Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twenty

The Art of Death


            The devil's dandruff was created by those who have taken it on, pushed the limit, and believed they were invincible against its charms. Whether it was too much faith in their own strength or not enough in the power of cocaine, when the machine was pushed too far it broke down and the walls crumbled, the swagger morphed into a delicate gait of a decrepit old man. Once the apical was attained, one must be careful not to go flying off the peak to the steep and jagged rock on the other side. The Dane knew that but Noble didn't. It was something that lay in his path, an experience he would have that would bring him back down to earth, a reminder that there were boundaries and that the art of living lay in balance and not in prolonged extremism. Only with the elastic sinew of lithe flesh could a man bounce high, flourish and return to their soft bed of belief.

            Even Reno had to admit he was overdoing it. All the people he met were creating social events he was now obligated to attend. Returning to his guesthouse at six in the morning had become the norm, whether after one or two or three nights. The spirit of the Finn Regulars were getting crazy with more and more after-hour outings post exit from the pub. More drugs and all sorts of excuses were being thrown around in a Keith Richards inspired haze.

            The three-day party was one of those indigenous creations common in Quito, a beautiful thing requiring stamina and character lined with the sharp edge of danger. There was much to lose but much to gain. It was pushing the boundary of discovering the true nature of your character, who you were, what you could take and what stopped you from laughing. It was a prolonged moment in time that one could strip the layers of one-liners and secondary comments, taking you down many levels to see what was in the reservoir, what was at the bottom of the tank, and how the lining of the tank reacted while on fumes.

            One night he and the Dane as usual were each other's wingman, both scoring some tech but only having the chance to do some lines in the huge bathroom on the third floor of a club called Bungalows. Reno, whose dealer had become very consistent and good quality, poured out from his two-gram baggie on top of the porcelain. Generous with his amount, the Dane did a line.

            "Ooh, that's good tech." Wiped his nose. "There's too much." Reno started to laugh. And then tried to snort it all in two long lines.

            "Put it back in the bag," he said, looking at Reno like he was insane. The Dane had a business card to scoop it up and put the remainder in the bag. But he was someone who did two-to-four grams a day for years, so Reno didn't think he was near that level during his first flush of a coke binge. He quickly learned that the Dane was right. The two long lines put his on maximum. For the rest of the night he couldn't drink another sip of beer.

            After the club they bumped into Jamul and Madera on the street. The Dane had many girlfriends and Madera was one of them so those two went back to the Dane's hostel, and he and Jamul went up the mountainside to Jamul's house where they played music and smoked pipes. Jamul showed him some of the songs he had written since the last time he had been at his house. All of them dealt directly with death and suicide that caused a surge of emotion through him. Each of the three songs dealt with the acceptance of death and the sadness of leaving love behind. What struck Noble was that none of the lyrics had anger or resentment of his fate so the result was a genuine feeling of loss. It disturbed him to the core and lingered in his mind for days afterward. It was the art of death.

            Jamul was a great guy. A rapper and poet, he was from Nigeria but had grown up in London. He had come to Ecuador in 2009 after spending time in the joint for stealing cars. Reno trusted him, and confided his misery about Silvia.

            "Unrequited love can kill a man," said Jamul, thinking of a past girlfriend. "It's the cruelest blow to the male ego, man. You find your soul mate; an once-in-a-lifetime meeting that ends the search, a match so rare and valued that it can wind you for years."

            "Well said."

            "It kills you because you think she can't see your gifts. That's the worst." He played another song all about lost love and then pulled out a crumpled piece of paper.

            "I'm working on a song about love right now actually," said Jamul, taking another hit of base from the pipe. "I just have a few lines written and have to polish it y'know. This is what I have: Every side of you is shown, with confident swagger of the alpha male, nothing left in the closet unseen, ensuring she sees all your worth. Yet the glimmer is only fleeting, weak, brief and unconvincing, a realization slow to seep in, to a mind blinded by absolute fate. Danger creeps in doubt swatted away; anger kicks out the warmth of love, resentment at her blindness, violent thoughts now carved into your heart. Hope lingers like a policeman; despair repressed as weak, cockiness surfaces with recklessness, like slapping the face of a sleeping child. The blame falls on you, no sugar-coated charm, violence turns inward to self-destruction, anger now two-fold: at her and within, percolating ‘til the axe severs all." Jamul shrugged. "Gotta polish it y'know."

