7. The Knowledge Grows Slowly Within

It’s full night when Inglorion walks back. It’s a sweet, cloudless evening. Brick and stone have begun to cool; the moon is waning. Inglorion can see again: The hesitant, frozen forms of rabbits crouching in the weeds; a handful of bats, flying irregular trajectories. A stray cat drops and rolls in the dirt, and eyes Inglorion with the noncommittal invitation of a gay sailor.

He thinks of the moments before his death. He had a wife, but he cannot recall her voice. She’s Lucius’s mother. He remembers now that Lucius introduced them by saying that he thought Inglorion would find her interesting. He fell in love. He knows that now.

How strange, to wake up in a different time and place, with no one but Lucius to keep him company. His mind is partially closed to him, but his body is gripped with pain — it remembers, though he cannot.

There’s little to hold onto. The pure, untarnished joy of reading the Thousand Nights; the ritual of lighting up and smoking. Pure beauty in all its forms: The songs of the mockingbirds, the soothing cool and dark of his little room, the smell of wet earth.

***

Inglorion reads the Arabian Nights, volume after volume after volume, while absently stroking Lucius’s curls. They sing.

As his memory takes on depth and shading, Inglorion understands that “Brutus” is his father, Tereus. In his old life, this would have been a searing or dazzling fact. Here, it feels curiously muted. His memories of Tereus are obscured by time, strong emotion and lack of intimacy. He struggles to square Brutus with with the violent and mercurial figure of his father. He can’t ignore it, however. The facts fit. Seen in darkness, Brutus’s features are familiar — Inglorion’s own, in fact. In the year before his death, Inglorion spent time in the libraries at Shelawn House and Xialo, among Tereus’s papers. As his acquaintance with Brutus deepens, Inglorion recognizes his father’s intellect, enthusiasms and habits of mind — his tastes and aesthetic.

The knowledge grows slowly within Inglorion. He believes that Brutus knew from the start. Occasionally it seems as if he’s trying to decide whether Inglorion has guessed the truth.

Inglorion knows his father now, but it’s not the familiar comfort of Lucius’s embrace. Inglorion loves Lucius. He’s fascinated with Brutus, but does not love him.

***

Adobe row houses, Barrio Viejo
Their little household subsists on hunting, foraging and barter, and is part of an interdependent, hyper-local economy.

After a time, Inglorion starts to grasp the economy of Lucius’s neighborhood, Barrio Viejo. Their little household subsists on hunting, foraging and barter, and is part of an interdependent, hyper-local economy. There’s a constant influx of curiosities, some imported on rail cars, some looted from abandoned storage lockers across the city. Lucius supports himself almost entirely by crafting everything from feathered, beaded headdresses to cotton work shirts. He experiments with new materials as he finds them, varying his production and inventory with admirable business savvy. A chance-found spool of picture-hanging wire and a handful of beads might keep them both in fresh greens for a week. Inglorion does a brisk trade in dressed rabbits, and he learns to gather and glean more plants every day.

The busy and social atmosphere suits Lucius, and reminds him of his interlocking circles of acquaintance in Amakir: Prostitutes, actors, opera dancers, leather men and artists. Lucius has become fluent in the various local languages, so he organizes swap meets, potlucks, pop-up boutiques, and occasional raves. This is how Inglorion learns that he is old and crotchety, and less hip than he imagined.

This wounding knowledge causes him to gravitate to Brutus’s home. Like most of his neighbors, Brutus is largely self-sufficient. He produces all of the food he needs, and some excess that he sells. More importantly, Brutus’s house is dim, cool, quiet and book-lined, and he can often use someone to hold the other end of a measuring tape or help to dig a trench.

One morning in late spring, Inglorion lets himself into Brutus’s compound and knocks on the door, which is standing ajar.

“It’s open,” Brutus says. He’s washing up from breakfast. The room still smells of coffee and a fried egg. “Hello, Inglorion. Take a seat. Do you want some coffee? I can start another pot.”

“No, I’m good,” says Inglorion. “I had some at home.”

“What brings you here?”

Instead of sitting down, Inglorion drifts over to browse Brutus’s bookshelves. “Lucius is a delightful fellow. The best son a man could wish for.”

Brutus nods solemnly.

“On the whole he has excellent taste,” Inglorion continues. “Better than mine, probably. The thing is, he’s gone native. Fine. Whatever. The sensibility around here is very Drow. But he listens to that horrible local music.”

“What, corrido?”

“Yes,” says Inglorion with bitter loathing.

Brutus shakes his head. “I can’t abide that shit.”

“Of course you can’t. It’s terrible stuff. He likes mariachi, too. I’ve explained to him that no one actually listens to mariachi — it’s a like a protection racket. Musicians play it so that you’ll pay them to go away. Some of the crossover rap isn’t bad, but on the whole….” He shudders. “He’s got a bunch of friends over there right now, and they’re jamming, if you can call it that.”

“Clearly you couldn’t stay,” says Brutus. “Anyway, I could use your help breaking into the tobacco store. I’m out of cigarettes, and the stuff I’ve grown needs another month to cure. It’s a two-man job, and an opportunity to teach a man to fish. Or to loot dead people’s fish, which is much the same thing.”

For a linked table of contents, listing all of the Shelawn family adventures, click here.

 

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