A Political Thriller – A love story forged in murder.
U.S. correspondent Finn Waters risks his life in pursuit of a story he dreams will exalt him to the level of his famous journalist father who disappeared during the Hungarian Revolution. But Finn doesn’t suspect he’ll have to make a devil’s bargain. With only three days before secret police will notice his absence at the 1989 Round Table Talks in Warsaw, he slips undercover into Belarus to prove, once and for all, who massacred 22,000 Polish officers during WWII. He knows the truth will cause a global uproar capable of shattering the tottering Soviet Union. And he prays the acclaim will smooth over the problems in his marriage.
Of course, if his wife, Clarissa, or his editor at the New York Times finds out he has teamed up with a triple agent and become an international thief, they will kill him. The Soviets, on the other hand, don’t use clichés; they truly want him dead. When out of the blue, the U.S. denies Finn’s existence, it seals his fate as a spy without a country. Being an ambassador’s daughter, Clarissa could be his lifeline. If only he knew who has kidnapped her. Caught between superpowers determined to keep secrets buried, Finn must weigh sacrificing himself to expose their evil against abandoning the truth, yet again, to save his wife and his unborn son.
Listen to the Opening
Imperfect Burials - Chapter One
The note looked innocent. Simple cardstock folded once with care. The sassy, narrow-waisted photographer from Naples Finn had brought up with him from the foreigners’ lounge scooped it off the floor as they entered his hotel room. Laughing, she held it behind her for the ransom of a kiss. And he paid her price. Three times.
But what he read stunned him, and he lingered on it until he heard the click of her heel. She had taken a step back and folded her arms. Her sweet smoldering look was gone. “It’s true of you, how they are talking,” she said. “You love work more than people.”
Moments later, with her bitter stream of Italian fading behind him, he trotted down the worn marble staircase, crossed the lobby, and headed into Warsaw’s unlit streets. Rain fell on grimy snow and except for soldiers huddling miserable in doorways, the city prepared for sleep. His throat burned from the smoke of coal stoves that wives had lit to warm husbands returning from the day’s demonstrations, and curtains drawn to hold the heat made the night seem thick with secrets. Underfoot, slush masked ice.
Finn didn’t see the pair of soldiers until they had flattened him against the door of a bank. They were surly, not young, and when his ace in the hole—his American passport and press ID—failed to appease them, he grabbed the first thing that came to mind. “I’m on my way to the cathedral to pray for your countrymen.” His perfect Polish caught them off guard. Not pausing to consider that the cathedral was behind him, they released him with smiles and thumbs up.
Further on, as he turned up his collar to ward off the rain, his feet slid in different directions on a patch of ice. He didn’t fall—he’d grown up in snow country—but he took a moment under an awning to gather himself and to check the address. The note was written in a confident hand: Strategy meeting. Come on foot and alone to the fourth floor. No recorders, no pen or paper. It was signed with a red ink stamp. Solidarnosc. Solidarity, Poland’s trade union, which had become, in effect, the sole representative of the Polish people. Finn understood the caution. Any leak from a meeting of union leaders could hand advantage to their opponents at the Round Table Talks, Jaruzelski’s Communist government. Still, he felt naked without the tools of his trade.
Behind the old school at Kowalski 137, he found a matchbook inserted between the doorjamb and the strike to keep the heavy wooden door unlocked. He looked at his watch. Once inside, he headed up the darkened stairway onto which the door opened, lighting a match at each landing. His footsteps echoed. Through his shoes, he felt the swales that countless feet had worn into the stone treads.
Had he been using all his senses, he might have smelled the man who grabbed his arm on the third-floor landing. Russian tobacco left a bitter odor on the breath.
“Kill the light if you want to live.”
Finn’s hand jerked. The flame died.
“What are you doing here?” The voice was thick with phlegm. The accent wasn’t local. Finn put the man in his sixties.
“I’m here for a meeting of . . . some old friends.”
“It’s late for a meeting, isn’t it?” There was wariness in the voice, with a splash of amusement, as if the man held a strong hand of cards.
Finn wondered which card might get his attention. “Some soldiers kept me standing in the rain, so I’m later than the note specified.”
“The one slipped under my door this evening. Sometime before ten-thirty.”
The man’s chuckle rumbled in the stairwell. Or perhaps he was clearing his throat. He flicked on a flashlight. It cast a weary glow on heavy wool pant cuffs gathered on street shoes. “Go to the next landing. If you’re the right man, we may meet again.”
