1 9 7 7

Fairwind in Deep Waters

“Giovanni Paolo Panini Carmack” soon proved entirely too ornate and long and sissy a moniker for any young American boy who valued his life and wished to survive in the public schools, so he soon was called “Vanny”, or more simply, “Van.” Before long he grew too embarrassed to give out his real name, of course, and would only own up to Van or Vanny.

Even with the curse of such a name, given him by his mother while on honeymoon with his father, Hank, Van grew up as an otherwise ordinary boy in a working-class Scotch, Irish, German, Anglo-Saxon household-—which is to say, a family based on immigrants who, on his father’s side, landed in America via Ellis Island round about the turn of the century.

By the third generation, the Carmacks has dug in enough to spread out with thousands of other social-climbing immigrants from the crowded tenement districts to at least the environs of the American Dream. Queens, Long Island, though a integral part of New York City, was quiet and middle-class enough in the fifties and sixties to be considered mainstream suburbia even with its large population of blue-collar Italians, Germans, Scots and Irish, and though the Big Apple loomed over-large and almost menacingly on the horizon a boy could always find an empty grassy lot on which to play ball with other boys.

Grade school passed, then came high school, and before a year had passed his mother, who possessed authentic New England blue blood in her veins, began making plans for his college education. Actually, she had made them long before, but they were now coming out into discussion at the dinner table.

“You’ll be attending a fine, old, liberal arts school like I did, “ she announced to him. “Get the idea out of your little mush-filled head you’re going to be nothing but a blue-collar plant operator like your father! He had no other choice, given his family background and lack of education!”

“Baloney!” cried his father, pulling up his sweat-stained blue collar to show he was proud of it. “What is a college education good for?” his father challenged the mother. “I make good money, don’t I—-lots more than any of your darling, tea-drinking, white-collared professors and scholars, that’s for sure!”

Off they would go, debating the "white collar" liberal arts college over the standard "blue collar" technical institute!

Blue collars? White collars? Van listened with his head down as his parents argued the same old things, which he had heard so many times he couldn’t number them.

His high-brow English-blooded mother always held the upper hand, however, being more articulate than her ex-Marine husband. She could always prove her points, whether right or wrong, so Van decided he would have to go to college as she had laid down.

But without defying her he still had the same questions as his dad. Why a college? Why couldn’t he attend a tech institute and become an electric plant operator? What was so bad about that? Why must he strive after “higher education,” as his mother called it? Why must he “strive to express himself and his potential”—as she described it? He had no idea what she meant by “potential” and “self-expression.” It was just a matter of fine words to him, when money was the only thing his mind really could grasp.

The answer was connected with his very name, if he had thought about it. Before his conception, the young Venessa and Hank, the Carmack newlyweds, had visited an art museum. It happened to have a painting by Giovanni Paolo Panini, the late Renaissance-Baroque Italian painter who lived from 1691-1765. Hank wouldn’t have given it a second glance, but Venessa began weeping as she gazed at “The Picture Gallery of Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga”.

From remarks made from time to time, Van had put together the scene at the museum that had resulted in his being given such a weird name.

“Now what’s wrong?” Hank asked, trying to get her away from the painting she had been staring at, crying, and using up all her Kleenex over.

“If it gives you such a bellyache, why look at it? We shudda have never come in here. Let’s get out of here and go see Coney Island and ride the roller coaster. Now there’s a real good time, baby! Give it a chance!”

But Venessa couldn’t be dragged away. “It’s beautiful, oh so beautiful!”

“Beautiful my royal—uh--! Just a pitcher about a lot of other pitchers hung up in some fat, rich, old guy’s fancy digs! Why didn’t he just stick with one pitcher? And make it big enough to look at instead of showin’ all these little ones you can’t see?”

“Oh, you haven’t even seen a thing!” she cried, shedding tears that were drawing notice from other museum visitors. “I—I-“

By the time Hank could get her out of the museum, she had made up her mind. Her first child would be named after the great artist who had spoken so deeply to her soul.

Of course, Hank had to know why.

“But you wouldn’t understand!” was her woman’s response. “I’d be wasting my breath!”

Since she had already shown a strong mind to equal his own, he gave up trying to bend her to his own point of view just to keep a semblance of peace.

So their boy, when he came, was given the world’s most ridiculous name, according to Hank.

“The other boys will kill him because of that stupid, sissy name you gave him!” he tried to tell the mother, but she remained firm, and the name was entered on the birth certificate. “Either they kill him, or he will become a great fighter!”

Van’s fate was, more or less, sealed.

As if turned out, he hadn’t had to fight as much as his father feared, for Van fiercely guarded his name like a state secret and only went by his nickname. That way he found he could avoid the issue, except for a few wiseguys at school who twisted his nickname into an uncomfortable association with “fanny,” trying to goad him into a fight.

But he wasn’t a fighter by nature, especially when it was three or even four bigger classmates against one, unlike his pugilistic dad who had rapid fire fists and loved anything to do with prizefighting and martial arts. In nature, he found he was more like his mother, who liked being alone and reading books and doing various artistic projects like once decorating the house in her idea of Italian Renaissance style (using a lot of gilt paint to cover up cheap, ordinary Sears store furniture). She also took out subscriptions to art magazines and magazines that showed the glories of European palaces—-just to introduce him to a world his father never dreamt of . “I may have missed out on my chance to see these things, “ she told him, “but you will have your chance if you don’t throw yours away by getting married too soon!”

When he got to high school, his mother was all more determined to see his education through into college. He was dutiful enough, but didn’t always get the high grades she demanded, as he found he wasn’t all that interested in art and high culture and the classical music she cared so much about. He did best in math and science, but he found he couldn’t bring home a full 4 point average in just those subjects, for every A infuriated her when he didn’t match them with A’s in art and music.

Graduating, with less than 4 point average, he didn’t win any scholarships to the elite Ivy League universities or colleges, but his 3.8 average was good enough to get him accepted at Stuyvesant University, a fine old establishment which she had attended years before and which didn’t forget the honor due her Mayflower Pilgrim forebears, the Hoights who had left Durham, England, emigrating to Holland to seek freedom of worship, then sailing with a whole group of fellow believers in the Mayflower to set up a new colony in America.

“Now why does he have to go to that stuffy, old, hifalutin Dutch school of yours?” his father objected. “He’s meat-and-potatoes American! They’re not going to teach anything he can use to make money with! He’ll starve with no job in an artist’s cubbyhole apartment in Greenwich Village, or my name isn’t—“

“It’s NOT Dutch, stupid, it’s pure Mayflower Pilgrim English—that’s just the name given by some of the founders who wanted to make a tribute to Holland for having afforded them sanctuary for a time. Anyway, he’ll learn how to be a gentleman and get out of this low life we’re all stuck in!” his mother retorted, her pale English eyes flashing at her husband’s black coals. “He’ll learn all sorts of things he’ll need, like the way to speak with proper English to other educated men and women, if he is to get a good position at a bank or possibly a government—“

“It’s a waste of time and money to send him there, I tell you! And what do you mean we’re living like low life? What’s low about our life? You’ve got a roof over your head. A car to drive when I’m not using it. A vacation in the Adirondacks or the Jersey beaches ever so often. Food on your plate. And I pay the bills for all this, don’t I? Don’t I?”

“He’s going to S.U.! I won’t see my son become another ignorant, empty-brained plant operator, with nothing to show for twenty years but his savings and this flimsy old house we live in!”

Hank Carmack, shocked, gazed about at the aging Carmack residence with its peeling wall tiles and cracked paint on the molding and window sills, with lighting fixtures that looked like the gaslit 19th century’s. “Now what’s wrong with this joint? It’s just a little vintage, that’s all. These old firemen’s houses were built to last though. The older the better they get! You can’t make them any stronger than this. See, baby—“

He went to show the strength of the wall by striking it with a fist and was surprised when his hand shot completely through the kitchen wall and came out the other side in a bedroom, provoking a hysterical shriek from Charlotte, Van’s youngest sister.

The upshot of the argument is that his father, seemingly, lost, and Van went to S.U. Two years in, with his grades failing, unable to relate to the heavy course load of literary and philosophical subjects, he dropped out. With no where to go for refuge, Van made a miserable circuit of NYC’s main sights and then crept home, arriving late one night after everyone was in bed.

His mother caught him at the door. “Where have you been?” she cried. “I’ve been out of my mind almost, not knowing if you were dead or alive, kidnapped or murdered!”

“I’m all right, I’m all right!” he cried back in her furious face. Then he pushed by her and flung himself into his father’s grease-stained, overstuffed chair.

“But you left college without telling us! You didn’t even write what you were doing! What were we to think?”

By time the whole household was up and coming in, partly dressed or still in pajamas and robes.

Knowing he couldn’t have done worse, but not knowing what else he could have done, Van tried to just sit and take whatever they said.

His father too was mad. “Yeah, what is the big idea! Throwing my good money away, taking off like that! Explain yourself!”

What could he say? He had found the whole thing impossible: having to learn things he couldn’t understand, when all he really understood was algebra, trig, geometry, and physics!

“It just won’t work for me!” he cried, breaking his silence.

“What won’t work for you?” his mother shrieked as his sisters began to cry from all the high-flying emotions of having thought him maybe kidnapped and dead, then finding him in the house but their parents yelling at him as if he were a criminal.

“I am different from you!” he cried, with with fists clenched. “ I mean, you can’t live your life in me. I can’t do that anymore. I have to live my own life! Do you understand that?”

When he finished speaking, he found himself standing over his mother, shouting into her face.

Suddenly, he felt his shoulder seized by what felt like the hand of an enraged gorilla, and the next moment he was hurled down against the sofa. He bounced off it and fell onto the floor. When he rolled over and looked up, his father had his foot pressed down on his stomach, so he couldn’t breathe.

“Don’t you mouth off to your mother that way! Why, I’ll break every bone--”

Venessa grabbed his arm, digging in her nails as hard as she could. “Leave him alone!”

Van’s sisters now flew to his aid. It was a terrible scene, and there was no sleep that night as arguments erupted between this and that party, calmed, then erupted again. What was to be done? Van wished he had never come home. He made as if to leave, but his hunk of a father blocked the door with his own body—a mass of muscle that twice outweighed Van’s and was hard as rock.

“You’re not leaving until I throw you out, understand?”

His mother then intervened. “You throw him out,” she told Hank, “and I swear I’ll leave you. Raise the girls yourself! You know you couldn’t take one week of making meals and washing for them and seeing that they do their schoolwork and tying their hair ribbons and--”

That took the wind completely out of Hank and with his face turning almost green he backed off. “Uh, I didn’t mean it! I was just trying to put a little scare into him, that’s all.”

Venessa gave him a poisonous look, then turned back to Van. “We’ll discuss this again later. I can see this isn’t going to be resolved tonight. You’ve got some sorting out to do in your mind, I think. Right?”

He shook his head. She had that right, he knew. Somehow mothers were always right about things like that. As for his dad, of course he wouldn’t have a clew.

So then he went off to bed, and a couple days later his mother stopped him when he was going out for a walk. She had a pie freshly made for him and waiting for him to have a piece with a big scoop of Vanilla ice cream.

“Let’s talk, and first we’re going to have that cherry pie you like so much! Your Grandma’s special Graham cracker crust too that you like so much!”

He wasn’t hungry, but he grinned. “Sure.”

After the pie and coffee, she looked into his eyes. “Well?”

He felt all hot in his face for a moment, then the sudden resolve gathered in his gut, and he spouted it all out. “Dad is right this time. I’m going to the tech institute!”

His mother stared at him, then swallowed, and without a word-—which was the most terrible thing to him—got up and left him.

Two years at the Harpaala Technical Institute, with some paying work for the NYC Parks Commission during terms at the World’s Fair site helping remove the last vestiges of the old gates and some exhibits that just got left by their contributing countries, and he did well, sending home top grades in his class. His mother, even at break, never discussed his grades performance nor the awards he also received, and his father, to keep the peace, managed to keep from bragging how he had been right.

The three year course was soon to end, with only six months to go. His father was already lining up a plant operator position at a new plant Consolidated Edison was opening in Troy. On the riverside site, rapid progress had been made, and his dad figured it would be only about six more months before it would need personnel to run it.

What could be more perfect for his son? His future was set in concrete, a sure success from the get-go! It was then on his last break he was downtown, looking casually for a shirt for the holidays, when his eye caught on a Fun Travel Argo Affiliate Agency poster, proclaiming a “spectacular” Cruise Ship “Voyage from Modern Civilization to a Lost Civilization.”

There was a picture of Brooklyn Bridge and New York City’s skyline at night above a lush, green South American mountain top ringed with the walls and temples of the Incas’ lost city, Machu Picchu. Beneath that was the sleek white T.S.S. Fairwind, sailing bravely into the greatest adventure of a lifetime. One look was fatal: a tremendous wave of feeling swept through him, and he could not find it in him to resist.

He walked away, turned back and stood looking at the poster, and he couldn’t tear himself away. It somehow gave him the same, overwhelming shudder of wonder in his inmost being that he had felt years before, gazing at Robot Man in the Westinghouse "Century 22" Exhibit pavilion at the New York World's Fair.

