Berkeley Fiction Review, Volume 9

Page 1

NUMBER NINE — WINTER 1989 T H E BERKELEY FICTION

R E V I E W


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THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW


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THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW


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A V t M NUMBER NINE — WINTER 19S9 T h e Berkeley Fiction Review SENIOR EDITORS Mark Landsman Scan Andrew Locke EDITORIAL STAFF Sean Kennedy Jennifer Engiandcr READERS Natalia Apostolos Dcidre O'Brien Gregory Walker We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), and the Student Publications Grant Committee of the University of California at Berkeley. This publication is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California. The views expressed herein are the views of the writers only. They are not necessarily the views of the Associated Students of the University of California nor the University of California at Berkeley. Designed by TONGSTEN6cCo. Copyright © 1989 by The Berkeley Fiction Review. All rights reserved. Special thanks to Jacqueline Gallo, ASUC Publications Advisor. Address submissions & correspondence to: The Berkeley Fiction Review 700 Eshleman Hall, University of California Berkeley, CA 94720.

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Berkeley Fiction

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7 PAUL KAFKA What Chorus Knew 20 BARRETT WARNER Walter's Sonnets 24 MALLORY TARSES Swimming the Plank 34 BARBARA BODE Duet 40YENHIDD When Dogs Could Be Heard 49 SEAN KENNERLY Untitled 58 CHARLIE HAUCK Liar 63 LAWRENCE COATES The Woman They Call The Water Lady 71BOONYONG MEKSAVAN Camp Life: M Episode


IOD

A V t M NUMBER NINE — WINTER 19S9 T h e Berkeley Fiction Review SENIOR EDITORS Mark Landsman Scan Andrew Locke EDITORIAL STAFF Sean Kennedy Jennifer Engiandcr READERS Natalia Apostolos Dcidre O'Brien Gregory Walker We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), and the Student Publications Grant Committee of the University of California at Berkeley. This publication is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California. The views expressed herein are the views of the writers only. They are not necessarily the views of the Associated Students of the University of California nor the University of California at Berkeley. Designed by TONGSTEN6cCo. Copyright © 1989 by The Berkeley Fiction Review. All rights reserved. Special thanks to Jacqueline Gallo, ASUC Publications Advisor. Address submissions & correspondence to: The Berkeley Fiction Review 700 Eshleman Hall, University of California Berkeley, CA 94720.

& l & ( D < c r A t c b t r

T h e

Berkeley Fiction

R e v i e w

7 PAUL KAFKA What Chorus Knew 20 BARRETT WARNER Walter's Sonnets 24 MALLORY TARSES Swimming the Plank 34 BARBARA BODE Duet 40YENHIDD When Dogs Could Be Heard 49 SEAN KENNERLY Untitled 58 CHARLIE HAUCK Liar 63 LAWRENCE COATES The Woman They Call The Water Lady 71BOONYONG MEKSAVAN Camp Life: M Episode


What Chorus Knew Paul Kafka

She.sleeps with her brother but that's not the interesting part. When she was a year old the maid, an obese woman whose stiletto heels left tiny holes in the kitchen linoleum, accidently closed a door on the tottling Janet's head. Since that day she has been a fairly eerie little girl. But that's not the interesting part either. The interesting part is that she killed her father. N o suspense here. I tell you straight. She did in her old man. I know. I am Chorus. II. I also made love to her brother. I too. When we were nine years old I held his penis in my hand, a tiny thing, hard with innocent ardor. I squeezed it experimentally. Nothing happened. When I was older I learned to appreciate smaller details; the rise and fell of ribs, the smooth down on his cheek. But not at first, at nine. Then it was simple. His little unit in my hand, smooth and tough as a birch twig... III. Now Janet works in Wordsworth bookstore, here in lovely Ann Arbor. I see her. I come in for Hume's Treatise On Human Nature and there she is, sitting beside the cash registar reading. Paul Kafka received the LeBaron Russell Briggs Publication Prize as well as the Harvard College Fiction Prize for the best work of fiction by an undergraduate for hisfirstbook, Home Again, published by Harvard University'Press, 1983. His short stories have appeared in numerous reviews including The New Tork Reader, Reform Judaism, and The Harvard Advocate, JENNY CHEN Untitled, 1989, gelatin silver print, courtesy: die artist


What Chorus Knew Paul Kafka

She.sleeps with her brother but that's not the interesting part. When she was a year old the maid, an obese woman whose stiletto heels left tiny holes in the kitchen linoleum, accidently closed a door on the tottling Janet's head. Since that day she has been a fairly eerie little girl. But that's not the interesting part either. The interesting part is that she killed her father. N o suspense here. I tell you straight. She did in her old man. I know. I am Chorus. II. I also made love to her brother. I too. When we were nine years old I held his penis in my hand, a tiny thing, hard with innocent ardor. I squeezed it experimentally. Nothing happened. When I was older I learned to appreciate smaller details; the rise and fell of ribs, the smooth down on his cheek. But not at first, at nine. Then it was simple. His little unit in my hand, smooth and tough as a birch twig... III. Now Janet works in Wordsworth bookstore, here in lovely Ann Arbor. I see her. I come in for Hume's Treatise On Human Nature and there she is, sitting beside the cash registar reading. Paul Kafka received the LeBaron Russell Briggs Publication Prize as well as the Harvard College Fiction Prize for the best work of fiction by an undergraduate for hisfirstbook, Home Again, published by Harvard University'Press, 1983. His short stories have appeared in numerous reviews including The New Tork Reader, Reform Judaism, and The Harvard Advocate, JENNY CHEN Untitled, 1989, gelatin silver print, courtesy: die artist


What's she reading? Is it for a course? She reads it like it's for a course. Her nose is far from buried in it. Yet she's interested... She's far smarter than I. When I say things they are not new. That is one of the problems with being Chorus. I report, but I'm not a great ideas-man. What I say does not turn heads. When Janet speaks up people listen. She offers a comment in our graduate seminar on Kant, on the categorical imperative, and I wish my head had been caught in a door when /was a kid. She has an original perspective, no doubt about that. IV. Her brother John is now a slender twelve year old. He cups my thick hair in his hand as if he were fixing his bicycle and had stopped to think about how to proceed with the small, oily bicycle parts in his palm. He licks the sweat from my upper lip as if he were a bird drinking bird amounts of water from a single leaf. I am wet. Did I take a shower? He dries the water from my legs as if he were a frightened lifegaurd and I the corpse of a beautiful child who had been trapped under a dock for over an hour before he found me. Later he takes me to a movie. What movie? Any movie I want to see. What am I, Chorus, doing, fooling around with Janet's brother? What a m i — me, Mr. Timelessness-and-Plurality — doing out to the movie of my chbice with the brother of Janet? That's for me to know and you to find out. V. The Motive JANET (age 12): Dad, come here for a minute. I want to show you something. DAD (age 46): In a minute, honey. JANET: Dad, now. It will be gone in a minute. DAD: I just got out of bed, honey. I'll be there as soon as I get some clothes on. JANET: Oh, shit! You'll miss it... Can't you just come? DAD: I'm coming just as fast as I can. JANET: Hurry! DAD: I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying...I'm coming as fast as I can. JANET: Now. Now! DAD: Okay, I'm here. What is it... 8

JANET: Fuck it. It's too late. I told you to hurry. DAD I did hurry. Watch your language. I came just as quickly as I could. JANET: You didn't hurry. You just pretended. One day I'll make you hurry. DAD: What did you say?... VI. Just before her head was squashed, what was toddler Janet up to? As Chorus I have some insight into this question. I can tell you. She was under the piano screwing around with a fork. One might have worried that she would injure her eyes with the fork. She was only nineteen months old. The fork game rrieant holding the fork near the squinting eye to imagine a fork-matrixed world, a living roorr/universe in which forks played a big role. Janet saw tine ribbing on the high ceiling. She saw a floor, the entire floor of the world, laced with fork handles. She squinted more deeply and saw stainless steel history^a non-corrosive past streching from one end of the living room to the picture window at the other end. The picture window — echoing the stainless steelware so dose to her iris — stood outside time, beypnd infers ence. One might have worried that the fork would get in Janet's eye. This would have been ironic considering later events. But no one knew she had the fork. Dolores the maid didn't notice. She was listening to gospel music. Brother John didn't notice. He was outside in the double garage with his frind Alfred who was teaching him to skateboard, in a sitting position, across the concrete floor on top of an pld oil stain in the shape of a mermaid. N o one noticed the fork in Janet's hand — the fork which had fallen from a hors dtoeuvres plate at a cocktail party ten days before and had remained, lodged behind a hassock. Janet, please put the fork down. The forking of the world does not interest you any more. Janet, please crawl toward the swinging kitchen door. Dolores, swing the door open, slap it closed as you walk through it. Listen to the gospel music. Tell us, Dolores, what are they singing? They are singing about the lord. Love the lord,they

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW O


What's she reading? Is it for a course? She reads it like it's for a course. Her nose is far from buried in it. Yet she's interested... She's far smarter than I. When I say things they are not new. That is one of the problems with being Chorus. I report, but I'm not a great ideas-man. What I say does not turn heads. When Janet speaks up people listen. She offers a comment in our graduate seminar on Kant, on the categorical imperative, and I wish my head had been caught in a door when /was a kid. She has an original perspective, no doubt about that. IV. Her brother John is now a slender twelve year old. He cups my thick hair in his hand as if he were fixing his bicycle and had stopped to think about how to proceed with the small, oily bicycle parts in his palm. He licks the sweat from my upper lip as if he were a bird drinking bird amounts of water from a single leaf. I am wet. Did I take a shower? He dries the water from my legs as if he were a frightened lifegaurd and I the corpse of a beautiful child who had been trapped under a dock for over an hour before he found me. Later he takes me to a movie. What movie? Any movie I want to see. What am I, Chorus, doing, fooling around with Janet's brother? What a m i — me, Mr. Timelessness-and-Plurality — doing out to the movie of my chbice with the brother of Janet? That's for me to know and you to find out. V. The Motive JANET (age 12): Dad, come here for a minute. I want to show you something. DAD (age 46): In a minute, honey. JANET: Dad, now. It will be gone in a minute. DAD: I just got out of bed, honey. I'll be there as soon as I get some clothes on. JANET: Oh, shit! You'll miss it... Can't you just come? DAD: I'm coming just as fast as I can. JANET: Hurry! DAD: I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying...I'm coming as fast as I can. JANET: Now. Now! DAD: Okay, I'm here. What is it... 8

JANET: Fuck it. It's too late. I told you to hurry. DAD I did hurry. Watch your language. I came just as quickly as I could. JANET: You didn't hurry. You just pretended. One day I'll make you hurry. DAD: What did you say?... VI. Just before her head was squashed, what was toddler Janet up to? As Chorus I have some insight into this question. I can tell you. She was under the piano screwing around with a fork. One might have worried that she would injure her eyes with the fork. She was only nineteen months old. The fork game rrieant holding the fork near the squinting eye to imagine a fork-matrixed world, a living roorr/universe in which forks played a big role. Janet saw tine ribbing on the high ceiling. She saw a floor, the entire floor of the world, laced with fork handles. She squinted more deeply and saw stainless steel history^a non-corrosive past streching from one end of the living room to the picture window at the other end. The picture window — echoing the stainless steelware so dose to her iris — stood outside time, beypnd infers ence. One might have worried that the fork would get in Janet's eye. This would have been ironic considering later events. But no one knew she had the fork. Dolores the maid didn't notice. She was listening to gospel music. Brother John didn't notice. He was outside in the double garage with his frind Alfred who was teaching him to skateboard, in a sitting position, across the concrete floor on top of an pld oil stain in the shape of a mermaid. N o one noticed the fork in Janet's hand — the fork which had fallen from a hors dtoeuvres plate at a cocktail party ten days before and had remained, lodged behind a hassock. Janet, please put the fork down. The forking of the world does not interest you any more. Janet, please crawl toward the swinging kitchen door. Dolores, swing the door open, slap it closed as you walk through it. Listen to the gospel music. Tell us, Dolores, what are they singing? They are singing about the lord. Love the lord,they

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW O


are singing. Love the lord. Janet, please crawl forward. Put your head between the door and the door frame. Your hair is very fair. Your hair is a thin cover on your head. A bit of pink scalp shows through. Your cheeks are puffy. Your calves are soft balls of muscle. Your knees are red from crawling on the carpet. Door, please swing closed now on baby Janet. Please squash her head like a forceps. Hurt her Damage her Change her history Do like gods do in tragedy. Reshape things... I be Chorus. VII. The Categorical Imperative: Immanuel Kant's Famous Philosophical Formulation The Categorical Imperative, Immanuel Kant's famous ethical and philsophical formulation, states: Act only in such a way that a universe or world composed of individuals acting as you do would be an acceptable world. Now I ask you, Janet: Can you conceive of a world in which everyone acts the way you have acted? Can you imagine a world in which everyone shoplifts? Even store managers? Even security people? Can you, Janet, truly picture an America in which everyone's dog would be* allowed, nay, encouraged to shit on everyone elses* lawn? Even cat people? It was said that when Immanuel Kant went for his daily walk, the women of Konigsberg set their clocks by his passage. Janet, can you conceive of a small town where everyone always sets his or her clock by everyone else's walk There would no longer be any need for clocks. One would merely observe the individual passing, and know the hour.... Hence this world could not exist. Curb your dog.

