Page 1

D O U B L E Including from

I S S U E

1 9 8 5 - 1 9 8 6

Contemporary the

Soviet

Poetry Union

Translated by Andrew Wachtel Sponsored by ASUC


- J

B e r k e l e y F i c t i o n R e v i e w

1 9 8 5 - 8 6


B E R K E L E Y N u m b e r Six

F I C T I O N R E V I E W ^ - " " ' Double Issue 1985-86 Senior Editors Julie Christianson Christina Ferrari Christopher Greger

Special Section Editor Dugi Step Associate Editors Dina Ciraulo Leslie Howes Editorial Staff David Boyle Andy Curry Sara Diamond Todd Dunning Christine Evje Loren Frankel Adam King

Julia Lave Andrew Loesel Frank Lorschner Neil Mages Mary Sandri Virginia Stefan Jeff Webb

Staff members listed are a combination of those who worked on the Review during 1985 and 1986. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), and the Small Publications Grant Committee of the University of California at Berkeley. Copyright 1986 by The Berkeley Fiction Reivew. All rights reserved. Typesetting by Cooperative Type, Berkeley, California. Printed at GRT Book Printing, Oakland, California. Cover Art by Sally Bentley. Special thanks to Jeanine Jones and Ruth Shields. Special thanks to Vasily Aksyonov for help with the translations. We also salute the artists and poets of the Soviet Union. Submissions to: Berkeley Fiction Review, 102 Sproul Hall, UCB, Berkeley, CA 94720


V I E W 1985-86

el ner

Contents

A n n e and Animals Paul Kafka 1 Stolen Children Phillip Kittower 1 Waiting.to Know Patricia fane Jones 9 Being Born Paul Weinman 19 Forgotten Land Therese Saliba 21 C h e o p s . R a m e s e s . R a r i t a n . Giza. Donald Stewart 25.

an

H i m , Alone Leslie Howes 45

who

Clepsydra E.G. Willy 49

Students blications erkeley.

reserved. rnia. ia.

s. nslations. nion.

CA 94720

T h e Dieter Philip Hanson 53 E v o l u t i o n of S c r i p t Peter Logan 63 T h e Fledgling Lori Hester Arthur 65 1973 Dugi Step

73

Fig Cynthia Eaglet on

75


Our World Richard]. Gruld 83 The Box Francesca Lia Block 89 W h y Mae Bought A Radio Glen Gold 95 The Denial Gregory A. Ryan 99 Aunt Amelia Doris Lynch 103 A N a r r o w Gate Bill Chais 109 Rural Parts Elizabeth Brundage 115 Dumbfuck David Boyle 123 Special Section Preface 129 D.A. Prigov 135 Lev Rubinshteyn 141 Sergey Gandlevsky 151 Elena Shvarts 165 V. Krivutin 111 OlgaTAfSedakova 191


vvy-- i

s F


A n n e

and Paul

Animals Kafka

H e. er cigarette burned a line, then settled, grew. I dropped my head back and listened, the sweat drying off me. On Amsterdam the traffic brushed past with a sound not like rain but almost. Her hand landed on me softly, just under my navel. I froze. It was still the first time. I wondered how long it would be. She held me and I curled around her hand, not wanting to change anything but needing to curl. When Kristen banged on the door it seemed still night, but it was nine. She wasn't allowed to bang before nine. Rachel lifted her leg from me leaving a wet oval. She stirred and made noises on my chest that I could feel. "Wait," I said. She nodded no and in a minute was up. The pale, sunless marks on her cheeks made them smaller. Like slices of yellow cake. When I came out Kristen told me to go. "I want breakfast," I said. "Go." She was eleven and said anything. "I'll get doughnuts," I said. 'Til come." I wefit and told Rachel in the shower. The steam almost drew me in but I didn't even brush my teeth. I'd have time while she did breakfast. We walked to Broadway, f counted three matchless shoes in the short block. Also an overcoat and a man. "What's on his face?" Kristen wanted to know. "Mud," I* said, but it was blood. The shop was packed. She chose two chocolate glazed, two cherry and a cinnamon. Outside the sunlight fell white. I couldn't see it when I was walking back anymore than on the way to thejshpp. Only from jinside, the light breaking like a mist. * "~ Rachel kissed Kristen, then me, but I wouldn't kiss back. I went and took a shower, burning myself in it. There was a tiny cut on the bottom of my cock—a redness of pulled away skin. I wondered ii there was such a thing as calluses and the loss thereof. It seemed plausable. In the mirror my face was an outraged red. I made angry faces and they worked. I put a-and-d on the spot and drew on my boxers like bandaging. I could still feel it from the soap.


Berkeley Fiction Review

m~

"•jf\

We ate next to Rachel's manuscript and the pile of books with markers. They smelled so strongly of dust I could taste it in my eggs. "When's it due?" I said. "Still last month." "Who are they kidding?" She nodded vaguely. When Max had died he'd left her the book to finish. We had that in common—we each had a book. But Anne was in Hoboken. "I could've done it," she said. She didn't want to. She was still checking his footnotes. He'd been a careful guy. I didn't understand how she was all there. She'd mpurned him the way everyone wants to be mourned. But then it was over and she was all there. It was too good. "I'm going riding with Julie, you know," Kristen told her. "I know." "I'm supposed to be over at twelve." "I know." Rachel went right past the whining. It was as if she knew exactly how grown up Kristen would've been if Max were there and treated her that way. Kristen was supposed to catch up. We went to the bank at Ninety-eighth Street. The doors locked and there were twice as many guards as across town. Two that is. The computer drives were stacked next to the tellers' windows like stereo components. There wasn't room to spread them out. Rachel put in her life insurance check and withdrew two thirds of it. "You live on that?" I said. "We did." Max hadn't been tenured until the year he was diagnosed- H§'d never let thjem know, Rachel'd told me once, even at the end. While she counted I imagined her in a black dress with lumpy legs, carrying a shopping bag wjth handles. Bfit she'd never be one of them—she'd be beautiful* qld. She was like a Hollywood Indian girl, with ner eyes. We took a cab, dropjred Kristen off and crossed at EightysixtfrStreet. The doormen didn't, recognize her but in a week they would. My typewriter looked as if I'd stayed working at it all night. When I skimmed them the pages around it were both alien and excellent, as if I'd just finished them. Neither of us could take our eyes off them,. "God," Rachel said, the perfect thing. My breath sucked minutely into itself. We drank bloody marys in bed and read the paper. Once she craned her head to look out the window. "Home again," I said. "That's what I'm looking for." She'd never left the city except to go to camp and to Bennington. And to Europe. Once. In


books e it in

er the ok. But didn't careful purned s over

d her.

s as if f Max sed to

doors . Two ellers' spread hdrew

he was once, k dress t she'd like a

ightyk they it all h alien ld take g. My

ce she I said. e city nce. In

Paul Kafka five or ten years she'd inherit her way back across town, almost down the street from me if she didn't sell into a poorer place. It made it seem I had nothing to offer her. Almost. That and Max, whom I liked as much as any man I've known casually. "Will you live with me?" I said. Not suddenly because we'd both been waiting. Still everything shifted minutely. The grey day on the window. The open closet with all the shoes in front of it. "When I finish the book. Why don't you come to us?" I wondered when she'd finish. I wondered if she meant it about my coming. I looked around the small, yellow room. Anne's room. Arine, naked, pregnant, Terry's fingers on her taut belly like a doctor's fingers, confident. Holding what's there. "You think she'll come back," I said. Rachel looked at me, her curls like question marks. I went on. "She'll come up to me on the street. We'll be on opposite sides. I won't see her or her friend because my head's down. She'll cross and pull me up. And she'll wonder if that's going to start us all over again." Rachel might not have been listening. She looked at the window air as if there were snow in it. "That's living, for Anne. Being alive."—I took her hand and^ sucked the sides of two fingers. Anything to turn her eyes.—"But she won't come back here." I sucked. "You see, the difference between Anne and animals is that animals know what's going to happen to them." Nothing. Then she giggled, sipped. I'd forgotten how she surprised herself. She laughed^ slowly, and then not again afterwards. It was like watching the sun through the clouds. he news came on at five. We were wet again. The crescent :'lnoons and peaked stars on the sheets were scattered over hills "and folds. Under my hairy legs, her fuzzy legs. The four of them plump, spoiled children^in -some Renaissance scene, naked at feast. We put on our glasses and immediately had to cover ourselves. I'd never been so glad to watch the news. She lay beside me, a quiet reminder, just being. The television spilled grey and pink puddles on the bureau top. The men and women were speaking beautifully, even those being interviewed. I marvelled at midday in Washington—the green lawn, the cars moving behind the newsman—while all over New York it was evening. On the radiator lid, dull. "You hungry?" I rolled my leg against her.


4

Berkeley Fiction Review

"Shh." She listened while Reagan walked, unsupported, to his car. "He's fine," I said. He was. he Portuguese turned the meter off while Rachel went in and called upstairs. Kristen appeared with a girl half her size who pushed her out of the elevator, giggling, the door closing immediately. She'd eaten so we went right to the theater. The movie was The Toy,' with the tall blond man with one black shoe. Rachel wanted Kristen to enjoy it so much she enjoyed it herself. I only fell asleep at the end when the autocratic father was being an asshole and the tall blond man wasn't a toy anymore.—Anne was sitting Indian style. The woman's fingers were so beautiful on her belly it made me feel hollow inside. I woke up hollow. The theater was full and every dark head was familiar. I expected them all to turn, eyes wide. We walked the fifteen blocks up Broadway. It wasn't raining but drops fell from the awnings, the fire escapes, making tiny frog splashes in the puddles. Rachel led Kristen, who was five years younger "with sleep—her face soft, her voice. Her steps small, careful. We tucked her in as soon as she'd peed^ and went out again. At Jackson Hole we stopped and got beers on the glassedin sidewalk. Outside the street was a black mirror, everything sunken into it. The buildings only halves, the other halves underground. The cars rooted. Then it was time but there had to be a reverse side to things. Everyday has its pattern—some repeating, some not. That was a turn-around day, my house for her house, my offer for her offer. When she started in I knew I'd been waiting and that she'd found it. The turn-around. She told me about their time in France. Max had been fine. They'd stayed at Saint Raphael in the house General Patton had used wheiLh€a passed through—a quarter of it. They'd taken long walks in the red hills. They'd sunbathed by the ocean, hidden in the rocks. It was like living in three places... the hills like Greece, the sea like... Greece. The town France. "He had,the year?" "No, the semester." I could see her waking at the thought of him. I pictured him in summer shorts, his beard. The archeologist beard. "What'd you do with Kristen?" "Think about her," she said. Her face still, holding the secret.


d, to

n and who osing The shoe. elf. I ng an e was n her eater all to

ining frog years mall, t out ssedthing alves

ings. was a offer. ound Max house er of ed by ces... ce.

ht of ogist

ecret.

Paul Kafka "You said—" "Yes." "She was three?" "Um," she nodded. I waited and thought, my already knowing somehow quickening the pace of it. "Marie-Christine," she said, "her mother, lived in the attic rooms." She took an instant. "At first she just left her with us when she went on her evenings. Then srie left her with us period. We were terrified." I'd told her that morning how Kristen looked like her. A flattened rivulet was pouring down the window beside her, rough with wrinkles. Rippling. "You'd tried," I said. My heart leapt like a coward. "Yes." "Him?" I said it gently but fast. Some things have to be said that way, gently but fast, and that's clear. "Yes." In the stillness the ghost moved. Time, stirred by it all. There was a clinking of our raised mugs—not a real one but a quietly wished for one. In another life. A younger, first life. When we could've celebrated that proud way. But even for us congratulations. Freedom. he apartment was smaller than when we'd left. We passed Kristen's bedroom, I tiptoeing as if she might wake. Rachel's bed was made but the clothes were scattered, the drawers open. The stacks of books wobbly on the bed table. I folded my pants along the creases searching for a free chair back and finally lay them flat on the floor. Rachel watched me as she stepped once again out of her skirt. We climbed in and she circled me loosely in iier arms, leaving me all the choices. It was time again. Only the table lamp on. I took up where we'd left off while she'd unlocked the door. "You wrote directly?" "He called him." "How long did it take?" "It was supposed to be a year—some law about reasonable certainty. Then it was six months and then that was waived to four and a half." She sighed. I chuckled silently against her, simple with it. "You just brought her home. Like chocolate..." The light brought out the colorless fuzz on her jaw. We rocked against each


Berkeley Fiction Review other, starting. It was now again. "Anne's pregnant," I said, and nothing more in the stillness. In the motion. For half an hour. I'd been asleep for a few minutes, too, as if having said it, all was right. It's like that sometimes and Rachel was solemn and soft. Waiting and npt waiting. "I have this dream." We moved together, our bellies touching once. "I can't shake it. Anne arid a woman—not Terry." Her window shade was traced with black, like cracked porcelain glaze. "They're pregnant. Caressing each other. Both of them heavy..." "Umm," she said and I thought yes—yes, it's like that. I described it to her and she described it back to me. The two of them round with weight, holding each other like smooth globes to be turned, listened to. The tautness of their bellies and their beautiful fingers tracing it. Then I was crying and Rachel was on top of me and her hands deep in my hair, tight.

• i


d, and ur. I'd ll was d soft. moved arid a black, each

hat. I wo of lobes their as on

Stolen Phillip

Children Kittower

r n this fine snowy Tuesday night we gather at Laurelei's after a die photography lab has closed for the night. Tomorrow night we will go to see James Brown and the Flames, in a month Iggy Pop. We are somewhere between acquaintances and friends. I am Jkappy to be here tonight, to put off going home. Outside, on Third Street, an old Cadillac drives north toward the river. Inside it is as silent as outside. Now and then bits of hail mixed with the snow brush against the window. A bold gesture drawing hangs in the northwest corner of the room, half-lit by the window. Walter lets out a hit and says, "I am thinking of an Eastern bloc country called..." The back door on the second floor of the building next door slams shut. "Bulgaria," says Sheila Ann Schiller. Walter doesn't understand this as an answer and starts to look in the cushions of his chair to see if he dropped the joint. The lights are on low in the living room. Sheila pretends to watch a candle flicker oil the table and continues to listen to Sara. The cassette deck switches programs, its hiss becomes lost as the water in the kitchen begins to boil. Walter decides not to say that Monty Python has been on for ten minutes and crosses his legs on the couch. I tire of scratching the cat's belly and lean forward. The kettle boils and Sara goes in to make tea. Out the kitchen window the Coca-Cola factory flares scarlet in the security lights. One can see an old Cadillac slide north in the street outside. Another song begins, Peter Tosh sings "Get up, Stand Up". I watch Sara return to the couch and think,.The architecture downtown is a wonder,-x>icT buildings wet with brick alleys. Sidewalks crack and recede, sink jaggedly from one's sight. The facades of houses are elaboratejrnposing. Some look drawn-in, weary, others are an opera in the works, a mean heartbeat. I breathe carefully on First and Brook, a corner that scares me in particular.

o ne of the world's original White Castles was six blocks from this apartment. On a Saturday in 1956 it was pulverzied by


8

Berkeley Fiction Review

mistake. An old person's apartment complex replaced it. Now, two blocks further north, the Baptists are building a fifteen story retirement home. I was present when the minister shoveled the first spadeful of dirt. "We are now in contention," he announces, "for building the tallest elderly red-brick housing complex". The Cadillac with a child's body in the back makes its way past this structure, going north down one way streets. "Anyway, this dog just disappeared one week-end," says Sara. Walter looks as though he understands and tries to put the cushions on straight in his chair. Bob is asleep in Laurelei's arms. She shifts her arm and sighs. "I feel sorry for the parents of that Russian girl, the way she disappeared. Her parents .have been torn up for a year and there's no kidnapper's demands. Shit. That's so bad." She grins ruefully in the dim light. I try to figure out if I should leave. Our art department tried to help. Flyers all over Flamestown Road, in shopping malls and bowling alleys, in restaurants. There's a creek that's half-frozen tonight, twelve miles from here and next to the shopping mall where Olga disappeared. This is where clues. Were to be found. I walked up and down the creek bed several times, with others. Now even a nationally known investigator has given up. The phone rings. It is Raleigh, calling to say the roads are too slick to make it over. Time passes. We are listless. Bojx sighs. "This is. all O.K. I, however, am here to play in the snow." We are outside. In the variant of hide and seek practiced here it is important not to get barked at or to get friendly, to get^a tag-along dog with an Edie the cow talking collar and murderous clicking nails on the street. On the other hand it is fine to call names from a safe place. Among, the big houses, the little yards, one thinks of displacement, as though the, volunie of these houses caused the lawns that swell up from the^freet. These steep hill-lets, cause editorials to appear each summer, tussling over the safest way to cut steep lawns\ up and- down or across. Residents of the area between Ormsby and Hillegrass are the fiercest .contributors, perhaps sweating out a grassy letter after a successful mowing, using their whole bodies to attest to the soundness of their judgement. And now, in this cold^ one thinks of these homeowners, themselves displaced into their homes in bad weather. And of the Cadillac, which reaches the river, solving the geographical mystery of town and leaving another unanswerable. Tonight, in this game we all find each other and return home.


Now, story d the nces, The this

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Waiting

to

Patricia fane

K n o w Jones

he little boy stood alone in the schoolyard and stared into the Confused light of the sun. One minute it was as bright as spring Itself, and the next it was dreary, the sun obscured by heavy gray clouds, winter clouds. He had been wrong to expect spring. He didn't know what had been on his mind when he got out of bed tad so carelessly tossed on a t-shirt, his windbreaker, and last year's sneakers which pinched his toes and rubbed his heels when ne walked. The little boy flattened the palm of his hand against the bench seat of the splintered green merry-go-round and gave it % push. The bare trees waved their stick arms in a breeze that intended wind. The cold crept past his thin jacket, and mud seeped into a hole in his^ sneaker. He stared foolishly at his feet arid wished his mother had made him wear his boots. But she had been in a hurry. She was always in a hurry and running late. Like now. School was out, and the other children were safely in their houses doing their homework or watching TV. He would miss the national news and probably the local weather report as well. There had been a time, a long time ago, before the little boy started school, when he had always watched the news with his parents. Then they were all together, and his father always smelled like grease arid gasoline from the garage where he worked, and his mother had smelled like dinner. He'd worm in between them and listen to them talk about the ways of their world—wars and peace talks, championships won and lost, seasons come and gone. He preferj^d*that time to the present. It seemed that the present hatTbeen with him forever. The merry-go-round creaked to a stop. In the footworn ditch surrounding it, the little boy saw a sturdy forked stick. From his pocket, he took a piece of string which he had been saving and fialf of a broken clothespin he had found on the sidewalk earlier in^ the day while he waited for his mother to warm up the car. With the stick, the string, and the broken clothespin, he began to make what his mother would call a contraption. When it wasfinished, ne held it to the sky and framed the sun.


10

S-.

Berkeley Fiction Review

"Sextant!" he shouted at the dark cloud that threatened to cover the sun and remind him that he was cold and alone in the playground. The little boy wished his mother would hurry. He could see now that it was going to snow, and he wished he had more carefully observed the weather when he dressed for school. A 31m sun in the crisp sky often meant snow. Usually he paid closer attention to the world he inhabited. . When he travelled in the car with his mother, he could point out the* changes in biome. Biome, like teradactyl, was one of his favorite words. All of his words helped him find his place in the world. He tried t o think about the morning when it had seemed so warm, but it was too long ago. Instead he thought about his father's house over on Boca Raton Drive where he would go to spend the weekend. A pretty girl, not his sister but his stepsister, lived there. When the little boy spent the weekend, she allowed him to look at her science books, and sometimes she'd let him examine, things under her microscope. His stepsister liked to pretend that she was a school teacher. When Monday came, she'd drive him to school in a low fast car, not a heavy green one like his mother's. The stepsister's car smelled of breath mints and bubblegum. She always got him to school on time. "Paramecium," the little boy remembered aloud the name of an organism she had shown him last week. He untied the string from around the forked stick and stirred the mud at his feet. When his mother came for him, he was going to try not to be mad. He hated being left alone, but he knew that sometimes she got hung up at work, or at the grocery store, or at Aunt Luanda's house, or in traffic. He looked down the grey quiet street. She was probably hung up somewhere. He waS going to try not to be mad. He told himself that she wasn't even very late. That it was only so dark because the heavy clouds had taken away the sun. But he knew that the house would be completely dark by the time he and his mother got home. Only the Readi-Lite would be on in the front yard.. ÂŤYears ago, before his father went to Vietnam, the little boy used to sit by the front window at dusk and watch the sun set and the light of the day slowly fade. And then like magic, just like magic, the Readi-Lite would go on, and soon after that his father would come home from, work. He didn't watch it anymore because he didn't believe in. magic. He just knew the light would go on and his father wouldn't be there.


ed to n the

ld see more A 31m closer

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e boy t and t like ather more would

Patricia Jane Jones

11

cold wind began to blow, and the sky hung black and low. A The little boy didn't like cold weather. He never had. He wanted so much for it to be spring. He had already marked off all the days i®n the calender until he got to the day in March where his mother had drawn a happy face. But on that day it snowed; that day ^passed and still there was snow. So the little boy just waited for buds to appear on the bare limbs of the trees, for the birds to come back, and for the lawn to turn green. Then he would know for sure that it was spring. He waited anxiously for spring because when it came, he .would be in the class play. Last year, when he was in third grade, be had been part of the group that wrote the play. He had made feure that his place was next to Magda Rios. He didn't know where he would stand this year or what his lines would be. He wasn't in the playwriting group. He hoped he would be near Magda again. She used to be his best friend, but now she was the prettiest girl in the fourth grade. When he first knew Magda, she could only speak Spanish. The little boy had helped Magda and her mother, who was his babysitter, learn to speak English. He named things for them, ordinary* things like chair, table, rock, church, river, sun* clock. In exchange for his words, Mrs. Rios taught him prayers. p She said it made her sad when he ate at her table and could not give thanks for his food, when he slept at her house and could not put his soul in the hands of the Lord. Instead of prayers, the little boy had always relied on wishes. Mrs. Rios tried to explain that prayers were heard and answered. Wishing only killed time. But the little boy had never developed the habit of prayer. His mother and father never went to church. His mother only breathed shocked little gasps of prayers—Lord Have Mercy, Sweet Jesus—when she saw an animal smashed in the road or when the death toll of soldiers in Vietnam was reported on the evening news. ^ For a while the, little boyhad gone to church with Grandma Butterfield, who was his father's mother—the little boy's name was Butterfield too. But he was afraid of her church where they spoke in a language called tongues. He began to dream in tongues, and he had nightmares in which the moist slabs of flesh writhed abut him making .slick slapping noises against the edges of his sleep. The noises sounded like mumbo jumbo, heebie jeebie, like voodoo magic. He wet the bed often. He was not allowed to go to church with Grandma .Butterfield anymore.


12

HfrJ

Berkeley Fiction Review

And he wasn't allowed to play with the chain of clear blue beads that Mrs. Rios had given to him. His mother told him that when he was old enough to understand what they were for, he could have them back. She put them in the shallow top drawer of her dresser where she kept old evening bags, frayed gloves, broken jewelry, things she no longer wore. The little Boy sometimes sneaked into her room to,look at the beads. He liked to hold the heavy cross which hung from the end. He wished he could always have the beads in his pocket. He longed for their satisfying weight and the quiet crack of one bead against another. Mrs. Rios believed that it was the use of the beads that was important, more important than understanding the words. When she used the beads, she spoke in a language even she did not completely understand. "Ave Maria gratia plena Dominus tecum," the little boy recalled the words he had learned the year before first grade, his last ,year with Mrs. Rios, the same year his father had gone to Vietnam. He had not been interested in learning the Spanish names for rocks and chairs, but he was interested in learning the prayers. The way Mrs. Rios said, them, they sounded like music. He knew many words, but little music. He was interested in learning prayers because he wanted to make things happen. He wanted to stand next to Magda Rios because sometimes she smelled of her mother's powder. Magda! Spring! Magda! Spring! The little boy ran down the row of see-saws smashing the wooden seats to the ground. Wham! Wham! Wham! That's what had happened when he climbed out of bed and dressed for spring. He had been thinking about Magda and last year's play. He had wished it spring, and he should have known better because now he understood that wishing never made anything. y For a very long time he^ad wished that his father would come home from Vietnam. And when he finally did, it wasn't his father who came, but some angry man who wouldn't wash his raggedy uniform and smelled of sweat and grime. He had a dark musty odor that the little boy had never smelled before. And then his father went away again. Everyone said it was the war that had changed his father into the other man. But no one, could tell him how or why the place called Vietnam could change a person. Even Grandma Butterfield couldn't explain, and she always explained everything about


r blue m that or, he wer of loves, e Boy ked to ed he their other. t was words. he did

e boy e, his ne to

ames ayers. knew rning ted to of her

n the ound. n he nking nd he that

would n't his h his dark then

into place rfield about

Patricia Jane Jones

13

people to him, though the little boy sometimes felt he knew more about other things, like science and geography, than she did. Aunt Lucinda, who was his mother's sister, couldn't explain either. She couldn't even mention his father's name without cursing, so the little boy never mentioned it around her. The pretty stepsister said it was an adult thing, a thing he would learn about soon enough. Soon enough never came though, because it had been two years, and he still didn't know. He studied maps of Vietnam and listened to news about Southeast Asia. He traced the borders of the long narrow country, finding names of the places his father sometines mentioned. Da-nang, Phnum-Penh, Dien-bien-phu. He'd say them aloud, trying to find meaning in the sound of the words, wanting to discover in the words themselves what it was that had ruined his father. Agua Fria, Arroyo Seco, and Boca Raton were the strange names of places near where he lived. Magda told him that they meant Cold Water, Dry Brook and Rat Mouth. The little boy figured his father knew the meanings of the places in Vietnam, but he was afraid to ask him what they were. Even though the little boy's father was clean anc^didn't wear the tattered uniform anymore, he was often angry. He had terrible dreams and fits of temper. He had once hit the pretty stepsister's mother. That made the stepsister hate the little boy's father. She called him a pathetic mess. ^ ^ he little boy's father asked forgiveness. He asked for time. The little boy knew all about time. It was forever. And since his father s return, the little boy had learned a lot about forgiveness. But what he learned did not answer all of his questions. The little boy wanted to ask the woman at the vegetable market what the strange words meant because she looked something like the people he had~seen on the news. And whenever he went into the store, she said, "Shiao di-di hao" to the little boy. That sounded like a language that would go with a place called Phnum-Phen or Dien-bien-phu. But he didn't asL.He just waited for the time when he could find things out for himself. He wished that time would come, but he knew all about counting on wishes. A light snow began to fall, so the little boy covered his head with the hood of his jacket. He wasn't afraid of being alone in the schoolyard with the snow falling down all around him. He didn't like it, but he wasn't afraid.


14

Berkeley Fiction Review

Once he would have been scared, but now he was bigger and knew better than to go into the shadows. Two years ago, when he was in the second grade, there had been a man in the shadows. The man had called to him over the low chainlink fence which kept the kickball from going into the alley behind the playground He thought the man was his father because his father sometimes called him Butterbean, and he believed, he still believed, that he had heard the man say, "Hey Butterbean, I'm home." But when he ran to the fence, he saw that the man was not his father. The man smelled of fish, and his father hated fish. The man said they were going for a ride, and he grabbed the little boy with his spotted yellow hands and tried to pull him over the fence. But the little boy slipped out of his sweatshirt and ran away. When he told his mother about the man, she held him close and cried. She cursed Elsie, her boss, for making her work late, and she cursed herself for doing what Elsie told her to do. For the first time the little boy could remember, she cursed his father, and she cursed the country she lived in. She cursed two people named Johnson and Nixon. The little boy's mother had asked him why he went to the man. Why would he run to a stranger? She had tried to tell him about strangers when he first started school and began to go places alone. He explained to his mother and to Aunt Luanda's boyfriend who was a policeman that he thought the man,was his father. The policeman asked if the man looked like his father. Had he resembled him in any way? The policeman wanted a description. The little boy explained that he didn't know if the man really looked like his father, for he had forgotten what his father really Inokpd like Why, why, why, his motrier*had cried over and over, afraid that it could happen again. Finally the little boy sobbed Butterbean, Butterbean, in a voice so like his father's that it startled his mother into silence. He ran to his room, leaving her to explain the name which the little boy's father had once given their son. The little boy remembered crying alone in his room as it grew dark and closed about him like a box. He remembered their voices, faraway adult voices. They discussed children and the things they did. They didn't believe in the man with yellow hands. W '


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Patricia Jane Jones

15

The policeman had been to a land called "Nam," and he talked about the "adjustments" he and his family had made. His children didn't know his name. His wife didn't want him. He said M Nam" was a horrible thing. People died there. Families were ripped apart. For nothing, he said. For nothing, the policeman cried, while Aunt Lucinda talked about "attention-getting strategies." Grandma Butterfield had once told the little boy that his Aunt Lucinda thought she was a psychologist just because she went to group therapy sessions with the policeman, who was her boyfriend, and his wife, who was her best friend. Later that evening when they'd gone, the little boy's mother came into his room. She carried soup on a tray and got into bed next to him. She had smelled like cinnamon and pecans because she had been making sticky buns at the bakery that day. Her hands and arms were white and soft like dough, and there had been a dusty layer of flour in the golden hairs on her arm. The little boy recalled the warmth he felt as he nestled against her while she held him and rocked him, cursing and crying, blaming and taking blame,. Whenever he was afraid, he tried to remember her warm white arms, but sometimes all he could see were the spotted yellow hands. "Shroud!" the little boy shouted at the shadow as they crept across the playground, reaching for him with their long, dark fingers.

H . .e didn't care that wishes never came true, and that wishing was a useless thing. He wished his mother would come and take him home and feed him dinner, as he knew she would. He wished spring would come and melt the snow and kill the cold wind, as he knew it must. He didn't care that he was unable to understand why things were the way they were, that wishing couldn't change anything, He wished anywayr "Cicada!" the little boy shouted angrily at the naked trees. He picked up a stone and flung it against the thick trunk of an old tree that he sometimes liked to climb. He wanted to hear the shrill mating cry of the cicadas that filled the trees in summertime. "Cicada!" he called out to his .ancient memory as he gave the merry-go-round the lonesome push arid watched k spin emptily around.


16

k

Wl

Berkeley Fiction Review

"Cicada!" he hissed to himself as a bit of spittle hung from his lower lip. He ran to the swing set and began to throw the saddles of the swings high into the air where they jangled noisily on their chains. The little boy shivered and began to cry. She would never come. Only something dark and awful would come for him. Maybe it would be the same thing that had come for his father. He didn't know. But he knew that it was there, waiting in the shadows of the playground as they grew darker and longer. Honkity honk honk. The little boy heard his mother's signal in the distance. He looked up and wiped his nose on the sleeve of his jacket. She didn't need to honk. He could see that it was her because one of the headlights of the old green car was dimmer than the other. She kept saying that she was going to replace it, but he knew she wouldn't, not until it burned completely out, and maybe not even then. She always took care of things after it was too late to avoid the consequences. She'd probably get a ticket for having only one headlight. Then she'd be mad at herself for being the person that she was. Honkity honk honk. And he'd be mad at her too. He was mad at her now, because she was late, because she was alone, because she took his beads, because she was always in a hurry, and because she hadn't made him change his shoes. He hated her. Honkity honk honk. She didn't need to signal him. Who else would be barreling up the street in her old green car? Butterbean, Butterbean, the wind whispered shrilly in his ear. Honkity honk honk. V_^/^ A brisk gust of wind blew the hood off his head and snow swirled in front of his face. He ran away from the dark figure who came for him calling his name. He ran past the swings which swung crazily back arid forth in the wind. Ave Maria gratia plena Dominus tecum, he began to pray as he rounded the kickball diamond. The blister on his left foot broke open and his fuzzy winter sock rubbed against the sore. He crossed home plate and ran back along the chainlink fence. Ave Maria gratia plena, he whispered. He felt a warm trickle of thin watery blood seep down


Patricia Jane Jones

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17

into the heel of his shoe. It made him thinJco? the thick congealed blood of the dead and dismembered soldiers he saw on TV. He was thankful that his father, even if he wasn't the same man he used to be, was not one of them. He stumbled. Ave Maria, he cried as he fell into the cold, wet snow just as the dark monster reached him. He screamed and the earth whirled about him. The wind mocked him, Butterbean, Butterbean, it screeched through the bare limbs of the trees. Ave Maria Ave Ave Maria Ave, it shrieked out across the playground where it was muffled by the thick veil of snow. He was lifted and carried to the big green car where it was warm and the familiar odor of sweet, fresh dough filled the air. he little boy's mother wrapped him in the smelly blanket she used to cover the backseat when they took the dog to the vet. She always said she was going to put it back in the trunk, but she never did. She tried to remove his wet shoes. Good heavens, she moaned as she struggled with the sneakers that were probably a size too small. She didn't know how he had even managed to shove his feet into them. Or why. She would throw the sneakers away when they got home, she decided, tossing them into the backseat. Lord Have Mercy, she choked out a little prayer as she removed the wet blood stained sock. She kissed the bloody heel and held the small wounded foot against her heart which the little boy felt thumping heavily against the white apron she wore at work. The apron was stained with cinnamin colored spots. Her hair was still held back by the net which she hated but was required to wear. There was a spot of sticky white dough on her cheek and snow in her eyelashes. She had come for him. He had known that she would. He loved her. That much he knew. But about all other things, mysterious lands, strange, names", the changes in nature, the nature of change, he wished, he prayed, he waited to know.


