Terebess Asia Online (tao)

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She brought it up to the deck and sat down next to the Captain and showed it to him. She hung on to it hard so it wouldn't blow away.

'That's a boat I was on in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, three years ago,' she said. 'With my girlfriend. See where that "X" is? That's where we used to sit.'

The boat looked like a great big beautiful wedding cake with two layers and covered with curlicued frosting. On the front was the state flag of Florida. She knew everything about that boat. Because she had been on it. Many times. The sky was sort of pink and blue with big cottony clouds blowing by in the wind. The boat left just before sunset and that's how the sky looked. All the flags on the boat were fluttering in the breeze. That was the trade wind. And all around were dark green coconut palm trees waving in the trade wind and the water was pink and blue all around the boat from the sunset with ripples from the breeze. That's the way it really was. The picture looked so real you wanted to stick your finger in it and feel how warm the water was.

The Captain took the pamphlet in one hand while he steered with the other. He looked at it for a while and then she could see he was reading the part at the bottom. She knew it by heart:

A MUST in Fort Lauderdale.



'Acclaimed Florida's Finest Evening'

Come aboard our new 550 passenger boat.

Bar-B-Q and Shrimp Dinner Cruise - 7 p.m.

Alcoholic Beverages Available.

Make reservations at your Hotel or Motel or Phone.

His expression didn't change. He squinted at it like a doctor examining somebody. Then he frowned and said, 'Do you know the owners, or something?'

'No,' Lila said. 'It's just a boat we rode on a few years ago.'

'That's a head-boat,' he said.

'What's a head-boat?'

'Where they charge by the head to go cruising.'

'Of course,' Lila said. She didn't understand why he was frowning. 'But they don't charge very much. Open it up.'

The Captain opened up the pamphlet to a big picture of the Jungle Queen. He asked, 'Why is this so important to you?'

'I don't know,' Lila said. She looked up at him to see if he was really listening. 'I can remember so many worlds,' she said, 'I'm not sure what I mean by that . . . but there are so many worlds and I just touch them and I'm in them for a moment and then I'm out of them again . . . Things like my grandfather's house where I used to play. And my dog that I used to have . . . things like that. They don't really mean anything to anybody else except once in a while you can share them with someone.'

The Captain looked down and read, 'A Lauderdale tradition for over thirty years . . . the "all you wish to eat" dinner, the vaudeville show and the sing-a-long have made it a "must" in Fort Lauderdale. There is nothing else like it . . .'

The Captain looked up. 'What's a sing-a-long?' he asked.

'She was my favorite,' Lila said.


'The woman who led the sing-a-long. She could have been my sister. I wish she was my sister. At first everyone was so stuffed with food no one wanted to sing very much, but she got them all going.

'She's not like me at all,' Lila said. 'She had dark hair, really beautiful dark hair and a beautiful figure and she had what you call a "magnetic personality." You know what I mean? She really liked everybody who was there and they all liked her too. She didn't act like she thought she was any better than anybody else . . . There was this old man sitting in front of us and he wouldn't say anything ... he was just like you ..." Lila watched the Captain. 'So she sat next to him and put her arms around him and started to sing "Put Your Arms Around Me Baby" to him and pretty soon he couldn't keep from grinning. She wouldn't let anybody sit there and act like they were all alone.

'You could see she was very smart. I mean how quick she was to catch on to everything. One man tried to grab her and she just smiled as sweet as if he handed her a ten-dollar bill or something. She said, 'You just save that for your wife, honey,' and everybody laughed. And he liked it too. She knew how to take care of herself.

'She sang "Oh, You Great Big Beautiful Doll," and "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby," and "Nothing Could Be Finer Than to be in Carolina," and lots of others. I wish I could remember them all. And all the time the boat was floating down the river through the palm trees in the dark and it was so beautiful. And then she sang, "Shine On Harvest Moon," and just as the boat came around a corner of the river the palm trees opened up and there it was. A full moon. Everybody went "Ohhhhhh!" See, she planned it that way so that she would be singing that just as they came around the corner.'

'Ugh.' The Captain looked angry.

'What's the matter?'

'That's too much.'

'What's too much?' Lila asked.

'That's all static,' he said.

'What's that?'

'It's just cliches, one after another!'

He pointed to the picture of the Jungle Queen. 'Look at those smokestacks coming out the top. Those are for a steamboat. That isn't any steamboat.'

'They're just there to look pretty.'

They don't look pretty. A pretty boat doesn't have all that fake gingerbread and phony smokestacks.'

Lila took the pamphlet back. 'It's a very beautiful boat,' she said.

The Captain shook his head. 'Beauty isn't things trying to look like something else.'

He's something else, Lila thought.

'Beauty is things being just what they are,' he said. 'There probably isn't one thing on that boat that's original.'

