He had never been so cold in all his life, but he felt that he had to start his trip from pole to pole with a logical choice: one of the poles. But as the cold whipped through his body and soul he began to wonder why the poles couldn't have been on either side of the middle of the earth, where it was no doubt much warmer right now. He tried to thank the guide for his aid in getting him to the right spot so that he could begin his journey with a witness who had the official capacity of One Who Knows Where The North Pole Actually Is (Bartholomew had to trust that the little golf course flag and the sign that said simply "N. Pole right here" were actually legitimate landmarks for such an auspicious locale), but even though he finally was successful in prying his frozen lips apart, his words of gratitude turned to ice in the air immediately in front of them and with nothing to carry them through the arctic air, they dropped to the cold ground with a little tinkling sound.

It was a solid four months before he made it to a place where there was actually dirt beneath his feet instead of some amalgamation of ice and/or snow. He had decided a long time previously that he was going to do the trip "wing-less and wheel-less", that is, he was not going to get inside any kind of vehicle other than a boat, which obviously a necessity since there was no way to get from the bottom of South America to Antarctica on foot. He was pretty sure from the start that he wanted to do the Americas (for this trip at least), since he had spent his entire life previously on the Continent and he wanted to try something completely new.

He often thought about the woman who was responsible for this journey and he wondered what had happened to her, or even if she was still alive. Each time he saw the Aurora Borealis he called out her name as if the colors in the sky could respond and tell him that she was there with him, that she approved of his trip. He hoped that she would have thought it a marvelous idea, and his heart ached when he thought that she would not be there at the end to hear his story (unless, of course, by some chance she was living in Antarctica next to the South Pole).

When he made it to Canada he was already tired, but he could not bear to give up so soon after starting. He had nothing at all, and he was just living on the kindness of strangers. The only reason he could get to the North Pole in the first place was that there was a very old and very wealthy man who contacted him in Paris. He had said he was a great fan of Bartholomew's parents' vaudeville act, and he was sorry that he could not have seen them one last time before they passed on. He asked Bartholomew what he was up to and was fascinated when told of the pole to pole idea that Bartholomew had come up with a couple of years earlier but had not been able to save up the money for.

In fact, when the older man had come to visit him, Bartholomew was outrageously poor, living in a corner of the kitchen of an expatriate writer who was living on credit while writing a giant novel about the intersecting lives of eighteen people in Paris. The elder gentleman had asked everywhere about the couple and finally was told that their son was still living in Paris. Bartholomew was earning just barely enough to keep himself from starving by dressing up like Salvador Dali and loitering in the Place Du Tertre, accosting tourists and asking them if they would like to have a surrealist portrait. The idea might have taken off except for the fact that he did not look anything like Salvador Dali, along with the fact that he could not afford any art supplies to actually do the portraits. If anyone took him up on his offer, he proposed that they make an appointment for a time in the future when enough time would have passed that he was sure to have some art supplies by then. That's about when the artist-customer relationship would break down and the tourists would change their mind and give him a franc for his effort as they walked away. But before they left they always commented on what a fine voice he had, and how, if it wasn't for his obvious shaggy white hair and weathered skin, by his voice they would have thought him many years younger. It was almost as if they could close their eyes and feel like they were talking to a young man with his whole life in front of him. He would smile when they said this, laughing inside at the little joke that life had played on him. There was not much else he could do if he was going to survive.

About the time that he reached the United States, he collapsed from hunger and exhaustion for the first time (he was to collapse later two more time at various parts of the journey). He had been traveling for six months at that point. A young couple found him lying on the side of the road and dropped him off at the hospital, where he was not admitted because of his lack of insurance papers. Luckily a man delivering pizzas to the doctors inside took pity on him and gave him directions to the dumpster where the restaurant he worked for threw out their buffet leftovers. Bartholomew thanked him and crawled all the way to the dumpster, though he did not have the strength to rummage through the trash inside. Instead he set up camp behind the dumpster and prayed that it would fill up until the trash spilled out into his waiting hands.

Chapter 33


Chapter 32 was first written November 30, 2001

It was last edited December 30, 2001