Duke Barvo: The True Story

by Devon Pitlor

Author's preface: This story is not just for insiders. The strange life and subsequent disappearance of Duke Barvo has long been the subject of controversy. It is time for the truth to come out. This story serves that end. But as a reminder for newcomers and insiders alike, here are a couple of quick links: Joey Leguay: http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx? msg=5490.19&nav=messages&webtag=ab-paranormal Diane Decay (Reese): http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx? msg=8467.1&nav=messages&webtag=ab-paranormal

I. Things that can happen in a hospice No. It is not all about watching the ocean roll in or pining in envy at the scantily clad sunbathers and swimmers, all in the spring of their youth, strolling languidly across the sand. Oh, it’s nice to see what is outside the window, but most of us here know only too well that we are dying, and the world of tight skin and beauty, regardless of its aesthetic proximity, has by now become foreign to us, or at least should be. By definition, we are not preparing for another romp on the warm ocean sands, but rather for a dark journey elsewhere, a journey that we know is inevitable. It’s not about the visitors either. No matter how well-intentioned they are, they are usually boring in their enforced cheerfulness, and even their motives for

coming into a place like this are often questionable. Sometimes they bring candy and pastry that most of us cannot eat. Sometimes it’s music that we really don’t want to listen to anymore. Often it’s relatives or curious onlookers, neighbors usually, who we never knew in real life before. And finally there are those who bring a message from whatever deity worshipping cult they are fronting for. Rarely have I seen them bring cigarettes or liquor because these items are forbidden here, despite the fact that we are all---again by definition---dying. The place is so full of prohibitions that it is comical at times, but humor in most of its darker manifestations is also on the proscribed list, so laughing at the irony of some well-meaning donation, visit or gift can also earn one the scorn of the staff here. Those who are invited do not come from the sea. They do not come from the happy ocean front cafés or dance halls. They come from dour places like the American Legion and look for spaces to hang flags and other military decorations. They come from churches where people form circles around beds and sing what they call songs of praise. Happy songs. Songs of joy. Or whatever. They come from charitable organizations. And sometimes they just come from wherever. Like uninvited curiosity seekers. They always assume. They assume we are religious, pious, full of happy memories, in need of company, morbidly lonely, in need of inspiration, in a mood to tell life stories, in a temper to hear benign jokes, or needing to smell their freshly baked pies that we can’t eat. Or, like today’s group, that holding animals cheers us up. That’s the big assumption, that if a fresh-faced young kid puts a puppy or a kitten in your lap, then the animal and the kid as a duo are suppose to elicit immediate glee. At times, dogs run unrestrained through the wardrooms because some well-meaning soul “just knew” that we wanted to see a panting mutt with a gay bandanna tied around its neck running up to our beds or that the presence of a mother cat nursing her kittenish litter would make our final hours all that much more rewarding and pleasant. And to tell the truth, it does work for some of these people, and I would never deny them their perfunctory animal visits, but I wish these intruders would ask first. So today I am propped up at my usual forty-five degree angle, and they have removed the respirator from my throat for a time. I have enough pain killers in me to make the day almost bearable, and no one has yet called me “sir,” which enrages me to no end because somewhere in the joint's all-to-temporary files I have a first name that no one dares use anymore. So I won’t even bother

to put it here. For all you need to know, I'm just the narrator, and narrate I will. I’ll attempt to clear up a small but enduring mystery for you, and in the process, what I will really be talking about is myself, because in the end, all narrations, all journeys, are inward toward the self. Let me tell you first that I am fifty-eight years old. That is very young for a hospice but perhaps too old for any kind of narrator that could possibly interest you. So if that is the case, go on to another soon to be corpse and listen to their story because mine is not what you were expecting from a fifty-eight year old man in a hospice whose bed is going to be occupied by the next tenant very soon. Ah, here they come. A pony football team, fourteen and fifteen year olds, wearing their team colors and jerseys. A couple of them even have their helmets on, and one, I suppose the leader, is tossing an actual football from hand to hand. Too bad no one here is any state to jump up and catch it. But, hey, what can they expect in a hospice? We didn’t come here for sports. Okay, they are getting closer. And a lady has just plopped the most immobile and lethargic gray kitten that I have ever seen in my life right onto the sheet between my legs. The freaking kitten looks hungry, and it is eyeing me like I was food. Do cats really eat dead human corpses, as I have heard? This one won’t have long to wait. The football boys are talking loud and coming toward this ward. My roommates are both comatose with even more tubes than I have running in and out of them. But here comes the team. Healthy, athletic boys. I need to tell them why I am here. Maybe I can do them a favor. “Hi guys. How’s the team doing? Thanks for coming. We don’t get many visitors [lie]. We like to see young people [semi-lie]. We’re glad you came.

[Some of us might be]. I’m dying of lung cancer. You know why?” “Smoking?” “Well, aren’t you the bright one? Yeah, that’s it. Smoking. So don’t ever get started. I suppose you’ve heard that before, eh? Well, so did I, but I never paid it any mind. So think about me when…. okay, bye.” Now that didn’t take long. Their coach got them out of here fast. He looks about thirty. I wonder if he is from here. I muster up some energy just as I see his butt leaving the ward. “Hey, coach! Hang on a minute by yourself.” “You wanted to talk to me, sir?” “Yeah. But quit calling me sir. Sorry I scared your boys. I was….” “That’s okay. They are used to it. It will probably do some of them some good.” “You from around here? I mean Rehoboth Beach, southern Delaware?” “Yep. I’m a local boy. And this is a local team. Sussex County all the way. Delmarva pony league. Shoreline Conference starters one day, I hope.” “You’re pretty young, but did you ever hear of a high school football champion named Duke Barvo?” The coach darts his eyes out of the room and shouts something to his lead boy, the one with the football. The kid bounces back. “Take the team around to each room. I’ll catch up with you. Don’t tire anyone out.” Then back to me with a little more intensity: “Are you kidding? Duke Barvo, he was long before my time…back in the 70s…but he is still a legend around here. A legend and a big mystery. There was no high school quarterback like him. Phenomenal. I’ve heard about him all my life. Did you know him?”