10

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

vm. WS alllost our virginity together, Janet, John, myself. Funny, now that I think of it. Only I cried. Me, Chorus. We Were at the bowling alley. It was night. No one else was thcre.**The lit-Up soda machines ^rast a faint glow on the plastic scoring tables with their overhead projectors. We were by the candy machines. Janet spread the blankets there on the thin, industrial carpeting sprinkled with brange cheddar cheese-cracker crumbs. The duckpins glowed at the ends of the alleys. The counter where you got the shoes — the three-tone shoes, green, red, and white, with numbers on the backs — the shoe counter looked naked without Mike, the guy who gave us our bowling shoes normally. I was reluctant to take ofFall my clothes the way Janet and her brother did. The shoe counter looked naked enough without my ass bare too. Janet coaxed me, holding cheddar cheese crackers, flourescent orange in the feint light, beneath my nose. I nibbled a cracker, stepped out of my underwear. Her brother John stared distractedly at the wall, at a framed score sheet from 1957 with a tallied game of 232. Mike, the shoe guy's father who owned LuckyBowl, had bowled the game. There was the ball polishing machine beneath the framed score sheets next to the shoe-polishing stand where the black guy Coriolahus worked during the day. I stepped out of my Fruit-of-theLooms, leaving them on the shagless carpet like golfing turf. Then the desire started up — the unknowihg, self-conscious wanting. Then came the anxious fumbling, and we stole a moment of happiness in the midst of awkwardness and pain! There was the sudden plunge, the uncomprehended anger, my tears. But who, in short, had whom, and how? Was it like this? Both of us making love to John; first Janet, with me holding the little bag she carried her own special bowling shoes in, then me, with her watching, her reading the score sheets and calling out the names of the "great bowlers of 1958,1959? Guys whose names and strikes were framed On the wall John had both of Us, that is how it was. First Janet, me left holding the little bag smelling of shoe leather, then me, Janet eating all the crackers that were left, cellophane and orange crumbs shiny on her fingers.. We took off without hanging around. The three of us left "the way we had come. We walked back down the gloOmy alley 23 — THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

11


are singing. Love the lord. Janet, please crawl forward. Put your head between the door and the door frame. Your hair is very fair. Your hair is a thin cover on your head. A bit of pink scalp shows through. Your cheeks are puffy. Your calves are soft balls of muscle. Your knees are red from crawling on the carpet. Door, please swing closed now on baby Janet. Please squash her head like a forceps. Hurt her Damage her Change her history Do like gods do in tragedy. Reshape things... I be Chorus. VII. The Categorical Imperative: Immanuel Kant's Famous Philosophical Formulation The Categorical Imperative, Immanuel Kant's famous ethical and philsophical formulation, states: Act only in such a way that a universe or world composed of individuals acting as you do would be an acceptable world. Now I ask you, Janet: Can you conceive of a world in which everyone acts the way you have acted? Can you imagine a world in which everyone shoplifts? Even store managers? Even security people? Can you, Janet, truly picture an America in which everyone's dog would be* allowed, nay, encouraged to shit on everyone elses* lawn? Even cat people? It was said that when Immanuel Kant went for his daily walk, the women of Konigsberg set their clocks by his passage. Janet, can you conceive of a small town where everyone always sets his or her clock by everyone else's walk There would no longer be any need for clocks. One would merely observe the individual passing, and know the hour.... Hence this world could not exist. Curb your dog.

10

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

vm. WS alllost our virginity together, Janet, John, myself. Funny, now that I think of it. Only I cried. Me, Chorus. We Were at the bowling alley. It was night. No one else was thcre.**The lit-Up soda machines ^rast a faint glow on the plastic scoring tables with their overhead projectors. We were by the candy machines. Janet spread the blankets there on the thin, industrial carpeting sprinkled with brange cheddar cheese-cracker crumbs. The duckpins glowed at the ends of the alleys. The counter where you got the shoes — the three-tone shoes, green, red, and white, with numbers on the backs — the shoe counter looked naked without Mike, the guy who gave us our bowling shoes normally. I was reluctant to take ofFall my clothes the way Janet and her brother did. The shoe counter looked naked enough without my ass bare too. Janet coaxed me, holding cheddar cheese crackers, flourescent orange in the feint light, beneath my nose. I nibbled a cracker, stepped out of my underwear. Her brother John stared distractedly at the wall, at a framed score sheet from 1957 with a tallied game of 232. Mike, the shoe guy's father who owned LuckyBowl, had bowled the game. There was the ball polishing machine beneath the framed score sheets next to the shoe-polishing stand where the black guy Coriolahus worked during the day. I stepped out of my Fruit-of-theLooms, leaving them on the shagless carpet like golfing turf. Then the desire started up — the unknowihg, self-conscious wanting. Then came the anxious fumbling, and we stole a moment of happiness in the midst of awkwardness and pain! There was the sudden plunge, the uncomprehended anger, my tears. But who, in short, had whom, and how? Was it like this? Both of us making love to John; first Janet, with me holding the little bag she carried her own special bowling shoes in, then me, with her watching, her reading the score sheets and calling out the names of the "great bowlers of 1958,1959? Guys whose names and strikes were framed On the wall John had both of Us, that is how it was. First Janet, me left holding the little bag smelling of shoe leather, then me, Janet eating all the crackers that were left, cellophane and orange crumbs shiny on her fingers.. We took off without hanging around. The three of us left "the way we had come. We walked back down the gloOmy alley 23 — THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

11


my favorite alley where I was to bowl 147 three years later though I didn't know that then. Alley 23, the wood slick and spotless, the little arrows a third of the way down like street signs for bowling balls showing them where the strikes live. We walked past the fallen pins, their little duckpin heads pointing in all directions, their white bodies gently curved and plump. We crawled down into the machinery room where the pin sweepers stood in a mockery of sweeping — suspended — where the collector bins held ten pins or none at all depending on the point in the cycle where they had stopped — the machine room where the big ten-pin holding carraige, motionless, stale with old oil and dust, hovered overhead like death's angel. I told John I loved him. He was carrying Janet's bag now, with the red, green, and white bowling shoes in it. Janet had her own special shoes with no numbers on them that her Dad had given her for her twelfth birthday. It had made her different even before, though of course now she was a woman too. John and I had to rent ours from Mike. I whispered to John that I really thought I was in love with him — just whispered it, so that Janet wouldn't hear me. But John was embarrassed and didn't say anything back. I knew I shouldn't have said anything. I knew none of my many Voices would be the right One. IX. On the day Janet did in old Mr. Foster, who was a retired reporter for the Ann Arbor News-who had lost his job when the paper got swallowed by Gannet Corporation — on the day Janet blinded him, and stabbed him with a whole set of eight steak knives right out of the box, and then strangled him with the cord of the iron that the new maid Eileen had left in the kitchen on the ironing board she never did put away, then cut him into chunks with a big cleaver that her mom had used when she was into wok cooking for a while there, and then put the pieces of him in the microwave one by one and set it on ten for ten minutes each time so that the chunks got hard-cooked through and came out looking not even like meat anymore but kind of brown and rubbery, like the rubber on the bottoms of Converse All Stars... On that day when Janet killed Mr. Foster, John broke up with me again though we got back together later. Maybe there was some relation between the events: John's get12

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

ting rid of me, and Janet cooking their dad. Yoanever know. X. Kant Addresses The Moral Majority We watched Jerry Falwell escort the guest speaker Immanuel Kant onto the big, empty stage. Imagine a world, Kant said to us through the microphone, in which men copulate with men and women copulate with women. We can't imagine it* we shouted up to him. Who is having children in this world of yours? Kant asked. No one, we boomed back. It ain't our world. Where would these copulating men and women come from if no one were having children? Kant continued quietly, his German accented voice echoing through the hall. He pronounced copulate "gopulate." They wouldn't gopulate, we roared from our pews. There wouldn't be anybody to gopulate. We were having our big annual in the Church of America at 2500 Constitution Avenue in Washington* D.C. Outside all up and down the street there were three hundred and twenty-two charter buses from everywhere. So if no one is copulating, where's your world? Kant asked us slyly. Kant pronounced world "vorld." There isn't any world, we told him all together. There won't be any such world. Zo, Kant said. Vorld without beginning, he said. Amen, he said. Amen, we sang. Amen. XI. Janet's brother doesn't go in for hugging and nurturing much. When it's over, it's over, John says, so why lie around? Today though he humors me — he tenders me for a few minutes. His body, soggy and waning, presses mine patiently. His breath, neitherfragrantnor particularly warm, lingers in lapping intervals on my cheek. From the frosted-glass light fixtures my tiny mobile hangs, it's translucent parts rotating airlessly above us -T- the glass butterfly, the glass sparrow. "There will come a day when you will wish I understood you better," I tell John, who has reddish hair just like Janet. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

13


my favorite alley where I was to bowl 147 three years later though I didn't know that then. Alley 23, the wood slick and spotless, the little arrows a third of the way down like street signs for bowling balls showing them where the strikes live. We walked past the fallen pins, their little duckpin heads pointing in all directions, their white bodies gently curved and plump. We crawled down into the machinery room where the pin sweepers stood in a mockery of sweeping — suspended — where the collector bins held ten pins or none at all depending on the point in the cycle where they had stopped — the machine room where the big ten-pin holding carraige, motionless, stale with old oil and dust, hovered overhead like death's angel. I told John I loved him. He was carrying Janet's bag now, with the red, green, and white bowling shoes in it. Janet had her own special shoes with no numbers on them that her Dad had given her for her twelfth birthday. It had made her different even before, though of course now she was a woman too. John and I had to rent ours from Mike. I whispered to John that I really thought I was in love with him — just whispered it, so that Janet wouldn't hear me. But John was embarrassed and didn't say anything back. I knew I shouldn't have said anything. I knew none of my many Voices would be the right One. IX. On the day Janet did in old Mr. Foster, who was a retired reporter for the Ann Arbor News-who had lost his job when the paper got swallowed by Gannet Corporation — on the day Janet blinded him, and stabbed him with a whole set of eight steak knives right out of the box, and then strangled him with the cord of the iron that the new maid Eileen had left in the kitchen on the ironing board she never did put away, then cut him into chunks with a big cleaver that her mom had used when she was into wok cooking for a while there, and then put the pieces of him in the microwave one by one and set it on ten for ten minutes each time so that the chunks got hard-cooked through and came out looking not even like meat anymore but kind of brown and rubbery, like the rubber on the bottoms of Converse All Stars... On that day when Janet killed Mr. Foster, John broke up with me again though we got back together later. Maybe there was some relation between the events: John's get12

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

ting rid of me, and Janet cooking their dad. Yoanever know. X. Kant Addresses The Moral Majority We watched Jerry Falwell escort the guest speaker Immanuel Kant onto the big, empty stage. Imagine a world, Kant said to us through the microphone, in which men copulate with men and women copulate with women. We can't imagine it* we shouted up to him. Who is having children in this world of yours? Kant asked. No one, we boomed back. It ain't our world. Where would these copulating men and women come from if no one were having children? Kant continued quietly, his German accented voice echoing through the hall. He pronounced copulate "gopulate." They wouldn't gopulate, we roared from our pews. There wouldn't be anybody to gopulate. We were having our big annual in the Church of America at 2500 Constitution Avenue in Washington* D.C. Outside all up and down the street there were three hundred and twenty-two charter buses from everywhere. So if no one is copulating, where's your world? Kant asked us slyly. Kant pronounced world "vorld." There isn't any world, we told him all together. There won't be any such world. Zo, Kant said. Vorld without beginning, he said. Amen, he said. Amen, we sang. Amen. XI. Janet's brother doesn't go in for hugging and nurturing much. When it's over, it's over, John says, so why lie around? Today though he humors me — he tenders me for a few minutes. His body, soggy and waning, presses mine patiently. His breath, neitherfragrantnor particularly warm, lingers in lapping intervals on my cheek. From the frosted-glass light fixtures my tiny mobile hangs, it's translucent parts rotating airlessly above us -T- the glass butterfly, the glass sparrow. "There will come a day when you will wish I understood you better," I tell John, who has reddish hair just like Janet. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

