Monday, December 4, 2017
It should be consigned to darkness and oblivion. Damnatio memoriae.
I don’t know his real name. That name is concealed. The records of the Court are sealed.
But I can tell you what he called himself: Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe.
Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe first went west, following the directions of the voice. Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe burned the lions wickedly guarding the throne of God and fled the fire. Then, Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe went east and met the Virgin Thing and took her child with him and the child told him to go to the Cochise Stronghold and seek refuge among the mountains. Then, he was lost in the wasteland and the ravens came but did not feed him. He prayed mightily. Then, the angels stood atop the mountains and they showed him the way and Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe was saved. He wrote a letter apologizing for the fire that burned the lions. That is the end of his story.
He lived in Denver, in a mansion where a silver baron had lived, not in the whole house, but only a part of the house, three rooms without windows under the front porch. His daddy lived in the three rooms with him. Daddy slept in his big chair with the television always turned on. No one called him Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe at that time – Daddy called him by another name, although, of course, he knew he was the Special One and knew his real identity, keeping this to himself just as the Virgin Mary knew the truth about Her Son but did not tell anyone and, instead, "pondered this in her heart" or, as scripture also tells us "treasured all these things in her heart." (See Luke 2:19 and, also, Luke 2:51).
Daddy lost his license to drive on account of too much drink. So he paid a buddy to teach MAEJWM how to drive so that someone could go to the liquor store and buy the old man’s beer and booze. He was a good driver and a good son. He took care of his daddy, kept track of his bottles and cans, and returned them to the store for the deposit money. He swept the floor and kept the spiders and centipedes away from his father. There are brown recluse spiders in Eastern Colorado and they can make a mess of you.
One day, daddy said that he was ailing and that he had to go to the VA where he expected to die. MAEJWM drove him to the VA and helped him into the hospital. A couple hours later, Daddy came home in a taxi-cab and said that he wasn’t going to die this time and MAEJWM was very happy.
Then, a year passed and another and daddy was ailing again and he said that the time had come to die and that his son should drive him to the VA and this time let him off at the curb. But just in case, he didn’t die, Daddy told MAEJWM that he should return the next day at noon and go into the VA and check to see whether his father was dead and, if so, when he would be buried. So this is what he did and, in fact, the doctor took him to a room and told him that his daddy had not died and that he could take him home. And so this is what MAEJWM did because he was a good son.
But a couple weeks, later, daddy was ailing again and so weak that he couldn’t walk and so his son had to drag him up the brittle wooden steps and, then, yank and pull on him to slide the old man across the lawn to the car. He drove to the VA and some men came from inside the emergency room and took daddy away and this time, MAEJWM slept in the car or the corner of his daddy’s room or in the lobby of the hospital and, after a few days, daddy could sit up. He was thirsty for his beer and the booze and so he demanded that MAEJWM push him out to the parking lot in his wheelchair and they went home again to the silver baron’s mansion.
After another month, Daddy was ailing again. He was so sick that his eyes rolled back in his head and he made a loud, terrible noise with every breath that he took. Then, Daddy was quiet and the only sound in the basement was the TV set and MAEJWM felt very sad and lonely. He tried to wake Daddy but could not rouse him. Daddy didn’t call for the piss-pot or the bed pan. MAEJWM thought that it was wonderful that Daddy could go so long without having to use the toilet. After a couple days, MAEJWM decided to give Daddy a sponge bath. So he stripped off his shirt and saw that Daddy’s back was completely black as if he had been beaten with a baseball bat. MAEJWM was afraid that he would be blamed for Daddy’s injuries and so he decided that he would not tell anyone. He washed Daddy with warm water and felt that he was very cold. Then, he slipped Daddy’s pants off him and found that his buttocks were also completely black and blue and green, again as if the man had taken a terrible beating. – I will be blamed for this for sure, MAEJWM said to himself. – It is called elder abuse, MAEJWM warned himself. He found a small turd, completely black and dry, the size of a golf ball between Daddy’s butt-cheeks. The turd didn’t smell at all, but Daddy’s skin seemed to have a bad odor and when he scrubbed at his thighs, some of the skin fell off. – This is surely elder abuse, MAEJWM thought to himself. They will handcuff me and put me in jail.
So he locked the door to the basement rooms, leaving the TV on to comfort his old man, and, then, he went to the car, turned on the key and drove away. He hid the shoe box full of money under the passenger seat. Then, he drove for a long time.
There were green mountain meadows, then, a bright plain where there were red rocks like the wings of scarlet birds buried in the earth, and, then, a grey canyon where the freeway dove downward and at the bottom of the canyon, there was another canyon, this one hotter and more barren than the one above and, at the bottom of the second canyon, there was a third that was like an fiery oven and, beneath that, a fourth, fifth, and sixth canyon each blacker and hotter than the next, and, at last, the seventh canyon wherein there was a lake of fire (Revelation 20). Messiah Alfred Einstein John Wayne Monroe saw the canyon before him, sheer cliffs blazing in the acetylene of the sun, and, then, the canyons were behind, in his rear view mirror, vast and Egyptian, filled with obsidian pinnacles and huge submerged mountains shaped like crumbling pyramids and he came across the desert to where Hell advertised itself and took the exit into Hell and to Hell Street where there were great multitudes, many thousands, shuffling through the inferno between casinos.
During the years that his mother lived with Daddy, she took him to the True Light Church sometimes two or three times a week – indeed, when Daddy was drinking heavily and a little agitated, MAEJWM stayed overnight at the Church for it was his sanctuary and the sanctuary of his mother as well. There he read the Bible and heard God’s holy scripture preached and learned the Word. MAEJWM knew that the Word was in the world but not a part of the world and that scripture mostly stood at an angle, as it were, to reality, informing people and things about the truth, but mostly not intervening to change anything but human hearts and minds, and, then, only sometimes and temporarily, and MAEJWM knew that the prayers that speak most truthfully of the heart and its yearnings are never answered – those prayers stand at a distance from desires that they can’t quite reach, just as God’s Holy Word, which is as close to you as your carotid artery is also distant and can’t be grasped because it is sealed away from your touch by its Glory and Beauty. When the Spirit came upon the congregation, there were some that bayed like dogs and others that hissed like serpents and there were turtledoves and cawing crows and many that spoke in Chaldean or ancient Sanskrit, but none who said anything that could be understood or anything that was instrumental or practical in any way – so this was the revelation, a great ongoing unfolding event in history that no one could really understand and that was of no use to anyone except to become saved and, what was the point of that?
