The Wine and the Bottle

 

27 BC

Babak and Vikrum had been bartering for hours now.  Both were getting very frustrated and very upset with the other.  Babak had discovered a new way of making wine using honey and some secret ingredients given him by the sorcerer, Farzad.   Babak wanted to put his new wine into something other than goat skins which he believed would corrupt its sweet taste.  He was elated when he learned of a glass maker named, Vikrum, who had developed a means to shape glass into bottles by blowing into molten sand.  Vikrum lived in Chogha Zanbil which was a long and arduous journey for Babak.   Babak made the journey by himself on his trusty camel, Hookah, with a single clay pot of his new wine in tow.  He was, however, short on funds and hoped to convince Vikrum to cover the cost of the glass bottles until such time as Babak could realize a profit.  This proposal seemed to offend Vikrum to no end.  This was their second meeting.

“I have made you this bottle to serve as a sample.  It is the first bottle I have been able to fashion with my new rod that has a long, spiral neck.   As you can see it is the perfect decanter for your new wine.  I have put much time and effort into this bottle, time I could have spent making bottles for paying customers!” decried Vikrum angrily.

“But,” countered Babak, “I am certain my wine will be much sought after for centuries to come!  Don’t be shortsighted, Vikrum!  Think of it as an investment.  Something that will take care of you when you are too old to work the glass!” countered Babak.  “I have told you this is a very special wine which no man can resist.  Once he has taken but a sip of this nectar he will forever be smitten.  He will not be able to live without it.  We shall have an endless and tireless supply of patrons.

”Have you tasted of this wine, Babak?” asked Vikrum suspiciously.

Shaking his head, Babak answered, “Of course not.  If I had I would be hooked and thus unable to produce more.  I would end up drinking every batch I made.”

“Has anyone else tested your wine?” pressed Vikrum.

“No!  I have made but this one batch to test in your bottle,” answered Babak clearly tiring of this exchange.

“Then how can I, or you for that matter, know this wine is so captivating?”

Babak raised his hands as if motioning Vikrum to slow down.  “The sorcerer told me.  I paid a hefty price for his secret ingredients, one that I am ashamed to admit even now.”

“What else did this sorcerer tell you?  Can you wash your camel with this wine?  Can you cure leprosy with it?  Tell me, Babak, what else does this magic potion do?”

Babak sneered and narrowed his eyes.  “None of those things, it can only captivate those who drink of it.”

“Well,” replied Vikrum smugly, “if it will be in such great demand, how will it have time to age?”

“It is wine made from honey and needs no time to age.  Please Vikrum, I beg of you!  Just make me my lot of bottles.  By doing this you can secure both of our futures!” pleaded Babak.

“I cannot eat the future today and I cannot busy myself producing hundreds of bottles based on a promise from a wine maker and a sorcerer of dubious renown.”  Vikrum was driving a hard bargain and gave no quarter.

Babak threw up his hands and cried, “Of dubious renown?  This sorcerer is known throughout the land!  It is a foolish man indeed who fails to take advantage of this sorcerer’s gift!”

“Are you calling me a fool?”

Babak shrugged his shoulders and said, “If the sandal fits, Vikrum.”

Vikrum was in no mood to be insulted.  He grabbed the rod he used for blowing the glass and struck Babak hard across the temple.  Babak fell to his knees, grabbed his head and keeled over dead.  At first Vikrum was pleased with his attack.  He paced the floor of his little shop ranting against Babak and his stupid proposal and stupid wine.  Finally, his anger abated and his mind was put to thought.  He drug Babak’s lifeless body out to his camel and threw him over the saddle.  It was then he spied the clay pot holding the wine.  After slapping the camel’s ass and sending it away, he took the pot inside and poured it into the bottle he had blown.  Every last drop fell into the bottle leaving just enough space for the diamond shaped stopper he was so very proud of.  The wine smelled sweet and spicy.  He dipped a finger into the wine and tasted.

“This is very fine wine,” Vikrum proclaimed.   “Perhaps I should not have struck down its maker is such haste.”

Vikrum poured himself a cup full and drank it down.  The more he drank, the better the wine tasted.  He drank another cup full, and another after that.  He thought perhaps he better slow down and save some.  Hadn’t Babak told him this was the only batch of this wine he’d made?  Vikrum examined the bottle and found it quite full.  It was as if no wine had been poured whatsoever!  “This cannot be!” he cried.  “Not for a second do I think this possible!”  Once again he removed the stopper and poured another cup full of wine, and once again the level in the bottle did not change!  Vikrum thought about this long and hard but did not stop partaking.  His entire body tingled with delight and he could not wipe the smile from his face. An effervescent energy seemed to be powering through his mind and body.  He wanted to sing and dance and make love.  Instead, he became quite drunk and at some point passed out.  When he awoke the bottle sat next to him still full to the stopper.  He was both afraid to consume the wine, and afraid to destroy the bottle.  Finally, with hands shaking he hid the bottle in the back of a rarely used cabinet, and set about his usual daily business.

