Sex! Death! Sex! Death!
He is marching up and down the beach near the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Saint Francis. Yerba Buena. Speak English.
Sex! Death! He is yelling into the wind. Right! Left!
Stranded at the end of the continent and the wind is blowing hard off an ocean that he can’t see the end of. A bleak day, the sun somewhere far above him, barely penetrating layer upon layer of clouds.
The soldier is thinking of his old friend, Horace Peckerwood. And sex and death and boredom too. What would Horace say if he could see him now? King of the Dunes. A tiny man on a barren spit of land. A confidant to insane seagulls everywhere.
The sand is blowing around the beach and it stings his face. He takes his bayonet and futilely swings at the weather. He is sweating in his dirty wool uniform. The mouth of the bay is frothing, sucking. Horace Peckerwood and New York are far behind him.
They had taken the presidio with little resistance and he could foresee none coming. Most people in California didn’t even know there was a war going on.
Sex and death in his head. Loose grains of sand in his mustache. Nothing to do. And no more destiny to manifest. Just a war that does not feel like a war. He thinks that he can accept all of this.
Horace had told him to be safe. But safe from what?
They had said goodbye at the train station. When they hugged the soldier could feel the grime on Horace’s neck. A farmer boy. His best friend.
The obsessions of a mind, the needs of a body. This is dangerous, the soldier thinks. He looks back at the crumbling adobe walls of the presidio. He looks north at the empty promontory, where the waves are hammering the land.
Horace, he thinks, I am ready to come home.