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Spines, poured 5625, Spines embedded in encaustic paint, mounted on recessed panel,
12” x 12” x 2”, 2008 by Daniella Woolf

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Wallace Baine

The Bewildering Blasphemies of Thomas McAvee

      I arrived in Trent-Towne on a day of surpassing mildness, all the more enjoyable given that Old Hag Winter had at last flown after stubbornly refusing to take her leave until a month after Equinox.
      The trip had interrupted my duties as scholar and tutor at Harvard College and the coach and driver had commanded a knight’s wages in the bargain. But I could not quell my curiosity once I had heard that among the local Jersey Quakers was a man claiming to have seen a vision of a future the better part of 300 years hence.
      ’Twas a frightful blasphemy to the locals, but the gentleman – a tobacco merchant named Thomas McAvee – had lived a life of impeccable probity and unmatched consistency til the moment, the autumn last, that he shared a tale too fantastical e’en for a gypsy spellbook.
      As the tale reached mine ears in Cambridge, McAvee had appeared one morning in the town market ashen-faced, distraught, nonsensical language issuing from him like a very spring. Once he had gathered his wits, he claimed that he had lived several days in a future beyond the lifespans of every living soul breathing God’s air this day.
      Since that moment, McAvee has been hooted at as an addled clown and hissed at as a wicked conjurer – though, quoth the small account in the Trent-Towne Packet, given that he was reputed to be one of the most able and honorable men in the village, he was an unlikely soothsayer or prophet.
      I had written him a letter, requesting an audience and offering my experience as a metaphysician of considerable esteem throughout New England that he may believe that his episode worthy of serious scholarly pursuit, though privily I suspected him to be a perfect Bedlamite.
      In sooth, I had, on the recent, embarked upon an epic poem – nothing to tickle the robes of the great Milton, mind ye. But upon hearing accounts of McAvee’s bewildering tale, I knew at once that my Homeric quatrains wanted the adventures that McAvee might provide, were he not besot with lunacy. I hoped then that he would serve as grist for my poetical fancies.
      He returned my letter with bemoanings of his plight, that his wife had turned a cold ear to his frantic stories, that his tobacco customers were dwindling, that his town vicar had given pronouncements to his wickedness. Still, he invited me to his home, providing I was not of the clergy, appending the invitation with “I plead for a kind ear to credit my story. Lacking that, I shan’t repeat it again.”
      McAvee greeted me at his modest table, redolent of the smells of curing tobacco. He was wigless and ruddy cheeked, but his eyes bespoke the woe of the unjustly persecuted.
“Mr. McAvee, dost thou knowest the year?”
      McAvee’s shoulders slumped and his exhalations betrayed his impatience. “Yes, of course. 1738. Tenth of May, tis not? Hear ye, I’m not mad, though everyone believes me to be.”
“I have not so deemed,” I said with perfect equipoise.
      McAvee fixed me hard with his gaze. “Answer me this,” he said, “How can a man live seven and forty years as solid and methodical as yon cow in the meadow, be flung into a species of madness as never been recorded in the history of Englishmen, only to be delivered back to perfect God-fearing sobriety? Tis beyond the ken of even the most learned. Is it not?”
      “Twas not a mere dream?”
      “Dream, you say? I’ve had more dreams than you have hairs of your periwig. I know the feel of a dream, and this was no feeble shadows of a night’s sleep. It was as vivid as this very moment.”
      “Haply, is all this some bewitchery of the Papist creed, then?”
      “Papist?” McAvee puffed out his chest like the cock of the yard. “Sir, I’m no more Romanist than William of Orange, Heaven rest his soul. Popery, indeed! God’s blood, man! I’m a Scotsman.”
      “I crave thy pardon. I only … Mayhaps, it be a momentary ferment of the blood or similar malady? Or, forgive my insolence, belike thou had been administered a phial or two of opium at the time of this … visitation?”