After only a few minutes, however, he could hear the bottle calling to him and retrieved it and began to drink once again.  He loved the taste and the sensation of joy the wine brought.  He drank and drank until he passed out once again.  When he woke, he started drinking again and kept drinking until he passed out.  This cycle of drinking and passing out went on for days and weeks until Vikrum had shriveled into mere skin and bones.  He had stopped eating completely so entranced was he with the wine.  Even near death from starvation Vikrum continued to drink from the bottle until one day his heart simply stopped beating.  He died with his body curled around the bottle such that it could not be seen.   After about a week, his neighbors got the first whiff of his rotting corpse.   With much discourse and consideration they sealed the shop with roughly hewn logs and rocks and gave it no further thought.

 

 

1955

 

Roman Ghirshman sat down on the hot stone steps and mopped his sweaty brow with a rag provided him by his wife, Tania.   She offered him a water jug which he took and immediately began to swill.  Iran was a furnace this time of year and people thought him crazy to be excavating Choga Zanbil in this heat. Roman didn’t care.  He could take the heat.  What he couldn’t take was possibly missing out on a discovery.  Tania asked him if he’d brushed his teeth that morning.  She was forever concerned with his dental hygiene.  Roman nodded.  He could take the dentist out of her office, but not out of her mind.  He knew he was lucky to have such a woman.  After kissing her lightly on the forehead he stood to re-enter the dig.  That’s when he heard Javad call out his name and rather excitedly at that.   Roman pepped up his step.

Down the ladder and into the artificial light Roman went at his quickened pace.  He was still quite spry for a man entering his sixties but his movements were always countenanced by the caution tempered into his soul from years of exploration.  When he reached Javad he breathed easily, a warm smile on his lips.

“Look at this!” announced Javad.

In his hands was a bottle, or at least a bottle of sorts.  It was greenish in color, about a half a meter long with a bulbous base and a long spiral neck.  What pleased Roman the most was the glass stopper was still in place.  It was shaped like a diamond.

“My goodness,” remarked Roman.  “What have we here?”

They had been poking around what they thought to be an ancient glass shop for only a few hours now.  Finding only shards of glass and a crude glass blowing rod Roman was still excited.  Quite possibly this was the first glass blowing shop ever discovered, anywhere!  But, finding this bottle was exquisite.

“Where did you find it?” asked Roman excitedly.

“In the corner of there,” replied Javad pointing.  “It was surrounded by the bones of what might be a small man or a boy.”

Roman took the bottle from Javad’s hands and carefully ascended the ladder to examine it in sunlight.  Tania was absolutely ecstatic.

“Roman, it is beautiful!” she declared.

The two set about to cleaning the bottle with the warm water and cotton rags.  When they were done, Roman held it up to the sun and admired the sparkling resonance that burst forth off the ancient glass.  It was only then he noticed the bottle contained some kind of liquid.  He looked to Tania who nodded her head and said, “Do not open it, Roman!  Wait until we can get to a laboratory.”

Roman agreed and they sought out a sturdy box to store the bottle in.  Tania wrapped the bottle carefully with cotton rags and tied off those with twine before gingerly setting it in the box.  Roman secured the box with a small padlock then walked it to the truck and placed it on the floor of the cab.  He said to Tania, “We must tell no one of this discovery until we get back to Paris.”

Just then Javad appeared out of the dig and inquired about the bottle.  “It is of little consequence,” stated Roman flatly.  “We will take it to the lab in the morning for further examination.”

Javad nodded his head, and the trio returned to the dig.  Everyone had a bit more bounce in their step now.  The digging continued until the sun had set and a cool breeze rolled in from the east.  Tania announced it was time for supper and with that they climbed the ladder and made for camp.  Roman and Tania slept soundly that night, but awoke the next morning with anxious anticipation.  Before breakfast or even a cup of tea they headed for the truck but to their astonishment found it missing, along with Javad.

“I fear we will never see that bottle or Javad again, Tania,” murmured Roman wistfully.

“We will keep digging.  Perhaps we will find another, or something even more valuable,” declared Tania confidently.

Neither believes a word of it.

 

 

1990

 

Although the war, or Operation Desert Shield, wouldn’t start until August 2, Force Recon Captain Jack Gallo and his squad had been in Iraq since July 17.  On August 2, they were actually on their way back to the base when everyone else was heading into the country.  Above them droves of aircraft buzzed by on an assortment of missions which ultimately resulted in shit being blown up in Iraq.  The squad paused for a second to admire the aircraft and that proved to be a rather large mistake.  Out of nowhere came an Iraqi artillery round and it landed almost perfectly in the center of their tactical formation.  Only Captain Gallo survived, albeit with a badly rung bell.

Gallo shook his head and tried to gather himself.  A few pieces of shrapnel had nicked him here and there, but otherwise he was okay.  His squad, or what was left of them, was splayed about him in pieces parts.  He was a highly decorated warrior, and about as tough of a cookie as any enemy had ever faced, but right now he couldn’t stop whimpering.  The whole squad was wiped out.  Why was he still alive?  Survivor’s guilt was hitting him like Thor’s Hammer.