13


"Imagine a world in which all lovers remain hidden from each other in silence," I admonish him, "Remain apart in carious withdrawl." "There will come," I say not whispering, "a time when you will regard your quiet restraint, your self-hoarding, as more than a little sad. You will think it tragic..." "Stay here a little longer," I tell him. "Don't get up so fast after frothy lovemaking. Stay beside me hugging and talking and establishing intimacy..." But he stirs restless and withdraws — leaving twisted sheets, leaving cold air. He goes into the bathroom to wash himself, white bottom disappearing around white wall. I watch him go, my eyes narrowing to slits. I lie, plotting. XII. It ended, as we have noted, with cubes of Daddy cooked tough, brown on the outside. How did it begin? JANET (age 20 1/2): Close your eyes, Daddy... Now don't peek. You want your surprise to be a surprise don't you? MR. FOSTER (age 54): Of course, Honey, but how much longer do I have to... JANET: Put your hands behind your back, behind the chair. It's a treat. I don't want you reaching up and feeling it before you eat it like you usually do when you're trying t o guess. MR. FOSTER: There. My hands are in back. Now what's the treat? I really have to get to.... Handcuffs? Hands cuffed behind the chair? A startled moment, eyes opening despite promises, mouth still open for a moment too as the treat-to-eat becomes a gag-to-gag-upon made of a potholder, stuffed hastily into parental lips and secured in place with an apron rolled ifito a fet little roll and tied behind the father's neck? Janet, get the fork. Mr. Foster, how can you imagine what is about to happen to you?- What grounds do you have for imagin14

ing that your daughter, who has gagged and cuffed you, is about to put out your two eyes? Are you a literary man, Mr. Foster? There are precedents. Still, what grounds? How to think, on the spur of the moment as in a game of charades This time no treat, no fresh brownie made special with Grand Marnier, no French donuts, the smell of boiling grease in the kitchen air, no homemade Rocky Road ice cream with the occasional pecan shell as hazard... How to* think instead My wrists are being cut into by these cuffs This chair back is too high for me to pull my arms over My mouth |s ftiU of stale potholder Janet is not smiling she looks slighdy confused but only slightly as if about a procedural matter. . .That is a fork Those are the steak knives we never use because they're too damn sharp even for steak... How to think? How to think. How to scream, grunt.

Just close your eye, Mr. Foster. That's it. If it hurts, just close it...like there's a speck in there and your hands are fiill and your glasses are on so you can't reach in after the speck. So just close your eye. Now the other one. (It feels like I'm crying.) Maybe you are crying. Crying like a baby, both eyes squeezed shut, hot tears spilling over, spilling. Now the other eye. Close the other eye. Just crying... — No more Janet. — N o more steak knives. (Where are my glasses?) Your glasses are on the table.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

15


"Imagine a world in which all lovers remain hidden from each other in silence," I admonish him, "Remain apart in carious withdrawl." "There will come," I say not whispering, "a time when you will regard your quiet restraint, your self-hoarding, as more than a little sad. You will think it tragic..." "Stay here a little longer," I tell him. "Don't get up so fast after frothy lovemaking. Stay beside me hugging and talking and establishing intimacy..." But he stirs restless and withdraws — leaving twisted sheets, leaving cold air. He goes into the bathroom to wash himself, white bottom disappearing around white wall. I watch him go, my eyes narrowing to slits. I lie, plotting. XII. It ended, as we have noted, with cubes of Daddy cooked tough, brown on the outside. How did it begin? JANET (age 20 1/2): Close your eyes, Daddy... Now don't peek. You want your surprise to be a surprise don't you? MR. FOSTER (age 54): Of course, Honey, but how much longer do I have to... JANET: Put your hands behind your back, behind the chair. It's a treat. I don't want you reaching up and feeling it before you eat it like you usually do when you're trying t o guess. MR. FOSTER: There. My hands are in back. Now what's the treat? I really have to get to.... Handcuffs? Hands cuffed behind the chair? A startled moment, eyes opening despite promises, mouth still open for a moment too as the treat-to-eat becomes a gag-to-gag-upon made of a potholder, stuffed hastily into parental lips and secured in place with an apron rolled ifito a fet little roll and tied behind the father's neck? Janet, get the fork. Mr. Foster, how can you imagine what is about to happen to you?- What grounds do you have for imagin14

ing that your daughter, who has gagged and cuffed you, is about to put out your two eyes? Are you a literary man, Mr. Foster? There are precedents. Still, what grounds? How to think, on the spur of the moment as in a game of charades This time no treat, no fresh brownie made special with Grand Marnier, no French donuts, the smell of boiling grease in the kitchen air, no homemade Rocky Road ice cream with the occasional pecan shell as hazard... How to* think instead My wrists are being cut into by these cuffs This chair back is too high for me to pull my arms over My mouth |s ftiU of stale potholder Janet is not smiling she looks slighdy confused but only slightly as if about a procedural matter. . .That is a fork Those are the steak knives we never use because they're too damn sharp even for steak... How to think? How to think. How to scream, grunt.

Just close your eye, Mr. Foster. That's it. If it hurts, just close it...like there's a speck in there and your hands are fiill and your glasses are on so you can't reach in after the speck. So just close your eye. Now the other one. (It feels like I'm crying.) Maybe you are crying. Crying like a baby, both eyes squeezed shut, hot tears spilling over, spilling. Now the other eye. Close the other eye. Just crying... — No more Janet. — N o more steak knives. (Where are my glasses?) Your glasses are on the table.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

15


XIII. Janet As A Mother In Later Life Janet at thirty-three becomes a mother. She has a girl named Janet. Janet cries for six months. Some babies are like that, coming in with the sorrows of the world. Others are quiet, contentment their lot. Janet cries for six months. Janet is patient with Janet. She holds Janet. She rocks Janet. She calls Janet Janet — also Puddin' and LittP Puddin' and Puddin' Belly. Janet is a good mother. Imagine a world in which all mothers are good — as good as Janet is to Janet. Imagine a world in which all mothers are patricides and good mothers. This world is imaginable. It is a viable, self-perpetuating world since all fathers are already fathers before their daughters are patricides, and all patricidal mothers need by no means be child-killers — filiocides or filiacides. On the contrary. Janet takes Janet to the supermarket. Janet is one now. She has stopped crying for six months past. Now she points. Janet points at the Quaker Oats. Mrs. Janet puts the Quaker Oats in the cart. Janet points a pudgy fist toward a rack of Leggs panty hose. Mamma Janet chooses her own size, flesh tone, and adds the Leggs to the cart. Small Janet smiles a toothless griri, pink and philistine. She loves to point! Big Janet smiles a compressed grown woman smile to herself. She loves to buy whatever Janet points to. Inevitably she needs the item, or can imagine needing it. Janet pushes her fist into her wet gummy mouth and pulls it out, glistening. She points it at paper towels, Brawny, $2.99 for two fet rolls. Large Janet hesitates, then takes the Scotts, on sale for only $1.99, from the lower shelf to which Janet did not point. Janet puts the paper towel on top of the light items she has collected in the front of her cart — the lettuce, the granola bread, the tortilla chips. Miniature Janet returns fist to gums and frowns. She did not want the Scotts Towels. She wanted the Brawny Towels with the picture of the man. Little Janet points again helplessly as her mother wheels her away from the paper towels. She points and points but she does not howl or wail. She points and remembers. She is not a howler anymore — she is a rememberer. She will not forget.

16

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

XTV. What The Fork Saw The fork sees eye coming. The fork feels eye, pushes on eye, breaks into eye — eye remarkably hard, the texture of something other than eye, harder than grape, as hard as chicken leg, for example; chicken skin, white meat. The fork sees eye, feels eye, plunges eye — pulls out nectar, snot-like, all resistance gone suddenly, eye turned to clear matter, not oozing, contained within invisible membranes, seperate from blood, still half inside eyehole. The fork retreats. The fork prepares to do it's trick again. Encore, Bravo. Standing ovation... The other eye. One more time...Eye, resistance, eye, push, break. Eye snot. Eye blood. eyehang XV. I am Chorus. Chorus am I. I clean up the mess after this sort of thing. I give meaning to what otherwise would be simple gore, ordinary Hollywood spectacle. I make it instead into suprisingly recurring and sometimes awesomely enduring literature. I am Chorus. And I sing of Janet. Janet whose head got stuck in a door. Janet who makes love to her own brother. Janet who popped her chery in a bowling alley without tears, then ate a cheese cracker. Janet, whose father Mr. Foster did not come when she called him, did not see when she had a thing to show him, a remarkable thing that could not last, that had to be seen in the imperative now of the instant. I sing of Janet. Janet whose brother is impassive, difficult to interpret, and whom I, Chorus, love with a love surpassing the love of Janet. I tell this tale of Janet Who is a good mother, Janet who buys that to which temporarily smaller Janet points, but who messes around with the wet fist's choice and who thereby may in her turn have an angry Janet on her hands — an angry Htde Janet who is statistically likely to grow . up and act out the frustrations of her grave, infant, consumer disTHE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

\J


XIII. Janet As A Mother In Later Life Janet at thirty-three becomes a mother. She has a girl named Janet. Janet cries for six months. Some babies are like that, coming in with the sorrows of the world. Others are quiet, contentment their lot. Janet cries for six months. Janet is patient with Janet. She holds Janet. She rocks Janet. She calls Janet Janet — also Puddin' and LittP Puddin' and Puddin' Belly. Janet is a good mother. Imagine a world in which all mothers are good — as good as Janet is to Janet. Imagine a world in which all mothers are patricides and good mothers. This world is imaginable. It is a viable, self-perpetuating world since all fathers are already fathers before their daughters are patricides, and all patricidal mothers need by no means be child-killers — filiocides or filiacides. On the contrary. Janet takes Janet to the supermarket. Janet is one now. She has stopped crying for six months past. Now she points. Janet points at the Quaker Oats. Mrs. Janet puts the Quaker Oats in the cart. Janet points a pudgy fist toward a rack of Leggs panty hose. Mamma Janet chooses her own size, flesh tone, and adds the Leggs to the cart. Small Janet smiles a toothless griri, pink and philistine. She loves to point! Big Janet smiles a compressed grown woman smile to herself. She loves to buy whatever Janet points to. Inevitably she needs the item, or can imagine needing it. Janet pushes her fist into her wet gummy mouth and pulls it out, glistening. She points it at paper towels, Brawny, $2.99 for two fet rolls. Large Janet hesitates, then takes the Scotts, on sale for only $1.99, from the lower shelf to which Janet did not point. Janet puts the paper towel on top of the light items she has collected in the front of her cart — the lettuce, the granola bread, the tortilla chips. Miniature Janet returns fist to gums and frowns. She did not want the Scotts Towels. She wanted the Brawny Towels with the picture of the man. Little Janet points again helplessly as her mother wheels her away from the paper towels. She points and points but she does not howl or wail. She points and remembers. She is not a howler anymore — she is a rememberer. She will not forget.

16

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

XTV. What The Fork Saw The fork sees eye coming. The fork feels eye, pushes on eye, breaks into eye — eye remarkably hard, the texture of something other than eye, harder than grape, as hard as chicken leg, for example; chicken skin, white meat. The fork sees eye, feels eye, plunges eye — pulls out nectar, snot-like, all resistance gone suddenly, eye turned to clear matter, not oozing, contained within invisible membranes, seperate from blood, still half inside eyehole. The fork retreats. The fork prepares to do it's trick again. Encore, Bravo. Standing ovation... The other eye. One more time...Eye, resistance, eye, push, break. Eye snot. Eye blood. eyehang XV. I am Chorus. Chorus am I. I clean up the mess after this sort of thing. I give meaning to what otherwise would be simple gore, ordinary Hollywood spectacle. I make it instead into suprisingly recurring and sometimes awesomely enduring literature. I am Chorus. And I sing of Janet. Janet whose head got stuck in a door. Janet who makes love to her own brother. Janet who popped her chery in a bowling alley without tears, then ate a cheese cracker. Janet, whose father Mr. Foster did not come when she called him, did not see when she had a thing to show him, a remarkable thing that could not last, that had to be seen in the imperative now of the instant. I sing of Janet. Janet whose brother is impassive, difficult to interpret, and whom I, Chorus, love with a love surpassing the love of Janet. I tell this tale of Janet Who is a good mother, Janet who buys that to which temporarily smaller Janet points, but who messes around with the wet fist's choice and who thereby may in her turn have an angry Janet on her hands — an angry Htde Janet who is statistically likely to grow . up and act out the frustrations of her grave, infant, consumer disTHE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

\J


appointments. I am Chorus. I make up images of Janet. Janet who has reddish hair like her brother's. Janet the fork-wielder. Janet the cart-pusher. I give credit to Janet. Janet who knows a lot about Kant. Janet who is brilliant in seminars. I am Janet's resume. I am on Janet's side. I would be happy to serve on Janet's committee. But I am not only on Janet's side That's the tricky part. I stand apart from Janet. I judge Janet. I am Chorus. I spend time thinking about Janet. I think of words that rhyme with Janet. planet can it Plantagenet

18

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

JENNY CHEN Untitled, 1989, gelatin silver print, courtesy: the artist


appointments. I am Chorus. I make up images of Janet. Janet who has reddish hair like her brother's. Janet the fork-wielder. Janet the cart-pusher. I give credit to Janet. Janet who knows a lot about Kant. Janet who is brilliant in seminars. I am Janet's resume. I am on Janet's side. I would be happy to serve on Janet's committee. But I am not only on Janet's side That's the tricky part. I stand apart from Janet. I judge Janet. I am Chorus. I spend time thinking about Janet. I think of words that rhyme with Janet. planet can it Plantagenet

18

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

JENNY CHEN Untitled, 1989, gelatin silver print, courtesy: the artist


year beginning with horror and grief for those taken from us. Some thought a bear must have gone about, left behind by Noah but somehow not extinct. He must be very much like ourselves, we thought, this hairy predator come to eat our own. Walter's Sonnets Barrett Warner He was our man for sausage, winding the meatgrinder crank, adding a kind of dust that made our tounges burn and blister. He baked sourdough bread people and we loved to eat the sausage pressed between their bodies. He did this in winter, when he knew us unable to find any treats. The hills would be rich with snow promising the great floods of April. We were all hungry; gone to anger and boredom with poverty. What little we did own we kept like foreign coins, the images odd and the value unknown.