      “None, nor of its kind. I’ve yet to be seduced by Lady Opium’s charms. I am but a modest merchant who revels in a pint on the odd occasion.”
      “Well, pints have been known to conjure a state approaching madness, no? Had ye been brined and pickled to a degree that …”
      “Nay, sir! Yield on all your slanders. In your letter to me, you charged that your interest was in knowing the wherefores of my story, not in plowing ground already proved to be barren by other inquisitors. Put aside your cynicism and you will hear a tale. If not, be off with you.”
      The tobacconist leaned forward in his chair and scowled. I stood, my palms open to calm the aggrieved fellow. “Mr. McAvee, it is the duty of my station at Harvard College to gainsay thy fantastical claims. As a scholar of natural philosophy and metaphysics, I cannot do otherwise. To hear a man sayeth he hath visited some ineffable future time only to come back to tell the tale like an adventurer to the latitudes of the Indies or belike, it beggars the imagination.”
      “I tell you it’s true, ever word from my mouth to your ear,” McAvee interjected.
      “But, sir, if I may. Stay thy rage, if it please thee. I did not maketh my way here from Cambridge through damnable rain, two days’ coach ride, only to scoff at thee and thy, uh, ‘visions.’ Outside my commissions and privileges at Harvard, I fancy myself a gentleman poet, and, though ’tis met with disapproval with just about everyone of my acquaintance, I do dabble in the versifying of extravagant tales and am presently at toil composing my own Illiad, b’my faith.”
      “Ah, you think me a Homeric liar, indulging in grandiosity to while away my miserable hours?”
      “Nay, sir. I meant no aspersions. It is only to say that I am more suggestible to thy testimony than most men of faith.”
      “I’m in no need for ecclesiastical pronouncements,” McAvee muttered.
      “You’ll not hear such from me, I vow.”
McAvee rapped a pipe on his table and squinted at me. “You will hear my accounts, then?”
      “Skepticism, anon I hie thee away, at least for the nonce. I will accept your bushels wholly, and only skim out the bad apples some other hour.”
At last, McAvee seemed content with my enthusiasms. He put the kettle on and offered me a pipe of his finest Carolina leaf, just brought from his cure-house. I took a spot at his table where I could copy his story with quill and paper.
      “So,” I said once the pipes took to fire, “what year is’t that thou, uh, visited?”
      “’Twas 2016 anno domini.”
      “Pardon? 2016? ’Zwounds. ’Tis a distant star to be sure.”
      “Put away your jocularity, Mr. Merriwick. I tell an earnest tale.”
      “Indeed so” I said, affecting a frown of seriousness. “So, prithee, what of the world in 2016?”
      McAvee took a long draw from his pipe and closed his eyes for a brief interval. “’Tis a world hardly to be credited, I’ll allow. ’Tis indeed taxing to recognize it as any part of our world. The human animal still has two arms and two legs, and the sun still rises in the eastern sky. But all else is changed.”
      “I’m quite certain of it!”
      “First to tell, His Majesty’s Colonies are a sovereign nation, an alliance known as the United States of America, a vast and powerful realm that reaches from our colonies to the far coast of the Pacific.”
      “Forfend! How be it so? To engage such a notion is very treason, sir!”
      “I am as true a loyalist to the Crown as any man, Merriwick. I tell you not what I wish to be so, but what will be so.”
      This fiend was sincere in these ravings. “McAvee, you put me at risk to hear such connivance. Have you said such a thing to others?”
      “Not a word on that score. You and I are the only ones who know of the coming revolution.”
      “Revolution? Perfidy! Thou art a clever jester. But what of England?”
      “She is but a matron in her dotage, her kingdom a memory only to keep her warm like a robe on a winter’s eve.”
      “Impossible! And Spain and France?”
      “Equally enfeebled great aunts. They have no more than their small mother countries betwixt the twain. America – the mass of our descendants, Merriwick – is the world’s greatest power, greater than Rome herself in Caesar’s time.”
