Friday, December 2, 2016

Short Story: Spin of Stars



This week I've posted a short story 
that previously appeared in



It's about Fate. It's about Healing. It's about Time. It's about Space.  I was reading

by Michael Meade at the time.
It's a great book.


Meanwhile, there's a section from a long poem called Tidal Flats,
 a poem centered around Swansea Bay and Gower,
in the Winter Issue of

 

And so, here's the story...

The Spin of Stars


The high desert night stretches out on all sides of the Jeep. Beyond the limits of the headlights, I can feel how the dark space curves away from the earth, folds in on itself, over and over, producing the billion stars that move across my windshield. There are moments, bumping over this dirt road, when I can feel the Pleiades star cluster above me; hundreds of stars spinning, keeping time. Real time – where past and future twist around each other; where beginnings and endings converge…        
           


Exactly forty-six years ago – November 18th, 1968 – I was thumbing a ride on the other side of this continent, a mile west of Archer, Florida, near the Gulf Coast, when the temperature dropped close to freezing. I had no coat, no clothes except what I was wearing, so I wrapped my sleeping bag around me, stuck my thumb out, and waited. A few cars passed, no takers. Who’d pick up someone wrapped in a sleeping bag? The sun went down, the stars came out, and the temperature dropped even more. Scared I was going to die of exposure, I turned around, started to walk back into Archer – thinking I’d nurse a cup of coffee at the local gas station for as long as they’d let me before they closed – when a yellow mustang pulled up beside me. The driver leaned across the front seat, rolled down the window, asked me where I was headed.
            “Cedar Key.” 
            A trucker who’d picked me up near the Georgia state line had told me that Cedar Key, a remote village on the Gulf Coast, was an easy place to live on next to nothing. “Fish your dinner during the day,” he said. “Sleep on the sand at night.” It sounded like a good place to hide out for a while.
            I was on the run. Two weeks before, I had been standing in a line in my underwear inside Whitehall, the army induction center in New York City, about to be shipped off to boot camp, and then Vietnam. I’d just finished going through the physical exam (turn your head, cough) when this army psychiatrist began pacing the hall, calling out: “Does anyone need counseling? Counseling anyone?”           
            Seriously? We were standing in our underwear, about to be processed into a war, and he wanted to counsel us? Everyone looked at him like he was out of his mind. What could he possibly say that would help? We were already fucked, our fate sealed. For a second I thought he was some nut who had wandered in off the street wearing an army officer costume. There were a lot of folks in costume on the streets of New York in the fall of ‘68. 


            Despite the dark absurdity of it, and for no apparent reason that I could fathom at the time, I found myself raising my hand and following the psychiatrist down another hall to his office. He sat down behind a large wooden desk, motioned for me to take the chair facing him. I sat down and he asked me a few questions about how I felt about the war. I was cold, scared, sitting there almost naked, with no clue as to why I’d volunteered for counseling. I opened my mouth and out poured confusion, terror. What did I know about the war? I was from Saugerties, a small town in the Hudson Valley. Like all those other boys standing in that pale pea-colored corridor, I had seen shots of the war on TV, and probably like most of them, I had a gut feeling that it was all wrong, so wrong. I didn’t want to kill anyone. I didn’t want to be killed. I told him that I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life, and now I was heading to a sure death in a war that made no sense…
             When I finished, he closed his notebook, nodded to himself, thanked me for my candor, then told me that I could re-join the line. I stood up, confused. Wait, what? That’s it? No words of wisdom, no magical advice? Dejected, I found my way back to the green corridor. We shuffled forward slowly for another half hour and then a private wandered down the hall, calling out my name. I stepped out of line and he handed me a piece of paper, told me where I could pick up my clothes. I stared down at the paper. I’d been categorized as IV-F: Not qualified for any military service. As I hurried down the hall, toward my clothes, toward freedom, I heard the psychiatrist call out behind me: “Counseling? Anyone need counseling?”
            What the fuck had just happened?
            I hitched out of New York that day, headed south, no idea where I was going, trying to get as far away from the induction center as possible. I was terrified that some mistake had been made, a bureaucratic snafu, and that any minute a couple of MP’s were going to show up behind me, drag me by my heels back to Whitehall.
            I jumped into the mustang, the sleeping bag still wrapped around me. The driver chuckled at my get-up, then fiddled with the knobs of the heater. “I don’t think I’ve ever needed heat in this car before tonight,” he said. The air that came out of the vents smelled of rubber and cobwebs dipped in coolant.
            He drove slowly, leisurely, slumped low in his seat, one wrist at the top of the wheel, turning the dial of the radio with his other hand, looking for a station without static. Nothing satisfied him and he eventually snapped the radio off, turned to me.
            “When I got home from Nam I hitched across the whole country,” he said. “There’s nothing like that freedom. You know what I’m talking about?”
            I nodded. I had no idea what he was talking about. Freedom? What was that? I was a working class kid who hadn’t formulated any plan of action about what to do about the draft. I knew no one who had burned a draft card; I knew no one who had fled to Canada. The older brother of a friend had come back a quadruple amputee and was stuck in the VA hospital in Albany, but because I never saw him after he came back, it was just a story, distant, unreal. So I had used the time-honored method of dealing with any problem: I ignored it until it was too late. And yet I had still gotten out of it. How was that fair? Why had I escaped and not the guy sitting next to me, driving the mustang?