            Noble looked out his window at the lights of Quito glowing in the dark sky that formed a long snake slinking north to south along the valley floor.

            "It's good you have the ability to write that kind of thing out," he said to Jamul. "Must be therapeutic a bit."

            "Sure nigga. But I prefer my crack y'know." He looked at the baggie of base, giving it a disapproving look. "This stuff ain't as good. Just keep smoking and smoking this shit. Never git real high."

            "I've tried crack."

            "Yeah but you gotta cook your own, clown. It's called freebasing. It's shit I don't have no bicarbonado."

            "No what?"

            "Baking soda dude. Where you been?" Noble didn't want to answer that question and it brought him to a place in his mind where trying crack might be a panacea of sorts.

            "You know who has some is the Dane."

            "Yo dude. He's got everything. Spoon, bicarb and the sugar."

            Without a wink of sleep, Jamul and him went back into the city and found the Dane at his hostel, Noble having grabbed some cocaine from Roberto on the way.


            When they arrived at his room, Madera was still there. Yet again Noble found himself up all night examining the unique culture of Andean South America. Last night had been an emotional ode to Silvia but now he was eager to step up a notch and taste a new flavor. It was part of his acceptance of death, his hands having become so stiff he couldn't close them. The knuckles had turned green. He had started telling others that he had rheumatoid arthritis. Jamul's songs had stirred something deep in his heart that stayed with him all night and all day, which made him bolder in speech and deed.

            He gave the Dane two bags of coke and his Custer book that were warmly welcomed as a gift. It was rare to see the Dane touched. Jamul played his music from his laptop and they busied themselves with the spoon and baking soda so Noble spoke to Madera because she looked sad in the corner. Her husband had asked for a divorce, her father had just died and her eleven-year old was in a coma. With his heart having such a work out, he empathized with her, and gave her advice that she craved, until a shadow of hope crept into her eyes. Noble empathized with Madera in a way that the Dane could not. It was a side of him the Dane had always criticized as being too soft. But with the Dane looking over his shoulder he realized what a little tenderness could do to a grieving woman.

            Madera left and Reno was at hand to watch the freebasing. The Dane, who was fielding pointers from Jamul, took his cooking very seriously. A little powder and a little less baking soda in the spoon and filled with a bit of water, was put over the flame of a candle. It sizzled as the baking soda and blow intermingled and dissolved into oil that sat atop the water. He dipped the end of a lighter to the oil that stuck to the light. Letting it dry it became hard. Once chipped off the plastic lighter it looked like a tooth. So the Dane broke pieces off and filled each man's pipe on top of cigarette ash.

            "Wow," said Reno after he took a hit from his pipe. It tasted stronger than the time he smoked the rock from Pedro and had a much stronger effect. It was as if a low voltage of electricity hummed through his network of nerves and elevated his mind, stimulating the synapses of his brain rather than retarding them like alcohol. He was about to speak but the Dane raised his hand and said:

            "Don't talk! Keep it in, lie back and put your hands like this." He cupped his hands on his ears. Reno copied and was brought into an eerie place where he could hear winds and echoes as if now in tune with a new dimension. Jamul looked at him as if he had finally walked through a threshold and become a man. The Dane slapped him on the shoulder.

            "Welcome aboard my man." Butterflies swirling in his mind, safe and secure and words streaming across his tongue too quickly to harness and verbalize. A flush of heat caused him to sweat, so he removed his shirt and then another shirt until the cool Andean air chilled his sweat like an east wind from the Atlantic. His mind was so clear and concepts appeared with ease as if they were three-dimension entities that could be handled and manipulated like putty. And the bittersweet taste left on his tongue made it numb, as were his lips, making him want another.

            He sat up and looked at the rock.

            "Another one?" The Dane and Jamul had a hearty chuckle.



Chapter Twenty-one

The Earthquake Virgin


            The heart that beats with brotherhood will climb the highest peaks and withstand the fiercest winds. The man of honor grows with time, points made and debates won, proven true and fair and clear. For mankind without honor is a hodgepodge of guile, the philosopher will show honor through deed and word, an intuitive pillar of virtue impervious to zeitgeist and universal language of mankind. These were Noble's thoughts when he relaxed at the Pitcher Bar in Plaza Foch.

