n this morning, the heavy curtains of the master bedroom, which faced the ocean, automatically opened; slowly, silently, and precisely at six. Through the floor to ceiling windows the shimmering blue rays from the limitlessness of the Pacific began creeping into the bedchamber; advancing slowly, like a shy lover. At the same moment, Four Seasons softly played from the surround- sound system. Outside, the intermittent clamor of the pounding surf with its signature timpani of the odd fifth wave, shuddered heavily onto the beach; seemingly intervening itself briefly and pleasingly into the symphony’s tone poem.
Jon Susu, lying on his left side, alone in the bed, rolled over and looked through the window, first at the broad ribbon of sand rolling off into the horizon – then at the surface of the ocean. He lowered his gaze back to the exorbitantly valued real estate, with its translucent quartz sand, wet and slick, ready for skim boarding. Jon appreciated the allure of the environment – the oceanfront’s vitality: the sea calling for attention would rise up, shake its head covered with white frosted curls and wavelets; an organism kept alive; constantly shaping, forming, and sculpting; driven at first landwards, and then parsimoniously pulled back in the powerful grip of an undertow. All this orchestrated by an indifferent storm … far out to sea. So … this shoreline is like looking at the Mona Lisa; after awhile her face becomes just a portrait of an ordinary woman, beauty is truly transitory, he thought – Gotta make some coffee.
He struggled with his feet exploring for the floor, then eased from the bed with an inexplicit sense of apprehension. This, the tenth day of his house-sitting a friend’s Santa Monica beach front home did not portend well for Jon. Last night’s phone call unnerved and made sleep difficult. He showered and then dressed in black; shirt, tie, suit coat, pants, shoes, eye-patch, and lastly; transparent, ultrathin plastic gloves. His auburn hair, still wavy, gave resistance to the brush as he turned his head for a final stroke. He looked at his eye; he examined its hazel color, searching for the flecks of gold tinged with green. Is my eye becoming watery? he worried.
Still staring in the mirror, Jon told himself that vanity did not motivate his concern, just a normal concerns about his physical health. Then, like a lover exploring their partner’s body, he ran his finger over the deep cleft in his chin. Jon thought Damn! That new razor didn’t trim deep enough. If I put my hand over my chin … like that … yes like that; it’ll cover the stubble, and besides, that’s affirmative body language … speaks of a thinker—of confidence! He adjusted his tie and checked his gold Ayn Rand dollar sign cuff links. He searched through the desk drawer, found paper and pen. He began to write; at first, with deliberation, then rapidly as if anxious to finish a distasteful task. Were they proper for the event? What the hell, he thought, I don’t really care. He folded the paper and inserted it and then sealed the envelope. He wrote on the front in large block letters pressing heavily. He placed it on the pillow of the unmade bed.
On time, the cab pulled up out front on Pacific Coast Highway, and immediately honked irritably. Jon, in his own good time, stepped onto the porch; checked the mailbox, the metal container stood empty, and then locked the front door behind him. He instantly felt the seasonally cool breezes from the vast fetch of the Pacific Ocean flow past his ears and through his jacket. He shivered slightly. The driver, in a tank top, peevishly reached his densely tattooed left arm back, around through his window, and awkwardly opened the rear passenger door, anxious to hurry up the process of getting his fare into the cab and turning on the meter. As he entered, Susu bent low to fold his tall frame into the cab. He slid in, directly behind the Yellow taxi driver, onto the cracked plastic seat. A large rip in the material forced Jon reluctantly to continue to the far side, a location where he felt endangered, by training, from frontal headshots. The cab’s interior reeked with the bitter stench of stale cigar smoke which started an involuntary gagging in Jon’s throat. He swallowed hard and put down his impulse to tell the driver to turn around; instead, he issued the directions. As he spoke he fingered the garrote he carried in his suit coat pocket; sacrilegiously made to resemble a rosary. He looked frivolously at the driver’s neck, and then smirked disapprovingly at his own low tolerance for the mild disarray of everyday life. Jon carried in a leather pouch a small aspirator of desiccated animal protein to contaminate any of his DNA that he might leave in the event he did not want associated with a given scene. However, tobacco smoke was even more effective in contaminating DNA, so he need not disperse any of the protein. He removed the plastic gloves.
The chauffeur grunted his understanding of Jon’s destination, then eased from the surface street into the onramp entrance and accelerated to freeway speed. They rode east along a free flowing Santa Monica Interstate 10; the distance would be a twenty-six mile trip to the Cerritos Western Indian Center. When he arrived, he paid the fare with no tip. He had been asked to join a burial procession as a pallbearer to a person for whom he cared nothing.
The cadaver, a large framed man, had a dark and weathered, but open face. One that easily supported a prominent angular nose, whose protrusion between wide set eyes added dramatically to the strength of an eagle-like constancy. The head, set like a weathered stump between broad shoulders, had nurtured an abundance of white hair, parted in the middle with great precision. Two thick, precisely woven braids came over his shoulders and dropped down to his stomach; their ends tightly secured with Carp intestines. This reposing figure, even in death, remained Sagalie-Tyee, a Siwash Indian Shaman. Decades earlier, he tutored and acted as a bush guide to Jon Susu while he trained in the North West Territories of Canada. Susu, at the time, in his early twenties, lived a headstrong life entirely focused on his own doings. His new employer, The International Geodetic Survey, a company whose organizational complexity provided the needed obscurity that hid other activities. Unlike true corporations, they, as a rigid policy, did not recruit candidates to be team players. Their experience indicated that under certain circumstances, a higher fidelity to personal relationships could lead to the compromising of contracts whose murky arrangements would always take precedence over all other associations. Jon, a deeply analytical person, and some said a loner; found this policy came to him naturally.
Tyee’s women Dwuan, elegant with a willow like stature; a harmonious mixture of Siwash and French Canadian, had contacted Susu by phone, just hours before the Shaman’s passing. She said he, Tyee, somehow knew with a certainty of Jon’s presence in Santa Monica. Uncomfortable with using a phone, she spoke slowly and distinctly to Jon, telling him that Tyee requested, for old times, that Jon participate in his procession and burial. ”Tyee feels the weight of his many seasons. He begins the trip that will forever bind him to his mother earth. His Wikiup will be in two passings of the sun. He spoke to me of how you, Jon Susu, did not sit easy while waiting for your horse to graze and water, and so … the ceremony will be brief,” she said.
Early in his training, Jon made a reckless error in judgment; one that, if discovered, would have terminated his program and career. Alone, on impulse, he left the training camp walking, a map in hand, for the ice fields to the north of their location in search of a rumored singing ice crevice. He planned to record the sounds and photograph their source. Some three hours later, he stood on the brink of the wide gapping crack, but could not hear the singing because of the sibilant screeching of a tormented wind, sweeping and swirling the snow on the surface. He made the decision to rappel to the bottom; another lapse in judgment. At the bottom, he found only silence. Disappointed, Susu decided to leave and began to rope climb back up. The surface anchor he set above failed and the rope collapsed useless at his feet.
yee awoke at midnight when his normally silent Caribou herd began grunting and crying. Across the pitch of his hut, Tyee felt and heard the shuddering of Chinook winds. He knew the wail, their call, which arose from the dwellers in the clouds; the one emitted as the sky divinities trekked their domain searching for lost souls to blanket in drifts of white snow.