/

[•*'" $• _4te


Being Paul

Born Weinman

B .reing born blind takes a while for folks to know. Babies not being old enough to see and why would they be following figures of even their ma? At least for them first weeks. Can't remember that mine eyes did. When it's showing no inclination, even when a milk-breast comes to press, why then you wonder long enough to suspect. Happened to the Hebron boy. Fact is, they being such a thoughtless clan, wasn't till he was near half a year that anyone gave much care. Then it was hardly more than setting him to a corner, boarded in to keep him from under booted foot. And, I suppose, kind of out of sight. Fact is, I hadn't known he was blind till I heard him hollering at his hold. Just noising out toward nothing he could see. Eyes as blank as my hand. Beyond me, hadn't they been brought to court for poaching on a cow - no saying who'd ever known. Iourse the county health people pushed in to take off for some kind of home. But us townfolk shied from interference and said it's no business of outside government. Besides, them Hebron's deserved to suffer their own without putting taxes on us for care of them. Could of been my cow they took, or yours as quick. God's curse be with them was said. Andjhe Hebron father spoke the same - if charges on that -bovThe problem got dropped. Course you know from the prattle that's about what happened last week. The Hebron boy being long a man by now. Still blind for sure, but not an ornery one for that. , hen comes this one-walking man. A holy-talker, you know. Why he spits to dirt and mixes it careful to palm. Pushes thumbs


20

Berkeley Fiction Review

of its muck to them eyes that never had seen. And then they saw. Since that we're fenced in a chicken coup gone foxed - this town and hillside shacks around. Conversations are taking all sides in spit. The Hebron boy? Followed the sight-making man. But leaving us first with words that's got all almost as if-we be blind. In arguing kind of fight. There's even them few suggesting we seek some mud to be put onto our own eyes for sight. Nowyou know we can see . . . so I'm not understanding why's that. I just wonder who I'll give these hunks of sugar to. There's just a few left.


Forgotten Therese

Land Saliba

own es in

g us uing put I'm

st a

i j n e came from the Old Country, a place I imagined where every thing was dusted and worn, so she was old to me, and her ancient air was enchanting. Hers were an enduring people from a nomadic tribe who some generations ago had settled on an arid hillside outside the city of Beirut. It was a comfortable place in peacetime, I was told, but the city had know little peace for longer than she could remember. Sometime between the two great wars, she was married. Fleeing the old way of life, she and her husband had ventured to the New World. I was the second generation removed from her homeland, and she was my only connection to that culture. In keeping with Arabic tradition, I called her "Sittee," thinking it was her name, but later I learned that it meant "grandmother" in that foreign tongue she so often spoke. Her husband had died many years ago; the bitterness and sorrow were carved into the crevices of her wrinkled face. My grandmother spoke little of her old way of life, but it bled through into everything she did. Her speech was thick and heavy, scattered with unfamiliar words. Her cooking was seasoned with foreign flavors. It was the source of her pride, revealed in the dimensions of her broad, round body. Her full face rested atop her wide shoulders, her jowls jiggling with delight as she uttered her favorite words, "Eat! Eat!" Her nose was peculiarly large, a bulbous mass with a slight indentation at the tip, which spread from cheek to cheek. Looking beyond it, I saw her emerald eyes, clouded by age, yet sparkling at my- jests. "I hope my nose 4sn'f as big as yours when I get old," I giggled. "Humph! Well, when you stop growing, your nose doesn't, and when you've lived as long as I have, you end up with this!" She chuckled, touching the tip of her nose with her red-painted fingernail. It was a sad chuckle just the same. "Eat," she said, "EAT!" Nobody knew how old Sittee was. She had left her birth certificate in Lebanon, and it had been conveniently misplaced, or


22

Berkeley Fiction Review

burned. The family immediately added five or ten years to whatever age she admitted to. She disguised her age as best she could, dying her hair rusty red, painting her lips with ruby gloss, plucking any uncomely whiskers that sprouted from her double chin. In my eyes, she was ancient from the day I was born. I was attending the University when I was beckoned a~ thousand miles to see her one more time. My grandmother lay faded and wilted. That air of antiquity that had once left me in awe had decayed and now melted my heart. Her shriveled grey skin hung loosely on her shrunken frame, fading into colorless sheets. Her fine white hair had grown sparse around her weary face—her body vanquished by some unforeseen enemy. I took her fragile hand as she had taken mine when I was a child. She led me by the hand into the darkness of her Orthodox Church where they spoke a language I did not understand. Clouds of incense dissipated like white billows in a gentle breeze, the scent of myrrh lingering. Flickering candle flames relieved the blackness, dancing before me, burning my fears. I knew that I must riot speak. Before the candles, we knelt and prayed; this I understood. She lifted her heavy eyelids, rolling the glassy balls in the direction of my touch. "Hi, Sittee! It's good to see you...It's been a long time. I missed you." Her eyes filled as I spoke, overflowing like a fountain, her tears falling on indifferent sheets. "I have been waiting for you," her voice trembled. Her pleading eyes said that we were not alone. I looked around the empty room and saw no one, but I sensed a presence beside the bed. The visitor was pretentiously ignored; there was no needto speak of death, death spoke for itself. Its acrid odor hung on the air. Its dirge rang in my ears^oftly at first, the volume mounting—a soothing song, yet its sharpness repulsed me. I wished it would stop; I wished its shadow would vanish from my grandmother's face. I saw the same shadow that autumn night when my grandmother awoke me from my sleep. She was whimpering like a child awakened by a frightful nightmare. I stood at the bedside over her tiny body rolled tightly into a ball, clutching all she had left, her mangled pillow wet with tears, and sweat. J grabbed her trembling arm with gentle firmness, shaking against the rhythm of her fear, waking her from her torment.

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23

"It was the pain pills," I thought, "the pills to take this all away." She had fallen asleep without them that evening. "The rain! The water! It's pouring from the roof! I will drown." "No, Sittee, it's all right. It's just a bad dream." I sat on the bed holding her, rocking back and forth together. "But there was a hole in the roof, and..." "It was just a dream, a dream," I assured, hiding the fear that had crept into my voice. Her sobbing swallowed the silence. "I don't know what is real anymore. I thought it was real, I thought it was raining." "Do you remember when I used to run to your room at night when I was small?" "Yee! You said you wanted to sleep with mc.You were scared." "Yeah, I thought there were dinosaurs in my room. I was convinced. So I crawled into bed with you." A faint chuckle escaped between the fine line of her shriveled lips; it was a sad chuckle just the same. It was winter now. The cold plaster walls were barren, and the tiny window invited scarce light into the room. The bed faced away from the window, and my grandmother did not see the birds flying across the setting sun, resting on the naked branches, wavering in the winter wind. The room was long and narrow, like a coffin, I thought. "I tried to make hummous the other day, but it wasn't as good as yours." "Hmph! Well, you have to get it just right," she said raising her arm slowly, like a barbell, pinching her forefinger to her thumb to show the exactness attained through years of experience. I was anxious to learn of the country where cedars grow from dry rock, and the sun scorches white sand, leathering the skin of man and earth. "Sittee, what was it like living in Lebanon when you were my age?" She reached back into her memory, without saying a word. I could only guess what she saw in her faraway thoughts... A young girl stands in the kitchen of a small stone house, watching a man in a white turban, passing on a camel. Her mother stands near her, the two working elastic dough between their fingers... At last she spoke.


24

Berkeley Fiction Review

"Your life isn't worth anything," she confessed to me. "Your life isn't worth a thing." The silence fell dead. She began to cry; I clung tighter to her withered hand.

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X n a New Jersey beach town half an hour north of Atlantic City a neon-lit amusement pier hung over the bay emanating music but little crowd noise as sunset fell. Disconsolate barkers hawked their unwinnable games from booths on either side of the pier, their voices betraying their predicament: the suckers had moved on to the casinos. The few remaining patrons leant against railings lining the edge of the pier, overlooking the sea and taking the air. They sipped cokes, chewed hot dogs, swilled oysters and promenaded back and forth before one another, revelling in a seasonal ritual while, half a mile offshore, a pristine white power boat sped noisily by. A merry-go-round, a fun house, a miniature roller coaster, a house of mirrors, food and drink stands vied with the barkers for customers along with a bumper car rink located at the far end of the pier, 600 feet out, well beyond the point where the breakers formed rank and organized their procession to the beach. Three bumper cars were circling, predatorily, but with little to strike at, when what was recognizably a wedding party swayed into the bumper car ticket line in their tuxedos and matching pastel dresses. A young man in the group turned to the woman beside him, wallet in hand. "May I buy your tickets?" he asked. "No," she*said, "please." "I'd love to, I really would." "I'd prefer you didn't." ^,^Shrugging off the rdbuff, the suddenly grave young man bought two tickets for himself and entered the rink alone with self-conscious dignity. Selecting a bumper car, he climbed in. The unfriendly young lady came in behind him, crossed to the far side of the rink, and climbed in a car. Her admirer felt doubly insulted. All afternoon he had conversed intermittantly with the girl—Lucy, he believed her name was. He had escorted her down the aisle arm in arm, he had refilled her glass of champagne twice, he had advised her which hors d'oeuvres were


26

Berkeley Fiction Review

better left untried: still she avoided him. "Bitch," he muttered, resolving to ignore her henceforth. When the power came on, a migratory brawl began. The bride in her veil was hell behind the wheel of a bumper car. Repeatedly she knocked people sideways; always she emerged unscathed. The young man had an opportunity to cream her one time, but thought better of it. The white dress was too intimidating and he was too polite. The diminutive rubber-padded cars came into many degrees of contact—they bumped, kissed, collided broadside and head on. A car momentarily impeded invited assault and was pounded repeatedly; the original victim often escaped the pile-up first, leaving his attackers entangled and, thus, fittingly helpless. War hoops and screeches syncopated the carney music blaring overhead. The young man slowed down twice to give the bride easy shots at him, and twice congratulated himself for being so accommodating. "Maybe she'll remember that when granny goes," he thought. This happy notion fled his mind when the girl with whom he had been conversing on the way in spun him 180° around with a shot from behind as he entered a turn. She sped away, laughing madly, glancing back over her pink clad shoulder, brown eyes gleaming, brown hair flying. The young man pursued and was annoyed when the first ride ended with him still unavenged. He continued his pursuit during the second ride, or tried to, but was again outfoxed and broadsided by cackling Lucy. The second collision entangled him for an infuriatingly long time with the groom's utterly smashed father, who spun the wheel of his bumper car back and forth and stepped full on the gas, laughing all the time and going nowhere, while the young man struggled to free himself. Lucy laughed at him each time she sped past; the laughter^simultaneously galled him and filled him with joy he deciSed must be the joy of battle. He finally avenged himself. Lucy, slowed by a collision in front of her, was defenseless. He rear-ended her hard and both collapsed laughing. As they walked out of the rink the young man hurried to come up behind her again, eager to resume their bumper car flirtation. "Lucy, wait up!" She paused, then turned. "Pardon me, but I don't know your name."


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Donald Stewart

27

"Arnold Van Dyke. Pleased to meet you." "I'm Lucy McPhereson." Arnold, whose business required that he know people's family ties, tried to place her and could not. So lost in consideration of this was he that he neglected to chat with Lucy as they strolled along behind the bride and groom with the group, incongruous in their pink and black formal clothes, as rare a sight on this pier as flamingos consorting with crows. The wedding party was breaking up as it moved back along the pier past the stacked stuffed animals toward the beach. People were tired; they had been drinking for hours; the bride and groom had to catch a plane. Before they'd said much of anything to each other, Lucy slipped away to say goodbye to a few people, moving, as she did so, steadily away from Arnold. A sense of urgency grew within him as he watched her recede. He liked her, she was leaving, he knew nothing about her. Would he ever see her again? He must, he decided, and headed her way. Brushing past the bride, to whom Lucy had just finished speaking, he again stood beside her. "Would you join me for dinner some evening?" "I don't know," she said warily, searching his face with elaborate mock suspicion—evaluating, he feared, his character. "Are you single?" "I'm single," he gushed, "I swear!" His tone was too earnest, he knew. She would think him dopey or desperate. He'd blown it again. "Wednesday night?" he asked, without hope. But Lucy agreed and wrote down her telephone number on the back of a "Tom and Deborah, Together Forever" matchbook. .mold Van Dyke downshifted too early. His tachometer lurched toward the red; he hit the brakes and slowed, too fast, but in time to avoid hitting the car stopped ahead of him at the stoplight. "God," he thought, 'T-cariTdrive." Undecided whether to attribute his inability to lovesickness or alcohol, he resolved to slow down. The sound of prudence, his girlfriend, Evelyn, called him. It was true. But was it so awful? Certainly she thought so—she thought Arnold grievously square—but she wasn't objective. Prudence was one of a long list of virtues she pointedly disdained. Logically, she should have disdained him as well, but instead she loved him in her ill-tempered way. Unfortunately, she expressed her affection in unsettling


28

Berkeley Fiction Review

ways. She nagged and molded him to her specifications so overtly even his inveterate docility didn't always allow him to go along. He'd served as a tailor's dummy all over town while she remade his wardrobe, but had balked at styled, blow-dried hair. He dumped a car she disliked, but defied her by choosing a new car she hadn't suggested. Battles over how he would dress, where they would eat, who they would socialize with and similar matters were so common he sometimes feltengaged in a fight for mastery of his own life. That she granted him no parallel input in her decisions only made things worse. She was proud, independent, secretive, and sometimes deceptive—she crouched behind a lie with the evasive elan of a cockroach trapped in the open. That she selected a few people to more or less trust, like Arnold, was evidence less of chinks in her formidable emotional armor than of her native willingness to gamble. He was, he figured, a calculated risk. What, he wondered, would she say if she could hear what he was now thinking? Simple, she would say "What about you? Should I list your faults, you ape?" Those faults were well known to him; he was, she told him, pompous, cheap, servile, morbid, greedy, sneaky and snide. Like the Seven Dwarves, Arnold now decided. Something in the relationship gnawed at him; their battles had- a corrosive effect. He had been obliged over time to admit two things she had charged him with: lack of ambition, and inability to distinguish his individual merit and station in life from that of his family. This encompassed his contentment with what he had received as heritage: the funeral business—what Evelyn called the messiest and most despair-inducing occupation a man or woman could pursue. She sometimes added that it was peon work. Her lack of respect for his way of making a Hying was one of the things that bothered him rnostand limited his love of her. Love had not originally played much part in their relationship. They had met in a bar. He bought her a drink when she began frankly flirting with him. She was not a beautiful woman, but she had a handsome face and a wonderful body. She was much cuter than any other girl he'd dated and his good fortune in meeting her had amazed and delighted him beyond coherent expression. When, shortly after they met, she seduced him, her forwardness did not diminish his satisfaction at all.


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Donald Stewart

29

Arnold had been pleased, initially, with Evelyn's attitude toward sex. She loved it; she was explosively orgasmic and nearly tireless. She would make love as often as Arnold could manage it. As time went by; however, Arnold was less and less pleased with her voracity. How could he be satisfying her? He feared she had other.lovers, or, if she didn't, that if the occasion arose, she would take them. Trusting a woman who liked sex so much proved impossible for him. This distrust grew as time passed. In company with other problems—her bossiness, his weak sense of fun, her independence, his craving for respectability—it had created rifts in their relationship which threatened to become great fissures. And her attitude toward his work was the lever that was spreading the cracks. He was sick of apologizing for what he was, sick of being told that caskets were creepy and funeral homes spooky. Funerals were morbid, she told him, clergymen were awful and corpses were dead. Nothing could redeem such a business. Lucy McPhereson slipped back into Arnold's mind. Where had he heard that name? She was so . . . so much more, what?— sophisticated, unflirtatious, possessed than Evelyn, who would be home when he arrived, reading a book, emptying a bottle, waiting for him. She would sense something, would realize he had something on his mind, he knew. She was uncanny that way. It was her own fault this time, though. She had refused to attend any more weddings. "I'm entitled to time of my own, aren't I?" she said. "You're not my lord and master for Christ's sake." Weddings were not Evelyn's speed. She had serious reservations about the'meaning of the vows—understandably, she felt, given the practices of her own parents, who had cheated one another blind for years before finally divorcing with endless recrimination. Arnold and Evelyn had discussed marriage several times. Arnold had persisted untij, the firmness^f her attitude toward the subject became krfown to him. He didn't plan to lose the only- steady girlfriend he'd ever had by insisting that she marry him. Evelyn had several times suggested living together, but his profession was one that permitted no such freedoms. People would talk, and when people start talking about a funeral director, they stop sending him their dead. He and livelyn shared a bed, but maintained separate residences. He had introduced her to his sister, but not his mother.

1


30

Berkeley Fiction Review

Approaching the front of the house in which Evelyn lived, he located a spot and parked. Letting himself in quietly on the off chance Evelyn was asleep, he made his way into her living room. She stood in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen with a glass of wine in her hand, a voluptuous black haired woman of middling height, the ceiling light in the room behind her silhouetting her body through a thin cotton gown. "Hello there," she said. "How was the consecration?" "Lovely. The bride and groom are a darling couple. Their bio-rhythms are said to run in tandem." "That's swell." Evelyn walked over and kissed him, first lightly, then penetratingly, moistly. She slipped a hand to his thigh and teased him, stroking him softly through his rented pant leg. They adjourned to the bedroom. Arnold made himself a drink on the way but realized two sips into it that he didn't need it. Evelyn helped him out of his monkey suit, tugging at his clothes before they were ready to come off, biting his ear hard. He unbuttoned the front of her gown arid fondled her large breasts slowly, moving his hand rhythmically, in circles. "Deborah got a nose job," he said. "That figures. How did it look?" "Good. But she apparently hasn't heard about liposuction yet. Her butt was bigger than ever." "You should talk, Mr. Atlas. You may not be fat, but I've seen bigger biceps on a chicken." Arnold grinned. "Loyal to the end, eh? Even after the heretic gets married for Christ's sake!" "She had the kid to think of." "What kid?" he asked. Evelyn only grinned. No wonder no one wanted to bump>her bumper car, he'thought. "Youshquld have come," he continued. "You might have enjoyed yourself." "Yeah, I could have gotten drunk while you told everyone to remember you when their mother keels so, many times they left the place in need of deprogramming." Arnold ceased his caress. "Why must you attack?" "Who's attacking?" "I don't hawk the funeral .home, and you know it." "Of course you do. You have^to." "Not overtly." "That's another question. Do you want to talk about that?" "No."


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Donald Stewart

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Evelyn again teased his penis. She fellated him briefly, then guided him inside her as she crouched above. Arnold was angry, but not angry enough to refuse to make love. They often made love angrily. They fought, made up in bed, fought, made up in bed—it was unhealthy and he knew it, but it was them. Arnold closed his eyes, imagining lithe Lucy in Evelyn's place, and excitement grew within him. Opening them again, he avoided looking at Evelyn's face; only her bulbous breasts swaying above him destroyed the sweet illusion that she was Lucy. "A charming disillusionment," he told himself, and quickly came. .mold's retrospective impression of Lucy McPhereson after one meeting was of womankind reinvented, scaled down, prettied up and made respectable. The week that separated their first and second meetings was a period of constant comparative analysis, a romantic comparison shopping spree. Evelyn, upon refelection, had advantages: she was pretty in her way, despite signs of aging, and she was available: he'd courted her enough already (uneasily, ineptly, but successfully) so he could relax around her. And she liked sex. Lucy, on the other hand, seemed classier. Such a subjective analysis wasn't worth much, he knew, but not much was riding on it. Evelyn didn't know where he was. If the strong hunch he had about Lucy proved mistaken, he would withdraw. But he still had the hunch, and he awaited her arrival in the cocktail lounge of Henry's, the restaurant they had agreed upon, with trepidation, his drink nearly untouched before him. What would she think when she learned he was a funeral director? Lots of other girls had immediately lost all interest in him. Still, he had to tell her: he could be called away by a death at any time. Arnold had given a lot of thought to this problem and had concluded that the way in which he presented the information was critical, that it would largeiy-determine-howshe reacted to the news. With this thought In mind, he had developed a conversation plan. It amounted up to a discussion of mortuary science in history, starting with the Egyptians. He would invoke the pyramid at Giza, the tomb of Cheops, and the tombs of their Egyptians kings, JRamses and Tutankhamen. Sonorous names, as old as history, would lend him dignity. The pomp of centuries would lend him splendor. Seen in context, his occupation would be shown to ennoble him. He'd been refining the verbiage for


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Berkeley Fiction Review

days, flipping through volumes in his late father's library, learning the pronunciation of names. He sipped his gin and tonic delicately, barely rippling its surface. Looking around, he saw no one he knew and was satisfied. That's why he had suggested a restaurant in Raritan. None of Evelyn's friends were likely to waik in the door. Soon Lucy opened the door to the cocktail lounge and walked over toward him smiling shyly. She looked smaller than he remembered, slimmer and more demure. Rising too quickly, Arnold bashed his thigh against the table, which sent him back into his seat. Standing again, he greeted her, waving her into her seat with one hand while rubbing his leg with the other. Lucy strove unsuccessfully to suppress a smirk, which turned to laughter. Embarrassment, excitement and gladness all welled within him. He hadn't forgotten the delight her presence had afforded him the week before, but he had come to doubt its intensity. The sight of her laughing, even at him, resurrected it completely. "You look wonderful," he said, "that outfit suits you." She wore a prettily embroidered, scoop-necked, cream top and a long, tight black skirt, slit to the knee. He decided that she wouldn't wear such a thing to the office and was gratified: she had gone out of her way, for him. "I like it too, but anything would be better than those awful bride's maid dresses. What a racket weddings are. Have you been waiting long?" "This is my first drink," he said, flourishing his mostly full glass in the hope that testified to the brevity of his wait; he had been waiting for half an hour. They ordered more drinks and began, somewhat tentatively, to converse.Jt was at this point that all his prior attempts at romance, excluding that with Evelyn, had foundered. Determined that this-onenot do so, he had adopted a simple strategy—he would get her talking about herself and keep her talking until he was ready to launch his spiel. She was, she told him, an options analyst. Asked what this entailed, she explained: "I fantasize plausible market scenarios then quantify their implications. My boss uses the numbers to frighten the CEO into doing things he might otherwise refuse to do." Arnold laughed at this, which seemed to be what she expected, but she was, he gathered, serious. She told him more,


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told him about the people with whom she worked: a married former priest with an MBA whose Jesuitical mind proved ideally suited for analyzing elaborate investment packages, a resourceful divorcee accountant who, upon being robbed of the enourmous diamond ring given her by her ex-husband, used the insurance payment to buy an Apple III computer with which she was now teaching herself computer programming, and a boisterous secretary given to malapropisms who called bouffant hairdos buffoon hairdos, objected when she felt a business letter she was typing contained excess horse-shit, and complained frequently of having too much work, declaring that she was positively undulated with it. "And that's just one suite," she pointed out. "We occupy three." He asked her about her lodgings; where in town did she live? In Cherryhurst, he was told, a good neighborhood. Was she alone? Did she have roommates? At this questioashe dropped her eyes, as if embarrassed. Her tone of voice, answering, was apologetic. "I live at home." Arnold was surprised, both by her embarrassment and by her living at home. Few of his acquaintances lived at home; those that did he regarded as odd. Still, he himself lived above his funeral home in the apartment he'd grown up in, and while his father was dead and his mother lived elsewhere, some of his friends told him he was weird. So he was sympathetic. "My parents are pretty conservative," she added, as though acknowledging something he'd said. Gathering that his lack of response to her revelation was making her uncomfortable, he resumed talking, changing the topic to books. Both read-a lot; Arnold, who prided himself, perhaps excessively, on reading more than other people, had been slightly appalled when he determined at the wedding that shtej^aidmore-Hesuppressed his reawakened annoyance at-this^- he like her too much to let it distract him from pursuing the first romantic game plan he'd ever had in his life. Arnold told Lucy about a book he claimed to be reading, a history of funeral monuments starting before the Egyptians and ending with a discussion of .modern examples: the Lenin mausoleum, the Mao mausoleum, JFK's eternal flame. His satisfaction with his presentation of this, only the opening of his


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Berkeley Fiction Review

planned oration, was shattered when Lucy resumed her end of the conversation. "Right now I'm reading Ancient Evenings, by Norman Mailer. Have you heard about it?" He had. It was not at all the sort of thing he'd been hoping to discuss. "It's about Egypt," he .said weakly. "That's right, about Egypt and reincarnation. I find it fascinating, if a bit windy at times. It's astoundingly filthy, though. What a disgusting bunch those Egyptians were, unless it's Mailer." "It's Mailer," Arnold opined eagerly. "What the hell does Mailer know about the sex practices of ancient Egyptians? He's probably latent gay or something." "Perhaps," Lucy allowed, skeptically. "Really, the Egyptians were a very civilized people. And it is largely because of the grandeur and sophistication of their funerary rites that the names of their kings are remembered today. Cheops. Tutankhamen. Ramses. Ramses, by the way, was the name of 12 kings of Egypt. Cheops built the great pyramid at Giza; he is also known as Khu-fu, by the way. Tutankhamen came 1500 years after Cheops and was buried at Thebes in a tomb so elaborately concealed that it took 3000 years to find. I'm sure you've heard of King Tut." "I saw the artifacts from his tomb in Cairo. They're lovely." "Aren't they? It's interesting to see what kinds of things they buried with a ruler. The whole funeral process was so elaborate, so closely tied to court pomp. Did you know that the preparation of a king's body for burial took months? The teams of people responsible are believed to have been priests or acolytes. Their success in preserving corpses is legendary, of course, although some people trace the excellent condition of Egyptian mummies to the dry air of Egypt, and others^td the pyramid shape itself, claiming the shape of the tombs somehow helped to preserve the remains." "How interesting," Lucy said. She was clearly growing bored. "But why are you so fascinated with death?" Arnold was taken aback. "It's not fascination with death so much as. interest in the rituals which surround it." Pausing, he realized that this wasn't good enough. "I've confronted the subject of death in my own mind and learned to deal with it this way rather than be fearing it. I think it's healthy."


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"Probably so," Lucy said, fininshing her drink. They ordered another round. Arnold was distressed by her lack of interest in his hard-won funerary knowledge (which he thought genuinely interesting); it made his job much harder. They ordered dinner. Henry's was a French place, and a rather expensive one by Arnold's penurious standards. The food was good, but the portions skimpy. Arnold was in the habit of filling up on bread when he dined there. He was reaching toward the bread basket, contemplating how he would turn the conversation to the poet's corner at Westminster Abbey, a monument to the dead he thought more likely to intrigue his dinner companion, when his pocket beeper went off shrilly. Someone had died. Arnold blanched white and clutched his thigh, desperately trying to silence the contraption without Lucy figuring out what he was doing. "Whose beeper is that? Is that you?" Arnold shook his head. Clawing the device from his pants pocket, he tried to locate, without looking, the switch which turned it off. He couldn't. And he couldn't look down without shattering the illusion he was trying frantically to maintain— that it was somebody else's beeper shattering the peace in the hushed, elegantly appointed dining room. But heads were turning toward him, and Lucy's facial expression was shifting from astonishment to embarrassment. Everything was going to hell. Arnold gave up feeling for the switch, looked down as briefly as he could, and switched off the pager. The sudden cessation of noise relieved him tremendously, but still he strove to hide the emotion, to maintain the blank expression he'd affected for the endless fifteen second period during which the device had been shrieking. "What happened, Arnold? Was that you?" "What?" ^ - "A beeper went off. You heard it. It couldn't have been more than a few feet from us." "Not mine," he replied quickly. "It must have been at the next table." "I saw you wiggling around as you pulled it from your pocket. You looked down to turn it off. I saw you. Don't lie to me." Arnold was too chagrined to speak. "Why are you so upserover a beeper?"


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Berkeley Fiction Review

"It's hard to believe—I mean explain. I don't know what..." "Who sends you the messages?" she interrupted. "Your work?" Arnold nodded. "Well, if it's an emergency, you can leave. I'll understand. I'm not such an ogre that you have to ignore your pager if it goes off when we're eating." "I wouldn't dream of leaving." "I don't want to be the source of friction between you and your boss, or to cost you a customer. What will happen if you don't call?" "Nothing much. It can wait." "How do you know? You haven't called. Won't the customer get impatient?" Arnold grew weary of evasion. "The customer couldn't be more patient, Liicy. The customer is dead. I'm a funeral director." After all the anxiety he'd invested in preparing to break the news to her just right, he was astonished when she burst out laughing. She laughed for nearly a minute before speaking, tears welling in her eyes. "Cheops," she finally gasped. "Ramses. Oh, shit, I don't believe it. Let me see the beeper." Arnold sheepishly lifted the pager from beneath the table. The sight of his electronic anatagonist, his satellite-assisted stool pidgeori, was too much for Lucy, who was again convulsed with laughter. She didn't stop giggling until dinner was served. They talked over dinner about Arnold's business. Lucy's great uncle, it turned out, had been a mortician. She had dim recollections of visits to his funeral home as a child, of sitting in a foyer too scared to leave her seat to look around, much less to play, while her father and his uncle talked somewhere out of sight. She assured him his career was not objectlonable to her. Atmed with this knowledge, Arnold finally got serious. "Have you been seeing anyone lately?" he asked. "You mean romantically?" Arnold nodded. She shook her head. "Will you see me again sometime? I find you very attractive." Lucy could devise no response to this. She blushed and glared at him annoyedly. Although generally uncomfortable with displays of emotion (or romantic interest), she frowned, in this

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case, to mask delight. Arnold struck her as a bit proper, and perhaps not the most masculine fellow she had ever met, and yes, she acknowledged to herself, he was a bit of a clown. But he was intelligent, he read a lot, he had a decent profession—and anyone who would go to such lengths to protect her feelings must have a little sensitivity in him. She liked him, she decided. He might do. mahogany mantle clock ticked authoritatively, segmenting a strained silence; Arnold and Evelyn leant against either arm of a long green brocade sofa sipping whiskey over ice, staring at the wall and floor respectively. On a coffee table before them the bottle stood stoutly. Arnold regarded the immaculately redcoated man on the label as his leader, imagined him striding before him into the rosy distance of the post-Evelyn world. The bottle was half empty. It had started out the evening full. Next to the bottle was a copy of Merck's Manual, a guide to illnesses, diagnoses, prognoses and treatments, often used by physicians. The book reminded Arnold of his mother, who had occupied many solitary hours flipping through its pages comparing her latest aches and pains to those characteristic of the diseases cataloged and searching (hopelessly) for an explanation for her husband's wandering more palatable than alcoholism and indifference. Her children were accustomed to being told that they had Lou Gherig's disease when everyone else in their class at school had colds. "I believe I have whooping cough," she was apt to announce when afflicted with the flu. Arnold had been surprised when his mother left it behind in moving out of the apartment shortly after his father's death. "I'm riot taking my illness recipes to Florida, Arnold," she had said. "Use it yourself to decipher death certificates." Arnold had decided to break up with Evelyn. Certainty had come to him as revelation after days~of doubt ^s he sat hunched over his old Royal manual "desk-top typewriter punching out second and third invoices on past-due accounts, a chore he loathed for reminding him too vividly how much money he was owed. He was in love with Lucy; he had never been in love with Evelyn. He had set out this evening to make the break intending not to mention Lucy, having, in fact, decided that under no circumstances would he mention Lucy. Things would be a lot easier that.way; he was not eager to hurt Evelyn's pride. She was,


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Berkeley Fiction Review

he knew, a volatile person who, when provoked, said things she didn't mean. This character trait was one Arnoljd had griped about often to no effect. He was through griping. Now he was trying to use her volatility to his advantage by picking a little fight and letting it.get out of hand. The argument would then become his excuse for splitting up. Only it wasn't working. They had been sparring for hours; they were, they said, trying to work something out. But Evelyn was proving unprecedentedly mild mannered and Arnold was becoming frustrated. He looked over and caught her eye. "Shall we try again?" he asked. "I don't want to argue anymore. Everything turns into an argument tonight." "Not just tonight, I don't mind saying. But forget that. Let's talk about. . . Ellen! Is Ellen seeing anyone new?" "I can't discuss that. Ellen doesn't want Bill to hear anything. I promised I wouldn't talk about it, even with you." "Ellen exaggerates the fascination of her love life." "Who asked you about Ellen?" "No one." "What's eating you, anyway?" "Secrets, for one thing. All the stupid secrets you insist on keeping." "I have a right to private relationships. You know how I feel about that." "I do. But I also think your secretiveness is emblematic of general dissatisfaction. You like me enough to go out with me, to eat dinners with me^ to sleep with me, but not enough to tell me what you really think about something." "Give- it -a rest, will you?" "You won't discuss what I'm sayirig?" "What outcome do you hdpeJof? We both know I'm not willing to obey you all the time, to tell you everything you want to know. Get used to it. What's so had aboutme having girlfriends, or spending a couple nights a week with them while you're out playing witrrcorpses. And why do you need to know who sleeps with Ellen?" "Ellen is just one example!" Arnold said, heatedly. "Spare me the others, please." Arnold fell silent; he was puzzled. Evelyn had always been the type who defended herself (and particularly heririends) more


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sharply. He was beginning to fear what he had long hoped for— that her attitude was softening, that she might be falling in love. "Evelyn, a number of interrelated problems are developing with this relationship, problems I'm just not sure can be solved. Take the wedding you refused to attend. As an isolated incident it would have been no big deal. But it was not an isolated incident. You loathe ceremonial occasions, you loathe social events, you can't stand the chit chat and the exaggerated politeness. Even cocktail dresses bother you, and you look great in a cocktail dress. "It bothers me a little," he continued, "that you're ready for a trip to the Brass Rail any time, but never for a wedding or a formal dinner. It bothers me a lot that you hate funerals." "Ah, knock it off about funerals. You know how they bother me. Be content that I come to visit you here. Believe me, I find it spooky enough just being in the same building with all those coffins." "But Evelyn, I'm a funeral director! How can you have a relationship with somebody whose way of earning a living you despise?" "I don't despise it. You needn't be so dramatic. It's just that corpses give me the creeps." "If you don't like funerals, and you don't like weddings or formal occasions of any kind, you are going to want no part of a lot of things I do." "I can't imagine it being a major problem." "You're wrong about that! One important thing about the funeral business you don't understand is how new Business is generated. It's simple really—you try toriiakenew friends. You attend social events so you can glad hand thepeople present. You cultivate the acquaintances you make, memorizing people's names, their wives' names, what church they belong to. You kiss Kiwanis club members' asses continuously, indefinitely. It goes on forever. The kind of person ^hcrsxicceeds at it lives a life you don't want any part of. I want to succeed at it." "What are you saying, Arnold? Do you aspire to be an asshole? Do we have to break rip because you are funeral director?" "No, it's not that simple." "What's her name, Arnold?" "Who?" , Evelyn's eyes searched his face. "Whoever she is:"


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Berkeley Fiction Review

"Listen, the point I'm trying to make relates only to the way you and I interact. Other people are beside the point." "I don't believe you." Arnold's flood of words was momentarily halted. "Why not?" he asked. "None of this bothered you before. It's always been true." "I find it more distressing as I age and it becomes more clear how big a part of my life my work is.** "You have only aged a year since we've met. If you find it more distressing it's because you're becoming more uptight. Or because you met someone else better suited to be the girlfriend of a funeral director. Or should I say wife?" "Don't bug me about marriage. You disdain marriage." "I do indeed. Let's drop it, can't we?" Arnold quit talking, happy to drop the subject of another woman, but perplexed by her placidity, angry at her smugness, and frightened by her nearness to guessing the truth. He climbed off the couch clutching an empty glass, walked into the kitchen and got some ice. Returning to the coffee table he poured more Scotch, avoiding Evelyn's eyes, allowing the freeze to deepen. Walking into his bedroom, small and overfull of heavy, ornate furniture he ha^ alwaysknown, he undressed, put on his bathrobe and^sat on the bed, Evelyn moved around in the kitchen getting something to eat before bed. He was through with oblique approaches. Eyelyn might not agree that theynad enough problems to prompt split, Lucy or no Lucy, but he believed it. He continued drinking in silence when Evelyn entered the room and got undressed for bed. She glanced at him inquiringly a couple times, but he avoided both the eye and touch of the nude lover., "Must it be like, this?" she as^ed. ^ "It's always like this." v^ ^ Drainingyhis glass, he turned out the light and slipped under the covers. She climbed in beside him and lay down as far away as space would permit.. Though they fell asleep that way, when Arnold awoke the next morning he felt her curled against his back as always. Rising first, as was his habit, he showered and dressed while she still slept, and left for work downstairs. He was in his office when she came downstairs on the way to work an hour later. She did not stick her head in; he.did not step out^ When the front door of the funeral home closed behind her for the last time he was writing on a yellow legal pad.