Impelled by a greater force than common sense and thrift could master, he went in and asked about the cruise, getting the departure dates, fares, and other details.

The woman at the desk didn’t seem to be interested in his going.

“We have some of the best families represented already on the passenger list—people like the Canfields, Coopers, Butlers, Schultzes, McCoys, Duvalls, Bormans, Paynes, Burgers, Grosvenors, Wetmores, Hummelsines, Doyles, and so on—so naturally, they won’t be accepting just anybody off the street, for if you go first class or even second class you’ll possibly be invited to dine with them and do all sorts of things together during the voyage. With that in mind, can you tell me your family name?”

“Carmack.” “’Car-mack,’?” After a doubtful glance at him and saying it like she had tasted tarmac, she thumbed through a little blue book, Social Register of New York and New England. “Oh dear, I don’t think there’s anyone here by that name.”

Noting an indifference and the almost pitying tone she used with his family name, he finally understood her. “My mother was a Hoight. I think they’re in your book. The first Hoights were Pilgrims related to Captain Bradshaw, you know, and came over with him and the other Pilgrims on the Mayflower.”

If a bell had rung, it couldn’t have been clearer that he was well-connected, indeed, to have a mother with Mayflower lineage! Of course, he needn’t tell her about his “blue-blooded” mother’s romantic slip into a “bad marriage” to a common working man of very mixed nationality!

Flashing him a brilliant smile, the agent chirped, pushing a button that changed the Perry Como and Frank Sinatra office music to Beethoven. “Well, excellent, sir! Why didn’t you say so before that you are a Hoight-Carmack? You’re perfectly welcome, of course! Now then, what can we do for you, sir? You absolutely going to love what we have for you on this fantastic tour!"

Seating him in an executive’s padded chair whisked from her employer’s office, she poured him fresh coffee in her own highly prized Dresden china coffee cup (one of a set she kept for special New England Brahmins like the Grosvenors) and then began telling him in detail how this was the greatest tour of the season, with Peter Duchin and his orchestra aboard, and three full cruise days thrown in free if he sailed from New York.

“It's a Norwegian-American Line cruise ship on lease, and we’ve got a crew of 500, all superbly trained Italian nationals, and unbelievable European luxury—some of the finest artwork any museum could boast! Braque, Picasso, Utrillo, Dufy, Hillaire, Idoux, even some campy Andy Warhol pop art for the younger American set! American breakfasts, French luncheons, Italian dinners—swimming pools, saunas, golf, bowling—or you can dance with your lovely date for the evening, gamble in the five casinos, watch the best movies in any of three theaters, or snack at any of the seven restaurants aboard! Imagine, the glamour of the Everglades of Florida, the Keys, the Caribbean islands of San Croix, Martinique, Dutch Aruba, then the Panama Canal and the fun of several evenings of incredible night life of the tropical port cities—then on to Peru’s imperial Spanish capital of Lima and, to climax it all, the glorious Lost City of Machu Picchu on the edge of the snow-capped, four-mile-high peaks of the Andes! Imagine yourself in such a place as you’ll never, never see here in America—an authentic lost city of the royal Incas who ruled an empire stretching from Ecuador to Chile and Argentina. That beats any Western ghost town from the Gold Rush days by a mile, I think!“

She then held out a picture, which showed him the Lost City high up in the crags of the Andes--a city lost in clouds and dreams of a vanished Inca civilization--which was so beautiful and mysterious to him at that moment he felt his heart ache to see it with his own eyes. Could anything on earth be so far and different from dirty, noisy, blue-collared Queens? To him, though it was unmistakably a ruin, it looked like a little piece of heaven!

"I am fully informed that some authorities spell "Machu" with two c's, but I prefer one "c," which gives it a softer, more refined pronunciation, to my thinking," she explained, her eye fixed on him though his mind was a thousand miles away from her grammatical splitting of hairs.

Putting the picture away, the agent went on about the tour, introducing him optional sight-seeing excursions to still-used Inca suspension rope bridges miles up in the high Andes, but he wasn’t listening. He knew he was going. He had to go! It was a sudden, irresistible urge that welled up from his inmost being! His mother was right! He couldn’t deny the part of him that she had put in him long ago before his birth! His name and what it meant to her couldn’t be put off any longer! He had six months to go at the institute but he had the agent book him for the May 14 cruise, though he might not be allowed to graduate in June if he left for twenty one days at that late date.

“Do you like to dance?” she asked, smiling.

“Oh, yes!” he lied, ashamed to tell her he had inherited his father’s total lack of rhythm and horror of slippery dance floors (his father would never forget the time he split the crotch of his new Woolworths pants trying an acrobatic Forties’ dance maneuver with a date in front of 200 other young people in a Queens dance hall).

“Well, good, since there’s a dance band going every evening, and the disco too for the more energetic. You find dancing will get help you mix quickly and you’ll get to know a lot of people your age.”

Putting down his deposit with a check, he left, trembling in his shoes at what he had done.

His mother, sensitive to his moods, noticed something had changed in him. Before she could say anything, he pulled out a brochure and handed it to her. She looked at it, dumbfounded.

“But you’re just about to graduate in June,” she said. “How can you go on a tour like this now? What could you be thinking of? You’re not acting sensible at all. Are you crazy? Your father--”

He looked at her, unable to explain a thing, but his face must have told her what his heart could not, for her face softened, and she smiled. She took his face in her hands.

“I think it’s worth it all, just seeing you as happy as this! Whatever happens, I’ll stand behind you, Giovanni! I won’t let the brute lay one finger on you! Follow your dream! Nobody else can do it but you!”

Nobody else but his mother could call him by his horrible, foreign Italian name, if he could help it. He nodded, his face still cupped in her hands.

It was then she began to weep, and he knew exactly why this time. He put his arms around her, and she let him as her ribs fluttered against his chest.

How thin and frail his mother was! He realized with shock. She was so dominant, but it was only verbal. His father, on the contrary, was strong as a Scotch highland bull, yet bowed to her will, simply because he couldn’t outtalk her. Perhaps it was just as well—since she wouldn’t give up her dream, even if she couldn’t bring it to pass in her own life. But could he? He had just begun, he knew, to follow his dream. Where would it lead? Would his life crash in 21 days, back upon the rocks of reality? Or would this cruise really be life-changing, as he hoped with all his heart it would be? Regardless of the income, he had to risk everything. He had to find out whether dreams could ever overcome reality.

Lastly, like all mothers she had to inspect his appearance and straighten his tie. When she was satisfied he passed muster for a gentlemen, she let him go. Van stood for a moment, not sure of himself. Was he doing the right thing after all? Nobody else seemed to think so. But a look in the mirror reassured him. He was dressed neatly and correctly, was he not? His mother thought so, anyway. Just the same, he checked himself again.

Van Carmack

The uproar that his exotic and very expensive cruise ship plans would have naturally caused was averted, by plan, by simply not telling his father. He had savings he could draw on, earned at the World’s Fair site, which he hadn’t told anyone about. That money was supposed to go for a car when he finished at the institute, but he decided he didn’t need the car badly enough. If it came to that, there were always the public buses and trains. As for boats? It was a boat that had gotten him into this situation, come to think of it, he considered. Hadn’t he been playing in the Hudson when a kid and found a bottle, all corked like bottles had been in days gone by. Finding a message was a great thrill, for that was just what he had hoped. But the message, a letter from a girl in Troy whose dad worked in the railroads, was the strangest thing. It had been written years before, back in the 1920s. Addressed to “Mystery Boy of the Future Who Finds This Letter—“ it went on to tell him what he could expect to find in life if he didn’t “drowned himself” in the Hudson or get “runned over by a train.” Did he still have the old letter and the bottle? He couldn’t recall where he had put it. But he remembered the message now that he was getting ready to do some of the things the letter, so strangely, had told him he would do. It came to him now, revised somewhat to fit better into adult language, but it was the same message:

“Dear Mystery Boy, this dirty, smelly, old river I see every day of my life is flowing down to the sea, which is your life, a wonderful place where I can’t go if Dad won’t take us. I live up here in this stupid old Troy, where I may have to live all my life, but you can go to all sorts of places for me, my secret friend! And I can write now and send you this letter. Listen to me! When the beautiful ship of your dreams comes to the dock, get on it. Don’t let it pass you by. There’ll never be another like it.

You’ll know what ship to get on, for it will take you to places you really need to go. They are places of danger and trouble that you will explore, but you must go there and see what they are like. If you don’t go and see them, you won’t become the man you are supposed to be in life. Be very careful. Don’t get drowned like some stupid kids I knowwd, or runned over by a big car like Diamond Leggs has—and you can go on the big ship of dreams.

I see it! I dreamed about it! It’s white all over, with gold stripes and flags flying on lines on the top parts, and flies as fast as planes can fly. Inside, it is beautiful too, and there are thousands of people from all over the world to talk to!

It will be fine until you pass over the sunk time gates. Then the room of death opens in the water and the ruined tower comes up at you like a reef and you all runned aground on it—then you must not get off! Listen to the old man tell you about his country that’s called—something very strange—Van??? But don’t run away with the others!

Remember one thing. Stay on the white ship even if nobody else does!!! That will save you and your dream, my secret pal. Goodbye! We’ll meet if you do what I say--“

At that point the message from the trainmaster’s daughter became unintelligible to him, and he didn’t understand it. Not that it mattered. Her mention of a country named “Van”—stunned him. He read on with full interest now. “Room of death?”

He had grown up with Italians, and could carry on some conversation in it. In Italian, “room of death” would be “amera della morte”. Ruined tower was “Torre Sgarrata.”

Sunken time gates? Diamond Leggs? And who was the old man he was supposed to listen to? Was there really a country with his name? He had never heard of it. He didn’t dare ask his father about the possible meanings. It was best to take the cruise and face the “music” afterwards if the school administration refused to graduate him, despite his straight A record.

After all, it was the 1960s, he knew, the era of student protests, sit-ins, and black race riots and demonstrations going on everywhere. What he was planning to do fit right in with the way his generation was feeling about life, and they should just accept it and not hold his degree. That was all he could hope, he decided, since he couldn’t expect to be given a break that long without a genuine family emergency.

He was sitting in his room on board the Fairwind, and having nothing else to do at the moment, gazing at a reproduction of Monet’s “Poppies of a Field of Alsace” on the wall when the door opened and a stranger burst in.

The fellow glanced at Van and said, "Aren't you kinda young to be traveling alone, bud?" Shaking his head, he grabbed Van’s hand, shook it once with a loose, somewhat damp grip, and said, “Hey! I’m your cabin mate! Your name? Don’t tell me. Let me guess! Welcome to the cruise of the century, Mr. Van Carmack! Travis Albright Harrison at your service! Can you help me get my bags in? I don’t wanna pay that lazy bum out there for doing nothin’!”

Going with Travis, Van found the door blocked with four or five big bags. He picked up the first two, which felt light as feathers.

“That’s right! You’re not mistaken. I never board with full bags—I DEPART with full bags! People give me plenty souvenirs, you see! And the babes on board-—well, I get things from them too! So I need the space. I pack one bag of personal items and carry on four empty ones! Smart, eh?”

Not sure that sounded quite right, but not able to seek another meaning, Van took the bags in and helped get the rest, and when Travis had slammed the door in the porter’s face without giving him a tip Van sat back down on his bed, intending to finish his unpacking. Every tee shirt and boxer shorts, everything folded neatly, with stockings, ties, shirts, and handkerchiefs, all accounted for and set for putting in the dresser that stood against one wall.

But Travis had better things to do than unpack, Van discovered, as Travis spread out on his bed his "personal items", glow in the dark condoms and "lovers' package" novelties of various types, then flashed a pack of pictures in his face. “Look at these babes I balled at least once each on my last voyage!” he crowed. “Talk about some good pussy! Whoo—ee!”

He flicked them in front of Van’s eyes, and Van thought he saw Travis in a few of them, but wasn’t sure it was Travis or someone else, he looked so much younger in the picture.

Younger Travis and Admirer

The thing that caught his eye in the other pictures though was the surprise and even contempt and outrage he saw in the face of every woman pictured. Some of them looked as if they were undressing at the time or using the toilet and the picture had been snapped through a suddenly flung open door.

“Just some old girlfriends of mine!” Travis commented, sweeping the snapshots up into his shirt pocket. He spun quickly around, looking for something. He didn’t seem to find it, and looked as if he could throw someone bodily out of the room. Then he must have remembered, for he stuck his hand into his pants and pulled out a paper.

He began reading, with a finger tweaking his nose to give his voice an extra snobbish lilt, as he scanned the list drawn from New England’s finest families:

“…-Canfields, Coopers, Butlers, Johnsons, Pickens, Schultzes, Joneses, Duvalls, Richardsons, Grosvenors, McCoys, Hummelsines, Wintons—“ He paused to take a breath and belch. “Oh, balls, what a bunch of over-educated stuffed shirts and whine-y snobs we got on this old boat! Well, lemme see, it may pick up—“ He continued reading: “—Otises, St. John’s, Mannings, Harts, Hartleys, Foresters, Bakers, Doyles, Haskinses, Bormans, Burgers—“

He dropped the paper like it was dirty toilet paper. “No such luck!” Travis cried, flinging himself in a chair.

