Don’t Come Back for Jane

by Danielle Beazer

This cold morning I let the dog out and walk barefoot with her. She is getting old, though she runs ahead, her half-wolf coat rippling over muscles. I follow her to a place beneath our hill where a river runs between two banks of brambles. She stops and lays her body in a shallow part and looks at me, hanging her tongue over her teeth. She has been with me since I was nine. I sit on a rock next to her, burrowing my toes into the silt, and scratch her neck.

Yesterday I built a mud fort with my youngest brother. We shoveled foxholes and trenches and planted army men behind rocks and grass and built a bridge out of mud. Then we lit two mini-firecrackers and blew up the bridge. He is fourteen and I am nineteen. And yesterday I cried after reading Peter Pan to the very end when Peter comes back for Wendy but finds her grown up and unremembering. Peter weeps until Jane, Wendy’s daughter, sees him and asks him what he is doing, just as Wendy had done years ago. And then Wendy remembers something. Maybe it is the flight across the sky, or the mermaids on the rocks, or the house she built for Peter. And she lets Jane go back.

And yesterday when I awoke from an afternoon nap, I lay on the couch beneath the open window, listening to my brother and my mother outside. For a moment I forgot we were leaving the Appalachians to move west. And I forgot why we were moving. When I remembered, I closed my eyes again.

We are moving to Utah. In June my mother decided for various reasons to sell our Virginia home and move to St. George in September. She discussed it with us-my brothers, sister, and me. And we all said that whatever she wanted was best. So we have bought dark soil from Snow’s Nursery and furrowed homes for spinach, peas, and corn, and have placed two young dogwoods at the side of the house to enjoy the yard as we have always wanted to on this, our last summer here. We are already into
August. The garden has thrived. In the evenings, after supper, we sit outside during sunset and eat fresh spinach salad with vinegar and lemon. The honeysuckle, lilacs, and roses have bloomed and gone. Now the scent of mown grass and the southern magnolia concentrate the air.

This summer I have been taking a fiction writing class at the University of Virginia. The instructor wears a ribbed undershirt and sweat pants to class. His shoulders are tanned from working on the farm where he rents a cottage. He tells us about what happens on the farm-about the horses, the flooding after a storm, his landlord who is bored with his wife and thinking of leaving. The instructor has invited us to a party at his cottage next week because it is near the end of the course. He tells us that if we have the desire to write , nothing will stop us.

When I was fifteen, a student who lived next door and was attending the University of Virginia shot himself in the head and died. He was a writer and he was twenty-two. Now the English Department is selling his book of short stories on campus. My writing instructor reads parts from the book to the class. One story is about a man who, after watching his sleeping daughter, takes a walk down the road outside his house and thinks about his friends who went to Vietnam and never came back. It is very moving. I am thinking of buying the book. I had forgotten about the student until the instructor read his stories in class.

After the class I roam the campus. Students lounge on the Lawn in cut-offs, halter tops, and summer tans. A few throw a frisbee. Bruce Springsteen’s ”Badlands” blasts from one of the dorms. These dorms are called the dorms on the Lawn because the Lawn is the rectangle of grass stretching from old Cabell Hall with the Music Department to the Rotunda designed by Thomas Jefferson. The two lines of buildings parallel to the Lawn are the original student dorms. Single rooms with only a fireplace and a sink, they house the academically elite. Edgar Allan Poe once lived in one of these rooms. It is a common irony that when he was attending UVa, he was kicked out for drinking.

My senior year in high school, I worked the concession stands for the UVa football and basketball games. And during Easter’s Weekend-a party famous along the East Coast for its week-long bashes-I sat with a friend of mine on the brick wall lining University Avenue, affectionately called The Corner, where the night clubs attracted the students. He drank a Heinekin and I a Coke as we sat near the Rotunda, watching the body-pressed street. A drunken student wrapped himself around the pedestal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson and yelled, “I love you, Mr. Jefferson. I want to kiss you , Mr. Jefferson.” He laughed. “I luuve you!” His last word broke off in a staccato before he followed his other friends.

“Easter’s Weekend is not what it used to be,” said Nick, sipping his Heinekin. ”Used to be they had parties all week and mud bowls. Used to be the best party on the East Coast. Now it’s been tamed to one night. And nobody does anything wild anymore.”

We were both still in high school, jealous of the college students-I envying the tall, dark-haired southern preppy women who wore lime green monogrammed sweaters with red plaid skirts and Oxford shoes; he, the khaki-clad men who sauntered the campus in sockless docksiders and Oxford shirts, whose eyes wavered between frat-house cockiness and intellectual smugness. We envied these people as we drank our respective drinks on Easter’s Weekend, feeling as much a part of it all as Edgar Allan
Poe must have felt a hundred years ago.

I don’t envy their social savvy anymore. I only envy that they will be here to hike above Skyline Drive where the oaks, maples, and ash flutter their changing colors. I envy the students their fall in Virginia.

I have lost touch with Nick and my other high school friends. When I come home from college for the summers I call no one. Instead I laze outside after raking the just-mown grass and lie on a towel in the humidity, listening to Elvis Costello’s “Alison. ” Especially this summer I have become sluggish . I do not want things to move forward. I do not want time to bring tomorrow, because tomorrow obliterates now which obliterates yesterday which obliterates a time before my mother’s various
reasons for leaving. And tomorrow moves us closer to the end of summer, which will bring the move.

Along with my fiction writing class at the university, I have been attending a writers’ workshop for women. It meets in town on Tuesdays. It is supposed to explore the relationship between journalism and creative writing, but most of us just write the way we feel. I am the youngest in the group; the rest are in their thirties and forties. Two are alcoholics, and they try to write about that. Some write about other women authors they admire. I have written a short story about a German student who goes to Strasbourg to meet his girlfriend’s parents. He and his girlfriend quarrel and he takes a walk. That same night he meets a Parisian girl. They go out for drinks, and he walks her home. Then he goes back to his girlfriend, even though he thinks he is really more interested in the Parisian. When I read it to the women they all murmured, “That is so true . That is what always happens.” But when I showed it to my writing instructor at the university, he called it sentimental.

For the past two summers, I have worked as a guide at Ash Lawn, the home of James Monroe, two miles up the mountain from Jefferson’s Monticello. Ash Lawn is simpler than Monticello and attracts fewer tourists. The house has been restored, remodeled, and repositioned by so many owners that almost none of it looks as it did during Monroe’s lifetime. The house , the yard, and the furniture have all been changed. But the College of William and Mary felt the need to restore it. So tourists
from Pennsylvania and Ohio stop through and leave, feeling they know something about Monroe’s lifestyle. The only things the same are the humid air, the smell of boxwoods lining the walkway, and the cry of peacocks hulking in the trees. The rest is not Monroe’s. The rest is William and Mary’s contribution to the painting and wallpapering and landscaping of an elegantly simple farmhouse. But we don’t tell the tourists that.

The land we live on now reminds me a little of Ash Lawn. We have the boxwoods and an old stone house with fireplaces in every room and hardwood floors and leaded casement windows. At night I push my window open and turn out my light so as not to attract moths. And I watch the moon illume the garden.

Yesterday, my youngest brother laughed for the first time in this year since my father died. He told me a joke and laughed. Then we built the mud fort and blew up the bridge. And then I read Peter Pan and cried and fell asleep and awoke and remembered and tried to sleep again. My brother worried us because he never cried or talked about my father. A doctor said the longer he kept it in, the more damage he could do to himself. I consider myself well-adjusted. I can talk about it without thinking what it really means.

My father is buried in Monticello Cemetery, on a hill that overlooks Charlottesville. I pass the place each day on my drive to Ash Lawn and each evening on my drive home. I try not to be sentimental about it. People who are gone are not in cemeteries. They are in your heart and your mind. They are behind your eyes when you close them.

My brothers and my mother and my sister and I are moving west. The old dog can’t come. I won’t tell her this. She will know on the morning we pack the car. And then she will curl on the flat slate rock of the fireplace in the emptied dining room and put her chin on her paws and look up at us. When I say goodbye to her, I will cry. I will be sentimental. I will say to hell with Peter Pan. Leave Wendy alone. Don’t keep coming back to remind us that we are growing up, that things aren’t as they were. Let me wake up one afternoon and not remember for a long, long time what it really means.

Melton Street

by Mark Crimmins

The first thing I learned when I got to Melton Street was that my mother’s definition of a cottage and mine were different. I suppose all those illustrated editions of fairy tales I’d read had given me the impression, a cottage was a quaint little white house, nestled in a cradle of hills, surrounded with flowers and bleating sheep. With this notion in mind, I wasn’t too opposed to my mother’s plan to move from my first home.

There were some perils I’d be leaving behind in Macclesfield. The proximity of the local police station was quite disconcerting, as were my older sisters’ threats of incarceration, used as deterrents to my puerile crimes.

When I offended or irritated them, they would drag me from the house and transport me in the direction of that familiar building. With graphic descriptions of the torments of prison life ringing in my ears, I would be taken to the entrance, where, after promises of reform had been extracted from me, I would be rescued, as it were, from the jaws of doom.

Another comforting aspect of the impending removal was I would be leaving the infernal Mrs. Shufflebottom and her damnable shoelace cards-little cardboard facsimiles of shoes, threaded with shoelaces- behind. She had me convinced, at age six, that the sky would fall in if I didn’t tie my own shoelaces. I knew my mother could tie mine for at least the next ten years, so I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

Along with the shoelace cards, I was glad to be leaving Brenda behind. She had been my first love, and the aftereffects of my disenchantment made things uncomfortable at school. Brenda was a pretty little brunette, and I was first attracted to her because of her superior intelligence (manifest in the proficiency with which she tied her own shoelaces). I had admired her for a week or two until I spied her picking her nose in class. “How can a person do that?” I thought. No one had ever told me not to pick my nose in public, but still I knew you just didn’t do that. The disillusionment was instantaneous, and I ruled out all possibility of ever marrying her.

So all in all the move from Macclesfield was welcome. But then again, Ithought we were moving to a fairy-tale cottage.

When the removal van stopped by a row of dirty townhouses, I wascertain we had just made a temporary stop-I didn’t see any cottages. Butthen Mother announced, ‘ ‘Here we are,” reached for the door of the van,and gathered up my baby sister with her free arm.

“But where’s our cottage?” I asked.

“Right there,” she said, pointing to a dilapidated townhouse with an ugly green door and black window frames.

“That’s not a cottage,” I said; “it’s just a dirty little house.”

“It’s a cottage if I say it is,” she snapped, searching her purse for the key.

In despair, I looked around the dismal neighborhood. I’d seen places like it on television. A group of dirty-faced children that had assembled on the cobblestone road to watch us unpack tried to shoo us away by pelting us with lumps of coal, and we scurried inside out of the hostile rain.

Inside the house my despair began to deepen. The living room had a dark yellow carpet, frayed at the edges, which was too small to cover the floor and exposed worn purple linoleum at its tattered extremities. The wallpaper sported a crisscross pattern in faded red and gold, and was beginning to peel and puff off the walls in several places. The kitchen was a tiny affair, its floor covered with dark green linoleum, cold cement peeping through its bare patches. And the kitchen sink was grotesquely large, a dirty white with rust-colored rings around its inside and an ominous crack describing a faulty arc across its face. When the water was turned on, the archaic, noisy plumbing groaned like decrepit organ pipes. The walls were
a bare plaster white, and a solitary light bulb hung from the ceiling on a twisted black cord.

The two bedrooms were up a narrow flight of stairs that creaked and
moaned as you walked on them. Both rooms were almost square, adorned
with an off-white wallpaper. Rain, leaking through the small dirty windows,
had left puffy patches on the walls with their perimeters marked by squiggly
brown lines. There were no carpets in these rooms-just dusty floorboards.
The bedrooms emitted a stale smell suggestive of a tomb, and in the corner
of one of the rooms a small, dead mouse lay stiff under a veil of cobwebs.
These four were the only rooms in the house. Something was missing.

“Where’s the bathroom, Mum?” I asked.

“Under the stairs.”

I looked under the stairs and saw ‘the bathroom’ -a tapless bathtub thrust awkwardly into the dark vacancy, a real spider’s lair.

“Where’s the taps?”

“On the ends of your arms,” Mother quipped.

“But it’ll take all day to fill this,” I moaned.

“Well, you’ll just have to bathe in the sink then,” came her unsympathetic reply.

I didn’t mind that a bit; I hated taking baths anyway. In fact, I’d already decided that for my next birthday I’d ask for the privilege of not having to take baths anymore.

Suddenly an urgent question came to mind.

“Where’s the toilet?” I asked.


Out I went, fearing the worst. At the far end of the barren yard was a shed, its rotten door slightly ajar. Edging forward, I peered inside until I could barely distinguish the outline of a toilet. I felt for a light switch, but realized, as the cold brick walls had hinted, there wasn’t one. ‘Tm not using this,” I thought. I was not prepared to sit in there in total darkness, yet I wasn’t about to sit in there with the door open either, so all those neighbor kids could see me from their upstairs windows.

Altogether, the prospects looked grim; I decided we’d just go back to our home in Macclesfield. Running into the house, I announced to my sisters, “Don’t get any more things out of the van; we’re going back to Chester Road.”

But my rhetoric proved insufficient; we stayed on Melton Street.

Though it wasn’t terrifying like the outhouse, the bath was a real challenge. Since we had to fill it by hand, we all had to use the same water, and the order in which we bathed was governed by seniority: Mother and baby were always first (I thought letting the baby bathe with mother was a flagrant transgression of the seniority rule); next, Linda, the eldest, would have her turn; then Sally would absorb what little warmth remained in the water; finally, when the water was murky and almost cold,
it was my turn. As dirty as I would get during the day, I was confident I never got any cleaner in the evening by taking a bath.

But I didn’t look out of place at my new school, Saint Thomas’s-all the kids were filthy there. Saint Thomas’s school made our house look like new. It was built of large stone blocks, black with pollution, and it looked like an evil church. All the kids there were poor and fought as often as possible.

The headmaster was the most evil-looking man I’d ever seen. He had dark whiskers and an implacable face, and everyone was terrified of him, even the teachers. He looked like an escaped convict, and a lot of the kids said he was, but they couldn’t agree regarding his crimes. His name was Mr. Goodall. If you didn’t bring your shorts to P.E., he would see to it that you exercised in your underpants, to teach you a lesson. I’d seen boys doing P .E. in their underwear, and I’d seen girls giggling as they watched, so I made an early resolution to not cross Goodall. But on one notable occasion I did.