Finn climbed another flight and felt for the knob. The door scraped the concrete floor. Dim overhead bulbs lit a long hallway. A sturdy fellow leaned against the wall, hands in jacket pockets, his breath steaming in the air.
“The hot-shit journalist who speaks Russian.” He was in his late thirties, heavy browed. A thick mustache conveyed virility. The hand he extended was missing the index finger.
Finn shook it, wondering how he managed a pencil. “Yes, I speak some.”
The man inspected him up and down. “And your Polish is good.”
“My mother was born in Poznań.”
“You have no recorder, correct?”
Finn shook his head, trying to imagine why his knowing Russian was important. Most Poles spoke some or could get by because it was a sister language. Perhaps Solidarity had caught a spy or someone had defected to their cause. A Western journalist’s wet dream. Definitely a prize for his paper, the New York Times.
His wife would argue otherwise. The day he’d left for this posting, Clarissa made him promise to quit rushing into dangerous places. “The Soviet Union is a coiled snake right now,” she’d said. “Be smart.”
“Arms out,” the man said. “Spread your legs.”
Finn’s credentials usually spared him being frisked. Excited that perhaps Wałęsa, the head of Solidarity, had asked to see him, he raised his arms. Hard strokes on his torso and legs threatened his balance.
The man poked his chin down the hall. “Follow me.” In a distant room, voices rose in bursts, overlapping each other like waves on a beach. The cadence of fierce debate.
Finn’s escort rapped and silence fell. The door opened, revealing a barren classroom. No desks. Jaundice-yellow paint, peeling. For a moment, cigarette smoke obscured the faces. Finn had never been allowed into the big room when the Round Table Talks were taking place, but the wide-necked man in the worn wool vest whose chair faced the door often spoke to the press during the breaks. Mateusz Dabrowski, an organizer from shipyards in the north, wore a stevedore hat even during the sessions. The word was that he would take over if anything happened to Wałęsa.
Dabrowski smiled broadly. “You,” he said, beckoning with a hand the size of a baseball glove. “You came on short notice. You obviously weren’t with a girl. Don’t you like Polish girls?”
Laughter rolled around the room. Finn met it with brightened eyes. He did like Polish girls, dammit, in particular, the ones who served food and coffee to the press corps. After they cleared the plates and hung their aprons, they poured forth passion and intelligence such as he only heard in places like Rotterdam. And there was one among them he had slept with not ten days ago, though, like him, she was married. That night at least, sex had seemed the only cure for the ache she was carrying for her people. In return, she had eased his loneliness now that Clarissa’s depression had become so intractable.
“A chair for our American guest,” Dabrowski commanded.
“And a vodka, too?” The speaker wore ratty boots, unlaced.
“No, though after, he may beg to drink to keep from pissing in his pants.”
A chair was set facing Dabrowski. Finn feigned calm. The slight-shouldered fellow with wire-rimmed glasses on Dabrowski’s left was one of the Solidarity assistants who stayed in their own room down the hall from where the press corps waited for announcements. Sitting on Dabrowski’s right, taking notes was Viktor, wearing his signature bolo necktie. He often drove Wałęsa to the talks. The rough clothes and manner of the other seven men cut a sharp contrast to the cardboard formality of the generals and government party officials. To remember them for any article he would write, Finn linked their faces to friends from high school.
Dabrowski scanned him as if assessing his character, then spoke in perfect Russian. “We have been watching you.” He placed his palm on his chest. “I became a fan, reading your coverage from Berlin.”
Whatever this gathering was for, Finn hadn’t seen the like in his time abroad. He bowed his head. “Spasseba bolshoya.”
“And do you like me?” Dabrowski asked.
Finn considered his answer, looking also for the right words in Russian. “I don’t know you well enough to say, but when you speak to the press, I find complicated ideas making sense.” He paused. “I steal things from you.”
It seemed the room took a collective breath. Several men slapped each other’s shoulders in delight. “He speaks like a Russian.”
“And I intend to sue you,” Dabrowski said with a laugh, “as soon as we have courts that respond to more than money and bullets.” He switched to Polish. “So you’re safe for now. Safe to talk about opinions. Your newspaper proudly says it doesn’t peddle opinion. Is this true?”
