Just heard a performance of the second movement of Barber’s Concerto for Violin & Orchestra, Opus 14, and i drifted off on mind journey of running naked northward on the open expanse towards Plateau Point with a cantaloupe in one hand and a torch in the other under the cold desert sky with white dust-like stars and feeling the cold of the Vishnu basement rock as I near the plateau’s edge to where the Colorado River cuts, and wondering what I’ll do when the park rangers catch up with me.
Sultry early afternoon in the PACNW and it’s still with the turbidity of the atmosphere in silent consummation giving rise to the thunderstorms that have not yet risen, and I’m drawn back to Northern Virginia that hot August when we’d take my Coleman canoe on the Potomac above Great Falls, and she in her teal one piece bathing suit that rides high on each of her hips and her back is to me as we paddle the canoe further upstream and I see the mist of sweat on her shoulders and upper back and how her taunt muscles move under her bronze skin with each paddle, and I never want this to end.
South of the Elysian Fields, a warm sea breeze blows over me, the air invisible. The phantom wind rouses the nearby fire over which my crew had earlier cooked meats in sacrifice to the gods.
Creusa’s shade finds me. I sit on the sand that overlooks a broad stretch of beach. As Creusa nears, the shift she wears traces her body’s contours—the garment is a conundrum: revealing all, yet, conversely, nothing.
My ship long ago left Troy and the familiar clear waters of the Aegean. The price of our pursuit of Aeneas.
In front of me, my bireme’s wooden prow runs clean onto the smooth sands near Cumae. We are beached, and my crew, that small band of proud Achaeans, moored the ship and moved onto the sand like weary ants leaving their subterranean dwellings in Spring.
Earlier when I’d stepped off my vessel just arrived and plunged into the waist-deep clear waters of the Tyrrhenian, the hot sun overhead beat on my bare tanned back. Upon arrival, I’d surveyed the beach north and south attempting in vain to spy Aeneas’s vessel knowing full well he’s deep down in the foul Cave where he conducts his unholy communion with the Sybil.
My attention returns. Creusa’s shade now sits beside me. She’s warm and smells of a half-forgotten dream. Her lips taste of salt when she presses hers onto mine.
“The hour approaches, my love,” she says. “My husband nears the river Acheron and the Crossing.”
“All in good time,” I answer.
We join, Creusa and I, my ship holds anchor against the tide, and the fire dies.
It’s been two days since I’ve had more to eat than a handful of overripe wild blackberries that follow in a tangled mess the clear glacial-fed River Onyx.
The berries have all but disappeared since I’ve climbed onto the boulder-strewn outwash, which has made my forward progress tedious at best.
Yet when the wind blows hard and the myst clears, I’m able to discern my destination in the distance: a craggy lone monadnock towering some one hundred and fifty meters, dominating the Cowudully Plateau, which I should enter, at this rate, some two sunsets from now.
And as I walk, I can’t help but think back to the Slaughters, a break-in-bulk point at the confluence of the Oynx and Greene Rivers. A place where I’d last eaten some two weeks ago a filling meal in the company of my former Commander who’d told me was quest was nonsense, and wouldn’t I rather join her as crew on her dirigible “Scarlet Muse.”
I must admit, it’d been a tempting offer, yet I declined.
“You’re a fool,” she’d said, her dark eyes piercing me in the dark candlelight of the pub. “What you seek isn’t in some rock spire out on the glacial plains.”
I’d stared at her. “Tell me, then, Commander. What do I quest?”
She’d spoke the word simply.
I smiled as the wind tore me and the angry clouds pushed over the peaks, obscuring my view.
And my thoughts.
Thinking of this and that as of late, most of which is nonsensical (I.M.H.O.), and how we sometimes refuse to acknowledge the dangly bits on the sordid underside of each of us which, in that parallax of Love, tend to drive the passion and the Want that is totally reminiscent of the very first time she came to you, her clothes wet from the surprise summer downpour when the rain is warm and the air sultry, and the two of you encircle each other and you kiss True Love’s Kiss along the Slipstream of Time.
The wind shift comes at noon, bringing a warm briny-smelling breeze from the Pacific Ocean to the airship docks on the Uniontown pier. Like restrained gray sky-whales, the airships shift silently by the bow in the wind around the tall metal spires of the mooring masts.
Yesterday, I moored my airship, “The Resurgent Lady,” on the mast closest to the wide green bay that Uniontown is renowned for.
