Friday, February 27, 2015

White Rock Maiden

This is chapter 39 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

“I’ll take you up on that offer of a ride if it’s still good.”

Edwin was speaking to Sean as they were eating breakfast with Tina. Mary was still asleep and although Sean was tempted to put his ring on, to be able to experience what she was dreaming, he didn’t—knowing that it might interfere with her much-needed rest.

“Sure, Edwin, I’ll take you right now. Mary should be up by the time I get back. She had a restless night, the thunder kept us awake,” said Sean, “I’ve got some boxes in the car that I want to take to the UPS store to ship back to Seattle.”

“She knows what she’s getting into,” said Tina, “I can’t help but think that she’s in real danger.”

“She’s never been one to back down from a challenge,” said Sean, “Is there anything you need from town, Tina?”

Twinings black tea and a pint of half and half. Something for dinner tonight, if you want, otherwise I can make a meatloaf,” Tina said, “How long do you think you will be gone?”

“I should be back by twelve, at the latest,” said Sean.

While Sean drove to town, Edwin didn’t speak. Finally, Sean broke the silence:

“Do you think you’ll be spending much time at Tina’s this summer, at least up until the auction?”

“That’s entirely up to Tina,” Edwin said, “I wouldn’t want her to think that I was taking advantage of her.”

“She’ll let you know if you do” said Sean, “She’s the kind of person who speaks her mind. It would be a big change for her, of course, as will leaving the farm in the fall. What about you Edwin? Would you consider moving into an assisted living place to be near her?”

“Old habits die hard, Sean,” Edwin said, “My apartment above the shop is all I've known since I came back from Korea. It’s been over sixty years.”

“And almost seventy since Emily left,” said Sean, “Mary’s last visitation from Emily was very disturbing. Mary feels as if Emily is still alive or, rather, exists in some form.”

“That may well be the case. It seems that now Mary is the only person who has the power to reach her,” Edwin said, shaking his head, “We’re only playing supporting roles in this drama, Sean. Emily and Mary will have to see this through. And the baby, of course, in the next generation.”

“The baby,” said Sean.

“Is Sean out?” said Mary, as she walked into the kitchen.

“He’s bringing Edwin into town and is going to run some errands. He said he’d be back by noon,” said Tina, “Were you finally able to get some sleep?”

“The thunderstorm was bad enough, but the visitation from Emily that I had in Mineral Point Saturday night keeps coming back to me in my dreams. My feeling is that she still exists: imprisoned, in some physical form, somewhere.”

“How many more of Emily’s ‘sites’ will you be visiting?” said Tina.

“Four. If I do two today and two tomorrow we should be able to head back on Wednesday. Not that we’re in a hurry—it’s been great being here—but ‘real’ life is waiting for me in Seattle. One of the sites on Edwin’s map isn’t far from here,” said Mary, as she pointed to the spot on Edwin’s map, “I should be able to walk there.”

Tina examined the map.

“That’s Edwin’s folks’ old place, it was where he grew up. Didn’t he tell you?" said Tina, “It’s probably a ruin now, it was abandoned and surrounded by a thicket the last time I walked back there. When the bridge washed out they never bothered to make a new road, so it’s been left alone for a long time. It’s accessible by foot—if you don’t mind wading through the creek.”

“It’s about a mile, right?" said Mary, “I’ll be able to get there and back by the time Sean returns.”

“A mile more or less, although you might have to backtrack a little,” said Tina, “Be careful in the creek, it might be running high after last night’s rain. There’s an old cow path that starts right behind the barn. If any trace of it remains it will lead you to Edwin’s parent’s place. No breakfast?”

“I’ll take a banana, I won’t be gone long,” said Mary, as she headed out the door.

“Here you are, Edwin,” said Sean, as he parked in front of his store, “We’ll be leaving Wednesday morning so, if we don’t see you again, it’s been good to get to know you, and good that you and Tina have made amends.”

“Yes, it has been a good thing,” said Edwin, “You take care of yourself, and Mary as well.”

Sean left Edwin and went to the UPS shipping center where he spent nearly an hour preparing the boxes containing his old computer hard drives and other things from his college days. There were also some personal effects of Emily’s that Mary wanted to keep. She didn’t want to risk losing them if someone were to break into their car on the way back.

