..:: CONTENTS ::..

..:: POETRY ::..
Sarah Trott
Christopher Eaton
  Poems for Burning Down Black Ark
Jennifer Dearinger
  the cup having not been washed of the rifle under the bed
  indian head nickels
  crystal serving plate
  wrapped in the sheets
  dirtied knees from somewhere
  unscattered ashes
  JOSEPHY BEUYS, the day gurdjieff died
  Row Under Rivers
  Avant Garde Country of Contemporary Art
Jeffrey Schrader
  Ships in Bottles
  Deconstruction of V
  From “Pittsburgh Notes”
Noah Eli Gordon
  from Jaywalking the Is
David Applegate
  [A silent]
  [I don't know]
  [You juggled]
  [Our sky]
Lynn Strongin
  MOVED TO. . .
Amy King
  Leisurama Porn Couples Dance
  How To Make a Painting
Bill Stobb
  Poem for an American Barbeque
  I Truly Believe Bill Gates is a Good Person
Jason Fraley
Friedrich Kerksieck & Aaron James McNally
M. Mara-Ann
  A Running Horse Veiled
J.D. Mitchell-Lumsden
  (on air late sunday evening)
  (the women, an intercepted letter)
  (to us)
  (fatwa ii)
Lizzie Brock
  Work that Body
Jacob Eichert
  Untitled (film/dvd)

..:: PROSE ::..
Powell Burke
Michael Chacko Daniels
  Touch me? Vaya Con Dios inbound on the 22 Fillmore!
Sandra Hunter
  Take It Away
Paul Kavanagh
Paul Silverman
  Letter To B

..:: ETC ::..
  Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
  Volume I, Issue I
  Volume I, Issue II
  Volume II, Issue I


Touch me? Vaya Con Dios inbound on the 22 Fillmore!
Michael Chacko Daniels


The wingless word flopped out Gray's mouth — a fledgling ostrich with dreams of impossible flight.

He shook his close-cropped silvery head, disappointed, and felt his heart pick up an extra beat.

The driver in the municipal-brown uniform rolled the steering wheel, the outbound 22 Fillmore performed a saucy turn. Taken by surprise, Gray tried to ride the pronounced trolley-wiggle, shifting his stance as best he could.

I can't forget, he reminded himself, I ride an erratic beast, periodically fed shots of electric-adrenaline and the reins are held in the fists of a wild-eyed rough rider whose arteries seem to have fused into the trolley's, sucking up each power surge and dispensing scabrous words to even gentle souls.

Words? Gray inquired, examining his own wingless response to the driver's rudeness.

Uncivil? What kind of idiot-one-word sniping protest was that from me?

It's nothing but a dud, old fella. It neither soars, nor educates, nor inspires. At its best, it's no more than a call to war. You need more than one negative word, if you want to go anywhere with it other than down into the gutter.

Gray hovered over the seated, tall, wiry man — the most recent object of the driver's fury, his blue-gray eyes flicking over the young fella's smooth as silk black face. The man's features, visible under the mass of straight, jet-black hair, were a serene composition in soft angles, not a single, familiar signal of hidden distress.

Coming up empty in his visual investigations, Gray decided to go at it directly from his heart.

He sent out a wave of soothing warm feelings of silent commiseration toward the young man for having been the target of the driver's hateful words.

Within a few seconds, Gray felt his heart grow heavy and his legs tremble. Next, he knew would come doubts, sneaking into his mind on a wave of thoughts seven decades old, wandering back in from old family quarrels with doses of brine and vinegar added:

Are words sticks and stones? Why sweat blood — the young victim feels not a single slight? He's used to it; outrageous words bounce off of the likes of him, leaving him unscathed.


Heck, no, Gray fought back. That's all hogwash and sewer trash! Impossible! Sure, the pain's there, perhaps buried deeper than in most. I must pass something his way that'll dissolve what surely is an immigrant's public mask, contradict the driver's incivility, heal the hidden wound.

Gray's pale, craggy face clouded, broad brow furrowed, beard bristled.

