Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward Last: Saigon 17 June 1967 – Journal Entry

In olden times – perhaps as long ago as the days of the Celts – in Grande Bretagne winters were of a death inducing chill. Spring, while beginning to hint at the warmth that was to follow in summer, also arrived with the early hints of the insects that would bedevil the residents of the island as June slid inexorably into July. And when July had arrived, the insects again reigned supreme. And with the insects – mosquitoes, ticks and such – came, the wafts of death dealing miasmas that rose from the fens and rose from the dells and silently and invisibly engulfed vast areas of the land. It was only in the autumn - and often only for a day or two - when the sky became deeply clearly blue, the breeze became a slight and sweetly scented kiss, laden with waning vestiges of the smell of late ripening blackberries, and when the temperature and the humidity were of such a degree that they made the people want to fling themselves to the grass and to the clover and enjoy life, or to hurl themselves across the meadows and brooks in joyous song and dance, that life was a joy.

They called these the halcyon days. Halcyon is the ancient name for a bird, the kingfisher. I suppose the name of the bird was applied because even today in temperate climates where the kingfisher still flies, on days when the temperature and humidity and scents all verge on perfection, the kingfisher joyously flits through the sky emitting a call that sounds like ball bearings being shaken in an echo chamber. As such the halcyon puts his sound and his name on those days.

The nearly never ending kiss in the bar in the mezzanine in the Officer’s Club at Ton Son Nhut has signaled the beginning of my own personal halcyon days.

Adrianna is all of those things from distant Celtic times. For me she has swiftly become the sweetly scented breeze and the brilliant blue of the sky. She is the center and the spirit of what quickly has become a never ending halcyon existence.


Thus ends The Story of Adrianna.  If you would like to purchase the eBook please go to:;jsessionid=D13242D1A4C27825633E4E0CCD0DFE27

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Copyright © 2012 by Noel McKeehan

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Curious Confluence: Afterward Twelve Saigon 7 March 1967 – Journal Entry

We went home after the mezzanine bar.

We became one as soon as we entered her place – my new home.

We made it as far as the floor barely inside the entry way in front of the couch. For reasons I was unable to divine – I think she could, but I couldn’t – that is as far as we got. Clothes, the few necessary in such a hot climate, were divested with abandon. And hours of something that I had never known, but of which images from a dimly lit place kept recurring, ensued.

Being spent can have a number of manifestations.

I would never have known were it not for those hours on the floor how ecstatically wonderful one of those manifestations might be.

That evening we went “downtown”.

I had suggested The Mayfair.

The Mayfair turns out to be her favorite restaurant.

I was going for the onion soup.

We both had the onion soup, but we also had something I would not have expected.

We had something called – The Mayfair being a French restaurant – Saumon avec champignons.

It was delicious.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward Eleven: Saigon 5 March 1967 – Journal Entry

I got to the Club a little early.  We were going to meet in the mezzanine bar that looked out on the air strip.  The mezzanine is open to the outside, so all of the sound of planes landing and taking off comes through into the bar area. Sometimes that taking off, for certain planes, is more like rockets being launched.  More than once I have seen F4s leave the field with almost no taxi run and in, what appears to be, a vertical attitude.  The plane makes a short run down the strip, tips upwards, and shoots into the sky straight up. The sound of the two engines doing what is required for that sort of take off creates a sound that transcends human experience.  The scream of those engines can be heard for miles as the air frame struggles for altitude with only the brute force of the engines providing the gained altitude.  There is no lift involved.  Ultimately the plane reaches some obviously pre-conceived altitude, tips over into level flight and disappears as if it had only been an illusion that something had so recently been there clawing for the sky.

But the entertainment isn’t the reason that we chose the mezzanine as our meeting place.  The reason is that, as busy as it usually is, the mezzanine is tranquil and sparsely populated compared to the zoo that is the first floor.  That floor is a huge rambling area of bar tables and chairs extending from the front entrance to the massively long bar, a distance of probably half a football field.  The bar itself is probably that long again, meaning that that ante-room, from the front door inward is over twenty two thousand square feet.  And that is only the ante-room.  There is a whole similarly sized, or bigger, inner area that is the dining area. It may be the dining area, but drinks flow copiously there as well.  And every one of those square feet, except in the earliest of mornings is filled with military officers - commissioned and warrants – and their civilian equivalents.  The mezzanine is probably not even known to most of those on the first floor who are mainly transients on brief in-country R and Rs from the haze and hazards of their daily combat filled lives.  The stairs to get to the mezzanine are not obvious either, so even hardened local dwellers may not necessarily know of the existence of the mezzanine.

So it is perfect – as perfect as anything in a shithole like Saigon can be – for the purpose of the meeting that Adrianna and I had agreed to have.

Whereas the ground floor is served by platoons of slender young Vietnamese women in ao dais, the mezzanine is served only by Mary.  Mary is Vietnamese like the servers on the first floor, but Mary is neither particularly young nor particularly slender.  Not at all fat, she can best be described as voluptuous. I have never seen that sort of voluptuousness on another Vietnamese woman.

She does wear an ao dai.  But, unlike the young women downstairs, Mary is not retiring and shy and quiet.  Mary is a ribald, loud, wonderfully entertaining woman.  The very fact that she uses the name Mary is a window to her outlook and personality. On balance, she always reminds me of May West.

So the relative quiet of the mezzanine was to be our refuge for our first post-bottle-of-Bordeaux encounter.

We both know Mary and like her – a lot.

We had agreed that whoever got there first would go to the mezzanine and get Mary to give us one of the not often inhabited little side niches.  Those niches are parts of the mezzanine that would either be used only in an overflow situation – they are not at all convenient for the server, so Mary makes sure that no one under normal, un-crowded circumstances uses them – or in situations such as Adrianna’s and mine: we want to talk; we don’t want to be on display; and we really don’t want to be interrupted.  Mary is always up for those sorts of situations, if they involve her friends, and Adrianna and I are both her friends, although she doesn’t know that either of us knows the other.  Mary’s friends’ willingness to include a rather larger tip into the bargain always helps, of course.

When I got to the front of the Club I saw a familiar face.  Familiar though it was, it was a face I hadn’t seen for months.  I had long previous to the day currently being described realized that if one sat long enough in the main downstairs zoo of the Ton Son Nhut Officers’ Club, one would ultimately see everyone one had ever known in the commissioned military.  The familiar face was again proof of that belief.  It was a guy I haven’t seen since Cannon AFB where I spent the year prior to joining the war effort.  I couldn’t remember the guy’s name – I thought I remembered that we had been friends to the extent of drinking together on occasion at the Cannon Officers Club and to the added extent of his having lent his drunken participation in all of the drunken theme parties (the flying grasshopper party for example – a party centered on a drink that added two shots of vodka to a grasshopper) that a group of lieutenants of which I was a member, concocted, sponsored and threw from time to time.

If he had been my mother or my father I would have wanted to avoid him in the face of my actual plans for the balance of the late afternoon and early evening.  As a peripheral member of a group to which I had long abandoned membership, I was exceptionally disinterested in renewing my acquaintance.

The fact that he was loitering next to the door through which I would need to go to get to the stairs to the mezzanine presented a two edged problem.  The first edge was the obvious one of how would I get past him without, perhaps being recognized, engaged and subsequently unable within any normal sort of courteous human behavior to quickly disengage myself.  The second was, if I had to stay out front very long waiting for the guy to disappear inside I ran the risk of Adrianna showing up and not being able to explain my – our, really – quandary before she engaged me in conversation, and with that engagement, inevitably drawing the attention of everyone lurking at the entrance to the Club, my peripheral and name-forgotten friend among them.

“Think!” went through my mind.

So I thought.   And I thought.  And I thought.  All I did other than think – and think to no avail – was to move back far enough from the entrance of the Club to be somewhat out of sight and somewhat obscured by the rapidly gathering multitude of, mostly men, mostly in uniform, entering the Club.

I was still thinking when I felt a pair of hands, or at least what felt like hands, and there were two of them, fingers extended as if they were probes, poke me in the ribs. 

“So why didn’t you go in?” I heard in my left ear.  I knew it was my left ear because she blew in it just after completing the question.

“I have always hated having my ribs jabbed with little pointy fingers - until now.  Would you please do that again?”

When her fingers had touched my ribs I had felt the sharp contact of their ends, or their points, which was how they had felt, but I had also had felt an electric sort of shock-like feeling; the woman seems to have me - totally.  It seems good, though.

“Hey, Lieutenant.  Seen any Generals?  I’m looking for one to take me to dinner.”

“I think they are all out trolling the base in their chauffeured staff limos.  Best bet for you is to walk the streets.”

‘Not fair.  That was mean.  I was only playing.”

“With fire as it turns out.”

“Isn’t this from the script of an old Cary Grant movie?”

“Not so old.  And I think you’re more beautiful than Audrey Hepburn.”

“Wow, I couldn’t have imagined that you could do that.  In one fel swoop you won me back. I guess you can take me to dinner.”

“We need to clear the way first.  Over by the door there is an acquaintance from my last base; I can’t remember his name, but I know him and he knows me.  If he sees me there isn’t going to be any way for us to have the private discussion we are planning.  At least not without being completely rude. And I have tried to drop my innate rudeness for the duration of my involvement in the war effort. That’s why I didn’t go in.  I was trying to figure out how to get in without him seeing me.”

“Just wait until I get his attention and then you go set us up with Mary” she said and passed me to the front door and walked right up to the guy.

“Are you General Momyer’s aide?”  I heard her say.

“Jesus Christ” I muttered through gritted teeth, but I took advantage of the diversion and darted through the door and up to the mezzanine.

“Bon soir, mademoiselle” I said to Mary.

“Cut the bullshit” she returned in perfect, Vietnamese accented English.  “What you want?”