The path behind the barn was overgrown, although Mary could tell where it had been from the ‘lane’ that was suggested by a lack of large trees. When she reached the creek, it was about two feet deep and considerably more active than the trickle it had been when she and Sean went to the old bridge site the previous week. Mary slipped off her shoes and socks and, after looking around, her pants. She could sense animals in the woods around her and their relative calm indicated that there were no other humans nearby. The water was cool, it carried a fresh scent of rain from the previous evening’s storm. She could feel curious minnows nibbling her toes; it made her smile. There was a large, white boulder on the far side of the creek. After crossing over, Mary sat on it, drying her legs in the sunshine. After a couple of minutes, she took off the rest of her clothes.

The Black Psyche,” she mused, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her skin as she gazed at her rippled reflection in the flowing water, “This is paradise.” When she was finally dry, Mary reluctantly put her clothes back on and continued to the site marked on Edwin’s map.

What had once been a farm yard was now a tangle of small trees and scrub plants. There was an open area where the barn had once been; stones of its foundation peeked through tall grass. The house still stood, although it was obvious that it was beyond repair. A flagstone path to the backdoor was still usable, however, and Mary approached the house with caution. She began to sense the proximity of a ‘site’ as she entered the kitchen and, after carefully walking through the debris which covered the cracked linoleum,  she came to a doorway leading to the living area. The room was divided by three large uprights which supported the joists of the second floor. The ceiling was falling down in places and the walls held traces of peeling wallpaper. Many of the floorboards had been ripped up. She stepped into the room and it immediately exploded in a riot of color.

The possession had begun.


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Supermom in a Bagel Shop

Los Alamos, New Mexico

   After a morning spent enduring the 'atomic optimism' of the Bradbury Museum, we needed an influx of non-nuclear energy. The independently-owned bagel shop was busy, the decor was vibrant and the food delicious. The table nearest us was occupied by a family of five: two adorable tow-headed girls, the father, and the mother, who was nursing her baby. The girls were rambunctious, the father helpful, and the baby was completely blissed out. The mom, however, was super.

   It was an unseasonably warm day. The restaurant hadn't turned on its AC, so the woman was, as they used to say in a more genteel time, 'glowing'. But somehow she managed to keep her cool, even when the father left for a few minutes and she was in sole charge of the children. She deftly managed to keep the girls in line, eat her lunch, feed the baby and operate her iPhone.

   Despite modern technology, a mother's life never gets any easier.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Swamp Thing

When this post goes live I will have returned from the semi-arid Southwest, my little retreat from Minnesota winter.

The Weaver and I have a recurring discussion about where we’d live if money was no object: the desert, the sea side, a tropical island, perhaps Scandinavia. The deal-breaker for me would be any place without an abundance of fresh water. Mosquitoes aside, there is no place I’d rather be than in a small canoe in some reedy swamp; a place full of slimy life.

The primordial ooze.

A quiet symphony of aromas.

A minimalistic soundtrack.

Getting in touch with my inner amphibian.

Minnesota nice.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Everything is Different Now

This is chapter 38 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Pulling into Tina’s driveway, Sean was surprised to see Edwin and Tina sitting together on the front porch. Mary was not surprised. The weather had turned sultry. Tina was wearing a light house-dress while Edwin was in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. They were smiling.

“Welcome back honeymooners,” said Tina, “How was your trip?”

“Er, interesting, to say the least,” said Sean, “Mineral Point definitely has its charms.”

“Who’s minding the store, Edwin?” said Mary, playfully.

“Never on Sunday,” said Edwin, “How did those rings work out for you?”

“A profound experience,” said Sean, “Not for casual use.”

“Any news from Emily?” asked Edwin.

“Yes,” Mary said tersely, “There was a visitation last night. It wasn’t pleasant.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I can see how a visit from Emily would be upsetting,” said Edwin.

“Everything I experience gives me a greater understanding,” said Mary.

“When will you two be leaving for Seattle?” said Tina.

“It looks like we’ll be heading out on Wednesday morning,” said Sean, “If nothing else extraordinary comes up.”

“I’d like to look at the other sites that Emily drew pictures of before we leave,” said Mary to Sean, “Do you think we have enough time to visit one before dinner?”

“I don’t see why we couldn’t,” said Sean, “Edwin, can I give you a ride back into town?”

“No,” said Edwin, “Tonight I’m the cook.”