But what if he's already in a deep electric-trolley-induced trance?

The poor, poor boy! Gray almost said aloud.

His eyes — set in deep, worn craters — filled; his little rolling universe blurred.

"Come on! Come on! Move it! Move! I got a schedule to keep!" yelled the driver through the window at a car blocking the bus, and Gray felt again his revulsion over the man's explosive words, earlier, to the young fella — "Don't . . ."

Just then, the trolley surged forward, almost smashed into the car; Gray's shoulder screamed as he was yanked, blotting out, for the moment, how the driver's words had felt when he had heard them.

Time to sit, old fella. Time to rest. Time to get off your feet. Relax! Let it all go! Get over it! Soon you'll be home, ready for a nap.

Not on my life! Got to use it, or lose it. As part of my daily regimen, I plan to stand as long as I can, as this mechanical bronco goes through its paces and the juiced-up driver gives it all he has.

With feet spread, more like an aged giraffe than an ostrich replaying his first baby steps, Gray prepared for the worst quakes the outbound 22 Fillmore trolley could hit him with. Any moment now, his beloved San Francisco zero emission vehicle, white-brown-and-cream inside, red-trimmed on the outside would jerk into motion after picking up passengers and resume on its rollicking trip, climb betwixt fog-hugged buildings leaning into the hidden sky, and then hurtle down into Peet's-Starbucks-Noah's-Royal Ground coffee wars, where, God-willing, the driver will resist the temptation and refuse to abandon his riders to pick-up a pre-ordered cafι lattι.

There! I beat the knee-bender! That was easy! applauded Gray, taking a moment off from commiserating, and battling his cravings, to acknowledge his mastery of the lively beast.

No, that was too easy! Gray retracted, his mind buzzing.

Wake up, old fella! Wake up! You want to override this young fella's memory of that bus driver's cruddy crudeness? Hear that concatenation? What good is a solitary word of protest in this quotidian racket? For Pete's sake! Uncivil? That's all you could manage! Like the ineffectual sounds you made six decades ago that fueled Dad's vitriolic anger. You can do better than a fledgling ostrich fuddled by the urge to fly. You can.

The only good thing about my flightless bird, he consoled himself, was that the saliva my ill-fitting dentures sprayed, didn't strike anyone. Perhaps, it was all the imagination of my old mind gone vacuous — there was no slight from the driver, no idiot word, no spittle-spattle.

Another stop. Gray observed the driver staring at him in the mirror, his eyes distended.

Is he going to turn his rude attentions on me? Is it because my word did get to him? It wasn't my intention to make him angry. Or was it?

Gray shook off the driver's probe and the unwieldy mix of tempers roiling inside him as the door slammed-clamped shut. The new passengers hurried and elbowed to the empty seats. An occasional "Excuse me!" softened the air.

He anchored himself. No matter; a powerful jolt knocked a "humph!" and a loud "ouch!" out of him.

"Way to go!" the driver roared and pumped a fist. Gray saw him rock in his seat, and was gratified.

There! Gray thought. The uninhibited pleasure in my discomfort proves my one-word comment spun and wove from passenger-to-passenger to the driver.

Certainly, the young man, no more than a hand's span away from the driver at the time, must have heard it, too. Their ears are sharper than an old man's.

". . . touch me!" Gray heard a fragment of the whisper of a voice rustling in the front row.

Inside, the trolley quietened, as if in anticipation of a duel.


The lonely, wingless word was back. This time, a haunting echo.

Gray turned his head and looked over his shoulder, and picked out a little, old man — no bigger than the word sounded — in a thin black tie and undertaker's suit, which hung over his seated body in loose folds like a North African dishdasha.

"I hear in Germany they arrest people who express hatred of another," the little man continued sotto voce, the words directed to everyone and no one.

Surprised at the revival of his word and its magical effect on the racket in the capsule universe of aluminum, plastic, and steel, Gray found he couldn't shift his attention back to the young man from the little mensch tugging at his slate-colored French cap like a kid who wanted to hide after his words had bounced back to him — from grownups unable to understand a child's wisdom.

