The Last European. Chapter Eight.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Chorus: And now Bulkington makes his way back to the court of Father Ramon. He descends the mountains and starts through the dismal swamp. This time it is a python that impedes his journey. They wrestle, and Bulkington wins. He proceeds past the lovely lady's cottage and toward the village. By nightfall he reaches the outskirts of the village, but a leopard blocks the road leading into the village.
Leopard: Do you wish to enter the village?
Leopard: You don't seem surprised to hear a leopard speak.
Bulkington: I've seen and heard too much to be surprised by a talking leopard.
Leopard: I can't decide whether that is an insult or not.
Bulkington: It was not meant as an insult.
Leopard: Well, it doesn't matter. I cannot let you pass.
Bulkington: But I must pass.
Leopard: The attempt will mean your death.
Bulkington: No, it will mean your death.
Leopard: You seem very sure of that.
Bulkington: I am.
Leopard: You have no weapon.
Bulkington: Still, I will kill you.
Leopard: You know, I think you could, but I will not give you the opportunity. You might as well know – perhaps you already do – that I am Father Ramon. I wanted to stop you before you entered the village.
Leopard: First, because you might blurt out that the Castle of Horrors is my own invention, thus losing me my hard-earned reputation as the irreproachable defender of justice. And secondly, because you intend to kill me. Deny it if you can.
Bulkington: Why would I kill you?
Leopard: Because you now know that I am the real Lord of the Castle of Horrors. It is my death that will free the young woman.
Bulkington: It's your own doing. You laid the trap. If I had brought back your brother's head the young woman would still have been put to death, wouldn't she? Don't bother to answer – I can see by your smile that she would have. What kind of men are you Tridentiners? You carry the name 'Christian,' but you're worse than any pagan.
Leopard: Calumny! You worthless dog! Who are you to question God's anointed servants? What we loose on earth is loosed in heaven, and what we bind on earth is bound in heaven.
Bulkington: You are a blasphemer to claim heavenly sanction for acts of barbarism and treachery.
Leopard: I waste my breath to talk with you. You lack the capacity to reason. You are on the level of the dumb brutes.
Bulkington: You are the one who has assumed the form of a leopard.
Leopard: Yes, and that is because I possess the gift of reason. Why did our Lord give us that gift if it was not to use the natural world to bring about a supernatural world? I have studied. I have done the mental work that is necessary to subdue nature, and I have been rewarded.
Bulkington: You are nothing more than an evil wizard who worships Satan and calls him our Lord.
Leopard: Spoken like a true man of ignorance. But enough. I had hoped to scare you by taking the form of a leopard. That was a mistake. But you shall have your trial by combat. On yonder plain, come morning, a dragon will appear. Slay that dragon and the woman goes free.
Bulkington: You will be that dragon?
Bulkington: If you triumph what good will it avail you? I thought it was my disgrace you sought.
Leopard: Yes, but I must be wary of my own followers. They expect me to bring about your conversion by disgracing you. I'm afraid I'll have to kill you and tell my followers that you converted.
Bulkington: That doesn't sound like a very great success.
Leopard: Well, petty revenge has its consolation.
Bulkington: I once heard the devil, who you say you do not serve, say something similar.
Leopard: Enough of this nonsense. Meet me tomorrow and die with the knowledge that you die alone and in mortal sin.
Chorus: The next morning. The young woman is tied to the wheel of an ox-cart that has been brought out for the occasion. Father Ramon stands before Bulkington in the form of a dragon. Flanking Father Ramon are two Amazon warriors. Bulkington stands before them. He is unarmed.
Bulkington: I thought I was to meet you in single combat, Father Ramon.
Dragon: No, I decided it would be better if you died at the hands of two females. That will be ironic don't you think? The last knight of Europe, the last white man, must fight two fair maidens in order to rescue a fair damsel. Attack, my lovelies!
Chorus: The battle commences. The Amazons, armed with spear and sword attack the unarmed Bulkington. A spear is thrown into his left arm. He then uses that spear to slay both Amazons. Holding the spear in his right hand, he faces Father Ramon.
Dragon: You are wounded. If you yield now I will grant you your life.
Bulkington: And the young woman?
Dragon: She dies.
Bulkington: Cambria will not yield.
Chorus: The battle proceeds. Never have we seen such a battle. Father Ramon scorches the earth with his fiery breath. The flames never touch Bulkington, however. He keeps moving from one spot of earth to the next, always avoiding the flames. Finally, after an hour of futile flame-throwing, Father Ramon uses his tail, being temporarily out of fire. Twice he knocks Bulkington down with his tail, lacerating his flesh, but he is not able to finish him. After three hours of conflict, Father Ramon again addresses the bloody, exhausted Bulkington.