After a few minutes his instincts finally kicked in and he bucked himself up.  He stood and walked over to the crater made by the artillery round.  It was your typical crater, except for the fact that it took his men like lightning takes oak trees.  Gallo stared down into the crater until the cloud above passed and the sun lit up the sand.  It was then that he saw a bright glint about halfway down the wall of the crater.  What the Hell could that be, he wondered.  A few seconds later he pulled a bottle out of the sand.  It was a crazy color green, almost like swamp scum and about a foot and a half long.  It had a diamond shaped stopper.  Holding it up to the sun Gallo could see it was full of something, something liquid for sure.  And then he heard another artillery round whistling in and he hit the deck.  The round passed overhead and went someplace else, but Gallo was taking no more chances. He put the bottle in his rucksack and grabbed his satellite radio.  An hour later a Blackhawk helicopter had him in its bowels and was racing for Saudi Arabia.   Gallo thought nothing more of the bottle until after he had debriefed, showered, shaved and grubbed.  Lying in his rack he reached over and pulled the bottle out of his rucksack and studied it closely.  Then he pulled out the stopper and gave it a quick sniff.  It smelled good, sweet and spicy.  “I’ll probably kick myself for doing this,” he said to himself, and took a swig directly out of the bottle.  Not bad, he thought, and took another.

Just then some clerk burst into the room and told him he was wanted at HQ.  Gallo threw the bottle back into his rucksack then strode out the room like he’d just won the lottery or something.  He hadn’t felt this good in years.  He felt like dancing or fucking or dancing and fucking.  He felt like he could whoop King Kong or solve the Bermuda Triangle.  He started snapping his fingers to the beat of his gait, and whistling “Carol” by Chuck Berry.  He met the desk sergeant at headquarters and said, “What it is, brother man?”

Three hours later he was aboard a C-130 transport plane headed for the States.  The brass decided he needed some R&R after losing his squad and he didn’t argue with them one bit.   In fact, by now he didn’t even care about his squad.  He just wanted to get some pussy, eat some steaks and watch some preseason NFL football.  The plane stopped in Germany and Gallo stayed aboard all the time nipping at the bottle.  Finally he looked at the bottle to determine how much was left and was flabbergasted!  While he knew something wasn’t right with that bottle, he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.   The plane eventually took off from Germany, landed someplace and he boarded a commercial jet bound for Detroit Metropolitan Airport.  Once there he rented a Ford Mustang and whipped that pony all the way to Ann Arbor.

The plan was to surprise his wife and surprise her he did.  He ran that Mustang out the backside of the garage and into the rusty swing set the previous owners of the home had left behind.  Undaunted, he grabbed his rucksack and ambled into the house.  “Honey, I’m home.  What’s for dinner?”

Carol, which was actually his wife’s name, sat at the desk with her headphones on-that’s why she didn’t hear the crash.  She was watching war videos on CNN and undoubtedly trying to spot her husband.  When Gallo let out a roar that rattled the windows she turned and about peed her panties.

“JACK!” she screamed, and that is all she got out before her mouth was full of tongue and her clothes were ripped off.  About an hour later Jack rolled off her and caught his breath.  He explained everything that happened, told her to fry him up a steak, and then went for that bottle in his rucksack.  Carol got busy with the steak, but not before asking him to share the contents of that bottle with her. “NO!” was all Jack said.  He claimed you could only drink it if you had killed some people.  It was the only excuse he could think of at the time, and Carol bought it.  She didn’t care.  She had her man back!

After dinner, and after about another hour drinking out of that strange bottle Carol saw Jack opening his gun safe.  She didn’t want to say anything.  Maybe, she thought, he just wants to say hello to his boys.  It had been a long time, after all.  But, nope, Jack pulled out Desert Eagle 5.0, slapped in a clip and bottle in hand was heading for the back door where Carol tried heading him off at the pass.  Jack was having none of it.

“Be bery, bery quiet!  I’m hunting wabbits!” was all he said.

Carol didn’t know whether to call 911 or hide in the basement.  In retrospect, the basement wasn’t the best course of action.  In about seven seconds Jack ran out of bullets and came back into the house for more.  This time Carol grabbed a hold of him and pulled him back into the bedroom.  She kept saying, “Love me now or lose me forever!” until he complied.  A few minutes later the Ann Arbor police knocked on the door.  Jack got there first.  Without saying a word, he threw a punch through the screen door which nailed the attending officer in the face sending blood splattering in every direction.  The second officer, who was a rookie, pulled his service gun and pointed it at Jack.

“Freeze motherfucker!” he demanded.

Of course, Jack was in no mood to freeze.  He charged forward just as Carol arrived on the scene and tried to bulldog him to the ground, but the cop was already pissing his pants and started squeezing off rounds as fast as his shaky little index finger could pull.  The cop’s Sig Sauer P220 Legion .45 caliber holds 8 rounds.  Five hit Jack in the chest two hit Carol in the head and one went straight up into the air when Jack’s dead body fell into the cop.  The whole affair was filed under PTSD and swept under the rug.