“Kind of.” “No one knew what became of him, or anything else about him for that matter. They say he came out of nowhere, armed with all false papers and just started playing for Cape Henlopen in the tenth grade. No one knew who his parents were or where he hailed from, but he broke every record in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia and was offered a slot in the NFL without even attending a college, which is illegal today, but they slipped it in back then. I mean when you had someone as remarkable as Duke Barvo. His legend grows bigger every year, but the old stats are still there, all over the conference records. There are even some old 16mm films. I’ve seen them. No kid ever had an arm like Barvo. No kid ever played football like him. He was pro material before he even turned sixteen. Lots of things about him were faked or hidden because of his skill. A lot of coaches back then just didn’t believe their eyes, and a lot of them didn’t want to talk too much about what they had seen. Cape Henlopen took the regional and state titles because of him that year. There were lots of investigations. Then he went up to Cincinnati for some kind of pre-NFL training camp and evaporated off the face of the earth. If you knew him, all I can say is wow!” “I knew him,” I say looking at my chart. “You know, I can sort of read these things. From what I can see, I have about a week left if even that. I can’t talk for a very long period of time either. 'Bout finished for today. But if you want to come tomorrow…” “Will they let me?” “If I invite you. And bring me a couple of smokes and a half pint of brandy

too. We can sit outside. I don’t think they will catch us, and if they do, what is the worst they can do?” So I tell him my name, which I’m not going to share with you here, and he vows to visit me tomorrow. A nurse or some semblance thereof comes in, waves him away, repositions me at flat horizontal in the bed and jams the respirator back down my throat. The coach, wearing his pony league’s uniform, stares at me and leaves. The kitten, annoyed, jumps up and scampers out of the open door. I note that it has peed on my sheet. It doesn’t matter. I’ll start tomorrow where the coach least expects it with the story of a kitten. I'll get to Barvo eventually, but first he has to hear about a kitten. II. The story of a kitten The next day in the hospice breaks like all the days before it. Shots, pills, small amounts of liquid protein, respirator removed, curtains drawn back and a panorama of the warm summer day spread across the Delaware ocean front. More youth, skin and sunbathers. Strollers walking hand in hand. Kids with beach toys. Me dying and looking out as if already from another dimension separated by more than just glass, separated by a wall of expired time and forgotten experience. A memory of a life that is no longer mine. And of course my thanks again to the almighty cigarette. Lung cancer. Incurable. Okay, let's get on with the story. Colton Harbrant arrives. Small talk. He is thirty years old. A teacher on summer break. An ardent coach of his favorite game which he loves: football. Unmarried but a good, sound, athletic model for his boys. His father was a coach too. Father lives in a home now. Father still talks about the larger than life Duke Barvo. Yes, let's bring the subject quick to Duke Barvo. I could die any minute. That is what this place is about. Dying. The animal people are back. No, I don't want to hold another kitten. I wave them away. The lady seems disappointed and holds up a loose-skinned puppy. No, I don't want that either. Where to start? Does Colton have a girlfriend? Yes, and plans to get married soon too. Colton is a handsome guy. But the small talk has to end. What

about Duke Barvo? Where did he come from? Where did he go when he disappeared? We'll get to that... But first, let me tell him about a kitten and a girl, and if he doesn't want to hear that I can jump forward and tell him that one day long ago before he was born the girl killed Duke Barvo. That really would be giving away the end. So, I glance at the ocean again and begin, rasping: "That kitten they wanted to give me. I found one something like it right up the road in my hometown of Nassau back in 1971 when I was barely nineteen years old. It was a little black and white speckled thing, a girl, I think. Soaking wet, but starving and dehydrated. It had a little pink tongue that hung out of the side of its mouth. It panted. Someone had apparently abandoned it on the side of the highway. I need to give you the details fast, no time for a lot of story weaving. I could go at any minute. So I scooped up the little cat, put her on a car rag and drove off looking for help." Colton is growing impatient. Old people spinning yarns. He has hung around enough places like this to how we do it. And the only polite thing to do is listen. He has to listen. He knows that. "I had lived in the area all my life, but I had no idea where a veterinarian could be located. We had no pets in my family. Well, I passed through Lewes, where Duke Barvo had played, and saw an animal doctor's sign. I had probably passed it a thousand times before without noticing. I rushed the kitten inside. It was panting harder and harder, and I figured with the August heat and all it was going to die any minute...just like I could now. At the reception desk was a tall, straight haired girl that arrested me with the most

strikingly wide and magnificent eyes that I have ever seen in my life. Her name, it turned out, was Sequoia and she was the daughter of the veterinarian, a Dr. Patrickson. Sequoia took the kitten in her hands and shook her head. It should have gone to the animal shelter, she said. They just couldn't take a kitten into their clinic, not a stray one at the edge of death with no history of shots, and so forth. I looked with pity at the kitten in Sequoia's hands, but most of all I looked at Sequoia. For the first time in my life I was truly smitten. There holding a dying kitten and dressed in a white clinic coat, she was beyond dazzling. My god!! The memory. She shrugged at me and said she was going to break the rules and try to save the kitten. She found a small cage for it and put in some water and wet rags. Then she looked over her shoulder to see if someone was watching and loaded a syringe from a small bottle taken from her desk drawer. 'Antibiotic,' she said, and injected the kitten with it. Just then the doctor brushed in. Her father. He took one look at the kitten and sneered. It turned out he didn't much like animals, but that is another story---and you won't have time to hear it. "Doctor Patrickson, Sequoia's father, ducked back into his clinic and was seen no more. The less I saw of that man, the happier I was as things turned out in my life. I didn't know it at the time, but I was actually looking at my future father in law, and believe me, as a father in law he was foul-mouthed and abrasive, and during the few years of my unhappy marriage to Sequoia, I wanted to see as little of him as possible. Oh, I'm jumping ahead. Yes, I did find the courage on that very day to ask Sequoia to go out with me. I have no idea where that bravery came from...but yes I do, and that is part of this story too, because it was due to Duke Barvo, and I will get to that. So be patient." A male attendant comes into the room and asks if I and my guest want to spend a little time on the porch before I have to be re-sedated and return to my respirator. Yes, we do. And fortunately for me, Colton has forgotten neither the flask of brandy nor the cigarette. On the porch we will not be seen, as if that really matters. So I'm onto a walker, tubes and all, and we're on the porch. A mouthful of brandy and a few puffs of dry tobacco. I resume the story. "End of episode," I continue. "Bottom line: the kitten lived and got a cute cat name, and I started seeing Sequoia. She was in her second year of college and already had plans to follow in her father's footsteps and become an animal doctor---which she did three years later. I think she skipped a whole year of