I explained that I was meeting someone special and that we wanted as much privacy as possible and could she work her magic for us and get us in a reasonably hidden alcove, but still take care of us, because the occasion probably would consume several drinks.

“No problem.  Consider it done.”

I gave her a ten dollar bill from my declining hoard of greenback dollars.  She was fine with script, but I thought that the real currency would give added specialness to the occasion, and perhaps enhance her already high skill level at facilitating such events.

I had just sat down when Adrianna appeared, smiling broadly.  She sat down.  And then she burst into gales of laughter.

“What did you say next?”  I asked.

“I don’t remember.  I was on auto pilot.  I remember the look of a cornered rabbit being on his face.  And then I said, ‘sorry, my mistake’ and brushed past to the stairs to the mezzanine.  Now I’m here.”

“And I am glad” I said.

She put her hand out on top of mine and said “So am I.”

Mary had come around the corner at that point.  We both looked up, hands still in place where they had been the moment before, and both looked at Mary.  Mary stopped, looked, and her eyes widened a little. Then she nodded her head as if approving.  Then she wheeled around and disappeared only to reappear moments later with a bottle of Bordeaux and a corkscrew.

“She knows me well” said Adrianna.

I repressed a surge of vicarious jealously.

“Don’t be stupid” went through my head. 

Immediately after hearing in my head “don’t be stupid” I heard in my ear the surprisingly welcome sound of the pop of the cork coming out of the bottle of wine.

Mary put it on the table between us and said, “Back in five minutes; let it breathe”.

Adrianna smiled at her and said, “We can wait for ten.  This wine needs a few more minutes.”

I thought about ordering a scotch rocks and then thought better of it.

Adrianna gave me a baleful glare as if she had known what I had thought.  I was beginning to wonder how functionally sound it was going to be to have a relationship with someone who apparently could read my mind.

“I’ll stop” I thought I heard in my head.

“I am glad you got us into this private little nook” she said. “What we need to discuss will be much easier with our portal shielded from view to some extent.”

I was about to ask what all of that meant when the relative silence of the jumble of sounds and conversations from the rest of the mezzanine was shattered by the ear splitting shriek of an F4 hurtling itself into the air.  The din went on for extended moments and a sort of residual echo lasted at least twice the duration of the actual sound.

We sat there and looked at each other.  I noticed again how green Adrianna’s eyes are and forgot the shriek of the jet.  It was a pleasant interlude that was broken by the clink of two wine glasses being placed on our table.

Mary poured a little into the glass in front of Adrianna and waited for her to go through the ritual sniff and taste, which she did with such self assurance and grace that I was not the least offended by the fact that Mary apparently regarded me as lacking even the most minimum level of knowledge of the world.  “She is probably right” I thought to myself.

“Thank you, Mary” said Adrianna.  “It’s great; please pour.”

So there we sat with nothing but two newly filled glasses of a decent Bordeaux filling the space between us across the table.

I realized that, after all the anticipation of something exactly like the situation I was at that moment in, I had no idea what to do, and no idea what to say.  I almost felt as if I didn’t even know what to think.

She broke the spell of silence.

“Do you remember, the last time – actually it was the first time, and only time – we drank that bottle of wine and talked all night and I said ‘That was the way it was, and that is the way it has been; but that is not how it is now, nor is it the way that it is going to be. There are many things afoot that make that sort of behavior to be uniquely frivolous, and we are entering a time when frivolity has no place?”

“Not only that, but I also remember that you said something about Jacques warning you about me.  I never got around to asking who Jacques is.”

“We’ll talk about him later.  Right now I need to get you to see where you fit.”

I looked at her.  I had always wondered not only where I might fit, but if, indeed I did fit anywhere at all.  The last thing I had ever expected was that I might someday find out where I fit from such an unexpected source as Adrianna.

“Seriously” she said.

Until the bottle of Bordeaux at Adrianna’s apartment the only wine glasses I had ever seen had been the small aperitif glasses that my father used when he served his ceremonial bottle of dry Riesling to my mother and me on special occasions. That had been the only wine I had ever had until the Bordeaux of a few days before. It had all been beer before Vietnam; it has all been gin or vodka in Vietnam. And beer is drunk from a can and gin or vodka from a water glass full of ice. Wine from what looked to be crystal, full bowled Bordeaux glasses is a step for me into another way of life. I am pretty sure that it is a way of life that I am going to like. I am going like it that is, if, as I have been feeling in the run up to this meeting that my life is about to change, and that that change is going to include Adrianna. The Bordeaux and its glasses would be only a bottle and glassware without her. With her they seem to be components of something imminently wonderful.

She stared absently into the bowl of her glass, swirling it slightly, but clearly not thinking about the glass or its contents. I took her cue and remained silent. The wine was wonderful, and I could wait for whatever it was that she obviously had to say to me. That had been one of the purposes for this rendezvous, had it not? And that had been the reason for cloistering ourselves in an alcove of the mezzanine bar had it not? So I waited.

“Who do you think I am?” she said, fixing me squarely with those green eyes.

I had no idea what to say. I had no idea what she might even mean – beyond the obvious English meaning of those six little words.

“My fairy god mother?” was the best that I could rejoin.

“I am serious. If we are going to be together, at last, again, I need to know how much you remember.”

For me things seemed to be going in two directions simultaneously. On the one hand the unexpected but totally alluring “if we are going to be together” pointed to the possibility of a life to be dreamed of. On the other hand asking me how much I could remember seemed a non sequitur of cosmic proportions. I was pretty sure she was not asking me how much I remembered about our recent meeting brought on by Frank the Hiking Chicken, but any other interpretation of that question pointed to – pointed to what? Pointed to – what? I knew not.

And what did “at last again” mean?

I took a rather large sip of wine and looked at her.

“You really don’t remember me, do you?”

I took another sip.

And then, without any forethought, words started to tumble onto the table.

“I have watched you for months with an ache that sometimes has been unbearable. If I had ever thought I could be having a drink with you I would have been happy beyond belief. If I had ever, as you have just said, thought that there was a possibility of our being together, that happiness would have expanded to something resembling critical mass. So my stake in having an answer to your questions is a very large one. But other than that you are Adrianna, my across Toy Ngoc Hau neighbor who works as a civilian employee for some pseudo pod of the war effort, I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know what there is to remember.”

It was a long speech, and I regretted it as soon as it came out.

“But my intentions are really good.”

Adrianna laughed that amazing laugh that I had heard the evening of my encounter with the rat and Frank.

“We really have work to do” she said.

She swirled the wine again and took a surprisingly large gulp.

“We really have work to do.”

So there we sat with nothing but two newly filled glasses of a wine filling the space between us across the table.

“So where do I fit?” I heard myself saying.

Adrianna made a little start.

But the question stood.

“So where do I fit?”

“Why are you asking me that question?”

“Because you just told me that we would talk about Jacques later and that right now you needed to get me to see where I fit.”

“Oh, that.”

“Oh, that?”

“You don’t need to trouble with that. That’s all being taken care of.”

“Besides, I didn’t make a date with you to be all serious and stuffy.”

Her eyes had that look that I have already begun to interpret as having to do with something between amusement and mystery. And the look never fails – has never failed, at least, in our short time of acquaintance - to put me into a parallel sort of mood; the look makes me want to keep up with her, whatever that might mean, and to go wherever it is that she is leading me. So I forgot all about where I fit and whatever it might be that was being taken care of.

“Did you make a date with me? I thought that I was the one who asked.”

“I hypnotized you into thinking that.”

“Oddly, that’s the way I would have described it.”

“At least we agree on something.”

“I really would like to find a lot of things that we could agree to.”

I was flailing at this point, following a track that I felt to be necessary, but which was beginning to require a quickness of wit and glibness of tongue that were stretching me to my limit. It was a situation that was utterly new to me. I have always been the quick one in banter, especially with women, especially women that I find to be attractive. The fact that the attraction to this one was off the charts must be affecting my abilities I thought. With a little reflection I had to admit to myself that experiencing this sort of attraction – to the point of pain - is totally new to me. I have never been in a situation even remotely similar to that which I now occupy. But not only does it feel very good, it feels very right. It feels as if I am having this encounter that, although totally new and totally unfamiliar, is with someone who is not totally new and totally unfamiliar.

“I would like that as well. To that end, I need to ask you, do you really intend to keep living in that hovel that you occupy across from me?”

I really had no idea what to say. Questions and possibilities flashed through my mind as I sat speechlessly trying to either come up with “the” answer to that question, or to fire a glibly crafted riposte that could buy me time to figure out what I had really heard and what I really should think and what I really should say in answer.

The two possibilities that seemed most likely – one because it was most likely and the other because I had an intense desire for it to be likely (sound like a fantasy though it might) – were that either Adrianna was taking an interest in my face to the world and she was going to provide guidance in living accommodations more appropriate to an officer in the US Air Force, since she clearly thought that “that hovel” (how did she know; she had never been there?) is not an accommodation of the prerequisite sort. On the other hand she could be inviting me to move in with her. I couldn’t shake the feeling that upon my answer hung a great deal, not only for me, but also for her. But I had no idea why I had that feeling. I just knew my answer to the question would be crucial.

In the event I punted.


“It’s the latter.”


“I’m beginning to wonder why I want you. You can be so dense.”



“Don’t be dense.”

She was moving her left hand up to my face – I moved to it as if drawn, which I was – when Mary appeared.

“How you like the … oh excuse.”

And she backed out.

On the way to the kiss I got to look into those green eyes from almost no distance. I really thought that I was going to disappear into them. The feeling passed. But then I was in some other place or in some other time.

I was in a dimly in a dimly lit place. And in that place was another person. That person was a woman. My immediate reaction was that she was beautiful, but I didn’t really have the time or the wits to verify whether that was really the case.

The trance-like nature of what was happening abruptly changed.