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here had been other fights before so when two days had passed with no word from Arnold, Evelyn wrote it off as grandstanding on his part. He was showing unprecedented spunk, but there was no way he could last a week. Coming home from work the third day after the split, Evelyn mounted the steps of her apartment house and pulled her mail out of the small, sheet-metal mail box assigned to her. In her hand lay her gas credit card bill, two fabulous sweepstakes entry forms, a flyer from the electric company and a plain white envelope containing a letter from Arnold. She was touched; it was the first letter he'd ever sent. She walked upstairs to her apartment imagining its contents to be a stilted, conditional rapprochement of the sort he had previously undertaken in person. That he was not particularly adept at romantic diplomacy and warfare only endeared him to her. He was her ugly duckling. Unlocking first one and then a second lock, she swung the door open, put down her purse and sweater, and fell into a chair with the letter. She read: Dear Evelyn, Nothing I can say is likely to soften your response to what follows. Everything will sound old hat. "Why are you doing this?" you will ask. "Nothing has changed." And it is true, nothing has changed. But the lack of change is part of the unfortunate situation, well known to you, which plagues us and moves me to tell you that I don't believe we should see each other any more. We've stalemated. Evelyn, how many times have I mentioned that it bothers me when you keep secrets from me or when you tell me what you call white lies? And how many men have come-errto* you in mypresence—rituallyr you would say, automatically— and been encouraged? The lies and the little flirtations are insignificant to you, but they are not insignificant to me. They highlight for me how little we have in common. I would never do such things to you. If it were just a case of you not wanting to share certain information with me, or a case where a given man you had met was particularly


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Berkeley Fiction Review charming or had knowledge about something that interested you, that would be one thing. But I don't think it was like that. I think you were looking around. If someone had popped up who more nearly fit your description of an ideal boyfriend, you would have been gone in a minute. I'm not claiming that you've cheated on me. I'm saying that you are not committed to me, and rather than wait around to be dumped, I'm leaving now. There are other reasons, of course, other senses in which our relationship was doomed. We are on divergent paths. What is there to hold us together? You disapprove of my lifestyle and my profession, and you disrespect my values. Marriage, you feel, is obsolete, and maternal child care is male tyranny. We are simply estranged. Disengagement is in order. I want to thank you for everything, for all the pleasant moments, for everything we've shared. Find someone new. We both know how easy that will be. In a few months this bit of unhappiness will be a distant memory. Best wishes, Arnold P.S. UPS will bring you the stuff you left at my place.

Evelyn struggled to read the letter straight through. She was repeatedly pulled up short by outrageous phrases—the pomposity of her former lover was- more than she could believe. 'Unfortunate situation^w^lricnown to you' my ass she thought. What BS! The only thing well known to her was that Arnold was a weenie. 'Never do such things to you'—sanctimonious bastard! He never flirts, true, because he never gets a chance. No one will even speak to him. But God knows he has secrets, the hypocrite. 'Gone in a minute,' I'd be, well what about him? Who walked out? What annoyed her most was the way he used rhetoric to distance himself from what he was doing. 'Disengagement is in order,' he said, like he was discussing military science. And the astounding condescension with which he offered

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condolence, 'this bit of unhappiness . . . a distant memory'—she couldn't stand it. She didn't believe it. She was flabbergasted. Getting up from her chair, she went and poured herself a Scotch from the bottle of Johnnie Walker she kept around because he liked it. She put the letter away, but couldn't get it out of her mind. The TV news didn't help, neither did more Scotch. The notion of calling Arnold, or better, of going over to see him, entered her mind several times, but she banished it angrily each time, as though someone else had proposed it. She was not going crawling back to him. She sat up that evening before the TV drinking Scotch, paying no attention to the parade of discombobulated housewives, cheerful, ghetto-dwelling blacks and lithesome, villainous southern belles that crossed her screen. For hours, she alternately wept, self-pity ascendant, and seethed with rage. Gradually, the puddle of self-pity in which she intermittantly wallowed evaporated, leaving only the rage. All thought of initiating a reconciliation was forgotten. If, as she decided was likely, Arnold had met someone new, that was fine. She would see what a morbid schmuck he was soon enough and cut him loose. When she did, he would come back, only too willing to forgive the sins cataloged with such temerity in his damn letter. This scenario was so persuasive to her she decided Arnold's return was a certainty and moved with grim pleasure from miserable contemplation of her abandonment to devising concessions she would exact from him when finally he was back at her feet. It quickly became quite a list.


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he boy paused at the bus stop, hesitantly looking into Laura's eyes. There was something very sad and appealing about them. They were brown and unsheltered—on the verge of being broken or misplaced—but a frankness held them fast and at instants defined. Now they looked directly at him and he searched himself, surprised at the complicated sensation. He did not feel naked or disoriented; he was not an insecure person. The blunt vulnerability in front of him only made him slightly nervous. He kissed her good-bye and still, watched her scramble to catch her bus. It was getting dark. Shoving his hands in the pockets of his long black coat, he moved onto the busy sidewalk and began to walk home. He saw himself passing through the crowd alone. The chilled air against his skin made his cheeks and nose feel taut* He walked by a street musician who had long tangled blong hair that merged into a frizzled beard. His body looked emaciated under his lightweight flannel shirt. There was an open guitar case in front of him. It contained several centimes. The boy stopped and listened as the forlorn guitarist broke into six consecutive Bob Dylan songs. He concentrated completely on the figure before him, not moving his eyes or his body. Every time a member of the crowd swirling by bumped into or jostled him, he felt a heightened sense of the difference between their awareness and his own. The guitarist was not a good guitarist, but he looked cold and hungry. The boy dropped two francs into the case and asked the man where he was from. _ _ t "I come from Germany.*^ The boy nodded solemnly and asked him why he'd come to France. "I need rrioney. I have no job in Germany. I want to travel so I came to France and play the guitar. I make no money here so I guess I £p back to Germany soon." "Oh. Do you have family there?" The boy winced as his voice cracked on "family" and went tearing up another octave. He was seventeen. This wasn't supposed to happen anymore. He did not let the earnest


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expression on his face falter. The man did not appear to have noticed but ran his fingers through his greasy locks, thinking hard. "I—I do not like—" His eyebrows were thick and heavy and each one slanted up towards the center of his forehead. He looked as though he were about to start crying. He spoke English haltingly and with a slight lisp. "I do not'like—" The boy moved a step closer, putting forth smoothly, "You don't like talking about it?" Startled, the musician jerked back his head. The boy's face had been so close. Then, resigned—childlike—he nodded.

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he boy was leaning against the wall by the window, looking out of it, and lighting a cigarette. Laura was across the room in an armchair, one leg swung over the side and the other curled up next to her. A week ago the boy had told her he was planning to become vegetarian. He did not appear now to have changed his dietary habits. She wondered if this was a tender subject or if she could lightly brkigit up and tease him. She decided not to risk it. He was usually serious, and she respected him for it, but his mind worked very mechanically. Camera-like; it opened on an image, absorbing even slight details, and then closed and found another image, focusing just as completely on it. She did not want to trespass on his painstaking concentration. At the same time, she wished that he could see more than one image at once. If she were an imag£, she did not see where she fit in. She stared at the small stack of books On his dresser. "Hmmm...The Catcher in the Rye,' The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and Crime and Punfehrnjtft. Pretty interesting set of books. Anyone you particularly identify with in them?" She looked at him pointedly, wanting him to break into a short laugh. "Uh. I don't know." He walked over to her and handed her a cigarette. Leaning against the base of her chair, he* sat on the floor near her. He either did not want to expand on his response or did not think it important. She smiled. "You know what?" He did not wait for her but sped on:


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"I wish I could play a musical instrument or draw or something. I think I'd be really happy living on the street. I met a man who sells painted matchboxes today. He's from England and is completely independent. He spends his life traveling and seeing the world. He's left all the bullshit." His words often seemed battered and overused to her; as if they had once been an idea and then become a formula. "I don't know," she told him. She tried to picture him wandering all over Europe alone, carrying a guitar case or setting up a display of water color paintings. He was from Fifth Avenue and had gone to prep school. She could not see him wandering in the rain or in the snow. He didn't say anything, but appeared to be thinking hard. His eyes lingered far away, focused somewhere inside themselves. His energy seemed so sincere that she decided he was on the border of doing anything he talked about. She didn't tell him what had touched her, but ran her fingers through his hair. he boy met a Scottish ukulele player. He said he had left school at the age of eleven because his grandfather didn't believe in traditional education. He had been traveling around the world ever since. He could speak five different languages. His brown curly hair bounced over his eyes as he talked. The boy felt them glint daringly at him, almost mockingly at times. He and the boy smoked a joint and talked about politics. "Man—we need freedom for everyone," the man took a long drag. "Yeah..." said the boy excitedly. He was struck again by the heady knowledge that he was one of the few willing to see the needs of the world. The Scot made a peace sign at him when he left to go home to dinner. He waved two fingers back. "See you sometime."

a

g e t

aura was watching the cobblestones go by under her feet. The boy had been holding her hand for quite some time. She did not feel close to him and she wondered how he could feel close to her. Jerky awkward silences often passed between them. She slowed down as they went by a dead bloody pigeon that had been squashed by a car. She didn't mention it to the boy. He didn't see it. Her reticence continued and became oppressive. The boy


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periodically looked at her face but she didn't seem to notice him. He decided it was a good time. "You know," he said slowly, "I've been thinking a lot lately..." "Oh, yeah?" She didn't look surprised. He took a deep breath and went on. "I've been thinking that I'd like to spend more time by myself. Maybe learn how to play the saxaphone. I feel a need to explore inside myself." He had a very earnest face. Laura started to smile. "I could do with some time alone too," she said, but she smiled at the way his hair was tousled and the way he walked lightly away from her. She stood alone and silent, then started as she felt a strange ache twist once inside her. He was already too far away to call back but she could hear him whistling. The boy looked at the street around him as he walked. He was not thinking about Laura, but he was filled with a buoyant sense of relief. He had been worried that she would cry. Now he felt happy and open and everything he saw reflected his euphoric mood. Someone tapped him on the shoulder and he stopped, anticipant. It was the German guitarist. He no longer had his guitar. His hand was outstretched and he asked the boy for a few francs. "Hey," the boy said, friendly and comradic, "you haven't gone back to Germany yet." The man stared at him. It was clear that he did not recognize the boy's face.

V


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E f 1 Gato had been invisible for a long time. It was a progressive condition, like the failing of an eye or the withering of a limb. He was once El Gatp Torres, league leader in home runs and game winning RBI's, lifetime batting average of .279, season high of thirty stolen bases. He was El Gato, the green-eyed superhombre of baseball: first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, right fielder, pitcher. He was everything. He was El Gato. Then one day a worm crawled in his ear and started eating his brain. Soon El Gato wasn't hitting as hard. He wasn't running as fast. He lost the ball in the sun. The players noticed first. They said " 'ta loco, hombrel You got a worm in your ear? Tranquilo, Gato, don't listen to that worm. He'll make you break up the play." Gato only shook his head. He couldn't feel the worm but he knew it was there. And each day the worm ate a little more and a little more until even the fans started to say things. El Gato only had a few real fans. The others fell away like water. He was no good. He never was that great. There werehetter men now in the league, men who could play in the United States. When El Gato was released no other team offered to pick him up. They had all heard about his worm. The worm attacked El Gato with increased appetite. His speech slurred and his jaw slackened. His eyes watched the clouds race by like promises of a stolen base. People began to take advantage of him. They stayed in his house and drove his car. They took his money, which was a very small amount anyway. When they had taken as much as they could, the bank came in and took the rest^The rainy season came and El Gato put on his old untform'and started running after the clouds. They carried him over mountains and rivers, through green forests woven in thorns, through brown forests laden in bromelia. They whispered to him and called his name and made him do silly things. Men spat on El Gato. They urinated on him as he lay in the road. They beat him and played with his body. Gato grew so ugly that even the most wicked of men didn't bother him. Sometimes someone would recognize him and invite him for a meal or a drink. It didn't take long to notice the work of the worm and to


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regret the invitation. There had been one man who didn't mind what had become of El Gato. He was an old man who kept a poster of the baseball player on his ceiling to stop the rain from dripping on his bed. He let El Gato sleep above his chickens. Gato stayed as long as the clouds allowed him. The worm had eaten almost completely through his brain by now. It said things like— "The Caribs were one of the fiercest Indian tribes. Their final defeat came through neither lack of stamina nor courage but was the result of disunity among the tribal communities." Gato liked to listen to the worm speak. It had such a nice voice. El Gato stopped running at Dos Bocas because he could go no further. In Dos Bocas the people hardly knew who he was, except for a brash young man who dreamed of playing baseball. He found El Gato in the cemetery and asked him a lot of questions; arid when he saw that his hero didn't understand (Gato was playing with himself) he called him an old puto and stomped away in the rain. Gato didn't like that, no, he knew what a puto was. He took a burning stick and tortured all the dogs in town. Dos Bocas was lit that afternoon with the screams of many dogs. No one cared much. You can't eat a dog. D or os Bocas was a town situated at the confluence of two rivers: the Rio Puro and the Rio Sucio. The Rio Puro flowed from high in the department. Cool and pine-flavored, it dropped from igneous heights and roiled down to the Rio Sucio like a fallen cloud. The Rio Sucio was thick and turgid and loaded with debris and effluvia. It meandered across the department under a humid vault of Sancient flora. Where the two rivers met there was a distinct line. On one side of the line were the clear waters of the Puro and on the other side were the dark waters of the Sucio; until slowly, far down the estuary, tine waters began to mingle and cloud and roll toward the sea as one. It was at this line that Gato stood the morning of his arrest. After eating a breakfast of leaves and garbage and relieving himself in the middle of main street to no one's remark, Gato strolled down to look at the two great rivers. He watched them for a long time. He saw how the clear waters of the Puro were really fallen clouds, how the brown waters of the Sucio were fallen leaves. Gato put his foot in the Sucio. It was as warm as his blood. In a moment he was up to his shoulders in the water. The mystery of the confluence interested him. Was there a struggle where the two rivers met? How did


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they feel? Did they caress? A group of men fishing saw a figure in the water. Before Gato could learn the answer to his questions he was pulled from the water and thrown in the bottom of a canoe. "It's El Gato," said one man. "A la chingada santissima, we should have let him drown," said another. "The current might have killed us." "We can throw him back." "After all this trouble?" El Gato was thrown out of the canoe as it reached shore. Now Gato was mad, he was madder than ever. He ran through Dos Bocas screaming. He ran up to the highway and back to the river. He ran until he was calm and icy and could see his next movements with azure clarity. First he must have a burning stick. Then he must find a pig. But not just any pig. The biggest, fattest, most well-fed pig in Dos Bocas. The guardia's pig. Gato found a burning stick in a smoldering heap of trash and ground its flaming end in the dirt so it was just a coal. Then he walked past the cemetery and up the highway to where the guardia lived. The men were inside with a woman. The pig was in front snorting through a pile of muck. It looked at El Gato with one eye. It was truly a magnificent pig. It was scared of no one. Gato moved closer. He put the stick on top of the pig's head. The pig screamed and bolted towards the cemetery. Gato cut off his flight and chased the pig up the highway, thrashing its hindquarters as they ran. The pig wheeled and raced back down the highway. His screams were heard all through town. Gato was relentless. The guardia found him kicking the pig in the scrotum as it tried to scramble under a barbed wire fence. The guardia are scientific people. Their intelligence is cool and slippery. They quietly arrested El Gato and put him in jail. No punches, no rifle butts, nothing. El Gato would be safe in their jail. It was made from stone and broken bottles and mortar. It had a huge door cut from the hardest wood-and hinged with the biggest hinges the local smith could forge. Gato was quiet for a moment. He walked around the jail with his hands in his pants. It was a small jail, not large enough to lie down in. Gato could hear the dead people in the cemetery talking. "O Gato, Gato, Gato," he said, "they don't know you're in here, no, no, no, no." He picked at the tick bites between his thumb and his index finger until he bled and his rage grew strong again. And as the spiders tumbled over the top of the door and the ants swarmed the walls in search of his blood, Gato thrashed about the cell and pounded on the great


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door. All through the night he raged. He was El Gato. He was everything. El Gato was playing the best game of his life. He singled, doubled, tripled, hammered in run after run. A thousand fans screamed as he stole home plate. The ballpark shuddered under their stamping feet. Yet as well as EI Gato played his opponent played better. Gato pitched curves and sliders and fastballs, spitballs and knuckleballs, running them, hard onto the batter's wrists. And still he was outplayed. He spiked, he bunted, he charged, he ran down balls and forced plays. He knew his opponent was growing weak. At the bottom of the ninth, the score tied, two outs, two strikes, no men on, El Gato,stood in the batter's box, the roar of the standing crowd ringing in his ears.. He quivered with adrenalin. His body bled from a hundred places. The pitch was a slow curve in low over the plate. Gato adjusted his bat and crushed a long, hanging fly over the center field fence. The roar of the crowd was deafening. Ls El Gato walked through the streets of Dos Bocas the next morning, his ragged uniform barely holding to his skin, he was greeted by the cheers of his fans. "Come here, Gato," said the women. "Have a nice piece of fried banana. Here's a nice pice of cake. Have a glass of orchata!' "Home run, Gato, home run," said the men laughing through their teeth. They waved Gato into their houses and filled him with rum. No one had ever kicked the guardia}s pig before or broken out of their jail. The men joked with Gato. They put their arms around him and mentioned how they'd always wanted to play baseball. But they were nothing like El Gato, no senor, he was thesuperhombre of baseball. In the Bar Clepsydra men argued if El Gato wasn't the best player the country had known. Indians whispered'among themselves and pointed out the crazy man as he marched up and down the boardwalk. Children chased him. He chased the children. It was like a festival. When the guardia came into town to kill El Gato, he didn't mind, he didn't mind at all. His body floated down the estuary just like a baseball.


T h e Philip

Dieter Hanson

[dopting the strategy preached by '60's guru-psychiatrists who encouraged primal screaming to relieve tension, Lewis Anderssen has lately taken to violently yelling while he drives from community college to high school to community college to sell his English, history, and algebra textbooks. Often he goes into great detail as he screams out angry complaints with his windows rolled up. Sometimes he only cries, "Liar! Liar!" as if his wife Anna's face is there just outside the windshield. He builds up to the screaming by recalling her indiscretions. He sees her retreating from the kitchen as he approaches, her back kept purposefully toward him. She will deny breaking her diet until he points out she has brownie crumbs on. her front teeth. She goes to the produce store andcorries back with a bag full of carrots, broccoli, green beans, lettuce, celery, apricots, and apples. "For my diet," she tells him pointedly. Later he finds a crumpled bag from Winchell's Donuts under the front seat of the car. They were married nine years ago. She has been on a diet every day of every month of those nine years. She weighed one hundred and ten pounds on their wedding day. She lost five pounds (she said) for the ceremony. She wanted to fit into her mother's wedding dress. Incredible that that shapeless person with the pinched, selfish mouth and the chopped off mousey brown hair—it's easier to take care of—originally ever fit into the wedding dress. He fears Anna will in ten years—five—look just like her mother. He flares up when she suggests she might cut her own shoulder length hair shorty .^— A year after the wedding Anna weighed one hundred and twenty pounds. Two years after, one thirty-two. Three years after, one-forty. Six years later, one-fifty. Now, nine years after, he can't be sure; hje caught her doctoring her weekly weight record cards she keeps for her weight loss class. Unconsciously at first, a few years back, he began to withhold sex, partly out of a lack of desire, partly out of resentment. He doesn't withhold entirely. He just has a lot of headaches. Around the time he began this, Anna started doing exercises, usually calisthenics, before


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bed. He thought he'd accidentally hit on something. She would do her exercises and they would make love; fair enough. Then one night not long ago he came home late from a sales trip. He was quiet so he wouldn't wake up Anna or their four year old daughter, Kristi. He sat down in the dark at the kitchen table and had a glass of bourbon. He fell asleep with the glass in his hand and a few minutes later it fell to the floor and broke with a loud crash that woke him up. He tiptoed to the bottom of the stairs that led to their bedroom. He heard the springs in the bed creak as Anna clambered out and then he heard the rhythmic thumping of her feet on the carpeting. When he got upstairs she was doing jumping jacks. "I've been going for almost an hour, " she said sounding one hundred percent authentically out of breath. She added suggestively, "I'll be finished in a minute." Too tired to argue, tired in his heart of all of her lying, he claimed a headache and flopped down on the mattress with his back to her side of the bed. "Liar!" he cries at the windshield as it begins to rain. He wonders if the marriage was ever happy or if he had deluded himself. The kid didn't come out of a happy time. At the time they hadn't made love for weeks—Anna said two months; he said it hadn't been that long. Up until then, five years ago, he hadn't directly confronted her on the weight issue. She would say she was losing or was going to lose and he loved her too much to believe she could just stand there and lie to him. But his faith had started to wane. Her waist and upper arms were growing unmistakably thicker and her jeans couldn't keep the bulge in her lower stomach flat.She was losing her credibility along with her waistline. She wanted to know why he had lost interest in her. He denied he had but he thought it incredible both that she had to ask and that she dared to. He hated confrontations. During arguments his hands shook and afterwards he couldn't sleep and he had terrible headaches in his temples and behind his eyes. No matter what he did he was apparently destined to have headaches. His own parents had been publicly quiet Methodists who argued loudly and militantly at night behind the closed doors of their house in a blue-collar neighborhood full of white Methodists, Lutherans, and a smattering of Catholics back in the Midwest. He remembers his father in his underwear and his mother in a shapeless polyester nightgown standing in the doorway to their bedroom hollering unbelievably childish things at each other. His mother used to tell his father if a man came through the bedroom window and took her, he wouldn't raise a finger to stop him. His


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had the nths; o, he d say h to had wing her her . He o ask rgud he No hes. gued heir ists, . He apebedHis oom His

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father would yell, "I would too!" or sometimes "I would not!" apparently meaning he would, but too angry to keep the details straight. In his upstairs bedroom Lewis would turn the window fan up to hi and put his pillow over his throbbing head to shut out the ludicrous arguing. The simple-mindedness of it scared him as much as the bitterness did. Was he destined to be an idiot when he grew up? When Anna accused him of losing interest in her "charms"—a distasteful choice of words that reminded him of his parents' arguments—he realized the time had come for telling her the truth. He did and it sent her to bed in tears. He felt so awful and guilty he followed her to bed and coaxed her into making love and two months later they found out she was pregnant. A couple of years, later, after another such argument, she asked him why he didn't leave her if he was so miserable. While he was trying to find a way of putting into words all of the hopes he had had for them, his gaze fell on Kristi who was sitting in her highchair mashing pieces of banana in her hands and watching the mush ooze out between her knuckles. Following his gaze to Kristi Anna said, "I never thought a child would have to hold my marriage together." She picked up Kristi and bumped the screen door open with her hip as she stomped off into the backyard. Oddly enough after one of these arguments Anna would seen quite nonplussed. When he would expect her to be sitting in frosty silence in front of the TV set, he would find her instead out in front of the house pulling weeds out from between the cracks in the sidewalk with a pair of pliers. At such moments he feels a rush of love for her in spite of the fact tharshe's usually wearing shorts two sizes too small and a short sleeved shirt which creeps up on her upper arms. Hours later he will spot little lines on her upper thighs where the shorts have bitten into the flesh. He hates the snotty-faced junior bank executive or whatever he is nextdoor neighbor of his whose^wife must weigh all of one hundred and eight pounds. The last time she and Lewis were talking over the fence that divides their backyards, he came out and possessively put his arm around her shoulders, smirking as if to say I know you watch her from your upstairs window, you poor bastard. he rain has washed Anna's face away from his windshield and with her disappearance his anger subsides. He has travelled


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seventy miles since leaving his home in a suburb of Boston. He is twenty miles from his destination. He has driven past the town of Falcon Heights where he was supposed to call on their high school with his publishing company employer's textbooks. He has been with the company for seven years; he is pretty much on his own and he can juggle appointments if he wishes. Today he is juggling. He has sixty dollars and his all-purpose credit card in his wallet. When he and Anna were first married, they had charge accounts all over town. They charged their furniture, their kitchen appliances, their washer and dryer, clothes, gas. They nearly put themselves under. And they spent the first five years of their marriage short of money while they paid off their charges. The charges were his fault. It had given him a sense of power and freedom to be able to walk into a department store and take home articles of his choosing on just the strength of his good name. He saw it then as exercising his right as a member of the commonwealth. The thirty or forty dollar a month payments that one of these charges spawned, viewed by itself, seemed paltry at the time. But ten such payments added to fifty car and house payments and the growing cost of day to day living had had a soulgrinding effect. When, after five years, they paid off the last of the charges they agreed to close the accounts. All but one. He insisted they keep the all-purpose charge. To have closed them all would have made him feel they had cashed in their citizenship rights among their own kind. To be without credit was akin to being among the bums on welfare or a member of a religion that worshipped the moon. With his all-purpose credit card he had been able to reserve a pre-paid motel room in the town of Fillmore, his destination. The combination of the steady rain falling on the hood of his car and the regular whirring of his^wfndshield wipers had a calming effect on Lewis. The calmest, most soothing moments of his childhood occurred while riding in the back seat of his parents' car when it happened to be raining. He can't remember a single instance of his parents arguing in the car while driving through the rain. He used to lie in the back seat and fall asleep to the perfect harmony of rain, wipers, and the silence of peace the rain induced in members of his family. They were a family of rain lovers. His feeling of calm gives birth to a growing sense of freedom. He says loudly and musically, "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty. I am free at last." He hadn't known much


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about the black civil rights movement when he was in junior high, but like many middle-class white Americans seventeen years ago, he found the nightly network news broadcasts of Dr. King's speeches mesmerizing. He is free too. Today is his independence day. He is leaving Anna. He will stay in a motel room until he can find an apartment. He is sorry Kristi will have to grow up in a broken home—as his mother used to call them—but it can't be helped. Anna will have a lot of explaining to do to the kid someday. No doubt she will lie her face off. Anna doesn't know he is leaving her. Probably doesn't suspect a thing. He decided he will tell her over the telephone. It will be easier for him that way. He likes thinking in terms of what will be easier for him for a change. Taking care of number one. If he had told her in person, she might have made him feel so sorry for her that he would have abandoned the entire plan. Or she might have thrown an ugly tantrum in front of Kristi. He might have had a stroke. His father and grandfather had died of strokes. With his luck Anna would have thrown a tantrum and-Kristi would have started to choke and turn purple. He would have had a stroke but it wouldn't have killed him. It would have left him paralyzed from the neck down and entirely at the mercy of Anna. She would sit across the table from him devouring entire banana cream pies or wolfing down one chocolate bar after another* then balling up the wrappers and bouncing them off of the bridge of his defenseless nose. Better to take care of number one. Lewis thinks when he reaches the motel he will take a long anxiety-free shower, letting the impersonal purging motel water cleanse him inside and out. He will go for a swim in the motel's pool; he will soak in the Jacuzzi, have his dinner sent up to him, down half a bottle of gin. And he will watch old movies until he falls asleep with the air conditioning on, naked and satisfied, on the motel bed. If he doesn't call Anna to tell her he'll be gone over-night—which happened occasionally—-or if he doesn't lay his cards on the table and tell her he is leaving her, she will probably fall asleepin front of the television without giving him a thought. It had certainly never occurred to her to call him when she was out later than he expected. Many nights he had paced in the vicinity of. the telephone hours after her expected arrival time had passed while she and some of her cronies from her feminist awareness group stayed out after an evening meeting. More than once he'd gone to the drawer where he and Anna left copies of their life insurance policies to check on his coverage and calculate


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if it would be enough to pay for Kristi's care while he was out on the road earning a living for the two of them. Lewis takes pride in the fact that he never loses anything. He has often reminded Anna while she looks under sofa cushions and behind the refrigerator for her car keys that in his entire life he's never lost a key or a wallet. Now he sits in his car in front of the motel and stares in dumb wonder. His credit card is missing. He goes through his wallet and his sport coat pockets several times. He climbs out of the car and digs around in and under the car seat to no avail. He used the credit card to reserve his room so he knows he had it at home. He remembers he let Kristi play with his wallet the night before. He can deny the child nothing. She loves to pull out his license and his old college i.d. card, which he still carries, to look at his pictures. Kristi must have taken the card out; it must be at home. He has enough cash to last a day or so but he needs his credit card to start buying things for his new apartment. He pictures a studio with a view of the ocean. He wants this to be a clean break. He doesn't want to have to get up the courage all over again. He decides to stick around the town and have dinner before he starts for home. He Wants to be sure Anna is asleep when he gets there. That way he can take the card without incident and make it back to his motel room before morning. Lewis comes across a shopping mall and decides to go in and browse around to kill a little time. Off beyond one perimeter of the parking lot he spots a restaurant called Harold's. He'll have a place to go for dinner. The malL is comprised of the usual department stores and men's and womens' shops. He could be in a mall like this in Boston or Chicago or Los Angeles and it would be hard to spot any differences. He spends most of his time outside a video store watching a half dozen televisions all showing different programs and cassettes. t)ru)necassette Jane Fonda and a group of splendidly conditioned women are doing aerobics. On another Jack and Janet and the new roommate, he can't remember her name, are engaged in the usual sexual horseplay. Everywhere he looks there are women who exercise, who take care of themselves,-who fight back against age and deterioration. Even the cashier in the video store looks like one of Jane Fonda's women. He lives in an era of militant healthfulness and,Anna, seemingly from another time period, exists cheerfully and unconsciously in a state certain to hasten her progress into middle age and beyond. Even severity and eighty year olds are out there