Finn realized why Dabrowski could sit at the table and fight with generals who had the power to have him shot. “I try to adhere to facts.” He looked around the room at men whose press had lied to them at every turn and hoped he wasn’t ruining whatever goodwill they had. “But a man who has no opinion probably writes . . .” and he hesitated, thinking again of Clarissa, back in their early days, when she’d taught him to speak directly as things arose in his mind. “Probably writes shit.”
Glasses of clear liquid appeared in the hands of several of the men. After exultations, they finished them off with the confidence of butchers strangling chickens.
Dabrowski raised his hand for quiet. “Good. So how do you deal with opinions?”
Finn hated not being in control of the questions. “If they get too loud when I’m writing, I shove my pen down their throats.”
Dabrowski stood up on massive legs, walked outside the circle, and ran a finger across the old slate blackboard. When he came to the youngest fellow in the room, he placed his hands on the man’s shoulders. “And if you could find the truth to an old secret, could you be trusted to tell it and not expose the people who brought you to it? Do you have opinions about that?”
Ah, this was a test. “What does a secret have to do with opinion?”
Dabrowski sucked his lips. “Opinion is the juice that makes a man care. Being true to the facts shows that he does.”
In salute, Finn lifted a glass he didn’t hold.
Acknowledging the gesture with a nod, Dabrowski continued. “And protecting his sources shows his humanity.” He turned to address the wall behind him. “And the Soviets? What is your opinion of their treatment of the Eastern Bloc?”
“My opinion?” Two nights ago in the hotel lounge Finn had argued this very issue with two right-wing journalists from Belgium. “Some worthy ideas poisoned to garner power. Though in that regard, capitalism comes in a close second.”
Dabrowski turned back to face his men. He seemed pleased. “Frankly, I’ve never been able to understand why you Americans don’t all kill each other.” He resumed his pacing. “But here’s what I want for Poland, and it’s something I can’t give my country. Time. More than anything, she needs time. Time to negotiate an end to this oppression.” He speared his index finger into his palm. “These talks are the only ones we’ll get in my lifetime.”
Heads all around nodded. “And though Gorbachev may mean what he says about keeping his hands off—God knows he’s ass deep in his own problems—our informers tell us his generals are pushing for riots here, so he can send in the troops sitting on our border.” He placed his palms together like a priest. “Jaruzelski—our beloved president—will gladly crush Solidarity to keep his government in power. For now, he still has to go through Gorbachev, but if two generals act on their own . . .” Dabrowski drew the fingers of his left hand across his neck . . . “all will be lost on our side in a matter of days.”
As if sensing Finn’s impatience to know where this was leading, Dabrowski continued. “As you wrote so eloquently last month, the Soviet empire is stumbling like a drunk. We need someone to trip them, so they won’t be able to invade us. It can’t be a Pole. It can’t be anyone in the Communist sphere.” He spat. “Pack of thieves and bullies. We need the truth to get out to the West.”
“The truth about what?”
“The biggest lie ever told, at least if you’re Polish.” His face suggested he was going to be specific, but all he said was, “Will you help us?”
The contest for the biggest lie ever told was crowded with entries. New ones cropped up every year.
“My mother was Polish,” Finn said. “Russians kidnapped her father. She saw her grandparents skewered on German bayonets.” Unsure of where this tack was taking him, he stopped, but he knew from the quiet of ten half-wild men that he was in the presence of history. He longed to join it. “What do you need?”
“Go to Belarus. We’ll help you get there. Talk to a man and bring his story to the West. Get your paper to print it.”
The Round Table Talks had been fraught with struggles over minutiae and had been stalled for the last four days, but if Finn was absent when they resumed, the Times would fire him. Something Clarissa would cheer, no doubt. “How long will it take? And the risks?”
“A couple days,” Dabrowski said. “And since you ask, you could create an international incident. Or simply disappear.” He backhanded the air with such disregard it took Finn several seconds to realize it was his life Dabrowski was dismissing.
As Finn’s heart slammed once, Viktor flicked his hand to get Dabrowski’s attention. “Tell him we know what happened to his father.” His voice was not unkind.
Finn snapped his head to look at Viktor. “You know?” His mind leapt to the noir eight-by-ten photograph of the journalist Jordan Waters from the shoulders up. He was standing in the light of a street lamp. A fresh cigarette in his hand hovered near his mouth. The smoke of it still in him. His square jaw so much like Finn’s. Head cocked with a glint in his eye as if just called by the photographer. The rooflines behind hinted at some European city.
