The Names of Towns

2. The Names of Towns

… caves, cellars, old age, great expanses of time, monumental architecture, non-Euclidean geometry, deserts, oceans, rats …

The job takes Dizzy from Toronto to Cleveland, Cleveland to Cincinnati, Cincinnati to Bowling Green, Kentucky. In Cleveland, he visits the Hamann Museum of Comparative Anthropology. In Bowling Green, he spends three hours in the basement apartment of a former Ogden College lecturer in “mental science”, now known only as the Rat Man.

From Bowling Green, Dizzy goes to Mammoth Cave National Park. He goes into the cave a tourist. He comes out a murderer.

Dizzy’s trail goes cold for a while.


We pick him up again in Honduras, standing in a jungle clearing amid the ruins of the Mayan city of Copan, smoking a Pall Mall and looking up at the stela of Uaxaclajuun Ub’aah K’awiil, listening with one ear as his guide tells him about Diego de Landa burning the codices of the Yucatán. Dizzy likes the guide, a defrocked Mexican Maya Catholic priest named Basilio Choc, and when he’s finished his cigarette, he allows that this was a damn shame.

“How much you figure a guy could get for one of those?” Dizzy asks.

Choc, who looks old enough to have been there when they did the burning, smiles and shrugs.


In La Libertad, Dizzy finds a steamer headed north for San Diego. In San Diego he picks up a used Buick convertible, a mongrel dog named Ahab, and the address of a man in Benton, Arizona who can fix him up with a new name. The break-in at the San Diego State College mathematics department, never solved, probably has nothing to do with Dizzy, but it’s a fact that he leaves town that same night.

Morning finds Dizzy in the parking lot of a lunch-car diner in Yuma. At his side the dog Ahab is chewing on a pork-chop bone Dizzy had wrapped up in a napkin. The sun is coming up over the Gila Desert and the ancient brown hills are touched with gold. Dizzy puts the top down and starts the engine; turns on the radio, and smiles.