Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dust of the Earth, chapter 10

Welcome to the continuing serialized version of Phantom Limbs' bassist Jim Parks' novel, Dust Of The Earth, a Tucson story about Tucson history, mystery, other worlds, desert mojo, forbidden love, and the fledgling Tucson music scene... (c) by Jim Parks, reprinted with permission

When we left off last time, our narrator was getting to know more about the object of his infatuation, Anna Soccorro, with his his visits to see her grandfather, Don Pedro.

 Chapter 10
 She picked out a passage that her grandfather enjoyed and began to read to me
     Occasionally, Ana Socorro would show up during my visits, hovering over Don Pedro. We would work together, performing various tasks for her grandfather. Sometimes Don Pedro would go to another part of the house - his bedroom or the kitchen -- leaving Ana Socorro and me alone together. In this way, we got to know each other and I began to learn the history of her family. I started calling her A.C. because I thought her full name took too long to say. She seemed amused by this - it became apparent that her life was filled with way too much seriousness. I had always used humor as a social lubricant, and it worked to a certain degree with her. But to a deeper extent, A.C. seemed impenetrable - or maybe what went on around her seemed to pass through her entirely, leaving her ultimately unmoved. I wondered whether this was some sort of survival mechanism she had developed to deal with a life she had not chosen but that she felt duty-bound to live. This quality gave her a kind of purity that I found irresistible, much like the noble sadness that I had first seen in her.

    Don Pedro still read to his granddaughter, though the subject matter had grown from the tales found in Andrew Lang's fairy books to classical mythology, Heraclitus, and even Eastern literature like the forlorn Chinese poetry of Tu Fu (translated by Kenneth Rexroth, an acquaintance of Don Pedro from his visits to San Francisco in the Fifties). But lately, the roles had been reversed, and more and more A.C. would read to her grandfather, usually late at night when he had a hard time sleeping. She told me that she would take her alarm clock and place it under her pillow, set to go off late at night and in the wee hours of the morning. She would arise and check on Don Pedro. He needed assistance to get out of bed into his wheelchair -- so if he woke up and couldn't go back to sleep, he could only lie there in the lonely watches of the night.

    Don Pedro had been an avid birdwatcher when he was younger, and he enjoyed having read to him the ornithological works of Arthur Cleveland Bent. One afternoon when Don Pedro had left A.C. and me alone in the study, I asked her to read something aloud from one of these volumes. She picked out a passage that her grandfather enjoyed and began to read to me. I closed my eyes and leaned back on the sofa, listening to her voice. Infatuation often elevates the details of the beloved's qualities to an almost holy beauty. In my more cynical moments, I view such a thing as a spell of nature whose ultimate purpose is simple procreation. But in my own dark watches, when I lie awake at night, I often recall A.C.'s voice as she read to me, the subject matter resonating with my desire, the beauty of plumage and courtship displays sanctifying the union of creatures who take flight and migrate, returning to the same grounds every year to start again.

The plumage of the mallard drakes is at its highest stage of perfection before the end of winter, and the first warm days stimulate these vigorous birds to migrate to their northern homes. Many of them have already mated when they arrive....Others are busy with their courtships, which are conducted largely on the wing. I have seen as many as three males in ardent pursuit of one female flying about, high in the air....finally the duck flies up to the drake of her choice, touches him with her bill and the two fly off together, leaving the unlucky suitors to seek other mates.

To Be Continued...

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