Previous, Next, Numerical Index, Chronological Index.
For All Nails Part 91a
The Reproaches

Plorans plovarit in nocte,
Et lacrimae ejus, in maxillis ejus,
Non est qui consoletur eam,
Ex omnibus caris ejus,
Comnes amici ejus spreverunt eam
Et facti sunt ei inimici. [1].

Basilique de la Madeleine, Montreal, Associated Confederation of
Good Friday, 12 April 1974 [2]

The purple-cassocked double choir filled the rib-vaulted nave of the
church with the reciprocating antiphony of the _Improperi_, the
Reproaches of
the Good Friday liturgy. Ghostly Gregorian Latin alternated with the
thunderous modern organ-accompanied French responses of Blanchard's
settings [3].

Lucien Reynard, stuffed uncomfortably into his best blue suit, once
tried to make himself comfortable against the hard wood of the pew,
a sharp jab in the side from Marie-Claire, his dark-haired
mantilla-draped daughter.  Pinned to her sweater was the small silver
pin of the Knights of the Immaculata. She was a prominent member of
the U.N.O. chapter. In fact she was the branch's new treasurer and had
carried the blue and white gonfalon of the organization before the
processional statue of the Virgin during May devotions.

Her father had certainly heard enough about her friends in the
He was sure they were good people, he just couldn't understand them,
There was some foreign boy she kept calling Ferdie who was the group's
organizational genius, even if he didn't go to Rosary that often.
Though she
never got to know him that well and he had left recently. Father
who led them in prayer. Dan from the NC, a curmugeonly classics major
thumbing his breviary while he talked about German art films. Then
there was
his genial roommate Andy, from the Indiana Confederation, who was
towards the peculiar double major of theology and finance and always
was the
first one to make it on site for the charitable activities in Spanish
And then Max, who wanted to be an architect. The three of them--the
"Unholy Trinity"--were inseparable, and their high-flung
intellectual-philosophical conversations, interlarded with obscure
jokes, made
them incomprehensible as well.

There were others, too, from farther afield. Veronica Denton, her
roommate and
closest friend, was one of them. She was a sweet Jeffersonian girl,
of a Mexico tribunal justice, who was at once thrilled and bewildered
by the
mellifluous Latin and swirling incense of High Mass or Benediction. It
was a
long way from the Mexican, crypto-Charismatic, semi-Protestantized
world of
her home parish in Arnold. Though perhaps it was not so much of a
difference for Vee. While at home she would have never prayed the
Mexican piety had as much to say about Our Lady of Guadalupe as it did
Jesus. She had thrown herself into the arms of the Virgin of Victory,
patron saint, with trusting love--

Marie-Claire's stories went on and on, complete with the occasional
semi-bewildering theological witticism, and sometimes Lucien wished it
stop. It brought back a world he no longer wanted to remember.

He had stopped being interested in church after Père Menaud had tried
to draft
him into one of the relentless do-gooding projects that no layman
seemed to be
safe from. A parishioner's time was a greater gift than tithes, he
used to
say while standing high in the high crows' nest of the ambo. He kept
Lucien for assistance, a moment for another charitable project. But
had neither money nor time, hauling himself in night after night after
a numb
day in the bowels of S.Q. Headquarters in a uniform, that like his
bulged in all the wrong places. He was a failure as a policeman,
condemned to
ending his days slumped over a dactylograph. He couldn't give his
for someone else's life, climb a ladder, knock a nail in, raise funds
for the
caisse populaire, because he was slowly finding he no longer had
strength to
live his own. He felt as bent as the stiff, twisting little man nailed
the intersection of history that lay within the liturgical readings of

Startled, he tried to get to his feet to join the line of faithful
the central aisle of the basilica to slowly make his way towards the
scarlet-chausibled figure of the archbishop standing before the altar,
a heavy
gothic crucifix in his hands, supported by two surplice-draped
assisting deacons and priests illuming the sanctuary with a halo of
fire. The veneration of the Cross.

Popule meus, quid feci tibi?
Aut in quo contristavi te?
Responde mihi!

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I hurt you? Answer me!

Quia eduxi de terra Ægypti:
Parasti Crucem Salvatori tuo.

I led you out of Egypt,
From slavery I set you free.
I brought you into a land of promise:
You have prepared a cross for me.

Reynard moved forward, bewildered, hoping to please Louise and his
and bent to kiss the nailed foot of the crucified Lord. But, as choir
answered choir in the gilded darkness with bilingual reproaches, he
astonished to discover he was crying.

