The Burning Man
Picture Taken 14 hours ago from the International Space Station of Australian Outback Fire
Billy Bondi sat on the stoop of his shack gazing into the Outback with his striking steel blue eyes. His face was weatherworn with deep wrinkles where days in the sun had long since taken their toll. His grizzled beard flickered in the breeze as he slowly shook his head with a look of consternation and worry. He sat in absolute silence. He listened with all his being. The boab tree in the distance barely moved in the scorching wind. Barely any of the trees still clung to life. A large beetle stuggled in the gravel in front of the stoop. Billy Bondi listened. The dadirri finally came to him. It came into focus and took shape. He once again had direction and purpose. After a long breath he stood. When he stood he could see the flat lands of the Northern Territory on fire. He turned and went back inside.
Fire was not new to these lands but Billy knew this was the final fire. He gathered up a tattered army backpack that he had roamed the outback with for years. He carefully placed his few belongings into it. A carving of the Wandjina, the creator, that his uncle had given him fifty years before was carefully placed into the sack. He put an old shirt and a pair of shorts and his other pair of shoes inside. He decided against carrying any food with him as it was not necessary for this journey, not this time. Billy picked up his walking stick and turned for the door.
He stopped in front of his government issued shack that had become decrepit years before. With his walking stick he began to draw in the sand. Patiently, carefully he drew several wavy lines one on top of the other, the shamanic symbol for fire or smoke. Next to that he drew a picture of several concentric circles which he finished with several radiating lines on each side much like the spokes of a wheel, the symbol of meeting place. It was a simple message to whomever might find it. The fire had compelled him to go to the meeting place. He was not meeting with humans this time however; he was meeting with the sky gods.
Billy stood up with and with a look of resolution secured the backpack to his person. He knelt down to make sure that the laces of his government boots were secure. He looked back at his home and appeared to wipe a tear off his eyes but perhaps it was just the sweat from his brow. He walked and walked on. Astonishingly Billy did not walk away from the fire, but directly towards it. Soon the buffering winds from the tremendous flames were making his journey even hotter. This did not hinder Billy Bondi. He walked and walked on. Now he began to cough as the purifying smoke reached towards him like the ghosts of many lost ancestors. He shrugged it off. The flames grew nearer. He did not stop or even break his stride practiced by many years of endless journeys. Soon he was stepping on embers. The smoke made him just a silhouette. He blended into the flame and disappeared…..
Burning Man 2
Billy Bondi walked and walked on. Through the smoke and not far away he could see a bluish tinge through the grey clouds. The air began to cool around him. He looked at his feet as they walked across the hot coals. His government issue boots had long since burned off but his feet were unburned. In fact he felt none the worse for wear. The smoke began to lessen now. His coughing stopped. He actually began to feel a state of exhilaration. He stopped and balanced with his walking stick as he unhooked his backpack from his shoulders. Reverently he removed the carving of Wandjina, the creator. For a brief moment he considered the contents of the pack. An old shirt, tattered pants and dried out shoes, he threw the pack and its contents into the receding blaze which briefly leapt up as a wolf would leap at raw meat consuming the pack and its’ contents.
He looked down at himself and was amazed at the sudden youthful vigor that had now swept over him. The blue, once distant, was clearer now. A deep blue lay on the horizon and a lighter shade became the sky. Not fifty yards from where he walked now he saw a figure bent over the last edge of the embers. Beyond that a beach! He slowed down and carefully scanned his surroundings. His head was clear. He had never felt the Dadirri so strongly. It boomed inside his body and mind like the heartbeat of all the universe. He heard singing! “Billy Bondi walks. Billy Bondi has a question. A man from far away yet near, walk on Billy have no fear.”
Finally he came to the beach. An old woman was stooped down by the edge of the flames. In her hands was a forked stick and on the end of the stick was a snake which she was roasting in the embers. Again she sang: “A man from far away yet near, he has a question bring him here.” She laughed a friendly chuckle and looked at Billy. Billy recognized her from dreamtime long ago. “Eingana” he whispered. He held out the carving of Wandjina. She reached out to recieve Billy’s gift. Gently she chuckled as she remembered Billy in his Mother’s womb. “Billy come sit and keep an old woman company” Eingana said with a friendly gesture. “Thank you for this gift, I remember when I gave it to your Uncle.” Billy smiled and breathed deeply, he felt a deep exhilaration as if he was nine years old again, an innocent feeling of joy and life. He almost didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Billy sat down as the waves gently rolled in the azure waters behind him.
