Monthly Archives: December 2016

274. Solstice: a poem

DSCN4794This is the day that the sun has turned it face furthest away from our northern lands. The veil between the worlds is thin today. Among pagans, there is expectation of visitation from those who have gone on before, and among all men there is an understanding that individuals, like the years they inhabit, have ends as well as beginnings.

Solstice

It hardly seems an hour
since the sun rose up
into the crystal sky.

Now it sinks westward into clouds
like a crimson bird, descending
slowly into gray.

A bitter wind cuts deep.

I was young this morning
and worried already
about the end.

Now that I’ve known
both youth and age . . .
They are no different

Tonight I am cold,
        but I’ve been cold before.
I’ll sleep well under blankets
        that trap what little warmth remains.

Good evening, sun.
I thank you for the day you gave me.
Now the long night begins.


I will see you in the morning
           And if not
That will be all right, too.

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Raven’s Run 64

Chapter Eighteen

When I traveled in Europe after I got out of the Army, I was stretching out my money by camping and eating grocery store picnics. It was then that I discovered the oddly opposed set of feelings that establish the rhythm of living close to the ground. Whenever I set up camp, there was always a feeling of relief and belonging, like a little homecoming. Even if it was only for one night, the campsite became my home, my own personal piece of the Earth. For a person traveling far and fast, there was great comfort in falling asleep looking at the same walls every night, even if those walls were blue nylon.

But whenever I broke camp, there was an equally strong feeling of freedom. Once my tent and sleeping bag were stored in the pack, and everything I owned was on my back, there came a transcendent feeling that I was once again unfettered. I could go anywhere.

As I left the hotel the next morning, I had that feeling again. The comfort of well worn pack straps, the snug grip of well worn shoes, the solid weight of the pack, and the beckoning sun filled me with joy. Oddly, not a little of that joy came from leaving Susyn behind. She was delightful, but she was not Raven. And I needed time to be alone. Since Raven was thrown off the cruise ship, I had not had an hour of true solitude, and I was feeling the lack.

I took my time walking down to the steamer dock, enjoying the town. When I reached the lake, I still had an hour to wait. I walked around the marina, admiring the sailboats, then went down through the park to the water’s edge. It was too early for any of the street musicians to be out; Susyn would come by here in the afternoon asking her questions. Now there was only sunlight, deep blue water, green grass, and young lovers strolling about. And swans. Sometimes I think half of the charm of Europe is her swans. Now, in early summer, the cygnets were big and awkward, gray and ugly-cute, just like Hans Christian Andersen described them. I squatted at the edge of the lake, a hundred yards from the steamer pier, and held out my hand. A pair of waddling adolescents came up to beg, found me breadless, pecked at my boots, and wandered off looking for a better handout.

I watched the steamer come in, and went on board with the tourists. The rest of the tourists. When you live close to the ground there is a tendency to forget your real status and believe that you are more a part of the landscape than you actually are.

Most of these lake steamers were built around the turn of the century. Their lines speak of better days, or at least days with greater attention to style. They are long, lean side-wheelers, with massive steam engines on the main deck, huffing and wheezing in plain sight. I leaned on the brass rail to watch. Fine machinery is always fascinating, and this was kept polished and shining. At my elbow, a heavy American tourist with a Texas accent was explaining it all to his wife. She listened with polite disinterest, patting his arm from time to time. You could see that the words meant nothing to her, but she was happy to see him happy. more tomorrow

273. Jesus and Joseph

I have a mental image that I would convert into a painting, if I had the skill. I don’t. I can draw; I can paint; but I lack the spark that turns such work into art. It’s frustrating — I’ll have to make do with words.

Imagine the interior of a carpenter’s ship, two millennia ago, somewhere in the middle east. Research won’t help much on this one. The best you can find is a painting from the European middle ages, or the Japanese middle ages, and then you have to reason backward with few facts to help you.

There will be two figures in the painting, and of course, you already know who they are. Joseph is planing a board he has just riven. Jesus is sweeping the floor. From time to time their glances meet, but there is little conversation.