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jogging. The thought of he and Anna sitting side by side, separated only by a bowl of cheese puffs, watching rich movie stars on TV flattening their already flat midriffs strengthens his resolve to leave her. On a sign outside Harold's a steak and a lobster are pictured on either side of Harold's name. Near the front door Lewis finds a more interesting sign. The sign announces that Harold's has been sold. It says this will be Harold's last night. Tonight is Nostalgia Night and there will be an uncustomary ten dollar cover charge. Lewis decides it will be worth ten bucks to satisfy his curiosity. What sort of nostalgia could a restaurant out on the perimeter of a shopping mall be engaging in? Inside Harold's is dimly lit and he's hit with the expected odor of cigarette smoke. A hostess seats Lewis at the edge of a group of tables apparently specially arranged just for tonight. Somewhere off in the bar a pianist plays "As Time Goes By" and this puts Lewis in a good mood. Bogie is part of everybody's instant nostalgia; even if you weren't born when he was making his movies. The diners are arranged to face an enormous TV screen that occupies almost a third of one wall. Most of the couples appear to be of a set older than Lewis but at a table near him a young couple, in their early twenties he guesses, is seated with a couple twenty years their senior. He guesses the older couple to be the parents of one of the young couple. The older couple gets up and goes off for a while and Lewis hears the young woman saying, "I hope what I'm wearing is all right. Your mother kind of winced when I got in the car." He listens as the young man says warmly, "Anything you wear is ok with me, Gina." Give it five years, Lewis thinks crossly. Give it ten. All that cooing will be just history in ten years. A lean man with thinning gray hair comes out in front of the TV screen and a few people applaud. He's wearing a shirt with cuffs folded back above his wrists. This turns out to be Harold. He thanks everyone for coming and forjheir loyal patronage over the years. He tells them not to^vorry about the help because he's made it a condition of the sale that the new owners keep them on. He tells a couple of stories about his years as proprietor and says he's going down to Florida to retire. Lewis orders a drink and dinner and they show a movie on the big TV screen, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Lewis is pretty sure the film was made back in the thirties, before Harold's ever existed, but apparently the film has a special significance for Harold which escapes Lewis. Ginger Rogers is


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magnificently slender and Lewis is reminded of the contrast with Anna. He can't even go into the graceful past to escape. After the film Lewis has another drink and departs. It's about eleven forty-five and he has a good two hour drive ahead of him. Just in front of him the young couple he noticed earlier are climbing into a car with their elders. The boy bumped his head getting into the car, not very hard. It couldn't have hurt much. But the girl, Gina he remembers, sympathetically massages the spot with her fingertips as their car pulls away. He mentally takes back his prediction about their marriage. He hopes they have a long and happy life together and that they never quarrel. If just one couple can be truly happy, then it's possible. Driving in the dark has a negative effect on Lewis. He feels he and the small circle of light his head lamps create are a tiny shell traveling through alien territory. The green pallor of the lights tossed up from behind his speedometer and his other gauges seem mysterious and a little toxic. Instead of providing him with company, the phony, tinny friendliness of the people on the radio only reminds him of how all alone he is. Since his job calls for a lot of night driving these feelings are not new. When he considers his job objectively, he feels it's a pretty ridiculous way to make a living, tap dancing around high school administrators who don't know the first thing about textbooks. At first Lewis thought he might enjoy some of it. He is interested in ancient history. But the company's textbooks described history as if they were listing computer parts. Anyway the school administrators he meets aren't interested in history or textbooks. They usually want to face their school boards or whoever they answer to and tell them they've saved their district money. When they aren't talking to Lewis about costs, they want to relive their glory days as high school jocks or student council members: Most of them went to high "school where they now havejpbsft permanent chance to relive the old glory days someplace where you might be remembered because of a team picture in a trophy case. When Lewis arrives on his street, he turns his head lights off about three houses down from his own. As he turns into his driveway he cuts the motor. He doesn't want to wake Anna so he uses tactics he's seen employed in spy movies. Back in his neighborhood he feels a little better. He remembers some of the block parties and barbecues he and his neighbors have shared. He and Jeff Winters, who lives across the cul-de-sac, play handball now and then. More than once he's sat outside with Jeff beside


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Jeff's pool sharing beer, watching the fading afternoon light, and smelling the dwindling odor of barbecues extinguishing one by one. Even the junior exec next door seems less sinister as Lewis sits in his driveway and reminisces. He loves his house, a nice split-level with a garage under the front bedroom. In the dark with the front lawn glistening with dew, his house seems a magical, good place. He recalls when he and Anna first came here with a realtor to look the place over, how he caught his breath. The realtor, Jack Bromell, was also the builder. Jack was smart and he loved building houses, feeling the wood in his hands. He had ridden out inflation and recession as well. He hadn't let his operation become too big, so that overhead could kill him in slow times, or too small, so that he risked drying up. When Jack sat in his office behind his oak desk at closing and said to Lewis and Anna, "I hope you realize everything I put into that house," it wasn't a challenge and it wasn't strictly business either. It was an expression of love. The three of them had shared in it that day. His hopes were high for their lives then. He'd thought his parents would be amazed if they had lived to see what a success he was becoming. He and his parents had lived in a crackerbox of a house when he was growing up. Everything was over now. He had to sneak in and get his credit card. Inside Lewis avoids the step that creaks. Like a kid he lightly takes three steps at a time. Crossing the living room he hears a voice say, "Hi, daddy," and it makes his chest contract. He squints into the darkness and a pale blue nightgown tumbles down off of a sofa and approaches. Kristi had been sleeping on the sofa. "Mommy said I could sleep here and wait for you," she says, stretching her arms up automatically so that he picks her up. Anna has lacked the willpower to make the kid go to bed, leaving the dirty work for him to do. He strokes the child's head and starts with her for her room. This makes Kristi start to whimper. "Hold me. Hold me," she demands sleepily-He can see that the easiest route will be to hold her until "she falls back asleep. He lies down on the sofa with Kristi laying on top of him and covers the two of them with his sport coat; platonic lovers. In the morning Anna comes into the room and finds them like this, the child asleep on her father's chest. The sport coat has slipped off of the sofa onto the floor. Anna slips a half-eaten bismark that she fell asleep with into the pocket of her quilted cotton robe. She leaves and comes back with a blanket which she spreads out with a deft flick of her wrists and then expertly guides

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so that it falls evenly over father and child. Surprisingly light on her feet for a heavy woman, Anna sidesteps the sofa, matadorlike, and lightly tiptoes off across a meadow of carpeting.

ft


Evolution Peter

of

Script

Logan

[t least three times a year, young Mark received a letter from his father written in that strong hand which, to his 14-year-old way of thinking, showed the difference between adults and kids. His own hand was still the cautious script taught in third-grade penmanship lessons; flat and predictable, it could have been the hand of any number of kids. He learned to emulate his father's script, and disregard the teacher's red ink comments of "illegible," or worse, "chickenscratch." He developed an impulsive style that was a mixture of cursive and block letters which changed from word to word as he mastered his new hand. When old enough to attend dances on Friday nights, he sent $2.00 to the advertiser of a book on handwriting analysis. "Impress your friends!" it promised. "Know their secret personalities!" He learned hidden meanings for the shape of an "I", and became wary of phonies whose signatures differed from their normal writing. High ascenders showed a cheerful outlook, while long descenders were a sign of unhappiness. Closed loops showed reserve, backslants betrayed insecurity. Large writing indicated arrogance, but tiny script was a sure sign of lack of confidence. Mark encouraged the traits he most desired in his writing. He kept a consistently strong forward slant, showing purposefulness, and wrote boldly with emotional strength shown in the tall "h" and equally deep"p". He wrote letters to his father in his new adult hand, and his father wrote back often, never wavering in his own well-modulated script. In college, Mark got married and improved his typing skills. As his classes became more complex, he hurried his notes and sometimes had difficulty when reviewing them later. Under deadline pressure, he took to typing first drafts which his wife could then edit for grammar. Still, in quiet moments, he wrote notes to his father and tried to corral the galloping squiggles and loops which flowed from his pen in a losing race with thoughts that sometimes drifted to strange and unrelated daydreams.


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i

ir:

it i i

The quiet moments came more often after he went to work and they bought their own home. He tried to draw his letters more carefully, afraid his father would misread the ill-formed words, but noticed a chaos creeping into his hand. The slant went first forward, then back; words ran uphill, then down; and his loops were sometimes open, sometimes closed. On different days, his ascenders might fly over the blue line, or squat in a stub with the tall "1" indistinguishable from the lowly "e". He strove for an even, predictable style but met with unexpected difficulty. In writing carefully worded notes to his wife before their divorce, he struggled for clarity and precision, but the words stole his concentration. He could manage the beginning of a sentence well enough, such as, "It's not that I don't love you, dearest, but I..." and then he was lost, words strangling in loops and swirls, spitting from his pen in short, urgent spurts, the foot of the "y" turning back on itself and the cross of each "t" scoring through his thoughts. He signed his name more frequently after moving to a studio apartment near his office. There were rent checks and alimony checks, leases and credit card payments, car notes and insurance forms, tax schedules and office memos. He signed them in haste and without thought, his signature flowing in a stylized flurry of perfectly vertical bars. Through it all, his father wrote him, but his letters complained of arthritis, and his hand lost its steadiness. In place of a regulated, expressive script, Mark saw a wispish hand with strangely squared off circles, each short line wavering in the straight sides of box-like "o"s, hesitating at each turn, and the lines running downhill across the page ending in a torrent of piled up layers in the bottom left hand corner. In his last letter, Mark wrote on the envelope with an old ball-point pen, so the beginning stoke of the word "To" was blotted with excess ink, but at "Whom It May," it settled to an even flow. It skipped during "Concern," -and he went over it a second time. Inside he wrote a single sentence in straight block letters which grew lighter or darker as the ink hesitated, then gushed. "I FIND," he printed, "I CAN NO LONGER WRITE BOLDLY," but the line ran long, so the letters jammed taller and tighter at the end. Below, he signed his name clearly and drew a flourish underneath, but when he folded the sheet, it blotted the ink and left an uneasy smudge on the overleaf.

A


T h e

k s d t s s, h

Fledgling

Lori Hester

Arthur

he young man found the house in the bright young afternoon, when there was still plenty of time left in the day for everything. He parked his car on the shadowed street beneath a heavy tent of magnolia. When he got out he shut the door hard, because it was his car and it was paid for and it was painted a color called Poppy Red, and because the solid feeling of his car shivered through his ribcage and vibrated in his stomach like a bursting breath stolen at the top of a rollercoaster. His car: no dusty green station wagon that had to be home by midnight, but finally—finally!—his own car, shining and sharp-edged, open to the wind with its top folded down, looking as if it were moving even when it was standing still. He smiled to himself and walked along the fender, rapping his knuckles lightly against it. At the front he bent to run his thumb over the chrome mustang on the grill. He stepped back to admire the way the fenders jutted over the headlights, making them look hooded and fierce, like the eyes of a speed-loving bird of prey. It was made the same year he was born. He had had to save up and pay for it all at once, because his mother wouldn't co-sign the loan; but here it was, his own car. And in it were all of his belongings, packed in the back seat or locked in the trunk: his stereo, his shaving kit, his own hotplate and saucepan; all cut loose, compact, and under his supervision. He smiled again and leaned on the hood, bouncing on his toes until the car rocked exuberantly back and forth; he watched fragments of light dart and flash across the flame colored metal. But when the car quivered still and the fragments of light settled into a red-green reflection of magnolia, he halfway frowned, and slid his hand over the hood as if to wipe dust away. When he stepped up onto the sidewalk, his fingers trailed behind on the hood until they slid off the edge of the fender. He looked for a gate in the tall hedge of oleander that hid the house from the street. The street was very quiet. He heard an unseen bird piping a few notes somewhere above the ceiling of leaves; then the only sounds were his own footsteps and the ticking of the car's cooling engine. Without thinking he quieted

h s , e t g s, "

o y e e f

ma h e e f

d as n a

s "I ," at h d

A


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his steps, laying his feet down softly on the damp sidewalk, and without thinking brushed away the oleander blossoms that clung to his hair when he found the open gate and passed through it. The hedge cut off the settling sounds of his car, and he paused, listening, in the deep quiet shade. The front yard was walled in with green, and when he looked up for the sky he saw only layers of leaves and far-up glimpses of white blossoms. The house itself was massive and old, its bottom half smothered in slender clinging vines and its top half lost in the magnolias. He squinted at it warily and stood undecided, absently drawing back a little behind a magnolia trunk, as if he saw someone he knew and wanted to avoid. He plucked an oleander leaf and folded it into a leaf-whistle, but he didn't put it to his lips. Instead he threw it down and turned to walk back out the gate. "Hello . . . Geoffrey? Is that you?" He turned back reluctantly and saw a little grey woman peering out from the vines that covered the porch. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. jLnside, the house was full to overflowing. He felt crowded, hemmed in by ruffles and shadows and people in smoky photographs until there was hardly any space to move. Vines covered the windows, and the house seemed dark even after the deep shade under the trees. "You did say your name was Geoffrey?" He was almost startled when the woman spoke. He looked at her blankly, trying to accustom his eyes to the dimness. "Uh, yeah . . . yes, ma'am . . . Jeff." "And you're studying . . .?" She pulled him into the living room, slipping an arm around him to grasp his elbow firmly, and bending her head for his answer as if she were taller than he, instead of half a head shorter. "Uh, well, I haven't really decided what I'm going to major in yet." The living room was a maze of floorlamps and footstools, and he tried to keep his balance and search out places to put his feet without pulling impolitely against the pressure of her arm. "I'm just starting this fall." "You have all the time in the world. Oh for heaven's sake!" She released his elbow and threaded her way smoothly past table legs and dust ruffles, leaving him stranded in the middle of the room. "In all the excitement I completely forgot poor Howard."


d g t. e as w e n e a d a it

n d

d, ky es he

ed h,

ng nd e,

in s, is m.

!" le he ."

Lori Hester Arthur

67

He watched her lift the cover from a brass cage in the corner, and waken a tiny striped finch with a black beak. "Poor Howard, did you think I'd just covered you up for good?" she said to the bird; and then, "Anyway, now you have a place to live. Sit down." It took him a moment to realize that this last was directed to him and not to the bird. "Oh . . . well, actually . . . " He shifted uncomfortably, looking for an accessible place to sit. He decided on the sofa and began to wade toward it. "Actually, it kind of depends on how much you want for the room." He edged past a delicate coffee table with its legs lost in shadow, and sat down gratefully beside an unfinished moss-colored afghan. "Nonsense. For heaven's sake, be still! Mama's not going to swallow you!" He looked up, startled, and saw Howard fluttering madly about his cage while she tried to change the paper in the bottom. "You'd think I was an old cat or some such thing." She took a tiny glass cup out of the cage and shut the door quickly. "Time enough to talk about rent when you've settled in a little." He shook his head, trying to look regretful rather than alarmed. "Well... I'd really rather—I mean, that's really nice of you, but—" "Have you eaten yet?" She turned to look at him, holding the little glass cup in one hand and a box of birdseed in the other. "Uh ... well, no, but I . . . " He stopped, confused, and glanced at the cup distractedly. "Fine." She poured birdseed into the cup and hung it in the cage; then she crossed the room to him and put a brisk hand on his shoulder. "While you look at your room I'll fix you a quick bite to eat." "Oh, no, thank you, I . . . " But her hand on his shoulder had a faintly familiar scent of dishwashing soap and hand lotion, and instead of protesting he found himself gazing at the pictures on the coffee table. He saw one faded black-and-white photograph of the woman, much younger, with a young man in a uniform smiling beside her and a tiny baby in her arms. He looked at the other pictures and saw the baby as a toddler, as a schoolboy, as a blue-eyed young man; the woman was in a few of the pictures, but he didn't see the smiling man again. As he gazed at the pictures, he had a sudden memory of a dream he'd had as a child. It had been right after he and his mother had gotten word of his father's death. In the dream there had been no gunfire, no burning plane: only his father home again, and the two of them in his father's workshop together,


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trying to fix a red bicycle. But they couldn't fix it, because all his father's tools were gone—Mama had packed them up and sent them away after the telegram came. He stared blindly at the pictures in front of him, seeing not them but his father's puzzled face as he searched for his tools among the empty shelves and cabinets. The woman straightened, taking her hand off his shoulder, and he realized he had been gazing dumbly at the pictures for what seemed like a long time. He remembered he had been speaking and looked up at her, fumbling for his thought. But if she had heard the fragment of his protest she gave no sign. Her. sharp eyes were fastened on his face, and he forgot again to speak. He caught a powdery whiff of honeysuckle; he heard Howard flutter in his cage. Then she turned abruptly and was off across the room, walking purposefully toward a door between two bookcases. "Come along, Geoffrey, your room's right through here." He followed her through the green twilight of the house. In some rooms, curtains were drawn to keep out even the shadowed dusk that sifted through the vines. He kept stumbling over small, overstuffed pieces of furniture, and the generative dimness bred fancies in his mind, so that he imagined fat footstools popping up in the gloom like mushrooms in a basement: a few more every time you opened the door to look. "Here you go." They came out of a sewing room into a short hallway and she opened a door, half-blinding him with sudden sunlight. "You go ahead and look around—your bathroom's the next door down. Then come on out to the kitchen and I'll have you some lunch ready." He stepped past her through the door, almost fascinated by the light; the gloom inside the hou$eJiad given him the feeling that dusk had fallen outdoors as well. The light was coming from a window that had been cut free of its thick matting of vines; he could see the gray stumps of twigs where they had been trimmed back around the casemenr. New vines had begun to weave over the breach with their sweet, sticky tendrils, but as yet they had only formed a fine net across the window, a green lace curtain over which to draw their tangled drapery. "Oh, hey..." he turned to call after her, but she was standing in the doorway still, smiling over him, her arms folded in front of her.


. .

e

e

g

Lori Hester Arthur

69

"The kitchen's on the other side of the living room, just through the dining room." And she was gone, melting back into the dimness. He turned back into the netted sunlight, drawn farther into the room. The shadows of the vines murmured across the bed and made shifting snake-patterns on the floor; he watched one undulate over the rug and crawl slanting across the wallpaper, where faded blue airplanes chased themselves through billow after billow of yellowing cloud. He turned slowly, watching the airplanes spiral up toward the ceiling until he tripped backward dizzily and landed sitting on the bed. He lay back and looked up and there was the head board, made to look like a ship's wheel, and above it the ladder-rungs of bookshelves climbing with the airplanes to the ceiling. He shifted to see them more clearly. The bottom two shelves were empty; the next one was crowded with books. He stood on the bed. and pulled one out: The House at Pooh Corner. Inside the cover was a childish scrawl: "Boyd Hamilton" in orange crayon. He replaced it and ran a finger along the tops of the other books, setting dust motes adrift around his head; at one end there were two high school yearbooks. On the shelf above them was a trophy: 1961 STATE RUNNER-UP PEE WEE REESE LEAGUE and behind it a framed picture of a little league team with "Tigers" on their jerseys and the blue-eyed boy from the coffee table grinning in the second row. "Should've won it that year,," the young man muttered absently; he wiped dust from the top of the frame with one finger. Beside the trophy, there was a dry bird's nest, and beyond that a set of World Book. At the very end of the shelf stood a few science-fiction paperbacks and a longJbusinesshke row of college textbooks. _ He stepped down from the bed and went to the window. Outside, the backyard was like the front, lidded over with glossy leaves and white, waxy blossoms. A few poppies grew in the narrow patch of sunlight beneath the window. At the far side of the yard, a swing hung on thick ropes, and he wondered if it would ever be used again. He followed the ropes up with his eyes. Nobody would use it now, straining as he had, pulling, pushing, higher and higher, trying to burst just one foot through thec

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Berkeley Fiction Review

suffocating pall of magnolia, until the ground reeled crazily upside down before his eyes and the wooden seat leaped sickeningly out from under him; throwing his head back and straining his feet up again, and again, and once again, until his mother came to the back door and called out to him sharply ... "Lunch is ready!" "Coming, Mama." His voice whispered against the window, leaving a cloud on the glass, and his stomach jolted, feeling again the end of the arc with the ropes slack for an endless split second. He backed away from the window, bumping the bookshelves, and brushed past the door and back into the liquid dimness. Without waiting for his eyes to see clearly through the shadows, he opened one door, and then another, trying to find the way he had come. One room opened onto the next, after the fashion of old houses; there was no long, orderly hallway, no starting and stopping place. He suddenly remembered a game he had played as a child, when his mother wouldn't let him go outside and he would spend hours marching around and around the house, from one room to the next, pretending he was on a perilous journey that would take him far, far away from the house and his mother and the narrow backyard. He wondered if he were going in circles now, forgetting the room where he started. He saw himself circling forever in the half-darkness, searching for his footprints on the withered flowers of the carpet. He saw the footprints fading in each room just before he opened that room's door. And then he heard the quick rustle of Howard's wings on the other side of a half-open drapery, and he was through the living room, stumbling against the coffee table and scattering the pictures of the blue-eyed boy with a clatter that sent Howard whirring madly against his brass bars. "Geoffrey?" He heard the woman's voicescomjng faintly from another room as he pushed open the front door and brushed past the twining vines on the porch. He took the porch steps in one stride; but the sunlight dazzled his eyes, even in the green shadow under the trees, and he slowed, blinking, on the walkway. He squinted around uncertainly. The yard seemed bigger than he remembered, with wide spaces of dichondra between the trees. He glanced back uncomfortably, wondering if :she were looking at him though the vines that covered the windows. He breathed hard and leaned against a magnolia trunk, looking back at the house


,

e

;

Jj>ri Hester Arthur

71

and feeling rather foolish. He thought about all his belongings packed in his car, adrift, with no place to go. His stomach felt knotted and he wondered what she had been making for his lunch. "Geoffrey?" Her voice came from somewhere inside the house. He rolled to the other side of the trunk and leaned against it with his back to the sound; he tipped his head back and gazed up through the magnolias, biting his lip. The unseen bird piped the same handful of notes somewhere above him, and he saw a jet drawing a line of feather-white across a blue hole in the net of leaves and blossoms. "Geoffrey! There you are!" the woman's voice came from the front steps just as he reached the hedge. "Geoffery!" A shrill, ragged note had crept into her voice. The gate was closed, and he fumbled for the latch with sudden panic—what if he had left his keys? If his car were gone...? Then he was out, pushing past the screen of oleander in a flurry of blossoms. And there it was still, looking brilliant and swift with its hawk's-eye headlights and its long, scooped flanks. When he turned the key the engine fired immediately, shattering the silence with its quickening roar. He threw it into gear almost before it was started, and it sprang forward instantly, so that he imagined it had barely been standing still, barely waiting. He imagined it restless as a russet hawk on the verge of flight: one more moment and it would have been gone, leaving him stranded by the swinging gate with the woman's shrill voice behind him. He grinned at the foolishness of the idea and leaned on the accelerator, flying around a curve with his tires moaning perilously. Then the car burst out suddenly from the magnolia shadow and he laughed out loud, with the wind tearing the laughter from his mouth, and the sun burning close on his neck, and the red metal blazing in the sun as if it would kindle and burn.


n


1973 Dugi Step

JL pulled her by the hand. I wanted to show her my fort on the side of the hill. It was still raining, as it had been for a week. It seemed the hill would slide away, and only bare rock would be left, without my fort of branches, bushes, and stones. I had to show her my fort before it was washed down the hill into the apartment buildings and mud of the basketball courts. The sky was the usual overcast brown. Several Turkish Air Force jets screamed overhead, and we stopped to watch them. She walked ahead, disgusted with my infatuation with the military. But she'd consented to see my fort, which I'd spent a full month working on. Graham and Cliff and I were best friends, and we shunned all others during recess to hide in our fort, re-build it when other gangs took it apart, and prepare for winter, when snow would abolish passive warfare. I'd built my own fort, and in the back of my mind I knew I was finally going to impress her with it. As she walked ahead of me I could smell her hair. It was raining very hard, it was late in the afternoon, and my mom expected me home half an hour before. Debbie's mother taught a late music class, so she was safe, I watched her as I walked, and reached for her, but missed on purpose. She turned her head. "Maybe I want to be a pilot" I said, and she laughed. "Only Canadian pilots will live" she said. In October it rained on Ankara for days without stopping. Then it would cease, and the pollution would settle in on the mud. The streets would dry up and the dirt would turn to dust. The buses created a very palpable.exh£ust, and there were always jets overhead. My dad came home with news clippings about Cyprus; it was 1973. I remember vaguely a colour photograph of the carnage of war, on the cover of TIME magazine. I remember looking at the date and thinking, I am seven, and when I have lived seven years over again, I will still be too young to be holding a gun and looking like that. We came to the jumble of branches and stones clustered in front of three bushes—that was my fort. I had a flag of blue cloth


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stuck in a mud pile in one corner. When we got to it, a cat ran out and fled down the hill. "It's water-tight" I said. "I'm going to build two more for Graham and Cliff and me. You can be with us, too." She looked at me and laughed. "Okay," was all she said. I looked at the blue flag and said that I put it there because I knew she liked blue. Once she gave me a test to see if we were matched or not. I picked the colour blue, which meant we were. Everyone in our class was watching this, and it took me about a week to get over it. But this time I had picked the right colour again, and to prove it, she held my hand as we walked back up the hill. I left her on the road beside the Ambassador's residence and the botanical gardens. Her mother was standing by their car, talking to the British gardener; he held a black umbrella up above them. I hugged Debbie in her blue raincoat. She had blue eyes and brown hair, darker than mine. She blushed at her mother as I stumbled away through the botanical gardens.

I

1 /


Fig Cynthia

Eagleton

hundred thousand million years ago, Fig got on his bicycle and forgot where he was going. He didn't think. He rode and he rode and he rode. He rode past eucalypti and stegasauri and rocks. He rode past but failed to see the terrible, mal-nourished, ruby-toothed tyrannasaurus rex. It was then that I lost my heart to him. His mother was in China, having the small of her back painted. His father was in Nairobi, nursing a hangnail. Lawrence was in Arabia and his sister was in trouble. He didn't care. The bicycle was the color of a tiger's underbelly. In his hip pocket he kept a flask of cyclepolish and a leather chamoise. After fording a river or crossing a swamp or eating lunch, he would lean the bicycle against something bigger than he was and polish it until it gleamed as gleam the eyes of a tiger. The saddle stained the seat of his pants. Pomegranite juice stained the skin of his mother. Fig averted his eyes when she rubbed the fruit over her body and then ate the seeds. She arranged her hair and limbs so as to resemble the unimaginable. She was an artist. With Yangtzee River clay and a cutlass, she created flutes and bowls and amulets. She painted her creations the same shade of blue as was the small of her back when Lawrencexame'to visit. She bruised like a camelia. houghtlessness brought Fig to a stop in Mescanerk. At the bazaar, he bought a pear and a thigh. He leaned the bicycle against something bigger than he was and lay down in the dust. For a while he lay on his belly and admired the derailleur,


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No one else in the whole, luckless, steaming world had a bicycle except Fig. At that time. Fig never did know how lucky he was. And I haven't the time to tell you. I've just time to tell you that a hundred thousand milliion years ago he swallowed a bite of pear and then a bite of thigh and then a bite of pear and so on until a woman wearing absolutely nothing except an enormous rhinocerous hide walked up to him and raised her eyebrows. "It's a bicycle" said Fig. "It's a bicycle and I made it myself." The woman slid her finger along the top tube. Her face expressed the inexpressable. "Like I said" he said. "It's a bicycle and I made it myself." Fig had the embarassing habit of saying falsehoods not once but repeatedly. His father had the propitious habit of believing the unbelievable. Illusion kept him safe. He never got eaten and he never got disappointed and he never brushed his teeth or anything before he went out to hunt rhinoceros. When a rhinoceros appeared, he aimed his spear at the only point of entry on a rhinocerous. I haven't the time to explain about rhinoceri. I barely have time enough to note that he ate mostly mushrooms and that his breath stank of decomposition. There was no one to offend. The woman sqeezed the brake levers. She looked at Fig again and raised her eyebrows. "So you said," she murmured. Fig's sister wouldn't leave her hands alone. She bathed them in swamp ooze. She dressed them^irjLCobwebs. She made them dance like snakes. Worst of all, she liked to shake hands. Fig bought her a pair of gloves. "So I did" he said. She studied the bicycle. "It needs attention" she said. Lawrence didn't need Fig. He didn't need him to saddle up the camels or to wipe the sword blade clean of skin and blood or to suture his wounds. Fig tried to, anyway. He followed Lawrence


o

Cynthia Eagleton

77

out of Australia across New Guinea and into Brazil. He would have followed Lawrence to the ends of the earth but for the fact that he couldn't keep up. His mother didn't have to. "How would you know?" he asked. "Yes, how would I know?" she asked. Fig was not adept at human relations. He was better at the bicycle. He was better at riding ass off the saddle, swaying side to side over the top tube, licking the sweat off his upper lip. On the bicycle his nose dripped unseen. "There's gunk in the derailleur" she said. "Gunk and little bits of skin." Fig looked at the woman. He looked at the rhinocerous hide and the hair on her arms and the dirt under her hails. He decided he liked her. "The perils of the road" he said. "Wanna ride?" ig was born in the shade of a camelia bush. In the center of the garden of Babylon, sometime in the afternoon of March, Lawrence helped Fig's mother bring her only child into the luckless, fragrant, steaming world. It was a longed for delivery. Lawrence may have had a hand in the conception of Fig as weU, but my suspicions can never be confirmed. Camelias bruise so easily. The woman removed the rhinocerous hide and swung her right leg over the saddle. She slipped her right foot into the right toe clip and pushed off, simultaneously slipping her left foot into the left toe clip. Fig pulled the rhinocerous hide round his shoulders and tried not to appear impressed. "Don't tighten the toe clipsj he-said as she tightened the toe clips. "You don't know what you're doing." The woman rode in circles around him, then balanced at a stand still, the front wheel perpendicular to the frame. "And don't get carried away" he warned. Fig discovered the bicycle in a tar pit. While tailing Lawrence through the shadow of an eclipse, thoughtlessness led him into a mire stinking of sweat and decomposition. He grabbed at flesh and bones. His hands touched ruby-toothed gears. After an


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embarassingly long while, he emerged from the pit with lacerated fingertips and the cause of his pain. "You're getting carried away" he said. Three years passed before the true purpose of the bicycle was revealed to him in a dream fragrant with camelia. I refuse to humiliate Fig by revealing just how long it took him to figure out the dream and just how much longer to figure out the mystery of riding technique. It matters only that he did and that a hundred thousand million years ago he watched someone else do it without even trying. "You got anymore of these?" she asked. "No" he said. "You are riding on the only bicycle in the whole world." "So make me one" she said. * For a moment, Fig just looked at her. "Can't," he said. "Haven't the time." "Find it" she said.

is

Fig, before he went chasing after Lawrence, lived behind his father's knees. On the plains of Nairobi, Fig hid behind his father's knees from dragon flies and potatoe bugs and the inevitable. No one, not even his father, knew of his whereabouts. No one but the terrible, mal-nourished, ruby-toothed tyrannasaurus rex. This changed, however, when Fig began to grow in great and painful spurts, eventually reaching the impressive height of a rhinocerous. To save his hide, Fig made tracks. The woman dismounted and leaned ^the bicycle against something smaller than she was. Fig naslied it off and then removed the rhinocerous hide. "Where are you in such a hurry to get to, anyway?" she asked. Fig reached for the chamoise. "I'll know when I get there" he said. "And in the meanwhile?" she asked. Fig dampened the chamoise with a dab of cyclepolish and began to rub down the forks and stays. "Not to mention the rex" she said. Fig threw down the charnoise. "What the hell does it matter to you?" he screamed. "What the hell does it matter to you where


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I go or when I get there and how the hell do you know about the rex?" Fig's sister knew about the rex. She knew about a lot of things Fig didn't want to know about. When Fig's mother entered her blue period and his father noticed Fig's sudden resemblance to a rhino and Lawrence was nowhere to be seen, his sister offered to share her life with him. He gratefully accepted, providing she kept her gloves on. And for a while it was not too awful, pretending not to hear the mewls or smell the sweet sweet scent of charred camelia or notice the bones but when she-took off her gloves and set her hands like petals upon his shoulders, Fig got on his bicycle. He couldn't see the road for the tears in his eyes. The woman tighteried the knots which held up the rhinocerous hide. Her skin went pale as a camelia. "I know enough to know that you can't elude the inevitable" she said. Fig screwed the cap back on the flask of cyclepolish. "You take such pleasure in playing the seer" he said. "Too bad. Because I don't believe in the rex." I sometimes wonder why I took such pains over this fellow. The woman lowered her head and pushed out her lips. "Yes" she said "Too bad" A ^id I tell you what fig looked like? I told you he was knee high to his father until he grew to the impressive height of a rhinocerous hut I didn't tell you that his hands were as big as his feet and that you couldn't see where his neck stopped and his head began. He had a chin like a fist and a temper like bad weather. He looked nothing lilce his father. "I don't believe this1' said Fig. "I don't believe this" he said again as he mounted the bicycle and cut his shin on thederailieur. You probably want to know what the woman looked like, also. You ought to, anyway. She didn't look like Fig. And she didn't look like his mother or his father or Lawrence. She looked rather like his sister. She moved in the same catlike way and gazed at him in the same catlike manner. And she smelled the same. Only she never combed her hair. Her hair collected around her


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head like a cloud of rain and her name was OOna. "Wait" she said. "Don't you want a banana to take with you?" Mindful of his need to replace lost eletrolytes, Fig admitted he did. "But then I'm leaving" he said. So far I've told you just about everything that happened after Fig encountered OOna. That can't continue. I haven't the time. Suffice it to say that a hundred thousand million years ago, Fig met a woman named OOna who took him back to her cavaran for a banana and other encouragements. "Well, I'm leaving" announced Fig. Carefully keeping his bloody shin well away from the derailleur, he mounted the bicycle and rode down the road a piece until he began to feel uneasy. The sky hung low and the foliage stung the cut on his shin. The air stank of decay. But he didn't believe in spirits, objective correlatives or fate. Not to mention the rex. So he pedalled on. He was determined that nothing, that no one, should lure him from his course. And, indeed, he had successfully escaped his mother's charms.and his father's spear and his sister's hands. He didn't count Lawrence. He didn't think about OOna. He never considered the rex. I could very easily supply you with bits and pieces of OOria's past as I so very easily do with Fig's. But such hits and pieces would no more present an accurate representation of her "truth" than did those concering Fig. Truth is a slippery character and has no place in this story. So he pedalled on. He rode past venus fly-traps and pythons and the unrecognizable. He rode until the mud and uneasiness forced him off the road. A sudden and overwhelming, sense of lack brought tears to his eyes. What had he forgotten? To better consider the matter, he dismounted and leaned the bicycle against something bigger than he was. The rex shrugged it off. ig couldn't shrug off anything. Everything reminded him of everything else and his memory got in his way. I needn't tell you


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that such a memory can lead one into a morass. As I've lead you. There was no real.reason to tell you anything I've told you thus far. I may as well have begun by saying that a hundred thousand million years ago, Fig got his bicycle and rode until mud and uneasiness forced him off the road. So he dismounted and leaned the bicycle against something bigger than he was and the terrible, mal-nourished, ruby-toothed rex shrugged his shoulders and the bicycle slipped into the mire. "That's my bicycle!" screamed Fig as he went in after it. After an embarassingly long while, he emerged from the pit with skinned knees and the cause of his hysteria. "That's my bicycle!" he screamed again. The rex turned his head and peered at Fig from over his shoulder. "Haven't you forgotton something?" he asked. Fig was too outraged to be spooked by the terrible, malnourished, ruby-toothed corpus of the rex or by the voice which was its own echo or by the scent of camelia. "If this has anything to do with fate, I don't want to hear it" said Fig. The rex arched one eyebrow and gave out a little mmph of smokey breath. "I just want to be left alone" said Fig. He felt a sudden overwhelming need to bawl. The rex eased his tail into the mire. "But that is my fate" he said. Fig squinted his eyes and swallowed. "And mine?" he asked. The rex began to move backwards into the mire. "I didn't give you the bicycle so that you might be alone" he said. Fig leaned against the bicycle. "I don't believe this" he said. "I don't believe this" he said again. Only the terrible, mal-nourished, ruby-toothed head of the rex remained above the mire. "Don't make me laugh" he said. Fig wiped his nose with the back of his hand. "Wait a minute" he said. "Can't" said the rex. "Haven't the time. And neither have you" Where his voice had been, a camelia lay. ig leaned over the bicycle and bawled. He bawled for the small of his mother's back and for the back of his father's knees


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and for his sister's empty hands. He bawled for the absence of Lawrence and for the want of OOna and when the camelia sank beneath the surface, that reminded him of everything else and everthing else set him to bawling again. He bawled until the lack inside him became as a vessel and then he rubbed the heels of his hands across his eyes and his nose and he mounted the bicycle and rode back for what he had forgotten.