Sally O’Donnell sent Molly Berenson a text message:
Molly, I need to meet with you ASAP. This is urgent. Everyone who was involved with Billy and Sean is in grave danger. I have information which may help protect you and them. Can we meet? Sally O'Donnell
She knew it was a long shot, but her options were running out. She was startled when her phone chimed only a few minutes later.

        OK. Meet me at Peets, in an hour. MollyB

Sally returned the message with an "OK."

The next place on the map of the locations of Emily’s drawings was a bend in the Trout Run Creek. The years had changed the view considerably, but once they neared the spot Mary could sense its exact location: a small sand bar in the middle of the stream.

“Keep an eye out, Sean,” said Mary as she began to wade in the shallow creek, “I don’t want to be interrupted. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. But if somebody comes, you could whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Sean? You just put your lips together and … blow.”

“Just put your lips together and blow, right, Ms. Bacall?” said Sean. “To Have and Have Not?”

“Good memory. I never knew you were such an expert when it came to romantic movies.”

When Mary reached the island, she immediately slipped into a trance-state.

Molly and Sally sat at a table in Peet’s Coffee and Tea, in the Green Lake District of Seattle. Molly was wary of Sally. Her dislike stemmed not only from Sally’s role in the ‘Billygate’ affair but also from her general appearance. Molly thought that Sally projected an air of crass indifference. Although Molly knew that Sally wasn’t directly responsible for the interrogation by the FBI, she felt that Sally’s treatment of Sean and her was a factor leading to her breakup with Sean. After exchanging frosty hellos, Molly wanted Sally to get straight to the point.

“What is it that you have that is so important?” she said.

“I know that I’m not the most popular person in your world,” Sally began, “And I’ve done many things which I’ve regretted. But circumstances change. While I can never atone for the things that happened to you and Sean, you must deliver some information to Sean.”

“Why did you come to me?” said Molly, “We’re not exactly close anymore.”

“Nobody can locate them. They haven’t been seen in Seattle for over a week. I don’t have any way to contact them.”

“Without getting me involved too deeply, what is it, in general, that you want to tell them?”

Sally paused a moment before answering.

“You know that I was working for Senator Clarkson when Billy and Sean were in Iceland,” Sally began, “What you don’t know is that I was really working on behalf of The Senator’s father-in-law, a man named Roger Ramsen. I was his mistress. Roger passed away last Wednesday from a massive coronary. While he was in the hospital I took the liberty to examine his computer, copying numerous files and emails. After I read them I became aware of the fact that Roger belonged to a secret organization, a group of men who preside over a vast international financial and political enterprise.”

“Is that what Billy leaked to that Professor?” said Molly.

“He didn’t know the names of any of the men in Roger’s group.”

“OK, I understand you so far. How does this put Sean in danger?” asked Molly, anxiously.

“Sean, as Senator Clarkson’s son, is a legal heir to the Senator’s estate. While the Senator is a wealthy man, he isn’t in the same league as the others,” Sally continued, “But, and this is far more important, Sean is somehow entitled to a share of the group’s assets. The group of men are all old and, for reasons I have yet to determine, have not had any new members join in many years. There were eight of them. Now, with the death of Roger, they are seven. They are, for some reason, terrified that Sean may make a claim on his inheritance, exposing the group. Billy was right about Sean’s mother being murdered. But it wasn’t Senator Clarkson behind it. It was the group. I fear that they will try again to take the same action against Sean.”

Molly sat in stunned silence.

“Will you help me help Sean and Mary?" pleaded Sally.

Molly remembered that she still had access to the data drop-box which Mary had given her when Sean was in Iceland. It might still work.

“I think I might be able to reach him,” Molly said.

“Let me know if you can, and what the response is,” said Sally. “Here’s my number. If they want my information, call me and we’ll meet again for coffee. Don’t say anything about Sean over the phone, just make a date for coffee.”

“I’ll get back to you,” said Molly.

After her visitation, Mary waded back to the bank where Sean was waiting.

“Anything?” asked Sean.

“Cellular history,” she said, “All the way back to protozoa.”


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tales of Old Santa Fe - #2

Upper Canyon Road by night.

Jesus said: Buy folk art. Canyon Road.

Red Door on Acequia Madre.

Coyote fence gate on Acequia Madre.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tales of Old Santa Fe - #1

You never know who you might encounter in Old Santa Fe.