Lately, Finn had seen that confidence in the mirror staring back from his own dark eyes. Though the lines around Finn’s carried grief his father didn’t seem to have.
The day after his mother had howled that his father wouldn’t be coming home, Finn, then six years old, found the pieces of the photograph in the trash. In the early years when she slept, he would fit his father back together on his desk. Even now, the meticulously repaired image traveled with him in a laminated cover.
Dabrowski pulled him back. “Viktor’s wrong. We don’t know what happened to your father. We know he was a casualty of . . .” and he made small loops with his hand to signify everything that could go wrong, “the troubles inside the Curtain.”
There it was. The troubles inside the Curtain: a simple way to evoke Soviet tyranny grinding forty distinct nationalities into one ruined tribe. Jordan Waters vanished on assignment in 1956 during the twenty-four hellish days of the Hungarian Revolution. From all Finn had been able to determine, the United States government absorbed the loss of its citizen without protest or homage.
Dabrowski clapped his hands to keep himself on track. “We’re sending you to finish fifty years of mourning and to help us create a new era. In return, we’ll do this for you: If you’re not back in seventy-two hours, we’ll delay the talks another day, even if Jaruzelski begs to give us everything. And we’ll do all we can to get you out.” He looked each of his men in the eye. “If you succeed, Poland will become free in the present and free from the past.” He gazed wistfully at the map of his country that hung crooked on the bare wall to his left. “Her remaining free in the future depends on whether we Poles are idiots or if we are truly tired of being ruled by them.”
Finn had cut his journalistic teeth covering the fall of Saigon. He’d visited Jonestown right after the communal suicide. He’d spent two years reporting on Lebanon’s civil war. Since covering the Chernobyl nuclear accident, he’d been assigned almost exclusively behind the Iron Curtain. But unlike his father, he had never broken “the great story.”
His heart was thundering in his chest. “Promise me, this is news and not spying.”
“Some don’t believe there’s much of a difference.” Dabrowski pointed his finger as a warning. “No one ever needs to know how you get this story. That’s your protection.”
“Where am I going?”
Dabrowski leaned forward and spoke in a stage whisper. “I presume your mother told you about the massacre at Katyn.”
THE TROUBLE WITH WISDOM
A Quest Journey through a Dystopian World
In the unraveled world of 2054, virtue, infrastructure, and political order have long since failed. Honoring a life’s promise to his spiritual teacher by bringing justice to people living on the Tibetan Plateau, doctor Zhampa DiOrio leads three reluctant heroes overland from Vermont, west through communities struggling to rebuild humanity.
Having suffered for crimes he committed to survive the anarchy that overtook his country, his vow to avoid using violence doesn’t free his band from enduring it. And though he catches glimpses of sanity through the failures and victories of others, apparently he will have to lose most of what he loves before he comes to terms with his own fury.
Listen to the Opening
The Trouble with Wisdom: Prologue and...
Prologue: Tibet, March 1959
At first light, Selpo Rinpoche woke to the roar of his monastery’s warning gong. Thinking fire, he threw open the shutters and scanned the temple, the library and the labyrinth of monks’ cells, until movement outside the walls caught his eye. A monk was running barefoot down the mountain, maroon robes flying, blood staining his trail in the snow.
Later, while he and his lamas tended the monk’s wounds in the warmth of the great kitchen, Rinpoche listened as the monk relayed his news from over the Iron Snow Range. A Red Army unit had corralled laypeople and monks in the courtyard and demanded the senior lamas renounce their faith and bow down to Mao Tse Tung. When the lamas refused, soldiers shoved pistols into the hands of the novice monks and ordered them to kill their teachers. But the boys, in keeping with their vows, turned the weapons on themselves. In response, the soldiers emptied their guns into the crowd, then dragged the women and girls to the temple, laid them on their backs under the statue of the Buddha and raped them.
All that day, Rinpoche walked the halls, rallying monks and villagers as they passed supplies and relics hand-to-hand out the Eastern Gate to the parade grounds, where porters loaded a caravan of yaks. Close to midnight, he waded through the crowd in the moonlit courtyard and mounted the horse his attendants had packed for his escape south, over the Himalayas.
Reins in hand, he peered through the juniper smoke at the ancient square—the raised plaza where he had learned to debate the fine points of wisdom, the prayer wheels he’d turned as he circumambulated the statuary hall, the banners and gargoyles and, on the roof, the golden Wheel of Peace. He saw, too, tomorrow’s courtyard awash in blood. Centuries of labor and devotion were about to be swept away.
