“[The Cantina scene is] my favorite, not only in this piece, but of many, many pieces I’ve ever seen. Where you are is on the edge, you’re about to embark into the outlying spaces. A real adventure. This is the jumping-off place, and there is where you meet people who’ve been out there, and they run the machines that go out there, and you haven’t been there. It reminds me a little bit, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island,’ that atmosphere before you start off the adventure, you’re in the seaport, and there are the old salts, seamen, who’ve been on the sea, and that’s their world. And these are the space people also.”—
Joseph Campbell in Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, PBS, 1988
Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says, why the long face? Author Ben Marcus in his book of short stories “Leaving the Sea” says “Horses are sad because they hear their own bodies sloshing and cracking.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.
“No insect hangs its nest on threads as frail as those which will sustain the weight of human vanity; and the sense of being of importance among the insignificant was enough to restore to Miss Bart the gratifying consciousness of power.”—“The House of Mirth”
“He felt the confused titillation with which the lower organisms welcome the gratification of their needs, and all his senses floundered in a vague well-being, through which Miss Bart’s personality was dimly but pleasantly perceptible.”—“The House of Mirth”
“The crickets and the rustbeetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. Vámonos amigos he whispered and threw the busted-leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.”—Some two-bit McCarthy knockoff
The water was black and warm and he turned in the lake and spread his arms in the water and the water was so dark and so silky and he watched across the still black surface to where she stood on the shore with the horse and he watched where she stepped from her pooled clothing so pale, so pale, like a chrysalis emerging, and walked into the water.
She paused midway to look back. Standing there trembling in the water and not from the cold for there was none. Do not speak to her. Do not call. When she reached him he held out his hand and she took it. She was so pale in the lake she seemed to be burning. Like foxfire in a darkened wood. That burned cold. Like the moon that burned cold. Her black hair floating on the water about her, falling and floating on the water. She put her other arm about his shoulder and looked toward the moon in the west do not speak to her do not call and then she turned her face up to him. Sweeter for the larceny of time and flesh, sweeter for the betrayal. Nesting cranes that stood singlefooted among the cane on the south shore had pulled their slender beaks from their wingpits to watch. Me quieres? she said. Yes, he said. He said her name. God yes, he said.
“The proprietor showed him great courtesy and brought him fresh tortillas hot from the comal and told him that there was to be a wedding and that it would be a pity if it rained. He inquired where he might be from and showed surprise he’d come so far. He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activities in the square and he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start out at all.”—“All the Pretty Horses”
My father had a great sense of the connectedness of things. I’m not sure I share it. He claimed that the responsibility for a decision could never be abandoned to a blind agency but could only be relegated to human decisions more and more remote from their consequences. The example he gave was of a coin that was at one time a slug in a mint and of the coiner who took that slug from the tray and placed it in the die in one of two ways and from whose act all else followed, cara y cruz. No matter through whatever turnings nor how many of them. Till our turn comes at last and our turn passes.
She smiled. Thinly. Briefly.
It’s a foolish argument. But that anonymous small person at his workbench has remained with me. I think if it were fate that ruled our houses it could perhaps be flattered or reasoned with. But the coiner cannot. Peering with his poor eyes through dingy glasses at the blind tablets of metal before him. Making his selection. Perhaps hesitating a moment. While the fates of what unknown worlds to come hang in the balance. My father must have seen in this parable the accessibility of the origins of things, but I see nothing of the kind. For me the world has always been more of a puppet show. But when one looks behind the curtain and traces the strings upward he finds they terminate in the hands of yet other puppets, themselves with their own strings which trace upward in turn, and so on. In my own life I saw these strings whose origins were endless enact the deaths of great men in violence and madness. Enact the ruin of a nation. I will tell you how Mexico was. How it was and how it will be again.
“Days to come they rode through the mountains and they crossed at a barren windgap and sat the horses among the rocks and looked out over the country to the south where the last shadows were running over the land before the wind and the sun to the west lay blood red among the shelving clouds and the distant cordilleras ranged down the terminals of the sky to fade from pale to pale of blue and then to nothing at all.”—“All the Pretty Horses”
“You, Yunior, have a girlfriend named Alma, who has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans.”—“This Is How You Lose Her,” by Junot Díaz—“Alma,” opening sentence.