“You have walked far Billy, yet your journey has just begun. I know you have a question for me and I have been waiting to hear it.” Billy felt entirely at ease. He was not hungry, he was not thirsty, his mind was crystal clear. Eingana pulled the serpent from the flames and poked at it to see if it was roasted yet. She licked her lips and turned it back into the heat. “Ask me Billy I am here to guide you.” Breathing deeply Billy gathered his composure to address the creator Goddess. “Why Eingana, why does man often take more than he needs?” Billy asked with sincere innocence. Eingana now pulled the snake from the fire and placed it on a rock to cool. Turning to Billy she looked into his eyes and as she did he could see into another existence, another reality but it felt quite natural. “That is a wise question. I believe you can find the answer. It is between the earth and the sky and the abundance that can surround us if we share. We shall eat this snake and then you must walk on.”
Hours seemed to have passed but yet time seemed irrelevant. Eingana had picked up Billy’s walking stick and scrawled a symbol into the sand. It was the script symbol for MU. Eingana explained: “When this symbol is drawn it might look like a heartbeat. To some it means everything to some it means nothing. To some it means eternal but to others ephemeral. Think on these things as you continue on your way.” Billy nodded and smiled. The riddle intrigued him. The meat of the snake had sated him like manna. The energy that filled him was wind horse. “Which way should I go?” Billy asked as he stood. “Follow the shoreline to the white rock. There will be a sign for you there.” As Eingana said this she held Billy’s hand. Into his hand she placed an opal carving of indescribable colors attached to a snakeskin loop. It was a carving of a mobius strip.Billy held it up in the receding sunlight. In it he could see vague notions of animals. He placed the loop around his neck. Eingana stood and pointed. Billy nodded. Billy walked, and walked on.
“The possessors of wealth can scarcely be indifferent to processes which, nearly or remotely have been the fertile source of their possessions.” — Charles Babbage
Ten Thousand Idiots:
“It is always a danger to aspirants on the Path,
When they begin to believe and Act,
As if the ten thousand idiots who so long ruled and lived Inside,
Have all packed their bags and skipped town or Died.” — Hafiz
The Laurentian Highway (Burning Man 3)
Eddie Sargavy twirled the pen in his fingers. The room smelled of long extinguished cigarettes. He stared out the window at the Laurentian Highway. In the distance a sign flashed on the side of the Continental Can Company. Cee Cee Cee over and over again. One large Cee, one medium size cee that fit into the large arc and a smaller cee to complete the trio. He chuckled to himself, a frustrated chuckle. “See, see, see it says and how come I can’t come up with a damn thing” he said to himself. “Damn irony.”
Eddie had been up half the night. He was trying to write a concept for a new client. He had to have something by morning. Lazily the lonely cars in the distance seemed to drone up the road, the noise eerily reminiscent of waves on a beach.
This was unusual for Eddie. He was the creative force of the advertising agency. Normally things would just come into his mind as if the muse never rested. Tonight was different though. The air felt heavy. It was October in Montreal and the air still felt like summer. The day had been unusually warm, 86 degrees, a new record. He had left the café early after meeting again with the client for what was supposed to be a mutual round of drinks. Walter Blytheville had downed his Labatts beers hungrily like a man on a mission. That was now ten hours ago. Eddie imagined him sleeping peacefully. Why was this campaign so difficult? He had never had troubles with moral issues before. He simply could no longer wrap his mind around selling something that could be harmful to the environment.
He looked down again at his scratch pad. There was a rough outline of a figure lying down. He scrawled a bit and drew the outline of a beach. A truck roared by in the distance. He drew some curls on the water, the impressions of waves, small waves. He stood up to stretch. His laptop continued it’s eternal screensaver waltz. It reminded him of a video game he played as a child. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a toothpick. What he really wanted was a cigarette. He turned and looked at the clock radio on the bedstand. 4:13 AM. He was supposed to make a presentation at ten. His flight back to New York was at two. He was in a bind, a dead zone, he needed a way out of his creative rut. He needed a way to numb his conscience.