And, so, it was in Hell where the sun set and the fire and brimstone (what is brimstone? See Rev. 14.10) were distilled into neon and the souls danced in the neon flames all afire. Then, the shambling men and women on the avenues walked from fiery sepulcher to fiery sepulcher and the sky vibrated with the flames of the ovens and the whores in feathers and silk finery went in procession among the hot lagoons filled with water as hot as a bathtub full of Epsom salts and there were galleries of pimps with cards that they shuffled endlessly and, then, thrust into your hands and, at last, MAEJWM came to a place where he could see two young men, each as handsome as the prophet Daniel, and they had fallen into the lion’s den and the sign showed that the young men were amidst white lions, two great white lions with white beards and white manes and the young men were also dressed in white in that lion’s den and their eyes glittered and their lips were poised to move so that they might speak and prophecy (Daniel 6:6).
MAEJWM walked up to the building – it was named the Mirage – where the sign showing the prophets in the den of lions covered the wall. Marble steps led to a fountain and the waters arched and foamed there. Daddy was standing next to the fountain, upright, still wearing his tee-shirt with the yellow armpits and his tattered boxer shorts through which you could see the grey-brown hair on his scrotum and he seemed to stand in the neon, trembling a little because he had come to the place where the worm gnaweth and does not die (Mark 9:48) . MAEJWM approached him and asked why he was not in heaven. Daddy said that they had stopped him. Who has stopped you? MAEJWM asked. Daddy began – "the two –" But, then, fear sealed his lips and he turned his face away from his son and MAEJWM saw how his back and flabby buttocks were all dark and bruised and he thought – these are injuries for which I will be blamed for sure – and so he fled that place.
He couldn’t recall where he had left this car. In the excitement of entering Hell and observing the processions of the damned, MAEJWM had failed to take note of the place where he had parked his car. He searched for a long time, but without any success, and, then, the sun rose and the neon flames subsided a little, extinguished by the water cannon of the fountains, and the heat made an oven of the streets. MAEJWM found a cool place underground, a storm sewer that went beneath the streets. A trickle of water flowed in the trough in the center of the tunnel. Some men were sitting against the concrete wall. They hooted at MAEJWM. He went deeper into the sewer’s darkness. At last, the ribbon of water flowing in the groove in the center of the floor no longer reflected any light at all but was as dark as blood. MAEJWM lay down in the dust and slept for awhile, awaking when some hoodlums rolled him over to loot his pockets, but he had next to nothing there, only twenty dollars – the rest was in the shoe-box in his lost car.
When the darkness began again and the neon fires burned in the sky, MAEJWM went outside and walked along the streets among the damned. He saw the young prophets in the lion’s den – two great white beasts stalking in circles around the beautiful Hebrew youths. Then, he met his father again, standing among the men shuffling the pimp-cards and Daddy called him a "dumb-ass" and said –"so you’ve lost the car. You’re such a dumb-ass." Then, Daddy pointed and MAEJWM saw the car, parked down a side street and he hurried to it. He had left the keys in the ignition but the door was not locked and inside there was the smell of baking money because the shoe box was still under the passenger seat and the car had become an oven during the day.
On the hell ramp, ascending to the freeway from Hell Street, MAEJWM saw Daddy’s old evil spirit hitchhiking along the side of the road and he cried out to him: "I will get you out of Hell, Daddy, I will get you out of Hell!" There was a crossroads. He could drive to Los Angeles or to some place called Flagstaff. He chose Flagstaff.
At the rest stop, animals and people had turned to stone. The stone was grey and extruded from the desert. The sun was setting, but light remained in the sky and so MAEJWM could see the formations quite clearly with the scuffed trails that ran among them, several acres of creatures turned to rock and, then, abandoned in this mountain pass. Some of the outcroppings were formed from cottages or semi-trucks; some of them had been castles and clouds and indefinite half-built fortifications before the change came upon them. The stone figures were all washed and blasted by a torrential wind that poured through this trough in the mountain range and the flag on the pole at the rest stop bucked and kicked and its hardware clanked like the chains of a soul in hell and sand borne on the gale had smoothed the rock, abraded away its rough images and the portraits of the presidents made in granite and the prehistoric animals and the colossi on their thrones – all of them were blurred, more or less, some smoothed into shapes that were like pebbles washed up on the sea-shore, completely round and featureless.
The smell of the gasoline had seeped into MAEJWM’s clothes and cinder and ash smell also. He went up the concrete path to the toilets, walking between dinosaurs and mastodons and a giant sloth that hunched over him. Two women wearing turquoise-colored gloves were mopping the tile floor of the Men’s room. MAEJWM heard them gossiping in Spanish. He went to the other side of the kiosk, to the door marked with the female sign. A couple truckers wearing stained sweat pants were waiting outside the door. The truckers glared at him. The family use toilet was locked.
MAEJWM followed a dirt trail between the stone behemoths. The wind boomed among the big formations. Clouds overhead skidded eastward. Some teenage kids were playing hide-and-seek among the exposed rock on the hillside. A desert chipmunk danced down the trail, glancing up at MAEJWM – was he carrying food, a treat?
MAEJWM went behind a rock shaped like a reclining woman to urinate. He probably wasn’t safe to defecate in this area. From the overlook, he could see the last ribbons of orange tattered against the horizon serrated with mountain ranges. It was quite dark and the ridges of the mountains, each separate and distinct, hovered over the gloomy and vast expanse of desert.
He was confused about where to go and what to do and sorrow weighed him down – there is no good thing in the flesh and when you try to do good, evil results. It was sin working death in him – I do not understand my own actions. For I do not what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7: 13, 15).
Far out on the plain, headlights cleaved darkness. The sight made him feel lonely. He would go back to the church that he had burned and confess, apologize to the priest and nuns.
But there was no cross-over to the west-bound lanes. His way had been made before him ages ago and so Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe started his car and took the ramp onto the east-bound freeway.
In the early morning light, the white winged being rested under a conical green mountain. He had come through a big city full of railroad yards and trains, some glass boxes far from the freeway, windows tremulous with dawn. Hard-luck cafes and shuttered taverns crouched next to the freeway, abject, it seemed, and demoralized and an adobe church stood beside a concrete-lined gutter for averting flash floods and, then, the fields alongside the highway gaped open and there were big, raw gravel pits with battered yellow cranes in them, then, suburbs in a hollow place in the desert, then, fields irrigated to grow fruits and, on the road to Mexico, the white winged being that had alighted under the green conical mountain.
He exited the freeway and drove to the winged creature and saw that it was a great dove towering over a sun-baked plaza in the form of a church. He left his car in an unpaved parking lot and went to the dove and entered her.
