compromised. Something is afoot that he didn’t tell us yet, but the benefit outweighs the risk of us doing the work offsite, for you can’t just leave the Army and go there. Do you have all of the information, Patrick?”

“I have all of it carefully stored away, in triplicate, awaiting any and all contingencies, in locked bins.”

For desert, we had bread pudding, and then walked a ways to a slight valley’s pond that had the only water in the whole mountain range, we being in its foothills, taking off our clothes and going skinny dipping, for it had been an unusually warm day, like 86-88 F.

They floated to me and I embraced and kissed them both, my memories of deaths in Cambodia trans–formed into the life of the present, between special creatures who were overbrimming with love in this nexus of space and time that had arisen from a potential that was so far beneath and long ago.

We then did some homework and wiled away the evening under the stars that hinted of the grandeur and the extravagance of all that is, speaking of Korea and China, Taiwan actually, along with whence we came to coexist, and how we might ever continue to flourish amid the slings and arrows of fortune.

33.

The History of All History

Alice looked to the stars and remarked, “I’ve come such a long way to be here, with you both, but my possibility was there after the beginning, spread all over the place. I’m taking an cosmology course from Professor Victor Stenger, the guy you play tennis with, Patrick, and the mid-term is coming, so I’m going to practice for it now, adding some things of my own in some of the items.”

“He’s going places. Tell us more of you and us and all.”

Alice continued, “OK, I’m going to give brief history of all history, in which the simplest goes on and upward.

“The Planck era at 1E-43 seconds was the first hint of me, as a cyclical compactfication or a vacuum fluctuation eruption in an indefinite realm that’s as close to Nothing as can be, but it can’t be a Nothing as such, since that would be a definite, whereas the vacuum as the basic something must be fuzzy, uncaused. Motion can’t cease.

“To learn the Secrets of what IS and ever WAS, we must brave the crypt and ghost of cause. This quantum foam is ever and always, and has pairs of virtual particles quick appearing and then annihilating and disappearing, as noise. They are somethings, as one might call possibility or potential, but are not yet as true, meaningful existence until they become part of an information process and thus persist. This state has always been, and must be, so jot: that this All is ever here to be, since nothing cannot. Here we fathom the cryptic, where only the shade of substance slept with arithmetic. There is a basic lightness of being because anything more would then be of parts, and thus beyond the fundamental arts. Bits of information need to be separated, manifesting by ‘creating’ a Planck sized piece of space. We experience their separation as space. The bits can have relative relationships. Time evolves.

“So, where the causeless reigns supreme, the spark nursed by embers is the first that the universe remembers when it fires toward the other members in a processing way. The opposite twins as virtual pairs rule the causing call, these positives and negatives constituting the All.

“It proceeds very quickly. At 1E-36 seconds, in a GUT transition, the strong force separates from the electro–weak force, the strong force providing for stability and the weak force for changeability. Inflation begins, as a slow rolling scalar field generates negative pressure, causing an exponential expansion of spacetime. The doubling is of a vacuum energy density of 1E73 tons/cm^3. Quantum fluctuations lock in nearly scale invariant 1E-5 variation in energy density. Here the enigma of the ever immortal is undone and unloosed through its portal.

“At 1E-34 seconds, inflation quickly ends, the decay of the scalar inflaton field causing reheating. Is this the ‘let there be light moment’? No, photons don’t exist yet, but other massless vector quanta like left and right weak and B-L particles may exist. Things are not well known about this era. I am still a twinkling in the cosmic eye.

“At1E-34 to 1E -8 seconds, in the quark era, there is the quark gluon plasma, and then quarks and perhaps super particles dominate matter content.

“At 1E-17 to 1E-15 seconds, SUSY breaking occurs when proposed super partners acquire mass with the LSP expected to have a mass of about 10 Tev. In induced gravity models, this is where mass energy first generates the induced gravity field; gravity is born. I am grounded. 

“At 1E-10 seconds, there comes the electroweak transition, when the electroweak force, under the action of the Higgs mechanism breaks symmetry. The photon is born. Standard model particles acquire mass.

“Yeah! They will guide me, as illumination beside me, while the mind whirls round and round, as the ear draws forth the sound, as the eye sees the light, and of the dark the fright. Fear not the proof—it’s the beauty of the truth.

“At 1E-5 seconds, quark confinement comes about when the QCD vacuum becomes superconducting to color magnetic current. Quarks and gluons become confined.

“At 1E -5 to 1 E-4 seconds, in the hadron era, protons, neutrons, and pions, etc., form. Now my future atoms are on the horizon.

“At 1E -4 seconds, hadron annihilation occurs during a brief period of proton/anti proton and neutron/anti neutron annihilation. A slight favoring of matter over anti matter, possibly locked in by CP violation at reheat–ing allows some excess protons and neutrons to survive, with ten billion photons for every matter particle, which tells us how many annihilations there were.

“At 1E-4 to 10 seconds, in the next era, leptons are the dominant energy density, such as electrons.

“We are up to about one second after the Big Bang now, at neutrino decoupling, when mass energy falls low enough to free neutrinos, creating the neutrino cosmic background.

“At 10 seconds, electrons and positrons annihilate, leaving a tiny fraction of electrons remaining. At this point the total number of electrons equals the total number of protons. This is a beautiful symmetry.

“From 10 seconds to 57 thousand years is the radiation era, in which photons created from the annihilation of matter and anti-matter dominate the energy density of universe. Light has been let; I will shine.

“At 1- 5 minutes, nucleosynthesis begins, as fusion of protons creates helium, deuterium and trace amounts of lithium. A few of my basics are there.

“At 57,000 years, there is matter/radiation equality.

The radiation density (photon and neutrino) and matter density (dark and atomic) are equal. This is because radiation density falls more quickly due to the stretching of the relativistic particles’ wavelengths. Dark matter clumps into structures. Atomic matter begins oscillation due to the battle between gravity and photon pressure  generating acoustic oscillations. The first sounds of the new universe come forth as the ‘word’.

“At 380,000 years, there is recombination, when the temperature falls low enough to allow atoms to form; photons decouple. The CMB is born, locking in its structure—the story of the earliest times in the universe.

“For 5 to 200 million years, there is a dark age, as the photons fall into the infra red energy range. The universe goes dark. The atomic gas continues to fall toward the dark matter clumps, which grow more pronounced.

“Near to 100 Million years, the densest clumps halt their expansion and begin collapsing.

“By 200 Million years, the first mini halos form and within these the atomic cloud cools and collapses to make the very first stars whose light brings to an end the dark era. We are totally of stars to be.

“By the way, I forgot that inflation was so fast that some virtual particles couldn’t recombine, thus becoming real.

“At 200 million years, there are the first stars, which are very massive and short lived, but emit some lower atomic elements since this doesn’t require extra energy. They die in violent supernova explosions filling the cosmos with the higher atomic elements that needed energy to be added, building dust for new stars and the planets of solar systems, and the elements for life.

“At 200 to 800 million years, there is the epoch of ionization, in which the radiation from the stars and possibly the first quasars, ionizes much of the remaining neutral hydrogen and helium. A thin mist returns and partly obscures the CMB, but future Low Frequency Radio Telescopes may be able to see the epoch of ionization.

“At 1 to 2 billion years, there become infant galaxies, as star groups merge. There are frequent collisions of galaxies, high star birth rates, and high supernova rates. Heavy element production changes the pattern of star formation, making them lower mass, less luminous and longer lived, like second generation stars of today. The stage is set for the emergence of life; the cosmos will soon have eyes to see and minds to think, like ours.

“At 2 to 3 billion years, there is a star birth and quasar peak. In the dense environment of frequent galaxy collisions, the star birth rate reaches it maximum, as does the forming and feeding of supermassive black holes, as darkling beasts. Abandon hope all ye who enter there.

“At 6 billion years, there are the first very rich galaxy clusters, since enough time has elapsed for the densest regions to stop expanding and form these clusters.

“At 7 billion years, there is decelerated acceleration.

The effects of dark energy kick in. The universe once again begins to accelerate its expansion rate, but gentler.

“At 8 billion years, the first modern spiral galaxies form, although some elliptical galaxies form in the first billion years, but classic spiral galaxies aren’t seen until at about 5 billion years.

“At 9 billion years, there is matter and dark energy equality, since the falling density of matter, both dark and atomic, become equal to that of dark energy.

“At 9.1 billion years, our sun and Earth form. We are inherent. Our solar system forms in the outer disk of the Milky Way. The stage is set for the emergence of humankind in the Cosmos—for us to meet and love. All this from stabilizations forming, onward and upward, in emergence, taking on a life of their own, and so on.

“At 13.7 billion years, there is the present time. Human civilization perhaps reaches its peak and perhaps begins heading into decline and eventual extinction due to over population, resource depletion, and environmental destruction, which generates conflict as human nation states fight for ever dwindling resources. Hopefully, humankind is not typical and intelligent life solves the problem of balancing intelligent life needs with available resources by developing communitarian economic social structures.

“By the way, all of this is dynamic in time. There cannot be a block universe because it’s infinite, it’s a complexity as First, it can’t have a definite blueprint, and we would not need brains to redundantly figure things out if they were already set, as in a movie, as conglomerations are.

“At 16 to 17 billion years in the future, the Milky Way collides with the Andromeda galaxy. Somewhere within this time our sun enters into its red giant phase, vaporizing the Earth. Humankind, perhaps already extinct for over 4 billion years is not around here to witness this event, though possibly a new intelligent species which emerged after the extinction of human–kind might be. It will be a very sad time for them unless their technology includes very advanced space flight. We are just a tiny and insignificant spark of all time considered at large.

“At 20 billion years, the growth of structures ceases, for expansion due to dark energy empties each casual patch of the cosmos. The great story of our universe draws to a close. It was a ride in the middle of nowhere.

“At 100 billion years, what remains of the Milky Way is alone in its causal patch of the Universe. We are alone.

“At 1000 billion years, which is a trillion, the last stars die, giving rise to the final, silent dark; however, stirring in the vacuum of spacetime itself are the ever present vacuum fluctuations. One small patch quite by some indefinite chance fluctuates sufficiently to create a volume of false vacuum which cuts off from its mother universe by negative pressure, and explodes into a new universe, creating new spacetime and future hope for the emergence of intelligent life in the cosmos. I’m done.”

“Cripes!” I exclaimed, “and that’s only a part of the exam, as the overall scheme, with more details to it.”

Cho added, “Very good, and Patrick and I came up with something like your idea, as Fundamental Possibility, since there’s no point at which to impart any definite plan to Totality, given that is has no ‘outside’ and no ‘before’.”

“Yeah,” answered Alice. “Cosmetics is much easier than cosmology, by far; however, I’m so glad to be as me, relating to both of you. We, although distinctive outcrop–pings of the ‘IS’, as the Cosmos ongoing, aren’t really independent, self goings-on, but are all of the play’s expression continuing and happening from the one big effect of the Big Bang.”

“Now, Patrick,” Alice continued, “I want you and Cho to savor me, as will I do you two, and enjoy you both, and then please take me, after some while, to seal our union forever more. I want you to enjoy me.”

We went over to the cot, and then took off all our clothes, flipping them through the air, and then fed our passions in every way under the sun and the stars, from whence cameth all our help, on through the seemingly numbingly slow process of evolution.