The Weaver and I found this excellent bookstore a couple of blocks from The Plaza. A plaque on the outside wall stated that this was the site of the jail which once held Billy the Kid. In addition to this provenance the store features a wide variety of quality books, a coffee bar, and a stage/seating area. When we first stopped in on Sunday there was a spirited discussion about water rights going on. I made a note to return and later discovered that the author James Penner was going to appear the coming Thursday to speak about his book, Timothy Leary: The Harvard Years. Arriving at the appointed time, we joined a couple of dozen gray hairs and a smattering of younger people who were filtering in. A wag sitting in the back whistled the tune from The Moody Blues song Timothy Leary's Dead from time to time.  I used to own a copy of Psychedelic Review which had published many of Leary's early papers, so my interest was already piqued.

At the appointed time, Professor Penner was introduced by Joanna Harcourt-Smith, who, I later found out, was not only an author herself, but was Leary's partner and the mother of one of his children. No wonder Penner seemed a little nervous during his presentation. Penner had made considerable efforts in tracking down almost all of Leary's published work and had incorporated most of it, along with a commentary, into this book. The story of Leary and Richard Alpert being fired from Harvard's faculty was also touched upon, including Andrew Weil's little-known and somewhat shady role in the affair.

Penner explained that due to political and media backlash the original papers had long been out of print and many had been removed from university libraries—they were virtually unknown to new generations. Afterwards he took a Q&A. The questions were apt and focused; the crowd was obviously well versed in Leary and his psychedelic message. After about a half-dozen questions, the oldest person in the audience was given his turn to speak.  The man had been at Harvard during the time in question, and knew both Leary and Alpert as well as the pioneering ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes. The old man described how closely integrated the three men were with other disciplines in the college, how it was an exciting time of discovery and innovation: not just in Leary's and Schultes' fields. He said that the story of how all these people, as well as other luminaries such as William S. Burroughs, remained close throughout their lives was still little known.

As he continued to lucidly speak I could almost hear the sound of jaws dropping to the floor. It was an intensely "mind-expanding" experience for every one involved. I could almost visualize the trailer for A Major Motion Picture which could be made from his story. Penner was obviously moved in coming face to face with two original sources.

Just another night in Old Santa Fe.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Midnight Assignation

This is chapter 37 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Mary and Sean spent Saturday exploring Mineral Point. That evening, over dinner at The Brewery Creek Inn, Mary was still bothered by the contents of the book that Sean had purchased at the antique store.

“Sorry to have been so moody on our honeymoon,” Mary said, “This is a great little town. You made a good choice. When I think of the lives of the miners and their families who lived here years ago,  it’s almost impossible to comprehend. A miner’s life was hard enough, but to be out here in the frontier the way they were—grubbing lead from hand dug holes—I really should be grateful for what I have, even if things have been very strange lately,” Mary said, pausing for a moment, then continuing, “I do get tired of the sexism and racism, though. In my more paranoid moments, it seems to me that there is a secret organization whose sole function is to repress women and minorities. The concept probably goes back to animal dominance perverted into a quest to exalt men to god-like status: absolute authority, no responsibility.”

“A capricious and fickle god. Nothing seems to have any stability anymore,” said Sean, “Politics, economics, and this whole thing with Emily; my life has become strange too, stranger than I would have ever imagined. But better.”

“Better how?”

“Better than before we became lovers.”

“Better than before the rings?”

“The rings,” Sean said, “I was afraid of losing myself in you completely when we were wearing them the other night.”

“They did make me appreciate certain aspects of your masculinity more,” Mary said, “but I was surprised at how closely we synced as we approached climax. Different methods to the same goal?” Mary continued, “I never said ‘I love you’ to anyone before I got to know you. Now, in light of what has transpired between us, I’m beginning to think that I don’t know what that phrase means. When ‘I’ and ‘You’ become the same, the only thing left is… love.”

“Love,” said Sean, “The rings do change the equation. I was alarmed, but I want to wear them again tonight, love.”

“OK, love,” Mary said, smiling for the first time that day.

They continued to eat.  It was after nine by the time they were finished; the place had emptied out. They went back to the cabin.

“Rings on or off?” said Mary.

“On,” said Sean.

