Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Thirty

Errol Flynn

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            The character of a dying man is revealed through the choices they make, a mirror of what is valued, proclaiming what they seek. This was Noble's thought when sitting pensive on his hotel's rooftop smoking a joint.

            Many thoughts went through his mind as he sat, enjoying the view of the waves hitting the shore in perfect white lines. He toyed with Joyce's Ulysses in his hand and stared in awe at Pete hanging with the birds off the sand cliff, quiet and still. 

             What is thought? He wondered, it must be more than what the Irishman thought of thought. He read: "Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms." Tranquil yes, but do thoughts not have substance to them? A weight? There must be more than just a dark void in the box of thought, something that nullifies Joyce's view of the void: a thrice-deduced thought still taking place within a thought, complete with emotional, physical and mental landscapes outlined with color and smells and pain.

            Noble knew he would never hand-glide with the Migrants floating off the cliff. He knew he didn't have the strength to do it, but he could let the thought in, and toy with the image, the wind and the smell of salt air making the thought richer, an event that was to never be but had the shudder of realism. He was grateful for the firsthand witnessing of what it was like but what bothered him was that he could have succeeded to fly with the black and white birds and gazed at the Pacific sunset when he was of able limb and had the time. No matter what he did he could never have the full experience of hovering like a bird, astral planning in the flutter of the air, in control of a soundless ship, accepted by the Migrants and seagulls as one of them. This realization wrecked the joy he was feeling in the presence of the evolution of flying, and made him think: Do dreamers merely become better dreamers if no action is taken? Is their expertise not mental projection, void of tactility and touch? Is not a dreamer, who does not act, an incomplete man? He can live many lives in his imagination but his shoulders are thin and his stomach is soft.

            Noble stayed on the balcony alone the entire day, thinking of his life and the time he had left.

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            It is easy to forget that within a twenty-four hour stretch, one well-connected man can make the difference between surviving and thriving. The flow of a given day, especially an off day, can make or break the level of richness experienced. Most people close the door of opportunity after initial contact, and a few will entertain a man with idiosyncratic eccentricities, both wanting to gently remove oneself from the pending melee that will lead to a wasted day. However some, who recognize a door when they see one, will let it go on in a moment-to-moment tender, which can lead to new vistas, new people and new experiences. With a laidback, laissez-faire attitude, one can renew their faith in the fellowship of man. So when this stranger, an untested and unproven quantity, wants to say something about their story, the revelation can be overwhelming.

            The next day started with an innocent fish and rice dish and coffee, with his Kit Carson book opened and the breeze soothing, but morphed into an opportunity and an emphatic yes. It was a day that flourished on the foundation of yes. From the restaurant Noble and Errol went to the Bamboo café for coffee and then a kiosk on the beach for a beer. Feeling like a Sfauist and not wanting to speak too much, Errol started to talk about his time in the army when he was Special Forces in Vietnam, his time at the Okinawa naval base, his time as a merchant marine, followed by a full confession of his love for the cowboy life and Errol Flynn. The living adventure behind this stranger came to life, the words that explain the story of the scars and lines on his face, and the hidden corner pieces in the puzzle of the man.

            Big-boned and understated, Errol was in his sixties, wife dead and kids grown, roaming around South America because it was the only part of the world he had not seen.

            "What I'd really like to do with my time now is get back to ranching, like I done in New Mexico for those years after the navy. Boy them days were good."

            "So you were a cowboy who chose to go to sea," said Noble.

            "That's exactly right. Never heard it put that way before. Simplifies it good too."

            "Well at least you chose something, and didn't let inertia take you." Errol was uncomfortable with the word ‘inertia.' "Momentum," he added, met with a nod.

            "Anyone who reads about Kit Carson has gotta have something worth something in him. I don't know much about what he did other than he was the best shot during the Civil War and that he got on well with the Indians."

            "His father was buddies with Daniel Boone."

            "No shit?"

            "So when the new immigrants were landing in East Kentucky Daniel Boone picked up, left his farm and moved to West Kentucky and founded a town called Booneville. So the Carsons followed him there, which was wide-open prairie with a lot of Indian contact. That's when Kit, who was about twelve, decided he was going to have the best shot of any of them, Daniel Boone or his father. He was short, about five-foot one, so when he finally beat them both in their annual shooting contest, he was invited out to hunt. That's when he learned many of the Indian dialects that was to shape his life." Errol had become all ears after telling his own life story.

            "Carson City was named after him, indt' it?"

            "Yep, and Fort Carson, in Nevada. He lived as a hunter for seven years, learning from the best Mountain Men, like big Jim Bridger and the others lost to the record of history. Lived in the bush, improved his shot, and became known as a fair man with the Blackfoot and Sioux in the area. He was given the Indian name Otter, which was a name of respect among the Natives."

            "And then the Civil War came."

            "Drafted into the military he became a Brigadier-General, same as Custer."

            "But Custer fought for the north."

            "Custer." Noble shook his head at what a character Custer had been.

            "He had a bit of an attitude problem dint' he? Sort of cavalier."

            "Very cavalier. He used to play fight with is old classmates from West Point after a battle, with his regiment suffering the highest casualty rate of any other on both sides."

            "West point, huh?"

            "Last in his class."

            "Loved his moustache though."

            "But it was after the Civil War and after Custer's Last Stand particularly that Kit Carson really hit his stride. General Sherman was hell-bent on getting the Indians to live on reservations so they could open up the west, so he hired Kit specifically to subdue the strongest tribe who had as yet not engaged with the White Man."

            "The Apache?"

            "The Navajo. They lived on top of this plateau that was a natural fortress, protected on the best land in the south. So instead of taking them on in direct battles as most other generals did, Kit starved them out by burning their crops, completely subduing them in eighteen months. Didn't even shed blood. One day the chief went up to him and said: ‘Where do we go?' It was brilliant."

            "So what happened to him after that?"

            "He became an Indian Agent in New Mexico close to the border, got married to a Mexican and then died when he fell off his steed at the age of fifty-seven. Died from his injuries." Errol slapped his hand on the table.

            "Well ain't that a story! Fell off his horse! Ain't that-a-way to go."

            It's strange, he thought, how a man is defined by their death.

            "Yep, just like Genghis Khan."

            "Is that so?"

            "And I believe Crazy Horse also died young from falling off his horse. What a life. Wasn't even forty when he graduated to the Spirit World."

            "Spirit World, I like that. Got to try to remember that one."

            "And Friedrich Nietzsche too though he didn't die. Fell off his horse as a medical orderly during the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and shattered something in his chest. Was never the same after that. Took to drugs and of course had his breakdown when he was forty-four. All from a horse."

            "Getting' thrown off a horse is pretty damn serious. Snap your neck or break your back. If you ain't got the alpha status of one of them big steeds they'll buck you off or gallop and twist, which is the more common. You ever been bucked off?" Reno didn't want to admit he had never ridden a horse but Noble thought it would healthy to verbally admit it.

            "Flynn, no, in fact I've never-"

            "God damn good you ain't an keep it that way. See, I'm part Indian. My great-granddaddy did that long walk from Florida and was one of those few to survive. You know what I'm talking about?" It was a challenge, his hand played to his Native blood, his cache in the woodpile. Noble could see now the strong hairline and big bones and square jaw and wide cheekbones.

            "Yeah, when they forced the Indians to walk west across a longitudinal point on the map, which they did, and then the law was all Indians west of the Mississippi, which is what they did. Forced march."

            "They' all ended up in Okalahoma I bet." Slapped his knee, chin jutting out, secret knowledge shared. "That's where my great-granddaddy settled. Some nice land up in those parts, er, just past Okalahoma. Good ranchin' up there." Errol swung his hand down and whacked the leather on his cowboy boots. "Damn I miss horsing around. Here it's legal to wear a pistol in a holster. Oh yeah, you can do some real cowboying here in Ecuador. They just haven't got around to changing the law. I even checked out a forty-hectare plot with those chocolate plants, er, the one they make chocolate from. "

            "Cacao plants."

            "That's the one! Lots of those, and good spaces for ridin'. Get mahself a piece."

