Chapter 8 





 Chapter 8


And so they traveled on together leaving their audience behind. Santiago with Tara on his back, the two women linked their arms into his leaving the café. They went down the street a short way and up a dark flight of stairs to Charlotte's atelier, her studuo. They entered the colored world of her imagination.         

 Chapter 8 in the TECHNO SADHU RADIO OF THE ABSURD, KMRD FM 9C.9 and on


Art is a peculiar idea, especially in the last quarter of the twentieth century. A time caught in the repetition of the past -- Music, fashion, war, politics, and painting all fall back into another age, kaleidoscopic and happening at once. Twenties fashion haircuts walk side by side on this late avenue with space-age plastic zipped boots. A reservoir of time where one dips in the bucket and pulls up all ages. If you are a painter and you paint pictures that look like brown mud, a critic proclaims them as influenced by pre-historic cavemen. If you paint disciplined reclining nudes, the critic says it is somewhere between Michelangelo and Modigliani. It has already been done. Painting has become only a common cliché. The only thing that makes it unique is how the artist repeats the quirks and mistakes of their own hand, thus an individual work of art is created.

In Charlotte's atelier, this analysis of art history passed through Santiago's thoughts.

An artist is seldom charitable to another artist unless one is willing to worship the other as an apprentice to the Master.

Santiago was not willing to take a subservient position.

Neither was Charlotte nor Leila.

Yet at once, all three recognized they were in the same elite club. All three were masters, or they believed to themselves. A mutual respect if not admiration moved over them. Santiago and Leila were recent and temporary arrivals to Corsica, therefore no threat of local competition to Charlotte. Indeed, if anything they had a tinge of glamour, the exotic and the mysterious, making them much more desirable. Charlotte thought they would be an ideal couple to toy with and she drew them into her web of patterns.

Music louder/quieter

 She knew everybody who was somebody worth knowing and if by some strange chance she didn't know them she would never tell you. Information or withholding it was her power. Youthful arrogance radiated the message. She knew something about something. She could explain the unexplainable. Feeble insecurity was not part of her style. She had her act together. It was a charade.


 Like so many strong-minded people, she had developed her performance. It was a blanket to cover the confused child that cried in the night. Like Santiago, she had built a fortress around her heart with thick walls of pride. Never again would she let someone come inside to destroy her soul. Santiago would come to understand this of Charlotte, but for now he was amused and curious about her paintings, her intelligence, and the other thing -- her sexual magnetism.

  Santiago felt it from the beginning of their encounter.  At 18, he would have confused the sensation, thinking perhaps he was hungry or restless.  He was forty now and he knew the familiar low wave in his gut.  It moved in and around him like puffs of smoky air and tingled his eyes and nose. It came on like the rush of adrenaline.  It was there.  There, but hazed out in the background of talking about art. 

She told them where she had lived in America.  Places in the North and in the South, but now she was happy to be back in Corsica.  Her nomadic father had given her this special paradise as a child.  That had been twenty years before.  Now she had chosen the island for herself.

  The three of them talked, about their plans, what kind of work was possible in Corsica and all of the ordinary boring questions of life.  But when you're in a new place even those questions seem exotic.  Charlotte was generous with her time.  She had nothing else to do.  Her work had come to a standstill.  She was ready for something to move her.  The three of them unconsciously began to move together.

  They talked for several hours.  Conversation developed between the two women while Santiago silently dropped into the realm of his earlier world of pain.  The burning ring had returned.  Beating pulses of blood dominated his thoughts and twisted his face into tortured waiting. Leila realized Santiago was suffering.  She made polite excuses to Charlotte, saying that they had to return to the mountains with the Jean Simon.

  “Okay,” Charlotte said, “there will always be other times.  I will see if I can find a house for you... but you can even stay with me if you want...”

  Santiago heard the faint hint of innuendo, but his body was not up to responding.