When his eyes adjusted to the darkness in the church, MAEJWM found that he had come to heaven and entered through its pearly white gates and that he now stood among the blessed ones. Candles flickered on altars in niches and the adobe walls were painted in bright patterns like the designs woven into the Navajo rugs that he had seen for sale at the souvenir stands at the truck stops. Golden steps and bolts of lightning decorated the walls and, overhead, there were angels everywhere. Some of the angels were painted into thickets of vine and blossoming flower and they perched there like tropical birds of paradise. Several angels stood on pedestals and flexed their wings like Mexican masked wrestlers and those wings were shaped like flame and flame-colored as well. Other angels brandished swords and held scales of justice and their eyes were almond-shaped and inscrutable. There were small angels with wings like bumble bees or wings designed for hovering like those that you see on iridescent dragonflies. God and His Saints looked down from the soot-dimmed darkness of an overhead dome and life-sized martyrs twisted and contorted by their tortures aimed their eyes upward, anguished eyes, and Jesus spread open his bruised and beaten ribs to show his ruby red heart and he had been scourged so piteously that he seemed wounded even upon the sole of his foot, one foot raised ever so slightly above the wooden plinth on which he stood. The colors in the paint were different from the neon flames of hell, softer tones and more natural, like the hues you see in cactus flowers or ripening fruit or the colors of the desert where the veins of sulphur are exposed or the red of iron is rusting under the hot sun – the painted gardens were lush with water, pools of it shining in the darkness like a polished gemstone. All of this finery so complex as to tax the eye and make the mind weary, all these symmetries and carved wooden cloaks painted blue and red, all of these patterns on the walls like Navajo blankets or thatched like a basket woven from reeds, everything faded under soot, grease from the hundreds of candles that were trembling in their glass jars, and the floor also ashen, clad with cinders, and, in an open wooden coffin, an old, old man made from wood but resting under regal silk bed clothes reclining, his eyes closed as if he were sleeping and his beard pointed like the tip of a shovel.
The door had been left ajar and there were animals in the pews – a couple of yellow dogs curled-up on the olden wooden benches, cats patrolling the walls with wide, cruel eyes, several sparrows that flapped their wings naughtily as they bathed in the holy water, even, a small pink pig asleep in the church’s central aisle. A figure clad in black was kneeling in the place where the church’s wings intersected with the main, vaulted room. A crow perched on the pulpit.
MAEJWM sat down in one of the pews. He was terribly tired. But he felt safe. He had read some place that cops were forbidden to enter a church to make an arrest. So those pursuing him because of the bruises on his father’s back and buttocks could not come here to take him away. MAEJWM put his hands together palm to palm, and, then, reclined, resting his head on that pillow. No sooner had he closed his eyes than he was asleep.
A hand on his shoulder shook him awake. A short Indian man with grey braided hair stood over him.
"Amigo," the man said. "It’s time to wake up. There are tourists waiting outside and I have to sweep out the church before they can enter."
"There are –" MAEJWM looked around him. " – there were animals here."
"The church is sacred to St. Francis," the Indian said. "We leave the door open so that wayfarers can take shelter and so that animals may enter. Animals are always welcome here in this church."
The Indian helped MAEJWM arise. He held a battered-looking broom in his hand and a baseball cap was tucked into his waist-band. An arched door cut through the adobe wall led into a small garden where there were some flowers and a small dry fountain. The Indian directed him in that way. Two nuns with sunburned fat faces and merry eyes stood beyond the garden gate. The nuns asked MAEJWM if he was hungry. When he nodded his head, they ushered him into a steel shed with a concrete floor. A dozen small children were sitting on folding chairs and eating cheerios and milk in white plastic bowls. Some milk was spilled on the floor, dashes and dabs of it, and there were cheerios strewn on the concrete as well.
"It’s a Head Start program," the Indian man said, turning back to the sanctuary. The nuns beckoned to MAEJWM, handing him a bowl of cheerios floating in milk and a granola bar. A sort of stool sat in a corner of the shed and MAEJWM went to it and sat.
After he had eaten, the nuns took MAEJWM back behind the metal shed where there was a stack of iron-colored wood logs. They handed him a wood splitter and asked him if he would hew some wood for them. He nodded his head and, then, went to work. After an hour or so, MAEJWM was thirsty and so he set aside his maul and went back into the shed. The nuns gave him a carton of milk. The children were napping on blankets spread out for them on the concrete floor. MAEJWM said that he was tired and wanted to rest as well. One of the nuns brought him a blanket that smelled a little of wet dog and he took it into the corner by his stool, spread it on the ground, and rested there.
Later in the day, MAEJWM saw that there were tourists wearing shorts and with golf hats and berets on their heads against the blazing sun. The children were singing "Old McDonald had a Farm." Sometimes, the tourists forgot to remove their hats upon entering the church. They took pictures of the paintings half-concealed behind the soot on the walls and photographed the many wooden angels as well. A priest celebrated Mass in the church and an old woman went to the casket containing the regal sleeping king with his beard pointed like a shovel. She slid her hands under the wooden old man’s head – then, she tilted the old man’s head upward, lifting him three times while bowing herself as if seeking apology for her affront. A couple of Indian men wearing jeans and cowboy hats led MAEJWM behind the church were someone had been hand-digging a drainage ditch. They gave him a shovel and pointed to where the ditch was supposed to go. One of the men put a jug of water in the shadow of a cactus. Later, a nun brought him a ham sandwich with mayonnaise on white bread.
While he was digging, a fat young man with a bloated, sweat-greased face staggered up to him. The fat young man’s clothing was grey with caked dirt. He sat on a rock a dozen feet from where MAEJWM was scratching at the desert pavement with the tip of his shovel.
"Why do they let you work?" the fat young man. "You aren’t even native."
"I don’t know," MAEJWM said to the young man.
The young man snorted. "They don’t ask me to work.I suppose it’s ‘cause I’m just a drunk and junkie. But I’m God’s child too."
The young man who proclaimed himself a drunk and a junkie walked around MAEJWM as if to survey him from all sides. Then, he swore under his breath and walked away, feet spread wide as if to better grip the desert’s hard crust.
In the evening, there was a service in the church. Most of the Indians came in pick-up trucks but a half-dozen young men arrived on great, heavily-muscled horses. They tied the horses to the fence surrounding the big sun-baked plaza. A young man preached in Spanish with English words now and then. The fat junkie sat in the last pew in the church with his head dropped down on his chest, apparently, asleep.
