Strangely, as we entered the village there were families of ragged gypsies going about their daily village rituals in an almost stone age kind of way. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, introduced himself as Melquíades. He then proceed to put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. It was two large magnets. Melquíades went from house to house dragging the two metal ingots and we intruders as well as the villagers were amazed to see pots, pans, tongs and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creaked from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge and even objects that had been lost a long time appeared from where had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquíades’ magical irons.
“And now ladies and gentleman, we are going to show the terrible spectacle of the woman who must have her head chopped off every night at this time for one hundred and fifty years as punishment for having seen what she should not have and going beyond the limits of human knowledge.”
On the rare occasions when Úrsula got him to sit down at the table, he gave signs of radiant good humor, especially when he told about his adventures in remote countries. He had been shipwrecked and spent two weeks adrift in the Sea of Japan, feeding on the body of a comrade who had succumbed to heat stroke and whose extremely salty flesh as it cooked in the sun had
Two Jamaicans came back several years later, collecting firewood and he was still tied to the Banyan tree by his hands and feet, soaked with rain and in a state of total innocence. They spoke to him and he looked at them without recognizing them, saying things that they did not understand. They untied his wrists and ankles, lacerated by the pressure of the old rigging ropes and left him tied only by the waist. Later on they built a shelter of palm fronds to protect him from the sun and the rain, but he retained that forlorn look of vegetarians.
Along with those items, Melquíades left samples of the seven planets, the formulas of Moses and Zosimos for doubling the quantity of gold, and a set of notes and sketches concerning the processes of the Great Teaching that would permit those who could interpret the Sanskrit to undertake the manufacture of the philosopher’s stone.
The villagers, the volunteers and even José Arcadio did not pay any attention because they thought it was some new trick of the gypsies, coming back with their whistles and tambourines and their age old and discredited song and dance about the qualities of some concoction put together by a journeyman genius of Jerusalem.
One night, he called Angela in order to correct an important point of Sanskrit grammar and then suddenly he slumped over the parchments and died with his eyes open.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez several times since high school and only now did I have the time and temperament to finish it. Add to the mix my imagination, felonious artistic license and
bits and pieces culled from The Death of the Great Spirit, An Elegy for the American Indian by Earl Shorris and voila! I present One Strange Camping Trip. Do yourself a fucking favor and google: Horace, philosopher's stone, daguerreotype, Isaac the Blindman, Herman the Cripple, Zosimos, the SS Victor Hugues and course, per omnia secula seculorum .