Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Thirty-three 


 

Which tells of the final stage of motorcycling back to Hanoi

and the discussion that follows their most beautiful ride

Yen Bai, Yen Bai Province

שׁ

It had been a while since Hellmantle had had such a vivid dream. He couldn't really understand the importance of it. Like so many dreams, the setting had been an extraordinary combination of places he had been to, seen from afar and could piece together, creating an aggregate of images congregating in a melded whole. There was a rich man's house that had been taken over and exploited by a son who chose a life of indulgence and whose house had been the scene of many parties. The house had vast acreage spreading out to an imposing fence that appeared like the home run wall in a baseball park. Hellmantle had been part of the party that had begun in earnest when the rain began to fall and the wind picked up. For some reason he left his friends at the party and went out to the backyard where there was a foot of water covering the grass. Stepping out into the water, he found that when he pushed off he could glide along the top of the water. When the wind really began to blow hard in gusts he pushed off and proceeded to glide atop the water. He could use the wind to carry him like a windsurfer would use the wind, but he could also turn and carom with his feet pointing opposite directions, leaning into turns like a professional barefoot surfer.

It was a thrill in such crystallized purity that he could only marvel at how long the magic could last, wondering whether anyone at the house could see him or was watching him skim along the surface of the water that stretched to the very corner of the fence. Fearing that if he took his eyes off of what he was doing he would lose his ability, Hellmantle surfed and turned and glided and dipped sharply, playing with warm gusts of wind and leaning into corners that saw him flirting with wipeouts. But he didn't fall; he just played with his newfound skill to ride the lip of the rainwater's surface. He could feel the warmth of freshly fallen water in the arches of his feet, enjoying the tickling sensation and somehow knowing that the field was without danger. D'Aqs was there but he couldn't see Hellmantle in the open fields, so when he finally became human again and sank to the ground, he returned to the backyard patio. When he saw D'Aqs, he asked him whether he saw him skimming along the water, he answered that he had but that was all. He was so uninterested. Having just finished surfing on top the water, leaning into gusting wind and playing with the laws of nature, D'Aqs was more concerned with getting on the good side of the host of the party rather than something remarkable; an event to happen once in a lifetime. Such an unbelievable experience to Hellmantle had been so easily dismissed as unimportant and of no interest. He stood there in amazement while people continued to drink and talk about the most trivial trivialities. It was his amazement at D'Aqs complete lack of interest that stunned him to awake.

 

Ω

 

Hellmantle was up earlier than D'Aqs for the first time during the trip. The morning was quiet and full of moist smells. He sat there on the patio of the guesthouse under the palm trees pondering his dream. He had read somewhere that walking on water was not the miracle most thought it was; it symbolized applying ones knowledge to life. To walk on water was to do what he knew how to do. But what was the dream saying to him exactly?

"I'm going to miss these roads," said a sleepy voice. "That was awesome yesterday."

"I know. It was. I'd say it was pretty special. Today we'll hit Hanoi and the riding will change into a memory. I doubt I will ever be this way again," feeling alone in his now-fading dream.

"That's usually how it goes." D'Aqs looked at him closer.

"I'm troubled. I couldn't sleep in."

"Why?"

"Not sure. Maybe because it was such a pinnacle of everything yesterday, riding and thinking and existing on such a beautiful plane. I wish I could hold onto it in my hand but I know as soon as I try it seeps out of my grasp like trying to hold water in your hand."

"Well then let it go."

"Then it's only a memory."

"Maybe that's all it ever can be."

"I want to know what it all means. And we need to know what's going on here so we don't screw up. We have the map. We found the grave of Grampa. What's our next step?"

"Let's keep the plan simple. Keep your chin up. I've learned to have faith in your instincts Rollo. Stay the course. You've been correct on all of it when it seemed to me like a wild goose chase. You have a remarkable gift. It would be a sin for you to overlook what you have accomplished. I can understand why you feel this way because there's no one to give you a pat on the back. So I am." He didn't physically touch him but he knew the words would get through to him. "You say that only God witnesses these moments of splendor but I have to diagree because I've witnessed them and I'm not God."

"I'll say." Humor back in play. Good sign.

"I did hope that you would have had some closure with your grandfather because it's obvious how much you look up to him." Hellmantle remembered the hummingbird and instantly it uplifted his spirit. Uncharacteristically he looked at D'Aqs in the eye.