college or something. But the next time you're going to see her in my story, she will be up in a rural county in the Kentucky hills working for a private firm that for some reason needed a staff veterinarian. Now you may look at me now and wonder how a withered old prune like I have become could get such a pretty girl--or at least as I am describing her to you--but that is in the next chapter, if I live that long. They are right about my medications. The brandy is making me wink out. I need to go back and get in bed. Come back tomorrow, if I am still alive, and I will tell you the rest. You'll get to hear everything I know about your baffling Duke Barvo, and for all I care, you can go back and tell the whole thing to your coach father. I won't be around to verify it, and he won't believe it anyway." So Colton leaves, promising to return tomorrow. The staff is pretty good about visits as long as they are not over-extended. He will be welcome tomorrow morning. The sedation kicks in and whatever happens the rest of today will be just a mystery to me, and I really don't care. I'm still packing my bags for that journey that I know I am going to take soon. III. My life with Duke Barvo "In those days we used to walk to school," I begin. Colton is sitting by my bed. No brandy or cigarette today. The promise of death is lurking ever closer. I know he wants me to get to my story, but I needed to tell about Sequoia first because she plays such a big role in the life---and death---of the legendary Duke Barvo. But today I have to give Colton what he wants. He has a long life to live and doesn't need a stiff like me to detain him much longer. “Duke Barvo first appeared in or around our ninth grade year at Cape Henlopen. I might as well start by telling you that no one could precisely pin

down the day when he began school, not even his famous pass receiver Joey Leguay of Angola, of whom you may or may not have heard something. Joey Leguay was made a kind of football legend himself by Duke Barvo, but, to tell the truth Joey never knew him that well. I doubt that Joey, should you ever chance upon him---which you probably won’t for reasons that I won’t go into here---could never tell you even a tenth of what I am about to. All of us were the same age, I should mention that. But when Duke came, he became a kind of rival for Joey. I mean with the girls and all. That was real important to us boys back then. I’m sure you remember how it was at age fourteen. Anyway, Duke lived up Delaware 404 from me just outside of Lewes and about a mile from the school. The year was 1966 when we started the ninth grade, and you had to be more than two miles from the school to use the bus. The rest of us either had to walk or ride our bikes. Kids aren’t like that these days. They’ve grown fat and lazy from being chauffeured around all the time, but Duke and I had to walk, and, as chance would have it, we walked the same route. I remember my first encounter with him that fall. The leaves were falling all over south Delaware, and it was football season. The coaches had already given Duke, the new boy, a tryout and some were already amazed at the utter strength of his arms and legs and his ability to move faster than any other boy on the practice field. The high school conference rules prohibited them from playing him until the tenth grade, but, in truth they did anyway. People broke a lot of rules in those days, and they got away with it. “Now that is about all I am going to tell you about football. You can check with your dad or in the old newspapers for the rest, and I assure you that it is more than mind-blowing--the things that Duke Barvo would do that year and especially during the next three. Personally, I don’t like the game. I never went out for the team, and I didn’t pay much attention until my friend started stirring up so much national attention in and around the beginning of the eleventh grade. But what I heard was that from the start, Duke was totally holding himself back and refusing to show the astounding extent of his almost supernatural abilities. I’ve heard that from more than one person, maybe even your father if, like you say, he was an assistant coach back then. Colton shifts in his seat and stares at my sunken chest for a moment and says “He doesn’t remember you.” “I suppose not. I wasn’t much of anything at all. I was a shy boy with no particular athletic talent, and I was for a long time afraid of girls. Duke

exuded a kind of confidence and power that eventually wore off on me. I’m not sure how. He was full of some kind of magnetic force, I guess. But I drew my own courage from it eventually. That is a part of my story that is very hard to explain. Now don’t go thinking the wrong thing. I was as straight as an arrow, and so was Duke. It was just that he projected a kind of aura that made those around him straighten up and imitate his poise and power. I was one of them. Without the influence that Duke exercised over me as a teenager, I would have never had the courage to approach Sequoia. I already told you that. Right from the start I knew I needed to spend as much time around Duke Barvo as possible, and I did. “Every morning we waited for one another at Halkins Junction and then continued on to Cape Henlopen. Now let me tell you about one of those walks in or around October of 1966. I had just met Duke, but I could already sense his dominance. We were walking down the side of Del 404 when we passed this huge sand-colored boulder that I had seen all my life at the edge of a meadow by the side of the road. It was covered with graffiti, actually a lot of spray painted stuff about who had supposedly made it with Joey Leguay, who was the big sex magnet of our school, at least until Duke got there. Duke sneered something to me about not liking Joey in the slightest and that the rock was an eyesore. I forget his exact words, but it was something to the effect that he was going to rid the walk of a blot on the landscape. ‘We don’t need to read about Joey every morning,’ he said. “So over he goes, spreads out his arms, and right in front of me picks up the boulder waist high. It must have weighed several hundred pounds, but he lifts it and throws it about three feet into a drainage ditch where it rolls over and its messages about the sexual prowess of Joey Leguay are buried in the wet dirt forever. I gaped at him in awe. Only a non-human entity could have