“Freedom.” I say it out loud, inside the Jeep driving across this high desert. It still has a taste as strange as it had back then. I remember how I had had the urge to confess to the driver, tell him what had happened to me at Whitehall. Why? I think I had wanted him to be enraged, scream at me. Back then, I was seeking absolution, to be released from the responsibility of my strange luck.
           
“I love it out here,” the vet said. “This is a special land, strange land. My people come from these forests a long way back.” He looked over at me: “I’m part Seminole.” Then he winked. “People think all the Seminole were deported to Oklahoma, but the truth is that some headed down to the Everglades, and some mixed with runaway slaves. There’s folks living so far back in there you gotta walk back two or three hundred years just to find ‘em.” 

            Another fifteen minutes down the road and he pulled to the shoulder. We were nowhere, dark pine forest on either side of the road.
            “What’s going on?”
            “This is where we part ways,” he said. “I’m heading to see a lady and she’s not expecting you, so I got to let you out here. It’s the best place to bed down between here and the Key.” He pointed past me, at a dirt road that led into the forest. “If you follow that road there you’ll find Dorry’s Christmas Tree Farm.”
            I nodded like I understood; like it was the most natural thing in the world to get out of that car in the middle of Florida in the dark. Since crossing into The South, I’d done a lot of walking along the edge of swamps and forests hung with Spanish moss, waiting for a ride, and I’d gathered a litany of horrors in my head of what could possibly be back in those trees: roaches with huge octagonal heads and wings; snakes large enough to swallow an alligator whole; and the ubiquitous shadows that were not shadows, moving slowly, languidly, just out of sight, waiting, watching, tracking my every move. And now I was about to walk into one of those creepy forests in the dark, no light to guide me?
            “Best night of sleep you'll ever have is under them pine needles in the tree farm,” the driver said. “Just head up the dirt road and jump the gate. Moon’s bright enough tonight, you’ll find your way easy. Needles’ll keep you warm.”
            “Are there swamps back there?”
            He chuckled. “Keep to the tree farm and you’ll be okay.” 
            I found the Christmas tree farm – three acres of six foot trees growing in straight rows –quickly rolled out my bag and slid inside. In less than five minutes I was shaking so hard from the cold that I went hunting for brush to burn. I kicked a little pit into the dirt road, dumped in the twigs I’d found, and began working through a matchbook I’d picked up in a diner on Route 17, just south of Jacksonville. What tiny flames I ended up coaxing from the twigs wasn’t enough to warm even the tips of my fingers, so in desperation I tore a post loose from the Christmas tree farm fence, dropped it on top of the smoldering brush.
            That did the trick.
            I don’t know how many hours I spent by that fire, slowly feeding the post into the flames, before the old man appeared out of the dark. I didn’t see him until he was right on me, standing on the other side of the fire pit. I saw the shoes first – old things, cracked, soles peeling from the leather – and I fell back onto the dirt, too shocked to make a sound. His face was heavily lined, gaunt; hands in the pockets of a huge, oversized down coat.
            “You’re trespassing,” he said, then grinned. There were no teeth in his head. “Ain’t my land, so I guess I’m trespassing, too.”
            He pulled a fifth of blackberry schnapps out of his coat, uncapped it, drank, and then held it out over the fire pit towards me. I struggled to my feet, shook my head.
            “Go on,” he said. “Warm you up.”
            I was cold. Against my better judgment, I took the bottle and drank. It was horribly sweet, burned going down. I handed the bottle back and he finished it off. It didn’t make me any warmer.
            “Old Man Dorry will be a bit put out tomorrow,” he said, “you having burned his fence up.” He grinned again, the inside of his mouth a dark hole. “He’ll live. But you should come with me. I’ll take you back to my place. They won’t find you there.”
            He tossed the empty bottle into the darkness, turned, and walked down the dirt road, deeper into the forest. I stayed where I was. I wasn’t going anywhere with some old man who’d just appeared out of the dark. Especially not further into those pines. He stopped, squinted up at the half-moon, and then glanced back at me.     
            “The Dorry’s are bastards,” he said. “Or can be, when it comes to this little shit farm. It’s all they got.”
            I didn’t budge.
            “They got dogs,” he added. “And they’re not afraid to use ‘em.”
            I had to decide between this toothless guy and the supposedly angry Dorry family with vicious dogs? The old man was tall, skinny, and frail, and I was pretty sure I could take him if it came to that, so I stepped over the fire, and walked about a half a mile down the road with him, to a huge white station wagon glowing blue in the moonlight.
            The old man drove and drove, winding deeper into the pines – turning left, then right, right, then left, down dirt road after nameless dirt road – babbling on and on about the Dorry’s and how they had stolen his land, land given to his family by the Spanish crown hundreds of years ago. When he’d finally exhausted his rant he pulled out a pack of Pall Malls, lit one up, and offered me one.
            Eventually we turned onto a grass track, barely wide enough to fit the wagon, and parked in front of a small cinderblock house surrounded by huge live oaks. He cut the headlights, asked if I noticed anything strange about the place, then answered his own question before I could open my mouth.
            “No dogs coming out to greet us,” he said. “Know why?”
            I shook my head.
            “My Abuela don’t abide dogs,” he said. “They never tire of spooking round her – can’t stop barking. Still, dangerous to live this far out without dogs, you’re probably thinking. But I got spells that keep most folks out. Abby’s spells. Mostly use ‘em to keep the Dorry’s from finding us.”
            He got out of the wagon, lit another cigarette, and offered me another. “I’ll take you to see Abby in a few,” he said. “She lives out back.”
            Spells?
            “No dogs,” he repeated, then shook his head and laughed. “Who’d believe?”