If you have read many of these posts, you know I am not a Christian, but I started out as one, and Biblical images live in my bones. I have always wondered at the strangeness of the Son of God growing up apprenticed to his human father. And I’ve wondered how Joseph must have felt about it all.

Joseph gets little respect. Catholics give their affection to Mary. Protestants ignore him altogether. The ancient Cherry Tree Carol sees him as an insensitive doubter who thinks Mary is carrying another man’s child.

I have also wondered how Jesus must have felt. Even if you believe he was God, he was also a boy, with a child’s limitations, trying to understand his human father.

So . . .   Joseph and Jesus are in the carpenter’s shop. Jesus is sweeping the floor, since he is not yet trained. HIs father is planing the board he has just riven. Jesus looks up from time to time. There is affection in his gaze, even though he knows that his father’s love is limited by Jesus’s own strangeness. Then he drops his eyes back to his sweeping.

Joseph looks up in turn, stern and a little puzzled by the child’s silences. His hands pause a moment at his work. A traditional picture would fill his eyes with wonder. I don’t think so. I see them filled with frustration and resentment. And yet, with affection. The two sides of the moment are at war in his eyes. Then he draws back his hands and the plane moves through another stroke, because, for God or for man, there is always work to do.

Father – it’s a tough job description. Son isn’t much easier.

Raven’s Run 63

We need to move on, but we also need to stay here and look some more. It seems that we should split up.”

“I agree.”

“If I listed the places I to went yesterday, you could visit them again today. And tonight you could make the rounds where the street musicians congregate.”

“I could do that,” Susyn said, with merry mischief in her eyes. “Why are you being so reticent, General? Why no orders?”

“I’m trying to cut back.”

“Thank you, Ian.”

“If you stay here, I can go on to Montreaux and do the same thing there. If either of us finds anything significant, we can telephone. Montreaux is only about an hour away by train.”

“Sounds good to me.”

The waiter brought our food and moved away again. Susyn stretched mightily, and said, “I really needed that night’s sleep. I hardly slept at all on the train.”

“I did.”

“I know, I heard you!” She broke a piece of bread and buttered it. “This is all new to you isn’t it?”

“What?”

“Luxury. This hotel, breakfast on the terrace, that kind of thing. Not that this is really luxurious, but you seem to think it is.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Now don’t get embarrassed. You haven’t been tucking the tablecloth into your pants. You just don’t look comfortable.”

Life isn’t all one thing or another. My immediate attention had been spent on finding Raven, and thinking about what our time together had meant filled up the rest of my hours. But my other reactions were equally valid, however little I had been paying attention to them. I was uncomfortable, now that I thought about it.

Susyn was patient while I considered the matter. “I think,” I said, “that it is not so much a matter of discomfort as it is caution. I’m living well on Senator Cabral’s money, but if we find Raven tomorrow, I’ll be back on my own. This is the kind of life I would like to become accustomed to, but until I can pay my own way, I don’t want to get too used to it.”

“So if you don’t like being poor, why not get a job?”

“I am.” I explained that I was waiting to be posted to a consulate. Susyn was so easy to talk to and so comfortable to be with, that it was hard to remember that we knew nothing about each other. “But there is more to it than that. I like this, good food, good company, good scenery, but it’s froth, not beer. If we were walking along the quai de Belgique instead of sitting here, and eating a fresh loaf of bread instead of this meal, the sun would be as warm, the lake would be as blue, and you would be just as lovely.”

Susyn smiled like sunlight, squeezed my arm, and said, “You old charmer.”

*       *       *

In Paris, the Orsey museum is in a converted train station. There, in a room dedicated to the salon painters of the late nineteenth century, is a statue of a nude young girl or nymph. I don’t remember which, but it doesn’t matter; in sculpture, each is a metaphor for the other. She is slender, but fully formed; a girl just five minutes into womanhood. She is half kneeling, obviously just risen from her bath. She is holding her hair up with her hands. It falls through her fingers in strands so limp that even the stone looks wet. Her eyes look out at you from under a cascade of marble tresses with impish sensuality. The sculptor has caught the very essence of innocent awakening in her eyes and her grin. It’s the only statue I ever saw grin.

