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I’m driving in my car
I turn on the radio
I’m pulling you close
You just say no
You say you don’t like it
But girl I know you’re a liar
‘Cause when we kiss
Late at night
I’m takin’ you home
I say I wanna stay
You say you wanna be alone
You say you don’t love me
Girl you can’t hide your desire
‘Cause when we kiss
You had a hold on me
Right from the start
A grip so tight
I couldn’t tear it apart
My nerves all jumpin’
Actin’ like a fool
Well your kisses they burn
But your heart stays cool
Romeo and Juliet
Samson and Delilah
Baby you can bet
Their love they didn’t deny
Your words say split
But your words they lie
‘Cause when we kiss
Burnin in my soul
It’s outta control
“They always say about the soldier that he’s detached. That’s true, for he’s been in the eye of the storm, his heart has been broken, and he doesn’t even know it.”
“And wrong about the painting. Like everyone else, I backed off. I said, ‘We’ll never know about La Tempesta, it’s a mystery.’ I retreated to the visual elements, the technique, its strange contra-historical power. I thought it was a dream, because it has the lucidity and freedom of a dream, a dream’s unburdening, and a dream-like truth.”
The scholar agreed. “I think it’s a dream, a great dream, with – as you put it – the lucidity, freedom, unburdening, and truth of a dream.”
“No.” Alessandro said. “Though it could be a dream, it isn’t. I know now exactly what it is, and I know the source of its power.”
“Dare you tell?” the scholar asked, only half…
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“It was an indescribable sensation of bliss to be yet alive, if only for a short time, if only for just one little hour longer. Anything might happen in an hour …”
Back in my cell, evil thoughts encircled me, knowing all too well the significance of this visit to the hospital. The end of the war in sight; that was the bitterness. Ironical that I had dodged so many, so many of those sanguine afternoons down there.
Monday morning I looked down into the yard. There were the boxes, piled six high, three laterally – eighteen! I wonder on which label might be indited my name.
Before leaving my cell in the afternoon when they came to fetch me, I insisted on washing my eating-bowl and spoon and putting them where they were wont to be, knowing how loathsome it is to discover a bowl crusted with the dried…
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I had moved my position so it lay due west of Wild Bill, which meant the rising sun was just above his head and consequently shining at my eyes. Ordinarily, I would have reached to pull down the brim of my planter’s hat, but facing a man like Hickok you don’t make the most innocent move.
So I commenced to squint. “You claim I am a cheat, do you?” I asks.
“That is right,” says he.
“And a liar?”
“Yes you are.”
I says: “I want to lower my hatbrim against the sun. I’m a-going to use my left hand.”
“Make it real slow,” he says, and hooks his thumbs into that red sash just forward of the white gun-butts on both sides.
My left hand crawled upwards like a caterpillar on a wall, caught the brim, and depressed it an inch. Then I turned my palm forward and flung open my fingers.
At the same time I went for my gun with my right hand. For a particle of a second I didn’t know what Wild Bill was doing; if you remember, he had trained me to concentrate on myself at the instant of action. So I didn’t rightly see him draw, but I sure saw the muzzle of his Colt’s spit lead and smoke directly at me.
I surely would have been killed had I not employed a trick.
I caught the sun in my mirror-ring and reflected its glare into Hickok’s eyes, then dived to the ground. Though momentarily blinded, he drew as efficiently as always and sent two shots a-roaring through the space occupied by my head a scant instant before. But he couldn’t see nothing but green spots for a time, I reckon, for he next lowered his sixguns and stood there blinking. He looked right pathetic, now that I think of it, for all his six foot of dressed deerskin, trimmed with fur.
I laid quite safe there in the street, under his fire, but I daren’t speak a word on account of he could then have sighted on the sound of my voice. I had my own pistol out, and could have killed the great Wild Bill at that point and gone down in history for it.
Well, the moment in silence wasn’t any longer in reality than the moment of gunfire, and then Bill says: “All right, hoss, you whipped me again. Blast away.” I don’t answer. He says: “I tell you you better fire, because in a second I’m going kill you if you don’t.”
That fellow with the wagon had pulled to the side of the street and crawled under his vehicle, still several blocks distant. But two shots wasn’t enough to wake anybody out of bed in them days, especially that early of a morning, so we as yet did not have no other audience so far as I knowed.
“You trying to play me for a fool?” says Bill, right exasperated and he sent three more hunks of lead blowing through the air that I had lately vacated, then does that so-called border switch, the flying transfer of his guns. And his vision cleared some by now, so I guess he could make out I was laying on the ground, and he come over and prodded me with his boot and says: “Oh, I got you anyway, taking me for dead and wounded. I laid there with my eyes closed.
Then he says: “I’m sorry, hoss. But it was fair, wasn’t it? I taught you, didn’t I? And now I’m going to carry you over to the doc, and if you are dead I’ll buy you a nice funeral.”
I figured out by now he would have put away his gun, so as he bent over to pick me up, I come to life and shoved my pistol into his nose.
“Are you satisfied?” I asks. “I could have killed you ten times by now.”
Living his type of life, he didn’t have much energy to spare for astonishment. He squinted and backed up with his hands in the air. Then he let them down slowly and laughed a huge guffaw.