It occurred to Eddie how small he really felt, that did it. He reached into his suitcase and retrieved a pack of camel cigarettes. He threw the door open to the motel room, the classic Mirabel Express. He could’ve stayed anywhere on the agencies tab but he loved the rustic little cheesy places. Something about reminding himself where he had come from and how far he had come. Several drags into his cigarette he decided he was over his moral crisis. “We’re all gonna die sooner or later so who the hell really gives a damn? Who am I, the pope?” He quietly closed the door and extinguished the stub in a Styrofoam cup. He walked back over to the desk and tapped the keyboard of the laptop. “Wake up little prince” he said trying to humor himself awake. It was then that he looked at his scratchpad. His mouth fell open. He shook his head and patted his cheeks. The figure he had drawn was no longer there……..
Billy was not sure how long he had slept on the sand. He had awoken in the night. It felt like something was brushing against his skin. More than once he felt it but each time he saw nothing. Just a vast expanse of stars overhead. Not a crab, a night bird or even a sea flea in sight. The ocean was calm. The waves made a gentle rumble that sounded far away. Billy was thirsty now and he knew it was time to go further. He felt for the pendant around his neck. He held it to his chest, the feel of it was comforting. He stood easily and with the ocean on his right, Billy walked on.
Washington Oil (Burning Man 4)
Margaret brushed the hair from her eyes in front of a large vanity mirror. Silently she rehearsed her speech. She was a bit fidgety in spite of the fact that she had been the spokesperson for the oil and gas consortium for over six years now. This was the first time however, that the entire Washington D.C. crowd would be present. Senators and congressmen, industry leaders including several Arab princes even several representatives from the Russian oil conglomerate Lukoil. She was in the midst of the oil boys. The old oil boys club.
It’s okay she thought to herself as she applied a fresh coat of lip gloss. She was remarkably attractive and she knew it. She had relied on her looks before to smooth things out with the naysayers. Just tell them what they want to hear and everyone will applaud. It was all about the money anyway. Make it sound environmentally safe and emphasize the profit. Worked every time and if there was any doubt simply grease a few palms. When had the Environmental Protection Agency ever stepped in any way? It was the same old routine. The agency might balk, some phone calls would be made, then business as usual. Ah the beauty of capitalism in the good old U.S.A.
She straightened her drink on the antique foyer table. The wood was reddish and quite old. Probably mahogany she remarked to herself, this place spares no expense. She looked in the mirror again and marveled at the seascape hanging on the wall behind her in the wide hallway. It captured her gaze for a moment and took her imagination away. The picture showed a wide beach on the one side that stretched as far as the eye could see, the other side was the ocean, with a dappling of clouds on the distant horizon.
She took a large swallow of the bourbon. Quite unladylike but it was just her in the hallway. Turning she walked up to the painting. It was a Jasper Cropsey. Probably worth a beamer at least. Back to the mirror, it was almost presentation time. She was waiting to hear her cue with a final glance at her baby blues. Wait a second! What was that? She had caught a flash in the corner of her eye. There it was again. She looked closely into the mirror which perfectly reflected the painting behind her. Right there on the distant beach something sparkled like a diamond. Was it the bourbon? Yet she knew it was something more. She turned and looked directly at the picture again. Suddenly it seemed dim and bleak.
Billy stood on the beach. It was early in the morning. He felt like he had been walking forever. He stopped for a moment and faced the ocean. He felt for the gem resting on his chest and held it up to the sunlight. It glistened brightly. He saw clouds in the distance. Clouds and blue. Blue eyes? No it couldn’t be. Just sky and forever. He held the gem and wanted to ask it a question. How much further would he have to travel alone?
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable” — John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The Gulf (Burning Man 5)
Roy Gillespie stood on the oil rig platform listening to his ipod. Strains of the Santana song “Oye Como Va” played at full blast in his ear pods. He looked out over the serene Gulf waters as the incredible guitar of Carlos Santana danced alive in his head. He liked this job as an oil rig man. He felt needed, he felt necessary. The country needed the energy from the natural gas this well supplied. He had been with the company now for over seventeen years. Sure there had been mishaps but nothing that this experienced crew couldn’t handle. Nothing like the Deep Horizon disaster or anything even close had happened here. Now of course that was due to faulty cement or at least that’s what the Times Picayune had reported. He had little use for the newspaper or newspapers in general. It was hard to trust anyone these days. The people he trusted were the people he could see, his fellow roughnecks. He liked that name. He had gone from being a leatherneck in the Gulf war to being a roughneck in a different Gulf. This irony made him smile.