'Why does it have to be original?'

'It's play-acting. It's make-believe.'

'What difference does that make? If it's what people like?'

He didn't have any answer for that.

'Disneyland's all fake too,' Lila said. 'I suppose you don't like that either?'


'How about movies? TV? That's all fake too, I guess, huh?'

'It depends on what they do,' the Captain said.

'You sure must enjoy yourself a lot,' Lila said. She folded up the pamphlet carefully. Arguing with him seemed to make the Captain mad. He didn't want anybody to argue with him.

He said, 'I suppose if the boat gave three million rides they must be doing something right. But it's all -' he shook his head 'prostitution.'


'Yeah. It's all taking the customer's money and giving him exactly what he wants and then leaving him poorer than when he started. That's what that singer was doing with those songs. She could have sung something original and left them richer, but she didn't want to do that, because if she sang something they never heard before they might not like that and might ignore her or turn on her and she'd lose her job and she wouldn't get her money any more. And she knew that and that's why she never sang anything that was really her own, did she? She was just imitating some kind of person she was sure they liked and they went along with it. That's why she's a hustler. They were paying her to imitate someone making love to them.'

Watch out, Lila, she thought. She was really getting mad. She was herself! He was the phony! How did he know what she was like? He wasn't even there.

'People should be themselves,' he went on. 'Not phony singers on a phony boat.'

Hang on, Lila.

She smiled a little and said, 'I'm getting cold.' She got up carefully and went back down inside the cabin again.

There she let out her breath.

God, that made her mad!

Oh boy! Oh boy!

A smokestack. A big blowhard smokestack, that's what he is. 'Yeah! A big phony smokestack. That's exactly what he is. He thinks he's so smart. It's all over his face. And he's not smart. He's stupid. He doesn't know anything. He doesn't even know what a hustler is. He doesn't even know how stupid he is.'

Lila opened her suitcase again, carefully folded the brochure, tied it together with her other things with the red ribbon, and then put it in its special compartment and closed the suitcase and locked it.

Hang on, Lila. Never get mad at people like that, she thought. Don't let yourself get angry. That's what they want.

Her hands were shaking.


She knew what that meant.

She got her purse from the berth, opened it and took out the pills, got a plastic glass by the sink and pumped some water into it and then swallowed them. She had to do that quick, or they didn't work. She'd been feeling the wave coming all morning. She'd been riding in front of it too long. She should have blown up at him. Then this wouldn't have happened.

Smokestack! He looked at that picture like it was some kind of an ant or something. That's what smokestacks like him do. Just to prove how smart they are. She knew what they were like. Just when you start being nice to them they turn on you like that. There's just one thing someone like him loves - to hear himself blow smoke.

Well, that was that, she guessed. Nothing more to do on this boat until they got to New York. And then get off.

Suddenly she felt cold. That always happened after her hands started to shake. She hoped the pills would work in time. Sometimes they didn't. She unlocked the suitcase again, took out another sweater and put it on over the one she already had on, then closed the suitcase and locked it again and put it away on the upper berth.

It would be good to get back to living on land again, Lila thought. She was really done with all this boat life. It wasn't the way she thought it was going to be. Nothing ever was. She didn't have to put up with him one more night, but she didn't want to pay for a bus.

On the ledge back of the berth was a radio. Lila opened it and tried to turn it on. It wouldn't work. She turned on all the switches, back and forth, but none of them worked. Then she found a switch and she could hear some static noise. It worked.

There were lots of stations. One of the announcers said something about Manhattan.

She listened for a while. They were close now. Some music from one station was close and dreamy, the kind anyone could dance to.

She just wanted to get to New York now. Would it be four years now? No, five! Five whole years. Where did they go so fast?

Jamie would never be there. Just to see him again the way he used to look, the way he used to smile at her when he was feeling good. That's all she wanted. And a little money too.

He'd be hard to find. She would have to ask around. Mindy might know. Probably she was gone too. No one ever stayed any place long. She'd find someone who knew.

She wondered what the old place looked like now. Once in a while they would play an old slow one like that and Jamie would go slow with it. The way he held his hands on her. The way he touched and handled her. It all came back with the music. She was a real princess then, but she didn't know it.

'Lila,' she could hear him say, 'you got something on your mind. I can just tell. What is it?' And then after a while she'd just tell him and he'd always listen and he'd never argue with her no matter what she told him. She was crazy to leave. She never should have left.

Even with two sweaters on Lila was still cold. She needed a blanket. She remembered now that she'd had one when she woke up last night but now it wasn't here. She got up, went to the front of the boat, took the blanket off the bed and brought it back to the main cabin.

The shaking of her hands was getting worse. It always happened after she got mad like that and there wasn't anything she could do about it. She should have screamed at the Captain but it was too late for that now. When she could scream or hit somebody or even just swear at them then sometimes the wave would stop.