"Thanks D'Aqs. I appreciate that." It was odd seeing his turquoise eyes penetrating through him but he didn't look away. He nodded with solemn respect.

"Give it some thought while we ride the rest of the way to Hanoi. Motorcycling I think does something to you. Stirs your soul in a very healthy way. I only wish that I had something that did that for me. So count yourself lucky." His eyes shifted to D'Aqs' red abrasion on his throttle hand. "Yeah, and you don't have a cut or abrasion on you! Must be divine!" Just like that the glimmer was back in his eye.

 

Ω

 

The towns they passed through displayed red communist flags down every main road, all made of the same exact bright red. The red flags contrasted against the deep green of the jungles that was striking to the eye. The children were friendly waving as they rode by but older people looked curiously at them. Still choosing not to wear his helmet, Hellmantle's hair blew long in the wind, protecting the back of his neck from the sun. His beard glittered blonde in the light. He wondered if Rhein was watching him right now, if he could take pleasure from living vicariously through these moments of expertise and freedom, knowing he would be doing the same thing if he were alive. The thought caused him to lift his clutch hand in the air and give the peace sign to the heavens above him, the cloudess sky reflecting light into his sky-blue eyes.

Right before reaching Hanoi, the towns became more numerous. To D'Aqs, it was plain to see how effective the system of communism worked in this country. Without a doubt, Vietnam was a land of agriculture. Wherever the eye could see, there were rice fields all in some stage of fruitful production. Hats dotted the sectioned fields within larger fields defined by elevated walking paths. For D'Aqs, who had a constant need to categorize and digest the character of a country, it was production en masse here; no wonder Vietnam was the biggest supplier of rice to China. Communism here works. Compared to the arid and uncared rice terraces in the Philippines, every rice field was lush and fully productive, yielding crops that needed constant attention. To his mind, it was insane to say communism didn't have some effectiveness in a rural country like Vietnam. Unlike the West, so few hung out at discothèques and watched MTV while doing drugs and watching TV. These young men and women were working the fields at a comfortable, state-sponsored pace. There was very little need for most people to have something that their neighbor didn't have. The markets here in northern Vietnam were always full with fresh produce. Was that not the measure of a healthy society? The hue of green was deeper here than anywhere else he had ever seen. No Big Macs or Starbucks to mar the landscape of its traditional beauty. Indeed, the woods were truer than the concrete jungles of modernity. There was a peace here he had never experienced before.

 

Ω

 

Hellmantle and D'Aqs reached Hanoi and found the old French Quarter easily. When returning from such an adventure, one that called forth the hidden skills of gamesmanship and survival, Hellmantle could only see the other foreigners as superficial tourists. He saw their clean skin, well-slept eyes and unsullied clothes. Contrasting this, Hellmantle and D'Aqs were dusty and windswept as they stepped off their bikes and walked with a pronounced swagger to the pub.

"Some ginspotting is what we deserve, n'est-ce pas?" said Hellmantle, licking his lips.

"Yeah, I'm thirsty."

They sat at roadside table by the window. The red hue that hung around Hellmantle's face was like a tattletale of their mountain exploits, and was strangely incongruous with the pampered tourists sitting timidly behind him sipping cocktails and staring at the television with the same slouched posture that they had back home.

"Just because these wank-buckets watch the television from a café in Hanoi makes them think they're worldly," Hellmantle said, studying the menu. "These are the same people who take a bus up to see the country and come back experts on the sights, sounds and smells of this out-of-reach foreign land."

"Beer?"

"Yes, of course, but let's take advantage of this special deal of Margaritas that are the house specialty." They ordered boiled eggs in the shell and Heinz beans on crisp toast as well as beer and a pitcher of Margaritas.

"Isn't it reassuring to see the colonial façade of the buildings that line the streets here?" said D'Aqs.

"Yes, I know what you mean. After being out so far in the bush it feels like home just seeing them." The Margaritas arrived and Hellmantle drank the first glass as if it was lemonade. He poured himself another.

"It tells me that communication to the outside world exist and that we are again safe. The world we have just returned from is a world unseen to most."

"But it is there to all to see. People don't have the balls to go out and see it. Most here don't even have backpacks; they have suitcases with wheels! They have digital cameras poised for a quick photo yet the opportunity never comes. They spend the money to get to a place like Hanoi but then let their precious finite time slip through their fingers watching television in silent relief. This is why simply going somewhere ceases to solve the underlying problem. They return as they were before they left.

