Ripped from the old dream where I’m back in Helmand and bleeding out while Doc White tries to clamp the artery. I bolt out of my bag and look around for what woke me. Diesels, more than one. I stow my gear and make my way up the hill, using the trees for cover. Six dozers idle in the grass valley below. I knew this was coming and have been pulling up the orange stakes wherever I find them. Can’t stop “progress,” but this means I’ll need to find somewhere else to stay close to the VA but away from people.
“He asks if you are tired,” said Father Kino.
Del Martes shook head, sweaty in the glittering helmet. Gods do not feel fatigue, he wanted to say, but did not.
The climb had been tortuous, but it was worth it. The Jesuit and his native consort had shown him the river of gold, and Del Martes had seen its glitter himself. Now, in the search for its source, he became the first civilized man to gaze out on this valley.
He thought about the empire he would build here once the mine was established. These friendly natives would make splendid slaves.
Staff/Sgt Hooms missed badly.
“Mother FUCK!“ He swore loud enough that we heard him in the mess fifty meters away. He slapped his holster as though about to shoot the offending golf disc, then swaggered out to retrieve it and try again, shaking his head with exaggerated disgust.
This, like everything he did, was a performance. He wanted all of us to see that, despite his lack of combat experience, he was a salty old veteran.
I’d seen his type before. Career NCOs yearning for a combat star. They strutted around the FOB like John Wayne, armed to the teeth.
I swear, Randy, you are the laziest man I ever seen. You sit there on the hot porch and you won’t even bother to fan yourself.
Why I should fan myself, Mama, when I got this here cold beer you brung me? And thanks, by the way. If you happen past the kitchen, maybe get me another?
If I wasn’t sure you were my son I’d wonder where you got such a powerful ease.
Mama, one of us working so hard should please the Lord enough to smile.
Why don’t you at least fix up that fan like you promise?
I stand behind the bar in the same dirty black pants, the same stained white shirt and bow tie. Good thing they can’t smell me.
They schedule me to work just under forty hours, so no overtime. The theater can’t afford it, they say. Looking at how these crowds are dressed, I find that hard to believe. You never saw so many Rolexes and diamond tennis bracelets.
Come intermission, they’ll pile out like cattle, line up to buy a plastic cup of merlot or chardonnay for ten bucks. Then it’s back to the second-rate orchestra and the same tired ballet.
Pringle made a point of driving me by the place on the way to County Lockup. He pointed out the window and jeered to his partner driving the prowl car.
“That there patio furniture ought to get a civic medal, catching such a hardened criminal as Joey here,” he snorted. “Tell me, Joey, did you conceive that brilliant robbery all by yourself or did you go to the library to consult?” He laughed so hard he couldn’t finish his sentence.
“I didn’t take to thieving by choice,” I said, defiant. “I’ll plan better next round.”
“Well, you’ll have plenty time.”
The left-side cylinder seized four kilometers from the summit, the troublesome valve finally giving out, the low-gear sewing machine turning into a wretched clanking, then silence.
She pushed the smoking bike as far to the side as she could and looked back toward the valley, the smell of hot oil dissipating in the crisp mountain air. With the heavy panniers she could not push the bike over the mountain. It had to be back, then. Back to the valley. A six-week wait for parts, probably.
If it was fixable at all.
She thought of her father, what he would say.
In the early 1980s Elspeth Beard became the first British woman to complete a solo motorcycle trip around the world. She still enjoys riding her trusty BMW R60/6, the bike that carried her across the globe.