He wondered again if he might have been a musician if he had just a little more ambition. He still had several guitars he kept and played for fun from time to time. No matter now, he was a roughneck and damned proud of it. After his term of service in the marines, semper fi, he came back to work the rigs. He enjoyed being on his feet and the hands on physical labor. He took a deep breath. How much better this was than being in the Persian Gulf. He turned around.
The blast was like a sand bag of noise and force. He didn’t really hear it as much as he felt and saw it. Wham it hit him like a giant hand wielding a sock full of flour. He stumbled backward and hit the rail hard, over he went. His eyes were burning from the flash. Down he went. Probably a good thing. He hit the water but he couldn’t feel it yet. For a moment he lay limp in the sea. His mind stalled, it lay open like a question mark, the hesitation between the flash of lightning and the thunder when the storm was right overhead. He instinctively began to back paddle away from the huge rig supports. He was glad it was calm and warm as the water flooded his jumpsuit. His Ipod went out. He floated calmly. His military time had prepared him for this. It did not seem strange to him.
He started humming a tune, “Platform Fire” by Jack’s Mannequin. He kept swimming back and away from the pillars of flames and billowing black smoke. His senses were numb. The song continued in his mind, it gave him focus. He wondered how long he might be in the water as he floated and swam further from the structure. He was alone, no one else had fallen over! He did not take this as a good sign. When he looked back at the platform it blazed wildly. There was no sign of life.
Another world away steel blue eyes gazed out into the vast ocean. Billy thought he heard a boom off in the distance. He shielded his eyes and as he looked out on the horizon he thought for a moment he saw a flash, maybe a sign of other life. For a split second his hopes rose. When he looked again he guessed it was just sunlight gleaming on the water. He turned around and saw a stick of driftwood. He picked it up and in frustration hurled it as far as he could out into the surf. He sat down to think with his head in his hands.
Roy tread water. He had already removed his heavy boots. Now he undid his coverall and slipped it from his powerful frame. He was glad the waters were warm. With the loss of the added weight his job of staying afloat was much easier. He felt something against his back. Startled he took a quick breath. The song came back in his head. “Under pressure, but I’m feeling weightless, across the desert when you’re feeling faithless” he turned in the water. There was a log floating there. He clutched at it thankfully. He knew he was going to make it.
“He doesn’t measure his wealth in private jets, but purchased souls.” — Frank Underwood in House of Cards
“Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” — Former Vice President Dick Cheney
The Summum Bonum (Burning Man 6)
Billy sat cross legged at the edge of the vast ocean, behind him was empty desert, empty except for a scraggly bush here and there a few stumps of ancient trees. There were hardly any signs of life which left him puzzled. He was used to finding living things even in the harshest conditions. His Grand uncles had taught him how to survive even when it seemed like their was no sustenance the earth provided. Still he was not thirsty, nor was he hungry. Somehow the manna of the snake meat was keeping him alive or he was in a dream or maybe, he thought, he had crossed into the dreamtime. He began to hum to himself. The song lifted his spirit. The tune had no name. He closed his eyes and calmed his breathing into a rhythmic chant.
For a long time he sat. He finally heard a rustling sound. Startled he opened his eyes and scratched his neck where the snakeskin rested on his neck. Things were changing around him. A white rock had appeared out of the water. Inscribed into the rock was the same symbol that Eingana had scratched into the sand many days ago, the symbol for MU. The rustling noise continued as he stood and turned looking at the now swirling sand. Two inhuman figures suddenly emerged, growling and grunting, gnashing their sharpened teeth and threatening with clawlike hands. “Who are you?” Billy demanded. The creatures snarled and gave him a hideous grin. They spoke in a coarse rhyme. “We are brothers, your brothers, greed and gluttony. Turn and come with us to the paradise of the wasteland!”
Billy clutched at the gem around his neck. Neither creature would look at him directly. They seemed to be looking out into the ocean with far away eyes. “Hurry you fool. Come with us and rule the wasteland!” He reached out to them but they both shrunk back. They would come no closer to him. Something occurred to Billy. “I have no need of either of you, there is nothing here to be greedy for and nothing to eat to be gluttonous.” “Then just give us the gem and drown you foolish man” they demanded as their eyes widened still staring past him. Billy turned again.
The ocean had vanished into the sky. Everything was blue. The shape of a seated figure was far in the distance. An enormous seated figure holding up the shadow of a hand. Billy turned back and the figures had vanished. He heard them arguing. “He has passed our realm we can no longer affect him.” Things were changing. Billy heard a rushing sound like the blast of a mighty wind. He blinked as water hit his face. The horizon returned as quickly as it had vanished. The water surged in front of the white stone. Out of the sea a gigantic crocodile like dragon came rushing from the ocean.
