TGD #17

“Just who the hell was Joseph anyway” the thought crept back into his head, as the wind and the roar of the pipes blended into a vibration that seemed to open up his heart.
It still hurt, he just couldn’t understand her reverence for this stranger. This person who just walked into her life, and just as quickly disappeared. She talked about him like he was some sort of saint. She said it was her Walkabout, that she left Downtown as one person and arrived hours later at her home a different person, and he had shown her the way.

“He took me from the gates of hell” she told him, and showed me the way to life.
“What kind of life”, he thought, “She was never the same after that day”
When she talked about life after that there was a look in her eyes that was far away, no, deeper.

She had told him that after they stopped for water at the bodega, and Joseph was so reassuring about the trains running, that he accompanied her a few more blocks until they found a park where there were people resting, and toward the west side there was a bench with a statue in front of it.

“Not just any statue” she said “It was a statue of the Virgin Mary”
She described it as the kind you see everywhere with the shawl on her head, and the snake at her feet.
Joseph told her he had to go back, since she was safe now. He told her; “Her journey had just begun”, touched her on the cheek, turned and headed back downtown. She said she was saddened at his leaving, it was good to have a friend that day, so she sat on the bench in front of the statue, and prayed.
“Harder than she ever prayed in her life” Is what she said.
“Weeping and praying”, not for herself and the mess she was in, but for all of the people involved in that day.
Everyone, “the evil and the good”, is the way she put it.
Brandon never understood what she told him next, and now, why it was now that he was reliving it? He was puzzled by the thoughts, but they ran through his brain, like the white lines passing beneath him as the speedometer touched eighty five.

“My eyes were cloudy“ she said. “From the tears, and from the dust, but I know what I saw, and I know what I heard”
“She lifted her bowed head, looked at me, and in a voice softer than my ears have ever felt she said “Because you have believed, you have been saved”
Then Rae told him; “Her halo of light reached out and wrapped around me”
“Unstuck in time”, is the way she described what it felt like “and then a firetruck screamed by, and everything was as it was before.”
“Except for me” she said “from that moment on my world, my life was never the same”

Straight ahead in the desert sky in a green streak that crossed the sky a shooting star burned out, and Brandon’s focus came back to the bike, the road, and the miles left to go. He was hours behind his schedule. Not that he had to be in Oakland on a specific day, but he was one who liked to be on schedule, and the delay in the desert was time he could never make up.


TGD #16

The sun had set, and the hot desert air was cooling quickly. Under the cloudless sky, the stars came out one by one, and the darkness became pitch black. The stardust of the Milky Way shown faintly overhead. The old man moaned, and Brandon told him to be still, and just sip the water he had given him;
“You’re dehydrated, old man, and lucky to be alive. We’ll be in town in less than an hour” He had checked the map and there was a hospital about fifty miles up the road. The old pickup road well, and they were making good time, so he knew what he had told his new found friend was true.
Within the hour, the two of them were at the Emergency Room entrance, and fortunately it was a quiet night. Brandon got an ER nurse out to the truck with a gurney. He explained what had happened earlier out in the desert, and as he did, he told the nurse about the woman who flagged him down, the nurse asked where she was, and Brandon stepped back, with a wonder in his eyes.
“Yeah” he said, “Where is she?”
“She was there, and then she was gone”
“I got so busy getting this guy out of there, I just forgot about her”
“Well we can ask him when he’s feeling up to it” she said.
And with that off she went with orderlies pushing the gurney, and her asking the old man his name, and all the standard questions that a trained ER nurse will run through to triage a patient, in order to assess their state of mind. Regardless of the circumstances that brought them together, Brandon was not a relative, so he was asked to wait in the ER Waiting Room. He would also need to answer a few questions when the local police got there. Considering the man’s condition and how he had been found, the hospital had to file a report.
Brandon spied a coffee machine, and that was all it took for the waiting to be agreeable. He dropped a couple of coins into the machine, selected black, no sweetener, and the thing began to whir and gurgle, not unlike the pumps and expansion tanks he used for the big electromagnets back at the University.
Lost in thought, he could hear the thumping of the equipment again, feel the thrill of watching the temperature rise in the magnetic bottle, to the point where fusion could be maintained, and the disappointment of the collapse of the field magnets and the ruined experiment, time and time again. That disappointment, made even stronger, when the funding ran out, and the whole project got shelved. He was sure he had the answer, but needed time and more money to get the magnets right. But time ran out. Einstein was right he thought – Time was relative, everything was. He sat down with his cup, and looked at the poker hand on the cup – it was a straight.
“How about that” he thought.
By the time had had finished his coffee, a local cop strolled into the ER and the nurse at the desk pointed over to Brandon.
As he approached he said in a smokey voice “I’m Patrolman Bill Miller, you the guy that found old Jake”
“He’s lucky to be alive, ain’t the first time he’s been caught out there”
“Jake?” Brandon asked
“Yeah, his names Jake Watson, he’s been living out there alone in the desert ever since his wife died five years ago.”
“He’s always out there in the heat looking for Meteorites. He’s been making his living selling those rocks for long as I been on the force.”
“He’s a geologist?” Brandon said
“Yeah, got some kinda degree from back east, but we always called him the Rock Hound”