Ii

Families gathered under old checkered wool at the Workman's Club. Walter and teams of women served us the spicy meat, ladling the fet juices with mugs. He called the women, 'damsels;' a word which seemed heavy, strange like his mustache which he combed into the shape of eye glasses. He was the fattest man we had ever seen. We never asked wherefore he came to treasures, nor why he fed us with such need; we ate almost in silence. Afterwards, the damsels washed pots, returned to his car with armloads of crockery. He was very old then. We trusted him. We hoped. We began to disappear, one or two every December. Young men and women who might have taken new routes into the woods, dancing along abutments of dynamited bedrock: shale, quartz, the glow of jasper and feldspar like beckoning lamps. We grew to hate this month of loss, of bodies not found, of each new

Walter took my arm, shouldering the bulk of stomach and bosom against my thin-as-a-rail body. The December chill made me sleepy and numb inside. He pointed to where he had once kept a thousand mink. He butchered them on Valentine's Day when their coats were the finest, bundling the pelts for Israelite furriers in New York. "We brought the cages to the garage and killed them with the Ford exhaust," he said. "The fumes preserved the meat long enough for it to be sold on another continent.'' Now he made sausage in the barn. That was why we were here, so I could watch the grinder. Walter left me alone. The hog scalding pots were steaming outside and he went to find some old pigs. I was tired. I had never been this tired. I lay down on a butcher block and closed my eyes. I held a knife to my cheek and pressed the fece of the blade to my skin, warming beneath its soft heat. Just moments ago, Walter had shown me how to cook a knife. I had never done this but was happy to learn of this and other secrets: the mystery spice that went into the famous hot sausage, the plastic hairbrush laying on the floor, a worn tennis shoe in the corner. I wanted to ask about these things, but soon I was dreaming of a big, wonderful hand at my side.

I was wrong. I hadn't been dreaming at all. Walter called me a damsel and put his hand on my ribs, his fingers as if whispering where soon I might have breasts. For now, I could have been a boy, as he said. I closed my eyes again and did not protest that he removed my clothes. He said I was lovely here and lovely there, kissing and touching and speaking low. I felt an animal lying on me and woke from what I thought had been my dream. Walter had covered me with thirty mink pelts, each still having a glossy head and eyes like agate. "You were frozen," he said. Barrett Warner lives in Annapolis, Maryland. His work has appeared in The William and I was trembling. The mink heads nuzzled my body hot and lovely. Mary Review, Fiction 86 and The Crescent Review. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

21


year beginning with horror and grief for those taken from us. Some thought a bear must have gone about, left behind by Noah but somehow not extinct. He must be very much like ourselves, we thought, this hairy predator come to eat our own. Walter's Sonnets Barrett Warner He was our man for sausage, winding the meatgrinder crank, adding a kind of dust that made our tounges burn and blister. He baked sourdough bread people and we loved to eat the sausage pressed between their bodies. He did this in winter, when he knew us unable to find any treats. The hills would be rich with snow promising the great floods of April. We were all hungry; gone to anger and boredom with poverty. What little we did own we kept like foreign coins, the images odd and the value unknown.

Ii

Families gathered under old checkered wool at the Workman's Club. Walter and teams of women served us the spicy meat, ladling the fet juices with mugs. He called the women, 'damsels;' a word which seemed heavy, strange like his mustache which he combed into the shape of eye glasses. He was the fattest man we had ever seen. We never asked wherefore he came to treasures, nor why he fed us with such need; we ate almost in silence. Afterwards, the damsels washed pots, returned to his car with armloads of crockery. He was very old then. We trusted him. We hoped. We began to disappear, one or two every December. Young men and women who might have taken new routes into the woods, dancing along abutments of dynamited bedrock: shale, quartz, the glow of jasper and feldspar like beckoning lamps. We grew to hate this month of loss, of bodies not found, of each new

Walter took my arm, shouldering the bulk of stomach and bosom against my thin-as-a-rail body. The December chill made me sleepy and numb inside. He pointed to where he had once kept a thousand mink. He butchered them on Valentine's Day when their coats were the finest, bundling the pelts for Israelite furriers in New York. "We brought the cages to the garage and killed them with the Ford exhaust," he said. "The fumes preserved the meat long enough for it to be sold on another continent.'' Now he made sausage in the barn. That was why we were here, so I could watch the grinder. Walter left me alone. The hog scalding pots were steaming outside and he went to find some old pigs. I was tired. I had never been this tired. I lay down on a butcher block and closed my eyes. I held a knife to my cheek and pressed the fece of the blade to my skin, warming beneath its soft heat. Just moments ago, Walter had shown me how to cook a knife. I had never done this but was happy to learn of this and other secrets: the mystery spice that went into the famous hot sausage, the plastic hairbrush laying on the floor, a worn tennis shoe in the corner. I wanted to ask about these things, but soon I was dreaming of a big, wonderful hand at my side.

I was wrong. I hadn't been dreaming at all. Walter called me a damsel and put his hand on my ribs, his fingers as if whispering where soon I might have breasts. For now, I could have been a boy, as he said. I closed my eyes again and did not protest that he removed my clothes. He said I was lovely here and lovely there, kissing and touching and speaking low. I felt an animal lying on me and woke from what I thought had been my dream. Walter had covered me with thirty mink pelts, each still having a glossy head and eyes like agate. "You were frozen," he said. Barrett Warner lives in Annapolis, Maryland. His work has appeared in The William and I was trembling. The mink heads nuzzled my body hot and lovely. Mary Review, Fiction 86 and The Crescent Review. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

21


We had made a hundred pounds of spicy meat but the day was quickly ending; I had to leave before it was gone. "Nonsense," Walter said. We would work some more, he would make a meal and he would take me home with ten pounds of sausage for my mother. Yes, yes, I said, bopping him with a sausage log. We made another fifty pounds in our glee, him grinding and mixing and me shoving the spicy mass into large, transparent sleeves. I had blood and ground pork fragments on my face. When we were through he took off his apron and knelt bcfor me. Quiedy, he cleaned the viscera from my skin. I said nothing. He had begun with my hands, swallowing my fingers a knuckle at a time, sucking on the webbish skin between each, dangling his tourige across my palms and back again, calling me his sweet damsel. I stood almost in silence, a slight whimper escaping once between silent breaths; When the blood was gone from my hands and arms and fece he led me to his house. We hurried through the snow and I felt like an elf, but for the parka of mink he'd given me. Inside, we made a fire and I knew that very soon I would disappear.

II

I had known from the first few minutes that he was the hairy beast giving us the hungers of mind and heart, the angst of dear ones departed. I had known in the old barn, had known in my dream of love-making, had known when waking beneath sixty eyes of the mink, his gaze the coldest, shrewdest of them all, the down on the back of his hand matching the down on where he found me lovely, my pink 'ginnie.' In what were perhaps my final minutes I hugged his bulk, trusting him more than the death he would soon evoke.

above my head. Bleach-bitten skeletons lay with arms folded all about us. Walter told me about his mother and father, his two sisters, another woman from Poland. He talked about boys at the English school; his and their fathers. He talked about why he stopped raising mink. I did not listen to what he said. I held his arm and leaned against his white belly and watched his fece. His eyes twitched when he spoke of a cave where other bodies could be found, a purse in the mountain where I'd see the remains of a thousand mink. I climbed his trunk and curled my body around his pumpkinshaped head, calling him lovely. I was naked. He had bound my hands and feet to the butcher block. He stood over me wearing his sausage apron, gendy scratching my leg with the end of a rib bone. I shivered and thought nothing. The bone was cold and when I felt its ice I yelped. There was pain and a newer, refined kind of blood. Afterwards, I saw a pumpkin list about my abdomen and knew him to be cleaning me of my own pubic viscera. Later, I believed he and I to be angels of a different world. I loved him even as he raised a knife to my nodding head. His fece had the weariness of work beyond work. He shook and I worried that he might crash down upon me, his fece coming to within inches of my own. Instead, he dropped the knife. He took my chin and peered into my eyes, the hurt we felt going from me to him to me like a pendulum of old sadnesses. I knew then that I would always love .him; that I could not love anyone else who was not old and heavy and a little ruined. "Tell me another sonnet," Walter said. "He was our man for sausage," I began. "Winding and hot and good."

He didn't kill me right away. The fire blazed and he smiled when the oak cracked and spit. I moved my litde finger under his moist lip and counted his small white teeth. The gold nugget near the back of his mouth mirrored the dancing light, shaking it that much more. I wondered how he would kill me and when I asked he lifted me in his arms and carried me again. His body was so large I felt as if drifting on a small fluffy moon. We orbited down a long column of steps where he set me on my feet, handing me a kerosene lantern. He lit the wick and I held the lantern 22

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

23


We had made a hundred pounds of spicy meat but the day was quickly ending; I had to leave before it was gone. "Nonsense," Walter said. We would work some more, he would make a meal and he would take me home with ten pounds of sausage for my mother. Yes, yes, I said, bopping him with a sausage log. We made another fifty pounds in our glee, him grinding and mixing and me shoving the spicy mass into large, transparent sleeves. I had blood and ground pork fragments on my face. When we were through he took off his apron and knelt bcfor me. Quiedy, he cleaned the viscera from my skin. I said nothing. He had begun with my hands, swallowing my fingers a knuckle at a time, sucking on the webbish skin between each, dangling his tourige across my palms and back again, calling me his sweet damsel. I stood almost in silence, a slight whimper escaping once between silent breaths; When the blood was gone from my hands and arms and fece he led me to his house. We hurried through the snow and I felt like an elf, but for the parka of mink he'd given me. Inside, we made a fire and I knew that very soon I would disappear.

II

I had known from the first few minutes that he was the hairy beast giving us the hungers of mind and heart, the angst of dear ones departed. I had known in the old barn, had known in my dream of love-making, had known when waking beneath sixty eyes of the mink, his gaze the coldest, shrewdest of them all, the down on the back of his hand matching the down on where he found me lovely, my pink 'ginnie.' In what were perhaps my final minutes I hugged his bulk, trusting him more than the death he would soon evoke.

above my head. Bleach-bitten skeletons lay with arms folded all about us. Walter told me about his mother and father, his two sisters, another woman from Poland. He talked about boys at the English school; his and their fathers. He talked about why he stopped raising mink. I did not listen to what he said. I held his arm and leaned against his white belly and watched his fece. His eyes twitched when he spoke of a cave where other bodies could be found, a purse in the mountain where I'd see the remains of a thousand mink. I climbed his trunk and curled my body around his pumpkinshaped head, calling him lovely. I was naked. He had bound my hands and feet to the butcher block. He stood over me wearing his sausage apron, gendy scratching my leg with the end of a rib bone. I shivered and thought nothing. The bone was cold and when I felt its ice I yelped. There was pain and a newer, refined kind of blood. Afterwards, I saw a pumpkin list about my abdomen and knew him to be cleaning me of my own pubic viscera. Later, I believed he and I to be angels of a different world. I loved him even as he raised a knife to my nodding head. His fece had the weariness of work beyond work. He shook and I worried that he might crash down upon me, his fece coming to within inches of my own. Instead, he dropped the knife. He took my chin and peered into my eyes, the hurt we felt going from me to him to me like a pendulum of old sadnesses. I knew then that I would always love .him; that I could not love anyone else who was not old and heavy and a little ruined. "Tell me another sonnet," Walter said. "He was our man for sausage," I began. "Winding and hot and good."