Billy fell to his knees and clutched the opal carving. The dragon spoke in a voice that came from everywhere at once. “Billy Bondi has arrived, the earth is his witness and his heart. He holds the Cintimani.” Everything Billy had been through flashed before him. He saw mountains and he saw the abyss. “Who are you and what do you want?” he asked. “I am the Makara,” the voice boomed. “I want you Billy, you have the sign, you have been marked by the one.”
“There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.” — Salvador Dali
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” — Salvador Dali
Departure (Burning Man 7)
He slowly stood. The water was eerily calm again. Makara was magnificent and deadly terrifying at the same time. He looked into the large reptilian eyes and was frozen. In slow motion, like that of a long forgotten dream, the creature’s mouth came down around the solitary figure. Gently the crocodilian mouth enveloped Billy’s body. As a mother croc would pick up her young, he was lifted unharmed into the air. Makara tossed her head back and swallowed him hole.
All was dark. He felt a solid surface beneath him. The air was lightly perfumed with the smell of flowers. He was unafraid. It was very silent. A glow began to appear before him. How far away it was he could not tell. Space and time had become irrelevant. A sound. Yes he distinctly heard a sound. It was the same tune he had hummed to himself on the beach but he wasn’t humming. The glow grew brighter. He walked in the direction of the ethereal. Soon he could make out dancing flames. The flames took on the rhythm of the tune. The closer he got the brighter the fire rose. There was no crackling noise, just the hypnotic, methodical melody.
He was baffled at first but the closer he got he began to understand. Knowledge, hidden knowledge flowed into him. The fire resembled the colors of his opaline amulet. With every color of the rainbow the flames danced a macabre ghost dance. Sparks he noticed now. Millions of sparks swirled around the tips of the flames and disappeared into an infinite ceiling of night like so many stars of the outback where he had grown up. He stood entranced almost in rapture at this gift of light in the vast darkness.
Something touched him on the shoulder. He shivered in surprise. It was Eingana. The music emanated from her very being. Her body glowed with life in the darkness.
“Well done Billy there are only a handful from creation who have made it this far in mortal form.”
“Eingana what is this place?”
“It is a place you won’t remember but also a place you’ll never forget. The flame you see is the beginning and end. Some call it the Qabalah. The sparks that dance are the souls of all that is living and all that ever has lived. Some will return to a form of life on Earth. Others will pass beyond the realm never to return.”
“Which ones return?”
Eingana laughed. “Billy you indeed ask the right question. The harmful souls will not return. The noble souls can choose to return. They may live again on Earth as the Universe decides their place.Those that are beneficent to living things around them are the right and noble souls. You have a choice now.”
“Eingana there is no choice but to return.”
“Yes but that’s the riddle. Even I cannot foresee where you will be, who you will be or what you will be if you return. Neither will you remember this place except at moments when you feel the most uncertain, even then not directly. At those troubled and confusing times the Universe will guide you in the ways of life and preserving life.”
“Eingana I choose life.”
“Of that I was always certain.” Eingana smiled and raise her silken arms above her head. The vision disappeared. All was dark.
Far away a man laid on his death bed. He was 103 years of age. He breathed deeply and looked at his grand surroundings. He was wealthy beyond measure. He had more possessions than any man could possibly use. Ruthlessly he had obtained this wealth and now it brought him no comfort other than his bed which even now felt like a prison. His body was worn out, his memories not a comfort. He reminisced of a time when he was a young man in Australia out among the bush. His Land Rover had stopped at a billabong. An indigenous Australian man was getting water. Beside him stood a young, nearly naked boy. His ribs were sticking out. He looked intently at the boy. Their eyes met. Billy turned away and grabbed his uncle by the leg. The old man was haunted by that boy as he lay in his bed. He could not get the image of him out of his mind. He took his last breath and died.
A red spark hurtled through space. It rushed through the firmament. It headed straight for a star. As it zoomed through space it passed a green spark that had been emitted from the second planet orbiting the same star. A green spark headed directly towards earth. A green spark full of consciousness and the essence of life itself.
Roy jerked suddenly in the waters of the Gulf. He had been falling in a dream. Thankfully he had not let go of the log he clung to. He looked up and saw the Coast Guard boat approaching.