“Nothin’ but boring, old, tea-drinking Ivy Leaguers, I tell you! Filthy rich too, with their blue-veined snoots up to here!” Travis demonstrated. "The most exciting things they can think of to do is show slides of their 'scientific' trips, like those Johnsons taking that million dollar, three-colored yacht of theirs up the boondocks of the Nile River when everybody knows the French Riviera is the only place to go with a nice, little bucket like that!"

Travis paused to catch his breath. “Imagine what you could do with your own love boat?" That thought entertained him for a moment with images only he could appreciate. Well, “ he sighed with his eyes rolled up like a stained glass martyr's, “I’ll just have to make do with whatever I can find in this stinking Second Class.”

Van picked up the paper, which seemed to him to be a passenger list.

“Where’d you get this?”

Travis winked confidentially. “Oh, I have contacts.”

He lit up. “Hey, I think I saw the Greenbaums on the list. Now that is some tush, Mrs. Greenbaum, and her husband, who is old as the hills and has one foot in the grave, doesn’t even keep an eye on her despite her looks and her being a lot younger than he is. All the old duffer does the whole voyage is read the New York Times and glance through the stock market listings for his blue chip investments and then nap. That is certainly one good possibility for little brother. There may be others just as good, if I keep an eye out.”

Van stared at him, then glanced back at the list. How, he wondered, could Travis get one?

Travis threw down the list without offering Van a look and sneered as he glanced round the Second Class cabin.

“Hey, just like I thought. This old tub is a waste of my money! Not one bucket of champagne in fifty yards of us. I’d say that’s what a cheap way to treat the upper crust! Of course, they’re all going for the ‘educational value’ of the tours in Peru, you know!”

Van stared at Travis, wide-eyed. Champagne and ice in a bucket? He hadn’t even thought of it. That sort of high-class luxury was something he only saw in movies. As for Travis’s “girlfriends,” he had never seen so many in such a short time. Obviously, this was a man who could have any woman he set eyes on!

The voyage, he realized then, was starting off unexpectedly in wildly different directions all at once. Travis, a whirlwind of words and action, was not quiet or still one moment, but was throwing open the dresser and dumping his suitcase, upended, into the drawers, then stirring it with his hands and throwing it back in as if it had been too neat.

Leaving one drawer open to sit on despite the sounds of it spliting, Travis sat and faced Van, giving Van's belt buckle a tug. “Well, man, are you ready to shoot your wad? Why don’t you and I go for a few drinks to get little brother perky for later, and maybe we’ll run into a couple good looking dames at the same time?”

Van didn’t say anything, he was so new to people like Travis who seemed to have spent his whole life on cruise ships like the Fairwind. “Well, I guess so—“ he said, staring at his clothes all laid out on the bed.

“Forget that!” Travis said, heading for the door. “Cmon, let’s go!” Flashing his brilliant smile, Travis flung open the door, which to Van at that moment seemed to promise almost everything life had to offer someone his age and with his relative inexperience.

He jumped up, not wanting to be left behind, and hurried out after the quick, darting figure of his exciting, vastly--experienced cabin mate.

Together, they stepped into the first lounge, which looked to Van like a picture of an English pub he saw once in a magazine, but it was empty—not even a bartender in sight.

“Hey, man, let’s try another in First Class—they won’t know us from the Grosvenors, so we won’t be stopped. Just say you’re their relatives, and for a few days they’ll believe you before they begin checking you out on the register. I know, man—for I’ve worked—I mean, I’ve done plenty of these cruises before, and they're all the same bunch of snobs, just wearing different clothes, believe me!”

The First Class bar was very dark with walnut paneling, quiet, with a huge stage and for contrast a glittering bar big enough to dance on all decorated with mirrors and giant silver shells like a prop from a classic Hollywood Fred Astaire set. Two bartenders, a young waiter, and one hostess-looking woman in pearls and evening gown stood waiting as if for them.

Travis, putting on a scornful look and raising his nose a couple notches, strode up to them. “It’s a little early, I know,” he began, “but my friend and I-—well, we’re first cousins to the Grosvenor family-—the ones with the magazine that’s about chimps and bare-breasted native women, you know. Okay, enough intros! How about a little refreshment before dinner, gentlemen? Isn’t that right, Cousin?” He turned to Van, who didn’t take the cue and was supposed to nod, but looked embarrassed.

The bartenders stared at Travis and his “cousin” who looked completely unlike him. They seemed a little unsure, but one motioned to the other, who then led Travis and Van to a table. It was the most beautiful display of crystal glasses with napkins in them, flowers, candles and silver candelabra Van had ever seen. He sat down on the plush, gold-decorated chair that the man pulled out for him. Travis seated himself, managed a trick that made a cigarette flip from the table into his fingers, and let the waiter light his for him.

“Thank you, my good fellow!” Travis clowned, screwing an ice cube into one eye and peering at the waiter.

Glancing several times at the head waiter as if to beg off the task, their waiter asked them for their orders. Travis did all the ordering. “Well, let’s toast Jamaica and the beautiful babes there I just left behind! A Screaming Andromeda on the rocks for me, and a nice little Winged Perseus for my dear cousin!”

Van waited, nervous about his first drink of hard liquor, and not knowing if he could stomach anything with so strange a name, particularly since he hated the thought of anything with wings going down his throat.

Their orders came with little umbrellas and the bitter green olives toothpicked together with a slice of mango. Travis was on his third or fourth smoke by then, littering the exquisite tablecloth and settings with ash. He also smudged out his cigarettes on a plate instead of the tray provided. Van, watching him, was sure enough of niceties and manners to realize by now that Travis did as he pleased, not as most people would do in the same circumstances.

Still over-awed by the setting, Van tried to follow Travis’s lead and not make any atrocious mistakes. He dutifully sipped the hot peppered, caramel syrup laced cocktail, and hated every drop of it. Almost nauseated, his mouth and tongue aflame, he got half of it down, and it went to work. His whole insides glowed and blazed like a furnace.

Unfazed by the cocktail as if it has been a glass of water, Travis grew even more animated and lively, if that was possible. Doing a balancing act with the cocktail umbrella on his nose, he went to the bar, tried to get the hostess to dance a few steps with him, seemed to shock the bartender with a dirty joke, and when he was denied more drinks after refusing to show his identification, he gathered up Van, who followed somewhat unsteadily.

“You don’t get paid then, if I’m not completely satisfied with your service!” declared a haughty Travis as he dumped a tray of Maxim’s of Paris truffles in the pocket of his coat to munch on later, and he left the bartender trailing him with the tab in hand.

Travis could walk quickly, and it was all Van could do to keep up with him as he groaned and held a hand pressed to his hurting belly.

The ship shifted and felt to Van as if it were underway. Travis confirmed this too and seemed relieved after he took a quick look around. “Well, the old banana boat is finally off! They heard the thunderous blasting of the ship’s horn. “Hey!” he said to Van, grabbing his arm. “Let’s get our sweet, young asses to the upper deck for the view of Manhattan! You can’t miss that!”

It was a magnificent sight, as Van discovered, though he was sweating hard asd he gripped the rail, and beginning to reel from the blast furnace effects of the Jamaican cocktail. In the cool wind of a night sky, the whole crowded stupendous mass of Manhattan’s jewel-like skyscrapers gleamed with incredible promise of a glorious future and excitement beyond imagination.

Van Carmack Viewing Lower Manhattan

How thrilling the sight was to him, despite having lived in the shadow of this skyline all his life. In Queens, however, with the workaday look of the houses spoiling the foreground, it wasn’t quite so spectacular. Here there was nothing to dilute the effect and pull him back into his father's and their neighbors’ humdrum, union-centered, money-grubbing existence.

Travis too seemed to enjoy the glittering sight. He leaned over the railing, his hair blowing back from his forehead. “I don’t know why, considerin’ how many times I’ve been screwed by the local merchants, I never seem to get tired of the old town!” he said, taking chocolates from his pocket and stuffing his mouth.

The ship turned slowly and majestically out into the great bay, with Brooklyn and Queens and their millions of blue-collared firemen, factory foremen, policemen, public school teachers, garage repairmen, and shop owners on one side and Staten Island and Jersey with their millions of white collared stock exchange analysts, college and university professors, lawyers, doctors, on the other.

Travis pointed out one thing after the other as if Van were a country bumpkin for residing out in Queens. “There’s famous, old Ellis Island where all the immigrants were processed like sardines in a can—only now it’s kaputt, abandoned,” he said. “I’d buy it and make it a four star casino and hotel with a chorus line of the Rockettes to kick off the entertainment each night, if I didn’t have other better things to do with my time.”

“What other things?” Van wondered.

But Travis had passed to new subjects. He gave himself a luxurious stretch, and patted his belly.

“For one thing, I’m starved to the point of collapse! Let’s go!” Travis announced to Van. He strode off. Van, not sure his stomach could stand any more punishment, nevertheless, followed.

They were first in the dining room of the First Class restaurant called “Bird in Space”. To fit the name, a metal sculpture by the world-famous Romanian peasant artist Alexander Brancusi stood in a gleaming, mirrored pool in the entrance. Over on a wall with a fountain playing in a pool beneath was a giant reproduction of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can pop art next to his pouting, silk-screened Marilyn Monroe. Walking in on the plush carpets, into which his feet seemed to sink several inches, Van felt he was really out of place, but Travis seemed to know such luxury like he had lived in its midst all his life, and this assured Van so that he followed without much fear he might be turned out, since his fare, after all, was Second Class.

Waiting at the entrance for the hostess to come, using his lighter, Travis took a smoke from his cigarette case and lit up properly without making a trick out of it this time. He preened himself a bit in the mirrors that stood floor-length everywhere you looked. His dinner jacket fit the high-class decor perfectly, and that made Van uncomfortable, for he was wearing only an ordinary suit jacket.

“Hey, man, I really don’t think I’m dressed enough for this place,” Van ventured, as the hostess in a stunning black-sequined, strapless gown approached them, her platinum blond hair piled high and laced with innumerable seed pearls.

Travis turned and seemed to see Van for the first time. “Oh, nonsense! Just keep behind me, and and if I don’t pass some gas you’ll be just fine.”

Travis stepped toward the hostess, said a few words to her, and she turned and led them to a table by the windows that looked out upon the sea.

Seated, she left them with a poised ballerina’s walk and a waiter came quickly with the cocktail list. He took their—rather, Travis’s orders—and soon they were drinking several different drinks for which Van had no names. Van could hardly walk when Travis was ready to move again. “I never like to eat with water reflecting in my mug,” he declared to the waiter. “We want people around us, and, particularly, beautiful women, not a bunch of lousy seagulls diving for kitchen scraps!”

He told the waiter a joke about a certain circus fat lady and her trick dog in heat, which brought a shocked expression rather than a laugh, and the waiter reluctantly led them to a table further in, where New York socialites in evening dress were beginning to fill the tables.

Travis immediately began eyeing the women at the various tables. He thought the ones nearest him were not to his taste, being too fat and grandmotherly in looks, and wanted to move once again. He rose up. “I’m going to the john,” he said to Van. “Wait here for me.”

Five, then up to ten minutes passed. Van began looking around in earnest for Travis. He began to wonder if he should get up and seek his cabin mate out. Finally, with the waiter staring at him when he couldn’t bring himself to order, Van rose embarrassed. “I need to find my friend first,” he said, stumbling toward the entrance on his father’s heavy, awkward feet.

“Am I drunk?” he wondered. He felt so strange and whirling in his head. He made it into the splendid entrance, stopped to dance with the Bird in Space which had somehow got Marilyn Monroe’s breasts and legs, or so it seemed, then spun out, getting his feet to the ground once in a while as he made motions with his legs. which were always moving up above his head for some reason.

How he made it to the restroom, he did not know afterwards. He found himself some time after leaving the table, kneeling over a toilet in a stall of the First Class men’s room.

“Are you all right, sir?” an attendant with patent leather shoes was calling to him through the door.

“Yes, I’m fine!” he managed to say. But he wasn’t fine, he dimly realized. He had thrown up over the toilet, and his hands were in a mess of what looked like tomato ketchup.

Pulling off masses of Warhol’s self-portrait decorated toilet paper, he tried to clean himself up. When he had done as much as he thought necessary, he opened the door and stepped out not realizing he was stark naked from the waist down. He saw the attendant’s face, his eyes staring at him and his mouth saying something. Moving past, Van could only think of getting to his bed, wherever it was. He floated out of the men’s room, his rear bobbing higher than his head so he had to pull it down.

Someone thrust his pants and boxer shorts into his hands. Feeling the key in his pocket, he pulled it out, read the number digit by digit, and then headed down the corridor, hoping it was the right way, but not at all sure.