You could go to the Orsey forty times for the cost of last night’s suite. Money has little to do with living a rich life. more tomorrow

272. The Hard and the Soft

DSCN1841Welcome to winter. For northern folk, and that’s what we all are in Europe and America, the coming of winter is an inevitability that rounds out our lives and prefigures the end of our lives.

The poem which follows is not full of summer graces, nor flowers, nor joy. I wrote it in August, when the temperature outside was above a hundred, but it is still a winter poem. I would say I don’t know where it came from, but that would only mean that it came unbidden when I was working on other things. It was committed to paper in five minutes, in its first form, and polished in twenty. That is rare for me.

In truth, I know where it came from, and so will you.

The Hard and the Soft

There is a soft season and a hard season,
And now the hard season has come.

Through the springtime and the summer,
When green was the color of the world,
Fruits of the earth abounded.
Children were conceived in joy
And brought forth in fullness.

Now is the hard season,
The color of the earth is stone gray,
The water is hard and the ground is stony hard.
Children of this season come out hungry
Crying with harsh voices that give no joy,
Troubled by deep hungers that allow no rest.

She was born of summer,
He was born of winter.

They joined together, and she made him whole,
     for a space,
          for a little space.
But now it is the season of cold
And he has turned back
     to his true nature.

Raven’s Run 62

We wandered around Lausanne. There were no street musicians along quai de Belgique. There were plenty of tourists, but there was no single sight to concentrate them. In the area around the Cathedral, the Château Saint Maire, and along Place de la Palud and the Place St-François we found four guitarists, a flautist, a folk harpist, and an untidy group of Peruvian pan-pipers. Eric was not there.

I parked Susyn on a bench and went to work. It took time. These were the musicians’ prime hours. If I interrupted them with questions, it would make them resentful, so I had to wait around for one of them to take a break.

The flautist quit first, and I could see why. In the ten minutes I watched her, she got only a few francs in tips. I moved up to her as she was pulling her flute apart and putting it back in it’s case. She was like NORAD, all antennae and sensors, with a strong defensive perimeter. Even though Europe is kinder than America, a young woman traveling alone has to be cautious. I squatted down at a comfortable distance, just out of reach, like I would have with a frightened animal, and showed her Raven’s picture. She hadn’t seen her, or at least she made that claim.

“I’m looking for her for her father.”

The flautist shrugged. We had not exchanged names, and it did not seem likely that we would. I had to do something to penetrate her shield of suspicion, so I embellished the truth. A lot, actually. I said that she had fought with her father, but that her father had fallen ill, and had sent me to find her and tell her that all was forgiven. Perhaps it was not an inspired story. It only made her draw further into her shell.

A young couple down the street were closing up shop for the night, so I approached them. They, too, were shielded, but benignly, by their mutual involvement. He was a fairly good guitarist and she had sung with a small, sweet voice. From moment to moment, they found little ways to touch each other. They were so obviously in love that they shone like a lantern. I saw that the guitar case was well filled with coins. I wasn’t surprised. On a warm summer night, beneath the towering silhouette of the Cathedral, in Europe, the sweet sound of her voice and the sweeter radiance of their affection completed a seamless ambiance of romance. No wonder the passing tourists smiled a little more, held hands a little tighter, and tossed a coin into his guitar case as they passed.

The young guitarist told me that he had seen Eric and Raven at the small hotel where they were staying last night. They had come in late and had been turned away. Eric had asked the guitarist and his girlfriend if there were any other accommodations nearby, and had mentioned being enroute to Montreaux.

I spent the rest of the night asking questions, but that was the closest I got to a lead.

*       *       *

We slept well, in separate rooms. At nine the next morning, we had breakfast on the terrace again and outlined our plans. Susyn had picked up schedules for trains and lake steamers, which I studied briefly.

“We don’t know that they went to Montreaux,” I said, “but we do know that they came to Lausanne. We need to move on, but we also need to stay here and look some more. It seems that we should split up.” more tomorrow

271. Here Comes Santa Claus

This is the last of three posts based on The Battle for Christmas, a book by Stephen Nissenbaum. You should read them in order.

