A Century’s Worth

In cisalpine Gaul I first felt the vague tremblings of the strange epiphany that was to transform so many polities.

Wait, that’s not right.

I was in southern France when I first noticed the sign carved into the paving stones and the boles of the shady ilexes.

No, no, say it right, don’t get distracted!

I met this gal riding on the Eurail. She was filthy, I was filthy. Her name was Enterprise, mine was Industry,

Many strange characters have been seen riding the el through Chicago, their hair wild with suppressed excitement, their fingers rigid with tetanus, their pants stiff with dried food, old beer, stale vomit.

Mugwumps bend to sip at the edges of the youngest boys in the bars, singing quietly, each to each?

We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire!

No, no, no! That is to say… the college professor seated behind me on the rattling train out of Cheyenne (was it John Carradine his voice deep with antebellum rage?) fell into conversation with me, voice shaky, nerves probably: the Dean of Hitler Studies carries a heavy burden even coming down out of the mountains.

He had a friend, I seem to recall (Peeperkorn fighting a tiny dog?), in a long green coat and no chin who would arrive suddenly and depart just as abruptly, following the slow, planetary swing of the golden pendulum he carried always. “He has been to the moon,” apologize the Dean; “he has lived in Marlinspike Hall.”

Was it?

A small boy playing the trumpet, one long note rising endlessly above an Italian funeral, Marco Polo speaking to the Khan in the hems of his shirt, spreading tales of invisible cities.

No, that’s not it, either. Not quite, not at all.