For context: this extract is set just after the protagonist, Robert, murdered his wife and her lover.
I threw my 75X45 travel case into the trunk of the car. It sat neatly next to a spare tire iron and an aerosol of anti-freeze. I put my key in the ignition and revved the engine. My hands gripped the steering wheel with new, tenacious piety. At that moment, I had the feeling that this rubber wheel might somehow be of great symbolic significance for the Road Ahead. Like a prophetic token burning bright, gifted to me by gods yet unknown. The stage was set. I revved the engine a little more. A wireless key to open the garage door. Go.
I wasn’t exactly sure where I was supposed to be going. I headed out on the road and soon found myself circling, crossing and re-crossing intersections over and over. They were the same intersections I’d crossed a thousand times, all through the years, throughout my early teens, my adolescence, my adulthood. The familiarity was comforting. The consistency, gratifying; I was being cradled by the repetition of movie-reel memories. But after a while the nostalgia slowly waned, and the intersections of San Antonio didn’t seem so comforting anymore. My mind slipped north. I started to miss the sugar-snap bite of birch-tree air. I missed sleeping by the fire in winter, my head on grandpa’s lap. The warmth of pate chinois fresh from the oven. Grandma’s kiss on my forehead. I missed the silence. The dark and humid night in San Antonio made my dreaming lucid, my pining, fluid. I forgot the steering wheel and crashed into the back of a Honda Civic stopped at a red light.
I woke up in a daze with my head buried deep in the car’s deployed airbag. The same song from the kitchen was again in my head; it was faint, but I could nearly make out the words, “Letting the days go by.” There was a tapping sound in the background, “Let the water hold me.” Tap tap tap tap. “Letting the days go by”. Tap tap tap. “Water flowing underground.” Tap tap tap. “Into the blue again, after the money’s gone. Tap tap. “Once in a lifetime.” SMASH. And just like that it came to me. I now knew my destination.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. Then another grabbed my shirt. They started to pull, and before I knew it I was being dragged out through my car’s broken window. I couldn’t make out much of what was going on, but I could see blue flashing lights, and hear people talking around me. I felt prodding and poking on my face, but then it started to fade. Then I passed out.
The indigenous Karipuna people of the Amazon rainforest were first contacted by civilized white man in 1852. The idea to do so was the brainchild of a lesser-known British explorer named Harold Horatio, and was commissioned by the Crown of the Great Britain for the furtherance of the glory of the British Empire.
Harold Horatio was a capricious man with bronco emotions. He could go from euphoric elation, to volcanic rage, to catatonic mental-purgatory with little neuro-chemical effort. He was a hard man to predict. When the Karipuna tribe first met him, they were tentative, and for good reason. He was wild.
Harry’s cooked skin was burnt, bright red, and he was berating his staff with biblical vehemence, flipping from fits of spasmodic laughter, to acute sociopathic rage. This, was the only ambassador the Karipuna had ever had, from the civilized West. Things changed when Harold met the Chief.
Background: only the wisest of the Karipuna get to be the Chief, and by extension they become the ‘Tok Miisama’ – the Master of the Medicine.
Something strange and special happened that day in that particular part of the Amazon rainforest in 1852: for the first time, white man was made civilized.
The Chief saw Harold was troubled, needed help with his rabid, chicken-head-mania. So he took him into his village, and introduced him to the Karipuna way.
Harold studied under the Chief, who remedied him with their medicine ‘Halukee’: the hallucinogenic poison from Psychoactive toads. Harold Horatio was changed.
Despite their wild appearance, the Karipuna people are a pragmatic, calculated bunch. And before they met Harold Horatio the explorer, they didn’t have a word or phrase for ‘unpredictable’. They do now, and it’s ‘Rekuka Kulata’, which roughly translates to ‘travelling man’. A man who travels too much will always be at war with himself. Or so the Chief tells me.
I woke up in a hospital bed. There was a man sat down beside me. I knew where I was, and who he was, but I asked him anyway. “Where am I?”
“You’re in the hospital, Robert. You crashed into the back of a Honda Civic at a red light. You damn near killed the poor guy for chrissake. We’ve got him in a bed down the hall.”
“We’ve tried calling Jan at home and on her cell, but we can’t through. You know why that is? She away or something?”
“Your wife… Janice? Oh, I see. You rest up, Robert.” He got up to leave.
He frowned, “Towed. But your travel case was salvaged from the wreckage. We got it for ya.”
“Can I have it please?”
“Sure. I’ll have the nurse bring it over. You rest up now, Robert.” He left.
That was Brendan Callahan – Dr. Brendan Callahan M.D., physician at Christus Santa Rosa hospital and our family doctor since we moved to San An. He’s a descendant of Irish immigrants who left for Manhattan via the McCorkell shipping line, during the great potato famine. Who would have thought it? A mick doctor. He moved here when he was thirteen, just like me. But he’s a decade older. I know he feels the brutality of the Texan sun like I do. Those of European descent always do.