Read Part 1!
Adela got up and I accompanied her to the door. As I paused for an instant, idly watching the street after she disappeared, my attention was suddenly drawn to the graveyard and I caught sight of a filmy white… thing… with a dark blue scarf… and I must confess, when I glanced in the mirror a minute later, I looked like I had seen a ghost. But appearances are deceitful, as I told James Gregory.
What with the graveyard on the one hand, and Adela on the other, I really began to waste away those next few weeks. I slept little and ate less. Of course I do not believe in ghosts – certainly not – especially not ghosts from a “graveyard” where no one has been buried. Still, it was not exactly canny to look up from your dinner table and see the long shadows of the tombstones trailing on the grass, or to wake in the middle of the night with a pervasive consciousness of unexplored mystery next door. But Adela throve on it.
It was James Gregory’s fate in life to have interesting neighbors. I could never understand why, because James Gregory really wasn’t an interesting person himself. Which was fine with me. Interesting people are very well in their way, but my first would-be fiancé, the son of an Asian politician who had grown up in Estonia and become a private pilot, was too interesting. The reaction from him lasted all my life and I was quite content to be Mrs. James Gregory and simply watch the interesting people from afar.
We lived in a small house, in a nice neighborhood of houses of a similar size. We lived there twenty years, while interesting neighbors came and went… but none more interesting than Iakobo Ian.
So there I was. Ahead of me, the light cast a white glare over the rough stone wall. I fumbled in my pocket. Holding my flashlight carefully, I read the parchment again.
To the wanderer through this den,
Comes this friendly warning from our pen.
Follow the river down to the fall,
Curve a half circle, then climb the wall.
The third step is fatal, so only take two,
Follow instructions exactly – nothing else will do!
I took a deep breath. Follow the river down to the fall. What did it all mean? I held the flashlight up high. There was no river. On the contrary, I was hemmed in by two massive stone walls on either side of me. Behind me snaked the long corridor I had come through and in front of me a massive oak door calmly awaited my next move.
Note: The following story is an Aesop fable re-written in the English style of the King James Version of the Bible.
Now it came to pass, that Carmi the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was a-dying, and he called his sons unto him, and he said unto them: Behold, I am old, and well stricken in age, and it shall come to pass, that when I die, ye shall forget all the commandments which I have given you: and shall go after your own way, seeking not to remain in the way of your fathers: but ye shall war one with another: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever findeth ye shall overcome you. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
And the man Carmi had bound together a sheaf of arrows. And he commanded them that they should take up the arrows; for he wished to show somewhat unto his sons. And the son which was the son of the birthright took them up, and he said unto his father: What mean these arrows?
Just about everyone knows the first rule of interplanetary space driving on the BlueWay: when you own a five wheeled motorcycle you don’t need to worry about stoplights. Especially if you tote a triple barreled MaxiGun around on the back of your cycle. Then, the stoplights worry about you.
Common sense observation though that might be to most people, yet common sense is not – never has been, never will be – nearly as common as it should. I ask you: does it make any sense that my neighbor, Tony Hartley, who rides a bicycle – yes, literally a bicycle, a relic of the twenty-first century, barely glossed over with the veneer of a space-capacity G resistant cockpit bubble and a hypersonic pedal intensifier – does it make any sense that he should feel himself entitled to pedal on down across the intersection and cause me to come to a screeching halt? Red light or no red light, that is carrying matters too far! Fair exchange and no robbery, he says, and I can’t deny that he got me out of a pretty tight predicament, so maybe he has a right. But stopping at the stoplights is going to annoy me a lot longer, I can tell you!
It is not often that I condescend to meddle with those conceited, cackling nuisances of a bird species, commonly called chickens; but when I do, I always regret it heartily for at least three days. They’re all very well, lying serenely on your plate with a nice, crispy coating over them, but in any other way, shape, or form, chickens have ever been my mortal foes.
We live on a five acre hobby farm with twenty chickens or so running loose, free to amble up and stare you out of countenance as you go innocently about your business, leaving moreover small but revolting traps across the yard. To crown it all, they have a distinct tendency – especially on those days when we’d stayed up laughing and joking until the wee hours of the morning – to crow and squawk and cackle directly beneath my window at sunrise… Continue reading
So there I was, trying to drill some smattering of math into this obsessed child. “Leon!” I called. “Leon! Stop playing conquistador and come back to your studies! Look here, see this problem? You got it all wrong! 68 out of 88 is not 110%!”
“But ma’am, you have always told me to give 110%! When I am older, that is what I will demand from my soldiers! Why would I put 77%?”
“And there you go again! What is this soldier thing? We are doing math! Math is precise and exact…”
“So will my soldiers be,” Leon interrupted in a very definite tone. “They will be precise! There will be no disregarding my orders. Everything will be exact! No one out of line. No one a minute late!”
“Then look! Before you can command, you must be able to obey. See, I am telling you. You must divide…”
So there I was, buried under a sprawling, chaotic mass of thrashing arms and legs. Fury lent me a strength almost superhuman; with a mighty effort, I flung off the soldiers on top of me, rising to my feet.
I knew escape was hopeless, but that only goaded me into a greater rage. Like a bull I rushed at the head officer, Don Pedro Priego, only to be caught by a dozen of the bronzed veterans surrounding me.
For a second, I succeeded in flinging them off.
“No more!” I gasped, my anger almost choking me. “No more! Fleming though I am, I was a loyal servant of King Phillip, but I tell you no more! You take my money. Very well. I can earn more. You take my job. I can get another. You take my home. Yet I raise no protest. But you are not content! You are never content!” I spat each sentence out as though it were poisonous. Through narrow eyes I looked at him, and he met my stare with a gaze every bit as cold and icy. I tore myself out of the grip of a soldier who had seized my arm. “You are never content,” I repeated. “Now you want my life! Master-gunner on his Imperial Majesty’s Invincible Armada’s Rear Admiral’s flag ship! Slavery!”
You took a deep breath and glared down the grimy pipeline. “Eew!” you exclaimed. But your friend hissed in your ear, “Hurry!” and you knew that you had no choice.
You jumped in.
Brrr! but the water was cold, and Yuck! but the slime was disgusting, and Oof! but the smell was awful!
You endured it as best as you could, and just when you thought another second of this torture would make you vomit, you were spewed out into the open air.