There were so many years when I ran, hid from what had happened to me. When I finally settled down, went to school, I became a psychologist, fascinated by trauma, any kind of trauma: childhood abuse, rape, war. Of course, over time I became consumed with war trauma – the neuroscience of it – what it does to the brain, the body – how to help give vets the tools to live, truly live, again.
            There was a time when I worked exclusively with Vietnam vets at a VA hospital in Denver. Did I help anyone? Yes. No. There were small successes. As with all healing, the small victories had more to do with the vets themselves than anything I contributed.
            That was a long time ago. A marriage fell apart. My wife and daughter drifted away into another man’s family (ah, physician, heal thyself). I left the field. Over time, I found that there was something deeper calling out to me: the connections between all things, and how those connections play a part in healing. 

Inside the house, the old man lit a kerosene lamp, placed it on a flimsy fold-out card table next to a steel army cot. The dim light flickered on a potbellied wood stove in the corner, and a few cardboard boxes filled with empty bottles scattered around the cot. I stood near the door, watched the old man feed twigs and yellowed newspaper into the stove.
            “I used to live out back with Abby, on and off,” he said, shutting the stove’s iron door and staring at the tiny flames through the smoky glass porthole. “Bigger place than this cold hole. But I had to take her place apart for cash when she couldn’t live there no more.” He looked over his shoulder at me, pointed at the cot. “Sit on the bed if you want. Take a load off.”
            I kept standing. He shrugged, struggled to his feet, and started rummaging through one of the boxes at the end of the cot, pulling out a couple of empties, holding them up to the dim light, grunting, dropping them back in the box.
            “I always leave some in a few bottles for nights just like this,” he said.
            When he found a bottle that still had about two or three swallows left, he sat down on the edge of the cot, unscrewed the cap, and drank. He held out the bottle, offered me the last swallow. I declined. He shrugged, tipped the bottle back, and finished it off. 
            “Abby’s not like she once was,” he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “She’s been shifting back these last years. Getting more like them, you know, less like us.”
            I had no idea what he was talking about. I nodded.
            “This is no place for her now,” he said. “I want to get her out to the river, but she’s so big...”
            He stared at the empty bottle for a second, then got up again, went fishing in the same box for some more booze. Finding nothing, he looked around the room, eyes desperate. Then he snapped his fingers, rushed past me, flung open the door, and lurched out into the night. I reluctantly followed, watched him fumble through the station wagon, grunting and swearing. When it was clear he wasn’t going to find any bottles in the car, he groaned, dropped to his knees, and began to cry.
            I crouched next to him. “Let’s go back inside.”
            He draped an arm over my shoulder. “I couldn’t help Abby alone, you know.” His breath was nicotine, alcohol, fish rot. “That’s why she told me to come get you.” 
            I led him back into the house, plopped him back onto his cot. I knew the routine. I’d led my drunk father back to his bed in the middle of the night hundreds of times during my childhood, talking him through every clumsy step – while my mother and older sisters slept on, having gone through the same routine themselves for years, long over the need to help him anymore.
            “I know what she’s done, what she’s capable of,” the old man said, “but once I’m gone, she’ll be stuck out back alone, forever.”
            “What she’s done?”
            “Always testing,” he said. “Poking in and out of...everything.” He looked at me with bloodshot eyes, full of fear, his voice dropping to a whisper: “The way she touches, you know? She gets inside you...” 
             