At the northern latitude of the base camp, the arctic winter now half over, gave a sparseness of day light. He dressed quickly and with purpose. He spread bear grease over his face to help resist the windburns of driving sleet. With native knowledge, he quickly tracked Jon to the crevice, and smoothly lowered an ice ladder to the bottom. Jon, hoary with rime and snow, lay below.
Apparently, unawares of Tyee’s lowering of the ladder and descent, he remained motionless, crouched with his head between his legs, his back against the crevice’s blue ice walls. When Tyee reached the bottom, he extended an ungloved hand to touch Jon. Susu, in a state of terror and disorientation lunged for the ladder; in the process, he smashed the Shaman’s head and face into the crevice’s rough ice wall, the razor like crystals shredding his face.
Figure 2 TYEE preparing to descend into crevice.
Tyee fell back. Jon pushed him aside. In a panic, he climbed the rungs up the ladder and out. He turned, and then stood at the lip of the crevice, shifting his weight from foot to foot; staring back at Tyee’s slumped form. He quickly persuaded himself of the rationale; that in good time the guide would be able to collect his wits, free himself, and possibly overtake Jon on the return trek to the camp. Look, this Tyee guy held the title of the Company’s vaunted trainer, and loyal guide … and sure as hell that’s his assignment and not mine, thought Jon.
Tyee awoke, dazed with frozen blood on his face; fortunately the bear grease helped to inhibit the bleeding. Yet some of the gore had crusted over his eyelids; effectively bonding them shut. The peeling of the congealed grease and blood proceeded slowly, hurtfully, and delicately; his fingers burning from post frostbite; at times inadvertently pulling out his lashes. He painfully climbed the ladder. At the surface Tyee began the slogging return to his family.
Back at the camp, Jon never thanked or acknowledged Tyee. As justification for his own conduct, Jon mulled over the idea that Tyee may have deliberately tinkered with his anchor line to create an opportunity for a rescue and then reap the acclaim that would follow that act; besides Jon rationalized, Tyee received a generous compensation to support and guide the trainees. Jon always denied the stories of his rescue, and thereafter completely avoided Tyee. The Shaman never reported Jon’s recklessness to the operation’s superiors.
uring Dwuan’s phone call to Jon in Santa Monica, he made excuses why he would not attend; that is until he learned the dying Tyee had shared with Dwuan, his soon to be widow, that he possessed a gift for Jon: A berry stains painting of Jon on birch bark. Dwuan made the painting shortly after the ice crevice incident, and at the time, she made a point of showing the likeness to him. Jon immediately and openly coveted the image; even though he sensed, uncertainly, some form of an emission; one of unexplainable well-like echoing; seemingly mimicking his thought and words. They issued from the painting attaching themselves painfully to Jon, like microscopic tattoos; they needled and burned into his physical being leaving an image, painful yet addictive. He tried several times during his tenure in the training camp, always unsuccessfully, to purchase the artifact from Dwuan.
Tyee laid in his bed at the Cerritos hospice, happy with his soon to be parting, and the beginning of a scripture of the remarkable journey to be with his sacred ancestors. There remained just one unfinished bit of a Shaman’s responsibility concerning the process in the burial ceremony. The obligation represented far more than just “for old times’ sake”, but a ritual for Tyee’s eternal soul to have unfettered peace in that journey.
Figure 3 John Susu, 1991
To Sagalie-Tyee, the old Indian custom represented a commandment – the return by the coward to stand, as a whole man, and let his beliefs be reconciled to his deed; and most importantly to know Tyee forgave him. As the final symbolic act and to consummate the custom, the widow Dwuan requested Jon to brush the casket lightly with a clutch of willow leaves.
Tyee, for his ceremony commanded a casket heavily insulated with North West Territory’s permafrost; arctic dwarf vegetation tundra to be flown in on the day of his internment. The ritual allowed Tyee to be laid in the mother’s clutch of his cherished homeland, as his tribal traditions required. As Jon and the other pallbearers shouldered the load, the defrosting tundra began to leak from the casket onto Jon’s cheek and suit. It felt soothing, like witch-hazel on an abrasion.
fter cleaning up in the cemetery restroom, a gothic construction of grey, rough-hewn granite blocks whose surfaces were defiled with the street culture mnemonics of graffiti. Jon spelled out the letters of one especially intrusive paint sprayed image above the sink, Su madre es una puta muerta. He mouthed the words several times and shook his head. He recognized the word “madre”, but could not understand the other words, Must be something written in the grief of the moment, he thought. Dwuan, after Tyee’s internment, left a small group of tribal relatives who ignored Jon throughout the ceremony and that had gathered to chant. She walked over to Jon, who stood near the fresh earth of the burial mound. Her eyes, wet with sorrow, never looked into Susu’s face. Instead, she bowed slightly and handed him the portrait, wrapped in comfrey leaves. She spoke only four words, “Tyee forgives the coward”. At the instance of the package passing from her hands, a shadow passed fleetingly over the comfrey leaves. Jon looked to the sky and saw a hawk spiraling to the earth, or at least he supposed the object to be a hawk. Nonsense, he thought, there are no hawks over the LA basin. Dwuan, her obligation delivered, and the ritual complete with the return of Jon Susu, turned, pushing past Jon, and stepped to the edge of the mound. There she fell heavily on the moist soil and began wailing her grief. Jon shrugged his shoulders, At least I came to your fucking funeral Tyee and carried your coffin, I wonder if you’d have done the same for me, he thought.
Now in smug possession of the framed painting, Jon called a taxi on his cell. He instructed the driver to take the Wilshire off ramp to the Santa Monica beach area. He planned to walk along the sand the short distance to his acquaintance’s beach house and enter from the rear door, a habit of caution he had exercised throughout his career. He planned to get in a few final days of R & R, including the idea of seeing if he could still get up on a surfboard. Then back home by plane.
Jon, to satisfy one of his obsessive-compulsive rituals, upon entering the cab, slid over to sit exactly behind the driver’s back, a power position. As the cab made its way down Wilshire towards the Pacific Coast Highway, the driver give the impression of intending to catch every red light along the long boulevard. Unable to tolerate the boredom of the stop and go drive, and to release temporarily the fresh personal contempt he experienced at the funeral from Tyee’s family members, he drifted back into the solace of recollections. His preoccupations with his own accomplishments crept out like fingers of Tule fog: his recruitment, the NW Territories training, the offer to secure a staff position in the Company, choice assignments; then suddenly he stopped the massaging of his ego – his sense of self-worth reestablished, he turned off the mental projector by looking out the window of the cab. Almost immediately, he held his breath and then exhaled in a burst. He rubbed his cheek to quiet the tingling sensation. On impulse Jon, abruptly told the cab driver to pull over at the corner of St. James Place and Wilshire Boulevard. He paid the driver, and dodging the traffic crossed the street to a rundown bar. He stopped and stood hesitantly, his hand kneading the flesh on the back of his neck. He could not believe the place remained standing.
usu walked up to the front step of the building. Cautiously, he pulled open the Art Deco door, still there from the fifties. The place, Sueno’s Wilshire Bar Pit, crassly played off the name of the world famous La Brea tar pits, just down street a ways.
Figure 4 Sueno's Bar Pit, Los Angeles, 1957
Inside, the air smelled of the collected decades of booze and what humans, who pursue that toxic allure, do in public houses like that.