performed such a feat. He grinned at me and said ‘Don’t tell anyone I did that, not that they would believe you anyway.’ When I asked him how he had become so strong, he told me that was just his way and not to worry about it. He said that he didn’t want every boy in Cape Henlopen High School to come after him looking for a fight. That sounded reasonable to me. “Then another day, after he had started practicing football with the upperclassmen, he was carrying a regular football home with us on the road. He turned it over and over in his hands and looked at it in disgust. It turned out to be school property, but some one had written “I love Joey" on it and decorated the statement with a pierced heart. ‘The guy’s name is everywhere,’ Duke said. ‘I need to do something about this. It dirties the place up.’ With no further prologue, he cocked his arm over his shoulder and threw the football straight into a large oak tree. The ball exploded under the force of his pass. It ripped some bark off the tree too. No one can make a regulation football explode that way. No one. Duke Barvo could. And I later came to find out that those famous ninety yard passes he threw not only could have been longer but could have killed their receivers as well. As Joey Leguay became his main receiver in the next few years and during the championships, it was probably a good thing that Duke did not unleash his full clout against him. I’m sure there would be no Joey to write poetry and sing about today. But of course you probably have never heard of Joey Leguay, and it really doesn’t matter” As I say these things, Colton’s eyes become more and more veiled by skepticism. I know that as a football coach himself, Colton isn’t ever going to believe that any one could make a football explode by tossing it into a tree. So I roll more toward him and tell him one more on the road story: A pretty woman in a skimpy black dress was attempting to jack up her car and change a tire. It was a huge Pontiac Bonneville wide track, the kind we used to drive in those days. And Colton guesses with some disbelief the end of the story. Duke lifted the car for her and I rolled a block under it. Then he changed the tire. “So yes, Colton,” I continue, “it happened. And there was more, but something in Colton’s eyes tells me it is time to stop. So I don’t tell him about Duke sliding into the woman’s car and her driving him away and what Duke claims they did, on her instigation, for the rest of the afternoon and part of the night because that piece of the story has too much sexual innuendo in it, and Colton is still unmarried and doesn’t need to hear about fifteen year old boys with extraordinary sexual powers who can seduce grown women in their twenties

and hold them on the string for years. But Duke did. Okay, I say to Colton, I’ll stop here. Come tomorrow for more if you still want. As Colton shakes what’s left of my hand and slips away I am not sure he will ever return. He has been troubled by an unusual truth. Things he will never believe or ever want to believe. IV. Colton returns; I wake up another day; the story continues Same hospice routine. I'm sure the attendants are shocked that I haven't surrendered this bed yet to the next customer. But no, I can hear thunder and see lightening, so I must be alive. It is raining all over the coast. The oceanfront is empty of people and things. The salty rain dashes against the hospice windows. One of my sleeping ward mates is rolled away. I guess forever. I start thinking that would be nice. The sleep that lasts forever. It is starting to sound better and better with every drop of rain that falls. I have dreamt, but of what? Oh yes. I dreamt of just what I wanted to. How come I could not do that when I was younger? The Pontiac Bonneville. Duke Barvo lifting it. The woman in the pretty black skirt. His riding off with her. That is a huge component of Duke's story, but I have a junior league football coach here. He coaches boys, clean and healthy boys. He is engaged. No doubt a clean and healthy engagement. Football is what is on his mind. Duke's incredible passes. His championship games. The faked statistics which showed him to be less, not more, than he was because of rules, or disbelief, or some kind of intentional cover up. Actually because of guys like Colton who believe in parameters and limits, guys who can dismiss old relics like me as raving mad as we tolerate the final hours of life. But there still is more to the story. The sexual part. The woman with the

Bonneville was named Ashlynn Degranval. I found that out a few years later when, only slightly older and still looking sexy as hell, she stopped me on the street in Rehoboth and asked about Duke. By that time Duke had gone off to Cincinnati and was about to disappear. Ashlynn wondered about him. Clearly she had committed many illegal acts with him in the past. After all, he was a minor and she was an adult, but those were the 1960s, remember, and acts of lust were not pursued so vigorously as they are today. Ashlynn wondered like everyone else who he was, where he came from and where he had gone. Why was she so concerned? It turned out to be something like pure lust, but not exactly. Ashlynn, now in her later twenties, could not explain it. She had been recently divorced and was only twenty-two when she first seduced Duke Barvo that day on Del 404. She excused her lack of discretion on the basis of her divorce and her youthful passion. But something huge about Duke---and no pun intended---had remained with her. She opened up over a beer in a seaside café and tried to explain it to me. The funny thing was that I understood. Duke possessed more of what Ashlynn called the life force than any others she had ever known. She had descended with him into a rage of raw passion that ravaged beyond simple human understanding. She had experienced something brute and animalesque from our distant human past when we were all unrestrained and savage animals. Duke had unlocked that part of her and had ostensibly left it unlocked for the rest of her life. No man could ever satisfy her on so many levels as Duke had. She tried to forget. She tried to join with others. She even remarried. But she still daydreamed and tossed and turned at night over....over a fifteen year old boy!! I can't talk to that boy scout Colton about this, but I know it was true. Girls at Cape Henlopen High School had felt the same way, and, like girls do, they had talked about it. There was something raw and bold that emanated from Duke Barvo, and it penetrated everyone around him. It probably penetrated Joey Leguay as well because right up until he disappeared into his own weird history (which I won't go into here or anywhere else) he talked about him. Of course, Duke had taken Joey into the spotlight during the football championships right along with him. He had made Joey Leguay a headline across the Mid-Atlantic coast, but there was more to his memory, always more. Ashlynn knew it, and so did I. Because of Duke, I emerged from being a shy awkward boy into a teenager with several girlfriends and later into the sort of man who could confidently approach a stunner like Sequoia Patrickson and eventually make her my wife.

All because I walked back and forth to school with some strange kid who could lift cars and boulders and make women whine for his company. And, sadly, it was I who learned the truth about Duke Barvo, a truth which I may or may not reach with Colton. There he is in the hall. Explaining that he wants to see me again. Someone is objecting. I wonder why. Do they think he will do me some harm? That's a joke. Let the goddamn kid in. They do. "What do you want to know? For sure. I should have told you that. I lived in Nassau and he lived just before the town limits. He lived behind an iron fence topped with spikes and locked with an electronic code. No visitor was permitted beyond that gate. Behind it was a huge mansion which had undoubted belonged to some late Nineteenth Century railroad magnate. It was, according to Duke, a kind of group home. No further details were given. Obviously Duke had the freedom to come and go as he pleased, but no one was ever invited in. It was against their rules. What kind of people lived there? Who knows? You saw them sometimes walking around the grounds. Some were young and others were old. No one else there appeared to be school age or came out to attend school. Some of the local kids said it was a house of vampires. But, stop Colton. Don't get all excited. I know how you young guys today like to think there are vampires everywhere and so on, but Duke Barvo was not a vampire, and whoever lived with him in that house wasn't either. They were not ordinary people, but they weren't vampires. Sorry to disappoint you." Colton doesn't have a catheter like I do, so he needs to go out and relieve himself. I roll over. Just how much more of this can I relate? I'm starting to feel weaker by the minute. Talking about Duke Barvo, however, has made me

