i sleep to wake

the hike

it was quiet -
just wind on stone.
the sun was warm.
the air was cool.

it was a clean feeling.

as i made my way
up the mountain,
i turned and stopped and looked out
at the smogless blue sky.
it stretched out in all directions -
full of pure light.

i could see a river of
soft white clouds
hanging over the valley,
stretching out into the distance,
and dropping over the curve of the earth
a hundred miles away.

the vertical rock face at the peak
looked like the ramparts
of a castle.
i half expected to see
a sentry dressed in armor,
challenging my approach,
but it was silent
and empty.
the wind grew stronger
as i reached the top.

i finally hoisted myself up
over the last few feet,
and breathing hard,
straddled the top most rock.
the mountain dropped away
before me
and spread out into
the soft, rolling, river valley
three thousand feet below.

i ran my hand gently
over the stone underneath me -
and then my eyes.
i knew what i would see,
but i liked to marvel at it anyway.
there, encrusted on the rock,
were the fossilized remains
of kelp and tiny sea shells
from who knows what global trauma
millions of years ago.
the paradox of the place pleased me.
it reminded me that
if the earth could have a split personality
and get away with it,

why couldn't i?

the dance

as she came out of the bedroom
a song of unrelenting romance
came out of the radio.
i caught her halfway
across the floor -
caught her in my arms -
pulled her close,
and we started
dancing around the room.

she moved with me -
turned -
weaved with me -
pressed herself against me.
we spun and spun -
and moved together
like one thing
with two hearts.

i liked to watch her
when she wasn't looking.

it moved me.

as i watched,
her eyes flew open,
and a beautiful smile
lit up her face.
she looked directly
into my eyes,
and her body began to buck
and she was saying -
yes -- yes
o god yes.
i felt myself smiling -
separation falling away
like a loose, thin robe.
as she came -
clutching me tighter and tighter,
nipples hardening,
a flush appearing
in the hollow of her throat,
hips thrusting,
ecstatic animal sounds
escaping from her -
my loneliness disappeared.

the rhythm of her ecstasy
began to slow and
finally came to a rest.
her arms slipped all the way
around me and grabbed tight.
her breath came in small explosions.

as i eased myself
down upon her,
and my lips entered
that warm, sensitive place
between her shoulder
and her throat -
i thought of money.
i had none.

the dawn was breaking
through the windows
of the front porch
and filtering back into the bedroom.
the birds started chattering
in the old cottonwood
in back of the house,
and i thought of money again.
i needed some.
i needed a lot.

roof job

there's a certain slant of light
on a cloudless winter day
that is empty of emotion
in an inhuman sort of way,
not hostile or even indifferent -
windless and full of sharp shadows -
empty of humans and
their self-important pathos.

it was one of those days -
a sunlit, bare landscape,
stripped of any greenery,
stretching out into the distance
with the hard-boned look
of a bleached skeleton.
it was peaceful -
like a childhood memory -
like sleep.

i stood there and looked out
over the valley,
trying to soak up the quiet
and store it in me.
i knew that it wouldn't be long
before i had to go -
to return to the city.
i couldn't put it off any longer.

the violent sound
of an electric saw
bit into the day,
and i turned back
to the job at hand.

we were eighty feet over the highway -
a new roof on an old building -
hanging twenty foot facia
with our teeth and our toes.
miguel and joe chattered
like true roof monkeys
about a harder job
or a scarier job
in dallas, malibu, palm springs,
hammer town, or sawville.
i sunk a galvanized, sixteen penny,
finish nail into the doug fir
with three blows
and let my mind drift.

i looked over to joe's big german shepherd,
mike, and caught his eye.
he was lying on the nearby hillside,
basking comfortably in the sun,
his eyes slowly closing and opening.
recognition passed between us,
and i smiled like an animal -
without moving my lips.

she said,

i have to do this for myself.
i can't stay here in the same old rut.
i'll be back.
i promise.
i just need to do this.
i don't feel like i'm growing or learning anymore.
i feel like i'm stagnating.
i'll be back.
i love you.
i just have to give myself this time."
that's what she said.

i watched her turn
and walk down
the long, gray, concrete steps
to the street below
and wondered what love was all about.

mysteries upon mysteries

mozart died a pauper.
they crucified christ.
and superman committed suicide.
so i didn't feel too bad.
i mean
if you're so smart,
how come you're dead?
so, i didn't feel too bad -
just mystified.

old friends

funny how it is
when you try to leave
things behind.
sometimes it seems
as if they just get stretched out tight
down a long tunnel behind you,
and then come snapping back up at you
in a rapid and shocking sort of way.

"get off the mainland, son,
and get your ass over here.
82 degrees every day.
papayas as big as your head,
free for the picking.
shit, i'm sittin here
manicuring buds as big
as your forearm,
right now.
we're turnin over 10 grand
worth of this shit a month -
through the fuckin mail jack!
this is the place for you,
i'm tellin you.
you'd love it here.
i'm growin orchids now.
yeah, all over the house.
beautiful . . .
orchids, you know."

long distance hissed on the lines.
"yeah? well, maybe.
i got to do something.
i'm just dropping into the red here.
i'm talking to some people out of phoenix--"

"forget phoenix, man, christ!
you'll never make any money there.
everybody's sick over there anyway.
smog, traffic, crime.
i'm tellin ya, this is the place.
i can set you up, no problem, amigo.
just put a seed in the ground
and bingo!
the money comes rollin in.
i mean we're talkin lush -
the beaches, man?
too much!
hey, it's fuckin paradise!"

cold, dark, gray clouds
were rolling in outside my window.
the skeletal trees
clacked in the wind
like loose teeth.

sitting, thinking

the next afternoon i was having a beer
in the bar of the old hospital
that had been turned into a hotel.
it had a great view of the valley,
but i felt uneasy, stressed.
more stressed than i should have felt
under the circumstances.
the last time i had felt this way
was just before an earthquake
in los angeles.

the cliffs across the way
were full of the blinding sun.

we are worlds away
from the world we live in.
the sin is
it doesn't matter
whether we stand
under the weather
or the soil.
we waste what we want -
and get what's left.

i watched the dark sedan
wind along the road below
and pull into the parking lot.
the mountain's shadow
crept across the valley
and the tourists disappeared
from the streets
like leaves from a tree
like secrets in an empty ear.

you can like what you are
or you can go crazy.


he was huge.
6'7" - 6'8"
and thirty pounds overweight
for his size.
thinning brown hair combed over to one side
with a baby pink complexion.
pale green eyes
with a constant threat in them.
white silk shirt open at the collar.
black slacks that looked like
they just came off the rack.
expensive sneakers.
he looked like his mother dressed him.
he spoke.

"mr. embrey?"

"yes, what can i do for you?"

"my name is alfred magnus."
he held out a large, pink, clean hand.
"judge lee gave me your name and address.
he said that you might be able to help me."

"in what capacity?"