The paperwork was as simple patrolman Bill Miller was; license, registration, where you from, where you going. Brandon gave the contact info at the lab where he was heading.The cop asked him to sign the report and that was it. He thanked him for saving him the trip out to the desert with the Medical Examiner, told him to have a safe trip, got up and disappeared through the sliding doors.
As Brandon’s gaze turned back to the waiting room the nurse came through the wide double doors in the back, and told Brandon that Jake was conscious, talking and wanted to meet the man who saved his life, and would he please follow her back to the bed where he was.
The look in Jake’s eyes was entirely different now, there was life there, his eyes dark green like weathered bronze, his face as rutted as the high desert.
Jake slowly stretched out his hand to Brandon and said;
“Thank you for bringing me in, I thought I was a goner this time”
“Not a problem” Brandon said “But you should thank the woman who flagged me down”
“She’s the one who saved you, I would have flown right by and never seen a thing if it weren’t for her”
“That’s my Linda” He said “Always looking out for me, always trying to talk me into staying home”
“But I just tell her, there’s pieces of the planets and stars out in the desert, and I’m going” “So she just nods, brings her sun hat, and off we go”
None of this was adding up. Brandon had heard from Bill that Jake’s wife was dead, and here was this man telling him that Linda was the one who was with him, only he never saw the woman who flagged him down after he turned the bike and saw her disappear down that old dirt road.
Brandon was convinced Jake was still delirious from the sun, and wanting to get rolling again, he just went with it.
“Jake” he said “You’re in good hands here, and I have work waiting for me in Oakland, so I’m going to get on my way, you rest up”
“Well you look me up anytime you’re out this way”
“One question though” Brandon asked
“Were did you go to school” Bill Miller, the local cop who took the report, told me you had a degree in geology?”
“Princeton” Jake said “Princeton Tigers”
“Well I’ll be damned” Brandon remarked, shook Jake’s hard and calloused hand once more, turned headed down the corridor and out into the night.
Once the bike was back on the pavement Brandon donned his helmet, and went through the starting ritual; Turning on the gas tank valve, pushing the kick starter through once to set up a compression stroke, choke on, key on, and with one more sure kick, the bike came back to life. Clutch in, a kick down into first, and as he rolled out of the parking lot, working the bike up through the gears, the unreality of all that had just happened followed him down the road like an apparition.

TGD #15

Note from the author: From the buttons above select “grandfathersky’s blog” and from the drop down menu select “The Great Divide” to find the previous chapters to the story in reverse order. I apologize for the long delay in the adding this chapter, and thank all my readers for their patience – I’ll try to keep it going, the story is bursting out of my head now!