She turned off the radio.

She listened to the sound of the wind above and the lapping sound of water on the hull. So quiet. So different from the Karma.

She wondered what she would do in Manhattan. To get money. Waitressing probably. She wasn't much good for anything else any more. She'd find somebody. She

always did. She wished the Captain was different and they could sail all the way to Florida together. But he was a stupid smokestack. He reminded her of Sidney. Sidney was the kind you always knew was going to be a doctor or lawyer or something like that. He was always supposed to be so nice but you could never talk to him really. He was always looking down on you and he thought you didn't know it.

That's the kind her mother always wanted her to pay attention to. The Captain had the same expression -like he was always thinking about something. Sidney was a pediatrician now making lots of money and had four kids, she had heard. 'See!' her mother'd say.

Oh, God, not her. Why was it her mother appeared when her hands started shaking? The men her mother liked were always rich. Like the Captain here. And Sidney. They're the real hustlers. The women who marry for the money. She shouldn't think that about her mother. She shouldn't think about her mother at all.

It was coming. The wave was coming. The pills weren't going to stop it.

The Captain wasn't Sidney though. He was something different. Really strange, like he knew something he wasn't telling.

When she danced with him last night, she remembered, it was like at first he was just an ordinary person but then it got more and more like he was somebody else. He got real light, like he didn't weigh anything at all.

He knew something. She wished she could remember what he said. He talked about some Indians and he said something about good and evil.

Why should he talk like that?

There was something else. It had something to do with her grandfather's house.

She tried to remember.

Her grandfather always talked about good and evil. He was a preacher.

Something to do with the Captain. The way he looked at that dead dog and didn't say anything. No, he did say something! He said they were all going where the dog was going!

On her grandfather's wall, she remembered now, there'd been a great big picture in his living room where a man was standing in a boat going across a river to an island. At the bottom it said something in German. Her grandfather said it meant 'Island of the Dead.' Then her grandfather was dead and she always thought of him as going to that island. Where Lucky was. Lucky met him when he got there.

He was always talking about good and evil and how she would go to hell for her sins if she wasn't good. The boatman was taking people across the river to hell to the island because they had sinned.

Lucky, her black and white dog. He looked just like that dog today, floating with his two feet up in the air.

Why did she remember it now? That picture burned up in a fire when her grandfather's house burned down. That's why God burned her grandfather's house down. To send him to hell. It was all mixed up.

Nothing makes any sense, Lila thought. Nothing ever did but now it was worse.

Who was he? she wondered. Everything seemed so dreamy. Like she didn't really belong here. There was something wrong with her, she knew there was. But nobody would tell her what it was.

She listened to the wind. It was getting louder. The boat was tipping more and more on its side. Why was this river so empty? Why was this river so lonely? Weren't they supposed to be getting near New York? Where were the other boats?

Why was the wind getting louder?

The people along the bank of the river. They never made a sound when the boat went by. It was as if they couldn't even see the boat.

A sudden gust of wind hit and the boat rocked way over to one side and Lila hung on and looked up through the hatchway and could see the Captain. He couldn't see she was watching him and his face was sad and serious as though he was at a funeral. As though he was carrying a coffin. Something was wrong.

Something terrible was coming. Something was going to happen. It couldn't go on like this. She could just feel it in her bones. It was coming. Seeing that dog like that in the water.

It looked like Lucky. Why should he come back now?

She knew! They were coming to that place in the mountains! What did the Captain say it was? 'End of the World.'' What did he mean by that!?

What did he MEAN!

Lila sat back on her berth. She pulled the blanket up around her face and listened. All she could hear was the howl of the wind and the sound of the water against the side of the boat.

Suddenly came a huge RRRRROAR!!! . . .

She screamed!


Phaedrus throttled the engine back to a fast rumbling idle. Then he headed the boat up into the howling wind which caught the sail and cracked it like a whip. He dashed forward and freed the halyard. He pulled the sail down as fast as he could, furled it with a single stop and got back to the tiller again before the boat lost its heading.

Crazy wind. Damn gale through here. They didn't tell him about this in Castleton. Whew!

The water was full of whitecaps and spray. He should have seen that before he reached it. He wasn't paying attention.

He uncleated the topping lift and lowered the boom into its gallows notch, then sat down again.

With the sail down and the engine guiding the boat everything now seemed under control. Storm King Mountain loomed over him to the right and Breakneck Ridge to the left. Up ahead was West Point and the dog-leg in the river called 'World's End.' Apparently this wind was some sort of funnel-effect from the mountains.

After a while he saw that the wind wasn't getting any worse. It just seemed to hold at a mild gale force.

He'd bought this boat with the illusion that when you sailed you just sat and admired the scenery. It seemed like he hadn't sat still for five minutes in all these days without something needing attention.