He didn't kill me right away. The fire blazed and he smiled when the oak cracked and spit. I moved my litde finger under his moist lip and counted his small white teeth. The gold nugget near the back of his mouth mirrored the dancing light, shaking it that much more. I wondered how he would kill me and when I asked he lifted me in his arms and carried me again. His body was so large I felt as if drifting on a small fluffy moon. We orbited down a long column of steps where he set me on my feet, handing me a kerosene lantern. He lit the wick and I held the lantern 22

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

23


nudging my old thigh, urging older bones, shyer, to surface. This wind won't remain, or myself, and I miss her, this woman to whom I've never spoken. And unfold.

S w i m m i n g the Plank Mallory Tarses I missed most, and only, a woman to whom I'd never spoken. Dulcie walked silently past, me on my stairs, onto my steps, into my house, softly, collecting nothing, leaving behind an aged scent of an unoccurable history, a history I could never have, could never remember if I did have. For money, for acceptance of everything passed to me, for something that seemed like love, she slithers past trash bins, pokes in enough to receive but not to care; if it's on top, she accepts it, she never stops breathing, never lets her heart skip singularly, eats without chewing, seeps somehow up something. I wanted, from away, to collect her, her fece, it's distance, the geography between us. But what would I do with it. Without consent, from away, she comes, she slips, in red, yellow, colors never quite orange, never quite nameable, she strips quietly, shrugs off dying garments until her blue breasts hang unashamed, hang lighdy, brush nothing for the smoothness of her movement, and when she looks, for a moment, it is steady, stays like a frame, makes the prolonged gaze, the constancy of unconsumated lust, this thing I'd call my base, a myth. She'd glanced before, at most, with hairs, with toes, and, I know, this may be all I know, she does not love me. She only knows me. That is, she knows me only. If this is all, and it is, then everyone I've overlooked, refused to become, who I've denied, in the flicker of a sleepy lightbulb, visits, though they matter only as reminders. Remainders, remnants, they do not speak, just stand in my darkness, crowd my corners, watch me wait. In her there is silence deeper than no sound. like a child I can no longer contain, she does not kick or reach. From this peak I never planned on, I look at waves, feel yellow wind through my leaving, my left, hair, sense a point of granite Mallory Tarses is a recent graduate of Brown University where she studied creative writing. She has publishedfiction,poetry and photographs in numerous reviews.

This, too, I never planned on. There's a man in a parking lot, tying his brown shoe, brown lace, stooping gracelessly in a shirt that prys apart, does not mean to be bent, is. There is no humor in his eyebrows, in his returning erect, rigid to the building he sees more than does he his parenthetical wife. Taking the stairs has never occured to him; he waits with his wristwatch for the efficient sparkling box. Opens like a silver womb and I slide beside him, watch Mm ride, watch his wanderless eyes as they blink at 2, at 3, orange lights, blink 4, blink 5, and pause for escape. I follow. I could be his wife. His name is gold on the door; he will tell me what I already know. But I can not wait for his explanation, can't wait for the honesty that accomodates his clockwork. His fece flinch to smile. Grimace. I know from his hands; I sweep, past him so he wonders was I there, I take the stairs, the bus, the white DONT WALK walkway, automatic air door to the revolving terminal. Dead Frank left a plastic card I rarely need; it spreads its hands, offers to send me anywhere. I accept. Some people die before they have a chance to grow old. Some people age helplessly, feel sick along the way, sick, mainly, of themselves, and a bit surprised to find their own reflections unexpectedly. Some people just forget who they had been and then forget who they are. They don't want to spend time with themselves anymore. They begin to avoid at concession stands, at pharmacies, horseback riding themselves. They worry without knowing that if they figure out who they are they'll just watch themselves disintegrate more clearly. To fell apart, to dissolve, the watchful present. There are other things that happen to people when they age, but this reminds me of something I never planned to be. Which is old. I've heard words from my mouth that are not mine, that are, perhaps, my mother's, and wonder if they were ever really hers, as I always trusted her facts. Adopted. Her words creeping into mine, obscuring my own, which I didn't didn't own anyway, talking with my ears, her not owning hers. My mother finally forgot who she was. I've always admired her THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

25


nudging my old thigh, urging older bones, shyer, to surface. This wind won't remain, or myself, and I miss her, this woman to whom I've never spoken. And unfold.

S w i m m i n g the Plank Mallory Tarses I missed most, and only, a woman to whom I'd never spoken. Dulcie walked silently past, me on my stairs, onto my steps, into my house, softly, collecting nothing, leaving behind an aged scent of an unoccurable history, a history I could never have, could never remember if I did have. For money, for acceptance of everything passed to me, for something that seemed like love, she slithers past trash bins, pokes in enough to receive but not to care; if it's on top, she accepts it, she never stops breathing, never lets her heart skip singularly, eats without chewing, seeps somehow up something. I wanted, from away, to collect her, her fece, it's distance, the geography between us. But what would I do with it. Without consent, from away, she comes, she slips, in red, yellow, colors never quite orange, never quite nameable, she strips quietly, shrugs off dying garments until her blue breasts hang unashamed, hang lighdy, brush nothing for the smoothness of her movement, and when she looks, for a moment, it is steady, stays like a frame, makes the prolonged gaze, the constancy of unconsumated lust, this thing I'd call my base, a myth. She'd glanced before, at most, with hairs, with toes, and, I know, this may be all I know, she does not love me. She only knows me. That is, she knows me only. If this is all, and it is, then everyone I've overlooked, refused to become, who I've denied, in the flicker of a sleepy lightbulb, visits, though they matter only as reminders. Remainders, remnants, they do not speak, just stand in my darkness, crowd my corners, watch me wait. In her there is silence deeper than no sound. like a child I can no longer contain, she does not kick or reach. From this peak I never planned on, I look at waves, feel yellow wind through my leaving, my left, hair, sense a point of granite Mallory Tarses is a recent graduate of Brown University where she studied creative writing. She has publishedfiction,poetry and photographs in numerous reviews.

This, too, I never planned on. There's a man in a parking lot, tying his brown shoe, brown lace, stooping gracelessly in a shirt that prys apart, does not mean to be bent, is. There is no humor in his eyebrows, in his returning erect, rigid to the building he sees more than does he his parenthetical wife. Taking the stairs has never occured to him; he waits with his wristwatch for the efficient sparkling box. Opens like a silver womb and I slide beside him, watch Mm ride, watch his wanderless eyes as they blink at 2, at 3, orange lights, blink 4, blink 5, and pause for escape. I follow. I could be his wife. His name is gold on the door; he will tell me what I already know. But I can not wait for his explanation, can't wait for the honesty that accomodates his clockwork. His fece flinch to smile. Grimace. I know from his hands; I sweep, past him so he wonders was I there, I take the stairs, the bus, the white DONT WALK walkway, automatic air door to the revolving terminal. Dead Frank left a plastic card I rarely need; it spreads its hands, offers to send me anywhere. I accept. Some people die before they have a chance to grow old. Some people age helplessly, feel sick along the way, sick, mainly, of themselves, and a bit surprised to find their own reflections unexpectedly. Some people just forget who they had been and then forget who they are. They don't want to spend time with themselves anymore. They begin to avoid at concession stands, at pharmacies, horseback riding themselves. They worry without knowing that if they figure out who they are they'll just watch themselves disintegrate more clearly. To fell apart, to dissolve, the watchful present. There are other things that happen to people when they age, but this reminds me of something I never planned to be. Which is old. I've heard words from my mouth that are not mine, that are, perhaps, my mother's, and wonder if they were ever really hers, as I always trusted her facts. Adopted. Her words creeping into mine, obscuring my own, which I didn't didn't own anyway, talking with my ears, her not owning hers. My mother finally forgot who she was. I've always admired her THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

25


for her instinct. That's where she kept her beauty. She knew when to let it seep. So here I am, whatever that means, what truth. As she strips her fece becomes clearer. A nose forms, a shoe drops, an eyebrow. The lava here is called A-A because you step softly through its sharpness. It rippled once, black waves, and stopped. Black that can only be compared to itself, stillness that recedes to Highlands, where blades of green engulf the occasional residents. Their laughter emerges, linages. Here, where the language is not mine, where the hearer mirrors my fece, helpless but jovial, content not to comprehend — this is not new, just more — I do not speak as there are no ears, just lobes, and me, only my feet stand in this spot, only the heat seeps through my shoes. I can see this old woman, this wrinkle of histories, my trembling trigger fingers. I speak backwards and, here as a city block, a meal, a cigarette becomes an increment of time, each island signifies a day without her. I walk, wait, listen. Del tobo tienes esparcidasla vida. Manana infanta mipena tobosoy mi madrey mi mistress. Un corozonpequeno en los oceanosgrandes. Is yours. Just hold it for a while. Night does fell, fest like a young boy's voice like a blink milk like wet soap like skin under the arms of an aging woman. Here, night seems to fell fester and larger and I wonder if I'm dying very quickly. „From the water, night is-even below you, where you reach to touch and draw back, suspicious. I sit on the deck, inside my legs, in a corner of all this darkness and that sound, that baaaa of the constant female, the sea lioness, beckons. There is nothing coy in her cry; he just has to find her. All through the night, rthis unabashed call, this need, all through this fallen, all through as Venus. Slides through wide, sky, slips orange into the sea. I dream of the, earth shifting in sections, mechanically, immaculately. The core of a vegetable, it will not send me your secret, just spins, weaves, recedes. On a thin bed that dips with the absence of water, there rests below me a man who smiles in his sleep. When I look at the iguanas, they regard me as a mirror; I see my own scales, my sturdy hands, my age. His eyelids blink slow, hold reason, undefinable, unquestioned, unnecessary, like a promise. Out of the porthole is eye-level ocean and that sound, 26

everywhere, insisting, persistant enough to be ignored, the honest and ugly assurance of the eventuality, the evolution, copulation, creation. Occasionly I stir from this empty that has become easy. I think not of Frank, for a husband is not a toy. I remember chairs, tables, shiny wood floors, and people, sometimes, or parts of them. Legs in crowds, profiles at the picture show, dark, newspaper photographs, grains of flesh, pieces of light. And her, probably moved on, as my refuse is unimpressive, especially in my absence. I just don't absorb much. A cheap paper towel, she moves on. To be old is to be young, overestimating, ready. Age paves honesty; the foots of hills make me cry. She will not stop, why her, why miss most the mysteriousness, the thing I never had in a life so? Maybe missing the misconstrued^ A jglimmer, a thought sliped easily into, a dynamic image, never intended to be complete. And in my stomach, my throat, an ache and nowhere to put it. What I could fill. Because I never considered this, never had days of anxious waiting for, dread, this missing, days like other days except for the knowing that they were waning, drawing closer the suture, something pending. Before a week passed before, I began to wonder, a month before I missed this why do I miss this who is woman, now a day, the first day, I couldn't stop her from visiting, being gone like this. One day was nothing when I could stand in one spot, one stone step on a wet street, and wait. And this wish that she'd let me miss more of her. If we'd said goodbye in a park, on a peak, a terrace. Means God be with you, and shouldn't we miss him? It's been so long. If I could have seen her walk away, if she'd have left me silence, and nothing to look at. A fixed image, a receding back, reproducing and insinuating itself. Ultimately exausting, going. If I could say, gathered beside her on a hungry couch, sucking us from the bottom up, a sea of photo albums bent under our heads, "Jeez." The little league picnic egg-toss champions of 1962, crossed eyelids, parental cliches, safety myths, bug stories, and bruises. Serving trays, flares. I could lay my hands on yours. There are never photographers before suicides. Crucifixions draw portrait painters, and nobody takes pictures of what never ocpired. So there is no documentation of us. It is as real as everything I've never recorded. It is as quiet as her passing cement shuffle, softer than the turning of newspaper pages* emptier than