A couple of hours up the road. The sun had since set, and the air had taken on a chill that made him glad he stopped and donned his leathers. The road was mostly straight and the miles seemed to be rolling under him, instead of rolling past, but he knew by the shadows in the distance that the land was slowly rising, and the mountains were only a few more hours away.
The desert night can play ticks on the eyes, worse than the days in the heat, the cold and watercolor sunset are a strong contrast from the burning daylight. It causes the senses to become acute, maybe over sensitized, like eating chili peppers, making everything that touches the tongue burn a long time after the pepper has gone.
As he tore past what looked like an arroyo, from the corner of his eye he saw a woman dressed in white waving and pointing frantically off into the desert.
“What the hell” he thought as he squeezed the brakes, felt the front forks dive, and banged the shifter down through the gears, one by one, to get slow enough to turn around. Crossing the dividing lines and throttling up back to where he had just come, now he was sure there was a woman waving, jumping and waving, and saw her disappear down an old dirt side road.
When he got to the cut off, in the fading light, he thought he saw her step behind what looked to be old truck in a ditch.
He immediately dropped the kickstand and shut the bike down. As he squinted into the long shadows of the desert, jogging down the dirt road closer, sure enough, there was a 55 Chevy pickup, hung up with a rear wheel into a ditch, the tire hanging free, suspended in the air.
“Whoever did this was stuck but good” he whispered quietly.
With that he heard a moan, startled he stepped up to the cab and through the drivers side window he saw sprawled across the bench seat, a grizzled old man, gaunt, and exhausted, covered in desert sand and dirt, breathing, but barely.
“Mister, hey mister” Brandon pulled open the door and shook him hard. Slowly he became more conscious, his eyes exhausted, his lips and tongue swollen from dehydration.
“You’re gonna be OK, we’re gonna get you out of here”
“We?” A questioning thought ran through his head; There was no sign of the woman who was waving from the road.
“Can you hear me, we’re gonna get you out of here”
A feeble nod agreed; “Yes”.
Brandon walked around the truck twice sizing things up, and then climbed into the bed and rummaged through the accumulation of stuff that pickups always seem to have sliding around in the beds.
Bumper jack, saddle and jack handle – this was almost too good to be true. There was even enough old timber to build up under the tire and he just might be able to rock the thing forward far enough to get traction and back on the hard packed dirt road.
Twenty minutes later, it was mission accomplished. The old V-8, three speed, Chevy bounced its way back to the highway, where again with a timber, Brandon walked his bike up into the bed, and tied it upright for the ride out of there with the old man propped up on the passenger side, holding a wet bandanna between his lips, a grateful look on his weathered face.

TGD #14

Death Valley
Even though the sun was setting the highway felt hot, the bike broiling in the desert heat, made his pant legs feel like they were on fire. Except for the bike, nothing moved, not even the wind in this heat, the only coolness came from the drops of sweat that would evaporate from his brow before they could even form.

“Who in hell was Joseph anyway?” he thought. Her description of the man suddenly coursed through his brain as if on queue. Maybe the heat was making him a little crazy, maybe the desert mirages were playing tricks on him and his mind was trying to grab hold of a thought to focus on. He never understood her fascination with Joseph – he was just a man – who had the good sense to drag her out of hell that day. Although, he thought, that was a startling achievement where Rae was concerned, no one he knew could ever drag her anyplace against her will – except maybe kicking and screaming. Stan told him once that Rae refused to get into a cab he had hailed one rainy afternoon so they could get across town reasonably to a dinner they had planned with friends. She said it just didn’t feel right. She couldn’t say why, it just did, he argued with her until the cabbie just drove away. She was right, the cab got t-boned at the next light. They took the subway and argued the entire time on the train about it being “just an accident”, and maybe wouldn’t have even happened if she just got in. She swore again and again she didn’t believe in accidents – and he finally just left it at that.

Whenever she talked about Joseph, she had an almost reverent look in her eyes, and her voice got soft, quiet, almost song like. How Joseph knew things, that he just couldn’t have known, places to turn and to stop, where the right people would be, and especially where she needed to rest, and that he knew she needed some time to pray, like he knew her all his life, like a brother or something. This guy she met in a moment, lived a lifetime with in a couple of hours and just vanished, like a goddamn ghost.

There’s no such thing as ghosts, they are just figments of overactive imaginations, he thought, glancing down at the speedometer, he saw the needle pressing over 100.

“There you go again Brandon, slow it down, or you’re going or you’re going to go critical mass” he said out loud. She used to laugh an tell him that whenever he would latch onto a thought and not let it go, she said his brain was like a cyclotron – thoughts whiling and whirling, colliding and throwing off others to be studied and reduced to ever finer points. She knew him well.

