Friday, 9 May 2014

...of the past

In the uplands a line of cylindrical blocks to cripple the silent King Tigers that now will never roll the land chains away like so many white muffins across the dun pasture, among the low patches of snow and the pale lime outcrops. Out on a little pond the black man is down from London, ice-skating, improbable as a Zouave, riding his blades tall, dignified, as if born to them and ice not desert. Small townschildren scatter before him, close enough to have their cheeks stung by curved wakes of powdered ice whenever he turns. Until he smile they dare not speak, only follow, tag, flirt, wanting the smile, fearing it, wanting it... He has a magic face, a face they know. From the shore, Myron Grunton and Edwin Treacle, both chain-smoking, brooding over Operation Black Wing and the credibility of the Schwarzkommando, watch their magic Negro, their prototype, neither caring to risk the ice, loping Fen or any style, in front of these children.
The winter's in suspense - all the sky a bleak and luminous gel. Down on the beach, Pointsman fishes a roll of toilet paper, each sheet stencilled PROPERTY OF H.M. GOVERNMENT, from a pocket to blow his nose. Roger now and then pushes his hair back under his cap. Neither speaks. So, the two of them: trudging, hands in and out of pockets, their figures dwindling, fawn and grey and a lick of scarlet, very sharp-edged, their footprints behind them a long freezing progress of exhausted stars, the over-cast reflecting from the glazed beach nearly white... We have lost them. No one listened to those early conversations - not even an idle snapshot survives. They walked till that winter had them and it seemed the cruel Channel itself would freeze over, and no one, none of us, could ever completely find them again. Their footprints filled with ice, and a little later were taken out to sea.

[Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon, T.]

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