            Even more ripper than the sun at the beach on the mid-point of the earth, exposing your skin in Quito through the untainted air and the closeness of the beams, one experienced the severest ultraviolet radiation in the world. The sun hammered and scraped skin raw and turned your hair into a flaming nest, as Noble relaxed with a pitcher of Passion Punch. Having taken a strategic west-facing table on the patio, the mountaintops were always close to snuffing out the flame. The minute-long instant the sun was blocked by the 12000-foot peaks, finally the pressing intensity that penetrated the skin began to cool as if just placed into a refrigerator.

            It was a strange evening, seeing James and Anthony, the Air Forces guys the night before their departure back to California. James was one of the smartest people he had met. Ten years in the US Air Force, he was on assignment in Quito, living with a local family to help with his total immersion to master Spanish. He attended classes and was active meeting Ecuadorian Air Force personnel in an ambassadorial role to identify areas where the local pilots could use more arms. It was after that night with Diego at Paullina's that James had made an effort to engage Noble. The first time after seeing him at Paullina's, Noble said to him:

            "That was very smooth technique how you laid on top of Paullina that night, as Diego and I drank rum and talked about water. Your execution was graceful and more than welcomed."

            "Good of you to notice," he said, lighting up like a light bulb. "Well you know she grabbed my hands." The gap between his front teeth revealed.

            "But you didn't even hesitate."

            "Very Spanish."

            "And when you did lie on top of her you didn't just have one leg that was, you know, kinda half on." The laughter was pure, which set the tone for the night.

            On another night he joined Noble's team for quiz night. The fifty quiz questions acted like a catalyst for them to touch on all sorts of subjects, quickly realizing there was not enough time to tackle all tangents that were left for the taking, being forced to the next question, ideas and facts dangling above the table, the Dane having the booming voice.

            James was a man who could communicate so concisely that nothing was vague and thus had the ability to inform immense volume of data in a very short time. Words selected with purpose and the slight acknowledgment that the data was being received clearly and that with that understanding he could proceed with more pertinent information. Having spent sixteen months in Special Forces, he stepped to the rear, focusing on South America and international relations. He became a liaison man in Chile where he had lived for the past three years and loved his life in the Air Force. SEALS, helicopters and target-seeking missiles hitting painted targets, James explained how the missile had a built-in computer system that mapped major geographical landmarks of the GPS coordinates and actually slows down to zero in on the precise location of the target.

            "It's amazing how it works." He was a man who had found a path in life that provided him with the things that made him excited, goosey like a child, continually amazed at the entire world of the US Armed Forces, his high IQ and test scores making him too valuable to be at the front. James had found his niche, and it was infectious.

            So when Noble saw James and Anthony on the patio of Bungalow after leaving the Passion Punch in Plaza Foch, he didn't know it was the pilots' last night in Quito.

            "Hey man watch it!" said James as Reno elbowed him as he walked by. Then the double take.

            "I thought you left!"

            "I've been at the beach. Canoa. It was cool."

            "Good, I was hoping to see you. And on my last night here in Ecuador. What are the chances?"

            "Good question." He put his hand on Noble's shoulder.

            "I have to say dude, you are one of the smartest, most interesting guys I've met." Noble and Reno had no rebuttal, both bad with blatant compliments. Must have been all that dormant knowledge from history books that Reno liked to spout when in his element.

            James wore a t-shirt, warm and insulated with layers of untainted white muscle, and Noble wore his leather jacket but he was the one shivering. Then Anthony appeared on the balcony.

            "I'm so glad you're here. Man I have to say, you are one hell of an intelligent dude." He put his hand on his leathered shoulder. "When we spoke you taught me something. I mean you engaged me in a way that I learned." Again, unexpected gushing. "I've never met a guy like you. I mean you meet lots of people but without a doubt you are the most interesting guy I've met." Quiet and uneasy, Noble was tongue-tied. Reno was dam proud.

            Anthony took him downstairs to his booth where he had a bottle of rum he had purchased from the bar. The dance floor was packed.

