What did you do in the Service, I asked. I was the bugler for the division, he said. I never played the same afterwards. What made him put his body between a platoon of men, he said, and the guy theyd decided was guilty, he didnt know. He just had to do it, and took the beating until, exhausted, the men went back to bed. His nose, he said, it didnt used to look like this. I wanted more: how did it happen, what did it feel like, the questions rising in me like dinner gone bad, and it was none of my business. What could I do, he told me. They filled their pillowcases with boots; you know the kind: black, steel-toed. I didnt know, but I could hear them thudding as they fell inside cloth, muffled, innocuous until swung, heavier than hands, he said. It was a story you want to hear and wish you hadnt, and still you want more. I didnt know what to say, but when I reached out and touched the scar hed shown me, just out of the line of vision beneath the curve of jaw bone, I felt my own go a bit slack. Oddly, he didnt move, just closed an eye, keeping the other cracked and staring as if at something just beyond us both, something outside our field of view. He turned away, finally, with a wave of his hand as if performing some magic for himself alone, but Ive kept looking, though it eludes me, as if it were inside my blind spot, the center of everything I dont understand and cant pin down, a kind of legerdemain of the mind, a sin, a blown glass cracked and irreparable, a mystery cloaking a mystery, hocus pocus I cant bring myself to disprove, but dont want to own.
Locus Pocus has previously appeared in Conte