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From ‘A time to come to a place and introduce oneself’.



WEAK CHARACTER TANGLES up the bedclothes and strangles the mind to death before morning. General Gorgon’s caretaker brings his breakfast for him in bed and a white stack of letters bundled in a newspaper. Gorgon rarely reads letters, but the newspaper he regards with much interest and flips immediately to articles on his war. The south borders of the country rage in conflagration. His happiness at this moves his feet back and forth upon themselves under the covers and he fits an entire halved buttered toast into his mouth before smiling through his orange and soda. After his meal he tries to pull his legs from the tangled bedclothes but falls to the floor and flounders there until he hears the caretaker coming down the great hall and his anxiety mounts him to commit to freeing himself. At once he vanishes to the bathroom. Such a mess of a man. And he’s eaten only some of the figs and some of the eggs. And this pile of letters, he never reads them and his wife tells him their tales and he doesn’t listen. The caretaker leaves for the kitchen with Gorgon’s mess and Gorgon continues his routine charting out the madness of his first few hours at the Presidential building.

Seasons before a denizen falls to his death in a dumbwaiter of a different country, sparrows drop from the sky and hit ground as light taps and thuds, hit against windows, rooftops, and a cleaning lady and the window man hired to finish the President’s windows. The cleaning lady gets a beak on her shoulder, and yelps. A few spotted sparrows flop wildly on their backs, heads churn against cement. The window man asks, “Are you okay?” Yes, she nods without looking up to him and she resumes cleaning, her shoulders up, one more so than the other for her bends. She gently sweeps around her, little bodies and cigarette butts into a dustpan. They drop in pitter-patter into a dumpster. Through a new reinforced window the window man can see General Gorgon waits for a meeting, or sits idly alone in a room. The window man watches the General and watches his own face watch the General. The window man sits straight with the thought of enormous weights on the General’s shoulders, and how light and refreshing it is to have this job cleaning windows and returning home to the tenant housing where he watches his old mother and father smoke and argue, and his wife laughs with him all the time about little things worthy of pity. What abounding good comes from him, a window washer with strong character, a heavy sleeper. The General slumps into himself. He actively ignores the man rubbing the windows outside, and says lightly, “infidel,”; he picks his cavernous nose smiling away his search and checks his pockets and falls asleep to the sound of the room: the projector’s fan whirrs a constant note: the projector’s bulb heats dust settled from the last meeting, thousands before, in ancient rooms of the old tattered and crumbling buildings now crushed to rubble and silt. Years of oiling and mistreatment loosens and drips sludge from the motor: the room thick with the projector’s radiant grime, but also clean and crisp like a new cheap shirt. General Gorgon’s hat hangs over his forehead when the President’s group of officials arrives and he sits up straight and as quickly as possible fiddles with his privates and corrects his hat. He stands to daintily shake their hands: his bleary eyed forced attentiveness, one eye sticking near closed; and men approach him and shake his limp gloved hand, and he introduces himself singularly: he forgets everyone’s name while laughing lightly, save the man he knows to be Althius: president of the country, President Althius. The generals asked the penultimate leader, President Johns, to leave after a misplaced satchel flagged him with state secrets nearly lost. Althius holds a reel of film up: sent from a far away county on the outskirts of the nation’s boundary with the great expanse, a place not unlike the shores, and as lawless and hand in hand with nature: he peels the tape from canister and inside the fresh coiled film receives the same treatment: tape from the reel: and President Althius clumsily places the film reel into the projector’s wheels and clamp-holds and he himself, he notes to himself, feeds the film into the uptake reel and clacks the projector STANDBY as the men around him watch in formal appreciation of their dainty president, or a few are jealous and wish him hung without breakfast.

WHAT WOULD IT BE to have a group of crisp men in a room, some divided on what to do with a state leader? Coyotes, drooling in their den, sense the changing chemistry of the pack and in a snapped mouthed change loyalties emerge and bloodletting ensues until a new alpha dominates. General Gorgon watches his own movements attentively, holding back a teary eyed yawn: clenches his jowls and yawns in his mouth, laughs slightly; and ends the laugh with a little mouth-opened relief. He would certainly be bloodied and left for dead by these men, but in his mind he thinks of the waffle maker his wife has bought and their Sunday morning berries and coffee.