The Ann Arbor News did an exhaustive article that got only half the facts wrong.  A week later it was forgotten about.

But, the next day Carol’s family arrived on the scene.  As they walked gloomily through the house her father spotted the bottle Jack had brought home from Iraq.  He picked it up, pulled the stopper off and took a sniff.   Not bad, he thought.  It was the only thing the family took with them out of the house that day.  It took an hour to drive home and dad couldn’t get his mind off that bottle.  He rode with it between his legs the whole way.  He’d probably taken a nip or two had the wife not gave him the stink eye.  She didn’t want him to get another DUI.  As it was he just stepped on the gas pedal harder and wove through traffic like he was racing at Daytona.

They arrived at their modest home in suburban Saginaw and dad dropped mom off by the side door before pulling into the garage.  He sat there for a moment considering the bottle between his legs, and then popped off the stopper and took a swig.  It tasted as good as it smelled!  Dad took another swig, and then another.  He turned on the car radio to a classic rock station and started seat dancing to the music.  After a few more long pulls from the bottle he caught himself and studied the bottle more closely.  He was more than surprised to see that the bottle was just as full now as when he opened it the first time.  “That just can’t be!” he declared out loud.  But, it only took a second for him to forget about that minor conundrum and begin once again swilling from the bottle.  After a few more minutes and a few more swills he decided he was hungry and backed out of the garage to the street.  What he really wanted was a Burger King Whopper with everything.  “I’m gonna have it my way!” he declared and sped off down the street.  He didn’t notice the stop sign or the police cruiser sitting there as he blew through the intersection at close to sixty miles an hour.  He ignored the cop and the siren and everything else so intent was he on getting that Whopper.   When he reached the driveway of the Burger King he was forced to slow down and that is when the pursuing cop made his move.  He rammed the bumper of that cruiser into the rear wheel of dad’s Impala and pushed him into the bushes bordering the drive through menu.  Within seconds several other police cruisers arrived and helped box that Impala in securely.  Dad fought furiously with the cops even after being cuffed, and then took to kicking at the windows of the police cruiser like some kind of mad man.  Finally, the cops tired of this nonsense and tazed dad.  Unfortunately dad had a weak heart and the tazing stopped it dead in its tracks.

An ambulance and a tow truck arrived a short time later.  The ambulance took dad, and the tow truck took the Impala.  “Have you guys searched this thing yet?” inquired the tow truck operator.

“Just get it the Hell out of here,” answered the arresting officer.

The tow truck operator hauled that Impala to the impound lot, dropped it next to a burnt up Escalade, then decided to investigate a little on his own.  The first thing he found was the bottle which was lying on the passenger side floor.  He’d never seen such a bottle before and was immediately intrigued.  His wife collected cut glass and bottles and such, and he thought she might like such a bottle to add to her collection.  Holding it up to the light he then noticed the bottle contained something, something liquid to be exact.  “Hmmm,” he grunted, and removed the stopper.  It smelled like honey, but with something extra in it.  Maybe cinnamon or something, he couldn’t quite place it.  He was about to give it a taste when his tow truck radio barked out.  “Hey Jimmy you done with that impound yet?  We got a rollover accident on US23 southbound we need you at quick, fast and in a hurry.”

Jimmy tucked the bottle under his armed and reached for the mic with his other.  “10-4 and Roger that, in route dispatch.”  He threw the bottle in the box behind the seat and set off to grab that rollover.  Righting that car and getting it onto the dollies took a few hours.  He didn’t make it back to the impound lot until it was time to go home.  Jimmy almost forgot about the bottle behind the seat, and had to go back for it after he dropped off his keys and turned in his nightly paperwork.  By then he was whooped and just wanted to get home and crawl into bed.  It had been a long night.  He’d show the bottle to the wife in the morning.

As usual, Becky rolled her mildly obese frame out of the bed an hour ahead of Jimmy.  She padded down to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee, then reached for the donuts in the cupboard above the stove.  A glorious day was rising up outside the kitchen window but all Becky noticed was the glass bottle sitting in the middle of the kitchen table.  She figured Jimmy must have brought it home from work.  He was always snatching stuff out of cars and toting it home to show her.  However, this was the first time he brought something she was actually interested in.  Becky fell in love with the bottle immediately.  She sat at the table drinking coffee, eating donuts and admiring that bottle until Jimmy cruised in and sat down.  “Make me some pancakes,” he said.

Just then the phone rang.  It was the dispatcher from the tow truck company wanting Jimmy to come in early.  Billy Bob or some fool hadn’t shown up for work this morning and they needed someone to fill his shift.  Becky and Jimmy needed the money so off he went without his pancakes but with a full travel mug of steaming hot coffee.  Becky didn’t even have to get up from her chair.