Whatever it is that anchors one in the real rather than in the imagined settled upon me. The trance had passed. I was now really there wherever that place was. And I was now really there with a woman. She was beautiful just as I had felt to be the case in the recently gone state of trance.

She moved toward me.

She handed me something and said “take this.  You are going to need it sooner that you may realize.” 

I took whatever it was.

Then she moved even closer to me and ran her hand along the side of my face in a caress that was soft and warm beyond description.

“This is where we began this time” she said looking at me from as close as it is possible for one person to look at another person and not be touching that person’s face with one’s own face. 

Her eyes were an amazing green.

Then I returned from wherever or whenever that I had just been, and I found myself in what must have already been a rather prolonged deeply passionate, across the table, and therefore somewhat awkward kiss. I had the feeling that that kiss had been an extension of something that had happened in that other time or place

Adrianna’s hand was still on the side of my face.

She whispered.

“We can work out the rest over time. Now at least we have the time. But you have come to awareness of the essentials. Aren’t you glad that you came back and rescued me?”

“Was I really there – ever?”

“All the times.”

I heard a voice that I had some distant memory of having heard before.

And the kiss continued.

“You finally got it right.”

“Moustache, please” came out of Adrianna, finally breaking the connection between us that was nigh on to being eternal.

I sat there wondering what to say.

Summoning my ever present grasp of the obvious I said “Moustache?”

‘”You know him as Jacques.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward Ten: Saigon 4 March 1976–Journal Entry

During yesterday’s encounter in her apartment Adrianna and I shared a bottle of wine and we talked. 

And we talked. 

And we talked yet some more. 

I have never talked to anyone for such a long period of time or about so many various, disparate, but nonetheless, in retrospect, startlingly related topics, ideas, feelings and events. 

We came out of that span of hours having become some sort of unit.  What sort of unit that might be has not yet been revealed. At least it hasn’t been revealed to me.  As I have replayed those events again and again today, I have the feeling that Adrianna may have entered into what had appeared - from my viewpoint - to have been an encounter of happenstance with some degree of fore-knowledge.  Whatever the case, a lot of time and a lot of talk passed that evening and I was certain that we both came out of the experience (I know that I have and either instinct or wishful thinking tells me she has as well) with the beginnings of an unstated, but into the first phases of creation, relationship.  If I possessed the intellectual subtleties of an earthworm, several of the things that she said would have told me that she had already passed the entry point of such a thing.  But I think that I was in a kind of daze at the outset of the evening and I hadn’t really heard some of the things that she said early on and hadn’t really hit my stride until well into the evening.  That was a time long past her having said those things.  They were things such as “but then, Jacques warned me to expect aberrations;” and “I have been watching you for months wondering if you were unconscious or just rude; I couldn’t have tried harder, short of showing up on your doorstep to get your attention; I am glad that that bridge has finally been crossed”. 

Whatever the situation, as I was leaving her apartment the following morning, the morning after Frank’s first almost real crow, I stopped in the doorway.

“I don’t want this to be our last” I said.

“Our last what?”

“Our last – you fill in the blanks – but I don’t want it to be the, or our, last.”  I sensed a sort of warmth rise in the room, not heat (god knows it is always hot in Saigon, so it would be unlikely to feel anything but an injection of heat from a blast furnace, and this wasn’t that) but something like feeling a glow when I said the word “our”.

“Nor do I” she said.

“So let’s not.”

“So let’s not.”

“So what’s next?”

“God you have an obtuse side when you want to!”

“OK.  Let’s keep it mundane.  Let’s meet at the Ton Son Nhut Officers Club.”

As a professional level civilian employee of a Defense Department contractor Adrianna is of a rank eligible for membership in the Ton Son Nhut Officers’ Club.  For our first post-bottle-of-Bordeaux encounter, the Club seemed to me to be the most benign place to meet.  We both know where it is; we know what its strengths are (few); we know what its weaknesses are (many).  And it has the added advantage of being as safe as any place in Vietnam is safe.  Neither of us - I know I am not, and I have gleaned from the hours that I have spent with her that evening and that night - that she isn’t, particularly safety conscious.  Neither of us is cowed or frightened by being in a war zone. But for a first time together in public, not having to keep one eye cocked to the side seemed to be a desirable feature.

“That certainly is mundane.  But I think I agree.  First dates should be simple. And safe.  And easy. ”

“Are you reading my mind?” I joked.


I looked at her wondering if I should say what it was that was in my throat, or in my heart on the way to my throat, or, if not either of those two possibilities, then it had to be whatever it is that creates a constriction in one’s soul that transfers to one’s emotions and immediately becomes a lump in one’s throat.  I had been served that lump in the throat in a throbbingly, and surprisingly monumental portion.

“This is not a date.  I don’t have a word profound enough to tell you what it is for me.  But it is not a date.”

She moved closer, within whatever that area peripheral to one’s body it is that one is uncomfortable having others invade.  She never let those green eyes drop from mine. And the “look” appeared for the second time.

Contrary to the way I had always heretofore recoiled from someone entering that inner space that belongs uniquely only to me, I was totally comfortable with Adrianna being there and would have been so – I thought I heard these exact words pass through my mind – “for all of eternity”.

And then there was an almost heard follow on: “believe it”.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward Nine: Saigon 3 March 1967–Journal Entry

Her name is Adrianna and she lives in the two-story, balconied apartment complex across the dirt road – Toy Ngoc Hau – where I live. Prior to having slipped into the trance of nearly being a mole I had periodically seen her on her balcony when I was on my balcony. She is a civilian employee of some American contractor, and, unlike the few American-women-military-persons assigned to the Saigon war effort, who all live in rabbit hutch-like little cubicles that have been built especially for that purpose, she lives on the economy. She has an unshared apartment just across from me just before the street becomes a dead end.

The first time I saw her I couldn’t come to grips with her as reality. I couldn’t make myself believe that there was something, somebody that stunning in the shithole that I inhabit. It seems only fitting for me to be in such a place, but it does not seem at all fitting for one such as she.  She is slender, but well endowed where endowment is an asset. She has black hair with red highlights cut short to cope with the heat. She is a third taller than the Vietnamese women that I have unconsciously begun to accept as being standards of human femininity.  In that first, brief, encounter she was looking absently across the alleyway toward me from her balcony. Before any chance of our making eye contact – we were after all standing directly across from one another looking, each, in kind, in the direction of the other – I ducked back into my room.

I know that the protocols of this place leave American women in general - even not very good looking ones - to officers of rank vastly superior to mine. Looking at someone as spectacular as is my across the street neighbor and having absolute certainty that there is no chance of my muscling aside what must be a long line of colonels and generals I am stirred with feelings so morose that, when added to my general everyday moroseness, I want to withdraw immediately from any contact with that beautiful creature.

So I ducked back into the gloom of my apartment, sat on the bed and picked up my guitar. Later, after she had vacated her balcony, I took some ice cubes from my Sanyo, put them in a water glass and filled the glass with some of my current month’s vodka ration and retreated to the roof top of the building where one can sit among potted flowering plants and small trees and contemplate the incongruous mixture of ugliness of the skyline and the fabulous beauty of the retreating sun’s color-drenching effect on the vast puffily globular mounds of clouds that make the ugly skyline a moot issue.

Not long after that event I began to descend into a state of being where reality and fantasy become meaningfully and meaninglessly one, people become shadows and beautiful women don’t exist. I was able to get on, and to go on, but it was not “getting on” with my life or with anyone’s life; I was getting on with getting on, while I tried to distinguish between the shadows and the tangibles so that I could align myself with the shadows.

I had great success during my stint as lord of the shadows.

That intense mental pain of – something – was always reliably allayed and eluded by those multiple shadow alignments.

I could deal with people: my superiors, my subordinates, my same-rank associates and my same or higher rank friends in a manner that would have seemed ethereal to the point of intense danger to the person that I had been not long before slipping into this shadow land.

But to the person that I had become that manner of dealing with existence seemed to be of the most natural order.

And time does pass.

One early evening recently, I was in the street, or dirt track, that is Toy Ngoc Hau. I had walked that afternoon after my daily contribution to the war effort all the way back to the dwelling. Sometimes I do that. Riding the Air Force bus is an exceptionally depressing addition to an already depressing existence. In fact the shadows seem to thicken when I ride that bus. That makes riding the bus an all but mandatory part of my days.

But not on the evening being described.

Walking home starts where I work every day: the hootch that squats next to the two story air conditioned building that houses 7AF HQ. It continues down the main drag of Ton Son Nhut, with perhaps a stop at the Officers’ Club to see if any new blood that I have known in a previous existence has been added to the “effort”, takes the road to the main gate past the army encampment which is constantly wetted down to keep the mud content high, and off base, down the main road to downtown Saigon, past the field that is a lake in which there are things that snarl and roil the shallow waters.  I then take a right turn off that main road, into the area that ultimately meanders into Toy Ngoc Hau. 

I have traversed that route many times. And I had just done so again on the early evening being described. Toy Ngoc Hau is not a long street; it is probably a long four or five blocks by American standards. It is totally residential. There are no shops or stalls, stands or carts. It is made of dirt with gravel and some lonely, down at the heels cobble stones. At one time it probably resembled a street that could have been found in the cities of its colonial mistress. By the time I have become associated with it, it is a dusty track.

Halfway from its mouth – the entrance from the turn-off from the main road to downtown Saigon – on the way to the place where I live there is a gigantic mound of garbage piled in a slanting jumble up the side of the wall that separates the street from the small courtyard of the residence in front of which the garbage is piled. The pile never appears to get any bigger – it is already huge – nor does it ever appear to get any smaller. Like many things that have begun to inhabit my world, the shadows for example, it just is.

And as such I am always glad to see it. Initially it became a sort of presence. With time it has assumed the visage of a friend.