"as a private investigator."

i opened my mouth
to tell him that i had
retired from that line of work
five years ago
and had absolutely no interest
in getting involved in it again -
i almost told him that.
then i thought of the
number of unpaid bills
piling up on the kitchen table.

the request

he looked down into my eyes
with the intensity
of an approaching train -
and definite.

i looked away.
it was a beautiful day
even though the peaks
were covered in clouds.
"warm enough for convertibles,"
i thought to myself out loud
as a chrome yellow caddy
slipped along the mountain road.

as i looked back,
he caught a stray ant
crawling across the table
with his right hand,
rolled it between
his thumb and forefinger,
and squeezed it
until it popped
like a pimple.
he said,
"i don't know what it is.
i just get carried away.
i just can't help myself."
it was his turn to look away
and he stared out the window.

i said,
stretching the word out
and bending it in the middle,
"just what is it
you want me to do?"

he looked over at me
and brought the train
on down the track.

"i want you to find something
for me that, i believe,
has been stolen.
it is a very old
and valuable
family heirloom."

"just what exactly is it?"

"it's a stone."

"a stone?
what do you mean?
some kind of a large gem?
a diamond? or an emerald?"

"no, it's just a stone."

"just a stone."


"like a rock -
that kind of stone?"


it was coming back to me
why i had left
this business
in the first place.

"just what is it," i asked,
about this stone
that makes it
so valuable?"

"i doubt if anyone
could put any kind
of objective value
on it, really,
in terms of dollars and cents,"
he looked out the window again.
"no more, say, than one
could put an objective value
on a coat of arms.
its value is more of
a psychological and emotional one
for our family.
it's been with us
for many generations."

and if i believed that
he probably had
some ten dollar kilos
of pure pink peruvian flake
for sale.
i was about to tell him
that it was time
for my afternoon
cookies, milk, and nap
when he pulled
a money clip
out of his gucci windbreaker
and started peeling off
hundred dollar bills.

"i'll need a photograph
of the stone," i said,
"and, hopefully, one of the container
it was in, and --"

"i'm sorry, mr. embrey.
no such photograph exists
of the stone
or the container.
we thought it best
for security reasons.
i hope you understand.

for a rock?
"well, you can give me
a description of it, i hope."

it is a twelve faced sphere
about the size of an american baseball -
usually white in color."


"ah, well, yes.
you see, it has an unusual composition
that allows it to change color
according to certain factors
in the environment."

"is that right?"

he was becoming uncomfortable.
he shifted in his chair.

a dream

i dreamt that i was Tarzan
trying to escape civilization
with my son.
they were trying to take him away.
we couldn't get to the jungle.
it was kept separate from us
by a hillside full of houses
packed closely together.

we went from house to house,
through rooms and attics-
desperate to get away-
to get to the jungle.

finally, we broke into
a wide steep street,
lined with expensive homes,
leading up into the trees.

at the top of the street
we entered into a large grass hut-
african in style-
where we met a medicine man
in a brilliant dashiki
who said that he could help us.

we went into a smaller hut
where the man acted as a medium
for a spirit guide.
the spirit guide
turned out to be a
jewish comedian,
and all was well.

i also dreamt
i was getting a blow job
from a siamese cat
in the front seat
of a black, '58 desoto-
deep throat.

who can understand these things?

bloody basin

the drive down to phoenix
was uneventful.
it gave me time to think.
i had avoided the city
for the last five years
i didn't look forward
to spending much time there now.

as i cut across the thirty mile wide
high barren plateau
that exists midway between
phoenix and jerome,
i saw a herd of about twenty antelope
grazing in an open field
two hundred yards
off to my left.
it took me back to the days
when i was growing up-
running wild by myself
much of the time
in the open plains,
thick forests,
and clear icy rivers
of what was then
the still empty land
of the west.

i realized a few years ago
that i had never been
properly civilized-
or perhaps socialized
was a better term.
i hadn't been sufficiently
brainwashed into believing
that the material values
of our culture
were the apex
of human development
and the end all of reality.
not enough situation comedies
i would guess.

i had run wild too long,
and i was paying for it now.

the antelope were sleek,
alert, and beautiful.

i came down off the plateau
and drove into the city.


my old friend,
who now called himself
aunt jim,
was living in one of the many
slump block sub-divisions
surrounding the university.
he was sharing the house
with three female art majors.
he was in heaven.

jim was an artist and cartoonist
from way back.
he used to run a strip
in the l.a. free press
called max the cat
in the sixties
just after he was dishonorably discharged
from the special forces
for dealing in the black market
in vietnam
he was intimately involved
with the mystic arts brotherhood
down in laguna.
at the time, they were perhaps
the largest manufacturers of l.s.d.
in the world.
he had been a southern california surfer
when the beach boys were still boys.
from special forces to
a hippie in the 60's
a cowboy in the 70's
a punk in the 80's
and a day trader in the 90's.
he was a true veteran
of our times.


the neighborhood
was turning rapidly
into a student ghetto.
where once there had been
quiet tree-lined streets
with perfectly manicured lawns
and perfectly manicured
middle class families,
there were now
rows and rows of semi-junk cars,
overgrown front yards,
barking dogs,
dead trees,
and loud music.

as i pulled into the driveway,
a torn bumper sticker
on the back of a honda civic
caught my eye.
it read -
Force- A Great Way of Life.

jim was standing in the kitchen,
earrings dangling from his ears,
a short spiky haircut
sprouting from his head,
green drawstring pants from a hospital
hanging from his hips,
and a joint
hanging from his lips.
he was making coffee.

"welcome back, bro.
i knew you'd be back
sooner or later.
make yourself at home.
want to do a line?"
it was ten o:clock in the morning.

a pretty young coed
came out of a bedroom
wearing only a man's dress shirt.
several buttons were undone.
her hair was mussed.
"good morning,"
she said sleepily
and made her way to the bathroom.

jim looked at me and smiled.

"i need to see measles," i said.

he looked over at me.
his mouth dropped open,
and he laughed.
"you're on a fucking case,
aren't you?
i knew it. i knew it!
i knew you'd never be able
to stay away."

another girl appeared
from the depths of the house-
half dressed.
"cindy," jim said,
i want you to meet a friend of mine."

i called magnus
later that morning
to tell him i was in town.

he said he was tied up
until that night
and asked me
to meet him
at about 10
at a bar up on thomas road
called the mason jar.

76 in the shade

it was one of those
sunny winter days
in phoenix
when the temperature
climbs into the eighties
and stays there
all afternoon.

i sat in a decrepit
chaise lounge
in a backyard
full of brown, dead
bermuda grass,
and felt the conflicts
in my life
toward some peak experience
while the sun
beat down on me.

i had the healthy
tanned look
of the unemployed.

the mason jar

the place was charged
with a kind of reptilian electricity.
wednesday night, and it was mobbed.
there were four, six foot screens
hanging on the walls
around the bar,
blasting a post-apocalyptic
rock videos
complete with flashing colors,
special effects,
and barbaric action.

the female bartender,
with a green mohawk six inches high
and a tight black leather vest
showing breast and bare arms,
rotated in my direction.
she was chewing gum.

she lifted her eyebrows in question,
not bothering to try
to speak above the noise.
i yelled,
"i was supposed to meet someone . . ."
she shook her head.
no help there.

i looked around
and finally spotted him
sitting at a small round
wooden table
over in the corner.
the table was painted black.
everything in the place
was painted black.

i battled my way
across the dance floor
where the dancers
were showing their affection
by throwing themselves
at one another

when i got to the table
he started in immediately - loudly
"i'll pick you up tomorrow morning
and take you to the house
so you can talk to my mother.
i haven't called the police
in on this yet,
because my mother hates them."

a skinny waitress
in dark shapeless rags appeared.
her hair looked like
someone had attacked it.
"can i buy you a drink?" he asked.
i ordered a beer.
"some place, huh?"
he looked around
with a pleased expression
on his face.