Gary Nash, a weak and sickly individual, had been irritating me on the playground. So, I punched him in the mouth and spat on him; he cried and ran away, and I didn’t think any more of it. About five minutes later, playtime ended, and we were all whistled over to the main door, where, as usual, we arranged ourselves in wobbly lines according to our classes. Often Goodall would come out and make us stand like chips waiting for vinegar, while he warned us of the evils of time-wasting, fighting, and “giving cheek” to teachers. On this day, however, something was obviously wrong; Goodall’s mien was ominously cloudy. The serpentine lines metamorphosed into rods at his glare; we all looked straight forward, and there was silence. Then an interrogative burst like lightning from Goodall’s cumulonimbus face:

“Where’s Mark Crimmins?”

Everyone glared at me, as at the condemned, and as I raised the frail twig of my arm into the air, I wanted to believe that there had been a great mistake. Detecting my arm, Goodall stared at me, petrifying me as though he had snakes for hair.

“Come up here, Crimmins,” he rumbled.

I slunk up to the front of the lines, and there behind Goodall I saw the slender profile of Nash snivelling and cowering. Goodall snatched me by the hair and spun me around to face Nash.

”Is this your spit?” he snarled, pointing to the unfortuitous expectoration that had reached a woolly terminus on Nash’s sweater.

“Yes sir,” I said, feeling I’d assented to something more significantthan the Magna Carta.

Goodall hoisted me over his knee and began to paddle me with his hand. He interjected admonitions between the blows, like an aboriginal chant with percussion.

“Don’t you (spank) ever dare (spank) to spit (spank) on anybody (spank) in this (spank) school again,” etc.

The beating seemed interminable; I was a supple student under the ample admonition of Goodall’s hand. After this, I conducted my vendettas after school hours. But even this practice occasionally had frightening consequences.

Take, for example, the time I beat up Steven Boardman. He’d knocked a sandwich out of my hand at school, and wouldn’t apologize . (Actually, he did apologize, but he didn’t mean it. And to me, this was worse than not apologizing at all.) So, I chased him home after school and caught him at the end of Smith Street. When I was finished with him, his nose was bleeding and his face was grazed from contact with the pavement. He screamed hysterically, threatening he would go home and kill himself with his mother’s breadknife.

“Then you’ll be sorry,” he sobbed.

To me, a kid who’d never heard of hari-kari, this sounded a bit severe . I
envisioned the headlines:



And I knew if he did kill himself, I’d get sent to that miserable police station in Macclesfield.

Fighting wasn’t the only thing I learned at Saint Thomas’s; it was there I learned to steal. The stealing was senseless; we neither used nor needed the things we stole. We were motivated by the excitement of doing something dangerous. We’d steal tools and parts from a factory near school, run down Nipper Lane, and heave them into the canal, where the heavy booty would make quite a splash.

One day, returning from my adventures by the canal, I learned Mother had slipped a disc and needed to spend several days in the hospital. Linda and Sally were given charge of Josephine and me-a situation, given the personalities of my older sisters, that caused me great anxiety. Time proved me justified in my worries.

One evening, they made my favorite drink: hot chocolate, but this time adding vinegar, hot sauce, and numerous other unsavory ingredients. They stirred the concoction and administered it to me. I only drank one mouthful, but my choking and gasping provided them with the entertainment they had sought.

Just before Mother came home, they pulled their most daring stunt. At midnight they woke me up , telling me it was seven thirty A.M. , gave me breakfast, fixed me a packed lunch, and sent me off to school. Because it was winter, I was used to it being dark when I left in the mornings. I did notice there was very little traffic on the roads, which seemed a little strange, but I just kept walking. By the time I realized-from the moon, the empty streets, and the dark houses-that I was out in the mid-
dle of the night, I was halfway to school. I returned home furious, vowing revenge.

Although there wasn’t much I could do by way of retaliation, my sisters being older and bigger than I, I did discover one thing that bothered one of them. Sally was a little on the plump side, and I made up a little rhyme to celebrate the fact . It was my first attempt at poetry, and it went like this: “Sally-the-big-fat-bally.” Sally didn’t like my rhyme at all, especially when I shouted it in public. On one occasion I accompanied her to a doctor’s appointment, and after she had gone into the physician’s room, I sneaked up to the door, pushed it open, chanted the rhyme, and tore off. I often used this weapon against Sally but eventually stopped because of
the severe reprisals I merited by its use.

Several months passed, and I arrived at the age which qualified me for baptism at the local church. Mother thought the step imperative and insisted I participate. I resisted at first: The church we attended baptized by immersion, which concerned me, hating water as I did. However, I trusted the minister and knew my baptism would count as a bath for that night. Besides, the water was warm. But perhaps the most significant factor in forming my convictions was the promise of fish and
chips I had extracted from my mother in return for my compliance. So finally I succumbed, figuring it was all worth it.

Mother stood at the front of a small group of observers, and I could tell she was as nervous as I was. The minister said a prayer and the officiator dunked me, both hitting my head on the bottom of the font and causing me to gulp down some water. When I emerged, spluttering, I got my balance and exclaimed angrily, “My head! Can’t you watch what you’re doing? ” Mother quietly retreated from the room while
the officiator stared at me in amazement, as did the small group of observers. I wanted to defy them all and say, “So what are you lot staring at? Don’t you ever hurt your heads? ” But after some speculation, I managed to refrain .

The fish and chips tasted great afterwards, so in the end I considered the baptism a real bargain. And Mother was glad to tell the neighbors that her “little Mark” was a real member of Christ’s church now.

Mother was dating a lot during this time, and occasionally I would meet her male friends. (The only ones I liked were the ones with fancy cars.) A Greek by the name of John Papaspyridas worried me because, according to my sisters, if Mother married him, I would have to be called by that funny last name . Crimmins was a good enough name for me; I wanted the same name as my dad .

I would visit my father every weekend, and we often played war games together, reenacting battles from the Napoleonic and American Civil wars. Dad would always take me to war movies, especially those dealing with ancient Rome and Greece. From him I developed an early fascination for military history and strategy.

He also helped me appreciate museums, art galleries, and libraries. Once he took me to London to see the Crown Jewels, the Houses of Parliament, and the Tower of London. After we had seen several of the monuments, Father asked me if I liked the capital city.

“Yes,” I said, “but aren’t there any toy shops in London?” He understood and took me to Mark’s and Spencer’s, where a few cheap toys afforded me more satisfaction than all the jewels in the Tower.

It wasn’t hard for me to live with my mother and visit my father on weekends. In fact, it was easier for me; they seemed to bring out the worst in each other and were nicer people when they were apart. Also, I got a break from each parent once a week, and each would sympathize with me when I talked of the weaknesses of the other. That way it seemed I was always right. If Mother criticized me, Father would stand up for me on the weekends; if Father chastened me while I visited him, I could go home to Mother and get sympathy from her. That was a lot better than the situation in a lot of my friends’ homes, where the parents would often conspire against the kids.

One bad thing, though, about not having a father around all the time, was that I never had somebody big and strong to stand up for me. Notwithstanding my interest in war, I got sick of Mother saying I had to fight my own battles. I had no real defense against older kids and bullies. However you look at it, two older sisters simply aren’t as imposing as one big dad.

Both my parents were avid readers, and both encouraged me to read. I took their advice, principally because I had no choice. It seemed I spent half of my childhood wandering around libraries, waiting for Father or Mother to find certain books. Often, in exasperation, I would grab a book from a shelf and say, “Read this one, will you? I’m sick of wandering around here.”

But eventually I gave up trying to sell my parents on the books I found and started looking for my own. I developed a fascination for fairy tales and spent many months busily exhausting the genre . I would run down to the library after school and check out collections of fairy tales from other countries, and frequently I would beg one of my parents to recite a fairy tale, protesting at the least variation from the text as I knew it. I was quite depressed when I’d read them all and didn’t quite know where to go from there.

But the void left by the absence of fairy tales was soon filled by a boyish penchant for horror films. Watching up to ten monster movies a week, I was more eager to see Dracula films than the dreaded count was to drink the blood of his victims. The films never really scared me-spiders were still the most terrifying things in my world. I’d rather have had a vampire gnawing at my jugular vein than have had a spider crawling on my bed at night.

With my interest in books and movies branching out into other areas, I began to do well in school. Competing for the little merit stars proved to be a real incentive for me, and my teachers began to commend me for my work. Soon I was at the top of my class-a fact I somehow hoped would reach Mr. Goodall to make amends for my previous crimes.

Just as I was becoming really comfortable at Saint Thomas’s and on Melton Street, Mother brought home some devastating news: we were going to move up the road . I would soon become a foreigner to my old neighborhood and school. I’d heard the kids at Wesley Methodist, my new school, were all “cry babies”; I’d probably be the best fighter-“the cock of the class.” Still, I didn’t want to move but, as usual, I didn’t have much say in the matter. So, I didn’t nourish any high expectations when Mother said we were moving to a “nice new house.”

In the Hands of an Angry God

by Wayne T. Taylor

A Poetry Drama in Three Acts


Thomas Metheus, 40, hom’bly scarred by smallpox.
Helen Metheus, 30, his wife. Advocates the “Awakening.”
Isabel Metheus, 13, their daughter.
Francis, 24, an itinerate peddler. Disciple of Enlightenment.
Minister, 50, a friend of Thomas ‘s.
Josiah Momson, 50, a dairy farmer.
Mrs. Momson, 45, his wife.
Jedediah Clayton, 35, a farmer.
Mrs. Clayton, 30, his wife.
Mrs. Frazer, 45, local woman.
Mrs. Douglas, 50, local woman.
Mrs. Campbell, 55, friend of Helen’s.

Scene 1

(The set is dark and a congregation can be heard singing “Gloria Patri. ”
Shortly, however, whispers can be heard growing louder over the music.
They are unintelligible, chaotic, and insistent. just as a word or two can be
understood, a woman’s voice rises above the intoning of the traditional
Latin Mass. )
Woman’s Voice: Veni, sanctificator omnipotens aeterne Deus: et

bene . . .
(‘ ‘Come, Thou Sanctifier, almighty and eternal God,
and bless . . . ‘ ‘

(The whispen·ng changes to voices that inte1,upt the Woman .)
Voices: For this day .
Day by day.
Our daily bread .

(The Minister’s voice cuts in, formal, but not to the degree of the
woman ‘s. )
Minister: Give us this day our daily bread .
Voices: Day by day .
According to the day’s requirement.
Today our bread.

Woman’s Voice : Panem nostrum quotidianum de nobis hodie.
(”Give us this day our daily bread.”)
Voices: Offenses, faults, sins.
Forgive us.
Those who trespass against us.
Our debtors.
Minister: Do not; suffer us not; let us not; subject us not to trial.
Woman’s Voice: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et no dimittimus
debitoribus nostris.
(“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us.’ ‘)
Voices: Thine is the power,
The glory for ever.
Woman’s Voice: Gloria in excelsis Dea!

(“Glory to God in the highest!”)
Voices: Not into temptation.
Deliver us from evil.
Protect us from the evil one.
Minister: And lead us not into temptation , but deliver us from
the evil one.

Voices: The wicked one . The secret one . The dragon .
Woman’s Voice: Beelzebub principe daemoniorum.
Est diablo, et angelius ejus.
Ftlius perditionis.
(“Prince of devils. The devil and his angels. Son of
perdition . ‘ ‘)
Minister: What are the chief attributes of God?
Woman’s Voice : Hommo peccatti.
(“Man of sin .”)

Congregation: His infinite perfection in being and working.
Woman ‘s Voice : K.yn·e, eleison.
(‘ ‘Lord, have mercy . ”)
Voices: We bless thee.
We adore thee .
We glorify thee.
Minister: What are the chief attributes of his being?
Woman’s Voice: Draco.
(”Dragon .’ ‘)

Congregation: Eternity, infiniteness, simplicity or purity, all-
sufficiency, perfectness, immutability, life , will, and
Voices: Thou alone art holy.
Let your name be sanctified.
Hallowed be thy name.
Minister: Wherein doth the curse of God consist?
Woman’s Voice: Dracone .