He’d had no time to think of what to say to the multitude now pressing around him. Upturned faces and wind-scoured cheeks. “This life we cling to is . . . ” In the sphere of light he saw his little brother in the arms of his uncle; and the old boot maker, Dundrup; and there, Chintso, the girl who once inspired him to question his monastic vows, now pregnant, leaning into her husband Gyaltsen, the handsome salt trader. “This life we cling to . . . is a dream. It can’t be grasped.” The words weighed on him like a lead cloak and he steadied himself on the horse’s withers. “Those that harm others don’t know they are tightening the ropes of their own suffering. So when the soldiers come, show your compassion.”
As all the people Rinpoche loved bowed their heads in honor, his old teacher, Lama Dawa hobbled toward him, breathless. “Rinpoche, my heart son, we cannot leave these here.” He raised a small bundle in both hands. “The Chinese will just melt the gold for their teeth.” He peeled back the brocade to reveal the Scepters of the Lineage. The sight of them made Rinpoche draw his breath.
He had only held the scepters twice. The first time, he was three years old. Lamas from the monastery had come to his parents’ nomadic camp and laid them before him alongside perfect counterfeits. “Choose the ones you held in your previous life,” they’d said. The task was easy. The real ones spoke and the copies lay dead. Couldn’t these wise lamas tell the difference? He’d broken into laughter lifting the real Dorjay, and the lamas had celebrated the discovery of their deceased abbot, reincarnated.
The second time was five years ago. The scepters had been coming to him in dreams and, though his vows prohibited him from even seeing them, one night he sought them while the monastery slept. In his hands, they became hot, as if protesting his disrespect. Frightened, he’d put them back. And for a fortnight, in meditation, his mind churned.
“You should be on this horse,” he told Lama Dawa, “not me. You have the polished wisdom.”
The old man shook his head. “I can’t change what’s coming, Rinpoche. The prophecies are clear: the slaughter of monks and, more, the violation of women in the temple is the beginning of the Dark Age. And you, my son, are too valuable. You carry all the skills of the lineage and the world needs them.” His toothless gums appeared behind a smile. “I’ll be here to help in the morning. Go, and don’t look back.”
Knowing argument was futile, Rinpoche slid the bundle into the pouch inside his robes. “I’ll keep them safe, but they belong here in these mountains.” All around him, monks and villagers were still bowed, peeking up with their dark eyes, straining to hear. He raised his voice. “They belong here, in these mountains, in the hands of the Enlightened Ones. When this chaos ends, I will return them. Somehow, I will return them.”
His teacher’s bony hand hooked the back of his neck. As they pressed their foreheads together, Lama Dawa whispered, “Find an heir and train him well. Don’t let these teachings be lost.”
Ninety-five years later, in the year 2054.
After cinching the saddlebag under Coco’s belly, Zhampa watched him wheel and bark in anticipation of setting out. The dog didn’t understand they wouldn’t be coming back. One last time he looked around the courtyard where he’d lived for almost fifty years, then felt behind his arms to make sure old Rinpo’s lineage scepters sat snug in their holsters. In the narrow view they were two small objects, six pounds of gold and silver, and he was simply their porter. But Rinpo had convinced him they were the key to ending the misery The Unraveling had unleashed on the world. The lamas at the foot of the Naked Red Lady Mountain in Tibet were waiting for him to return them. They’d already been waiting a long time.
The farmhouse door opened and candlelight spread across the last of the snow. When Zhampa turned, Celeste was leaning against the jamb the way her mother used to on summer evenings. Backlit, her hair glowed red and she seemed to be cradling the old cat in her arms. But when she raised her head to speak, her hands were fingering the knife sheathed between her breasts. “It doesn’t seem real, leaving here separately.”
As if to quell her worries, he smoothed the tarpaulin on the cart where he’d hidden tools and cookware under bags of seed on the off chance one of the Valley Folk was on the road after midnight. “If anyone saw us together with loads like this,” he said, “They’d know we were leaving.” All winter Zhampa had avoided suspicion by keeping to his routines, but that afternoon he’d opened the corrals and pasture gates, freed the chickens from their house, emptied the grain barrels onto the barn floor and hooked the great doors back. Everything else he owned he’d left laid out in the house like at a bachelor’s wake. For those from the village who would come looking, he’d hung a sign on the door. Take the livestock. Share the rest with your neighbors. “You know what to say if you run into anyone,” he told Celeste. “We’ll be waiting for you up there.”
