Chapter 8

He holds his own


Lit by three low candles almost to the point

of pools of wax, Estrelica and Vic lay in the bath

mishearing each other with each splash of their legs

in the water. Estrelica swirled her head under the water

as Vic followed as they lay dead still, then resurfaced soapy

and filmy. Vic got the shakes and topped up the bath as Estrelica

noticed the moles on his back laid out the lines of Prague. She

framed him with her eyes perfectly and set the moment in stone,

reached over and touched his Adam’s apple as he lay back and thought

to herself how nothing lasts. If she was twenty-five, what did she feel five

for? Too much like nothing else mattered and how could it all possibly fit into

a kiss, let alone a lifetime? A lifetime, let alone a kiss.

"...I just find that everybody is so completely complicated and so completely themselves that you can tell as much about someone in one day as you can in five years. You hear more of their stories over the course of time, and you get to know the finer points of how they react to something, but there’s really no difference. And what you could miss in their complexity when you first meet them, you make up for in time. But initially you’re just kind of bowled over by who they are." Vic said.

"And I think that at the point when you realize what someone needs and what they don’t need, then it’s fine. But you have to be willing to let them just be who they are no matter how much they offend you, if you do get offended, until you get to the point where you can see exactly what they were like as a child, and what they blessed and what they cursed back then, they still do. I think that every person’s life is an attempt to see if they could face themselves if they were children again. Age humbles everyone." Estrelica said.

They took turns taking nips of Vic’s hip flask that he’d filled with port before he’d been arrested.

"And what of your life?" she asked.

"My life is an attempt to live what I’ve already dreamed. So, I can’t help but laugh all the time because it’s all just part of the dream. The thing is, though, it that when everything is possible, nothing is accomplished. My freedom has gotten to the point where, as I prove to myself that I can do something, I lose interest in it. And now that my dreams aren’t dreams anymore the effort involved in making them come true is almost superfluous because I’ve dreamed them so vividly that I taste the reality of it, or at least I imagine so well the rewards and the consequences involved that there’s no motivation left to actually follow through with it. I think that it’s the same with love. Everyone has got such a personally detailed fantasy, not leaving any room at all for the unknown or the unplanned, that anything remotely dissimilar from what they fantasize is untrue. I can’t find anyone who will let themselves be loved. They all want to do it themselves and are afraid to share or reveal anything out of sheer self-defense. It is a jungle out there...but, there’s more out there than just a jungle."

"Don’t you think it’s just a gritted teeth response to the grim realities of this tough new world? and this strange sense of community of lone rangers united only by the fact that they don’t need anybody else. And the only way any emotion is going to be shown is when an agreed scapegoat is caught actually needing something in front of others, and is publicly humiliated just for crying." Estrelica said.

"Yeah, and you kind of wonder what goes through the minds of those who have just witnessed an execution and cheered it on. You get all of your anger and frustration out by venting it all through this stranger, but afterwards you don’t remember a thing. It’s just an emotional reflex. All you take away with you is a dull throb in the back of your head. Like the whole point of it is to see how much of it you can take; how long you can watch them dangle without getting violently ill. To put it away like a case of rotgut, but never to let it get to you. and me, I let things get to me." Vic said.

"How should I live?" she asked.

"Keep dry and away from children. Saw that on a box of matches. I think it applies."

"Why do you wander?"

"Because I’ve got nothing better to do with my time. and when I do stop to think of what I could be doing with my time, I find that I get just as much done going from place to place as I would if I were settled. I do lose a lot at night. But what I lose at night I make up for in the morning."

"And what do you lose at night?" she asked.

"Perseverance. At night sometimes it gets to be too much, but come the morning I look at my maps and get intoxicated on finding a place I want to go, then just working my ass of and going there. There’s a genuine price that you have to pay to live this way, and sometimes you come across people who really don’t understand that if you stopped wandering that your heart would die and just rot in the ugliest way possible."

"I’ve wanted to do what you’re doing for so long, but, I don’t know. I’d love to see Europe, but I’d have to worry about work permits."

"You should marry me. I’ve got a British Passport."

"Oh, right."

"No, seriously. If you marry me you could work in any of the European Common Market countries of your choice. If you want to travel with me, great. Or if you want to go and work in Bumfuck, Italy, then I’ll see you around. Strictly as a business proposition. It could be an early birthday present or something."

Estrelica thought for a minute, then whispered.

"But, I have nothing to give you."

"Ah, come on, I don’t want anything. Company perhaps, but that’s about it."

Estrelica thought of J. Dove Dixon, then she thought of Vic, then she thought of her dreams that were dying fast, and the world she longed to see that was dying even faster. She thought for a few minutes as Vic took a few more nips out of his flask. Just as he was about to finish it off he stopped in time to leave a little for her.

"You want the spider at the bottom?"

She took the flask and had enough to leave some still for Vic.

"I only had the body, the legs are yours."

Vic tipped the dregs of his flask into his throat as Estrelica whispered "Who do you turn to?".

He swallowed the last of the port and reached over the side of the bath to place the flask softly on the floor.

The bathwater had become noticeably cold as they both tried to stifle yawns. Estrelica pulled the plug out of the drain with her toes around the chain, reached behind Vic to an old wicker chair and grabbed a towel as she stood up. She began to dry herself as Vic reached up to dry her as well and let the towel fall into his hands. When she felt sufficiently dry she grabbed the other towel on the chair, wrapped it around her and made for the door. She turned quickly as Vic stood up to dry himself and whispered "Now don’t catch your death of cold."

Vic smiled and whispered back, "I promise."

