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         They continued on, still not discussing any kind of goals or destination.  But at least they did not argue.  And Chess tried to imagine that the silence was peaceful, rather than filled with tension.
         Here, in the rainy Northeast, they managed to find enough water to drink.  But they had not yet found any place where they could bathe.  And Chess, rubbing his fingers across his chin, realized that he was probably looking pretty scruffy.  But he could tell, even without a mirror, that his facial hair was sparse.  And the thought suddenly made him laugh as he remembered Dallow, from basic training, and the guy’s chronic heavy beard.  The poor guy would look like Rip Van Winkle by now, Chess decided.
         Dallow: what was he doing now?  He was out here, somewhere, Chess knew.  And with a wave of depression he realized that, for his own safety, the two of them could never meet again.  And then, since she always haunted the edges of his memories, he started thinking about Mal.

         Ileana surprised him out of his reverie, as he enjoyed a rare moment sitting in a warm patch of sun, on the crumbling and somewhat weed-invaded back patio of what was once someone’s house.
         The sunlight glinted on the pair of metal scissors that Ileana held out to him.
         “I found these in the house last night.  But they’re rusted and difficult.  Would you help me?”  She waved one hand before him, smirking self-mockingly.  “My fingernails are driving me crazy.”
         Chess stared at the dangerous-looking scissors as she handed them over.  The joint pin squealed as he worked them, but it was doable.  He took a deep breath as Ileana settled in close to him.
         “Uh, sure…” Chess breathed, feeling her hair brush against his neck as he leaned forward and took her fingers in his left hand.  With a flicker of his eyes toward Ileana’s face, close to his now, he began to cut.  He went slowly and carefully, his shoulder just barely touching Ileana’s, trying to ignore the nearness of her body.  He tried to concentrate fully on his efforts with the scissors.
         After a few minutes, Ileana tilted her head and brought her other hand up to pull her hair away.
         “Sorry about the hair,” she groaned.  “I try to keep it tied back, but it’s so fine and straight…”  She sighed.  “Actually, would you cut it for me, too?  I’d like to shave it all off, tell you the truth.”
         Chess kept his gaze on her fingernails.  “I think it looks nice,” he answered softly.
         “Oh, it looks nice, huh?” she laughed bitterly.  “And how do I smell?”
         Chess was silent for a moment, suddenly overwhelmed by thoughts of her scent, her closeness, her fingers on his….  Finally, he cleared his throat and answered thickly, “You know, I stopped worrying about all that sometime during my first day of army training.”  Then he smiled to himself, letting the memories come back.  “And besides, there was this girl there: she could crawl through mud all day and then give me the sweetest smile.  I… I thought she was the hottest thing I’d ever seen,” he blurted out.
         “Tell me about her,” Ileana prompted, and he could hear in her voice that she was smiling, too.
         “Oh, no…”  Chess felt his face heating up now, after his honest words.  He glanced quickly at her face.  “She’s long gone.  Off to war, overseas.  And I stayed here.”  He focused again on the scissors and sought for some way to change the subject.
         “So… you would really shave off your hair?” he asked.
         Ileana laughed softly.  “If I could get hold of a razor… oh yeah!”
         “Well, no razors here,” Chess answered glumly, remembering his scruffy chin.
         “Right.  No Razors,” Ileana echoed, sounding amused and satisfied.
         After a moment, Chess looked at her again.  “Were you happy there?”
         “Would you think badly of me if I said yes?” Ileana asked in a near-whisper.
         “Just the opposite,” Chess murmured.  “You love him.  You liked your life there… but you had to do what was right, even if it meant losing all that.”  And then he asked, “Do you think he’s after us?”
         “Razor hates to lose,” Ileana answered reluctantly.  “Are you sorry that you let me come along?”
         Chess tried not to think about the possibility of Razor finding them.  He shrugged and managed a chuckle.  “Can anyone stop you once you’ve made up your mind to do something?” he asked.

Continued next page...


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A Living Sacrifice

Well, I have enjoyed your work ever since the Joseph Campbell interviews you did twenty five years ago.  That’s how I found out that I was the Hero with a Thousand Faces.
-Stephen Colbert interview with Bill Moyers (10 January 2012)

         The idea of sacrificing in order to gain some advantage for the tribe is not always so deadly literal in mythology.  Joseph Campbell’s often-quoted idea of “the hero with a thousand faces” deals inherently with the sacrifice of the hero, but in this case it is a sacrifice of time and energy rather than of life.  The basic story is that the hero leaves his familiar place of safety and comfort and ventures out into the dangerous wilderness of the unknown.  There, he undergoes some great trial, and emerges from that central conflict in possession of something -- for example, a magical object, the favor of a god, secret knowledge, fire, etc. -- that can make life better in some way for his own people.  (The hero does not always win, either, in the way that we imagine someone like Hercules to defeat all enemies.  In fact, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, did not achieve the intended goal of his great quest.  He did, however, return with something that had great potential to help his subjects.  In his case, it was the knowledge that he gained, which made him a far wiser leader.)
         Campbell’s proposal is that the same basic story is repeated over and over again in mythologies from every place and every time period, with only the setting and circumstances of the story changing.  The basic idea is of sacrificing in order to gain something desirable.  From this repetition, one could easily infer that it is human nature to believe that nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice, struggle, and/or suffering.



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