They know he’s here. The trunk that came this morning was
full of ashes from his house – from the very estate you served in, Cecil.
They burned the bed he was birthed on. The mariners know he’s here, they see it
from their ships, and they think he’s causing the plague that consumes the
continent. Thousands upon thousands dead that he could cure if he’d go out
there, and then they’d know what we’ve turned into a way of life. It is worse
than an affront to keep him on this wretched island. We’re squandering him.
We need only to tell him something, and his heart will bring
him to his feet. So why not tell him we found the Arab? Ruth and Hansel found
an Arab hanged for heresy. It could be him. And your Young Master’s been
practicing so long in cemeteries. Let him go raise his personal Lazarus and ask
his identity. After that, we’ll never have to deal with these ships or
This isn’t my notion. None of these are words original to my
mouth; this is everyone’s notion, but yours, and the crone with her printing
press. Everyone thinks we ought to spur him into manhood, save you, and that
little gardener, and your Young Master himself, who only believes such because
he’s so obsessed with these arcane books, so possessed of his own origin that
he ignores his destiny. This is his time. A plague is the perfect time for the
man who is the cure.
I attest this of sound mind, for once I was mad and fretted
over the sensations of an arm that had long left me to gangrene. Your Young
Master took my ghostly limb and ghostly anxiety, but if you shut him up in this
little safe isle any longer, he’ll never know all the limbs that are truly at
his command. You’re raising a bull to be ignorant of his horns, a lion ignorant
of his voice. There are eight ships in the bay, and they’ve brought cannons,
Cecil. They brought the trunk of ashes. They haven’t thrown a dead mariner
overboard in a week; they circle to find the safe distance from your Young
Master’s reach. Do you want to wait to find out the reach of their arms?
So let us tell him we found his Arab, and get him into the
world. You can go to him this morning, speak one sentence, and he’ll believe
you, because you’re the one he grew up trusting. Or, so help me, I will lock
you in a cellar and find another way to convince him.
Skepticism kills jobs. The encroachment of
science, obliterating hunger and HIV, left people with no wonder for a man
levitating on stage. They thought they saw wires he didn’t need. Infinite
kerchiefs from his sleeve paled from Nova’s special on infinite bubble
universes. He even caught his beautiful and talented assistant brushing up on
Honors Chem; he could have prognosticated the fine career she’d have, but she
quit before he could tell her. There was no money left in magic, and soon he
had to saw himself in half just to fit inside a friend’s rent controlled
closet. He’d be damned if he slept with the rabbits in his hat.
I thought I’d experienced every nerve test. I’ve had sweat
tests, blood tests, muscle biopsies, shock tests, tests where they strapped
electrodes to me and tossed me onto a treadmill. I have what are likely
exaggerated memories of an hour spent in a room with gradually elevating
temperature and currents being run through my left arm.
But this “Nerve Shock Test” I got in Fishkill was a new one.
The technician stuck needles into the muscle tissue of my legs, then
electrified the needles to record nerve reactions. It may be the first time I’ve
ever bit my lip to keep from yelling. Didn’t help that the technician was a
jerk who talked down to me for the entire test.
What a nice place to be electrocuted.
Then I got off the table and heard exactly what anyone who’s
been electrified for their own health wants: “This shows there’s nothing wrong.
That’s a good thing.”
A good thing because, according to a glib explanation, it
ruled some problems out. It’s probably not Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. He didn’t
even think it was neuropathy, though he didn’t have an alternative to suggest. Now
all I had to do was get another neurology appointment to come up with more
tests. Recall that last time, the Nurse Practitioner was drawing a blank on
what it could be and what to do.
The only good thing I’ve experienced is that the numbness
hasn’t spread far. For the last few days I’ve felt it in the ball of my left
foot. Otherwise it is located in the toes and periphery, and every time I’ve
checked, motor control has been available. Sweet, sweet ability to walk.
I waited two weeks before posting this, just in case.
Bruises the size of my thumbs still mark where the needles “probed.”
Eight days after Nerve Shock Test. My leg doesn't look like Jupiter anymore!
“Nothing to write home about” had been a joke in his father’s
time, when all soldiers wanted was to write home or receive mail from loved
ones. It had mutated since then, into a dismissal of events that the needy
would have cherish. No one wrote home enough these days. No one called their
mothers enough, or had heart-to-hearts with Dad, or took five minutes to simply
make sure everyone was okay and lunch went well. It was a dismissed world.
The cell phone didn’t change things the way he wanted it to.
Somehow the ease of dialing, or having a number auto-dialed, and having a brief
conversation amounted to an effort that left people rationalizing to keep their
minutes. The postal service was on the verge of demise, and e-mail was
outmoded. Nothing was simple enough for the stupid mind to write home and keep
those micro-contacts firing in the shape of a real life.
He’d change all that once he invented the text message.
“Listen, we have to make this quick, because my brother’s
eldest daughter is getting married in ten minutes. I know where your ninja are.
There are twelve, counting the two out here – one behind the statue of St. Aloysius, and one in the rafters over my head. I’m
guessing you intended to execute me along with my brother and his family. I
haven’t told many people because I don’t want to spoil the weekend.
“So let’s make this quick. I poisoned your crepes this
morning with an extract from a newly discovered species of jellyfish. I didn’t
tell you because I didn’t want to darken the afternoon, and I figured if you
were polite at the wedding, then I’d put the antidote in your cake at the
reception. It blends seamlessly with syrups and icings.
“So. If you don’t make a stir, and all of your invisible
assassins remain unseen, I’ll hand you a piece of cake in an hour and we’ll go
home. I’ll even write the names of your three associates who I’ve similarly
poisoned today on your napkin so you can go about saving them, or letting them
die and taking their place. Don’t rush into the decision now. It’s a wedding
day. This should be something special.