  The family returned to the mountain with Jean Simon an hour later.  Santiago immediately went to the Land Ship and fell into bed. Leila stayed up talking with Jean Simon in his house.  She was excited with the turn of events. The charming Corsican made her feel glamorous.  It was very late when she finally came to bed.  Santiago groaned and rolled away from her. 


The next day, Santiago felt slightly better and with the suggestion of Jean Simon he decided to take the truck to a nearby farm where he could store his assemblage of nuts, bolts and precious junk.  The farmer had several acres Santiago could use and said he was happy to have company.

   The farm was a few kilometers up the mountain, further away from civilization.  When they arrived at the entrance to the farm, Leila gasped.  There below them was a bumpy rutted path, no more than a tilted goat track sliding down into wooded dark gully. Supposedly out of sight at the bottom lay the farm.  Santiago could not decide whether or not to go down the choppy chute. Leila became impatient.

  “Are we just going to sit here on the side of the hill all day,” she said.  She couldn't take much more. 

Santiago had gone into a daydream of dropping anchor of the Land Ship in the country and living organically.

  “Santiago, for once in your life would you try to think of someone else other than yourself. You know you have a child to consider.”  Leila wanted no part of his fantasy.

  “Ah  shit!” Santiago snapped and he slammed the truck in gear and began the plunge downhill.  The transmission whined, the brakes squeaked, glass crashed somewhere in the back of their living quarters.  The truck leaped down the mountain.  The angle of dissent was as close to falling as one can experience when encased in the shroud of tin and steel. Santiago felt insane trying to negotiate the calamity of a screaming wife, a crying child, a barking dog and a red hot poker that had suddenly was up his butt. 

  Leila screamed, “Let me out!”  But the rattling home was already falling into oblivion.

Santiago screamed too, “I got us this far!  We'll get to the end of it God damn it!”

 Bashing into path embracing trees and knocking boulders off the steep edges, the truck trashed its way to the bottom. They all sat for a silent moment looking at where they had landed.

“Some of farm,” said Leila. 

In the tattered grounds around them lay one long dilapidated stone building, a few sagging wire fences and several howling dogs. Skinny chickens appeared to exhibit an advance case of molt.

  Santiago looked at the vision of his dreams and moaned a long low note.  He didn't know if the truck would ever be able to climb out of the hole.  The way his body was feeling at this moment he hardly cared.  They arrived at the space -- a piece of open ground in the depths of Corsica. Santiago felt like death.  Leila felt like killing him.

  There was no shelter.  There was no place where his treasures could be stored.  Santiago looked around until he found a small area, the only level piece of ground in view.  Santiago began unloading his treasures, a man possessed.  His precious load, beams of wood, tool boxes, extra tires, tin containers full of nuts and bolts, cans of paint, 200 meters of nylon rope and a hundred other assorted objects. His possessions were a junkman's paradise that no one in their right mind would have taken around the corner far less 1500 miles on a worn out wagon.

  The truck made small creaking noises rising from its sagging springs as Santiago unloaded his assemblage.  It wasn't just getting the load off the truck. To him it was a sacred and symbolic act almost religious. It was demonstrating to divine existence he had completed the dream.  He had arrived on Corsica and he was staking his claim in the New World.

From his point of view it was like the American flag on the Moon.  

From an angle of less grandeur it was more like a male dog pissing on the boundary of his turf. 

It was an act of exhilaration that pulled him out of the experience of his own body. He was a moving spirit climbing to the pinnacle of godhood.  He was also a little bit crazy.

  When he finished he sat down and looked at his work and he was well pleased, at least for the moment before he realized not only his butt was on the fire, but his whole body was aching.  Somewhere in Ajaccio, someone had passed him what the French call, Les Gripe -- the Mediterranean flu.

  Santiago had fallen from the lofts of heavenly truck unloading into the depths of satanic physical illness. He sat on a rock staring at the vehicle, the Land Ship that had brought them to Corsica, to this hole in the Mediterranean.