            "I can hardly wait to retire so I could smoke weed with you. And party a bit more than just booze." Hot and moist from the dancers, they went back to the second-floor patio to have a smoke. James was with a number of women.

            "Ah, this guy is one of the smartest dudes I've ever met. Seriously, he's seriously interesting. An intellect." Reno awkward as the women studied him. Why?

            After leaving the pilots, Brett the Brit, Paullina, Gabby the blonde Romanian and Hubert from Quebec. Reno, now loose from the booze and away from the barrage of comments about his character, was bold enough to splatter some coke on a large business card. A positive response. Reno did the first hit in a loose and dramatic fashion, and then passed it around. Everything changed after that. Everyone chattered, laughed and had a twinkle in their eye. History came up and it was Brett's turn.

            "How do you know all this history?" It was the discussion with Hubert about Pierre Radisson and his role in early North American history.

            And then the question of where the Normans came from, and Dublin as a Viking fort.

            "What are you? A history major?"

            "He's educated," said Paullina. "That's why I can talk to him for hours." Then she turned to him and said: "By the way, are you going to move in with me? I'm still looking for a roommate." It was time for him to find an apartment.

            Later, at Pacha, it was Hubert who was digging some heavy stuff.

            "I'm so glad I met you," he said, shaking his head. "The stuff you're saying. I mean it's wisdom. And it's just what I need. I'll be thinking about it for a while I'm sure." Then the police raided the club. Even after, when they were at Paullina's and only Gabby was awake, she said" "You clearly are a genius." Either Reno was having an impact or it was the jacket and new bifocals.

            Just as he was finishing off the last lines on the table, a deep rumble went up his legs. He thought it was a heavy truck going by but there was no sounds of traffic. He stood up.

            "Do you feel that?" The Romanian's eyes were wide open and she smiled. Noble looked at the window and saw it shaking. The building shook for ten seconds. "Was that-"

            "First earthquake?" The Romanian enjoyed seeing the look on his face.

            "Oh, that's weird." Noble was slightly crouched, as if that was going to do any good. He had read about earthquakes in books but had never experienced one. And that was the thing: experiencing an earthquake was different than how he had imagined it would be.

            "Don't have many earthquakes in Texas?" When he had determined that it was over, he still felt a knot of fear in his gut.

            "Nope. Not many earthquakes from where I'm from." She sat there grinning. He had no idea what the protocol was.

            "An earthquake virgin."

            "Yep. That's exactly what I was." She kept the smile so he took his cue and brought her back to his guesthouse for a deeper discussion on the dynamics of tectonics and the earth's crust shifting. The tutorial lasted for hours.


Table of Contents

  1. The Divine Elbow
  2. Just Surviving As Noble Intent
  3. Surpassing Neophobia
  4. The Middle of the World
  5. The Dane
  6. The Religion of Sfauism
  7. Celebrating Chemistry
  8. Connected Columbians
  9. Stuntmen and Dakar Motorcycle Groupies
  10. Into Amazon Waters
  11. A Beautiful Repressive Niche
  12. Canalazo de Naranilla
  13. Cajunes el grande
  14. A Noble Doppelgänger
  15. Reno Finds His Footing
  16. How to Make a Bomb Out of a Light Bulb
  17. The Impossible Black Lily
  18. The Boy Fascist
  19. Artistas
  20. The Art of Death
  21. The Earthquake Virgin
  22. Lambaster of Laughter
  23. The Sweet Cadence of Scheudenfreunden
  24. Matador: the Agent of Destiny
  25. Overfilling
  26. Mobile Piping
  27. Aristotle’s Character Years
  28. The Great Pilgrimage
  29. A Purpose for Your Sins
  30. Errol Flynn
  31. The Better Man
  32. The Addict’s Ladder
  33. The African Club
  34. The Dutch Hair Piece
  35. The Swiss Army Knife
  36. The Scent of Ammonia
  37. At the Mouth of the Amazon
  38. Broken and Renewed
  39. Seizing the Moment
  40. A Recent Past Discovered
  41. Pinned and Threatened by Fate
  42. Twice as Much in Half the Time
  43. The Assassination
  44. The Pledge
  45. Slandering Hamlet
  46. Stealing Time
  47. Hannibal at the Gates
  48. On the Old Contraband Trail





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