      “Well, I have a yarn now,” I could not quell a laugh.
McAvee dished me a dyspeptic glower. “Is this sport to you, sir?” quoth he.
      “My most craven apologies,” I said. “Skepticism is a most dogged pursuer, and I’m afraid I must redouble my efforts to escape her clutches. I must ask for thy patience along with thy tale, my fine fellow.” I composed myself and turned again to my subject sober-faced. “Uh, when is this revolt against the Crown to occur?”
      “Not more than 40 years hence. During my time in 2016, I took the opportunity to learn of the intervailing events and the Colonies’ Declaration of Independency is take place in 1776, to be accompanied by a war against Mother England.”
      “Fie on such thought. Can’t be so!”
      “I’m afeared it is so. I grieve for it, ’tis true. I confirmed the thing even.”
      “How so?”
      “The greatest rebel in the eyes of the Americans, the general to lead the insurrection, for whom the new nation’s capitol city will be named is a Virginian named George Washington, whose glories are sung in every history book. Once I came back to my own time, after a sufficient interval to accustom myself to my own life again, I went in search of this would-be king.”
      “He lives this day?”
      “Indeed. He is the son of a gentry planter in the Tidewater to whence I traveled, pretending to be a wandering tutor in arithmetics. And, yes, the history texts of that terrible future had it right. I laid eyes upon this George Washington myself.”
      “But a hero 40 years hence must be quite young now.”
      “This summer upcoming will be merely his sixth. And he appeared to me to be a stout-hearted and able lad.”
      “Marry, why did you not slay him on the spot and invalidate this awful future that you’re convinced will come to pass?”
      “What? ’Tis now you are the one seduced by madness. Butcher a 6-year-old boy in the presence of his father? And be hanged for the sake of this bedeviling vision? What sort of knave do ye take me for?”
      “Forgive me. You’re …”
      “Stay, sir,” sighed McAvee, “I thought fleetingly of just such a course. But, alas, God hath made me incapable of murther. And, in sooth, what I saw in the future was certainly no Dante’s Hell. ’Tis not a world for me, mind. But I dare say our great great grandchildren will live in a world of beneficent miracles.”
      “Mr. McAvee, if you please. I find my seething curiosity has a rival, my fear to hear more heresy that might endanger my immortal soul.”
      “Do ye not think I’ve wrestled with angels and devils from the first morn I awoke in my own bed again after this strange sojourn? If it be Satan tempting me, then God remains silent. But I choose to believe that God elected me to experience this prophecy. What else can I do?”
      “I feel keenly thy dilemma.”
      “Then you will hear more? I’ve just painted the merest corner of the picture for you. After hearing the fantastical manner in which future Americans live every day, you will think the political arrangement a trifle.”
      A trifle! This leaf-mongering Scotsman had just called His Majesty’s heaven-mandated reign on earth a trifle. My impulse was to flee him and his calumnies and pronounce him wicked to all who would deign to hear. Yet I was no more able to flee than the chair in which I sat was able to dance a quadrille.
      “I will hear more,” I whispered after a pause. “Prithee, who is the king of this America in 2016?”
McAvee grinned and wiped his speckled head. “By my mother’s soul, ’tis an African.”
      “An African? Sir, thou thinkest me as credulous as a lamb in the field?”
      “An African, I tell you. ’Tis an underfed mulatto by my reckoning, named Obama.”
      “Nay, I can’t credit it.”
      “’Tis all true, Merriwick. In the age to come, the white man will lose his privileges as sovereign over the world. Women will leave their homes, all races will assume positions of authority, the African, the Asiatic, the Abrahamic.”
      “The Jew? Oh, what depravity awaits us!”
      “Not at all. The ethic of their time is that all men are created equal. ’Tis written in their founding documents.”
      “And these founders, like thy Washington, all Southern planters? Talking equality of the black man? Nay, McAvee, ’tis like a crane’s egg in my throat I cannot swallow.”