Weaving side to side in the corridor, he was aware that people were staring and laughing at him as they passed, but he kept going with pants in one hand and key in the other. Finally, when he wasn’t sure he was going the right way, he felt his arm grabbed

“Hey, Travis, I was looking for you!” he said to the face that loomed, two sizes too big, in his own face.

“I didn’t know you couldn’t hold your liquor! The party’s over, bucko, you’re going straight home.”

Travis didn’t take the elevator but chose the stairs where Van could puke all he wanted without bothering anyone. On the way down Van let loose just as Travis expected it would happen, slipped in his own stomach’s contents and hit the wall with his head so hard all the lights went out.

The next thing Van knew was that he was lying on his own bed with a blanket thrown over him. The door slammed. Merciful sleep fell on Van like a ton of ballust bricks. He knew nothing for hours, except that sometimes he felt a little metallic object or objects brush against his cheeks. When he awoke, he felt a burning and numbness across his forehead and his tongue and mouth tasted foul. He tried to sit up and put his feet over on the floor, and that effort alone seemed to crack his skull from his forehead to the back of his neck.

He got to his feet, feeling a need to go to the toilet and throw up at the same time, and he made it there, collapsing again. When he had thrown up, he sat on the toilet and let the remainder flush through his system. He was so dizzy when he stood up he fell and went crashing on the floor. But he felt little pain from the fall. The tiles felt so smooth and cool, he just lay there enjoying them.

How the floor rocked and swayed, this way and that, beneath him. It was a throbbing, rocking, swaying kind of crib, and he was an infant again, caressed in sweet sleep. But it didn’t stay sweet very long. Crashing waves, shattering bows of giant cruise ships stuck onto reefs, one shaped like a ruined tower. Then hurricanes of wind and rain and the sudden upsurge of ruined gates he recognized as the very New York Fair’s gates he had helped city park crews dismantle and cart off in trucks to barges that in turn transported them to an ocean dumping site off the Carolinas and Florida.

These scenes were just as abruptly interrupted by scenes of sharks dashing themselves upon the shore as they snapped at the people lounging there on deck chairs, followed by flocks of Marilyn Monroe-headed, red-sequined birds mixed with flying mirrors that broke and then recombined in one giant mirror showing Travis combing his hair and then lighting up. The picture show gradually quieted down, though it kept repeating. Finally, he was seeing only Travis, staring down at him, a lighted Camel hanging from his lower lip.

“Are you okay, or what?” Travis said.

Van groaned. “I’m fine.” He struggled to sit up.

“Sure you are!” Travis laughed, pushing him back down.

Van suddenly felt burning thirst. He saw a container of ice water next to him on a stand. He started to reach for it, but Travis knocked his hand aside.

“Are you crazy? No water just yet! You’ll just make yourself drunker than a skunk with that!”

Van, feeling like he would die of thirst, sank back on the bed.

Travis picked up the telephone, ordered strong coffee. There was a knock, and room service entered.

Travis smiled, took the coffee, and after tipping the attendant with some a fiver he had taken earlier from Van’s wallet held it to Van’s lips.

Van, realizing he was beginning to come out of a pretty bad situation, took a sip. A couple more sips, and he began feeling better. He wanted more, but Travis shook his head. “Just wait. I’ll give it to you. You don’t need the liquid right now. You’ll just get stinkin’ drunk again and we’ll have to do it all over again.”

He yanked Van up so his feet hit the floor.

“Now a cold shower is prescribed!” Dr. Travis ordered. Van tried to lay back on the bed, but Travis dragged Van off, and Van didn’t like the idea at all. But he was helpless clay in Travis’s hands. Travis stripped off Van’s filthy jacket, shirt, and tee shirt.

“Time for a bath!” Travis barked, going for the champagne he had brought in a bucket. Carrying a glass of it, Travis then turned on the shower full blast. When Van was ready, Travis opened the glass door and pushed Van in. He stood gasping with shock as the frigidly cold water struck him head to foot. But it did the job. He couldn’t endure it for more than a few moments, but he was sobered up immediately.

Shuddering, he stepped out, grabbed towels more for warmth than for drying himself off, and in a few minutes he was back in bed, trying to warm up. Travis, who had left the room for a few minutes, returned, glanced over at Van huddled in the bedclothes with his eyes wide and his hair tangled and wet, and laughed.

“I see Lord Carmack's back in the real world!” he said, laughing. Travis went to his own bed and sat down, lighting a cigarette. He held out a hand, examining his nails. “I just may go and get a manicure. I need one. How about you? The manicurist is really some looker. I think I can get a date out of her for you. I’m already hooked up for the evening—-but you seem to need big brother’s help.”

A manicure was the farthest thing from Van’s mind at that moment. He was trying to remember what had happened to him in the past hours since they had left the outer deck of the ship. Where were they now? How long had he been “out”?

“How long have I been sleeping?” he asked Travis.

Travis blew a smoke ring. He wasn’t particularly interested in Van’s condition any longer. He got up slowly, examining his face in the dresser mirror for any missed hairs or pimples. He seemed to have forgotten his invitation to take Van along. “I could use a shave too—well, I’m going! See you later.”

“But—“ Van said, but Travis slammed the door on his question.

Van felt like sleeping, for he was warmed up now, and he must have slept some, for he awoke when he heard people laughing, it sounded like laughter, and some kicking noises at the door. The light was off, so he began reaching around for the lamp at his side table, and before he could find it the door burst open and a girl darted in, saw Van in bed looking surprised, and laughed and spun out, leaving Travis standing in the doorway.

Travis came in, frowning as he switched on the main overhead light. “Now why did you have to scare her away?” he said. “I told her you’d be asleep and dead to the world! You might have some consideration after all you’ve put me through. Where else can I bring a date and get a little action for little brother? She did such a good job on my nails, I wanted to get my money back with interest!”

Van was genuinely shocked, but felt sorry he had messed things up for his cabin mate so early in the voyage. He himself had hoped to find romance onboard this cruise, but now he had spoiled it for his cabin mate. But what could he have done differently? Not gotten drunk? Not fallen sleep and been awakened by the laughing behind the door? He was confused and didn’t know what to say.

Travis, rubbing his face where he had been kissed, went to the bathroom, and soon some clothes were flung out on the floor, including Travis’s dinner jacket. Van heard sounds of the shower going, then a toilet being flushed, and a strong scent of cologne came out the half-closed door. Van, wondering what he would do next, since he had missed dinner, saw by his watch it was early morning, 6:35 a.m. Should he get up and dress? What was Travis planning to do?

Van found all his clothes on the floor and tried to arrange them in one drawer that Travis had left for him in the dresser, but there wasn’t room, and he ended up putting some things back in his suitcase. He just happened to glance into Travis’s things and saw his missing shaver and several tee shirts he knew, by the brand, had to be his. Thinking nothing of it, he moved them to his own drawer. He dressed, but he couldn’t find his cuff links. He had one pair to his name. What was he to do? He decided to change to another shirt that didn’t take cuff links. It wasn’t a new shirt but it was good enough to wear to breakfast, he decided.

While Van was still dressing, Travis strode out, a towel around his waist, his hair combed sleekly to his head and his body exuding a powerful scent of a fake Lord Byron’s Aramis cologne.

As Travis dressed, Van wasn’t sure what to say about his first night out aboard ship.

Travis grinned when Van looked his way. “You’re on your own, buddy, from now on I didn’t know you were such a kid about such things. I’m not your nursemaid! They all thought I was leading an innocent little boy into sin or something! What do you think that makes me look like? And it’s all your fault, man!”

“Who do you mean?” Van blurted out. “Sure, I’m not much of a drinker, but I didn’t mean to get you in trouble.”

Travis finished with his bow tie, slipped back on his dinner jacket but not before Van recognized the cuff links. Should he say something? Van wondered, bewildered. Maybe in the mix up of their belongings on the floor, Travis had grabbed his by mistake?

He badly wanted his cuff links back, but he decided to wait until Travis took them off, and then he would retrieve them.

Travis beat him out the door, and together they walked toward the first restaurant. “Wow! What broads! I had some time dancing with every one of them!” he bragged to Van on the way. “They let me grab anything I wanted, right down to their tush!”

Several girls walked by, but Travis was ready for them with a whistle. He slapped the behind of one who fell back of her friends a few feet, and she looked angry but dangled her key in his face, but when he snatched at it she was quicker and ran off to catch up with the other two girls.

Van, amazed at everything Travis did, for it was all new to him, was trying to learn as fast as he could. He was feeling good again after a bad night, his senses restored, and his appetite reminding him he could use a good breakfast.

Travis got them a table, but seemed bored stiff. He ordered a breakfast, but hardly touched any of it. Van was ravenous. He wanted more, and the waiter brought more. But there was a buffet, and Van went to it to get a third helping of the special crepes, toppings, bacon, and various fruits that were heaped on platter after platter.

Travis sipped his coffee heavily laced with cream and sugar, smoked half a pack, it seemed to Van, and then stood up while Van was putting it away. “You make me sick, eating all that like a regular pig in a poke. What are you, a farmer or lumberjack from upstate? I’m going out for some air, buddy. I've got better things to do rather than watch you chew and swallow.”

Offended, Van must have showed it. Travis quickly smiled, laughed, and started walking. “Join me when you’re through. We can play some ball or something. Maybe some exercise will get me up an appetite like yours!”

Mollified by Travis’s remark, Van enjoyed his breakfast, then went out to find Travis. He couldn’t locate him for quite some time, searching one deck after another on various levels. Everyone, it seemed, was involved in some kind of sport. He hadn’t seen all the people on board together like this, and now he saw hundreds of people gathered round the pools and various deck games and volley ball nets. He was too dressed up, he saw. Travis, too, was out of place in his dinner jacket, he thought, as he found him seated at a pool side table scanning the more likely female swimmers.

Several matrons in handkerchief-sized bikinis that went somewhat oddly with their oversized thighs and breasts were sitting with their husbands in deck chairs.

Travis ignored the younger women in the water playing a kind of water polo with big balloon balls and was talking to the married women, while the husbands read thick William Styron or Cozzens’ novels. Drinks were served Travis and the woman Travis was talking to with the greatest animation, Van noticed from where he stood watching about fifty feet away.

The woman rose after a bit, and she and Travis started walking down the deck, leaving the woman’s husband still engrossed in his novel. Further down the deck, where Van followed them, they joined hands. Then they stepped through a door and Van, trying to follow, couldn’t follow fast enough, for they were nowhere to be seen in the corridor when he reached the door. Going in, he went until he found a bar and casino, with a French cabaret-style stage show in progress. He slipped in, stood in the entrance, trying to see if he could see Travis anywhere. What was that?

He thought he saw Travis arm and cuffs and a woman’s arm entwined, at an upper table set behind some tree foliage and fancy iron grillwork, but he couldn’t be sure unless he went up there and actually spied out the land. Should he? Was it his business?

It was a popular place even at that early hour, he saw. He had to step aside as this party and that went in and out. Unsure, he wondered what to do next. He decided not to spy on his cabin mate. What Travis did was not his business, so he went out to the outer decks to enjoy the sea breeze and the views. Maybe he could meet a girl himself that way, he thought. It felt like high time he did.

But try as he might he couldn’t find any unattached young woman who would give him so much as a glance. They all were with families or with boys their age, it seemed. He saw plenty more older women, some sitting alone with their drink, cigarette, novel or a magazine. As he walked the decks, he felt eyes turn to him from time to time, but he felt unsure what to do and kept walking, hoping the right contact would materialize—just how he couldn’t imagine. A couple hours passed, and he realized nothing much could be expected that way, so he decided to go back to his room. Maybe Travis was there, and he might want to do something together.

Van put the key in his door but it wouldn’t work. He tried several times. He decided to go and get help, thinking someone like a steward would know what to do with a defective key. He went, found a steward some distance off.

He explained his difficulty, and the man, an Italian, seemed to think his request was odd, but at last he agreed to go and see what the problem was.

“It’s the dead bolt that is locked, Monsieur,” the man explained. He took his own master key, which could deal with dead bolts, and in a moment the door fell open. The steward stood aside as Van thanked him and stepped into the doorway.

The room was dark and Van flicked on the light. Just as he did so he heard some movement on his side of the room, and as his eyes partly adjusted he froze. He had an instinct which told him what to do. He backed out of the room and found the steward wink and roll his eyes, then sign quickly for him to shut the door quietly as possible.

Making some Latin gesture with another roll of the eyes and a smacking of the lips, the steward left him standing utterly dumbfounded. Then the full revelation struck the young virgin that he was—-he felt for the first time in his life like an utter fool. Travis was making love to a woman! Why didn’t he use his own bed? What a mess they were making! What was he to do?

For some reason he felt betrayed, not over-awed by Travis’s sexual prowess. Was it the missing cuff links that showed up on Travis’s sleeves, or the drunken binge Travis had led him into? Or now the travesty—for it was an outrage of some kind—of Travis taking advantage of him in his own bed while other people were playing water polo or eating breakfast? Whatever it was, or a combination of everything, it put a bad, sour taste in his mouth.