He held the brass handle of the door, keeping the entrance open behind him. Jon’s eyes, slow to accommodate from the outside’s mid-day brightness of Southern California, squinted reflexively in the darkness. Inside, near a cigarette vending machine, there emitted from the gloom, like the sharp beam of a light beacon, the neon blueness of a pair of eyes. The cold sharp shafts of radiance discharged from the farthest corner from where Jon stood, unlit and chambered by its darkness, with an obscurity blacker than the rest of the low light level establishment. Immediately his skin shivered from the refrigerated dampness pushing at his body as he entered. Not unlike an ice crevice, the comparison forced itself in upon Jon. The air seemed saturated with a lightly sour, locker room odor. He continued staring in the direction of the corner. Those could be considered elegant eyes, almond shaped, normal in size; yet those pupils and iris are un-delineated, sort of melding into each other … like a pathological liar’s, Jon analyzed. Now his vision, fully amplified to the night like atmosphere, picked up a streaming semaphore message, as if tapped out by eyelids. They, or “that force” infiltrated directly into Jon’s own retinas, where the twin beams stabbed and elbowed for several seconds. Jon did not do semaphore. It must be some kind of beer or liquor advertisement. These new plasma screens with HD can do anything, he thought. He released the door handle, turning his back on the vending machine corner, and cautiously took the few steps to the empty bar. The heavy door, lined with diamond tufted, black leather, closed itself behind him with a hydraulic gurgle. He laid the birch bark painting carefully on the counter and half seated himself on a stool; one foot on the floor, the other on the footrest rung.
Jon Susu, outwardly a soft-spoken man, shouted his order, directed to the empty area behind the bar; “One old school.” “A scotch, and soda,” he explained, as an addendum to the vacancy. He had to raise his volume to overcome the inconsiderate and unrelenting discordance coming from that far, dark corner. The voice, for that is what the din sounded to be, mimicked the audio issuing from a small, black and white, oval TV screen, affixed to the right, on the wall above the end of the bar replaying a heavyweight fight match from the early fifties. The mirror behind the bar flexed and torqued the flickering TV images like an amusement park hall of mirrors.
Jon, as soon as he lowered and swept his gaze, immediately located the bartender or at least a human head; for that’s all that arose above the edge of the bar. On first impression, he presumed the person to be a dwarf. Jon, upon continuing inspection of the head responsible for mixing his drinks, could detect no evidence of facial hair. Yes – Jon concluded that life form functioned as a dwarf. The head sat atop a well sprouted and exceptionally long neck that issued from between narrow shoulders, and with just a suggestion of an Adam’s apple. The face would have been handsome if not for the distracting, purplish red, birthmark that covered its full left side. The abundant hair streaked with white, Einsteinium in disarray, lay in oily clumps atop the skull. The life form’s back shoulder blades grew pronounced, protruding underneath a white, raw cotton shirt, somewhat like the budding wings a sprite might have. Jon caught himself staring and thinking what a peculiar individual; he analyzed, not because of the dwarfism, but that the little person looked to be epicene; which in the art world may be bewitching, but behind this bar ... sexless presented the dilemma of a perplexing conversation piece; but frustratingly, Jon had no one to whom he could direct his adolescent quips that all too quickly formulated in his mind … further dangerously distracting from the focus that the overall scene required of him. Be aware of your environment at all times!
he dwarf swiped the bar with a forlorn rag that needed washing and deodorizing. He used both misshapen hands, badly discolored and swollen from the complications of lentigo, as he worked. He pushed Jon’s framed portrait to the side; a comfrey leaf dislodging, then fluttered to the bar room floor. The healing herb plant’s foliage immediately rose and slid back to its place on the portrait.
“I’m Jon, just in town for a few days, staying at a friends place on the beach. Love LA, always have,” Jon ended waiting for a response.
The barkeep, indifferent to the antics of the leaf, continued serving Jon. The Dwarf set a tall, cloudy white, hurricane glass down in front of his customer. Jon gave no sign that he had seen the leaf levitating, although perplexed, he decided against commenting. The Dwarf thought, This guy Jon is all about Jon, but yeah, that painting in which Jon will drown is also selfish. Because after his death, the portrait mirror will miss him because, it could only see itself by using his eyes.
Picking up the one sided conversation again, Jon said, “That’s an unusual shaped glass for a Scotch and Soda, more for a very large fruity rum drink wouldn’t you say.”
The bartender gave Jon a blocked look, and adroitly slid the Jackson Susu had placed on the bar, off into the register below his chin; his disproportionate sized head stood at the level of the glass. Here we go again, I’ve seen everything from this side of the bar; creeps, Gold’s Gym “roid” heads, wobbly girly-guys, 20th Century Foxy broads from down the street away. And now, this used up jerk comes home to roost and gloat … well not in my space he won’t. I ain’t going to let him push onto me his misery, and yet, yet I already know from all the others before him, that his bad-ass self will not be treated in an unfair, holier-than-thou way, thought the Dwarf.
From the other side, through the prism of that same glass ewer, Jon saw a large distorted brown eye. The little person pushed the drink towards Jon, and the eye vanished. Again, from habit, he swiped the top of the scarred bar and adroitly stacked Jon’s change next to the sweating glass, all with a Las Vegas blackjack dealer’s flair and deliberation. He continued rubbing on the bar mutilated with the mire of cigarette burns, as thought he could correct the battering of the years of customer’s carelessness.
“You get more for your money with this glass, and I haven’t had time to wash the other glassware, besides there’re naturally hazy; and I don’t want to disturb the resting spirits,” said the dwarf. “You wouldn’t want to drink from someone else’s glass now would you?”
Jon puppeteered his thoughts onto his analytical platform, It is – or maybe I should think of it, as a life form, as a Dwarf—a male – a he. Not to worry Jon, his chatter doesn’t carry any evil intent, but more like the visions of my kith and kin from the ol’ Sod, of Kelley Green hats, buried treasures, and their grim ancestral myths; especially when they were in their cups. Yet … then why do I even have these thoughts? Jon, who had a low tolerance for ambiguity, grew weary of all the uncertainty of his situation and the analysis he obsessed in performing.
“From the looks of the place I’m about the only customer you’ve had in some time,” said Jon recovering from his Campbellian lapse into the mind-numbing maze of symbolism.
Jon continued, “Most bars I’ve been in have glass ware that is proper, and clean for the drink ordered by the customer. You seem to have a more than adequate supply of glasses; but all of them look cloudy from where I sit.”
“Those glasses are not for serving booze, they’re resting places for spirits … get it? A resting place for spirits! In the clouds! Ha Ha!” The Dwarf paused and smirked at his humor. “All my business is repeat, all jokers like you.”
The Dwarf grabbed a glass from the counter behind him with a fluid motion. He held it up, the opening to his eye, and pointed the base at Jon. He winked; the bottom acting like a magnifying glass. He began humming high-pitched cold notes. Jon imagined it to be the sound he had searched for decades ago in that ice crevice of the North West Territories. What the hell am I thinking about, the god damn Tyee is still trying to get me! thought Jon.
“Yes Mister, every one of those glasses is the final place for them that drank the life from every one that offered them a hand in friendship.”
“What do you mean; every one?”
“All Flying Dutchmen like you, like yourself my oversized customer,” replied the Dwarf issuing a lance like leer directed at Jon. “They all came back here. Yeah this very place … here, where they all got their start, their chance to pour a drink for someone else; and that kind act never gets in the way of living one's life to the fullest, ‘cept not one of them ever did and that covers you too. I’d stay away from oceans if I were you.”