      “I found it very convincing. If you give it the first clear thought, skin color is no more illuminating of a man’s character than his eye color or hair color. Indeed, where is it mandated that sex organs have any standing against one’s intelligence or virtue?”
      “Thou art being prodded by Lucifer still, methinks.”
      “Our age is as beset by blindness as any age,” said McAvee, wistfully. “On what doth the white man maintain his superiority? ’Tis but a man mounted on horseback claiming the man afoot is naturally slower. Give a black man the same steed and see if he is not as capable a horseman. What doth the brain care whether the hair atop it is wavy or nappy?”
      What exquisite piffle! He might have in sooth told me that the sun in heaven is a mere iceball. But I would never hear this man’s tale if I engaged all his slanders.
      “Tell, how long were ye in this future?”
      “A bit less than a fortnight, I suppose. Long enough to take in the breadth and depth of it.”
      “And were thou here in Pennsylvania?”
      “No, indeed. I was in California.”
      “Hold, isn’t that Spain’s barren Jesuitical outpost?”
      “The very same, but hear this. It will become the most populous and most prosperous colony on this entire continent.”
      “That’s a queer notion, indeed. How come thee to be there?”
      “The first I know is that I awaken in a room the likes I had never seen – as barren as a Quaker meeting house – and cold as the very tomb, it was. It was a considerable time ere I could sit up and when I did, to my trembling shame, I saw that I was mother-naked, with nary a stitch. But modesty lost her race with horror when it struck me that this body I inhabited was not my own!”
      “Sweet Savior! Thy soul alighted in a different body? Tis a monstrous tale of cock and bull!”
      “I swear on’t, as a Christian and a gentleman. I have nary to profit from weaving fictions for your amusement, Mr. Merriwick. Where flies your liberality now?”
“Forbearance, good McAvee. What thou speaketh is pure sorcery. Tis far past my ken. But, for the nonce, I’ll credit thee. Do continue.”
      McAvee rubbed his eyes and sighed. “Doubt dogs me as well, though the experience was as real as this pipe and this table. I must speak it before its memory pushes any farther out to sea.”
      I waved my quill in the air. “’Tis faithfully recorded, I assure thee. Now, to the tale?”
      “Aye then, I attempt to stand in this unfamiliar body. Looking down and seeing another man’s pizzle brought me quick to nausea. Presently, two other wights appear and ’tis an even wager who be more deeply struck by the fear of the other, me or them. One was a swarthy named Jay, I was soon to learn, the next an Asiatic called Calvin. Yet when I spoke, the twain went white as the cliffs of Dover, by m’faith.”
      “And they told thee …”
      “They gave me the selfsame queer garments that they wore, a day-shirt with writing printed on it, like a very broadside. And a shortcoat made of silks as I’d never seen. Then they told me ’twas the year 2016, and they had conjured me to their present day, though they knew not whom I was nor whence I came, nor even the means by which they performed their magic.”
      “These men spake your tongue?”
      “Aye, a cross-eyed bastard of English, at times confounding to a tobacco-monger’s uneducated ear, but English it was. I spent much time in their rooms, as they labored to convince me that I was not mad and they were not apparitions of a deranged mind. I spent that same time pleading they send me back to mine own time. But they said they knew not how to do so, and verily it was up to their computer to see it happen.”
      “Prithee, did you say ‘pewter’?”
McAvee roared with laughter. “Nay, not pewter. I saw nary a platter or stein the whole time there, curious. The word is COM-puter. A good 12 days in this future world, and I ne’er found the exact meaning of’t. I came to believe it was these people’s name for the Almighty.”
      “’Twas there no Bible, nor chapel about? Have our progeny descended into heathen creeds?”
      “Nay, each man, and woman, consulted with their deity with many small windows through which were images too quicksilver for my eyes to follow without succumbing to madness.”