34.

The Project Call

On Tuesday, late afternoon, we headed over to my office at the DIA compound to await Mike’s call. Everyone had gone home, so this was a good time.

I told Cho and Alice, “Mike is a mover—a dynamo in a staid corporation; he rose from nowhere in manufacturing to take over machine development, with only a high school degree. You won’t be able to hear what he says, but you’ll hear me and be able to infer a lot.”

The phone rang exactly at 6.

“Army Intelligence. Hello, Mike.”

“We have a multi-million dollar business opportunity, but I have big problems in carrying it out, due to a large disaster, plus I don’t know if we could even do it, anyway. I’m going crazy, to put it mildly. The market–ing guys are up my butt, and so is our CEO.”

“OK, start at the beginning.”

“The good news, which is a totally unexpected great news, is that our friends in Fishkill Technology made a huge breakthrough in the substrate channels, but we have to change our circuitry to BMOS in order to get the 2.5 or more gain in speed. So, it’s not simple.”

“When the sun shines, the hay gets really hot, Mike.”

“Yeah, and so normally we’d put through our good design just for the new substrate, even though there’s no ‘normally’ since we never did this before. Guess.”

“The slowpokes at Engineering Design Services up the road wanted 6 months to gear up for the new technology.”

“Yes, and they’re still using assembler language and running into the horrors and nightmares of digging into hexadecimal dumps to solve problems, as you once demonstrated to me. I need to pull off some kind of a coup to get them under my wing. We didn’t much note or care how slow EDS was since their work overlapped with our logic designing. Anyway, hold on, since I’m taking it from the beginning, but it gets worse and worser, and I’m saving the worst for last.”

“Half of your logic designers and programmers are on loan to IBM Germany and the other half are working on the very important future systems that will have 32-bit addressing and many other great new features, which greatly expands our usual new systems development time, not that we really have a ‘usual’.”

“Yes, plus we really haven’t yet done a really new system. So, all would not have been lost, but I’d have to recall my designers, which I can’t do, plus who knows what accidental flaws they might introduce by putting the stuff through the whole process again, using new designers or those from other areas and not familiar, making for perhaps a year; whereas, Fishkill will be ready in two months. So, I thought, well, that’s life, and then the really bad news came.”

“I can’t imagine, but it must be really terrible.”

“It is. Ralph Bohnsen over at EDS dropped a cigarette, I guess, just before leaving, and so his office caught on fire, and it spread somewhat, although the fire department got to it before their whole old rickety building could go up in flames. Well, very many of their card decks burned up, and so now they would be double or triple slow to be able to do anything for us, which squashes that idea, which I didn’t like anyway in the first place. This was just a week or so ago. It gets even worse. When it rains, it really pours, Patrick. I can hardly bring myself to tell it… all the chances I’ve taken that worked, and now… it’s as if a billion dollars just turned to ashes…”

“There was smoke damage to their computer room, ruining their disk drives, and their machine database of our complete logic design, plus their output of it.”

“Yeah, sadly, and their backup disks, too, although Fishkill has the output and we can still produce and sell the current machines, but businesses are clamoring for more speed already, the computer age now well begun, and we could sell a lot of double fast machines at just 150% of the price we have to many of the larger businesses. IBM Germany’s machine is smaller and much cheaper, for start-up businesses, so that doesn’t help us.”

“Alice and I can remap the old machine to the new chips within three months, from the error domain large logic segments that contain all that we need! … Mike, are you there? What was that noise?”

“I stood up so fast that my chair fell over! You mean that you have everything about the logic design, like the wire lengths, circuit types, and all the internal logic between the latches, and all the SRLs traced?”

“We have it all, Mike, and more. I saved it all for just the heck of it, in case we needed it for something else, and we did, such as when we added the wire lengths together to make sure they were within the cycle time, plus the VT Validation Tests needed all the SRLs, so they’re all traced back, too, in addition to the error latches. These relations equal the design.”

“And the Correspondence Data Sets?”

“Yeah, we needed those for the scan ring order, and for whatever else they have, for whatever kind of use.”

“And where is this stuff?”

“Let’s see there’s one in the 701 building…”

“Oh no, that building was just demolished!”

“And one in our 705 building, and another in 702. When the stars shine, some go supernova, Mike.”

“The weather is greatly clearing; I was up a creek without a paddle, and now all we have to do is put humpty-dumpty back together again with new clocks and whatever new pin arrangements their are on the new type of scan ring latches. Now, Alice is your protege who you told me would make a fine worker?”

“Yes, she is among the best, and graduates in three months. She’s just cruising along now, and so am I in the Army, without much to do but enjoy life, love, and the scenery, after my almost dying because the helicopters didn’t hold up very well, with one even coming down, but we can’t run this thing in a mountain-top tent where we live. There’s no electric.”

“So, do it on the Army RCA IBM-like computers”?

“No, I wouldn’t want to risk colliding with their secure stuff, plus using up their time for the monstrous manipulations that we have to do to a trillion circuits. Cho and I and Alice are all taking courses at the University of Hawaii, and so we can use their IBM computer center. I’ll make a smaller, generalized ver–sion of this program to be my graduate thesis; it won’t give anything away; we won’t plug in the actual numbers until we get the thing back to Poughkeepsie. We’ll put programs in before class and look them over after–ward. Cho is in biochemistry, not computer science, but I’ve taught her enough about the semantics and the syntax that she can key in the programs, plus she’s a fast typist. Give me one more program–mer person and we can probably have it done in under three months, maybe even in two.”

“You drive an easy bargain. I’m going to have Laura fly out with one set of the information and stay the duration. She’s been doing Rachna’s job, but now Rachna is back, after having a baby, and so Rachna can do Laura’s job. Laura’s going to love this project.”

“Yes, she’s perfect for the job. How is Laura”?

“She’s grown up, but still drops love notes into your in box. Is she going to be a problem? She’s best.”

“I hope so, to the ‘problem’ and the more the merrier it seems, for Alice just moved in with us, out of love as well as due to low funds.”

“I should have those kinds of problems here. Now hold on, for this may sound strange in light of what I just said, but it was a blessing, really. You see, my greatly depressed wife committed suicide just a few months ago. She just really couldn’t go on living, and I came to realize this very well. I have mixed emotions, of course, but what can I do but go on.”

“My condolences. Now, if it’s not to soon to say this, as great as Patty and I were, she got married for her mother’s wishes, but is now very much trying to get divorced, finally realizing that wasn’t the thing to do, plus I’m with someone else, even two, as they are friends to each other. What it is, then, for you, is that Patty likes you, as she told me in her last letter to me, I being her confidant only, now. How’s that sound?”

“We all make mistakes, like Patty did, and what you tell me is surely good news, but I really can’t, since it might seem awkward later, given your history with her. I just don’t know, but maybe it’s worse if she remains alone and unoccupied. I’ll think on it, but I’m her boss, and that could show as favoritism.”

“Are we not good friends, Mike, and am I not wonder–fully and happily spoken for into the far future, plus having a need for Patty to find someone good among a sea of, well, logical-types, and you to have a lady who doesn’t eat computer chips for breakfast and lunch?”

“We are the best of friends, Patrick, both in life and in business, and the way you put would seem to provide a loving benefit for the many. She’s due back soon. Write her that I like her, too. Life has to go on, and this is a chance for it for me. Romance in the chain of command might be rough, though, but who am I to  be one who ever follows all the rules.”

“Back to business. We’ll need a two bedroom hotel room at the Waikiki Sheraton, with a living area, in which to be together, and lay out our listings and mark them up, and discuss, and such.”

“Another easy bargain. I’ll get you the best suite on the top floor for two months, and extend it, if need be, along with an all you can eat and drink plan. I’ll put it in yours and Laura’s names. I’ll reserve it to begin in two days, on Thursday, and Laura should be there on Friday. I’ll call her tonight and will send a telex to the fort about her arrival time. This will flip her out!”

“Wow! It’s going to be some party up there.”

“Yeah, it sounds like some kind of pleasure palace!”

“Remember the great fragment of Coleridge that you studied in English Literature that we reread?”

“Xanadu! That will be our code name for the project, especially since my overseers will think my proposal to be as a pipe dream akin to gluing a gigantic and intricate broken vase back together while changing the material basis at the same time, and adding bits.”

“Well, yeah, and that might even be easier, but I see our project to be mostly busywork, albeit of the very careful kind, plus the fat logic segments with all the internals therein are gigantic items that require variable length spanned records, plus we are prob–ably mostly stuck here processing sequentially from tape instead of a random-access disk, but I’m sure we’ll find a way through the morass.”

“‘Resourceful’ is your middle name, Patrick.”

“We’ll need two dedicated machines when the prog–ram gets back, one to run the whole thing, since we can probably only do it piecemeal on the University’s pipsqueak machine, as one of our original 360s, and another machine to build the interface for Fishkill and to do a compare on the two long test result streams. If any differences show up, we’ll know it is in our new version, and just where they are, too.”

“Ah yeah, that’s easy to provide. We rent these kinds of machines to ourselves at half the price. What’s fifty thousand dollars for a good investment! I have some discretionary funds for these kinds of things, just waiting around for some emergency, of which this is the very first one.”

“Have Laura take one of my information sets and make three copies of it onto three brand new tapes, and bring two, well wrapped in tin foil, and put the other back in some different bin in a different building. She know where they are. Also have her bring our latest programming function library; two copies.”

“Hey, we’re rolling along on this, and I’m willing to take the risk of you four doing this off site.”

“Is not ‘risk’ your middle name, Mike, and am I not trained to keep Intelligence secrets safe?”

“That’s true, and it’s not like the higher-uppers ever come down to speak with the workers personally, except for a passing “Merry Christmas”; however, they may expect a presentation, of which I will do the first, as that is totally appropriate, and fly you in for one, if necessary, or you may well have finished by then. I’m going to have Rachna be the only other link to you, since she will have to interview the guys in Fishkill to get all the specs of the new circuit types, plus keep up with that as they near completion. Meanwhile, I will say if I have to that my team can’t be bothered, and so you are in a secret location, which is actually true, though an ocean away. I can pay Laura and Alice but not you, since you are on a military leave of absence, but I can give you double comp time, and you can use it to visit Hawaii again. I can give something to Cho for her work and also for her continuing education. Tell Alice that I’m hiring her and sending her something in your mail to secure her employment by her signing it, if she wants to, which I already presume.”

“She does, of course. How speedy should we make this new machine?”

“Just make it double speed; I don’t want anything to break that already has a close tolerance, through you stretching it to the max. Besides, ‘double’ has a nice ring to it and we can even perhaps get it to be quicker later on if Fishkill makes more improvements over and above their cautious estimate that already fine.”

“We’ll shoot for 2.25 in order to get 2.0 overall, because some of the doubling won’t help the parts that accomplish things in two cycles instead of one, though now they could, but we don’t want to futz with anything like that. We’ll also keep to the same module layout, even though there might be room on some of the chips to combine two subsystems, be–cause the whole module replacement error detection replacement strategy is based on separate modules.”

“What’s some lost real estate compared to the profits. We can redo that for future systems, as long as we’re making so many other changes. Maybe we’ll even rebuild the rolling casters, too. There will always be job security here while we can sell everything that we can build.”