I had passed the garbage heap when I heard a kind of strangled croaking noise. It wasn’t of a quality that could be called a squawk: it was longer in duration than the onomatopoeic implications that would have been assigned to that word. It was kind of an agh agh agh ah aaaah sound wrapped in a croak.

It was Frank the Hiking Chicken.

I first became aware of Frank not long before the evening that I am recounting. It has been a few weeks perhaps; in my shadow world it is always hard to tell. 

I awoke early one stifling morning, and while I lay there summoning the energy to get up I heard a sound that I couldn’t identify. “What is that?” I said to myself; “a retarded frog?” was all that I could summon as an answer to the question.

I got up and went out on the balcony and listened. There it was again. And there it was again. I finally identified the source. It was a disreputable half grown white chicken sitting on top of a small clump of indeterminate detritus, stretching his neck skyward and emitting the noise that I had heard. Apparently he was trying to crow. He was failing miserably.

As the mornings progressed after that first encounter with the proto rooster, I am always awakened, or hear after awakening for other reasons, Frank trying to be the cock of the rock. I have named him Frank the Hiking Chicken because of some Smothers Brothers routine that I heard once.

Not having ever been exposed to farm life, I didn’t know that roosters don’t just crow at dawn. Although they do start at dawn, they continue intermittently throughout the rest of the day until darkness causes them to tuck their heads under their wings and go to sleep.

And that was what I was hearing as I returned to Toy Ngoc Hau that early evening.

It not being dark yet, Frank hadn’t yet tucked his head under his wing and he was working on his crow.

I made the mental note that it probably wouldn’t be long before he got out a legitimate cock-a-doodle-doo. Just at that point a rat skittered out of somewhere and made a run at Frank. Frank crouched down from his neck-extended vocalizing stance and took three quick strides in the opposite direction from the direction of the rat.

That put him roughly under my feet.

Since I hadn’t expected to have been about to have a chicken between my feet, and since my feet had been in the process of being deployed based upon different, more traditional walking-down-the road assumptions, Frank’s move caused me some pedestrian disorientation.

I stumbled, caught my balance, tangled one foot with the other, and went down. I landed on my back. The rat skittered across my stomach and toward Frank. Frank jumped skyward, flapped a little bit and landed on my chest. “Cock-a-doodle-doo” said Frank. I said, “Congratulations, you’re a full rooster.” The few Vietnamese that lived in this little compound were all pointing and laughing. I started laughing and just lay there.

It was the first time that I had laughed since the advent of the shadows.

Some thought of brushing Frank off and onto the ground, getting up and trying to assume some semblance of the dignity that my august rank of First Lieutenant should have carried with it had begun to enter my mind when I heard a different, non-Vietnamese sort of laughter. It came from above me. I followed the sound upward to its source, not attempting to get up, while Frank continued to crow. He seemed to be pretty satisfied with his new roost.

Indicative of that fact he deposited some chicken shit on my shirt. The laughter of all sorts grew louder.

As I stared upwards I saw my beautiful neighbor hanging over the balcony looking at me and laughing uncontrollably. Even at the distance from my supine position on the street up to her eyes I could see that there were tears accompanying the laughter. And her eyes, those eyes that I had consciously avoided the one other time I had seen her were of the greenest green.

“Teaching a rooster to crow is a tough, dangerous business,” I said.

Her laughter rose again and the green eyes welled even more tears.

“Didn’t your mother tell you not to play with chickens?”

“No, she told me not to fuck them.”  I have no idea what caused me to say that, or where the idea even came from. It was probably some perverse way of venting the anger that, even in my shadow world state, I was feeling. It was probably a violent thrust to repel contact with someone that I had already identified as desirable beyond any ability at my disposal to describe and untouchable by me under any circumstances.

Or it may have been something that I thought was a snappy riposte. In any event that is what I said.

Rather than having its –perhaps – intended effect, the remark caused redoubled laughter, tears and dazzling green-eyed merriment. Frank crowed again. I looked up again and she was gone from the balcony.

As I tried to remove Frank without being too rough – he was after all about my only friend in the compound – and as I was assessing the least personally disgusting manner to clean Frank’s deposit from my shirt, someone took my arm and helped me up. “You really need some work,” she said, still laughing. As I straightened up I looked at her, this time with barely the buffer of normal human personal space separating us. The top of her head came up to about to my larynx, right about at the point where a triage doctor would insert a tube for a tracheotomy.

I had an overwhelming sensation of wanting that personal space to vanish.

I was looking at someone different from, and with a feeling different than, anyone or anything I had ever experienced.

“But Generals are no doubt, in a constant state of vying for her” quickly flashed through my mind.

“Seriously, let me fix you a drink,” I thought I was hearing someone say.

“You do drink – when you’re not training roosters, that is?” I realized that I had been mute for an abnormal length of time for me. A simple “yes” should have sufficed, but I was feeling the need to try to regain the verbal high ground.

Without any thought at all I blurted, “It takes a heap of homin’ to make a pigeon toed.” The look of good natured merriment fled into a look of mild disbelief or complete incomprehension.

“Strike that; I must have been delirious; absolutely; yes; a drink; your place or mine?” I had a momentary sense of horror at having in two brief conversational snippets lapsed from the apparently irrational to the undeniably banal. But that was the verbal hand I had dealt myself, so I forged ahead. “I mean, I have some ice. This month’s ration is gin; and I think I have two pretty clean water glasses. What about you?”

“I was thinking about a bottle of Bordeaux that I got in Cholon.”


Seeing my balcony from the one across from it was a whole new perspective. I vastly prefer that new perspective. I had a passing sensation of the shadow world indulging in a sort of elastic pull back. Something for the better seemed to be in the process of occurring.

Her apartment is a much bigger space than mine. And while “space” is the most accurate term to describe where I live, because it is roughly a square, approximately24 feet by 24 feet, with a piece of it partitioned off to house a toilet, basin and shower, “space” is not an accurate description of the living quarters in which I was having a glass of wine, from the bottle, from the wine shop in Cholon.

Her apartment occupies a “space”, but at that point the similarity to mine utterly ceases.

Her “space” is perhaps twice as large as the one that I occupy. It has a small alcove that is the kitchen, which has a two burner cook top with thick metal one piece elements; it has a small – but bigger than mine - new Sanyo refrigerator, a sink and a small butcher block table. The wall has open-faced cabinets with dishes and glasses; there is a small wine rack on the butcher block table; and there are cabinets from the floor to the level of the sink with counter tops upon them and pots and pans in them. To the left of the kitchen alcove, and separated by that alcove’s wall, and enclosed by a full floor to ceiling front wall is a door, and it is a door that glows through its ancient pressed glass panes, and it is a door that has a cut glass knob. Within the space accessed through this door, and bounded on the other side by the interior of the outer wall of the building there is a bathroom with a toilet, that - like mine - has a tank attached above it to the wall with a pull chain; but - unlike mine - there is a small floor-standing bath tub with a shower attachment, and with a flexible hose. That hose is attached to the water spigots at whose juncture there is a turn lever valve to switch between fill the tub and let’s have a shower modes. There is a basin with a mirror with cabinets on either side.

There is, back from the bathroom and the kitchen, toward the entry door, a large open space with a couch fronted by a low coffee table, two small plush French chairs and two small round marble topped tables, one in each corner. To the left is a recession that houses her bed - which is double. Like mine it has only a sheet on it. Unlike mine her sheet looks to be silk. There are two floor lamps dimly consuming that variable commodity that passes for electricity.

She handed me a bottle and a corkscrew and went to one of the open cabinets in the kitchen for two wine glasses.

The glasses had the look of crystal.

I sat on one of the chairs, put the bottle between my feet to hold it in place, inserted the corkscrew’s coil,  turned it down, and, continuing to hold the bottle in place with my feet, I pulled the cork. “I’ve never seen it done that way.” She said. “But then, Jacques warned me to expect aberrations.” At least I thought I had heard her say something like that. The second part had been muttered almost beneath her breath, but I thought that I had heard it and had heard it correctly.

My reaction to that comment was such that it took away my always returned riposte to observations that I opened wine bottles oddly.  Normally I would have said, “My father taught me to do it this way”.   That is true.  Somewhere in Europe, sometime in the Second World War, my father started opening wine bottles in that manner; and he had passed that manner on to me.

I looked at her.  I didn’t think asking her if I had heard correctly about her having been forewarned of my oddities by “Jacques” and asking the obvious question of who “Jacques” might be was going to fit into the overall texture of the evening.

So I sat mute.

“Let the wine breathe for a while. Take off that shirt and put this on” she said handing me a man’s tee shirt. “We can soak Frank out of yours in the basin in the bathroom. Please, sit. I have been watching you for months wondering if you were unconscious or just rude. I couldn’t have tried harder, short of showing up on your doorstep to get your attention. I am glad that that bridge has finally been crossed.”

That seemed to give me the leeway to speak my mind.

So I began.

“Starting with the rat and the chicken, this encounter has been not real. So I am going to say a few things that one, not even I, would normally say – this being – by definition of its characteristics - not a real encounter.”

She returned a shrug, accompanied by a poof of air from briefly pursed lips that seemed to say “trivial, probably, but please continue”.

So I did.

“The first time I saw you standing on the balcony I couldn’t take my eyes off you. If there is a thunderbolt, as the Sicilians call it, I have felt it. I had a tangible physical pain somewhere in the lower reaches of my stomach, somewhere near my groin. And all of that in just the time it took for me to see you. I ducked inside before there was any chance of eye contact. I had a compelling feeling that that would have been fatal. I know the rules. Much less beautiful women than you have the pick of any General they want. And there are so many Colonels that if you can’t find a vacant general you can’t miss on the Colonels.”

She looked at me with what – I didn’t know at the time – was going to become “that” look.  But this was its first appearance, so I merely placed it in my mental logbook as something to be remembered. 

That look had been so intimate that I couldn’t but want to figure out how to induce it again, and induce it with frequency. 