Congregation: In divers things: first , in the guilt of death, temporal
and eternal; second, the loss of grace and favor of God;
third, guilt and horror of conscience, despair and
anguish here; with, fourth, eternal damnation hereafter.
Voices: Thou alone art the Lord.
Thou which art in heaven.
Woman’s voice : Quia peccastis Domino, et non audistis vocem ejus,
est vobis sermo hie.
(“Because you have sinned against the Lord, and have
not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon
you .”)
Voices: As in earth, so in heaven.
As it is done in heaven .
In earth as it is in heaven.
Woman’s Voice: Kyrie, eleison.
Kyr£e, eleison.
Voices: Thy Kingdom come.
Your Kingdom come.
Let your Kingdom come.
Woman’s Voice: Adventclt regnum tuum!
Adven£at regnum tuum!
(“Thy Kingdom come.”)
Voices: Thy will be done.
In earth as it is in heaven.
Thy will be done!
Thy Kingdom come!
(There is silence and the lt’ghts come up slowly on Thomas Metheus, who is
waiting outside the church. He ts about 40 years old, st’x feet tall, and has
brown hair and blue eyes. Hts face has been hom’bly deformed by
smallpox, and his eyes sttfl reflect the pain tt has caused ht’m physically and
emotionally. He is bored and for lack of something better to do he picks
up some small rocks and begins throwing them at the foundation of the
church. Sttfl bored, he goes and sits on the steps. Preaching can now be
heard inside, which ts audible to the audience but understandable only to
Thomas. Wt’th a look of disgust he throws the remaining rocks toward the
audience and stands.)
Thomas: Good people. Friends. Unfed, shining lambs
Gathered today to worship the shepherd’s lunch,
I shall this morning leave the rhetoric of damnation
In the collection plate and preach salvation.
Salvation through me. I speak to all
The children of the green-apple eaters
Of Eden. Your teeth are set on edge, my friends,
Yet have not fallen corrupted from your mouths
Because they are soothed with the saliva of God’s
A wet sacrament elevated redly to wine.
But this is merely Hocus-Pocus to sweeten
Your sins. In truth I save you all.
I carry your sins, and my suffering
Alone fills the watery eyes of justice.
(There is a pause. Then Thomas begins to preach in a mocking manner.
Francis enters unseen.)
Offer then, good people,
Some idle dove to the goat who must carry
Your sins into the sun-harsh wild;
My punishment expiates you , and I am despised
And rejected of men who hide, as it were , their faces
From me . Oh brethren, remember and fear
The Mischief-Breather who snored damp life
Into your brittle, potted bodies; vessels
That can shatter as a drunkard shatters his crock.
Alas, my brothers, ours is a drunken God.
His belching is the thunder and the rain his spittle
As he delivers his unchangeable ambiguities
To the prophets.
(Francis begins to laugh. He is a young man in his early twenties with
black eyes and hair. He is a convert to the Enlightenment, a disciple of the
new God, reason. Thomas is startled and turns away so that his face is
hidden from Francis.)
Francis: Amen! Pray continue, good preacher.
Seldom preach the heretics from the synogogue
Steps; and a better sermon I never heard.
Thomas: I am not a heretic.
Francis: Infidel, then! Stand I now by the waters of Babylon?
Thomas: How long have you been listening?
Francis: In partibus infidelium I wander alone.
Worship you the ale-God, sir?
(He realizes that Thomas is not as amused with his joking as he himself is.)
I believe you were about to pass the plate,
And I, sadly, am without two turtles;
Naught but my mite of cynicism can I offer.
Do you preach regularly to the street-stones, Rabbi?
Thomas: I am waiting for my wife and daughter.
Francis: Why are you not inside? Surely a man of your
devotion should not waste his piety preaching to
(Thomas turns and faces Francis. The scars on his face answer Francis’s
Thomas: I wait outside for my wife and daughter.
Francis: Ah, I see . Forgive me, I did not .. . It must have
been very bad.
Thomas: What would you know of it, Sunday-clown?
Francis: I would think you would have died.
Thomas: I did not.
Francis: Tell me, brooding preacher, was it for sins
Unmentionable that God sent his badger to claw
Your face and mark you with the sores of Cain?
Pestilence is God’s rightful judgment visited
Upon the wicked. Or was it just the breath
Of another sinner that polluted your face?
Were you innocent, or are you penitent?
Thomas: I was eight, and my sister of six died .
Why I lived is a mystery, and what I did
To merit my punishment is an even greater one.
It is hidden even from me .
Francis: You are not consoled in dogma?
Thomas: The creeds were written by lawyers.
Francis: You should sit with the flock and make them squirm!
Thomas: What?! The heretic would instruct me in my election?
Very well, speak!
Francis: (Laughing) I am not a heretic either; I am enlightened.
But it is better business to be religious. Please, keep
my opinions to yourself.
Thomas: A wolf in sheep ‘s clothing.
Francis: Nothing so sinister.
Thomas: I fear for their souls.
Francis: Fear for their money . Come, I will speak my mind
To you because I feel you can understand .
Pythagoras, Fibonnacci, and I have seen
The vision of the rose in Bhudda’s hand.
The black seeds spinning a spiral strand
In against a bristling mandala
Showed Pythagoras a God (Upon whose command
Revelation of an irrational root was banned).
Hygeia the healer! Daughter of the claw!
Fibonnacci found the world descending the stairs
Of whirling squares that the flower’s black yolk
Weaves into the golden navel of the divine .
Thomas: Riddles?
Francis: A sunflower.
Thomas: I do not understand .
Francis: My point! Now consider the lilies of the field ,
How they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet even Solomon in all his glory
Was not arrayed like one of these.
The subject is the same; the point of view differs.
One is orthodox, the other enlightened.
Thomas: Are you a missionary or a salesman?
Francis: I am a salesman. They do not want to understand
what I would teach them, so I whisper what they
want to hear and take their money.
Thomas: Hypocrisy!
Francis: Business! Be assured, sir, that nowhere ministers an
itinerant more saintly than I.
(He reaches into one of the bags he is carrying and pulls out a bottle.)
I am a ministering angel providing the suffering
With this Elixer Divitas Magnus,
A nectar truly dripped from heaven,
A glorious remedy for any infirmity-vapors, gout,
ague .
Why this is the favorite of Cotton Mather’s wife
When the ache comes upon her. It heals with .
Thomas: Enough! Can your water cure the pox?
Francis: Water? Friend, I may profane your Gods
But I do not insult your wife, and I ask
That you not tarnish the shrines of my belief.
This divine essence .
Thomas: The pox, sir?!
Francis: No, though I wish it would . I could have sold a
hundred bottles at twice the price in Burlington.
(Thomas starts.)
Thomas: The pox in Burlington? .
Francis: And Deaton, too . Cities ripe for destruction.
The east wind is swift; His furious judgment is come.
It is the pox with which the earth is salted.
Thomas: You laugh at many things.
Francis: I laugh at folly. In Burlington they preach repentance
At children who know nothing of sin, who catch
The pox from the Deacon who pats their head.
A sermon on contagion would save more
Children than ten thousand catechisms
On Doctrine.
Thomas: You do not believe in God?
Francis: Did you believe that everyone does? No,
I do not believe in a God who crushes children
Because His head spins with wine.
Thomas: A curious creature, the atheist.
Francis: A quote from your text, minister. God is unjust
To punish little ones when parents aren’t precise
In their piety. My God is reason.
Thomas: Will the Enlightenment save you?
Francis: Will the Awakening save you?
Thomas: (Laughing) How did you know where the skin was
most tender?
Two armies march against men’s minds,
And struggle on the Megiddo of their thoughts
To annihilate each other.
Francis: Two alternatives?
Thomas: I am neither Awakened nor Enlightened.
Francis: (Pause) No, you have yet to decide .
(Josiah Morrison enters. He is a former of about 50, grey-haired and dressed
in faded work clothes.)
Thomas: Josiah! I thought you were inside.
Josiah: Not today, Lord forgive me-my oxen are in the
mire, as it were. Jane is ill and my wife has the ache
again. There is no one to help me milk my cows.
Thomas: Ill, you say? Josiah, speak with this accomplished
disciple of Hippocrates for a moment.
Francis: (Under his breath) Not on the sabbath!
Thomas: (To Francis) Your name, sir?
Francis: Francis.
Josiah: The winter has stayed too long and my wife has the
Thomas: Spring is late.
Josiah: (To Francis) Where are you traveling from?
Francis: Boston.
Josiah: Our doctor moved to Hanover last year, and that’s
too far to go just for the ache.
Francis: Does your wife take anything for her ache?
Josiah: Every night she wants a bigger fire, and the wood I
cut last fall was gone by the end of March. I’m
killing myself finding wood for the woman.
Francis: (Holding up his bottle) She might try this.
Josiah: Eh?
Francis: A cup before she goes to bed at night.
Josiah: A strange bottle. Whiskey?
Francis: No, my friend, a virtuous and divine liquid.
An elixir prepared by saintly, dedicated men
At the St. Mary’s Seminary
Of Baltimore . Jonathan Edward’s wife
Uses this whenever she feels the ache.
Josiah: Well, that’s a lot to believe in.
Francis: It’s a blessing from the Lord .
Thomas: Water.
Josiah: And for Jane . The cows need to be milked today.
Francis: Of course! What ails her?
Josiah: The pox ….
(Thomas is startled.)
Francis: Alas sir, beyond men’s humble powers
Lies the cure for the pox. Could men hope
To circumvent God’s wrath? His will is set;
The arrow is loosed . Who shall spare the mark?
Thomas: A cunning viper.
Josiah: Slow down, sir. It’s the cowpox she has, not the
smallpox. There’s so many sores on her hands she
can’t milk.
Francis: (Laughs) Cowpox? It cures itself in a week or so.
Josiah: My cows will be dead in a week if they’re not milked .
Thomas: Well, missionary of reason, if you want to rest from
your travels, I’m sure Josiah would be happy to board
you for a few days if you milk his cows.
Francis: Cows? (Resigning himself) Even the enlightened get
Very well, sir, for a bed and a meal I will milk your
Josiah: Well spoken! Come along, Francis, and God forgive
us our commerce on the sabbath. (Holding up a bottle) I’ll have my wife try this.
Francis: Only a little. Give her only a little .
(From inside the church angry voices can be heard growing louder.)
Francis: Trouble in Zion?
Josiah: Your wife forgets her place again, Thomas.
Thomas: She has her concerns.
Josiah: Now, I’m not siding with the minister, but I can’t
condone a woman forgetting her place . She’ 11 be
trying to wear your pants, too, if you’re not careful.
Thomas: Her salvation is her concern.
Josiah : Very well. Come along, sir-the hornets will swarm
out of church in a moment. It happens like that
every Sunday as of late.
(The church bell rings three times as Josiah and Francis leave. Voices are
sttfl loud inside. The church doors open and the chtfdren run out first.
Among them is Isabel. She is Thomas’s daughter of 13. She runs to her
Isabel: Father! I am going to lead the May Procession!
Amy Dixon has the pox so I will lead!
Thomas: (Startled) Amy has the pox?
Isabel: I will carry the flowers and be the first to walk under
the bough. Mother said…
Thomas: When did Amy become ill?
Isabel: I don’t know. But I get to lead, Father!
(Angry voices can be heard as people begin to leave the church. Helen
comes out. She is ten years younger than Thomas. Today her face is
almost as red as her hair.)
Isabel: Mother fought with the minister again today. So did
Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Bernt.
Helen: (Controlling her anger) Thomas, let us go .
Thomas: The hive is swarming.
Helen: Let us go, Thomas!
Thomas: Have Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Bernt awakened with you?
Helen: Thomas!
(The people passing by are glaring at them.)
Jedediah: Witch!
Helen: Jedediah Clayton! You are wrong and you are a
coward and you know it!
Jedediah: Mind your mouth, woman!
Helen: Why did you not call me a witch inside with the
minister there to pass judgment on you? Or are you
now the new Bishop of New Hampshire?
Mrs. Clayton: Don’t speak with her, Jedediah!
Helen: You are wrong to judge me, Jedediah! I’m sure there
must be at least one mote in your own eye.
Mrs. Clayton : Stray if you must, Helen, but leave us to follow in
our own way.
Helen: Your way is wrong!
Jedediah: You are wrong!
Helen: I am right! I am fettered to the words of Paul to the
saints in Rome.
Jedediah: Paul also wrote to Timothy:
“Let the woman learn in silence.
Suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp
Authority over the man, but to be in silence!”
That is in your Bible!
Helen: And were I a man with the same opinions, would
that make any difference?
Jedediah: Your husband sins in not punishing you with the
(The minister approaches the group.)
Minister: Jedediah! Everyone! Go to your homes! Now!
No more contention on the Sabbath!
All of you go.

(The people are sttfl furious but obey the minister and leave.)
Minister: Helen, stay.
Helen: I have no time .
Minister: Only a moment.
Helen: I must prepare the day’s meals.
Minister: Then I shall visit you for dinner.
Helen: No! You shall never eat at my table!
Minister: Thomas?
Thomas: “Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my
wife, neither am I her husband.”
Minister: Thomas, you fool! This is not the time to joke and
banter passages. Your wife is out of order, and you
must discipline her.
Thomas: Helen . . .
Helen: No! I shall not prepare food for him in my house!
Minister: Then none shall be prepared for you in mine.
Helen: Isabel, run ahead.
Minister: No, this involves her, too.
Helen, my congregation has been divided
Too long. You spit disrespect at me
Each time you and your followers speak
Of this awakening. You tempt many to stray,
And division will destroy us as it destroyed
Israel, only for us there is no return
From Babylon.
Helen: You are afraid. They are afraid. Why?
Minister: You deny the sacraments.
Helen: The sacraments are empty. They nourish no souls.
Minister: They see and feel the eucharist. In the ritual
There is power. You seek a feeling empty
Of form.
Helen: I speak of Pentacost!
Minister: Those winds no longer blow! (Pause) Helen,
They need to see the grail. When they hold
The cup of wine, and touch the gold of atonement
With trembling lips, they understand more
Than your breeze can teach them.
Helen: But they are not partakers of the Holy Ghost.
Minister: Helen, you will be damned! Can you not see the
anger and hatred of the men in the congregation,
some of whom have already come to me to whisper
Helen: They are cowards.
Minister: A mob is full of cowards.
Helen: Why can’t any of you see I speak the truth?
Minister: You are rebellious, Helen. I see that I must suspend
the eucharist.
Helen: Excommunication?!
Thomas: Are you that afraid?
Minister: In two weeks I shall notify the Bishop, and you can
then appeal my decision if you like.
Helen: Good. I shall wait.
Minister: Unfortunately, with both parents absent from the
Isabel will also be unwelcomed.
Isabel: Mother! Next week I’m to carry the flowers!
Helen: (To the Minister) You are so weak you have to trap
me. Now I know I am right. Very well, there are
other towns.
Minister: Towns where Thomas will be accepted as he is here?
Helen: (Pause) Come, Isabel.
Isabel: But Mother, I want to carry the flowers .
Helen: Isabel! Come along.
Minister: Sunday the penitent will be welcomed .
(Helen and Isabel exit.)
Thomas: It was providence that Amy caught the pox.
Otherwise the plague of starving belief
Would still be afflicting you. Surely,
God sent Amy the pox for this purpose.
Minister: You don’t believe that, Thomas.
Thomas: Then why does Amy have the pox? Why is there the
pox in Burlington and Deaton?
Minister: God’s ways are not our ways, Thomas.
I do not know.
Thomas: Yet everyone knows I suffered the pox for atrocious
Tell me, Minister, who did sin? The man or his
Minister: Thomas, why are you baiting me?
Thomas: Surely it was Amy who sinned! Her parents are unduly
Minister: Enough! Your house is not in order!
See to it before you see to mine!
Thomas: You are losing control. Every day there are new
questions you cannot answer, gaping holes in your
sterile dogma that need to be filled. God cannot
keep silent much longer.
Minister: You are losing control in your house!
Thomas: Is amputation the answer? Cut off every sore instead
of cleaning the wounds?
Minister: She threatens others.
Thomas: She threatens you.
Minister: Talk to her, Thomas. You understand God’s word
almost as well as I do. I know people have been cruel
to you, and I’m trying to spare her some of the
anguish you suffered.
Thomas: Your sermons were responsible for my suffering.
The pox is a judgment, you say, thrown down on the
By God who sees all secrets and knows all hearts.
Minister: They did not understand .
Thomas: Do I?
(Thomas exits. Lights fade on Minister.)

