1975. The sweet southern nectar of morning slowly sears off of Jackson - pop. 19,000. It is decision day for Victor Silas. Or perhaps it is indecision day. But as he shuffles through what can only be described as his mansion (before him, the mansion of his father, and his father before him), past his wife, and towards the enormous window overlooking the strip mining operation that employs practically the whole town - his mining venture - he begins to wrestle an angel to the ground. His wife kisses him good morning, quiet in her earth tone clothes, and heads downtown for the day. He watches her head out the door.

The note Victor left her was succinct enough: he was leaving. He was through scratching the earth for tiny veins of minerals. He was through with the slow syrup of living and dying. he was through with their simple sweet saviour. he was through with the rhythm of his life. he was through with being mothered. He was through with her. Victor was on a plane, the assets were being shot down a wire, and both were converging on jackson's exact opposite - las vegas, where everything felt like it was about to come loose at the joints and they had lost track of the suckers born per minute. For Victor Silas, raised to be genteel, conservative, responsible ... sin city was The new world, and the new world needed a new explorer.

Victor's jet landed directly on the highway. As Victor watched traffic swell for miles, the new king of the high rollers, a nobody from a discreet southern town emerged and proceeded to funnel four generations of savings into his new sand castle - where he would entertain a hundred guests nightly, who might never even see him. His house was obscene in its grandeur - with its imported roman baths, its hi-fidelity surround stereos, its shag carpeting, its swimming pools, its garages, its terminal procession of impresarios and impresarios-to-be.

Victor Silas wallowed in his pleasures. He developed a fondness for that most exclusive of all clubs, Minsky's sky bar, a seventy-two story needle with a dome on top where the world's beautiful people smoked, drank, gambled, and took in the shows. The world's wealthy, the world's powerful, the world's presidents and generals all landed at Minsky's at one time or another, often in clandestine fashion. Minsky's claim to fame though was its renown burlesque show, a staple industry for Vegas, but known for its veil of secrecy. It had been said among the insiders that only Minsky's could draw such opposingly powerful factions together in the same room, and only Minsky's show prevented the outbreak of war by the night's end. Famous Hollywood stars were said to have appeared on stage, and even more famous leaders were rumored to have attended the shows. This then was the forbidden fruit of Victor Silas's lackluster life - he now had jettisoned himself into the most elite mutual guilt society, and like armstrong or desoto, planted his flag dead center.

Victor was often out until dawn, gambling at Minsky's, arriving at his estate to find himself strangely alone in a house full of well-dressed, heavily-jeweled guests strewn about his furniture. Victor stood in his great room at the epicenter of the strangely still scene, unnerved, invisible.

But habits are carefully and deliberately fashioned and Victor's took him to Minsky's repeatedly, where on January 1, a drunken and depressed turn of the bicentennial found Victor down in poker to a disturbingly dark-spoken military man. Having exhausted his millions long ago, Victor Silas had been reliant on his flamboyance and the fear and loathing of others to sustain his bar tabs until his luck came back around. The army man seemed uninterested in the show that was consistently distracting Victor Silas, and eventually leaned over and whispered into Victor's left ear. Victor responded with renewed focus and the army man dealt another hand of cards.

It was quite possibly the worst hand Victor had ever been dealt, and he deftly fished for a believable but winning hand in his designer shirt while the man, stone-faced, drew, then folded, then almost smiled. Victor Silas played his ill-gotten hand, swelled with his good fortune, watched the army man shrug calmly, and announced to the evening's audience that they were welcome at the newly-named Victor's Skybar, which he had just won from Minsky himself.

Early that morning, as Victor Silas slept, he saw a woman in white uniform in his dreams, whispering of home, of truth, of a saviour. Victor replied, "From what am I to be saved? I am as large as God." The woman in white replied, "You fear your Gods, and they are as small as you." Outside, Minsky approached the house to claim what was his on fair trade.

Victor Silas was reported missing for three days before the wreckage of his car was found. There were no skid marks where it had rocketed off of the road and over the side of the precipice. The case of what happened to Victor Silas was declared closed when an investigation of foul play turned up only odd cloven footprints at Victor's now-repossessed estate and near the accident scene. All Victor knew was that the Army man and another woman had been suddenly there in a struggle and then he was falling. And then he wasn't.

The white Uniform was there again, and Victor could see that she was a VA nurse. Victor clung to her desperately as the ground disappeared beneath them. Weak with fear, Victor wept onto her shoulder and sobbed through telling her about all that he had left at home, about the emptiness of the last several months, about how he missed his wife and the way she had pleaded with him to work through their differences the day that he left, about how he was wrong, about how he was so very sorry, about how the nurse had saved his life. Blushing, she lifted his head up from her blouse, as he asked her name. "Grace," she replied, "and now you must go all the way under the river."

Victor Silas awoke with a jerk, in his bed, in someone else's abandoned VA hospital. He was shaking, soaking wet, and repeating the phrase, "Jesus, please just let me walk away." Victor determined that it was morning and headed east to El Paso and the Rio Grande where he and plunged into the river. Victor emerged from the water coughing, and sat on the bank, thinking of Jackson, a city of slow meticulous mining, of devout Baptists and Methodists ringing bells on Sundays, and of the love left there somewhere downtown. And if she could ever forgive him. Either way, he felt strangely at peace with his lot in life. Broke and tired, he began to sing an old hymn from his childhood to himself.

Victor began walking east on I-10.


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