The tiny fingers pulled at Gray's heart and his eyes grew wet.

"In Austria, they give you 10 years if you question the holocaust," Gray heard a woman patching into the little mensch's sound from the opposite bench, and watched, fascinated, as she lowered her halo of white hair towards the little man, and he caught in that fragment of a moment the passing image of his own mom — trying to rediscover and reveal to the world the eyes secluded under the French cap — and his heart wanted to fly to her.

No! No! Gray told himself.

I've got to get to the young fella's hurt before it transforms into a canker in his soul. If not me, who? I'm the man on the spot, the responsible party. Isn't this what I've been praying for — an opportunity to empathize and reduce suffering? Youth is a hard enough place, even when unencumbered; piling the hatred-of-the-day on him is a cruel, cruel infliction.

Gray pulled his head and heart back a bit and noted the young man's entwined fingers, resting on his lap, were relaxed; his white cotton shirt, tucked into dark-brown corduroy pants, enveloped him in a loose, effortless embrace.

Tenacity battled Gray's deep-seated public reserve. His long, frangible white fingers tightened his purchase of the overhead metal tube as the trolley rocked.

His heart palpitated; under his skin and in his chest a wild rhythm paced the trolley's.

The pressure to speak mounted. Just as he was about to open up, he felt his ancient legs quiver, hands grow cold, and, instead of entering into the battle to reduce suffering, he surrendered to the trolley's audio system giving its periodic security warning, and he reverted to his late-blooming caution about his personal safety on San Francisco's public transit. The stored, unreleased tension inside him unwound rapidly, uncontrolled. He looked furtively right and left from the corner of his eyes for any tell-tale signs of a quick-fingered, flagitious artist in mufti who might snuggle up to him, unabashedly, like a lover, under the cover of a sudden press of riders of all sizes and shapes.

He sighed into the crowded air when no one fitting a sneak thief's shifting form or ways caught his volitunt eyes.

His 360 degree security check completed, Gray slid his senior discount monthly bus pass into the inner recesses of his light-blue denim vest, close to his heart, in the company of his elegant, cautiously spare, leather-free wallet and a slender bottle of pills.

He extracted a white tab from the bottle with the ease that came from months of practice, and popped it under his tongue.

As the pain in his chest eased, he scolded himself, I must have raised the hackles of everyone around me! How stupid I'm getting in my dotage! If I did recognize a pickpocket, he wouldn't be a very good one.

And why should I be worried? All my wallet has are my California ID and MediCal card plus 10 single bills and no more. All else — social security ID, debit card, photos, telephone numbers . . . are hidden away either at home or in my safety deposit box at the bank. Waking from the meditation on a bus with a warm stranger's fingers in my posterior pocket was enough of a lesson.

Job One well done, Gray snapped his vest buttons and turned his attention back to the young fella.

That air of calmness that surrounds the young passenger, he told himself, even amidst the trolley's chaotic movements, is all a deeply-cultivated make-believe; beneath the mask rises a mountain of hurt.

Just then, with a rush of fog-dissipating wind, delicate Italian and French scents wafted from the two older women in the front row, and tantalized his nostrils — seared by so many different vapors over the decades — before he was overwhelmed by the intense, gastric-juice-pumping aroma of spices floating in from the street and the stomach-churning rank alcohol fumes from the familiar figure of the beatifically smiling, middle-aged man with several layers of clothes, crouched in the rear like an itinerant, penitent, mendicant monk, who as usual had the bench all to himself because no one had chosen to share it with him.

Now that he'd seen him, Gray agonized over whether to shift his focus and take his position next to the excommunicated, de-frocked Jesuit on his long road — sometimes up, sometimes down. But the young man's newly absorbed pain, he decided, again, needed immediate attention.

He struggled to block the distracting scents, aromas, odors, and potatory visions from his recuperating mind. He knew soon it would be the heady airs of the brown bean that he'd have to contend with as the Fillmore's coffee gulch approached. Be heart smart, his doctor had warned; tea — yes, coffee — no.

