From UNTIME, by Steven Leech


CASABLANCA

The smell of hot sand and the fuchsia. Around the corner from the airfield. In the shadow under an airplane wing. Swastikas and hot blaring sun. Around the corner Rick's. At night spotlight searchlights present it under surveillance. Inside Rick's all colognes from all over the world. Herr Heinz thick of French cologne remarks: Imagine us in Paris. In London which'll it be?

Herr Heinz asked the question got official privy. Could be several answers especially because of the one answer given in this case. It looks like a black and white world but you may not think so. Not here or anywhere. The colors under the surface are not here.

Let me introduce. The name's Ghedé. I take refuge in Rick's at end of the runway. I weigh the possibilities. They aren't too heavy. So light in fact no one sees them. But ask the wrong question and you keep me from my duties. Old wild west I'd be the card shark riverboat gambler. Yeah I know Rick's got gambling in the back but those are just dead end games for me. I've been around a couple of times. I'll give you better numbers later.

Heinz asked that question. The magic word was "imagine." That set me off and got caught up in what almost all completely misunderstand the web of time.

"Ask me when you get there," Rick answered.

Oops. Snapped into the picture when I overheard. Shit we're gonna get into this dance. Always comes in times of war. This time especial. Gotta big one this time with atom stopping power. Gonna split it all open in some world. This time shit folks can't see past. Not as it truly is. And they're gonna pop this world if I don't get some fuckin' goin'.

Every night Rick take a girl at the Blue Parrot for a treatment that how swell he is. Neon got him the night in wash of spotlight. The war heats up and currents cross. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world. Heinz has got to ask the question in my place. Interjecting. Off the cuff. Oblique and obscured enough to present the power of possible. It was time to get out the bag of tricks. Or else a smart ass retort.

Gotta step down into the Blue Parrot a coffee and wine place by day. A front for the blackest markets. At night the lady's lookin' for favors Rick can make.

Rick's got some numbers there in the gambling in the back. Hand out a number for whatever he wants. He can be definite get certainty like a good fuck or a rare drug. But for me the numbers click on different cylinders. Here are the possibilities:

1. It looks more likely than not that the Nazi's are gonna march into London. Could be soon. In which case it's curtains for a thousand years of stupefying bliss. Could be a world where there's no place to hide.

2. Could be the Nazi's never march into London. Some one pulls a fast one some sleight of hand. In this case there is some place to hide or perhaps a place to make the only escape available. It may take fifty years a lot of time that makes you forget. Escape may come to you only because you ain't supposed to be. That would be number 4 but don't count on it. You gotta see it first even if you ain't supposed to be.

3. Heinz could be a shipping clerk in Dresden charming clocks chiming every 13 minutes and 42 seconds. Ilse an exclusive domanitrix in Olso. Rick's a club owner in the hippest boho deep downtown in Gotham. None of 'em know each other but an introduction could be made in a flash.

5. It is 1963 in all above. Victor Laslo workin' Gotham's major daily in the back pages. Deep stuff. Ilse a housewife made good use of her looks ten years before becoming a nuclear homemaker now with a baby boomer finally. Sam the piano player's got a club in the Hoodle.

None got the news yet about Pearl Harbor such a long distance. There's still some time to work here though the consequences could put the squeeze on the sentimental. Some one's gonna half to be the Jesus. Odd enough. I'll make sure of it. I'll be the other half and catch them in my nets here there and everywhere they don't spin when I am there around them everything else spins instead in our transfix with each other.

In Paris May June. Old romance Hemingway Gertrude & Alice & Pablo lost generation one time prohibition flapper swank in swell café all wine and bread. Oil pigment linseed scent Ilse and Richard and Eiffel. Under Notre Dame and haunts of Henry and June. Anaïs and La Belle Aurora find Rick and Ilse there.

Rick made a big pile offa prohibition in New York I wouldn't advise you go there. Lost it in the Depression. Embezzled a heap from a shark in Hell's Kitchen and split. Bought a whole lotta big guns and put 'em to good use in Ethiopia and Spain. Made a whole lot more bought some good time en Paris right before I came along to transfix things and fold some necessary possibilities to get this jam out of it.

Ghedé could come out of a barrel of a gun not this time. I would find Jobe at crossover made by turbines tuned just right. The Blue Parrot has flies.

Rick and Louis find hiding in Brazzaville far south in forest land vent ghosts and babies and gents like me. You could get lost in it but probably not. Just think that way for a hunnert years. I'll keep you writhing serpent in lithe loins of forest lights in the pitchest night. In time before you know it your life is gone. Or gunned down and chopped up. Some may look for Rick's bone's in wet rot exotic funk growin' off it. Some deep forest tribe of ghosts and babies ate the best part of him and discarded the rest. Maybe got transformed into a hyena by a Bocur. Maybe he just gave life to those maidens of mine who suck him out and feed him what all forget. In any case Rick'll never come back. Gotta be that way. Just gotta be. Or else.