After they made love, Mary got up and went into the bathroom.  Its walls had been decorated with fanciful paintings of elves and fairies and brownies. The paintings were dated in the late 1940s. Mary smiled, thinking of the children who had enjoyed this escape from reality. All the tedium of daily life—its pains, its joys—all of that would be a distant memory for those children, if any were still alive. The art had endured, however,  its import remained as vivid as the day it was painted.

When Mary returned to the bedroom, she noticed that Sean had already fallen asleep, still wearing his ring. Mary thought of removing hers but did not. “Sweet dreams may we share this night, to rise, refreshed, in the morning’s light.” she mused. It was nearing eleven when she turned off the bed lamp.

A full moon was rising over what the men of The Brotherhood called “The Chamber House.” The Chamber House was very old; it had been built in the early 1800s when the land was part of a Virginia plantation and was situated in a remote wooded area. At one time it had been used as a smokehouse.  The seven men who comprised The Brotherhood never spoke of its existence to anyone outside the group. It was nearly midnight when they approached it. The leader of the group unlocked the massive iron gate that opened into an outer chamber. He switched on a pair of lights which flanked the inside of the entry. The soft, yellow light that they emitted couldn’t quite erase the profound shadows which painted the far recesses of the building’s interior. Boxes and old farm machinery lurked in the gloom, all of it very old. The building’s inner wall was fitted with a door made of rough logs banded with iron and fitted with seven locks.  Curiously, a large iron bar spanned the door, as if to prevent its being opened from the inside. The men stood quietly for several minutes until the leader, after checking an ornate gold pocket watch, spoke:

“It’s time.”

Each of the followers had a key which they used to open one of the locks. When they had finished, the leader lifted the bar and opened the door. The group entered the inner  brick-walled room. The room was circular, with a diameter of about sixteen feet.  Its sooty black walls muted the already dim glow that leaked in from the lamps in the outer hall. In the center of the room was an old wooden table, darkened by age. Upon it lay a shrouded figure. The leader took his place at its head while the other men stood on either side. After standing in silence for a few minutes, twelve chimes from the leader's pocket watch signaled midnight. Again the leader spoke:

“Remove the shroud.”

The heavy black velvet cloth was gently lifted and neatly folded and placed at the foot of the makeshift bier. The body on it was that of a mature woman, naked. Her skin was smooth and pale, almost pearlescent, and without flaw. She could have been mistaken for an alabaster statue, if not for her hair. The leader raised his hands and the other men followed suit.

“Brethren, as we gather here to honor the passing of one of our own, we will affirm our pledge to The Brotherhood and the principles upon which it was founded,” began the leader, ”Join with me in the sacred pledge.”

The group began to speak in unison:
“We, the Sons of God, in abeyance to the sacred spirit within each of us, with the authority vested within us by spiritual law, rededicate ourselves to the cause of suppression of those base and animal instincts present in Satan’s vessels: Women and their carnal desires, Pagans and their idolatry, and the threat of mongrelization from the lesser races.”
The leader then spoke again:

 “As proof of our dominion over the powers of sorcery, we will commence the laying on of hands.  The body that lies here before us shall remain imprisoned. We exercise this power in the name of God The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We condemn you, Emily Carroll, vessel of Satan, to an eternity of suffering.”

Mary dreamt.

She was in a tomb, lying naked on a platform, encircled by seven old men. She could sense an immense hatred, manifested in the black auras which draped their shadowy figures. They were  chanting, but the words were unclear. Mary felt cold. Suddenly, the presence of Emily was very strong. The group of men stopped chanting and one of them began to speak:

“By the power of God The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we condemn you, Emily Carroll, vessel of Satan, to an eternity of suffering.”

And then Mary/Emily felt their hands: crablike in their movement, crawling over the surface of her skin, harshly touching her in a profane caricature of a caress. Waves of nausea began to spread over her.

Mary woke. She dashed into the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet before copiously vomiting. The figures on the wall seemed to be mocking her now. As she regained her composure, she sensed Sean in her thoughts.

“Mary, are you alright?”

“I’m OK, now,” she thought, “How about you?”

“I’m not sure,” Sean thought, “What does it mean?”

“I’m not sure either, but whatever it is, we’ve got to find a way to help Emily.”

In the Reykjavík suburb of Kópavogur, Þora Sigmundsdóttir was awakened by the cries of her toddler.

Fjandinn, 04:00. Hvers vegna er það alltaf vera 04:00?”