And then she spoke.

“I deeply regret that you have felt so. We are such – each to the other – that such a thing is impossible. But I know that you have observed accurately what typically goes on here. What you can’t know – although I would wish that you could – is that such is not my life. You are my life.”

Catholic High School induced guilt, shadow world induced slippage and sheer disbelief that I could possibly have heard her correctly all rose up in a tidal wave of suppressive emotion. I said nothing.

Those green eyes bored into me.


The wine, once first poured, lasted a surprisingly long time. We sat and we talked until Frank, with his newly found maturity, had marked the new day.

I took my shirt across to my side of the alley, deposited it on the to-be-sent-to-the-nice-Vietnamese-lady-who-takes-them-down-to-the-river-and pounds-them-on-the-rocks pile, put on a clean uniform and walked to the base.

Not only had the shadows disappeared in one fel swoop, but also, some amazing thoughts, topics, subjects and revelations had been broached in the hours immediately previous.

And I had held her for a brief moment as I was leaving. As I enveloped her in my arms and brushed my lips across hers I thought I heard a distant, distant voice: “you have come back for me.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward Eight: Daughter’s Final Comments

So, if one takes at somewhere near face value the story that has unfolded in these pages, one is still left with a very large question.

“Why would he do that? What about a woman, who, even though she had assumed to him an intensely believable reality, would have caused him to do whatever he actually did – dead in the river or returned and escaped with her being the two on-offer possibilities – to his eternal detriment? Why would he allow himself to disappear to save woman that he didn’t even know?”

I think I have found the answer to that.

That answer is in the journal.

The fact that I have found that apparent answer is a happenstance of luck. The pages weren’t in the journal. They were in the trash. They had been torn out of the journal and thrown in the trash.

It was an accident that I happened to see them when I was vacating my father’s apartment.

A Curious Confluence Afterward Seven: Daughter’s Tertiary Comments

I went for a walk today on the island in the Seine between Neuilly sur Seine and La Défense.

On a whim I got off of the métro at Neuilly sur Seine. I was on my way to La Défense because I had never been there and my father always spoke highly of it. He said it was an example of how a civilization ought to build a modern high rise city: away from everything else, especially everything old and precious.

The specific reason for my expedition was that my father had told me many times that some time I should go to Auchan. Auchan is a French hypermart.

My father was intensely interested in the physical distribution of the various things humans need to live. He actually made a living for a period on the expertise that he had acquired in that discipline. And he always said that Auchan was an amazing example of what the distribution of merchandise could be at its best and most advanced.

So I was on my way to La Défense and Auchan.

The whim grabbed me.

I got off.

That métro exit puts one in a square that features among other things a sculpture of Sisyphus with his stone.

If one walks beyond that, in the direction of the river, one encounters several bridge choices. They connect with an island.

After a couple of miscues I finally found the bridge that put me on the downriver end – that is not an obvious interpretation because the river is going through a loop that could obscure down and up river - of the island. I was in a large park. It was a beautiful day and I decided to walk the entire end of that part of the island.

I had reached the upriver tip of the island when I felt, rather than saw, a slight darkening of the otherwise beautiful blue gold sunny day. It was a notch down in the previous brilliance. But it was palpable. Rather than an attenuation of light, it was more as if a thin veil of some kind of dark semi-transparent material had been dropped upon the scene, its presence filtering some of the brilliance out of the day.

It made me stop.

I looked across at the huge buildings of La Défense. They were still bathed in the intense gold of the day. It was only from where I stood – immediately in front of me out in the river - that the thin veil of darkness existed.

And then I thought I heard something.

I thought I heard sounds that were musical and joyous. There was the sound of a woman. There was the sound of a man. There was a sound of a dog. And they sort of mingled in a musical mélange.

My father always called joyous communication “hooting”. These sounds were hooting - even the dog.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward Six: Escape II–Journal Entry

I had depended upon the boatman’s dugout still being there. If it were we had all of his supplies in addition to those being carried by Adrianna (I was sure that was her name) and Moustache (I was pretty sure his name was also Jacques) and we would be well supplied for an extended period of time. That should be, I hoped, a period of time long enough to let us get settled on that other island.

That other island was where I wanted us to go.

Partway to the place where I hoped we would find the dugout we disturbed a small flock of carrion birds. There wasn’t much left but they were still working on it. Adrianna, returning to thinking to me said, “flesh is transient; the spirit prevails.”

Thinking of the blood that had been on my shoes I shuddered.

We kept trudging. Moustache sniffed the wind and quickened his gait.

The dugout was there.

The supplies were still in it.

Apparently in their orgy of mutilation the crowd with the vicious spear pointed oak weapons had done their deed and then gone home to celebrate. That had left us – Adrianna, Moustache and me – our escape vehicle.

As the dugout became captured by the down river current, as Moustache finally took a sentinel position at the dugout’s bow – the downriver end; neither end was really a bow – I was overwhelmed with something resembling ecstasy. I had never experienced, I was quite sure – my life having been a nose to the grindstone sort of existence – ecstasy.

But what I was feeling must be it.

“I grieve at the times I missed saving you. I also grieve that I have been so long without you. And I grieve that I was so long in understanding my existence, its multiple manifestations, and your real and tangible existence. I regret not having come to you on your behalf – on our behalf – long ago. I just didn’t know.”

She looked at me. All I could see was green eyes and almost black hair streaked with red.

“I am not from here and now. Nor are you. This is merely where we began. Wrap this around your finger.” Having said that, she handed me a piece of that beautifully tanned white skin that I had seen wrapping the boatman’s bleeding middle left hand finger.

I wrapped it around my bleeding finger and we continued down river.

Moustache looked pleased.

A Curious Confluence Afterward Five: Daughter’s Secondary Comments

I have seen these words written in that polyglot of cursive and printing that I know to be my Father’s. It is on paper that is beginning to be brittle and yellow. I know that it’s continuity with the rest of what has been here presented looks as if it must certainly be contrived. But I am unable to support that view. What was written before he died – or went away – much of which was extracted by him from this journal, and what I am presenting from it now in afterward are all tangibly in existence.

It is, as he said, a curious confluence.

I have no idea how such a thing could have happened. I do, however, feel privileged to have discovered it.

It is a similar mystery to that of the mystery of my name.

My name is Morganna. I have never heard of anyone named Morganna. Even, as I keyed it to make this entry, the spellchecker denied it.

I have no idea how I got that name.

But I have that name.

A Curious Confluence Afterward Four: Escape I – Journal Entry

She put some things in a large skin bag. It had dual straps such that she could put them over her back and carry the thing like a pre-historic back pack. I guess that is what it was. She loaded a similar contrivance – it had its straps in a different configuration – and used that difference to attach the thing to Moustache.

“Tighten it a little” I understood.

She cinched something in the two straps and the pack became much more firmly attached to the dog.

She looked around the place and put her left hand to her eyes. I heard a snuffle.

“I have loved it here” was in my mind.

Then, mouth moving, vocal chords engaged she said “au revoir; goodbye”

“No fair” I said with my vocal chords.

“Fair” she said.

“So why have we been playing this telepathy game” I put out from my mind.

“It’s kind of fun” she said in un-accented west coast American English.

“You’re from Seattle” I rejoined.

“No. Portland.”

“I guess we had better get out of here.”

“I was wondering if we ever would.”

That was Moustache

A Curious Confluence Afterward Three: The Door–Journal Entry

I sat there only for a moment. Then I went to the door of my apartment, opened it and went out, not even going through the double latch process of closing it. I wasn’t expecting to return.

The windows of the door below me, the one I had entered previously and after having entered through it had encountered the circle of bonfires, was glowing furiously. “The bonfires” I thought.

I put my hand on the latch and entered.

I was in the woman’s abode of furs and stones. The fire was still glowing and Moustache was lying at her feet where she lay in the bed. I felt a wave of something resembling joy. It was an intense feeling of rightness, of belonging, of being where I should be.

A huge smile broke out on her beautiful face. The green eyes momentarily seemed to be intent on incinerating some part of me. Then something happened. A look crossed her face. It was a look that transmitted a sense of something between amusement and mystery. It was a look that I thought I had seen many times before. It was a look that I wanted to see many times again.

“You came back” I heard in my head.

“Great grasp of the obvious” I thought back.

She actually laughed at that. It was a sound of unmitigated gaiety.

“I’ve got a million of ‘em.”


“We need to get out of here. We need to get out of here right now.”

“I thought you’d never figure it out” I heard in my mind. It was a different voice. It was the voice that I had begun to recognize as that of Moustache.

I looked directly at him. He did one of those dog yawns that says “OK things seem to be going about as they should. I’m happy with that.”

And then he did a fade.

In his place was a mouse. The mouse winked. The mouse gave a “thumbs up”. The mouse became a kitten. The kitten looked at me and said “the best is yet to come”.

And then Moustache - the dog - was back in non-faded full form.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward Two: Slippage Noted–Journal Entry

8 December 1966: Saigon RVN

I have not been here long but I don’t know how much longer I can last. It is not that there is danger – although there is that; there are a wide variety of ways that one can get killed living in this dunghill – but that danger is the only thing that seems to constitute an off-setting tonic to the overwhelming malaise that is settling upon me. I feel as if I am suspended between somewhere and nowhere and that the suspension is being settled, because the middle can never prevail, in favor of nowhere. I almost feel as if I am inside something withdrawing into a darkening realm and am looking out from that something. I feel that even when I am in the presence of my fellows. I sometimes wonder why they don’t ask me why I am so vague and distant and only semi-tangible. But they don’t. And I guess that must be because at some level – a level not obvious to me – I am functioning as a normal human ought.

And the entries to this journal that appear as if by magic only intensify and enhance the feeling I am attempting to describe.