  Leila was slamming pots and pans down onto their little gas stove. Her eyes threw scolding thoughts towards Santiago's misery. Him and his bloody truck and his bloody dream!  Why did she have to leave Scotland?  White anger came over her and without a thought her mind was made up.

 “I have had enough.  I'm taking Tara and we're going home!”  She mumbled the statement several more times as she laced her shoes tightly and buckled her shoulder back.  The little girl's favorite toys were stuffed into a woven sack.  She took Tara by the hand and walked quickly back up to goat trail they had fallen down.

  Santiago looked after them bleakly and whispered, “I thought this was the place,” as his family disappeared into the maquis and scrub oak. He could see dark clouds on the eastern horizon.

  An hour later Santiago lay in the upper bed of the truck groaning. 

He felt like hell.  His mind was spinning.  What a wonderful moment for Leila to leave. What a fantastic sense of timing.  Why in the frig didn't she leave when they were still in Scotland?  It can't get any worse.

  Sweat was breaking over Santiago's face. Waves of fever washed his throat and chest.  “Frid’n coffin,” Santiago screamed incoherently as a tremendous role of thunder hit the truck and lighting flashed with the passing rumble. The hard drill of a cloud burst drummed on the metal box home.  Within 30 seconds rainwater began to drip onto the pillow next to Santiago's head. “screw you too God,” Santiago moaned.


Leila had spent the earlier part of the day lying in the sun letting Santiago get on with unloading the vehicle.  It had nothing to do with her.  She saw no reason why he had brought so much junk.  Just because she had decided to stay with him did not mean she had to share his neurotic obsession with bailing wire, bolts, and cans full of unbelievable nonsense.  The questioning thought came back to her again. Why didn't she marry someone normal?

  The late morning had been pleasant enough, the sun touching her with golden fingers.  The chill was being chased away.  She lay on the roof of the truck basking in the warmth.  Around her was rolling a meadow dotted with olive trees.  In the distance a metal clunking came from neck-bells of a goat herd.  Occasionally a loud call of Hoo-Roo came from a Corsican shepherd as he moved his animals across the open pastures.

  Leila looked at her little girl.  How she envied her sometimes.  Tara had her dolls and toys scattered about truck and was unconcerned with adult problems.  As much as Leila was trying to relax she couldn't stop from fretting. Aside from the fact of the Santiago had brought them to the bottom of a hole, there was the feeling she had misplaced something precious.  But at least there was good weather and that had its benefits.  She daydreamed about a winter tan -- the best of Scottish fantasy.  She had two hours of luxury before the spell was broken.  A brisk cold wind came out of the mountains and ominous dark clouds began to shred the blue sky.  Leila threw the book aside she had been holding but not reading and said, “Damn.  I knew this wouldn't last.”

  If one has been raised in Scotland it is easy to have a basic disbelief in fine sunny weather.  Scottish skies are perpetually usurped by monotonous tones of long gray days that parade dully into months.  It is the common paranoia of Scots to believe that endless sunny days are a myth, no less than a child's fantasy of Rock Candy Mountain.  Leila's dream of a winter tan instantly went to peel. She thought of her lost opportunities.  The sun would not be seen until spring and that was too far away. If anything could have filled her with a deeper darker gloom it was when the Santiago went into the truck groaning.

“Ah crap, I'm going to bed,” Santiago said. 

Suddenly the vision came to her of living in a submerged truck embedded at the bottom of hole churning with cold gray mud and her being a chained servant to a neurotic invalid who constantly demanded more service.  The image filled her with horror.  She had no choice but to take her little girl and run.



Santiago was vaguely aware of the truck door banging open and the creaking of springs as Leila and Tara climbed back into the silenced interior.  He could hear Leila make shivering sounds as she pulled off their soaking clothes.  Tara was whimpering.