She went into the child's room.  Young Vilhjálmur Stefán, standing in his crib, was shaking violently and covered in puke.

Allt þetta, og flensu hann fær!” Þora said.


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Red Shoes

There’s little need for me to explain the above image to those who have been initiated.

For those who have yet to experience this gem of a film, I’ll state that it is the best dance movie I’ve ever seen, many have said it is the the greatest ballet film ever made. The Red Shoes is a work which stands on its own apart from the dance genre: it is simply a great film. Restored to its original Technicolor grandeur on Criterion DVD, it allows Moira Shearer’s natural red hair to perfectly complement the cursed Red Shoes of the Han Christian Anderson fairy tale. The story of the film’s origin is complex, Roger Ebert can fill you in much better that I ever could. For all its stylized artifice, the dance scenes are real. Done in long takes, the actors/dancers were all professionals. The closeups of Moira's character ‘Vicky’ allow the viewer to enter into an intimate space with a consummate artist:

Although the story has a romantic element, it is really about artistic obsession; the height of glory it can reach and its depth of conflict and despair. There is a sub-theme of suppressed homosexuality and the perverse ‘family’ of the ballet which adds an exotic dimension. The exterior scenes, shot on location in London and Monte Carlo, as well as numerous European hotels and theatre interiors, transport the viewer to a real world which seems as magical as the staged ones in the ballet.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, February 09, 2015

We Wish You Were Here…


   The Weaver and I have escaped from the snowy north for a couple of weeks to revel in the sun and sand at a secret location in the desert Southwest. But fear not, dear readers, while I'm away there will be the usual olio from the Professor's fevered imagination, as well as regular installments of The Matriarchy.

Illustration by Gluyas Williams for 
After 1903—What?, by Robert Benchley
Harper & Brothers, New York, 1938

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Fallen Woman

This is chapter 36 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

It was well past seven p.m. Most of the galleries and shops in Mineral Point were closed but one had the lights on and its door was open. Mary and Sean walked in. With the exception of a very old German Shepherd, it seemed to be unoccupied.

“Hello? Is anyone home?” said Sean.

“Yes, I’m here... ” came a voice from behind a counter.

The couple looked around but couldn’t see anyone.

“I’m down here, I’ve fallen.”

“Can we help you?”  Sean said, seeing a woman who was sitting on the floor, wedged between a stairway and a wheelchair.

“No, I can do this. It happens all the time. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

“You’re quite sure you don’t need some help?” asked Mary.

“No, no, I’m alright,” The woman said, fiddling with her wheelchair, moving it into position, then locking the wheels. It was clear that her resolve was firm. Mary and Sean began to look around the shop. From behind the counter she began to ask the usual questions:

“Why did you come to Mineral Point? Where are you from?”

“We’re from Seattle, we’re on our honeymoon,” Mary answered.

She began to converse with the woman on the floor, turning around so as not to embarrass her. After a few minutes the shop owner rolled up in her wheelchair, evidently none the worse for wear. Mary asked about the enormous looms which sat in the back of the shop: yes, she was a weaver. From the general disorder around the looms, it appeared that they had not been in use for some time. The woman spoke of the shop, of her ex-husband who had once been part of it—his wood-working sign was still hanging on the wall. Evidently, it was a touchy subject with her but not one she was yet ready to relinquish. Mary and the woman talked for a while; Mary asked the woman where was the best place to eat. The woman snorted as if in disapproval of all the local restaurants but did say that ‘the Japanese place’ was alright. Sean, who had been browsing during this discussion, had picked up an old book: The Lost Treasures of Wisconsin. He bought it for the title, without understanding the reason why.