Jon quickly judged the bartender a person on the make for any deal that might come slithering in from Wilshire, or for that matter coming up out of the salt water by way of the Pacific Coast Highway. He wondered, What the hell is that cretin talking about? Flying Dutchman? Is this cocktail joint a front for some other “street” business?
Working behind the bar, the little person, in order to reach the counter top, stood on a raised, cage like scaffold that ran its length, some thirty feet. Jon thought he heard a pacing, synchronized with a clicking, coming from beneath the structure.
“Barkeep, what’s that weird noise under your walkway?” asked Jon.
“Those are sounds of the feral. My warrior dogs of the night; when I sleep they emerge like dreams, and correct any mistakes I might have made prior to closing up – my mind rests without worry. You know, few of the brigands in this world are little people, so the dogs are my equalizers. Want to have a look see,” said the dwarf finishing with a tiny, but strident burst of fractured laughter. The fury of the dogs accelerated in volume, until the dwarf snapped his misshapen thumb and middle fingers; they immediately fell silent.
Jon sensed the syrupy feeling of dread oozing out from his innards, inching up into his throat like a snake, “I have my own lions, tigers, and vipers, thank you,” said Jon.
Immediately regretting his impulse in sharing his demons, he raised the hurricane glass to eye level to study the soda’s effervescence sputter. The froth reminded him how he once observed a man throttled by a strung out speed-head. The mark, a low-level courier, near death, popped and sputtered spittle, like warm soda during the scuttling, when his assailant, the speed-head, suddenly became too weak to finish the work, pushed the little man away, then turned and ran from the scene. Jon, observing the contract from across the street, did not interrupt the struggle. Certainly, he did not care about the victim one way or another, but he also knew the instability of the speed-head. Yet, here I am, like a voyeur, unmoved by the icy insanity of this crude butcher shop artifice of a man … so who is the most unstable? Jon recalled thinking at the time. The courier lost his voice, but not his life; while not the desired fatal outcome, the results nevertheless got the attention of those intended recipients of the message. The courier in due course and in all probability would receive a reassignment, continuing his employment and source of income. The speed-head died soon after from the exertion ... some kind of irony, Jon mused. No one ever heard from the contractor who so badly mismanaged the tap by using a chemically dependent, but inexpensive operator. Jon considered, few people understand the strength and time it takes to strangle a person, and especially a grown man. If the contractor had been a professional, he would have commissioned the use of a garrote. Crap! I need to clear my head; maybe stopping here wasn’t a good idea. I don’t need flashback shit like that, thought Jon.
ow, more than twenty years had passed since Jon completed that three-month course in classified training in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Since then he went on methodically to secure the objective of a tedious six-month mission in the Alberta Rockies, all the while honing his newly acquired skills. Upon the completion and awaiting reassignment, Jon found himself at loose ends and out of pocket.
After a few weeks, and while walking alone to dinner in Kamloops, British Columbia, a street urchin pressed a carton of American cigarettes into his hand and demanded five dollars Canadian. Jon paid without hesitation; he had been smoking the foul tasting, barroom sweepings, called Senior Service English cigarettes. Inside the carton, along with the cigarettes, he found an airline ticket to fly from Victoria, BC to LA, five hundred US dollars, and directions to a Sueno’s Wilshire Bar Pit, for an interview with a representative of a subsidiary of The Company.
That kind of quirky behavior, using bar room conferences, is not what they taught Jon in grad school organizational development classes; yet Jon adroitly consented to the operational policies of his new associates. The Sueno’s meeting went well, and he accepted an exceptional assignment to a part of the world, the South Pacific, remote from all the troubles that plagued the rest of the globe. As he later learned, the assignment turned out as a ruse, which would reduce and attenuate his profile to anyone observing who came and went from the North Western operations. Detailed briefings would come only verbally at nondescript places similar to Sueno’s, but never by mail or phone. Back then, Jon reminisced, that his short embarking period from the LA of the sixties offered a bonus after the months spent living in the frozen tundra, with Tyee and the Caribou herds of the NW/Territories.
“Refresh that drink?”
“Yeah go ahead ... a little less ice this time. I’ve never tasted Scotch like that. What label you pouring my generous friend?” said Jon.
“Bar Scotch, nothing special.”
“Could have fooled me, awful smooth stuff for bar supply,” said Jon. “Oh yeah, can you turn the radio down over there in that corner, I can barely hear myself yelling.”
“My glass is dry too,” a voice with the dexterity of sophisticated innuendo came from the dark corner like a clear and parched, but warm, Sirocco Wind. Jon’s head pivoted to the direction of the comment.
“That isn’t a radio, but good god ... how I wish for that miracle. That way I could shut it off. Anyhow, never mind, she just wants attention,” said the bartender.
“I don’t see anything except those eyes, those are eyes aren’t they,” said Jon.
“How about it Mister ... you going to bring a thirsty girl a drink?”
“Here ... here’s a drink on the house ... take it over to her, it’ll save me a trip” said the dwarf. Maybe I can get this ol’ timer to take her off my hands. That’s the first setup in months she’s tried to con a customer in buying her, even though they never do, thought the bartender.
“You’re starting to freak me out, but hell ... I’ll go along with the joke.”
Jon turned, drinks in hand, hesitated, then walked to the dark corner that cloistered the glowing eyes. He held a drink out to the blackness. Reflexively his forearm tensed – producing knotty cords as he felt warm flesh upon flesh, the light touch of finger tips, and a hand that gently clasped his wrist.
“Want to join me mister?”
“Thanks, but for now I’ll get back to my drink at the bar, “said Jon to the emptiness.
For the second time that day Jon felt disoriented, and a little silly. He decided to get the conversation back to hard reality, but the dwarf got there first.
“You look like a guy that knows an opportunity when he sees one. Look at this shirt,” the dwarf held up a garment pulled from beneath the bar, “It’s got provenance up the ying yang ... sewn by Leona Helmsley herself. Yes, that very Leona, ‘The Queen of Mean’, before she married, Harrrry ... I’ll take a grand for it,” said the bartender.
“I’ll bet you would. Notwithstanding hustlers like you, I like LA; great pulse, not dirty and rusted like some places back east, at least not yet, not freezing like up far north, not boiling like Phoenix , but ...”
“But what? Just where the hell do you live that’s so great? I bet you’re one of them wise ass, touchy-feely types that like to solve everyone else’s problems, and can’t get their own life running in the right direction ... right?” said the bartender trying to figure this customer’s angle. The Dwarf wiped the bar again, but this time with the Leona shirt.
“I’m coming back from a funeral where I felt like an outsider and I guess that’s what I looked like.”
“Sounds like you’re wanting to start a pity party for yourself,” said the Dwarf.
“Look – simmer down ... I just retired and incidentally drove through the neighborhood, when I saw the place from the cab and stopped in to hook up with ol’ times. So when I leave – but listen – first I gotta tell you ... I use to come here, Sueno’s Wilshire Bar Pit, this Sueno’s, a long time ago. Life changing events happened right about where I’m sitting this minute ... that’s why I stopped in, on an impulse, nostalgia ... you know.” Jon swallowed and relaxed his throat muscles. “But it’s all weird-like now; coming in here from the street, the real world, into this black pit of the past; because way back then, the place didn’t look this way. And then there’s you, there’s a lotta shit going on in here ... like that syrupy time warp in Dali’s Persistence.” All the while Jon had a trash-talk-grin on his face, hopefully letting his words be heard, but not challenged.