Scene 1

(The next day. Interior of the Metheus home. Helen and Mrs. Campbell
are finishing baking bread. Isabel is in the kitchen working on her dress.)
Helen: I love the house filled with the smell of food . The
bread is almost cool and we’ll soon see if it baked
Mrs. Campbell: You’re always too critical, Helen. It will be a feast.
Helen: (Handing her a piece of bread) Here, taste.
Mrs. Campbell: (Tasting) Wonderful!
Helen: I think the leaven was too sour. I’ 11 have to start
another batch. I’ll send this batch over to Mrs. Hanley.
Mrs. Campbell: Mrs. White’s boy has the fever. She sent Melissa to
White River in case it is the pox.
Helen: If it’s to be the pox for Melissa, then sending her
away will do no more good than running did Jonah
when he tried to escape to the sea.
Mrs. Campbell: In Boston they talk of mithridatism.
Helen: Witch talk.
Mrs. Campbell: No, doctors!
Helen: Once a woman sought the pox from a child that was
lightly afflicted, and for three days she was in the belly
of hell before she died.
Judgments come as they will.
Mrs. Campbell: Are you not concerned for Isabel?
Helen: I have faith, not fear.
Mrs. Campbell: But, Thomas …
Helen: Isabel, how are you doing?
Isabel: Better. Thank you for showing me how to sew the
lace, Mrs. Campbell.
Mrs. Campbell: You’ll look beautiful.
I remember the days before grey brushed
My shoulders, and I carried flowers beneath
the bough.
Isabel: You carried the flowers?
Mrs. Campbell: Yes, in a lace dress just like yours.
It seems like a hundred Mays have passed since then.
They brought the tree into town and everyone
Cut branches off to tie to their houses.
Then we went from house to house singing
While I, dressed in white, scattered flowers
On each doorstep until we got back to the tree.
There, all the young men were pretending sleep
And I ducked under the bough with my flowers,
Placed them on my sweetheart George’s head,
And kissed him. We married the next year.
Isabel: Will there be flowers this year? There must be
Helen: There will be flowers.
Mrs. Campbell: I must go now. You’ll look beautiful, Isabel, and
there will be a big surprise for you Sunday. Good-bye.
(Mrs. Campbell leaves.)
Isabel: I know whom I shall kiss Sunday.
Helen: Who?
Isabel: I can’t tell you. That would spoil it.
Helen: (Offering bread) I’ll bribe you .
Isabel: (Shaking her head) It’ll cost you your arm to find
(They laugh.)
Isabel: How do they prevent the pox in Boston?
Helen: It is nothing .
Isabel: But Father would want to know.
Helen: Do not tell your father!
Isabel: Why?
Helen: Your father still fears the pox, and , being afraid,
he is often rash. Do not talk of this.
(Thomas enters, breathless.)
Thomas: Isabel! Isabel, come quickly. (He goes to the
Isabel: What?
Thomas: Look, the buck and the does.
(He lifts Isabel.)
Isabel: Higher, Father! Lift me higher!
Thomas: Can you see? He is crowned with a thicket
Of antlers thornier than any other buck.
Isabel: How long will they stay in the valley?
Thomas: They wait for spring. The snow on the mountain is
deep .
Isabel: Look! He’s attacking one of the does.
Thomas: His does carry the scars of his nasty temper.
Isabel: She’s still alive! But her forleg bleeds. What will
happen to her?
Thomas: I don’t know. It depends on how bad it is.
Isabel: (Coming away from the window.) Why did he do
that to her?
Thomas: I don’t know. (Toward Helen) Maybe she needed to
be disciplined .
Isabel: But he was so cruel.
Thomas: She may have been out of control.
Isabel: I don’t understand.
Helen: Bucks are easily threatened .
Isabel: She’s not a threat.
Helen: Maybe she wanted to feed in a better field,
And the buck was afraid to move.
Isabel: If it’s better food, they should move.
Helen: I agree. Leave your sewing and run this over to
Mrs. Hanley.
(She gives Isabel a basket of bread, and Isabel exits.)
Thomas: Frank White’s boy has the pox.
Helen: It’s only a fever.
Thomas: That makes him the seventh.
Helen : It’s nothing.
Thomas: Good church-going people .
Helen: They are there every Sunday.
Thomas: Awakened?
Helen: Don’t Thomas.
Thomas: You’ve been sulking all day.
Helen: I have lots to cook before Sunday.
Thomas: One loaf isn ‘t enough?
Helen: (Laughing) And one jug of wine for the five thousand?
We wouldn’t want to put a strain on the minister.
There are no flowers this year.
Thomas: What will she carry?
Helen: Mrs. Campbell bought silk roses
In New York. She will use those .
Thomas: It is not the same.
Helen: Walking under the bough dressed in white
Is what is important.
Thomas: I’d like to see real flowers.
Helen: Then you’ll have to work a miracle by Sunday.
Thomas: You are going, then?
Helen: Of course .
Thomas: Then the minister beat you .
Helen: No, he hasn’t. I will be quiet for a week.
Thomas: A lie, then?
Helen: It’s not a lie.
Thomas: Deceiving such men is not a trivial matter.
Helen: He said the penitent were welcome.
Thomas: Helen, this morality is too convenient.
Deception sours your soul.
Helen: Thomas, please-she has to go.
Thomas: Then you must give up your stand. It’s been a year
Since the Holy Ghost settled upon you
Without any further manifestation.
It is time to end this foolishness.
Helen: Foolishness? God save your soul, Thomas,
If you call it foolishness.
Thomas: It’s been a year.
Helen: I know what I felt .
Thomas: What if you were mistaken? Felt wrong?
Everything shouldn’t be at the mercy of this twittering
Of the heart.
Helen: You think I was mistaken?
Thomas: Do you remember?
Helen: I shall never forget. (Pause) The sun played,
Red and blue, through the stained-glass that day,
Warming Isabel to sleep against my side
As the sermon told of Jacob drawing water
For the flock of Rachel. And from that water
Sprang the sons of Israel, the sands of the sea
And the stars of the sky. Then he spoke of a well
Where a woman drew water for our thirsty Savior,
Who offered in return a living drink.
Coming home we stopped at the pasture’s brook
And watched the sun dance upon the water.
Then I heard something inside me say,
”Whosoever drinketh of this water
Shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh
Of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. ‘ ‘
Do you remember how I cried that day?
Thomas: That was a year ago.
Helen: And I have not thirsted since.
Thomas: Then why is the eucharist suspended?
Helen: It is not.
Thomas: It will be.
Helen: Because the minister fears what he doesn’t control.
To him, communion with the spirit is good,
But not necessary. Only his ridiculous . . .
Lord forgive me.
Thomas: You must not go.
Helen: Isabel must go this year. She will be too old
Next spring.
Thomas: She will not go! I can tolerate you shouting
Down the minister in his house, but lying
To get what you want is damnable!
Helen: I need more wood for the stove.
Thomas: Flames for the martyr of the witch.
Helen: Where was this concern for my soul before
The pox broke out? You care nothing for the belief
I have in God . You only fear the pox.
Call me a witch , but the pox is what you’re afraid of!
Thomas: Would you have her scarred as I am?
Helen: If it’s God’s will, there is nothing to do
To prevent it.
Thomas: Next year, Helen .
Helen: I will not run with you .
Thomas: Then she will be scarred!
Helen: I married the scars and self-pity in your heart,
Didn’t I?
Thomas: She’ 11 be scarred.
Helen: Would that be so bad?
Thomas: Yes!
Helen: Why?!
Thomas: Because had you been scarred I wouldn’t have married!
My eyes are not pocked, nor is my longing for beauty
Diminished by my wretched features. Helen ,
I need the colored leaves of fall, the laughter
On Isabel’s face, and your smile in this house
More than other men do .
Helen: She must go .
Thomas: She will not!
Helen: Do you think this Madonna is conjoined to your will?
Damn me for insincerity, and with delight
I’ll look from my smouldering prison into the fires
That burn in the pits on your face! She will go,
And God help you if you try to stop her. Get out of
my kitchen!

Scene 2

(Francis is found once again outside the church plying his trade. Mrs. Mor-
rison, Mrs. Frazer, and Mrs. Douglas are listening to his sales pitch.)
Mrs. Frazer: I don’t believe in healing waters.
Mrs. Douglas: You slick city peddlers only sell us what they don’t
buy in the city.
Francis: City-born I am, but God fearing. And who’s to say
the age of miracles is past, Mrs. Frazer?
Mrs. Morrison: I know it hasn’t! This is the best stuff I’ve ever used
for the ache . Ten minutes later I couldn’t feel a
Mrs. Frazer: Liquor!
Mrs. Morrison: Pah! Smell it; it doesn’t smell of liquor.
Francis: It is a vital essence tenderly distilled
From herbs and rare and potent roots
Which the monks of St. Mary’s Seminary
Have made their study for a millennium.
Mrs. Douglas: How much does it cost for this miracle?
Francis: I collect a dollar for the upkeep of the seminary.
Mrs. Frazer: Hahl A dollar for a miracle? If that were the case I
could enter heaven for ten dollars.
Francis: None pay the true price for heaven.
Ransomed for us on that painful cross
In vows and sacraments, He asks us less than a dollar
To buy salvation and purchase an infinite reward.
Why your election is nearly free. Free!
Why then do you rebuke the gentle brethren
Of St. Mary’s who sacrifice to spare your pain?
Mrs. Morrison: If you suffer the ache then buy it, but don’t quibble
about the price.
Mrs. Douglas: How do I know it hasn’t been diluted?
Francis: It is sealed with the seal of the Seminaria
Mrs. Frazer: What religion sells your water, sir?
Francis: The same as yours.
Mrs. Frazer: Are you awakened?
Francis: (Pause) I have heard of this awakening. There is the
potential for a great mischief.
Mrs. Frazer: Should the awakened be punished?
Francis: For what?
Mrs. Frazer: For rebellion against the church.
Francis: God will punish rebellion. Even now the pox sweeps
Burlington, punishing the unfaithful and heretical.
But yes, we should do our part, too.
Mrs. Douglas: I’ll give you ninety cents, but I get to pick my own
bottle .
Francis: I’m sure the brethren at St. Mary’s will accept that,
Mrs. Douglas.
(She begins to rummage through Francis’s bag.)
Mrs. Frazer: We face the same problem here as in Burlington.
Already the pox has descended because one of our
members has fallen in sin.
Mrs. Douglas: Helen Metheus!
Mrs. Frazer: It is her husband who has brought this upon us.
We should never have allowed him to stay.
We should have cast him away from us
As the sailors did the rebellious Jonah.
Mrs. Morrison: You’re too hard on Thomas, Mrs. Frazer.
Mrs. Frazer: (Coldly) Your house suffers judgment because of
(To Francis)
Come to my house this evening and speak with my
I shall buy a bottle then. Good day.
(Mrs. Frazer and Mrs. Douglas leave.)
Mrs. Morrison: Does she mean to imply that Jane has the cowpox
because of Thomas Metheus running a farm north of
Francis: Apparently.
Mrs. Morrison: The fool! Always looking for someone to blame . I’d
like to take a board and . . . ( Catching hers el/) How
long will you be staying?
Francis: A few more days. Jane should be better.
Mrs. Morrison: Bless you , sir. Josiah is just too old to handle cows by
himself. He’ll be milking again at dusk. Good day.
(She exits.)
(Thomas enters. He is angry and walking quickly.)
Francis: Hello, Preacher!
Thomas: Good afternoon .
Francis: (Sensing his mood) Life has become more serious, I
Thomas: Good day. (Thomas walks past.)
Francis: Hold! In what did I offend you?
Thomas: Nothing.
Francis: You look at me as if I were a bear about to eat your
only child.
Thomas: Yesterday you eavesdropped on my thoughts, but
today I am not obliged to regard you as a friend .
Good day.
Francis: And a fair one I’ll have at that. Farewell.
By the way, I’ve found your cure, Rabbi.
(Thomas stops.) That tantalizes you, does it?
A bottle of elixir?
Thomas: Spare the dance.
Francis: Whatever painful humour has crept .
Thomas: Must I play along?
Francis: No, but you could act civil.
Thomas: Well?
Francis: Has the pox made this a melancholy day?
Your wife?
Thomas: No.
Francis: You are so suspicious. When a man already carries
The lesions of the Lord, I need no stone
To tell me his fear is for another-your daughter.
Thomas: I do not fear the pox.
Francis: And I have no cure.
Thomas: I may incline to play with you yet.
Francis: Distilled, however, in this golden flask of Olympus
Is indeed a cure. But not, I’m afraid, for the pox.
I am a man. (Thomas grows impatient.) Have you a
Thomas: I have .
Francis: Then for a price you have a cure.
Thomas: I do not understand.
Francis: I want something in return .
Thomas: You have no cure, charlatan.
Francis: Then the pox will devour your daughter.
Thomas: How much money is your miracle worth?
Francis: You insult me. I have already bantered the worth
of miracles with silly women this afternoon.
Thomas: What then?
Francis: (Pointing)
There, on that mountain, in three nights
I will meet you by the great stone,
And in the silent hours of the night
We shall watch the shadow-tangled forest
Until morning.
Thomas: You have nothing. (Pause) Very well.
Francis: To avoid the smallpox give your daughter the cowpox.
Take your knife and go to Josiah’s home and cut the
sores on Jane’s hands. Then with the same knife
scratch your daughter’s arm and she’ll be safe from
the pox.
Thomas: Foolishness.
Francis: The sores on Jane’s hands save her from sores on
her face.
Put sores on your daughter’s hands.
Thomas: Where did you learn this alchemy?
Francis: In England it is practiced to a degree .
Thomas: Truth?
Francis: Assuredly . But hurry, Jane’s sores may begin to heal

Scene 3

(lnten·or of the Metheus home the same day. Thomas enters with knife
wrapped in a cloth.)
Thomas: Here in the sharpened iron-whispers of evil
Honed on faithless logic, almost I see
(Isabel enters.)
How this lesion-lancing steel fouled
Yellow with the corruption of rotting pus
May save her. Reason’s tides are seductive
Pools of sweet grass where greedy cattle
Wade and feed to death. Even now,
Like the startled hart fleeing the meadow
Stream for darkening woods, I pant, uncertain
How near the price of the potter’s field
My purchase is.
Isabel: Father, have you seen the buck again?
Thomas: No . Isabel, come here .
Isabel: Yes, Father?
Thomas: Look at my face
And tell me what you see.
Isabel: What, Father?
(He takes her hands and puts them to his face .)
Thomas: What do you feel?
Isabel: You .
Thomas: Oh, my fawning daughter, you touch my heart;
With suede fingers you smooth my gnarled hide
Though it barks your hands. How I wish
That time would leave us in some idyll of yesterday
Where only spring and summer green the hillsides.
But, our hearts pump time, Isabel.
Amy has the pox. She will live
But her skin will never be again as soft
As yours.
Isabel: (Crying) Father?
Thomas: And now they’ll look at her with knowing sympathy,
Knowing that she is punished for secret sins,
Marked as was Cain, the master of the great secret.
And what has she done? Nothing. She is a child
Who unknowingly breathed the septic east wind .
Isabel, the pox must not have you.
Isabel: It won’t.
Thomas: No, it will not.
(He unwraps the knife and looks at it. Helen enters.)
Thomas: God once provided himself a Lamb . (Pause)
There will be sores on your hands but none will mar
Your face. Give me your arm.
(Helen rushes forward and pushes Isabel out of Thomas’s reach.)
Helen : Thomas! What are you doing?
Thomas: Sunday she will not return with the pox.
Helen: Don’t lay a hand upon her!
Put away that knife .
Thomas: Helen, only the hand-blistering pox
Stands between her and that which I fear
More than God or Hell.
Helen : What malevolent demon summons you toward
This madness? The pox is death , not cheese
To be nibbled in hopes that it will bring only
A little sickness.
Thomas: You do not understand . In England, it has been
done .
Helen: They are fools.
Thomas: And we be fools to hesitate like women shopping
With loud opinions shrill in their tight purses.
Am I to be a feeder lamb watching
The coming wolf, unaware of my opportunity
To flee?
Helen: This is the devil’s work!
Thomas: Still your superstition to the whisper of reason .
Devilish to spare our daughter?
Helen: No! These enlightened devils will not set
My daughter to tempt God from his chosen
Do not tempt Him, Thomas. This isn’t sport
Where your only child is a wager placed
Against the will of God . Have you forgotten
She is mortal?
Thomas: I have not forgotten!
I have not forgotten the fire of my childhood,
The pain that bled my muscles off their bones
While I cried and screamed in vain for sleep
To numb what burned inside me.
Nor have I been blind when faces turn away
To whisper stares at me. No, Helen ,
My tears have been my meat day and night,
While they continually look at me and say,
Where is thy God? And even in the folds
Of your eye wrinkles an unexpected shudder
When at times you turn and see me
Helen: Please , Thomas!
Thomas: She shall not suffer as I.
Isabel: (Running to Thomas) I am afraid, Father.
Helen: Isabel!
Isabel: Here is my arm.
(Thomas cuts her arm twice. Helen screams.)