By the time Vic had finished drying himself and walked back into Estrelica’s room, she was already in bed with a candle lit just beside her. She lay on her stomach with her arms folded under her head that faced out of the window on her right side. Vic quietly closed the bedroom door behind him as he crawled onto the bottom of the bed and leaned over her. He lightly placed his lips on her should blades as she slowly turned her head to look at him. Something outside the window startled her.

"Just lay back. It’s only the cops in the street."

"How can you tell anymore?" she whispered.

"The cops are the ones that laugh."

Vic noticed a piece of cloth sticking out from underneath Estrelica’s pillow and pulled on it to find her red and black tartan nightshirt. He sat up and put his arms through the sleeves, turned it inside out and held it out for her arms to poke through.

"What are you doing?" she asked without turning to see.

"Threading a needle, now lift up."

Estrelica lifted up as Vic helped her on with her nightshirt.

"If I were a penny, what bridge would you flick me from, and what kind of arc would I make before I sank, and why would you flick me when you could have just as easily have used me to break the bank?" Estrelica spoke.

"Partners in crime?"

"If life is a crime, yeah."

"I’ll take you as far as you want me to. That is, of course, if you want me to."

"Well, I’ve shown you the place I never show anyone. Most of them I have to blindfold because they think they’ve never been here before. But I just take four lefts and then four rights and they believe they’ve actually been somewhere."

"I’ll give a thousand camels for you. I’ll even throw a baby kebab on the fire. You can have the oceans and that comes complete with the night, too. You can even call me bro."

"I always wanted a family."

"They’re not what they’re cracked up to be. All of these millions, yours and mine, with diamonds in their eyes and their lives on the line. Forget about them. Just want me."

"I don’t work well in crowds."

"Yeah, in school they used to say that I worked best independently. Of course, no one seemed to listen to them but me."

"How did you ever escape?"

"Same way you did, I guess. By holding myself up on the vine with every last tooth clinging to the grapes."

He had to admit, she was playing her hand well. and he wished like hell he didn’t have to trump her.

She knew she’d loved every portrait she’d ever taken and hoped he’d remember that and put his fingers in her mouth.

How long did it take them to recognize each other? How long would they both be here? In the shameably honorable position of just nestling in each other's hair.

"But, if you ever..." Estrelica whispered.

"Goes for you too..."


"What time do we have to get up tomorrow?"

"No getting up. Nothing but sleep. The day doesn’t need us anyway. The sun just waves from side to side, then up creeps the night and the chimneys lining up off around the land smoke all the way down in one drag. Have you ever gone without someone for a while?"

"Yeah, and I must admit that prison was a lot easier. At least you had something to look forward to, and something else to put behind. Ever counted all the old sailors you see? Ever notice that there’s none around?"

"Yeah, I killed most of them just by standing here as they passed by."

"Now, some say that they heard you sing."

"A song to some; a moan to the rest."

A chill crept under the bedroom door as Vic reached over for his vest.

"You don’t think I can keep you warm?"

"Not after your arms fall asleep."

"I’ll tell you when I fall asleep."


"Like my hand falling from this leg to that."

Vic pulled the quilt over them as the desert of white shone round about them as they took each other in their arms the short way round for the longest way home, cadeusus-style, ya understand. Estrelica set her sights on infinity as her lungs settled down into low gear. Vic thought about the ad he had placed. Wanted: One forest, one black basin of a sky, a pair of warm sleeves and a face to pull you away, bounce pop-flies off your forehead, thunder that makes you kneel, ice that makes you tread, a fig-o-mint on your tongue, and the last of the Russian black bread. Can be reached soon because he’s moving again and needs a place to throw his bed. Applicants need not apply. Eighteen dollars with the pin-stripe border around it, but he figured he didn’t have any chances left.

"Are you awake?"

Her head didn’t stir, she just breathed in tune and sailed through her dreams alone. Vic tore off some cheese and placed it behind her neck. Shrapnel pelted her from above. She woke up with a start and her dream went on without her. He smiled his eyes up like doves and she found herself again just where she’d hoped she would: Seen, not watched, and stretched herself out, touching both walls with her fingertips. She crowned herself here. This is where she slept. Behind the outback, not the Adriondacks, just streaking from Eastleigh to Nova Scotia and then back.

Vic started counting the hairs he could take out without her noticing, but ate the cheese off her neck instead.

"Sing me a lullaby," she whispered.

Vic cleared the cheese from his craw.

"You’re all that they ever wanted

Those two are proud of you, too

But the one who wants you most of all

Has only a penny or two

But if you throw just another coin

or just flash a smile or two

maybe just a little wink would do it

and he’ll dance once again

just for you."

She closed her eyes and smiled, then opened them again and looked at Vic’s face. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she whispered to him.

"I have nothing to give you."


He let her words echo around in his mind as he closed his eyes, fathomless as to how he could tell her that nothing was exactly what he wanted, and that she had everything, but would probably live out her days never being able to fully believe it no matter how many times she heard it or who would dare try and make her believe it. He thought of Jesus Christ, whose only sin was that He had a big mouth.


He took her in his arms and kissed her ever so gingerly as she put her arms around him and held him as tightly as she could.

"Say my name. Just say my name."

Vic stared out of the window at a jet in the distance leaving a line of smoke from the west side of her window to the east.

The light from the candle flickered and caught Vic’s eye as he watched the wick melt the last of the wax, slip from the mouth of the bottle and blazed away going down in flames smiling all the way to the bottom. The glow reflected the last few drops of each candle of the season as it shone brighter, burst, and I guess you could call it black.

...estrelica... ...Estrelica... ...estrelica...



Estrelica & Vic, Chapter 9

Now you know