His smile abruptly washed-out; nothing he said fit into the context of the place, the time, or the present company; his use of far out art allusions, and additionally – he should not share his private life. Repeatedly, when Jon worked under contract he received instructions ... never draw attention to himself, stop-making impressions; unfortunately, those traits marked some of his weak character flaws ... but now, suddenly, Jon felt oddly coerced to give explanations to his explanations.
Figure 5 – The Time Warp Reference
“So anyway, I’m going back to my Shangri-La up on the Cumberland. “ Again, Jon immediately wished he had not use that description, he felt inarticulate, and worse, did not understand why he even talked to the zero-sum-creep behind the bar. Where’s my portrait? He thought.
“Daily syrup time wraps, and you got a what, up on the where?” said the bartender, mocking Jon’s last comment. “If there’s a lot of shit in here, you’re the one dealing it out.” The small person dismissively picked up that day’s Hollywood Track racing form from behind the counter.
“It’s a small working ranch, except I don’t keep animals, in fact I have no fences, just natural ones, the trees in the woods.” After a moment, Jon thought, Christ, I’m still giving out details, but at least it’s about me.
“Where does the ‘work’ come in?” The dwarf had hitched up his trousers with his forearms; one in back and one in front and spoke from the side of the mouth.
Jon looked around, his brow furrowed; he lowered his head, suppressing a strange sense of anger and panic. He felt the blue neon on his back, compelling him forward. He spoke slowly. “I figured that the forest reflected the fragrance of women, high maintenance ladies at that. So when I first bought the place I went about paying attention to how they dressed, and their moods.”
The dwarf’s face remained blank, but the corners of both eyes began crinkling; the little person impulsively stood straighter and looked indirectly at Jon. His hand removed the bar towel covering Jon’s portrait.
“Look – I’m using the trees, women, and the dress thing as a metaphor, trying to describe … trying to tell you about my place,” said Jon. His eyes closed tight, his attention retrograded; and then he saw and smelled the Siwash, huddled in their bark-slab lean-to. For the winter, they rubbed bear grease into their clothes and seldom bathed ... he felt and then saw them; crouched, swaying, undulating, and circling, like the surface plant life in the Saragossa Sea. Then when they stood close to the fire ring the grease began melting; a sickly cloying odor. Now he sensed his arms held to some kind of a bench’s armrest. The smoke from a brazier under the seat billowed up into his nostrils, mouth, eyes, and hair. They all, using sign-language, assured him he would feel better, no more flashbacks, as long as he did them no further harm.
he dwarf, his deformed hand unable to form a fist, instead began tapping long nailed, stubby fingers on the hard wood counter. Jon snapped back.
“Hey you ... no sleeping at the bar! What kind of smell you got on you, like rotting grass! You were mumbling about some Indian guy getting buried and how you hated being there for the funeral, and besides you haven’t told me anything yet. But don’t let that stop you, what with what I’ve got to deal with over there in the corner.”
Jon inhaled deeply for several seconds and then slowly exhaled; he repeated the breathing cycle twice more, recalling that you abandon reality when you sleep; and then picked up where he left off.
“So yeah, I started pruning dead branches and removed some of the rotting wood. This opened up room for the trees, space for the air to circulate, you know, for them to breathe easier. I would stand in the morning’s sunlight and breeze that sprang up; like a voyeur, I watched the trees as they swayed and rustled murmurs in their new open spaces.”
Jon felt stupid sharing those mundane particulars of his life, he thought ... that damn blue neon, it’s like a wand that’s time-lined my life; still he couldn’t discern exactly how he knew that; something like a weak echo repeated every word he spoke, sometimes even before it came out of his mouth, Like being rudely interrupted, he thought.
Jon laughed at the idea that emerged of his own image; opening and closing large shears pruning and trimming, castrating; he hoped he entertain the dwarf.
“Around that same time, one large mulberry tree laid dying, bent almost to the ground, searching for sunlight; the people that I bought the place from left all the acreage overgrown. One day from that spot, don’t laugh, I could hear something that sounded like pleading coming from the tree. Well, the solution looked obvious, so I built a ladder-like-crutch for her, and every day I raised the device up another inch, adjusting the crutch to provide support ... well you get the idea. And, this I swear to you Barkeep, after that, every time I came near that mulberry, its limbs moved, even with no wind. And, when the wind did blow, you know ... like the bellows for a Bach organ ... and if I came upon that tree, the forest song immediately changed, and the melody grew sweet. I could have scored the notes ... so clear were the sounds. I guess the mulberry tree and its friends knew I couldn’t stand to watch her, guilty of nothing ... slowly die,” said Jon.
All the while, like a poseur, the dwarf studied an old racing form; then abruptly, and with considerable agitation said, “A ranch with no cows, a Bach organ, and just trees ... what kind of movie would that make? You worry about trees and didn’t give a shit about the guy that got buried – you know what? You need a road, a yellow brick road, a tree that talks, and some flying monkeys,” his words rising above his little person’s stature, rudely interrogating; wanting to probe and mock Jon’s authenticity.
“One that I’d go see ... sounds like my dream. Does your place have a name?” the voice came emerging again from the mumble and tumble of words from the far dark corner.
As if on cue, the cigarette vending machine, with a mind and determination of its own, whirled and clanged out a pack of Lucky Strikes into its metal trough. One of the dogs sprang from the cage beneath the bar, and snarled as he clamped his fangs onto the red and white pack, taking the cigarettes to the dwarf. The dog growled, his fleshy lips bearing his fangs at Jon, and then it returned to the walkway cage as the dwarf lit up. Jon watched, amazed at the size of the cloud of smoke exhaled from those tiny dwarf lungs.
Distracted, Jon did not answer the voice, instead gave an annoyed glance through creased brows at the bartender, That little dick-weed is hacking on me … I suspect he’s got some sort of electronic device hidden in the corner, maybe controlled by a remote that actuated the vending machine, and played a tape of jumbled conversations, thought Jon. He cursed aloud at the insistence of the barkeep’s playing with the contraption. The dwarf reminded him of the Wizard behind the drapes in the old Oz movie. I am back to reality ... aren’t I? he wondered. He steadied up and took a long pull from his glass. Jon looked at himself in the bar’s mirror and pushed his fingers through his hair and turned to see his profile. Then he startled – from the darkness behind him, a person emerged; a compelling, clear form. Now – there were those blue neon eyes, but this time with a face, a body, a presence. Jon had no breath to hold, his lungs felt an impending collapse, the palms of his hands tingled, and his eyes pulsed, refocusing, to be certain of what he saw … the amazing beauty of the being that suddenly revealed herself to him.
“You didn’t answer me, what do you call your Shangri-La?” asked the voice with the blue neon eyes.
“The Plateau, the Plateau Ranch. And now my turn, what’s your name?”
“Echo … Echo Hall.”
“Is that a stage name? Do you work in the studios?”
“No, that is my tantric chakra name from the reverberations of the heart.”
Jon pushed out a barstool. “I have no idea about what you just said, but why don’t you have a seat and a drink, and you can educate me, after I first tell you all about myself,” said Jon.
“I need to return to my chamber in the corner, but you are welcome to accompany me,” said Echo.
Jon stepped down from his barstool, swayed, but quickly regained his balance.
“Here, take this drink for Echo and a fresh one for yourself … you’ll need them, besides it’ll save me a trip,” said the dwarf.
~~~Jon picked up the drinks and turned to follow Echo, already back in the dark far corner, and still talking. Jon believed he overheard, “If you lose your virtue it’ll just be a matter of time until you lose your freedom.”
