Monday, January 08, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-3

Having met the native woman named Estrella, Frank is now for some reason obsessed with getting a look at the other Estrella, Reef's former lover. To this end, he heads for Nochecita. The town has changed--new inhabitants, some involved in illicit activities; new buildings edging out the old ones. Where's Stray? he asks some of the new townspeople. But he can't get an answer he understands. But then he runs into Linnet Dawes, the schoolteacher with whom he shucked peas the last time he was in town, and she tells him that the woman in question may possibly be found in a ranch near a place called Fickle Creek, New Mexico. So he sets off in that direction. He stays in a loose sort of hotel, in which, "in each room, somebody was staying up working at some impossible midnight project--a mad inventor, a gambler with a system, a preacher with an only partly-communicable vision" (462).

Fickle Creek is experiencing a motorcycle craze. I'm guessing this is sometime around 1910-ish. Rarely are the dates entirely clear in this novel. There's a Hungarian daredevil named Zoltan who, having conquered every obstacle in his homeland, is in town looking for new challenges. For whatever reason, he freaks out at the sight of X-shaped things. I...don't know what significance this has, but he's here, so there you go.

Frank briefly glimpses Stray, who seemingly doesn't recognize him--she's currently running with some local bad boy named Vang Feeley. Seeing this is apparently good enough for Frank, who heads back to Denver. He wastes some time there, until he runs into the Reverend Moss Gatlin ("driving a strange-looking horseless trolley car, with a miniature steeple and working church bells on the back end, and over the front window, where the destination sign usually was, the words ANARCHIST HEAVEN" (465), the guy who converted Webb to the ways of anarchism back in the day. Apparently, the word has gotten around that Frank did away with Sloat Fresno. You should tell your ma, Moss sez. I don't know where she is, Frank replies. Try Cripple Creek, the reverend advises, and drives him there. For the time being, the mine owners have been victorious in Cripple Creek; the union is gone, and scabs are everywhere. Moss, however, confidently predicts that the current crop of workers will be radicalized soon enough.

Frank runs into a teenage kid named Julius, a New Yorker who was part of a variety act, the leader of which absconded with all the group's funds. So now he's stuck doing odd jobs in Colorado. He knows Mayva, and directs Frank to where she works. She runs an ice cream store now, it seems.

Their reunion is affectionate; Mayva's getting by, though not fantastically--she's sort of a pariah in town, having been married to a leading anarchist scapegoat. At least, I think that's the reason. It's not one hundred percent clear to me.

He stays with her for an unspecified amount of time. They talk about Webb, about Lake. Elliptically, he tells her that he's no longer searching for Deuce. At least that's what I think he's saying. It is, after all, elliptical. She tells him that when she was young, she used to dream about running away and joining a carnival--"'and there I was with all o' you, right in the carnival, and didn't even know it.' And he hoped he'd always be able to recall the way she laughed then" (471).

Frank heads south. Where, exactly, and to what purpose? That remains to be seen.



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