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D , ad?" He didn't respond. "Hey, Dad. You better come in, gonna start raining soon. Dad?" Dad paid no attention to my calling. There was a chance he didn't hear. More likely, he was ignoring me to play a bit more golf. I shut the screen door and began walking across the fairway. I wasn't going to yell again. A certain wind blows before a Florida storm. It's cool and nearly wet. There's an urge to inhale ravenously and feed on air alone. Overhead, storm clouds were rolling east to west... Everglades to the Gulf. Their bases hugged the ground like a contoured ceiling with thick, massive towers rising above for thousands of feet. When I was younger, I believed you could sit on those clouds. I also believed that airplanes got stuck in them. It was quite a topic of conversation between me and Dad. "So. They really look that thick to. ya, huh?" Looking skyward, he'd hitch up his pants. My father's drawl was clear back then. "Yep." I was five or six. Maybe seven. "Naaaw, can't say I ever heard of a plane gettin' stuck in 'em. Then again, I ain't been around forever, ya know?" A typical answer from my father; leaning towards the truth but never shaking its hand. It allowed me to continue thinking whatever I wanted. "FORRRRRRRRRRE! Dad's swing was a blur and it caught me standing still... drifting. I walked on. Get him inside before it rains, simple as that. ^ _ Mom was due back fromjOrlarido on Friday. I'd spent the last three days with Dad, making sure he didn't,strain himself or anything. He was good about it, content to play golf on the hole behind our house or take walks around the course. I hate golf, can't play worth a damn, but I enjoyed walking the course with him. "You think Tin crazy?" "WTiy would I think you're crazy, Dad?"


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"I don't know, just thought you might. Hell, I used to think I was." "When?" "Back in the hospital. Heard y'all whispering that I might be crazy. I believed ya for a while." "Mom said you were asleep." "Mom said I was crazy too. Doesn't matter. Something probably drifted away, haven't figured out what. But I feel like there's some free space upstairs." "You're fine." ''Hell, I might've been crazy before that. Back at K-Mart? I mean, I was lyin' on my back in the K-Mart parking lot, can't move a damn muscle, and I'm looking up at you standing above me, but you know what I was thinkin' 'bout?" "What?" "The parkin' lot was cool. I thought it'd be hot from the sun and all, but I'm lyin' there and my back was cool. Felt kinda nice. So then I ask myself, 'You know what this town's missin'?" "Nearly everything." "No, no . . . it's missin' a deli. Like you got up at school. This town needs one of them little guys with the fat fingers makin' those huge sandwiches and stuff. We got too much microwave food and whatever." "On your back in the K-Mart parking lot and you're thinking about a deli?" "Yeah. I mean, I was thinkin' 'bout other stuff too, but mostly I was thinkin' 'bout gettin' a deli in this town. Wouldn't it be nice?" "Mom was right." "Ya see? I knew you thought that. Knew it." Drifting again. Get the man off the course. There were no more individual clouds Just one dark mass that stretched from horizon to horizorhJEverything was bathed in a bluish technicolor glow. Trees pulsed as they swayed whenever sky was the only background. Dad was practicing with a five iron about 150 yards short of the green. To his right were a few "smilies." Smilies were Dad's practice golf balls. He'd walk in the ruffs along the edge of the course looking for balls lost by other golfers. If the ball had been hit with a particularly nasty slice, the covering would crack along a crescent path, revealing the dark interior of the ball... hence, "smilie."


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The first drops of rain fell as I heard Dad announcing his next shot. I stopped walking and stood a few feet behind him. "Jon Dodgen, on the approach to nine. This shot could put him in dandy position to clean up our $2,000,000 first prize. And the shot... a beauty! Flyin' straight... and, it's on the green. He's got the roll, slowin' down just inches from the cup. Ohh! Outstanding shot, just outstanding." In truth, the ball had hooked in a crazy arc, landing about 75 yards left of the green in our neighbors' flower garden. But in truth, that didn't matter to Dad. "Dad? It's gonna rain any sec—" "Shhhhh!" He stayed in character. "Quiet in the gallery, please." A small flash of lightning in the southern sky outlined the finger pressed to his lips. Thunder rumbled threateningly and he looked upward, holding the pose. "Shhhhhh, only two left." A smilie was lined up as more drops fell. Looking behind us, I saw the front line of showers at the t£e. It was a thick, heavy rain that forced a steam from the ground as it fell. "Hit the damn ball, Dad." I mumbled to myself over and over. He was taking forever to get set. "If we run . . . run real fast, we might just make the house before—" "Gonna land this one two feet from the hole." "Hit the damn ball, Dad." He chuckled, turned around, and swung. The shot was low, nearly skimming the ground before lifting. It headed for the lake, which was short and left of the hole. "Watch, watch the way it lands." It bounced off the water four times before disappearing into the bullrushes. Dad stepped back, smiling. "You see that? You watch the way it just kinda graced the water, real gentle. Ail in the wrists. Just like I been tellin' ya." I grabbed his arm as a gust of wind lyVus head on. The last smilie rolled and settled near my ioot.^ "We're going inside, Dad." He stopped dead in his tracks and looked up into the rain. His hand held out the five iron to me. "Take the last shot, Bobby." "C'mon, Dad. We'll beat the rain if we run." "Bobby. We're not gonna beat the rain. Take the last shot." He wasn't moving and I couldn't leave without him. I took the club and looked toward the hole. Rising steam obscured every-


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thing but the flag, which poked out like a periscope. The storm surrounded us, behind and ahead, quickly closing in as it launched into full swing. "I'm getting wet, Dad." "Big deal. You've gotten wet before." He kicked the last smilie in front of me and I lined it up. I looked up to check the hole again just as the front line of showers overtook us. It was a waterfall. The rain fell heavy and straight, except when the wind kicked in. Then it fell heavy and at an angle. Constant blinking kept water out of my eyes. If I had some soap it could have been shower time. That's when a strange thought occurred to me. "I wanna hit this stupid ball a mile." I mumbled that to myself a few times and enjoyed the ring of it. "Hit this stupid ball a mile!" Yes. It sat down there, leering up at me. Daring me. It deserved to be hit a mile. I was obsessed with that thought. I didn't care about the rain, or the wind, or the squashing sound my sneakers made. I just wanted to hit that stupid ball a mile. I gained focus, my life had purpose. If I'm going to get drenched, I might as well get some satisfaction out of it, right? I smirked, lined up the ball again, and concentrated on the smilie. Feet positioned, lips stretched tightly across my teeth, water blinked from my eyes, I raised the club above my head and began to scream. "AhhhHHHHHHHH!" Dad was keeping score. His head was down. His hands, holding a score card and one of those dwarf golf pencils, scribbled out some numbers. He was keeping score. This man has never played anything except the hole behind our house, and he decides that a small hurricane is the right time to start playing by the r u l e s . / I lost it. Mid-scream, mid-swin^Uostit. Standing there, hands in the air, watching him carry tens, I started giggling. Concentration vanished. The score card was quickly turning into a soft mush, curling around his fingers. He looked up, puzzled by this circumstance. I found the whole mess too funny, and with thunder crashing above, I crumpled into a heap on the fairway. It was so loud all around I couldn't hear myself laughing. Dad's smiling face loomed into view, blocking the rain. "What's the matter?" he sputtered. Water flew from his lips. Happy on my back. Laying in a cool puddld of water, I closed my


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eyes to any raging storm and floated. I didn't want to move, but Dad picked me up, slapping my back. "C'mon, Bobby. Get off your ass. Stand up." I wiped my eyes and tried to find the hole, but that didn't really matter. Dad handed me the club, I lined up the shot, then swung for all I was worth. The ball jumped off the club, pulling along the path of my hook. Rising, it defied the rain's weight and moved towards the lake. Dad and I watched in reverence. It peaked, hung for a second, indecisive, then dropped quickly, disappearing into the storm long before hitting the ground. "Did you see it?" Words sputtered off my lips. "Amazin'," he answered. "Landed like a foot from the hole." "Bullshit." "Bullshit?" "It was in the damn hole. Amazin' shot." "Really?" I looked, trying to find the flag. "Surrrre. All in the wrists, just like I told ya." He walked past me, taking the five iron from my hands. *'In the hole. Really?" "Really." He turned around, nodding to me, then continued walking. "Dad? Dad, wait a second. You got any more smilies? Dad?" He paid no attention to my calling. There was a chance he didn't hear me. More likely, he was ignoring me, I put my head down into the wind and rain and followed him home. I wasn't going to yell again.


T h e Francesca

Box Lia Block

Llicia lay on the bed in the dark, touching her ribs, hipbones, thighs. Although she was wrapped in blankets, she felt cold. The room she shared with Peter was really a sun porch. All summer they had looked out at the plum tree, and honeysuckle and felt the sun through the glass. But now it was December and raining. The tree in the yard was a skeleton. Alicia's stomach made noises like a cat as she curled up under the blankets. She did not shut her eyes because she was avoiding the image—the naked body, all bones and whiteness crouched in a marble box. But she could not escape the voice in her head as easily. I will not eat cakes or cookies or food. I will be thin, thin pure. I will be pure and empty like glass. That morning, the psychiatrist had asked, "Why are you starving yourself?" and she had known all the right answers. Escaping the responsibilities of growing up, having control over something at least, being beautiful^ perfect for once, making people pay attention, love her. She smiled to herself that she could know all this and still skip dinner, still jog five miles in the rain. She had not told the psychiatrist about Peter. a ftiring her first months at the university, her first year away from home, she had wandered on, the campus looking into the faces of the men. Then, at a party, she had seen Peter wearing a white shirt and drinking gin. He walked her to the.dornrand the air smelled rich and sooty after the rain. "My writing frustrates me," he said. "I want it to change things." When he kissed her goodnight and held her for a moment, she was surprised at how cool his skin felt, except for the heat in the hollow of his back. The memory of that heat through his thin shirt stayed in her palms all night. She said his name out loud in the dark.


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A few nights later, they went to an Italian cafe with sawdust floors and steamy windows. They drank white wine from a glass decanter. "I don't think violence is ever justified," Peter said. She wanted to ask him what he would do if someone threatened his freedom, harmed what he loved. Sometimes anger filled her, a desire to strike out physically. But she just said, "Never?" She thought he heard the implications in that one word. "I know. I know. Maybe," he said. He bit his lip. It was full and soft in contrast to his narrow face. Alicia felt her thighs weaken as she imagined his kissing her. That night in bed, the heat she had discovered in his back pulsed through her whole body. She looked into his eyes and saw herself—a tiny doll imprisoned in his irises. After that, they were inseparable, always holding hands. They felt as if nothing else, no one else mattered. Most weekends they would go to the cafe and drink and pretend to be different people. "What do you think of the way Vermeer used light?" she asked. She was playing an older-woman artist. "You'll have to take me to some museums," he said. He was being the young man on the road. "But I did see a show of—I think his name was—Hopper once. And I like his light. It was kind of lonely or something." Or: "The world's a mess, it's in my kiss,' like John and Exene say," he mumbled. They were being punks on acid. "Fuck yes. You know, you look a little like Johnny," she said. "Let's go to Mexico, shave our heads, get drugs, wear beads and silver." Once, he pretended to be a professor teaching her about William Carlos Williams. "The eroticism is very subtle here." ^ No matter what roles they playedjlit the end of the night they merged in the bed. They even began to look alike. "If I were a boy I'd be you," Alicia said. "You'd be wilder," he said. She cut her hair and wore his shirts. The shirts smelled musky, like sweat and like soap, like him or like them, she wasn't sure. Sometimes she put eyeliner on him and he looked prettier than she did. Then she gained a few pounds from all the Sunday croissants, the Kahlua and milks they drank in the candlelit bathtub


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and from the birth control pills she had started to take. She dug her nails into unfamiliar flesh—the breasts, the hips. Peter stayed so thin. Once, near the end of the semester, she broke an empty gin bottle—threw it to the floor and felt it shatter as if it were a part of her, as if the bones in her wrist were glass splintering. Peter held her, hunching his shoulders to shield her, and she choked on her tears, squeezing her belly, disgusted by the few extra pounds that had settled there. They moved in together a few weeks after that. It was June. They shared the tiny glass cube at the end of the house, filling it with the things that had collected—Velvet Underground, Chopin, X and T. Rex records, books of Frank O'Hara, John Donne and Emily Dickinson, posters of Klimt and Picasso's Blue Period, a wine bottle filled with dried flowers, a plastic dove from the bins of a five-and-dime store. Alicia went off the pill and started to lose weight. While Peter was at work, she lay in the garden sun, letting the warmth burn into her. She waited for Peter to come home; there was no one else she thought of spending time with, On weekends, they took drives to the country, jogged in the hills, went to museums, read poetry in cafes, took photographs of each other. There was a slowness about them. They didn't stay up late anymore, drinking wine, talking intently, making love all night. When school began in the fall, Alicia noticed the change but she didn't know why it was happening. Peter seemed preoccupied, distant, staring into his coffee or his book. After they made love, they slept apart. The single bed seemed too small for the first time. Alicia would turn away and fill her lungs with coolair. Peter ground his teeth in his sleep. WTien they went out, Alicia noticed all the women, wishing she was tall like that, blonde like that: Her eyes darted from the women to Peter. ^—~She was not getting her period so she went to the doctor for a pregnancy test. "You're not pregnant," the doctor said. "Have you been eating?" She told Peter that night. "I think I'm really sick." He didn't say anything, but looked at her with glazed eyes. She wanted him to take her out to dinner and order brown rice and vegetables and white wine. They were silent.


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That night they lay in the darkness in the bed and she shivered, her stomach growled. "Peter," she whispered. He sighed. "What's wrong?" "I can't sleep. I feel weak." "You should eat something then," he said. He turned over in the bed and fell asleep. Alicia curled up, her head under the covers, wondering what it was she wanted from him. She heard him grinding his teeth in his sleep. N ofow, Alicia heard Peter hesitating outside of their door before he came in. He put on the light. The rain had darkened his hair, pressed it against his skull, and his eyelashes were starred with wet. He held roses in his nervous hands. Alicia hated the roses. She hated the pink wet roses he was holding. They reminded her of the morning she woke up to a quilt covered with flowers he had stolen from the neighborhood. They reminded her of his wounded-looking mouth as he read his poems. Peter handed her the roses and took off his jacket. The water had gone through to his shirt so that it stuck to his thin shoulders and chest. He was the same white as his shirt. "Thank youfor the flowers, Peter," Alicia said in the voice she knew he hated. She sounded perfectly controlled. She put the roses down beside her, trying to keep in mind exactly what she was going to tell him. "I have to talk to you," she said. Peter sat on the narrow bed with her. She could smell the rain that had soaked into him and she could see how blue his eyes were. She^rjeeTnot to think of how she kissed those eyes, how the eyelids trembled when he came. She tried not to think of how he had cried once when they made love, telling her how he needed her. "I'm going home. I dropped out of school today. My mom and dad are coming to ,get me tomorrow. I'm sorry I didn't tell you first but I realized that I've got to get out of here." Peter just .looked at her. Then he bit his lower lip and turned his head away. He made a soft, nervous sound, almost like a laugh. "Well. .. how do you feel? You never say anything anymore."


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Alicia heard her voice getting higher. "Why can't you ever just say what you feel?" Peter breathed hard through his nose. She saw his shoulders heave. After all this time together it was as if she could see the emotion in him—locked between his scapulae and in his sternum. He looked at her, narrowing his eyes, breathing hard. "I love you. I just have to leave. I'm sick." She was almost screaming. "Can't you say anything?" "Just ...let... me." Peter sounded strangled. There was a long silence of rain and breath. Alicia started to sob into her hands. He watched the sobs shaking her narrow torso. The roses were lying next to her on the bed. Some of the rain water had soaked into the quilt. He did not turn around but stood facing the door, his hands forming fists, his shoulders stooped but rigid. Alicia wanted him to hold her, to take care of her. She knew that this was part of what had ruined everything but she wanted it once more anyway. She rubbed her hands along the backs of her thighs to warm them. Then she crossed her arms on her chest and grasped her shoulders. They felt like the skulls of birds. Finally, he turned around. She reached up and he took her hands, warming them in his own. Then he knelt and pressed her hands under his armpits. The heat of his body made her hands ache, then tingle. They did not make love. They had not made love for almost two months. They had hardly touched for a week. But that night they slept close again, Peter's hands solid heat on her sunken abdomen. Alicia dreamed her body all light and shadows in yards of sheer white lace. She was standing beside Peter at the end of a corridor and he turned to her, lifting the veil that hid her face. He leaned to kiss her. She parted red lips, revealing fang-like teeth. The next morning, Peter kissjed-her eyes.-He took the small plastic dove off the shelf arid put it into her hand. Then he left. Alicia lay on the bed waiting for her parents to come for her.


W h y

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Bought Glen

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M , Lae Johnson, age 62, a massive woman, lived a life of quiet desperation, as did most of her neighbors in the boarding house. Her husband, a bartender at the Happi-I, had died slowly after a fall which had broken his hip. He spent the last six months of his life in a hospital bed, his life draining away with his savings. He and Mae were smart about buying medical insurance but it just didn't cover all the expenses and by the time Jim died, most of what he'd intended to retire on was gone. There was enough to pay for a funeral, which Mae attended alone. Then she settled into her new life, spending her mornings sealing enveloped for a big housewares distributor. At noon, she dropped off the envelopes and went marketing. She saved her Green Stamps and redeemed them by mail. She didn't have the energy to work in the afternoons, so she sat in a chair by her window, watching the sun, which just missed her apartment at its height except for a few days a year. Had she lived one floor up, she could have had light all year round. Sometimes she read the catalogues that Green Stamps sent her. Mae and Jim had no children. And since Mae hardly ever socialized with Jim gone, the phone never rang. Mae once filled out a form which would have cancelled her service, but she ended up keeping it because a nice woman named Joan from the telephone company offices called and urged her not to disconnect it. She told Mae about a senior citizen's discount. Mae would qualify in a few years, Joan had said, so shouldn't she just hold onto it for a little while? Mae liked the sound of Joanjs voice. Shejasked if Joan would ever call her again. Joan "said yes. Mae kept the phone. Mae sold Herbalife or, at least, she'd sent away for the membership and had put the sticker which said "LOSE WEIGHT NOW: ASK ME HOW" on her door, but no one had asked her yet. She'd been thinking about getting in touch with Amway, who'd sent her a pamphlet after she'd joined Herbalife, but she couldn't make up her mind. She kept the information from Green Stamps, Herbalife and Amway by her window in a milk crate. It was old and grey and made out of plastic.


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Her apartment was beige, was warm in the winter, was cool in the summer. There was an ironing board which folded into a cupboard on the wall and she had to stand on a chair to plug her iron into an outlet which screwed into the light socket over her kitchen table. Once, while she was in this position, straining to fit the plug into the socket, the phone rang. For a moment, Mae couldn't decide whether to put the plug into the socket or quit and try again later. Hie phone rang again. She brought her arms down slowly and bent over, placing the cord on the ironing board and bracing herself on the arms of her chair. Mae had arthritis but she didn't think it was too bad so she never did anything about it. The phone rang again. Mae eased one leg to the floor and the chair began to tip over so she gingerly raised herself back onto the seat. She crouched down again and lowered her leg once more. She turned slightly and found her balance perfectly so that she could put first one, then the other leg, to the kitchen floor. But the bottom of her dress was caught on the ironing board and when she started walking to the phone, the spring mechanism forced the board up and pulled Mae back against the wall. She hung there for a second. The phone rang again and she feebly reached out towards it with both hands and felt her dress pulling against her armpits and she kicked her legs sensing that the ground was just out of the reach of her toes, embarrassed because her slip was showing. Her dress tore with a loud noise and she landed on her feet and she immediately stumbled to the phone. "Hello? Hello?" "Hi, ma'am. This is Don Bone. What's your favorite radio station?" "Excuse me?" "This is Don Bone. You're on the air. What's your favorite radio station, ma'am?" % -x Mae paused. "I don't understand." Done Bone laughed. "Hah hah. I'm calling randomly throughout the area, asking people what their favorite radio station is." "Well, I'm sorry, but I don't have the radio." "Ohh, that's too bad. If you'd said KYOW, we'd have had a thousand dollars for you. But since you've been such a good sport, we've got a KYOW "Fun-in-the-Sun" t-shirt and a KYOW ashtray for you. Now, what's your favorite station?"


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"Not T. Say 'KYOW.' " "KYOW?" "Thanks a whole lot, ma'am." Mae put the phone down on a table after fifteen seconds. She was frowning at her iron, which had fallen to the floor. Then she frowned at her chair for a while. Then at the piece of her dress which was still caught in her cupboard. There was noise coming from the street, so she frowned at that for just a moment. Then she went to the milk crate and started digging for Green Stamps.


T h e Gregory

Denial A.

Ryan

he street scared Paul. Its traffic weaved wildly, with cars and trucks rearing at green lights like war horses, then buckling to halts at red lights, stomping and snorting, waiting to bolt free again. Paul eyed the street warily as he headed down the sidewalk. Despite the strange new landscape—the grand and squalid park, the fetid gutter, the graffitied border wall—the street held his attention most. He walked 15 blocks before spotting any people. Then at 61st Street, a crowd appeared and blocked his route. With his new job's tight schedule he couldn't afford any delay. He thought of chancing the street, but the mere notion made his throat tight and breathing difficult. He picked up his pace, hoping to sneak around them, certain they'd resent anyone pulling ahead of them. The people in the crowd, well-dressed in business suits, were notoriously vicious. He'd seen clips on the TV news of them attacking people without provocation. He crept closer, tightening his stomach muscles and fisting his hands, ready for someone to grab him. A woman, spying him when only feet away, glared at his maneuvering, and her gaze pushed him into the street. A yellow cab brushed past him, fumes spilled out of its rusted tailpipes and clouded his nostrils. Sweat dampened Paul's suit, and he covered his face with his hands, then hugged the curb. Careful not to near the pack, his eyes darting back and forth, Paul inched by them. But cars and buses in the cross-street stopped him from getting to the other side. As he waited, the crowds' anger elbowed his back, nudged him into the busy avenue. Hferesistedby digging his heels into the pavement, softirom'the August heat. Finally, the street cleared and Paul scrambled across. He relaxed a few blocks later. Trees formed a leafy canopy, permitting patches of sunlight to hit the walk. Paul, glancing at his watch, saw he was only seconds behind schedule. He hurried up and tried not to be distracted by the surroundings. Yet a black man curled up on a bench caught his eye. The man was shirtless, and tufts of hair sprouted from his chest and stomach. He wore khaki trousers and dusty black shoes. The whites of his eyes had


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yellowed, and his lips were glazed with a chalky film. Drawing nearer, Paul heard him mumbling, his lips moving slowly, deliberately. "Kaminsky," the man uttered. Paul stopped. The black man had said his name. Why? No, no, thought Paul, there are many Kaminskys. Paul tried turning away, but couldn't move his feet. "Hah!" the man said. "You're stuck, and they're coming. There's nothing you can do about it." His voice was clear and rich. Paul didn't reply. He tried again to break away, but couldn't. Paul focused on the man. "What's wrong? What have you done to me?" "Nothing," he answered. "You're filth. You deserve to be trampled. So do they, of course." Confused, Paul looked around for some way out. "I'm here." The black man waved. "Pay attention to me." Paul tightened his jaw muscles. This is absurd, he thoright. I've got things to do. And that ugly crowd will be here shortly. "I'm off,'- he shouted. Yet again he couldn't budge his legs. "Will you wake up please?" the man insisted. Paul's eyes opened wide. "Ridiculous. Let me go." "I'm not holding you." Paul believed the man was lying, but was powerless to fight him. "OK. What do you want?" "Just a chat." Paul shivered. "Sure. Whatever." They eyed each other. In the background, Paul heard doormen whistling for cabs, engines grinding and roaring. "Well?" Paul asked. "Well what?" "What do you want?" Paul insisted. "You're holding me here for no reason and I have to be aVmydesk in 20 minutes. I've a pile of paper work." The black man rubbed his chin. "You're right. I'm being a tease. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Kelly Smith. I'm on my way up to Maine, where I've family and a job. I didn't have much money when I left the South, so I'm hitch-hiking." Paul looked Kelly up and down. He had a muscular physique, despite weariness in his face. Paul wondered if his story were true. "Where's your luggage?" "Lost it," Kelly answered, smiling.


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"Not even a back-pack. I don't believe you, and I'm not afraid to say so." "You certainly are not," Kelly replied, still grinning. He had clean, white teeth. "Now, what do you want? What do you really want?" "Have you forgotten?" "Forgotten what?" "The crowd. They'll be here any minute." Paul went to leap at the man, but found he was still paralyzed. His eye twitched out of anger and fear. "Of course I haven't forgotten, you bastard. I'm frightened to death of them. They'll rip me apart, I'm sure of it." "Well, that's intelligent. You're certainly right there. They'll kill you." "Yes! Now, please, please let me go. Just tell me what you want." The black put up his hand. "OK, OK. To the crux of the matter. This is what I want—all the money in your wallet." "What? Is that all?" He put his hand up to his chin and debated. "I thought it was something dramatic, like my first baby daughter. I . . . I don't know . . . ah . . . No." "Oh c'mon. You just told me you're frightened to death of what they'll do. You're willing to sacrifice your life for the money in your wallet?" "I know. But you're not getting my money. Look, they're almost here. Let me go!" "How much can you have on you? $20? $50? I could really use it. And you can earn it back just like that." Kelly snapped his fingers. "With your job and all." "It's the principle of the thing. That's why you won't get my money." "Well, you're certainly a man of principle. That's why you can't move from this spot. You have a-conscience. And all men of conscience are also men of principle." "Look! They're coming. Let me go." "But I'm not holding you." "Oh God. It's too late. They're here. They're here." Paul felt the pack before he saw them. The sidewalk shook, the air grew heated and tense. Shocks of blond hair, red hair, brown hair passed him. Three of them knocked Kelly off his bench. Paul was afraid that he, too, would be shoved t o the ground and


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trampled, that they'd pummel him with their heels. From the corner of his eye, though, he could see them crushing the black .man, kicking him in the face, one after another, not letting him move. Paul pitied Kelly at that moment, but was afraid to help him. Then they stopped. Kelly lay there, bloodied, dead. The crowd started moving again, and Paul found himself walking with them. "They're not going to hurt me," he thought. "They're not dangerous. No, not dangerous at all." Paul suddenly felt safe with them, knew that he belonged with them. It was foolish to have resisted for so long.


