The Ecstatic Adventure
Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World
Chapter 1 At Play in the Fields of the Lord
by PETER MATTHIESSEN
AS KNOWLEDGE OF the existence of mind-expanding plants and chemicals dawned upon the consciousness of Western man, swift re-evaluations of our attitudes toward certain socalled "primitive" tribes became necessary. It became apparent that some of these cultures had preserved the key to higher knowledge which the civilized world had relegated to the status of myth. Twenty years ago authoritative anthropologists still stated that the sacred mushroom of Mexico never existed and was a mythic symbol. Ethnologists learning of the ingestion of certain plants by the shamans of the tribe they were studying tended to regard this as a "mere ritual." Then as a result of the explorations of such men as R. G. Wasson, Professor Roger Heim and R. E. Schultes of Harvard, a whole new field was opened upthe study of the relationship between plant-induced visions and primitive mythology. "Theo-botany" is the term coined by one scholar for this field. Writing in The American Scholar in 1963, Mary Barnard stated: I am willing to prophesy that fifty theo-botanists working for fifty years would make the current theories concerning the origins of much mythology and theology as out of date as pre-Copernican astronomy."
The South American hallucinogen known as ayahuasca, yagé or caapi, an infusion prepared from the vine Banisteriopsis caapi, has assumed a kind of legendary reputation, primarily perhaps because so few Westerners had experienced it. William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg both went to South America to sample this fabled plant and described nightmare trips of isolation and terror in a totally foreign environment (see their Yage Letters, City Lights Books, 1963). More recently, an adventurous Chilean psychiatrist, Dr. Claudio Naranjo, has made a special study of the use of yagé in psychotherapy, and feels that it offers certain advantages over LSD.
The following account, taken from the book At Play in the Fields of the Lord, was almost universally ignored in the widespread critical acclaim that greeted the book when it was published in 1965. The book deals with the adventures of four fundamentalist "Bible-Belt" missionaries in the seething Amazon jungle, their encounters with the forest Indians and with two American renegades, one of whom, Lewis Moon, half-caste Cheyenne, drinks the ayahuasca brew and hurtles through the collapsing dimensions of his inner being. He relives an episode in his adolescence, where he is put on a solitary four-day vigil by his father and almost finds the center. "It came so close, and then it drifted away." At the end of the book, which describes the gradual disintegration of the Americans' social persona under the relentless impact of the malevolent jungle, only Moon, the half-Indian, survives this abrasive process; he identifies with the forest natives, becomes one of them, and then finally finds himself and reaches peace. "He was neither white nor Indian, man nor animal, but some mute, naked strand of protoplasm."
Peter Matthiessen, naturalist, explorer and novelist of distinction, describes, in images of aching beauty, the classic mythic journey the inundation of the senses, the turmoil in the body, the fear of loss, the guiltcreated hell, the vision of the demon Rage and the Life-Mother Goddess and the final death and release into the solitary freedom of the Void.
A DOG TURNED in its circle and lay down in the shade, and a vulture swung up and down in a short are above the jungle, as if suspended from a string. in the heat of the siesta, the street below was hollow as a bone.
He took the cork out of the bottle, and holding his breath to kill the bitterness, drank off half the brown fluid in a series of short gulps, gargling harshly when he was finished and spitting the residue into the street. The aftertaste made him gag. He sat down on the window sill and in a little while the nausea receded, leaving only a thick woody taste and a slight vagueness.
A half-hour passed. Maybe the Indian had watered the infusion. A voice in the salon below sounded remote to him, and he nodded; he was on his way. A little more ayahuasca, Mr. Moon? He took up the bottle and drank off another quarter of it, then set it down very slowly. You've made a bad mistake, he thought; already he knew he did not need it. The effects were coming very suddenly, and he stood up and stalked the room. In overdose, he had read somewhere, the extract of Banisteriopsis caapi is quite poisonous and may bring on convulsions, shock and even death.
How silent it wasthe whole world was in siesta. He glanced quickly out the window, to take time by surprise; the dog slept soundly, and the vulture still swung up and down its bit of sky, dark as a pendulum. From the far end of the street, a solitary figure was moving toward him, down the center of the streetthe last man on earth. There you are, he thought, I have been waiting for you all my life.