“Ah,” he says in the silent room.

President Althius finishes the preparations and casually flips the lens cap down. His exposed elbows just past the unbuttoned sleeves show white dry skin where a dark arm hair stops.

Let us be clear, this is our fault; we are responsible, my friends.

“This, my esteemed friends, is a film with no sound from the region where a caldera blew up a number of citizens and flooded a mountaintop area,” President Althius says. He scratches his chest and considers Gorgon and continues, “So, please, my esteemed friends, observe all the people, our people in this film. Each one is a hero. I value them all. Let us be clear, this is our fault; we are responsible, my friends. And we must shore up our resolve to help the magistrates make better decisions about their populace, about their resources. Maybe they need more money to keep them happy, maybe they need more time for decisions; regardless, my esteemed Generals, Admirals, and party members, it is our job to help, to help in any way. These fine people are all dead, save for one who has been thrown in prison for deeds unrelated, and this event was our fault. I must warn you, some of them are prisoners, men we’ve used in our wars, so if you recognize them please contact their families and tell them they’ve been eaten up by a great mess.”

HE CLACKS THE REELS ON. An electric motor hums. The first seconds come to the screen. A bearded man on a young horse in front of a white building backed by a red face of a mountain wall. Handsome. Alert face. A little thin. The man sat on the horse waves past the camera to a pleasant and healthy woman who waves back with a handkerchief. Very kind and beaming. The horse nods, hops, and stamps and gallops off into the woods on a thin road with the rider down and hovering with his legs as springs. Sun blasts a red glow to the image and the frame turns through lens glare to dark woods where trees stand in day’s end sunlight and hold a strange vibration through the floating beings in the air, the dust of a green forest’s lower grounds. All at once hundreds of men peak their scarred and bludgeoned faces out from the trees and quickly hide themselves once more. The next segment shows the woman walking through the woods casually and with her handkerchief swaying over ferns and low grass as she passes through short clearings and again enters into ever-darkening woods. She then turns as if she hears something.

Some of the men in the room near Althius grumble with her.

Her soul roused to attention, her eyes bear witness. The camera turns on the woods and sustains the familiar image from before, but this time no faces appear. She walks on and happens upon a small cabin with a lantern lighting its door. She enters with the lantern, her lead, and looks around a simple one-room cabin with a shoebox wood-stove, a cedar box full of wood, and a bed. She sits on the soft, deep bed. The last of a red sun falls on the floor and the open cedar chest full of birch. Her shoes stand by the closed door. She falls asleep and her lantern peters out. The mounted rider returns on his horse in the crisp morning light of the next day. He dismounts energetically to greet the woman. He calls for her. He searches the home and calls into the woods. He mounts his horse and rides into the woods. Here and there faces look out from behind trees. The men behind the trees peer collectively on the rider’s back as the horse strolls. The rider nears the cabin and dismounts with a look on his face. Where did the cabin come from? He trips up a bit and adjusts his coat. He feels a fern here and a rhododendron there. He enters and finds the beaming woman with two men on either side of her; men with tattoos and scars all over their faces, a bludgeoned pair. She screams. She holds up her hands. The rider beats blindly at the three with a log. He kills her and when he stops beating he finds only her, alone, dead on the bed. His face shows terror and remorse. He stands to embrace the log himself and beats at his face, and as he beats his face he changes more and more to look like the scarred men in the woods. He stretches out next to his dead wife and places his gored face to hers and the scene blacks out. A moment of bright white flicks and the image is from above the vast valley. Clouds and steam shoot from trees on a steep hill down from a caldera, and large rolling clouds fall heavily with careening hot water to the valley floor. The film speeds after a moment of blank black. A rush of timber and mud sweeps across the planes to the woods and a building shoots high above the trees to near the height of the camera. The steam clouds the valley and the frame follows the last bits of unclouded view to a white building, overtaken by hellish hot mud. The frame wavers and falls to the ground. The frame rolls sideways and shows an arm and blurry head on the ground next a cliff. A bright light flashes the screen and the young man’s head turns to see over his shoulder. Nothing. Steam descends and rises all around. Again, the frame cuts to black and then constant white with streaming thin lines of black.