A few minutes later she heard her neighbor, Cindy, saying goodbye to her husband as he left the house to go to his job at the foundry.  Wanting to brag about her new bottle, she gave Cindy a hoot and got up to pour another cup of coffee which she set on the table.   Cindy let herself in and sat herself down at the table.  Picking up her coffee she said, “Why that’s a pretty bottle.  Where’d you get it?”

“Jimmy brung it home last night,” answered Becky.

“Sure is pretty,” repeated Cindy.  “What’s it got in it?”

“Don’t know,” answered Becky.

“Well, what you waiting for, girl.  Pop that top!”

Becky rose from the table and retrieved a pair of water glasses from the cupboard.  After pouring about a shot of the liquid into each glass she raised hers and said, “Here’s mud in your eye!”

“Better than a sharp stick,” rejoined Cindy, and the two drank the golden liquid down.

“That was tasty,” proclaimed Becky, “Let’s have another.”

Cindy hastily agreed, and agreed again, and agreed again after that.  That’s when Becky examined the bottle and declared, “Geez, I thought we drunk more than that.  It don’t look like we even put a dent in this bottle.”

“Well, Hell, girl, pour us another!” suggested Cindy holding out her glass.  And Becky did, and they swilled it down as fast as the previous ones.

Suddenly Becky announced she had to use the little girl’s room.  “I feel a bowel movement coming on, Honey”

“TMI, Becky, TMI!” replied Cindy.

Becky waddled off to the little girl’s room leaving Cindy alone with the bottle with which Cindy took great liberties with.  A few minutes later, Cindy wondered what was keeping Becky so long.  Staggering from her chair Cindy wandered back into the house and saw Becky sitting on the toilet, drawers down around her ankles, her head leaned up against the towel rack passed out cold.  “Light weight,” declared Cindy.  She ambled back into the kitchen and stared down that bottle for a good two minutes before scooping it up and staggering out the door.

About an hour later Becky snapped back to consciousness and immediately waddled into the kitchen.  She noticed the missing bottle and figured rightly who was now in possession of it.  In a flash Becky was banging on Cindy’s side door demanding the bottle back.  What she didn’t know was Cindy was passed out on her couch with the bottle in her lap and Jerry Springer on the TV.  Becky became angrier and angrier with every bang on the door of her fist.  Finally, she gave up and retreated to her kitchen where she stewed for all of five minutes before heading to the bedroom for Jimmy’s deer rifle. Now Cindy may not have heard the door banging, but she definitely sat up when 30 caliber rounds started coming through the door.  She heard Becky screaming at her between rounds and all she could think about was holding onto that fucking bottle.  Cindy went to her bedroom and grabbed her husband’s twelve gauge shotgun.  “Two can play at this game!” she declared.  Working her way over to the door she yelled, “Get you some of this you fat bitch!” and pulled the trigger.  Outside the door Becky had just pulled the trigger on that deer rifle.   The slug from the shotgun and the bullet from the deer rifle must have passed one another right in the middle of that cheap pine wood door.  Both projectiles deformed considerably and the deer rifle bullet spalled.   The end result was Cindy took the bullet square in her face which left little but a bloody stump above her neck.  Becky took that shotgun slug in the belly.  The hole in her backside was big as a basketball.  Needless to say, both were dead as doornails but at least Becky wouldn’t need a closed casket.

Jimmy and Gus, that was Cindy’s husband, arrived about an hour later.  The police had learned their places of work from the neighbor across the street who had witnessed the whole thing, except for the drinking that is.  “They were best of friends,” claimed the neighbor lady.  “Never in a million years would I have thought such a thing possible.”

After a while family members arrived to sympathize with the grieving husbands.  Jimmy could hose down his driveway, but Gus had a more complicated mess to clean up what with the brains and skull fragments on the wall and in the carpeting.  Gus’ sister got to cleaning while her husband took him to the picnic table in the backyard and listened to him whimper until the sun had set.  It was better than cleaning up brains, but not by a lot.  When his wife announced all clear, the two ambled into the home and sat down at the dinner table.  The sister then took over the grief patrol, and her husband snuck into the living room to watch Sports Center.  He did not miss the crazy looking bottle wedged in the seat cushions of the couch.  Long story short, an hour or two later Ralph was tripping down the street, bare ass naked and waving that bottle at anyone he met.  He had to be tazed, of course, and was subsequently delivered to the county jail.  The bottle was taken to the evidence room where it was forgotten about for a number of years, unfortunately, not forever.

 

 

April 19, 2018 Thursday IRAN

 

The sand storm that struck Yazd City a few days before was of epic proportions.  Yazd, once known as a great cultural center and safe haven for art and religion was said to be over three thousand years old and is located on a high plateau in Central Iran.  With wind speeds clocked at over one hundred miles an hour, havoc was wrought on property and people over an extensive area.  Today a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit between Yazd City and the Persian Gulf and only sixty miles from Iran’s only operating nuclear power plant.  The Israelis claimed the storm and quake to be divine intervention as the Iranian foreign minister had just threatened Israel with doom two days before.  Only one being knew better and his name was, Farzad the Sorcerer, and he was very, very angry.