Now we are on the verge of Christmas as we know it. Good old Santa Claus is about to take the stage. His midwife will be a group of stodgy old men who hated the rise of the common man, and longed for good old days that never were. Washington Irving was their leader, but a one-poem wonder named Clement Moore would be the one to change the world.

St. Nicholas and his companion delivered presents or coal to the children of Holland, but he never crossed the Atlantic to New Amsterdam. The notion that he did is a common myth, reading subsequent events backward.

John Pintard, founder of the New York Historical Society, played a role in establishing the Fourth of July and several other events as national holidays. He also brought St. Nicholas to the attention of America when he tried to make him the patron saint of New York City. In 1810, he published a broadside that showed a picture and accompanying poem with St. Nicholas delivering presents to children on St, Nicholas Day, Dec. 6.

Washington Irving’s Sketch Book came along a decade later. Everyone knows that Rip van Winkle, from that book, fell asleep and woke to a different era. Not many people remember that he hated the new America he found upon waking. So did Washington Irving and his cohorts, who called themselves the Knickerbockers, and patterned themselves after the old Dutch burghers they imagined to have inhabited New Amsterdam — all based on Irving’s fanciful Knickerbocker’s History of New York.

In the Sketch Book, Irving portrayed Old Christmas in England as a joyful celebration between good masters and their servants. In Knickerbocker’s History, he related a dream which included:

. . . and, lo! the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children. . . .  And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look, then mounting his wagon, he returned over the treetops and disappeared.

St. Nicholas, giver of presents to children, had won over a group of grumpy old men, but the rest of America did not know him yet. He was still confined to the Knickerbockers who, despite their fantasies, were of British heritage, not Dutch, and were High Church Episcopalians, not post-Puritan religious conservatives.

Clement Moore changed that, not overnight, but over about a decade. He was not the first poet of St. Nicholas. You will find the text of an earlier poem near the bottom of one of last year’s posts. If you check it out, you will agree that it would never have taken the world by storm.

If you read A Visit from St. Nicholas (which I have tacked onto the bottom of this post in case you don’t have it handy), you will see that almost the whole modern Santa is there, repackaged from the Knickerbocker mold, and made charming and familly friendly. It would be wrong to say Moore invented Santa, given St. Nick’s Dutch origins and his twenty year history with the other Knickerbockers, but it would be hard to imagine Santa conquering the world without Moore’s poem.

The only major thing missing is his red suit. We can thank Thomas Nast and Coca-Cola for that.

Could even so charming a poem have so changed the world by itself? It is doubtful. It is more reasonable to see it as a perfect summing up of forces already at work. Wassailing had turned to riot, tinged with felonious assault. Peasants wandering from door to door had become masses of overcrowded urban poor spilling wildly into the streets. A few tipsy peasants had, by sheer population growth, turned into a dangerous mob.

The middle class was rising. Respectability had become something to strive for. Falling from middle class respectablity had become something to fear. Children were no longer just a source of free labor, but were quickly becoming the center of the family. Clement Moore’s poem rode that wave of change into the hearts of America.

Bacchus was still God of the street, but Santa was becoming God of the hearthside. Frankly, I like it better that way.

Postscript: They do it differently in Shetland. I’ll tell you that story on December 26th.

A Visit from St. Nicholas (AKA The Night Before Christmas)
by Clement Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

photo by By Sander van der Wel from Netherlands (Intocht van Sinterklaas in Schiedam 2009) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Raven’s Run 61

Susyn had had the film developed, and the lab had reworked the photo of the three of us. Now I had a pocketful of grainy blowups of Raven and another batch of Eric. I took them around town. No one at the hostel had seen either of them. Likewise at the campgrounds at the edge of the city. I stopped at a bookstore and bought the three most popular English language European guidebooks, and set out to canvass all the hotels they recommended. At noon, I met Susyn to report no progress, then continued through the afternoon, finally ending up by circling the six block area around the train station looking into all the hotels there. By evening, I had found nothing.

