Do you need to get back to Episode one? Here it is!
Do you need to get to Episode two? Here it is!
Do you need to get back to Episode three? Right This Way!.
And of course there is Episode 4.
And now there is Episode 5.
The Sand Cage III
"I can't believe it," sighed Lorraine. I stroked her hair, which felt rough and stringy, as she lay in my arms making a warm soft ball in the tangled sheets. The night beyond the trailer, bedroom's small, square, window was the color of ink. I was never one for looking at the stars. The little, short lived, frogs my son found in the pools left by the rain, did not sing. There were no insects singing or maybe I was just deaf to them.
"DelGrasso didn't do anything," Lorraine continued. I did not tell her that there was nothing DelGrasso could do. The men, Silberstein and Richard Wolf, were gone, vanished. The territory where they might be was too vast for any of us to even begin to explore. The time was not long enough to call in the authorities. Lorraine must have known all this at some level, I told myself.
Still, I could understand why she was scaird. We were both students of human nature, and a man can forget to call, but most married men don't, or don't for very long. They call, as I would call, even, if only for the sake of keeping up appearances. Appearances, are very important. Appearances and comfort of like minds were the reason Lorraine and I were together. No news from Silberstein (Richard and Subi had a different policy) meant the situation was out of control. It also meant that if the men were alive and uharmed, they would probably attempt to call the main house some time in the next twenty-four hours, even if only for the sake of appearances and certainly to set things straight.
"Some time tomorrow, we'll have to call the police," I explained to Lorraine. That was all.
"You're so...calm about this." She arched up like a sphinx. Then she added. "What can the police do?"
"Whatever they do with missing persons, Lor."
"Bill, that can't be much." She collapsed back down into bed and snuggled tight against me. "I'm glad you made it in one piece..." she sighed. "I'm glad we all made it in one piece... You know it's really not a dangerous trip. I mean it wasn't. I can't believe something happened to them."
"It's a big scary country," I reminded my wife.
"Not really. There are roads and motels, and places to buy stuff."
"You went shopping?"
"Su-bie insisted on it. Nonperishable emergency food, Perishable emergency food. Toys for the kids should you get stuck. Snacks...gas... water for batteries. Oh yes..." she sing-songed making fun of the female need for security. Still, all the careful females had made it across the desert and established Wakeful Heights with its kid-safe courtyard and Washateria. Lorraine could at least understand how the men disappeared and perhaps why, just not why they had been gone so long without at least attempting to cover their tracks.
Then I thought reflexively of Noelle. I was not going back to Colorado any time soon, except somehow I was there again. I stood in the little leanto bedroom above the bar in Fort Collins, a real cowboy saloon, though mostly frequented by truckers, construction workers, traveling types... I did not wonder who shared Noelle's bed before me or after. I was back and that was all that counted. I did not have to go to Nevada and meet Lorraine. I would miss the boys. I mused on that. I was the father of three children who would grow up without me. They'd probably be better off or would they? I wondered about that until Noelle said:
"Look the moon!" Noelle pushed a curtain aside. All I saw was mountains that looked like chalky shadows in the deep, blue night. Light reflecting from the clouds gave the scenery its single color. Then I saw the moon, hard and white appearing first as a sliver and then as a circle from its mantle of slate colored clouds. The moon's light was so bright, it made my eyes ache.
"Shit," I told Noelle.
"William!" she called out. "William!!!!!!" I opened my eyes. "You gotta see!" Lorraine called to me from the bedroom door. The living room light was on, and the sun not yet risen. I imagined putting my bare feet on the leanto bedroom's wooden floor, but felt cold linoleum instead. I stumbled into the living room. All I saw beyond the fake, burlap curtains that hid nothing was night.
"Look carefully....in the courtyard..." Lorraine instructed. In the passage between the living room and bedrooms, Douglas stood as still as a stone while holding his baby, brother, Bradley's hand. Something about the boys' silence made me frightened. I pressed my nose to the window and hoped to see nothing.
Outside the window, Subi and Sharon walked across the courtyard past the Washateria. Sharon wore a bath robe and night gown. Subi had tucked a night shirt in a pair of shorts. Sharon's baby, Jasmine, was tucked under one of her arms. Caren dressed in pajamas trotted along beside her mother.
Lorraine padded toward the door and opened it a crack. "Sharon! Subi!" she called out, her voice ringing like the mountain, moon of my dream.
"Jacob called me!" Sharon answered. "He's OK!"
Sharon and Subi turned toward my wife who now slipped outside leaving the door swinging behind her. I pushed the door open.
"Our husbands just called the main house from Wendover, Nevada." (on the Utah border). "They're going to start for here as soon as it gets light. Poor Richard got food poisoning and had to get off the road in Rock Springs. That's in Wyoming. That's why the delay."
"He should have called you," Lorraine sniffed.
"I think he was too sick."
"I would have called," I thought, but Richard perhaps had no tracks to cover.
"I can't believe I'm going to see my husband tonight," Subi sighed.
"Daddy's coming," Caren told the half asleep baby.
"Well this is good news. Want to come inside for coffee?" Lorraine did not care that all she had on was a night gown. I knew any chance for more sleep was gone. In an hour the sun would rise and soon would scorch and kill the short-lived desert flowers. The frogs would return underground. In the kitchen, Lorraine measured out the coffee and put up the water.
She also made a fresh pitcher of Kool-aide for those Douglas, Bradley, and Caren. I thought of the lab back in White Plains. Then I went out to the living room to be surrounded by anxiously waiting women and children.
Pershing County Nevada
With the arrival of the rest of the men, lawyers could begin studying for the Nevada Bar. Of course, Subi and I could study for the Pershing County Civil Service Exam, and we continued to study inside Subi and Richard's trailer when the sun was high and in the courtyard early in the mornings.
In a camp of this many women, there of course had to be gossip. It normally would have made me laugh. Anyone with any sense, would have seen that Subi was not the type that most normal men would touch with a ten foot barge pole. First, she made no effort in that direction. Second, a woman who believes she can and who actually more or less does a man's work is a scary proposition, though to tell the truth, responsible work makes a woman calm and sane, so that was not my issue with Subi.
It was not my issue that she was a colleague either, though that was our relationship. It took me several days to figure out what it was about Subi that did not just put me off attempting anything, but that screamed out "DON'T YOU DARE, BACHMAN!"
For most humans, monogamy is not a natural state of affairs. Lorraine and I both strayed from time to time. We both got bored, curious, sick of each other. I could not imagine having a sexual memory with just one woman in it, and Lorraine was likewise equipped to want more than one man in her mind and heart. Other couples, found a way to make piece with what society asked of them. Then at the other end of spectrum were people like Richard and Subi, militant monogamists. Their marriage was six and a half years old, but it seemed older. Subi had become engaged at the age of nineteen, and the pair had waited three years to marry, both finishing their educations. I strongly suspected the pair had slept together during at least some of those years, which made Subi and Richard's marriage older than it looked.
Richard and Subi were tightly and legalistically bound. I noticed the paper notices on the refridgerator door almost immediately afater Richard arrived. They were written in Subi's neat hand and Richard's cursive.
Richard needs four meat dinners a week. Meat does not include fish.
Do NOT put peppers in any broth made for Constance Doty.
Subira needs you to check drier #2 in Washateria and bring laundry basket back to trailer at 11:45am.
Subira needs you to put wet bath towels and mat over kitchen chairs if racks are full -- DO NOT LEAVE on floor.
Lorraine would have laughed at such notes, and so would I, but I really did not want to butt my head against the refridgerator door of a long, tight, well defended realtionship.
Pershing County Nevada