The Logic of Fire, The End




A sort of agitated jubilation broke out. They had carried Gebrelis’ body into the main hall and a group of women around it was weeping and screaming. The children were huddled beside them. A bird flying in a driving snow, its eyelids freezing over. Katrina had ordered a barrel of beer opened; someone he hardly knew came up and embraced him. Old Veryowseus came up to him, seemed hardly to reach his belly button, and told a long story he could not half understand. He sat with Katrina and she got drunk and sang a song about a bear that knocked down trees in the forest. There was a drum and fife and then they were dancing, singing a song about the bear, while the circle of women around the body had fallen into liquid moaning.

Katrina later pushed him up and into her tower room and made him tell her about what he had done. When he had told all, his head was spinning and his heart and his cock were aching. Usually when they made love she straddled him, but they rolled around and he was on top when he came, clutching with his long arms the volleyballs of her ass, feeling them bunch and rest, rest and bunch like the stuff of life. Falling asleep he dreamt that Gebrelis’ corpse was twins waiting for him on the Baysus Way.

In the morning he went with the other men to dig Gebrelis’ grave. He remembered when he had first been in the graveyard; it had been when the children died. It was the same clearing in the wood. The same mounds and small wooden altars were scattered in grass, the solar discs, the fanciful animals, the bird with a head like a dick, and the cartoon-like human figures, a voluptuous woman, and old man - some new, some smudged by time, some growing back into the earth. Veryowseus marked out a site about four feet square and they began to dig. Stretch remembered that Lacy too had slept with Katrina and felt as if he were burying himself.

At noon many of the others filtered in from the forest in ones or two's and three's. No children were among them. Four women including Samelat carried the body, now folded square on its side in a fetal position. How had they done that? He was dressed as he dressed in life and his hands were closed around a carved wooden beehive. Katrina had come and they stood side by side.

People took turns scattering flowers over the body. Ragnas picked up a handful of dirt, then ran it out of her hand onto the ground to frame a square around the open grave. She recited a spell, and there was some singing, then she stepped back and they began the procession to the river. At this time in the year it was partly frozen, the icy sides covered with snow and a black flow at the center. Samelat walked cautiously out onto the ice carrying a wooden bowl like a salad bowl. Stretch took Katrina' hand. Samelat began to recite:

Husband, my standby, you were not a caulked wall

Yet you proved some cover against the wind.

Husband, my well of knowledge, my whole conversation,

whom shall I talk with now?

By day with the wind, by night with the walls.

Husband, when you were mine I did not need to open the door.

Husband, I have closed the door behind you.

Husband, now the wind blows open my door.

Husband, without you I am left with my children.

Who will teach your son how to care for the bees?

Others will teach him, sad of heart.

Husband, thank your fellowship for this lament, for their singing.

Then she threw the lungs and liver, he knew that's what they were, out to where the black water churned in the center. The crowd moaned. Stretch thought how if Gebrelis had not chosen to go with him, he would be working here today and began to cry. Katrina embraced him. He wanted to bury his head in her shoulder, but he was too tall. A paper rising unburned through flames.

In the afternoon they held a wake in the main hall. People drank and told stories about Gebrelis. Veryowseus was telling about the first day Gebrelis had come to the bailey when the door opened, and Lacy stepped through.

He was wearing an outfit Stretch remembered from his childhood: tight blue jeans clasped his agile limbs; cream colored, tooled, high-heeled cowboy boots shod his nimble feet where polished spurs flashed like fire. He wore a gold shirt with a red inset and gold piping, a gold bolo with a large turquoise, a five-gallon hat on the back of his head, and on his hip in a holster and six-gun with gold and white shining on the handle. Ragnas retreated to the wall and began reciting spells.

He glanced back at Ragnas, then, without speaking, he made his way with his rolling horseman's gate to the table, seated himself on a bench before Stretch and Katrina, taking the seat Ragnas had vacated. He doffed his hat and laid it before him, put his elbows on each side of it, folded his hands and leaned his chin against them with a thoughtful look on his lined, childish face as if they had a mutual problem they must all solve together. Stretch could feel his back and hands knotting up. Lacy complimented Katrina spinning. She neither spoke nor moved a muscle.

"Well, now, I think you have something of mine," he began in English.

"We're ready to make a deal," Stretch said.

"Well, we, well, well, you know that's a bit of a problem. You, it's as if you were attached to California by a rubber band. Why, I'm barely able to keep you here this minute, but our friend Katrina..." he paused and looked at her. "Are you certain you want to stick with this woman? She may not be in your best interests, and, you know, I do have your interests at heart."

He was speaking in English so she could not understand his words, but she was rising. She stood on the step of her raised chair. She spit at him. The glob did not reach him, but fell on the table.

"I want to stay here," Stretch said in their language.

Lacy shook his head sadly.

"My life is here now. "

He pulled a business-like face and said in English, "Of course I don't have to oblige you." His eyes seemed were both tired and burning, as they had been at the inn in Wilna and in the Western bar where Stretch had wounded his parole officer. Across the space Stretch felt his interlocutor's hand tensing toward the handle of his gun. Stretch's hand to cap to head was faster, gone his hand to the gun almost as fast, he then feeling the other's sinewy handback gripping, the finger on the trigger, bang! the bullet splintering the table, the frightened people running for the doors, Katrina standing, moaning, he now with his finger, holding the gun firing at the earth floor, a second time, third, fourth, fifth time, Katrina screaming with exultation, sixth, the smaller hand relaxing in his, he taking the gun, casting it into the fire. The smell of powder filled the room and wisps of white smoke hung in the still, close air.

Lacy stood, looked around. The room was empty except for Katrina and him. Stretch stood behind him, cap off. "You and I are men of the world," Lacy said, "and these..." he gestured toward the farm patiently beyond the walls of the main hall.

"My life is here now," Stretch repeated, "Nothing calls me back."

"It's not necessary..." Lacy began again.

"It is necessary," Stretch said, "for me to trust you one time. I will give you the bag, if you let me keep the cap as long as I live and let me be." Stretch said.

Lacy nodded. Stretch stepped over and put his arm around Katrina.

"Promise," Stretch said.

"Can I stop by and talk about old times?" Lacy asked slyly in Litua.

Stretch looked at Katrina. She shrugged

"I promise," Lacy said. He held out his hand. Stretch took the bag from his inner packet. Their hands touched in exchanging the woolen wad; then Lacy was a bright orange bird flashing up through the smoke hole.