15 April 2009

In Which Sarge Must Make an Aside to Peru, Leaving Shanghai and His Beloved Cody

the 13th:

It has been some time,

Sometimes the cold in the mountains feels like a slap to the marrow of my bones, Cpl. I sit here under my poncho, the fire does its slow dance and the local men look at me like I might know something they don't, but they also know things I do not, and they hold them like talismans they will not give up save to protect the life of their firstborns. The night passes this way, strange sounds about us and occasionally a faraway shout. They are tracking us and don't care too much to hide it. Who they are isn't quite clear, and I hesitate to jump to conclusions. Especially when I remember that incident in Mali.

Medicine Man was here, I feel it. I see it in the strange deaths and arrangements of bones I sometimes come across in the remotest villages. The broken tables and shattered vials, the dogs who will not enter the villages but scavenge along the dissipating borders that separate these places from the nature they sprang from God knows how long ago. I am not here to find him. I am no match for him yet, for I know not how he plays this game. The French Separatists love him for his weapons and his cruelty, but he holds them in contempt for their simplistic political designs. Medicine Man, his aesthetics, his hubris – he insists on larger goals: his is the work of changing the human destiny.

Here I will discover something I believe. For I believe it was here he made the discovery that altered the course of his life. Here we see him twenty years ago, and then see nothing of him until he is in Australia, defeated for a moment by a crazy dog and his desperate companion. But we hear the whispers of his shadow crawling across the lonely places. We hear the myths told from outpost to outpost of a man and men who do terrible things. What was it of death he discovered here? What did it mean? There is a village where perhaps this answer might be discovered. At least enough to throw some light on the shadow, and to diminish its reach. I must go now, Panzito is here and tells me I must rest. Of the men, I trust him the most. His daughter is beautiful, at the convent school she leads the daily prayers and the day we left Panzito's village she ran to me and said in a delightful Spanish: "I will say my most beautiful prayer for you!" I leaned down to her and asked her if she remembered my stories about the dog, Cody. "Yes," she nodded her head seriously, "he is a good dog. The best dog."

"Pray for him," I said.

She nodded her head seriously, for I had given her a mission. Panzito laughed. "You and dogs!" he cried. "You are natural brothers!"

Now I must sleep, and hope somewhere I am missed. Somewhere I am prayed for.

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