"Look at the two of us for example. People could easily think we had gone native. We could be guys who have perhaps turned our back on Western ways and had married a Vietnamese girl, two wanderers in dusty clothes who had chosen to live among the villagers. But to the sporting eye, we may pass as photojournalists after an extended assignment, who had been forced to find our object of study and analysis very far away, perhaps a historical sight or investigating a social issue. And some still, who may be partial to the military mind, seeing all the dust caught in our beards and hair, may prefer to think we are young retired military officers who had chosen to live in a cheap foreign land so our pension has more spending power, and who through time have adopted more and more of the native ways. Or perhaps we're Special Forces tasking incognito as travelers? We are objects of interest to them all.

"But all of them are asking: ‘Where the Hell were you?'"

"Sure, I can see that. All are possibilities. I see the way they're looking at us."

"For me it will be yesterday that will remain with me after many moons have come and gone," he said. "French-engineered roads through the mountains of Vietnam. Who would of thought? I think I had a moment."

Knowing the act of explanation of his flow could never truly be communicated to another, Hellmantle let his thoughts of it reverberate within his own mind.  D'Aqs saw him pondering something that took his eyes inward for a few moments on another autistic journey. In this moment D'Aqs realized that their trip to the highlands of Vietnam had made Hellmantle different in some way. Something had been proven because he wore the expression of distinguished accomplishment. Perhaps it was his chin that was raised slightly, or the mountain sun still emitting from his eyes, or the skin peeling on his nose, or the windburn of his face; this change attracted curious glances from those in the bar still planning their outing. These were the onlookers who Hellmantle believed talked a fat game but had little substance to back it up.

"I had a dream this morning that's stuck in my mind all day." He described his dream but didn't exclude his disappointment at D'Aqs disinterest.

        "Why would you feel that way in your dream, that I wasn't interested in your foot surfing?" Hellmantle ruminated.

        "Maybe because part of me doesn't think you're interested in all this stuff?" D'Aqs was careful with his reply.

        "I am becoming more and more interested, Hellmantle. That's the truth."

        "And I believe you. But having the day to ponder it, I wonder if there's part of me that resents the fact that Rhein is dead. In the dream you would be the natural person I would direct my anger to, obviously having done nothing wrong. My subconscious mind wants Rhein to be with me, not you." D'Aqs laughed at his Asperger directness.

        "That could be true."

        "I think it is."

        "Have you come to terms with his death?"

        "What does mean? Come to terms?"

        "Accepting it."

"How?"

"By stop resenting it happened."

        "I can resent whatever I want."

        "No, you can't. Because if you do it will kill you."

        "What will?"

        "The resentment."

"Resentment will?"

"It's potent enough to take down a man." As Hellmantle contemplated, D'Aqs noticed an aura around him.

        "And how would a man overcome resentment at something so unjust?" The Anglican minister sat up and put his hands together on the table.

        "By seeing the unjust event as destined, that it happened for a reason." This penetrated the Hellmantle firewall.

        "That it was fate?"

        "Yes, out of your control." This truck a nerve.

        "But it was in my control! I was the one who dared him to take that stupid jump when I was too scared to do it myself!" Like a shaken bottle, the restless carbination exploded.

        "Just because you dared him didn't mean it was in your control. It was the Wineman's choice. Think of all the times you did one of his dares, or all the times you did chose not to."

        "What is this? Anglican sophistry?" D'Aqs didn't take the bait. Kept his eyes firm. Hellmantle picking a hangnail. "It's true, we dared each other all the time."

        "I saw it Mantlepiece., firsthand for years. Boarding school is one of those special circumstances when you live with others and see them all the time, even during class. To be honest, it was fascinating." Eye contact.

        "So when you say it might have been meant to happen, what are you saying exactly?" He knew exactly what he was going to say but delivered so nonchalantly that Hellmantle would make an effort to understand its full meaning.

        "Perhaps his untimely death gave you the life that has led you to being right here, right now. Perhaps if you were both hanging out you would still be pulling pranks and ensconced in mischief so that it would have been impossible to have the time to read all those books, all those papers all over your apartment, and go so deeply into this realm of darkness loaded with knowledge, and achieve greatness." Never had D'Aqs had such focused attention from him, eyes like lazer beams, a window of turquoise dazzling with intelligence within, the fierce hunger to understand, a revelation of ignorance that overwhelmed and crippled, a yearning impossible to ignore that was always knocking on the door. It were the words Hellmantle took with him when he finally looked away and thought.