Finally, feeling a burst of confidence, Gray prepared to speak in a comforting voice to the young man. He aimed cropped silvery eyebrows and chin at the young passenger and said in a raspy, loud voice, "What he said — inexcusable!" and found his sentences fracturing, his knees wobbling as the 22 Fillmore trolley danced — stop/go/stop — before finally coursing up San Francisco's Fillmore Hill.

"I'm sorry," Gray managed, finally.

"Why?" Black eyes in a black face drilled Gray. "Driver offended, not you."

Noting the terseness, Gray launched a smile he hoped would be seen as kindly; his brittle voice jiggled-joggled with the bus: "Sorry — I remained silent, everyone — remained silent."

"And, probably, most agreed."

"Uncivil!" said the shrunken old man, again. For a moment it seemed to Gray that was all he was going to rebroadcast this time. Then, the transmission expanded: "I hear in Germany they arrest people who express hatred of another. I hear in Austria they give you 10 years if you question the holocaust. What he said — inexcusable! I'm sorry. Why? Driver offended, not you. Sorry — I remained silent, everyone — remained silent. And, probably, most agreed."

Now, the trolley waggled; younger passengers bopped and twirled; Gray's legs buckled.

"Dang and tarnation!" Gray said, wincing; intentionally aiming his words at the young fella. "Ride these electric contraptions — all the time. Haven't yet — got the hang of it. Capricious — like the drivers. Do you mind?" Gray inquired, pointing to the empty window seat, which no one had sought to occupy.

The black-complexioned young man with the black eyes said, lowering his voice, as if concerned his words would get replayed instantly, "You paid, you got it. But thanks for asking."

A mile-wide smile followed the cryptic, rapid-fire words.

Gray, enchanted, thought, He has pearls in his mouth. And what's that I hear in his vowels? Shades of Bombay panthers!

"Terrible times — we live in," Gray began, toning down his voice, now that he was seated. It wasn't easy; he could feel the urge to heal grow with each passing moment.

I must whisk the driver's cruddy crudeness, San Francisco's descent into big city incivility, from the young man's mind, he told himself.

The trolley stopped. The woman who had spoken alighted and a woman with a breathing tube slowly rolled a walker with a portable oxygen tank into the bus. She sat down opposite the wizened man.

After the obligatory pause, the trolley pranced.

Ancient voice vibrating, Gray hurtled on; battling the vehicle's rhythm, his desire to heal burning a hole in his heart, he resumed, "Everyone's edgy — especially — on transit. Paradise-hungry bombers. Explosions in Spain, London . . . Frightened people — hit back, respond to worst instincts."

The black young man, wiry and tall, shook his head.

"Pardon my poor bagatelle, sir, but you think what we've here is" — a long black finger rose and fell — "Quick on the trigger/ Terrified London bobby shoots Brazilian?/ Tongue primed to batter/ 'Don't touch me,' shouts paranoid Friscan?"

"'Twas inexcusable!"

"One gets used to it."

Observing the young man's smile and shrug, the soft shifting of ebony and ivory, gray-blue eyes welled, his heart squeezed tight.

What a mountain of hurt for one so young! Gray thought. 'Twill destroy him. I must respond PDQ. Go telegraphic! Heal young man's new wound when still fresh. In no time, as certainly as each morrow that is granted me, that I accept with gratitude, will bring its share of morning fog, this fine young man'll get off this municipal electric horse-buggy, disappear forever.

The trolley had a prolonged seizure. The driver growled.

Gray tapped hidden reserves, grasped the stanchion attached to the seat in front of him, tightened his thigh muscles as a precaution against sliding off his seat, and blew out his words toward the front of the bus with more vim and vigor than he had wanted to muster for a long while: "Driver, how like a — bucking bronco! — Grew up with them. Can take it; don't know — others can."

The vibrations grew as if to shake off his words.