“This, gentlemen,” Althius says, “is a catastrophe for which I cannot blame General Gorgon, though they were prisoners used by him as his own men. Something condoned before I became your leader, and a thing I’m not to have an opinion about because so many of you Generals have your own groups of men, some prisoners, others well paid protection.” President Althius pauses and adjusts his nickel belt and feels that his zipper is up and the tiny handle down. President Althius continues, “But I wish to place blame and the only ones I can think of at the moment are the young new magistrates. They are a damning, conniving couple; beauties of newly wed happiness and strength, and they’ve completely apprehended the works programs in the south counties. They’re on some crusade to wash away all the farmers and bring port towns to our vibrant southern farming and production counties, probably by way of privatized shipping fleets and gambling boats, which does well for a certain type of economy exercising little if any restraint, especially,” he says squarely looking at a timid, thin Admiral. “The fleets.”

GENERAL GORGON MOVES UNCOMFORTABLY in his uniform and makes a small sound with his bowels. The men attempt active ignorance; a man uncrosses his legs loudly, some few turn to scribble their thin fingers on desktops. The General crosses and re-crosses his legs in near constant movement and adjusts his lapels and shirts as the president speaks. Gorgon’s lips shine red where vigorous activity had kept his mouth and throat at use, “awful,” he says, and sign that his blood pressure mounts him on death’s heels. He smoothes down his neck and juts up his arm, “just awful,” he says and raises his hand to speak.

“President Althius,” he says, “President, sir, I wonder if we couldn’t simply say…rather, if we couldn’t go about this in a way that, well, what I mean to say is that we could have this occurrence occur as natural, as a natural disaster…though I’ve seen reports, the reports show we caused all this…to occur, to happen. As it were.”

“Precisely what we’ll do, General,” President Althius says. “And you all wonder why we have our Generals. Fools. General Gorgon will lead the recovery program, and we will also need someone to collect all the Department men from their thieving of our populace’s creative talents through the matriculation and…pushing them into vast debts controlled by interest rates meant to keep them from the controversial roles they may deserve, but can not afford…can not apprehend.”

Then President Althius is in a troubled state of thought and he scowls.

THE FILM FLAPS ON. Custom has these men put things in place and leave them for others to clean up, and President Althius leaves it be, also, to add to his loath of the men around him. The room smells chemical and menthol after having smelled so metallic and oily warm: must be the carpet or one of the men has been with a whore spritzed with floor solution, President Althius thinks and drops his head, bowed down to show his distress, and poses that way until all leave the room in clumsy silence, but lastly, “oh, no,” the President mumbles, Gorgon walks him by and places a hand on his shoulder as if it were the first time he’d touched ice; a quick gesture, abandoned in the moment the decision to carry through with it brought him to realize he’d gathered the confidence to touch the being.


BEFORE THE CALDERA BLEW the county implemented a Works Progress Program next to a large dammed body of water. The dam would be breeched: the valley filled and a port established. Or would the walls of the valley crumble in days and flood the upper planes; or would the water seep into the surrounding valleys and destroy entire crops; or would the project fail miserably as soon as the first crack appeared in the dam?

If it worked this would help bring pride to the country: much at disease from crime and internal dysfunction. And by founding the first inland lake the young magistrates would be immortalized.

The head magistrate officer; a pretty, young woman, of the Land Progress Works Programs Commission Executers, sat next to a tall, thin open window in the office at the end of a long hallway with posters and magistrate pamphlets hanging the walls of the younger, healthier woman the county elected to head up their works progress program. She stared at her younger self in the portrait. One of the posters hung above her husband’s desk: she smiled in it and held a pristine shovel in the image; the hardhat on her head tilted in an awkward way, the act of the scene, the new to her feeling of the act.

HER SUMMER HAT: THE one that had fallen to her shoulders, along with her plans for her future, dangled from some impressionable part of her neck: the light string pulled her collared poplin up; one side of the collar messily stuck under her ear, and while she fell asleep and napped her husband walked up and down the hall in a fit of barefooted apprehension. He entered the office and slammed shut the door. She yelped, but quietly for having just awoke.

“You startled me. You startled me. You did. I’m awake, I’m awake,” she said and waved him off. “Don’t wake me.”

“We have things to do,” he said and shook a folder at her. “First on our list.”