Whatever he was trying to say to me, I didn’t want to hear it. I busied myself at the stove, tried to coax more flame from the wood, but it was useless, the wood inside was already half-charred.
            “God knows I tried to leave,” he said, his voice still a whisper. “Made it out for a number of years, but I always end up back here. She calls me back, somehow. It’s like a dog whistle only I can hear, sound below hearing, words below regular thinking altogether. I thought I was the one who decided to come back, but that’s not true, is it?”
            I closed the stove door, stared at the worthless smoke curling against the glass.
            “She’s all I ever had,” he said. “It’s just been me and Abby, my whole life. What can I do? I have to help her.”
            I thought of the place where my father’s mother had ended up: cracked, white plaster halls; the smell of boiled cabbage, piss, and bleach in the air; shriveled men and women in wheelchairs, drooling at ghosts. Her hands shook, her head shook; her brain completely gone from drink. Did she ever realize where she was? I hope not.
            “Don’t you have somewhere you could take her?” I said.
            “There’s no one left in my family,” the old man said, “but she’s still got kin on the other side.” He sniffled, wiped his nose with a dark, stained handkerchief he pulled from his coat.
            “Where?”
            “South of here, Crystal River way.”  
            He suddenly stood up, as if he’d heard a sound outside the door, then looked around the room, confused. I knew the look. He’d blanked out, didn’t know where he was, who I was. My father did it all the time when I was leading him back to his bed.
            “You drove me here,” I said, talking him through it. “From Dorry’s Christmas tree farm.” He still looked confused. “You were talking about your grandmother,” I added. “Abby.”
            Recognition came back into his eyes and he nodded, fished inside his coat, pulled out his pack of Pall Malls. “Christ, what she’s done to me,” he repeated. “I need her gone.”
            Hands shaking, he lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, then moved past me, opened the door, and stepped outside, exhaling smoke into the cold night air.
            “Let’s do this.”
           
The desert road ends at the entrance to a canyon that has no name. I leave the Jeep behind, move out on a trail that cuts through low shadows of black brush and scrub juniper. I can feel the boulders, the sandstone walls, up ahead. The faces of some of those other poor bastards who were standing in line with me forty-six years ago in Whitehall follow me into the canyon. Statistics say that many of them made it back. But many, many more killed themselves after they came home. Some of those suicides were friends of mine. 

I can feel the ones who are still alive out there, too. New vets – back from Iraq and Afghanistan and god knows where else. Some are standing at a bedroom window right now, chain-smoking, staring up at the same stars, unable to shake the things they saw – and did.
            I can feel their children; abandoned, lost. My own daughter among them – a young woman I barely know.
           