“Do the difficult things while they are easy, do the great things while they are small. The journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu
Dry Land (Burning Man 8)
Roy Gillespie was on board the Coast Guard cutter Heron. He was safe in one piece. The EMT team on board had immediately hooked him up to an IV of saline to rehydrate him. He had been in and out of consciousness since being pulled from the waters of the Gulf. Several times he remembered thanking his rescuers and telling them emphatically that he was okay. The powerful thrumming of the cutter’s engines had a hypnotic effect on the completely exhausted roughneck and he felt himself slipping in and out of reality. He closed his eyes and heard the seabirds which followed the boat like a long lost kitchen.
Roy was dreaming now. He was dreaming of a beach in a realm without time. He was a seabird soaring along the shore. In the distance, with his sharp, precise vision he spotted a body laying in the sand. He circled, feeling a sense of the familiar with the body that lay there. He saw two grotesque figures emerging from the sand. Two demon like creatures had come up from the sand and gaped at the man who lay there sleeping. They seemed to be arguing between themselves. Roy soared in for a closer look. As he drew closer the demons started to flail their arms at him! They were warding him away. For what reason he could not guess. The coast Guard cutter hit a patch of waves. With the jolt Roy woke up. He looked down at himself. He was in one piece but his head hummed. His vision was clear in his mind.
“That must of been quite an explosion back there sir.” Billy heard.
He looked up at the EMT. A young freckled face with aviator glasses looked down at him.
“Yes it was a blast. Just like in Kuwait. Did anyone else..?”
“Survive?” The EMT finished his question. “No sir you were the only one we found. The blast completely took out the platform. There’s a team there now still searching the debris.”
Roy rolled over on the pad he was lying on. He didn’t feel like talking at all. He couldn’t believe that all his friends were gone. Surely someone else must have survived. How could he be the only one? He drifted back off to sleep. Once again he started dreaming vividly. This time he was a small boy beside a campfire. He saw a group of men sitting around the fire. Beyond the flames it was pitch black darkness. He looked skyward and saw the stars as he had never seen them before. The fire sparked and sent up a shower of sparks that reinforced the stars in the sky. The men seemed caught up in a solemn discussion. One of them called to him. Again Roy woke up from a jolt. He sat up this time. The EMT was sitting on a bench nearby.
“How much longer…?
“Til we get to land?” Once again the crewman finished his sentence. “About twenty minutes now, we’ll have you home in no time.”
“Can I take this thing off?, I don’t like things sticking in me.”
“Sure, hang on.” The crewman stood up and gingerly knelt beside Roy. With swift precision he removed the needle from Roy’s arm. “Got some clothes for you here.” He turned around and produced a decent pair of jeans and a t shirt. Roy looked surprised. “Here put these on. An ambulance will meet you when we dock. I thought a guy like you would appreciate some real clothes and not some hospital gown. Keep ’em courtesy of the United States Coast Guard.” Roy saluted when he heard that. The crewman saluted back. “I figured you served. You seem like the type. Real calm like. My name’s Gabe.”
“Roy, Roy Gillespie.” Roy reached up his hand and Gabe helped him up. Roy was a little shaky and he leaned against the cabin wall. His head felt as if he was wearing a plastic bag over it. He knew the shock still reverberated through him.
“Well Roy it’s a pleasure to meet you and I sure wish it could’ve been under more righteous circumstances.”
Roy nodded. “You better believe it. Where we coming in?”
“Near the big easy Roy. We’ll be seeing you get to a good hospital. Doctors going to check you from head to toe.”
Roy nodded again. His vision was a little blurry. His neck itched a bit. He reached up and felt something around it. He followed it down. There on his chest was a gem. A peculiar medallion of sorts. It was the opal mobius. “What the …?”
“Must be a damned good luck charm. That’s all you had on with your long johns. You wouldn’t let it go even when we tried to take it off you.”
“I’ve never seen this before.” Roy managed to stammer.
“Sure thing. Just stay calm.” Gabe reassured Roy and held him by the shoulder. “Here we come in now.”
Roy clutched at the medallion and shuffled his feet following Gabe. Soon he was surrounded by a retinue of crewmen. They were applauding him. The Lieutenant had already brought the cutter to the dock with barely the slightest bump. An ambulance waited within sight. Gabe tried to help Roy onto a stretcher.