Theodore Army Air Station, California [4]
July 1, 1974

"G-dd-mned Mexicans!" Ev thought, not out loud, of course, as she
stepped off
the airwaggon's landing stair into the stifling heat of the remote
They had to set up their research field _here_, instead of a
pleasant place like Pax River. Worse than Manitoba, somewhere due east
of the
middle of nowhere, and substantially much hotter, she added, feeling
pinstriped suit-coat stick sweatily to her back through the
shirt. She was an officer and a lady, of course, and had to keep up
appearances, but just for once she could understand how the decadent
let their daughters go barelegged without batting an over-made-up

This whole trip was a mistake, she thought--what precisely was Dr.
after? Even if she learned anything important about Gringo
spacemobiles, it
would pale behind what the Mexican spy at Fort David Barry would learn
her side's rockets. She imagined with scorn the friendly, helpful Tory
civilian scientists spilling their guts, while _her_ Yankee hosts gave
her the
run around. And what if somehow the trade in secrets were an even one?
she would admit, landing a winged vehicle from space would be a nice
stunt at
some point, what _they_ would learn would help them lob atomic bombs
onto the
CNA's cities. But Abramowitz was at the top of the tree, and he made
orders. D-mned civilians.

It was also a great deal uglier here, too. The Academy may have been
equally distant Manitoba, but it still had the elegant sensibilities
neo-Gothic academia to soften the flat-as-a-pancake prairie. This
MacAdamized airfield was ringed with ugly tin-and-wood white-plastered
structures, the control tower emblazoned with a hideous blue-and-gold
representation of the snake and sun. The main buildings, which so far
she had
only seen in photographs, were worse, alternating between the
egalitarianism of decades past and the egomaniacal garishness of
styling that was now the last word in intimidating bureaucratic

"Evangeline Gilmore?" Ev jerked her head up, stiffening slightly as
she found
herself face-to-face with a clean-shaven, broad-shouldered young man
wearing a
short-jacketed mud-colored uniform--so much for the famed "grey
the single blackened bronze sun-disk pip of a Lieutenant's simple
shoulder-boards. What must have passed for full dress in these parts.
saluted, rather casually. He had apparently lost the plain peaked
ski-style cap that went with his uniform, so he was bareheaded. Rather
a poor show, Ev thought. Not proper at all.

Ev's chin raked the air as her pure cold eyes narrowed, scrutinizing
him, wondering to herself if Teniente Ramirez or Jefferson or Jackson
whatever his d-mned Gringo name was knew what to make of the well-bred
lady before him. She smoothed her bobbed red hair discretely.
Gilmore," she corrected, looking past him, squinting behind her
gold-bound aviator spectacles. It was going to be a long two weeks.

Over the South Vandalian-Mexico del Norte Border.
July 2, 1974

"D-nm it, Serjeant, I don't care how many bloody years you've had in
R-bleeding-C-A-A-F, you will follow that order and you will follow it
shouted Lieutenant Alexandra Stapleton into her headset, her voice
hoarse. She heard her breathing magnified in the crackle of the static
suddenly was afraid of herself. She knew what Serjeant Blaylock, way
back in
the belly of the airmobile, was thinking. Just give the old girl
half-an-hour and she'll be back to her usual self, and they were
usually right, or at least
they looked like they were right, but they weren't. She was never back
to her
usual self, unless her usual self was depressed, spit-out, hollow,
drunk, bored to distraction, simply lost.

She had hated the Vandalias from the start, non-coms under her command
virtually ordering her around in the signals station. The only solace
from the magnificent knife-blades of mountains beneath her feet, and
even now
she didn't look at them anymore. D-mn it, she was supposed to know
what went
where, not get everything explained to her like a schoolgirl in the
Burgoyne Museum of Natural History.

She was a Lieutenant, wasn't she?  She had gone through hell to get
the gilt insignia she wore on her shoulders. And sometimes they felt
like they were heavier than the weight of the universe.

From _Trent's Airmobile Guide_, 1974 ed. [5]


The X-12 set another record last year when Lt. Riggs Menchu took it
pass five
times the speed of sound. Active since 1972, the X-12 is the latest in
series of rocket-propelled airmobiles produced by Malverde's Space
Exploration division. The highly classified rocket motors (produced
in-house) are rumored to be one of the final candidates for a platform
can reach orbital heights and speeds.

Type: High-altitude and high-speed testbed
Dimensions: Wing span: 40 ft.
Length: 140 ft.
Tail height: 40 ft.
Engines: Two Malverde liquified gas rockets
Maximum speed: 5.4 pings (estimate - 5.1 pings reported)
Cruising speed: 5.4 pings (estimate - 5.1 pings reported)
Maximum altitude: 150000 ft.

Theodore Army Air Station, California
July 4, 1974

Teniente Ramirez or Jefferson or Jackson, despite the Honorable
Gilmore's stereotyped snap judgment, had actually been baptized Emilio
Lacroix.  It was a name which would not have struck Tory ears as being
particularly Mexican, mostly because it was not a name one would have
encountered on the rosters of the Wilderness Walk or among the
high-class denizens of Mexico City who surrendered to Andrew Jackson
and later found their way into the conqueror's cabinet.

