Regardless, what I am saying is that now, as I click away on this Kiwi box overclocked to such a degree that when it boots up the pathetic Windows 95 (yes, 95) startup screen flashes and pulses a nauseous green, I look over to the monitor of the main terminal to find Thomas, fair Thomas, sitting in a sunny southern field editing video footage on a God Damned iBook.
The archer who is perfect does not see the prize of gold. He competes for the sake of shooting. He is not a banker. He is an archer. Pulling the bowstring is what he does. Not count gold.
I manage data. I am a digital archivist. I do not count iBooks. It is not what I do.
The camera swings to the left. Our point-of-view rises as Thomas stands up, setting the iBook down on his backpack. The Escalade slouches in the sun on the side of the road. It is a dusty, open field of a day. Behind the Escalade, off in the distance, is the lone claw of a dead tree. The sky is so blue and saturated that the video image fades out to white occasionally, the receptors over-drenched in the brightness of the afternoon.
A hawk calls out.
Thomas turns again. Lisa is framed between two tall forsythia bushes. She has come from a large farm houses bearing two tall glasses. Thomas remains fixed, facing her as she slowly approaches. Grasshoppers part before her like the waters of the mighty Red Sea. The air about her waist and knees, consequently, is the grey-green color of late Maoist office furniture. A cloud of 1970's indecision, confusion, paralysis.
She is wearing a knee-length skirt. Black flat leather shoes. A conservative blouse the color of a robin's egg.
As she comes close, a breeze whisks through the air covering her face for a moment in hair. A smile flickers behind the strands.
"Here," she says, holding a glass toward the camera, Thomas. It is full of a milky-yellow fluid. Lemonade.
Thomas' hand appears from the bottom of the frame, takes the glass from her hand. The camera is so close between them. He is careful not to touch her hand. The glass is so close now that I can see the water beaded up along the outside tracing the image of her hand against the surface. Grains of sugar swirl around disks of lemon. Ice cracks and I can hear it popping in the heat, the sound of calving icebergs played so fast and at such a high pitch it comes out as a tiny prick of a sound.
"Some trip," she says. He looks up. She holds her lemonade in the other slender hand. He follows her free hand. She pulls her hair out of her face. She tucks a lock behind each ear and smiles a tight lipped smile.
"Thanks. Say thanks to your aunt." Thomas' voice croaks slightly, but there could also be a problem with the impedance of the microphone caused by the southern heat. Note for Devo.
Lisa makes a face.
"What's that on your glasses?" She asks. Glasses? Indeed. I did not know that Thomas wore glasses.
The camera comes unseated and shifts around. We are looking back at Thomas' face. He is sallow and there is a scruff of redish-brown beard growth along his cheeks. His eyes are grey and tired.
A finger comes down over the camera lens.
"Is that clear?" Lisa asks.
"That's just a detail on the horn-rim. You know, like a rhinestone," Thomas is calm. He sighs.
"When did you start wearing glasses?" Her tone is indiscernible. It does not seem that she is actually asking what she is asking.
The camera swings around, up to the sky, looking deep into the blue-black zenith. A hawk hangs in the sky. Then it comes back to rest and we are looking at the Escalade. Then back to the house. Then at Lisa's shoes. They are dusty and petite.
"I . . . uh . . . I lost my contacts. This came in the package this morning, with the iBook."
"Huh. I didn't know you wore contacts." Lisa looks straight into the camera— into Thomas' eyes, that is. Does he return her gaze, or do his eyes shift nervously? Lisa squints, but perhaps it is the sun.
Tom tilts his head back and the sound is of gulping and rushing liquid. The hawk circles.
"Ahhhhh . . . " Thomas smacks his lips.
Lisa turns away, toward the Escalade. "When will the final package come?"
"Western Union courier phoned about ten minutes ago. He says he'll be here by nine. He's at Mock's Auto Body. Broke his axle."
"I don't want to think about it right now." Thomas turned away toward the south where trees brushed up along the horizon. "He seemed pretty pissed off."
Screeching call of a hawk.
"It's hot," Thomas sighed, walking back toward the iBook and the backpack.
"At least in Savannah there were all those trees. No protection out here. Everything is exposed."
He turned back as he picked up the computer. She smiled. He sat down. She remained standing, sipping her lemonade, brushing down her skirt.
"What are you working on?" Hawk silhouetted in the sky, swoops quick, falls out of the sky, snatches a mouse, rises back up its wings beating in heavy, flopping arcs like a rug being beaten against a stone.
"Uh . . . nothing." Thomas lets the iBook fall closed.
He stares up at Lisa.
She smiles that smile again, the tone of her voice blank: "You're right. It is hot. I'll keep Mr. Brando company."
He calls after her, "You were right, you were made to wear suits. You look good."
Lisa does not look back.
Thomas sighs as she heads off toward the Cadillac. She swishes around the front of the truck and looks back at Thomas. He waves his hand across his face at her and she waves back. He remains seated and she disappears into the vehicle.
Thomas lies down, propping his head up on the backpack. He rests the iBook on his belly and reboots. He opens iMovie and starts dragging around video clips. He is editing a sequence of events.
And now, like a cleanly planned and directed major motion picture, I shall cut here, direct, to the video that is being edited. Of course I have been withholding it all along. I had it already. I have it all. the whole story and I could tell you how it all ends right now. I could, for example, mention that there is a failed kiss later. But I will keep it all inside of my hat, so to speak. Thomas may want to be remembered for what he did. I am beginning to imagine I might be remembered for how I told the tale. And that is something. A gift from Thomas he did not know he was giving. Is the gift worth an iBook? We shall see.
Next week, the first sequence will be presented for your pleasure and edification.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson