The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

March 17, 2003

The Eternal Story

Mon Mar 17 16:38:11 EST 2003

"Sometimes," Travis said, "you don't have a choice. But I wake up in the
morning and there's, just for an instant, a sense of hope. You don't know
what to do with it; it begins to fade just as soon as you're alert, as
soon as you realize what the day is going to bring." Sue-Ann felt
otherwise. "I keep the whole day like a bouquet of precious flowers," she
replied, brushing her hair back. "It keeps me going. These aren't hard
times for a lot of people, no matter what you read in the news." Travis
said, "I'm going to pay for the espressos," thinking "with my life in this
era of inconsequence when you can already hear the military band over
there in the Plaza." Sue-Ann was listening intently. When he returned, she
went on, "Brass instruments make me nervous, even in an orchestra. And
marches are so, well, plodding, as if we've nothing better to do than go
around walking in the sand." "Dragging our cannon," replied Travis. He,
too, was ill at ease, glancing at a table across the cafe. The General was
sitting with his Chief of Staff. They, too, heard the music, and smiled.
They were prepared for war. The Chief had laid out a series of maps and
diagrams on the small table. He pointed excitedly. "We're here, but we'll
be here by fall," he said. The General could only agree. All the
satellites carried fresh news of victories. The Chief thought of the
desert. In the desert, Claude had his legs shot off. He screamed. Didn't
the Chief know what was going on? Surely, Sue-Ann must have filled him in.
"Oh, this is a sorry sight," he thought. "I won't survive much longer." In
the distance he could hear cannon-fire; it sounded like a military band,
all that brass singing for the showdown. He wondered where Travis was,
what was going through his mind. Travis was thinking. "War is god-awful.
There's no escape; it fills the air, contaminates everyone except the
righteous. Anyone who can 'die for something' has never lived for
anything. Sue-Ann, thank God, has no illusions. Sue-Ann exists, like I
exist, like the men at that table over there, like Claude. Claude must be
bored out of his mind, all that sand..." He paused, lit a cigarette,
waited for the Resistance to kick in. "Can a desert be ruined," he
wondered. "Can anything?" Claude died. The last radiotelephone call to the
Chief concerned a flock of black birds over the horizon. "They're
everywhere," he said. "They're coming closer and closer. Enormous talons,
black as night, red beaks almost glowing in the sun. The birds." "The
birds" were his last words. The sand was stained red. His black uniform
stood out like the sky. It was inescapable, obscene. The General was
pointing. "Stop thinking about Sue-Ann," he said. He pointed at the maps.
"Over here, and here, and here." His fingers moved quickly across the
landscape. Jean was alone down there, somewhere down there. The Chief said
"Don't think about time. Or space, for that matter. This is dead land, a
dead map. Someday the sun will disappear. In billions of years it will
disappear. That's not much time in the scheme of things. A lot can happen,
but then nothing happens at all. Once you realize that, you're saved. You
don't have to believe anything, and you're saved." Sue-Ann thought of
Jean. "He was my first love," she said, to no one in particular.
"Unbelievably empty. That's what kept him going. That's what destroyed
me." Travis nodded; he was distracted. "Jean" was a name to him, nothing
more. A syllable of affect, like "fuck." It collapsed of its own weight;
it was lost, spoken, unspoken. "Jean," she said. "You know it's Jean." She
paused. "He's nothing to me." The sand covered the body. The army marched
forward, here, and here, and here. The army passed children with their
eyes gouged out, women with the arms and breasts cut off, men without
ears, noses, legs. All alive on the back of the beast. The dead were
indescribable. The birds covered the sky, an enormous migration. The birds
kept going, north to south, east to west, west to east, south to north.
The birds kept flying. The desert, shadowed, cooled. The trace of the army
across the sand... "Let's go," Travis said. "Let's get out of here."
"Okay," said Sue-Ann. "Enough memories anyway. And it's getting late."
They slowly made their way towards the Plaza. The General and the Chief
were already gone. A single napkin remained on the table. "Here," it said.
"The guns here." An arrow pointed to the north-east. Sue-Ann turned it as
they crossed into the street. Louder and louder, the band! Stirring music
and marches! The brass in step! The woodwinds backing up! And the drums!
The drums! Night fell. The waiters chained the chairs down, cleared the
tables. The band played on. A Story for All Times ::

The Eternal Story :: A Story for All Times

Mon Mar 17 17:05:05 EST 2003
Mon Mar 17 17:11:01 EST 2003


Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.