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Will you have some more coffee?
Good, good, how about a slice of pie? Cherry for love and apple for knowledge, thatís what Miz Sylvia says. I tell you, Iíd ask that woman to marry me if I were ten years younger. Iíll just wave Cherise over here to refill your cup; she wonít be a minute. Quick as a wink, that girl is, and twice as cute, although I trow she probably couldnít light a bulb with thought-power. But thatís fine since sheís pretty. The pretty ones always seem to land on their feet like cats, but I knew a woman in St. Louis whoóoh, wait, youíre not with the Gazette, are you?
Cherise, thank you, honey. What about a kiss, sweet thang?
(He rubs his cheek as he speaks, as if keeping the kiss fresh on his fingertips, a thing that will never dry or decay, a dewy touch of eternal youth.)
Letís see, where was I? Thatís one of the worst things about getting old. You forget your train of thought so damn easy. Sorry, maíam. I ought not to have said that. Devil gets into me sometimes, so I think Iím still at sea and I donít remember my manners in gentle company.
I told you about my three brushes with fame and how this place came to be. Well, mostly. The name of that dishonest gambler was Jebediah R. Cruickshank and on this plot of land, he opened a waystation for cattle drovers. He offered supplies and place to get a bite to eat. I hear tell he sometimes let the men bed down above the stable. You can almost hear the cattle lowing, canít you?
Hard to believe over a hundred years have gone by. In some ways, this patch of ground here, itís the land time forgot. Cities, they canít take root out here. People have tried from time to time, thinking theyíll found a new Las Vegas, way out in the middle of nowhere. Rockefeller, he tried to buy up this land as my granddad told it. But the Cruickshanks, they wouldnít let loose of the deed. And folks tell me that a mobster like that Mr. Seigel -- Iíve forgotten his partnerís name now -- he even leaned on old man Cruickshank but nothing but a woman could move this earth.
It all came down to Virginia Cruickshank in the spring of 1957 when she married Olan Oberst. No, Iím not making that up. Someone really named her child Olan, although it seems to me that his mother mustíve held a grudge. Born to them, a son named Ronald James, letís see, that was 1960, I believe. And he took over his fatherís business, not too long ago, a company called The Avalon Group.
Yes, that is a laden name. But you see, my dear lady, everything fits. When you hear Avalon, what do you think of? Oh my, very good, very good: the enchanted island where Arthurís sword was forged and where he was brought after his last battle. There are folks still waiting in England for his return, you know. Poor bastards donít realize heís already come and gone. Thatís right, very clever, you are. But we already talked about the King. Death wasnít kind to him the first time, nor the second, and I donít know that Iíd trade a golden bier for a white Cadillac but then, thatís me and Iím naught but a simple sailor, grown too old for the sea. Thatís same as saying Iím a toothless lion or a lame horse.
You have kind eyes, indeed you do, but I believe youíve studied some of the more arcane truths, if Iím not mistaken. AndÖdear lady, please donít reply to that. Iím too old to be asking such questions; Iíd never live long enough to sort you out. Part of me wishes Iíd met you long ago and part of me is glad I didnít. Regret is a heavy burden and I laid mine down years ago, my soul singing out like a Negro on a barge.
Still and all, this land, itís touched. The Native Americans knew it. Why, some nights you'll still see Coyote himself out on the roads, playing his pranks. His favorite jest is to frighten motorists into thinking they've killed him and then bounding away into the shrubland Beyond. Haunts, spirits, angels, demons, the Midwayís seen them all. Some go and some stay. Thursday nights, you might find Mephistopheles himself nursing a cup of coffee over yonder, looking to make a deal. And you might find Raphael, playing a celestial harp shaped like an acoustic guitar with his hat down for miracle money.
Seraphim, Nephilim, theyíre real as well, you see. If youíre asking yourself, now why would an angel be killing time down here on earth, well: ďIn heaven an angel is nobody in particular.Ē That Mr. Shaw sure was a clever fella. Now Iím not a godly man, but Iím not a stupid one and I believe what my eyes show me. As the good book says: ďThe Sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.Ē The line runs strong and true down to this day.
In this world there live learned men who could draw you a family tree but proof doesnít lie in lines made in ink. Evidence comes in through the eye but it percolates in the heart and mind. In a way belief is like love. What is it about seeing that person that made us feel that thing, the skipping heart, the hitching breath. Something about the way she smells makes you feel like your soul is nothing but a helium balloon, something about her makes you feel like you could fly. But is that empirical? No. There just comes a point where you know what you know, and it doesnít matter how wrong the rest of the world believes you to be. You canít base your certainty on the judgment of fools.
Like that clever Mr. Emerson said, ďReality is a sliding door.Ē Things slide in when youíre looking the other way, things that live in cracks and shadows. People donít see things because they refuse to; they donít want to. When you stop refusing to look, then you See. And if youíre lucky, you donít go mad before you Understand.
One of those Daughters of Eve, well, youíd find her in the space between the lights, a slither and a hiss in the dark, something you donít want to let sink her nails beneath your skin. Sheís poison, sure enough, but I donít suppose that sort of thing is your vice. You havenít the look and Iíve learnt a few things about human beings over the years. And now...weíre coming down to what you came for, arenít we? The truth of it all.
Yes, maíam. Iíll wait.