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

27


for her instinct. That's where she kept her beauty. She knew when to let it seep. So here I am, whatever that means, what truth. As she strips her fece becomes clearer. A nose forms, a shoe drops, an eyebrow. The lava here is called A-A because you step softly through its sharpness. It rippled once, black waves, and stopped. Black that can only be compared to itself, stillness that recedes to Highlands, where blades of green engulf the occasional residents. Their laughter emerges, linages. Here, where the language is not mine, where the hearer mirrors my fece, helpless but jovial, content not to comprehend — this is not new, just more — I do not speak as there are no ears, just lobes, and me, only my feet stand in this spot, only the heat seeps through my shoes. I can see this old woman, this wrinkle of histories, my trembling trigger fingers. I speak backwards and, here as a city block, a meal, a cigarette becomes an increment of time, each island signifies a day without her. I walk, wait, listen. Del tobo tienes esparcidasla vida. Manana infanta mipena tobosoy mi madrey mi mistress. Un corozonpequeno en los oceanosgrandes. Is yours. Just hold it for a while. Night does fell, fest like a young boy's voice like a blink milk like wet soap like skin under the arms of an aging woman. Here, night seems to fell fester and larger and I wonder if I'm dying very quickly. „From the water, night is-even below you, where you reach to touch and draw back, suspicious. I sit on the deck, inside my legs, in a corner of all this darkness and that sound, that baaaa of the constant female, the sea lioness, beckons. There is nothing coy in her cry; he just has to find her. All through the night, rthis unabashed call, this need, all through this fallen, all through as Venus. Slides through wide, sky, slips orange into the sea. I dream of the, earth shifting in sections, mechanically, immaculately. The core of a vegetable, it will not send me your secret, just spins, weaves, recedes. On a thin bed that dips with the absence of water, there rests below me a man who smiles in his sleep. When I look at the iguanas, they regard me as a mirror; I see my own scales, my sturdy hands, my age. His eyelids blink slow, hold reason, undefinable, unquestioned, unnecessary, like a promise. Out of the porthole is eye-level ocean and that sound, 26

everywhere, insisting, persistant enough to be ignored, the honest and ugly assurance of the eventuality, the evolution, copulation, creation. Occasionly I stir from this empty that has become easy. I think not of Frank, for a husband is not a toy. I remember chairs, tables, shiny wood floors, and people, sometimes, or parts of them. Legs in crowds, profiles at the picture show, dark, newspaper photographs, grains of flesh, pieces of light. And her, probably moved on, as my refuse is unimpressive, especially in my absence. I just don't absorb much. A cheap paper towel, she moves on. To be old is to be young, overestimating, ready. Age paves honesty; the foots of hills make me cry. She will not stop, why her, why miss most the mysteriousness, the thing I never had in a life so? Maybe missing the misconstrued^ A jglimmer, a thought sliped easily into, a dynamic image, never intended to be complete. And in my stomach, my throat, an ache and nowhere to put it. What I could fill. Because I never considered this, never had days of anxious waiting for, dread, this missing, days like other days except for the knowing that they were waning, drawing closer the suture, something pending. Before a week passed before, I began to wonder, a month before I missed this why do I miss this who is woman, now a day, the first day, I couldn't stop her from visiting, being gone like this. One day was nothing when I could stand in one spot, one stone step on a wet street, and wait. And this wish that she'd let me miss more of her. If we'd said goodbye in a park, on a peak, a terrace. Means God be with you, and shouldn't we miss him? It's been so long. If I could have seen her walk away, if she'd have left me silence, and nothing to look at. A fixed image, a receding back, reproducing and insinuating itself. Ultimately exausting, going. If I could say, gathered beside her on a hungry couch, sucking us from the bottom up, a sea of photo albums bent under our heads, "Jeez." The little league picnic egg-toss champions of 1962, crossed eyelids, parental cliches, safety myths, bug stories, and bruises. Serving trays, flares. I could lay my hands on yours. There are never photographers before suicides. Crucifixions draw portrait painters, and nobody takes pictures of what never ocpired. So there is no documentation of us. It is as real as everything I've never recorded. It is as quiet as her passing cement shuffle, softer than the turning of newspaper pages* emptier than

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

27


a pitch black auditorium. I can not even reconstruct the beginning of her fece when it slides past; she slips. Or where it begins, which end. How to miss something you can't remember, how to spoil it by immersion. The desire to give what was not requested. Her fece seems always to shift with the wind and background, change often and with the weather. And then she changes, she seems to be someone. Else every time I see her, every time I don't, the tones of her muttered utterances fidget. She never speaks the same language twice, addresses different objects in different ways, all due respect, her friend the sidewalk. Dulcie, if I could hold a bone, from your ankle, your collar, I would. But. I have only a few gestures collected, the arc of a private shrug, distance between knees of her bowed gait, curl of mouth to side to spit. Pizzying in repetition, a repertiore of little volume. She's left me.no questions that bear me in mind. She's noticed my cat, my pavement — neither really mine — more than my fece, or what it holds for her. From stoop watches one woman the other who has better things to do than watch back. The pain of this missing spreads like gas, a metastasized cancer of unknown origin. Faint smell of burnt hair, color of old skin, speckled, fading, shed, this missing. And then there's mystery itself, because I never knew, because I never saw you smell fish and scowl, or wake up the morning and hate the day, its flowers, its light, its being first, never saw you see anything for the first time, a penis, a truck full of livestock, one man slugging another, with his fist, blood, real blood, your own, never watched you watch another person cry. Laugh until you piss, run until you faint, sob until you puke, puke until you gag, gag until you laugh. Frank's the only one who ever saw you, and he didn't have much to say. He heard, though he rarely listened, was rarely addressed, that once you had a husband. That was all. He patted my shoulder, loaded his pistol. And if not him, who. And since him, who, even where. Dujcie, I'm with the awkward flippers of the Green Pacific Turtle. They waddle her onto shore, dig her a perfect series of holes which she fills with hundreds of eggs, giving birth over and over, and covers, leaves. She never comes back and most of her babies die. She does not want to know. She swims away. She might even see her child on a different shore. Until then and even then, she forgets. 28

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

I could be anywhere, I could be frozen, or in prison, or on an extremely long escalator, for places never remember, and never miss. Places lose their people all the time, lose them, brush them off like beetles. They could teach me but they won't talk; they're banking on dynamism, they just want to be seen, or left alone, so somebody's got to go. The little guys, the ones in charge of light, water, disciples of the Big Guy in a little way; they can stay, keep the land, the lonley father, the turtles, company when it gets lonely.

The low tide that licks my toes fingers its way to another shore, maybe the line of her sidewalk, murky with the trash she admires, her big, flat feet, big spaces between the toes I've never seen, the toes, die spaces, widened by too soft shoes, which she slips out of as it calls Dulcie, let me skim you away, twist my safe tentacles in transport around your angles, hold me steady as you skim across the ocean. I know her vaguely as I do this water, but I've heard tounges like the tide's. I will forgive you anything, it coos. You have not murdered yourself. You've the circumstances that prompt, but you don't — here it slows, smiles — have the balls. I interrupt. Leave her alone. Frank spoke of encoding, predetermination, said the murder knows long before the slit tells everyone else. I never knew if he proved himself wrong, never knew if that bullet hole gaped through his fece long before he put it there. Or maybe I did know, and maybe that's why, when I saw him, I did what he might never have forgiven me for. I shrugged. Oh, shut up, snaps the tide, then softens, piano fingers. I touch you, Dulcie, and know. Don't say a word, just listen to me again and again. What stops you. It washes away, is replaced, speaks the language, particularly, of islands. Not to be trusted* never the same fece, seducing, rising, receding. What little piece keeps you stuck to that sidewalk. Leaves you empty but fills you first. Strips you down. What scrap that you absorb reminds you to return to the street. True only to the big fish; they know where the middle is. What need has your path of you. And everbody knows which shadow the tide loves.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

29


a pitch black auditorium. I can not even reconstruct the beginning of her fece when it slides past; she slips. Or where it begins, which end. How to miss something you can't remember, how to spoil it by immersion. The desire to give what was not requested. Her fece seems always to shift with the wind and background, change often and with the weather. And then she changes, she seems to be someone. Else every time I see her, every time I don't, the tones of her muttered utterances fidget. She never speaks the same language twice, addresses different objects in different ways, all due respect, her friend the sidewalk. Dulcie, if I could hold a bone, from your ankle, your collar, I would. But. I have only a few gestures collected, the arc of a private shrug, distance between knees of her bowed gait, curl of mouth to side to spit. Pizzying in repetition, a repertiore of little volume. She's left me.no questions that bear me in mind. She's noticed my cat, my pavement — neither really mine — more than my fece, or what it holds for her. From stoop watches one woman the other who has better things to do than watch back. The pain of this missing spreads like gas, a metastasized cancer of unknown origin. Faint smell of burnt hair, color of old skin, speckled, fading, shed, this missing. And then there's mystery itself, because I never knew, because I never saw you smell fish and scowl, or wake up the morning and hate the day, its flowers, its light, its being first, never saw you see anything for the first time, a penis, a truck full of livestock, one man slugging another, with his fist, blood, real blood, your own, never watched you watch another person cry. Laugh until you piss, run until you faint, sob until you puke, puke until you gag, gag until you laugh. Frank's the only one who ever saw you, and he didn't have much to say. He heard, though he rarely listened, was rarely addressed, that once you had a husband. That was all. He patted my shoulder, loaded his pistol. And if not him, who. And since him, who, even where. Dujcie, I'm with the awkward flippers of the Green Pacific Turtle. They waddle her onto shore, dig her a perfect series of holes which she fills with hundreds of eggs, giving birth over and over, and covers, leaves. She never comes back and most of her babies die. She does not want to know. She swims away. She might even see her child on a different shore. Until then and even then, she forgets. 28

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

I could be anywhere, I could be frozen, or in prison, or on an extremely long escalator, for places never remember, and never miss. Places lose their people all the time, lose them, brush them off like beetles. They could teach me but they won't talk; they're banking on dynamism, they just want to be seen, or left alone, so somebody's got to go. The little guys, the ones in charge of light, water, disciples of the Big Guy in a little way; they can stay, keep the land, the lonley father, the turtles, company when it gets lonely.

The low tide that licks my toes fingers its way to another shore, maybe the line of her sidewalk, murky with the trash she admires, her big, flat feet, big spaces between the toes I've never seen, the toes, die spaces, widened by too soft shoes, which she slips out of as it calls Dulcie, let me skim you away, twist my safe tentacles in transport around your angles, hold me steady as you skim across the ocean. I know her vaguely as I do this water, but I've heard tounges like the tide's. I will forgive you anything, it coos. You have not murdered yourself. You've the circumstances that prompt, but you don't — here it slows, smiles — have the balls. I interrupt. Leave her alone. Frank spoke of encoding, predetermination, said the murder knows long before the slit tells everyone else. I never knew if he proved himself wrong, never knew if that bullet hole gaped through his fece long before he put it there. Or maybe I did know, and maybe that's why, when I saw him, I did what he might never have forgiven me for. I shrugged. Oh, shut up, snaps the tide, then softens, piano fingers. I touch you, Dulcie, and know. Don't say a word, just listen to me again and again. What stops you. It washes away, is replaced, speaks the language, particularly, of islands. Not to be trusted* never the same fece, seducing, rising, receding. What little piece keeps you stuck to that sidewalk. Leaves you empty but fills you first. Strips you down. What scrap that you absorb reminds you to return to the street. True only to the big fish; they know where the middle is. What need has your path of you. And everbody knows which shadow the tide loves.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

29


It was probably the quiet ones, the listeners, who invented the language, who heard the sounds with the ears instead of the mouth, and scrawled it on the cavern walls. How those words came, what 'anguish' meant to the first person who said it, or 'soft' or 'good,' "I prefer the one on the left.'' The investigators of crocodile subtlety, these primitive beings. Precursors to the eyes of the storm, the ears of corn, the same vein, coursing towards the same silly communion and, finally, past it. Dulcie...can you hear me? In oldness, I deserve to own a word without having to own its meaning, a word I could pronounce, but never rhyme. But I don't think I could believe it until someone else got it dirty, and then I wouldn't want it anymore, and I wouldn't sell it to anyone, or give it away. Pawn it maybe, barter. Trade it in for something comfortable, something else that's been overused, passed hand over hand through plum palms, convolutions, folding more and more easily, and sagging, finally decomposing. Eventually replaced. I'd trade speaking for a word from you. Dulcie, the language here, it confuses me, eludes. I play backgammon with the cook and he counts in Spanish, beats me; I blame his counting, his lilt. The beauty of cheating. The Captain teaches me to dance, Salsa-style and, though I feel unable to look at him, we laugh on the rocky deck. I laugh towards the ocean, he laughs, loud and full, to the sky. Laughing, which happens for so many reasons, the only thing animals should envy us for. And laughing, I feel my way darkly forward. Past sails, I move slow, for wind, and edge to speckled bow, waves made down deep, brewing from beneath, enough to stir sand. Where I stoop I see the cut we make slicing blue, spitting froth without a thought. Salty rabies, hesitation is mine only; water licks the deck, tide rising, helpless body, a bathtub filling a navel. I can almost taste your ankles. Kicking droplets on the high ends of my hair, no longer blonde, pale shade of gone. My wrists twitch in the splash, my forearms are sinking, wishing. Water like a lady's slap, angry, harmless, deserved. My fece, one shoulder, drips fingering its way to my skin, down sleeves, filling armpits as upright tide pools. I am an old woman, fill me as I can be filled. My eyes stretch over a tail of wind, sound of beating heavy sheets, breathing towards blue, lighter than the eyes of the ocean, but as deep. More fragile, more alone, no pillow of cloud, which was never like the company offish, hints of stars still hiding. My