I followed the old man to the rear of the block house, watched him rummage through a pile of junk until he pulled out a torn tarp and a tattered burlap bag full of rope. Then we were on the move again, down a path through a thick stand of pines, emerging into a grassy clearing, with a small, man-made pond in the center. The old man walked up to the edge of the pond and something broke the water’s surface: the back of a large creature – smooth, glistening in the moonlight.
            I froze at the tree line.
            “I’ve brought the boy, Abby,” the old man said to the thing in the water. “He was exactly where you said he’d be.”
            He turned, beckoned me forward with a long index finger. I stood there for a few seconds, sleeping bag still wrapped around my shoulders, heart pounding, eyes darting across the clearing, looking for an escape, seeing nothing but dark forest that stretched for miles on all sides. Where was I going to go? I had to move forward. There was nothing to do but shuffle slowly across the grass, towards the old man.
            A large, whiskered snout lifted out of the water, and two small eyes set in an immense face stared up at me. The creature in the pond was a manatee. I said it inside my head, just to keep myself sane: this old man thinks his grandmother is a manatee. My next thought was: how had this frail old man captured a manatee, carried it here to this tiny pond in the middle of nowhere? He could barely lift a cigarette to his lips without shaking.
            “She didn’t always look like this,” the old man said to me. “Looked like everyone’s grandma when I was young, but she’s been slipping back these last few years.” He looked down at the creature. “Isn’t that right, Abby?”
            The dark eyes continued to study me.
            “She’s been in the family since Spanish times,” the old man continued. “One of their soldiers got lost and Abby saved him. He thought she was a mermaid.” He shook his head and repeated the word to himself, as if it was the most absurd thing in the world: “A fucking mermaid.”

I felt something move around inside me: a shadow, a question; worming into my heart, my brain, down my spine; exploring, tasting. And then there was a voice, an old woman’s voice, in my head: “We watched them wander through the swamp for days, slapping at mosquitoes, stumbling around. They never knew where they were, what they were, what I was...”
            Through the terror, there was fascination – what had I stumbled on? I felt as if someone had just told me that they had the power to show me my own death. How could I say no?
            “It’s gonna be pretty cold once we get you out of there,” the old man said to the creature, spreading the tarp out on the grass at our feet. Then he placed two of the rope ends in my hands: “Hold on to these. I need to get the rest under her.” And with that, he slid out of his coat and jumped into the water. 

I watched him disappear beneath the surface, immobile, the old woman’s voice still echoing around inside me. A few seconds later he miraculously appeared on the other side of the creature, gasping for breath, his face and hair dark with mud, and tossed his end of the ropes over the manatee’s back, towards me.
            “Grab ‘em, grab ‘em!”
            I grabbed the ropes, held tight, while the old guy scrambled up onto the grass on the opposite side of the pond. He stretched out on his stomach, lungs heaving, and began to sob again.
             “What is wrong with you?” the creature hissed. The voice was not inside my head. It was outside. It was real. Real? The idea of real suddenly meant nothing at all.
            The old man rolled onto his back, wiped his eyes with the back of a muddy hand. “How the hell am I gonna get you outta there when I can barely pull myself out?”
            “Has everything I’ve ever taught you been completely erased by all that rotgut you drink?” the creature said.
            The old man struggled to his feet, hair dripping, clothes clinging to his skin. “What you ask, Abby, what you’ve always asked, it’s – ”
            The creature cut him off. “If you didn’t always feel so sorry for yourself and drink so goddamn much you would remember that there are always forces at play, distant forces that can be harnessed. The spin of stars, the movement of planets – all have played their part in sculpting your worthless muscles and bones. Make the connections, boy! That’s where you’ll find your power! I’m already doing my part. You do yours.”  
            The old man shuffled around the pond, stood next to me, his eyes sad, full of shame. “Okay, let’s see if we can pull her out.”
            The creature angrily slapped the water with her tail. “Don’t see if you can do it. Do it!”
            We pulled and pulled, and the great body slowly rose out of the water, slid up and over the pond’s edge, onto the tarp. How we did this, I am only just now beginning to understand.
            We dragged the tarp across the clearing, through the pines, past the block house. When we reached the station wagon, the old man let down the back hatch and stared into the back, then glanced at the creature, his eyes full of confusion. He had gone blank again.
            “You’ve gone and got me this far,” the creature said to the old man, “and don’t have a clue as to how to get me inside the car, do you?”
            So far the creature had spoken out loud only to the old man and I wanted it to stay that way. Every time she spoke, I felt like something was strangling my breath, pins and needles in my arms and legs. But I desperately wanted to get rid of the creature, to be done with it, so I said that I’d seen planks behind the house and hustled off to find them.
            Her voice – harsh, painful, tearing loose something deep inside me – followed me into the darkness: “You see what I have to put up with! It’s been this way for five hundred years!”
           
The sandstone in this canyon is older than some of the starlight above. A language has evolved, is continually evolving, between stone and star, and this language has left an imprint on our muscle, bone. This language marks time, real time. I have been listening for it for years and years, but tonight – tonight – I can finally hear it.

