Wednesday, November 09, 2011


SOL OCCAXUS (Sunset) Monday, 19 September, 2011

CREPUSCULUM (Evening Twilight)
I. Friday, 23 September, 2011
II. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
III. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
IV. Sunday, 16 October, 2011

VESPER (Evening Dusk)
I. Sunday, 23 October, 2011
II. Sunday, 30 October, 2011
III. Wednesday, 9 November, 2011
CONCUBIUM (First Sleep – Coitus – Rest)
MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)
DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)


Michael Mara paced forward and back across the heavily stained carpet of the hotel-room floor as he waited impatiently for his call to be answered. “Come on Caroline. Answer the goddam phone. Where are you?” he barked into the receiver. Suddenly, the connection was made...
“Hello. The Mara residence,” a voice announced.
Michael immediately recognised his wife's accent. She had never lost a clipped and precise Oxford pronunciation to the lazy drawl of the West Coast and its distracted coolness irritated him further. “Where were you, Caroline? This is the third time I have tried in the last two hours. I couldn’t reach you yesterday either!” he said impatiently.
“Hello to you too, Michael. I’m fine but let me put my life on hold while sitting by the phone waiting for my master to ring.”
“Very funny,” he replied quietly. Penetrating sarcasm was his wife’s deadliest weapon and Michael had learnt to be very wary of its unleashed power. He stopped pacing the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “You’re right Caroline. Sorry . . . but where were you?”
“I was next-door with Marcia, raking over the embers of yet another failed relationship as it happens. And then you call. Strange the coincidence don't you think.”
“Ha!" he said as he tried to backtrack. "That woman goes through men with the zeal of a meat factory renderer. No wonder it always ends in tears,” he laughed, thinking of his neighbour Marcia, the relatively young and extremely wealthy, widow of an auto parts manufacturer whose departure had been consummated by a succession of carnal interviews for the vacant position.
“She has a higher expectation of men than is reasonable or justified. Now let’s talk about you, Michael,” Caroline pounced.
“Ouch,” he said defensively.
“You walked into it!” There was a slight pause and when Caroline spoke again it was more conciliatory. “How did the conference go?” she asked.
“Good,” he said truthfully.
“You must be in London now. What time is your flight?”
“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” he said.
“That will be a welcome change.”
“Caroline, what’s up with you?” he asked bothered by the brittle exchange between them.
“You are about to tell me that you have decided to stay on in Spain for a few extra days and that not to expect you until next weekend.”
Michael looked at the clock on the bedside locker. It was nearly midnight. He laid back on the bed exacerbated at the need for the games between them. “How did you know? Oh I see! Rod told you, I suppose.”
“He was very quick off the mark. You must be in constant communication.” He knew his sarcasm was childish.
“At least he does communicate.”
“What do you mean by that Caroline?”
There was another pause. Her breathing sounded heavy, almost tearful he thought. “Michael, your whole life has been dictated to by a need to identify problems and provide, brilliantly at times, solutions. Increasingly, in recent times, conversations between us have lapsed into a strict formula of identification of mutual responsibilities where reason and rationalization will provide solutions. In order to minimize conflict you have made a convenient virtue of apologizing for your shortcomings before they are even tested. That is an arrogance which I accept might work in the business but leaves me isolated.”
“But Caroline – ”
“Listen, Michael. I am not a problem to be solved. I want you to ask me ‘How are you feeling… what are your needs?’ and for you to be there for the answer. I do not expect you, nor if I really think about it, particularly want you, to come up with an instant solution so that you can relax feeling that ‘the Caroline problem’ has been dealt with. I want only that you understand that we should explore our feelings and needs more and to be receptive to that.”
There was a background sound of muffled voices on the line. “And I suppose Rod does. Is he there with you now?” he suddenly asked
“What do you mean?”
“I thought I heard voices.”
His wife’s laughter reverberated down the telephone link. It was a genuine, light-hearted and slightly amused laugh, this time. “You see, Michael, you are even getting paranoid. No. I was just telling Mrs Sanchez that you would not be home and there was no need to prepare meals for the next few days.”
