Why was there hardly anyone else on Il Molo? The pier extended out from the concrete walkway that wound down from the eastern edge of the village. The pier’s elongated rectangular shape jutted out fifty meters from Varigotti’s beach, the last village before the tunnel on the Via Aurelia leading to Noli and Spotorno.
About halfway down its length the pier angled forty degrees to the right. It rose up roughly three meters above the Mediterranean and measured about two meters in width. The floor was grey concrete and the pier was bordered with a knee high barrier sixty centimeters in width and covered with reddish square terracotta tiles. The barrier was perfectly suitable for sitting on and gazing out to sea or at the passersby.
Martha walked toward the end of the Molo, unsuccessfully trying to avoid the water being whipped by the wind onto the pier. She had wandered out alone tonight because she was restless. She and her husband were leaving in three days and Martha wanted to look at the sea from the vantage point of the Molo. She wanted to smell the salty air carried by the strong winds and feel the occasional cold droplets of sea water that splashed onto her skin as the waves bashed against the boulders. She shivered a bit. Her light sweater and shorts were not enough protection against the chilly night air.
They had been coming here for almost ten years together and he even longer. This was the ideal place for a summer vacation – the sea, the beach, the people, and of course the Ligurian cuisine. This past year had been complicated and there were some decisions she had to make about the future. Her husband seemed to have not noticed that she had become a bit distant. Or was she just imagining it? Was he too wrapped up in his own world? In his own career? In his own enjoyment?
In the middle of her thoughts, Martha turned around quickly. She just now heard the faint steps behind her. The Molo was empty except for her and the two men coming toward her. She breathed a sigh of relief and looked up at the tall men who now stood before her. One was dark and the other one was blond, but both were well tanned. Martha greeted them, “Oh, you all scared me. What brings you out here tonight?
The golden eagle coasting on the updrafts rising from Beatrice Desmond’s forty mostly wooded acres surveys a landscape little influenced by man. No, the black walnuts and maples and sycamores far below did not coexist with the indigenous people who occasionally hunted and trapped but established no permanent settlements in this deeply crenellated section of the Allegheny Mountains. Nonetheless, the trees are old. Although logging is an ongoing industry in other parts of Seneca County, these particular hardwoods in southeastern West Virginia have stood undisturbed for many decades.
In spring, shade-loving morels and pungent wild leeks flourish beneath the trees. In summer, bear cubs exercise their claws on the bark. In fall, randy bucks leave traces of antler velvet on the trunks. In winter, legions of dark-eyed juncos hunker down on the low branches, just at the edge of the deep wood, to wait out the snow squalls before carbo-loading anew on dried seeds. The woods teem with life. Little of it is human.
The satellites that orbit far, far above the trees can spot all sorts of earth-based minutiae in exacting detail. But even their sharp eyes cannot penetrate the dense hardwoods—not even in winter—to say nothing of the full canopy months from May to early October. Google Earth is able to zero in, however, on the pasture lying in the lowest section of the Desmond farm. The eye-in-the-sky can make out the red barn at the pasture’s southwestern corner and, upslope, the small white farmhouse. Google Earth can identify the even smaller cabin, standing about one thousand feet south of the main house and serving as Beatrice’s office. And where the creek cuts through open land, it shows up on overhead photographs, as does the small pond fed by springs and mountain runoff.
Sitting here in this damn single cell in the West Tower at the Lew—fuck this place. Sometimes when I feel like it I just piss on the floor. What difference does it make? Guards don’t give a damn. Been thinking about rubbing shit all over the walls past couple of days. That crazy? Fuck, probably it is. I’m so far beyond giving a damn right now. I rub my fingers through my curly black and silver beard, pulling on it a little. These jailhouse psych doctors don’t know a damn thing about being crazy. There is no such thing as being crazy, anyway. My damn head.
The man in the cell next to mine hasn’t showered in weeks. This is what real people smell like. Before Dial soap and Old Spice, Chanel No. 5, or running water. When she poured the pound of fragrant oil over Jesus’ perfect head, what was the perfect smell? This sick stench reeks and seeps through the cracks of my cell door, mingling with the scent of piss and orange peels. I don’t know how to tell this story, but I have to, don’t I? It’s not like I have a choice.