“Yeah, and it’s safer than what the Army gave. I’ll be back in 9 months, and Alice and Laura will be there in three, with the goods, and will run them, if all goes well, and if the volcanoes don’t erupt and sink us. We can’t trust Pele the fire goddess not to smoke.”

“Yeah, what worse could happen? Hey, take four months if need be; we’re facing zero results on this end, being dead in the water without a paddle, and there is a long availability time for this new machine to sell and be out there on the market. It’s just the mid-life kicker that we needed, and your work will set the groundwork for more such pulling of things out of our asses in a much faster moving world. I’m glad that you’re safe and in such good hands and sorry that you had to go through the Cambodia thing. Enjoy living on the fertile tip of a volcano that rose from the great depths of the ocean.”

“We will, and hope that you and Patty will come to visit us some day. Call me in two weeks to the day.”

“Finally, something hard and scary, which would be to romance Patrica Hernandez, both on the outside as semi-secret, at  first, and also on the inside of work right under everyone’s eyes. So begins my life as like a spy, not even to mention your off-shore under–takings. Need anything else?”

“I’ll go see my Army commander, since we’re friends, to see if anything’s up, although I doubt it. Now that you mention it, though, we could use an ocean liner, or at least a huge yacht.”

“Hotel expense accounts I can do, but buying or renting big boats might be pushing it. I can give you my tipsy canoe that has no paddle, for I’m tired of using it. Thanks for volunteering for this. At least the Army taught you that, or is it the other way around?”

“The other way. Farewell, and raise a glass tonight.”

“Take care, and take more vitamins to survive the ladies. Heck, I’m calling Patty tonight. I’ll call you in two weeks at 6, when we’ll both know more. Bye.”

I put down the phone and looked to the ladies. “Alice, you’re hired. We have a big programming job ahead of us, large and somewhat complicated, but doable. Your employment papers to be signed and returned will soon be in my mail. Mike doesn’t dilly-dally. Cho, you’re getting paid for this work and for school, and it will probably be a lot. I’m getting double compensatory time off when I get back to use whenever. Patty and Mike will be solving each other in love. IBM will make money. We’re getting a top floor hotel suite, plus meals and drinks, starting on Thursday, for two months or more. Laura’s coming to stay with us, bringing all that we need to do the job. We’ll run it at the U of H, on and off, when we go there for class or to be curious. That’s about six solutions worked out in only one lucky phone call. The Tiki-Gods like us.”

Alice came over and embraced my back, pressing herself into me, saying, “Now I am really your literal shadow, and that is from an old Chinese saying for when someone does something great for somebody. You can’t get rid of me, as I am always there for you, and don’t you say “Not this again; you’re free!” I know that story, and it just doesn’t work. A week ago, I was a jobless pauper in despair, and now I have a job.”

“OK, I’ll just say ‘This again’, and I’m very happy for it and that you have my back, as well as my front. I’m calling Lieutenant Dauphanais to see if we can take a walk over now. No outside vehicles are allowed; it’s in a restricted area. He has a new address.”

I dialed him up, “Hello, Lieutenant, sir; it’s DA43. I wonder if Cho, Alice, and I can come over for a talk?”

“Howdy; I’m going to miss those dangerous old days, maybe, unless I can carry them over to the new days, but I’m married now. Sure, come and join my wife and I for dinner; I’ll throw another steak on. I assume you can vouch for Alice; I’ll send word to the gate house. See you soon. We’re towards the back.”

“OK, ladies we’re in. For some reason, the Lieutenant lives in the higher officers area now.”

“Because he’s a Lieutenant Colonel,” Cho added, “and just let everyone think he was only a Lieutenant. Ha.”

We were let through the gate and walked along toward the address, which turned out to be really in the back, in the richer section. We knocked just as the door opened, the Lieutenant’s Japanese wife, Jane, from our workplace compound, letting us in.”

“Her husband came forth, and Cho said, “Hi Bird.”

“Ah, you have discovered my promotion to a Full Bird Colonel. Now I can really fly places. Meet Jane, Alice. Come and sit all; dinner’s ready, and we have wine.”

I told him about the IBM thing, adding some more detail for Cho and Alice to pick up on, and he said, “More power to you; we are all kind of trying to slide under the radar now, so nothing big is happening. We had to call in some of the DIA units or refocus them elsewhere. I’d offer you a career in our new but more underground operations, directed, um, from Tahiti, but I expect you’ve been through enough.”

He paused, looking over to Cho, and then to Alice, wondering if he should say something with Alice there, and then continued, “Miss Cho, I should tell you now that a disaster befell the Chinese connection at the Korean seaport. Somehow, their fuel tanks malfunctioned and set off an inferno that destroyed their warehouse, their docks, and even their ships. In this way, there was no international incident. I’m hereby making you an honorary U.S. Army soldier.”

Cho saluted and said, “Thank you, sir. My pleasure, and my friend here, Alice, is Taiwanese, in case you were wondering.”

“Yes, that is different, of course, and I figured as much. Happy to meet you, Alice, and congratulations on your new IBM job. I think we’re going to buy our next machine from them, especially if it’s as fast as you say it’s going to be.”

“Thanks, sir,” Alice replied. “You’re very astute.”

“You don’t have to call me ‘sir’, but now that I’m surely not any kind of Lieutenant, I don’t know what You’ll call me, but I guess ‘The Bird’ will do fine.”

We walked back to our motorcycles through the eerie stillness of the fort back in this concave of the high officer’s residences, the sad war already turning into a memory purposely made dim and grey so as to get rid of it by making it fade away quicker, and replacing it with the bright and colorful present of vibrancy.

“So,” Cho began, “The great old and previous General is still pursuing the evils of the world from somewhere in Bora-Bora to bring to them the justice of death that they deserve.”

I answered, “And we could have been working for him, but life calls to us here, although we can feel better that ‘The General’ is still on the job, in his civilian capacity.”

“One day, I’ll tell you how we assassinated a General of the Philippine Army way in the south whose allegiance had turned to the Muslins around there, but this evening is too grand in all of its implications to get into that in which I again had to run for miles.”

Alice lamented, “This is our last night up in our camp for a while, but I’m really going to love the hotel; I’m going to swim in the ocean and shower for hours. Can we come back to the camp once in a while?”

“Sure,” I said, “the variety will spice each place versus the other. We also don’t have to work real hard; we’ll just keep things moving along, piece by piece, and one day it will be done. I’ll write up a list of functions that we need, tomorrow, to start us off, but now…”

Up at our mountain retreat, Alice continued my thought, “…now, we celebrate what the fates have brought together under this silver dome of the night stars who are our ancestors winking their knowing smiles to us to interplay our sensations into flowing passion onto and into each other in this airy balm.”

“I’m so happy, Alice, that you will be with Patrick at IBM while I remain here to learn and study unto my graduation two years. Everything is working out.”

Alice offered to Cho, “You’re the most generous person I’ve ever known, my dearest friend and love.”

“Well, I could have still been stuck in Korea’s pall in the midst of nowhere in an old unmoving, culture.”

On Thursday, we slept in a bit, and then had a quite leisurely breakfast near the edge of the precipice, taking in the world that had so kindly taken us all in.

35.

The Walk

We took a walk near the ridge, and sat under a tree:

Here the blesséd and haunted old forest,

Whereat the base of a koa we rest,

While all about lay wondrous deep coverts,

And a green-turfed path that leads o’er a crest.

It was so still you could hear a nut fall,

And the musical strain of mystic call,

In soft tones flowered upon the silence,

As floating on the surface of the All.

‘Twas that time of morn when the exiled rise,

Thrown to time’s Earthly bondage through the skies,

Being for an hour their own Heavenly selves,

Their full glory unhidden by disguise.

These forest fairies, dryads, nymphs, and fauns,

Ever flash their nude blossoms on the lawns.

They beckon me along, for though the air

I pass thoughts of love, verses, and songs.

The life of her face is in her deep blue eyes,

Soft-lipped mouth, and the ears that pointed rise,

As the moon and stars reflect in a pool,

Which look as for a lifetime pours surprise.

I dive into her eyes, her soulful gate,

And worship before her heart’s flaming grate,

Midst flowers in the gardens of her dreams,

Then whirl back up through her eyes as her mate.

I’m left with a feeling that’s no mere spell,

But a fact in Heaven that’s fancy in Hell,

Of elemental affinity’s flame,

Deeper than thought, much older than speech can tell.

(Poem inspired by Gallienne)36.

The Hotel

It was moving day, so we gathered a few things and headed down to my office at the fort to check for messages, finding out that we could check in to the hotel at 4 and that Laura’s flight would get in about 1 on Friday, which was my only Army work day.

We headed for Waikiki, and jumped into the ocean near the Sheraton, watching our ocean liner go by.

At 4 we checked in, and obtained free drinks.

We had a view of Diamond Head crater. Alice and Cho removed their suits and sunbathed on the lanai. Wait till Laura sees this, I thought. Xanadu! We went down later to dine and dance the evening away.

They were all dancing, within love’s treasure vault

Within the framework of the broadening thought,

The lights pulsing and the waves reverberating,

Where the good times had become everlasting.

Tribal primal field currents were raging

From speakers of the energy matrix pounding;

They whirled and twirled as loving gestalts

Of sentient consciousness knowing no halt.

There were rhythms of constant contraction

And expansions of bosom-energy projections

Converted to scalar waves of blinking attraction,

As fission and fusion beckoned the connections…

Ever forming in this Omni-sound emporium,

Where tone waves vibrated in waves of creation. 

We went out afterwards to thank our lucky stars and look for the Southern Cross, finding it, and vowing to find ourselves more directly under it one day.

It wasn’t easy getting up for work on Friday, but I managed, recalling last night. Alice was going to paint her face happy, and use the shuttle to pick up Laura.

Alice held up a sign and flagged a surprised Laura.

“Hi, I’m Alice. Patrick is at work and Cho is gathering our free lunch. Welcome to paradise. Oh, there’s the shuttle waiting outside. Give me some of those bags.”

Laura took in the local scene, as well as the Pali mountains off in the distance, a sight that inspires everyone and raises their consciousness to the max.

She exclaimed, “One day I’m in a half-empty work–place doing not much but some odds and ends, and all of the sudden I’m packing and flying off on a plane for ten hours to the garden of elysium to help our company. Did Patrick set this up for me? I owe him.”

“He would have, but he let his boss suggest it first.”

“That’s always good to let the boss do, so he thinks he’s actually running things. Ha-ha.”

“We had pretty much figured everything out before Mike called, and isn’t Patrick your boss?”

“Yes. I love your painted face; it’s so vibrantly happy.”

“I’ve never been happier, as you will see; there have been several miracles arriving out of nowhere.”

“That’s for sure. I’m in some kind of shock myself.”

“We’re here. We’re in the best top-floor suite. Come.”

“Hello, Laura, I’m Cho. We’re having a light lunch. We’ve heard a lot about you; we need your talents.”

“Patrick hired me as a temporary worker, and I guess they liked me, for now I’m very permanent. Mike gave us this VIP suite, holy moly, I must be dreaming!”

“Have a bite and then relax or unpack or whatever, or go shopping, dip in the ocean, anything. Patrick wants us to take the weekend off. We’ll worry about the project for real on Monday, although he may just sort of size it up for us in general later, to percolate.”