Over two-thousand years ago Farzad had been struck down by a lowly vintner called Babak.  Babak had come to Farzad on a whim with a pouch half full of gold coins and a request for supernatural assistance.  The vintner had an idea for a new wine to be made from honey, cinnamon and star anise from the Far East.  A few days earlier a traveling camel salesmen had told him about a gaffer working on a new kind of bottle made from glass instead of clay.  Babak believed such a bottle would help to promote his new wine as a seriously premium brand.  He was on his way to see this gaffer when he happened into Farzad the sorcerer.  As it happened, Farzad knew of this gaffer as he had come to him for assistance only a short time ago.  In exchange for three pouches of gold coins and four healthy camels, Farzad had given the gaffer the rod with which to blow glass bottles that once filled could never be emptied.  Farzad smiled quite pleased two of his works could now be married.  He told Babak none of this however.  He simply indicated he would be quite happy to assist Babak in his endeavor, but first he would have to prove his fealty.  With a wave of his hand Farzad said, “But first you must bring me your daughter and one son and three more bags of gold the size of which you now hold.  I am in need of a concubine and an apprentice and I know you have both a daughter and several sons for I have seen it in my mind’s eye.  And then, not only will I help you but I will guarantee your success!”

Babak considered this proposal for a moment before responding.  Finally, he said, “But what will you do?  I love my daughter very much and while it is true I have four sons I will not give one up unless I have strong assurance that our bargain is legitimate in every way.”

Farzad nodded obligingly.  “Fair enough.  I will tell you what I will do my lowly vintner.  I will share with you a portion of my own blood which when mixed with your new wine will make it more desirable than any wine before it.  It will indeed captivate whoever consumes it and you shall have lifetime patrons and therefore a secure and rich future.  I ask you, is this not a worthy bargain?”

Babak could barely contain himself, but he had one more question.  “But I will need a portion of your blood for every batch of wine I am to make, which if given what you said is true, will be thousands upon thousands.”

Shaking his head, Farzad replied, “No you will not.  My blood I will spill onto a staff with which you will use to stir your concoction.  As long as you use this staff, your wine will retain its magic.”

“Show me this staff,” countered Babak.

Farzad went into his home and returned with a long, twisted stick of wood which looked to be made of Elm.  He handed it to Babak and said, “Are you satisfied now?”

Without hesitation Babak swung the staff and struck Farzad hard across the temple, instantly knocking him unconscious.  The gash across Farzad’s head bled profusely.  Babak rolled the staff in this blood from end to end and then wrapped it in goat bladders and tied it to his camel.  He dug a grave in the sand with his bare hands and rolled Farzad’s body in.   In a few moments he had it buried, then turned and set the sorcerer’s home on fire before trotting off on his camel.   He had gone but a short distance when he was struck by a thought and stopped.  He retrieved the Elm staff and urn of honey wine from the camel.  Carefully he dipped one end of the staff into the urn and stirred briefly.  That is when he heard the call of a vulture that was circling above.  Babak became anxious and immediately packed up and left.

Farzad remembered all of this for even though his body was contained in the grave all those years, his mind was free to travel.  It traveled with the vulture that circled over Babak’s head when he stopped to quench the wine with the blood soaked rod, and indeed spat the curse that followed the vintner and his wine thereafter.   It also followed Babak to the blower of glass where he was struck down by another of the sorcerer’s instruments.  And, with that satisfaction in tow his mind returned to the grave where it reclined with the body for all these years until the sand storm and earthquake came around to free his captive flesh.  His present anger was not a product of his attack and subsequent entombment.  No it came from an altogether different source indeed.  As he rose from his grave the first thing his eyes spotted was a diesel truck as it rumbled down an asphalt road spewing stinky, ash colored smoke.  It was the ugliest thing he’d ever seen.

“What the Hell is that?” he whispered.

 

MICHIGAN

Sheriff Krazny was a mountain of a man.  Standing six foot six and weighing a tad over two forty the only weak aspect of his appearance was the long, stringy white hair combed over the bald spot on top of this ovoid head.  Right this second he was standing outside the door to the brand new evidence room situated in the brand new jail located in rural Genesee County, Michigan.  Standing next to him was his deputy, Vito Benghazi.  Vito looked like some kind of hand puppet standing next to Sheriff Krazny.  He was marking things off a checklist attached to his stainless steel clipboard.

“Cot damn that’s a lot of evidence,” remarked Sheriff Krazny.

“Yeah, about a third of it we need to get rid of,” offered Vito.  “Its old, unclaimed stuff.”

“Time for an auction,” announced Sheriff Krazny.

“Yes, sir,” answered Vito.  “I’ll get right on it.

The Sheriff’s department loved unclaimed evidence auctions because they got to keep all the money.  They took that money and bought badass tactical gear like black jump suits and CZ Scorpion EVO 3 A1 SMG 9mm submachine guns.  Krazny loved him some tactical gear.  He’d suit up with the young guys every month for the breaching exercises held at the old Gray Iron Foundry.  “Good,” he said at long last.