This last week you had me meeting people at a church, a mosque, a town hall, and a bakery, all of whom thought I was god’s gift, but struggled to pronounce my name, and jumped at any moment to light my cigarettes.

“Could we make coffee before, please? We keep having things to do, back and forth, and I can’t get one moment’s peace. We’re on and off and on and off, I wonder how we’ll ever grow old if we’re constantly doing eternally annoying things. This last week you had me meeting people at a church, a mosque, a town hall, and a bakery, all of whom thought I was god’s gift, but struggled to pronounce my name, and jumped at any moment to light my cigarettes. This life is only as rewarding as its truth, and I live all these painful little lies, a hand full with every day. My youth and me are dwindling forms of each other. And you’re the cause. You’re the cause. Everything I do now is an order. You dole them in microseconds, doled out like taxes, with things I’ll regret if I don’t go about it honestly and competently with a smile. I am so entirely tired of this.”

SHE OPENED A FRESH case of cigarettes and performed the familiar habit: hitting one against the snapped closed gold emblem of a works progress program, brushing her hair aside, lighting it quickly and narrowing her window to just a crack for thin lines of smoke from her slender fingers to trail to and flow through the window. An elegant person, she held it just at her face so the lines of smoke seem to be at her control. She looked at him lazily, and with contempt. He sat across from her with his face winced in disgust after watching such a scene of rhythmic recitatives, her calm nature with such disgusting habits. He shifted his mood from scolding her annoying laziness to addressing her as a child, her least rare form. He held his chin on his hands, and grinned at her.

“You make it seem like we’re on vacation here. Yet this is our office. This is where we should be working. You should be getting hold of the advertisers in the Orange groves and mustards.”

“It was a bold dare for me to take,” she said and smoked. “Now you’ve won for me and now we must be the magistrate. And I guess I’m to do the work you so passionately have a calling for.”

“Dare or not, I didn’t expect you to win, and now that we have won I have a newfound respect for the honor of my position, and you should yours.”

She laughed at him.

SHE HAD LOST WEIGHT, “besieged by her husband,” since and before the election, her cheeks gone to handsome cheekbones: smoking made her mouth severe, her tight dry lips: she grew taciturn with chain smoking; evidence all she wished to be alone and out of the public’s eye, this woman she saw in mirrors. Every morning she saw her breasts deflate more, until the sides showed the thinness of her skin, where ripples moved when she bent down to pull on her socks. Was she that young once? “A plump perfect little plum?” he mother had said. She hadn’t changed noticeably to the passerby, “they, none of them can see,” but in her constant conversation with the bathroom mirrors of her life she found old age frolicking, “a thief,” in her hair, eyes, and neck; an ancient plague encouraged by the overwhelming expectations of a single man, a man she bowed to and begged for, gave anything he pleased, anything to stave off the daggers of loneliness.

“The first family is the Wassëburg family.”

“Wassëburg. Do we know them?” she asked and held a photo of their property marked: firsters.

“No. They’re to be sent to the first area for aeration where they have a valley to till and cultivate. It’s going to make us firmly wealthy to clear them out, I know it’s not your way, but it must be done for the simple pleasure of a strong economy and trade. We’re on the verge of control in these areas, and if we’re the bread winners for the nation, and take the initiative, well we’ll be in high government before the couches of the homes underwater rot.”

“Just one family?”

“TO BEGIN, WE HAVE hundreds to clear out, but the first ones, they will be met by the General’s men and they will help with the initial farming. It says here the General’s men are in a long tent city next to the butte in the middle of the valley. They have substantial energy from a water turbine and the food supply has been well stocked and undiminished. I believe these men, the General’s men are the answer to our problems with the overcrowding. They’re responsible because they know they’ll die if they do not follow orders. This time we have a solution that incorporates longevity and high yield. You and I will be paid our fifteenth allotment soon, and we’ll move into the chateau.” He stops to observe his pretty wife. He continues, “The General’s men have reported to the courier average and good rainfall. They’ve reported good water flow from the Koering Glacier, and they have reported that early runs of grain and rye grass have been successful, that the soil is perfect.”