“OK. I’m going to rest for awhile after lunch. This is all too good to be true, yet it is so real I could cry!”

I found them all in the lagoon-pool drinking Singapore Slings when I returned, and so I ordered one, too, and lit up a smoke, sitting on a whale sculpture. Cho came over and hugged me whole and then Alice came and climbed on my back. Laura followed.

“Alice is my shadow,” I explained to Laura, who looked both amazed and pleased with the goings on.”

“Hi boss, I mean Patrick. Thanks for getting me here. I’m tipsy from drinking; the girls are corrupting me. We’re going shopping after dinner; they want to spend the new pay that they don’t have yet, to celebrate, and to get some wild outfits for the Kamehameha nature festival and dance, right on the beach behind our hotel. See, I can already speak Hawaiian and it looks like I got into town just in time. Pinch me and kiss me. I’m entranced by the sights and drenched with the luscious perfumes of the flower garden.”

What the heck, I thought, so I gave her a pinch to wake up but she said, “Good. I’m still here,” and so then I gave her a welcome kiss, and then Cho and Alice gave me a long kiss on each ear, to Laura, too.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

We ate at the buffet in the main dining hall, catching up on the day, devouring the oriental delicacies.

“Alice, here are your papers to sign. Cho, you have a letter from home. Laura, you’re gleaming and shining, even beneath all the suntan oil. How was your flight?”

“I saw nothing much until the Grand Canyon and the Rockies; I really have to get out more. We landed in L.A. briefly, and when the new Hawaiian crew came aboard it finally hit me that I was really heading for Eden. Alice is going to make-up us all up later!”

“Good pun, Laura,” I remarked. We headed up.

Cho offered, “We’re getting clothes for you, too, my dear Patrick; I’m sure you’ll love them. Are you going to write up an overview of our programing project?”

“Yes, you guessed it. I thought about it at the fort.”

Cho replied, from Coleridge,

“Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

and then someone interrupted old Coleridge’s opium trance and he never wrote another word to the poem.”

37.

Conclusion

I finished my my work, and they their shopping and their make-up. Alice was dressed as a Chinese Elf, Laura was a bejeweled belly dancer, and Cho was a flowered, nature, fairy-elf combo.

We had someone take severals photos of us all together. I said, “I’m going to send one of these to Mike so he can see his crack programming team at work!”

After the festival, we sat on a bench on the beach near the ocean, where all was quiet. Someone produced a joint, not that we even needed it, in this atmosphere.”

“You’re a wild dancer, Laura, and full of spirit,” Alice said, “What more can you tell us of you, if you dare?”

“My parents were from England, and so I guess that makes me kind of a Brit born in America, as I picked up a bit of the old accent. I’m a woman now, but I’ve only recently matured into one. Maybe I shouldn’t have written Patrick so many love notes; however, I did, in my exuberance for having a job and getting away from going back home after college, at which I studied biology and computer programming. Patrick never took advantage of my school-girl-like crush on him, leaving me plenty of room to grow, and he always invited me out with his friends to lunches, parties hikes, and whatnot. It’s been a whirl–wind that has hardly touched down, and now it’s a typhoon-size circulation within myself, but I am the eye.

“I’m up for both adventure and work; I am incredibly fit, and I really and actually enjoy hard physical work; I’m doing lots of yard things at home. I’d be good in the Army, but would hate to leave all my fashions behind.

“I’m definitely open and honest, too; I have no pretense or secrets. I want to give my views about the best way for–ward, always preferring to be the driver rather than the passenger, but always happy to be an equal. Yet, I am also a complex young woman, due to my continuing growing panes, so I may appear to some as mysterious and enigmatic but I can be a living dream to the few, although I’m kinda hard work, too. Patrick knows me.”

Cho asked, “Did you bring all those love notes?”

“I sure did! I scooped them back out of Patrick’s in-box.”

“It’s your night, Laura, as our new guest, for whatever you’d like tonight, tomorrow, or whenever. I think you’re old enough for Patrick now, if your crush still says so.”

“I am, Cho, and it does, and I’m also very surprisingly feminine and accommodating in romance, well, as of right now, anyway, and especially. There, I said it. Take me, you all! I’m free and flowing and on vacation.”

“OK,” Alice chimed in, “We’ll dump the love letters all over our king-size bed tonight, and we’ll all initiate you with pleasures, back scratches, rub-downs, kisses, loving, sex, and more. We can all sleep in tomorrow.”

“Sure, why not,” Laura answered, it’s really over the top but there must be something in air, here, exciting the passions, and injecting one with super spring fever, where living dreams qualifies one to the max, with the mysterious and the enigmatic adding to the intrigue.”

“I added,” In Hawaii, we are overcome by the enchantment, and more than a few melt right into you with their glances. It’s a really live and ‘dangerous’ minefield.”

“Speaking of sensualness,” Alice said, “it appears that it is behind much of advertising, especially that of cosmetics and fashion, which hit me all the more during a course I’m taking now, concerning beauty, which I’d like to pursue on the side, along with more physics, which also demonstrates another kind of beauty and truth.

“Sure, we want to look our best, through make-up, fashion, jewelry, and the other accouterments, but then there is ever the underlying component of attracting the male, as like bees to the flowers, which we discriminate.

“We are complete in our range of studies, here, in that my physics and cosmology studies underlie Cho’s chemistry courses, wherein such as perfumes can be made from molecules from physics’s atoms, which chemical realm underlies Laura’s biology investigations, as like perfumes’ effect, all of these taken in through Patricks’s thoughts about the human condition, in life and love.

“And including all the horrors, too, that can be visited upon us, which Patrick has seen firsthand, along with all of our dwellings on our metaphysical wonderings connecting them all, and that’s my story for tonight.”

“Well done,” said Laura, “I have a slightly horrible story of terror  that comes to mind that I remember from a literature class as a special assignment in poetry that shows life is not all peaches and cream, but…”

“Laura,” Cho assured, “we ever tell each other whatever we like or what comes to us, whether profound, funny, daydreams, or whatever. This keeps our minds going.”

Alice added, “And the full moon is out and glowing, seeming to have risen right out of Diamond Head, it devouring the slight clouds and bathing us in its shine.”

“OK”, answered Laura, but it might be a bit frightening.”

THE WARNING

‘Be quick!’ he shouted, ‘Run, get out, and scatter while ye may!

‘Do not tarry and do not wait, for evil comes this way!’

A dozen eyes looked up in fear, yet distrust curbed their haste,  

‘Who is it comes? What have ye seen?’ an old man asked at last.

 

The stranger turned his glassy gaze towards the huddled crew,

‘A dreadful sight that burns the eyes and turns the brain to stew.

‘A beastly, foul and fiendish thing and – oh that odious smell! 

‘But you must hurry, leave this place while yet still whole and well.’

 

A murmur rose among them then, but one thought to resist,     

And from the quiet corner, still the old man’s voice persists,

‘Is it a man or devil’s horde? And which way does it come? 

‘How big is it? What of its shape? Or is it just phantom?’

 

The stranger’s breath caught in his throat as visions came to mind,

‘It moves like nothing moves on Earth and no man’s seen its kind.

‘Oh God!’ he cried, ‘It’s everything that’s evil, bad and vile,

‘Its impish breath’s obnoxious and corrupt its vicious smile.’

 

The old man’s gaze was steady as he locked the stranger’s stare,

‘How big is it? Does it have eyes – or teeth or horns or hair?’

‘Oh, teeth like no teeth ever seen and eyes that are not eyes.

‘It steps and jumps and slithers as it rolls and crawls and flies.’

  

The stranger looked around and then he moved towards the door.

‘But I’ll not linger here,’ he said, ‘I’m bound for distant shores

‘And ye’d be well advised, I think, to heed the words I say,

‘For though ye doubt, ye soon will see that evil comes this way.’ 

Laura paused, “I showed it to Patrick way back, he saying, ‘What kind of ravenous hell hound is this de–monic creature?’, and then he eventually wrote what turned out to be the middle of it, for I then added more pearls after his part, after which he gave me a kiss on the lips, and so I thought, ‘What are kisses but the prelude to consummation? And I lived on that thought.”

The stranger opened the door, and gazed to his right,

Then turned to the old man, his face all full of fright,

“It’s here!” and quickly ran off, toward his boat ashore,

But the old man saw no creature nor heard any roar.

Yet the stranger went hurtling on down to the stream,

Then stared back in dread, while untying the rope.

The old man thought: The specter was an opium dream,

For no one beast can fly, roll, crawl, slither, and lope.

As the old man sat, relieved, a rumble shook the floor,

Followed by a grim roar, so he leapt up, to the door.

There it swept, demon-eyed, rolling, as a snaking coil, 

Jumping the roadside log, then crawling through the soil.

It flew down the river bank, steadied by its flaring tail,

Landing on the rope just released by the stranger,

Who had now jumped into the boat to give it some sail,

Yet the creature had set fins and crept into the water.

The stranger rowed hard, but the beast was closing in.

He’d dropped the sail, but it hadn’t yet taken the wind.

The creature bit off an oar, it getting stuck in his teeth,

While a gust filled the sail, pushing the boat out of reach.

The beast was whirling, screwing onward, all the more,

So the stranger began to circle back around, as to shore,

Heading his bow toward the devilish brute, to the clash,

To the do or be done in point taken, now forced as rash.

The creature propelled faster, driven by evil’s anger;

The stranger steered the rudder, heading into danger.

The sharp bow split the ogre’s head near in half; 

The bow then separated, all the way to the mast.

The mast hard crashed down, onto the stunned fiend,

Lifting the stranger from the stern and flinging him

Through the air, onto the monster, whose reflex mean

Was to tighten its coil, through which roil, none could swim.

The old man had rushed through the dust, to the stream,

Seeing all, then the whirling pool of blood, and a scream.

They had both gone beneath, and run out of breath;

He dove in, and swum, under, noting the peace of death.

Thinking all was past and done,

The old man went back to his chums.

‘Ok’, he said, ‘p’raps I was wrong,

The stranger was right all along.’

 

‘Still, there’s no need to worry now,

I saw the critter sink below.

The stranger’s gone as well, I fear.

Still, we are safely gathered here.’

 

Just then they heard a fiendish shriek,

The door flew open with a creak,

And there, a mutilated corpse

Stood grinning at their screams and gawps.

 

‘Did you think evil so soon dead?’

It blubbered through its shredded head,

‘One incarnation just gives way,

Allowing new ones to hold sway.’

 

It slithered, rolled and flew inside,

Enjoying how its victims cried.

‘Now, ye would run!’ it laughed and danced,

‘A pity you’ll not get the chance!’

Laura had finished, saying, “That’s it, and that is enough for one to wonder, but it’s only a story. Now, Patrick, what of our glorious project to save IBM?”

“We need to consolidate the data and turn it into wafer layouts, probably having to run two or three new lines for the new technology in between what we have, moving things to make room, but space we have aplenty. Alice can do this whole back end, and I’ll do the middle.”

“Laura, you are well poised to do the front end, being familiar there. We first need to compress what’s in the large and unwieldily fat logic segments, which were useful for the bit level for the VTs, but not for our purposes. Most of the traced internals will be the same or similar for the whole 32 bit registers, so you can start by including what is common to the whole register in a new record, then for all the subsequent bit just put what changes, and write this all on a new tape. It can be done pretty much sequentially. That will get us going, during which time, I’ll write up functions for anyone to work on. There’ll be a pile for what to do, one for listings still being worked on and getting fixed, and one for completed ones, and another for those tested. All will evolve; don’t worry.”