It is a feeling of slippage.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Curious Confluence Afterward: Daughter’s Initial Comments

So perhaps you can see why I believed that the 50% certain identification of what was found in the river was my father. He was, after all, certainly gone. And the Paris Police and FBI must know what they are doing. And United States Air Force records don’t lie, I suppose.

50% seemed good.

Such was my rationale supported by his story just completed.

But it turned out that the preceding page wasn’t the end of it.

In addition to the computer-resident story which I have given you, I also came into possession of that journal – the journal from which he extracted so many pieces of the story just presented.

It was a journal that he started writing when he was in Saigon in what he called “the war effort”. He always uttered that term with an ironic twitch of his mouth and a sort of drawled snideness. The “war effort” was the euphemism that had been assigned by many to that debacle known more officially as the Vietnam War. My father was a contributor in 1966 and 1967 to the “war effort”.

The things that he found in that journal 40 years later that fit neatly into the rest of the experiences he was having- or thought he was having - in Paris in 2010 and included in his blog posts are really the backbone of the tale just told.

But that turns out to be a backbone that was missing its ribs.

I have read the journal and have discovered many of those ribs.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Thirty Seven: The Flash Point

What that was – what was happening in that other flint – has put the cap on my existence. Pre-what-it-was, I have lived a normal self-centered sort of life. Post-what-it–was, I have found the need to act pretty much as did the boatman.

And I have no idea where that need might be going to lead me. But I believe that my continued existence depends upon my finding out where it might be that I am being led..

What I saw in the second flint was the woman again.

She was being brought into the arena of the circle of fires and was being followed by the dog. The dog’s tail was between his legs. He was looking around as if he were human, and as if he expected some sort of redress or salvation.

But perhaps that is assigning human traits to a situation of merely high stress. I have no idea, but that is what I saw.

And then they all were brought together at the head of the oak table-bed.

And all of a sudden I could understand – in my head – what was being said.

“This woman and her mate are evil, and she must have a fate similar to that of her mate. He was banished from the island; and he returned; and he was dealt with. So also must she be dealt with."

I winced at the memory of her mate’s blood spattered demise.

The one speaking was Gargantua. He had that same weapon with which he had begun the slaughter of the boatman. He was surrounded, the same as on the beach, by his henchmen, all of whom were similarly armed.

They brought the woman to the oak device and forced her upon it and strapped her to it with multiple heavy straps of something – probably leather – across her body from neck to feet. The dog climbed up to be at her feet.

The fires seemed to rise in anticipation of the impending event.

I must act.

I am going to enter that door again and let the chips fall where they may. I had a standoff with Gargantua once. Maybe I can best him again.

Anyway I am going to die trying.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Thirty Six: The Return

He acknowledged to himself immediately something that he had not wanted to think about. As the dugout passed the two jaws of the little bay that he had briefly called home port the current made a violent attempt to grab him and propel him again downriver. It took all of his strength to bring the boat around with its bow in the direction he wanted to go – upriver. There was going to be a constant battle with the power of the current.

With some skillful fluttering and flailing of the paddle he made a transit more or less ninety degrees to his desired direction of travel. On the surface of things that maneuver would seem to have been little more than an abject admission of defeat. Ninety degrees wasn’t backward but it wasn’t forward either. And all the while he maintained that attitude he was being inexorably swept downstream. But there was an advantage to that maneuver which years of experience on the river had revealed to him. By hugging close to the bank he avoided the massive strength of the current in the central heart of the river. Close to the bank he could gain maximum advantage over a less powerful current, and a current whose eddies and whirlpools and various diversions sometimes even flowed opposite the main direction of the river. In those moments of respite he could rest and gain maximum advantage from his efforts.

As he kept the bow of his boat at an angle to the main current he rather rapidly got into the calmer, slower water of the left bank, that bank being the left side from the viewpoint of the downriver transit that he had made to get to the island. He brought the bow around and began the tedious task of finessing the weaker but capricious currents in the direction that he needed to go.

There was one other advantage to hugging the bank when going against the current. And that advantage had long been a thing that he savored. That advantage was that creeping along in and out of the sunken logs, protruding fingers of land and in and out of little scallops of beach and bay was a perfect way to see the vast variety of creatures that lived at that convergence of land and water, or came there to drink or to hunt. His love of all of these creatures and his intense interest in their habits always made the dreary task of bucking the current less dreary.

There were Blue Herons. There were ducks of many sorts, some with plumage so gaudy that they looked as if they had been invented by some mad shaman. There were turtles and frogs and a vast array of fish that abounded in those shallows. There were deer – the large red type was especially exciting to see – and once he saw a bear. Skunks, badgers and hedgehogs were commonly seen in various stages of eating, drinking or hunting.

And so it was on this transit up river.

And the day passed and the sun made his course from up to down river and in less time than it would have seemed possible another day was ending and another camp needed to be set up. But this one could be less well planned since he was only going to overnight and then be off again,

As the sun was about to dip redly out of sight behind him he flared his paddle and glided into a tiny bay with a little beach and a small creek running into the main stream.

As the little boat scraped bow on to the beach he jumped out. Splashing in the shallow water he pulled the boat up far enough beyond the water line to be safe from any errant currents and solid enough on the land to serve as his bed for another night.

He rummaged in one of his bundles and extracted a spear. He had just enough light left to spear one of the large fish that were lazily meandering around the little bay and to build a fire.

When the flames had burned the wood down to a bed of coals he put the split fish gut cavity down onto the coals and waited impatiently for the telltale bubbling white stuff to begin seeping through the skin signifying that the fish was ready to be eaten.

The white bubbles finally appeared.

He ate greedily and fully.

With a stomach full of barbequed fish he prepared his bedding in the dying glow of the fire. Before getting into his bed he put the remainder of the driftwood that he had gathered onto the coals. It flared up and crackled and sent sparks skyward. He heard, or at least sensed, some creatures that had drawn near the dying fire pull back. And that was good. He hoped that the remainder of the firewood, now on the coals, now producing flames of some magnitude, would keep the various night creatures outside the circle of light while he slept. He crawled into the dugout. He was asleep in moments.

A rogue gust of wind rattled the casement against the wooden dowel holding it open. That dowel has a screw eye in each of its butts and is of such a length that, when the eyes have been planted in each of the vertical and ancient spear shaped shards of metal – one on the casement itself, the other on the wall of the building – a rigid triangle is formed, keeping the window open against the various blasts of wind that pop up at all times and under all weather conditions off the river. It would take a heavy gust to even pretend to test that triangular state of openness.

Such must have been the gust just past. The window was flapping from full open to nearly shut having been popped loose from the dowel.

That awakened me. I apparently drowsed along with the tribesman. It had been, after all, nearly three in the morning when I read the words of the beginning of his journey back.

Luckily the end of the dowel connected to the wall of the building was still in place. I was able to engage the other end with the window’s connector and re-establish the triangle.

I hoped that there would not be another such blast of wind.

The calvados was mostly gone from the glass. In the light floating in from the river, and from the horizon and from the street below, it glittered with an amber redness. I had a passing thought that it might be bearing some sort of chromatic message but I decided almost immediately that that was whimsical beyond even the sort of occurrences that I have recently been willing to accept as normal reality.

I did, though, have a really unsettling revelation.

Based on what I have read from the journal, including the part I have so far read about the tribesman’s return, I have tangible evidence from some past life that I somehow have a connection with or knowledge of the back story for everything that has been happening to me since I have been here in Paris.

“I am not at all certain” I just thought to myself, “that I want those pages to remain in existence”.

It was a fleeting thought, but other things are demanding my attention. Almost immediately after wondering about destroying some of the journal’s pages I had to finally deal with something that has been making increasing demands for attention.

All the time that I was reading the journal, before dropping off to sleep with the boatman, I ignored the pulsing amber light coming from the dinner table.

That pulsing was still going on. In fact it seemed to be gaining intensity and frequency.

But it was the sound – a new thing – the sound that forced me to cease ignoring it.

At first the sound – sounds really – was a barely audible babble. But then it began to take on a fully audible level. And I could begin to recognize the nature of the sounds.

I heard the sound of men. It was the sound of men shouting in anger. No identifiable words were discernable, but the nature of what the words probably were sounded as if they were of the same sort that I had heard only hours before when I had passed to the other side of the door outside my apartment. They had that same Gaelic flavor. But those words had dripped with solemnity. These words were replete with intense anger.

I got up and went to the table.

Both pieces of flint were pulsing. Both were emanating sound.

I looked into the glow.

I was immediately drawn in, visually, to a full scale presentation of what was occurring. It was as if I had been sucked into the events occurring within the glowing flint.

It was the beach that I had seen twice before, once from being on it, once from the description of it in the journal.

It was the man that I had never actually seen but whom I felt as if I knew intimately. He was clad in skins. He had apparently just drawn up his dugout to the sandy shore and had just stepped upon the strand and had just begun walking in the opposite direction from that which he had come, leaving the dugout behind.

The noise was, obviously, coming from the boatman’s direction of travel. There was a crowd of men who were clad similarly to the boatman. They were running down the beach toward him. In the lead was one who was so familiar to me that a pang went through me. It was Gargantua of recent pigeon drop fame.

At this point I almost quit watching. I almost convinced myself that I was in another of the intense and bizarre dreams that had been dogging my existence for weeks; but I kept watching.

As the two contingents came together, the boatman from one direction and the crowd from the other, the boatman did an odd thing.

He stopped dead in his tracks. He raised his hand. That hand was holding something in its curved finger tips. I could not see what that something was.

One of the two pieces of flint on the table became brighter and brighter and brighter. It almost went to a blue white level of intensity. I was thankful that I wasn’t seeing smoke arise from the table. Apparently the intensity was of a nature that had no heat associated with it.

That was good.

I could not see the scene in that piece of flint any more.

The other one had a different scene, a familiar scene. It was what I had seen when I had entered the other door on my floor only hours before. Recent though that had been it now seemed now to be from and in another lifetime.