"mr. magnus, was there any particular reason
you wanted to get together tonight?"
"ah, well, not really.
i thought perhaps
you had made some progress . . ."
he trailed off.
he wasn't looking at me.
he was looking at the dancers.

"no, i haven't made any progress.
listen, if you don't have
anything else to talk about,
i'll see you in the morning."
i got up to leave.

he turned to me.
"oh . . . alright.
don't you want to stay
and finish your beer?"

"maybe some other time.
i need my sleep."

he looked at me,
and waved.

i got the message.
he was a big boy.
he could go out at night.

that night

the refrigerator hummed
and i could hear
the wheels turn
in the electric clock
on the wall.

it had been a long day
and my subconscious
started throwing
quick random dreams
into my clearly
constructed thoughts.

sleep was winning.

the magnus estate

magnus' place was nestled
up on the side of camelback mountain,
just below the massive granite castle
owned and built by a dentist
and just above the jeffersonian mansion
owned by a used car dealer
who sat on top of a huge hog
during his t.v. commercials
in which he promised
not to make a pig out of his prices.

the magnus house was famous locally
in its own right,
having been designed by frank lloyd wright
from some sheik in kuwait.
it looked like a cross between
a wedding cake, ufo, and an amusement ride.
the sheik had changed his mind
and built himself a replica
of the taj mahal instead.
so the previous owners of the magnus place
fell heir to the blueprints.
to say that the house
looked out of place
in this disneyland
of architectural styles
would have been begging the question.
i expected to see
a huge, black, turbaned eunuch
on guard at the gate.

instead, there was
a small, thin, weasel looking man
in a rumpled black suit
and small darting eyes
chewing on a toothpick
and leaning insolently
inside the door
of the small brick guard house,
assiduously avoiding
the ever present sun
blaring out of the
clear blue phoenix sky.
seeing his white pasty face,
i was willing to bet
that he spent his off hours
at a topless bar on 12th street
just south of camelback road,
called the hiliter,
where the girls specialized
in doing backbends
and picking up dollar bills
off the floor
with their teeth.

"morning, mr. magnus.
mrs. magnus said i should be
expecting you and a guest."
the toothpick bobbed up and down.
"she said that she would
receive you out by the pool."
as he leaned forward
to look in the car window
his coat fell open,
and i could see
a 357 magnum
tucked into a shoulder holster.

"thank you, cutter, said magnus,
"we won't want to be disturbed.
please close the gates after us.

magnus didn't wait for cutter
to respond to his command.
he pulled up the long curving driveway
to the house.

mrs. magnus

she was lounging on
a plastic chair by the pool,
in a magenta string bikini,
watching the landing
of the space shuttle
on a small portable t.v.

she was the kind of woman
who visited her plastic surgeon
as often as some women
visited their hair dresser.
her skin was dark polished tan
and stretched tight over her cheekbones.
her breasts were large, high and firm.
too large,
too high,
and too firm,
with that telltale gap between them.

her hair
was bottled blonde.
her breath
was bottled bond.
her eyes -
contact blue.
her teeth - capped,
white and even.

after the amenities i asked,
"is there anything you can
give me to go on -
someone who has shown
interest in the stone -
enemies your family might have-
have you, for instance,
taken the stone from the vault
at any time in the recent past,
for any reason,
when it might have been seen
by anyone but the immediate family?
anything along those lines?

"no, i'm afraid not," she replied
"the stone has been kept in the vault
ever since we relocated here
four years ago,
and has never been moved.
we have absolutely no idea
what has happened to it."
she looked me up and down
with a less than approving look.
"that is why my son hired you, mr. embrey.
this is your line of business, isn't it?"

"on alternate tuesday and thursdays."

"i've decided that i don't like you, mr. embrey.
if it hadn't been judge lee
who recommended you to us,
i'd fire you right now."
she sipped her bourbon.
"you certainly don't look
like a professional investigator
in any sense of the term."

i let my gaze drift up
and down her body.
"well, you know how it is
with appearances.

"please leave me, mr. embrey.
i find you distasteful."
she looked over at her son.

so sensitive

everywhere i looked
it seemed that everyone
was in the grip
of some kind of
emotional telepathy
but not yet
quite wanting to admit it.
maybe it was just me.

something new was in the air.
of that much, i was certain.
history had turned a corner
and pressed down
on the accelerator.

i had the feeling
that the reality around me
was not going to lie still
as i poked and prodded around
in my search for the stone.
the warning signs were everywhere.

the house was quiet that afternoon.
all the girls had gone out to school,
and jim was still passed out
on his bed
with all his clothes on.

i was in the living room
watching a soap opera
and trying to figure out
my next move,
when someone knocked on the door.
i yelled that the door was open
and she walked into the room.

a dancer's body.
all legs
wrapped in tight levis
and boots.
a short black t-shirt,
thick dark hair
spilling around her shoulders.

sex and romance emanated from her
like a warm tropical wind-
complete with faint seductive fragrances
and promises of satisfied nights.
her face was immaculate
but it was her eyes that held you.
they were irresistibly clear and blue-
full of undeniable intelligence and passion.

i recognized the symptoms immediately.
i was projecting my anima
all over her.

as she walked across the room
erect and fluid
and our eyes locked,
i realized that she
was doing the same thing to me.
i knew it meant trouble,
but i could see that we both knew,
and that it didn't matter.

she reached into me
and smiled
and i wondered
how many years it meant.

i wondered what she wanted.
i wondered what she needed.
i wondered what she was
going to ask of me.
it really didn't matter.
it was idle curiosity.
whatever she asked,
i knew that i would answer yes.

she knew it too,
and so she smiled again.

she tried her best
to pretend that
it wasn't happening
and forge ahead with
whatever mission had
brought her here.

she sat down lightly
on the edge of the couch
across the room from me -
head high, shoulders back.
i knew how her neck
and the small of her back
would feel in my hands.

"i know you've been hired
by mr. magnus to find the stone.
you don't have to affirm
or deny it.
i won't put you in that position.
i'm here to make you
another offer."

i smiled.
it was contagious.
"maybe you would like
to back up a little
and introduce yourself."
i hated to insist
on formalities at this point.
recognition and emotion
were flowing between us
like a current.
she just looked at me.
her dark eyes sparkled.
she was at a loss.

the words came slowly.
her eyes never left mine.
"my name is catherine kline."
something inside me,
somewhere around my solar plexus,
reached out,
like a pair of invisible hands,
and smoothed back her hair.
"no matter what they tell you,
the magnus family has no right
to the stone.
my offer to you is this-
if, in fact, you are able
to find the stone,
i will pay you $1,000
if you will get in touch with me
and hear what i have to say
before you return it to them.
if you still think,
after you've heard what i have to say,
that the stone belongs to them,
then you can return it
and keep the money.
does that sound fair?