Up to this point the cruise for him had meant an open door to a world of mystery and romance, but where was the mystery? He had seen Travis —that handsome, smiling face and muscular set of shoulders attached to a less impressive torso and legs too thin, and his back pimpled and scratched all across it! Travis’s quick smiles, quick cover-ups, quick moves and constant diet of cocktails, chocolates and cigarettes, not to mention too much body cologne—he had had enough of Travis for a lifetime.

For several hours more that day Van wandered the ship, which had begun to pall on him. He was sitting by a pool, not really caring what he was looking at anymore, when an older man with silver in his dark hair turned to him, smiling.

“Beautiful weather, isn’t it?” the gentleman began the chat.

Feeling he was the only one who hadn’t a genuine friend on board, Van was open to a conversation, even with this stranger with the silvery hair, broad face, and massive build.

“Yes, sir,” he replied. “It should get even warmer today, right? We’re probably going to reach the Carolinas by ten or so tonight.”

“True,” the man said. “My name is Sarkos Trakarian, and yours?”

“Van Carmack.”

The gentleman leaned closer from his table to peer at Van. His bushy eyebrows lifted. “Really?”

Van nodded, and the man paused as if to digest the information. Then he moved his chair so he could sit closer for a more private conversation—closer than men would normally sit. This made Van uncomfortable, but he didn’t move away, and the man opened up to him the reason why he was surprised by Van’s name. “You have the name of my ancient Christian homeland,” he explained. “We—[he turned and indicated with a dark-haired thumb a group farther down the deck playing some kind of bowling game]—my family comes from there originally. I came over, a refugee, to America in my early teens, just after the worst of the Turkish genocide forced us all to leave our lands or be massacred in our homes, fields, and shops.”

As the bright yellow sun poured down and the music from the ship’s speakers drifted to them, this was a lot more than Van had bargained for on a pleasure cruise. The sun remained bright, but the wind seemed to blow colder as the words “genocide” and “massacre” swept over him. He tried to get back to the name, however.

“Your country has my name, you said? Where is it?”

The gentleman laughed, but his eyes were kind and Van didn’t feel like he had said anything foolish. “Well, it’s now called Armenia by the outside world, if you know where that is.”

Van shook his head.

The man scratched his chin, then said, “I can’t really pinpoint it without a map, but if you know where Turkey, Iraq, and Persia are, well, Armenia is in the middle where they all come together in the north. And that is the big problem as they see it. They all want to press my country and its people out of existence in order to make sure they won’t lose the territory they have seized from us in the past! We have had to flee our enemies and give up homes, lands, and cities many times when they have invaded. Even the Russians, the Soviets, are no better. They are just as greedy for our lands which they do nothing with when they have them, lands that were ours more than a thousand years before Christ and another six hundred years before Mohammed!”

“What is your country like, sir?”

The man looked away from Van, and Van could see a strong, yearning emotion rise in him. Then the gentleman turned back to Van. Tears were showing in his eyes.

“No country is so beautiful-—the mountains, the deep valleys, the blue lakes—with wildflowers and almond trees everywhere! It is all so pure and sparkling with bright color and—well, God blessed it with such special beauty because he destined it to be humanity’s second birthplace. It is, you see, the second Garden of Eden. And if that isn’t enough, our Father Noah’s blessing still lies upon it!”

Van’s eyes widened. “Noah’s blessing?”

The gentleman looked at Van as if he were surprised he was asked. “You mean you don’t know? Our mountains of Arrarat are where Noah and the Ark landed. God blessed us, for in Van all things began again after the Great Flood withdrew, in which all the wicked people and the giants were destroyed. Hasn’t anyone taught you these things in the schools or the churches?”

Van nodded quickly, remembering a scrap about Noah taught him in early childhood. “Yes, I was taught about Noah. “

The Armenian moved even closer to Van’s chair. “What were you taught? Tell me!”

Put on the spot like that, Van wracked his childhood memories. He had gone to Sunday School once upon a time, just where he couldn’t remember. But he had been shown, on a flannel graph board, the story of Noah and the Flood, and an image of the ark on the mountain of Ararat came to mind.

He hadn’t gotten the impression of a country called Van, however, being so important as the man said it was. “I weren’t taught about your country, just that there was a mountain where Noah and the Ark landed.”

He jumped up, feeling he had been sitting too long and needed a change.

The Armenian rose more slowly and with a slight grimace as if he had some knee problem. He grasped Van’s hand. “It was good talking to you, and I hope we can talk again!”

“Yes, I would like to,” said Van, though he was uneasy with the closeness of body contact that the Armenian seemed to need. Instantly, he felt he had cut the conversation too short. Where would he go now? Back to his room? He hated the thought. Yet he felt drawn to it. What would he see anyway? He had some idea, having pored through some finger-stained issues of Playboy, which boys at school passed along from locker to locker.

He couldn’t deny his own interest to find out more on the subject. After all, he had no desire to remain a greenhorn virgin indefinitely. He needed experience if he was ever to marry, didn’t he? What was he so afraid of? Travis, he reasoned, was only “having an affair.” It was with a married woman, no doubt, but Travis was old enough to know what he was doing, wasn’t he?

So, growing bolder, Van headed back to his room. He unlocked the door and strode manfully in, expecting to hear a scream and a muffled remark from Travis under the covers. But he found nothing of the sort. While Travis’s bed was neatly made, his own bed was torn apart, the blankets and sheets all on the floor. The towels in the bathroom were on the floor, soaked. He found cigarettes, some with lipstick on them, stubbed out in an ash tray transferred to his lamp table. He sat down on the bed, trying to feel like a man of the world, trying to absorb the reality of what had happened to him.

Then he remembered his cuff links, of all things. He looked over on Travis’s side of the room. The bed showed nothing, not even a wrinkle. The dresser drawers were closed.

He went to the dresser and pulled open the upper drawer. Then he paused. Should he take the liberty of going through Travis’s things? Why couldn’t he wait and then ask Travis later? But he had to know for sure, and so when he didn’t see the cuff links he pulled out the second drawer. There he saw his shaver, cuff links, and several pairs of his best stockings, along with his missing tee shirts, all with Travis’s things.

He pulled out his own drawer to put his things back where they belonged and found a Hawaiian shirt he prized gone. He had intended to wear it on the cruise, and it now was missing! He searched both the drawer and then his suitcases, but it was nowhere.

He went to his bed, pulled some blankets back on it, and sat down. The realization hit him. It couldn’t have been a mistake this time, all those things of his ending up in Travis’s drawer. He had even added to the list, fingering his Hawaiian silk shirt.

When Travis did not show up after an hour of waiting, Van went for dinner. He returned, and still no sign of Travis. He waited around, went out and walked the decks, didn’t see the Armenian gentleman and his family anywhere, and returned to his room, thinking he might listen to music later in the disco or even ask someone there to dance.

It was a lonelyheart’s experience for him at the disco, he found. He sat out the dances, for everyone was paired off, and he couldn’t bring himself to ask any of the older married women who sat at the tables.

His blood running high from the music but with no way to express what he felt, he returned late to his room, and spent restless hours trying to sleep on top a bed that had been the scene of Travis’s escapade.

He was asleep finally when the door cracked open, someone came in, took a few items from the dresser, and slipped back out before he could get the light on.

“Travis?” he called. But he was too groggy and too late, and if it was Travis, he was too quick for Van.

By daybreak Van decided to go and hunt up Travis. He really wanted to see what Travis would say about his activities and being gone so long.

He showered, shaved, and dressed, then went out, got some breakfast, then went in search. But he couldn’t track down his cabin mate. He did find the Armenian family man, however, and the man was just as friendly, willing to tell him about his troubled homeland, and even details about their escape to America, and how they had gone into business in California, with offices set up in Los Angeles and New York, that had to do with importing oriental rugs.

The rug business did not interest Van particularly, so he decided to resume search for the ship’s Casanova.

Without a sign of him to be seen, Van returned disappointed to his room, footsore and thinking of a nap. The door, he found, was dead bolted. To get in, he would need the steward’s special key. Van sighed and leaned back against the door. “Not again!’ he thought. This was getting to be too much a pattern. Were they in his bed again? Why his bed? He decided he had had enough of their trampling on his rights like that.

The steward must have kept an eye out of him, for he came forward, smiling. “I can let you in, sir, if you wish.”

Van motioned vigorously, but suddenly he had no desire to go in at that moment. He backed away. “I’ll try it later, if you don’t mind.”

The steward shrugged. “Certainly, sir! Certainly! Just let me know, and I’ll let you in at once!”

“Thank you,” said Van, and he turned and went back up to the outer decks. There he hung around for a hour or so, and got tired of that and decided to go below, whether Travis and his friend were ready for him or not.

“It will serve him right, using my bed for his shenanigans, if I walk in on them a second time!” he thought grimly.

The steward came with the key and let him in. The room was empty. Travis was gone, and the place was a shambles.

He went to his drawer, on a sudden intuition. It had been rifled through, the cuff links, shaver, tee shirts, and some stockings removed.

“He might as well take my shorts too!” he cried, in a flash of anger. Then he counted his things, and he was missing some shorts too! At this rate, he wouldn’t have enough clean changes for the voyage, and he couldn’t stand the idea of not having a fresh change at least once a day!

Now he really felt steamed. “He’s a no-good thief!” he thought. “And a womanizer!” Where he had learned such phrases, he could not say, but they were just the ones to describe Travis, he found.

He was wondering, a few minutes later, what to do, when Travis burst in, brushed by Van and collapsed on his own bed, lying with his legs sprawling over the sides. A moment later, he stirred, sighed, then got himself a cigarette.

“Hey, buddy,” he said to Van who was staring at him, “light me up, will ya? I’ve been pretty busy and little brother’s all tuckered out!”

Van couldn’t say what he felt at that moment. Surprise, anger, disgust, mixed with amazement that someone like Travis existed? He could see Travis lying there, wearing the stolen Hawaiian shirt, no doubt wearing stolen shorts and stockings, and what had happened to his shaver and cuff links? Travis patted his crotch. “Baby, baby, baby,” he moaned. “I tell ya, buddy, these women onboard won’t take no for an answer! Even I can’t keep up with the demand!”

He held out his cigarette toward Van, and Van was so numb he got a book of matches, lit the cigarette, then sat on his bed, staring at Travis.

Taking several deep drags, Travis relaxed, letting his words run a bit, along with a few sung bits and pieces of a Peter Duchin rendition of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Hearing Travis’s sing for the first time, Van listened, but his mind was on many other things. But he hadn’t any idea how to begin his wide range of questions. He just knew that Travis owed him a great deal of explanation for his behavior toward him the last twenty four hours. Was it going to go on the way it had? Van didn’t like the idea at all. He felt like he was just being used, and not only used but trampled on by Travis’s high-flying lifestyle.

Travis rolled over, studying Van for a moment. “Oh, lighten up, will you? You look like the family dog just got run over and spilled its guts on the road!”

Before Van could retort with something that even Travis might not like, Travis rolled again and was on his feet, stubbing out his half-finished smoke on a bed sheet.

“But—“ Van began, but Travis, scenting what was up, was too fast for the young man from Queens.

“Later, old buddy, we’ll talk all you want. You need to wise up on a few things—like the facts of life, for one! I can tell you all you’ll ever need to know about women, believe me. Listen to me, I know where to get you Grade A tush anytime, anywhere!”

“Oh yeah, there are other things in life besides tush!” Van shot back vehemently as he really meant every word.

The remark was wasted, as Travis shut the door on him, and Van was left, anger rising uselessly in him.

“He thinks he knows everything and has done everything! Just because he can date these older women, he thinks I know nothing about life. He’s a thief, a hustler, a lounge lizard, and a scam artist—that’s all he really is! What a creep!”

Rising mad, forgetting he was using his mother’s vocabulary, he glanced into the mirror above the dresser and saw how red his face was. But what did it do for him, getting mad like that? He wondered. Travis was just laughing at him, he realized. Travis knew he could do nothing, not until they docked back in New York.

But he realized he could do something. He emptied out his one drawer of the dresser, locked his remaining things in his suitcases, and then went out to buy himself a shaving kit at the ship’s pharmacy. He didn’t need a shave every day yet, but there was no telling when he could collar Travis long enough to find out what had happened to his shaver.

He left the room, feeling better than he had for some hours. He went and saw a French film about the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima—HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR--with English subtitles, which seemed to be a serious story but he kept looking at the women in it and couldn’t concentrate on the story, which seemed too foreign and incomprehensible to him. Afterwards, he ate at a restaurant, and when leaving ran into the Trakarian family, who invited him to join a family volleyball match. The volleyball game with the two sons and daughter of the Trakarian family, joined by their friends on board, made his day for him. The experience of being with people his age had been the best so far onboard. As for Travis, he had shown that he didn’t need him to enjoy himself. When Mr. Trakarian asked him to join the family for an evening Bible study, he was surprised at such an invitation, but thanked him and said he had to get back to his cabin.