a little stronger. I knew it would. There is always a carry over effect when it comes to Barvo, even though he has been dead for almost forty years. And, yes, I did say dead and not missing. Barvo is dead. I wonder if I will make it to that section of the story with Colton. The storm is getting worse. A bolt of lightning breaks across the seascape. That reminds me.... "Yeah, he had a weakness. He was terrified of lightning. Everyone should be, but he was more than anyone I have ever seen. The slightest hint of a storm and he stayed indoors. On rainy days, a designated parent would drive some of us to school or we would just use umbrellas and raincoats. Barvo would stay at home. I remember his coaches saying that he would run indoors if the slightest dark cloud crossed the skies during a game or during practices. Lightning must have been his Achilles heel, but I'm not sure why. "No, dumb idea, Colton. He was not a robot and not full of metal. But nice try to explain things anyway. Now back to his settlement house or whatever it was. Sometimes you did see people driving in and out of the place. It was usually in vans, and they usually pulled little curtains over the windows so you could not see just who was inside. Vans would arrive at all times during the day and night. "Another good question, Colton.... Let me say just say yes. I did spy on him sometimes, and so did others. Sometimes the coaches from high school would put someone up to it. I'm sure I saw Leguay lurking around that iron fence more than once himself. And some of the girls did. In the night. That was how we saw the vans coming and going. Say what you want, we were obsessed. I was obsessed. It was like we all needed some kind of proximity to Duke Barvo to draw out more of his vitality. Or maybe we were just nosy. Yes, I was there---outside---in the night sometimes. Spying. A boy myself spying on a boy. Don't ask me exactly why because I'm not sure. It was a long time ago. But there was a force... "When and if you come tomorrow, I will tell you the rest of what I know. I have strung this out too far already, but, like I said, this story involves me as much as it does Duke Barvo. It involves an era gone by. A time that has been all but forgotten. It involves some kind of rare and special vigor, some extension of the basic life force---they used to call it the vril---that we have lost over the eons of our human evolution. Don't make a face like that. I know what I am talking about. You are the one who wanted to hear this story. Now

take off and let me sleep for the rest of the day." So he goes out into the dark corridor. The storm has knocked out the main power and all of our lights and electricity are coming from a generator. Oh yes, if that were to fail, then these life support machines would be... Well, you get the idea. The truth about Duke Barvo would never come out and I would be on the road to my next stop. I wonder if Colton has ever thought of that. Let the hospice generator fail, and he will never hear the end of his story. What an irony that would be. Well, there he goes. A thirty year old man looking like a little boy. He hasn't believed or understood a word of what I've said, but he will be back. I know he I will. The sedation is kicking in now. Must sleep. V. My dream and the return of Colton It is wonderful to be dying, at least from a dream standpoint. My dreams are filled with far more life than I am. I would almost venture to say that they are filled with the life force that I attribute to the numinous Duke Barvo. I dreamt last night of Sequoia, my ex-wife. My dream ran in perfect chronology with faultless detail from the dying kitten to the final goodbye kiss. Sequoia needed to divorce me. It was fated from the start. It was because of her career and my lifestyle. Like a useless drone, I never worked after our marriage. She made enough money to support me totally, and support me she did. She was the enabler, as they say now. All I did was sit around and drink and smoke. And because of our weekly separation, which I will get into, I cheated on her as well. I was full of libido. I didn't begin life that way either. My parents had always wanted me to find a nice girl, settle down, find a stable job and just live decently. Instead, I found Sequoia and a plush motel room on the outskirts of Overfalls, Kentucky where I spent five days every week apart from Sequoia

with absolutely nothing to do except prowl around and well... Let's not get into that. Idle minds wander. I was idle. Sequoia paid all the bills and then some with her job, and it is her job that I will sooner or later need to tell Colton about. I'll probably get to that today if he comes. If I live that long. But all that about Duke Barvo and the enhanced life force. It was real. Some people are just more full of being than others. I cannot call them superiors, and I know enough now not to call them mutants, as I once did. For a time, I immersed myself in all the arcane literature about mutant races and their presence on earth. Bulwer-Lytton stuff. The Coming Race . Arthur Machen and Madame Blavatsky crap: Illuminati and The Great God Pan. The memoirs of Guy de Maupassant: Le Horla . Weird Germanic ideas about a place called Thule populated by shadowy progenitors who were greater and sturdier than mankind ever dreamt of being. Mutants walking among us. The Rex Mundi or King of the World, who, of course, lived in Tibet and governed all human activities with the potency of an Ubermensch. Even Nazi supermen attempting to rival the unlimited powers of the mutants who secretly ruled the Earth. I had time for all that, and during my brief stay in the university, that was what I wallowed in. It was all a way to explain Duke Barvo. I was convinced he was one of the Ancient Enlightened Ones, who controlled all human undertakings and had done so since the dawn of time. Very romantic all this. But very wrong. And so my dream ended with the final chapter of my marriage to Sequoia which followed right after the truth I learned about Duke Barvo. I say followed but it was not a matter of post hoc ergo propter hoc. The two really have very little to do with one another at least in a causal way. But my knowledge---forbidden as it was---and my divorce---sad as it was---did occur within the same basic time frame. I guess that is something I will have to tell Colton. More attendants arrive. Today is sunny again, and the beaches are full. My distant panorama of life is unfolding beyond the hospice windows again. Now I am alone in the ward. My two former roommates have been carted away by waiting hearses. The circle in front of this building, they say, is full of hearses. We are dying constantly. I sign, as best as my weak fingers will allow me, a card for both of their families. Their arrangements will be at a local funeral home, maybe both of them on the same day. Very shortly I will be cremated by this same business. It is a well known Sussex County mortuary trade, one that