"what?" i asked.
i was too deep inside her eyes
to hear the words coming out of her mouth.

she laughed, and it lit up the room, and then she started over.

deeper and deeper

as usual,
things were becoming
more complicated than i cared for.
i felt like a physicist
at the fall of parity.
i could see my reality
being shattered
into thousands of seemingly
unrelated fragments -
never to be put back together
in the old comfortable pattern.

i was working out in the back yard
when the phone rang.
i came through the sliding glass doors,
crossed the living room,
and reached for the receiver.

it was a friend who owed me a favor -
who would always owe me a favor.
i could feel him cringing
on the other end.

hey! what's happening?
i heard you retired
to the peaceful life
up in some old ghost town
or some shit.
what are you doin' here?"


"that says it all, don't it?
well, hey, what do you need?"

"i need to talk to you
about some missing property."

"hey, hey! not on the phone, okay?
why don't you meet me
at the pointe.
you know where that is?
they built it since you left."

"i'll find it."

"oh, hey, and by the way,
they won't let you in
with jeans on,
so dress up a little, okay?"

"what time?"

"about eight, okay?
and, hey!
nice hearing from you."

i heard him saying
"shit" under his breath
as he hung up the phone.

friday evening

the music in the living room
was very loud-
the way i like it-
saying fuck you to death
and anybody that was his friend.

it was friday evening
the land of the happy hour
and the feeding frenzy.
friday night was
coming down on us
with a big smile
on his face.
it covered the town
like a promise.

we climbed into
my camaro
and headed uptown.

the pointe

the pointe with an e -
a watering hole
for the self imagined
young lions and lionesses
of this desert boom town.
high atop one of the hills
bordering the city on the north,
it looked down on the sparkling,
square grid sprawl
that was phoenix.
the owners were so intent
on showing off
they might as well have
wall papered the place
in hundred dollar bills.

we stepped down carpeted steps
into a huge, semi-circular room
filled with a couple of hundred
well dressed people.
the wall on the south facing far side
was all glass,
looking out onto a large patio
and the city lights beyond.
the noise level,
just from the conversation,
was almost unbearable.
over by the windows,
a young woman was playing piano
and singing.
i could almost hear her.

i recognized a couple of the town's
biggest coke dealers,
and handful of lawyers,
an easy doctor,
an assistant d.a.,
and a table of
undercover narcs.
it was old home week.

measles spotted us
and waved us over to his table.
"curtis! jimbo!
hey! looking good! looking good!
like that earring, jimbo."
he gestured at two girls
sitting at his table.
big eyed blondes
dressed in cleavage.
"this is vicki and darla.
jimbo, why don't you
keep the ladies company
while curtis and i
have us a little talk in private."

"sure thing, bro."

as jim sat down
between the two hookers,
measles turned,
motioned for me to follow,
and threaded his way
through the crowd.

measles was the only
mafia guy i knew
who had curly red hair
and freckles.
always joking,
always smiling,
he had conquered a smack habit
by becoming addicted to methadone.
a real american success story.

we sat at one of the
round metal tables
on the flagstone patio,
and i looked into
his pinned pupils.
"i'm looking for a stone."

"hey, ain't we all."
he laughed.

"this one belongs to a magnus family.
they got a big house
up on camelback mountain.
they told me that
it was a white rock
the size of a twelve sided baseball.
have you heard anything?"

he stopped smiling,
leaned forward,
and looked around slowly,
he looked back at me,
his voice lowered.
"you sure ain't lost your talent
for stepping into some deep shit."


"don't know much.
just that the word has come down
to stay away.
there's not a fence in town
who will touch it."

"what's the deal?"

"i told you.
i don't know,
except the other day
i saw the old man
talking to some guys
that had government written
all over them."


"looked federal to me."

i leaned back in my chair.
"listen, if you hear anything,"
i looked at him.
give me a call at jim's."

"will do.
looks like you better
watch your step on this one, though."

"yeah. thanks."

let's go have a drink.
i'm buying."

when he stood up
and pushed the sleeves
of his blue, sharkskin sportcoat
up to his elbows,
the two platinum chains
around his neck,
glittered in the moonlight.


jim, the girls, and i
were sitting around
watching a replay
of olivier's king lear
on the t.v.
when the phone rang.
it was measles.

you know that yaqui indian village
down south of baseline road?"

"you mean guadalupe?"

"yeah, well, listen.
there's a catholic church
down there called san xavier
or something like that."

"yeah, so?"

"well, there's this priest,
called santillan
you should talk to."

"what's the deal?"

"i don't know.
sounds screwy to me too.
that's all i could get."

"okay, thanks, measles."

"yeah, anytime.
and hey,
' be careful on this one.
it looks like it's
going to taste bad
no matter what end
you're sucking on."

he hung up,
and i looked over to the t.v.
lear was mad in the wilderness.

active anima

i dreamt that
i was riding a motorcycle
down a wide thoroughfare
that was over by the university
and, at the same time,
near a place i used to live
in massachusetts.

somehow a beautiful
female rock and roll singer
was sitting on the bike
in front of me -
all of a sudden -
straddling the gas tank,
facing me,
and talking.

she was world famous.
worth millions.
could have any guy she wanted,
but for some reason
was madly in love with me.

i stopped the bike.
we were mostly in massachusetts.
she got off,
said something,
and gave me a passionate kiss.
it all seemed very natural.

saturday morning

when i stumbled out of bed
the next morning,
jim was already awake -
probably still awake -
watching saturday morning cartoons.
spiderman and the incredible hulk
were fighting the cyborgs
in the maze of madness.
music from the radio
competed with the t.v.

"morning, bro.
would you look
at the ass
and that firestar chick?
jesus, what a fox!"


as i drove into the village,
down its one paved street,
i saw
glistening, mirror-eyed barrio boys
doing a pagan catholic death dance-
in the heat,
in a chopped,
golden chrome,
candy flake

while flame dark
thirteen year old virgins,
in day-glo pink sweaters
ripened on street corners
sucking on
vanilla milkshakes
with moist lips.

chameleon christ
in a dead deer's head
lies down
in madonna's
satin bed.


i had never seen a church
quite like this one.
i was used to vaulting ceilings
and tall windows
that flooded elegant altars
with broad beams of sunlight.

this place used darkness
the way other churches used light.
the ceiling was low.
the windows small.
the room dark.
the altar looked like
a plaster of paris junkyard
with hundreds of small statues
of christ, mary, joseph,
and assorted saints -
painted faces smiling in the shadows.
candles everywhere.
over on the right,
along the wall,
up by the altar,
was a glassed-in casket
with what appeared to be
an actual corpse
lying in state.
it was a man.
he was embalmed,
or perhaps stuffed,
like someone's prized kill.
it looked like he had been there
a long time.
there were cobwebs
between the casket and the wall.
there was a thick film of dust
on the glass.

this was a branch of mexican catholicism
that had never shaken off its pagan past.
there was a celebration of death
everywhere in the room,
in which christ,
dead on the cross,
was the central figure.
i thought of aztec priests
and members of the inquisition.

"may i help you?"
a small dark priest appeared
from a doorway behind the altar.
he was smiling politely.
thick black hair.
large brown eyes.
white, white teeth.