Scene 1

(Interior of the Metheus home. Minister, Jedediah Clayton, and his wife
are silent. Helen enters.)
Helen: She is sleeping. Thank you, Jedediah , both of you,
For going into Hanover for the doctor.
Mrs. Clayton: I’ll stop by tomorrow. Good night.
(The Claytons exit.)
Helen: Why did they go into Hanover?
Minister: They wanted to help.
Helen: You sent them.
Minister: I reminded them of Christian obligations.
Helen: Did you threaten to suspend the eucharist from them,
Minister: Helen, calm down.
Helen: Someday you may not have a flock .
Minister: Then might I spend my days reading.
Helen: Dead, I should hope.
Minister: Bitterness will repair nothing.
Helen: Don’t preach in my house! (Pause) A stranger left
With my daughter’s arm wrapped in rags and you
preach .
I defy all the canon of heaven
Telling me to forgive.
Minister: Then be thankful she’s alive.
Helen: The foetor of rotting flesh fills this house,
A demon that lifts off the walls and burns my eyes
Each time the dust stirs. Vomit
Tears at my throat.
Minister: Thomas believed too fiercely in the thoughts that
His imagination. One day in Robinson’s meadow,
He saw cows wade into a stream to drink,
Clumped together, churning up the mud.
And a smaller calf walked upstream
And drank the cleaner water. That Sunday
He wasn’t in church, having decided to drink
His own, cleaner water. But I fear
He often reads the Bible wrong.
Helen: She held out her arm to him.
Minister: It could have been worse.
Helen: (Sobbing) Why did he do it?
Minister: The years he’s spent trying to understand .
Helen: Why are you defending him?!
Minister: Because I admire him.
Helen: What? Thomas? Your first heretic?
Minister: You were my second, and I am here with you.
Helen: Unwelcomed .
Minister: You needn’t always hate those who disagree with you.
Helen: You did more than disagree.
Minister: Had you listened earlier this wouldn’t have happened.
Helen: (Snarling) This is retribution, then?
Minister: Soften your neck or more will come.
Helen: Let it!
Minister: God forgive you.
Helen: Pray that I forgive Him!
Minister: Silence woman! You tread on my responsibility.
Helen: She ran from me to him and embraced the knife.
Even now I see him standing there
Cutting her arm with that filthy knife.
Minister: Change your heart, Helen. Try to forgive.
Helen: Both of them?
Minister: Isabel first, but Thomas most of all.
Helen: Never.
Minister: Then your life , though it only last through spring,
Will be long and rocky. How Thomas
Will be judged, I cannot tell.
Helen: He’ll be damned!
Minister: Were it anyone else I would agree
And denounce him to hell with all the fury I could
But not Thomas. Not Thomas. Days
Of somber reflection have aged him past the years
I carry.
Helen: I have never known you to speak so kindly.
Minister: And maybe I have been wrong. I have hoped
To one day give the great sermon,
One that washes around the weariness of the day
Like a brook washing over my feet .
Something to awaken the Enoch in these people.
Helen: You may have already given it.
Minister: No, my heart is muddy. I want the accolades,
The praise of men who stomp the mud around me.
You see me grasp at formality, intoning ritual
With strictness to the point of cruelty. I do this,
Helen, because this alone may save me.
Helen: (Pause) If you will wait, I will fix you something to

Scene 2

(There is a shot and a crash is heard. Lights come up on the fallen buck.
Thomas enters.)
Thomas: Through the heart it ends, antlered chief,
With a ball of lead letting your blood
Slip away, while all your does run
Free to seek at last a kinder master.
Your death is good for them, venison-lord,
The quick, hot anger of your branching spikes
Disfigured each of them until yours
Alone was the softest hide. But now, dead.
(He cuts the buck’s throat with his knife.)
Your red-spilling temper thaws the ground-
Spring is late.
(He sits and looks at the buck for a moment. Then he flings his rifle at the
dead animal and stands and shouts at the sky.)
Hell, to heaven fly and rape the angels
Praying to themselves with white devotion!
Burn their eyes with the molten smoke of bone
That aches and throbs in the fever of damnation.
Shatter their faces! Dig a thousand pits
That scab and bleed burning, vile mud
That hardens to their faces until they scream,
And with chaste and pious fingers pick and tear
The rotten feces of the gutting pox
Off their skin! Then, let them harp again
And they’ll sing a doggerel to the Most High!
Send your badger again, God. God!
If not my prayers then hear my blasphemy!
I’ll strangle your victory! As your laughter
Rocks the sky I’ll kiss death and slip
Beneath the black, armoured ground of winter
(Thomas picks up his gun, his anger now spent, and begins to reload.
Francis enters be hind him.)
Francis: A marksman!
(Thomas whirls around with the rod still in the barrel of his gun and points
it at Francis. )
Francis: (Laughing) Will you shoot me with your rod?
Come, I bare my chest.
Thomas: We were to meet at the stone.
Francis: Would you stalk me as you did the buck?
Thomas: You wander unwelcomed .
Francis: I heard the shot. Curiosity is my failing.
Thomas: I should have saved my shot for better quarry.
Francis: Your daughter is ill.
Thomas: The town catches news fast. Well,
Am I a murderer?
Francis: (Laughs) Both pox are fevers; she will not die.
Thomas: A prophet, too?
Francis: A man of medicine. The green infection ferments
From an unclean knife in her arm.
The doctor will save her life by cutting it off.
“If thy arm or thy foot offend thee,
Cut them off, and cast them from thee .”
Thomas: You’ve come to collect? What price for her arm?
Francis: Always there is risk.
Thomas: She has no soul.
Francis: She has no scars.
Thomas: With no arm her life will be worse than mine
Ever was, when she wonders why God
Punished her.
Francis: Pah!
Thomas: The topic of Sunday gossip will be her arm
And how His purposes were served. Your work
Was done well. Will you visit other towns?
Francis: I am not evil to tell you the truth.
I gave you neither command nor promise.
Thomas: Only part of the truth .
Francis: Who knows it all? Drop me like that buck
And see if science dies. Tomorrow another
Will come and then another until your God
Is muscled under the earth. It is a leviathan
That defies the swords of steel and dogma,
But it does not administer pious injustice
To children in its wake . Isabel is safe
From the smallpox, the pox that kills
As often as it scars. Things are better
Than you think.
Thomas: With better results, I would have been your disciple.
But yours is a salty seed.
Francis: You are too fond of the surrounding shrouds of
That clothe your gospel.
Thomas: You don’t know what I believe.
Francis: I see in your face what you believe.
Thomas: (Bringing up his reloaded gun) Did you foresee this?
Francis: There have been many times I have longed for that-
The certainty of living. I grew up on Sunday
Between the pews, awed by the la tin spectacle
Of having my soul saved in a tarnished goblet.
But I’ve put away childish things and embrace the
uncertainty of reason.
Thomas: Can either save us?
Francis: From what? From what? Were we born drowning,
Floundering just between the water and the sky,
Forever needing to be saved? The decisions are black,
We choose without knowing what nor why.
Thomas: Your life for my daughter’s arm.
Francis: Very well.
Thomas: (Pause) I thought I was damned when I listened to
And sin was not my concern. But now I think
Of murder and I am afraid.
Francis: You will always be afraid.
(A red light begins to come up on the set.)
Look! It is come!
Thomas: What?
Francis: Watch the sky.
Thomas: (Afraid of the growing light) I have sold my soul!
Francis: Nonsense! Look! There in the northern sky!
A red light stretches across heaven.
Like the Magi, I watch the stars
For answers, and tonight God answers
Through the universe.
Thomas: You read shadowed astrologies, and demons appear in
the sky.
Francis: Demons? (Laughs) You see the future-the demon
we fear most.
See, the line folds itself into a square ,
And, in a moment, watch .. . there! Look!
See , it folds again into a compass.
Thomas: I see. But I do not understand .
(The red light fades out slowly.)
Francis: The geometry of theology is about to be corrected.
Your angry God will die, the confusing silence
Of centuries will be broken, and faith
Will be brought into square again.
Thomas: When?
Francis: Soon enough. Your daughter and her children,
maybe, will see it.
Thomas: Should I be consoled?
Francis: I speak of spring; winter has ended.
Thomas: I still do not understand.
Francis: (Pause) Perhaps I was mistaken. Search for some
understanding and your next sermon will ring with
prophecy. Farewell, Rabbi.
(Francis exits. Thomas contemplates the dead buck and then the sky.
Lights begin to come up .)
Thomas: It is morning; the icy stars fade
Into the cold eastern light that promises
Spring. The winter stays too long; spring
Must come.

Scene 3

(The bedside of Isabel-a little brighter and cleaner than might be
expected. Helen is next to Isabel reading from the Bible-the Beatitudes.
Thomas enters. Helen stops.)
Isabel: Father!
Thomas: Are you feeling well?
Isabel: Much better. The sores have gone away .
Thomas: The winter is going, too. The brooks rush
Down the mountains into greening meadows
Where dappled fawns bound around their mothers.
Isabel: Will the deer go back to the mountain?
Thomas: They are already back.
Isabel: Will spring make that nasty buck nicer?
Thomas: The buck is dead. I have been on the mountain
Hunting him.
Isabel: And the does?
Thomas: They will find another. The hills are full
Of bucks and it is spring.
Isabel: What if they don’t? What if they wander forever and
never find another?
Helen: Don’t be silly. It’s the bucks that are looking for
(They laugh uncomfortably.)
Thomas: (Pause) Your arm?
Isabel: Fine, but it still itches and I want to scratch,
(Reaches to do so) but it isn’t .. . (Sobs)
Thomas: (Moves to bedside) I’m sorry , Isabel.
Isabel: My face, Father. It isn’t scarred. The blisters
Were on my hand, but none on my face. (Pause)
The minister says that I can lead the May Procession
Next year, even though I’m too old.
Thomas: With real flowers, not silk ones.
(He pulls a cloth out of his pocket and unwraps it.)
I found this to the south.
(It is a small crumpled flower.)
You can still smell it.
Helen: I can smell it from here.
Isabel: What kind is it, Father?
Thomas: It’s a very rare flower, Isabel.
They say that around the neck of an Indian princess
There hung, long ago, the four seasons,
Sealed in crystal-ice. And the princess
Would drop the gem of spring in the drifts of winter
Where it would begin to thaw. But,
In the coldest winters, even the longest winters
There would, when the snow melted, be a flower,
Thriving in the cold water. It is only found
Where water runs off melting banks of snow.
It is the first to bloom-the Ice Lily.
Helen: And it is the first that dies in the summer.
Thomas: This one will live longer.
Isabel: Will you and mother take me to pick flowers?
Helen: Of course, Isabel.
Thomas: And next year when you walk under the bough we’ 11
walk under the bough with you.
Isabel: You can’t do that.
Thomas: Yes, we can. Times are changing, and the spring
festival will change, too.
Isabel: Will I still wear white?
Helen: Yes, and you’ 11 still get to kiss the young man of your
Thomas: (Musing) It is the coming of spring.