“Hey, what I just heard you say ... isn’t that a quote from Adams or Jefferson, or is it a come-on trick of yours?” Jon followed with his pick-up laugh and grin. Still a continuous delay in what Jon heard blurred the sense of what she said; like an interpreter speaking over some idiom in the background.
“I don’t know what you heard, and I’m not responsible for everything said in this place,” said Echo.
“Echo, I have to tell you, your corner kind of crawls on me ... and now this whole place does too. Why don’t we go outside and take a cab to the beach. I’m staying at a friend’s place in Santa Monica. She lets me use her home when she’s out of town, and she’s out of town now; you up for that? Hey – are you there? Did you hear what I said?”
“Excuse me, my responsiveness – my attention – diverted while studying your appearance; I mean your face and then your back. That is all I have seen up to this point, and then for just a brief moment. I just met you … so maybe let’s talk, and get to know each other, besides it’s barely noon,” said Echo.
Jon felt confused and swore without saying the words. Because of the delay in her response, Jon decided, after his last comment, not to rush the pickup and to change his come-on; he also realized that she would look great on his arm.
“Okay, but where’s the rest of you, all I can see are your eyes?”
“I’m here ... give me your hand and I’ll tell you all about myself.”
Jon felt the warmth that came from contact with the flesh of Echo’s hand. He sat down next to where he imagined she would be and found only space. Her eyes were now directly across from him; he imagined he experienced her breath; the honeyed smell, even the taste ... like an indulgent breeze brushing through a field of flowering vanilla. The air-conditioning switched on with a sudden blast that amplified the stale and sour bar atmosphere, dampening the excitement of Jon’s sensory experience. She began to speak, in a soft rhythm with an occasional well-toned inflection. Jon analyzed ... she had such vocal control ... she must be the chanteuse for this bar. He speculated, this place could be that kind of setup; order drinks for the good-looking canary, get the John drunk, trick him into thinking he might get somewhere, and then roll him out the back door sans wallet, and any personal items worth anything. Besides, I don’t want to listen to her talking about her self. She should be interested in the guy picking her up ... namely me.
At first, the tonal quality of her voice mesmerized him; and he remained aware that she spoke readily, yet he had no idea of precisely what she said. He speculated that even though her words were delayed and jumbled they must have a message for me, and if just given time, I could understand their meaning … they would become clear. He wanted desperately to communicate with her, to hear what she found appealing about him. So to fit with his perceptions, Jon gave meaning where none existed. He though, her words nevertheless are flawed – like newly mined diamonds; even her cadence gave no context to her utterances. They made no sense to Jon, no cohesive syntactical pattern that he could discern, but he held back and struggled to keep his attention focused. Time slowed, then the regulator hands crawled to a stop; he felt drained and frustrated. Jon rose and excused himself.
“Ready for another one?”
“Well okay, one last round to go ... for the road, what time is it ... strange, my watch has stopped,” said Jon, “By the way why don’t you have her come up to the bar instead of lounging in that dark pit back there? You’d make more money, as it would be easier to buy her drinks here at the bar.”
“She has been at the bar.”
“Not while I’ve been here!”
“You have chosen not to see her for what she is and I can’t help that!” said the Dwarf. “You see me, and we talk, so what’s the difference?”
“I don’t do riddles … what the hell are you talking about?” said Jon.
“Do you see yourself? Have you ever seen yourself?”
“Of course, that’s’ a stupid question!”
“You may think so, but you came in here, and you want things to be the way you want them to be, and that’s not how it works in here. Things are as they are, and that’s the reality of it all.”
As he began to speak Jon broke off eye contact and looked down at the floor, “Who is the arbiter of reality? You? I think not, no thank you. No offense, but you are in an entirely different world than me. Just look at your own reality and then examine mine. Which would you rather be … me, or you … a dwarf?”
Jon waited for a reply and then looked up to see if the bartender had heard him.
“Where did you come from? What happened to the Dwarf? Did the dogs eat him?” Jon laughed at his attempted jest. The eyes with the blue rays stood before him, while she wiped the bar glasses with a dirty shirt. He started to stand up and lean over the bar to see where the Dwarf now hid himself.
“I am in front of you, not hiding from you. You still do not see. Even though there is a mirror behind the bar, and still you do not see anything but yourself. I see you and I see you in the mirror and they are not the same person. The Jon Susu I see once had the possibility of the poet; to bring beauty, hope, love, and tenderness to those he touches. But the Jon Susu in the mirror is the lifeless poet. He cannot rhyme without using me, without using I, without using mine, mine, mine. He brings nothing to anyone.”
“Listen, I’m as much an actuality as you and that Dwarf are, maybe more, because I’m bigger.” Again Jon laughed at his intended humor.
“Is that your moral position, that you’re large? Therefore, with that same virtuous attitude you left Tyee, bleeding in a glacier crevice. That the being you have forgotten, your nothingness, the one you focus on to the exclusion of all others, is superior to those others?” said a voice that now resembled a transubstantiation of the Dwarf, Echo, and Jon; in essence a trinity. The entity behind the bar picked up the bark and berry framed mirror painting of Jon. “This object will unmask the secret life of your feelings, but be wary for the cruet of berries and bark will illustrate your irrational behavior and decisions.”
“Just who the hell am I talking with?” said Jon.
“You are speaking with the fearsome ambiguity of the way the world appears to you. You fail to act from a basis of understanding that there is joy, that there is pain, and that there are individual needs in others. There is no morality to your life. You have lost all contact with the philosophies and sciences that deal with man’s being,” continued the composite voice from behind the bar.
“Hey, don’t you think little man or blue-ray eyes, whoever you are, that you’re going way too personal for a fucking barkeep?”
“Even now, while you’re being served the opportunity, you don’t seem to want to come to grips with seeing that you own nothing, and control nothing, least of all yourself; you permit irrational, self indulgent forces to steer your destiny … you, Jon Susu, are a habit driven mechanism; you no longer think or analyze, if you ever did; but go by a narcissistic rote through each day,” said the entity behind the bar.
“You know where I have my elbows resting at this moment? Well that place appears to be a bar, a wooden bar, and not a couch. Back off, you’re way overplaying your role of the sagacious bartender. In addition, you’ve reversed the traditional roles of the empathetic barkeep and the remorseful, crying in their beer, client; so that I’m sitting here listening while you blab on about shit that you know nothing about,” said Jon.
“Yes, but your elbows are attached to you Jon, and you are the one conjuring these images, these observations, they are from your reality. Maybe it’s like the old proverb; looking for a black cat in a dark room when you’re not certain a cat is in the room; is that ignorance or is that investigating the unknown? What is it that you are attempting each day to figure out? You see, if you are doing that, the exploring what you don’t know thing, it means that you’re ignorant and that you understand that and it’s a good thing.”
Jon closed his eyes and pushed back from the bar. The voice took no notice and continued.
“Now look in the mirror and hear your reflection say that emotionally, your actions are all intuitive based on your having had the experience of the reality of living each day and getting through without needing to think, to perceive your environment and that of others. You don’t think; you don’t understand … you just react through “muscle” memory. Your life has been a game whose duration is short, but is composed of endless cycles, replayed endlessly; as though you bought one record and no more, there is no variety, you are locked in to that album, that tune … preciosity is not a concern here. In short you are one dimensional, flat like a ribbon with just one side. You have trained and trained to where all your actions were reflexive, all your emotions were on an intravenous drip. You’re like an animal taught to hunt for its master and then when turned loose into the freedom of the wilds – you can only do what you were rained to do. Throw off the leash Jon. See more than yourself in that painting mirror you cherish so much“
“If your opinions were important to me I would challenge each one, but they aren’t, so I won’t. Why don’t you hand me my mirror and I’ll be gone from here. For god’s sake – a ribbon with one side – that says it all,” said Jon.