But there was more to the Mexican psyche than the thoughts of Hispanos
and Anglos. Indeed, the way he pronounced it, Mexico was the only
place his name really belonged when all was said and done. It wouldn't
have sounded French, since it came out of Emilio's mouth as "Lacroy,"
but his long-ago ancestors had lived under the white flag of the
Bourbons. They had come over in an effort to escape the Francophone
end of the Bloody Eighties and, in a great irony of history,
immediately fallen under the Francophobic rule of el Jefe de Estado,
Benito Hermión. However, Lt. Emilio "Vaquero" Lacroix y Costilla was
thoroughly Mexican, and had the snake-and-stars tattoo to prove it.

"You going to show the Tory Princess _esto_, Vaquero?" asked Sergeant
of the tattoo in question as he knocked back a bottle of foamy
Liberty Cap cerveza. They sat in a grimy off-base dive filled with
neon-refracting cigarillo smoke, the thick air shrieking with the
clack of
flipperball machines [6] and the frenetic whine of Juan Baillares on
wireless. Sergeant Fernandez, who had two empty bottles of Liberty Cap
front of him, laughed loudly until he slowly folded over onto the bar
with a soused mutter.

"Ay Pancho, maybe Fernandez could use a little coffee over here!"

Pancho Barnes, the owner of the eponymous bar, Pancho's Fly-In,
something in a sotto-voce growl.  He slid a mug of black unsugared
next to the
comatose Sergeant, who didn't seem to take much of an interest. Barnes
his hands into the air, mumbling in profane Espangles. "You should
Pancho. You ought to put his picture on the wall, he's your best

"It'd clash with the...décor."

"He's already part of the landscape--y m--da, this place no tiene
décor." He
paused. "Now, what do I have to do to get my picture up on the wall,
The setup was inevitable; Pancho would rise to the bait. Usually it
was a
rookie that asked that sort of question, and Emilio got a kick out of
the expression on the poor kid's face when he heard the answer. Now,
he just
wanted to bug Pancho.

"You gotta die."

The walls were plastered with a weird mélange of souvenirs the
proprietor had
assembled over the years, faded photos of smiling jump-suited
patriotic prints of a pale-skinned Lady Mexico draped in blue and gold
next to
the brown-faced Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. In some parts of the USM,
the two
figures tended to blur together, considering no other woman in the
most egalitarian nation [7] would have been accorded such a

Two more things, that didn't quite go together, thumbtacked up on the
wall. A
holy-card picture of the late Padre Cuátemoc Smith, the Charismatic
stigmatist who was popular among the Catholic laity but not among the
hierarchy. Then a big glossy poster of Tania Monroy, who was wearing a
deal less than Padre Cuátemoc Smith would have approved. Come to think
of it,
Lady Mexico, who had been wearing the scarlet cap of liberty a long
before those crazy Carribbean "Jeffersonistas" had, looked
suspiciously like Tania Monroy. She was also wearing about the same
square footage of clothes, or lack thereof.

Lacroix broke into a broad, white-toothed smile. "Hey, she's not so
bad y
just entre you, me and el borrachero aquí, I think she's a bit hot for
the old Vaquero. Of course, you know those North American girls, they
just tend to
flirt around rather than come to the point. Kinda cute, actually. Give
her a
few days and she'll crack," he said, grinning, not sure if he believed
it, but
more interested in having a bit of fun at her expense. And who knows,
might work?

"She's got quite a skin on her, oh, sh's got one, all right, Emilio,
you're into super-pale pelirrojas [8], but if she wants you, I don't
she'd cover it all up like that. I've never seen more clothes on a
Cloth stock up to her neck, skirt to her calves and on a day you could
tortillas on the runway; no sense at all. I pity the men up there."
She had
thought he was a nobody, but he would show her, and have a bit of fun
in the

The Tories had sent a pretty girl instead of un tipo calvo in a lab
coat and
thick glasses, or a bureaucrat in a ridiculous three-piece suit, or
techno spy and he intended to enjoy himself. All was not lost: even
though she wore knee-length skirts, they fitted kinda close and you
could she did have a very good body on her.

And deep down, he was starting to respect the Honorable Captain
Evangeline--or Captain the Honorable--cualquier cosa, m--rda. He
didn't know how North Americans kept track of it.