           


 

Chapter Thirty-one

The Better Man

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            Most of those you know in your life will never reach the heights and horizons of the free man's life. For a fair and democratic man, this is a gross injustice. These were his thoughts when he was walking the streets of Bahia del Caraquez.

           The peninsula was windy and the waves smashed against the jagged rock along the shore to the south by the red-and-white beacon scarred by salt and wind, but within the Spanish colonial bungalows and mature palms, it was like a bird sanctuary, especially around the trees and statues in central park, where there was an impromptu concert of local talent. The air stirred with erupting sounds of nature, but did not roar like Canoa. No bamboo huts here. Only walled bungalows with a patio, garden and hammock. Expatriate history was palpable on this red carpet to the Pacific and once busiest port in Ecuador.

           Not being able to find any place private enough to smoke his pipe, Noble took a room at a guesthouse overlooking the park. But he was given a dormitory all to himself, with three bunk beds and a window obscured by a palm tree that gave him privacy to smoke his pipe. The tops of the walls were open so any smoke that escaped could be smelled in the open hallways that joined the owner's flat. Extreme caution was required. Reno locked the door and focused on giving his pipe a cleaning and testing its functionality. He had the dorm for the day before he left on the night bus to Quito. His visa expired in three days.

&

            Addiction will always be the mothership. All else will be squeezed out by the mothership, not allowing any flowers to grow. This crossed Noble's mind when knew the acrid smell of the smoke was noticeable in the hallway. Then a coppery cough.

            "Oxygen turns even steel into dust," he said out loud.

            In the calming crossbreeze of the peninsula, Noble settled in at a cabinas and made some telephone calls. With the copper of death on his tongue, he knew death was not far. He first called his sister but she didn't answer. He left a message saying he was safe and happy in South America and that he would call back in a few minutes. Then he called his brother.

            "Hey big shooter. Where the hellya ‘been?" Drunken slur.

            "Moved out," he replied. "I'm living in South America."

            "Looka that pussy. Shit man, you don't know shit about me do you? You know where I've been man? Last nine months I've been living with this chick who just dumped me for her old boyfriend despite leaving her with a million-dollar mortgage."

            "Oh yeah."

            "I had this great gig. People would pay me after buying me dinner and drinks and answering questions about the club. Easy money man."

            "Listen Rex, I'm dying. I have a fatal disease and it's incurable."

            "So what's South America like? Heard you fucked up back home."

            "Fucked up?"

            "What'd ju do? Get canned? You were always like that though. Mom always said so. Said you'd ask for rent for the time you spent in her womb! Fuckin' cheap bastard. Always were, man. Say, whatddya say I come down there and visit? Or would you charge me too?" Laughter melded into a phlegmatic choking. "What's the pussy down there like? Ah, you probably wouldn't know."

            "I have a fatal disease Rex. It's important you know that."

            "D'you have any friends down there?" Intoxicated concrete wall. Hell is the impossibility of reason.

            "Yes, I do. Great guy from Denmark."

            "Those Danes are good stock," he replied, so he knew Rex could hear him.

            "How's Mom?"

            "Same. She's good. Have a beer with her when she's not workin'."

            "Spoken to Dad?"

            "Bastard. Why would I talk to him. Fucking devil that guy. ‘Bit like you." Noble was about to hang up but Reno's wisdom beckoned and he took a moment to hear his input. Here was Rex, wrecked and without a penny, homeless except for the clubhouse of bandits who shared a love he had cultivated. One had to respect that, and the fact he didn't respect Noble had some rationale. Be the bigger man, Reno whispered, be the better man.

            "Rex, I want you to have my apartment if I don't make it home. I'm pretty ill. You can sell it if you want, or keep the tennants for the rent. Doesn't matter to me. It's a thousand a month so it can fortify your income." The silence filled his heart with compassion because the words had penetrated.

            "Noble, you're mad. But thank you."

            "I don't know when I'll speak to you again so let me say I always looked up to you, for your courage and initiative, and so maybe this is my way of saying that. I will send my revised will to Victoria. But everything I have goes to you bro."

            "Don't know about thing you have but keep your chin up, okay?" The tone softer, a moment he had never had before.

