Fugitive pieces
fortressed camp. Although we’d left early, the air was already thick and droning with insects.
    “This week I found out that a man I went to school with in Vienna was in the Ahnenerbe.”
    Athos’s shirt was stuck to his back. His face was pink. The trees moved in the heavy breeze, the leaves looked like wet paint splashing against the hazy sky.
    “With Himmler paying his salary, suddenly he found swastikas in every handful of dirt. This man, who’d been at the top of our prehistory class, actually presented the ‘Willendorf Venus’ to Himmler as proof that ‘Hottentots’ had been conquered by ancient Aryans¡ He falsified digs to prove that Greek civilization started in … neolithic Germany¡ Just so the Reich could feel justified in copying our temples for their glorious capital.”
    “Koumbaros, it’s hot.”
    “Everything that’s been destroyed: the relics, the careful documentation. These men still have their careers, even though they were hired by Himmler. These men are still teaching!”
    “Koumbaros, it’s so hot today….”
    “I’m sorry Jakob, you’re right.”
    We stopped for lunch at the Royal Diner, which was owned by Constantine’s brother, and reached Baby Point in the early afternoon. It had turned overcast, and the smell of rain filled the heat. We stood on the sidewalk and imagined the Iroquois fortress. We imagined an Iroquois attack on the affluent neighbourhood, flaming arrows soaring above patio furniture, through picture windows into living rooms, landing on coffee tables that instantly ignited. I stood on the darkening sidewalk and transformed the smells of car wax and mown lawns into curing leather and salted fish. Athos, carried away, described the murder of fur trader Etienne Brulé. Auto da fe.
    The afternoon heat was thick with burning flesh. I saw the smoke rising in whorls into the dark sky. Ambushed, memory cracking open. The bitter residue flying up into my face like ash.
    “Jakob, Jakob. Let’s take a taxi home.”
    By the time we reached the flat, the rain was falling in sheets, the smell of dust rising from the steaming pavement. I stuck my head out the car window and gulped it in. The burning smell was gone.
    Koumbaros, we are lightning rods for time.
    That night, I dreamed of Bella’s hair. Shiny as black lacquer under the lamplight, plaited tight as a lanyard.
    Sitting at the table, my parents and Bella pretended calm, they who claimed so often to have no courage at all. They remained in their seats as they’d planned they would, if it came to that. The soldiers pushed my father over in his chair. And when they saw Bella’s beauty, her terrified stillness—what did they make of her hair, did they lift its mass from her shoulders, assess its value; did they touch her perfect eyebrows and skin? What did they make of Bella’s hair as they cut it—did they feel humiliated as they fingered its magnificence, as they hung it on the line to dry?

    One of the last walks Athos and I took together was along the floodplain of the Don River, past the brick quarry and cliffs embedded with marine fossils. We intended to sit for a while in the terraced gardens of Chorley Park, the Government House, built spectacularly on the edge of the escarpment. The mansion was enormous, a Loire Valley chateau, built of the finest Credit Valley limestone.
    Tourelles and pediments, tall chimneys and cornices: perched on the edge of wildness it summed up the contradictions of the New World. When Athos and I first discovered the immense estate, it no longer functioned as the lieutenant-governor’s residence. There’d been complaints about the cost of upkeep by union-supported politicians. Shortly after city councillors argued over whether or not to let him replace a single blown lightbulb, the embittered lieutenant-governor abandoned Chorley Park. It was then pressed into service as a military hospital and as a shelter for Hungarian refugees. We’d visited the grounds many times. Athos

Similar Books

Reasons of State

Alejo Carpentier

The Open Door

Brian Brahm

Tricks of the Trade

Laura Anne Gilman

Indestructible

Angela Graham

Smash & Grab

Amy Christine Parker

Badge

Viola Grace

White Liar

T.J. Sin