Susyn had booked a suite of rooms. I met her in the hotel lobby and she took me out to dinner. I told her the story of my wasted day, and she told me about all the progress she hadn’t made.

“It doesn’t look good,” I said. “This was our best bet. We knew which city they were going to. From here, they could go east or west, to Montreaux or to Geneva. Or they could have gone in those directions and not stopped at either, which means they could be anywhere in Europe by now. They could take the train, or the lake steamers, or they could have rented a car, or hitchhiked.”

Susyn looked disgusted. “I thought you said you could find her.”

“I said I knew how and where to look. But even in that, I was wrong. I was thinking of the way we were traveling when we were together, to stretch out my money until the Senator called her back home. I hadn’t thought about her credit card. Money opens up her options completely; she could even have flown back to California by now.”

We were on a terrace overlooking Lac Léman. The service was good and the food was excellent, but it was all wasted on me.

Susyn finally said, “It isn’t your fault. Without you, I wouldn’t have known where to start. And we have to keep looking.”

“Of course we do. I never considered giving up.”

“I had your pack taken up to the suite.” She was trying to be civil, so I smiled and nodded. “The porter looked a bit askance.”

“I’ll bet he did. Did a tip soothe his sensibilities?”

“Yes. Nicely.”

“Good for him.”

“Come up and rest. We’ll try again in the morning.”

I shook my head. “You go rest. There is nothing else for you to do tonight, but I have to make the rounds where the tourists are taking their evening strolls. If Eric is in Luisanne, that’s where he should be, making a living.”

“I’ll go with you.”

Susyn looked good. The appreciation of feminine beauty is not dulled by a blighted romance; it is only made bittersweet. Despite my feelings for Raven, I wanted to take Susyn’s hand and bring a smile back to her face. And I felt guilty about it, but that guilt was sweetened by the faint taste of revenge. Tonight, I was vulnerable in ways I didn’t want to be vulnerable.

We argued, but I didn’t put up much of a fight. In the end, Susyn went with me. more tomorrow

270. Colonial Christmas

puritanchristmasbanThis is the second of three posts based on The Battle for Christmas, a book by Stephen Nissenbaum. You should read yesterday’s post first.

The Battle for Christmas is not about the worldwide history of Christmas, but about American Christmas. The origin of the cult of St. Nicholas, the Christkindl, the black companion to Holland’s Sinterklass, Germanic Christmas trees and the rest are outside its view.

The Puritans of New England disliked Christmas. In fact, they outlawed it. The birth of Christ was of no particular interest to them. They were focused on his death and resurrection, and what that meant for sinners.

That was also the attitude of my childhood church. We had no Christmas services; if Sunday fell on Christmas, the sermon would begin with the story of Jesus’ birth, but would quickly turn our attention to his death and resurrection, with a full complement of fire and brimstone, and Hell to come for any who did not believe.

In point of fact, however, what the Puritans focused on was not their real problem with Christmas. They didn’t like it because it was a drunken party, with sex besides.

It comes back to leisure, full larders, and full kegs, and to the fact that the food and drink did not belong to the poor. It was the larders of the rich which were full. It was the poor who wanted some.

In agricultural times in Europe, it could be said that they wanted their share, because they had traditional rights to handouts during the season. There may have been a time when it was all respectful and friendly, as Washington Irving tried to portray it in Old Christmas (an excerpt from his Sketch Book), but the exchange was always tinged with threat, as in:

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all

This, of course is wassailing, but it reeked of uppity servants, harrassment of their masters, and a general overturning of authority. Which was part of the point.

In Puritan days in New England, nobody was celebrating the nativity. The Puritans were going about their work, soberly and solemnly, with no acknowledgement of the day. The lower orders, especially the sailors down by the harbor, were making merry. Very, very merry, and the Puritans didn’t like that. They made the celebration of Christmas against the law, and you never make a law unless someone is already doing what you want to forbid.

The Puritans didn’t last, but the raucous celebrations they hated did. Newer, more liberal churches began holding religoius services on Christmas day. That didn’t last long either, the first time around.

