Chapter II (continued)
Marshal sat on a bench made of heavily painted 20th century wood and slowly ate his noodles with some seed bars. His moments of peace were brief and this was one of them. He scanned the little park for sensors and found one, a “volvo”, a revolving one. He would have only ten minutes. He finished the noodles quickly and began to walk and pace around on the dirt and sand. This green corner used to be a playing field – what they called a baseball diamond. Marshall recognized the slices and sections of baseball diamonds that often remained in the green corners – usually hidden underneath the turnpikes and roadways. His father had often told him about baseball. John remembered his Dad had talked of Willie Mays. His father had sometimes talked of men that only his great, great, great grandfathers would have seen play. It was only his parents and a few of their friends that could talk like that to young John. They would talk of memories, of history, even of ancient traditions. Their manner of speaking was different from the others. They too had never been totally connected. They were not in PPP’s. His parents and their friends had been free. John Marshall carried these memories with him. His memories from his first nine years were rich. Each of them was clear and sustaining to him. They carried him onward.
Walking across the little field, he approached the “volvo”, and in a sidelong glance, discovered it was jammed. He could relax. John Marshall removed his gear and lay down on the grass and rolled himself around. He had seen curious-looking 20th century animals do that – on old clip-ins that his grand-dad had saved. Yes, he had known his grand-dad too, Grandpa Bill. Grandpa Bill had made them all laugh whenever they had visited him. He remembered Grandpa Bill as being somehow perfect. Marshall had read in books that such perfection in people does not exist any more, that such perfection would be miraculous or saintly if it did appear. But Grandpa Bill remained a perfect man in his memory. Perhaps he was a saint. Grandpa Bill had died a natural death. Most of the others had not been so lucky. They had either been hunted down, placed in a “private”, or perished in some mysterious accident. Theirs was a community that had been removed. It was gone.
Marshall lay in the grass and savored the feel of his memories. He remembered foods that they ate at his parents’ house and also meals they prepared out in the woods and over campfires. They knew how to cook and they used many grains and fruits that were no longer known.
His memories drifted to hikes with his parents through high, snow-capped mountains. In particular, he recalled one very long hike up a very difficult trail. The sand and small stones kept slipping from beneath his feet and fell in powder and little flakes as they tumbled down the steep mountainsides. He remembered the fear he had felt as a young boy: of falling, of slipping and of tumbling like the little stones down the mountain. He scanned the precipice for branches and outcroppings on which he could latch his hands in case he did fall.
“Never forget to look straight ahead, and watch where you’re walking,” would instruct his father, stopping to assist him across a difficult pass or jump. Sometimes John would ride on his father’s back. It was a difficult life, but young John had never minded. Although he did not know it at the time, the family had been on the run when they made those long treks. But at least they were free. Unconnected. John Marshall remembered being very happy during his childhood. Surely, he remembered the fear too – the fear of being caught, and discovered. They lived with that fear all the time. And, at the end, it had been oppressive. But mostly, John remembered the quiet and the freedom: the peace of mind that came from being in the mountains, from looking up at a blue sky. Walking in high pine forests, bathing in streams, the fresh air. The Sierra Nevada mountains loomed enormous in his memory somehow. Marshall wondered if he would ever see them again. Surely, they had changed by now. There was less snow and less water flowing now that the glaciers were gone from the eastern fringe of the mountains. But surely some good portion of the mountains would still be green. He began to think and consider the possibility of returning there. It would be a long, long walk from Indianapolis. Marshal began to calculate the number of days and months the trip would require. He couldn’t risk a plane or airbus. He could perhaps zip a coalburner up to Des Moines, or perhaps further…