But Travis was not someone he wanted to encounter at the moment, so he headed for the upper decks for a look out at sea from the highest vantage points as the Fairwind neared the Carolinas toward evening. The wind was brisk up there, and it was invigorating. He felt young, free, with his whole life ahead of him. He thought back to New York and Queens, and what a good time he was having while his family went about their humdrum lives. His cruise seemed a success for the first time on the voyage.

He looked forward to the following day and its possible events. As for Travis, who gave him a bad taste in his mouth, he would just have to tolerate him and his ways, and make the best of having to share a room with a crotch-scratching ape. He decided he wasn’t going to let the likes of Travis spoil his cruise, for which he had spent a lot of hard-earned money.

He took the view of the Carolina coast, the sunset, and the sea, and when it was too dark to enjoy it any longer he went to a casino, just to watch people throw away fortunes. He didn’t have money to try his luck, but he enjoyed watching those who did.

All of a sudden he was surprised to see Travis, standing with two older women at one table, playing chips they handed to him. And Travis was winning! He was on a roll! A crowd soon gathered round as the stakes mounted in the thousands. The women, particularly the youngest, most beautiful, flocked to Travis’s side, and Van could see Travis soon was taking more notice of them than his game. His luck went down as his interest in women hanging on his every move went up. He made some desperate last throws and suddenly it was all over—-the casino raked in all his chips. Smiling, Travis shrugged.

Then the two older women dragged him away, turning angry glances at the younger women, who turned back to their partners.

Van left, wondering where could he go without running into Travis everywhere on the voyage and having to watch his antics. Even his own room was no sanctuary as long as Travis had a key.

He was in bed, sitting up with a volume of Santayana’s philosophy he had promised himself to read but reading instead THE MALTESE FALCON, when Travis came in, dinner jacket draped across his shoulder.

“So you like the high-brow, literary scene, do you?” Travis remarked, smiling, as he gave the Santayana a superior glance. “I’m no book-worm like you! I prefer living life, myself, rather than just reading about people who do! People who got to read for their thrills are more dead than alive, in my opinion!”

Van said nothing, and kept reading, though his blood began to boil.

Surprising Van, Travis prepared to go to bed at a decent hour too.

When he found he couldn’t concentrate, Van turned out his night light and turned over and shut his eyes.

He couldn’t sleep, for he kept hearing Travis, who couldn’t sleep apparently, slapping cards as he played solitaire on his bed.

This went on for two or three hours, Van thought. Finally, Travis seemed to have enough of that, and he lay back down. A few more minutes passed, with the light finally out, and then Van thought he heard footfalls on the carpet, very light, going toward the dresser where Van remembered he had left his wallet lying.

“Oh no!” Van thought. He switched on his night lamp, and Travis was at the dresser, just then turning with the wallet in hand.

“What are you doing?” Van cried out.

Travis laughed, dropped the wallet back on the dresser top, and lounged back to bed. “What do you mean? I was just checking for something in my wallet!” “You mean MY wallet, joker!”

“Oh, is it yours, dearie? I thought it was mine. Sorry, my mistake! Couldn’t tell in the dark!”

Van rose up on his bed, unable to control himself.

“You’ve taken my shaver, my New York World’s Fair cuff links, my Hawaiian shirt, tee shirts, stockings—-swiped everything you wanted off me, admit it! Do you think I’m a moron or something? That I don’t know what I brought with me? I want it all back now, and not at the end of this cruise! Do you hear me, Travis? I say, did you hear me?”

All of a sudden Travis seemed to become a statue, or time seemed to stop. Whatever happened, Van had time to listen to the pounding of his heart. Travis then moved, shrugged, and lazily rose, giving his backside a good scratch. He belched and moved toward the restroom. Coming out a few minutes later, cigarette on his lower lip, only then did he pause.

“Okay, little smart ass, you have your nerve, putting the finger on me! Room service took it, stupid. Everybody knows room service is a bunch of thieves. You ought to know better than to leave your stuff out for them like that. Just don't go blaming me for your own mistakes! I might just take offense. I’ve duked it out with guys who accused me of things before I didn’t do—but you, you’re just a snot-nosed, low class kid from the armpit of Queens, and I don't fight with kids! So be glad I’ll let you off this time.”

Van knew Travis now was a boldfaced liar, the worst thing in his book. Could he take Travis, if it came to a fight? He and Travis were about the same size and build, he saw. He was angry enough to fight him at this point, but what good would that do?

They might both be put off the ship at Port Everglades, their last port call in the U.S. His whole trip would be ruined. He wouldn’t even be refunded his fare. Travis would probably talk his way onboard another cruise ship, but he knew he couldn’t, he would slink back home in shame for messing up his grand voyage of a lifetime.

It was hard to swallow down so much anger, but somehow Van managed. He wanted to be a thousand miles away at that moment. “He dares call me low class when he's nothing but low life,” he thought, recalling Travis and his companion in his bed. “And to think I have to be caged with him for twenty more days!”

Travis seemed adept at reading thoughts, particularly those hostile to him. “Aw, we might as well decide to get along. You can’t fight onboard ship, there’s nowhere to go but the H20, and there’s plenty of sharks following us for the kitchen scraps! Why, a fella could be walking the deck, say, and a little shove by somebody could send you over the side so fast you wouldn’t have time for one last fart. I know, buddy boy. I’ve heard of cases like that, real tragedies, and actually it’s happened a couple times on cruises I’ve taken.

"Poor guys! So if you think about it, it isn’t worth it, making any kind of trouble aboard ship.” He yawned. “So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to retire for the night and get some well-earned beauty sleep. You can do as you like, but tomorrow is another day where men will be men, and boys will be boys. That’s the world, take it or leave it.

"You might as well go with the tide, old buddy! Otherwise, you’ll just make things hard for yourself. And if it ever enters your mind to rat on me-—well, you better think it over carefully. I wouldn’t do anything stupid, if I were you.”

Van—-infuriated by the suggestion he might “rat” on Travis to the ship’s authorities, leaped out of bed, grabbed his wallet, then returned to bed. Somehow, without another word passing between them, Van was able to remain in the same room with someone he had come to loathe.

Sometime later he awoke, hearing Travis get up and go to the bathroom. The light was on for a few minutes, then was switched off. Travis crept out, locking the door after him. Relieved that Travis was gone, even though probably on another escapade, Van was able to sleep.

Was it a hour later, or hours? It was still dark and there was tremendous pounding on the door. “Lemme in!” cried a muffled voice that the rudely awakened Van recognized.

With a groan, he heaved out of bed and went and opened the door. Van automatically reached and flicked the light on an unspeakable sight.

It was Travis, shirtless, his pants falling down to his knees, and his face was smeared red.

Ducking past, Travis went into the bathroom, slamming the door. Van heard sounds of water running furiously and splashing on the floor.

“Travis, what happened?” Van called outside the door. “Were you in a fight? Are you hurt?”

“Naw, stupid! Bug off! I’m busy!”

There was sound of more water being sloshed about in the sink and onto the floor. “This woman I just met was having her stupid period, that’s all. Then her husband came back from playing the tables just as I was getting some good pussy, and I had to run for it. No big deal. Happens to the best of us!”

Van’s stomach gave a dry heave. He felt like he would throw up as he turned and went back to his bed. He lay down, staring up at the ceiling.

A minute or so later he heard Travis come out of the bathroom, throw down a soiled towel, and then fall and crash on his bed so hard it gave an audible crack and slumped over on one side.

Van couldn’t think of anything to say, and what could be said? Travis was Travis. Animals like him obviously couldn’t change.

He woke up in the dark, the room was cold and empty, for the porthole had been opened and left. He gazed out-—brilliant moonlight on the water as the ship rushed southward to a port call off the Everglades.

Travis seemed far and away at that moment. As if the whole scene were enchanted, it seemed Travis had no place in any of it. “I’ll go up on deck and see what it looks like from there,” he thought.

Dressing in a light jacket and sweater, he went out. He passed very few people at that hour of the morning.

When he reached a good vantage spot, where he could see nothing but the sea for miles round the speeding ship, he paused and leaned on the rail, gripping it with his hands. How beautiful! He thought. Wouldn’t his family envy him now, seeing this with him? Wouldn't they give anything to be in his shoes? Yeah!

The only black spot on the voyage was Travis his cabin mate, whom he knew he couldn’t escape no matter how hard he tried. Even on such a big ship he could not be avoided, Van knew. Feeling he was trapped and he had no other alternative, he decided he would seek out the captain and report everything. Travis was a thief and a liar and deserved detention on board. Van decided he wanted nothing further to do with Travis and his “high-flying” life-style of sleeze-ball “fun and romance.” Let him sit out the voyage somewhere in the ship under lock and key!

With that momentous decision made, Van turned to go back down. Suddenly, somebody hurled his whole body’s force at Van, toppling him back over the rail. Somehow he caught the railing as he was falling on the other side, but his nylon-masked assailant was just as quick to kick at his hands to finish the job. God! Van cried as the kicks smashed his fingers and loosened his grip. Another kick and he knew he was going to fall and feed the sharks while alive if he didn’t drown first.

Suddenly, the whole ship gave a terrific lurch. A gigantic surge of water then began to ride up the side of the vessel, lifting it at the same time all along that side. Water poured round him and swept into the ship. For some reason the reversed Niagara had parted where he hung precariously, but had drowned the ship and its passengers. Van, instead of falling, found himself lying almost flat on the hull. The man assaulting Van yelled and fell back away from him immediately in the river that overwhelmed him. The inundated ship continue to lean over, farther and farther.

“We’re going to capsize and sink?” Van thought in that terrible moment when it appeared the world was about to end. What had they struck? He couldn’t even think of what it could be. But he happened to glance backwards into the boiling surf of waves close to his feet and he saw something odd, a lighthouse possibly. And in the raging water and froth were the tops of gates-—and he recognized them—the very gates he had helped load , when he was fifteen, onto the barges in New York years before. Now they floated up in the water as if made of feathers!

Arranging themselves in a row, the gates stood up completely on the water, erect and complete in every detail.

Meanwhile, the ship continued to founder.

Holding to the rail with all his might, Van thought it was the end for him—the last survivor, as far as he could tell.

What could he do?

He thought he heard mass screaming in the doomed vessel beneath him, with hands beating on the walls and ceilings. But how could he? All the passengers had either been swept off or were now under water drowning or drowned, if not crushed to death under smashed furniture and collapsed bulkheads. Slowly, the moments stretched as he thought he would do under with the ship at any moment-—yet the waters began to subside, and the ship began to move back on its keel. It was so slow that Van had time to scramble back on board as the waters rushed off its decks. Sparkling in the moonlight, everything washed clean, the ship seemed perfectly normal, except it was deathly quiet. He knew, despite appearances, it was nothing but a ship of death. Nobody else could have survived!

That being left alone was just too much for any young man to take. Panic swept him. It was the most terrible feeling. He thought he would scream, but nothing but hoarse gasps came out. He didn't know what to do. All he could do was cry inwardly, “O God!” over and over. Gradually, he calmed down enough to think.

Van could see the three New York World’s Fair Gates fully restored, still floating in the water. Foremost, with the other two in the background, was the Dutch wooden shoe-decorated New Amsterdam Gate.

He gazed around him, the empty ship deck. Going below, slipping on the wet floors wherever it wasn’t carpeted, he began his desperate search for human beings, even though he knew they couldn’t possibly be alive. Water had swept everything away, leaving only scraps of seaweed, jelly fish, and live fish. He tried first one corridor, then another. He found no one. No one! How could three thousand people have vanished? But he couldn’t turn up a single soul.

It is phenomenal what desperation can accomplish. Somehow he found his own cabin, and in the wreckage amidst some flopping little fish he stooped to pick up a wallet. It was Travis’s, which he had seen Travis pull out to get something when they were last in a bar together! He could tell by the palm trees etched in the morocco leather—-Travis bragged to him it had cost him “half a grand” for this wallet in Saks, Fifth Avenue when it was obviously a trinket from a Coney Island arcade. Water had swept so quickly through the cabin, bursting out the porthole, and draining back out the door that the wallet was scarcely wet. It fell open in his hand, and the cards, already spilling from it, tumbled out onto the floor.

One was a Social Security card marked Julius L. Barnard. Then his vehicle registration for a late model red convertible Mustang. The other cards all bore the same name. And the address on several was the same: 2700 Dearborne Avenue, Sioux City, Iowa. A few other items, bearing the Barnard name, were long-overdue--a citation for drunken driving, a ticket for driving without a license, and a summons to court for wife beating and withholding child support. But what really mystified him was the clipping from a paper of a hit and run driver who had run over and killed a pregnant woman on a city sidewalk, with police out to find the late model red Mustang reported by several witnesses.

