Red Tides (part 1)

­Pellicer left his home on the Mediterranean island of Minorca in the spring of 1768 as an indentured servant. He boarded a ship in a fleet of eight sailing to the newly acquired British possession of East Florida. Five years before, several thousand of that exotic land’s former occupants up and decided to permanently sojourn in Cuba and the newly-Spanish Louisiana, foolishly leaving their forts and garrisons unguarded against the onslaught of British capital investment. Among those lured to that tropical paradise by the great advertising ruckus which the new stakeholders created was one Scotsman by the name of Dr. Andrew Turnbull.

After acquiring the necessary land, Dr. Turnbull set out to acquire the necessary Protestants to settle it. Fortunately for him, the keepers of the Anglican faith had unilaterally declared the Greek Orthodox faith to be, in fact, Protestant. Between this fact and Ottoman despotism, or perhaps between his Anatolia-born Greek wife and sheer expediency and businesslike calculation, Turnbull set upon his plan. He delegated out the clearing of land and other essentials and set forth to lead around five hundred faithful Hellenic Christians out of the tyranny of Turkish cotton, silk and indigo production and into the contractual freedom of British cotton, silk and indigo production.

Robert Pellicer was standing in the Museum of Southern History, looking at Olustee. He was looking at it because Mr. Brundick has told him to, but also because it is a prehistoric place frozen in the amber jewel of Osceola National Forest. It won’t go away, and in a month the hundreds will flock there in their blue and grey to perform the ritual. Robert was looking at Olustee because it won’t ever go away, no sooner than the old Jerusalem will crumble into Canaanite dust. The place is teeming with conflict, stolid with reassurances. The christening was a done deal. You know how the story went.

Mr. Brundick declared the fierce independence of the museum: “Private. Any govament would take this place and put up Martin Luther Coon up all over.” Mr. Devalt, the younger, explained: “They’d want to make it all social history, rather than military or political…” Robert tightened his lips and straightened his eyebrows, giving a firm and slow nod of interested concern. Robert thought, ‘Well, your cultural mission has avoided the threat of class-based interpretation by fifty years, in fact. Coming full circle, you’re now properly historicist for today’s cultural history. Little do they know just how established they are, in that regard. Welcome to the Identity Museum of the Confederacy.’

86 year old Mr. Brundick introduced himself as a Florida cracker, and Robert in turn introduced himself with the family names of relevance. Immediately credentialed in blood, Robert was regaled with tales of ancestors from the Jacksonville of yore. He threw in some crackers, too, for good measure. He didn’t need to establish himself too much, seeing as how these men were representing a fallen establishment or two, but there is always the danger of giving away a traitorous inclination which cuts beyond the betrayals of the past into the present day.  Not to mention the ambiguity of the Minorcan surname, Pellicer. But they hadn’t gone away, either. No sooner than—

Camilla used to have a personal motto: “Disillusionment is the product of prior delusions”. Thinking that one is so much the better for getting beyond the security of fiction to the sparsity of prose in general. Her motto had since become: “Delusion is the product of prior disillusionment”. One is so much the better, she determined, for keeping intact the beautiful presupposition that all remains intact. Where once she might have written that truth emanated in intrusive bursts from some warm centrifugal locus, such as a sovereign spiritual heart sans codependent circulatory system, she now felt that intrusive fact had the appearance of jagged stones of a sea wall. Stones compelled into position to stem a rising tide, but too often halting the compulsions of the tides to rise.

This change was reflected in her sketches on napkins when she was caught in a public place against the intruder and the sovereignty of her internal world: A lopsided heart which had no vascular bonds gave way to a scribbled convalescence of teeming sea curves over stolid stone scratches, or a heart which was bound to another through radiating lines of blood that became thicker and thicker as she retraced them into absolute prominence. “Delusion is just reality at its most sincere.” Those were the words she received back from a friend via one of her crowded barroom napkin correspondences.

It was in a loud bar in Cambridge where she went hoping to meet and liquefy with another heart. All had failed in the winter, when she took up wandering alone in the Back Bay and spending many of her days at Massachusetts General Hospital. She would read in the cafeteria or visit the maternity ward to gaze curiously through the window of the nursery. Her time for postcards had come, but she failed at Robert’s game of specially selecting vintage postcards. Hers would be generic and contemporary, and free if at all possible. The illusion of specificity given from the discolored fading ink of the worn cards he sent could thereby be dispelled. In its place was given the sincere reality of a card found in Gloucester at a travel agency (“Rockport, Motif #1, Bearskin Neck Motor Lodge, Inc.”).

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