Now he was seized with vertigo and apprehension; his heart began to pound and his breath was short. He went to his bed and lay down on his back. He felt a closure of the throat and a tension in his chest, a metal bar from chin to naval to which the skin of his chest was sewn. Breathing became still more difficult, and a slight pain in the back of his head became a general, diffused headache. He turned cold and his teeth chattered; the bands pressed to his face were limp and clammy.
I am flying all apart, he thought; at the same time his chest constricted ever more tightly. Let go, he told himself aloud. Let go.
He rolled over on his side and blinked at the other bed. The man on the bed retreated from his vision, shrinking and shrinking until he was no bigger than a fetus.
Color: the room billowed with it; the room breathed. When he closed his eyes, the color dazzled him; he soared. But there was trouble in his lungs again, and his heart thumped so, in heavy spasmodic leaps, that it must surely stall and die. He broke into a sweat, and his hands turned cold as small bags of wet sand...
He sat up, aching, in a foreign room. He could breathe again, although his heart still hurled itself unmercifully against his chest: how thin a man's poor chest was, after all; it was as thin as paper, surrounding a hollow oval space of wind and bitterness. Thump, thump-ump, um-thump; it would crash through at any minute, and what then? Do I greet it? Introduce myself? How long can a man sit holding his heart in his hands?
Or was that thump coming from elsewhere? The thump of a bedwere the missionaries making love? The male missionary making love to the female missionary? The Courtship of Missionaries: the male missionary, larger and more splendidly plumaged than his shy dowdy mate, hurls his head back joyfully and sings "Praise the Lord," upon which he rushes forth, tail feathers spread, and mounting in a decorous and even pious manner, inserts his tongue into her right ear...
You are the Lost Tribe of Israel, and therefore you must pray especially hard, for the Lost Tribe of Israel is under God's everlasting curse. Do you understand? Why don't you answer me? What is the matter with you childrendo you wish to remain accursed? Now you answer me, Lewis Moon, or I'm going to beat you. Lewis? Lewis?
Now his body cavity felt hollowed out as if cold sterile winds were blowing through it... loss, loss, loss. Loss.
Look into the sky and think of nothing, said Alvin Moon "Joe Redcloud," but do not look into the sun, for the sun will blind you. Face east on the first day, south on the second, west on the third, north on the fourth, until you are at the center of the circle, and then you will know the power of the world.
After the first day his stomach hurt and he felt foolish, all alone on a rock lookout above a river bend of box elder and cottonwood; all that night he shivered. He was not like the old men, nor even like his father; he spoke American and raised the American flag at school; he wore blue jeans and looked at magazines in stores and stood around outside the movie in the town, searching his pockets as if he had real money; and he did not believe in visions. Like all the children, he killed his hunger at the mission house on Sunday and after-ward felt ashamed. Once he went hungry, telling the missionary that Cheyennes never ate on Sundays.
He remained on the rock a second day and a second night, just out of stubbornness, and because he was proud of the rifle that Alvin Moon had laid beside him. No bear nor cougar camethe animals would not bother him, his father said, if he sat stilland on the third morning he did not feel hungry any more and sat there motionless, letting the sun and wind blow through him. He was firmly rooted in the ground as the young pine. By afternoon he was growing weak and became filled with apprehension: something was happening. The jays and squirrels had lost all fear of him, flicking over and about him as if he had turned to stone, and the shrill of insects crystallized in a huge ringing silence. The sky was ringing, and the pine trees on the rocks turned a bright rigid green, each needle shimmering; the pines were ringing and beside him a blue lupine opened, breathing. Then the river turned to silver and stopped flowing. The jays trembled on the rock, their eyes too bright, and the squirrel was still, the gold hairs flowing on its tail. He stared at the enormous sky, and the sky descended and the earth was rising from below, and he was soaring toward the center
Then, in the ringing, far away, rose a flat droning. The airplane unraveled the high silence as it crossed the sky; it disappeared without ever appearing, and when it had gone, the sky no longer rang. He sat a long time on his rock, but the sky had risen, leaving him desolate.