Now he saw that he'd furled the sail too sloppily and it was blowing loose. He tied the tiller, went forward again, and this time got all the sail tucked in properly and the stops carefully knotted.

He wondered why Lila was still below somewhere and hadn't reacted to all this. He supposed he could have gotten her up here to take the tiller while he fixed the sail but something told him it would be easier just to tie it off himself. She wasn't the 'aye-aye-sir' sort of crewman you needed for jobs like this.

Up ahead were waves caused by the change in the direction of the river. The water looked angry at having been forced to change its path. As he approached he saw it boil up from below and whirl around in strange eddy currents. He headed the boat away from them.

Everything he said turned out wrong with her. No point in aggravating the situation any further. She lived in another world. She really did. And you could never break into this world by superimposing on it patterns of your own.

What he'd told her about that head-boat was valuable if she'd been listening. But she wasn't. She wasn't a listener. She had a set of fixed static patterns of value and if you argued with her she'd get mad at you and maybe spite you in some way and that's about all. He'd seen enough of that. He'd been bucking that stuff all his life.

At the south entrance to the military academy the wind died away to a mild breeze. The boat passed under the high castle-like walls and he thought of calling Lila up to look at it but decided he'd better not. She wouldn't be interested.

After a while the academy was out of sight and the wind started to pick up again into a sailing breeze. He decided not to put up the sail. The day was running on. He felt tired now. The engine could do it from here.

He sure didn't feel like going anywhere tonight. All he wanted to do was sleep.

Does Lila have Quality? There it was again, Rigel's infuriating question. It would come back again and again like that until he had an answer for it. That was the way his mind worked. Why did he ever answer 'yes'? She seemed determined to prove Rigel was right. He shouldn't have given any answer at all.

Does a dog have a Buddha-nature? It's the same question. It's exactly the same question.

You could transpose it right into that whole Zen verse by Mumon:

'Does Lila have Quality?

That's the most important question of all.

But if you answer "yes" or you answer "no,"

You lose your own Quality.'

That's a perfect transposition. That's exactly what happened. He answered 'yes.' That was his mistake. He let himself get caught in the kind of 'picking-and-choosing' situation that Zen avoids, and now he was stuck.

... It wasn't that the question wasn't answerable. It was answerable but the answer went on and on and you never got done.

... It isn't Lila that has quality; it's Quality that has Lila. Nothing can have Quality. To have something is to possess it, and to possess something is to dominate it. Nothing dominates Quality. If there's domination and possession involved, it's Quality that dominates and possesses Lila. She's created by it. She's a cohesion of changing static patterns of this Quality. There isn't any more to her than that. The words Lila uses, the thoughts she thinks, the values she holds, are the end product of three and a half billion years of the history of the entire world. She's a kind of jungle of evolutionary patterns of value. She doesn't know how they all got there any more than any jungle knows how it came to be.

And yet there in the middle of this 'Lila Jungle' are ancient prehistoric ruins of past civilizations. You could dig into those ruins like an archaeologist layer by layer, through regressive centuries of civilization, measuring by the distance down in the soil, the distance back in time.

That was an intriguing idea. You could structure a whole analysis around this one person, interview her, find out what her values were and then show the entire metaphysics in terms of one specific case . . . This whole metaphysics was crying for something to bring it down to earth. He could ask her questions all the way to Florida.

He thought about it for a while.

It would be an ideal interviewing situation.

What could she tell him, though? Those patterns might be there but she doesn't know what they are. She'd just sit there and tell him about her typing and her head-boat and all the different kinds of food she likes, and complain about the coffee and he wouldn't get anything. Some trip that would be.

Something else sounded wrong too. It was too contrived, too full of objective 'observational' stuff. It ignored the whole Dynamic aspect. There is always this open end of Dynamic indeterminacy. It would be impossible to predict anything from what she said.

Also, she didn't think much of him. She probably wouldn't tell him anything. Just like the Indians and the 'objective' anthros.

Dusenberry should be here. He could get it out of her. All I'm good for is theory, Phaedrus thought.

But the theory was OK. Lila is composed of static patterns of value and these patterns are evolving toward a Dynamic Quality. That's the theory, anyway. She's on her way somewhere, just like everybody else. And you can't say where that somewhere is.

The theory had arrived in his mind several months ago with the statement, 'All life is a migration of static patterns of quality toward Dynamic Quality.' It had been boiling around in his mind ever since.

In traditional, substance-centered metaphysics, life isn't evolving toward anything. Life's just an extension of the properties of atoms, nothing more. It has to be that because atoms and varying forms of energy are all there is. But in the Metaphysics of Quality, what is evolving isn't patterns of atoms. What's evolving is static patterns of value, and while that doesn't change the data of evolution it completely up-ends the interpretation that can be given to evolution.

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