“Are we to write to the Wassëburgs, or just stop by to destroy their lives―couldn’t we send the police, or one of the local Department men to do it? They’re always ogling the school girls, and sitting around, toying with their clipboards and pistols. Isn’t it time the law took some initiative?” She said and pressed out the cigarette until bent and shriveled. She obediently opened the cigarette case and pulled another slender white from the stiff row of soldiers. She burped under her breath and slid her hair back to her thick perfect ear. She lit up and closed her eyes as he continued with her somewhat divided attention and a slow moving long cat graced the room through the door and followed a wall for a little and meandered around his legs, the tail between them, curling and gesturing for attention. A long standing quarrel of the way in which she chose to kill herself with each smoke and avoided meals would soon rear its head and begin between the couple afresh.

“Of the four-hundred families, in this low country county, they are the most responsible with their land, and will do the best with the first area. The first area, the firsters area, and it’s a matter of fact that we must do it in person, as in accordance with President John’s insistence,” he said and looked down to the pamphlet. He corrected her, “We will not be destroying their lives. Theirs will be the first under water, after all. If you can’t see why we’re doing this then…you shouldn’t have become magistrate,” he said. The cat watched him as it went under her desk and checked her lap. She gave the little face attention and welcomed it up and lit another cigarette. “You think we’d be able to afford the taxes of a moderate salary? I don’t think so, so just bite down…” he said and waved away smoke she had blown at him and he ended his demands with by rubbing his face violently.


THE VALLEY THE WASSËBURGS called home sat between legs of vast tall hills: the low country hills served as shield from fierce winds off neighboring mountains, the absolute towers of purgatory above the great lands. In the valley, plant life unobstructed by shadow grew strait and trees towered straight to the sky, unmolested by anything more than a light breeze, their tops level as a rink. Their numbers evenly lined valley walls unfit for tillage and enforced the quiet calm of the valley. Hundreds of homes scattered thinly on the hillsides then thick in numbers to the flat center of the valley: coal chimneys for smelting and blacksmiths towered in the flattest spots, thin lines of black to fast winds above the peaks of the hills, and a greenish dark line trailed from each to the upper winds that cleaned it all away.

The little road to the Wassëburg’s farm came from a larger but still quaint road pounded out by settlers hundreds of years before a second settling twenty years ago. Bicycles could scoot along above the road on either side on smooth grass ways next wire fences. The farmers decided to do without barbed fences and so a small current ran throughout to keep the leather luxuriant and fine. At the fork in the road to their farm, a sign pointed to a tall barn and a thin three story farmhouse with long cattle sheds and nurseries appeared just behind a row of beech trees as the magistrates approached the Wassëburg property. On the sign a white egg was painted with a bell and a horseshoe, indicating those things.

The Wassëburg family received kittens, and other sort of fumbling and awkward young from old friends and neighbors who treated the place as if the Wassëburg children, a daughter and son, still ran about chasing nature’s young. How the children loved youthful creatures. Bread could be smelled on the air, as the oven was kept constantly working.

A PUPPY BARRELED TOWARD the magistrates crooning as much as a young hound’s energy allows, for the arrival of newcomers, then the hound went immediately complacent and stopped and ate something in the grass, chased it around, then at something on his back. Signage stood on the front yard too: Kittens, Puppies, Chicks, pickles, eggs, pickled eggs, finery, jam.

The magistrates saw none of this. They busily chatted about their entire worth, a conundrum, as they built wealth so quickly through so many schemes.

Mr. Jeroen Wassëburg had the two children to a youngish woman who died of peritonitis soon after childbirth. Jeroen’s second wife, Gold Hair, taught his children and they tested out of county, state and country, and held positions in government far away and never came home to the simple farm. Why would they with such success in the world? Their refinement commanded them. Jeroen wished he had his smart son back from that world. The boy made eloquent work of all jobs. He out-shined his father effortlessly. A young man with such boyishness in his face one could see it would persist to old age. The boy was his father’s beaming pride. Jeroen wished his daughter still helped vet the animals, and run the young along the river to pasture. She loved so much to show off her likeness to little young perfections. Gold Hair Wassëburg’s pride of her step-children covered her deep yearning to remove the children of Jeroen’s first wife from their married lives. She was renewed when the two children left to lives abroad. She then had Jeroen all to herself; the real work of happiness could begin.