A good, old fashioned Christmas is what a lot of people think they want today, but the real old fashioned Christmas looked a lot like what we now do on New Year’s Eve.

It got worse. As society moved from an agricultural base to an industrial one, the distance between the classes increased. The upper classes were less inclined to provide the handouts that the lower class demanded. What had looked like harmless, low level intimidation — not unlike today’s trick-or-treaters — began to look like a social revolution, especially in New York City shortly after the founding of the United States.

The rich stayed home on Christmas and feasted with their friends. It was an adult celebration; children were not yet the center of Christmas. The poor took to the streets. Where else would they have to go? Their all night, loud, drunken partying brought fear to the respectable upper crust. Gentlemen spoke of riots when they referred to the raucous Christmas season celebrations by the poor.

Riot is actually not a bad description of the state of affairs.

These poor were the mob that sometimes worried the staid burghers who wrote the Consititution. They were good at killing the British during the Revolution, but they weren’t respectable. By the late 1820s, the backwoods unwashed would put Andrew Jackson into the White House, and change the future of America. Decades earlier, their urban counterparts were already making life rough for respectable rich folks in New York City and elsewhere.

These rampaging mobs frequently broke into respectable homes, harassed the homeowners, and demanded food and, especially, drink. Wassailing, yes, but carried to a new level. One old wassailing song said:

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours’ children,
Whom you have seen before.

These new urban mobs could not say that. click here to continue the story

Raven’s Run 60

Chapter Seventeen

I sent Susyn back to her hotel with instructions to find the quickest means of developing a roll of film. I had discovered two exposed rolls in my pocket the morning Raven left. I had been carrying them for her, and on one of them was the picture of Raven, Eric, and me in the cafe at Monmarte.

I went to the youth hostel. The hours of lockout were past, and the eating area that doubled as a lounge had filled up with kids and a few older travelers who looked like a cross between bird watchers and overage hippies. Except for the Americans, most of them were at least bilingual. Since I spoke English and German, and a hundred words of French, I managed to talk to everyone who had known Eric. As I had seen for myself, Eric was a shy one; but all of the girls remembered him.

I stayed for the obligatory spaghetti supper, then called Susyn. She met me at the gare, and we took the night train for Lausanne. Susyn had engaged a first class couchette, so we had privacy and bunk beds to sleep in. She found it crowded. I was used to sleeping sitting up in a day compartment, but I didn’t point that out to her.

Susyn had opened her suitcase and taken out a negligee before she realized that there was no bathroom in which to change. She caught my eye, and looked embarrassed for the first time. I said, “I’ll step outside. Will fifteen minutes be enough?”

She smiled, then added, “I’m not used to sleeping with a man – under these conditions.”

I said, “You’ve never been safer.”

I stood in the aisleway with the broad window down, smelling the damp air and mild pollution of the industrial section of Paris as we eased out toward the edge of the city, and thought about my last night with Raven.

*       *       *

We arrived in Lausanne about seven in the morning, after a lovely ride up the tree clad valleys of the foothills of the Alps. I managed a shave and a rag bath since I had no idea when I would see a shower again. I have no idea what Susyn did. Most of my mind had shut down. One small section was reserved for doing the little things that required my immediate attention, like shaving and not walking into walls. The the rest of my mind wrestled with the problem of my life and what, if anything, it meant to Raven.

In the station, I told Susyn that she should find out if there was a consulate, an American Express, or anything else she could think of which Raven might have visited. I would check out youth hostels, campgrounds, cheap hotels, and find out where a street musician would be likely to hang out.

Susyn said, “Yessir. Should I salute, or just go quietly about my business?”

She looked amused and angry at once. I said, “Sorry.”

“You sure are a bossy bastard.”

“I said I’m sorry. What do you want from me?”

“I want to know that you know that I’m not a helpless hanger-on. If you weren’t available, I’d be doing this on my own.”

I wanted to apologize properly and get things back on a friendly basis, but I couldn’t. My mind wanted to normalize relations; my hands wanted to slap her. Or maybe Raven. But Raven wasn’t here and Susyn was. In the end, I just grunted and told her where I would meet her later. more tomorrow