advertises. One that is on the street, come to think of it. There are, after all, some funeral businesses that are not. Good thought. That is where I will start my story with Colton today. And here he is. VI. Colton again with a question "No Colton. I told you I did not like football. I never attended even one of those championship games in my senior year. Of course, I knew about them. No one could talk of anything else. Barvo to Leguay. Leguay across the goal line. 70 to 90 yard passes. Unheard of. Barvo on the front of the newspapers. Agents from the NFL scouting around. College recruiters by the dozen. Quiet talk about deals to move Barvo directly into the pros, which they did try to pull off as you know. Football...football...football. Barvo and his acolyte Leguay. But, as I told you, the great Joey Leguay never much knew Duke. I suppose Joey hated him too because Duke took so much of the limelight away from him. Duke got the girls that Joey had been used to collecting. Duke got the top billing which Joey had more than once claimed as his. Don't worry if you don't remember Joey Leguay. He had his own story, and someone else, probably someone in Michigan---not here in Delaware---will be able to tell it to you someday if you locate her, which you probably could if you wanted to. No, don't worry about Joey Leguay. "Let me tell you about something that happened at that house off Del 404, Barvo's house. I told you the vans were coming and going all the time. Well, one morning as I passed to get Duke Barvo, I saw a huge black hearse leaving. It was escorted by two local cop cars and moving fast up Del 404 in the opposite direction of Lewes. As soon as Duke got in my car,----and yes, we

were driving to school by that time, as I had a car and we no longer walked--Duke informed me that Kyla and Sean had been killed in a car accident coming back from a club in Rehoboth a couple of days before. There had been nothing on the radio or in the paper about this accident, and I had no idea who Kyla and Sean were, and I still don't today. But apparently they were killed on the spot when whoever was driving ran into the back of a slow moving dump truck. According to Duke, their bodies were being taken "back home" for burial. I asked him if they had been taken to a local hospital for examination as they often do accident victims. And where was 'back home?' All Duke told me was that---and I remember his exact words---'We don't go to hospitals and back home is far away.' My imagination immediately ran toward the possibility of strange mutants from Thule, which I had only recently heard something about. I was still a month or two away from graduation and access to a college library where I learned a lot more about these so-called mutants. "And no to that question too, Colton. They were not mutants. I'll tell you about that soon if I can. But I was starting to think about mutants then. If there ever had been such a thing as mutants, Duke would have certainly been a good candidate for being one. It was a normal thought. All I learned from the incident was that Duke's housemates, whoever they were, were not buried by local funeral parlors but instead taken 'far away.' Well, not to disappoint you, but far away turned out to be Kentucky, not Thule. But let's wait until we get to that part of the story. Suffice to say that Duke was bereaved over their deaths. I think he almost cried that morning. It was a sad day for him. "Now at this time, and the year was 1971---the year of the great championships---Duke was never without the presence of girlfriends. They were always the prettiest and sexiest in the school. He never settled on just one of them either, but, how can I say this, he kind of ruined them. I dated girls that Duke had tossed aside, and all they could talk about was Duke. Now, Colton, I'm going to leave it at that. I do not want to turn your dad's big football legend into some kind of teenage womanizer or sex idol. A person in my position should not be talking about sex anyway. That is element of a world that I have been closed out of for a long time. As I told you, I am packing for my journey, and a lot of sex talk with a guy like you isn't going to help me release my earthly ties, is it?" VII. A summary of what happened next and what is commonly known

Colton has brought a football to fumble from hand to hand on the last day of our meetings. I have no idea why. One day he has already come in wearing his pony league jersey top too. There is just so much I can't say to this guy. So I reiterate the abandoned kitten story and my first acquaintance with Sequoia. He is getting bored because he already heard that. Oh, and the animal people are back with kittens and puppies. I wave them away once more. They are very insistent. "You have heard the rest, and maybe your dad can fill you in on exactly how they did it, but some minor league feeder teams for the NFL started bidding--and illegally, I should add---for Duke Barvo. Duke had ignored all of the college recruiters. He had no interest in college and said so. He did, however, feel that he could continue to play football. A couple of years in an obscure farm team, and I supposed some faked documents, and Duke could have gone straight into the pros. So that was the plan. After graduation, we had a huge party. Leguay was there, of course. So was everyone else that mattered. I told you I don't want to talk about sex, but sex was the main item on the menu, as I suppose it is for most high school graduation bashes. There are girls walking around coastal Sussex today that probably still remember that night and whatever it was that they did with Duke Barvo. I talked to a few of them over the years when we met by chance in the shops or on the boardwalk. Their questions were always about Duke. I remember one girl telling me that "He was an animal. I mean an animal." But she said this in a wistful and dreamy way, as if she had encountered the God Pan or whatever. Having a relationship with an animal had changed her, and she was in her mid-thirties when she told me that, and Duke had been gone for years. The term "animal" got tossed around a lot when the locals discussed Duke, and it was always complimentary. What do you think about that, Colton? I mean, are you an animal in bed?"

Oh...oh... Not only does he have to go to the bathroom again but he is blushing like a red balloon. Wrong question. I can see I have gone too far. I really did want to discuss this aspect with him, but he is just too immature or uninitiated. I need to keep my dying trap shut. At least he is coming back now. "Okay. I understand. The stuff I was trying to tell you about Duke and his attraction to women and men and his super life force and all that is just too fabulous and weird for a guy your age to comprehend, so I'm going to chill and just tell you flat out the rest of the story. Then you can thank me and go out and tell your dad. You can let me die because that is what this place is designed for, and we will be done with the Duke Barvo story. "This part is known. Joey and everyone else always mentioned it. Duke is finally secured for some farm team used by the Cincinnati Bengals and is flown to Cincinnati at around the age of eighteen or maybe nineteen, and presumably he begins to play on this team but under a different name I think. That part is not particularly mysterious. It was just a conspiracy to hide his identity. Millions of dollars would have been involved in the deal. If Duke had ever made it to the pros, the whole face of American football would have been altered forever. All anyone ever did down here in Delaware was speculate about what Duke was doing. We envisioned him living in some cushy apartment, driving huge cars and frequenting the most beautiful girls that the sports mobsters can supply. They do it exactly that way for simple college recruits, so why should it not have even been more spectacular for a true prodigy like Duke? "Do you mind if I speculate? I didn't know any more than anyone else around here. I never forgot Duke and made the most of the effect he had had on me, but we did not keep in contact. I think that his association with old team mates and high school friends was of necessity limited. That is the way those sports gangsters do business. Huge rewards but you have to do things their way. God only knows how many rules they were breaking having him on that feeder team straight out of high school. But here is what I think. And I'm going to have to be a little crude here. You are an adult, aren't you? I'm sure you can handle this. I think that Duke did faithfully what he was told and reaped all the possible benefits during those years. Vague rumors would often drift back here about some anonymous player of uncanny merit on the Cincinnati farm team, and we knew it was Duke. No one could or would verify anything. But my thought, if you are ready for it, is that Duke was fucking himself to death.