What does it mean to heal an individual? Is that even possible? It has taken me so long to understand that the practice of healing one person means bringing the surrounding community into balance with the land, the sky, the planets and constellations above. There are only connections: the language of stone and star in the bones. This language pulls me deeper into the canyon.
           
The old man and I made a flimsy ramp and slowly pulled the creature up into the back of the wagon. All the while the manatee scolded the old man – for the pain caused, for his stupidity, for his drunkenness – and the old man apologized to her – for the cold, for the tightness of the ropes, for his weakness, for everything. We couldn’t get her all the way in, so we had to leave her tail hanging off the back of the open hatch, which led to more scolding and apologizing. In the end, it took longer to pull the creature into that car than it had to drag her out of the pond and through the pines.
            When we were out on the open road, the old man started to cry again. He looked into the rear view mirror, tears rolling down his face, lips quivering. “Abby? I’m gonna miss you. I just want you to know that.”
             “You’re just saying that because you want me to say it back,” the creature said, her voice harsh, vicious. “And none of it will be true.”
            The old man let out a sob. “But we came from you!”           
            “Stop your sniveling,” the creature said. “Have some strength for once.”
            The old man went for his Pall Malls and chain-smoked for the next twenty minutes in silence. Eventually he turned off the road, onto a muddy track that led to an old wooden dock that jutted out into a black, moonlit river. He stopped in front of the dock, put the car in park.
            “There it is, Abby, The Suwannee,” he said. “You’re almost home.”
            “You forgot the planks to get me out,” the creature said.
            The old man shook his head, hissing what sounded like “this is it, this is it, this is it” for a good half-minute before he finally twisted around in his seat and faced the creature. “Goddamnit, old woman,” he screamed, “can’t you see this is it! We’ll never see each other again! Why do you always have to make things so goddamn hard!”
            “Maybe we can turn around, back down to the end of the dock,” I suggested. “Pull her out from there.” I needed that creature gone.
            The old man rested his forehead against the wheel. “You’re not helping.”
            “He is helping,” the creature said. “That’s always been your problem: stubborn as your mother, your grandfather, your great-grandfather -- all of them, all the way back. None of you ever truly listened to me.”
            The old man looked at me, bloodshot eyes full of rage. “You want me to drive onto the dock?!” he screamed. “You want me to drive onto the dock?!” He pressed one foot down on the brake, the other on the gas, then rammed the stick into drive. The tired, old engine whined, and the car fishtailed, back tires squealing, churning up mud. 
            “Stop these hysterics!” the creature shouted above the engine noise.
            “You wanna go?!” the old man screamed into the rearview mirror. “Well, we’ll all go, then! That make you happy?!”
            I threw myself out the door, into the cold mud, and watched as the station wagon shot onto the dock. The old wood groaned, trying to hold up the car with the manatee inside it, but the weight was too much and the pilings buckled just as the station wagon reached the end of the dock.
            I struggled to my feet, stared at the eerie sight of the station wagon’s head and taillights glowing beneath the water, showing the outline of the car, sinking. The lights went out within seconds and I was left standing there in the darkness, paralyzed by the sound of the last air bubbles rising from the car, fizzing out on the surface of the water. Immobilized by fear – fear of the old man drowning, fear of diving in the water to help him – I stood there until the sound of the bubbles finally stopped and a terrifying silence enveloped the river.
            That was when the manatee surfaced, ten feet from the bank. Her small, black eyes focused on me for a few seconds – a dark question, eating a hole through me – then she slipped quietly back below the water and was gone.

 
             
I’ve got a fire going in a narrow strip of canyon. Shadows of the surrounding boulders flicker against the rock walls. I sing to the cold light of the Pleiades cluster straight above me – flickering in and out of existence – and to the stones around me – flickering in and out of existence.
            My voice echoes off stone, folds in on itself, sounding like many voices at once, a chorus of all the different lives I have led over the last forty-six years, rising up into the night. It is a song that contains star-clouds, army psychiatrists, sandstone, wind and water, Vietnam vets, the orbit of planets around each other, drunk fathers, and manatees that are not manatees. It is a song that I am making up as I go along. It is a song that was written long before I was born.
            I can feel it now. The song is beginning to draw something from the shadows – something haunted, strangely beautiful – toward the edge of the firelight. 


*************************

Also: 
New story 
coming out 
in the January Issue (268) of   

called

"The Noise & The Silence."

All hail Interzone!