Light-headed, he went down to the river, where he drank. He found mushrooms and fresh-water mussels, and some berries, and when he had eaten he laughed at his three-day vigil, pretending that he did not feel a dreadful sorrow.
On the fourth day, waiting for Alvin Moon to come, he hunted. He killed a wild goose on the river, and boasted of it to his father.
His father gazed at him. And where is the goose, his father said.
I could not reach it, the boy said. It came so close, and then it drifted far away.
He reeled from the bed and drifted to the window, but the figure coming down the street was gone; again he had missed some unknown chance. The street was void, a void, avoid. Dog, heat, a vulture, nothing more. A dog, a vulture, nothing more, and thus we parted, sang Lenore.
Singing. Somewhere, somewhere there was singing. His whole body shimmered with the chords, the fountainhead of music, overflowing. The chords were multicolored, vaulting like rockets across his consciousness; he could break off pieces of the music, like pieces of meringue.
You're sleeping your life away, he told the dog.
Do you hear me? I said, Do you hear me?
Meri-wether, Sheriff Guzmán said. That's some name for a red nigger, ain't it? You're the smart one, ain't you kid? Ain't you supposed to be the smart Cheyenne? Done good in the war, and now they gone to send they little pot Christ-lovin Cheyenne to college, ain't that right, kid? Well, kid, if you're a real smart Injun, you won't even go and look at me that way, you'll keep your Injun nose clean, kid.
Oh, to be an Indian! (Now that spring is here.) Big Irma: Be a good boy, Lewis. Do not fight so much. You come back and see us now. Alas, too latethe world is dead, you sleepyhead. The Inn of the Dog and the Vulture. There are voices, you see, then singing voices, then strange musics, hollowed out, as if drifted through a wind tunnel, these followed by a huge void of bleak silence suggesting DEATH.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE, by Lewis Moon.
Now... something has happened, was happening, is happening. BUT WILL NOT HAPPEN. Do you hear me? I said, DO YOU HEAR ME?
A softer tone, please.
To begin at the beginning: my name is Meriwether Lewis Moon. Or is that the end? Again: I was named Meriwether Lewis Moon, after Meriwether Lewis, who with the Lieutenant William Clark crossed North America without killing a single Indian. So said my father; my father is Alvin Moon "Joe Redcloud," who lived up on North Mountain. Alvin Moon still traps and hunts, and in World War 1, when still a despised non-citizen, exempt from service, joined those 16,999 other Indians as insane as himself who volunteered to serve in World War I. Alvin Moon is half-Cheyenne; he went down South when he came home and took up with a Creole Choctaw woman named Big Irma and brought her back up to his mountain. The worst mistake that Alvin Moon ever made was trying to educate himself; his information about Lewis and Clark was the only piece of education he ever obtained, and it was wrong. He used to joke that he couldn't educate himself unless he learned to read, and how could he learn to read if he didn't educate himself? So he left off hunting and trapping and came down off his mountain and took work near the reservation to keep his children in the mission school, to give them a better chance in life.
I ain't got nothin, said Joe Redcloud, and I don't know nothin, not a thing. And the hell of it is, I broke my back, paid out every cent, to keep them kids into that school, and now they don't know nothin, neither, only Jesus Christ. Now ain't that somethin? They sit around here thinkin about Godamighty, I reckon, while they're waitin on their gover'ment reliefs.
All but Meriwether Lewis.
Again: my name is Lewis Moon, and I am lying on a bed (deathbed?) in a strange country, and I hear eerie voices and a crack is appearing on the wall, wider and wider, and the bulb in the ceiling is growing more and more bulbous, and will surely explodea crack (of doom?) of lightning down the walls.