(Lights out)

No Bird

by Dave Wolverton

The pickup on the mud road behind us pings as it cools. “Do you want to shoot one, Stevey?” Dad says. “You can if you want to.” Steam comes out of his mouth when he speaks, and he sniffs loudly.
“No,” I say, standing close to him so that I can bury my face in his warm flannel shirt.
“I think he’s just scared,” Mike says, cracking the double-barrel open and inserting two shells. A kingfisher makes its laughing sound as it flies down the river channel on the other side of the brush.
“You’ve got nothing to be afraid of, Stevey. A man with a gun doesn’t have to be afraid of anything,” Dad says. “Here, you take the shotgun and see if you can shoulder it.”
Dad hands me the shotgun; it is as cold as a stovepipe in the morning and smells of oil and varnish. He has spent half the night cleaning it. I raise the gun clumsily.                The stock is too long for my arm; I can’t get a tight fit. Dad fiddles with the gun, readjusting my grip and pushing the gun harder against my shoulder. I try to point it and look along the barrel at the sight, but it is too awkward .
“Put the butt of the gun tight against your shoulder, or you’11 get a bruise,” Dad says.
“It isn’t going to be any use, Dad,” Mike says. “He’s right-eyed. ”
”I can see that,” Dad says.
“Do you think you can take that patch off yet, Stevey?” Dad says, lightly touching the bandage over my right eye.
Mike says, “He’s not supposed to take it off for two weeks yet.”
“Well, I’d like him to. I want him to see this with both eyes open.”
“I don’t think I can shoot,” I say.
“Well then, you just watch Mikey. He’ll show you how it’s done,” Dad says.
Dad hands Mike the pump and takes the double-barrel for himself, then we step off the road and head down the levee along the riverbank, walking as silently as possible through the rushes. Steam is creeping over the water; it seems to be spilling out of the river and into the grass. We can smell the rotting carp that fishermen have left on the bank. We walk toward a clump of cattails and blackberry vines. A candy wrapper and a Black Velvet whisky bottle show that people have fished here. As we approach the cattails, a buzzard squawks and jumps into the air. Mike throws his gun to his shoulder, and the buzzard flips as he blows it out of the sky. It splashes into the river.
“Way to go! Did you see that, Stevey?” Dad asks. I nod. A few black feathers flutter to the ground, and we go find where the buzzard had been sitting as it fed on a carp. Both Dad and Mike are smiling. Mike reloads. When he’s done, he and Dad begin to hurry along, and I have to work to keep up.
We walk at almost a sprint for a few hundred feet. We round a corner in the trail and three more buzzards jump into the air. Mike shoots, and two of the buzzards drop, but the third one only drops a little , then keeps on flying. Dad gives it both barrels, and the buzzard crashes heavily into a scrubby willow. Dad laughs, but Mike is mad at himself for having missed the chance to shoot the buzzard. They both reload, and Mike keeps three shells in his hand.
You let me take all the shots now!” Mike says. Dad laughs and says okay.
We continue hurrying along the levee, and at nearly every pile of carp we find at least one buzzard. Mike shows of, taking all the shots. Each shot is swift, effortless, and on the mark. When a buzzard jumps into the air, Mike casually pulls the gun to his shoulder and squeezes the trigger. The buzzard nearly shatters in mid-air and thuds to the ground. It is a pleasure to watch. If the bodies don’t land in the water or in a tree, Dad and Mike have me go kick them in the river. I am afraid to touch them, so I kick them off the riverbank with the side of my foot; then I hurry over to
my dad before we go downriver.
After a while, Dad stops to take out his pipe. He packs it tight, flicks his lighter, and draws the flame into the bowl. “When you turn twelve, maybe we’ll get you a gun and you can do this too,” he says, patting me on the head.
Few fishermen come this far down the dirt road, and there are fewer carp and buzzards here. The brush is thicker, and the buzzards can hear us coming. Mike walks far out in front to make sure he gets them before they get away. The sun is burning some of the mist away; it seems to be getting late. The buzzards will finish feeding soon.
Finally, the dirt road gives out. We climb through a patch of wild rose and up a small knoll. As we reach the top, I watch my brother repeat his immaculate performance. Five buzzards fly up, their wings making small eddies in the mist. My brother pulls his gun to his shoulder-bang, slide, a body falls-bang, slide, a body falls-bang, slide, a body falls-I want to shout that the other two will escape, but he reloads as he fires and shoots twice more. Some buzzards flip in the air as they fall, their wings sprawling limply. Others are only black, heavy corpses that thump to the ground, raising small puffs of dust. Mike reloads his gun, then Dad and Mike look away down the river for a moment. Dad waves to me and says, “Come here .”
“Look down there, Stevey,” Dad says, gesturing down the river. The river takes a wide bend. The brush ends just past a rusty fence, where a sheep pasture begins. We can see the riverbank for nearly half a mile down stream. No more buzzards are anywhere downriver, and I try to stifle my excitement as I realize we’ve killed them all: the skies will be free of buzzards for years.
One of the buzzards Mike has shot starts flopping among the cattails, trying to get away. Mike shoots it again, and the flopping stops.
“You know,” Mike says to me, grinning, “I’ll bet you he’s the one that tried to get you, Stevey. Why don’t you go down there and rip his eye out.”
I look up at Dad, and he smiles at me and nods. I begin my way down through the cattails and blackberry bushes.
“That was twenty-eight of them,” Mike says, from the top of the knoll behind me.
“You sure about that?” Dad says.
“Yep, twenty-eight,” Mike says proudly.
Down among the cattails is a clearing where a pile of carp lies next to a circle of stones burnt from a campfire. A fresh black feather lies on one of the stones. The buzzard lies a few feet away. The others must have landed in the brush or in the water. I go to the buzzard, touch the warm body, and find blood and a couple pieces of bird shot stuck in its feathers. I hold its head in my hand and look at its eyes: they are beginning to glaze. Its beak is open, a purple tongue lolls out. It smells of carrion, and I remember how I’d smelled that smell as I lay in the pasture behind the house, just before the buzzard struck at my eye. I lift the buzzard high overhead and heave it as far as I can into the mist-covered river. It splashes in the water and goes under, then bobs back to the surface. I watch as it whirls in lazy circles in the brown water, its stomach to the sky, its head and wings mostly under water. Only the chest and wing-tips are still in the air. As one wing dips up and down, tiny waves ripple away in easy circles; the buzzard twirls slowly down the river through the mist. I sit on the riverbank, wrapping my arms around my shoulders. Now, no bird, no bird, shall ever eat me, I think, as the corpse slides downriver.

On the third ring Mike answers the phone.
“Hey big bro, what’s happening?” I ask.
“Yeah,” I answer. “Who’d you think it was?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. I just called to say hi.”
Mike pauses for a long moment, unbelieving. “Oh . .. hi.”
“So how’s L.A.?”
“Fine. Sunny.”
He laughs a little. ”Well, hey: it’s good to hear from you. It’s been awhile.
“Yeah. I keep meaning to call, but I put it off,” I say, feeling guilty about the last couple years.
“Same here,” he says.
“So how’s the kids?” I ask, circling the subject slowly.
“Oh, fine. Ronnie just got glasses. And Carey just started first grade-she’s home with the flu today though.”
“Ummh. How’s Kathy?”
“She’s fine. She’s at work today. She just got a job as a bank teller a few weeks ago, you know. ”
“Oh, I didn’t know. How’s your work?”
He chuckles a little. “You’ve been talking to Mom, haven’t you? Everybody’s so damned worried about me. It’s nothing-to tell the truth, it’s great.”
“What’s that?” I say.
“Didn’t you hear? I finally got the green light. Shot a doper in a day-care center.”
“Oh yeah? I didn’t hear about it.”
“Yeah. We got a call a couple of days ago, while I was on duty. This guy had taken his daughter to a day-care center and started freaking out. He kept yelling that he was going to throw the kids out the second-story window. So the SWAT team got called in. And, since I’ve been advanced to lead man, I took the shot.”
“Did you get him?” He can caress a trigger like no one else, but I’ve
often wondered if he’d hold up under pressure.
“I was a half-inch off center mark at eighty yards, but he was moving.”
“What did you choose for mark?” I want to see it in my mind .
“His head was turned to the side, so I took the left temple .”
We have both seen men shot in the head. I don’t go into it any further.
“Mom had you call me, didn’t she?” Mike says.
“Yeah,” I admit.
“Hah! I knew it! Everybody’s so damned concerned. Like it’s supposed to be some traumatic event or something. You know, they practically give you a reward? It isn’t official, but they give you a week off and a thousand-dollar bonus for ‘service above and beyond the call of duty.'”
“Yeah, I know. We’ve got the same kind of thing at the prison.”
“Right. So you know what I mean. It’s no big deal. It’s what they’re paying us for, right?”
“I suppose . . . ” I admit. It doesn’t sound conciliatory enough.
“Guess I’m going to have to move to California-we only get a five-
hundred-dollar bonus,” I joke.
On the other end of the line, Mike tells one of the kids not to bother
him because he is on the phone. I hear a child whining and another
“I knew you’d understand,” he says. “Say look, Steve, can I call you back in a few minutes? Carey’s crying or throwing up or something in the bathroom. I think I need to go help her. ‘ ‘
“Sure. I’11 talk to you in a few minutes.”
Climbing the rungs of the ladder to the prison watchtower, I stop and wait at the third platform. A dozen pheasants peck among the yellow stubbled wheatfield, including one old rooster I’ve nicknamed Bender because his tail feathers are bent and broken. I continue to the top and pound on the hatch with my lunch pail. The floor of the watchtower vibrates in rhythm with the Blue Oyster Cult singing, “I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar,” but they’ re cut off in mid-song as Davis flips off his tape player. The wind whips through my hair, and I smile at the thought of it being “the winds of limbo.” The bolt slides back; the hatch opens and I climb in.
“What’s the pheasant count this morning?” I ask as I close the hatch. Davis sits hunched in his chair, smoking a cigarette, watching the shadows at the back of the minimum-security dorms. He jerks his head back, which flips his long brown hair out of his eyes and scoots his sunglasses more snug on his nose. The air smells of stale salami sandwiches and coffee.
“Sixteen here. Tower four wins the prison booby-prize with twenty-six.”
“Yeah, well, they’re always on top.”
“That’s because they’re a bunch of damned liars,” he says too loudly.
“So, just lie back,” I say, trying to calm him.
“Yeah, I’11 do it sometime,” he agrees, easing back in his chair. I sign in on the watch sheet: 15 June, Packham in 7:58 a.m. “What’s the bullet count?”
“Seventy and ten, ” Davis answers, referring to the AR-15 and the 12-gauge respectively. I put the bullet counts in their proper slots.
“Any action last night?”
“Nothing, man. Nothing at all. It’s been what now, fifty-two days?”
“Guess nobody’s in a hurry to die,” I say.
“Yeah, well if somebody doesn’t hit the fence soon, I’m gonna quit. Just pack my bags and head down to South America,” he says.
“What’s in South America?”
“El Salvador. Nicaragua.”
I stare at him. His face is pale, the lines around his mouth and eyes are soft and flacid, sweat stains the armpits of his blue shirt, beads of sweat stick out on his forehead, cling to his lip above his moustache . He snuffs his cigarette in an empty Coke can, then throws the can in the garbage sack. I check the safeties on the guns, then sit down beside him.
“Is it okay with you if I hang around a bit?” he asks.
“There’s this bird, this big damned bird, that’s been banging into the windows all night, trying to get in,” he says.
“An owl?”
”Could’ve been. Last time it hit the window was just about half an hour ago . I didn’t see it. Just its shadow.”
I nod. Davis takes down the shotgun and pumps a shell into the chamber. He calls Control One on the intercom and asks permission to shoot the bird.
“Go ahead and do it,” a tired voice answers after a moment, “as long as you don’t blow out a damned window.”
We sit in silence. I remember times that I’ve sat in the tower wondering what people on the other shifts are like. Most of our conversation is just
“How ya doin?” and “See ya later.” I feel as if I should be talking to Davis, but there is nothing to say.
Davis sets his watch-report on the windowsill, and I notice he’s been scribbling on the report during the night. It has a picture of a diving eagle with a caption beneath it: “Death from above! Airborne 44,” and “We take no prisoners.”
“Been in Nam?” I ask.
“Airborne 44. Best damned chopper unit in Nam!” he snorts.
“Door gunner,” he corrects.
“Must feel like home up here.”
He nods, smiles placidly, then shrugs. “Yeah, feels like . . . you know, it feels like this little place called Ho Sanh. See the corner of the fence there?” he says, pointing to the Vin the edge of the fence in front of us.
“And the angle of the building there?” he says, pointing at the way the minimum-security dorm intersects the fence at an angle .
“Yeah, ” I answer.
”Reminds me of this little village called Ho Sanh,” he mutters, shifting in his chair. His voice flows smooth and gravelly, like whiskey over ice, in the manner common to hollow men.
“Every time I see it, I remember this mission we flew over that village . We were flying low over the jungle, in our Hueys, and were coming up on the village when we flew over this V.C. artillery unit by surprise. Hell, we didn’t even know it was there. But there was this fence, camouflaged with brush, up around the artillery unit, and there was this building that cut an angle to the fence , just like the dorm there , and we were at just about this altitude . I was on an M-60. I was supposed to lay down grazing fire for some assault troops we were dropping, but we came over this artillery unit by surprise. It was like one second there was the jungle, and the next
second we were staring these guns in the face . There was this one gook with his back to me, bending over this little garden, and he had a rifle on the ground next to him. He turned up and looked at me and reached for his gun. It was just a rush to see who could shoot first. He was just swinging his gun around when I shot. The blood splattered all across the wall of the hut behind him. Then all the sudden there were V.C. running out of the buildings everywhere . Most of them had some kind of rifle, but they all ran for the artillery guns. In the five seconds it took to swing clear of the
artillery unit I must have shot ten of the bastards. Damn it was fine! I mean, I was staring them right in the eye, and they knew it was coming, and I was so damn scared I was peeing my pants! And you could just see the terror in their eyes. Damn it was fine! It was like-I don’t know-like some kind of rush that you can’t get any other way!”
“You been in the towers long?” I ask, changing the subject. I have only seen him three or four times, and those have been within the last three weeks.
“No, man. I just come out of max. Been there seven months.”
”And before that?”
“There ain’t no before that. That’s when I started.”
“Oh,” I nod. “What’s the matter, get tired of people chucking on you?”
Davis clenches his teeth and looks away. “Yeah! What’s your excuse?”
“No excuse. I just went crazy,” I say, trying to mellow him with the tone of my voice. ” So they put me up here until I get my head together.”
“Me too. How long you been in the towers?” Davis says, staring out the window, face taut.
“Six months. Since the last riot.”
“You the guy they call Animal?”
“Yeah. Pleased to meet ya,” I say, extending my hand.
He smiles plasticly, shakes my hand. ” Same here.”
Below us, the guards walk from dorm to dorm, counting the inmates. The intercom buzzes and the tower sergeant calls for a tower check. I push the intercom button and say ”Two check.” The rest of the tower officers follow suit.
We sit in silence until the guards finish counting the inmates. “Count clear” is called over the intercoms and over the speakers in the yard. I log the count clear time as 8:32 and continue to watch the fence lines, and doors and windows along the back walls of the prison. Two guards begin walking down the rows of dormitories, opening doors. Most of the inmates, in their wrinkled blue uniforms, hurry across the lawn to the culinary to be first in line for breakfast. Some just huddle in circles and take drags from their cigarettes as they talk.
Davis leans forward in his chair. “Hell, wouldn’t it be great if a couple of those child molesters hit the fence! I mean, we could have a regular shooting match-” A breeze rattles the window. He whirls and points the shotgun, gasping for breath.
“Did you see it?” he asks.
“No. Nothing was there. Just the wind,” I say.
“No! There was-a bird, a big damned bird!”
“You’re a liar!” he shouts. The wind rattles the window again. Davis sits, open-mouthed, gun ready. The wind caresses the metal struts of the tower, making it hum, and there is the familiar shimmy. After a moment he eases back in his chair, shaking, struggling for self-control.
”File a report on the bird and go on home,” I say, turning back to watch the fencelines. I hear the swish of a jacket sliding over skin and a rattle of metal and papers as trash is collected. Davis grunts and closes the hatch; the tower shakes as he slips down the ladder.