MAEJWM sat in a pew near the front of the church beside a grinning wolf-like dog. The altar behind the pulpit was guarded by two wooden lions. The lions faced one another and they were carved in the shape of large house-cats. The lions had alert pointed ears and showed fangs white in their jaws and their tails were coiled behind them in a tight spiral. The lions were mostly bone-white but their eyes were black, almond-shaped and inscrutable. MAEWJM looked at the lions and, although they didn’t move, their house-cat-shaped heads seemed to acknowledge his gaze and it seemed that they were gazing at him out of the corner of their eyes. The wood in which they were gripped kept them from turning to confront him and he imagined their immense and terrible roar.
After the service, the priest came and shook his hand and, then, said that the congregation was very poor. The nuns were from Wisconsin and they were trained as teachers to run the Headstart and the reservation elementary school. "We don’t really have any money set aside for relief," the priest said apologetically.
"You can stay another night, if you will do odd jobs tomorrow," the priest said. "But then you will have to be moving on. I can give you ten dollars, but that is a lot for these people."
MAEJWM said that he had money and that he didn’t need any hand outs from the congregation. "I will pay for my breakfast and lunch," MAEJWM said. "No, we won’t accept that," the priest said.
The priest invited him to his trailer house. He had a VW Beetle parked next to it. Two Indian woman brought the priest and MAEJWM beer and a burrito made with corn and squash and beans. The burrito was the best thing that MAEJWM had ever eaten.
The priest said that MAEJWM could sleep on his cot. He told the young man that he was going to go back to the city, eight miles away, where he ordinarily lived.
"You will have to leave tomorrow," the priest said. MAEJWM nodded.
"Why do you have those white lions guarding the altar?" MAEJWM asked.
"They were carved many years ago in old Mexico," the priest said. "I don’t know what they mean. The altar is God’s throne on earth and so I suppose they are guarding it against evil influences."
The priest said goodnight. Then, he went outside and drove away in his little car. The night was black and the sky full of constellations.
The pure one, the inconsolable and lost Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe drove through a pine forest. The top of a mountain covered with snow hung overhead in the sky like the harvest moon. A small city was hidden in the evergreens. Twice, he pulled in to gas stations, but each time suspicious unmarked cars frightened him away from the pumps. He had no doubt that the police were looking for him. A black tongue of shattered lava spilled down from a plateau that was spiked like the walls of a medieval castle. The forest parted respectfully for the lava-tongue. He saw another gas station, but the turn lane was blocked by the corpse of a deer sprawled across the asphalt – then, some lights shrieked at him and he veered into the fast lane and decided that he had no choice but to keep driving since the menace was all around him.
The pine trees marched like an army of identical soldiers to an escarpment and, then, fell away and he could see that this was the end of the earth, its last and final terraces, a great balcony overhanging the abyss. The road dropped and his gas tank went to zero and the engine, then, snuffed out but it didn’t matter because he was on a downgrade that continued for mile after mile, swooping down out of the sky – the power steering and brakes went out of the car and he had to fight to keep the vehicle on the freeway and, at times, it seemed that he would fall off into empty space and, then, be like Lucifer, nine days and nine nights falling through the crystalline void, cast down from paradise, stars above and stars below, an endless descent from the pine forests through the crooked lands to the desert. At first, he careened past the semi-tractor-trailers gearing down to keep their brakes from burning up, then, he slowed a little, and some of the cars that he had passed caught up with him and, then, he was rolling through the flat land and, even, coasting up and down the hills, dropping into the desert as if walking downward on a flight of steps, and the semi-tractor-trailers caught up with him and honked and blew their horns and, then, passed him and he twisted on his emergency flashers and, at last, on a slight upgrade under a sea of stars, his car would roll no farther, and so he made it glide onto the shoulder and stopped there, unrolling his window to inhale the hot updraft from the desert, a good twenty or thirty degrees warmer here, then, up, atop the plateau among the lava dikes and pine trees, with the snow-melt running as white water in basalt sluices and channels.
He got out of his car and paced around it and thought that this was the end of his adventure. The police would find the cast-off car but he would be long gone, hidden in the desert where the ravens would bring him manna and where he would drink from springs struck from stone. He opened the passenger door on his car and was about to pluck out the bundles of folding money wrapped in rubber bands when a light flashed against him and a siren wolf-whistled and, then, the big traffic cop in the big Stetson hat was walking slowly toward him, casting a great shadow in the beams of light spilling off his Highway Patrol Car and Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe was so terrified that he almost fell forward on his face in the gravel on the side of the road.
The officer said something to him. MAEJWM heard his own voice, high, like a flute answering. The officer spoke again and, although MAEJWM didn’t understand what he was saying, he complied nonetheless, responding to the cop’s commands as if they were phrased in a foreign language. He drew his wallet from his jeans and handed the big traffic cop his driver’s license, also the insurance cab card, everything proceeding now at lightning speed, more words spilling out of the cop, more words that he spoke without knowing exactly what they meant and, then, the cop stepped back, returned to his bright vehicle under the glare enveloping it, and MAEWJM saw that the big highway patrolman was speaking on his radio and, then, looking at a computer screen that was hidden from him but which cast an emerald reflection up on the cop’s chin and nose and eyes. – He will surely identify me as the father-murderer, MAEJWM thought and, then, time, previously racing, slowed to a stop. Between each heart beat whole drab empires intervened. The desert expanded away from him in all directions, blowing outward like an explosion.
"How do you feel?" the policeman asked him.
"Okay, I guess."
The big highway patrolman took him into custody. The cop led him to his patrol car and shoved him in the backseat and, then, they raced away, the dark desert rushing by, and MAEJWM thought that he would start crying, that he would burst into tears. But that fact that no one would hear his sobs kept him from crying.
The cop car surged up a ramp and swerved erratically for a moment, the car’s lane-change knocking MAEJWM to the side. Then, they were at a gas station. There was a steel awning crisp and well-lit like the wing of an airplane against the desert sky. The highway patrolman ushered him from the car into the gas station.
"Will you take him back?" the big cop said to the kid behind the counter.
"Sure when I get off," the kid said.
The cop made himself a hot dog with mustard and raw onion and pickles. The hot dogs were rotating on steel rollers under an orange-yellow heat lamp.
"It’s mile-marker 308," the highway patrolman said.
"I can use the turn-around?" the kid asked.
"Up at 310, you bet," the cop said.
The kid turned to MAEJWM: "We’ll get you up there when I go off duty at eleven."
"What do I owe?" MAEJWM asked.
"Give him twenty," the cop said.
"Get you two cans of 87 octane regular," the clerk said.
The highway patrolman said: "You need to watch your gas gage better, my friend."
He told the kid that he had business down at Sedona and that he had to hurry – it was an accident with something spilled all over the highway.