It was the same scene except that the woman and the dog were not there. There was only the circle of fires, and this time, there was a group of men in rustic robes of skin and fur. And at their head was again, Gargantua. The table was there but there was no one on it.

I turned away. I dropped my head into my hands and started crying, deep heaving sobs.

“You have only one chance left” came into my head.

The first flint, the one that had gone blue white and had ceased yielding images began to glimmer down.

As it reached amber, I could see a scene again. The boatman was still standing with his left hand raised, fingers arched, and something held aloft in that arch. And I could see the reddened squirrel skin of the tip of the middle finger.

Gargantua and the others were closing on him.

He didn’t move a muscle or an inch.

Gargantua had some kind of weapon. It looked as if it were a Club somewhat on the order of a very large baseball bat. Instead of being completely rounded it was flattened leaving it with two broad faces and two narrow edges. It was made of wood, probably oak. In the narrow leading and trailing edges were mounted – four on each edge – large spear points. They were probably flint. The tip was adorned with its own even larger spear point. The thing was a Club bristling with murderous penetrating and slashing devices. Gargantua raised it vertically in front of him as he ran, closing on the boatman. The others, running behind, raised their similar devices similarly.

But it was Gargantua who got there first. He swung the thing – the weapon – in such a manner that the large front mounted spear point crossed the boatman’s wrist and severed the hand. The hand fell to the sand. It looked as if some sort of death grip of that hand had retained whatever it was that had been held aloft. Nothing bounced forth upon the sand from its grip.

The crowd behind Gargantua finished the boatman.

He was chopped to bits and left for the carrion birds of morning.

When the sun began his daily loop that beach was alive with large birds making even smaller pieces of the shreds.

As I watched the birds I tried to ignore the need to scream out in pain. With intense concentrated effort the need passed but the memory of the need will, I am certain, never leave me.

And all of this I saw in the flint.

But I saw it all in my time. I have no idea what the time was when it happened. But I was somewhere suspended in a time slice, neither mine nor that of the events that I had seen in the flint. From the viewpoint of that slice there really was no time.

And that left me the time to see the other thing.

And that other thing was what then happened in the other flint.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Thirty Five: Side by Side

I continued reading the journal for quite a while.

The calvados went down with extreme ease.

There were things that I read that were beyond my ability to cope. I recognized my printy-writy form of cursive. So I was sure that at some time I had written what I was reading. But what was being said was beyond my scope of cope.

I remembered none of it. That is to say, I remembered writing none of it. That it all was some sort of amazing fantasy was obvious. That went without saying. But I should have remembered writing it.

But I did not.

I sat and sipped and thought.

Then I did the only thing that I could think of doing. I did the only thing that, in an irrational set of circumstances, made any sense to me.

I went to the little bed chamber – the one where the third door had (it didn’t but it should have) truncated me – and looked for the two tangible artifacts that I had from the various flights into something else that have led me to this point.

I looked to see if I really did have, as I thought to be the case, two pieces of flint.

I did have them.

Then it occurred to me that I should have one other artifact. I fervently hoped that I didn’t because if I did I was hopelessly gone into some wormhole of time and space that I didn’t understand and from which I knew that I would not be able to escape. But I reached for my wallet and flipped to one of the clear plastic window envelopes.

There was a twisted mass of several strands of hair.

“Great” I thought. “So now what?”

I sat there at the dinner table and went into as close to a vegetative state as I was able to summon up. I was pretty nearly worn out. I didn’t want to need to deal anymore with whatever it was that had been happening to me. I just …

I was bathed in a glow that was not the green of a passing tour boat or the gold of the somewhat distant but still influential – from a light in the apartment point of view – Hôtel de Ville – but was instead a sort of golden brown orange glow.

It came from the two pieces of flint that lay in front of me on the table.

I didn’t want to know.

I didn’t have the energy.

I took my calvados to the couch and sat down. I put the calvados on the little table that sat in front of the couch. I sat there for an extended period. I looked out the casement and could see the top of Hôtel de Ville glowing on the skyline. I took a sip. And then I picked up the journal which was lying on the cushion next to me.

A Curious Confluence Chapter Thirty Four: The Tribesman’s Dream

As he slept he dreamed. He was back on his island. He was on the beach that led to his dwelling. It was his dwelling and her dwelling, and it was the dog’s dwelling.

He saw the beach but he wasn’t on the beach. He was suspended in some state of visual consciousness as an observer, but not as a participant.

The tribesman looked greedily at the familiar scene of the place that had been his home for his entire life. There was a man walking toward his point of view, toward his vantage. As the man drew closer the tribesman could see that the man was unlike any he had ever seen.

Then he realized that he had seen him before. But it had been dark that time and he had not been able to see him as clearly as he was now seeing him. He wore clothes that were made of material that – even from the distance of his vantage – he could see were not of a sort that he had ever seen. And there was something that glinted in the oblique rays of the early morning sun. The glinting thing was somehow attached to the man’s face and covered his eyes. The tribesman had thought that they were shields when he had seen them in the starlight. And he had shoes that were of many colors. And he didn’t walk like anyone he had ever seen. The man walked as if he had no fear of anything. He walked as if he were not aware that at any moment something or someone could leap upon him and end his life. And he had some place to keep his hands. The man was walking down the beach with his arms at his sides, bowed outward at the elbow, and with his hands nowhere to be seen.

And then the man stopped.

He looked at the beach at his feet. He knelt down and seemed to be digging with his hands. They had appeared magically from somewhere at his hips. After some time he stopped digging and began to carefully put his hands into what appeared to be a hole. After some moments he pulled a large amount of sand to the surface and with extreme care started brushing sand aside. There appeared to be something in the center of the glob of sand and the man appeared to be brushing the sand away from it. Then the man removed something that - from the distance of the tribesman’s vantage - looked to be a very small bush or some kind of tangle of beach debris. The man did something to the debris.

The tribesman awoke screaming.

The sun was barely over the upriver horizon. It was blue-black ascending to the most intense sort of rouge. There was no wind. The last – probably – ululation of an owl wafted over him and a sea eagle crashed into the river nearly at his feet. In a moment it lifted back airborne and shook itself dry. There was a large fish in its talons.

There was an intense pain in the tribesman’s middle finger on his left hand and it was oozing blood. It had already begun to congeal, but the pain of the wound had not yet begun to subside. But he had made a decision and neither blood nor pain was going to stay his departure.

He wrapped the finger in the finest of his skins – that of a squirrel– the fur having been removed and the skin having been tanned to a supple thin whiteness – and he set about breaking camp.

But, what had been the meaning of the dream, he wondered. Had it been an omen? Had it been a prediction? Or had it been a dream? The last dream he had had – while he slept between the roots of the giant oak - wasn’t of the “just a dream” sort. He was fearful that neither was this. He very seldom dreamed and they almost never were “just dreams”. But nothing was going to stay him. He had seen the magic wall and the woman – his woman – and he had made his decision

He broke camp and refitted and reconfigured the layout of his things in his boat and, as the sun had finally burst into full view, he shoved off and turned into the current and into the blinding fire of that rising sun.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Thirty Three: The Decision

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t cared about her. He cared about her deeply. But events since the experience of the night at to foot of the giant oak had taken on a life and direction of their own. He had never returned to her. He had gone immediately to the elders and the elders had immediately pronounced and immediately executed his sentence. He was a simple sort of being and more than one situation – if that – was pretty much beyond his capacity for dealing with things. And the situation that he had fallen into was gigantic and it purged any other considerations from his thoughts. The elders were to be honored and they were to be obeyed. And that is what he had done.

But now he was long away from those elders. And the incidents of his vision under the tree and his banishment were distant also. They were fast receding into memories only, and faintly held memories at that. Now there was a new thing at the center of his conscious thought.

He had seen the woman and he had had the chance to consider what she had always meant to him. And he was feeling the sharp pains of remorse at having left her, and feeling the sharp pains of loss of not having been with her since that day when he had crossed from the island to the side of the river and to the giant oak. And now she had come to him. She had reminded him of her existence and what that existence had meant and still did and probably always would mean to him. And she was in danger. They were going to kill her. And he had to stop them. He had to stop them or die himself in the attempt.

He was rustic, simple, primitive even. But he was human. And he was, in his way courageous. He just needed focus. He just needed direction. He just needed a mission. And now he had all three.

He would set out in the morning.

Until then he would sleep.

He re-traced his path from the magic wall to his dugout, re-positioned his large fur wrap and fell immediately to sleep.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Thirty Two: So What Now?

I sat there. I was thankful for clean shoes. I never thought that I would ever think something as vacuous as that, but that is what I thought. If I could, for once and for all, wake up from this dream – this nightmare – I could go back to having the more high level sorts of thoughts to which I have chosen to think, over much of my life, that I ought to be accustomed. But, given my current state, thankfulness for clean shoes was good.

I heard the clock in Hôtel de Ville striking two. I had been – somewhere – for almost four hours. I went to the casement and felt a slight breeze wafting up from below. There was a scent of blood on it. Hôtel de Ville looked like a fairyland castle from its place across and down river. It was lit up to a burnished gold. The river at its feet glittered with a shattered, burnished golden response to l’hôtel itself. But all of that was just stuff. It was just time killing irrelevancy that allowed me to pretend that things were as they had been before, that things were as they had been when I first came to this apartment and first reveled in the beauty of the river and its surroundings.

But things are not as before and they are never going to be as they were before.

So what now?

The answer to that question was obvious. “Calvados, I said.”

I had not, in my urgency for immediate relief to my hunger, done any grocery shopping. I had gone to Le Départ and that had been that. Events had taken their own personal, self directed course from the moment of my crossing on Pont Saint-Michel to the moments – briefly ago – of my return here.

There is a little store run by some really nice Arabs on Rue de Seine at Rue Visconti. It is almost always open. The one thing I knew that I had to have was calvados. If that store was open I was golden.