I punch the hot-chocolate button on the machine in the officers’ lounge
and wait for the cup to drop and fill. The duty captain, Gonzales,
sits at a table behind me with a half-dozen other officers. All of them are
“Excuse me, Packham. Do you know anything about any birds hitting Tower Two at night?” the captain says to me.
“Some new guy said a bird was hitting the tower a week ago.”
“That would be Davis,” he says with a sigh. “You’ve been up in that tower a couple of nights since then-any birds hit the tower?”
“No,” I answer. The cup drops into place; I jiggle it so it sits square in the slot.
One of the tower guards says, “Hey, Gonzales, you should go check out that tower. That new guy’s a lunatic. He’s got ‘Death from Above’ and ‘We take no prisoners’ written all over the place. If you don’t want to send him packing, you could at least get the moron him for vandalism.”
Another guard says “See what I was say-” His voice goes silent, and everyone in the room stops speaking. Davis wanders in, stands by the radiators, looks out the window.
“Did you just get off duty?” Gonzales says to Davis.
“Yes,” Davis says, in a faraway voice. “It came back again last night. It was hitting the window this morning. I’d thought it was a big bird, but I saw it this morning. It was small. Just a little brown bird. But damn was he determined! He just banged on that window, and his little beak would get pushed sideways. And he’d bang again.”
“Oh,” Gonzales says.

The day is already hot as I climb the watchtower. When I reach the top rung I pound on the hatch above me with my lunch pail. Music is playing, and a foot beats in time as Jethro Tull sings through ”Locomotive Breath.” I wait, thinking that whoever is in the tower might be using the facilities. But after knocking and yelling through the next three songs, I finally get too tired to hang there any longer and climb back down and walk to Tower One .
An old fellow whose name I never can remember is tower sergeant for the shift. I yell at him until he opens one of his windows. I tell him that I can’t raise the occupant in Tower Two. He consults his records.
“That would be Davis,” he yells down to me, as if that solves the problem.
“Can you raise him on the phone?”
He moves out of my line of sight . A moment later he sticks his head out the window. ” He says for you to go to hell ,” he grins. ” He doesn’t want you up there. ” He smiles even wider and breaks into a chuckle. ” He plans to work this shift.”
I shuffle my feet nervously. I’ve been stuck doing a double shift in the tower many times, but I’ve never had an officer refuse to give up his post. So I walk into the medium-security building, buy a Coke from the machine in the officers’ lounge, look around for the duty officer, and finally head back out to Tower One to see if the tower sergeant knows where the duty officer is.
The loudspeakers call “count clear” as I step out the door. The old guy in Tower One is writing in his log book, so I wait a second while he finishes. Then he opens the window to talk to me again .
I glance over to Tower Two and notice that the windows are open. Davis is sitting in his chair with his rifle raised. Before I have a chance to speak, a puff of smoke issues from his barrel and there is a crackle. The smoke and crackle keep repeating. He has waited until the inmates are halfway to the dining hall before opening fire .
The old guard in Tower One screams some obscenities, pulls out his rifle, switches on the laser sights, and begins watching the fenceline. Someone yells over the tower radio , “He’s shooting them in the yard!” The old guard curses, waits for a second, puts the red laser dot on the windows of Tower Two, and starts pulling the trigger. The windows break, and Davis takes cover in the shadows. Five seconds later he jumps from the tower. As he falls he arches his back and extends his arms behind him. When we get to his corpse, there isn’t a wound on him.

Ten thousand stars glitter in a moonless sky. In Tower Two, on the southeast corner of the prison , I watch ”the chute” -the path beneath the minimum-security dorms. Along the wall behind the dorm I see a flash from a metal watch-band; I see it the way a person sees a flicker flying in the woods: there is one flash of white as it opens its wings and dives between the trees. I know that someone is over the fence already. I flip the latch on my window and let it swing open. Grabbing the first gun my hand falls upon- the shotgun-I yell “halt,” and wait for someone to step out of the shadows.
For thirty seconds we wait in the darkness. I wonder if I’ve imagined it but call an escape warning over the radio anyway . The guard in Tower One takes out his rifle and searches the shadows with the red dot of his laser. The yard sergeant, carrying his shotgun, runs out of his shack at the far end of the dorms and directs his flashlight at the back walls. The roving car, over by the maximum-security prison, turns around and races my way. As it swerves around the corner a half-mile down the track, three shadows separate from the darkness and begin to run under the tower.
I become aware that my hands are trembling and my mouth is dry; my eyes dart back and forth. I hear the inmate’s labored breathing and the sound of tires crackling on the gravel from the roving car down the road. There is just enough light to let me see that one of the inmates has kinky hair and his shirt isn’t tucked in; the straw in the fields smells musty for such a dry night, and I realize that the fields must have been irrigated during the day. I can’t quite keep my mind on the task at hand. I know I should be shooting, but I wait for a revelation- something, anything, to tell me what to do. I want my anger to yell “shoot,” or to feel the rush of euphoria Davis promised, or to have my conscience scream against it. But there is nothing inside-only an emptiness, and moving targets beneath me. I swing my gun down, listening to the footsteps, shoot and pump another shell into the chamber, shoot and pump, shoot and pump. The action is so smooth and practiced I do it without thought. I listen for the sound of running feet. Someone moans. Thin blue smoke hangs in the
air, obscuring my view. I wait. I can vaguely see that all three inmates are lying on the ground beneath the tower. Someone grunts, struggles to his feet, starts to run-I shoot, hear an indrawn breath, a body sliding in gravel. I flick on the lights under the tower to get a better view. It doesn’t help much. Tower One shoots twice; bullets hit gravel and twang as they ricochet. I hold my gun over the inmates, tell them to spread eagle, and wait for the backup. The patrol car pulls up in a few seconds. Its
headlights drench the inmates in yellow light. The officer emerges from the car and begins screaming at the inmates to stay still. His whole body trembles as he points his revolver at the escapees and holds them there until the yard sargeant and prison doctor arrive .
Ambulances and patrol cars gather. The inmates are searched, put on metal stretchers, and handcuffed to the stretchers’ frames. I hold my gun at ready until the ambulances are out of range. The investigators arrive and begin taking pictures, then a guard comes to relieve me .
I go to the captain’s office to fill out a shooting report. The duty captain tells me how to fill out the report and tells me to leave the inmates’ names off the report until he gets them, then he leaves. I have heard that I’m supposed to go in to shock, and keep wondering when it will hit me. But nothing ever does-no shock, no euphoria, no guilt, no sense of having done anything right or wrong. Just a coldness, like loneliness. I fill out the reports, then I sit and wait, as ordered.
The duty captain comes back in the room and tells me the inmates’ names. None of them bring any faces to mind. He tells me that two of them are armed robbers and one a murderer. I tell myself that it is okay to feel nothing over shooting such men. The captain tells me they are all alive: only one has taken a direct hit; the others have shrapnel in their legs from buckshot splintering in the gravel.
I spend the night filling out reports, repeating the story over and over in my mind, writing every thought I had, describing each sight I saw, each sound I heard. I try to live the shooting in slow motion; to remember the first muzzle flash, the first puff of blue smoke coming from my gun barrel; to hear the sound of feet scuffing in gravel as the inmates fall, a moan, a partial word one has uttered. I remember that when I was shooting, I couldn’t see after the first shot because of the blue smoke . I respond in writing to the captain’s repeated questions of whether I enjoyed pulling
the trigger, whether the thrill of it led me to hurry the next shot.
When I finish it is morning, and the prison is full of officers who are coming in on shift change. The warden calls me to his office and privately thanks me for showing restraint by not killing the escapees. The guards in the officers’ lounge smile and congratulate me, thanking me for taking the shots. All of them asked how it felt. One guard, Carlson, beams with joy and keeps saying, “Now they’ll know those aren’t just scarecrows in the towers.”
Another guard’s face darkens with rage and tears well up in his eyes as he demands to know why I’d stopped shooting. “Your chamber still had four shells in it, didn’t it?”
Having no words to justify my actions, I simply mutter something about the prison policy of ”shooting to stop, not to kill.” He shakes his head, calls me a few names, wanders off. He must have something personal against one of the inmates.
The captain comes into the lounge and gives me a check for seven hundred and fifty dollars as a “special service award ” -two hundred and fifty for each wounding. He tells me I must take a mandatory one-week vacation and be cleared by the prison psychologist before I return to work. I drive home and think of using my time to begin repainting the house.
I spend the day wandering around the house, taking phone calls from neighbors and people at work, and watching the news. Later, at night, I lie awake in bed. Spools of memories replay themselves. The gun-blue steel in my hands is black as slate in the darkness. It rings as the volley slides down the barrel. The glossy wooden stock recoils against my shoulder; bodies clatter among small stones. Smoke lingers in the air, burning my nostrils. Headlights move toward me. I step out of myself, view myself from odd angles. I measure the rapidness of my breathing, feel the blood throb through my veins, nod here and shake my head there, critique my ever-present performance, unsure any longer of how much is memory, how much is dream. I try to shut the memory out, to see nothing but a black spot where the shooting has been. I am able to force a nothingness in place of the memory, but my thoughts circle the black spot-wheeling, wheeling, in dizzying circles.
Diane, who has been lying with her back to me, rolls over, pulls the sheet tight against her chin, and whispers, “I’m glad you didn’t kill them.”
“Why do you say that?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess it would just be different. I’d feel different about you.”
She lies still for a long time. Her breath evens out, deepens. I turn toward her; a twisted strand of her hair is outlined by the green fluorescence of the alarm clock. I blow the hair into place softly. Her leg jerks, and I know she is dreaming. At work, the job board announced an opening for an officer to supervise the visiting room in the medium-security. And I remember a story another guard once told me about an old lady in baggy nylons who tried to smuggle homemade muffins to her son.

Noman Pastorro

by Warren Scott

In June, when the thunderstorms came on the horizon at dusk to
bring winter, my sister, Ele, wished from the roof of our home that lightning
would stay longer on the sky. I would sit beside her, and once I said,” If it
did then who would care?” It was like telling her that the three kings do
not exist and that they do not bring gifts for the new year-a thing which
one should not tell a little sister because then she would never find out for
herself that some things do not last forever. We agreed that perhaps
lightning could last a little longer.

One evening we sat on the roof and watched thunderheads shroud the
other islands. Lightning touched the outer water with ghost fingers, and
we could almost see outlines of the islands until the storm came inland.
Our roof knelt under us in the darkness, and it was the only roof in the
world because the other roofs of our village were invisible behind the trees.
Lightning found the ghosts of trees for us and it found the chapel.

The chapel was made of brick, but for many years the priests had not
come, so it turned old. Our father, Cruz, had been tearing it down. Just
when he had the roof timber ready to come off, the first thunderstorm
came and blew the timber into the building. So the chapel knelt too,
squat and beheaded in the trees. Our father still had to take the building
down, but it was not worth anything to him without the roof timber.
There was a new chapel, but it did not stand above the trees. And there
was a new deacon.The wind turned cold and Ele and I climbed down for our studies
because it was going to rain.

Next morning, I lay feeling darkness and quiet, listening for the nest of
chaja’, for their morning chant above my window, in the eaves. Believing
myself to be awake, I dreamt the sea. I remembered, turning the crystal
voice of memory, careful not to draw the voice too close. I dreamt of my
father, Cruz, the pilot:

The crew-boys lean backward over the rail into the wind to bring the keel
back under them and give Cruz more boat to bite at the wind. He chops
his hand at the boys, and they scramble over the fish-well to lean backward
over the opposite rail, their toes wedged and gripping against the well,
pulling hemp, holding it in their mouths; the hemp lurching, fretting at
their teeth until their world is close, blurred, and full of musty hemp,
quivering from the wind of the sail. The well trembles with fish, rolling,
flopping in the windward beat, lolling, lost in the one-second luff. I stand
behind my father and hold clumps of his shirt in my fists. Cruz leans
backward under the boom sweeping above the deck in the opposite direction
of the boys at the rail. I stumble, my face in the small of Cruz’s back.
Spray stings my legs.

At the base of the mountain nearest to where we beach is a deep
brilliance of purple, trees, the clustering sign of habitation.

The dream spoke through all I saw and felt: ”This is memory, Noman
Pastorro, of your village as it was.”

I arose then, for I was to accompany our deacon to the villages to the east
above our village. He was yet new to the mountains, without the tongue of
the people, and he had no wife to accompany him. I did not mind so
much the early morning because I would not have to break bricks from the
old chapel with my father for the next week.

I crossed the brook and the village was quiet waiting for the darkness to be done. At the back of the new chapel where our deacon lived in his cottage, the cart was drawn up with Plato and Paulos harnessed, shaking out their manes at the morning. The deacon stood looking at the old chapel until I hunched my shoulders and threw my bundle into the cart and startled him.

I drove and we went up from the town onto the mountain where it was
morning. The path wrapped along the face of the mountain and doubled
back to retrace itself higher.

When we were above our village I saw the old chapel below us where
morning had not yet reached. My father had already started breaking
bricks away from the chapel.

Each day that summer I had walked across the town with Father to the
chapel. We went before the sun, and Ele would come along at first . When
she was tired she would stop to wedge her toes in the cracks between the
stones of the lanes where there was still rainwater, wonder at us, and return

At the chapel, Father and I would work all day until Mother brought
lunch. We straddled the wall and scooted backwards along it, hammering
bricks away one at a time and throwing them at the ground. After the
ground was covered with bricks so that we could not throw down any more
without breaking them, we climbed down and cleaned the mortar off and
stacked them to be sold. George, who is the partner of my father, came.
We sat on the wall hanging our feet inside. Father and George watched
the splintered beams on the floor of the chapel. I swung my legs, crumbling
mortar with my fingers, watching the pebbles tumble and shrink and the
dust blow away from my fingertips, hearing the pebbles bounce in the
chapel. I was very proud for Father to let me up on the wall with him. I
liked it much better than cleaning bricks on the ground.

On this morning Father stood on the wall without moving and dust
came from where old George was working on his corner. I held my arm up,
but he did not move because he was looking past the mountain.
The path crawled around the backside of a ridge, and morning left
us until we came out on the saddle between the peak of our mountain
and the peak of the mountain of the first village. We stopped and sat
backwards in the cart, looking at the valley. The deacon prepared our

Plato and Paulos moved a bit at a time in order for us not to notice and
turned the cart across the path to stick their noses in the grass on the edge
of the ruts. They creaked in their harnesses to look back for the offence
they made with us.

I asked the deacon why one must be religious. He did not answer. He
was busy with his thinking.