      “True as rain. In almost every quarter of every house. I am loathe to say that I possess not the gifts to describe the bewitchery I spied in these computer windows, only to say ’twas the very whole of the world.”
      “‘Whole of the world’? Thou confuseth me, McAvee.”
      McAvee slapped his legs in frustration and gazed out the window. “Lookee, think on’t, if you will. Imagine yon window. And instead of the cows and the brambles, you saw in that window a man speaking directly to you, followed in an instant by a golden ale standing in a tall glass – not a painting of the ale, mind you, the very thing itself – followed again in a snap, with words moving like a bird flies through air, and again by men laughing, by women in outrageous clothing fit only for whoring, then men playing games in a vast green commons. All and everything, Merriwick.”
      “God in Heaven! Such a thing exhausts my faculties.”
      “As mine at the time! These devilish windows pay no heed to distance. Imagine watching a farmer at his table in Carolina Province at this very moment, or a vicar ministering to the dead in Boston Town like God in His powers!”
      “Oh, and then there’s these damnable instruments no bigger than a tin of snuff that a man keeps in his pocket. At any moment, he applies his finger to it and presently he is talking with another man through it, talking right into the snuff tin, though that other man be 10 days carriage ride away, or e’en in very Europe!”
      “Talking together though not in the same place?”
      “Just as you and I this minute!”
      “So, these two fellows take me into the world after a time, and my head is aswim. There, the same sun, the same sky. I breathe the same air. But all else is changed. We go to these carriages – can you picture it? These beastly things that are pulled by no horse. They have small black wheels, and in this world, there are 10 millions of the things if there be one.”
      “Ah, me!”
      “And I climb into one of these coaches, Merriwick. And as my God watches o’er me this very morning, we are soon moving twice as fast as any horse in any stable can gallop. I am weeping, mind you, weeping for my immortal soul, for at this time, I become convinced that I am to be delivered to the parlors of hell.”
      “I’faith, my heart pounds.”
      “The men stop the magic coach, and offer me food and drink, the likes I’ve never seen before, in an effort to calm my scalded senses. Truth be told, they are as agitated with me as I with them, but they are at least at home in their world. I find that I am ravenous and I devour what they give me, strange warm morsels in white sacks that make me weak with pleasure.”
      “Yet the nourishment you take is for another man’s belly!”
      “Indeed. At this time, we again climb into the hellish coach and soon, we are upon a vast black-stone road with sure-to-be hundreds other such horseless wagons moving at a pace that mocks death. I am seized with fear, but my companions are as content as if sitting still. The road winds through a great hilly forest and I see the trees flying past as if flung by Zeus himself.”
      “The devil take it!”
      “But was mere twaddle, against what else I was shown! Understand this, Mr. Metaphysician. In that future day, Man is able to command light, to make enough light to shame the sun though it be midnight, without a candle or whale-oil lamp in sight! He can conjure music though there be no musicians to produce it, capture the image of you there as you sit, as if for the king’s portraitist, though with more fidelity to the eye than the world’s greatest painter could ever mimic, and in less time than it takes to draw a breath. Indeed, he is able to repeat any moment in time – you and I as we talk, for instance, with our voices and our faces saying the very words again in the very selfsame manner, then present it on a wall as big as the side of my tobacco barn as if the Almighty in His Glory were looking in on us.”
      My mind raced trying to wrestle with this mad man’s prophecy. He was as earnest as a theologian in his visions. How can this be madness? Yet, how can this be otherwise?
      “And airplanes!”
      “Air Plains?”
      McAvee banged the table with a fist. “Marry, what would you think if I told you that I have soared through the heavens, higher than any crow would dare, higher than very Icarus, high enough that the clouds were at my feet, as if I were sitting at the left hand of God!”