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Aunt Doris

Amelia Lynch

he photo in the hall reminded me. Not that I needed much reminding. Somewhere under that preposterous hat, Aunt Amelia's eyes glowed like tiger eyes. Everyone said Aunt Amelia had a thing about her eyes. Mama said she was self-conscious on account of the color. Other relatives, not so kind, said her eyes had yellowed from all those drugs she'd done in college. Her friends know it was the pills they gave her when she went crazy that turned her beautiful eyes inside out. All I know is that Aunt Amelia didn't like you zooming in close to her face, especially us kids. I guess it's cause some of us had a way of blurting things out, like Buddy for instance, who in the middle of a Fourth of July shouted, "Auntie, where'd you get them tiger eyes?" I had a way with Aunt Amelia. Everybody said so. Like I understood her or something. That's cause I knew she was made of glass inside, just like that porcelain dolly she once gave me. I knew if you said the wrong thing, she'd splinter into tiny glass slivers. Mama says I understood Amelia more than any one else, even more than Mama herself. And that's saying a lot, cause Mama tried real hard with Aunt Amelia. And I know that's true. I remember the night they snuck me in to see Melly. Mama and Dad. They had asked the nurse and she said I was too young. Imagine, big sister to seven kids and too young. Mama said that! But rules is rules and mental hospitals is mental hospitals. The nurse said that. So I had to wear heels, imagine! My mama's. She was as surprised as I that they fit. And an old lady's coat with a scarf on my head and Mama saidjtowalk funny like I had a hump on my back and a pain -up friy middle. It was silly; nobody even looked twice. A good thing too. Tripping up that cobblestone walk, wearing heels for the first time, my back bent over like I was carrying a jug. And the hospital, that was something else! One of them places where people walked around half-naked not caring if their privates showed. Not like regular hospitals where they keep themselves wrapped up nice and neat in terrycloth robes while they play checkers in bed. It shook me to see Amelia out there on the lawn looking all hrittle and shaking like a leaf. And those


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others walking around making eyes and moving mouths with no words coming out just like they was in old movies without sound. That night I pretended to be asleep coming home cause I realized for the first time that Amelia was crazy just like the rest of them. Our closeness goes way back. Mama says it's cause Melia stayed with us when I was a newborn. Half the time Mama would wake in the middle of the night, milk seeping over her gown, and she'd come out to find me on the porch curled up and snuggly in Amelia's arms. Arnelia would sing to me while the street cleaners went by clanging in the night. I'd forget to get hungry with Amelia singing to me on the porch. Mama said I never knew such contentment, not even with her. Sometimes Melia had her bad periods. That's when she'd stop coming over. Mama said she went to Friend's then. You know, that hospital I was telling you about. With the big metal gates up on the Boulevard. They had lots of trees and the nicest forest walks: Amelia thought it was just like being in the country, she called it her summer estate. They even hired a naturalist, who led the walks through those beautiful woods. She described it to me as though I'd never been there and it's true I never saw the place the way she described it. She told me the people there were mighty peculiar; the kind that'd scare most kids but not me. She was wrong. Every night I'd look at Buddy and Dad and see exactly how they'd look crazy. Not a pretty sight I tell you. Sometimes the thought of it made the mashed potatoes get stuck in my throat and I'd get one of my coughing spells as Mama called them. When Amelia was at Friend's, she'd call me everyday and describe all the strange goings on. Mama used to say my ear was growing long as an elephant's from being on the phone so much. But she didn't really mind. She thought I was doing Amelia a big favor just talking to her. She was-wjcorig; it was mostly the other way around. I'd wait all night for that ring and if she didn't call there'd be a sadness inside just like somebody was dying. Sometimes Mama told me stories of what Amelia was like as a teenager. She'd never tell the other kids cause she was afraid of giving them ideas. Me, I had too much sense. Once she saw Melia hanging but of one of those fancy apartment houses on the Parkway. She was hanging out by one hand and Mama knew it was Amelia because her beautiful blue sari was blowing in the wind and mother knew no Indian girl would do anything so publicly dangerous. Aunt Amelia had a flair for dressing even then. Mama


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always accompanied Amelia on her rounds as she called them, Amelia in her colorful costumes. When paper dresses were popular Amelia bought a dozen. At a certain time during a party, Amelia would take a match, start singing happy birthday and in one mad movement rip the dress off, as she lit it up. It was really quite dramatic, according to Mama. The first few times Amelia did this she had the sense to do it out by the pool. Later she forgot even that simpie^a precaution and once burnt herself real bad on the leg. The police came, but by the time they got there Mama had calmed everyone down and convinced them it was an accident. I think it was right after this Mama talked grandfather into Amelia's first hospitalization. By the time I knew Aunt Amelia she had given up collecting saris for draping sunhats. Even in Philly in January, she had the most incredible hats. She had Gramps take her to Hollywood once to one of them auctions where they sold the best from the stars. She had him buy her fifteen or twenty hats from the thirties and forties. The prices were outrageous. But in those days Gramps did anything to keep Amelia happy and away from the hospital. He actually dreamed that she might become a fashion model. Imagine, with Amelia's thing against lights. I remember when I was seven or eight she used to drive by the house and offer to take us kids for a ride to the Dairy Queen. Of course we'd howl and scream to go but Mama'd never let us. She'd tell me later that Amelia might have a relapse or something and go crashing off the Expressway into the Schuykill. Of course I wasn't willing to risk that, not even for a chocolate sundae. Anyhow just about then, the .Good Humor man would come and Mama- would start handing out quarters all oyer the place. She'd never tell Amelia directly why we couldn't go but say instead, "You'll have them getting too much air." As though air on a muggy July night could ever be a bad thing. She always said it the same way, "You'll have them^getting too much air." Instead, we were allowed to go walking with Amelia and then only-while it was still light. Darkness was depressing, Mama read once and she couldn't risk taking a chance* on Amelia's reaction to coming night. Ted, my brother's friend, was always enamored with Amelia's wrists, tiny as rings, veins blue as the Atlantic. Once he saw the inside of them and cried out at the jagged slash lines that marred her pretty skin. I remember finding him later that night sniffling under the honeysuckle out back by the gate, "Why did she have to


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do that? Why the hell did she have to do that? Buddy had told him what those lines meant. He stopped loving her then and became scared of her like she was a witch or something. I remember seeing him flinch when she touched him once walking past. What I remember most about Aunt Amelia was the day she took me across the Manyunk Bridge. You know the one you drive across on the way to the Zoo. The one with old trolley lines on the inside that make your car go slippery-slide when it's raining. It was summer and twilight and she wanted to show me her favorite place, a special fountain in Fairmount Park. We left right after dinner; Mama would let only me go. We were supposed to take the bus from Germantown which we did all right but when we got to the bridge, Melia suddenly jumped out, me trailing behind her. I knew Mother would never approve of us walking across the bridge and to tell you the truth I was scared of it. I kept imagining how the river must look looming up at you if you happened to fall off. To take my mind off such things I yelled to Amelia, "Why'd ya do that?" "Would YOU want to be on that bus when it fell off the bridge?" This didn't do much for the goosebumps on my tummy's walls. "Nothing's falling, Meily," I said, "Look, it got to the other side." "That's cause we weren't on it," she said. "See that scull down there. Lucky for those rowers we jumped off when we did otherwise they'd a been crushed to death for sure." I didn't tell Melia then that that bridge was the Only thing in the whole world—other than her hospital—that I was scared of, especially of Walking across. There were huge girders that crisscrossed and every time a car rode over the trolley tracks there'd be this horrible rubbing noise. I took to holding my stomach and walking straight ahead. I couldn**letj)rito Melia that I was scared. We walked into the setting sun. I couldn't help looking beneath us, seeing a bright red swathe on the water which looked like a swab of blood. The World was a riot of red. There was Amelia walking determinedly forth in her green and white polka-dotted dress and her big straw hat with its cranberry sash. That was exactly when my courage failed me, when that hat lifted on a spot of wind and took off over the girders, sailing out to the furthest edge of the bridge, the last girder jutting over the water. There it


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caught right at the very edge, trapped between two narrow green bands of steel. "MY HAT!" she screamed. "I can't lose that hat. It belonged to Greta Garbo." I tried to talk sense to her then, saying Granddad would buy her another. "There isn't another," she said. "That was the very last one." Wouldn't you know it, the bridge was all quiet then. No cars going by on our side and the other side hidden by those huge arches. It made me sick to see Amelia lift herself over the guard rail. "I'll go," I said. "No," she said. "It's my hat." Then something happened; she started sliding, letting her hands go. Right under her there was nothing, nothing but water just staring. I grabbed her with all my thirteen-year-old strength. She helped then and the two of us managed to get her back up. We sat for a long time, the hot summer wind blowing in our hair. Then she started this awful crying, big tears, no sound. Just like those old movies again. Finally I said, "I'll go." Funny she let me. I remember my heart thumping louder than anything. I tried riot to look down or over or at anything but that net of straw flapping in the wind. The rowers floated underneath and the coxswain must have caught sight of me then cause I heard someone calling from far off. I thought it was Amelia so I looked back, but no, there she was sitting quietly on the rail of the bridge. I faltered once, feeling how bad the water would hurt, slapping against my middle, crushing the air out of me, but instinctively I swung my arm out and caught myself. I grabbed the hat, wrapped its band around my wrist and started back. Amelia came then, dizzily dancing over the girders and all of a sudden there were cars stopping everywhere and a policeman pulling her in. For some reason they all stood and watched me walk in on my own. I don't remember anything after that, not the bawling out the cop gave us (that Amelia mentioned later), nor the ride back to Granddad's. Amelia wasn't abput-to let the cops talk to Mama. Instead she had them telling Bridget^ her Daddy's housekeeper, who Amelia had wrapped around her little finger so the story went no further. And I'm ashamed to a'dmit that even now, six months after Amelia's death, I haven't told Mama that I was there for the rehearsal, watching that straw hat blowing in the wind.


A

N a r r o w Bill

Gate

Chais

„ t first, he was surprised to hear the phone ring. It had been well over a week since he had gotten his final notice from the phone company, filled with veiled threats of "further action." He trudged slowly over to the phone and put his hand on the receiver. "Mom or Dad . . . Dean's office . . . maybe it's Jill from French class . . . " With this incredible longshot in mind, Forrest Simon picked up his telephone. "Forrest?" "Hello, Dad?" He didn't need to use the same mental process to figure out his father's motive in calling. "Look, Dad, I'm cooking something right now. I think it's burning. I'll call you back in a few minutes. Where are you, at the office?" "Goddamnit, Forrest, you don't even have an oven. You know damned well why I'm calling. Your mother's so upset, she won't even leave the house. She lies in the goddamned bed all day. Because of you, she forgot to turn on the air filter for the tank—$750 of dead tropical fish floating at the top of the bowl." "I did mean to tell you, Dad," he ventured, somewhat cautiously. He knew that whatever he said, his father would jump all over. But remaining silent would be far worse. "Enough. E-fucking-nough. You've lied to us enough already." His father was always saying things like "E-fucking-nough." It was a source of mild embarrassment to Forrest. "By the way, hotshot," his father ""continued, "just out of curiosity, where did you get those official-looking report cards you sent me and your mother every couple of months?" There was no longer any point in lying. After the Dean's secretary gave Forrest the letter of expulsion, he had invented a long series of face-saving lies for his father, but now, the truth just seemed easier. Forrest knew that after a couple of weeks of boring and repetitive lectures, he* would be offered a johwith a minimum of responsibility at his father's plant in Los Angeles.


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His father had made a sizeable fortune developing a particularly cheap and vile-tasting brand of T.V. dinners. "I paid a fellow in the computer sciences college to type up the report cards." He couldn't help adding, "It was pretty expensive. I had to use the money you sent me for violin lessons." "So I guess you're not in the college orchestra either. Do you even know how to play the goddamned thing?" "No, Dad," Forrest replied, trying to sound ashamed for his father's benefit. He had stopped listening. He followed the trek of a roach as it scurried across the grimy floor. Interestingly, it did not seem to have any destination in mind. Whenever it reached the wall, or the leg of a table, it would tentatively check the object with its feelers, and then languidly turn around and start in another direction. "You can't be like your sister, Ruth? With a lovely job teaching elementary school, and in Florida. She gives us grandchildren. And you?" Forrest had heard all this before, and was certain it wouldn't be the last time his father would throw his sister up as an example. He put his thumb on one side of his nose, his first finger on the other, and squeezed his nasal cavity shut. "Excuse me, this is the operator," he said in his most officious voice, "I have an emergency breakthrough for area code (213) 550-1100 from Jerry Allenbaum. Do you wish to release the line?" Jerry Allenbaum was Forrest's father's business partner. "Yeah, yeah, I'll take it. Get your ass home. I've booked a ten o'clock flight from Oakland tonight. Be on it." orrest had always mildly enjoyed airplane flights. They gave him the illusion, if only for a short time, that he was nowhere at all. He thought of how pleasant life^rfight be making endless trips around the world, never landing for longer than it took to refuel, the monotony broken only by an occasional passing cloud, or an inoffensive meal. The stewardesses, with their sexless uniforms and bored pleasantries, never posed any threat. From time to time, he would be seated next to someone who would construe physical proximity as an excuse for banal, irritating conversation. But usually, he was left alone. Now, as he settled into his hideously upholstered chair, and the last passengers begari to shuffle towards theirs, Forrest saw that he would sitting with one of two people. He hoped it would "be the corpulent


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Oriental^ businessman, and not the painfully ugly, wild-haired young man in the green saffron robe. - "Hey, brother, looks like we'll be riding together." With his first wish denied him, now all that Forrest could hope for was that the man would not try to engage him in conversation. "Do you like my robe, brother?" Forrest was 0 for 2. "It's very nice," answered Forrest, picking up the in-flight magazine and putting it in front of his face. "I made it myself," he boasted, undaunted by Forrest's attempt to squelch the conversation. "I also built my home, a tent up in the hills. No indoor heating, no running water for me. Why, I haven't bathed in over two months!" Now he was becoming more animated. "You know, brother, I used to bask in what everyone calls life's pleasures.' I drank, I fornicated, I sinned and sinned—and just before it was too late, do you know, can you guess, what I found?" "Christ almighty, mister," Forrest muttered under his breath, a favorite expression of disgust of his father's. "You're absolutely right, brother!" he cried, throwing a filthy arm around Forrest's shoulder. "He told us, he told us all in the Bible. Right on top of the Mount he said, 'Enter by the narrow gate, since the road to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it, but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and few find it.' Nothing personal, brother, but you look like you're on the wide road." "Excuse me, please, I'll be back," Forrest interjected when the rabid man' had paused for a breath. He went into the bathroom— he had always found airplane bathrooms claustrophobic, but now it seemed like the Taj'Mahal after the pock-marked, foul-smelling Jesus-freak outside. What was that he meant about the wide road, anyhow? Forrest felt a sense of disquiet at the lunatic's accusation. He would have been content to remain there for the fifty-minute flight, but after about fifteen minutes, a stewardess knocked on the door and told him to go back to his seat. * elcome home, my loving son, the college flunk-out." "Hello, Dad. Where's Mom, parking the Car?" "Because of you, your mother' had to run off to some twohundred -dollar-a-day hot springs rip-off resort in the desert. Said if she didn't go, she'd have a nervous breakdown. Christ, what a pain in the ass." w


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"Yeah, I guess she is, Dad," Forrest replied, trying to be as agreeable as possible. "What? How dare you call your mother a pain in the ass? She's not the shithead who got thrown out of school." Forrest turned his attention to the luggage being whirled slowly around and around on the conveyor belt. As he expected, his father soon brought up the future. "You know what?" he said one night at dinner. "You're goddamned lucky to have me for a father. You know why? Hey, I said, 'You know why?'" "Why, Dad?" answered Forrest with feigned interest. "Because I got you a job, that's why. You start day after tomorrow. And don't think that because you're the boss's son you won't have to work your ass off." "What will I be doing, Dad?" "As if you give a shit. I'm putting you in charge of dessert production. You have to make sure every tray's got a square of frozen apple cobbler on it. I could probably train a goddamned gorilla to do it—think you could manage to do that and not drive my business into the ground?" his father asked, enjoying himself. "1*11 do my best, Dad. I won't let you down," Forrest replied, trying to inject choked determination into his voice. Maurice Jackson had been with the Special Treat Food Company for eleven years. He hated the place, wept at night over the way in which he was forced to be obsequious to the snide, entirely white management. But he also had a family, and nowhere else to go. He had given the company what he called "the best years of his life." In addition, he had given them three of his fingers. One day, while n e was still working on the line, he bad been careless with the electric slicer. He had looked dowrfand seen the third, fourth, and fifth fingers of hisright^ndneatly sheared off. They lay on top of the frozen peas. Just before he passed out, he marvelled at how, on the aluminum tray, they resembled the company's frozen sausage. He thought had he been working there instead of on the frozen turkey line, he would have lej: them go on to be sold. Then he fainted. But he had been back at work two days later, and it was then that he got his first promotion. Now, he was the head of dessert production. No more, "Yes suh, Mister Gold," "No suh, Mister Donatelli." He had people under him now, and the apple cobbler production had been running smoothly. So when the plant fore-


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man told him that Mr. Simon wanted to see him, Jackson assumed that he was about to be promoted for the third time in two years. "Maybe Simon isn't so bad," he muttered as he walked past the secretary to Simon's door. "Is that you, Jackson?" "Yes, sir, Mr. Simon," he answered in the voice that made the bile rise in his throat. "Come in, Jackson. I want you to meet my son, Forrest." The two shook hands, Jackson with his left hand. It was an awkward shake; for a moment it appeared that the two were holding hands. They both withdrew quickly. "Jackson here's one of our best... hey, I'm talking to you... one of our best men. I want you to listen closely to everything he teaches you. Uh, Jackson, my son here will be replacing you in desserts." Jackson began to suspect that perhaps it was not a promotion that was planned for him. "And where am I going?" "I'm afraid I'm sending you back to the line." Needless to say, this was all making Forrest uncomfortable. He looked up at the black worker, who was staring at his father with eyes red-rimmed with anger and humiliation. "I'd be mad, too, if someone like me were taking over his job. Jesus Christ," he thought, "I don't even want this job." But he kept quiet, knowing what the inevitable follow-up question would be: "What do you want?" This was a puzzling question indeed. From an objective standpoint, life had been pretty miserable for him up until now, and the future only promised worse. What most worried him about all of this was that it truly didn't worry him. There was no huge, horrible knot of pain torturing him, no childhood trauma plaguing his subconscious, of this he wa>certain. He-was-always alone, but loneliness was a concept utterly foreign to him. He felt completely deadened, entirely emotionless. With no burning desire tp leave any sort of mark on the world, he only had one true goal—to be able to remain on an even keel, to be entirely numb. Forrest was awakened from this reverie by a terrified shriek. He looked up to see his father being held, perhaps eight feet off the ground, by the righteously indignant worker, who had one fist firmly clutching his father's crotch, his mangled hand squeezing his father's neck. Then, for a moment, it appeared as though Forrest's father had called upon some unearthly powers, because


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he was sailing across the room with his arms outstretched like some children's comic book hero. The illusion was brief, indeed, as he^smacked into a file cabinet, and fell in a pin-striped heap to the floor. The worker looked at Forrest for a moment, searching his face for a reaction. When he saw none, he walked out of the office, past the thundering assembly line, and out onto the street.

1*.


ike ed, p to ing the eet.

Rural Elizabeth

Parts Brundage

w < e're on the Uptown Express and Sam's telling me he wants to call it quits. All I want to do is sock him, but I know he'll sock me back. You don't start smacking someone on the train to Harlem, no matter what color you are. My hands tense up like they always do when I'm nervous, and I shove them flat between my thighs. I knew this was coming. Could've marked it down on my calendar. The black windows ignite with color as we flash past subway stations. A girl in emerald green leans at 34th street. A kid with an eye patch at Times Square. An old woman waving daffodils at 72nd. And then this sunlight fills my head. I'm back in Massachusetts in the house where we first met. I'm in the room where we'd do it. I'm smelling warm beer and sweat. I'm looking out the window and it's so white I have to squint. Outside the lettuce and cabbage wheeze in the June heat. There's the bright red barn on the hill. There's that Boozy mist flooding the field. It was an old house, painted a fierce pineapple yellow. The front yard was cluttered with scraps of rusted metal and car parts and busted tires. There were window boxes "with geraniums and snapdragons always blurry in the heat, and a city of bird nests above the porch lights. Inside, wooden floors scuffed with the soles of a thousand feet. And it smelled good inside, like pumpkins, bananas, or Maxine's blackberry pie. The day Sam drove up I was sitting on the lawn shucking corn. One of Maxine's pies was in the oven arid you could smell it outside. It was just about sunset and the pine trees across the street were turning copper and the sj&yhehirid them watermelon pink. He haulecthis stuff outof the old, red van and started towards me. Sam's a big guy, about six three, with good big bones and long legs and river blue eyes that'll slash you apart if you're willing. He walked up; taking his time, looked me over and said, "Corn. Good, I like corn." Then he walked inside. See, Maxine and I were pretty good friends up until Sam moved in. She was a big girl, with floppy breasts and steel-wool hair


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about the length of a fancy lawn. The Gauguin type. Fleshy and Mediterranean with a tepid smile and flashy white teeth. She had a flair for dressing, I'll give her that, lots of classy clothes that you can get in New York City. And big, strong hands like a mother's, stained violet and blue from berries. One thing about Maxine, she knew how to make pie. And I'm not much for pie. When Maxine decided she was gay she found this girl Dutch. I never liked Dutch. She was hurricane ugly with puke yellow hair and a shoe size of thirteen. She should've been a boy. When she started getting fat from all the beer she'd put away, she set up a chin-up bar in the bathroom doorway and wouldn't let anyone in until she'd done fifty-five. No kidding, there'd be a line outside the bathroom every morning. We'd try conning her, but she'd just snap her giant jaws together and hiss, spraying our faces with sweat. Sam's brother, Harry, had the attic room until he got killed in a motorcycle crash. I never knew much about Harry except that he drank plenty and worked at the stables down on Bay Road, about a mile from the house. He was tall and lanky, like Sam, but had these eyes that stuck on you like a fly to fly paper. He had screwed up teeth. Once, he got into a fight and had the top two front ones bashed in so that they looked like a broken fence. He had a girlfriend we all hated named Kay. She was very short, unlike the rest of us, with tiny bird bones. Plus she was double jointed. She could bend her thumb back to her wrist and get her ankle up behind her ear. You could hear her cracking her toes even if she was out on the back steps, listening to her Bible tapes. I could never figure them out. He spent most of his time at the stables, and then out with the boys drinking; and when he'd finally stumble in around three a.m. to find her waiting up, he'd start screaming and make her sleep on the floor. You have to wonder about people like that. They didn't have a funeral for Harry. They just buried him. They were practical people, Sam s "family, and weren't given to careless expense. In fact, that was why Sam took over Harry's room in the first place. Harry had already paid up for tjhe month of June. It rained the day he died, just like in the movies. He had gone into the mountains with a girl named Doreen. Turned out they had a fight and he kicked her off his bike and made her walk. It was slippery and he was speeding. About a mile up thexoadshe found him. It took five hours to get him out from under all that rubble. An extra three to piece him back together. The county

1M


nd ad ou s, he

I ir he a n de st h

a he a d d es lst d er n re ut d e t. m. o s h d ut k. e at y

Elizabeth Brundage

117

paid overtime on account of Harry. Kay said it was God's will. That Harry had done his time, wouldn't have progressed any had he lived. He was better off, she said. She called it God, but I just called it circumstance. And bad luck. Sam took over Harry's job breaking in wild horses and teaching girls from the nearby college how to ride. He didn't talk much, mostly walked tight from room to room like he was holding in the hottest air of summer. When we'd meet, maybe opening the icebox at the same time or reaching for the same book in the T.V. room, our eyes would bounce off each other like pinballs. One night, I can't remember how it happened, Sam and I got together. We got drunk on gin and got James Brown blasting in the van as we drove down the dirt roads. I watched the white moon smack an eight ball cloud behind the pines and let him touch my knee as he down-shifted into the parking lot of the Me Lounge. The skirt I had on inched up around my thighs and my shirt stuck to the sweat on my breasts. I could smell myself. Could smell what he would when he kissed me. It was a Saturday night and the bar was packed. It was a big place, with a long, circular bar arid about fifty tables. It had a red and white tiled floor and the stools and seats were red vinyl. The waitresses and barmaids Wore short red skirts with black aprons, and red and white polka dot blouses. You'd drink draft or do shots. I remember a tart, mustardy scent, mixed with smoke and the perfume of the women who'd go there alone. We shot pool with a Vietnam vet. We got pretty loaded. And then we drove down to Lake Metacomet. It was late and most of the houses around it were dark, except for this party in the old hotel. You could see these Japanese lanterns floating in the breeze, all blurry, bleeding together like when you close your eyes in the dark after shutting the light. People lingered in the thick heat. Couples leaned against fancy cars, or smoked arid drank on the front porch, fanning themselves with hats or paper. _ - ' We took somebody's boat and rowed out to the middle of the black water, ft was pitch black out there and when I held my hand over it I could see its reflection. "Let's get wet," he said. "You mean, go in?" "Let's go in. Get wet all over." We stripped and dove in. I was too drunk to think about being


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naked, to think about how much I hated my body. We swam fast through the freezing water. All I could see was this thick blackness and the outlines of trees moving. I wasn't afraid because we were together. I wasn't afraid of the weeds on my legs, or of the fish flapping around my thighs. Swimming in the wake of his crawl I was aqua blue, his shoulders hazy like the mist that sometimes floats across those waters. I wasn't afraid of his lips like butter on mine as they bit into me, as I became water and my hands filled with living things. That night I moved my things up to the attic. Maxine and Dutch watched from their doorway, huddled together in their thrift shop robes over mugs of peppermint tea. Climbing to the dark of the third floor I felt I was leaving something behind. I looked back at their door closing, their light shutting out. I could hear them whispering. Dutch laughed and something made of glass shattered to the floor. The next morning we woke in a pond of sunlight. Sam said, "You have kind of cat eyes." When we were getting dressed he wrapped his belt around my back and pulled me close. It felt strange and dangerous because I liked it, and I kissed him for it. About a month later things started getting out of hand. See, Sam gets rough, especially when he drinks. He and the boys from the stables would go to the Men's Club in Hadley to shoot pool and get whiskey for sixty cents a glass. I'd wait up, just like Kay did for Harry, but I wasn't reading a Bible. I'd be guzzling whatever I could get my hands on, and I wouldn't quit till I was spinning. I'd sit in front of the window watching the clouds tumble across the distant mountains. They'd move like delirious sh^ep in the slow heat. Sometimes I'd just stare at myself in the mirror trying to figure things out. I'd open my shirt, Hffup my skirt. I'd laugh at the plum wounds on my legs. I'd shove my face into the mattress and cry. I'd dream. The music was an old house somewhere with dark, windy hall* ways and birds trapped behind the walls. There was aghost in that house and I was running from it, down slick wooden floors where mice scattered like marbles or a sudden hard rain. The curtains billowed into rooms like the wings of prehistoric birds. There was the smell of fire. Of my heart on fire. Around three a.m. I'd hear him downstairs, his heavy boots thumping to the floor, the stairway creaking under his weight,


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oss he ng at ess

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ots ht,

Elizaabeth Brundage

119

and die luggage we call body rumbling down the hall, pounding the darkness. The whole room would distort. The light would swing back and forth like a crazy bird. He'd slap me around sometimes, but I'd laugh and laugh till I thought my head would blow off. Once, after he threw me against the wall, Maxine knocked. She said, "You're sick people. I'm gonna call somebody next time." Sam slammed the door in her face. We broke up laughing. We knew she listened with a glass against the door. We made her body itch. She felt heat when she heard us, I know she did. It's pretty hard talking about stuff like this. It gets embarrassing. Something would come over me. Especially when we went to bars because the bars we went to were sleazy. I'd be done up in a bright dress, tight. He'd have a tie. We'd do shots of tequila. We'd sizzle tequila. We'd lick the salt from each other's wrists. We'd play James Brown on the juke box. We'd mix with bikers and factory people. We'd shoot pool for money. We'd run through the corn fields till daybreak. We'd fuck in the corn fields till daybreak. We'd rip each other up in the corn fields. X follow Sam up three flights holding onto his belt loop like I always do. He lives with a bunch of blue bloods in an old frat house on 113th and Amsterdam. The place looks like a fall-out shelter. They've got a pool table and if you have to use the toilet it's two flights up. Sam's got a big room on the third floor with a broken fire, place and tall windows with no shades. It's got ugly green carpet and bookshelves packed with ancient periodicals. Beer bottles everywhere. Plenty of dust. We go into his room and Sam gets busy fixing drinks. He opens the windows wide so we can hear the rain blasting on the pavement. Bottles on the fire escape fill and tremble. A car horn goes off. I look out and see a man and woman arguing over the noise. The woman is wearing aiiousecoat and her hair is in curlers. I turn around feeling the fan on my neck. It rattles, but once you get used to it you don't hear it anymore. Sam hands me my drink. He loads his pipe with tobacco and lights it. This means he's in a serious mood. "Do you want to sleep?" he asks. "Soon." I sit down on the old blue couch he brought here from Massachusetts.


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"I can sleep somewhere else if you . . . " "Come on," I say. "We just can't do it anymore," he says. He looks at me for a moment and then plays with the ice in his glass. Lightning cracks. Fills the room with a sound that makes my teeth ache. "Can you believe that rain," I say, "that's how I feel." "What's the matter with you?" "Can't you hear it? I wish I could explode like that." He gets up and turns off the light. "Take your clothes off," he says, moving over to the bed. "I feel a little funny," I say. "Come on, Shelly." It's a mattress on the floor. He strips and crawls onto it, into the dark. When I can't see him anymore I'm afraid for the first time that I don't know him. I think maybe I never knew him. I'm moving as if I'm full of sand. I'm drained, want to sleep. He pulls me down and his hands are cold as a lake on my back. I want to forget the day. I want to forget the five hour bus ride I took to get here. I want to forget my waitressing job at the Farm Shop. I want to forget that I love him. Forget the sick loneliness I feel without him. But we just get down to business. Pull at each other like two starving kids, two kids in a shed somewhere in the middle of an alfalfa field, two kids finding that place where everything slips away like a piece of clothing, where it's so bright and so dark at the same time that you can't see anymore. It's just a hand on your breasts, a fist up your thigh, a tongue on your hip. It's just a body. A twig of light snaps across his hand as it crosses my ribs. His eye enters the light and I focus and think how bright the street lights are. He's pounding me inside out and I think about the way I'm made. The wizardry of being female^And suddenly I want to fuck wild. I want to hurt him. I wannro-make him bleed. And I get on top and move my hips the way thundercrosses a summer sky, and lightning skids across my knuckles as I mash them into his shoulders and my head is wind spinning across his face and the grass sizzles beneath us. We are hard and rough and rocky and desperate. We do it to understand each other. To know what it means to wake male and female. He lies back, hitting the pillow hard. He puts his hands over his eyes and the skin around them tightens, turns red. I roll off him and face the wall. My back is cold. Our tongues thick with silence.


a s.

e

o t m s o et t t

o n s t r y. s t y o t , s e d t

s m .

Elizabeth Brundage

121

"It's all changed," he says. "I know." "It's not the same," he says. "It's not the same for me here." I turn towards him and touch his arm. "You can't stay here. You don't belong in the city." He turns and I see that he's crying like the time when Harry died. "I can't keep doing this stuff to you. It's sick. We're fucked up." This comes like pulling cloth out from under a table's worth of food. Every time, no matter what kind of magician you are, something spills. He sits up and lights a cigarette, runs his hands through his hair. He looks at me. "Maybe I'm pregnant," I say out of the blue, "you ever think of that?" "What?" "You know." "You're not," he says, "you're getting it." "I can feel something inside." "I can tell," he says, "I can tell you're getting it." I know he's right, but wish that something was flowering inside. I think of that big house, stuck in the middle of a vacant field. I think of running through it, but the image fades and I know that it will become a segment of a recurring nightmare. One morning I'll wake alone afterwards and look around and become terrorized, as I am now, by the ferocious mediocrity of my life. He gets up and walks to the window. He leans and smokes, looking out. "Rain stopped," he says, turning to look at me. I get up and walk over there, stand a little behind him. Across the street a woman stands at her kitchen window, washing dishes. I imagine where the light behind her leads. A short corridor. A living room. A closet. I see a man, her husband, asleep in a chair, a bowl of pears in his lap, the National Anthem blinking on the TV. She leans out the window and the neon from the Spanish restaurant below fills her face. It's likean empty lot, expecting terror. She pulls the shade, but Htnow her husband's behind her, his arms around her. The light goes out. Sam is looking at my lips. "If only this building were a little to the left," he says. "Then we could see the moon." "If you stand right here you can see it," I say, moving to a corner window, tilting my face to the light. "That's the trouble with this city," he says. "You can forget there's a moon up there."