Santiago thought to himself, so the runaways have returned home -- just like little kids only to escape so far before their hungry bellies bring them back home. He began to shake.  He was lying in saturated blankets from a combination of fevered sweating and the leaking roof.  The bed had the slimy embrace of old oatmeal.  He listened to the hushed noises of Leila putting a kettle on the stove, changing clothes, telling the little girl, shush, do what I say and get to these and dry clothes on. She closed the small slide windows and turned on the gas oven to warm their metal refuge.

The worst of the heat flashes had passed Santiago but remnant pulses of ice still shook him.  It was the kind of influenza that comes when the body's resources are weakest.  The virus, like black shirt fascists, sprayed graffiti on the red walls of blood cells leaving obscene rushes of scald and ache.  Only pocket spaces of emptiness were left where one spins in the sensation of float. Santiago was hearing rustling sounds filtering through the Land Ship. He groaned as he felt himself slipping into another frigid abyss. 

  Leila in the tone of voice as though nothing had happened asked, “Are you all right, love?”

  Santiago whispered sarcastically, “Yeah just great -- never felt better.”

  The air went to icy. Leila retreated to silence.

  “Mommy why is Daddy in bed?”  When Tara was told he did not feel well, the little girl climbed onto his bed and said, “I love you Daddy.”

  Santiago opened his eyes and weekly smiled at his beautiful little girl.  “I love you too sweetheart.”  Without warning, a spasm of cold knifed up his spine and he began to shake violently.

  Leila heard the chill strike Santiago. Concern for him came over her.  Oh dear, he really was sick.  She changed the damp blankets and for the next few hours nursed and coupled her man back to the shores of the living.  Sometime in the middle of the night it was over.  She was exhausted. Her hero slipped wearily into luxury of sleep. Tara purred a small child's snore in her bed as Leila lay awake staring at the ugly brown plywood walls of the truck's interior.

  In the morning Santiago was calm. The sickness had left him with the grace of acceptance.  He was glad it was over and he was glad he was alive.  The world existed the way it was.

“How far did you get?”  He asked. 

Leila laughed. “About a half a mile before that awful rain came and lucky for us the farmer just happened along in his lorry.  He took us to his cottage.”

“Why did you comeback?”  Santiago quietly asked.  He was glad she was there.

Leila frowned a little wrinkle between her eyes and said with resignation, “Where else was I to go?”

Santiago laughed sadly.  “Yeah, I guess we're along ways from nowhere.”


A person appreciates having a mirror not only to see how one looks but sometimes just to have physical proof of one's own existence. Friends and lovers give to each other a reflection of their own being.

They see through the layers of pretension and recognize the soul behind the glass. 

They trust, despite the eccentricities, and  love, because of them.

Trust equals love. In the beginning years, this idea had been the pact of truth between Leila and Santiago.  They were friends and lovers because they saw the potential of themselves in each other.  The lived their fantasies together and they walked in weedy crowds as hybrids. Separately they knew they were unique and together they knew they were special.  They gave their beautiful reflections willingly, their recognition enthusiastically and their trust courageously. Such was their treaty as spiritual allies. But they were young.

  How could they know that trust and love in such a contract of honor implied suspicion and hate? 

Their trust meant that they could give and take all measures

 and they did just that. 

Yet who can be more savage to pride than one's dearest friend? 

If friendship is a fragile bridge that can be swept away in the flood of human pathos,

then marriage,

 must surely be

a crystal tight rope,

as dangerous to walk on as it is to fall off.

  Santiago and Leila had started a pattern in their mutual course, taking each other for granted.  It was the classic problem. 

By the very nature of such confident conspiracy they lost the gentle sensitivity of lovers and the eyes of dreamers.

They no longer saw the potential that in being together they were a complete circle, a whole against the fractions of mediocrity. 

On their path together, small careless words had grown into cruel tangles of mockery. 

Their spirits silently separated. 

For long months, then years, they did not recognize each other because they had not bothered to look.

They lost the trust of their oneness, accepting the condition of their division as prisoners know the bars of the cell block.

They contained each other with toleration.

How difficult it is to laugh at one's own predicament, but some would say, marriage is about having an agreeable tormentor.