Tuesday, February 03, 2009
THE GABRIEL HOUNDS
posted 10:08 PM
Milgrim, wearing the khaki trousers and Harris tweed jacket he’d bought in the Brooks Brothers in Via Vigna Nuova the week before, stood considering dog-headed angels in Gay Dolphin Gift Cove.
Their heads, rendered slightly less than three-quarter scale, appeared to have been cast from the sort of plaster once used to produce alarmingly detailed miniature busts of pirates, Mexicans, turbaned Arabs. There would almost certainly be examples of those here as well, he thought, in the most thoroughgoing trove of roadside American holiday souvenir kitsch he’d ever seen under one roof.
Their bodies, apparently humanoid under white satin and sequins, were long, Modigliani-slender, perilously upright, paws crossed piously in the manner of medieval effigies. Their wings were the wings of Christmas ornaments, though writ larger than would suit the average tree.
They were, he concluded, facing half a dozen of assorted breed, intended for purchase by those wishing to sentimentally honor a deceased pet.
Hands in trouser pockets, hoping to look casual, he swung his gaze from the dog-headed angels to the wider visual complexity of Gay Dolphin Gift Cove. He noted a great many items with Confederate-flag motifs. Mugs, magnets, ashtrays, small statuary.
He was apparently alone here, though he knew that there must be Gay Dolphin staff nearby. How old did something like this have to be, in America, to have “gay” in its name? Some small percentage of the stock, he judged, had been manufactured in Occupied Japan.
Half an hour earlier, across North Ocean Boulevard, he’d watched child-soldiers, wistfully clad in sad skateboarding outfits still showing the factory creases, haggling over Chinese-made orc-killing blades, spiked and serrated like the jaws of extinct predators. He’d wondered how many young men had had a winter afternoon in Myrtle Beach as a final treat, before shipping out for whatever theater of war. Wind, the sand of the Grand Strand, the boardwalk, the peculiarly sub-aquatic light in amusement arcades where some of the machines might be older than he was. The smell of chili-dogs. Some of Milgrim’s own angels, not the better ones, detected an ancient and deeply impacted drug-culture, down in what little was left of the carny grime of the place, interstitial and immortal. Sun-damaged skin, tattoos unreadable, eyes that peered from faces suggestive of gas-station taxidermy. Old school.
He was meeting someone here. He had no idea who, though they were supposed to be alone.
Somewhere, nearby, Oliver Sleight, the fit of whose clothes bothered Milgrim, was watching. On a website, hence on the screen of Sleight’s iPhone, was a Milgrim-cursor, generated by the funny battery they’d put in his own new phone, back in Florence. The circuitry reduced the talk time considerably, but Milgrim made, and received, very few calls.
He moved off through Gay Dolphin Gift Cove, away from the dog-headed angels in their cabinet, past articles of a more natural history. Starfish, sand dollars, sea horses, shells of all kinds and seemingly of every ocean.