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He turns, is absorbed by the darkness. Leftover rain ticks in the drain pipe. I hear a crazy bird sound outside, but it's wild in this city and I think maybe a woman is screaming. "If only this building were a little to the left," I say. "If only."


e s

Dumbfuck David

Boyle

"

irst time I saw the Dumbfuck he was pissing, left leg lifted, on a fire hydrant in Washington Square. Cops were around so I warned him, "Hey, what're ya doin', ya some kind of . . . dumbfuck?" And thus the legend was born. You couldn't help but feel protective for the guy—the head lolling around like a snapped chicken neck, the big quizzical eyes. So he and me hung out a lot together. I've felt for people ever since I quit my scholarship at NYU to bail out my sick sister and her kids. English was my major—can you believe it? Fifteen years drivin' a cab and I pick up this New York patois— Oh well, I could tell right off the Dumbfuck wasn't no ordinary Joe. There was the time we were on 125th in Harlem and he gets on a soapbox and starts putting on shoe polish like Gene Wilder in Silver Streak. As the locals start gathering and putting on their best this-pretty-funny-white-boy-but-you-gwine-die-re^Z-soon looks, I try to be unobtrusive (I'm half-black myself) and whisper sidewise, "Aaaaaaay . . . Dumbfuck." As he rants on about his tribulations as a colored maid in Atlanta, I get more frantic, my eyes roll and I hiss,"Aaaaaaaay, Dumbfuck, Dumbfuck .. .let's go right now, buddy...," and as he gets louder I prepare greetings for my relatives, "Say, Ma, ya look great in a halo," he finishes with "Kill de white maaan!" and puts the finger on some overweight Rotarian whose car is lying broken on the street. He is the whitest guy around and the crowd is pretty pumped so they go. at Mr. Milquetoast. I figure ol' Dumbfuck^ done him a favor, makin' him run off some excesspounds^fiCe that. But as I lead Dummy to the subway he's crying, first time ever I noticed, what's wrong, I ask, but I know he just didn't want to hurt anybody,is all. 'Spite of his craziness, he's very human. We lived together a while to save rent, though most of the time he slept in the Chase Manhattan dressed as a consignment of bullion. I remember the nights he would come visit me, climbing up to my apartment with the rubber suction cups he borrowed from that character Spiderman who climbed the World Trade Center, crawl into my bed and fall


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asleep, no questions asked. I guess his kind of innocence disarmed people, which was why the biggest whore in town came to be his girlfriend. Ms. Z was born to shred and had long mean legs that made Tina Turner look like Dr. Ruth. I'm tellin' ya, this lady burned for my pal, she drove him to soirees in her pink Cadillac, kept him in sturgeon eggs, laughed and laughed and laughed with him. Whores may not have hearts of gold but they been around, and Ms. Z knew she could count on the Fuck more than any man for a good time, yessir. Dumbfuck was with me that bad night, the night they called me on the phone and said my old wife was in a wreck on 32nd Avenue, could I please come identify the body. I wasn't going to kill myself or nOthin' but I started glancing out my apartment window a lot and wondering what the drop would be like. Then I noticed Dumbfuck, balancing my goldfish bowl on his penis as usual (don't ask me how) and talking to me. "What are you looking out the window for?" he says, real nonchalant. "Nothin'," I lie. Then one of the weirdest stunts he ever pulled happens. It's like the window becomes his eye, or vice versa, and I see the void, the city at nighttime and my body falling down to the pavement. Sweat breaks out of me and I stare at the floor a while, then everything is normal; he's still balancing the damn bowl. I start thinkin' about what I just saw and I realize that everything is a kind of a coin with two sides, good and bad, or life and death, and it really wouldn't matter if I jumped—or rather, it would be too stupid for words, cause there would be no earthly use for it. It was time for my wife to go, but me—I have to wait a while. That's the balance. All this sank into me all night long as I just sat there. Ol' Dummy didn't say anything, quiet now, but I could still feel that presence he had sometimes, awesome, like what the word meant in books I read in college and^not Jiow the kids say "awesome" today. I get to wondering where he comes from when I see where he goes and what he does, sometimes fooling around like when he ate the statue of General Grant in Central Park (clear down to the boots—that one took the cops a while to figure out) but more often pulling something of real value. Once when Mr. Whitney Pinckney, the rich guy who was heading the President's Crusade for the Poor Poor Helpless Unborn, was speaking at the Plaza, the Dumbfuck was coincidentally delivering some rubber


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David Boyle

125

goods to a nearby hospital. Of course, he got the address wrong, and so he wanders wide-eyed into the Plaza kitchen, and asks, "Where do these, uh, birth prevention devices go?" The Puerto Rican help look at him all funny, then one who speaks some English thinks he has the right idea and says, "Convention that way." So Dumbfuck goes a-lookin'. And just as Mr. Pinckney is out on stage saying, "And these days we need sexual morality— look at me, I've heen married thirty years and have seven children," the Dumbfuck climbs through the trap door by the podium, puts some little rubber things into Mr. Pinckney's hand, and Says, "Here are these, uh, condoms you ordered sir, now here's the bill." The old coot turned beet read and they had to fly in an iron lung from New York General. He lost all credibility in the press, the campaign collapsed, and everyone's expecting Roe vs. Wade to survive the anti-abortion bill which is now plunging to defeat in the House. The dumbfuck is a wierdo but he's done some real good work. May as well tell about the last time I saw the Dumbfuck. Even now I can't recall the street we were walkin' down, but it was real late at night. Then I hear shots very close, see three men with guns run around a corner at me. I'm too busy running by now to think much but I figure I've been mistaken for one of my relatives in the Mob again (I'm half-Italian). As I look back to see how close they are I see Dumbfuck just standing there—my God, what an asshole—and I trip, surprised. They would've been on me in a second, but next thing I see is them firing at him. They must've emptied a couple hundred rounds into the guy, the flash from the firing lighting up his eggshell skull, showing him standing unmoved. Then the dumbest think I ever saw happens. Ol* Dummy turns around, a real sly smile on his face, and drops his drawers. He lets our a fart to tumble the walls of Jericho and a monsoon of bullets rains out his ass. He musta absorbed the bullets like a motherfuckin JSwiss cheere~or something—the mosr repulsive thing I've ever seen. This balding gangster turns red and drops dead of a heart attack, and the other two start to back off slow, then trot away, then run like hell. As I am left with him, I realize that this is the end of the line. Something so stoopid is like a, uh, epiphany or something, the apotheosis of Dumbfuck, if you will. I get a funny feeling and know it's time for him to go. D.F. gives me a long look like Our Lady of Sorrows holding her dead Son, and then he lifts a flashbulb in the air as his gaze rises to


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the skies. Now, I'm not fooled, I don't expect my dear friend to ascend into Heaven. But as he plays at it, I'm blinded by the flashbulb and I pretend to be awed even though my eyes recover quickly and I can see him clumsily running around the corner in his big cockroach-black Dr. Scholl's. I will tell Ms. Z and break her heart for a week, and then wait for my own wound to heal. I've been wondering what the old sumbitch is up to. Maybe he'll show up on a NASA radar screen in orbit around Venus, or maybe on Letterman . . . there was this time when I was cleaning my closet and going to throw out some old college notes, when the Dumbfuck starts limping along my wall like a jellyfish on Angel and says, "Thinking hurts so bad. I drive a cab. Blglabhaaaaa," in his best Dick Nixon voice. He starts to slobber on me and I get kind of mad but then I decide that saving a few of my old drafts and ideas wouldn't take that much space, so I keep them. Now I'm glad I did 'cause I was recently looking at some of the old notes where I wrote, "And what moves the universeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;is it something we can understand, or more akin to madness?" This scuttled around in the darkness inside my head for a few days and then I decide to make some new plans for my life. Joe the cabbie who works at my company said to me, "You dumbfuck, what are you doing goin' back to school at this age?" I can only answer him with a smile, an idiot smile, I guess, like someone I used to know.


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Preface

W L hat allows us to include poets of such differing stylistic tendencies and aesthetic predilictions in the framework of a single publication? Earlier ages, with their zeal for formal and stylistic definitions, schools, currents and tendencies, would have pushed these poets to various sides of the cultural spectrum making them, if not outright antagonists, completely unacceptable to each other, deaf and indifferent to each other's work. In our time, when the pretensions of any artistic tendency to the possession of not only the complete truth, but even of the greater part of it, have been discredited, when a gesture in the satiated realm of culture has taken on almost as much meaning as a text, fate, the exact arrangement of the poetic pose in all its distinctness, has been accepted as the most important component of poetics. It is precisely a common position vis-a-vis the dominant culture that unites the authors of this collection. They are joined by three negatives: they are unknown, that is, practically unpublishable and they exist within a very small circle of lovers of such literature, spawned by that very literature; Exclusiveness, that is, non-participation in the life, events and activities (not temporarily or by accident, but with consideration, as a position) of the basic dominant cultural stream; unreconciliation, that is, as opposed to generallyaccepted culture which is bound in various ways by internal and external, subjective and objective limitations, norms, and formal rules of conduct, the representatives of this, alternative culture are not only free of-everything of this sort, but consider that the principle of their cultural behavior is based on poses which lead to the baring of their culturo-poetical predilections. It is precisely this which allows such varied verse writers to come together, not only within the framework of this publication (which could simply represent the willful act of a compiler), but within the framework of life and in the minds of readers who would unite the bearers of these three negatives into a separate single culture.


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Soviet Poetry

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131

Poets of two cities—Moscow and Leningrad—are represented in this collection. Unfortunately, it is not possible to speak of the existence of this type of Russian-language poetry anywhere else in the USSR. The opposition of the two capitals (traditional in Russian culture) continues even now, although, it is true, to a diminished extent. Versificational severity is characteristic for poets of the Petersburg school. They prefer traditional poetic themes and hold more traditional views of the poet's role in culture and society. It is difficult to define a Moscow poetic school as such. Moscow is, in fact, characterized by multiple styles and its culturobehavioral organism is defined only hy its opposition to Leningrad and the lack of any other poetic center. Leningrad is represented here by, doubtless, the two most interesting of the non-publishing poets—Shvarts and Krivulin. But it happens that they follow the strictures of the Petersburg tradition much less strictly than most. The various meters of Krivulin's verses, which almost possess the dolefullness of the wind (especially when read by their author), packed with complicated metaphors following one after another almost without pause not allowing time to catch one's breath, filled with allusions, cultural associations, engender the idea of some kind of gigantic turning organism on whose skin a whole immeasurable pile of culture, life and words has been stuck. With her wildness and passion Shvarts could easily be transported to the expanses somewhere beyond the Urals or into the Spanish sierra or anywhere else that the European imagination peoples with impetuous, proud and free individuals. But it is precisely the abovementioned "Petersburg" severity that allows her to break out of the boundaries of her crystal gates with only a baroque border of phantasmagorical images and mysrico^religious flights and with unexpected breaks of the~verse meter. Olga Sedakova of Moscow is most drawn to culturallystylized gestures; her verse form is rather tough and dry as if outlined in lead pencil. The themes of her poems and their method of elaboration often have a direct addressee from literary history.


132

Berkeley Fiction Review KHK y»e roBaprarocb, ATH MDCKOBCKDH IDSGHH xapaicrepHa

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Soviet Poetry

133

As has already been stated, a very great stylistic heterogeneity—from strict traditionalism to extreme avantgardism—is characteristic for Moscow poetry. Gandlevsky's work occupies a middle ground between those two tendencies. A romantic, almost adolescent, image of the poet with his usual predictions for travel, wanderings, friendly drinking bouts and elevated discussion is combined with an almost old man's social maturity which manifests itself in ironic breaks with traditional poetic themes, sarcastic observations, mocking quotations and tired reflection. The two final poets—Prigov and Rubinshteyn—belong to the extreme wing of the avant-garde, to so-called "conceptualism." This is not the place to examine the relationship of Western and Russian conceptualism, nor to discuss the character of literary conceptualism as opposed to conceptualism in the visual arts (in which conceptualism arose). For example, in the poetry of Prigov, who is a professional artist and a conceptualist in his visual work as well, this is made clear by his ordinary poems, with their regular meter and rhyme, packed with quotidian, cultural and social cliches. The interrelationship of text and context is of primary importance; that is, the verse texts, as it were, illuminate some piece of the social context with which they are in close interrelation. The basic meaning does not lie in the verse itself but in the drama of its internal relationship with the illuminated context. The term "conceptualism" in its, classic sense is much more applicable to the work of Rubinshteyn. His works are not poems, but rather, fully and precisely, texts, a separate genre. Consciously and declamatorily Rubinshteyn employs traditionally non-artistic languages of description: the machine language of programming, the language of the dictionary, encyclopedias, catalogs^and inventory lists. The obviously belletristic materiafwhich fills out the constructions gives his work a feeling of nostalgic fragility and intimate literary writing.


•• I fl. A. HWPOB (1940)

QEPA3 PEHTAHA B COBETCKOH JHTEPATYPE

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I »

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D.A. Prigov

(1940)

Reagan's Image i n Sovie t Literature Preparatory Conversation Reagan: Why do you agitate my soul Policeman: 'Cuz we want to appraise it. Reagan: That is God's affair not man's. Policeman: But that's what God went and put us here for. Reagan: Don't destroy my poor spirit! Policeman: You destroyed it yourself. Reagan: Help me! Teach me! Policeman: No. You were planned this way from the ages. All we do are appraisals. So they've picked a brand-new president Of the United States And they've dishonored the former president Of the United States But what's it to us, like, a president Like, the Unifed States But even so it's interesting—a Prezdent Of the United States I got used to Carter, though he is our foe And there's even a rhyme already—provocarter Now Reagan showed up yesterday from somewhereIt's out the window with all my Carter If only the wonderful merican people Would just think this over: It's all the same to them—this one or that But four years of serious labor Are being wasted here


136

Berkeley Fiction Review

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D.A PWgot;

237

Reagan doesn't want to feed us Well, OK, it's really his mistake It's only over there that they believe You've got to eat to live But we don't need his bread We'll live on our idea It'll come to him quite suddenly: Hey where are they?But we've already gotten to his heart It's tough for us to live with Reagan— He always wants to beat us Beat yourself, you crazy man! If not then things will come to such a pass That you will have to beat yourself With help from us Like, it's clear—Reagan's a crazy beast But even he's not completely outside The truth—Quiet and holy, there is a Small shoot of our objective idea In him. And when that shoot grows to consciousness Then his heart will bloom like a rose And that beast will lay down like a lamb And won't bite O, Reagan, there's nothing more to say Just so they don't reelect you Otherwise during the next term I'll hardly have enough strength To abuse you here—but I must Give me some other snake To celebrate

m

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138

Berkeley Fiction Review

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D.A. Prigov

139

So Reagan's been given another term Fear not, O brothers, fear not Arrange yourselves in large columns He's no scarier than a little chipmunk Singing in the cooling expanse About what does he sing?—ekh, always the same, about peace About the unique Blowing And fluttering with its light wings, the all laved, all illuminated with light joyful radiationness, from time to time all across the surface his visage will be distorted by an incursion of dark infrared bands, his teeth will click, heavy eyelids will rise with a crash, mountains and trees will fall, floods will surge, fissures of the field and life's spaces will run ahead breaking and again, again he alone, alone, unique, uniquely being sung, beim> sung uniquely, being sung, uniquely, uniquely, being sung uniquely, uniquely, uniquely being sung!

• I


JfeB Py6H«iireHH (1947)

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1

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KfMIJe HBA rOJDBOH; B-^ecHiwx, He nonpoooBaTb JK npHoopecTH B jwqe j t y r flpyra TO,TOOy* H oTMBS»wcb HSIHTH B cancix ce6e? B-^flpHHaflwaTMc, 3aM9THM,TOOnyn> HaiaBH nafc*roi HaCTOJlbKO IKIKOTJMB,TOD^EJEHHC nOfl^HHTbCH ePO BOJK He CTOjib yxc HenoHTOHo; B-flBeHaflwarbix, ecjHroi^pHCTajibHeeBTJ^qeTbcsi, TO KDHrypu no xpaHHeH Mepe paajmHTb MQ*HO; B-^pHBa^qaTbK, He H&up Tax y* oecnoKOHTbca o xapaicrepe nocjRflCTBHii - CHanaja napp oopeciH yBepeHHocTb,TODOHH Boo&qe Dyqyr; B-^eriKHapHa'ifcK, JWWB Qa, KOHe^iHo, no«noTOBHTbca 3apaaee; B-nsjiHEU^aTAK, TaK y* ycTpoeHO, jaro apiHcra Bcer^a cbeffMor coMHeHHa; y


Lev Rubinshteyn

(1947)

A Sequence of E x p o s i t i o n of Seventy Three P o i n t s (1983) First, the actual state of affairs cannot serve as an object of serious scrutiny; Second, imagine that you still know nothing, what kind of state would you be in? Third, it's not difficult to notice that a complete inability for resistance is becoming an increasingly clear symptom;

OH

Fourth, conjecture as you like, you'll still never get it;

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Fifth, how can you not be on your guard under such fixed attention?

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Sixth, itfs not so terrible: a light toss of your head and it's as if there was never any delusion; Seventh, while running fingers over a blade it doesn't hurt to think that we're not just testing the blade this way; Eighth, it's only a figure of speech to say "try everything from scratch:" go ahead and try; Ninth, relative calm is like a leaky roof overhead; Tenth, maybe we should try to acquire that which we have already despaired of findfng within ourselves from each other; Eleventh, we note that our memory is so fickle that our desire to submit to its will is not nearly so incomprehensible; Twelfth, if you gaze a little more intently it/s possible, at least, to make out the contours"; Thirteenth, you shouldn't get so worked up about the character of the consequences. First of all, you have to acquire the confidence that there will be some; Fourteenth, it would, of course, be better to prepare in advance; Fifteenth, it's already established that the artist will always be consumed by doubts;


142

I'! . * I »

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Berkeley Fiction Review

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Lev Rubinshteyn

143

Sixteenth, even the most insignificant detail can serve as the signal for the onset of the future days; Seventeenth, still, it's a bit early to rejoice; Eighteenth, suddenly, for example, the sun will shine through a wall of clouds and then be hidden, and we'll imagine God only knows what; Nineteenth, let's finally realize that, in fact, there's really no reason to rush; Twentieth, will the moment come when there will be comprehension of everything that has not been comprehensible up until now? Twenty-first, the circle of the purview of our attention should not be wide so much as well-defined; Twenty-second, but what if, as we approach, everything will begin to fade, lose its outline and, finally, completely disappear—what then? Twenty-third, for the moment is seems there's nothing in particular to complain about; Twenty-fourth, you can't come up with a straight-forward answer to everything; Twenty-fifth, somehow everything will come out alright—let's just not interfere; Twenty-sixth, it would, naturally, be possible to try it another way, but things really are the way they are already; Twenty-seventh, if you want to be quiet then be quiet, if you want to speak then speak, if you, want to act-then act;

I

Twenty-eighth, to whom is this feeling unknown—the feeling of horrible asphyxiation, it begins by itself and passes by itself; Twenty-ninth, to succeed in the drama of personal contact means a lot; Thirtieth, how can you escape paralysis when you are sure that it is inescapable?

i


144

Berkeley Fiction Review

B-rpgHarb nepocc, JKGSW nocjK^pBareJibHOCTb Bcer^a onpaB^aHa; B-TppwaTb BTopuc, Bpnm JK MM npaa>i, KoiTja jqataeM, TOO B03fleHCTByeM XOA CO&TTHH;

B-Tfi£waTb TpeTbHX, Hmero ocoGeHHoro: npocro Hcup ycHTbeaTb cneuH^HKy CJUKHBOMXCSI oGcroHrejSsCTB; B-Tp^D^iTb ^KTBepiux, OHH e^pa ycnejM BarvHHyrb flpyr Ha apyra H oTBeJM rvB3a. H pasomnHCb. Hascerfla. B-Tpnquarb remix, He Bceryja re Bee (HBaeT TaK, KaK rjpejqpojDrajDCb BHa^are; B-rpnouaTb IIBCTUX, 3aKaT y*se aoropaji, XDTH H HesicHO GMTO, t&M 3aKOH^»icH 3TOT HeHb, noJHM Tpesor; B-^ipuquarb ce^bMbix, KBK noBJusrrb - HO np» STOM KaK 6yrrro 6u npoTHB coGcTBeHHOH BOJK - Ha nocJieAyiqiffe COGUIHH? B-^rpHsuarb BOCHAIX, roBopci 06 STOM, HCBbJibHO Ha^HHaemb pajpBaTbCH TOK^yr,TODHaspfiw JW sno 6yqeT »MSTb KaKHe-HHpyAb GojKe cyn^cTBeHHfac nocjKacTBHa; B-TpH^HaTbfleBHINX,He TBK yx. H CKOpO, TO ecTb cKopo, HO He HacTOjKD,TOO&IHe ycnerb EpHBWKHVTb K COCTOSHHO

N^orrejfcHoro axsroaHsi; B-copcKDBbK, 6es yjcpoHeH o&yaH AajKHo He ynfleiik; B-copoK nep&K, see sno epy^qa - OOKH#=LHHH He Gbeaior HenpacHUMH; B-copoK BTopuK, BOT H CHOBa CMBHsaarcsi Bpe*eHa rofla, BOT H OIRIb; B-copoK TpeTbHX, KaK Gw 3TO noscHee B^paaHTbCH? B-COpOK ^eTBepTbK, 3TH TJDMeJIJS KMiyHCTBeHHbE CJSBa CHOBa H CHOBa BeprarcH Ha souae; B-copoK nsm>K, jrtca3aTejjbCTB Bosce H He ittTpe&yercsi; B-copaK mecTbix, HaTOOy*, Ka3ajDCb, flaws Hexyaa a HHqero, anojiie... B-copbK ceRMoc, rji«a Bee rjtyore, JKC ace TeMHee, MWKiBa ace rutyioe;

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Lev Rubinshteyn

143

a

Thirty-first, any sequence is always justified;

M,

Thirty-second, it's unlikely that we are correct when we think that we have an effect on the course of events;

pyr

Thirty-third, nothing special; it's just necessary to take a wait and see attitude towards the specifics of the situation as it develops;

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Thirty-fourth, they had hardly had time to glance at one another when they averted their eyes. And parted. Forever.

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Thirty-fifth, Everything doesn't always work out the way it was expected to at the outset;

Kopo,

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Thirty-sixth, the sunset had already faded, although it was still unclear how that day, full of anxiety, would turn out. Thirty-seventh, how can one influence—while still making it look as if it's against one's will—succeeding events? Thirty-eighth, speaking about this you start to rejoice involuntarily because it will probably not have any kind of more vital results; Thirty-ninth, it won't happen so fast, that is, fast, but not so fast that you woa't have time to get used to a state of torturing expectation; Fortieth, you won't go far without comfortable shoes; Forty-first, it's all nonsense—there are no vain expectations; Forty-second, once again the seasons change, one more time... Forty-third, how could one express that a bit more clearly? Forty-fourth, again and again and-again those heavy blasphemous words roll around on the tongue; Forty-fifth, proofs are absolutely not required; Forty-sixth, it seems there's nowhere else to turn—but it's OK, completely . . . Forty-seventh, the clay is ever deeper, the forest ever darker, the prayer ever more muffled;


146

Berkeley Fiction Review

E f B-COpOK BOCUAK, K3K Gu 3TO HayHHTbCH HHMeMy He y^BJRrbcs? B-copoK AeBTOHx,TOO&* HH nptcHHTDCb HaicaHyHe Toro naMaiHoro ,PHH, Bee sro nana 3arcMWfn>; ,. B-rwrnnecsnMc, sro sepHO,TODCKaaaHHoe cne^yer noKMaTb oyKBajftHO, HO Beflb H Tyr ecTb CBOH npaBura Hrpbi;B-narbnecsir nep&K, HacroporeHHOcTb jqaBHO yre nopa npeonejKTb - CKOJKKD X MJKHO;

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B-naibflecar BTopwx, wo SHawr MBce HJMraraero"- TSK Tore HeJibSH; B-rsnbnecsir TpeTbHX,TOOSHamir "Bcew ecib npenejfM flaJKKo He BceMy; B^-nsirfcflecsir *«TBepn«,TOO3Ha*«r MHa Bcex He yro^mb" M - KTO 3TO Bce"? B-rKibnecsrrramux,nocTOSHHasi oGecnoKoeHHocTb He TO TOOCM HanpacHo - 0Ha, KaK & sro BbipasHrbCS!, Henpofls«aHBHa, TOO JM. B-r«Tbflecs»r mecrwc, nonyiHD 3aMgn*i: "Hy, «M He no33H«?M; B-n»rbflecsfr ceflbv«x, ropH noHarpacHy, roBopH TOD-TO jumee, TBopHTOO-TOTe*w>e, JUHBVT ceGe KBK *HBercsi H He Beflawr rpexa; B-rerib£ec$rr BoctMbK, He pacropwib Gbi Bcero no nppore, a nopora, cyaa no Bcewy, rr*flBHn«rcH; B-naibnecOT neBsraax, KaK sro TaK - OJJHO HeocropoKHoe EBHreHKe Bflpyr paoaSBejwrr neji* nnacT KynbTypw; B-H£CTHflec»iux, noKa HbffepeM apeM* i»pa3\«n0wrb nan 3THM, He 3aMBTHM ca&H, KaK noTycKHeeT H oGbeKT paarfbinneHHH; B-DECTb^ecjrr nepeux, qpepeaTbCH Ha noflycJDBe He TaK-ro JKIKD, K3K 3TO KSOMBfTCSi; B-DKCTbflBCHT BTOpfcK, 3a OJaronpHTOHbM HCXOfl neJEL KTO MoreT nopy^HTbCfl? B-iaecTbflecflrr TpeTbHX, yronas* no KDJKHD B jgeBCTBeHHOH Mypase, 3ai5raeufc> Bnpyr 3aBerHyio necMo H nowaaub,TOOSTO COH, H He 3axo^eni> npoctnaTbc*; B-fflecTbflecar *«TBepiNX, no^eMy 3TO TBK HeoGxoflHMD Bee ADKasuBarb, yGexrerrb, BHycETb, HCKaib aHajDrHH?


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Lev Rubinshteyn Forty-eighth, how can one learn not to be amazed by anything?

Forty-ninth, whatever you might dream before the memorable day, it should all be memorized; Fiftieth, it's true that you should take what's said literally but, on the other hand, there are rules of the game here too; Fifty-first, it's high time to overcome suspicion—insofar as possible. Fifty-second, what does "all or nothing" mean—that's impossible too; Fifty-third, what does "there's a limit to everything" mean—not everything by a long shot; Fifty-fourth, what does "you can't please everyone" mean—who is this "everyone?"

,

Fifty-fifth, constant agitation is not quite useless, it is, as it were, unproductive perhaps;

e

Fifty-sixth, we observe, in passing, "Well, what is poetry?"

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147

Fifty-seventh, grieving in vain, saying too much, creating something questionable, they live as best they can and know no sin; Fifty-eighth, it's best not to waste everything along the road for the road is, from the looks of things, foreseeable; Fifty-ninth, how does that work—a single careless motion suddenly stirs a whole cultural layer; Sixtieth, while we choose a time to contemplate this, we ourselves won't notice that the object of cogitation dims; Sixty-first, to break off in mid-word is not as easy as it sounds; Sixty-second; who can guarantee a propitious outcome? Sixty-third, buried up to your knees in the virgin sward, you suddenly strike up a secret song and realize that it's a dream, but you don't want to wake up;

•n


148

Berkeley Fiction Review

B-ijecTbnecsfr nrowx, VCJDHHMCH: Bee Bceraa BOBpeMH; B-BKCTbfleCflfT HKCTbK,flDrOBOpWYCSi:HHKaKHX oGHfl, HHKaKHx npereHSHH, HHKaKHx rej*6; BHQHCTb^ecsrr ceflbMbix, nproBopiiwcs: HHKaKHx npopo^ecnB, HHKaKHx npe^cKa3aHHH, HwcaKHX nporao30B; B-UECT^deC5!T BOCbMUX,tf>rOBOpHMC5i:HHKaKDFO UtyMEL, HHKaKbro sMHorara; B-iDecTbnecsrr .qeBsroK, HHrepecHo, jKrxoe flyHOBeHHe BeMHOCTH yre 3aM5TH0 H7W eil|e HeT? B-ceMHj|ecsnHx, KaK Tyr noGopoTb HCKyuKHHe rjycTHTb see' Ha caMoreK? B-ceMbnecHT nepaoc, Geryr j^yr 3aflpyroM,O6SDH»OT npyrflpyraMbcjK, cnraeTax>rcsi B 3aTeH7»a>H BeHOK, a TH, HHMero He noHKtea, HO H He orpeKascb HH OT ^ero, croHtib cpem Bcero sooro c onymsHOH POTDBOH H pacrepHHOH ynbfeDH; B-ceMbnecjir BiopHX, Bee ocrarabHoe; B-ce^fc,qecsrr TpeTbHX, xaKHe Dycyr Bonpocbf?


nB,

EL,

Lev Rubinshteyn

149

Sixty-fourth, why. is it always so necessary to prove, convince, inspire, search for analogies? Sixty-fifth, let's settle it: everything always comes at the right time;

He

Sixty-sixth, let's agree: no insults, no claims, no complaints;

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Sixty-seventh, let's agree: no prophecies, no oracles, no prognoses;

ib DH;

Sixty-eighth, let's agree: no noise, no hullabaloo; Sixty-ninth, one wonders, is the light breath of eternity noticeable yet or not? Seventieth, how can you fight the temptation to put everything on automatic pilot? Seventy-first, they run after each other, thoughts outstrip each other, weave themselves together into an intricate garland and you, understanding nothing but disavowing nothing as well, stand in the midst of all of that with head bowed and a perplexed smile; Seventy-second, everything else; Seventy-third, does anyone have questions?


CepreH raHflJKBCKHti (1952)

CaM>cyA HecDWTOHHOH 3pejx>cm, 3io apejune cpe^KH PVKH JHiKHo oanenpiBHaHHOH npejKCTH BwiH Ha Geper THXOH pem, Pe^jKKTHpyK B pngiw* MojwaHHH Pe*& MHO KapaynHT oaBHo. EapKyaapoB, KTJKHOOB H KOMnamH, PaSBe 3TO B3M cBbiue EcTb O&NBH y pyccKOH no33HH B nHCbMBHHoro cTOJia C sajic oTBpameHHeM Grab aepKajia JtoUFi B inrane, H c n a M K HOH rojjyGeM, HTM npsnaTb KyxoHHoeaHjK3BHe OipaaHJKH B TpO$eHHOM TpOvf). He Mopi M>HH TBop*cKHV! rojiyjDM, TaK OHO nojjytffinDCb ca*D. a*i> Bpone KDpa&Mca, mxa, S T ^ T T ^ ^ o , 9ro asSyKa BreHcxoHpyice. 3ro a3oyqHOH He*HocTH HaabKH, Cxpun JKJJCFMH no ^anni* npyaaM. Jtorer ccaflHHy, npocHrca Ha pyoi — SI TeGsi KKHW He orjqaM!

^ _ S K S^K. 9 K j^^BI fl^B:

HHP~ ^™™^.^^HT ^^K S B j^^R ^^^K «^«r •

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Sergey Gandlevsky

^ _ S K S^K. 9 K j^^BI HHP~ ^™™^.^^HT ^^K S B j^^R ^^^K «^«r • ' U • MNt sHI ^B^ ^Bf

(1952)

A lynch law of unexpected maturity Is a mediocre sight It lacks the generally-accepted pleasure o f waJki

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a

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« « • i w Reflecting in rhyme. My utterance **as *on& keen w a t c ^ e ( ^ ky silence. Have all those grammarians Really been handed down from above! T n • u r-A In Russian poetry there s a tradition ° f breaking mirrors with revulsion Uncle in a kitchen hat bespattered Or hiding knives by a pigeon n tnG * reflected drawersinofa writing Was captureddesks. pier-glass , . i So don t tire me with creative hunger ^ c a m e o u t like that by itself. i t was once a little ship, a yawl Or a sparrow on an empty hammock.I s t h a t a c l o u d ? N o Xt S . ' , OWn' ^ s a c r o w n m a woman's hand ^ t s habits of crowned tenderness The scrape of oarlocks on summer ponds: He licks a scratch and asks to be picked up 111 never give you up to anyone!


152

tl

Berkeley Fiction Review

CTaJD GapiIflHOH, peBHOCTUO, NtyKDIO. PacruiecKajKH no Kanre *DTHB. BcyxoKwiKy Muqy H M^ysaio, n»repfSMH GaiiKy oGxBaTHB. AIR ^ero MHB AocraJDCb B Hacne#*e ^IbSWD MSlCKa C ^pyCMUCJKHHbM piOM, O^HoaKTOBOH JNH3HH Tpareowi, Jframr pe30Hepa c D^TOM? BHH *iero, MDSI wsuca sbCfcasi, OGbacm MEie, Kor^a H yvpy, «na cHneJia c HenoopOH ynb£kDio Ha onKOM GecKOHeMHOM nopy H NOpOMHTia COHHOrO OTpOKE, GKareprb npasiRftHQflO TepeGsr? 3xo HGTIKD? HeT, sro oGnaKo.

H nomanfj He xpy or Teos!

JHfiptao r£nroBy Ore^KCTBO, npe^aHHe, repoHCTBo... BJBajD paHbiae ivwrrcs? cxopbM noe3A — ItyrH pasobpaHu no HeflocMnpy. Itoxore, Karacxpo^a HeHaGama, A TSM Beflb Jft&l. Bxo^rr noHep, CTynaer Ha yqacxoK aBapHKHWH, CHHMaeT KpacHbK raJxnyK c TOHKDH BRH HflgKDHTKaHblO MailET. MamfiSKT BbTJ^Ef>BaeT H3 aOKDMlTHBa H noHMveer:TOO-TO3necb He TaK. VHBJD pMara nepeGHpaer — H Karacrpoga qpeflynpexejeHa.


Sergey Gandlevsky Now it's serfdom, torture* jealousy. The themes have been spilled out in droplets. Bread and water. I meeow and I moo, Having grabbed my noggin with open hands. Why did I inherit Someone's mask with an ambiguous mouth, The tragedy of one-act life, the conversation of a jester and a raissoneur? Why oh why, my light-winged music, Explain to me when I die, Were you sitting with a nasty smile At some endless feast And bugging a sleepy youth While picking at the tablecloth? Is that a clown? No, it's a cloud. And I don't count on mercy from you!

T o Dmitry Prigov Fidelity and fatherland, and heroismIt used to be that the express train hurtled forwardâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; The tracks had been dismantled through ari oversight. It seemed that a catastrophe was unavoidable. And there were people there! A boy scout came along. He climbed atop the danger spot Took off a crimson tie from round his neck And waved the brightly colored fabric. The engineer Looked out the locomotive He understood: there's something fishy here. Adroitly he maneuvered all the Jevers ^nd the catastrophe was thus averted.

153


154

Berkeley Fiction Review

Ybwi ;K$TDH npHMep. Hecercsi CKOFUH.

IfyTH pa3o6paHbi no He/pcMttpy. fbxore fcaracTpoga HeHaGeraa. A T3M Be^b TKfJft. CTpeJDMHHK CTapWC BWXO^HT Ha y^acroK aBapHHtuft, CKJiaflHbfvi HOXGM ceGe BCKpuBaer Benu, Fbp&NeH KpoBbio Tpwicy oGarpweT H 5KKOH TKaHblO KEEUET. MailMHHCT BsbTJiafbBaeT na noKEMcmma H noHHMaeT:TOO-TO3necb He TaK. ykcjD pfcMara nepeQHpaeT — H KaTacTpcxJa npe^ynpe)KqeHa. A B HaiiE speara, ecjK ejjeT noesm, HcnpaBHbM nyrb JKWHT pp ropH30HTa. yCJDBHn HB JfiBO, 3HaH yqacb

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HJW paGoraH, KTW COBMSU^H

PaGoTy c oGy^eHHeM 3aoMHbM. Bee H3V£HK7K>Cb. Bfcpoc nHOHep. CjKixa oopoar, BnojHe ocTeneHfircsi, Ha**aJIbHHKDM CT6U1 reJR3HOlTPpG)KHbM> Ha cTpejDMHHKa craporo opeT, r^X)3HTca B JHT1 ero ynpRrart.

AJEKceio MarapHKy Mro-HHoy^b o TjcpfcMe H paaTfyice Co cjKsooo H neHOH y pra. KocrpoKa JM BeJiKHe JtyKH — Ho B 3acrojK>e B VKCTH BopKyra. 3ro necHH o TOM, KHK no cnpasKe d*i cenbM Boponmcsi ADMDH, HOT y HHHKH H ruBKaji y Kjiaaoi — Ax TH rocrxw, Bore TH MDH!


