“We’re sitting ducks down here,” Sergeant-Major kept saying. A nervous man for a soldier, but I didn’t say so. Instead, I maintained the legendary silence which had served me well throughout my career.
I raised my telescope and saw the dust-plume of a single horseman.
Sergeant-Major saw it too, and without a glass. “That’ll be Lord Leighton’s galloper, I expect,” he said unnecessarily.
I leaned in the saddle and glanced back at the column behind us, the glitter of harness and the immense cloud of dust raised by so many hooves.
Sergeant-Major may be nervous, I thought, but he’s right.
You see that boy over there? With the horn? I bet you think he sounds rough, playing that same tired scale, trenching in them bad habits like forcing and tonguing.
I tell you what. He’s born of this city, of this ward. He may not know Buddy Bolden from Adam, but that don’t matter. That boy stands on the porch all day. He don’t quit.
One day some old man walk by and hear him, take him under his wing and teach him all the mysteries. Why? Because that boy already got what can’t be taught.
He got the fire.
The worst was when the conspiracy theorists got hold of the story and started spreading it on social media.
To me it was simple.
Paul was supposed to be at work that Tuesday, but instead he was fucking a prostitute in a midtown hotel.
When he watched the towers fall, he knew he had the perfect cover.
He had obviously been planning this a long time since the passport he had when the Interpol apprehended him was dated well before 9/11.
They think he crossed into Mexico and went from there.
He’d spent months waiting for his moment.
He took it.
You get used to being watched all the time
After lockdown I’d sit on my rack and look out onto the block.
From my cell I could see, no shit, three different cameras.
They didn’t even bother to hide them.
They were right there in the open, but too high to reach.
I’m guessing the screws had one of those setups with a screen that cycles through all of them, or maybe a bunch of screens.
However they did it, I had certain knowledge I was under constant surveillance.
I go outside now and it’s weird.
I could do anything.
Wallace sat in the camp tent. The tunnel disaster had set them back at least a week, and they were already behind. That fool of a drunken Irishman had contrived to blow himself to kingdom come, taking a dozen prime tunnelers with him.
“What’s the chink’s name again?”
“Feng something. We call him Royal Jelly on account of him being good with the blasting gelatin.”
“And you’re sure he knows what he’s doing? We can’t afford another mishap like happened with O’Meaers.”
“O’Meares was always drunk, Chief. Nerves. Chinamen don’t drink. And you know, they was the ones invented gunpowder.”
“Oh Clarenence. Not another one.”
“You always say that. But look here. See on the side? C &NW. Upright spout. Copperite finish. Chicago & Northwestern usually had angle spouts. This is one rare oiler.”
“Honestly, I don’t think I have room. Nobody has bought one for ages.”
“All it takes is one person who knows these things. They’ll come in and clean you out. This collection at this price is a once-in-a-lifetime find.”
“So you keep saying. Meanwhile, I have a whole section of my shop that smells like a garage floor. Go ahead, then. Put it with the others.”
My father always led us in silent prayer before we dropped our lines into the water.
“Remember, boys, you musn’t pray for God to help you catch fish,” he’d admonish, “for that is a misuse of Holy Supplication akin to praying for wealth or vainglory. Besides, the fish will laugh at you.”
Once I asked him what we should pray for. He only smiled, the green of his eyes matching the rushing freshet below us.
He touched my shoulder, turned and made his way down the rocks.
I guess to him an answer was unnecessary.
I never did find out.