I crossed over Pont Saint-Michel, down the quais and down Rue Guénégaud to Rue de Seine. The grocery was open.

“Marhaba Monsieur !”

“Marhabteen a vous Monsieur !”

“Je voudrais des calvados, sil vous plais. “

“Combien bouteilles?”


“Tres bien monsieur.”

“Merci! Merci!”


I retraced my steps to Quai aux Fleurs.

The entire walk back from the Arabs had been beset by an increasing feeling of vague uneasiness. I had the feeling that there was a thing that I needed to do, that must be attempted, without which whatever was going to happen next would be incomplete.

The closer I had gotten to Quai aux Fleurs the less vague and more clearly specific the feeling had become.

I didn’t know why but I knew that I needed to get down to the river.

At that point, just outside the door and across the quai from the apartment there is a set of stairs that go down to river level.

I hid the calvados in the poubelle that the City had provided at that location, hoping one of the myriad wandering vagrants who police those garbage receptacles with frequency and vigor would not find it before I returned.

But such was the intensity of feeling that I took the risk.

As I started down the stairs I had that now familiar feeling of slippage. I had the feeling that the stairs behind me, each as I vacated it for the next one down were disappearing. And as I passed the midpoint of the descent I saw a glow across the river and to the left in the direction of Le Louvre and in the direction of Pavillon de la Trémoille.

The glow was set against a backdrop of darkness such as I had only seen a few times before. Most recently I had seen it after entering the area behind the door on my floor. And the stars were there.

I started shouting, “Adrianna, Adrianna, Adrianna”

A voice said, “You can’t change it. You have already tried and have already failed.”

An intense feeling of relief engulfed me. I had no idea why being told that I had failed caused relief, but it did. Perhaps a deep sense of having tried was the source. I had no idea.

And things began to shift again.

The feeling of slippage passed with unexpected swiftness. I was standing on the cobble stone quai at river level, down from Quai aux Fleurs. Hôtel de Ville was glowing to my left and the red tail lights of cars, even at that early morning hour, flowed along the arterial across the river from me. Everything was as it had been just before I had come half way down the stairway. The glow and the primal darkness and the stars were gone.

I climbed the stairs back to the upper quai, retrieved my calvados; the street people had not had time to find it. I crossed the street, keyed my entry code and ascended the four flights to the apartment.

As I approached the other door I resisted the urge to re-enter it. It had returned to its normal glow.

“Why not?” I thought.

“Why?” came immediately on the heels of that thought.

So I took my calvados and went back into my apartment.

And, with my glass of calvados I opened the journal where a Plan de Paris had been placed as a bookmark.

I started reading again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Curious Confluence Chapter Thirty One: The Door Again

When I got back to the apartment I could hear Notre Dame striking ten. I had had food. I had had drink. I had also – again – lurched near the abyss of some state or place or time other than that which I would normally occupy. Whatever it is it is pulling at me with increasing persistence.

In the dim light of my place I could see that my shoes were deeply stained by some kind of viscous looking substance. I looked back to the doorsill of the beginning of the oaken twist of stairs expecting to see tracks of some sort. There were none. The bottoms of my shoes must have been worn clean in the flint sand of the forecourt and the pavement and cobble stones that I passed upon in my walk from the pavillon home.

I sat in one of the chairs that serve my dining table and prepared to remove my shoes and see what sort of cleaning might be required. Immediately I detected a familiar smell. It was familiar but I couldn’t immediately identify it. It had the effect that smells and sounds often have of seeming to be a transport to some previous experience. In this case the transport was to childhood; I realized it was the smell of blood. By the time I was six years old I had figured out myriad ways to inflict on myself serious cuts that bled profusely. Taking my father’s used Schick razor blades and putting them in my pocket was a classic example. After depositing one of the blades in my pocket I didn’t think about the implications of that action. So when I somewhat later put my hand in my pocket I shouldn’t have been surprised when moments later I withdrew a sticky, bloody set of fingers.

I know the smell of blood well.

So I wasn’t surprised when that Proustian moment rushed back to the present with the discovery that my shoes were covered with blood.

Lack of surprise didn’t act as a buffer to a wave of horror.

I sat there thinking about what to do next. The maddening thing was that I had to really think about what to do next. It would have seemed, had someone casually described a situation in which I had made the discovery that I had blood all over my shoes, that it wouldn’t have taken a moment’s thought. I would have gone to the police. I would have told them where the stain had been incurred and tell them as much about it as I knew about it and be done with it.

But I had to work on it in this case. The first thought was in fact “go to the police”. But I shoved that thought out of conscious contention for a plan of action. It came back. I suppressed it again. It came back a third time and got up from the chair and I spoke aloud.

“Sure. Just go to the cops and say – in broken French – that I stumbled into a pool of blood in the Pavillon de la Trémoille. And, oh by the way, you won’t be able to find it because it isn’t really here and now. It was there and then. That should do it. I won’t need to sit here worrying about whether I’m sliding into nut land. I can just go tell that to the cops and they will put me away. I hear psycho care is quite good in France. Maybe that would be the best thing.”

I was really getting into it.

I sat back down and stared at nothing in particular. The apartment lit up with green glow of a passing tourist barge. I heard the door outside my door open and close.

“OK. That’s it.”

I opened my door and went to the landing and looked at the delicately crafted door that has been such a mystery to me since I have been here. The ancient opaque glass was emanating the glow that I always see coming from within it whenever I look at it. There were hints of shadows in the interior behind the window.

I have pretty well had enough happen to me of an abnormal and unexplainable nature to alter my normally cautious approach to doing things. Paramount among those cautious ways has been my shyness about finding out what is behind this door. After my first few encounters I have ignored it as best as I have been able. It has always glowed when I have looked at it, no matter what the time of day or the degree of sun or cloud.

Standing there with shoes covered with blood, the smell of blood wafting uncontrolled to my nose and a spate of nightmare experiences cluttering my head, I took the plunge. I put my hand out and grasped the handle.

Ever since the episode at Parc Montsouris I couldn’t help noticing the similarity of the handle on the door that I was now preparing to enter and the brass latch of Une Souris Verte. The only real difference was that the latch that I was about to try to flex was of a much more delicate sort. It matched the ornate delicacy of the rest of the door. But other than that it was identically configured for its purpose: that of allowing entry.

I heard a hoarse intake of air. It must have been me.

“This is ridiculous” I thought to myself “but I can’t help it. I am being pushed, and have been being pushed for some time now, way beyond my zone of comfort. Way beyond my zone of reasonable activity even.”

Once opened the door yielded overwhelming disappointment. What had been a glowing exterior immediately became an interior as dark as the hallway: the magic self timed lights in the hall had gone out.

I took a step inward and groped for any tangible evidence of something being there. Something like a chair, or table, or couch or anything that I could use as a touchstone for what the now darkened interior of the place might contain. Before I was able to make contact with any of these things, or any things of a similar sort, the search became moot.

A vista had opened before me. The room, if there had ever been one, was gone. In its place was a canopy of sky of the darkest bluest black. That sky was crackling with stars in numbers beyond imagination. And the wind – the intense icy wind – slowly spun the stars to the point of a symphonic, unified glitter.

There were fires. There were six of them. They formed a circle. And at the center of the circle was a massive table. Even in the flicker of the spinning stars’ light I could see that the table was of oak; it was of massive, massive oak. It had an obvious head and an obvious foot. The head had a raised piece of oak. It seemed to resemble a pillow, except for its size and for its oakness. It must have had a convex accommodation scooped out of it, such as might be desirable to have if a human form were to be prostrate upon its back on the table with head laid upon the “pillow”.

Because, that was the case.

Lying supine, held by massive leather straps, was the woman whom I had encountered beneath the tendril of smoke.

I said that the table had a foot. That was far beyond her feet – it was a big table and she was a small woman – but, beyond her leather bound ankles was the foot. And there was the dog.

She had said his name was Moustache.

I had seen all of this, not from a distance, but as if I were in its midst. I was standing at an acute angle right of the foot of the table and the dog. I was close. But my view was enhanced by something that seemed to be a telephototic enhancement of my vision.

The air became full of a chanting droning human sort of noise. Almost immediately I was able to understand what was being chanted.

“Because of the grave transgressions of this one’s mate we ask the gods to forgive the rest of us and accept her removal from us as our tribute to the gods and our atonement to them.”

I didn’t “hear” that.

I “understood” that.

The air was actually filled with sounds not at all dissimilar to those that I have heard at Gaelic literary festivals.

But that was what was being said.

The dog howled.

The woman said, as if she was aware of my presence – which could not have been possible due to her strapped position – “. I need you to save me. I need you back to take me from them.”

I was engulfed in a feeling that was an amalgam of fear leavened with a large component of self disgust wrapped in an envelope of despair.

I turned in the direction that I thought had been the direction from which I had entered this nightmare – the direction of the door – and stumbled through a starlessly dark never land. I looked to the side as I entered that darkness and saw the door. I saw its other side - the side that was opposite the hall landing. Instead of a latch this side was equipped with a cut glass knob.

Then I was back on the oak landing of the doorway of my apartment. The door to my place was open and I could hear through the open casement, the multi-lingual pastiche of a passing tour boat. The green light flashed off the walls, illuminating the entire room intermittently, and making my black ThinkPad look to be a bluish black – not dissimilar to the sky I had so recently abandoned.

“Who” I wondered, “opened the casement?”

I heard a dog howl as if it were a banshee or some other spirit from mythology. I heard and felt a scream that must have been from the woman. It had a physical – beyond the audible – component. It seemed to enter my ears and, upon exiting me – somewhere – it ripped a major part of me with its exit.

And then I “knew” or “heard” or “felt” – or whatever that unaccustomed telepathic form of communication might be – “that’s four”.

And the blood was gone from my shoes.