      “Nay! How …”
      “True, every utterance. Our grandchildren’s grandchildren have created these contraptions with wings like birds, but made of irons and metals, like the ball of a musket. And yet large enough to carry six dozens of men, women and children, and with great fire and propulsion, send the lot into the very sky to deliver you as if from Boston to Philadelphia in a hour’s time! Impossible, I know. But it happened to me, Merriwick. The Good Lord as my witness, you can run me through with yon pitchfork if one word be false.”
      “McAvee, thou’rt blind to the danger of what thou sayest. I know not thy heart, sir, but by thy words, thou art a blasphemer. In the Bay Colony, we have burned witches for lesser crimes.”
      “And you call me mad? If you can credit Jonah in a whale’s belly, why can you not take my word as a gentleman?”
      “Thou art mistaken of my character, Mr. McAvee. I am no man’s Puritan. My great liberality of mind is all that prevents me from fleeing your stories this moment.”
      “If it please you, sir, then allow me to display all my wares ere you consider them each in their import.”
      “Yea, I fondle every word!”
      “Aye, as we make haste in our horseless coach, we spy in the distance, a glimpse of the sea. ’Tis Magellan’s mighty Pacific, and, haply a quarter of the hour later, dodging among scores of other mad coaches, and through a village of monstrous sights, we come to that sea’s edge, to the very sands of the Pacific, where my hosts bring me and what sights to behold …”
      McAvee paused and his mouth slowly took the shape of secret merriment.
      “Thou’st sporting me?” I felt affronted. “Say your piece!”
      “’Tis a covey of maids,” he said with lascivious wink, “mostly of English stock, as I can assess, gallivanting in the most meager raiment your most lewd and licentious mind could imagine.”
      “Perjury! Maids, under God’s sun … naked?”
      “Belike nearly so. Only their teets and their womb’s cleft covered by rags that a pirate would find wanting for an eyepatch! And they dance, tossing a hog’s bladder or the like in the air across a fisherman’s net, none with the ounce of shame God gave a tree toad. Being a virtuous man, I had ne’er seen a woman in such a state, excepting my own wife, and here be five and twenty maids holding no secrets to anyone with eyes.”
      “May the Lord show mercy! Were they not witches, engaging in secret rites?”
      “Not a whit so. There was no wailing nor moaning of the wretched among them. ’Twas if they knew not they were naked. Though their very hams were displayed to all and sundry as the Christmas goose on the dinner table, they behaved as if they were dressed like a Puritan’s goodwife at a barn raising!”
      “Nay, cannot be. Thy future is a world of wanton harlotry! Were there no menfolk about?”
      “Oh, a plenty. Scores of men, similarly indecent, many of them. Others gazing at the wenches like a spaniel gazing at a bit of mutton. I half expected to see someone a-rogering in the sand, but ’twas none of that.”
      “The maidens, then? Were they fair to behold?”
      McAvee grunted in surprise. “I see where your attentions have settled, Merriwick. Aye, yes, exceedingly toothsome they were. Young strumpets all, magnificently limbed creatures with skin turned persimmon by the sun, the very daughters of the devil, capable of turning the stoutest man away from God, i’faith. But, beyond them, in the yonder, were things that …”
      “Indeed, as naked as babes?”
      McAvee sighed and turned a baleful eye at me. “Oh, fie, man! A pox on them! God in Heaven, I tell you tales of the veriest devilish magic, and you fix upon common trollops prancing in the sand?”
      “Thou drew forth the picture, sir! I merely follow Dame Curiosity wheresoever she wanders.”
      “Enough on’t. I have tales to set your Dame afire.” McAvee stood to refill his tea. There was a terrible silence in the room. “But, perchance, your imagination has burned to its embers.” Then, with emotion, he said, “Ye be a greater man than many to hear more than a word of my heresies.”
      I, of a sudden, felt great pity for this McAvee. He had been shown some awful visions be they true or merely the devil’s amusements, but which of the twain mattered not to him.
      “Sir,” I offered as he refilled my tea, “is there no evidence of God in this world?”
