Random straightened the papers and folded the file on his lap. He looked up at the others, who sat in silence around the room.
“I like the story of the Princess. She used creativity and art to feed her people forever,” said Lin. “That is a good story.”
“Essie has a wonderful voice. She used to sing everywhere she went.” Random said lost for a second in the spell of the story.
Lin asked if she could look at the file. Random handed it to her with a look at Lucille who nodded. She examined a few pages and stopped on one. The picture was full of grim imagery, a skeleton wearing a peaked cap of bright pink and purple waving a curve blade with a short handle and leaving a trail of body parts behind which grew into plants from which blossoms burst forth.
“This one must mean out of death comes life?” Lin asked with a little hesitation.
“He is the Lord of Transformation and Release from Pain and Suffering. These people consider death a very positive and freeing thing if it is approached properly.” Lucille finished and looked at their tired faces. “I’m goin’ to put a pot of tea on would anyone else like some.”
“I’d love some,” Steve said picking up the file from Lin’s lap and turning to the illustration of Ma’ani Tubo the Wanderer. It was a picture of a one eyed man walking on a crooked path through the jungle with a jaguar riding on his back. There was a doorway in the foreground with a golden light bleeding onto the edges of the figure.
“Hey, this guy is coo’. He’s got one eye right in the middle of his face and he’s jammin’ down this here path like nothin’s wrong, and there’s this big cat takin’ a bite out of his shoulder.”
“Oh, you must mean Ma’ani Tubo,” Lucille called in from the kitchen. “He is one of my favorites.”
“Yes, he is usually considered a great good omen, unless anything dangerous is being attempted” Lucille continued as she bustled in the kitchen.
They talked over the pictures for a little while longer and drank tea. Finally Lin said, “I did not sleep well last night. I am sorry to be rude, but I am falling asleep and feel that would be more rude.”
“Well bless me. Here we are rattling on, and you’re all in. Let me show you to your room. Will you and Steve be sharing a room?”
“Yes, he is my boyfriend,” she said as if uncertain if this was the correct term.
“That’s right dear. Boyfriend or partner is OK.”
“Partiner,” Lin repeated slowly tasting the word, “Like in dancing.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Lucille laughed. “Like dancing.”
She helped Lin find the bathroom and told her to use whatever she saw fit, “And take a nice hot soak if you want dear, I know how long drives can make you feel a little grimy.”
“You mean a bath?’ Lin asked.
“I haven’t got a shower only this old clawfoot, but she’s a beaut and comfy to snuggle in.”
“I think that would be nice thank you.”
“Towels are there and there’s bubbles and soap over there,” Lucille pointed out things quickly, “Good night dear, It must be so much for you to handle coming from China and all of this, I just can’t imagine.”
“It is not so bad. Steve has been so nice, and I am having more food and not working myself to death, but I miss my brother.”
Lucille gave her a hug and said, “Random will take you to find him. You just wait and see. He’s the one who brings things to where they belong. Take a nice hot bath and get some sleep and try not to worry. Things may seem upside down and crazy but they will turn right before long.”
“Thank you, Lucille, you are very kind.”
“Well, I should hope so. It’s just as easy as being tough and ornery but there’s more hugging.”
She bustled out leaving Lin to experiment with the bath.
Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.
They looked through the file some more and talked about what it all could mean that they came together like this. It was obvious that Random and Essie were the focal points, but they could not figure out the next step.
At about Midnight, Lucille showed them to the rooms. Lin was sound asleep. Steve tiptoed in and closed the door.
“That man is an angel,” Lucille said and Random could not figure out if she meant it figuratively or actually. At this point he was prepared to believe just about anything.
“This is your room. It’s my husband’s old study. I’ve fixed up the sleeper sofa for you,” she said as she turned on the light. It was a room nearly ceiling to floor of books on every wall. There was a large window on one wall looking out onto the forest.
“When I die all this goes to the University,” Lucille motioned to include all of the books. In between some of the shelves were filing cabinets and a desk with papers still strewn about.
“I’ve been trying to organize his writing and research, but he was a sloppy man who ran from one project to the next,” she said with an almost sullen disappointment, “I guess I should be more kind, but I am tired of the project, and I miss the man.”
Random nodded sympathetically.
“But, this is not your problem,” she said suddenly smiling, “My advice to you is to watch your thoughts and dreams like a good fisherman watching for fish. I think that was what St. Rimauld wrote in his charge to the monks.”
Random smiled, “You’re sure have a wide range of interests. Did you study Saints too?”
“No, that was my husband’s forte, ancient Judeo-Christian and Islamic texts and mystic beliefs. The Kabala and such things. He used to say that every now and again to people who were in some kind of spiritual crisis or deep study.”
“Well I like books. So this room should suit me just fine,” Random said pushing down on the mattress that extended out from a chocolate brown sofa almost to the desk that was situated far enough from the wall to allow access to the overflowing bookshelves behind the antique swivel chair behind it.
“I wish you happy and productive dreaming, and thank you so very much for bringing my Karen to me.” Random could see tears misting her eyes as she stretched to kiss his cheek.
“You really are like a son to me now, whether you like it or not.”
“You know it was Steve who convinced me to do this. He told me it’s what I do.”
“He’s right, and he is my very own angelic son too,” she said with no equivocation. “You will both be in my heart whether or not I ever hear from you again after this.”
“Oh, you will hear from me. Steve you might have to get his number and call him every now and then. He’s a go with the flow kinda guy.”
“I get that about him,” Lucille smiled and backed out of the room.
“Try to get some sleep. I think you are going to need to be alert tomorrow,” she said in a tone which had a confident but ominous ring to it. She closed the door and her footsteps receded down the hall.
All The Sparkling Fishes In the Stream
That night in Essie’s room a forest grew and became the world all around, the rich and teeming forest of her youth on the Orinoco. She went down to get water from the stream behind the thatch topped house. In the water silver fishes gleamed, crisscrossing over the smooth round stones, swimming into the current. She looked at the stones on the bank and found a perfect skipping rock and flung it sidearm spinning across the surface of the water. The stone glided, kissing the water many times before landing on the other side with an echoing thunk, which scattered the fish. They disappeared to shadows on the edges of the stream.
She was looking by the edge of the water in the singing reeds for someone, but could not remember his name. He had something to do with the fishes and a mission that had something to do with a great tree and a turtle. It was all so unclear.
She parted some cattails and saw a face reflected in the black stagnant water at the swampy brink of the stream. There was the reflection of a man with golden glowing eyes the rest of him was silhouette. She jumped back and looked behind her. There were the walls of a fortress and a bridge. She knew she could wait no longer and started crossing the bridge, which was a pipe about 10 feet in diameter with rope strung across at either hand to steady her. The pipe was slippery and after slipping to one side and the other and just clinging to the ropes she decided that going backwards she could get more traction. As she reached the other side a man in white came along the wall searching and leaning this way and that.
She tried to call out but no sound came from her mouth she jumped and thumped on the pipe, but he could not see or hear her.
He came to the pipe and went down into the foliage and did not come up again. Essie waited and woke up waiting.