I met Nathan Emberlin in Faro, southern Portugal, in August 2014.At first, I thought he was just another adventurous young man, engaging but slightly immature. His beautiful sculpted face held a hint of vulnerability, but that ready smile and exuberant cheekiness eased his way, as did the radiant generosity of his spirit, so that it wasn’t only women who smiled back; people of all ages warmed to Nathan, even the cross old man who guarded the stork’s nest on the lamppost outside the tobacconist’s shop.
Yes, he appeared from nowhere – but then, so did we all. I didn’t go to Faro to get a story. That summer, I was on the run, or so it felt; I was trying to consign an awkward episode to my own past, not to get entangled in someone else’s. Besides, a lot of people I met in Faro were in the process of change, of expanding their horizons and aiming for a better life. The town was full of strangers and constant movement: planes overhead, roaring in and out of the airport across the shore; boats puttering in and out of the harbour; trains sliding between the road and the sea; buses and cars; pedestrians bobbing up and down over the undulating cobblestones.
The café, at least, was still. On the way to the language school, it had the presence and quiet grace of an ancient oak, rooted to its spot in the Rua Dr. Francisco Gomes. The columns and balustrades of its once-grand fin-de-siècle façade had an air of forgotten romance that was hard to resist. I pushed against its old-style revolving door that first morning simply because I was curious to see inside.
“The snow fluttered down delicately, in waves of glistening white, much as it had the entire week before. The sense of normalcy acquired by some did little to comfort the man, who had taken his post in front of the whitewashed window. The frost on the glass perfectly mirrored the shards of jagged ice hanging solemnly from his heart.
It had been two weeks since he’d heard from Dennis. The red light flashing consistently from across the room signaled that someone had tried to reach him; there was no argument in this respect. Francis Kramer, however, had come to loathe few things so doggedly as an unanswered phone call.
He checked the machine each afternoon, his patience wearing thin, a chorus of hang-ups was all it offered. The tiny crimson light was beginning to infuriate him more by the day. It’s ceaseless blinking a seeming beacon for weary travelers on the road to meaning. It was all for naught, though. As the days passed, the only news he cared to hear continued to evade him.
Having roused himself from a rather troubled sleep only minutes prior, he found the empty blanket of white covering the world far more comforting than the equally empty hum of a message that never seemed to come.
After nearly fifteen minutes of staring through the dreary glass, he gathered himself and walked over to the answering machine. His hand reached out slowly, intent on pushing the small “play” button. The moment the pad of his finger managed to softly caress the plastic; however, his arm darted back toward his body.
He shook his head angrily, beginning to pace a fine line between his chair and the table on which the recorder sat. Somewhere in his mind, the panging question of whether getting worked up was even worth it began to vibrate idly in the direction of rationality.
Upon finally steeling his nerves, Frank instantly decided there was nothing to be gained, cosmically, in worrying himself sick over another disappointment. With his left hand now resting firmly on his forehead, he reached out once more and pressed “play.” “
Mark James Miller
Looking back after so many years, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner than it did. Tom always was a guy full of big ideas.
He’d had big ideas before, but never one that would cause so much trouble.
It came upon him out of nowhere, striking suddenly, the way a chubasco strikes in the Sea of Cortez: He stopped, clapped his hands together, and turned so he stood facing me.
“You know what I’m going to do?” he cried. “I’m going to climb to the top of that smokestack!”
“You don’t mean the smokestack on top of the old power plant, do you?” I asked.
“That’s the one,” he affirmed, grinning excitedly and wagging“That’s the one,” he affirmed, grinning excitedly and wagging his big head back and forth. “I’m going to climb all the way to the top and shout so loud they’ll be able to hear me over in Hawaii!”
“You’re crazy,” I said, giving him my-you-can’t-really-mean-that-look, the one I reserved for moments when he came up with his most outlandish ideas. “I always knew it. Now I’ve got proof.”