Yes, I said fucking. Can you even start to imagine the hordes of beautiful women those guys could supply? Duke had an immense appetite for sex. I would bet he had affairs with literally hundreds of women, and probably a lot at the same time. I picture every sort of orgiastic excess possible. I picture his unlimited libido being assuaged nightly by the most desirable women imaginable. And I'll tell you in a minute why I think this. Remember we are talking about the years between 1971 and 1973, the year he vanished. By 1973 there were already investigators on the case snooping around, and by January of 1974, it became general knowledge to all that no one even resembling Duke Barvo was connected anymore with any sort of minor league football team. The management of the Cincinnati Bengals denied his very existence, and he became the official enigma that he has remained until this day." VIII. Sequoia: The beginning of another mystery "I told you that I entered the university during these years and had a very drab record. I was an off and on student and far too captivated by all this business about mutants and so on, which I'm not going to go into very far because none of it is correct. During this period, I maintained a kind of college break relationship with Sequoia Patrickson, who was a full-time, year around veterinary student at the University of Delaware in Newark. Sequoia was everything that I was not, and, as I told you, she would graduate ahead of the rest of her class and become licensed as an animal doctor. Now during this time, her father apparently grew more and more bitter about her having me as a boyfriend, and I told you that a couple of years later when we got married, he became the father in law from hell. In short, Dr. Patrickson did not want his daughter to return to Lewes and had made solid plans to sell his practice, which he did. This left Sequoia more or less out in the cold to find her own job or initiate her own practice. Her father promised to help, providing that she

dump me, which she never did. So upon graduation, Sequoia needed to start looking for either a veterinary partnership or a job with an established practice. "Yes, yes, Colton. Sequoia is important in the story. In fact, I would know nothing further if not for her. So just keep listening. "Sequoia was only in her early twenties when suddenly out of nowhere a rustic mountain "resort" in Appalachia, in Kentucky to be exact, offered her not only a house to live in but a complete practice along with a six digit salary. There were some strings attached. Sequoia had to move to rural Kentucky immediately, and she was to have no friends, spouse or visitors on the property of the so-called resort. She could have every weekend free, and they didn't care where she went, but she was to remain on the property during the week, except for holidays. That is why I told you that after we were married, she put me up in a motel about ten miles from the resort. "Now we had been seeing one another for some time--at least off and on--before she accepted this fabulous offer. He father approved of it because he thought it would remove her from me, but of course he was wrong about that. Not long after she moved into her free house, she called me with all the details and asked me to drive up to a remote place in Owsley County, Kentucky and meet her on a Saturday. I immediately dropped whatever it was that I was not doing and drove up there. Just being with Sequoia was my only goal in life. And, loser that I was, she fell in love with me. She said she had always been in love with me from the day I brought the dying kitten into her father's clinic. THAT, Colton, is a mystery that I will go to the grave wondering about. But, you know, I still credit it to some sort of drain off I received from Duke Barvo, but I'm not going to mention that aspect again. "Since I was unable to enter the compound where Sequoia lived and worked, she had to tell me about it. At first she didn't want to because she really had no idea why she was there in the first place or what they were paying her for. The place was indeed situated like a mountain resort, and quiet, unassuming people of all ages lived there. Some of them raised crops. Others engaged in small local crafts. Still others had tiny shops. Some drove trucks in and out. The resort or compound or whatever it was seemed to be an enclosed world of itself, and no one had ever told Sequoia much about it. She was kept busy at first by taking care of some of their horses and mules. Then there were

rabbits. They raised rabbits for food, but she had to keep them healthy. The same with chinchillas. They raised them to sell the fur, and Sequoia made sure they were fit. Then came the few odd kittens and puppies. They didn't seem to have many pets, however. Also, there were a few cows, goats and pigs. All Sequoia had to do was the routine tasks associated with raising these animals, minor veterinary stuff. "The resort or compound was more like a commune than anything else, according to Sequoia. The people were quiet, friendly although secretive, and minded their own business. Her private life beyond the confines of the compound was never pried into. Her food was at a major discount. She had an expense account, a free house, access to recreational facilities like gyms and the freedom to walk around as she pleased. She once told me that they cremated their own dead too. She felt that they must have belonged to some sort of widespread religious sect, although she saw no signs of worship, because they not only tended to their own sick people in a special clinic but ran their own private mortuary, which often took in outsiders who came in by night in vans." IX. Then a shocker "Sequoia called me two weeks after my first visit. I was already planning on moving into the motel she was providing, but she wanted me to come sooner. Something had happened. She sounded exhausted and scared. She needed to talk to me right away. I packed some clothes and sped up to Kentucky. It was, of course, on another Saturday. Sequoia was free to visit me. She was faint, fearful and nervous. I had never seen her like this before. The first thing she told me was that she "needed my strength." She wanted to change the date of