"perhaps you can." i handed him one
of my old business cards.
he glanced at it
and then handed it
back to me.
i went on.
"i have been retained
by a family
here in phoenix
to find a stolen heirloom.
it's a small,
twelve faced stone
about the size of-"

his gaze had drifted.
now, it snapped back to me.
he stated flatly,
"the magnus family.
they sent you here?"

it was another source, entirely,
who suggested your name."

he threw me
a contemptuous look
of ethnic arrogance -
one that held a history -
one that said that i
and my kind
did not belong here -
had only brought
the trouble that comes
from an inferior breed -
it was a look that sneered,

i held his gaze until
he looked away.

he relaxed somewhat
and suggested that
we step outside.
the sun was blinding
after the darkness
of the church.

"the stone has a long history,"
he said,
"no one is quite sure
where it came from originally.
my family acquired possession of it
during the spanish conquest of mexico
in the sixteenth century.
it was kept in our estate
until emperor maximillian
was driven out of mexico in 1867.
it was then that the magnus family
killed one of my ancestors,
stole the stone,
and took it back to europe."

"just what is it
about this stone
that makes it so important?"

"i don't know exactly.
my father became obsessed
with regaining it.
he was convinced that it held
some kind of power."
he looked out over
the flat desert landscape.
"he was a superstitious man."

"he's no longer living?"

"he died in a car accident
three years ago,
up on baseline.
he lost his brakes
and ran into
an oncoming semi."

"you're not interested
in getting the stone back?"

"i am the last of my line, mr. embrey,
and i serve a jealous god.
i have no interest in the stone."
there was a finality to his tone
that said our conversation was over.

i said goodbye,
and as i drove away,
in the noonday sun,
past the small adobe church,
i thought of a one-line poem
written by jim morrison.
it reads-
"look where we worship."


as i drove back to jim's,
i passed by
the japanese flower gardens on baseline-
acres and acres
of sweet smelling flowers -
like the perfume
you can't forget.

my memory
skipped back
like a flat stone
across a smooth lake,
and i was in another car,
surrounded by smiling friends
and dilated pupils,
floating in slow motion
through sunlit acres
of sweet physical fragrance.
doctor dan's pockets were full,
and his hands fluttered
in the air
like an italian storyteller's dream.
we were as young as the sun
and held time in our hands
and in the mercy of our means . . .

a red light jumped out at me.
i was at the corner
where there used to be
a graceful old mansion
surrounded by groves
of orange trees.

there was a circle k
and a mobile home park.

meanwhile . . .

when i got back to jim's
there was a brand new,
plain white sedan
parked outside.

as i stepped through the door,
i saw two brand new,
plain white men
in suits
standing in the middle
of the living room.
jim was fiddling around
in the kitchen
and had an uncomfortable
look on his face.

"oh, hi bro.
these gentlemen
were looking-"

"mr. embrey?"
the tall blonde one
the tall dark one
turned mechanically
in my direction
like a loaded gun.
"my name is whitney,
and this is mr. graves.
we are from the
office of scientific security."
he flashed some kind
of i.d. card.
"i wonder if we
might talk to you privately?"
he was very polite.

jim, could you -"

"no problem, bro."
his voice was calm and cheerful,
but his eyes had the look
of someone who had just heard
the sound of fingernails
scraping across a blackboard.

mr. ivy league

it was finally my turn to talk.
"so let me get this straight.
you want me to believe
that the united states government
considers the theft
of somebody's pet rock
to be a matter of
grave national security."
i took a breath.
"and you show up here
with a card that identifies you
as an agent
of a federal security agency
that i've never heard of,
and you want me to drop
what is potentially
a very rewarding case,
on your word.
is that the long and short of it?"

at that moment the phone rang.
it was magnus.

"mr. embrey, we will no longer
be needing your services.
i will be sending you a check
for full payment
so as not to inconvenience you."

i looked across the room
at mr. ivy league.
he smiled thinly.

i continued the conversation.
"has the stone been recovered, mr. magnus?"

"ah, well, no, not exactly,
but we, ah, expect to have it back shortly."

"do you mind if i ask how all this came about?"

"i'm not really at liberty
to discuss the details,
but things are proceeding satisfactorily.
so, as i said, we really have no
further need of your - "

"you said that - "

"yes, and i'll be sending
the remainder of your fee today."

"there's a mr. whitney here with me.
what i'd like to know - "

"any questions you have
you should address to mr. whitney.
i really have nothing more to say."

the phone went dead,
and then i heard the dial tone.
i put the receiver
slowly back in its cradle.

"satisfied, mr. embrey?"
it was whitney.

"no. not really. not at all."

"well, i'm sorry,
but you see how it is."
he stood up to leave.
"you should take the money
and take a restful vacation
to some tropical place
far, far away from here.
you look tired."
he turned and walked out the door.

sometimes god's in his heaven
and all's right with the world.
sometimes he's out to lunch
at macdonald's.

after their car pulled away
jim came marching stiffly
out of his studio
like a robot in lock step
and in a deep, booming
game show announcer's voice intoned,
"we now present!
automatons in space!"

dream to dream

she arrived
after i had gone to bed.
i smelled her perfume
before i was awake.
she slipped naked
between the sheets
and caressed me
with the full length
of her body.
it was everything
i had imagined.
for a short time,
perfection existed.

much later,
she finally
began to talk.

"office of scientific security?"
she laughed lightly and shook her head.
"o.s.s., that's almost funny.
they were from an agency so black
that it doesn't even have a name.
you can't police an organization
that doesn't exist."

i was looking at her,
in profile,
her head resting
on the pillow next to mine.
she had a beautiful mouth.
as i watched her
a warning sensation
swept over me.

"what are you talking about?"

she lifted herself up
on her left elbow
and looked down at me.
her left breast
hung full and firm
inches from my face.
i brought my head up
from the pillow
and grabbed her nipple
between my teeth
and started sucking.
i had already forgotten
about the annoying sensation
i closed my eyes
and she started talking.

"i work for the
german equivalent
of the c.i.a.-
the bundesnachtendienst."

i stopped sucking.
i looked at her.
she looked back steadily
"you're kidding," i said.
she shook her head.

i laid my head
back down on the pillow
and stared up at the ceiling
letting it sink in.
i looked back at her.
she went on.

"i was sent over here
four years ago.
since the end of the cold war
my government has become
more and more concerned
about the new developments
in the intelligence community
here in the states.
since russia is no longer
a strategic threat
we are basically of no use
to your security agencies.
the result is that
we have been shut out
of the inner circle
so to speak.
my superiors consider that
to be unacceptable."

"so you're here spying on us."

i heard jim plod through
the kitchen,
into the living room,
and turn on the t.v.
i love lucy reruns.

i've been able to penetrate
high enough levels
to get a fairly clear picture
of what is going on.
the director of this black agency
is a borderline psychotic.
his position is so unchallenged,
and the men around him so loyal,
that no one but a handful of people
realize the extent of the problem.
your government has given this group
a free reign.
they are answerable to no one
but the president,
and they only tell him
what they want him to know.
the director of this agency,
his name is felker,
makes j. edgar hoover
look safe and normal as milk - "

i had to interrupt.
"what's all this got to do
with the stone?"

"are you familiar
with any of the latest research
being done in the fields
of immunology, d.n.a. repair, or HLA?"

i shook my head.

"well, it all has to do
with the possibility
of extending the human life span.
this agency had been devoting
massive amount of time and money
in their own research
into these fields."