name almost misses me, is distorted by the Ecuadorian and the wind. A laugh, 'you are so wet.' Your eyes, says the Captain. Ojos. Come inside. They're blue between what they're between and, I suppose, shine like both, now, make his smile quiver and turn in on itself. From my smile drip deep creases of salt water, cold in the deepening sky, leaving until quiet fills my eyelids. Silence, and the wind sweeps you into the sea, steals you, swallows. The gulp of the ocean. Duerme porque vida, los anos passados acquetta costa andantesca. Mi mantemiento fuera, navagado, no lo sabe. Tierra a tierra, you still haven't spoken. I could-do this again, speak to the darkness until we colide. I've slept on box springs, sandpaper, this thin excuse for sleeping quarters is rocky like a lullaby; I could build you another home you'll never notice, clear more space for you in this attic of a brain. But I'm tired of you, woman, of what you've done, and I deserve to just let you roam while I drift in all this darkness, mull without conclusion, let fixed images rearrange themselves without restraint. I can enjoy you, can't I. The ceiling of my eyes. Make you mine at this bedtime, feel my body settle with the sea, settle as you have here, uninvited. A promise, feint hope, omen. I think of tonight's squid, staring back at me from the little dish, making a noise like its name beneath my fork. With squid I am immobile, like a glance that lasts too long, just licks the edge of too long, not yet a stare, but incubating, ignored. What I did with all this life before you. What momentum, when glance shoulder, how tousle a bald head, why. All this water and nowhere to put it. All this sun and no skin to drink you. You stole my sleep and all I gave you was a name. All the things taken for this vacancy. The rocks hold your feces, the sand holds your imprint. Your toes are the water, the leaves are your clothes. I miss you like a scab a scar a twin. Una llama tentadora izquierdo una barca tristejjuisa. Feel you like a house of ghosts, clothed and faceless, air stepping delicately past a full beard. I noticed today that I've been collecting things. Mr. Register, the passenger who sleeps below me, found his glasses in my fece. I've a fish in my pocket, beer bottles, shells, a school of sting ray THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

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It was probably the quiet ones, the listeners, who invented the language, who heard the sounds with the ears instead of the mouth, and scrawled it on the cavern walls. How those words came, what 'anguish' meant to the first person who said it, or 'soft' or 'good,' "I prefer the one on the left.'' The investigators of crocodile subtlety, these primitive beings. Precursors to the eyes of the storm, the ears of corn, the same vein, coursing towards the same silly communion and, finally, past it. Dulcie...can you hear me? In oldness, I deserve to own a word without having to own its meaning, a word I could pronounce, but never rhyme. But I don't think I could believe it until someone else got it dirty, and then I wouldn't want it anymore, and I wouldn't sell it to anyone, or give it away. Pawn it maybe, barter. Trade it in for something comfortable, something else that's been overused, passed hand over hand through plum palms, convolutions, folding more and more easily, and sagging, finally decomposing. Eventually replaced. I'd trade speaking for a word from you. Dulcie, the language here, it confuses me, eludes. I play backgammon with the cook and he counts in Spanish, beats me; I blame his counting, his lilt. The beauty of cheating. The Captain teaches me to dance, Salsa-style and, though I feel unable to look at him, we laugh on the rocky deck. I laugh towards the ocean, he laughs, loud and full, to the sky. Laughing, which happens for so many reasons, the only thing animals should envy us for. And laughing, I feel my way darkly forward. Past sails, I move slow, for wind, and edge to speckled bow, waves made down deep, brewing from beneath, enough to stir sand. Where I stoop I see the cut we make slicing blue, spitting froth without a thought. Salty rabies, hesitation is mine only; water licks the deck, tide rising, helpless body, a bathtub filling a navel. I can almost taste your ankles. Kicking droplets on the high ends of my hair, no longer blonde, pale shade of gone. My wrists twitch in the splash, my forearms are sinking, wishing. Water like a lady's slap, angry, harmless, deserved. My fece, one shoulder, drips fingering its way to my skin, down sleeves, filling armpits as upright tide pools. I am an old woman, fill me as I can be filled. My eyes stretch over a tail of wind, sound of beating heavy sheets, breathing towards blue, lighter than the eyes of the ocean, but as deep. More fragile, more alone, no pillow of cloud, which was never like the company offish, hints of stars still hiding. My

name almost misses me, is distorted by the Ecuadorian and the wind. A laugh, 'you are so wet.' Your eyes, says the Captain. Ojos. Come inside. They're blue between what they're between and, I suppose, shine like both, now, make his smile quiver and turn in on itself. From my smile drip deep creases of salt water, cold in the deepening sky, leaving until quiet fills my eyelids. Silence, and the wind sweeps you into the sea, steals you, swallows. The gulp of the ocean. Duerme porque vida, los anos passados acquetta costa andantesca. Mi mantemiento fuera, navagado, no lo sabe. Tierra a tierra, you still haven't spoken. I could-do this again, speak to the darkness until we colide. I've slept on box springs, sandpaper, this thin excuse for sleeping quarters is rocky like a lullaby; I could build you another home you'll never notice, clear more space for you in this attic of a brain. But I'm tired of you, woman, of what you've done, and I deserve to just let you roam while I drift in all this darkness, mull without conclusion, let fixed images rearrange themselves without restraint. I can enjoy you, can't I. The ceiling of my eyes. Make you mine at this bedtime, feel my body settle with the sea, settle as you have here, uninvited. A promise, feint hope, omen. I think of tonight's squid, staring back at me from the little dish, making a noise like its name beneath my fork. With squid I am immobile, like a glance that lasts too long, just licks the edge of too long, not yet a stare, but incubating, ignored. What I did with all this life before you. What momentum, when glance shoulder, how tousle a bald head, why. All this water and nowhere to put it. All this sun and no skin to drink you. You stole my sleep and all I gave you was a name. All the things taken for this vacancy. The rocks hold your feces, the sand holds your imprint. Your toes are the water, the leaves are your clothes. I miss you like a scab a scar a twin. Una llama tentadora izquierdo una barca tristejjuisa. Feel you like a house of ghosts, clothed and faceless, air stepping delicately past a full beard. I noticed today that I've been collecting things. Mr. Register, the passenger who sleeps below me, found his glasses in my fece. I've a fish in my pocket, beer bottles, shells, a school of sting ray THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

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in my suitcase. These eyebrows are not mine, I know it; they twitch like they belong to somebody else. They'll say I stole the ocean, but they'll never find out where I've hidden it. My fece is sometimes silver. Impenetrable, cold, and perhaps too honest. But congenial, empathetic, I'll never argue. I'm just here to remind you. Of you, look here. Listen, I've got something to tell you. Listen, I've got things to put inside you. I've got feels to hand you, whites to echo you, a surrender an ambulance a nightlight a bonfire a waltz a little flesh wound and a foot of night time to feather you. I'm tired but you'd never notice. I'm ugly but you're drunk. I'm sleeping but you're made of wax. Wait. Let's retrace our colors, melt everything straight. I knew you'd understand. My shoulders, my dilemma. Oh, that's not — but back to my fece, my covers, my chickens. Put your lips right here. Right.

t Q foUow her path, weave my way past and through her garbage pafls, retrace my steps , strain simply for the sound of her breathing. And if I have to stoop or stand at my window, and watch her cv 3 ? ^ *r/eeling my eyes, my purpose, I will. If I can shed her skins and carry them for her, give them back when tf*T S * c o n f o s c d - T h c v ^ y deepen, the estuaries col iiae, trie tide pauses. Dulcie sneezes, and I swim to shore.

A frigate bird nests in her navel, steals lint from the deep crevice. Tourists in sun hats, in rows, fringe her breasts, sink into the dark nipples, trip over the mole that marks the valley of her excleavage turned, now, to a simple, vast valley. Iguanas, accustomed to water, crawl inside her armpits, never slip, but stopwhen her sweat cascades in the sunlight. A large turtle in her loins, older than the tourists, the sun, commensurable with the terrain, it cranes its throat to glance inward, spies damp highlands, tounges of grass six feet long, twisting, pacing in the warm sand. Her breath is the tide. She is geography that steers its own course through deep veins and thick, blue estuaries. Her arms, thighs, present a crossroads to the peninsulas of her fingers and toes. Ferries leave every twenty minutes like bowel movements, ferocious spit, soft mucus, clockwork. Of her hair, ticks, and seconds lost. She holds time tight in her lips. A cough, an earthquake; the iguanas hold steady. A child screams, she shudders, he screams again. The peninsulas swat, flail as if at crickets; she's not superstitious. She blots him out. The geography is not to be reckoned with. She is a blowhole, a volcano, a wish. The Captain's nap snores in her nostrils. Like a sea lion, I might have said, if not for the sound, the testimony of truth. Contrary. And I know I have to go, If only to look at her for a few minutes. I might have 32

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in my suitcase. These eyebrows are not mine, I know it; they twitch like they belong to somebody else. They'll say I stole the ocean, but they'll never find out where I've hidden it. My fece is sometimes silver. Impenetrable, cold, and perhaps too honest. But congenial, empathetic, I'll never argue. I'm just here to remind you. Of you, look here. Listen, I've got something to tell you. Listen, I've got things to put inside you. I've got feels to hand you, whites to echo you, a surrender an ambulance a nightlight a bonfire a waltz a little flesh wound and a foot of night time to feather you. I'm tired but you'd never notice. I'm ugly but you're drunk. I'm sleeping but you're made of wax. Wait. Let's retrace our colors, melt everything straight. I knew you'd understand. My shoulders, my dilemma. Oh, that's not — but back to my fece, my covers, my chickens. Put your lips right here. Right.

t Q foUow her path, weave my way past and through her garbage pafls, retrace my steps , strain simply for the sound of her breathing. And if I have to stoop or stand at my window, and watch her cv 3 ? ^ *r/eeling my eyes, my purpose, I will. If I can shed her skins and carry them for her, give them back when tf*T S * c o n f o s c d - T h c v ^ y deepen, the estuaries col iiae, trie tide pauses. Dulcie sneezes, and I swim to shore.

A frigate bird nests in her navel, steals lint from the deep crevice. Tourists in sun hats, in rows, fringe her breasts, sink into the dark nipples, trip over the mole that marks the valley of her excleavage turned, now, to a simple, vast valley. Iguanas, accustomed to water, crawl inside her armpits, never slip, but stopwhen her sweat cascades in the sunlight. A large turtle in her loins, older than the tourists, the sun, commensurable with the terrain, it cranes its throat to glance inward, spies damp highlands, tounges of grass six feet long, twisting, pacing in the warm sand. Her breath is the tide. She is geography that steers its own course through deep veins and thick, blue estuaries. Her arms, thighs, present a crossroads to the peninsulas of her fingers and toes. Ferries leave every twenty minutes like bowel movements, ferocious spit, soft mucus, clockwork. Of her hair, ticks, and seconds lost. She holds time tight in her lips. A cough, an earthquake; the iguanas hold steady. A child screams, she shudders, he screams again. The peninsulas swat, flail as if at crickets; she's not superstitious. She blots him out. The geography is not to be reckoned with. She is a blowhole, a volcano, a wish. The Captain's nap snores in her nostrils. Like a sea lion, I might have said, if not for the sound, the testimony of truth. Contrary. And I know I have to go, If only to look at her for a few minutes. I might have 32

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33


Duet Barbara

Bode

Such intricacies are spun in a life so important within a span and so on and beyond there are others and theirs, too — intricate, but hardly ever beyond — famous ones and others, not the same dead, although what remains can be beautiful and a note in someone else's bowing and so beyond a ways — I am now looking at the top of a green acacia against a pinkly mauve sky the sounds I hear are a violin live and a violin recorded playing the same phrase to one another until the phase breaks like the sky going orange just a second before nightfall, a final flash of green holds the theory invisible in orange light each one of us alive and in various states of development and decline some like wild vines blooming and fragrant, others like doilies in relation and with those dead also, but not as much. When I first met my friend Marie she was sitting on the steps of a church in Florence Italy. She had a red string around her neck which meant that she had been blessed (more or less) by a Tibetan Tulku. Her hair was curled in the latest Italian fashion. She asked me if I had a cigarette, I did not. I asked her if she had a match, she did. From that moment on we enjoyed life

immensely. We went to the movies together, usually Westerns (the spontaneous event never contradicts itself) and held hands like schoolgirls. Her hands were usually soft and often one or two fingers would be sticky...she had a passion for sweets and sometimes would leave some on one or two of her fingers. These bits of confection would get on my dress which I did not like because I usually wear white and am a very neat person. But Marie thought they looked nice a kind of decoration, especially when the fingerprints themselves remained visible. After the movies we went for long walks and remarked on the weather and when the trains came and went from here and revealed certain amusing points about our past like how my Southern great aunt could pee standing up which she usually accomplished in the vegetable garden near the tomatoes. (Knowledge of the limits of structure incites revolution...) I wanted Marie to tell me how Texas looked to the untrained eye (...and bred psychiatry). Sometimes she would read to me until she fell asleep and I would sit by her bed until dawn because I don't like sleeping although it looked very peaceful, almost attractive on "Marie's fece. One morning when Marie awoke If: she asked me to get her a newspaper. She I^needed a change of scene. We looked at every flat listed and decided THE BERKELEYFICTION REVIEW