Sergey Gandlevsky Or another case. Express was flying by. The tracks had been dismantled through an oversight. It seemed that a catastrophe was unavoidable. And there were people there! An aged switchman Stepped out onto the danger spot, with pen-knife opened up a vein. He stained a rag with boiling blood, and Waved the brightly colored fabric. The engineer Looked out the locomotive, He understood: there's something fishy here. Adroitly he maneuvered all the levers And the catastrophe was thus averted. But now, if it happens that the train is going, There's good track stretching out to the horizon. Conditions great, so know or study Or work, combine your job with A correspondence course. All has changed. The boy scout's n(m a grown-up. He's gone a bit to fat and really mellowed. Become a railway supervisor. He bawls the aged switchman out And threatens to pack him off to the AA.

T o Aleksey Magarik Something on prison and painting With foam in the mouth and a tear. Kostroma or Velikie Lukiâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; But at table in honor of Gulag. This song is about how a son, now^ grey-haired, With official permission returned to his home. He drank some at Nina's and cried some at Kari'sOh my Lord, O my God!

155


156

Berkeley Fiction Review

Haioa craH£*6i KaK Ha JQ^DHH. EteneJWBHT cBoe BojqocTOK. 0 paajfyKe noiar Ha neppoHe. XyjwraHOB Beayr Ha BOCTOK. fleHb-,neHbCKDH KDJiecjrr no orsH3He JlqpH, XJK69 CTpareriwecKHH rpy3. Hro-HHGyab o 3ary6jKHH0H KHSHH — y MBH$I HeB3U3carejibHfaif EKVC.

BHH^H oceHbio B MHcroe nojie, BeTpOM pOffttbl JKlG OCTVflH. )KapKDH p030H rJXJTOK aJKDrOJW PasBopa^HBaeTCH B rpyqw. Kpy»HT HOMb H3 ceMeHCTBa BOpOHbHX. PaCCTOSHfR CBWItyT B KVJiaK. flro OTenecTBa HeT nocropoHHHx, Her H Bee Tyr — H jjbimrcsi TBK, E^xrro nao^pHbM yrpoM npocHyncsi — 3arpeMeJw, GajBuqy BHecjw, — OT ^ypauKHx nappm oiMaxHyncsi, H B Hcno^peM Be^yr, a Bflajw — IJpya, noKpunoH rycHHoio Karen, Cewa^op **pe3 CHTjy roptr, CeeT ^ci)Kab>9 H HeGpwn*i npoxoKHti CaM c COGOH Ha xofly rosopHT.


Sergey Gandlevsky Our station stands out in the open A gutter is lisping in personal tongues. They sing separation on platforms Take hooligans off the east. All day long there are people and bread, And cargoes strategic which travel the homeland. Something about ruined lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; My taste's undemanding. In fall go on out to the wide-open field Cool your brow with the wind of your homeland. A swallow of alcohol is like a boiling rose, It twists and it turns in your chest. A night of the ravenous family twists While distances whistle through fingers. The fatherland hasn't got aliens, And anyway everything's hereâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and the air feels As if you awoke on an overcast day Banged around and then carried the slops out, And brushed your ridiculous hopes right away, And they take you away, underground, in the distance A pond, covered with goose bumps, A semaphore's burning with all of its might, Rain drips and an unshaven passerby Speaks to himself as he walks.

157


AnsKcaHjixy ConpoBCKOMy «HanpacHo B pfst BeJWKoro coBera, FPP HbEUEH CTpaCTH OTflaHW MBCTa OcraBTKHa BaKaHCHH noara: Qua onacHa, ecjw He nycra. A pa3Be H He Mepocb rKiKrenaoii.» H T.fl. B. nacTepwaK

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Kor^a, pa3^BHHyB ocipweM nojRHbH, Hapyxy BNHfleT j«3BHe orm, H HaBaacqeHHe CTHXocnoreHbsi HspuBKa HaKaTHT Ha ME?HSJ; Kor^a AByrjaBbw nnaMSHHbM cyrpoGoM SnbGpyc — a a T3M 6bm — yxoflHT : H TH Bnycryio Gopeufccsi c OSHDGOM H caM ceGe coBeryeiifc «OMHHCb»; Kor.ua M>e npcaeaHbe BHe 3aKOHa, A B 3epK3JK BHHa H ce^piHa, Ho no,n pyKOH, KaK H BO BpeMR OHO, PONBHH CiHBeHcoHa H J&MSL;

Korpa no paw*> B ypo^Hyio Mwyry CKB03b nenae JUvtrrMHU., JBBT H raM nepe^aior,TODBunam KD*y-To CeMb JKT H rent Hdft££tty no poraM, — SI BcnoMiHax) JKneT nacrepHaKa. Kyna TH 3aBena nac, GOJUDBHH? H ^eprrbKawcb H nyraiocb NjpaKa, H roBopo ynpF»o: «*typMeHSj!» «TH uapb,» — UHTHpyio. BoJibHo nosry Hafl HUMUCJnM BoajioGneHHbirt KopneTb, BTBroroBeTb, Gpofla no Gejy cBery, BJEU^MHpa E^KOBCKoro Bocnerb.


T o Aleksander Soprovsky ' In vain in the days of great council Where places are given great passion The post of poet's left vacant: It's dangerous if not empty. But do I really not count in five-year plans . . . " etc. B. Pasternak When, having moved aside the logs with cutting edge, The blade of flame comes into view, And the hallucination of versification Comes rushing on me from afar; When Elbrus, like a flaming double-headed Snowdrift—and I was there—is heading skyward And when you vainly fight the chill And tell yourself "snap out of it;" When my calling is beyond the law And in the mirror guilt and greying hair. And right at hand, how timely, Are novels of Dumas and Stevenson; When, at the established moment, through The singing of parolees, through the smash and bang they Announce by radio that someone got Seven years and five extra breaking rocks,— Pasternak's prattle comes to mind. Where have you led us, o chatter? And cursing, fearing darkness "Away from me" I stubbornly say. "You are a king,"—I quote. It-is the poet's choice To sweat at his beloved fantasy, And, wandering the whole wide world, to revere, To sing the praises of Vladimir Bukovsky.


160

B II

i

Berkeley Fiction Review

AH ppL cnpeHb B 3TOM Mae! BMjyKJxrcpynHbR rposHbs* Barer nTKTHH B flepeswix, a Ha oynbBapHOM KOJibue TpoHyr Jimp B TeMHore — pyiiB^afrejibHM 3anax. Cepque pyKDio C#IBH, BOCBOSKH npyi KaK caenoH. Siqecb Ha oynbBapax snepBOH noBCTpenajicH MHB rOJKH HHIKDJlbHHK, JfyMHHK C JtyKaBbM JMJOMJ H3pF9?X> CTpeJERT MSLieiXl MHOPO BO^»i yreKJi). Cxapasj TOJibKO 3aH03a B MtKDTH HypfXd UeJK. JtyMSJO, 3TO npOHfleT. Fbyrpy a«ecb ncnppji Hora Ha Hory ropnp y Bxofla B rvpaHHyio nponacTb M?xpo c BerBbio CHperoi B p&acax. Kojibqa nycKaJi H3 HOstqpeH, nun B Hac nnc raaHpoBKy, yjK^Hyjcsi H peK corpaaqjaHaM B cepme cBoeM: mjfypaa, Kypa BM TOJTOH? OnyxH, Mae neHMriHavQuaTb. CpoAy HHTfte He CJ^KHH, He coftqaaxxb H snpeflb, 3Haere TaHHy MDK>? — Moeii BH He 3Haere TaHHbi. Ho^b 9t npoB&n y Jlancu. BHKTOP 3OHJI>M poraT.»

H c NeprsbMi nosraM?! BecTH Ife rofla B rofl y^Hyio 6ece^y; H B TeNHore no KOMrtare Qpopffib B HCno^KM H KTKBaTb Hafl KHHTOH HOCOM, H BCnOMKHaTb CO CKBepHDK) VJb&DH CKBosb ^pewy JHQHK>, HaTajuo, AHHy; nrDTarb nwianH; y SHaKOM** ecrb HepsmnHBo H aa«Ho, ppMa. — cKyno; y 3erjcaJEL ceGa He ysHasarb B oGnesTDH oGesbsne c MSKP>M pxoM, KaK H3 «PoM3Ha» npaBHTibHUf uuraH Copo^meM BOKsajibHfaM o3a#a*«H; H onycKaTbcsr, CJDBHO orjycKarbCsi HaflHosejKHoe, pacKHHyB pyKH . . . /


Sergey Gandlevsky

161

Ah yes, the lilac this May. Bulging clusters Topple fences in the villages. And in the darkness They touch your face on the surrounding boulevards. A soulstirring smell. Crush your heart with your hands. Head for home like a blind man Here on the boulevards I met a naked pre-schooler for the first time. An archer with an artful face; the kid shoots real well! A lot of water's gone under the bridge. Only an old splinter Miraculously survived in the flesh. That'll pass too I think. In the morning I sat here, proudly, legs crossed, near the entrance To the gloomy abyss of the subway, a lilac branch in hand. Blew smoke rings through my nose, drank seltzer at rush hour Smiled and, in my heart, spake unto my fellows: "Fools, where are you crowding? Oafs, I'm nineteen. Never worked since the day I was born, and don't intend to start Do you know my secret? You won't find it out. I spent the night with Laisa. Viktor Zoilich's got horns. To carry on a learned conversation With dead poets, year after year; To pace the room in darkness In nether regions and to nod upon a book. And with nasty grin recall Natalya, Lidia, and Anna as you doze; To gulp down pills; eat sloppily And greedily at friends', and miserly at home; Not to recognize yourself before the mirror In that mangy monkey with the wettish mouth, Like a proper gypsy from some show, Somehow stuck with a railway-station relative; And to let yourself down, as if lowering yourself Into the green abyss, and splaying out your arms...


162

J J

Ill

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Sergey Gandlevsky Just think, it's autumn. Fly about The garden of corruption, luxury leper hospital! The structure of the world, the crux of things, a frame, They speak most graphically about that time. Nature stands, a model. Walking out with thrown off dress about her ankles, Like a girl of plaster carrying an oar At the entrance to a forest park, but the forest park Looks like a pencil sketch. Around a beer stand a eulogized crowd Sins through immortality—the sky's so close. You throw a glance over the top of chipped mugs At drunkards, at a little lake, and rides, A nearby light-pole, where a note Bangs weakly back and forth, And up and down, just like an eyelid suffering a tic: "Lost, one Irish Setter. Reward Is promised to the finder." The address. Enough. So covering your face With your sleeve,wyou head into a side alley As if life's completely blown apart— I guess that is how people die.. Die. Perhaps some goodly man Will still hail your evil life Out of some kind of foolish habit— He'll chew his nails or pick the tablecloth, Or he'll perpetrate some talented, sincere And touchy desperate act And immediately turn around and blush, Did his wild move produce some laughter? No one starts to laugh. __

163


EjBHa Hfeapq (1948) HeTHpe 37KrHH Ha CTopo»* CBera I (ceBepKsw)

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Elena Shvarts

(1948)

Four Elegies t o the Corners of the World I. (Northern) M. Sh. Through Moscow's twists and turns, along its hopeless windings Someone's shadow flew, in tender desperation, She pressed some hardened leaves to her eyes, and Kissed an emerald duck in a pond, And laughing, she slithered away, from a trarn-car-steer. Warming herself with the tram-car's spark. "A Bergman flick" was announced at the theater that night, But scenes from your own life were cranked into sight One hundred times each. Who knew that hell rents the theaters by night? That the dead are tied to chairs in there? That tilted heads are looking back? That they bring them there like soldiers to the baths? A telegram for Charlotte: "Waiting, Love. Your Marat." She sloughed seven skins off, eight souls and her clothing And found a ninth soul in her breast, She shook in my hand, like a meek mole, Like a broad with a broom, blue beneath the snow. I pierced through her eyes and she died. Look, the heavens are covered, a fallout of feathers and wings, Can't sweep them up in a week, you'll be buried forever in them. Look, a lion, a calf and an eagle are flying right under the moon And you sleep, you are lying 'rnidsrBodies of~sefpentine rings. Where's the angel? You ask, me so here's how I'll answer: There where there's darkness, there's shining, where the whole world is maimed, Grasping plant, thus an angel was twisting through darkness. Steer for the blackness, for desolation's darkness. Steer for the shadows, the shade, for the cliffs, for the roiled, the pit,


166

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Elena Shvarts

167

Is the angel playing tag? Yes, there he is, in the earth, under foot. He's no worm. So don't dig, don't go looking in the field. Do you see—towards winter bright birds fly on by to the pole? She looked and she groaned And she flew all night long, and she banged into prongs Dripping blood on the hospitals, factories, boulevards... It's OK! For your death is the birth of a luminous angel. Oct. 17, 78

II. (Southern) A propos of a marble statuette To I. Burikhin Young lady! Did you drop something? Akh, it's nothing. It's OK! My foot. Like a narrow glove. And like dust, Ringing, my shin is blowing away. In glancing at you I was catching myself— The old love is gone and the winter is too, The future is naught but a flame on the mast It's blueishly burning, and howls from the dark. And over my head flocks of palms fly around, Like seagulls, they peck, and they carry my memory away. And darkness is petrifying, cliffs wheeze And furiously^ it seems as if someone is ripping up fabric close by. And life is diffusing, an oily circle, Though it once was a painful point. Broken-up pieces float by. Pray tell, was I precious to anyone On earth? Did I glide or float by in the dawn? Did I pluck mother goose for her emerald grass, was I tearing it out While we wL.spered la-la and la-la? Eternity lay in a pond and I drank of that source. That pond like an ocean expanded, for where there are knives in the waves They tear and they cut, o long lines—life! For God is who made us in fact—and like diamonds He placed us in settings of bone. For God is who made us in fact—


168

J*

1 III J";

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Elena Shvarts

169

Like cyclamen planted in snow. He quivered and burned and he shook in the act, Thus everything shook and resounded and quivered, And falling to pieces, like fire and like blood, everything flew into darkness Where you are rapidly ripped into shreds Where fathomless maws fasten onto your back So pull out the honeycombs of memoryâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;they're out of control. Alone love is shining. Lot's wife, as it were, It hangs like a lance in the mute abyss. O, magnet of diamond, tell me where is the pole of the Universe! That glimmering Thing, all in white and in ice Whither Nansen and Peary and Scott from this day Will be rushing while whipping a team made of famishing shades. I'm going there too, where a bear colored lilac is sleeping all covered in ice, where the magnet of diamond is pointing. There burns in the sky an ethereal fire it seems And eyes in formation are flying due south. Little crosses of God, under-birds! A multitude tears you to pieces and again you are legion, You lead us right up to the threshold Of darkening blue where they give us a team and a sled, Ourselves we will not come together again, Where the road through the tundra eternal is blazed.

III. (Eastern) To E. Feoktistov On your feet! Aren't you shamed to be sleeping in front of all eyes? _ - ' On your feet! Resurrection's time will be coming soon. Crematoriumâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;That's quite a place that you've chosen to sleep! On your feet! And I'll set out a wee split of wine. Oh my Lord! Is that me, a store window's reflection? Is this poppy seed my incarnation? Well OK! So I'll go take a look at the cyclamens under the crackling snow


170

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Kpwca, bsi,

Elena Shvarts

171

Like a birdy, I'll slide under glass, run away. Like a birdy, I'll slide under glass, run away. For everyone is a birdy singing on a branch, Though nobody wishes to listen we warble even louder. I cover myself more thickly in golden plumage. So prophesy, prophesy, on my thick coffee grounds, For that drink, now deceased, I resemble, And I,feel strong enough for my future ordeals. Oh my God, peck the seed out of me and the sooner the better, I will be like the salt of your tears and on them I'll get drunk. We're all of us warbling birds-â&#x20AC;&#x201D;just admire us all. And through snow, breathing hard, grows a boiling flower, Backbones are flying due east in formation. The wind in the shape of an angel, it will enter unnoticed. Death will eat round your contour, go round it exactly It's powder corrosive, it's like aqua regis. So fly to the firmament full speed ahead, The wind in the shape of an angel, it blows at your head.

IV. (Western) N. Guchinskaya To the west, to the west by the shadowy path All is howling, carried away to the place that is darker. Like old clothing and faces and rings, or like bowling-alley spheres. . Through a chute for the garbageâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and everything melts in the mist. So then, what am I? I'm the everlasting vessel of the depths, And within me the Mediterranean sparkles at low and high tide, I'll stop up my ears, and I'll hear, that there's noise in a shell, And the seas and their hearts will dry up. What traces remain on the fast drying sand? I will count them for you on my fingers, despairing: There's mollusks and verses and slugs and a ringlet, Now the sand's started rising, it's already squishing. Man's voice, swelling up, is approaching the cry of a bird, or a song, Ah, Cry out like a gull and you too will acquire tranquility. But already I'm horribly quiet.


172

Berkeley Fiction Review

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)

Elena Shvarts

173

(The flowers bloomed in horror although it was freezing. In heaven strode the Antichrist midst clouds and stars. He suddenly began descending and he grew before our eyes. He strode within a thin blue beam, While helicopters, faithful as pugs, were flying behind him. And the people, on bended knee, were crossing themselves in the shadows. He approachedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;eternal cold from his eyes streaming forth He seemed never born, as if painted and wooden. No, you weren't crucified for our sake! But he surely and carefully touched all the bended heads) All is howling, carried away, and only the holy return. (Hey, do you see Ksenya? she's barefoot and wearing the clothes of the emperor's guard to her heels, She's carrying bricks and floating above her's a halo of ice) The wind carries all to the west by the shadowy path. Space like a cross has ripped up all sides of the world. How will you stand midst the shaking and breaking? On what? We'd better float right on up to the sky. There to the dusk where Persephone pale, Looks in despair at a telephone dial. Where shadows and pieces thereof are both boiling and suffering, There you will slake both your hunger and thirst with a pomegranate seed. Dec. 30, 78


174

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Elena Shvarts

175

Author's afterword:

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Not everything in these elegies is comprehensible to me, let alone to the reader. However, a few points were cleared up by reading Florensky. He says that the world is a circle divided into corners by a cross, by which they are held together, through which they live. The meaning of the elegies, it seems, is that the earth and the corners of the world and the parts of the body (a natural cross) have come apart and separated from that foundation, fulcrum and base. Each one is rushing in its own direction ("Eyes in formation are flying due south ..." "Backbones are flying due east in formation" etc.). The world is breaking apart and efforts to pull it together, to tie it up again into a whole made by man standing in the center (we are all in the center) are in vain. The fabric of the world has degenerated, become alienated has been pulled apart from its iron (golden) foundations. Such a world cannot exist and, shaking (but not just with horror, with relief as well), it sees through its final day. At the base of the first elegy is a vision: three nebulous and clear figures—the Lion, the Eagle and the Calf—appear in the sky. Only the angel, who should be there according to the prophecy of Ezekial, is missing. II begins with a description of a marble statuette which depicts a couple embracing. They are without heads, with one arm and one leg, but when you look at them it seems they have everything and don't even need what they've got. Glancing at the statuette you see the invisible growing from the visible as if coming out of the fog. Ill—Cyclamens under glass, the greenhouse in the Tauride garden, flowers at night under electric light and the nebulous thought of a glass coffin. In general, the theme of flowers, blooming in the frost amidst the snows, opening up in horror as if feeling the. end of time, is important for" the whole cycle Their world, in frost and darkness, in-the cracking of destruction and the scraping of someone's footsteps along the snow —and even so, flowering and warm as never before. At the base of the fourth is a dream about the Antichrist. He is described there in detail. Ksenya is St. Ksenya of Petersburg, walking barefoot in the frost in the uniform of her husband. At night, in the cold, she brought bricks for a church which was being built. And that, schematically, is all.

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V. Krivulin

(1944)

Satedness or sameness, it's all ennui. Alone or in a crowd, it's all the same! And were sound to fall away would it transform the picture not even of the world, but of our worldlet? And if you went away, God only knows in what direction—let alone to what nation, who'll remember you solicitously anguishing like the seashore for the ocean depths? I recalled not long ago a stopper bound Proust echo's quester in the realm of emptyness, final knight of final memory— a rubber lamp he sank beneath the ice. Just think, it's cold and black wherever you turn your swollen eyesl What moves the sand in hours of an underwater night— is it merely darkness? or just the crunch of ice? What is man's value, in journey's dust, poured through the maw of sleep— is he not a handful of sand, scooped from the depths of the gulf uncovered in its childhood? What is man's value—that most sensitive and streaming measure of the flow of time? A perfect sphere that's warmed in hands in which the source of memory's retained? And if it's really warm—whose fingers lent the heat? whose unclear trace upon the"glass?— someone remembered that but I, most likely, won't remember who. And whatever he was called it was still an alien name, behind and late...


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178

Berkeley Fiction Review CCOPMA KaKyio gopMy npn^eT nejKifM, KorAa rocreH cnpoBa/ffr K nojtyMraf? OH craHer KOMHaroH, TJcptMDio MHOPOTO^HH, caM 3a coGoii Heycjej***. Ha KyxHo Hbitaa, raaoBOH IUMTOH noHyBCTByeT ceGa - H BcnHXHeT, H corpeeT 3MeH»ifTOHHHK- HTMreGKopee Hajibercsi, KaK BOAa, ryppapH TennoTOH. Her, KHHry OH pacKpoer, pa3ApoGsicb Ha npaa^HfWHVio MHorecTBeHHocTb jwrep, HO KTO ero npo^rer H KTO c HHM cTaHeT cjKreH? C K6M OH BOHABT B MWCTfMeCKyK) CBR3b? Aa, KHHry OH OTJIUKHT. #a, rna&a noKpoer nteceHb ppemseA noj^K»Mbi, H caM ceGe jre nojyaKaKDMbii, OH BbnaAST H3 Mtipa, KaK cjK3a.

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V. Ktivulin

179

Shape What shape will a misanthrope take When he shows out the guests about midnight? He'll turn into a jail of ellipses, a room, Not even able to follow himself. Entering the kitchen he'll feel like a gas burner—he'll flare up and warm the serpentine teapot—or, even more likely, in plangent warmth, like water, he will pour himself out.

? No, he will open a book and divide up a fifth into holiday manyness, But who will read him, together with whom will he flow? With whom will he enter a mystical bond? And, the book he will lay to one side. And, his eyes will be covered by mold of the ancient half-drowsyness, and only halfway familiar to himself he'll drop from the world like a tear.

Horo.

That's the way it is: he who remained alone, he dreams a Jacob's ladder, dreams a railroad— for he's chased along sleepers, sleepers, sleepers to the point where rails are crossing, to the transformed symbol of the Lord. Over and over and over and out it seems. There's just a bit remaining. Red brick. The tiny station stands before him. He stops. It grows, like a staff, branching and green, it's the^point where two parallel lines are converging. Cinders and freedom. Gravel enlivened and rain. And some pieces of glass indistinguishable from the drops. How many eyes are gazing at him from the trash-filled ground!


180

Berkeley Fiction Review KaKyio $opMy IKHMBT OH ceiwac?

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V. Krivulin

181

Now what shape will he take? He looks around and meets my glance. "No!"—I yell to him,—"not you nor anything of yours is here." Above a grand piano Pasternak was shouting, not a train. Along the railroad every path is bushed. Any metaphor concerning it's the stuff of frozen sleep: like oil-base paints it sticks to the fingers. Yes, he'll set aside the book. He'll plunge his weakened hands in non-existence. Artist-misanthrope, the bare receptacle of things, of truth, of movement. And a mouth that's set to stick to everything. He himself is nothing. Nature did not give him keen vision nor the gift of words, nor fevered mind; he just can plunge into the darkness. Just drink and smack his horsy lips o'er the water painted black-— to chase the trout of station lamps... He'll take the shape of a waiting room. On the tracks—there's a croaked cat. And nowhere


182

Berkeley Fiction Review

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V. Krivulin

183

Aquarium A fly on dirty pupils buzzes round. As through a multi-hued and fragile wing the world is glimmering, cut off from audibility,— It's an aquarium where time has flowed away. You can't escape the past one hundred years! Whenever there's a spurt ahead—there's some new terrorist with melancholy bomb, a lonely ring of underground apartments, sympathizing girlies,— with old age that's almost prudent... Were it not for the salvation of senility— he'd have strung himself up on the noiseless staircase, he'd have crawled into the garbage pit, been overgrown. You, beggarly rye, slip of the eye, You, new world's walking prison,— come right on in, enter another dimension, the glass box of hindsight— Come in, you'll be stunned: you are free! On the dusty window sill—a skeleton with the rectangular remains of flesh of glass and with a sleepy fly upon the glass, with a strip of newsprint, sun on paper. the reader is indifferent both to spots and words... The light of all-embracing literacy is shining from the glens of rotting substance, everywhere— and there you stand, in raptures of amazement. Any spurt ahead of time is out of place. We're in the nineteenth, with all its prosody, with its rented social order! -*- ~""~"~ It was not I thought up the view of life that I have carried out: in reedlets bream are shoving and they stand, a wall of silver, and time for them is like a cross beam, inseparable from its fellows.


184

Berkeley Fiction Review

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V. Krivulin franker still franker still more evily.exactâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; and you'll finally break through the January sky into the theater of shadows a silvery-bluish sketch we floated in the twilight of the later times in rivers of unimaginable schemes the furry babylon of the last moscow was shining like a sickly bethlehem it breathed beneath an ovine mountain overgrown with fiery fleece and candle-wax cried over sheered and tinseled beasts and a herd of things surrounding the hearth was moving and crowding and flowing by candlelight into an open pit into the birth-giving maw with unfeminine tenderness with unfeminine tenderness and unmanly muscle nothing can cope, let us recede into copulation's shadow, embraced by moscow by her snow-covered consciousness under some banner made up of red sheets in the gilded snowy gleam let us sleep sans souciâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but preserve us, o God from stretching or moving about!

185


186

Berkeley Fiction Review

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V. Krivulin everything's given and save for our bodies— there's no other time or space but, perhaps, you're the final frontier of the external pressure of treachery and slavery -.. what's gone—let by. nothing's taken we're naked—protected, it seems, by the Christmas star, by the luminous raiment of murderous moscow, murdered internal hellas o, moist, half-an-hour an internal hellas of pearl-like splashes while standing still, the disk still rotates its murky movement passing to the soul but greater closeness, brighter than the new-year's silver-furred snowdrifts, out the window the sweet corrosiveness of unexpected life a cloud around a blinking word you'll speak you'll speak of course about the future you'll fell a verbal wood in devilish kolyma and i will hear the ring of frozen wooden flesh that's bitten by the ax with strength ineffable the pain is like that through the ice of novocaine like password like whisper like naive question

187


188 I J

Berkeley Fiction Review

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V. Krivulin go try and answer when frost is breaking the dried-out lashes of boughs and silent night is pinning down a stump of tongue is falling straight in my face: are you happy now?—recoiling i'm happy—i say while swallowing the "y" a prickly lump, pine needles i exhale—i'm alive! the pain is like that when opening your legs like password or like pass like some two-horned sign you take in my holiday bearer of life are you happy?—wait. like that, the worst infliction is your entry and what is freedom when molten genes are pouring into me?! and not having set, like unpolished bronze, the threatening flood has filled us who were,empty and ready^

189


Qjfcra A. CeAaKDBa (1949) CTEJIH

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Olga A. Sedakova

(1949)

Stellae and Inscriptions broken hexameter To Nina Braginskaya who has studied antique epitaphs, and much else, insightfully

A B o y , an Old Man, and a D o g A boy, an old man, and a dog. Perhaps its the grave of a crone or a woman. How can we know what a person's reflection will be when looking into, the watery deep that's alabaster smooth? It could be like this: A boy, a dog, an old man. The boy is especially sad. —I've done wrong, dad, but I'll never be able to right it. —Well—the old man says,—I forgive you but you will not hear, it's nice here. —It's nice here? —It's nice here?— An echo is heard in the hallways. —So you called and I came. Hi, dad. They redid the bedrooms at home, Mama is pining —My son, my late, my only, listen to me, I'm speaking in parting: to nojttility always adhere, It's the best that the-living can do... —Mama told me to say...


192

Berkeley Fiction Review

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M?

Olga A. Sedakova

193

—You'll be happy. —When? —Always. —That's hard to take. —What can you do that's how it is with us In silence the dog is observing the talk: the eyes of that white water, of that picture— A boy, a dog, an old man.

T h e Figur e of a W o m a n Having turned away, She stands in a large and voluminous shawl. It seems there's a poplar next to her. It seems that way. There's no poplar. But she would be willing to turn into one Just like in the legend— If only not to hear: —What do you see there? —What do I see, you lunatic people? I see the wide open sea—That's easy to guess.. The sea and that's all. Or is that too little, for me to eternally grieve, while your curiosity's piqued?


194

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Olga A. Sedakova

195

T w o Figures Brother .and sister? husband and wife? daughter and father? all that and. more? Which of them died, who is alive to order this slab, a monument to meeting? Who wanted whom to remember at parting? not meekly, not greedily. One doesn't have to remember much: we can't take a lot. Native earth, just a bit, in an alien land—that is enough. The rest will remain where it feels right at home. An attentive glance, death, you won't take away the legitimate handful from the one who is leaving, still grieving for us. Who is that leaving? who, having pined during long separation, just barely will finally touch the dear hand?— shadow to shadow, past to past, pale to pale. What do they say there? They are saying: —It's like that. —I swear that it's like that. —It was and it will be, even if it won't be. Like that. O, passerby, love life. Offer thanks for it. Spirits don't need much: a monument to meeting.


196

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Olga A. Sedakova

197

Mistress and Servant A woman looks into a mirror: what she sees can't be seen; It's unlikely that anything's there. On the other hand, why then is she admiring one thing and figuring out how to fix something else with one trick or another? why study herself? It's clear something's there. Something that needs an affectionate balm, pendants and beads. The servant stands silent awaiting a wish that she'll never fulfill. Yes, we never understood each other. That's understandable. It wasn't hard. Something else was harder. We knew all about everyone. All, to the end, to its final and tender infinity. Not wishing, not thinkingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;we knew. Not listeningâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;knew and considered their wish in our minds, the wish that they never had time to make known or to think about even. Of course. For we've all got but one single wish. And there's nothing besides that wish.

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Olga A. Sedakova

199

Pitcher. T o m b s t o n e of a Friend You want—a pitcher, your want—a spear, you want—a distaff. And if they lied when they spoke of the ringlet, about how it was found in the sky, they lied for a reason. In the most trivial thing, saddened minds will discover the stuff that makes up constellations, the sounds of inaudible names,— it will burst into flame and curl upwards, like a garland in garlands which soothe mortal hearts: Every evening Perseus rescues Andromeda—everyone knows which star it's that saves him, having snapped up the one who is no longer with us. So give him whatever you want. You want a pitcher, you want a spear, you want a distaff-, whatever comes up, as he won't ask for more. And then that will be able to become like everything. All one must do is to not clutch at everything. Put copper coins in their places. He'll figure it out by himself He'll lift up a hand of a kind that we never saw here, the hand of a constellation: Take it, o boatman, you see, how we live here on earth: Distaff, Plough. Spear. Pitcher


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Olga A. Sedakova

201

Child P l a y i ng In anticipation we live through that which will never be. Great glory. The wedding night, sage energetic old age. Grandchildren—the children of a nonexistent son. No, empty dreams do not play with men's hearts. The child knows what soothes him. What he plays with. We don't see the face. We look upon it, like a mother did, through the door, and we peacefully then go away: he is playing. A white ray on the floor. —He'll play some more, I'll have time to do all that I must. Time doesn't wait, he is playing. Before the disaster our anticipation deserts us: Now it's not external, it's we ourselves. Sublimely in this inaudible music, in the white room. That's how he plays at the heart, a child, who's playing checkers.

Inscription Nina, in a dream, or my mind—we were walking one time on some old-fashioned road, Alongside, as it seemed to me, various white and smoothed-out flagstones. —Not the Appian, some other one,— you said to me,—it's not that important, the number of roads in their cities that crossed from one grave to another was legion. —Hello!—we heard— hello! (that, as we know, is the favorite word upon parting) Hello! How clearly you look at the earth that's so dear. Stop: I look with the eyes of the gigantic earth. Only the emptiness looks. Only the unseen can see. So go ahead faster or I'll leave you behind.


Paul Kafka Phillip Kittower Patricia Jane Jones Paul Weinman Therese Saliba Donald Stewart I^eslie Howes E.G. Willy Philip Hanson Peter Logan Lori Hester Arthur Dugi Step Cynthia Eaglet on Richard J. Grula Francesca Lia Block Glen Gold Gregory A. Ryan Doris Lynch Bill Chais Elizabeth Brundage David Boyle Soviet poets: D.A. Prigov J^ev Rubinshteyn Sergey Gandlevsky Elena Shvarts V. Krivulin Olga A. Sedakova

Profile for Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review, Volume 5 & 6  

Issue 5 & 6 includes the stories: “Anne and Animals” by Paul Kafka, “Stolen Children” by Phillip Kittower, “Waiting to Know” by Patricia Jan...

Berkeley Fiction Review, Volume 5 & 6  

Issue 5 & 6 includes the stories: “Anne and Animals” by Paul Kafka, “Stolen Children” by Phillip Kittower, “Waiting to Know” by Patricia Jan...

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