“Don’t you mean your portrait? Anyway, I’m ready, and it’s ready when you are.” Jon felt, more than heard, her mutterings, as Echo handed the bark framed object to Jon. She touched his hand again lightly during the exchange. Echo continued to garble on like two radio stations tuned together on the same frequency.
“Eleven thirty, we close in another half hour. I’ll fix you a special drink to go, that’ll slow down her gab fest, besides you don’t give a fuck what she’s saying ... all you want is to get her in the sack,” said the Dwarf. The Dwarf laughed and handed Jon a paper sack. “The brown Styrofoam cup is her drink and the white Styrofoam is yours, be sure not to mix them up.”
“Let me settle up the tab,” said Jon.
“No needs today ... come back tomorrow. We’ll settle the score then.”
“I may not be here tomorrow.”
“You’ll always be here,” said the dwarf.
Odd choice of words, thought Jon.
on walked out into the late night buzz of Wilshire Boulevard. A rare and rapidly passing weather front watered the LA basin through low scudding clouds, leaving slickened streets; reflecting and intensifying the metropolitan lights of nightly commerce. Street traffic, mostly lone drivers, pampered by the perfect climates of their steel cells, hissed down the boulevard flinging up elaborate misty patterns of dirty water, invaded by an iridescent oily sheen.
Echo took his hand in hers, but with no letup in the flow of her verbalizing. No doubt of her beauty and if the evening wound up as he hoped, in bed with the lovely creature, then the ear-beating price would have been worth the certain pleasure. There were no cabs to hail at this hour. Jon went back into the bar and asked the bartender to call one.
“By the way, what is so unique about her drink that you put the booze in a special color Styrofoam cup?
The dwarf said, “It’ll stop her talking by half, and a subduing of her chakras. It’s also a gift to you; after all, you’ll need someone in your corner ... right amigo?” Jon laughed and said, “Well, if that works I’ll take out a patent”. He heard a horn honking, went out, and found a cab waiting. Echo had been bending the driver’s ear, and he had a pained expression on his face. Having the Santa Monica beach house address understood by the cabbie, over Echo’s incessant chattering, required repeated attempts by Jon.
The dwarf looked at the bar where Jon had been sitting when he first came in. Some sort of bark like sheet framed between a pane of clear glass and a mirror lay on the bar. The dwarf picked the bundle up; examined first one side, and then the other. Funny, why would a guy carry around a mirrored piece of glass stuck on a slab of bark wood? thought the little person.
eren’t you my driver from the funeral earlier up in Cerritos?” said Jon.
“Don’t know Bub, I’m too busy taking care of me to remember faces ... but I do recall big tippers and you must not have been one of them,” said the driver. He removed his little finger from his ear and wiped its nail on the front of his shirt.
Jon smarted from the driver’s apparent negative recollection, but held his peace. The cab pulled up to the west beachside address. Jon helped Echo out and asked her to wait in the portico while he settled with the driver.
“Thanks for coming so quick to our call.”
“I didn’t get any call. Just cruising the Boulevard like normal, when I saw you two.”
“I had the bartender call your dispatcher from the bar where you picked us,” said Jon.
“Mister, I ain’t got no dispatcher and there hasn’t been a bar at that address since the seventies, when Sueno’s closed. The owner died and left the establishment to his daughter, and she couldn’t make a go of the business. Some say that she couldn’t shut up, kinda like your little lady, no insult intended, but the condition just sort of goes with some temperaments,” said the cab driver. He wiggled the finger into his ear again.
The meter said sixteen. Jon impulsively pulled two twenties from his breast wallet, hoping to restore a degree of prestige in the cabbie’s eyes.
“Not tonight ... you’ll pay, but later,” said the driver. He closed the window and accelerated rapidly off towards the ocean. The exhaust fumes, creating rings, lingered in the air, reminding Jon of smoldering tundra. Then he felt an unusually cool breeze and sensed a hand held out to him. His reflexes spun him around. He saw Echo, her mouth working, coming towards him.
he beach lay empty and wind whipped. The window, covered with salt spray, blurred the view. Jon sat on the edge of the bed, his back to Echo. Frustration drenched the atmosphere. Echo, lying on her back, chatted happily about something Jon did not understand. He reached for the brown paper sack.
“Hey, maybe what the bartender told me just might work; at least the booze will dull her verbal drive.”
Jon took the lid off and handed her the brown Styrofoam cup. He opened his white container.
“Here’s to us and the good times to come,” said Jon.
“Are you certain you really wish me to drink this?”
“Well, the bartender made the cocktail special; said the mixture might relax
you.” Jon turned his back to Echo.
“Jon, do you like me and would you want to marry me?” said Echo.
“Whoa Echo, we just met, and yes I think you’re beautiful, but I won’t lie to you – I can’t see marriage.”
“But I have fallen in love with you,” said Echo.
“I understand the sentiment, when did you first become aware?”
“When you spoke so movingly of your home in the woods and how you treated the trees, and nymphs ....”
Jon interrupted and then spoke slowly and with emphasis, “I never said nymphs. I only tried to describe to the little barkeep the image of the garden in the woods that I love so deeply. So what else do you recall me saying?”
Jon waited, but there followed no response, only silence. He turned around, the bed lay empty; the brown Styrofoam cup stood empty. The balcony door stood fully open to the terrace that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, dark with white breakers near shore hissing and challenging, filling the air with a sticky mist. The drapes flared from the on-shore breeze. Echo stood tall and still.
Jon jumped off the bed and ran to her, “You gave me a fright, you’re cold, you’re shivering, come back inside.”
“st or er ... nt be lone ... ken art,” spoke Echo. (Lost for ever, want to be alone, broken heart.)
“I can’t understand you Echo; maybe you’re too shivery to talk for us to communicate. I’ll call a cab and take you home,” said Jon. Goddamn that dwarf and that special drink, I could be in a mountain of trouble, thought Jon.
“If ly I uld ve en ted th e me ation u ve ur rry,” said Echo. (If only I could have been treated with the same consideration, you gave your mulberry.)
on cut short his scheduled beach house stay and flew back to his Plateau Ranch. He decided not to report Echo’s strange departure to the authorities thinking; For god’s sake – they might hold me over for questioning and make a report to the media; if that did transpire, my retirement would be jeopardized, if and when The Company found out, and for damn sure they would be made aware. Surely, if she had run afoul and didn’t come back to the bar, the dwarf would miss her, and with any luck report her disappearance to the police. I hardly knew her and she had no right telling me she loved me. In reality, the fucking dwarf gave her the drink; and just used me as the waiter ... the server. Then again ... well the whole episode could all have been a scam that went off track. Ha, Lady Luck likes to be seen with me!
His house stood hollow – echoing with space. The dwelling fondled the sense of emptiness, coldness, even though a warm day; the sour odor of stacked ricks of recently split oak and pungent hemlock near to the deck. Jon threw open all the windows and doors. A shadow crossing the land of his ranch drew his attention to the sky. He located the source; the form of a large bird riding the thermals. The feathered animal made several circles and then dropped gracefully onto the tallest oak in the woods.