I emerge from the open hatch and stand up on the narrow steel catwalk that runs like a metal backbone the length outside and on top of the “Lady’s” gas bag envelope. This is the highest point on the dirigible. Standing outside so high up gives one pause, for a bit of carelessness, you’ll slide down the envelope to your death below.
I look over my shoulder.
The massive fin rises up, and the gray curve of the envelope on either side of me slips away from me.
Below me, the navigator’s incessant playing of her squeezebox on the wheel deck of the gondola breaks the pleasantness that I’m trying hard to maintain. Hence, the reason I sought refuge in this place.
When I first crewed airship, I was a bosun. I would climb up to the top of the dirigible mid-flight and, secured with strong ropes and a harness, repel off the top of the envelope down its smooth side sometimes to the gondola below.
That was long ago. As I stand, the wind blows through my hair. I feel that I might see forever. My rigging days, alas, are behind me.
“Winds bring change,” so the old woman told me late last evening at a noisy pub called the “Gasbag Arms” where most of the aircrews drink and generally misbehave.
The old woman would tell your Fate for a couple of coins, and I, always curious of the Palm Arts, dropped a few said coins on the table at which she had situated herself amongst the glasses of beer and sweet-smelling cooked fish of a species I couldn’t readily identify.
“Go on, old woman,” I said. “Tell me what the Gods have in store for me.”
She took the money, then she took my palm.
Her face was withered from too much sun as if she’d been at sea most of her life.
I said, “You’ve been at sea most of your life?”
She shook her head. “Aircrew. Until the crash of ’48.”
I nodded and smiled as if I knew what she was talking about, but I really had no clue.
She pulled my hand closer to her face, her eyes like sunken raisins in a tasty bread pudding that I would have liked to have eaten, but alas there was none to speak of in the “Gasbag Arms.”
“My, my,” she said. “Your love line. It’s unlike any I’ve seen.”
This remark satisfied me. “Well, I do know my way around a corset…”
“No, you don’t,” she said, her voice flat.
“Enough!” I said. “Tell me of my fate, old woman. Will Fortune smile at me?”
“Not if you keep getting her corset laces in knots every time you try to untie them,” she said.
I withdrew my hand from her and stood up. “Thank you, kind madam.”
I turned and walked away from the table, but before going too far, I turned back and said, “By the way. The corset thing. The knots. That only happened one time. When I asked to cut the laces, she told me ‘no’ as she’d gotten the corset in Paris on her most recent trip with her husband and worried I would damage it. I did in the end manage to remove said garment from her personage before we engaged in, well…”
“Winds bring change,” she said, then looks away from me. “Next!”
But, that was yesterday. Today is, well, today.
I decide it’s time to return to the “Lady’s” bridge and leave the solitude of the top of the envelope. The sun is setting as I climb through the hatchway, sealing it before making my way down the narrow ladder. I step gingerly between the pregnant gas bags all the while hearing that navigator’s insufferable playing.
My bosun meets me at the landing at the envelope’s bottom. She purses her lips and hands me a folded piece of paper.
“We’ve got problems,” she says, her voice flat.
I laugh. “When don’t we?”
She doesn’t share my amusement and folds her arms across her chest.
I open the paper and read.
“Shit,” I mutter. “We best be getting underway.”
“Yes, sir. We’re re-provisioned. Shall I recall the crew?”
I nod. “We need to put some kilometers between us and Uniontown.”
Within an hour, we cast off and gain altitude as the wheelman (who is actually a woman) expertly navigates us across the bay and into the foothills of the Coast Range. I’m relieved to hear the familiar ‘chop, chop’ of the propellers. The world turns dark below me as night settles in.
“Bosun! Lights out. Except for the binnacle.”
I walk across the cold wooden planks of the gondola’s deck. The stars are bright tonight, but there’s no moon. The ground far below is black as sackcloth. There are no details.
The bosun joins me. “Lights out, captain. Night flying is risky.”
“I’m aware of the risks,” I say.
The navigator leans over the railing of the flying bridge and whispers. “Lights astern, captain.”
I look at the bosun before climbing to the flying bride. The navigator points aft. I raise my spyglass to my eye.
“It’s them,” I say.
The bosun whispers in my ear. “He wants her corset back.”
I frown and look away. “Yes.”
“Winds bring change,” she says.
“Oh, go on,” is my only reply.