At eleven pm, a girl with tattoos on her forearm stood outside on the pavement smoking a cigarette. The clerk beckoned to her and she came inside. "Out of gas," the kid said, pointing at MAEJWM. "I’m helping out Trooper Suarez." "Good for you," the girl said, putting a lanyard over her neck and stepping up behind the cash register. The kid went to the pump and filled up two plastic jugs with gas. Then, he pointed to his pickup truck parked alongside the air compressor on the side of the building and MAEJWM climbed into the cab. He put the jerry-cans of gas on the floor in front of him.
"Don’t let that spill," the kid said. "It stinks."
The clerk turned on his radio and sang along with music. MAEJWM pointed to his car stalled on the side of the road and they drove another mile to a turn-around where the clerk made a u-turn. He dodged some traffic coming down from the plateau and they stopped at the stalled car.
The kid poured a jerry-can of gas into the tank. "That’ll get you to the gas station – it’s five miles," he said. "Stop there and fill it up. Then, you better fuckin’ check your gas gage, amigo. This is fuckin’ desert out here – nothing but gila monsters and rattle snakes all the way down to Phoenix."
"What do I do with the other can of gas?" Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe asked.
Suddenly, the kid from the gas station was very tall. For a moment, the veil was torn so that the Being manifested itself in its spirit form. The kid towered over MAEJWM. His eyes flashed red fire and his enormous body swayed overhead. MAEJWM cowered between his legs.
"There are things in the world that must be purged by fire," the colossus said. His voice was deep and booming and it contained a multitude of voices.
"What do you mean?"
"You will understand," the kid said. Then, he collapsed like a balloon that had been popped and his tiny face looked up at MAEJWM as if from the bottom of deep well.
"Well, have a good night," a tiny voice said, softer than the chirp of a cricket. MAEJWM opened his trunk and put the can full of gas next to the spare tire.
Then, MAEJWM started his car and drove to the gas station and there he filled his tank, paying the girl with the tattoos on her forearm who was sulking behind the counter.
Then, he drove through the wasteland and he stopped to sleep at a rest stop. And, then, he drove some more....
Under a conical green mountain, he saw a winged being, white as a dove, and drove that way to investigate.
The smell of the burning was in his nostrils. His clothes reeked of smoke. It was a righteous odor, the residue of an offering made to God. (Leviticus 1:1-17) He drove within the speed-limit without feeling the road under his tires. The road and the wasteland were merely evidence of things unseen.
The desert was full of pits and craters but the road had made straight the way. (Isaiah 40) The wings of night-flying insects made the billboard signs along the freeway flutter with their shadows. The Thing? He had seen those signs for a hundred miles, maybe more.
The Thing? The headlights of trucks on an upgrade, on the other side of ditch between east- and west-bound. The night sky overhead like the ceiling of a cave.
Bathed in a pool of tremulous light: The Thing?
The signs shrieked at him. He was uncertain whether the Thing? was his father, beaten blue and purple on his shoulders and buttocks in his recliner or the white tigers or the red plastic can of gas that he no longer had with him or the church in the desert like a white dove or his own body now melting into a spirit that was flying high and wide over his car like a kind of silken banner. The vast invisible world encircled him and guided his way.
The gas station was on a lonely mound of broken rocks and gnarled cactus. It must have been late in the night because the freeway was empty – nothing coming, nothing going – and the Thing?’s parking lot was empty, a couple minimum-wage cars parked remote from the ramshackle porches on the building, apparently the attendants’ vehicles, grim-visaged cars whose range was limited to no more than a county before breakdown, the western-style false-front of the gas station and arcade mounted atop the porch where there ran a row of red letters across a yellow-painted board: The Thing? Mystery of the Desert.
MAEWJM bought a half-tank of gas, pressing the button to "pay inside".
A grey man in grey overalls was pushing a grey mop. Grey water was spilled on the floor between the aisles of souvenirs. The man looked up at MAEWJM but failed to recognize him. His eyes were dull and slow in his head.
The souvenirs were Indian bows and arrows made for little tykes, polished agates and rose quartz, tomahawks, kachina dolls that had been made in China although this did not matter because the spirits that they represented were powerful and present and could be heard chattering together and cooing and hooting in the rafters overhead. There was wind outside, clotting like blood into little dust devils, and lightning flashed in the sky, momentarily illumining ranges of remote mountains like caterpillars crawling over the basins.
You might step in the mop-water and slip and fall, but MAEWJM was too majestic and noble to make that mistake and, so, he strode between the aisles of souvenirs and the racks where potato chips and nuts and candy bars were displayed and came to the high counter where a fat woman with whiskers on her jaw was reading a magazine and ignoring a half-dozen surveillance monitors that only she could see clearly. The monitors showed lonely corridors and blurred exhibits but they were turned at an angle from MAEWJM so that he could only see them if he concentrated in his mind on seeing them remotely but he was too tired to do this. He handed the fat woman some money and she asked him if he wanted to see The Thing?, the question mark dangling before his eyes and mind like a hook used by anglers to catch the curious or hungry fish.
"1 dollar," she said.
"Okay," MAEWJM said.
"Don’t wake it up," the fat woman said. "If its sleeping, don’t wake it up."
She showed the inside of her mouth and it was foul there.
He went through an entrance with batwing doors, hinged to open inward and, then, slap shut behind him. It was like going into an old-time Western saloon. Ahead of him, a pole-barn on a concrete slab stretched toward a far wall made from blue-green translucent panels. There was another narrow place and a turnstile that he had to push through that recorded something – he heard the gears turn and inscribe some sort of legend within the hidden apparatus. Old cars and tractors were parked along the walls of the pole-barn and it was very dim, so dark that he couldn’t read the plaques posted by the vehicles explaining their significance.
Huge clawed footprints marked the floor and they led him forward, glowing with faint greenish phosphorescence. The pathway went over some pallets arranged like a boardwalk, was momentarily between sheds, and, then, he was in a torture chamber where naked life-size figures were being twisted on the rack or pinched with red-hot pincers by hooded executioners. The martyred figures had open mouths through which they silently howled and their eyes drizzled blood down their ravaged cheeks and their faces, ecstatic with torture reminded him of saints that he had seen in painted church. More cars, grey and disheveled-looking sedans, flanked the walkway from the torture chamber into another long corridor with glass cases displaying various things – a two-headed calf fetus, the foot of a wooly mastodon, a flintlock rifle and a big World War One mortar. There were Jivaro shrunken heads and fragments of a meteor made of melted iron and bits of Trinitite from the place in New Mexico where the atomic bomb had melted the sands into glass – an old covered wagon was parked in a corner next to a horse-drawn hearse with black wheels and a black carriage.