The extract of B. caapi is a powerful narcotic and hallucinogen containing phenol alkaloids related to those found in lysergic acid, and whether or not it finds a respectable place in the phamaceutica of man, it has held for unknown centuries an important place in the culture of Indian tribes of the Amazon basin. At the time of my experiment I was lying in a Darrow room with a corpse in the next bed, with God, a vulture and a dog as witnesses, wishing that Marguerite were here. Marguerite. I wish to tell Marguerite that the reason I did not make love to her that time in Hong Kong was not because I did not want her but because I had reason to believe that in the late, low hours of the week before, I had contracted a low infestation. I did not know Marguerite well enough to give her crabsyou understand? Marguerite had alabaster skin, triumphant hair, and an unmuddied soul, and a swinging little ass into the bargain.
You listen to me, Meriwether Lewis: what the hell you sass that Sheriff for? He mighta kilt you. You stay clear of whiskey, then; long as you cat* stay out of trouble, you ain't welcome back. And don't you show your Mam that bad face, neither; I whupped you plenty times before, and I'll whup you again, hero or no hero. Alvin Moon "Joe Redcloud" said, You're all your people here got left to count on. You go get that education, hear me now? And then you come on home and learn it back to us as best you can. Because the way things are goin they ain't no hope for none of us, lessen we don't get somethin learned here to us pretty quick.
I have opened my eyes again, to shut off all that blue. Color can threaten, overwhelm, whirling like thatan ant in a kaleidoscope might sense the problem. But out here the bed shudders, the chair sneaks, the bureau budges; they back and fill, about to charge. From above the bulb socket descends like a falling spider, leaving the bulb behind.
B. caapi, which is named for the caapi of certain Brazilian Indians, is also the camorampi of the Campa, the natema of the Jivaro, the ayahuasca or haya-huasca of the Quechua-speaking peoples, the yagé of Ecuador, the soga de muerte of most Spanish South Americans, names variously translated as "Vine of the Devil," "Vine of the Soul," "Vine of Death": The Spanish term means literally "vine rope of death," the soga referring to the jungle lianas used commonly as canoe lines, lashings, ropes, etc. In addition to certain medical properties, the vine can induce visions, telepathic states, metaphysical contemplation and transmigration; these conditions are used by the Indians for the reception of warnings, prophecies and good counsel. Among many tribes one purpose of the dream state is identification of an unknown enemy, and the use of it is thus related to the Jivaro practice of taking tsantsas, or shrunken heads...
I am cut off, I feel both silly and depressed; it is the solitude, not solitude but isolation... Death is the final isolation, but from what, from what?
I am trying to reach out to you, but I do not know who you are, I cannot see you, I only feel your presence in this room. Perhaps ... I wonder... are you inside me? And if so ... Now listen carefully: There is a lost reality, a reality lost long ago. Are you in touch with it: can you tell medid you see?the man with the blue arrow
Or... or are you the figure in the center of the street? So you came here, after all! Can you hear me? I said, CAN YOU HEAR ME? CAN-YOU-HEAR-ME!
I cannot reach him through the sound and silence, distant sound and deepest silence, like a thick glass barrier between the world of the living and myself, as if I were wandering on an earth which had suddenly died, or in a Purgatory, myself already deadů.
He knew his lucidity could not last, and because he had taken too much, he dreaded going under again, and he started to ask Wolfie for help. "Hey," he said. But he could not ask, he had never asked in all his life, and even if he asked, what could poor Wolfie do? There were no sedatives in Madre de Dios; sedation was superfluous in a graveyard. He pushed away and tottered toward the window, where he fell across the sill. The dog and the vulture were gone. The light was tightening in the way it always did before the sudden jungle night, and down the center of the street a solitary figure walked away.
The bottle stood upon the sill; he drank it to the bottom.
He felt like crying, but did not. He had not cried in twenty yearsno, more. Had he ever cried? And yet he did not really feel like crying; he felt like laughing, but did not. Stalking Joe Red cloud's shack as twilight came, he waited to be called back, beaten, and forgiven, but with the clear prairie darkness came the knowledge that the call would never come, that the days of tears and comfort had come and gone before he had realized they would ever end. Dry-eyed, enraged, he crouched in the sagebrush for a little while, and then moved off like a lean yearling grizzly driven snarling from the cave, feeling very bad and very good at the same time, and spoiling for a fight.
He crouched beside the window sill, his back to the world without, and far away he heard them coming, the marching of huge nameless armies coming toward him, and once again his hands turned cold. He felt very cold. On the wall of the room, over the door, he saw a huge moth with a large white spot on each wing. It palpitated gently; he could hear the palpitations, and the spots were growing. And there was a voice, a hollow voice, very loud and very far away, calling through glass, and there were hands on him and he was shaken violently. The voice rose and crashed in waves, rolling around his ears; it was getting dark....
He looked at the man and the man's head, fringed with hair; the head shrank before his eyes and became a tsantsa. He could not look, and turned away. A figure crossed his line of vision, moving toward the door. The door opened and light came in. The voice said ThisisnowheremanI'vehadenough.
Don't go... I need... Don't go. I need... But he could not hear his own voice, and he could not have said just what he needed. From over the man's head the large white eyes of the moth observed him; they pinned him, like incoming beams. The music crashed, the wave... The door was dark again. He pushed himself to his feet and stared out of the window. The dark was rolling from the forest all around, and the sky was so wild as the sun set that it hurt his eyes. He reeled and fell, then thrashed to his feet and fell again, across the bed, and was sucked down into the darkness as the music burst the walls and overwhelmed him.
His body diffused and drifted through cathedral vaults of color, whirling and shimmering and bursting forth, drifting high among the arches, down the clerestories, shadowed by explosions of stained glass. In the dark chapels of the church was a stair to windy dungeons, to colors rich and somber now, and shapes emerging; the shapes flowered, rose in threat and fell away again. Fiends, demons, dancing spiders with fine webs of silver chain. A maniac snarled and slavered, and rain of blood beat down upon his face. Teeth, teeth grinding in taut rage, teeth tearing lean sinew from gnarled bone. Idiocy danced band in hand with lunacy and bate, rage and revenge; the dungeon clanked and quaked with ominous sounds, and he kept on going, down into the darkness.
Snow, dawn, black aspens. The creature rose at the boy's coming and somersaulted backward, whining and snarling, the trap clatter muffled in white silences; whiteness; the blood pools colored black, the tight-sewn cold.
A great head, and yellow eyes too big for Coyotethe last wolf in the mountains, the first and only wolf the boy had ever seen. He had no rifle. The old wolf leaped, to drive him back, and fell forward on its muzzle, which rose white-tipped from the snow; its tongue fell out. The icy steel worked tighter on its foreleg, and the pain confused it, for it looked aside and wagged its tail a little, shivering. Then, just once, it howled a real wolf howl, pure as the black air of the mountain forest. Then it lay down. It had been gnawing on its foreleg, just above where the trap had snapped, and now it began again, whining and snarling at its own agony, at the stubbornness of its own bone which held it earthbound. The mad yellow eyes watched him, the taut muzzle, the purplish curled gum, red teeth, the jaw; the scrape of teeth on living bone made him cry out. The ears flicked forward, but the gnawing did not stop.
When he came close, it sprang sideways; another such spring might free it. He drew back, frightened of the mad wild yellow eyes.
The sun rose to low banks of winter clouds; the day grew cold. He cut a sapling and carved a spear point, long and white; confronting the wolf, he drove the raw white wood into its chest as it came up at him and fought to pin it to the ground and grind the pain out of it. But still it fought to live, dull heavy thumps in the white flying powder; a blood fleck seared his lipthe wolf was snapping at the place where the stake pierced it. Shaken free, he had fallen within reach of it, but the stunned creature only raised its bleeding teeth from its own wounds and stared at him and past him, blinked once at the dying winter world, in daze, and lay its head upon its forepaws, panting.
He opened his eves, gasping for breath; he drifted downward. Once the abyss opened out into air and sunlight, but there were papier-mâché angels, and again he broke off chords of music from the air like bits of cake: the Paradise was false and he went on. A spider appeared, reared high over his head, then seized, shredded and consumed him. Voided, he lay inert in a great trough, with molten metal rising all about him in a blinding light. So this was brimstone. The missionary's pasty face peered down at him over the rim: This is a proud day for the mission, Lewis, and a proud day for your people. We all count on you.
