Peter was painting a picture of a figure eight when Chuck walked into the bedroom without knocking.
"What the hell kind of crap is that?" Chuck scoffed.
"It’s the mathematical symbol of infinity."
"Oh, that’s what it is. I thought you were just painting like a monkey," Chuck laughed, scratching his ribcage. "Why DO you paint, anyway?"
"Because I’m trying to develop myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but you probably wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?"
"Oh, C’mon, everyone knows why you paint."
"Because you’re ‘different,’" Chuck made quotation marks with his fingers.
"What are you trying to say?"
"You’re gay, obviously."
"That’s it. Get out of my room!"
"Make me. It’s my room too, jerk off."
Peter lunged at Chuck, who easily shoved him to the ground.
"Why don’t you develop yourself physically, for a change, so you’re not such a little girl? Act like a man instead of a sissy, and stop painting this stupid shit. Everybody thinks you’re gay, and they’re starting to wonder if I’m queer, too, because a’ you." Chuck held up a threatening fist.
Peter looked up with tears in his eyes. He darted out of the room, got on his bike and took off, pedaling furiously. Since it was Saturday and he had finished his chores, he headed east toward the foothills. Even though he felt tired most of the time, occasionally when he was on his bicycle, he could forget about his illness and pedal for miles. Now he was determined to keep going as far as he could, possibly never turning back.
At about two o’clock, he reached the end of the grid, where the road suddenly veers northeast and curves gently into the lower foothills. He crossed the Friant-Kern canal, which contains the water of the San Joaquin River flowing south now instead of west in its natural course, and then he stopped, watching the swallows loop above the water, in figure eights, he imagined. He took a slug of water and chewed awhile on a granola bar. He had a package of energy bars in his backpack that might last him a couple of days.
About a hundred yards from the canal, Peter noticed several large, flat stones that contained circles from which grass was growing. He got off of his bike and rolled under the barbed wire. He found a Native American village site next to the road on a slight rise above a narrow stream that emptied into a marsh next to the canal. Imagining that he was a Native American standing by the pounding stone, he gazed a long time at an egret, a white question mark reflected in the shallow water, while he listened to faint, tranquil buzzes and chirping noises. He crossed the road and climbed to the top of the rise where he found two more pounding stones. Whoever had made the road had just plowed right through the village site, probably removing pounding stones and destroying house pits which were also graves.
Peter had written a report about the Yokuts people after he had found several village sites one day, complete with pounding stones, pestles and house pits, while he and his father and brother were looking for a fishing hole on private property. The creek was too small for decent fishing, so they wandered around the trails in the area, scaring the cattle. Peter was the first to notice something unusual about the ridge. The earth was more disturbed, less even. Then he noticed the holes like cups in the stone and faint paths that led to indentations in the ground. They all followed a path and found another village site. His dad sneered, "This is what happens to you when you’re weak."
It was almost three o’clock. Peter soon pedaled to a more wooded area, where hiding from passing cars would be easier. Deciding that he should try riding his mountain bike on the trail, Peter heaved his bike over sagging barbed wire and then rolled under. The main paths in the area were smooth and easy to travel. Every now and then, however, he would encounter a rock or a branch or an incline that would force him to get off of the bike and walk. Following the trail along the ridge for half a mile, he finally curved down toward the floodplain of the creek. Between two small hills, he found a pounding stone with eleven pestles on top. He got off of the bike and rested in the shade. The sun was beginning to sink toward the western horizon. He was getting very close to the moment when he would have to decide whether or not to go home.
He took out his pack of Tarot cards and decided to examine the last one, THE WORLD. In the center of the card, a naked woman floated in what appeared to be a large mirror fringed with leaves of some kind. At the top and bottom of the mirror, a red ribbon twisted into a figure eight seemed to be holding the victory wreath together. In each corner of the card was a head: in the upper left corner the head of a man, in the upper right an eagle, in the lower left an ox, and in the lower right a lion. The previous night he had read that they represented the four elements of Air, Water, Earth, and Fire respectively. He had read also that card twenty-one, THE WORLD, represented the thirty second path--the path between the material world and the lower astral plane.
Peter closed his eyes and cleared his mind. The woman floating in the mirror might represent the soul in the center of the elements, spirit manifested in matter. Since the body is floating, however, Peter thought, perhaps it represents the soul detached from matter, a ghost floating in another dimension, on a different plane. She appeared to be ascending; perhaps the soul can only ascend if it has mastered existence--if, totally centered, it has mastered the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of life.
Peter began to wonder how he could possibly master all those aspects of existence. Only the material plane seemed reflected in his life, or perhaps it was the other way around--his life only reflected the material plane. The only things that connected him with those other levels were art and meditation and now the Tarot cards. Peter looked around at the pounding stone, where the pestles seemed to have been abandoned only yesterday, then at the one strand of barbed wire still linking the leaning fence posts, then at the smog obscuring the creek in the distance, the earth tranquil and quiet.
Maybe Cashing could help him understand it. Peter got back on his bicycle and pedaled home, making it just in time for bed.
Open the next door.
Discover "The World."
Open the door to a daimon.
Open a punished door.