That auction took place just a week later on a Saturday morning at the old jail house where all the unclaimed evidence had to be transported back to by the same deputies who brought it to the new jail house to begin with.  They complained mightily about it, too.  After much ado about nothing the auction began in earnest and the very first item placed on the block was the bottle.  No one bid on it.  Vito lowered the starting bid, and still no one raised a hand.  Vito lowered the starting bid again and still no one bid on it.  Finally, Sheriff Krazny raised his hand and yelled, “Five cot damn dollars!  Give me that damn bottle.”   More than anything else Krazny did this just to get the ball rolling.  No one raised his bid so he was eventually stuck with that bottle.  “Ah, fuck it,” he murmured.  “I’ll put it on the window sill in my new office, might look nice when the morning sun hits it.”

 

IRAN

Farzad the Sorcerer sat contentedly in the little room he’d been placed in by the kindly young men in linen clothing including a loin cloth, who spoke the same strange language as everyone else he’d met was speaking.  He had wondered many times how long he might have been asleep.  Everyone had been so kind to him and so reverent!  He could not understand the words that were coming out of their mouths, but the intentions were clear and Farzad was quite pleased.  First, some young men who stopped their magic cart stopped and wrapped him with a blanket as his clothes had dried to dust and he was naked, very dirty and very naked.  They gave him water out of a strange bottle and some crackers that were very tasty.  And then another magic cart arrived and they sat him down inside it and he found it very cool and comfortable.   Farzad was offered more water and more crackers and what looked like a small circle of salt, very small.  When he awoke he found himself in this very room with this very comfortable bed, a reflecting pool on the wall, and a door which led to another room full of things Farzad could not begin to understand.  He decided he wanted another frozen, sweet stick treat and snapped his fingers.  A few seconds later a smiling maiden entered his room to entreat him with words he didn’t understand.  Once again he pumped his fist back and forth in front of his mouth and the maiden nodded and scurried out of the room.  She returned a few seconds later with his requested treat and Farzad was ecstatic.  These strange people were learning his commands more quickly now.  Two snaps of the finger and a point towards his crotch meant he needed a new loin cloth.  Three snaps meant bring two glasses of that splendid nectar.  One clap meant bring food.  Two claps meant bring the food faster.  Three claps meant bring me the trained dog to enjoy.  That was as far as they got.

Basir, which was the servant Farzad saw most often would point at his chest and say, “Basir”, but Farzad did not recognize this as a name, but as a title.   He thought he heard the word, banda, which kind of sort sounded like the Persian word for servant, which is actually what he expected to hear so he heard it.  Farzad would then point at his own chest and say, “Framātar” meaning lord and master, which Basir, after much research, took to be more evidence of a delusional geriatric.  But what made the whole thing so damned strange were those ancient coins found in the hole where they believed this old man was in.   Without those coins one might just think some random old coot had wandered away and somehow stumbled into that hole, knocked himself out only to awake and wander onto that highway in front of those truck drivers.  When “Banda” showed “Framātar” the gold darics he nodded his head and reached for them.  What the Hell else was he supposed to do?  When Banda asked him, “Are these your coins?”  Farzad or Framātar made “gimmie” gestures with both hands.  Case closed.

So, that is why Farzad, or Framātar, was being treated like a king.  The staff of the hospital Farzad or Framātar had been delivered to conspired with the ambulance drivers to form a syndicate whose mission was to determine where Farzad or Framātar got those golden darics.  It was their theory that for little or no investment at all they just might be able to get rich and do so quite quickly.  The second part of their theory was that if this old man had seven of these coins, there have to be more nearby, possibly millions!  So, while they convalesced the old man back into reasonable health, during their off hours they went cavorting across the dessert in search of ancient goodies armed only with garden rakes, straw brooms and a ball peen hammer, and sun screen.  They had actually turned up some ancient pottery and tools and skeletons and what might have been scripts, but they were looking for gold coins so they threw all that shit away.  Then one day Basir or Banda actually dug up a silver siglo a few hundred meters from the hole where they thought the old man stumbled into!  It was just enough to send the whole crew over the edge.

And today was the day the group deemed Farzad or Framātar healthy enough to cavort through the dessert with them in the hopes he would point them in the right direction which of course was where more gold coins would be.  Of course, Farzad or Framātar misunderstood their words and gestures and thought them to be pointing out the length and breadth of his kingdom and how they would protect it to the death!  Farzad or Framātar was quite pleased with this and to show his pleasure he demonstrated with a gestured how far he would lead his new tribe and how great a leader he would be.  That’s when shit really started getting crazy.

 

MICHIGAN

Meanwhile, Sheriff Krazny was at home in bed snoring the night away.  When the phone rang he was nothing but pissed off.  Pity the poor fool that caused this interruption!  Of course, it was the dispatcher on the phone and he sounded like he had a skewer run up his butt.  “Sheriff, you’re not going to believe this!” was how he started.  Apparently, the contractual janitors had happened into that bottle sitting on his window sill and subsequently happened into a fist fight with the desk sergeant which they won overwhelmingly, and then were tazed and thrown in the drunk tank.  “Cot damn it!” exclaimed Krazny.  “I’ll be right there.”