“Hoss,” he says, “you are the trickiest little devil I have ever run across. You know there are a couple of hundred men who would give all they owned to get a clear shot at Wild Bill Hickok, and you throw it away.”
He was laughing, but I reckon somewhere deep he was actually offended, such was his idea of himself. He would rather I had killed him than to take pains to show I was basically indifferent to the fact of his existence so long as I could protect my own hide.
He tried one more thing to pry from me an admission that I was fascinated by him. He says: “I guess you can go about now saying how you out a head on Wild Bill Hickok.”
I says: “I’ll never mention it.” And I have kept my word from that day to this. I wasn’t going to give him no free advertisement of any kind. That was the trouble with them long-haired darlings like him and Custer: people talked about them too much.
His mustache drooped in disappointment, but he laughed again to keep up the hearty front, and he says: “I’m going over to Abilene to be marshal. If you ever get over that way, hoss, why I’ll be proud to buy you a drink. But damn if I’ll ever play poker with you again.”
We waited in silence. The guard at the door was singing quietly,
“Perche, Lili Marlene . . .
Perche, Lili Marlene?”
Otherwise there was silence. I climbed up on Frank’s shoulders and struck the plaster a light blow with the heel of my hand. It was something of a ceremony. Frank squinted up at it and said.
“Jesus Christ. We can get a battalion through there.”
The window looked enormous; it was magnificent. I pulled away the iron bars and handed them down. Then I slithered to the ground and grinned at Frank. It was too good to be true. I boosted him up on to my shoulders, and then felt his rubber-soled boot on my head, tearing at my scalp. He was a long time, and I was listening to the singing of the guard. I thought, Keep singing, you bastard, keep on singing. I saw Frank force his shoulders through the window, and for a few moments his feet slithered noisily along the ceiling, making a horrible noise. The guard was still singing,
“Una volt’ anchora, la voglio salutar’
E poi contento, partiro . . .”
Then Frank started sliding back, worming his hips back again, and I thought, Oh, God, It isn’t big enough. I had a moment of panic when I realised how much bigger I was than Frank. Then his groping feet found my shoulders again and his head re-appeared.
“What’s wrong?” I whispered angrily.
“I can’t reach the shelf, it’s too far down.”
It had seemed the shelf was only a couple of feet below, that it would have been easy to reach. There was nothing for it. I whispered,
“Well, for Christ’s sake, do a neck roll or something. Get on with it, blast you.”
Once more he disappeared with a wriggle, and this time his legs grew shorter, hesitated, then with a final awful slither disappeared altogether in growing momentum. There was a horrible thud outside, and I wondered if he had broken his neck. A moment later I saw his arm come through and I handed him the bottles, the blankets, just as we had arranged. I gripped the rough edge of the window, pulled myself up, clawing at the wall, one foot on the board, and thrust my arms through. There was a little difficulty and Frank whispered, “Try keeping your arms to your side,” and I thought, Jesus, it’s too small, I’m too wide, I shan’t make it. Frank pulled savagely at my head till my muscles were torn, but it was no good. I dropped down inside again and slipped off my jacket and shirt, handing them through to Frank. When I tried again it was better, I put one arm through first, then my head, twisting sharply at right-angles, then almost all my shoulders were through. Grunting at the strain, Frank tugged at my arm; I found the ceiling with one foot and pushed, and wriggled, and swore, and finally I was through, the rough stones scratching my flesh as I fell. I fell on my shoulders, as Frank had done, with an awful wallop.
It was quite black now. There was no moon, and we could not see the road below us. We hoped there might be a stairway down and tip-toed round to have a look-see. There was a skylight above us, and I crawled slowly up to it, testing the roof carefully before I moved. Suddenly, there in the lamplight below, were the guards and the appuntato playing cards together. I felt that the light was on my face and drew back. I wandered round the roof for a while, looking for a way down; there was none, so I rejoined Frank who was waiting anxiously.
I whispered, “No other way, we’ll have to use the blankets.”
We tied them to the bars of a window which was conveniently near; the knot took up an awful lot of the “rope” and we couldn’t see if it reached the ground or not in the dark pit below us. Frank looked at the clumsy rope snaking down into the silence and muttered, “Mon Dieu.” He swung himself slowly off the shelf, gripping the blankets tight. His eyes were anxious as they slowly sunk below. There was the sound of a tear on the way down, but they held, and a moment later I heard a whisper, “Va bene.”
I was worried about the tear; I could not see where it was. After a moment’s anxious thought I decided to leave the glass bottle behind; I did not fancy the thought of a fall in the dark with a glass fiasco in my hand. Frank had the metal water-bottle; it would have to suffice for us both. This was a lucky decision; the moment I put my weight on the rope it ripped in two with a long tearing noise and I fell to the earth. I landed on a flight of steps at the bottom, and rolled on to the road. I had let myself go limp as I fell, and I was unhurt, somewhat to my surprise, as it was a long drop down.
I told Frank about the bottle and he swore softly. We stood still for a moment in the angle of the wall, listening carefully. There was not a sound. Above us, the stars were bright and the sky was black. A cricket was calling; the rest of the night was silent.
The first obstacle was past. The worst was behind us. We were out.