Well, he did know, actually. They had cards--actual calling cards,
she'd tried
to give him one with a shield or crest or something on it. He had a
laugh over that, and privately wondered if there had been a calling
card on
the sovereign soil of Mexico since the last hidalgo left in 1805. Or
at least
the second Hermión era. He'd also had a laugh at her reaction to his
It actually wasn't his dress uniform, which was grey, but why would he
it to greet her? He didn't even own one, for that matter; he'd rented
one out that time they pinned the Golden Sun on his chest [9]. Not
like he was going to be meeting the President or Señor Mercator.

Tories must think that every Mexican soldier either dresses up like
the Continental Army or General Santa Anna. Nonetheless, he was
starting to respect her; she knew her stuff. And he was sure he was
making an impact on her. He was probably one of only three men who had
ever flown Sonic-5 in an airmobile. Ol' Riggs Menchu had been the
first one to pass the sound barrier, but, well, he wasn't a jerk
country boy like Riggs was. Yessiree, he had flown Sonic-5.

And she had been one of only six women on the planet to see the Earth
Outer Space.

"Don't torture her too much."

"She's an _aristocrat_, she might benefit from a little liberty--or
like they say up there, 'freedom,'" he added, with an exaggerated
North American accent that sounded more English than C.N.A., something
undoubtedly straight from a
_Sabado gigante en vivo_ "Los Conjeads" sketch [10]. "Anyway, you're
full of m-rda, Sarge...while she has those those fine female curves of
hers, she's got brains and guts equal to any one of us."

But he didn't say anything else beyond that. He may have begun to
respect her, but that was something he intended to keep wholly between
his ears.


[1] These are the opening verses of the Prophet Jeremiah's
lamentations. A
mournful and splendid setting of the Lamentatio was written around
1650 by the
Mexican Indian composer Juan de Lienas. Joel Cohen, the director of
the OTL
Boston Camerata writes about it, "Did the mostly-Indian choirsingers
of the
Mexico [City] Cathedral ever meditate on their recent history and on
the fall
of the Aztec empire as they sang these mournful, Old Testament texts?"
the Evangelical influence on the Catholic church of the U.S.M. has
much of Mexico's baroque choral traditions, though the church of San
Juan de Cantio in Monticello, Jefferson, perhaps under the influence
of the traditional liturgies of the nearby bastion of C.N.A.
Catholicism that is UNO, has been a forefront in the revival of early
Mexican liturgical music and traditions, though it remains to spread
to the large, consumerized churches of the Mexican heartland.

[2] While the headquarters of the Danielloises is in Trois Rivières,
Basilique de la Madeleine was originally a church attached to the
Montreal hospice. Choked with the ex-votos of ex-hospice patients, it
rebuilt in an ornate neo-Gothic style on the site of OTL St. Joseph's
just outside of the city. It is second only to the shrine of Ste. Anne
Beupré as a center of healing in Québec. At Ste. Anne, the healing is
to be of the miraculous-spiritual variety. Unlike Ste. Anne, most of
pilgrims at St. Joseph's are giving thanks for comparatively ordinary
recoveries via the Danielloises' medical skill. Though certainly some
like to
joke that the well-trained doctors of the order can work the odd
miracle themselves.

[3] Louis-Pierre Blanchard (1898-1957) occupies a similar position in
Quebecois Catholic choral revival to Benjamin Britten in English
Influenced by both mediaeval, renaissance and Romantic-era music, his
for the Mass would probably sound to an OTL ear like a three-way cross
Josquin des Pres, François Poulenc, and Carl Orff. Insertions of
plainsong in the manner of Allegri's _Miserere_ is another common

[4] Theodore AFB is on the site of OTL's Edwards, of course, and is
for Colonel William Theodore--soldier, companion of Jackson,
legal pioneer, and author of the Basic Statute of California.

[5] Thanks to Dan McDonald for this extract from _Trent's_. Pings,
incidentally, are the CNA equivalent of Sonic-1, Sonic-2, etc., which
are in
turn equivalent to OTL Mach-1, Mach-2. Pay attention, this may be
That means you.

[6] OTL Pinball.

[7] It isn't, but I'm not planning to tell them.

[8] Redhead in Spanish.

[9] If this may seem hard to believe, in the nineteen-tens, almost no
officers owned the rarely-used dress blue uniform. In a relaxed
society such
as Mexico, it would seem unlikely that dress greys would be used very
The "Golden Sun" is the Distinguished Airmobile Medal, awarded to Lt.
in recognition for his work with high-speed planes.

[10] A Mexican slang term for inhabitants of the C.N.A. A popular
sketch on the comedy-variety show _Sabado gigante en vivo_ features an
extraterrestrial family from the fictional planet Remúlaquo who try to
disguise their weirdness from their Mexican neighbors by pretending to
be from
North America. The _Sabado gigante_ players, however, are
mockers and comedy sketches include parodies of German militarism,
vitanovelas and much, much more...

M.G. Alderman (and Dan McDonald for _Trent's_)