“Gentlemen of The Brotherhood. As you are all aware, this meeting is being held due to the untimely passing of our brother, Roger Ramsen. Roger will be missed, his efforts in preserving the plan and its assets had been unwavering. His work is, however, unfinished. Senator Clarkson’s bastard son, Sean Carroll, who is also the grandson of Emily Carroll, remains a threat. How much of a threat? It remains unknown. Roger’s attempts to neutralize him had been vigorous but ineffective. To date, Mr. Carroll has shown no evidence of any special talent as to divination or the allied arts, nor has he made an attempt to capitalize on his relationship with the Senator. He is not without resources, however. He was employed at the ‘data miner/cryptologist' at the firm of Applied Diffusion Research, commonly referred to as ‘ADR,’ which has recently been acquired by a major internet marketing firm. ADR was involved with the unfortunate series of events which culminated in the death of Senator’s Clarkson’s legitimate son, William Jr., in Iceland a few years ago. The president and founder of ADR is one Mary Robinson, a woman of unknown African-American heritage. She is reputed to be brilliant in her field. Roger was in the process of trying to discredit her when he died; he felt she was also a  serious threat. There is another potential connection: a young child in Iceland, who may have been fathered by either William Clarkson, Junior or, possibly, Mr. Carroll. Legal efforts to connect the child’s mother with Sean have been fruitless. Due to the insular nature of Icelandic society, we have only limited means at our disposal to deal with this aspect of the situation. Until parentage is decisively determined, there is little we can do at this time about this potential threat to the plan.”

The six elderly men who sat around the conference table listened impassively to the man who was speaking at its end.

“Where is Sean now, and where is this Robinson woman?” asked one of the men.

“Currently, the location of the two is unknown. They were last seen in Seattle a week ago. Our intelligence has uncovered no trace of their whereabouts since then.”

“This has gotten completely out of hand,” said another man, “When they do show up, why don’t we just have them eliminated? It should have been done long ago.”

The leader of the group shook his head slightly and said:

“There is already too much information about the plan in the documents Harold Shallbetter leaked. We’ve managed to cover it up so far, but someone could connect the dots. The deaths of Carroll and Robinson, even if it appeared to be an accident, would have conspiracy theorists crawling out of the woodwork. What amount of information Carroll has about the plan is unknown as well. The fact remains that Sean Carroll is the son of Senator Clarkson and the grandson of Emily, and as such is an inherent threat to The Brotherhood.

There was no response from the gathered men. The leader continued:

“As far as the plan is concerned we will, as is our custom, meet at the Chamber House for the laying on of hands. Gather here at 11:30 P.M., Saturday. The ritual will commence at Midnight.”

At the restaurant, after ordering, Mary examined the book Sean had purchased:

“Treasure hunting? I didn’t take you for the Indiana Jones type,” she said, opening the book. A yellow scrap of paper covered with handwritten text fell out. “Why, it’s a poem!”

“Read it to me, would you?” said Sean.

After first reading it through in silence, Mary began to speak:
The sun, sinking behind a hill
A dagger thrown in a sightless face
Pierced from the assassin’s attack
Blood, red flowing, turns to black
Then vanishes in disgrace

The sun, sinking behind a hill
Descending to a deep dark place
The Negress witch turns her key
And the secrets of eternity
Are locked inside her secret space

The sun, sinking behind a hill
Sinking forevermore;
Who will hear nature’s call?
Muffled inside her mossy walls
Is the treasure of Satan's whore

“Ominous doggerel,” said Sean.

“Doggerel? Yes. An omen? I hope not, although it seems that everything that happens to me these days is a portent of some kind.”

Mary continued to look at the book but paused on the table of contents. She handed it back to Sean, pointing to the last story in the list: The Lost Treasure of Nigger Hill.

“Really. Isn’t that just a bit much?” she said.


By Professor Batty

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

It's All Too Beautiful

Scenes from a midsummer day.

When we were so very young.

All we needed for entertainment was a flat-top guitar.

It was enough to just sit and be.

Lindwood Township, Minnesota, 1983

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, February 02, 2015

Discussing Scottie, Drinking Surly

   Rather than indulge in the pre-pre-pregame show, I went to literally a different sort of cultural event. Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books bookstore hosted a meeting of  Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, a group devoted to the works and legacy of the city's most celebrated writer. Historian Laura Iandola discussed the changing role of women in the 1920s in the light of the Fitzgerald story Bernice Bobs Her Hair. A lively Q&A ensued; while no consensus was reached, I did receive a flash of inspiration at its conclusion:

   I was in a surly mood, and that's a good thing! No better way to take advantage of it than a visit to Minnesota's most successful new brewery, now in its new digs:

   A stroll past the the brewing equipment…

   … led to the surprisingly spartan dining area:

   The beer was, as expected, tasty, the food (charcuterie sampler) was unexceptional. More disturbing was the deafening heavy-metal music that drove out any thoughts of thinking.

   I'll be getting my Surly's at the liquor store from now on.

   I've got Scotty at home already.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

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