            "I will. And I wish-"

            "I do too."

            "I wish I had had more courage. And I wish I could have been a better brother."

            "What's wrong with you? I mean medically?" When he told him there was a longer silence. When he asked if it was genetic, he sighed.

            "No, you won't get it. You're too old."

            "Bloody ironic isn't it?" It felt for a moment they were both nodding into the phone.

            "Enjoy your motorbibking. I wish it was something I had done."

            "Get one down there. Riding must be good."

            "Too late I think. Too late for a lot of things. But I'm happy I'm here. Have met some good people. Finally getting a taste of what life could have been. Great nose candy down here. Wish we coulda shared a line bro." Rex stood up from the table in the clubhouse and walked to a quiet corner where the music wasn't so loud.

            "I bet it is. Better than the stuff we get here though we're working on it."

            "Then get your ass down here on a flight so we have that time together. Think about it. I'd like to you remember me as I am now. Not as the little boy scared to dive into life, you know?"

            "The beginning of the month is coming. Maybe it's a possibility."

            "Give me your bank details and I'll send you enough for a ticket. Call me at this number and let me know when you'll arrive. But hurry. I don't have much time. It would mean a hell of a lot to me Rex." Bank account information was handed over.

            "I'm pretty busy here and they might not let me in the country you know."

            "Give it a try. Promise me that."

            "All right. When I get down there have your shit together. You know what I mean. And maybe we can get some bikes and ride." Noble was doubtful but something in Reno's mind thought serendipity might be in play. This was one timeline he wanted to correct.

            "I'll see ya buddy. Keep your chin up."

            "Thanks Rex. Right, take care man." Hung up. Wrecked by booze, wet brain, freeloader, never worked a day in his life. Blamed the world for his ills. Danger zone. Walking problem area.

            Called his mother.

            "Hi son. Where are you?"

            "Ecuador."

            "Why? You got things t'a do here."

            "No, I quit my job. I have Schleroderma. It's fatal. I'm dyimg Mom."

            "Too bad, eh. Not t'a say you don't deserve it. Never did Diddly with yer life, eh?" The slur of pills and the roar of the television in the background.

            "I thought I would tell you."

            "Hell, it's yer problem. Whaddya wan' me t'a do about it?"

            "Nothing. Are you well?"

            "Selfish bugger jus' like yer father. Never cared a damn." Noble wondered what it would be like to have a normal family, a mother who cared, who listened and who wasn't a pill addict.

            "I don't think I'll be back Mom. I like it down here."

            "Figures. Leavin' me here to pay all the bills. You still owe me money." He could hear her light a cigarette.

            "You take care Mom. I love you." Words hollow. Void of meaning. Window dressing that lacked hue or punch.

            Next he called his father in San Francisco.

            "Hey sport? How're you doing?"

            "Good Dad. I'm living down in South America these days. Moved a few months or so ago. Much different than the States."

            "South America?" asked his father's wife on the other line.

            "Hi Carla."

            "We just took a cruise down there. Fantastic." Sounded like they were having a party.

            "I'm calling to tell you I have an illness that is fatal and there is no cure."

            "That's a shame honey."

            "What's it called son?"

            "Schleroderma."

            "Isn't that what Dorthy has?"

            "Ah, you'll be fine. She's had it for years."

            "Loved that cruise son. Might take another next year. If you're still around then maybe we'll visit." Carla went on for a while about how her friend had battled the disease for years and was fit as a fiddle, but she had to be thinking of a different sickness. Finally he had had enough an said good-bye. And deep despair and loneliness covered him like fog. He tried his sister one more time but she didn't pick up her mobile phone. There were no more people to call. No more ears to listen. Nothing more to do.

            If you don't give them nobody will care.

&

            He was rattled from the all-night bus up the mountains in darkness. Wanton and recklessly skidding around corners, it was a roller coaster without seat belts over unseen bumps with heavy G-Force, but Reno was still able to pack a pipe and feed his habit, more for kicks than for need. For Reno it was great fun, but for Noble the ride jarred his solar plexus that made him a whiter shade of pale.
 
 

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

                  Epilogue

 

 
 

 

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