He shook the harness straps straight, and after working his shoulders into the yoke, he touched his palm to his chest and extended it to Celeste. She hesitated, then mirrored the gesture. Glancing at the rising moon, he slid his head into the pulling strap, whistled to the German shepherd and leaned forward. The old bicycle wheels of the cart creaked into motion. He didn’t look back.
At the first turn, when the three-year-old Suffolk ewe trotted alongside as if intent on joining them, he stamped and bellowed to drive her through the gate into the high field, knowing the other sheep would follow her bell. Her bewildered look haunted him all the way down The Hollow road.
When he came to the river, he followed it south through what had once been the most productive land in The Valley. With the farmers gone, poplar and sumac engulfed the carcasses of tractors that had died when the oil stopped coming. Cherry, birch and oak stood twenty-feet tall in the cornfields and Vermont farmhouses lay cracked open like husks of hickory nuts, their hand-hewn timber frames dissolving in the rains.
Soon, spring would harden the ground and pulling the cart would be easier, but Zhampa agonized over what lay west. Since fleeing college in South Dakota many years ago to escape the chaos of war, he had gleaned one truth from the wild stories travelers told: the main threat would be the packs of survivors they ran into, their choices about civility, and what they might try to exact from his little band before letting them pass.
THE LAST REDWOOD CIRCUS
Resisting the twilight of her career, a world famous high wire performer climbs the tallest tree in an old-growth redwood state forest to battle corporate forces colluding to clear-cut the land and install yet another vineyard. She sets up living quarters and a high-tech media nest in the branches and her antics draw national attention. Her presence reignites old wounds in the adjacent rural community, emboldens the local Indian tribe to confront its legacy of shame, and threatens the governor who depends on corporate money for reelection. When a humble craftsman from Japan takes interest in the forest, all the parties must reevaluate their beliefs to address this greater threat.
Listen to the Opening
The Last Redwood Circus p Chapter One
Opening night. Moscow. Thirty-seven feet up. No net. No fear.
Pravda has proclaimed Delicia Fortunado the “Queen of the High Wire,” and she is proving it. She nails her hoop routine. She sticks her front flips. The crowd loves her clowning. Three minutes in and not one fault. Only her signature move left: The moonwalk, the feat everyone said was impossible on the wire. Now she owns it. Her body rocking with adrenaline. Mind steady like the North Star. The Perfect Present.
Midstride, she and the music halt. Seconds pass. Her raised foot, not a tremble in it. Not a cough in the crowd. Then booming bass ignites her. Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Every muscle and bone working the rhythm. Footwork flashing. The illusion of strutting while gliding backward on the wire. People leaping from their seats as if God has arrived. Exultant.
Two steps from the far platform, she wheels and moonwalks again. Halfway across…the wire fails.
It’s. Not. There.
By instinct, her feet seek it. Her arms spread. Hands fluttering, futile, like the wings of a hatchling bumped from the nest.
Though a hardcore realist, Delicia thinks her request is fair: Just this once, can’t gravity fail?
Waiting for the answer, she locks onto a face in the crowd. A child’s. Blond. Blue dress. Eyes wide. Fist of popcorn, rock-still.
The sound of her striking the ground kills the music. One collision, a succession of blows: feet, a knee, a hip. Head still upright, safe. Except the jolt knocks every thought out. Earth without compromise.
No breath. Thankfully, she doesn’t need any. Her mind is clear beyond measure. Bright lights. A cacophonous bowl of dread, each howl distinct. Yes, she heard bones cracking. But she feels no pain. None. Perhaps someone tried to catch her.
People running toward her. Real emotions in circus makeup. Her right arm, locked stiff, propping her up. A regal pose to greet them. Except for pressure somewhere. Her thigh. It’s twisted, like an injured slug. Wearing something jagged. Bone white. What is it doing wrapped in her leotard? Who is bleeding?
She replays the impact like a classical symphony’s final chord. A minor triad, octaves of it, stacked one upon the other. Her body is ablaze with all the instruments. The chord repeats, building to a final release. Brahh. Brraaahh. Brrraaaaaahh. Celebrating the end of something. Her career?
It’s merely a minor setback Something to test her resolve. She was born to do this. More to come. Much more. She feels her love of victory rising within her. She opens her mouth to roar, but she has no air.