Eyes. Eyes. He struggled to free himself, but the stake held in his heart, the hole in his heart; even breathing hurt him, even breathing. He clawed at his own chest to ease it. If only he could get that pain out, then his heart would bleed his life away, but gently.
A roar of trapped insects, flies and bees, and he among them: mad drone and bugging and brush of hairy, viscous legs scraping toward remote slits of air and light, of acrid insect smell, of flat inconscient insect eyes, unblinking, bright as jewels, too mindless to know fear, oh Christ, how mindless. Humans... A human mob, pounding its way into the bar, in search ofwhat? It did not know. It had no idea what it was hunting, but was hunting out of instinct, with myriad flat insect eyes, trampling everything underfoot; he shook with fear. Like a rat he was, a famine rat of broken cities, a quaking gut-shrunk rat, scurrying through the wainscoting of falling houses. His skeleton flew apart, reassembled in rat's skeleton; his spine arched, the tiny forefeet and long furtive band, the loose-skinned gassy belly; he poised, alert, hunched on his knees upon the bed, bands dangling at his navel, long nose twitching. In the mirror across the room he saw the hair sprout on his face and the face protrude.
He found his way across the room and stared so closely into the glass that his nose touched it; he watched the face wrinkle and turn old; he saw his own raw skull again and groaned. Then another mask, a new expression, hard and sly and cold. As he watched, it softened and turned young and wide-eyed, gentle; the muscles in his stomach eased, and he recognized the self of boyhood mornings. He was touched by this last face and grinned at it in embarrassment; but just as he grinned, self-consciousness returned to poison him, and the boyish face turned hard again and mean, and the lips drew back upon sharp teeth and the eyes glittered, and the whole body tensed with an anger of such murderous black violence that he recoiled from his own bate, falling back again across the bed.
A huge dead dog had its teeth locked in his throat, and the metal bar dragged at his chest again, and when he closed his eyes the Rage descended, a huge and multilimbed galoot in hobnailed boots and spurs, eyes bulging, teeth grinding, cigars exploding in its mouth and flames shooting from its ears, bearing a club spiked with rusty nails, wearing brass knuckles and outsize six guns; in its blind snot-flying rage, it blew it own head off by mistake. This thing came stomping down out of his mind, and he gasped, Look at that guy, that guy is so mad, he blew his own bead off by mistake! His body relaxed and he howled with laughter, lying now with his back on the floor and his feet on the bed, and as he laughed, the gnawed and painful stake which had pierced his chest as long as he could remember cracked and opened like an ancient husk and turned to dust, and he could breathe again.
With the music rising in the summer breeze there came a gay preposterous parade along the highroad: calliope flutings and fanfare, with band wagons and floats and maelstroms of confetti, pouter pigeons and emerald parakeets, bursting drums and golden tubas, and gauzy fat-cheeked majorettes in crotch-tight sateen suits, chins bouncing on high squeaking breasts like taut balloonsoompa, oompa, oompa, oompa. And an immense blowzy one-man band of a hand-me-down Big Irma, beer-soaked and high-colored, all billowing bows and curlicues and furbelows of hue and texture Look At Her Go, Hurrah Hurrah! all leer and wink, hiking her skirts to turn the ankle, pretty still beneath the mass of tired flesh, and trying in vain to shake a ball of hair and dog turd from her heel, squinching and squashing and squirting along like a banquet dumped into a bag. She wore a gigantesque plumed hat which she flew like a flag, and as the old tub pushed along, batting her eyes and swinging her butt, she leaked and sagged and oozed so woefully at the seams that rats and crows fought for her leavings, while in the front and alongside, as trumpets blew and pennants flew and children snickered and horses nickered, stores and provisions and water and fuel were crammed aboard; varlets hurled up trays of tarts and heaved up meats and slung up wine flagons and kegs of ale, while others ran to pump in gasoline and air, barely able to offset the waste and loss of the vast outpourings beneathBig Irma meanwhile, nothing daunted, leering and winking to beat bell, and curtseying prettily as the bands played and hats were tossed and wild cheers rent the air hip hip hurroo and winking her blinkers and twinking her pinkie and twirling a tiny parasol, all giggling and goosed and poked, as if to say, Well, sweet Christ knows I always done my damndest.