"and the stone?," i asked.
she leaned over and kissed me.

"they have become convinced
that the stone's chemical composition
may hold the key to the puzzle."

"o christ!"
i exploded
with a short laugh,
"you're serious,

she nodded.
"and so is felker.
he is only assigning
his most trusted operatives
to this job.
you can bet that
he is not going to be eager
to share the stone with anyone.
what we are talking about here
is an attempt to build
a personal empire-
with himself as the emperor for life-
a very, very, long life.
apparently, he's become obsessed
with the idea.
he believes he can do it."

"and you're trying to get the rock
before he does?"

she nodded.

"and he'll kill you if you get in his way?"

she looked over to me
with a look so deep
and so complicated
and so full of mixed emotions
that i couldn't think
of anything to say.
instead, i reached out
and drew her to me.
as we began to make love,
i remembered whitney's veiled threat
about taking a vacation.
maybe he had something.

the hazy line

that morning
after she had left,
i sat up in bed,
closed my eyes,
and attempted to let
the developments of
the last few days,
fall into some kind
of orderly shape.
it seemed, however,
that the dividing line
between hard cold reality
and the fantastic world
of people's thoughts and emotions
was becoming more blurred
by the day.

i found myself
at times like these
sitting quietly alone
trying to feel
the disembodied forces in
play around me.
it was like trying to
rearrange furniture
in a lightless room -
or in a dream.

i finally got up,
through on my levis,
combed my hair with my fingers,
and walked into the kitchen.
i could hear jim in his studio.
i yelled to him over the music.

"got anything to eat for breakfast?"

"probably not!"

"you mean between you
and three women
you don't keep any food
in the house?"

i was looking
at the vast, empty expanse
of their refrigerator.
a stalk of wilted celery,
one small bottle of mayonnaise,
a plastic bag full of
35 millimeter film containers,
and a half of a six pack of beer.

he yelled from his drawing board,
"hey, we eat out
most of the time!"

like where?"

"like burger king!"


i took his order
and headed out
to the university
to see my old mentor.

the prof

prof. baker had an office
in the language and literature building
on campus.
it was a modernistic, five story,
red brick box
surrounded by a mall,
green lawns,
and tall palm trees.

the prof carried with him
the particularly jaded attitude
that came with professors
who had abandoned
the true centers of learning
back on the east coast
in order to be surrounded
by blue skies,
a warm sun,
wafting palms,
and pretty young coeds
in tight white shorts.

he saw himself as sinfully happy.

the door to his office was open.
his feet were up on his desk.
his eyes were closed,
and he was listening
to something intently
between a set of earphones.
he was wearing old faded farmer levis,
white low top sneakers,
and a moth eaten green sweater.
he was well fed
with shaggy salt and pepper hair
and a floppy mustache.
he had attended cornell
in the fifties,
got jacked around by
the air force for six years,
and had returned to the university life
to become a flaming radical.

he was now attempting to
subvert from within.
his eyes opened.
"ah, mr. embrey.
how my faust?
what brings you to
sodom and gomorrah this time?"

"just a little business.
i thought i'd stop by
and see what you were up to."

forty-five minutes later
he was going strong.
he went on.

"so, i decided that
the only way to expunge
the aggressive, exploitive elements
from the culture
was to actually
restructure and language
semantically and grammatically.
i was going to call my book -
peace language,
but with the advent
of all the new communication technology
in the past few years,
i have adopted what i see
as a slightly more commercial title -
it is an attempt
to create a culture
that is balanced between
the right and left brain functions.
i see us evolving
toward a more matriarchal-"

"what do you know
about research being done in genetics
regarding the possibility
of extending the human life span.?"

this stopped him.
for a second.

"i delve into that subject
somewhat in my book,
for, you see,
if, in fact,
we are going to live
for two hundred years or more,
then we must evolve a language
that will allow us to do so
without destroying the very planet
that we live on."

"what do you know about
the nuts and bolts of it?"

"well," he sucked on an unlit pipe.
"many avenues are being pursued,
from taking supplements of a
growth hormone produced by
the pituitary gland
in order to create constant regeneration
as the body grows older,
to the attempt to create
and agent that blocks
that part of the dna coil
which controls the aging process.
there are even people in california
who are ingesting large amounts
of chemical preservatives,
he laughed loudly.
"they apparently are convinced
that bht and bha
which are the antioxidant agents
used in captain crunchberries,
count chocula, and other
assorted disgusting capitalistic fodder
are capable of binding the free radicals
in the body
that many scientists see as
the main cause of aging.
it's kind of an
embalm now, pay later plan."
he laughed again,
thought about it,
and then laughed
even louder.

"so you see, the genetic limiter,
designed to insure that the race
evolved generation after generation
has now outlived its purpose.
the race has matured physically,
so the theory goes,
and has overpopulated the planet.
evolution from this point on
will be mental in nature,
as evidenced by the idea that
we can create our own immortality.
think of the level of genius
that the race will be able to attain
if we can keep alive the caliber
of someone, say, like einstein.
if he had lived,
he probably would have eventually
been able to work out the problems
with his unified field theory."
he paused for a breath
and looked at me mischievously.
"there is, of course,
the attendant negative possibilities as well.
imagine immortal politicians."

our failures and our successes
combine in an intense chemistry
that creates a mysterious
and liberating
transformation in our understanding
of who we are.

we are the fact
and the fiction.


i looked at the clock
she said she'd call
by 6:30.
i called the number
she had given me.
it rang
and rang
and rang.
i disc jockey
rattled on
on the radio.
cindy sat reading
peacefully on the couch.
i went into the kitchen
and got a beer
out of the refrigerator.
i went back into the living room
and sat down,
and watched the phone
like it was alive.

more dreams

i remembered two dreams.

in one, lynn was making love to me
with the kind of passion
and commitment
that i had always wanted from her,
but which she had never
been able to give me.

in the other,
i was driving somewhere
with catherine.
her face was bright and animated.
her eyes and mine connected
and electricity passed between us.

i woke up in an empty bed
with the phone ringing.
it was seven in the morning.

catherine's apartment

i knocked on the door
and waited.
there was no answer
or telltale footsteps
from the inside.
i tried the door knob.
the door opened.

shit was the first word
that came into my mind.
everything was everywhere.
her living room
looked like a war zone.
i went immediately
through the kitchen
bedroom and bathroom
and was relieved
when i didn't find her body
lying somewhere
with a bullet hole
in the back of her head.

i went back into the kitchen,
poured myself a drink of water,
leaned against the sink counter,
and looked into the ransacked living room.

my mind had already come
to the logical conclusions,
and, as i stood in the kitchen
drinking my water,
the unanswerable questions came.
alive or dead?
if alive - where?"
if alive - how long?

i had already half decided
to take whitney's advice-
take a vacation
on some deserted, sun-filled beach-
watching for mermaids
riding seaward on the waves -
listening for their singing . . .

i was hardly in the mood
for taking on men who had
machine guns,
and surface to air missiles
at their disposal.

i went over to the phone
and called measles.
as i looked out the window,
a bird fell, as dead,
out of a tree -
head first,
eyes closed,
wings stiff at its side.
four feet above the ground
it suddenly spread its wings
and flew away.
just kidding.

personal radio

"don't hang up!
don't hang up!
i know you hate
talkin to the machine,
but look at it this way -
life is short.
you don't wanna
miss out on nothin,
and if we miss
each other now
there's no tellin
what might happen.
so give me a break
and leave a message,
and if this is crystal,
just stay right where you are.
i'm on my way.
i swear.
i won't be late this time.


this is curtis.
the number is 894-2402.
you help me this time,
and we'll call it even.
i'm serious.
i need your help."


the sun was just going down,
somewhere out past buckeye,
painting the evening sky
with day-glo reds and oranges.
actual beams of sunlight
slicing through the clouds
on the horizon
in sharp definition.

the girls had gone out
for chinese food.
jim was in his studio
working on one of his
large, elaborate cartoons.
i was pacing the living room floor.
i remembered watching a wolf
in a glassed-in cage at the zoo.
he paced at the same speed.

the phone finally rang.