        "I-" A wave of his hand, drank his beer and then lit a cigarette. "I always. I suppose I skipped a step in my logic." He laughed. Tremendous relief from D'Aqs. "I always said to myself, in my own mind, that I killed him. It was me who caused his broken neck." Confession; words rusty from disuse, cobwebs blown away in the Hanoi breeze. "But-" He stood up to retreive an ashtray from the bar. "But it was his choice as you say, just like all my choices. Not to say it was his fault. But just to say I didn't push him over a cliff, as it were."

        "Right."

        "And maybe you're right, that it happened for a reason. Being alone is the only way one can immerse oneself so thoroughly in a subject of this magnitude." D'Aqs knew he had succeeded in withdrawing the festering thorn wedged in this man's paw when he heard the way he enunciated his last word. He nodded and drank half his margarita while marvelling at the healing power of confession.

        "Give me one of those won't you Mantlepiece?" Removing a cigarette from his crumpled Vietnamese pack, Hellmantle handed it to the missionary and flicked his lighter. "You're a bad influence on me just like back in B-Dorm."

        "Petite Testi-cleez having a smoke. Never say never." Smoke stung his eyes like hot lead.

        "And let's get a pint. These drinks are too...too dulce."

        "They are sweet señor."

        "The last time I had one of these things was with you and the Rhein Man. Remember that? Beside the tennis courts? Must've have been in the fall of that year. I reaked like smoke for week. And I was convinced I was going to get burned from the smell!" They both knew what had just happened and why D'Aqs was smoking; both aware of the danger they had avoided, relieved they had found the only narrow bridge that wobbled through the crosswinds over the abyss.

        "It was a bit of a kicker to go over the Da River Canyon when we were so close to the Chinese border," said Hellmantle. "That's when it all started really, the serious cruising technology."

"And then back down through Viet Tri."

"Yeah, that was groovy too, man. Very groovy."

"It was if I was propelled forward."

"I felt pulled too, all the way down. Effortless."

"Yes, pulled. Nice one."

"Holy." They drank their margaritas and were resting their feet when beer and more margaritas arrived.

"Something has changed in you," said D'Aqs. "Is it religious zeal?"

        "Surely our quest has become holier now?"

        "It has. With some physical expenditure."

        "But therein lies the pilgrimage. Through physical expenditure and flirting with mortal danger, we show God we are worthy; that we serve."

        "After that ride, I'm sure we're pretty worthy." They were both drinking margaritas at a swift pace, thirsty on their last night in Vietnam.

        "We showed the mettle required to find the map and the Great Dane's resting place."

"And you gave a stranger a forty-ounce bottle of Irish Whiskey." Hellmantle was back to his reposed, semi-listening state if chewing on ideas, eyes averted, hand stroking the tip of his chin.

"Rhein always said: To conquer is a skill; to continue to conquer is an art."

"You both had a philosophical bend to you back as kids."

"One can spout as much Carpe Diem philosophy as they wish but when push comes to shove, only action, or lack of action, indicates the degree one lives of their life philosophy. This cleavage separates the ivory-tower philosophers and the thinkers who change the world. One talks a good game and the other lets their actions reveal their true self. One is soft and one is hard; they are two separate creatures. One makes history, and the other makes academic theory."

"Yes." Back to his comfort zone with illusions of grandeur was a good thing.

"It is to us that this monumental task has fallen. It is a quest to which I have dedicated my life, in the name of my fallen brother and for the unmatchable beauty of...of the artist Asher, to see if these prophecies are true. We can only undertake this quest if our will is pure and we keep proving that we are worthy vessels as we inch forward towards the final goal. We are prophecy testers."

Yes. And I'm starting to think that perhaps all this motorcycling is necessary so the candidate can prove to God that he has a worthy character."

"Like Galahad. Not like Lancelot, who was not worthy."

"I don't know what to believe anymore." D'Aqs took a deep breath of some of the Hanoi lush air. "This quest is causing me to have unsure footing in the realm of nihilism."

"Well then comfort yourself by knowing that nihilism is the only path that enables you to think for yourself. As they say, some times it's time to break open a new bar of soap." When D'Aqs inhaled he coughed and gagged, smoke coming out of nose.