"Dear God, I can't take this anymore!" cried the ex-Jesuit from the rear of the bus, rising and waving his many-layered arms.

"Thank you! Thank you!" he intoned to riders who fell away, trying to form a cordon sanitaire in the impossibly cramped space. As he swayed toward Gray, he blessed with bloated fingers one passenger at a time.

"Get out! Get out!" screamed the driver. The trolley jarred, halted.

"Sainted Granddad, my friend, Gray! Like the Pope took a dislike to me, our Great Helmsman up front has taken a dislike to you. Ask his forgiveness, immediately, or else all these pilgrims will end up as trash in a crash," he warned.

"Git! Git! Git! Get out! Get out! Now! I call the cops!"

"Hello, Christopher, my dear friend, I didn't see you," Gray lied. All to good purpose, he told himself. I'm sure the long-time Jesuit will understand.

"Ah, kindred seeker after truth, but I'm sure you smelt me! Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha. I can't take all this infernal shaking anymore. Make your peace with him, pal, before his transport from hell comes to no good."

"Get out! Get out! Get out! Git!" the Great Helmsman screamed.

"I must go smell the beer," Christopher said.

He held out a grime-encrusted, swollen hand.

Expecting the silent request, Gray had four quarters from his jean pocket ready, which he placed firmly in Christopher's inflamed palm. "Take care, my dear friend," he said. A long time ago, he'd given up exercising tough love with the ex-Jesuit.

"Get! Get! Get! Get out!" the Great Helmsman roared louder, as Christopher lumbered to the front exit, passengers falling away from him.

"Shut up! Shut up, if you want to ride my bus again!"

The sainted traveler turned, light as a puff of air.

The traffic signal blinked.

Voices on the bus stilled.

Through a window — a thunder of pigeon wings.

The driver lowered his head, a many-layered arm rose.

Give our Great Helmsman more room and he'd genuflect, Gray thought.

The Minister-of-the-Streets-and-Buses made a gentle wisp of a sign of the cross with thick, coated fingers, and said, "Bless you, my son! Bless you! Aren't we all mulligrubbers today? May St. Christopher protect you and lead you and your passengers safely to your destinations on earth and heaven. And improve our dispositions. Free us from our disquisitions. No more time to talk, the sidewalk beckons and I must go."

He blessed the whole bus and then shuffled off as the mechanical cob knelt for him.

"For those few quick words," said the driver, his voice softening. "I forgive everything. Vaya Con Dios, padre of yesterday. Vaya Con Dios."

Through the window blew the airs of . . . Araby? Italia? Mysore? Or is it Ethiopia? Gray's coffee-starved brain wondered.

Postum visions taunted him.

As the two elegantly scented women exited after Christopher, retching sounds penetrated the electric craft, and a voice from the rear seats began a soulful rendition of Vaya Con Dios.

"Uncivil! I hear in Germany they arrest people who express hatred of another," the little man renewed his broadcast, weaving in and out of the song. "I hear in Austria they give you 10 years if you question the holocaust. Our Great Helmsman has taken a dislike to you." He stopped, screwed up his face, shook his head several times, then resumed, on a different note, "In the 1980s, Australia and New Zealand had a war of words over a mulligrub bowled by an Australian to a New Zealander to prevent the Kiwis from winning on the last ball of a cricket match. Not very sporting, I said. Never understood the game of cricket. What is a mulligrub? he said. It's a low ball, I said. Give me a highball, any day, he said. Vaya Con Dios was written by Larry Russell, Inez James, and Buddy Pepper. It was published in 1953 . . ."

"I wish someone would give me 10 years," said the woman with the breathing tube, cutting off the old man's run of words. "My doctor says I've got only six months. I'll probably end up spending half of it on Muni — riding back and forth to see him."

With a heavy heart, Gray turned from all the sounds suddenly buffeting him and fixed his gaze on the young man.

"Your world — life-long fascination," Gray said, feeling the tremor in his heart as his voice attempted to counteract the throbbing-juddering trolley and his reviving reserve. "We, Westerners — wronged it grievously: — British subjugation — divide-and-rule imperial policy — America's own contribution to a costly — brother-versus-brother — nuclear arms race.