“Julius Lindbergh Barnard”? Van couldn’t believe what he saw at first. He had never heard the name before. What was it doing in Travis’s wallet? He looked through the remaining compartments—no money, but a pair of earrings that could have been diamonds and a couple dimes and a nail clipper in the coin compartment. The nail clipper—it was his! Travis had stolen his nail clipper! He knew it was his because it was an expensive New World’s Fair souvenir he treasured. There was no mistaking it, since on the front it had a Dutch boy in wooden shoes decorating it as a momento of the New Amsterdam Gate and the World’s Fair symbol, the U.S. Steel-made Unisphere on the back It had been given him after he finished his work one day by their supervisor, who had been impressed with his work, enough to call him out and present it to him before all the others. He was so proud of that nail clipper, and let no one borrow it. It was the last thing he wanted to lose!

Glad he had the valued memento back, he gripped it hard and put it back in his own wallet. He glanced at one last card from the wallet. “Exmoor Cruise Staff Training Academy,” it was entitled. Under that was the name, Julius Barnard, with the words, “Completed Kitchens & Food Service Course Program,” with the date and the signature of T. Knuff, identified as school administrator.

Something about the writing of the signature made him look again. He searched for a specimen of Travis's writing and found a sample, an addressed letter Travis had thrown away in the trash. Matching them with the Exmoor card, he shook his head.

The puzzle came together in an instant. “Of course!” he thought. He kept the card and let the wallet fall to the floor. It seemed at that moment that somehow all made sense. Travis was a petty forger and fraud, a thief who had learned how to take advantage of people aboard cruise ships as a trainee in shipboard food service. Maybe he was even the hit and run, homicidal driver reported in the Sioux City paper! Having “solved” Travis's case like an old-time private investigator, he forgot momentarily the much bigger problem—-the mass death and destruction around him. At that moment, logic did not apply. He felt in the midst of chaos that there was, somehow, somewhere, an order in the disaster, underlying everything that had happened. For hadn’t Travis gotten what he had coming to him? He had no other evidence that the nail clipper, which had come back to him on the waters after Travis, evidently, had been swept away out the porthole. But however slim the bit of evidence, it was enough to tell him that things would turn out all right, as long as he “kept his head” about him. At that moment the words of a Trojan girl’s letter to him as if in confirmation, written long before he found it, shot into his mind like a lightning bolt: “Stay on the ship!”

Then the thought hit him almost as hard: maybe her advice was all wrong Then maybe he was dreaming all this up, and in actually he was lying somewhere in the dark waters with all the others who had drowned. A few more moments and it would all fade away in his dying brain! But as he waited to see what would happen the moments passed and nothing of the sort transpired. He heard water dripping everywhere, the sound of waves churning below the porthole, the turbulence slowly dying back as he listened. He crept to the porthole, almost afraid to look out, and he forced himself to look and saw the three World’s Fair Time Gates still floating on the bright, ruffled water. “What are they doing there?” he wondered. He had seen the Time Capsule at the Fair, along with the exhibit telling all about it and its contents, which when they were buried at the site were supposed not to be opened for five thousand years. What force had brought them up from the sea bottom? How could they have come up to the surface like that, since they were made of concrete and weighed multiple tons? Of course, ships weighed much, much more, and they floated! Yet he knew they couldn’t possibly displace water in the way a hulled vessel could and had to sink straight to the bottom when the NYC garbage barges opened cargo doors for dumping at sea.

His head whirling with questions he could not answer, he couldn’t stand the thought of the cabin anymore. Also, the moonlight was going due to clouds moving in. He made his way back to the top deck, checked in at the empty bridge and was about to go out when he saw several magazines in the entrance. Something like instinct told him he should pick them up and look at them. It seemed a crazy impulse at the time, but he obeyed. One was 1965, the other was 1977. He didn’t feel in the mood to read magazines, which was understandable, but he still felt impelled to open them. The water had scarcely soaked them, it had come and gone so quickly. He had no difficulty separating the pages. The 1965 issue carried articles about the end of the Civil War: “Grant and Lee at Appomattox,” “France Meets the Sea in Brittany and Normandy,” with a map of Brittany and Normandy stretching to Mont de Miguel and Omaha Beach, and the current 1977 issue featured “Egypt, Her Dazzling Past and Her Hopeful Future,” along with “Chief Joseph” and others as well that he didn’t go into.

“They are your new itinerary for the cruise,” a voice spoke to him in his mind. “You stumbled into the Temple of Time, so choose well which Time Gate you want to enter.” Van dropped the magazines like white hot ingots. What? He spun around, but he saw no one. He couldn’t think for a moment. Was he going crazy? Had he heard what he thought he heard? An itinerary, drawn from magazine articles? A “Temple of Time” “Time Gates”? What was this all about? “You mean,” he said, addressing open space, “I’m not going to Machu Picchu and Lima?” There was no reply to his scornful outburst, but he knew the answer. This was no time to go off his head and talk to empty space! The ship obviously was in no condition to go anywhere. It might even sink! He had to get help! He had to wave his shirt and let someone in the air see him, that he was still alive onboard! Surely, he thought, the ship would be spotted lying dead in the water, and help would be sent. He couldn’t be left very long aboard the ship before it was spotted and reported to the Coast Guard.

It was a comforting thought, and he went and sat down on a desk chair that he set upright. It was one of the few left intact, as the rest had been immediately swept overboard off the other side. All he had to do was sit calmly and in a few minutes, or possibly an hour or two, help would come. It had to come! He was still sitting there, wondering where the rescuers were, when he grew aware of someone standing in front of him. He sprang to his feet, his eyes riveted on the stranger, a brown-skinned man wrapped in a blanket, with coal-black eyes and long, glossy hair, complete with feathers in his hair and tied like a bracelet to his arm and wrists. An Indian? On board the Fairwind? It couldn't be! A Martian would be likelier!

The Indian seemed to note the young man’s confusion and consternation. He motioned in a way that even Van understood, to sit back down. Not knowing why, Van obeyed. He sat, staring at the strangest sight of his life: a savage Indian aboard a modern cruise ship. The apparition, for Van couldn’t believe he was seeing a living Indian, spoke to him. “My people call me Black Elk,” he said gravely, his eyes fixed on Van, eyes Van could not possible lie to or evade they were so stern, fearless, and truthful--like an eagle's might be.

“I have been sent to this Great White Canoe to help you understand. Do not be afraid for the others, who have gone to the lodges of their own making—you alone are left alive. Your voyage is not ended. I will accompany you on part of your journey.”

Having said this, the Indian turned and looked toward the Time Gates. “But you must choose which one. Have you chosen? You must have chosen already, for I have been sent.”

This was utterly preposterous! Van was thinking. He hadn’t chosen anything! It was all happening to him, the craziest things, without any say on his part.

The Indian seemed to divine his thoughts. He turned back to gaze at Van as if he were looking at a child. “We now will go to the places you have wanted to go, when they were shown to you.”

Van jumped up from his chair. “Wait a minute! I’m not going anywhere with you! I’m going to be rescued! I have to stay right here, and wave my shirt when the first scout plane flies over! It won’t be long—“

The Indian did not seem to hear Van’s excited protests. He kept looking at the New Amsterdam Gate, which then grew larger, so large in fact that the ship was moving right toward it like a toy ship might in a tub of water.”

Van felt his blood run cold as the Gate grew so enormous that the ship was going to be either crushed against it or—“

A few moments later the gate was passed-—they were safely through! Van looked back, and the three gates were visibly sinking back into the water, which leaped up around them with huge, crashing, white-frothed waves. A moment more, and they vanished before his eyes, swallowed up as if they had never existed!

Now only he, the Indian chief, and the ship were left on the wide open sea.

Just then, as he had shouted at the Indian, a plane headed their way. He could hear and see it coming. He grabbed his shirt, tore it off, and ran like a crazy man down the deck, waving it at the sky as if this was his last chance to get off the doomed ship.

The plane passed over, climbing higher into the sky, not even pausing to circle round the ship, and Van slowed down in his run, then stopped, out of breath but still waving his shirt until the plane’s sounds completely died away in the distance.

He felt crushed, but a positive thought came to his mind. “There has got to be another! I’ll just wait until it comes! Hopefully, we won’t be caught in a storm before it arrives!”

Avoiding the Indian, he continued down the deck, then climbed to the upper decks to get a better vantage for signaling his rescuers.

As if a gigantic page was flipped, he saw as he gazed out over the sea the sky roll back and another sky substituted. It was a sky with a skyline of skycrapers he immediately recognized! The Big Apple's!

It was a night sky, with fountains dancing in a long line in a pool beneath the satellite-ringed world globe of the Unisphere, all lit up brilliantly. Just beyond to the right were circular-domed towers, and beneath, covering the grounds, thousands and thousands of fairgoers scurrying antlike. But the scene shifted—the Unisphere and towers fell away and a roof rose up overhead, composed of many ribs and colors—the New York pavilion which he recognized from his visit there when he was a lot younger. He saw the Time Capsule hanging like a bronze torpedo, suspended just above floor level by a nylon cable from the ceiling high overhead. People were standing around gawking—a mother in a black coat, with blond hair parted in the middle, with two crewcut teen boys who were probably her sons. Meanwhile, a group of older, street gang teenagers, passing by the exhibit just then were glancing at the information and pictures displayed on panels in the background to the right.

“This is the Temple of Time,” said a voice behind him. “It is your people’s work. Your people made a god of time, yet nothing will turn out as you and your people have dreamed!”

Van spun around, and saw the Indian. He had been followed!

“What are you doing here?” he cried rudely. “I don’t need a guide. Who asked you anyway? I am leaving this ship! What you do is your own business!” he said, realizing he sounded not too adult at the moment because he was so upset.

The Indian did not respond in any way that Van could tell. He just kept gazing quietly at Van, as if waiting for something.

“Well?” said Van, exasperated after a few moments of this. “What do you plan to do? You heard me! I’m not going with you, if that is your idea!”

Suddenly, the chief looked up over Van’s shoulder, and Van followed his gaze, and he then realized he wasn’t listened to anymore. The scene had shifted dramatically. New York and the World’s Fair had vanished. Beyond him, instead of sea, lay nothing but wide-open deserts, with rocky outcrops and the hazy outlines of mountains on the far horizon. The ship, as if it could move freely in any medium, whether land or sea, was cruising slowly and majestically toward the plains in the far distance.

Fairwind in the Southwestern Deserts

Van, looking over the side, felt like he might go completely mad as he watched their progress. What in the world had happened to the rational, blue collar, humdrum world he had known, where everything abided by set and known laws of physics? What laws applied now to what he was witnessing? Obviously, everything was turned upside down! He could expect to see anything happen.

Then he remembered something, the Indian’s name. He turned sharply on him like an inquisitor from the Middle Ages. “You claimed your name is Black Elk. Who are you, really? What are you doing aboard this ship. We had a—well, something bad happened, and everybody aboard has been drowned except me. Then you show up! And the next thing the ship goes on this weird cruise, taking me places no real ship could go! Can you explain this? And even if you say anything, can I believe it?”

The Indian shook his head slowly. “In your language I am called Black Elk,” he began again as if interrupted. “I have been given life! I was dead, lying in sin and darkness like my people, a practicioner of our native medicine craft which could not heal even my own body’s ills, but now I am made alive in the true knowledge of God. Forevermore, I live in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ! He has given me His very Spirit. In Him the sacred hoop is restored. I shall obey His will forever. Let may all the earth and every creature obey Him.”

Van, with only a vague acquaintance with his Christian roots, couldn’t tell what the Indian was talking about. He turned away, disgusted. He looked up, hoping desperately for any sign of his tardy rescuers.

“I must be dreaming this!” he cried out. “This is a bad dream!”

The Indian smiled at him. “No, but you are the living dream of a great Dreamer, and you must complete your journey, for I came by obedience to the God of the Sky Lodges to help you. If you had not truly lived, you would not be here with me, viewing these things. Otherwise, you would wander on your Great Canoe forever and never find your way out back to your own time and your own people. That is the fate of many who first sailed with you. They have never left this Great Canoe, but they are all without eyes and see nothing. ”

Van, hearing the phrases, “find your way out back to your own time and your own people,” suddenly felt very alone, very lost, and very confused. He looked around. Was it true, as Black Elk intimated, that the souls of his fellow passengers, including Travis, were still aboard, but locked in a blind sort of existence, a kind of Limbo for the sightless? The thought was horrendous to him. What had they done that was so bad they deserved such a fate? How he wanted to be released from his nightmare cruise to parts unknown. He wanted it with all his being. But the ship, he saw, was moving steadily on, guided by an invisible captain’s hand.

The plains, Van could see, were swept by winter winds, and the sky was darkening. The green grass had turned to parched tufts standing out of the snow. Where were they?

Then Van recalled that he had glanced at the article about Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce retreat into northern Montana, the Indians fighting their way north as they tried to escape from the U.S. army chasing them to an inevitable last stand.

“You are about to see the Light,” said the Indian, interrupting Van’s thoughts. “We are going in this great canoe to the battlegrounds of the Nez Perce and the one they called Chief Joseph.”

Beginning in the mountains, the homeland of the Nez Perce, in northern Idaho, the itinerary took them into the Rocky Mountains of eastern Montana, as the band of 250 warriors and 500 women and children, fled the Northwest. The next 1,700 miles showed Van battle after battle with the U.S. Army, which was equipped with Gatling guns, howitzers, and repeating rifles.