"'Bit of a dry heave in there." Hellmantle's laugh interrupting him. "I seem to recall you did that that beside the tennis courts last time we shared a smoke." He grinned at the contrast between the trails of wetness below his eyes and the dusty veneer of his cheeks and the mucous on the edge of his nostril.

        "My virgin lungs."

"Here, you have-" Instead of using tissue he always had in his pocket D'Aqs wiped his nose with his sleeve.

        "I remember that because both of you had a good laugh." D'Aqs drank cocktail-for-cocktail with his old friend, as Hellmantle opened the door to any memory linked to his twin.

 

 

Here ends the third part of the rich history of Hellmantle of Normandy, where new records of his deeds come into clearer focus, which will be resumed in the next and final part of this recounting.

  

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                             
          The Family of the Bible
FIRST PART
1.       Concerning the famous Hellmantle's position, character and way of life
2.       Concerning the ingenious man's visit with his uncle Jack Grosseteste
3.       Which relates to how Hellmantle is given his first adventure
4.       About what happened to our adventurer when he goes to the Philippines
5.       In which the story of our crusader's journey begins in earnest
6.       About Hellmantle's time in the city of sin on Christmas Eve
7.       About the brave Hellmantle's success on his adventure to Baguio City worthy of happy memory
 
SECOND PART
8.       In which the courageous Hellmantle of Normandy journeys north into the Cordillera Mountain Range
9.       About what happened to Hellmantle in the mission in the mountains and the crucifixion of Jesus
10.     Concerning Hellmantle of Normandy in the land of the headhunters
11.     About the required riding techniques to reach the destination of Sagada and the church organist
12.     In which the German artist is tracked to the Shamrock Café and dangers of the northeast of Luzon Island
13.     In which Catharine is tracked to the Shamrock Café and an eery coincidence of a reoccurring dream
14.     About Hellmantle reaching the rice terraces and finding a way to the northwest
15.     About what happened to our intrepid philosopher in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains
16.     In which a record is given about the brave Hellmantle through uncharted territory on his trusted dirt bike
17.     Which relates to Hellmantle of Normandy reaching the northern coast and the rubble of Aparri
18.     About the final day of the motorcycle journey and discussing the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in Vigan
19.     About the sermon in Agoo Basilica and what they find at the church with the rouge bell tower
20.     Concerning the Dutch Padre and what he knows about the hidden map
21.     About the return to Manila and the coup that causes the Great Man from Normandy grief
 
THIRD PART
22.     Which brings Hellmantle of Normandy back to Hong Kong to re-evaluate the next step in his quest for truth
23.     In which their journey is related to Jack Grosseteste and a new task is set before the Man from Normandy
24.     Concerning the journey to northern Vietnam to track down the map hidden at a French prison
25.     About how Hellmantle and D'Aqs compare notes on their task at hand in Hanoi
26.     In which an account is given of the beginning of the journey of Hellmantle in Vietnam
27.     About how Hellmantle and his brave squire ride north to the place where the four rivers meet
28.     Concerning the French prison and what Hellmantle finds there
29.     Concerning the discovery of the bottle and what lies inside of it
30.     Concerning the journey to Dien Bien Phu in honor of their grandfather the Great Dane Hellmantle
31.     About what the motorcyclists see on the fields in Dien Bien Phu
32.     Concerning the motorcycling required to reach Hanoi via the other side of the Da River Valley
33.     Which tells of the final stage back to Hanoi and the discussion after their most beautiful ride
 
FOURTH PART
34.     Concerning the visit with the knowledgeable Jack Grosseteste and the sally to India
35.     Concerning the arrival and journey to Kashmir Valley
36.     In which the journey begins in earnest through the checkpoints to the foot of the Moghul Fort
37.     In which Srinagar is reached and how the houseboat was as it was hundred years ago
38.     In which Hellmantle reach their houseboat on the lake below the fort and beside the mosque
39.     In which Hellmantle sets out for the Tomb of Thome and his brother Joshua beside him
40.     Which relates to the agreeable history of the journey north to the monastery on horseback
41.     In which Hellmantle returns to Srinagar and finds the first translations of the black stones
42.     Which concerns the deciphering of the discovery at the monastery and the need to go to the Ganges River
43.     About Hellmantle of Normandy's meeting with the holy man after taking a dip in the Ganges River
44.     About Hellmantle's meeting at Jack Grossetests's place with D'Aqs and Catharine the artist from Sagada
 
o       Chronology of Historical Events
         
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