The sun below the horizon now, and the air turned immediately colder, so he found a safe place to stop, idling up to a dried mud puddle mosaic. As he shut down the bike the rhythm of the road was still vibrating in his bones as pulled the leather jacket out of the saddle bag. Donning it, he paused for a moment listening to the silence of the desert, the roll of the its wind and scratching of the dried grass. He watched the heat waves in the distance dance and shimmer in the fading light.
“With any luck I’ll make the foothills sometime late, and a good sleep in the mountain air.” he thought …

TGD #13

Rae found a shady spot to rest on the sidewalk, as she sat down on the cool concrete, her mind drifted to Brandon for the first time since she passed Sal’s Pawn shop that morning, and for a moment she thought he must be wondering about her. She pulled out her cell phone, but there were no messages, she tried to call but all she got was a voice saying “All circuits are busy.”
Not surprising – she thought
– Everyone with a cell phone in NYC and the tri-state area must be either trying to call someone, or has someone trying to reach them –
– Not to mention the damage to everything that had just taken place –
So she just leaned back against the wall, took some deep breaths, relaxing herself with each one, and slowly settling in her mind the shear weight of the sights, and sounds, and feelings that she was immersed in.
As she let it all just swirl around her, she could feel a peace welling up, and and a sound in her ears. A voice that seemed to be calling her, peacefully, to follow it.
“Rae!” Joseph called to her
“Here, drink this” he said tossing her a bottle of water. “It will keep you hydrated, the day is getting warmer, and we still have some walking to do”
Their goal was the train station, but the people at the bodega who had been watching the events of the morning transpire on television, couldn’t say whether the trains were running, or if any of the tunnels were even open.There were rumors that Manhattan Island was cordoned off, that no one was getting in or out.
Joseph reached out his hand, she reached out hers, and was on her feet and heading north again without a pause.With a new burst of energy, and all the information they had to digest, they quickened their pace, and began to talk.
Rae asked “So Joseph, if the trains aren’t running what do you think, I have friends up in Inwood, that’s still Manhattan, so we’ll just camp there until we can get home. It’s a long walk if the trains aren’t running, but things are bound to improve as we get further uptown.
“I know they will Rae, I have no doubts”
The thought crossed her mind that Joseph seemed to know more than he was letting on to, but how? The phones were out, the news was sketchy, no one seemed to know anything for sure; Except that the New York was being attacked.
“You’ll be fine, and the trains will be running when we get there” he said
“The LIRR will be running, they have to clear the City, get all these people home to their families.”
“How do you know that” she insisted
“Isn’t it obvious” he said
“No” was her reply, and she just kept walking

TGD #12

Walkabout – cont’d
The day was so clear, the sky an azure blue, except for the pall that was behind them now, as they walked along each pondering the unfathomable, the earth seemed to shudder, and in the distance they heard a wailing, something almost unearthly. Like the cry of the Valkyrie Rae thought, she turned just as the first tower was disappearing below the skyline into a cloud of smoke and ash.
“My God” they exclaimed in unison.
“How many people are still inside” Rae managed to form the words.
Joseph, who had been closer when the planes hit, first one and then another told her; “The evacuation was well underway by the time I left the lobby, unless people were trapped – which I am sure there were, I think everyone who could get out did”
“Why is this happening” she asked, even though she knew there could be no answer.
Joseph spoke up, saying “Today, only The Almighty knows. Before long there will be a commission of experts who claim to know the answer”
“There will be an official investigation, and that will be all we can know”
He went on to say; “But there are reasons for this, the seeds of this day were sown in the sands of the Middle East decades ago, by men whose names were written into those buildings”
“People don’t forget broken promises” That’s all I can say, it is done and the world has now changed forever”
They sat down to rest, and as they were getting ready to move on, the earth shuddered again, only this time they knew, they didn’t have to look back. They got onto their feet, took each other’s hands and livened their pace towards Washington Square Park.
Rae spoke first, avoiding the obvious “Have you ever walked this way before – Through the City I mean, from World Trade to Penn”
“The Canadian Geese overhead will tell you it’s not that far” Joseph replied, trying to add a little lightness to the burden of the day.
“I did it a few times in college, but it’s been a while” she said.
“Can’t be that long” Joseph said, feigning a little flattery
After a so many more blocks their hands were full of sweat from holding on so tight, they passed into a shady  place, and paused to find some water.
“I’m parched” said Joseph. There’s a bodega I know up ahead, let’s take a moment to breath, and get a drink of water” He had learned from his many teachers growing up, some of which were Yogis,that water was essential to clarity, that the mind and the body must rest together, they need to commune with each other, otherwise one or the other will run away, sometimes into madness.