Once upon a time, at morning, a small blood-silver river in the rising plains, the silver undersides of wind-awakened leaves, the silver spider webs in dew. A small boy hunting, poised, quick, listening, in a fine old-smelling boat parting new reeds. Soft drops falling from an oar, a newborn sun, far bugling... a swan. The stalk, the shot, the yell of blackbirds, the white bird turning a slow circle, head under water. Feathers floating and wild silence.. That morning his skin tingled, and he laughed aloud in that sky-high aloneness that was not loneliness, the strength of a young animal among animals in a soft summer sunrise...
horses, rodeos, long murky bars and rotten sawdust smell in high small sandy towns of the Great Basin, a coyote trapped by hurtling cars where the road cut through the rock, a lone whiskey bottle on the shoulder of the road. Night voices, speed, a dirtied strength, a flight, a maim, a lost friend; women and bystanders overrun, struck aside by wheels spun loose from flying axles, flying hooves, by fenders: highways, sirens, howling lights, a crash... dread silence...
smoke, and twisted metal shards, flayed twisted limbs, a staring eye, and gasoline spreading like a stain of blood on the stunned pavement: hiss of steam, oncoming sirens, SIRENS, I-A-R-R-A-O-W-A-O-AO-W...
Meriwether Lewis Moon, in ditch, head bleeding at the temple
Ever driven a convertible, Lew boy? Go aheadtry it.
With the record you already made, Lew boy
With the record you already made, Lewis, it won't hardly be no trouble, no trouble at all.
Yeah, but Eddie, his grades are very good, he's got what you might call real native intelligence
Hell, just keep drinkin whiskies like you been doin right along, and then you parade that little Eastern gal of yours around the campus, you know, feelin her up and all, and throw a punch maybe if somebody gets smartthat ought to do it.
All you boys want is a complete sellout of the Cheyennes in this state, and you'll give the dumb Injun three hundred brand-new all American silver dollars, right?
Well, there's no call to look at it that way...
Make it two thousand, or this auto, and I'll be out of your miserable alma mater before daylight.
Two thousand? Or this automobile? How in hell are you going to earn two thousandscalp somebody?
Hand it over and find out.
Look, Geronimo, we can get you framed for less than that!
Ah, come on, Eddie, they said they wanted it a nice clean job.
Well, there's the two, goddamit, Lewisnow when you going to earn it?
... eighteen, nineteen, two. Right nowyou two fat turds get out and walk.
Hey, wait a minute, watcher language! No red nigger's gonna...
Ow! Christ watchit!
In the mirror he saw one of them, face bloodied, help the other to his feet; they bawled for justice.
You mean that's their car you have downstairs? Oh, I can't bear it, you were almost graduated! Lew, listen to me, darling, this i's no way to prove anything
Lewis. I'm supposed to feel you up in public.
Oh, listen to you, sweetheart, look how drunk you are! If you really believe in what you're doing, why are you so drunk? Listen, it's not only a question of yourselfhow about your people? How about the people who worked so hard to get you in here
That's it, right thereI sold out when I first signed in as their pet Indian. And yours too, baby, yours. The only reason you're making it with me is because you don't come from around here. You goddamn liberals are all alikeall talk and no risk.
Don't be like that! How can we help you people if you won't help yourselves! Oh, can't you understand? I love you!
Love, love, lo-ove...
Down the road. The big two-tone auto stank of lotion and cigar butts, but it moved. It roared across the land like an apocalypse, almost to the state line, before the oil gauge flashed red; then he forced it harder still, grinding his teeth and driving the gas through it to burn it clean, until the tires reeked and the body shuddered, until the fat plastic dashboard bulged with warnings, until the whole fat contraption of churchgoing chromium and patriotic plush screeched and choked on its own heat and burst its block and screamed to a hissing locked fiery halt with eight million all-American motorcycles hard behind. I-A-R-R-A-O-A-OW. A last swig and he broke the bottle, then toppled out, rolling and laughing, on the highway shoulder. Down he went through waving weeds into the swamp, hailing and cursing the cop silhouettes, with two thousand dollars and a hand cut by broken teeth, and nothing and nowhere, but free, by Christ, how free of their whole Indian game.