our marriage to sooner, and she wanted me to move into the motel at once. Any time Sequoia or anyone else mentioned my so-called strength to me, I immediately thought of Duke Barvo. By that time I knew that he had somehow been the source of it. But that was not something I discussed with Sequoia. I asked her, rather, what was the matter. "Here is what she told me, and you can dismiss it if you want. Remember I am dying, and I may not even be here tomorrow, so what you do with this information is totally up to you. But you have listened so far, and I would appreciate it if you listened some more, at least to the end. "Sequoia was almost hysterical. She squeezed into my arms and said 'They don't have any doctors there. I am their doctor.' At first I didn't understand what she meant, but she told me that a couple of the important ones, the managers, as it were, brought her a very sick woman on Thursday night. The managers or elders or whatever they were said that she should examine the woman using whatever techniques animal doctors used to examine a strange species. The informed her that they had no idea of what the unfortunate woman was suffering from, nor did they know what the normal range of her vital statistics should be because none of Sequoia's predecessors had ever been allowed to do enough experimentation to establish this. Sequoia had been chosen to be the first one permitted to perform research and autopsies on them. Those before her had been kept in the dark and asked to help only as best they could. They were not allowed to keep charts or even to examine the healthy ones, which could have established stats for what the actual physical norms for this "species" should be. The managers continued to use the word "species" and informed Sequoia coldly that they were in fact a species apart from human beings and that their origins "were different." Sequoia tried to take the blood pressure of the sick woman and both her pulse and pressure were so far off the human range that she should have been dead already. One of the leaders then informed Sequoia that their species had a very high compression system, that everything about them was designed for a much more superior gravitational attraction than what we have on Earth. In fact, if punctured in the right way, these creatures would even explode, they said. Sequoia, listening to the sick woman's heartbeat and gauging her respiration, found this to be exactly true. The woman was like a machine under pressure, a apparatus designed to be under water or something. Then in order to establish some norms, Sequoia asked to be allowed to examine one of the healthy ones. The same vitals came across: A systolic blood pressure that should have made

him a walking fountain. Strange globules in his blood. Lungs that were under high compression and designed for an atmosphere ten times greater than that of Earth. One after another she examined them. They were all the same. Sequoia was enough of an animal doctor to know that she had been chosen to care for an exotic species, a species about which she knew nothing and had everything to learn. "Upon questioning, Sequoia received the confidential information that these people were spread out all over the planet and had been here for several centuries. They lived at times in isolated colonies like the one Sequoia was in now, but many attempted to integrate into the general human population. 'We come from somewhere else,' one of the leaders said. 'Another planet, I guess. Our grandfathers never really told us. They just pointed to the stars and shook their heads. Hundreds of us had been stranded here, and it was certain that if we didn't keep our presence secret, we would have been annihilated despite our superior strength, which seems to be our only attribute. A gunshot or knife wound to our torsos will cause us to explode and die even quicker than a human being, and we have no clue about any technology known by our grandfathers. We do not even know the name of the planet our ancestors came from, let alone its complete language, culture, biology or governance. And, above all, we do not know how our predecessors became stranded on Earth. That is not part of the legend we were given. We die and keep our bodies away from probing and examination, and when these do occur, we need to pay and pay a lot for the anonymity given to us by various governments and their covert agencies. I hope you can understand.' "The sick woman died hours later. Sequoia was given total permission to perform whatever tests she wanted on the body, and she did. She discovered an entire set of strange organs within the woman's corpse. These had ,

according to the elders, names in the "old language," names they could say, but they were unable to ascertain their meanings. " ' During the time our species has spent hiding on Earth,' one said, 'we have made very little progress in discovering who we are or what we are like. It has been decided finally that we need someone like you to start this work for us. That is why we brought you here.' "Sequoia was aghast. But later she learned in discussion with the managers, who seemed also to be the managers of the species itself, that they were a benign and peaceloving people. They had undoubtedly been the victims of an unfortunate accident at some time in the past, and, in fact, they called themselves the Lost Children of the Pleiades, a rather fanciful and romantic name they had adopted from some words left over from their old language. Sequoia took pity on them and decided to stay. We got married, and the arrangement I told you about lasted about four years. To my knowledge the colony has moved, and Sequoia is still with them. One can only hope that she has in all these years made some significant headway in curing their diseases and giving them medical care. After all, that is what a veterinarian does." X. Conclusion: Duke Barvo "Yes, Colton, Duke Barvo was one of them. One who attempted what they called a "move out." His move out just happened to be to Sussex County, Delaware. It could have been anywhere actually. His goal, his mission was to integrate, try to be normal, get an education, learn something useful that could have helped his species learn about themselves, but instead he chose to lift boulders, play unbelievable football, and seduce women. "And you remember what I speculated about the women. His time outside of Cincinnati was in the early 70s, and there was no knowledge of the HIV or any other strange viruses that attacked through sexual contact, but they may have already been there. Or maybe it was another, weirder, thing But I will always choose to think it was AIDS or something similar, some virus transmitted through sexual contact. "He came to Sequoia's colony around the end of 1973. Sequoia told me about it, but would not let me see him. Of course, I was still barred from the

premises and Duke could not leave. He was in a totally emaciated state. Strange growths attacked his skin, tongue and eyes from all sides, some turning them black, others turning his skin a bright orange. His strength, all of it was gone, and in the end he could not even sit up in a bed the way I am doing now. The diseases which assailed his body did not respond to any sort of animal antibiotics or antivirals in Sequoia's possession or knowledge. She had no idea what was wrong with him. "She told me that she explained all that to Duke one day as the two of them were sitting on a porch swing at her free house. Duke shook his head in resigned comprehension. He said something like 'I tried. I tried to be normal.' But in fact, Duke was never normal. Whether or not he was imbued with an excess of the life force or not we will never know, but when he was at length turned over to Sequoia, all that was left was a brittle and vacant shell. "So you know what, Colton? Sequoia did what most any animal doctor would do under the circumstances. She informed Duke that she could neither cure his disease nor alleviate his constant pain, and without informing him beforehand, she pulled out a syringe from her clinic frock and plunged it into his side, killing him at once out of mercy for his person and his species. That also is what veterinarians are trained to do when an animal is too sick to save. "The legend came to an end, slumped over dead on a porch swing deep in the Appalachian hillsides on an early spring afternoon in 1974. I know that is not what you want to hear, Colton, but it is the truth. There are probably thousands of them still walking among us, but let's hope that Sequoia has found something to help them other than just a jab to put them out of their misery. A smart woman like that...I like to believe she has. I wish she could come and cure me, but that is even more impossible."

So now the kid is gone. Gone back to his retired coach father and his freshfaced team. Gone back to the corner of the world where Duke Barvo is still remembered as a legend and probably always will be. And for me? I hope for a swift end just like Duke. We don't administer that to our own species, unfortunately. Just these pain killers which put me off to sleep each afternoon. But it is merciful that they do not interrupt the clarity of our vivid dreams as we prepare for the long journey ahead. _________________________________ Devon Pitlor July, 2010 ////

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