41: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

Colin Mardsen sat in his study, ensconced in the red folds of his favorite chair, perplexed by this new novel. He was an educated man and the pejorative connotations of that word__bourgeois__ were not unfamiliar to him, but it had always been an insult without sting, a happy consequence. Outside of the imagination of a moralist author, does the werewolf curse the lunar power pulsating through bone and muscle? Certainly not. Yet there it is. The sting. But, along with the sting, a special sort of vindication. The ideas pushed and pulled at each other like the flavors in a complex Thai dish, and he could only digest so much at a time. There was an old envelope spotted at the bottom of an open drawer, covered in dust, he liberated it from the detritus of time and put it to work. The envelope moved at twenty page intervals, at thirty page intervals, at fifty. His makeshift bookmark served as concrete memory, a marker for how far his eyes and mind had travelled. In years to come, as he returned to the book, the envelope was always part of the ritual.

Family functions became a pain as soon as his sister found true love and a third husband. The man evinced at all time a wit and a bonhomie that made him almost irresistible. Almost. If only he had a sense of context, if only Mister Three showed an awareness of his place in the social constellation. Mardsen would rather spend time with an equal rather than that frustrating lump who occasionally passed him the rolls or the pepper. It had been so long since the family allowed him an accomplice to share a bon mot or an unorthodox opinion, and this one had such potential. It had to be done. Copies were so rare that it would have to be his own. One night, before leaving for Christmas dinner, he pulled the book from the shelf, removed the envelope (Mister Three would have to devise his own ritual), and wrapped it hastily in a tasteful holiday pattern. A small elegant package with hard corners to help the lump find definition.

The week before his son got shipped out he spent every evening alone in the study, crying. Each night, he attempted to find something small in volume yet significant in spirit that his boy could keep on his person at all times. He had silly, embarrassing dreams of his first edition "The Sun Also Rises" stopping a bullet. On the final night, disappointed by his library, he rummaged through his drawers. And then the compass. In his family for generations. Guiding Mardsens through three continents. Perfect. And under the compass his old bookmark, stripped of all talismanic powers and returned to messenger status. He read the name for the first time: Kadrey. The postdate was twenty years old.

42: Caves of Altimira

There must be
a place
a man can
that is more

Where the ground
does not
but cradles
a body
and covers
red weary eyes