      “If God be an indulgent father, plying His offspring with miraculous gifts and baubles, then haply so. There is plenteous evidence for such benevolence. But if that be the God of that distant time – and pray for my worthless soul for saying so – then what He gives in magical toys, He denies in righteous guidance and loving sustenance.”
      “’Tis awful to hear.”
      “Mark ye, Merriwick. You are quite the younger man than I. It may pass that God sees fit to grant you the years that you may see 1776, to witness this world I speak of set into motion. Remember this day, then, when I told you that the founding document – the day of its writing which this new nation will establish as its birthday – contains a stirring passage about God’s greatest right given to Man being the ‘pursuit of happiness.’”
      “The ‘pursuit of happiness’?”
      “Yea, written by yet another son of the Virginia gentry. Not piety, mind. Nor righteousness, nor productive labors, nor the ability to worship free from meddling priesthoods. Happiness.”
      “’Tis a queer notion, for what is happiness than the joy of living in God’s favor?”
      “Or, if I may, its opposite? Could it be this happiness is merely license to fall to one’s animal nature and turn away from God and all His demands? To dance in the sun without clothes nor shame? To destroy the divisions between humans, be they sex, race or creed? To live as the slave of no man, nor deity?”
      I can hear no more of this. I stand to leave. “McAvee, know thy God is a jealous God. And He will smite thee for such foul notions.”
      McAvee stood and stepped from behind his table, moving to block me from the door. I turned and found our noses merely inches apart.
      “Your words say so,” he said. “But if you be a philosopher with a mind to question, and the very truth that you’ve traveled three days by coach to hear my blasphemous ravings suggest you are, then you know that the picture of God and His purposes is far, far larger than what can be approximated in your precious Bible, or from the mind of your dear Cotton Mather. You can think me a mad man, and I vow I blame you not for’t, but you know in your soul’s deepest recesses that the designs of God are beyond what our race can comprehend. That doubt you keep hidden is not a doubt in God, but only in what Man says He is.”
      In his eyes burned a fury that made me tremble. “I pray for your soul, sir.”
      McAvee scowled. “A plague on your praying. I ask not for such a thing. All I ask is that you give my tale the same rigorous application to reason that you give the tale of Adam’s Eve and the serpent in the Garden, a story of which, if I may, defines the liberty of you and me every day. I can’t expect you to fully believe what I’ve seen. I only hope you’ll believe my story more than that other.”
      McAvee stepped out of my way and I carefully opened the door, eager to escape this man’s torment.
      “Prithee, these Americans of yours, are they happy?” I said on the door’s threshold.
      McAvee bowed his head and stared at his hands. “They are not, nor can they ever be so, living as they do. Just as you and I envy the mule for its ignorance of its station, these future Americans would envy us for all we do not know. You may see it, as I did in their world, that we are comfortable in the bosom of Providence and they are exiled from God’s love for all their brazen sinning. But it could be as well that they see the land from a higher peak than history affords to us. It could be that our truth is only a testament to our slippery hold on the cliff face of time.”
      Barely three minutes of the hour in my coach headed back to Cambridge, I roused my compliant driver.       “May I hire ye yet another day?” ’Twas a crippling expense, I knew, and my cost mayhaps would be more than gold, but for my very soul. But I directed the coach to a nearby inn, where I secured rooms for myself and the driver. I needed time to think, to digest of  what McAvee has fed me, and to gather the courage to visit him again the next morn, and have another go at that strange feast.

Wallace Baine has been covering the arts and entertainment scene in Santa Cruz County for the Santa Cruz Sentinel for 20 years. He has won national awards for his columns, and is the host and creator of the Gail Rich Awards, honoring artists and arts supporters. He is the author of the collection Rhymes With Vain. He likes saying "Mozambique" and gets really weird when he's carrying more than $20 in his pocket.

Wallace Baine
Elizabeth McKenzie
Jill Wolfson

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Patrice Vecchione

Stephen Kessler
David Allen Sullivan

Daniella Woolf

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