"are you really serious
about what you said?
about me owing you nothin?
if i help you with this?
we'll be even."

he paused.
i could hear traffic
going by
on his end of the line.
he was at a pay phone.

all i could get
was an address.
apartment forty-seven
1821 east maryland.
you got it?"

i repeated it.

"yeah, and hey,
i never talked to you.
i don't even fuckin know you.

"yeah - i - "

dial tone.

eye to eye

i grabbed my jacket
and my car keys
and headed for the door.
jim came out of his studio,
putting his jacket on.

our eyes met.
i shook my head.
"not this time, jimbo.
i don't think-"

he grabbed me around the shoulders
with both arms,
hugged me,
and pushed us both
toward the door,
talking as he did.

"hey, bro,
don't be greedy.
everybody needs a little excitement
every once in a while."

we stopped at the door.
he looked at me and smiled,
his face inches from mine.
he had that look in his eyes.

i smiled.

"that's the boy,"
he said
and opened the door.

10:37 pm

as soon as we pulled up
and hit the lights,
a half of a block
from the apartment house,
we saw graves and catherine
come out of the courtyard
and walk down the sidewalk
to the government man's white sedan.
no sign of whitney.
graves put catherine
in the back seat,
which was separated from the front
by a thick wire mesh cage.

they pulled away,
and we followed.

the drove west,
down maryland,
to the light at 16th street.
it was red.
as we came up behind them
i saw grave's eyes looking at me
in his rear view mirror.
he turned north on 16th
and accelerated immediately.

i caught myself
holding my breath.
i forced myself to relax
and let my body breath
like a child breaths
from the stomach.

i was running
on a river of adrenaline.
everything seemed
to slow down -
in front of my eyes.
we weaved in and out
of the frozen traffic
in a fluid metal ballet.
the lights of the night
flashing by us,
brilliant in their color.
somewhere in the back of my mind,
i wondered why we hadn't
picked up any police.
then i remembered
who we were dealing with.

jim leaned over
and cranked up
the volume on the radio.
then he sat back
and smiled contentedly.
in love with the acceleration.

graves turned south
on 24th street
and kept going.
jim and i
had the same thought
at the same time.
he said it.
"he's going to the airport."

he ran a red light
at camelback.
brakes screamed,
and two cars
coming through the green light
spun wildly through
the intersection.
i slid to a stop
just before we entered
the drill zone
and saw graves' tail lights
disappear down 24th.
after a moment
the traffic untangled itself,
the light changed,
and we took off.

it wasn't until we crossed
over washington
and under the glide path
of the deafening, incoming planes,
that i saw them again.
graves turned left into the airport
and moved slowly down its access road.
it was obvious that he hadn't
seen us yet.
as we made the turn,
seconds later,
we saw him pull into
the area where corporate
and private planes were parked
on the north side of the airport.

i hit the lights,
slowed somewhat,
and followed him in.

i saw him park,
one hundred yards away,
next to a hangar
that housed a lear jet.

at that moment,
both a large jumbo jet
and a private two-engine plane
were coming in overhead,
making their approach
to their respective runways.
the smaller plane came in
right over our heads.
the sound was deafening.
as graves got out of his car
and moved to the back to let catherine out,
and his back was to us,
i shot across the distance
in a breath.
we were out of our car
and on him
before he could react.
jim jolted him
with a tight fisted blow
to the back of his head,
and he pitched forward,
stiff as a board.

i had learned long ago
how easy it was
to kill someone.

the human body
is a fragile thing -
a hologram
sustained by light and belief.
a wrong turn,
a false step,
a bad word
in a willing ear,
and life disappears
from the breathing body.

so i caught him
as he fell forward -
stopped his forehead
from slamming against
the cement of the runway.
i lowered his unconscious body
to the ground.
when i stood
and looked back at catherine,
there was a curious,
searching look in her eyes.

she said
and turned back
to graves' car.
she opened the front door
and pulled a small metal box
out of the front seat.
she held it up
and her eyes lit up.
"the stone."

jim moved around
to the driver's door
of the white sedan
and slid behind the wheel.

"what the hell, are you doing!?"
i yelled.

"i'm just going
to get myself out of here,
ditch this thing,
and hitch a ride home.
you two need to disappear."

he closed the door,
started the engine,
and pulled out
just as i was saying,
"jim! what the fu-
he was gone.

i turned back and saw
graves starting to stir.
i looked at catherine.
"shit, let's go."
we climbed into the camaro
and ran out onto the streets
looking for a place to hide.

motel row

one block north of washington
i turned right at van buren
and cruised up motel row.
huge neon signs hung out
over the road,
pulsing like engorged
blood vessels.
black hookers
in short tight
leather skirts
and high heels,
pirouetted on the corners,
and ran their tongues
along their red, red lips.
the street was filled with promises
of free t.v.,
adult movies,
swimming pools,
air conditioning,
vibrating beds,
day rates,
and low,
i picked one where i could park in the back
and pulled in.

the wild card

catherine immediately
went into the bathroom.
i made sure the door
was locked behind us.

as i walked past the bathroom,
into the bedroom area,
i opened the box
and saw the stone
for the first time.
it was nestled in blue velvet,
and appeared to be
a perfect, dodecahedron,
like magnus said,
about the size of a hardball.
it was a dull, flat white in color.
i wasn't impressed.

i put it down
on the coffee table
next to the window.
the floor to ceiling
pale green curtains
were drawn.
i sat down in an
over stuffed easy chair
that seemed out of place
in this cheap little room
i tried to feel safe.

catherine came out
of the bathroom
and stood in front of
the large mirror
above the dresser,
nervously brushing her hair.
she hadn't said a word
on the way to the motel.
it all started coming out now.

"you see what i mean
about these guys -
the cocksuckers!
they don't give a shit
who they fuck over!
that bastard graves - "

her fear came out
in her anger.
as i listened to her
spew it all out,
i noticed that she seemed
to be shivering
as if she had a chill.
faint sparks of static electricity
jumped off her hair
as she pulled the brush through it.