Michael covered the mouthpiece and sighed deeply. As a couple they had never had children. ‘Unexplained infertility’ the experts had said and both of them had balked at the suggested intrusion of in-vitro fertilization and declined its temptation. He didn’t think either of them had ever regretted that decision. Caroline had also declined to consider adoption and for the most part not having a family had never been an issue between them. It was, however, at times when they argued, when they questioned each other’s motivation, that the idea of being possibly unfulfilled in their lives occasionally crossed Michael’s mind. It somehow only served to confirm her accusation of him being a solution driven partner. He knew she was right, he had let economic security become the guardian of their dreams. He thought of Isabella. “You are right Caroline. I have let us slip.”
“We, have let us slip, ” she replied, her voice tired rather than despondent.
“Listen, Caroline,” he suggested. “I’ll change my plans again and return tomorrow. We will take the same time together instead or could . . . would you join me here?”
“No, Michael. I cannot. I’m flying down to La Paz in Baja tonight. I will be there for about three days.”
“Why? You never mentioned it.” His tone was defensive.
“An urgent situation has arisen and the Columbian Financial Intelligence Unit have requested a meeting with us and the Mexicans.”
Michael hesitated as he digested this news. Caroline was an honours graduate of the Royal College of Art and Design and had obtained a doctorate in Paris with cutting edge experimental work on the application of new metallic inks in printing. From there her career had evolved into becoming one of the world’s leading experts on security features incorporated into the printing of banknotes to prevent forgery and was currently contracted as a consultant to the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Increasingly her expertise and appetite for change had taken her into the shady and dangerous world of ‘field’ operational counterfeit detection and interception measures. To his mounting concern the work increasingly seemed to involve her operating in an undercover capacity. His wife on the other hand was enraptured and appeared to have a natural aptitude for subterfuge. The US Treasury now saw her as their brightest star, if only she would relinquish her stubborn hold on Her Majesty’s passport. “Who are you travelling with?” Michael asked.
“Randy Coors from FCEN, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network; John Cortes from the Secret Service and some young hotshots from the State Department.”
“Are you in the field.”
“No! Not this time,” she reassured. “I shall be cosseted in the safe environs of a posh hotel. It’s planned only as a short-stay briefing session.”
“Why La Paz?”
“Who knows? Whales perhaps.”
“For pity's sake. Lighten up, Michael! Remember that trip we made all those years ago to follow the whales along the coast to Baja. Sand, sun, sea combined with environmentally friendly and frequent sex. It was a good time if I remember properly.” Her words were accompanied by a brief wistful nasal giggle which quickly evaporated as she switched into reality tone. “I suspect La Paz was chosen both for secrecy and convenience for all parties. I will ring you with the hotel number when I get there in case the cell does not work.”
“I could join you in La Paz, Caroline. We’ll take a few days together and relive some of the memories.”
“No, Michael. There is no need. Do not change your plans again. Take the extra time in Spain to chill out on your own and think. I have to, in any event, be back for the charity tennis tournament on Thursday and we can talk when you get return.” There was more light laughter. “You are on your own, aren’t you?”
“Hold on, I’ll just check.” Michael was glad of the opportunity that Caroline had deliberately, in her cunning way, provided to check his edginess. It was a natural, and disarming, accomplishment of her people management skills. “Imagine that! She has gone and not a word of thanks. Like with all the other women in my life I obviously didn’t make a huge impression,” he laughed.
“That’s better . . . Did Rod tell you about the offer?”
Michael suddenly sat bolt upright on the bed and feeling very nervous, very paranoid, hesitated. His head began to throb. He thought he could hear a creaking noise in the background of the connection. It sounded like a door opening and a voice whispering. It was probably Mrs Sanchez going about her work. “Yes but why . . . Why was he so keen to involve you Caroline?” he asked, cautiously.
“As a matter of course, Michael. As Max and I control six percent of Hoxygene he would have to discuss the offer with us.”
“But we, you and I, Caroline, had always agreed that you and your brother’s shareholding would be allied to mine.”
“Yes, I know, but Max is now anxious to divest and Rod has made a convincing argument for the deal.”
“But, Caroline, I would lose the company and everything I . . . We have worked for.”
“Perhaps you might lose control, Michael, but you could gain so much more. A chance to regain the freedom we appear to have lost along the way. It really sounds like a good deal.”
“A bloody betrayal more likes. You, Max and Rod can go fuck yourselves! I’m not selling out.” Michael’s frustration and anger welled up and spilt out in an icy blast.