“It’s a bit scary,” Alice noted, “but I’m very up for it; meanwhile, I’ll analyze what Laura brought us. I Ioved Laura’s poem and I have a new cosmological one…”

Over a hundred billion galaxies and more exist overall,

This realm being so large since the Planck is so small.

We on our Earth are very near to the insubstantial,

Our existence not at all elemental but circumstantial.

The continuing expansion will spread all unto the deep,

Where the thinned out gruel lays itself down to sleep.

And so this tells us what our beginnings ultimately meant,

Which is nothing at all within this vast cosmic firmament.

To look for what endures in the ongoing cause,

Turn to the basics, such as the conversation laws,

For they, in summation, with infinite precision,

Maintain from their depth all the other decisions.

Yet, the cosmos continues on, as it ever has done,

And always will, all of quantum balanced as one,

Heeding not the puff of smoke of rot

That was once a tiny pale blue dot.

Cho stood up and said, “I’ve just made up a crazy time travel story in my head, and I’d like to try to tell it now. It’s not anything spectacular, but it just seemed to come to me, I know not where from, but perhaps it came from the future. It’s nothing, really.”

“We’re ready, even for any meandering streams.”

“I had liked our brief visit to the Big Island, so I boarded a flight to Hilo, Hawaii. Taking a ferry would have been long and slow, although delightful in its own way, but I was saving that for another time. Molokai, Maui, and Lanai passed beneath, off to the left. I even somehow have pictures of some of my fantasy journey!”

“Thoughts of essence pale away within the brightness of living, just as they ought to, the light of the candle being more useful than why the wick burns, one’s felt state of being much closer to us than the states beneath that make it up, the adventures in a new land eclipsing the reasons that the place formed from lava mountains.

“I took out a map of southern Hawaii. There it was, South Point, and its beach, the last southern landfall before Antarctica. Ah, here is the 12-mile dirt road on the map, off HY 11.

“I set off, with my backpack and a sleeping bag, and rented a Honda motorcycle, reaching the dirt road in half an hour. So far, it had been a rural area where not much English was spoken, except back at the airport, where there were only a few white faces.

“Palm branches were waving just overhead as I spun up dust on the trail that was called a road. In the winter, many arrived in this cheaper part of the archipelago, from the Northern Hemisphere, with a lot from Canada, a really cold place, and some even from hot places, like India, and in the summer from the Southern Hemisphere. It was ever like the United Nations on an outing.

“I drove up a mountain, toward its end, and we could see the ocean from there. This is where Patrick’s friend, Joe, lives, far off in the future. I was going to spy on them both, from afar, and them approach them later.

“I walked to the bushes on the side of the beach. The people of interest were sitting at a table, way across the beach, in the shade of a nook, with laptop computers, and Patrick was rolling cigarettes, and selling them.

“It was windy, so he was just taking a pinch out of the green bag at a time. Some would pay and leave right away, but some would linger, and engage, and so they would get their cigarette for free, and some would remain for quite a while, probably negotiating a way to stay under their wing when their hotel time was up. Just can’t trust those girls!

“I surmised, ‘That must be Joe next to Patrick, and I can read his lips, with my glass, and, oh, it’s funny: Joe’s saying “I’m an old man! And soon to be a married man, on St. Patrick’s Day.” Well, so the girls are hitting on them, as would be expected, but they both look spry.’

 

“I approached Patrick, smiling, and he spoke, and then offered, ‘Cigarettes, fifty cents, the going rate, but they have full flavor and they are long and hand rolled, free if you stay a while and talk.’

“I took one, relating, ‘Hand rolled, by your machine, now put away, as cranked really, Rio menthol pipe tobacco, $16 a bag, put in a slot, with a little door that closes over, so as to have just the right amount, a little metal half-cylinder going out into paper tube’.

“He said, ‘How did you know? You didn’t even light it up yet.’

“I spied on you from those bushes way over there, from the past. I’m here, in my future, from way back.

“‘Good, I like that, for you are prepared for this time.’

“I lit up, inhaling deeply, remarking, ‘Helps concentration, such as for figuring out reality, clear and dear, the most often wondered question on Earth’s sphere.’

“‘I am an old man who is still very young at heart, both for love and for philosophy.’

“And I am the one you seek; I am the seer, the oracle, the the sage—answering your SOS.

“Patrick nearly fell off his chair, and then did, as a joke, and then got up and gave me a hug, Joe adding a jug.

“I was thirsty, and drank a long gulp, saying, ‘Yes, I came all the way here, following your meta interests.’

“‘You are indeed Sherlock’s younger sister.

“And in deed, a detective.

“‘And I could hardly even get anyone interested…’

“We think alike; in fact, we are the same: both extrovert and introvert, sensing and intuitive, thinking and feel–ing, spontaneous and orderly, though INFP based.

“Patrick didn’t tell Joe that he’d known me all his life. That’s the end of the tale. I’ve glimpsed some kind of a future, from somewhere in the deserts of time’s time.”

So, then, readers, here our overall story of ‘Young Lives, Loves, and Words’ ends its run, on this evening of promise, back in the past, and in the future in South Point on the Big Island.

(The war tales are next, but this is otherwise ‘THE END’.)The Cambodian Adventure

Preface

I met the DIA General, ‘Magic Dragon’, at Long Binh, Vietnam, while I was delivering the Army Supply System and Intelligence computer tapes from Fort Shafter’s CSC-PAC in Oahu. My pilot and I had just barely made it back intact from the northern bases. The General commended us, and made us an offer—on the spot. We signed up.

The DIA had its own military arm; it was a phantom limb. All this and more I learned—as a fine end to a long and desperate day of flying in a wounded helicopter.

Dedication

Somewhere, in the darkest night peace will come, as the spirit flies, as we weave a spell by another name, one that causes the snow to fall with the summer rain in the Cambodian Jungle.

I flee though the jungle, as the boy who was once on the cross country team. Then I will come to you, my love, with the passing of the days, and I will set you free each time, your round-eyed, half-bred beauty to be more appreciated in Hawaii, where East ever meets West, and blends, and will remove the chains that bind the heart and the mind.

Innocents may die, and wiser men will yet remain the same, but you and I will take our place in time, and find a better way to fly, far beyond the roughest seas. I hear all your whispered dreams, and the endless signs of the ones who loved; they live on in the stars above.

Then I will come to you my love, with the passing of the days, and I will set you free each time…

Foreword

The Rouge were killing the doctors and the professionals, and the General could not take this. His will and valor transferred onto all of us. Come away to fly; we will set them free. I volunteered, for ground missions.

There was an ebb and flow to the General’s prey and charges: There were large successes, like the surprise one I will next describe, although a setback to us at first, we losing several troops and an officer, when stumbling onto such a large Khmer contingent, these followed by failures or lulls in which intelligence was analyzed as far away as Hawaii, as it was from there that the overall Pacific was commanded.

“You sped my step,” he said to her and to me from here to long ago, whilst everyone attempted to retard it, as even now the four winds are ever warning of the reports, of the last resort, of the tip of the iceberg that has now globally warmed away, for spring is sprung in spurts, and it is yet of the joy that never left.”

1.

A Cambodian Tale

We were on the wrong side of the river, by purpose, in Cambodia, which was fine, for we barely existed, with no records kept. We were in the wrong place, too, one of our rare mishaps, as it turned out, and actually one very early on, born of a cascade of unfortunate events that were not totally unplanned for. Always have an out, for there will be those times of woe.

We, the intelligence officers, had been inserted along with the DIA, ‘special troops’, another nameless non-designation, and they with us, for we each supported the other. The action had been going fairly well, as planned, the many opposing rampagers led not so much by reason but by the beast that was ever part and parcel of man.

The fire-engagement was over, for now, in the main, as a retreat had been called by the Captain of the section upon detection of a larger than expected approaching ground force, this fallback being hindered by some opposition stragglers whose spirits had been bolstered by the sight of an entire Khmer Rouge division boldly crossing a long and open field, which could become good luck, or not, for either side. The tail end of our section retreaters was further slowed by the carrying and stretchering of the dead and wounded.

Actually, the surprise incursion had gone well, but for the fact that we two IA’s remaining were now pinned to the ground just inside the front edge of the tree-line, for all hell was breaking loose, shattering the forest trees and their branches. The special troops had just begun their slowed retreat, and we could leave no one behind but ourselves, my Major friend and I.

The lead Rouge were advancing, haphazardly, with some old, assorted mini-artillery, with an entire battalion or division some ways behind. We would not last where we were, but we had to stay behind for yet another reason, for we were the information and intelligence gatherers when in the field and on the ground. All we had was a machine gun, but a large one, hidden a bit further back in the woods, recently dug out of the ground, where we had left it on a prior occasion of recon. Always think many moves ahead.

Yet, it was not quite the right time to retrieve it and use it, which is of knowing when to move, not just where, on the chessboard, for we’d have to be somewhat exposed to use it, plus it wouldn’t be that useful against the machines firing into our area, and it would draw attention to our troops’ retreat path, for the Khmer didn’t exactly know where we were, or if any of us still were. Do not show yourself until you have to. We had to survive at least 10 more long minutes.

The fire was beginning to converge on us, whether by luck or a good sense of sweep, from either side, but not yet straight on, where a medium size boulder sat, just up ahead in the grassy field, which was why we had chosen the spot.

Do or die. We dashed out and crept up to the the big rock, it already having an end having been just split off. We needed more time. We dug out the ground behind the really big rock a foot or so deep, exposing the part of the boulder yet underground, and laid in the depression.

Another minute or so and the above ground portions of the rock would be gone, and soon they were, shattering and flying away. The enemy would see no one behind the rock which was no longer there, but just might figure it out. I raised a small bending scope and noted the yet noiseless jets approaching on the horizon, behind the battalion, as well as a vanguard approaching at 600 yards. We needed 60 seconds now, or even half, as it turned out. The music played upon the drama…

At 30 seconds, the enemy first heard the sounds of the jets, crying to all the rest to retreat, yet some of the vanguard still ran toward our woods, perhaps preferring that over an open field. Not good, neither for us nor for the special troops that were still retreating through the forest, who could still become targets at the river shore clearing, while boarding.

At 0 seconds, the air-strike landed on the main battalion, a fine diversion for us IAs, and so we rose from our would-be graves and ran back into the woods, rolling out the machine gun, blasting most of the on-comers away for quite a while. The chess moves had come to pass, although still ongoing and into new territory.

The machine gun finally overheated and jammed. We made no pause, which is more of the training, and so we were up and off into the jungle like bats out of hell, not wanting to become meat-loaf.

The enemy, a bit shocked at the silence, had taken rather too long to give chase, but that they then did, yet still a hundred yards off or more, their bead and their one lucky projection blasting the Major to bits and instant death with some great munition, just twenty yards behind me, he an older man and of a higher rank, as I was a Lieutenant.

The rock had been hard, and the road of the trail was long…

Yet I knew that the General would not leave me behind, as long as I was relatively on time and/or could give him some indication that I was alive, pending, of course, the fact that we weren’t supposed to be here, and the less attention on it the better. The arriving enemies at the shore, if more came in greater numbers, could be better dealt with by firing on them from the other side of the river.