"You've every right — to be angry."

He paused, wondered, Is the young man with me or not? Do I sound ballistic?

A small smile brushing the smooth ebony skin enthralled Gray.

Corralling his mind's jumble, he careened onward, blue-gray eyes aglitter: "Seven eleven — no, no, 9/11 — random violence — South Asians mistaken for Arabs. — Nightly, Lou Dobbs — crying foul about American jobs — going to India, — Indian high-techies invading America — yada, yada, yada. — Masks of patriotism, — refuge of weak minds. — I hate it. — We marched against it in the sixties. — After London bombings — Westerners suspect South Asians. — Stupid! A billion South Asians — a few million in the West — majority non-Muslim — more law-abiding than the rest of the population. — Right to be angry."

The young man took a moment to decipher the torrent. Drawing his thick eyebrows together, he said, "You sound absolutely sure. Are you?"

"Yes! And plenty angry!"

Black hands clapped. "Goodbye silence! Hello, Pilgrim!"

Gray's heart now a balloon of good feelings, he continued, as the trolley shuddered and stopped, and his voice steadied: "Angry and hurt. In fact, I feel angry and hurt even though I'm not from your part of the world, and although my practice of Buddhism is supposed to steer me from the famous twins: Hurt and Hate."

The aisle thinned.

The driver got up from his seat and swiveled.

Gray prepared for the worst.

The driver burned Gray with a quick glance, donned thick gloves, exited the bus, and re-connected the trolley to the overhead electric lines and then stopped to converse with a bus driver of a motor coach.

"Our Great Helmsman has an electric posterior bug, doesn't he?" Gray said, mimicking the trolley's shakes, and gaining temporary reprieve from a relapse into caffeine hell.

"Very un-Bodhisattvic expression! But very human! My friend, you're okay! What's your good name?" the young man said.

"I hear in Germany they arrest people who express hatred of another." The wizened voice in the tiny frame began. "I hear in Austria, you get 10 years if you deny the holocaust. . . ."

"Even if I got 10 more years, I'd not deny the holocaust," says the woman with the breathing tube. "Many of my folks died in it."

"People — call me — Gray," the ex-Jesuit's kindred spirit extended a long, bony, pale hand enriched with age spots to the young man.

Revealing once again sparkling, pearl-perfect teeth, the young man clasped Gray's hand firmly and said, "Call me, Black, in that case."

"I'll be tootling off in a couple of stops," Black continued, warm smile and hand lightening Gray's heart. "Let's split a pot of tea or coffee, someday. We're looking for a few good people, Mr. Gray. But before I go, three little-big sound bites.

"First, you're a good man, Mr. Peace Warrior! Good heart. No weltschmerz!"

Black touched the space in front of Gray's chest with his free hand, making the old ticker beat faster.

"Weltwhat?" Gray inquired loudly, smiling, thinking Black had said, "Well schmooze!"

"World weariness, pessimism . . . ," began Black, but was cut off by the bus braking with a screech and a bounce. The driver shouted, through his side window at a car that had stopped suddenly to let a woman with a pit bull out.

Gray spotted the little old man doff his French cap, reveal a head-full of gray hair, rise up, and let loose rapidly in the sing-song, confident voice of an auctioneer, "Weltwhat? I hear in Germany they arrest people who express hatred of another. I hear in Austria they give you 10 years if you question the holocaust." A small pause, an adjustment of knobs, and then he continued, "I hear even if I got 10 more years, I'd not deny the holocaust. Many of my folks died in it." Another small pause. A finger probed his temple. Then, as if he'd found the record he was looking for: "I hear in the United States of America there are some outfits that allow you to give your sick co-worker your unused sick leave. I hear - I wish someone would give me 10 years. My doctor says I've got only six months. I'll probably end up spending half of it on Muni, riding back and forth to see him."

The whole mulligrubs segment was smartly elided, Gray noted.