THE LATCH OF THE gate sounded a small square structure of wind chimes; the hound’s tired croon; the Magistrates entered the Wassëburg front yard. Gold Hair appeared first in a leather apron and she held a hammer, her face bronzed from forge flame. The hound trotted to Gold Hair’s heels and it assumed a stance, his tail flailing behind his raised hump, and in the tired hound way, as if in a slow dream negotiated and sat on Gold Hair’s boot.

“Good morning,” Gold Hair greeted with a smile and the hammer.

“Hello, we’re the new magistrates. Mrs. Wassëburg?” Mr. Magistrate said.

Jeroen saw the scene from afar: Gold Hair hugging the new female magistrate’s slender, “wilting,” body at the shoulders, and he expected family, but they were only the new officials and so he scolded Gold Hair under his breath, “way to invite the fleas,” for being familiar with these foxes, these people he had known always to be the worst of worst trouble, the kind of trouble to cause anguish and cold nausea.

“So, what are you visiting us for?” Jeroen asked behind a hardened and fast smile.

Though it’s inconvenient for you, the country is in sore need of reinvigoration, and a lake here will be the port we need and the resource we’ve been waiting for. It’s the books, they keep in the West, we must follow their order. They know best.

“WE HAVE GOOD NEWS,” Mr. Magistrate said and adjusted his hand in Jeroen’s unfailing grip. “The county has chosen your family to resettle in a larger, nicer spread of land in the first area,” he said. He shielded his eyes from the sun and after no response from the man before him he said, “A valley. Another valley. There is an order on the books for this place to become a kind of lake. Though it’s inconvenient for you, the country is in sore need of reinvigoration, and a lake here will be the port we need and the resource we’ve been waiting for. It’s the books, they keep in the West, we must follow their order. They know best. The system has a fine structure to it, and as you’ve seen these last fifty or so years, you’ve been given many great things in your life to care for and those things have cared for you. Now it’s your turn to give back to the country and you will be held up as heroes.”

Gold Hair took Jeroen’s arm and Jeroen’s grip let loose and dropped the young hand. A downward movement ran in Gold Hairs’ bowels; her legs extremely heavy; but in Jeroen’s body youth came to his arm, and a fight brewed in them.

“You can find another family? This land has been our prize for twenty years. We’re firsters of this county, and we don’t wish to be firsters again. We’re a respectable family. The others will be very angry if we have to leave. There are younger couples up in the hills that could go.”

The young man turned to walk from them.

“YOU CAN BE FIRSTERS for your country, your region and your county,” Mrs. Magistrate said with an air of patriotism, “it’s a whole new era, and we need the strongest to lead us forward,” she continued and a smile brought her hollow cheeks to thin drawn back curtain bunches to reveal perfect rows of denture like teeth. Her husband loved her then gleefully, and he had always felt the shining attributes of politics in her, the “nascent world of power hidden within her.” Now he saw proof and her teeth showed fantastically white. The mystery of so many, of this psychological force, only has to be pushed and prodded to come alive. Then the freedom of the soul can come to be an unmovable and independent flowing cause.

“This can’t be legal,” Gold Hair said to Jeroen.

“The new young magistrates dictate all of that,” he mumbled.

“This place will be the first under water. I am very sorry. It is also the finest farm I have ever seen.”

“Our place?”

“Yes,” Mr. Magistrate said. “You will have plenty of help in your new home. I’m sorry to see this one go. We’ve sent a very good group of soldiers from a General’s men. We’ll leave you to pack,” he said and then rather dryly he added, “There’s a week, maybe four days, and the water from the undone dam will hit your property and flow down to the bottom of this slight basin where it will collect, rise and fill the valley.”

TO JEROEN THE YOUNG man had the look of provincial boys, dressed up in a lackluster lawyer’s thready suit, and stood awkwardly next to a young woman with once melon firm skin supporting a smile of pure auspicious trustiness and labor. It wasn’t until Gold Hair tugged his arm that Jeroen remembered the velocity and gravity of such a fall the magistrates had brought upon the valley, all of his friends to be removed, and he began to shake; first little shakes flamed down his arms, his insides, the bones and into his wrists and their tendons, to his fists and then a great internal shake came forth to his neck and into his throat, his mouth, which smacked open, and for a moment his stomach heaved once as if to push out the bad air. As if drugged Gold Hair fell to her knees and held Jeroen’s leg.