I reached for the radio, but then remembered that it had been assigned to the Major, my mentor and my friend, even though I wasn’t even a Captain yet… nor now even the total captain of my fate, for the chess board had now crashed and fallen to the ground.

He, this young Lieutenant of myself of 40 years ago, believed that luck would never fail, so he ran like the wind through the jungle, surely knowing. He had what he’d come for, now hopeful to find the help at the shore. The relentless ones were not far behind, that ill-fated menace of the bad kind.

Miss Fortune laughed, and said, “No road could be too hard to tread, for we are fearless. To those, a boon, for they ever seize the opportune.”

I see you, fairest happening.”

Just past a sharp turn, in the trees, he suddenly dropped to his knees and fired into his pursuers mean as they came upon the scene, using all his ammo but for one round, then hurried on, with nary a sound.

“I am wide aware, Miss Karma, of this continuing dharma, that chance shines as my sun, for, she, in turn, happens on everyone.”

“Oh, say it is your lot, my friend and lover,” she answered back, granting him cover.

Listening, he could hear ever more troops rushing through the night, in groups, about a half-mile back, around the loops, far enough away.

“I gratefully welcome thee, Miss Lady Luck of Dice, though I may pay a late fee for my pick up so precise.

Ms. Destiny Serendipity smiled, saying, “The game is on; we are yet alive and playing. Let joy and innocence prevail; believe that luck will never fail.”

He moved on, ever faster, cheating lame old Death, a third wind becoming of her vaporous breath, it blowing this DIA operative toward to the shore, ever onward. He could hear the whirling chopper, but now receding was its doppler, he thus grieving of its leaving.

Am I much too late; still too far? Shall I curse you all, destined stars?

“No,” said Lovely Dear Twist of Fate, “for you have one bullet left for chance, not to use to sleep or dream perchance.”

But the chopper was rising nigh, up into the star-crossed sky.

“Shall to self I take this bullet now that the bus has left?”

“Oh, no,” Miss Lucky Break encouraged, “Do not be at all discouraged, for you know it shall not be so and what with it you now must do.”

Yes, perhaps it shall be so in some plight coinciding in a most kempt and hapful night.”

He smiled and then knelt to ground, and sent his last bright tracer round just ahead of the copter now departing, his minor wounds yet sorely smarting.

“I bless you with all my lucky charms, my good and well-fated man of arms.”

The door-gunner noted the red tracer and whence it came of the river vapors.

“Captain, turn back and take a look; here awaits a fortuitous accidental fluke.”

“I am an uncursed, non-jinxed agent man. Let my joyous innocence prevail again.”

He jumped into the rescue’s hovering haven, directing the door-gunner’s firings, wavin’.

“Fare thee well, my nightly knight,” Dame Fortune wished upon his sight. “You recognized me even in the dark.”

“Oh, my angel, lovely lark; I might have know it was you who would ever see me through.”

We retrieved what was left of the Major. A ceremony was held at the Oahu Punchbowl, a volcanic crater that is the National Cemetery of the Pacific.

I hardly recognized the General, in his full dress uniform. He spoke, ending with a famous saying, changing it a bit: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for all of us.”

His helicopter later landed in Fort Shafter, on the grass in the center of Palm Circle, causing quite a stir, but, indeed, here he was the official Commander, and not the man who never was.

“All is never as it seems,” the DIA General reminded the Lieutenant. Your guys came through for me, in a heck of a turnaround. The rescuers could stay but for a minute, as they were bound by their orders, but they would have waited all night for you if they could have. One must not be late.”

“Indeed, I was almost the late Austin, but for a lukish luckish wind that carried me on its wings.”

“But for that you would have been on time for your funeral.”

“Good one, General, but I am now reborn to punctuality.”

“That you are. What do you make of this so-called enemy that cuts down all the professional doctors and others of such high caliber?”

“They are steeled, and will never know until the end draws nigh.”

“The pity that man is yet an infant species.”

“We see many good and bad things directly, person to person, via the actual.”

“Such are the good civil laws and good human values taught.”

“The problem becomes when we ‘see’ from no direction but the imagined, via the unreal.”

“These ‘good’ things, merely pronounced, also define their ‘bad’ counterpart.”

“One then ‘forgets’ their source, leaping into adoption, becoming with them one; thus, the ideas must be protected.”

“Anger arises toward the contrary, as emotion stains the brain.”

“Then, evil is done in the name of ‘good’.”

“And all these ‘good’ things eventually come to a bloody end.”

“Yes, all of these ‘good’ things…”

“…must come to an end.”

“Say and do what you will, before it’s too late.”

“Good words, soldier. Any hostile casualties?”

“An accurate count of 106, plus up to 20 indeterminate from the chopper fire, upon its departure, plus an uncountable but large number from the air strike.”

“How do you feel about all that?”

“What was there in the bloody end was there in the healthy beginning. I am fine about it.”

“About what I thought.”

“Yes. You knew?”

“I figured. Then what was left of them were drawn to you.”

“It was so.”

“Effective but not very good for one’s health, yet unavoidable. Your tardiness is excused.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“’Sir’ is not required here, but I’ll take it as a compliment. Since our unit does not exist, the use of ‘sir’ could become a bad habit that continues in public.”

“Thank, you, s–.”

“Work on it, for even when you don’t say it, you do. The village will only be safe for a short while. I am sending in Section 2 to meet the coming challenge. Would you like to lead them from the shore to the environs of the village?”

“Will gladly do.”

“All of this never happened.”

“No, it didn’t, whatever it was. I have forgotten it.”

“True, for I heard nothing. How about dinner?”

“I hear that; I’m famished.”

“You used a portion of your ration space for extra ammo.”

“Do you know everything?”

“Yes, for that is my job.”

“Thanks for your being, Gen—.”

“And, you, too, but I cannot call you a ‘Lieutenant’”.

“Since I don’t exist?”

“No, because you are now a Captain.”

“Thanks.”

“And with that comes…”

“…even more responsibility and satisfaction.”

“I’d give you some insignia but…”

“…They don’t exist.”

The new action with Section 2 went fairly well. Section 2 was now into the sub, it casting off ballast, the Section 2 leader finally arriving and telling the General of for whom the bell may have tolled, while he oversaw the stowage of his wounded.

“He did what!” the General asked rhetorically. I called in an air strike on the Khmer division. And that was not exactly the initial plan for the extra ammo.”

“He knows about the air strike, non sir; perhaps he is on the way. He bought us time, and he has run this course before.”

“Ah, yes. How did I know of that non happening?”

The General paced the shore, knowing that but 60 seconds remained. He had a feeling that his new Captain would be on time this time.

“You’re one second early, my good man,” said the General as they both clambered into the top hatch while the submarine submerged its bulk.

“I didn’t want to have to shoot at the sub to ping it.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to go back to hang out and use up the rest of your time?”

“No, it’s really rather unpleasant out there.”

“So, what happened at the end?”

“Nothing happened there or anywhere else around here.”

“Please; humor me.”

“From what I could see back through the woods with the third eye in the back of my head, but mostly heard with my ears, was that the air strike was dead on target.”

“Lucky for you.”

“I live on luck.”

“Probability has no memory, Major.”

“Major?”

“Yes, and that is as far as you go, if you wish, for anything beyond that is rather mostly a desk job with no desk.”

“Agreed, but how is it that you are out here in the field?”

“As for me, my desk does not exist.”

“That’s the clean desk policy. So then of what use is a desk if nothing can be placed upon it?”

“None at all whatsoever in any way.”

“Good answer, in triplicate. Now, come to think of it, I haven’t noted any Colonels about.”

“We don’t have any Colonels. It’s the economy.”

“And no desks?”

“None; there have been several cutbacks in middle management.”

“Because we need a quick response team.”

“Yes, indeed. So the big gun still worked?”

“Yes, but it jammed again, toward the end of its ammo.”

“Jammed! Darn piece of junk. I will find a new supplier. So, staying there longer would have made you late?

“No, I would have made up the time.”

“Yes, indeed.”

“I’ve written the full report.”

“I’ll read it.”

“What’s next on our list?”

“Have you ever been to the Philippines?”

“Yes, as a tourist.”

“Good, for there is a Filipino General of the Army who has been consorting with the Muslim insurgency.”

“I am now becoming very concerned about his health.”

“Me, too, as some Generals cannot be trusted—to go on living.”

“May he lie in peace beneath the ground which he lied above.”

“C’est la vie.”

“Finis.”

2.

Foundations

Long before all this, in Oak Park, Illinois, I was a student. One by one, my friends from high school who hadn’t gone on to college had died in Vietnam while I was obtaining a B.S. degree in Information Engineering, in the new field of computer science. The years went by, and my best friend, Joe, returned safely from the ongoing war, telling me all the gory details, and also how to be an effective helicopter door gunner. For example, “Don’t sweep from the direction behind the fleeing enemies and into them, but sweep from ahead of them and back into them, so that the leads don’t escape, so that they all may run into your fire.”

I doubted if I would ever need this information, since my college deferment was holding up fine, and surely the war would end soon. I graduated college, and worked for IBM for a year or so, and then the dreaded draft notice finally came, in January, 1970.

I flew the tapes of the Army Supply and Intelligence Systems into Long Binh, installing them there, after having done the same in Okinawa. We were grounded until the next day’s morning, due to rockets landing within the fort.

The new Warrant Officer, from the 1st Aviation Brigade & II Field Force, who would courier me and the tapes northward came knocking, saying: “Our previous heli was shot down, all perishing. We have a substitute ship, and a new pilot, me. We are clear to go alone.”

It wasn’t the best helicopter, but it functioned, and was armed at the doors and had cannon in front. We had made one installation and were on to the next, when we took some fire from the ground somewhere. We had a fuel leak and some smoke. We headed towards the nearest firebase, for an analysis and repairs, although there was no answer from them.

Upon descension we discovered that the base had been overrun. They were soon firing at us, and the copter strained to ascend, the pilot emptying his cannons, yet, the onslaught continued. I looked at the pilot and said, “I can do this.” And so I took to the left door gun and emptied it into the North Vietnamese troops, putting the box of tapes in front of my legs and feet for more protection.

We were ascending, but still within range, so the pilot rotated the ship, and I took to the right door gun, our limited ammo soon running out. I then fired a few useless shots with my pistol.

“Thanks, Joe,” I thought, as we cleared the area, and our ship limped very many miles to the next firebase, from which we got an answer, and a fine welcome.

I had but a minor scratch. I had arrived in the war zone, seemingly the twilight zone.

So it was that the DIA General had read the Warrant Officers’s report, and had appreciated our initiative, and so we were invited to meet with the Wizard. I signed up.

My life had completely changed in a day.

The CSC-PAC unit I ended up in after my Selective Service Draft expands to ‘Computer Systems Command for the Pacific [theater]’. It was located on Palm Circle, back toward the rear gate of Fort Shafter, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and was composed of Special Army, Civil Service, and DIA ‘spooks’, it being home base for the Army Supply System, Intelligence, and Nuclear Concerns.

There was no internet, for this was long before Al Gore claimed to have invented it. These days, I believe the place is still called CSC, but as Computer Sciences Corporation. It was also Computer Security Concerns, at some point.