But the strange part occurred after Krazny had been there a while and was handed the bottle that supposedly started the ruckus.  Krazny observed the bottle and said, “This bottle is completely full.  They must have snuck in a bottle of their own or something!”

Thus, Krazny avoided a possible embarrassment on his part and was provided with a target for his ire as another part.  “Who in the Hell is checking these idiots into my highly secure building anyway?” he yelled quite loudly.  “I want some ass!”

As it turns out Sheriff Krazny got no ass that night because the guilty party was in the hospital having his face surgically reconstructed.  That kind of took the sting out the diatribe he planned on delivering.  Instead, and to everyone within earshot he blared out, “This cot damn shit better never happen again!”   He then trudged off to his office where he replaced the bottle to his window sill and then slumped into his overstuffed office chair.  “I’m getting too old for this shit,” he muttered.  Sheriff Krazny still didn’t have a clue about that bottle.

 

IRAN

 

The old man was getting more annoying by the day and since they had not found any more treasure since the silver siglo the syndicate’s patience with their patient was fraying at the seams.  When Farzad or Framātar started grabbing the female members in a Biblical way the camel’s back was broken and desperate measures were employed.   They drugged Farzad or Framātar, stuffed a handful of Rials in his pocket and dumped him where he had been found.  Farzad woke up confused and angry.  That’s when he remembered he was still a sorcerer and could very well do something about this, and he did.  Standing straight as an arrow he closed his eyes and clapped his hands high above his head and demanded his subjects return immediately and put themselves to death with dull, rusty swords.  It did not happen immediately so Farzad repeated the process, and again it did not happen immediately so Farzad took a giant step forward and stomped his right foot and one again invoked the order to his subjects to return.  That’s when the side-view mirror of the bus caught him on the side of his head and his lights went out.

 

MICHIGAN

 

Sheriff Krazny opened his top desk drawer and pulled out his brand new Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 magnum.  It could blow a person’s head completely off.   He always played with this gun when he got bored or when he thought about retirement.  Krazny rarely carried this pistol on his person.  He mostly used it as a sidearm during hunting season or just for shooting cans and such back behind his old barn.  He loved its report and the recoil.  Felt like sex.  He’d sent it to a renowned gun smith to have it balanced and a set of custom formed neoprene handgrips installed.  There were three speed loaders in the drawer, as well, full of steel jacketed hollow points.  If there was some close quarter killing to be done, this was the gun to be doing it with.   Krazny peered down barrel and spotted the red headed corporal now seated at the front desk.  “I could make a Picasso painting on that wall behind you kid!” he whispered, and pulled the trigger.  Click.  Sheriff Krazny was not crazy enough to keep that hand canon loaded.  Just then the sun crept over the horizon and a sparkle from that bottle on the sill caught Krazny’s attention.  He set the pistol down and reached for that bottle thinking he might better take a whiff of whatever is in that bottle before it causes him some real trouble.

 

IRAN

 

Arash the surgeon could not believe this old man had made it to surgery.  Almost a quarter of his brain had been smashed by that bus mirror, but still the old man’s heart kept a steady beat.  Furthermore, his neck was snapped, his shoulder fractured and his eyes were full of shattered glass. They found no drugs or alcohol in his blood so that wasn’t the case, but by all accounts this old man should otherwise be dead as a doornail.   Considering the state of the old man’s brain and body, Arash could only reach one conclusion:  trying to save him was futile.  But, on the other hand who knows how long he could last in this diminished capacity and at what cost?  Before the good surgeon could come to a conclusion the nurse nudged him.

“Doctor, what are you going to do?” she asked.

“I think the only merciful thing to do is to help this old one along on his path,” murmured the surgeon painfully.  “Turn up the anesthetic.”

 

MICHIGAN

 

Sheriff Krazny had second thoughts immediately after grabbing that bottle.   He did not ascend to this high office by taking unnecessary chances and it was that reasoning that suddenly kicked in and caused him to toss that bottle into the trash can beside his desk.  But that still wasn’t good enough.  He snatched up that trash can and walked it down the hall the janitor’s closet where he deposited its contents into the large, wheeled container and was sure to tie off the top of the industrial size bag with a granny knot.  Then, he told the desk corporal to take the bag out to the dumpster immediately.  Sheriff Krazny supervised the entire mission start to finish.  The next day the trash man would come and cart those dumpster contents off to a big hole at the junk yard and bury that with even more trash and so on and so forth.  The bottle would disappear forever, or at least that was Krazny’s theory.

 

IRAN

Basir and his cadre of syndicate representatives arrived back at the site where they had dumped Farzad or Framātar and quickly fanned out to search for the old man.  After five fruitless minutes they regrouped and frantically discussed what to do now?  They were all worried out of their minds but it was Basir that put imagery to their worry.  “I feel so guilty!  If we don’t find that poor old man I’m going to kill myself!”  The others nodded in agreement.