The final entanglement of synchronicity with Echo began that same day; the day of Jon’s return and the Eagle’s landing in the oak tree. Immediately, a vibrant unworldly tempo at The Plateau saturated the atmosphere; profound and unrelenting. The Eagle donated its terrifying screams.
Figure 6 The Plateau Shade Garden
Then, Jon found himself in his shade garden digging with frenzy, compelled by forces beyond anything he had ever experienced. The passage of time ran on unremittingly, not requiring sleep or food, deadening the sanities. Jon had a vague sense of several days’ passage for the excavation of the two coffin-sized holes, parallel to each other. His hands were raw and bleeding. During the dig, he encountered and removed large stones; stacking them near the holes, yet they continually rolled back into the first opening. Even though he knew he did not have to continue, regardless of the force compelling him, he had dug with a passion. He took pride in being the sole force for living his life as master of his destiny.
Still uncertain as to why he had removed the earth in such a compulsive manner, he concentrated on a focusing – a vague image coming to mind. He recalled a trip to the Louvre. Now a convergence began forming that led to a large canvas displayed on a wooden tripod that stood in front of some cast statuary. Jon returned to the cabin, and went directly to his library. There he pulled out one of the books. He stepped out into the sunlight of the deck, and flipped to the index and then to the page. Immediate recognition ... the woman at Sueno’s, the woman who accompanied him to the beach house in Santa Monica, who vanished into the beach mist ... identical to the nymph Echo of a Waterhouse painting. Jon leaned in closer to the page and recognized an image that could have well been himself as a young man; he lay in the foreground gazing at his reflection. Jon knew the concept he worked a concept that seemed absurd – yet so all those events that transpired on Wilshire Boulevard, and in Santa Monica. Then he turned a few more pages and found a drawing of Sisyphus rolling a large stone up a steep incline. He sensed an unsettling anxiety, and his cheek began painfully burning. His mind, sluggish to respond, felt exhausted and incapable of understanding the mystery; maybe tomorrow, all this would make sense.
Figure 7 Narcissus and Echo -- John William Waterhouse (1849–1917)
on fell asleep weary and aching. A feeble scratching noise, like sharp fingernails being drug over a rough surface, came from outside, half waking Jon. Certain he lay dreaming, but then grasped the insistent noise real. He put on his robe and opened the front door to his cabin. The blue neon, fierce in intensity, pained him to look, without blinking, at the twin beams. The pulsing rays increased their intensity and he cried for compassion. Then they dimed and went out completely.
“My ave is dy, as am I,” said Echo. (My grave is ready as am I.) “ease do at is ed.” (Please do what is required.)
The Dwarf, now a transformed nymph called Dryads, stood armed with her ax next to Echo. Jon speculated, Could Dryad be as Groff wrote, “… the silken edges of a memory that billows between them and softens the long fall”. Dryads extended the birch-bark painting to Jon. He shook his head refusing to take the portrait, now not wanting the likeness.
Figure 8 DRYADS
“My ion can ver use her ax nst you Jon, ut I can and will ive her son to use it nst me. I ove you on.” (My companion can never use her ax against you Jon, but I can and will give her reason to use the weapon against me. I love you Jon.”)
“Why are you here, why did you follow me? Never mind I can’t understand you anyway. Please leave me to my own peace,” said Jon as he closed the door.
Echo turned from the entrance to Jon’s home and walked to the Shade Garden. There, without hesitation, she pulled the ladder crutch from beneath the mulberry tree. The tree shrieked from the tear; a long slow fractured rent its entire length, and then the trunk broke, severed in two. Echo turned to stare rebelliously at Dryads the forest nymph. The ax flew swift and forcefully. Echo swayed from the impact. She staggered to the edge of the grave, and fell face forward onto the rocks. Dryads pushed the dirt in on top of Echo, her bones already turned into stone. Dryads sent up a throaty whaling as a remainder of the dying mulberry, replacing the forest’s song of the wind.
The forest nymph returned from the garden to Jon’s cabin and called for him to come out. Jon opened the door and stood in its portal. The nymph again pulled the framed birch wood from beneath her goatskin garment, handing the oval over to him, saying, “When you are ready ... see yourself as others see you, and as they pass over the silvered glass, recognize, if you can, those for whom you have served without a desire for compensation or obsequious flattering’s. Remember Susu, our reflections should best be found in many places and with many persons.” Jon held the portrait in both hands and looked down onto its surface. A slight odor of decaying permafrost exuded, slithering into his nostrils.
Days later, Jon had grown weak, for he could not leave the mirror to eat or sleep, not for a moment. He held the silvered oval to his face, amazed and adamantly fascinated at the constant parade of people, because in each he recognized only himself. All his likenesses passed by skimming the silver glass for just a second, arrogating and deigning his beauty, his self-righteousness. Conversely, fate held forever, an overwhelming sadness ... for the only images ever to appear in the mirror, those neither of his mother or of father, were Jon’s. In that moment, all the lifelong indulgent forces that shaped his mind and spirit, drained of their support, hid their reflections from accompanying him any longer.
Jon, compelled by a Lemming like force, used the last of his strength to return to the garden. Next to Echo’s grave he stood, perhaps unawares of Dryads and the circling eagle, because who knew the state of his mind and soul. Try as he might, he could not bear to remove his eyes from his own likeness. Weakened to extremis, he still managed to smile dotingly at the mirror as he fell forward, clutching the oval close to his face, into the grave he dug with his own hands.
A breeze arose and a weeping resounded from tree to every tree ... until all joined in the wail of wilderness; the forest knew too, the days with Jon ... were forever gone. The eagle who had been circling now landed next to the grave, and waited while the nymph threw the ladder crutch and next, the birch-bark painting in upon Jon, after which she pushed a clod of dirt onto the body. The nymph climbed onto the eagle’s back ... his passenger. Together they rose past the treetops, the nymph peering down at the ground. Then the eagle flew high and circled back, directly over Echo’s grave. He gave a knife-like shriek, turning his head back towards the nymph. At that, moment Dryads deliberately pushed off the eagle’s back. She spun as she fell, planting into the earth, immediately taking root sprouting the buds of a mulberry.
Reuter’s International News Services, Associated Press Bulletin.
International bounty hunter, Jon Susu, found dead on his Tennessee ranch.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) alerted by an anonymous tip, found Mr. Susu at the bottom of a grave shaped hole. He held a silvered oval mirror in his hands. At first, because of the nature of Mr. Susu’s previous profession, the authorities suspected foul play. Oddly, a similar shaped hole, but filled with stones, had been dug next to one in which they found his body.
The TBI said that while they will continue investigating, they had not yet found any signs of criminality. They theorized the mirror might have distracted Mr. Susu, causing him to accidently fall in the hole. The upcoming autopsy will shed light on the exact manner of Mr. Susu’s death said the Bledsoe County Coroner.
An anonymous high-level official at The Company informed the TBI that, Mr. Susu, was a defrocked priest; they left the reason for his defrocking up in the air. No family members came forward or could be located. Services will be restricted to associates from The Company.
Mr. Dillon, of the AP continued to investigate the circumstances of Mr. Susu’s passing. While not offering to name his sources, he indicated Mr. Susu’s background could be something other than the TBI offered to the press. Especially interesting, the allegation of Mr. Susu’s being a bounty hunter, which again we attributed to high-level Company sources, who requested to remain anonymous. Upon further questioning, they admitted the declaration a standard practice to disassociate The Company from any employees or contractors brought into the glare of publicity.