Since I had college learning yet fresh in my mind, as well as a year at IBM, I did well on the Army tests, and so was able to choose my destination and duty,  even though drafted.

The Captain, back at my basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, had pulled me off of a nearly departing bus bound for my initial, and apparently provisional advanced training in artillery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, an order that had taken all this time, weeks, actually, to get changed. He said I was going to work on a nuclear reactor. Well, that wasn’t quite it, or even close. I remained as a Drill Sergeant for a month before the Army got their act more together on the new order.

The Oakland, California, transfer station was both hell and boredom for a while, as I guarded a dumpster at night, lest anyone steal uniforms, although having become a Spec-4 already, and then several days alter a noisy cargo transport took us, some tanks, and munitions, onto Honolulu. We put in our ear plugs.

It was glorious flowered, water-falled, and tropical, that open air international airport terminal, with the breathless surroundings plainly revealed just outside the unglassed wall portals. Little did I know, then, that I was seeing a mountain off in the distance where I would build a retreat, just a tent at first, but where I would first think about the Theory of Everything, at night, under the stars.

Spurning the barracks after a few days, which were RA (Regular Army), and therefore wild, and before further OC/DIA training, I moved into a waterfront Waikiki apartment. They had given me the first three weeks off.

Meanwhile, and even in-between my training at the hardcore Schoffield Barracks, I enjoyed some ‘vacation’ trips to the Army bases in the Far East, some dangerous and some not, delivering computer tape updates of the Army Supply and Intelligence systems. It was and was not a big deal, but they surely didn’t want any of this stuff to fall into the wrong hands, which would only be the Chinese or the Russians, the North Vietnamese probably not even knowing what a computer was for. The previous courier had been just shot down, and none of the civil service guys, having families, wanted to go, so they, and all, said, “Hey, let’s send Austin, so he can get a taste of the theater of operations.”

The first trip, to South Korea, was rather uneventful, but for having to take a train 300 miles south from Seoul to Taegu, and Pusan, and then an ox-cart from the train. I enjoyed the odor of the open sewage canals alongside the street, saw bicycles piled six feet high with crates, noted the complete disorder of all traffic, saw a thousand Buddhas gazing upon me, and had suits and leather coats made for but a few dollars. No one tried to steal the tapes.

To avoid the barracks of the ROK (Republic of Korea) troops, I stayed at a sort of ‘Bed and Breakfast’, for the long time, not the short time, and ended up purchasing Cho’s life from her farmer step-father for $300, since her mother—the madam—had been expecting her to soon start working there. Her actual father was a GI in the Korean War. All thought that her round eyes made her look strange, but that was only from their cultural view. She looked fine, even beautiful. We entered the U.S. in Guam and settled her in Hawaii, in my mountain retreat of a cave, but that’s another story.

On my next trip, to Long Binh, and places north, I met the DIA General. I would later transfer into CSG, called Computer Support Group, but the ‘Computer’ part was really ‘Counter-insurgency’.

3.

Another Cambodian Tale

The Long Road Home

The DIA, run by its hands-on General, Magic Dragon, had a military arm of its own but could also call upon any of the armed services, and so it was in a near-overreaching operation deep inside Cambodia that the Marines and their long distance choppers were employed along with us IAs.

That they all had their targets pinpointed ahead of time was always the best strategy, but even more so for this mission since they could only engage for about 30 minutes and still have enough fuel to make it back from where they weren’t even supposed to be.

It all went well enough, but near the end a report of a well-hidden supply depot complex came in. We, more as the IA observers, still had firepower left, as well as more fuel, we being only three, including the pilot, and so we elected to veer off to investigate, meaning to put the place out of business.

While the copter fleet turned and headed back toward Vietnam, we found the depot site and sent most of our missiles into it, but, just as we were preparing to leave, took a really bad hit from something very luckily or accurately fired from the ground.

We were in a half-controlled descent, our power gone but the rotors still whirling, from the downward rush, which would end neither in a soft nor a full crash landing, but tending toward hard, which was slightly less than a crash.

We saw the depot’s ammo dump blow very large and sky high, and although this destroyed all the the guards and forces on the ground we were coming down about 600 meters in front of the blast. The jungle for kilometers around would soon be in flames.

I tightened my belts and closed my side door. We seemed to land upright but it was much too fast and hard, and so we tipped and rolled. The main rotor broke and sliced through the pilot’s cabin, killing him instantly. The other door gunner’s belts broke, or were cut, and he flew out, the copter crushing him beneath it.

I released my belts and climbed out my door, which was now on the top of the heap, wondering how long it would be before any curious or angry enemies would come to see what had happened to their supply depot.

I had to get through the inferno, onto the other side of the depot, where every road would lead toward home. I moved laterally, about a quarter kilometer north, the heat still very intense, even backing off somewhat, at times, and there it was, a gap in the flames, possibly due to a wet or swampy area.

This was not a time to wait around and so I endured the heat while splashing through the wetland, latrine sewer, or whatever it was, running until the air was bearable, then dropped to the ground and looked around for a while.

Monsoon season had not yet begun and so the jungle, though always moist, was relatively dry. It was all catching fire so quickly that it threatened to engulf me within a matter of minutes in this firestorm of all Hells. Projectiles would soon fill the air.

There were two one-lane paths serving as roads coming into the back of the loading docks. From the tire marks and their dirt shoots it seemed that I was on the inbound path, and then I saw a sign post, it’s unreadable wordage on the other side, facing away from me, confirming this to be the path for arrivals.

I don’t like taking a path that has incoming traffic, and so I would soon cut through the jungle a short way to get on the outbound path, which no one else would be traversing for quite a while. Meanwhile, I placed explosives and a trip wire on the inbound path, which might lead any enemy survivors to believe I had taken that path. No one could miss that a chopper had crash landed.

I tried to call the copter fleet on my ground radio but got nothing but static. Well, there was no climbable canopy that I could be plucked off of, anyway. I was on my own; apparently, no one knew yet.

Over a hundred kilometers to go. Had to put some distance in between while I was still fresh and energized but not overdo it, then walk on steadily only through the deepest night and sleep long by day, for not only could the jungle day roast one alive, but the Khmer Rouge might be about.

I was now on the outbound path for departures but this didn’t mean that no one would be coming this way, especially after the big blast, which meeting’s thought was still a disagreeable feeling, but I like approaches from behind me even less.

I checked my boots. I like tight boots, for they give a better feel for the ground, and one can’t always see too well at night. I tightened them. One boot had a slight cut; I patched it with all-purpose tape. My canteen was full, for now, and I drank deeply, then ran like the blazes, once again a boy on the cross-country team.

The sun was setting. This was the last evening that I’d use for travel. I just didn’t want to stick around the scene. Much later, I slowed and then stopped to eat. I had a few days of MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, and after that the jungle would have to feed me.

I walked briskly through the night, when possible, still high on adrenaline, but kept 10 meters off to the the side of the path. I didn’t need any surprises. I made good time.

I heard a truck, oncoming from ahead, its driver unaware of the traffic pattern, which was common in the third world. I dropped and froze, my camouflage making me part of the foliage. I really should travel further from the path, I thought, but if I did I would hardly be able to see it. The truck passed. I waited a while, and then continued on.

Sunrise was nigh. I headed into the jungle to find a place to sleep, finding two good places, but proceeding on to a third, just to be safe. I would either be found, by a lucky fluke, or not, and so I slept soundly, for that’s what I needed.

I slept 12 hours through that steamy day, in the most shade I could find. I didn’t resist the heat and the sweat but made friends with them. It was now early evening, and way too soon to move, and so I remained, eating two meals, and finishing my canteen. I would spend the next two hours refilling it by swiping dew from the broad leaves. I had not come across any good water sources yet.

I heard sounds from what must have been a village off in the distance somewhere. They would not come here, and didn’t.

I surveyed my equipment. Most of it had remained: one small pack of explosives, a pistol, a knife, a useless radio, two more days of MREs, no ID, as usual, spare socks, bullets, jungle ills pills, matches, some coins, a pad and pen, for taking intelligence notes, antiseptic, a small flare, and a survival pamphlet. I had always dreamt of traveling light, with no big heavy pack; now my dream had become all too true.

Then I heard the Rouge out there, probably out on a local recon to secure the night around their camp. They went off the path, too, a good practice, but not as far into the jungle as I was. After they returned, an hour later, I waited a few more hours. At midnight I was off. I might mange to go 7-8 kilometers a night, on average, considering the slow-going portions. I began to slowly add edible vegetation to my diet, as there are reasons to eat other than taste.

All went well for two more nights and days, the jungle food fully supporting me now, but now I was stuck. A whole Khmer division was getting on the move somewhere nearby. I stayed glued to my deep spot for three days, until they were long gone, which gave me more time that I needed to think, and so I thought about everything, first about my journey.

It was really beyond me how I would ever make it, for after the long jungle trek there would be too many villages and clearings before I could get to the river and swim across it. Well, all I had to do was to travel unseen, quite an unlikely proposition.

It was not that long ago that I was a 16 year old boy who had filled the walls of his room with scenes of faraway places from National Geographic magazine and now I was, well, really far away.

I had even written a kind of poem on the subject of remembering the War in Vietnam before having even gotten there:

Recollections of War

A fading eagle flew frozen in fear

Past deserted flowers in desperate land,

As a rising earth halted for a hasty madness

And time awaited a dead sun.

Remember now the beginning, one fine day,

When we came out of nowhere!

In no cradle birth, one thunderous heartbeat

Separated animal from plant,

And, we stood up straight one day,

Our minds still a drunk’s uneven crawling.

Later, in the breath of life, we knew that

A churchyard must yawn now and then.

But now we are helpless—

We must fight to our worthless deaths, dying,

Screaming forgiveness, but, die as we must

When peace is a barren land.

Daily now,

One grips less firmly his last integrity,

The essential life slips.

Where are the grown men, stuffed and rigid?

Where are they? Where?

They are so silent and meaningless to us now.

They are no longer with us.

And throughout the aftermath

We could almost grasp it in our dreams,

And hope that we might live to die

Far from the River of Perfumes.

Meanwhile, we are dying to live everyday,

As we surrender our souls.

Around us we see the bodies—

They lie upon us; they died among us.

Rising to our last stand we look:

Where are the grown men, the old men?

We thought that we were loved then,

But we’ve been betrayed, sold, lost …

Shall I try for fading woods,

Scrambling over the trails, searching for my life?

I’ll flee and fly over the leaves of yesterday—

They crumble before my eyes.

And there I’ll come out of it all

With firm desire to laugh, love, and live—

There in a hilly grove

Near swelling stream by daisies, grass, and tree.

Once more I escape the horrid death

As the grown men approach;

I try to see my way past

The swiftly moving figures of the human race.

Even now, those men with guns so loud

Are silently dying in the strife.

Living in a time nigh for sighing,

We rise for dying.

Can this be life?

Of course, all this it was our duty to bear;

We bled our blood; we served.

And during the lull of the monsoon rains,

I began to drink, to honor my life—

To hope, as dawn comes,

Much like a Chinese painting—

Too real to be true.

I wake the artillery-man,

And cross the Song Ba to disarm the claymores.

Now it is lovely April and we’re dying,

On this fine day in the time of our life.