TGD #11

Walkabout – cont’d
The man she just men, the one who would become her companion home said;
“Let’s go, we need to get uptown before things get worse” – and surely they would.
“My name is Joseph”
Strange she thought, I never meet and Indian, named Joseph.
She would learn more about that as the day passed, but for now she just said “Raphael, my friends call me Rae”
Joseph said “Then you shall be the Rae of Hope, with us today”
and she replied “OK then, we need to get uptown, as quickly as we can”
“Broadway” he said, and without another word they were on their way.
In an effort to get acquainted, Rae thought to ask more about his name.
“So tell me Joseph, how does someone from the Near East have a name like Joseph.” Thinking it was a name he had taken to ‘westernize’ himself working in the financial district.
“It’s a Christian name” he said.
“Well of course” she replied. “So you are Christian, by faith, isn’t India a Hindu country?”
“In my country there are many, many Christians, even the Christians from the west don’t know that St. Thomas came to India in 52 AD, he preached the Gospel to many Brahman families and they received the faith. He was martyred in India, and his tomb is revered to this day. We even celebrate St. Thomas Day.
“I never knew” replied Rae. “All these years, and all the religious training I’ve had from my family and churches, and never a mention of St Thomas in India”.
“Well, something like three percent of the population of my country is Christian. Culturally we are a very diverse nation. There are elements of so many faiths, it is hard to draw a line between them, and I’ve always felt we are all standing before the same God anyway”
Joseph asked “Tell me about yourself, If I were to guess, I would say you were from the Islands”
“Well, you guessed right, my family came to the United States from Puerto Rico in the forties, during the war, my father worked building aircraft, so after, we settled on Long Island”
“They called New York a melting pot, but there was always a distance between cultures. There were such obvious differences, not just color.”
“My great grandmother was from Haiti, and while she practiced Christianity, her family kept the old ways too. The nature ways, as she called them. The practices that came over on the slave boats”

TGD #10

Walkabout – cont’d
The noise slowly transformed from confusion to pure terror. Screams filled in the spaces between the sounds of sirens. Air that seconds before had been peppered with ash was now filled with debris. Paper rained from the sky along with dust and ash. The sun, that burned brightly moments before was now dark and foreboding. The sky was black. She thought of turning around, but remembered her thoughts about why she wanted the compass for Brandon. She knew that the only way to go was forward. Whatever monsters were visiting this morning, she would know who they were. In order to ease the pain reflected in these faces, she had to see the source of it.

She walked on, noticing for the first time that she seemed to be the only one still headed downtown. The people who weren’t heading in the other direction had stopped and were all looking up, others were sitting on the sidewalks holding their faces and sobbing. Slowly the scene was settling into her frame of reference and she was realizing that pages of paper were blowing right out of the side of the buildings, and from the conversations she was hearing the diesel smell wasn’t from city buses, but from burning jet fuel, from the jetliners that had crashed into the towers. One more block and she saw the source of smoke and watched the flames licking up the sides of the buildings too far above the ground, and she stopped dead in her tracks, not thinking, not feeling, just awash in the ocean of bewilderment surrounding her. From the others around her she could hear some saying this was just too much for them to take but she was just feeling it all, the sights, the sounds, the smells.

Standing still in time, slowly realizing she had a decision to make. Forward or back –  later she would come to know that moment was a tipping point, a place she stood between life and death.

In the moments she stood looking up watching the twin towers burning, she wondered at why there were two eagles soaring in the sky beneath the flames, and the way their wings would wave as if grabbing onto the air disappearing into the wisps of smoke, then dipping below the false horizon of the buildings obscuring her view of the street below the towers.

She felt someone shake her arm, and she whirled around, startled at the intrusion, she saw a firefighter, wide eyed, compelling her to turn around and leave – now! She asked him what was happening, and all he told her was that he knew they were clearing the area of all ‘civilians’ and she should head back the way she had come, toward the towers was no place to go, it wasn’t safe, and it was getting worse by the minute.

Just then a man passed by, and the fireman took their hands put them together and told them to go. She told the fireman to be careful, that her prayers were with him, then turned and with the stranger, her new friend – and headed uptown. Later all she would remember of the firefighter was his compelling blue eyes, and the number 7 on his helmet. She didn’t know his name, or even if he made it through the day.

