I built a 70-foot long stone wall in my back yard while listening to a podcast of the history of Rome a few years ago. It took two years— building the wall, that is, not Rome– which, as we all know, wasn’t built in a day.
My little Roman wall: Four feet high. Two and a half-feet thick. A ton a linear foot. One rock at a time.
Then I did half of it over.
A section of the wall wasn’t built very well — OK, I didn’t build it very well— and it fell over after 10 years’ rains. (I think that part was built during the period covering the year of five emperors and one of the civil wars, so I don’t take all of the blame. Oh, who am I kidding. I screwed it up and it fell over.) Having to do it over gave me time to fit in all of the episodes I missed, while pondering the consequences of one’s mistakes. Hard physical labor will do that for you.
I also remember listening to a another podcast series “Ghosts of the Ostefront” about the Eastern Front war between Stalin and Hitler. I was painting shutters on the front of my house in a blazing sun at the time.
Every time I look at those shutters now, I think about the carnage of the Eastern Front, and am glad I only had to paint shutters. And the wall brings to mind columns of marble and statues and murder and intrigue and legions on the march. My wall was built to the echoes of an empire who’s ruins still stand. Maybe the wall will last long after I’m gone, too.
And this is enough.
Mystery shrouds dawn
Trees endure a damp embrace.
Will the sun return?*
* This is a riff off a photograph I took. I’m not really as moody as this sounds. Carry on.
“We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”
“I don’t know. He’s really fucked himself up this time. No hands left. Face ripped half off. Third-degree burns everywhere. Pretty clumsy for someone in his line of work. The Feds should be pleased, though. Looks like he caught himself.”
“Very funny. Look. We don’t have time to argue. Get prepped or get out. I have a four o’clock tee time.”
“Alright. Have it your own way. I’m in. But for the record, I think this is a bad idea. Let it go. ”
“Noted, you sanctimonious prick. I’m reserving the OR and getting the surgical team here. Call Bradley’s service and get her in here to handle anethesia. Oh, and you’d better notify the hospital’s lawyer. Tell her we’re going to patch this guy up again, have her call the ATF and FBI and let them know their bomber is back. Most of him, anyway.”
“Wait a second… what’s THAT?”
“THAT. Is it…. ?”
“Jesus Christ. The sonofabitch… Get OUT!”
I would have smiled, if I still had a functional face. I knew what it was, all right. And it was too late. A sheet of flame from the blast ended all three of us, but didn’t go beyond the exam room. All in all, I thought in a split second, a very professional job.
As the last of my consciousness winked out — funny how time slows down at times like this — I chuckled. How stupid of these doctors to think they could sleep with my wife and think I wouldn’t know. Both of them. MY wife!