“Group therapy! Not a pleasant thought.” Caroline’s voice was sharp again.
“Well, you and Rod so. You appear to be so much in tune with each other.” Michael instantly regretted the bitchiness of the comment. It brought into the open, in circumstances where he’d little control of where it would lead, secret jealousies and fears that he had long suppressed about the true nature of Caroline and Rod’s relationship.
“Given your current attitude, Michael the prospect is particularly tempting, although, I doubt I would satisfy Rod's criteria.”
“What do you mean?” He questioned, puzzled.
“I should have said this to you before now, and you are not to let on who told you, Rod is the country club queen of hearts. He’s gay. ”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Nevertheless, it’s true.”
“Jesus! How long have you known that?”
“About a year.”
“And you never told me!”
“Listen, Michael. Nearly every second man we know is gay. It’s not that important an issue and in any event Rod made me promise that I wouldn’t.”
“He thinks Irish-Americans to be the most homophobic people on the planet. He was anxious that it would interfere with your working together.”
“Jesus! I don’t believe it. He always has beautiful women hanging from his arm.”
There was the sound of a door opening and then closing on the line.
“He talks to them, he doesn’t shag them. He’s also very discreet,” she explained calmly.
“Why did you tell me now?”
“Because your paranoia is obscuring your vision about the possible benefits of the deal. This is far more important than Rod’s sexuality. It’s . . . It is important for us, you and me.”
“I’m not paranoid Caroline. I don’t give a fuck whether Rod is queer or not, although you should have told me. I care about Hoxygene. ”
“Yes, Caroline.” Michael was dismissively cool.
“Look! This is not a done deal. Rod has not even approached the institutional shareholders yet. Max and I want you to think about the benefits for all of us, and we will discuss it when you return. Nothing more will be done in the meantime. ”
“Thank you for that, Caroline. Perhaps Max and I can arrange to travel on the same flight from London. We could meet you in New York and jump off the Empire State together.”
“Yes. That’s a really good idea, Michael. Very inclusive! You won’t mind if I don’t jump. I’d rather push.”
He let out a long sigh. “Caroline, I’m sorry about the way I’m reacting. It’s just that Hoxygene means so much.” The bedside clock alarm began to sound and he cancelled it quickly.
“I understand Michael.”
“Listen. My head is pounding and I can’t think straight. I’m going to take a shower and then turn in. I’ll ring you tomorrow on the cell. Text the hotel number as well in case. Give Marcia a hug for me. Ok!”
Caroline laughed again but this time it was sarcastic. “Sure. Am I dismissed?”
“I did not mean it to sound like that, Caroline. Honestly. I am tired and this offer has upset me. I’ll sleep on it and will talk to you tomorrow. Have a good trip to La Paz.” Michael's thoughts had already drifted to the offer for Hoxygene and possible solutions.
“Goodnight then . . . Oh . . . Michael. Are you still there?”
“I almost forgot. A General Arnold telephoned about two hours ago. He was looking for you urgently and asked that you should contact him. He was very insistent and wanted your cell phone number. Who is he?”
Michael needed to shower badly. The oils of earlier had missed their mark. He was exhausted but not relaxed. “He is with the Army. I have being doing some work with their viral labs. I will contact him tomorrow. Thanks, Caroline.”
“Goodnight, Michael.”
“About . . . About what you said earlier. I have been doing some thinking while in Granada.”
“And?” Caroline prompted him to continue tetchily.
“I have met some very interesting people here and they have opened my eyes to a different view of things by challenging some of my precepts. You should come and meet them. You would like Alonzo in particular.”
“A guy called Alonzo Aldahrze. A book collector and an extremely fascinating man.”
“I cannot, Michael. I must go to La Paz and then there is the tennis tournament.”
“But . . .”
“It’s just not possible, Michael. I’m genuinely happy that you have found such stimulating company and you can tell me all about them when you come back. If this Alonzo character has managed to widen your perspective, even a little, then we will both be in his debt. I look forward to meeting him sometime.”
“I would like to talk to you about it . . . About him.”
“Michael, I have to go to the office before heading to the airport and I’m way behind. I’ll ring you tomorrow and we will talk then. All right?”
“Sure . . . Sure, that’s fine. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Michael, promise me you will also think carefully about the Alpanna offer. It’s too good an opportunity to miss.”
“I promise.”
“Good night. Sleep well.”
“Good night, Caroline. Have a safe –”
The phone-line went dead and Michael stared at it for an age before wearily undressing and heading for the shower.

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