TGD #9

Walkabout – cont’d

She stopped, this time catching the pungent smell of diesel fuel in the air, like too many garbage trucks idling nearby. Looking closer, she realized that what she had thought were snowflakes were in fact paper and ash . This seemed to explain the smell but she wondered what could be burning. Buildings often burned in Manhattan but she never saw a fire in this part of town. Maybe a trashcan had caught on fire with the careless discard of a cigarette, or a dumpster fire in an alley. She kept walking, realizing again how late she was. Even as the air became thicker and the ash became more like a storm, she kept walking. With each step, she grew more certain that this was no trashcan fire. This was big, this was bad. The air was filled with something beyond fire, beyond ash.

With a stop at the corner of Liberty St. she sensed something greater than even her imagination had dared entertain. She loved this walk each morning. It gave her time to reflect but also gave her the opportunity to study people. It was a gift she had, one that rewarded her constantly. She could see inside the people she passed. She could see their joys, their sorrows, their burdens. Although the view wasn’t always great, it helped her relate. It spurred her to stop and speak to strangers; to take their hands; to pass some peace to them with her words. It didn’t solve their problems. She knew that. But she could sometimes see a difference in their eyes, the same as you might see as a drowning man finally catches the rope thrown to him. In the strangeness, she hadn’t done what was most normal to her. Now she did, and what she saw terrified her. The faces weren’t filled with the normal weight of living, but with anguish and fear, an almost terror. These were the faces of the lost. It was as overwhelming as frightening and without knowing what was happening, she began to cry, even as she picked up the pace and rushed toward an unsettling and obvious danger ahead.

TGD #8


From the subway station, she was running frantically as she emerged onto the street. She was going to be late again … as sharp as she was with finance and figures, schedules and mornings always found her out of sorts. She always needed at least two cups of coffee before she could function, then the daily process of deciding what to wear, and time could just evaporate. She liked New York because she could dress up or be eclectic, whatever the mood was for the morning, she had an outfit for it, in every color and style, this was New York, and for Rae throwing something on never worked, getting dressed for work was nearly ritual. The clothes fit the day, and the day fit her, it always worked, some days it just took longer, today was one of them. She looked at her cell phone the time was 9:10. She liked to be at her desk before 9:00, to give herself a few minutes to settle in to the day, before the phones started ringing, clients calling, and brokers hawking their latest dreams.

Stepping onto the sidewalk, harried at the time and still looking at her cell phone for any messages that may have been left while she was in the tunnels, the air seemed different, what was clear and crisp at Jamaica station was oddly different now, strange shadows hanging in the air, not like New York, not like the street she walked each day. All the same shops, eateries, and street vendors were there, but there was an odd electric feeling in the air that felt most strange.

She passed Salvatore’s Pawn Shop and with a thought to stop in by later and pick up the compass she had spied in the window earlier this week. She wanted to give it to Brandon just to remind him that life had direction, and there were always guides on the way. An instinct her Grandmother fostered in her, and had always served her well. She wanted to surprise him with it during the weekend they were planing on Shelter Island, maybe on the boat going over, maybe at sunrise on the beach. Moments in time, places they would be feel like they already had been. At least she saw it that way, Brandon was too much of a scientist to think that his future was part of the now.

The compass was old and likely had a history to it. It looked as though it had served someone well. At one time, it had been engraved but the words had rubbed smooth from time and it was obvious to her, that it was a cherished piece. Salvatore had promised to hold it a week while she thought it through, even though she had decided to buy it the day she laid eyes on it.

The reflection in the window was odd, shadows floating all around behind her, and the air, even for New York city was dirty and it difficult to breathe, it still wasn’t registering to her why. Though it seemed unusually noisy, there was a stillness and a silence too. Something was going on, something new and unusual was happening her instincts told her. It waS moving in the air like a silent storm and her heart throbbed with neither fear nor anticipation, but a mixture of both, an odd feeling indeed, one she would not soon forget. She kept walking, waiting for the thing that stalked the air to reveal itself to her. She was four blocks from the office when she realized that the shadows in the air, floating toward the ground like so many over-sized snowflakes were sheets of paper, everywhere more and more as she walked closer and closer to her office, close and closer to what the world would soon call ‘Ground Zero’.