Slightly sighing for crying Charlie,

My bayonet blazes in scarlet, in death,

And yet another hasty man

Gropes for the earth and escapes this horrid life.

And there, on a cloud of thought,

We fly by their ways with a life for ourselves.

And, then, they wither with the wind,

Those thoughts that once echoed,

Where they once were teeming, fighting…

The forums now emptied.

There is only room to say

“Let us kill him,” as wrath’s way becomes us,

And there in the cells of a brain

Where currents of feeling once surged,

The mind’s will falters, and waivers

Between the Emotion and the Intellect.

A shrill siren chilled with ill will,

Then, when he was yet young and fine—

Houses were crumbling, streets were heaving,

People were weeping, dying.

And others wished to live,

From brothers to mothers—all lived but the father;

Can you see the tears in the young one’s eyes

As the death-man cometh?

The love and the feeling were nowhere,

The men motionless and rigid,

And, too, the air was not worth breathing,

But, was filled and smothering,

Leaving the men breathless, helpless,

And, of course, so lifeless.

The blight was so death-taking;

The sight of goodness never so breathtaking.

Once in awhile I’ll wince in a smile for truth,

Cringe at the fringe of love;

It is my dream,

A star shining somewhere in the universe—

I can see it there in all of its dimness,

Through the plight of my brightness.

It is there forever and still;

It is there while the thinkers thought for ages,

As dreamers dreamt time after time,

When hoped even the hopeless,

As slept the sleepers into oblivion,

While philosophers pondered infinitum,

As wept the weepers for a long time,

When pitied even the pitiful . . .

All that I saw on Earth was lost.

There hated the loveless in the wasteland.

There the dying lived for a lifetime

As all the wise men greyed and died.

So now I’ll let my ‘enemies’ grow old

As my wine yet flows sweet and pure.

Here comes the slush of doom

Seeping over us,

Belching with contagion.

The pleas of the corrupt fly out;

They cry out; their lives are snuffed out!

The Good Friday mourners yet weep for man,

For everyone, for eternity.

At life’s end

The silent men array themselves,

Finally—

There for the asking

In the stead of the dead,

Prisoners of themselves.

Cautious Pilate ponders,

As there my star shines in the springtime of life.

The star is a beacon in the night of terror,

Fading in the search for the valiant.

How can I live, how can I die?

Look around—there are other worlds!

See, the grass is high and green

On the far side of never.

Find for me the sun shining,

The streams flowing,

The forests, the fertile meadows.

The soldiers moved slowly now

To make their lives last,

A searching band;

And fighting has flared on the border.

Now hurry death or hurry darkness.

Deciding at last, I made an easy day of it,

Staring life in the face, indulging

In a vast wonderland and wilderness

Of childish fancy and fantasy,

And I laughed a lot louder then,

Feeling no need to weep in pity for them,

Or to cry for the scoundrels

Who would grasp at life from graves in war.

It was then that I saw the life,

The awe, the infinite,

The good, and my end.

To see where my youth

And laughter could go,

I lived and died to be free;

My mind took no mind;

Yes it was good to be loved then,

To be young again.

Well, of course Magic Dragon would know that a helicopter had been lost. Strangely, it had not blown up right away, but the fuel was leaking, and it would go to blazes, and this within a larger blaze, erasing all trace of it. He would indeed know where we were headed. We both knew that he could not have come to me there, and that I wouldn’t have stuck around anyway.

This forced rest was good for me, for my legs had been dehydrating, just as what could happen when playing a long match of tennis on a hot day. It had been days since I’d found the last rivulet, and the dew could not keep up with my needs.

And then it rained for a day, which was as cooling and refreshing as one could imagine. It seemed that I drank gallons of it. I was restored to my old self just in time to move on with a full canteen.

Four more days passed. I was becoming energized by the walking, though perhaps having lost about 7 pounds. Night was my friend. I could even see the stars sometimes, those ancient fires of home. We are those stars, I thought, but what the heck was I doing on a planet with so many war zones?

Every so often I would stop and listen, to hear them before they heard me. Nothing, usually. Then a mother and her children, at a watering hole, up ahead, even though it was late evening. I, too, now again desperately needed water. I waited, but ever more villagers kept coming. After an hour of no one, I drank. A woman appeared suddenly, quickly running off when she saw me. The whole village would soon know.

So I backtracked for many kilometers, erasing half of my recent progress. They would still pursue me, though, eventually. So I headed deep into the jungle at a left angle to the road path. Just before dawn I intersected the path that I had once identified as the inbound path to the depot. Well, what else could I do but take it. I was known on the other path, but this would soon turn into a legend left far behind. I stepped up my pace, expecting to pay dearly for it in lost energy.

I found a sleeping spot, this time making sure it was four times removed from the path, then collapsed, exhausted and full of thirst, sleeping 16 hours. The rains saved me again. I floated awake and drank the elixir from the sky. It took me another day to regain my strength, aided by the untasty jungle salad.

I walked for three more nights and then the jungle began to thin. I went back in and sat there for a day, not wanting to leave it. I needed a miracle. Another day and night went by. I was tired anyway.

I had a Cambodian hat that I’d found along the way somewhere, but my skin was not the right tone, although I could possibly work on it. I would have to find the right clothes, too. Yet it wasn’t going to work, for people might approach me, and then the jig would be up. A better scheme would have to present itself.

I was a bit lost in the jungle’s heart of darkness that was called the ‘rain forest’ to soften its menace. Now I had to find the trail head where the path resumed after a large and recently cleared open field that the Khmer were going to use for something. It wasn’t a place to be seen wandering through, for one, nor wasting time trying to find an entrance that was probably covered by bush, for two. I needed information.

I waited for hours; no Khmer. I waited some more. Then way across the large clearing some lynx-like cats came out from the jungle, and I made note of the spot. Here I would find the continuing trail.

I dashed across and there it was. I entered, all the jungle noises resuming, the odour of dead vegetation returning. I walked on for about five kilometers. I shouldn’t out during the day, but I was out of water and also needed to put some distance in on the path.

A few kilometers later, the bird sounds suddenly stopped and so I rushed silently off the side of the trail, deep into the rain forest. The birds knew that someone was coming, which may have been just me, but they had tolerated me so far; so it had to be a group.

I never found out who they were, but they had to be peasants or enemy military. I camped for the rest of the day at the fifth good spot off the trail, taking no chances. I emerged four hours after sundown. From here on every path would lead me more towards home.

The ground was getting spongy. Large banyan trees began to appear, as well as cedar and cypress. A swamp was near, but so then might be dengue fever. This drainage basin from the mountains of what were really very large hills would have good stream water up ahead, beyond the deadwood, and so it did, the place looking harmlessly pleasant and sylvan, here in the the land of the killing fields.

I crossed a rock field to gain the stream, deftly jumping from one to another, which seemed safer than walking slowly. I could not misstep; an ankle injury would doom me. Here I drank and stopped a while, to allow time for rehydration.

I would need more than information to carry me to the river, after which Vietnam began, but perhaps the General and his DIA troops were out there, somewhere, but I heard no rotors. Coincidence was too much to hope for.

From the bird’s eye view at the top of the ‘mountain’ I would plot my next 50 kilometers unto the horizon, keeping out of sight. Last night I had accidentally walked right into a temple, but it turned out to be a deserted ruin. I was still as fit as my younger self who was on the track team, too, but here I was on the trail of madness and death.

Onward.

We guide thee, we must carry thee;
We’re illumination beside thee.

Nothing happened for a few days, and then I heard the choppers, about a kilometer to the north. My radio had gotten soggy; it was now more than useless. I took off like a bat out of hell, remaining well inside the edge of the jungle.

The choppers would not normally land, unless one or more had something to do by the hands of soldiers, but this was rare, as well as an invitation to trouble.

The choppers had found the Rouge and were engaging them near the village they were taking, but the choppers were not going to land. When it looked like they were just about finished mopping up I told myself, this is it, do or die, and so I sent up the flare.

Since they might think it was some kind of a trap, I ran out and presented myself in the open, in my mud-dried fatigues and gave the special salute, done with both hands at once. They circled, looking closer, but wary. I brought up both arms and hands to my forehead in salute, time and time again. I noted them looking through binoculars. They paused. I was a sitting duck if there were still any Rouge left around.

I used my knife to carve some letters into the ground: my short form ID. They looked; I waited, and waited some more. They landed.

Now I will always wonder if I could have made it through the villages and clearings at night, moving like the wind and going like water.

When the fleet landed back at Magic Dragon’s Field Command and he came out to inquire about the mission and whether the headcount was intact. The pilot rushed over, acting puzzled, relating that while no one had been lost they seemed to have gained someone, and how could their count be at fault.

But no one could really put one over on the General, who said to the air in between us, without seeing me, “Questor, you’re late again, but I’m considering it as leave time to make up for it. Welcome back. It was that woman near the drinking hole who told everyone, and thereby me as well, for I have ears everywhere. I knew you would switch to the other path. Come out, wherever you are, and join me in my tent for a drink.”

Austin is still drenched in the alluring fragrance of the vapor that permeated into his soul, ever there remaining.” He said, “the inundation of the bouquet of aroma is ever irresistible in its redolence.

Epilog

One fine day I rode my motorcycle to the Marine Base at Kaneohe, for a military meeting, on the southeastern point, passing along the scenic, rugged shore of fine blue waves crashing against the rocks and the body surfing paradise at Sandy Beach

Here the DIA General said that we had gained in the main, in the war against the Rouge, delaying them, which the Vietnamese would move on to. The Paris Peace accords were underway. He freed us from IndoChina service, and there was still near a year to go for me to enjoy Hawaii. It was indeed an honor when the great man of secrets revealed his new lady. Nimue had found her Merlin at last.

Whenever I returned from the afar deliveries to CSC PAC, I would stand in the center of the Circle of Palms, and Ben and Lina of Civil Service would come out to hear the stories, and about the Supply and Intelligence installations.

There were the exciting airports, both normal and military, and exotic locales in which to revel, such as Okinawa and Hong Kong, between the long flights with the tapes and their duplicates that occupied a first class seat beside me. Wine, women, song, and death made for a curious mixture of emotions on these ‘vacations’, but who really needed a vacation from Hawaii, the pearl and the paradise. And then it was up the mountain again, to home and heart, after a stop at the PX to buy something to grill.

At the University of Saigon, I once saw a college student serving in tennis very distinctively, using an American Twist serve. In 1975, Son Ho fled the falling Saigon in an overcrowded boat, and had turned up at IBM within a few years. I saw him serving at the IBM Country Club courts and knew it had to be him. It had been a long way for him to flee and fly. He was also the one with the severe backhand slice that no one could retrieve. He became my tennis mentor. And then there arrived my Chinese friend to be, the now without a short last name—Stan Long.

Hawaii was a constant vacation, upon return, and we went to Tahiti. Here, in those southern islands, the DIA General Wizard had retired, with his Nimue, at a fine and youthful age, he the staunch seeker of evil with his pure and golden heart. Here in Papeete and Bora Bora it was all was dance, love, and song on the beach. Here the Southern Cross once again rose, and it was here that we learned so many more of the world events that had “never happened”.

We had one last drink, a very fine whiskey this time, raising our glasses to the valor of all the deeds, for the living and for the dead, over the bronze of the sea of the setting sun.

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