It was hot on the mountain now, and damp. The clouds stood down on
the horizon out past the islands. I saw George move to another part of the
wall and start to work again. Since the deacon had forgotten my question,

I drove on across the saddle; he sat backward, bouncing clumsily in his
greatness of patience.

Then he eased back around and said, ”The beautiful view, because it is
simple, does not capture you for long.” We went back down into the
shade. Another mountain was in front of us, much higher.

I looked down into the next valley and remembered one day when I was
working on the wall with Father. There had been much room on the
ground for throwing the bricks down. Though I hadn’t broken any by
throwing them on top of each other-I sometimes did in order to see what
would happen-Father called me to come to him. I came, and he stood up
and pulled the band of cloth on his forehead down around his neck. He
squinted and his forehead was white and damp below his hair. He had
dust on his face with streaks of sweat, so I wiped my face.

“Them, do you know them?” he said.

I looked in the direction he was squinting. “The Modales. Those who
work at the chapel?”

“Yes. You see how they come?”

I shrugged. “She is very much behind,” I said.

This was very funny to me and I laughed. The Modales worked for our
deacon teaching Sunday school and they were very religious. They had
been married for a very long time.


I could see her across the brook. She hobbled and didn’t look up the hill as most people do. He had crossed the brook and had come up the hill and was just going inside the new chapel. I looked and could not see him through the doorway because of the brightness of the day.

Finally she came to the new chapel and couldn’t open the door. Father
climbed down and crossed the pasture. She was still there so he opened the
door and held it for her. It hissed shut behind her.

“There,” he said, climbing back up. “Those people. They are religious?”

”They teach the Sunday school.”

“They come every day, and every day it is the same for them. She does
not live in his eyes.”

“She did not look for him, up the hill. Does he live in her eyes?” I asked.

”And they are religious.’ ‘


”Such is the way of the family Modales. There is also the family Bacchus. The love of Djon Bacchus for his wife is known in all the community; he never sets foot in the new chapel, but he paid the most for it. He is looked down on because everyone knows that he does not offer his tithes.”

Bacchus never set foot in the old chapel either. He owns the liquor shop
and does a very good business.

”His wife walks beside him,’ ‘ I said. Father squinted at the sun. It was said to be that way in the great city. But here the woman walked properly behind.

“He is not religious?”

“No,” I said.

”To be a good man, one does not have to be of the church-if a man is
not religious, then maybe he can be good.” My father threw down a brick
to break in the stacked pile.

We drove, winding lower on the backside of the mountain, and I stood
often to see over the edge of the mountain to what was below. The deacon
lit his pipe. This is the way it is for you, Noman Pastorro: if you seek the
Savior without the hand he offers, then maybe you will not find him. Take
your Savior by the hand. But feel the mark.”

After a while, there were scars in the mountain-treeless contours where
mandioca grew. A scream sluiced up through the tree roof of the village,
and an eagle dodged from its spin. We came off the mountain but the
scream floated back into the jungle with us and stopped. I reined Paulos
and Plato. Outside the village, a pregnant bitch hung from a tree. She
hung by the neck and her tongue hung out.

The first chozo of the village was around a crook of the path from the
tree. The trees had not been cut back from above for sunlight to reach
down, and there was a smell of rot. There was a woman squatting in the
door of the chozo, cradling her paunch. It spilled out on her thighs and
hid under a gray print dress of flowers that still shouted even without their
color. She giggled to herself with no teeth.

No one had wanted the bitch with her litter. The eagle still danced
above us.

We three swung in the branches of the mango-I and two from the
village who had attended school with me in my village . They were older
than I, but for a time we had been of the same class. They had not come to
the school often and fell continually behind.

Our deacon sat beneath us, under the great tarp where he met with the
elders of the village. There was a council fire, and the shadows of the
elders danced their voices across the tarp . The deacon spoke. Then the
elders spoke in a tumble that at once stopped when their spokesman began
to speak their tongue into our deacon’s tongue.

We dropped mangos onto the tarp, and I told about school in the cold
months and about the old chapel. They both nodded their heads, solemn
and with sympathy about school. They were most upset about the old
chapel, which had been a mark for their minds to cling to when they came
to the larger world of our village. They were excited to tell of a way up their mountain. The old one of their village, who told nothing, was dying and had to tell of the way in order not to lose it to his village. It was a wonderful way, but he had
no use for it after he was done being young.

I dropped from the tree and went under the tarp to our deacon to see
if I was needed. He had decided to use the spokesman for the other
villages-his voice would be part of them. My responsibility to him was

I whistled the boys down from the tree and we went up the path. We
stopped at the chozo of the old one and lifted him onto his litter. We took
him out of the back of the chozo as he had asked, and we went up the
gorge to their mountain in the dark. Dead lepacho rattled branches at the
breeze. The trail ended and the gorge steepened. We found a deer trail
and kicked for footholds on the rock. The litter became heavy, and I helped on the lower end. The floor of the gorge ended and we side-shuffled into a cleft. Between the walls of the cleft a freshet drummed in darkness. We drank and climbed up the freshet bed. Our lungs burned, and our pants sagged with mist until we stopped to draw the draw-cords tight. They cut at the skin and still hung clinging in the arc of our legs and we became impatient. Then the pain of the climb shrank away – it was as if the freshet spring were the throne of a myth-god of our school books.

The freshet bed spread open onto Pockets Fork. Meadows climbed to the base of the mountain in pine-rimmed hollows. The freshet below us was muffled by mountain.

There was the whisper dance that pines make at night.

On the peak the sky glowed red. My friends told that it was the lights
from the great city. I was enchanted. I remembered going to the city from
the sea with a catch, and I remembered the city glowing at night from
below the horizon which was beyond the islands.

We made fire in one of the pockets near a great pine on the edge of a
meadow. The fire dried us and we took the old one with us under a pine.
We burrowed nests in the needles and wrapped ourselves in our ponchos.
Flint-clackings sounded above us as deer crossed the loose rock below the
face of the peak.

In the cold of the morning, a kildeer chanted across the meadow,
impatient for the sun. I did not move, but the old one spoke to me in the
old tongue which I did not know. To be one so old is to know when
another is feigning sleep and to know how to speak to him not knowing his tongue. I crawled out of our tree and pulled him after me in the litter. He arranged his poncho, and I went back for his hat which he placed in his manner on his head. At the pocket’s rim, I laid him down because he was dead, and I was not sad; it was the time of his passing and he was in agreement.

We ate our breakfast of corn meal biscuit and cheeses that my friends
brought from their homes, and we dug for the old one a grave with the
machete which he had used when a warrior for our people. We buried him
with the machete and his poncho and hat. Then we started across the
meadow, wet to the waist from spray off the grass that caught in the dawn.

We slipped on loose rock, zig-zagging upward beneath the peak where the deer had crossed in the night. There were no trees. The pines below us were etched tiny in the pockets. We scrambled, sweating and bare-chested, up toward the sheer face of the mountain. The old one had pointed to a pine twisted into the face of the mountain of his village. And when we climbed to it, it was a bristle-cone. “It lived when our Savior lived,” the old one had said, “and it lived when legends say the Great One walked in our valleys.” It stood alone where there were no other trees. We knew that this was the gift of the old one.

We climbed a fold and stood on the saddle at the top, squeaking in
snow where wind catches and carves stone between our valley and the
valley of the great city. Then we went up onto the ridge above the saddle
that would bring us to the peak. We climbed with our bare hands and
kicked the snow away from the places where it hid from the wind. When
our hands were too cold we climbed by holding the mountain through our
ponchos. And then we were on a smooth gray dome like the dome of the
old chapel of our village. There was wind, no snow.

The outward islands were small below us, and we could see the thunder
clouds even though it was not yet midday. The morning clouds of the
valleys were below us on both sides. They were small, and they moved
across the valleys and up the canyons to cling together in the canyons and
villages above our village. On the side of the great city, there were no
villages. The great city did not cling to the mountains as our village did. It
stretched out into the death of its valley.

“Have you been there before?” I asked.

”Why? What is there in the great city that we should want to go there? We see it from here.”

I grinned and nodded. “I have been there. . . when I was small. . . when our village fished I went there from the sea.”

They stomped at the snow; wind hurried at them. They grinned. “We
see it from here.” They walked to the other side of the dome. I sat down
and tucked my nose into my poncho.

When I stood, I was alone. An eagle climbed in his dance from the
base of the mountain where the old one lay. He followed the wind over
the saddle into the valley of the great city, and then the two from the
village came from the ridge out onto the saddle where the mountain did
not hide them from me. They did not look back. I took the opposite
ridge .

At the base of the ridge were glaciers, and I slid down them to the canyon
called ”Lost Creek.” It was evening and the shade of the buried sun made
me alone.

Once I stopped to breathe, and shadows flitted across a ridge below me. I followed them down past the ridge and stopped and waited. Deer came around me and grazed. They would stay as long as I was a shadow, and more came over the ridge like ghosts. The lights of the great city became more than the sun, and I started toward them. A buck bolted up. He held his antlers dead still and snorted. His does dodged into the rocks on the ridge with their tails straight up-leaves in the whirlwind of mother’s broom in the yard. The buck carried his rack and his Roman nose and floated across the brush, exploding at the ground and floating again.

At the mouth of the canyon of Lost Creek, the floor dropped away between granite walls and spilled boulders into the valley. A rattlesnake clicked lazily out
on the rocks. He shrank up and buzzed when I came near. With a forked stick, I
caught him by the head and cut the head off and threw it down the wall. It was too dark to climb out of the boulders. I made a fire and stretched the snake out to pull at its rattles. I pulled, and the headless body struck at my hand . It was nice to out-guess a headless snake. But it did not seem the thing to do so I roasted him and ate him. He tasted like brushwood.

Horned toads came out from under the rocks to blink at the fire . I set them on their backs and petted their undersides until they arched their necks, dazed and frozen, pudgy little dragons upside-down with spikes sticking out all over. One does not have to worry about pulling their tails off as with most other lizards. The fire died, and the horned toads clawed at the air one by one and flopped over and crawled back under the boulders.

It rained in the morning, and the sun did not come up. I had a horned in a pocket under my poncho. The rain made my poncho heavy and it
smelled as old wool smells when it is wet. I walked down from the canyon,
and under the rain clouds I could see the city.

It was gray, and I went down toward the harbor which is a fine bay.
Going that way, I came into the market which weaved between the great
city and the bay which had no beach to make the city seem solid against the
bay. Trees stood in the market with death of winter in them when it was
not yet winter. Rain pooled in refuse thrown into the streets. Motored
buses brought people from the city to the market. They huddled, not
buying but staying out of the rain and the filth of the street. Children,
dogs, and cats fought under the awnings for food.

I followed a winding brood of bright tarps dripping water where they sagged. By one tarp I stopped, and a highlander with the look of the mountain villages held his paunch and squinted out at faces. He tugged at his chin so as not to have the look of hope that drives market-goers back out into the rain or to another shop. The carved trinkets of his shop were supplied by the village he came from. The woods and mountains of his village were in his trinkets. He stared across a shelf of hand-mirrors. Their dusty faces drank his eyes, and each one held a reflection of a loro tethered to a perch on the tarp-pole; of the highlander’s neighbor, glaring, dung-massed, unable to rid himself of old feathers at his time of molting. The loro rasped and mimicked the city, cowering from the rain. Spray from rain water running off a crease in the tarp covered a mirror on the end of the counter until the loro was a smear of bright colors.

The highlander held his hand down and lifted me up from the street
and the rain. I felt the roughness of the woodcarver’s scars in his palm. I
asked the highlander if he would return to the mountain if it were not for
the market and he said that he might, but first he wished to return to the
sea for he had once been a fisher as my people had been fishers.

I went to the fish wharves, and the seventh motored tuna-fisher I climbed
onto took me as its boy. I went back from the wharf to a fish shed and put
the horned toad between the stilts under the shed. He did not move. When I started back to the tuna-fisher, he spurted with his pudgy legs at the sand and went under the fish shed.

Horned toads are good for two or three days. Then they become mushy
and will not eat flies. You have to let them go, or they will die. And you
are left with less than what you had.

We moved through the outer islands against the tide that brought the sailing fishers in, and beyond the islands was sun. The purple and turquoise band that is my village on the side of the mountains was between two islands. We rolled on a swell, and it was gone.

The Sleek Silver Man

by John David Wolverton

I am the sleek silver man
who runs alone in the moonlight.
Katydids sing of decay,
but the earth is my drum,
my feet beat the pum-a-la,
pum-a-la, pulses of life.

I am the quicksilver man
who moves on a meadow at midnight.
Pocketmice jump for their burrows,
a fox barks over its back,
my feet harvest dry grasses.
Passing becomes planting.

I am element running,
far beyond man in the moonfall.
The sweat storming off me
gives drink to seas.
The sigh of my passing
breathes spirit to wind.
Cinders of soulfire within me
shimmer red in the dawn.

Arapaho Surrender

by Pandora Dixon

The circle drawn in a darkened cell.
You stare through shaman nowhere: eyes flat black
like scorched ground.   No more magic on the plains,
The grass has dried and withered to pavement.
You ride the last horse standing

on a cheap, splintered chair.  Perched,
arms out, you wobble like a flightless bird;
pink feathers glued to a trinket headdress.
You are hollow; empty fingers tie
the knot.    The rope dangles, a shadow lasso

on the wall.   Ghostly wheel turning,
rolling towards the finish.   Your end,
merely a formality.  You were born
in a graveyard.   Baptized in whiskey
and tobacco spit.   To leave must

be to leave alone-blood drained
and pale.    A corpse has no choice but
finally to lie still.    You cinch the leather
cord and kick, suddenly alive, twisting
in a brittle dance.     Colors like warpaint

streak your face.  A vision of flint passion
calls you.   The ancient voice clings, infant
cry at birth.    An aborted warrior.

The Dove

by Lance Larsen

Drops skitter across glass
and bead like dew
on a morning web.
I connect the points
with lines of air
and watch vapor
rise from furrows
where just a month ago
We knelt to plant.
Already tulip shoots
push through loam.

The house is still
except for the kitchen clock
the shivering aspens in front
and strains of the Canon
that still echo
from two weeks past
when your fingers caressed
dusty keys into ecstacy.
I still feel each note
in my brain.

A cooing from outside
brings me into the rain
where I watch a dove
snuggle close to the house
where your flannel nightgown
tattered to softness
covers fingerling tomatoes.
The dove wriggles into place,
closes its eyes
to the rain.

try piper

by Philip White

a sack of loose bones
burden of a body
made unfamiliar
who can pipe
this sagging flesh
into song
who can stir
old swollen ankles
into dance
I say
try piper
wheeze old wind
I am taken
by strange pains
but I will answer
with my cry