(01-25) Abstract Weather

The rumble of the touring bike was hypnotic; it lulled Paris into a distracted musing about death. She suspected her relative indifference to Louis’ death was an indifference to her own death. Her life was a story, she reasoned, like every life. Birth and death were the book covers. Without them there would be no container for the story. She had begun to see herself shrinking down into her last years, her last days, her last moments. And then what?

Louis had said there was something there, but that it wasn’t left over. It was always there inside its time. He believed he was in a loop, going through his life repeatedly, seldom remembering that he was a recording. When Paris had asked him how he knew it was true, and not just him fooling himself, he said: “It gets me through the night.”

She had begun to look at her life in this way, and sure enough, she found, it was getting her through the nights. She closed her eyes and imagined she was flying. The scent of the wet wool blanket intensified as it dampened in the fog. They cut through the ghostly soup like light through a cloud, floating up and over the hills. They would be looking for her in the city. Here she felt invisible, and safe. She imagined that events were conspiring to lend her unexpected help. The Patriarch wasn’t speaking to her, but she was sure that his arms were around her.

From a distance the north coast was massive cliffs, crashing waves; the highway was a narrow path skirting the wild edge of California. The bike was a light floating in the fog, headed on north, searching for an honest man.

The honest man was sleeping in a grove of trees, snuggled up to a compact SM-8 assault rifle and a tupperware container in which lived the mind of a new god for a new age. Indian Shadow opened his eyes. It was almost dawn, and the coolness of the night had protected the Patriarch. But it would heat up. He had to find a place with a refrigerator. “No worries” The Patriarch said. “My bride is on her way.”

Indian Shadow didn’t know where he came from. When he looked back he saw a fog bank, and behind it somewhere there were gold coins and a Mardi Gras float ruled by Wild Chapatulas. He saw a bird as big as he was and a bear in a cage. It was a small, black bear. He knew the bear was his protector because of the incident at 401 Beach Street. The big stuffed Grizzly had loomed over the scene like a movie camera, detached from it in the way a predator is detached from her prey. Nothing hit it when he was under its protection. But when the crazy man swung up his weapon there was nothing to stop the rounds going through it.

Even when he looked at it irrationally, it wasn’t rational. It was just eddies in the stream and one still place they don’t touch. The still place can come in and out of existence, be protected today and tomorrow, be a death trap. It was like a door at the end of a blind alley and he’d gone through it because there was no-place else to go. He could impose order on it but it would be an imposition.

There were some other memories, especially memories of Cowboy Jesus. He’d been brought up to love Jesus and to try and be like him. He’d been taught to share what he had with people who didn’t have as much, and to not resent what he gave away. At the same time, the gifts beneath the Christmas tree were usually guns and cowboy hats, so he’d had to find a compromise in the form of Cowboy Jesus. He would only kill bad guys; he would only kill people who didn’t look like Jesus.

He began to sing softly: “All I really, want to do, is baby make friends with you.” He checked the magazine. The two he’d killed he was sure weren’t much like Jesus. The one who died of shock wasn’t his kill. “Friendly fire,” he said, and laughed at the absurdity of the words paired together. He was watching the sea gradually emerge from the darkness. The air was cold and still. He was wondering if the memories that seemed to be all that was left of him could ever form into a coherent story, in which he was A-Bomb, a friend of the little people, discovering he had a talent for surviving a tight spot.

Maybe he liked a tight spot because there was no time to think; there was just what to do next. He’d ridden off on a wave of adrenalin but now it was all dissipated. He was calm and still, waiting for the Patriarch to give him instructions. He was sure he couldn’t make the decisions. He was just a soldier.

There are moments when you remember, and at those moments you know for sure that most things have dropped into the alphabet soup of pain and loss and triumph and taking on damage, all husks that once contained emotion. How could he wake up and forget what happened when he was sleeping? Louis had been there. The events came back one more time. Louis was a ghost now. He was abstract weather. Indian Shadow had seen him while he was sleeping.

Louis looked like he was made out of points of light, so that he was more an impression of a person than a detailed picture. It was as if Indian Shadow could see him because he knew him, and so could fill in the missing detail. However it happened, he was sure it was Louis’ ghost who had visited him and sang, “The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay. No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.”

Indian Shadow was looking at the container of creamed corn and trying to conceptualize how much computing power was in it. At that moment he heard the sound of the motorcycle. He had heard it no differently from the other cars and bikes that had gone past in the night, until it began to slow down. It was pulling in. The driver was a stout black man. He was unwrapping something from an Indian blanket. Indian Shadow knew it was Paris as soon as she shed the blanket and moved back to the culvert running beneath the highway. She’d needed to piss, and the culvert afforded privacy.

Indian Shadow discreetly waited until she had stepped back out into the early morning light to let himself be seen. “Paris?”

At first she thought he was an apparition. Then she realized the Patriarch was working behind the surface of events, and that their stopping at this particular place wasn't really a random event. It was her destination.

“Louis?” she asked.

“I saw him last night,” Indian Shadow said. “He’s a ghost now.”

Posted: Wed - September 17, 2008 at 05:06 PM