The monstrous foot prints guided him into another shed with a steel roof and corrugated metal sides and a big sarcophagus eight feet long and as high as his waist. The sarcophagus was embedded in the concrete under a dusty wooden billboard that said: HERE IT IS: THE THING? – WHAT IS IT? THE MYSTERY OF THE DESERT. The letters were painted in a wriggling, writhing red against a bright yellow background, twisting and turning as if the person painting those words had been trembling with uncontrollable fright. The huge glowing foot prints led to the brink of the sarcophagus and stopped there.
A thick plastic hood covered the sarcophagus and it was gouged and nicked and people had used pen-knives to inscribe their initials in the window into the box. For a moment, MAEWJM focused his eyes on the marks inscribed on the clear plastic and couldn’t see through it, but, then, his vision adjusted and he could see the thing in the sarcophagus, a hoozie-goozie, a gaff, a kind of doll flattened out with bits of white bone showing through a wrapping of old yellow and brown bandages. The doll was man-sized, a bit of yellow femur-bone poking through the bandages on its thigh and part of the rib-cage exposed. Its head was a crushed orb with glass eyes leaking saw dust from its brain-pan, some bits of animal cranium, it seemed, glued onto its brow to make a smashed skeletal profile. No matter how hard he looked, the creature’s head and face remained blurred, incomprehensible, a riddle that could not be solved. The doll held a baby against it’s side, a bandaged wrist ripped open to show a grey, dusty bone. The baby was a duplicate of the bigger doll, but entirely swaddled in bandages from head to toe – a little rusty-red fur extruded from the criss-cross of dirty bindings around the baby’s skull. MAEWJM supposed that the thing in the sarcophagus was not that much different from the wooden and painted saint in his casket in the church and recalled a worshiper reaching into the box and lifting the effigy’s head up from the velvet pillow on which it was resting.
It was then that MAEJWM realized that his Daddy was dead and that the fire had purged his sins and driven away the white tigers that were keeping him in Hell. Now, he had ascended with the smoke of the burning lions into heaven and he was before God’s great White Throne and this was made manifest to him by the doll in the sarcophagus. It was all very clear that nothing remained of his Daddy within this mortal sphere but the hoozie-goozie in the sarcophagus and that this was not even his father, but the mere shadow of his father as effigy. He was the tiny infant held in the dead thing’s arms. This was Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe, confined in a box as a spectacle for tourists and truck-drivers. It was intolerable and Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe reached into the box, breaking apart the plastic window, so that he could smell the odor of moth-eaten fur and mud as he lifted out the baby-doll. It was without weight at all, as light as a feather.
Cradling the baby-doll in his arms, MAEJWM hustled past Hitler’s bullet-proof car, a loop of rope used to hang Saddam Hussein, and the pickled corpses of three aliens retrieved from the space-craft crash at Roswell, New Mexico. He emerged through a door that opened onto the parking lot, a hundred feet from where his car was sitting by the pumps.
The doll screamed at him: "Take me back to my mommy, take me back."
"You are with me now," MAEJWM said.
He ran to his car, threw the dead baby on the seat beside him, and drove down from the conical hill of broken stones and cactus toward the freeway.
"Take me back to my mommy," the baby shrieked again.
"You have no mommy," MAEJWM said.
The baby began to cry inconsolably.
"Quiet now," MAEJWM said. "Quiet now."
The baby cried for twenty miles and, then, fell asleep.
He woke from unsettling dreams that had left their residue all around him. The priest’s trailer house was shadowy and humid, blurry with womb-light penetrating the chamber through pink curtains. A battery charger and some other gear were stored against a wall. A spider wove a web in the corner of the toilet behind the stool.
Most of the lines and angles in the world had been changed by his dream. The sky blazed with intent that had not yet discovered itself.
He ate cheerios again and a glazed donut with the little children. The apple-cheeked nuns were indifferent to him, as if he were an unexpected, and slightly disreputable, guest. This annoyed MAEJWM. When one of the nuns approached, he whispered to her: "Beware, for there are some that have entertained angels unaware." (Hebrews 13.2) She pretended to not hear him.
After breakfast, an older nun wearing a white apron came to where he was sitting. She asked him a few questions and, then, led him to a bench under a thorn and willow remuda next to the blazing open plaza in front of the church. After an hour or so, some Indians arrived in a couple of pickups labeled on their doors with the name of a construction company: Ramirez and Sons. Three young men wrestled a battered concrete mixer out of the back of a truck and dragged it through a side building into the courtyard behind the church. The older nun met them at the door into the side-building, spoke to them for a couple minutes and pointed to MAEJWM.
A few minutes later, the boss had finished his cigarette and he got out of the pickup and followed his crew to where they were talking to the nun. The boss wore a white cowboy hat and boots made of soft white leather. He went back to his pickup and got a zinc bucket. Then, the boss came to where MAEJWM was sitting: he said that he needed his help and handed him the bucket. A teenage boy from the school stood a few feet away nervously kicking at the gravel and dust under foot. The boss spoke to the boy in Spanish and, then, the boy led MAEJWM hundred feet to the side of an old adobe shed where there was green hose screwed onto a faucet embedded in the mud-brick wall. The boy turned on the flow of water and filled MAEJWM’s bucket. He pointed to the door leading through the modern side building into the back courtyard.
MAEJWM carried water to the mixer in the courtyard. The men made white stucco plaster in the mixer. Then, they they hauled stucco up onto a scaffolding where they were repairing an old cornice. Some pigeons lurking in niches in the tower cooed and hummed to them. At noon, the men went across the plaza in front of the church to the adobe cafe where women were cooking. They ate corn and squash burritos. Then, everyone went into the church, pushed the dogs and cats aside, and lay down for a siesta on the pews. MAEJWM noticed the Indians crossing themselves as they entered the painted church, bowing to the altar, and painting their foreheads with holy water.
Mid-afternoon, everyone got up, used the toilet in the stucco shed next to the garden, and, then, MAEJWM began hauling water again. They worked for another three hours. By this time, it was very hot and the sun shone like a welding torch on the sides of the zinc bucket and in the water that he carried there. The boss and his crew left and MAEJWM went to the priest’s trailer and tried to sleep but it was too warm.
He bought a couple of cokes from the women in the little café. Then, he sat in the shade of a wall by the cemetery. A small golden scorpion scuttled across the stones.