"-almost certain that
that's what they ordered
him to do,
and i think that prick
got hard with the idea.
i can't believe-"

i began to feel
an odd tingling sensation
somewhere inside my body-
some kind of buzzing.
there was a strange,
metallic taste in my mouth.

she stopped talking,
put her brush down,
and turned toward me.
when our eyes met,
the rush of emotion
between us
rippled through her body.

the first time

she crossed the room
and sat on my lap.
we sunk into the ample padding
of the easy chair.
waves of warmth
came over the back of the chair
from the wall heater
three feet away.
i held her and slowly
the shivering stopped.

she turned her torso
to meet with mine
and buried her face
in my shoulder.
at that point,
something spun open
inside of me,
around my solar plexus,
like the opening
of a camera lens.
it was as if a tunnel
of electrical energy
was passing between us-
belonged to both of us-
like a physical limb
that we shared,
and as we both
surrendered to it,
the physical and mental barriers
that separated us from each other
suddenly melted away.
we entered into each other.
every thought and question answered
before they were fully formed.
every emotion shared.
we knew each other-
were no different.
no need to think.
we bathed in each other-
lost sense of our
separate bodies-
were one thing.

all this
with the stone revealed
in the room.

later, when we came out
of the trance and closed the
lid of the box,
neither of us could speak
for hours afterward.
we would just look
at each other,
not knowing quite
what to do.
it's one thing
to look into a mirror
and see yourself.
it's something very different
to look into what
used to be
someone else's eyes.

super luminal

later that night,
lying in bed with catherine,
i was still awake.
as i watched her sleeping,
my mind was charged
with unanswered questions.
what had happened earlier
between us,
baffled me-
intrigued me-
thrilled me.

i got quietly out of bed
and went over to the box,
opened the lid,
and took the stone out.
as i stood in the dark,
holding it,
the stone almost immediately
began to glow.
barely detectable at first,
after a minute had passed,
the light coming from
the twelve sided sphere
was undeniable.

in the silent room
i could hear
a low pitched hum,
as if someone had forgotten
to turn off the amplifier
of a stereo.
i looked around
but could not find the source.
the volume of the hum increased.
it felt as if
it was coming from inside me.

a feeling of total calm
and completeness
suddenly swept over me.
i closed my eyes and surrendered to it.
the volume of the hum
became louder and louder.
other strange rhythmic sounds
joined in the chorus
throbbing like huge transformers.
abruptly, it was obvious to me
that i was experiencing
the inner sounds of my own body.
i was buzzing from head to toe-
atomic energy coursing through me.

then, suddenly,-
there was no difference
between my energy
and the stone's.
it was part of me-
no separation.
as i let go even more
to the sensation,
i seemed to expand.
i was the carpet
that i was standing on.
i was the building-
the streets outside-
the people in the rooms
around me-
the city, itself-
the earth beneath me.

i rippled out
in all directions.
knew myself,
yet was everything else
at the same time.
no loss of identity.
only expansion outward
to include everything.

soon, i was immersed
in a world of pulsing,
non-physical energy.
all form had disappeared.
my subconscious mind surfaced,
and i remembered
that this energy was
what i really was.
this was where i had come from.
this was where i was going.
this was where i existed-
every second-
on the deepest levels of my being,
cut off from it
by my conscious mind.

the humming had become
louder and louder
it seemed to explode outward
and die away.
there was no humming,
no electrical energy.
there was only
an infinite sea
of unconditioned consciousness-
non dualistic,
and self-contained.
reality's final ground.

i floated in it.
i was it.
there was no sense
of separation.
no sense of i.
no sense of time.
only complete infinite consciousness.

back in the world

a loud, violent noise.
repeating itself.
slamming against something.

i came back
to the world of form-
to the motel room-
with the stone glowing white
in my hand.

the door exploded open,
wood splinters flying everywhere.
magnus came in shoulder first,
half stumbling,
half running
into the room.
cutter was close on his heels
waving his 357 around the room


"don't move.
"don't make a fucking move."
cutter had a smile
on his face
that looked wider
than his scrawny neck.
i froze.
by this time,
catherine was sitting up
in the bed
with a blanket
drawn up around her.

she looked at me.

magnus came through the room
and grabbed the box
from my hands.
he closed the lid
on the stone
without looking at it.
"i appreciate your efforts
in obtaining the stone
from those two bureaucrats.
they had very selfish plans
for this little treasure.
they wanted it
all for themselves.
it's a sad state of affairs
when agencies of
the united states government
no longer respect private property.
it tends to make one cynical."
he looked at the box
and then back to me.
"the girl comes with us."
he turned to catherine.
"get dressed."

i moved toward him.
"fuck that!
you got what you - "

cutter rammed his .357
up under my nose.
"shut your fucking mouth
or i'll give you another hole
to breath through."

magnus interrupted.
"gentlemen, please."
then to catherine.
"get dressed."

she slipped out of bed
with the sheet
still wrapped around her,
grabbed her clothes
off the dresser,
and headed for the bathroom.
as she passed him,
magnus reached out
and yanked the sheet off her.
her clothes fell to the floor.

"get dressed where we can see you.
i don't want any surprises later."

she stood there a second,
completely nude,
staring at him.
cutter's breath
caught in his throat.
she picked up her clothes
and dressed as quickly
as she could,
both men watching
her every move.
when she finished
magnus nodded to cutter,
and they headed for the door,
pulling catherine with them.

just before stepping out
into the hallway,
magnus turned to me.
"you follow us,
or give us any kind
of trouble at all,
and i'll give her to cutter."
he looked at his goon
and catherine in the hall.
"i think they make
a rather smart looking couple,
don't you?"
he smiled,
closed the door,
and was gone.

it wasn't until later
that i began to wonder
how they had traced us
to this particular motel.

breaking and entering

the magnus house
was completely dark.
there was a party going on,
just above,
in the dentist's castle -
bright lights, muffled voices,
loud music, and moving shadows.
i parked just outside
the small brick gate house
and sat in the dark.

as i put on my
thin, black leather gloves
and pulled the small flashlight
from the glove compartment,
i remembered again
why i had left this business.

the rococo wrought iron gate
was easy enough to climb over,
and the small, closed but unlocked,
bathroom window was easy enough
to slip through.
they had obviously not
bothered to turn on their alarm
when they left.
when you're running from big brother
some things are no longer important.

deeper in the house,
the maglight played across
hundreds of thousands of dollars
worth of antique furniture,
nineteenth century oil paintings,
and hand knotted oriental rugs.

when i rifled though the drawers
in what must have been magnus' room,
i found copies of magazines like
barnyard lust,
bukake club,
gagged girls,
and other xxx rated magazines.

i was shocked
and laughed at myself
for being so.
part of me was always shocked
when i ran into the
dirty underside of the wealthy.
i had always irrationally assumed
that the rich were rich
because they were somehow better
than the rest of us
and, therefore, more deserving
of their rewards.
any other conclusion seemed to
fly in the face of god's justice.

oh well.

what i did find,
in more than one place
around the house,
were letters and magazines
that had been addressed to
a house in los angeles
up on mulholland drive.
i wrote down the address,
slipped out of the house,
and made my way back to the car.

i coasted down
out of the driveway
with the engine off
and the lights out.
i was now faced
with a situation
where in had to make
a decision based on
insufficient information.
so, i did what i had done
many times in the past,
not always with the best results.
i trusted my gut reaction.
i took a right
at the bottom of the driveway
and headed for l.a.

Click here to read Act II

i sleep to wake   by Terry Molloy

Copyright 2000   All Rights Reserved