Dragon: Now, I give you one last chance. Will you yield?
Bulkington: (in a mere whisper) 'The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?'
Dragon: Then die, blasphemer, die.
Chorus: Unable to use his left arm and unable to see out of his left eye, which is swollen shut, Bulkington appears to be at Father Ramon's mercy. And Father Ramon has no mercy. He proceeds, with a determined stride, toward Bulkington. Obviously Father Ramon feels that a quick blast of fire will destroy Bulkington now that he appears too exhausted to move. Look and you can see the jaws opening in order to expel the deadly flames. But what's this?!
As Father Ramon opens his jaws, Bulkington throws the Amazon's spear into the dragon's mouth. Now, Father Ramon is clutching his throat with his dragon claws, trying to extract the spear. It is futile. He sinks to the ground and dies. At his death he once again takes the form of Father Ramon. Bulkington limps over to Father Ramon's body. With a look of revulsion he does what needs to be done in order to free the young woman. After the work is completed, he holds up the bloody head.
Bulkington: Behold the head of the lord of the castle. I have completed the quest; the woman must be released.
Town Constable: Release the woman.
Soldier: Yes, sir.
Chorus: The young woman, upon her release, runs and throws herself at Bulkington's feet. Extremely embarrassed, he begs her to get up and thank God instead of him.
Elizabeth: I do thank Him, noble sire, but I also thank His heaven-sent ambassador. God bless you. You shall always be in my prayers.
Bulkington: Then I am in your debt, young lady. To be always in a saint's prayers – and saint you are for defying the Council of the Tridentine – is a very great blessing. And now, goodbye.
Chorus: And so our little drama ends. We hope it was to your liking. But if it wasn't, the Chorus is not to blame, for we only convey the drama; we do not enact it.
It was getting close to sunrise when the drama ended. Rankin took the result better than the last time I saw him battle with Bulkington. Maybe that was because this time he hadn't been that involved in the planning of the event. At any rate he seemed almost philosophical about it.
"Oh well, I did all I could. I think next time they'll let me handle Bulkington myself. I'll get him eventually if they just leave me alone."
"I don't think you will ever best Bulkington."
"Don't push me, Duncan. You might not like what I do to you."
"If you have no further business with me, Rankin, I'd like you to leave."
He left with a sneer, and I returned to the house and to bed.
I slept until noon and then headed back to my apartment to get ready for the four-to-twelve shift. As it turned out though, I didn't work the four-to-twelve shift. When I got to the station at 3:30, I was told that I would no longer be working there. At first I thought it was a guilt-by-association firing. Sean was my friend, and he, in their eyes, was a racist; therefore, I must be a racist. But that was not the reason for my dismissal. Everybody on the force, even the non-probationary employees, had been dismissed. It was part of a new Federal plan. Local government was now completely run by Washington. In fact, for all practical purposes, there was no local government. Every post that had been occupied by a local official was now occupied by a Federal official. I should not have been surprised after all that Mary had told me about Caravaggio and his plans. But I hadn't expected him to move so quickly. He must have been planning the coup for years.
After a so-called 'crisis' in the Mideast (I think some Arab threw a rock through a U. S. embassy window), Caravaggio was made the head of a newly created government agency. It was called the U.C.A.M.G.U.A., which stood for – I' m not making this up – the United Canadian, American, Mexican Global Unity Association. With Caravaggio at its head, I'm sure that Tridentine principles will be well represented.
"Where do I go from here?" was the question I asked myself. I was unemployed with only enough savings to pay for two more months' rent. "It's back home," I said; there was no other alternative.
And home for me was the Fitzgerald's houses. They didn't begrudge me my old room back.
"It will only be till I can get another job."
"It's for as long as you like, James. This house, thank God, is paid for. You'll always have a roof over your head."
"James, I guess you know that Bulkington is back?"
"Yes, Mary, I know. They had plans for him, but the plans didn't work out. He didn't look good when I saw him last. Will he – and I'm almost afraid to ask – live?"
"Yes, he'll live. He looks a fright, and he wouldn't let anyone tend to him, but he is up and around."
"What did they do to him, James?"
"Well, Sean, I didn't see the torture part. What I did see was a man contending with a snake, a dragon, a giant, a crocodile, and some Amazon warriors. And in the end I saw a physical wreck. But there was what Robert Louis Stevenson called 'the animating fire of the European' still in his eyes."