Mr. took Mrs. Magistrate’s arm and walked her to the gate. He too felt the fight brew in his arms, but at this point in his young life it was anxiety, fear, and guilt through and through, and though Jeroen looked small enough to shoot once and kill, his shoulders stood out like an ox set to graze in his own rich pasture, and a willingness of his spirit made him seem invincible or immortal to the boy.

Well-fed and highly worked, the comment to be written in Mr. Magistrate’s report, and included would be a photo of the couple taken from Mr. Magistrate’s bike, a file photo for the Departments and the police. The photo showed the two farmers arm-in-arm and backlit by a glorious sunset, Gold Hair to Jeroen with the look of desperation placed her hand out at her side as if to reach at something not there. The image blurred, and Jeroen looked determinedly heated in a mid-movement.

“Gold Hair,” he said as the two officials left. “We’ll do this for our country, like the damn boy said. This will be our second awakening, a second happiness to lead us out. It’s the only way to see it. The moment we let ourselves slip into negative thoughts and pine not to leave we’ll be forever tortured and long for our perfect little home.”

HE REELED FROM HER to the barn and ripped a while at a large steel lattice which ran lengthwise from the wall.

“Look at this place, Gold Hair!”

He finally undid the lattice and ran to the porch where he swung the steel against delicate wood of the front porch and decimated its fine features, blow after blow reducing a rotting beam to shards and splinters. Wood and paint exploded to the air.

“I would have to replace all this rot. I would have to rebuild this porch. I would have to do all the work on my own.”

Gold Hair cried, but kept the egg in her throat veering toward patriotic happiness. There was a wave of movement, anticipation across the great green fields of their property. And there was a strange energy in the animals around the yard. Flowery bushes congregated their birds and glimmered around, many of them flirted to fly yet stayed, and she stood from her knees. Her moving husband didn’t play on her as a hard and unbearable insanity, and she followed his torrent with calm reserve and even grabbed at a blue and yellow flower from the grass as he beat the wet turf. Rushing trees unsettled their cones and leaves and fast juts of wind pushed against her body. She denied its movement. She forced herself, as Jeroen did before her, to accept this task in good faith and stern resolve, and she nodded her head yes as he walloped another piece from the house again and again and then the ground. He beat the ground like a maddened badger pouncing a competitor, or a polar bear breaking through ice for fresh young pups. Gold Hair nodded, tears streamed her cheeks as he pushed the tall outdoor shower-house to the ground with a single pull and a great push. The bucket rolled downhill to mud along their light stream where safflower had just bloomed yellow up and down the waterbed. Another part of the porch flew to the air in a cloud of blue paint. Still, she couldn’t help her loss and her heart, buried under newly brittle layers of heated flesh, sank. She wanted to immediately shed the place: the sands of the stream bed: the richness of the fields and the few great collections of water and wind shaped stone piled in cairns, some in piles under the house and by the barn, their vast quantities so settling and alluring; all to be buried underneath this vast new water.

“THIS PLACE WILL BE the perfect dream we had!” he yelled, “Some people never even dream!”

He ran to the colts and chose the eldest, nearly a year and eight months old, mounted it bareback and rode off to the stream, across the stream and onto the open pasture, where the defiance of the marshy land around the water ceased and the solid grassland opened up. He held on for anger and fear. The ground beneath him streamed in violent blurring bright blooming colors, and his groin burned with holding on to the full out body between his legs. The colt sped him into open pasture and as the young thing reached its apex speed Jeroen’s welling burst: his internal resolve failed and he busted into tears, his head next the colt’s powerful jutting neck. He held the young horse’s strength and wished he were immovable like mountains: stationary and resolute. He would rather remain out of life than be swiftly thrown, rejected from his dream of it. At least he had dreamed.

 —For Charles Martin and Linda Kay Madigan, and Rip Van Winkle.

Conor Robin Madigan lives in the midwest and writes novels. Preceded by ‘Cut Up’ (The Republic of Letters Books), ‘A time to come to a place and introduce oneself’, his third novel, is followed by ‘A Strange Kind of Trying’, ‘Carr’s Encounter At Titan’, and a collection of shorter stories titled ‘Deliver Us From Evil’. His recent work can be found in current and forthcoming issues of Ginosko Literary Journal and Moon City Review. Past work and contact information is posted at

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