The young man said to Gray: "Sad, but thought-provoking, isn't it? No weltschmerz there! Right? Though his affect belies it."

Gray nodded, thinking, If God had such a rule on sick leave, the poor woman could have a goodly chunk of mine.

The driver, returning with a large McDonald's coffee cup, shot Gray with his eyes.

Black resumed immediately, "Back to what I was saying. You also have an empathetic mind, as we say in my profession. Second, Sri Lanka - Ceylon-is my home country. No, I'm not Buddhist. Nor Hindu. Father's Catholic, Mother's Muslim. No, not Tamil Tigers. They're Tamils from Nuwara Eliya, fabled home of Ceylon's best mountain-grown tea."

Forced to re-tag his brain, Gray tried to seek comfort in the Fillmore flashing by, but the young man's close attention continued.

The woman with the breathing tube and the crumpled broadcaster got off.

"Second, true the driver repulsed my taking the bus transfer from his hand, saying very loudly 'Don't touch me!' You probably didn't hear the rest. Not at all about terrorism. He inserted the transfer under his improvised rubber-band-ticket-dispenser on the fare machine, and said, 'I'm very sick, don't want to become sicker.'"

Gray felt a flush blaze across his face.

And the fire in his hand held in the unbreakable handshake intensified, as Black sealed his grip with his left mitt, and continued, "What hurts? Tickets he hands to everyone else. To me, he announces: Don't touch me! Betcha, he was wound up tight by that Examiner article about an immigrant-imported, deadly, drug-resistant tuberculosis for which our team at the City's General Hospital is fashioning an isolation ward."

Trying to extract his hand from the vacuum-tight clasp, the old peace warrior thought, Must keep talking. I can't seem to be worried about marauding, mutating tropical bacteria. Not me, I marched, was prepared to lay my life on the line, go to prison.

He managed: "No longer — read dailies — get news — straight off the web."

Black held.

Gray pulled.

The young man reassured, "Not to worry. Not from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. I guarantee — as much as a physician who has been tested can provide. HIV positive, though. Not to worry. Completely under control. No, I didn't get it from a Western sex tourist as many kids all along coastal South and Southeast Asia have, if that's what your good mind is thinking. Caught it as a teenager from a parsimonious doctor reusing his needles. Got to go. Call me. Love to talk about Sri Lanka's long terrorism nightmare and my war against sex tourism and the Third World's reuse of needles. Join our campaign. Love to have Peace Warriors. Viva la sixties! Here's my card. Good talking to you. Shalom and Salaam." Then joining his palms and slightly bowing his head, he said, "Vanakkam."

"Same —" said Gray, finding the foreign words eluding his faculties.

The 22 Fillmore shook. Shuddered. Halted. The young man waved from the sidewalk.

All daily anxieties in retreat, Gray fell into a reverie in the belly of the rocking 22, his lost lips discovering a faint smile.

Finally, he dismounted from the municipal monster, his heart light and full, he said to the bus driver, "Thank you for the ride. Missed my stop," and to himself, I helped Black address his hurt.

That healing work was well worth the extra rides he'd have to take to get back to base — first, the 22 Fillmore to Market Street to do some errands, then the F streetcar to Fifth and Market to catch a 27 Bryant home.

Remembering the young man's smile and accent, Gray turned away, the smile growing — completely oblivious to the driver's laugh, his parting shout . . .

Ahead there's much to do, Gray thought, as he re-entered a sedate world, observed the wide sky above . . . I will surf new worlds; classify Sri Lankan-Muslim-Catholic; embrace new dreams. Maybe, drink a cup of mountain-grown Ceylon tea from Nuwara Eliya picked by black Tamil hands.

Go with St. Christopher! Gray said silently to his recent, white-and-brown-and-cream on the inside, white-and-red on the outside capsule world in which he had spoken up. His smile held steady as he recalled the timbre of his voice during those moments he had silenced the gunshot words ricocheting in his memories of childhood.

The 22 clanged and clattered, finally hurtled on.


//   Advance   //