The carved and painted lions looked as if they belonged on an antique carousel in some pavilion on the coast. But they weren’t on a carousel. Instead, they were guarding the altar and the altar was the way that led to the throne of heaven. The lions stood as sentinels and they roared to keep people from entering heaven. They roared and growled and showed their fangs. MAEJWM had seen their rage and insolence in their carved and painted eyes. The lions kept Daddy from heaven. They threatened him with their paws and claws. The lions stood at the threshold of the Throne and kept away the unworthy but they had also frightened Daddy and kept him from entering into the Kingdom and so, now, he was trapped in the neon hell and this was wholly unacceptable.
Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe recalled that he had some gasoline in a red plastic jug in the back of his car. He thought that he would burn down the church and, in that way, force the lions from their guard duty and send them roaring and ferocious into the wasteland. A cat with three legs and two old dogs sat on the pews. Some chickens nudged their way into the sanctuary and stood gossiping in the back of the room. A crow sat on the pulpit and looked down suspiciously on him.
The animals needed the church and it wouldn’t do to destroy it. He watched the rib cage of an old yellow dog lying on its side under the casket containing the wooden saint. The dog’s rib cage rose and fell with its breathing.
It was dark. He didn’t know the hour. He had been lost in thought for a long time.
He went outside to where he had split the wood the day before. The maul was leaning against the adobe wall. He carried it into the church and smashed the lions free from the wooden piers on which they were mounted. The wood broke easily and, although the lions raged, he was able to knock them free from their mountings. He carried the first lion from the church. It was light and the burden was easy. (Matthew 13:2) Beyond the wall of the cemetery, there were some slabs of ragged granite, a sort of stone claw, protruding from the earth. He put the first lion in a place where the eroded rock formed a bowl. Then, MAEJWM returned to the church and carried the second wooden beast to the cavity in the rock.
The gas was at hand and he anointed the lions. But he could find nothing to ignite the blaze. At last, he drove his car, lurching and heaving, across the open desert until it was parked only ten or fifteen yards from the lions, now lying on their white-painted sides in the tub in the granite outcropping. He used the car’s cigarette lighter to set afire some strands of straw that he pulled from horse manure that he found on the trail by the cemetery. The straw glowed red and went out before he could apply the flame to the lions. He rooted in the manure until he found a dozen more pieces of straw and lit them like a torch. The lions were now meowing like kittens. The flame lit the gasoline fumes and an orange column of flame rose over the lions. Someone cried out from one of the buildings by the church. Bats flopped through the air.
Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe ran to his car, drove it to the pockmarked road, and, then, zigzagging around the deeper holes, reached the asphalt, then, the concrete ramp of the highway. He looked behind him and saw the bonfire burning as a tiny speck of fire in the great darkness.
The dead baby woke up and called him every vile names there was.
"You are a fool and a loser," the dead baby said. "Turn here and go up to Cochise Stronghold."
He drove along a barren stretch of narrow two-lane county highway. It was open range here and he could smell cattle but couldn’t see them.
"You idiot-boy," the dead baby said. "You moron."
Where the road curved, a faint jeep track branched off onto the dark plain.
"Turn here, you loser," the dead baby said.
"Is this Cochise Stronghold?"
"How would I know? You think I’ve been out here before? I’ve been stuck with that fucking gaff for the last sixty years."
"So where does it go?"
"How should I know?"
The jeep track corkscrewed between stony hills and ended at a sandy wash that MAEJWM was afraid to cross. He parked next to the flood-way.
"What do you want?" He asked the dead baby.
"You make me sick," the dead baby said. "Just get out of the car and use some initiative for once in your life."
"You better find a place to hide or you’re going to jail for a long, long time."
He left the car and walked across the wash and sand filled his tennis shoes. He walked until he came to a boulder shaped like a throne. He sat there, emptying the sand from his shoes. After walking for another hour, he came to an arch of rock rising out of the desert. At the base of the rock, the wind had cut an overhang into the stone. It was now very cold and he was shivering. MAEJWM took refuge under rock shelter. A scorpion stung him on the hand when he tried to arrange some stones to make a pillow. He was surprised that the scorpion’s sting was not much worse than the sting of a hornet. He lay down in the dust. Yellow and green eyes watched him.
The sun rose. Light washed up on the shores of the day at first, tentative and grey and cool with dew, and little creatures darted across the desert pavement, sun-baked clay so hard that their claws didn’t leave marks. The sun moved higher in the white sky and the day bleached like a bone. The shadow protecting MAEJWM crept closer and closer to the edge of his body pressed up against the cool stone cavity of the rock shelter. Then, the sun groped at the rock overhead and turned it into an oven and the Messiah had to rise and, covering his eyes with his hands, stagger across the desert. He saw a hill , a crooked little pedestal pushed up into the blazing sky, and, atop the hill, there were several brown outcroppings like petrified dog shit, coils and twists of stone that radiated heat when he reached them. He had climbed the hill in the hope that he could see his car from that height but the desert didn’t show that to him – instead, he saw a featureless up and down choked with thorny cactus and grooved by flash floods. The flash flood channels were salt-white and zigzagged across the barren land, directed on their way, it seemed, by a lump of jagged blue mountain floating on a shimmering bed of mirage. There was no sign of a road or a path or, even, a trail that an antelope or mule deer might make.
The sun funneled down on the Messiah’s head. He covered his skull with his hands and squeezed his eyes half shut and walked back down from turd hill in the direction where he expected to find the rock shelter. But he was disoriented and the broiling stony trenches made by the floods seemed to lead in circles. He wished that the dead baby were with him to provide counsel. But he was entirely alone and, even the other voices in his head, had ceased to speak, cauterized on the lips, it seemed, so that they were silent.
MAEJWM thought that there was juice in the fruit of a prickly pear. He found a bulb-shaped purplish piece of fruit embedding in thorns. Tearing the fruit free from the cactus cut his fingers and they were pierced with spines. He found a ditch that was steep enough to keep a little of the sun away and sat in its bottom, prying the prickly needles from the fruit. It took a long time and his fingers were stabbed to the point that he could scarcely use them, and, then, in desperation, he plunged the fruit into his mouth and thought he could suck the spines out of it, but, instead, they merely migrated into his lips and tongue and studded the roof of him mouth. It didn’t matter – there was a tiny ooze of moisture in the fruit, just enough to coat the inside of his mouth. When a fly landed on his mouth, this set the needles in his flesh afire and he brushed it off and felt more spiny puncture wounds in his tongue and palate, innumerable tiny wounds. But this pain was nothing compared to his thirst and he resolved that he found another cactus bearing fruit, he would eat that as well regardless of the lacerations to his mouth.