“If it’s all the same I can walk.” Roy said determined to get back on land. Gabe nodded and helped Roy to the ramp. Looking at the EMT’s from the ambulance Gabe said, “we’ve got him hydrated and he’s conscious. This guy is one tough hombre!”
Roy stood on his own and took a deep breath before the burly ambulance EMT helped him up and onto an awaiting mobile stretcher. Roy reluctantly lay down thankful that Gabe had given him street clothes. He’d rather have been going home.
“Let’s get this over with.” Roy said in a hoarse whisper as the ambulance doors closed.
Fight 101 (Burning Man 9)
Eddie Sargavy stood in the terminal at the Montreal Trudeau international airport staring at the departure screen. He sipped his coffee and shook his head. He hadn’t missed his flight this time. His flight had been cancelled. He looked at his watch then wondered why since the time seemed to be posted everywhere like an inescapable fate. It was 1:01 pm. Ironically that was his flight number. There was a bad storm moving up the easy coast and all the flights to JFK had been cancelled.
He walked outside the terminal and lit a cigarette. Just as well he thought to himself. Something in his mind remembered that flight 101 was not a flight to be on. He remembered other flight 101’s crashing somewhere. He finished his coffee and spit into his cup. “101st Airborne” he said aloud. The woman standing next to him heard and moved away. He thought about history. The 101st, the Screaming Eagles, that was the “Band of Brothers”. Among their many heroic exploits one was being an integral piece of Operation Overlord in World War II. In Vietnam they were famous for outstanding bravery in the battle of Hamburger Hill. He choked up a bit and wiped his eyes. Eddie was not a man who stood still. He went back into the terminal. He would rent a car and drive to New York.
Eddie flew down the highway in his full size, brand new Dodge Charger. He had passed through customs quickly as he had nothing to declare. Heck he’d been through the border so many times he felt like he should know all the customs agents on a first name basis. It felt good to be on the move again. Never mind that he was tired, he was on his way home.
He thought about his presentation that morning. He had ended up winging the whole thing. The more he had talked the better he felt. Eddie was a pro. It didn’t matter that his heart wasn’t in it. He was glad it was over with and the client, Truefoam, seemed satisfied. He had the radio blasting loudly. The satellite radio was perfect for these extended drives. No station flipping necessary. The October scenery in the Adirondack mountains was beautiful. He only wished it was summertime and the daylight would last longer. A glance at the gas gauge and the rumbling of his stomach told him it was time to refuel and grab a bite. Just outside of Albany he took an exit that offered gas and a bag of cheeseburgers within spitting distance of each other.
Eddie turned down his radio as he pulled off the ramp. He had been blasting a song by Tito Puente. He loved the Latin salsa and was thankful the satellite radio had a station dedicated to that sound. It was dark out now but the air was still friendly. He pulled up to the pump, ready for a stretch. Yawning as he locked the doors he went inside to relieve himself. It felt good to be out of the car if only for a minute.
Returning to the car with six cheeseburgers and a large coffee he noticed a car of teenagers had pulled up a short distance away. The music blasted out of the vehicle. He could hear the vibrations as he stooped inside the Charger to put the burgers and the coffee inside. What was the recent story in Florida? Oh yes, he thought, some lunatic had sprayed bullets into a car when he thought the music was too loud. It reminded him of a time years ago when he was with his precious wife Gloria, a beautiful girl from Cuba. They were taking a road trip in his Pontiac Bonneville which had come with a brand new 8 track player. They had pulled into a full service station outside of Baton Rouge. Birdland blasted from their car. He leaned over and kissed Gloria. Just then a rather nondescript man walked by. “Turn that Spic shit down!” he said loudly. Eddie complied, he felt sheepish. He was nineteen years old and had been married for a month. He wondered where that burst of hatred had come from.
He finished pumping his gas and pulled away. The music from the teenagers’ car still resonated in his ears. He liked a different kind of music but he’d be damned if he’d ever shoot somebody over such a ridiculous thing. “The world is a fucked up place” he said aloud. He hit the gas so hard his tires screeched. The advantages of a rental he thought. He thought about Gloria who had died of cancer years earlier. He knew she could never be replaced so he had never given it a second thought. He was married to his job ever since.
As he hit the entrance ramp to 87 south, Tito came on the radio. It was “Jam En El Bario”. Eddie hit the gas hard and wondered aloud, “aren’t we all our brother’s keeper?”. A light rain had begun to fall.