"Yes, Mary, what is it?"
"I know the house is paid for, but do you think they'll take it from us?"
"I don't know. They're capable of anything."
At this point, I excused myself and went looking for Bulkington. It was reassuring to find him, as usual, running up and down the hill to Fisherman's Point. I waited until he was finished before speaking to him.
"May I walk back to your house with you?"
Once he had showered and dressed, he came and sat across from me in his small living room.
"I've no beer to offer you, James. Things are a bit tight right now."
"That's all right. I didn't come over for a beer. I came over to see how you were feeling."
"Well, I won't say I'm fine, but everything seems to be in reasonably good working order. I can't raise my left arm above shoulder height anymore, and I've got a slight limp now, but I can still drag myself up and down Fisherman's Point and do my push-ups, so I guess I'm not that bad off."
"We're all wondering what's next. I mean, will there be widespread land confiscation or even imprisonment for those who dissent from the 'great world order'?"
"I can't say for sure, James. Anything is possible with those guys. But I don't think they'll be too blatant about it yet. The Federalization act was accepted because they have been pushing the terrorist threat business and the benefits of enforced democracy for years. The sheep were ready to be sheared for the sake of security and democracy, but I don't know if they're quite ready to consent to nomadic or dormitory-style living just yet."
"Then we have some breathing room still?"
"Yes, but one also must eat. And employment for people like yourself, who do not fit into the 'harmonious whole' will be quite difficult to find."
"I know that already. I lost my police job."
"I'm not surprised. Why don't you and Sean work with me?"
"How can we do that? You barely make enough to keep yourself alive."
"Well, maybe with you two helping I'll make more."
"Come on, how likely is that?"
"One does what one has to do, James. I don't for one second think my fishing business, which I can't really even call a business, can support you and Sean. But it will look like it does. That's all we need. I'm going to pull a Rob Roy on the powers that be. There'll be enough money. You two just concentrate on the fishing."
"There are no 'buts', James. That's the way it's going to be. Consider yourself a fisherman from this date forward."
"Well, when you're not too busy Rob Roying it, what will you do?"
"I'll fish with you and Sean and keep looking for those other pockets of resistance."
"What pockets of resistance? Caravaggio said you were the only pocket of resistance."
"I don't believe that. There must be others somewhere. Caravaggio wants me and those others to feel that we are alone so that we'll despair and give up."
"But suppose he's not lying; suppose you are the last pocket of resistance?"
"Then I'll fight alone. I'd like some company, but I'll fight with or without company."
"You're not completely alone so long as Sean and I are around. What was that St. Paul said? Something about principalities and powers?"
"Yes, I know what you mean, James."
Bulkington did not have a photographic memory, but his total recall of certain long passages from Shakespeare and the Bible always took me by surprise. With a startling and riveting intensity he recited from Ephesians.
"'Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with Truth, and having on the breast plate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayers and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.'"
"Those guys will overreach themselves eventually. I might not live to see it happen, but in the end they'll lose. You get tired sometimes, and sick to death of living in a kind of Gnostic hell, but ultimately we'll win, James. And in between… well, in between there will be some white moments."
I know it is customary to end a story a little more definitively with either a happy or a tragic ending. But the story is an ongoing one. I sincerely doubt that there are any other pockets of resistance to Caravaggio. I think Bulkington stands alone. Possibly I'm wrong about that. I hope so. In the meantime I'll stand with him and so will Sean. Mrs. Fitzgerald will support him in whatever he does. And Mary? She is very close to proposing to Bulkington. That's the only way she'll ever get him to consider marriage. But it won't change him. Nothing will. He will not stop the war against principalities and powers on this side of the grave or the other side for that matter.
He spoke of white moments. I remember one evening several years ago when he explained what he meant by a white moment.
"There are times in a person's life when he truly connects with another human being. His heart touches another heart. In those moments He is present. Those theologians who create an either-or – either we love God or we love man – do not understand. We love in Christ; outside of His love there is no love."
I've had many white moments since I met Bulkington. And I wouldn't trade one of those moments even if, by doing so, I could become the ruler of Caravaggio's harmonious world church. I'll stay with Bulkington and Bulkington's God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and St. Paul.
Bulkington is always quick to point out that he is not a prophet. He doesn't know how events will turn out. But we are told that prophecies fail. What Bulkington has is a burning, lion-like fire of charity in his heart. And charity, the Apostle tells us, never fails. +++
Labels: The Last European