He walked awhile, thought he saw the rock shelter showing some friendly shadow, and made for that place. Along the way, he grazed a thorn bush and an inch long spike embedded itself deeply in his left forearm and made the muscle ache.
The rock shelter might have been the place he spent the preceding night, although he wasn’t sure. He felt the need to urinate but nothing came out of him. Sitting under the rock overhang, he pried the thorn out of his arm. To do this he pinched his skin and, then, tweezered the spike out with his fingers still bristling with tiny spines. The Messiah was surprised to see that the pinched skin on his forearm did not revert to his arm’s ordinary contour. Instead, his skin remained welted as if molded from some soft, pliable substance that held the form that his fingers had made. He pressed his back against the rock where it was a little cooler and, after a while, his eyes didn’t work any more and he was blind and, then, unconscious.
A cool breeze nudged him awake. The desert was dark. Evidently, it was night. MAEWM felt a little stronger. His mouth was dry and his eyes tearless, but he thought that he could stand up. He clawed at the rock and got to his feet.
He looked around and decided that he was going to die at this place and that, if he had to die, he might as well drop dead while walking.
But which way to go?
Something caught his eye. He saw a flash overhead and, then, another. A bright light blinked several times in the sky – long, short, short, long. When the light had stopped flashing, he saw it had come from the top of a dark mountain, a great shadow hanging motionlessly over the desert. He walked in the direction of the mountain top that had flashed light at him.
Then, he saw another light, a sort of beacon atop a more distant range of hills. The beacon blinked at him and he changed course and went in that direction. After a few minutes, the beacon vanished. He stayed on course, clambering up and down gulches, aiming his forehead at the place where he had seen the flashes.
A coyote howled. Something rustled in the brush.
He turned in that direction and saw a blue-green light flashing atop another peak, signaling that he should go that direction, and so he altered his course, and walk in the direction of that flicker of light, faint as a firefly and mounted high atop a remote peak.
His car was under the ridge, parked in front of a sandy wash. Some white dunes seemed drifted under the car’s fender. He found the door and the keys still plugged into the ignition. The dead baby was gone but there was a bottle of water sitting on the seat where the mummy had been.
The water felt boiling and it inflamed the spines embedded in his tongue and gums, but he could feel the fluid , fattening his veins momentarily and sealing off his cells that had begun to leak through their membranes. The car’s headlights picked out a faint trail and he drove for awhile and, at last, found himself on blacktop.
A gas station overlooked the freeway. The place was closed. The air smelled spilt gas and his mouth was raw with the tequila taste of the cactus. He found some dollar bills and a few coins and bought three cans of pop from a vending machine. There was an ice machine on the porch of the gas station, near the locked door of the Men’s room. MAEJWM found a fist-sized stone and broke the padlock. Then, he chewed and swallowed ice until his belly was full of water. He vomited several times, but kept eating ice and, then, the sun began to rise again and he drove eastward on the freeway.
Two gas stations later, he came to El Paso. There is a place where the freeway slices through the lunar mountains and landslides have cut up the canyon. The United States is a sliver of warehouses and old shacks and stockpiles of concrete and gravel tilted down to the muddy ribbon of the river. Beyond the river, Mexico is a shanty-town rising on stilts above the serpentine river plain. It looks as if you could throw a rock from the American side over into Mexico and, perhaps, shatter a window in one of the shacks there.
MAEJWM found an exit and drove among the bunker-like warehouses and industrial sites on the terrace above the river. He parked in a factory parking lot and made his way down the hill to a big fence running above the water. At intervals, there were places where the fence had been pushed aside and where foot paths burrowed down under the cyclone links. A couple of back packs had been dropped at the place where the Messiah stooped down and, crouching, slipped under the fence. A sweater was tangled in the wire. He skidded down the stony slope and began to wade across the river when he felt a hand on his wrist and another tugging at his other arm.
A man wearing a brown uniform shouted something at him. They were standing knee-deep in the water. He could see Mexico, all tattered and disheveled rising up as a cliff of cardboard and plywood shacks and the dogs on that side of the river were all barking at him.
Another man came down the river bank, kicking pebbles out from under his boots, and he helped the first guard. Handcuffs clicked behind Messiah Albert Einstein John Wayne Monroe’s back. His wrists were pinioned. The two men shoved him uphill to their jeep.
Twenty years later, a letter came to the church, San Xavier el Bac, the so-called "white dove" of the desert a few miles south of Tucson.
The letter said:
I have had a hard time, but so have you, because I know everyone has a hard time in this old world of ours. I am so terribly sorry that took (sic) the wooden lions from your church and burned them. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of this and regret it and this was a long time ago.
I have been in mental hospitals and very ill for many years. But, now, with the help of my doctors, I feel that I found my right mind again and, if I am compliant with my medications, I think I will be okay.
And so I am writing to tell you that I should not have burned the lions and that this was a bad thing and that the only answer I can give to you as to why this happened was that I was mentally ill and not thinking clearly and very confused as well. Then I was under the law so that nothing good dwelled within me. Now I am in hope. (Romans 7:18; 8:24)
Here is what I have – which is not very much I know -- and I hope that the lions can be replaced or restored. All I can say is that I am sorry.
The letter was signed. There were five twenty dollar bills enclosed.
In fact, the lions had been restored a decade earlier. Fundraising began in 1989 to restore the interior of the Church. Tucson businesses and private persons donated money to the Patronato, the nonprofit corporation entrusted with maintaining the church. Between 1992 and 1997, teams of professional conservators worked restoring the frescos and wood sculptures in the structure. Most of these conservators were Italian and they worked with interns from the Tohono O’odham tribe at the reservation. One of the tribal interns, a troubled young man named Timothy Lewis, found his vocation working on the church and, later, married a Spanish woman who was on-site for the restoration. Lewis and his wife, Maria Rubio, now split their time between the reservation south of Tucson where San Xavier del Bac is located and Spain where they work on Gothic cathedrals and chapels along the ancient pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago.
Two carved lions guard the altar at a similar mission church in Santa Maria de Magdalena. This church also serves the Tohono O’odham people in Magdalena de Kino, a village in Sonora, Mexico. Mexican woodcarvers in the village were hired by the Patronato to duplicate the lions. The replacement lions were brought to San Xavier del Bac in 1999 and carefully painted by Timothy Lewis and Maria Rubio to match the church’s decor.
Timothy Lewis was a drug addict and alcoholic before he became involved restoring the old church. A tribal judge ordered him to work at the church after he had been involved in a domestic assault. He is now the supervisor for all restoration operations at San Xavier del Bac.
If you wish to donate to the Patronato:
Patronato San Xavier
P.O. Box 522
Tucson, Arizona 85702