Seeing the Army soldiers, which did not seem to see the Fairwind that stood so huge above them, Van realized it had to be before the turn of the century, so that he had been taken far back in time. He watched the Indians continue their retreat in the dead of winter, down from the mountain and into the river plains, as they headed first south through the Bitterroot Mountains then north to the much lower, hill-sized Bearpaw Mountains.

A map of the escape route came to mind, drawn from an instant glance in the magazine!

He also knew the outcome, which was defeat and capture for the Indians by the army soldiers just a few miles short of their goal, the border with Canada. Outrunning one army band, the Indians were intercepted by another army under Col. Nelson Miles.

After five days fighting in the snow and cold, the Nez Perce split forces. One group under Chief Yellow Wolf, with 200 others, fled across the Canadian border to join Sitting Bull. Chief Joseph, however, his heart sickened with so many dead and wanting to see the suffering ended, surrendered with his remaining people.

But then the scene shifted, and Van saw a camp of utter defeat and rout by the army soldiers, when Col. Nelson and his men surprised and attacked sleeping families in Montana’s Big Hole Basin, shift to a simple, pioneer-style homestead on an Indian reservation. There were two old men sitting in the yard, one was an Indian, holding his broad-billed hat on his knees, while next to him was a white, a Wasichu, with a white and grizzled beard and no hat.

“He is John Gibbon, one of the Wasichu soldiers who attacked my Lakota people with Col. Nelson,” Black Elk explained to Van, who had turned, without thinking, to him for just such a word. “The other is one you call Chief Joseph.”

Van nodded, overcome by a glimmer of understanding concerning what the scene could mean.

But how could Chief Joseph let someone like John Gibbon sit on a chair next to him like that? How could they be reconciled? It was unthinkable, after having seen the slaughter of the Indians in the Big Hole Basin during the surprise attack by the army soldiers. Yet it was so! Van couldn’t deny the evidence before his eyes.

If Van entertained any further doubt he was real and living, it was swept away by the following scene, which proved so captivating that Van realized for the first time how very heavy the hand of Destiny lay upon his heart and life.

“I must have been born and lived only for this moment,” he realized, as he set eyes on the McLean house at Appomattox, Virginia, just before the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s forces to the Federals represented by General Grant. And he was thrilled beyond any words to describe the experience.

As with most Americans who were not scholars devoted to the study of the Civil War, the event at Appomattox had been so watered down, so poorly taught by succeeding generations of teachers, he scarcely had any idea what happened there on April 9, 1865.

Just prior to the signing of the surrender paper by Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederate Army, had suffered its final defeat. Starving, half-naked, without ammunition, they had fought bravely to the last, but nothing could win them a break-through of Grant’s encircling lines of thousands of well-fed, well-armed soldiers. The southerners’ flag of truce went up. General Grant, in his field headquarters, stepped outside to view it.

Lee arrived first by horseback at the McLean House. After the surrender, he returned home and would stand by his door, remembering these events, which burned in his spirit.

The victor, General-in-chief Grant, arrived next. In three hours it was over. As Lee rode away, he did so honorably, carrying even his sword as the generous terms of surrender allowed him. The next day commissioners from both armies made arrangements to which Lee and Grant had signed. Not only was the Confederate army paroled in defeat, but the Confederates were given back their horses and mules, if they had claim to any-—an unheard of concession by the victorious party after a bloodbath of a civil war.

Every Rebel-spilt drop of Union or Northern blood should have cried out for revenge on that day, not concession and reconciliation! Yet, following their general’s example, following President Lincoln’s example too, the Union Army did not cheer and fire its arms at its victory but saluted the defeated Confederates for their stubborn, brave, courageous struggle against overwhelming odds for over four years.

Van was shaken to his core as he viewed the signing of surrender by General Lee, and to him this was the most memorable part of the events of Appomattox. Also from his wonderful, high vantage, he saw, leaning from the towering prow of the Fairwind, the whole countryside of rural Virginia covered with the camps of armies, Johnny Reb and Union, as well as the Appomatox Rail Station and the various county roads, the Peers, Isbell houses, the County Jail, the Court House, the Woodson Law Office, the Tavern Kitchen and Guest House, the Meeks Stable, and Meeks Store and House, down to the McLean House where the great war of the Wasichu brothers was ended and the schism between the North and South finally mended as best it could be.

How to end a war among brothers had been shown to him. But it was a troubling view, in a way. He had watched the proceedings in the McLean house’s parlor from start to finish, from 1:30 p.m. to nearly 4 with the sun sinking in the west toward the mountains and the great heartland plains beyond where another war would soon be waged and decided. He saw Grant and Lee attended by their various aides in the McLean parlor, and among Grant’s men stood Col. Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian, according to Black Elk. Col. Parker had helped with the draft of the letter of surrender terms. Just behind Col. Parker, at the signing by Lee of his letter of surrender, stood a blond-haired, blond-mustasched young major general whom Black Elk did not have to identify for Van.

“Custer!” he cried to himself. “General Custer!” He could scarcely believe his eyes. What was he doing at the surrender, when later he would go and attack villages of Lakota Indians, only to be wiped out to the last man by those he had so viciously attacked?

Black Elk, again, divined Van’s secret thoughts. “A man follows his own heart, my son. Its evil or good will turn him to the right or the wrong path,” he said, indicating the various roads in the village of Appomattox. “That is the reason a man must know his own heart, or he will do as this poor man later did. He must master the darkness like a wild horse, or someday, somehow, it will turn and kill him. That is what happened with Custer. He failed to rule himself.”

In a moment’s time it all came together. His struggle-—born of his parents’ struggle for mastery in the household—his futile seeking to escape and being confronted by someone like Travis, who had made an art of escaping responsibility for his actions—now the overwhelming evidence what rivalry for power, greed and lust can do to destroy a soul and a great nation—all this forced him to make a choice. Would he follow in their steps or not?

How his dark heart wanted power and influence, wanted money, and lusted! His heart was—-he realized—-his own worst enemy. The individual human heart, not somebody else, was the true villain in the long, dark trail of the human story.

Van offered his hand, and Black Elk, without even a hesitation for the sake of the Battle of Wounded Knee, gripped it firmly and manfully. It was the hardest thing Van had ever done, he knew, but he chose to do it, seeing into the caverns of his own heart as Black Elk had just advised.

The Fairwind, at that moment, sailed into port at the end of the 21 day cruise. Van watched in amazement. All returned to the condition it was before disaster struck. All were safe aboard, not a soul lost, or so it seemed. Travis, in defiance off everything right in the world, walked off too, as perky as a gamecock with his bevy of female conquests looking on, his bags bulging with stolen goods. But one man walked off changed—-better for the cruise, not the worse.

Van, not surprised that no one met him at the dock, returned to Queens and found the same old cycle of emotionally bloody, domestic warfare, but he soon saw that Queens could not get the same grip on him as it had in the past. He was free! Just like Black Elk! Free! Gloriously free! Truly, he had seen the Light and built statelier mansions in his soul than Queens would ever know.

Was there ever a disaster in the so-called Burmuda Triangle? Did the Fairwind actually capsize and everyone but Van drown like kittens in a rain barrel? Now, to his eyes, they looked again very much alive-—but he knew better. Living dead, that was all they really were. Could he tell them? No! He had tried, during the last moments before leaving ship, to get through to Travis.

Before they had parted, Travis shrugged off Van’s excited account of the “revised itinerary” of the ship taking him to places such as NYC’s World Fair of 1965, Bear Paw, Montana in 1877, and Appomatox, Virginia, on April 9-10, 1865, with optional trips to Pharaonic Egypt “I always suspected you were a crazy loon,” he laughed. “Now you just proved it beyond any doubt!”

With tears smarting in his eyes, Van could only reply, “Black Elk said you would do this.”

“Do what?” Travis laughed.

“He said you would follow your own heart and the dark things reigning in it, and then one day you would fall in the pit you yourself had dug.”

Travis had then rolled his eyes and whistled. “Oh man! I paid my good money to listen to this sentimental, poetic crap? Lemme off this old banana boat immediately! I’ve had enough of your mealy-mouthed, Puritanic moralizing for two life-times!” And off he went in search of another cruise ship, two porters struggling to carry bags bulging with of items Van knew very well belonged to half the passenger list.

The Trakarians? At one point only did their revised itinerary and his intersect. It came about on the optional trip to Egypt that they ran across each other. While they were touring Abu Simbel they told how they had been taken to places like Mont St. Miguel, Omaha Beach, and Andersonville, by way of a different Time Gate, the Meadow Lake Gate-—all three sites having to do with meadows, swamps, or beaches. It had been incredibly life-changing for them, Sakos Trakarian explained to Van. He told Van they had forgiven the Turks everything! Everything!

And he wished there was time to tell Van all that had happened, and what they had learned, but there wasn’t time enough in the world. Van, on his side, agreed. How could he share fully what had happened to him? No one would think, except the Trakarians, he was anything but out of his mind.

Years after the cruise, Van, retired from teaching art and math to Pine Ridge Reservation students in an academy he founded and called Kimimila, made a pilgrimage to rural Nespelem, Washington. There, in a cemetery on the Colville Indian Reservation, he found on the hillside a marble column. Carved in the stone was a face he recognized from close acquaintance. “He led his people in the Nez Perce War of 1877. Age about 60 years. Died September 21, 1904.”

His name? Hinmahtooyahlatkekht—-Thunder Rolling in the Mountains. But Van knew him simply as Chief Joseph.

He included a visit to Black Elk’s grave too when he visited the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations close by the Black Hills of South Dakota.

On his return east to visit his parents’ graves in Queens he stopped by Troy, New York.

There he found the trail led no futher, for whoever had written the letter and put it in a bottle, advising the finder to “stay on the white ship,” was impossible now to identify, even if she were still living in “stupid old Troy.”

Like the ancient, tragic Greek prophetess Cassandra of the Trojan War period, everything she had warned him about in her letter had come true.

Undeniably, he had seen the Room of Death, the Ruined Tower rearing up in his own heart’s depths, and the Time Gates.

Everyone but him and the Trakarians—who, he was informed by them, had experienced something equally unique on a cruise that had the same challenge he had faced--had drowned. Even if their bodies later walked off the boat, they still had drowned. What do you say to drowned men and women anyway? For them the Light could not shine again, they had chosen something else in passing, and the passing was in the night.

He certainly had changed, as the girl of the bottle’s letter had promised. But would they ever meet in life? She was certain they would meet. Maybe, he thought, on this one point she had missed it. How could they ever meet? He didn’t know her name. And by now she was very, very old, and quite likely passed on.

He walked down to the canal, the famed Erie. Parts still existed, preserved by various organizations of canal enthusiasts. He was looking down in the water, and the impulse came to throw a pebble and watch the water on the now still, unruffled waters. He heard the stone strike the water and saw the ripples spread out immediately.

It was then he understood. The ripples of Troy’s inglorious “Cassandra’s” life, and his own, would have to meet somewhere, at some point or other. They had met once, to be sure. Surely, they would meet again. Life itself was based, he knew now, on just those very ripples mysteriously running into each other across vast gulfs of time and space.

Somehow he knew his own life story would reach her, and she would be rewarded for having reached out to him initially.

Pardon an old man, but he wept at the thought that they reach each other like that.

If that were not so, he would never have started a school for the hopeless in the outback of South Dakota. He remembered the Nez Perce too, how valiantly they had fought and lost a war for freedom. No queen of England ever rose to the greatness of a simple but lionine Nez Perce woman, Ta-ka-mappo, who fought with a rifle like a man.

If that were not so, he would still be in cancer-riddled, time-enslaved, mystery-killing Queens, lying in a cemetery plot like cold facts in a statistical file, or, if he was still breathing, off travelling to nowhere and back in an Airstream after retiring from a ConEd electric plant.

All along the hall on both sides of the New York hospital, parents and relatives sat waiting their turns to see loved ones.

“It’s your fault poor Vanny’s like this—-a vegetable all the rest of his life!” the woman said, as her husband rolled his eyes and turned back to the sports section he was reading.

He has already told her, in so many words, a hundred times or more, it was HER fault! After all, she had always been encouraging him in stupid, artistic pursuits so that he would take off before graduation on an expensive cruise and get his head knocked in like he did. If Vanny had listened to his father and stuck to ConEd and electrical work, this tragedy, this totally wasted life, wouldn’t have happened!

Waiting for the nurse to let them in for another visit, the couple with graying streaks in their hair said nothing more, and when the door opened and a nurse beckoned them, they dragged themselves up and went in. There was absolutely no change, they found. He looked as young as ever, and, if anything, younger!

And the nurse stood gently stroking Van's forehead with her hand, her charm bracelet looking to the mother so out of place in a hospital, the most uncharming of all places!

After the usual twenty minutes they gave up trying to call Van out of his coma and went back home to resume old white and blue collar arguments.

Retro Star Directory and Linking Page

Copyright (c) 2005, Butterfly Productions, All Rights Reserved