One scout hung his head, let spit fall from his lips. The other did the same. They studied the infinitesimal effects of spit on snow and history. They were small, graceful people. They had been behind German lines before many times--living like woods creature, living from moment to moment in useful terror, thinking brainlessly with their spinal cords.
Now they twisted out from under Weary's loving arms. They told Weary that he and Billy had better find somebody to surrender to. The scouts weren't going to wait for them anymore.
And they ditched Weary and Billy in the creekbed.
The scouts can't be slowed down by Weary's imagined heroics or Billy's ignorance. They are realists, and they know that Weary and Billy are albatrosses. If the scouts continue on with the pair, all of them are going to eventually be captured by the Nazis. So, the scouts follow the instincts of their useful terror and abandon Roland and Billy.
I like the term "useful terror." It describes the feeling that I get before I teach a class or give a poetry reading. Anxiety mixed with a kind of excitement. Useful terror keeps a person alert, prepared. In dangerous situations, it keeps a person safe. In stressful situations, it can generate serenity.
This morning, I had a three-hour dentist appointment. That sounds worse than it actually was. I was having a temporary crown put on a tooth. That means there was a lot of grinding and picking, numbing and rinsing, waiting and waiting. I don't get nervous about dentists. Never have. So I was in no need of useful terror this a.m.
Tonight, however, my jaw is quite sore from holding it open for so long. I'm sure it's also sore from the "cutting down" of my gums, which is about as pleasant as it sounds. No useful terror needed for this pain. Just Ibuprofen. Maybe a little alcohol.
The useful terror will come into play tomorrow night, after it is revealed who the next Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula is. I hate watching and listening to myself on television. I've been told I have a good reading voice, but I think I sound like sick leopard seal.
Anyway, Saint Marty is thankful tonight for good dentists and good teeth. And Ibuprofen and alcohol.