He headed eastward to New York. On a truck radio he heard the charges: grand larcenyan automobile and two thousand dollarsand felonious assault.
See, Lewis, it ain't gonna work. You find yourself another local.
I don't get it. You had a fight in here yourself only last weekyou guys were drunk right on the job.
You don't fight the way we fight. We fight for fun, Lewis. Because we like it. Because ice like it. We ain't tryin to prove nothin. So you just find yourself a nice white local where they fight the way you fight.
White local, huh? There's more Cheyenne in this blood coming out of my nose than there is Mohawk in all you bastards put together
You got shit in your blood, too. We never heard of Cheyennes, hardly, until you come along, and anyway, we ain't professional Indians like you. All we know about Indians, bub, is what we seen on television.
Sirens, howling lights, another crash, another, still another: modern times. CRASH, CRASH, CA-RASHthat crazy kid is CARAZYhe began to laugh. The crashes became gimcrack destruction, a breaking and tinkling of deafening dimensions, a mounting heap of slow jalopies hurling themselves together at a crossroads.
Port scene with rum, tropical colors, high white birds, the lonely palms of dawn: a crazy-legged Negress dancing nude,
Wistaria, her flesh...
Because the way things are goin they ain't no hope for none of us, lessen we don't get somethin learned here to us pretty quick...
Here was Rage again, exploded now, hung-up like an old scarecrow, like a big broken toy with one loose eye and loose old parts and springs and stuffing every whichy-wayall hung-up on itself, poor critter. Rage danced somewhat sheepishly to guitar and wind as if to say: Well, just because I'm angry doesn't mean I don't enjoy a dance or two...
Lucidity. He sighed. He lay there all laughed out and loose, loose as a dead snake slung on a rail, lay there drunk with gentleness and pleasure. Be a good boy, Lewis, do not hate so much.
Oh good old Wolfie, Wolfie would die laughing. The thought of the Old Wolf laughing, dying of laughing, set him off again, but this time, even as he laughed, an apprehension came. He crawled to the corner of the room, where he crouched low, watching both door and window. The noises were surrounding him, there was something happening to him, something happening, and he felt too tired now to deal with it. If he could only stop this laughing, but he could not; his laughter grew louder and louder, and when he tried to stop he could not close his mouth. It stretched wider and wider, until he swallowed the ceiling light, the room, the window and the night; the world rushed down into the cavernous void inside him, leaving him alone in space, pin-wheeling wildly like a jagged fragment spun out from a planet.
A terrific wind blew, and his ears rang with the bells of blueblack space; the wind sealed his throat, his flesh turned cold, his screams were but squeaks snapped out and away by the passage of night spheres. Nor could he hear, there was no one to hear, there was no one where he had gonewhat's happening, what-is-happening...
He had flung himself away from life, from the very last realities, had strayed to the cold windy reaches of insanity. This perception was so clear and final that he moaned; he would not find his way back. You've gone too far this time, you've gone too far...
As he whirled into oblivion, his body cooled and became numb, inert, like a log seized up and borne out skyward by a cyclone; he struggled to reach out, catch hold, grasp, grip, hang on, but he could not. He could not, he was made of wood, and there was nothing to hang on to, not even his own thoughtthought shredding, drifting out of reach, like blowing spider webs. He was gone, g-o-n-e, gone, G-O-N-E, goneand around again. The bowling was in his bead, and all about lay depthless silence. His screaming was ripped away before it left his mouth, and the mouth itself was far away, a huge papered hoop blown through and tattered by the gales. The air rushed past, too fast to breathe; his lungs sucked tight, shriveled like prunes, collapsed. He died.
Death came as a huge bounteous quiet, in the bosom of a high white cloud. The wood of his body softened, the knots loosened; he opened up, lay back, exhausted, mouth slack, eyes wide like the bald eyes of a corpse. He glimpsed a hard light lucid region of his mind like a lone comet, wandering far out across the long night of the universe.
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