35


Duet Barbara

Bode

Such intricacies are spun in a life so important within a span and so on and beyond there are others and theirs, too — intricate, but hardly ever beyond — famous ones and others, not the same dead, although what remains can be beautiful and a note in someone else's bowing and so beyond a ways — I am now looking at the top of a green acacia against a pinkly mauve sky the sounds I hear are a violin live and a violin recorded playing the same phrase to one another until the phase breaks like the sky going orange just a second before nightfall, a final flash of green holds the theory invisible in orange light each one of us alive and in various states of development and decline some like wild vines blooming and fragrant, others like doilies in relation and with those dead also, but not as much. When I first met my friend Marie she was sitting on the steps of a church in Florence Italy. She had a red string around her neck which meant that she had been blessed (more or less) by a Tibetan Tulku. Her hair was curled in the latest Italian fashion. She asked me if I had a cigarette, I did not. I asked her if she had a match, she did. From that moment on we enjoyed life

immensely. We went to the movies together, usually Westerns (the spontaneous event never contradicts itself) and held hands like schoolgirls. Her hands were usually soft and often one or two fingers would be sticky...she had a passion for sweets and sometimes would leave some on one or two of her fingers. These bits of confection would get on my dress which I did not like because I usually wear white and am a very neat person. But Marie thought they looked nice a kind of decoration, especially when the fingerprints themselves remained visible. After the movies we went for long walks and remarked on the weather and when the trains came and went from here and revealed certain amusing points about our past like how my Southern great aunt could pee standing up which she usually accomplished in the vegetable garden near the tomatoes. (Knowledge of the limits of structure incites revolution...) I wanted Marie to tell me how Texas looked to the untrained eye (...and bred psychiatry). Sometimes she would read to me until she fell asleep and I would sit by her bed until dawn because I don't like sleeping although it looked very peaceful, almost attractive on "Marie's fece. One morning when Marie awoke If: she asked me to get her a newspaper. She I^needed a change of scene. We looked at every flat listed and decided THE BERKELEYFICTION REVIEW

35


on one near a bake shop. This was a very fine place to live. Many foreign people lived in our quarter. The cab stand was near our door. From the windows we could hear them coming to and going away from here. Marie and I bought black canvas shoes from China which had thin patterned rubber soles. Our floors were made of white tiles which showed off our shoes very handsomely and all the mud we tracked in became an array of viney patterns on the grid of bright white tiles. Our paths were dear — generally like two great curved wings connected at our front door and threading the rooms in a feathered moire* on either side. Our lives were beginning to assert themselves. Our feet began to acquire distinct personalities the minute we put on our black shoes. Hers were very quick, precise feet, efficient and decisive, mine were given to skimming and sliding, at their best, with an occasional depressed shuffling. One day I took out my paint brush and painted red travelling toenails on iriy black shoes. It was a clear pomegranate red and they were truely beautiful. Marie thought so, too. Then I went away for three weeks and came home with a molting caged canary. Soon after he was beautiful and began to sing. Marie accompanied him on the violin. We bought a rope hammock that summer. We sent off to Fawley Island for a grand double one and hung it in our sitting and reclining room next to a brace of opened windows. I was interested in writing then and filled a case of notebooks with it. Marie said that it was lovely nonsense, she read it all, usually singing the phrases in timbres of peach and green and pale yellow. I accompanied her on 36

the violin. The canary dozed off. When Marie was sad her voice sounded like a melancholic song with many highs and full rich vibrating lows. From this I determined that there was a great range in her grieving and perhaps a good deal about her that I could not know at least not in the way that a . •.$. story is known. Her blues were a matter of inner tone and resonance. My blues were usually black and soft as the nights they came from. I began to practice zazen during those hours. I wanted to be blessed, too, even though there wasn't a tulku or a roshi or even a rinpoche for thousands of miles, next time I met up with one I would be ready (structured event contradicting itself, bringing both order and neuroses). In the meantime I was quite happy. It was remarkable that the more content I became the my handwriting came to resemble my earliest hand, very small, quite vertical and roundly precise. I must remember to tell that to my analyst. And how my hands and feet after a lifetime of disparity came to be recognizable as belonging to the same body. My hands lost their thin elongated look and became squarish and muscular as my feet had been all along. I would soon take up the calligrapher's brush. At first I wrote on 3 x 6 foot vertical canvases, but eventually began writing on the walls. The writing and patterns, the floors and the walls were wonderously complete, recognizably complete. Reconciled at last — loosening my hand then my entire arm, my shoulder began to move fluidly responding to the slightest breeze, the faintest sound, my shoulder blades were the wings of dragonfly, my breasts cloud floating effortlessly, and then my heart was ...loosed — but enough. Now everyone knows that a ceiling is for hitting when one's feeling too big for a room and there is great pleasure in throwing open a window or firmly shutting it || ; - for the comfort or expression of one's self. Everyone becomes a great colorist, a master of nuance, a genius choreographer, an elegant lover of life, a universe of related elements in each drawing of the bow.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

37


on one near a bake shop. This was a very fine place to live. Many foreign people lived in our quarter. The cab stand was near our door. From the windows we could hear them coming to and going away from here. Marie and I bought black canvas shoes from China which had thin patterned rubber soles. Our floors were made of white tiles which showed off our shoes very handsomely and all the mud we tracked in became an array of viney patterns on the grid of bright white tiles. Our paths were dear — generally like two great curved wings connected at our front door and threading the rooms in a feathered moire* on either side. Our lives were beginning to assert themselves. Our feet began to acquire distinct personalities the minute we put on our black shoes. Hers were very quick, precise feet, efficient and decisive, mine were given to skimming and sliding, at their best, with an occasional depressed shuffling. One day I took out my paint brush and painted red travelling toenails on iriy black shoes. It was a clear pomegranate red and they were truely beautiful. Marie thought so, too. Then I went away for three weeks and came home with a molting caged canary. Soon after he was beautiful and began to sing. Marie accompanied him on the violin. We bought a rope hammock that summer. We sent off to Fawley Island for a grand double one and hung it in our sitting and reclining room next to a brace of opened windows. I was interested in writing then and filled a case of notebooks with it. Marie said that it was lovely nonsense, she read it all, usually singing the phrases in timbres of peach and green and pale yellow. I accompanied her on 36

the violin. The canary dozed off. When Marie was sad her voice sounded like a melancholic song with many highs and full rich vibrating lows. From this I determined that there was a great range in her grieving and perhaps a good deal about her that I could not know at least not in the way that a . •.$. story is known. Her blues were a matter of inner tone and resonance. My blues were usually black and soft as the nights they came from. I began to practice zazen during those hours. I wanted to be blessed, too, even though there wasn't a tulku or a roshi or even a rinpoche for thousands of miles, next time I met up with one I would be ready (structured event contradicting itself, bringing both order and neuroses). In the meantime I was quite happy. It was remarkable that the more content I became the my handwriting came to resemble my earliest hand, very small, quite vertical and roundly precise. I must remember to tell that to my analyst. And how my hands and feet after a lifetime of disparity came to be recognizable as belonging to the same body. My hands lost their thin elongated look and became squarish and muscular as my feet had been all along. I would soon take up the calligrapher's brush. At first I wrote on 3 x 6 foot vertical canvases, but eventually began writing on the walls. The writing and patterns, the floors and the walls were wonderously complete, recognizably complete. Reconciled at last — loosening my hand then my entire arm, my shoulder began to move fluidly responding to the slightest breeze, the faintest sound, my shoulder blades were the wings of dragonfly, my breasts cloud floating effortlessly, and then my heart was ...loosed — but enough. Now everyone knows that a ceiling is for hitting when one's feeling too big for a room and there is great pleasure in throwing open a window or firmly shutting it || ; - for the comfort or expression of one's self. Everyone becomes a great colorist, a master of nuance, a genius choreographer, an elegant lover of life, a universe of related elements in each drawing of the bow.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

37


Let me simply say that there in that place and moment our story began. We. The structure, became visible. My name is Marie and I have been busy for a long while now. I am making a film. Its general story line is — trouble, things to view when yoti are having a good time. I am filming the health inspector visiting my newly opened cafe the toilet broke the night previously arid my expensive pastry case has destroyed its own compressor. I am filming an expensive repair man, he earns as much as my analyst who deals entirely with subtlties, there is nothing subtle in a compressor machine. I am filming thrives entering my shop and taking my day's receipts and two weeks later I am filming the same thrives filling their shiny new briefcases with my receipts .. .when they finish they call a cab. Right now I feel very secure so I can consider these less pleasant things in kodacolor or black and white with the lighting of my choice at the speed and duration I choose, simultaneously or sequentially, any of thousands of combinations which are the field and energy for each selection, but my film is unscripted and unedited, it runs as long as there is film in the camera and then, naturally, it stops. Marie .. .what are you saying... I wore the film round my body for three days, my oil and juice and sweat acted on the emulsion. I took a sauna. Barbara unwound the film from my body, I soaked it in a Vitabath solution and hung it out to dry in the summer sun. I treated it like my favorite shirt. I showed it to Barbara... She said it needed editing. She made a text of sheer words and placed it on the film with pin holes. We showed it to Tommy Time who tried to play it. It ran for months at Boubotirg. The students were mad for it. Each thought he knew what it meant,

but could never be exactly sure. I meant it to be blue and that is what I know for sure. And of some other things I am now sure — namely, of the really important things, records are never kept. The structure is invisible. Once visible it is fallible. This is both true and impossible to prove, like the feeling that something is trying to destroy us. Something seems to be trying to destroy us. We both feel it. We have looked for it everywhere, every person we meet, we search the feces, we listen to the news. The Wizard of Oz is the story of this pursuit. We watch the weather forecasts. I see clouds drift by our window, from their shapes I divine meanings. I tell them to Barbara. She cries. It's hard to know what is going on, sometimes we are feverish with anxiety. We decide to buy a house, to invest in the future. We want to be sure. We buy bonds. We buy stocks. Barbara says to be really sure we should wear them. I pin them to my skirt, beneath, of course. After a few days we find that they are getting damaged^ possibly devalued, so we take them off and stuff them into my zafu Nothing seems to help anymore. I drink a lot of chamomile tea. Barbara drinks Chartreuse. We sing in the dark. Then suddenly on Monday morning it s gone. All the tension, all the worry, gone. Vanished. We wonder what happened. Did we do something to make it stop> We analyze everything. Our analyst analyzes us. We haven't a due We feel great. We go out into the streets. We have a raspberry ice We see a Western John Wayne. It's past midnight, the moon is high when we get home. ^ I take the linens from the table, crumple them into a pile. Barbara wants to forgive them for being dirty. I say no, that the only way to get them dean is to wash them.

Barbara Bode lives in Monterey, California. Her poetry has appeared in New Blood. 38

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW


Let me simply say that there in that place and moment our story began. We. The structure, became visible. My name is Marie and I have been busy for a long while now. I am making a film. Its general story line is — trouble, things to view when yoti are having a good time. I am filming the health inspector visiting my newly opened cafe the toilet broke the night previously arid my expensive pastry case has destroyed its own compressor. I am filming an expensive repair man, he earns as much as my analyst who deals entirely with subtlties, there is nothing subtle in a compressor machine. I am filming thrives entering my shop and taking my day's receipts and two weeks later I am filming the same thrives filling their shiny new briefcases with my receipts .. .when they finish they call a cab. Right now I feel very secure so I can consider these less pleasant things in kodacolor or black and white with the lighting of my choice at the speed and duration I choose, simultaneously or sequentially, any of thousands of combinations which are the field and energy for each selection, but my film is unscripted and unedited, it runs as long as there is film in the camera and then, naturally, it stops. Marie .. .what are you saying... I wore the film round my body for three days, my oil and juice and sweat acted on the emulsion. I took a sauna. Barbara unwound the film from my body, I soaked it in a Vitabath solution and hung it out to dry in the summer sun. I treated it like my favorite shirt. I showed it to Barbara... She said it needed editing. She made a text of sheer words and placed it on the film with pin holes. We showed it to Tommy Time who tried to play it. It ran for months at Boubotirg. The students were mad for it. Each thought he knew what it meant,

but could never be exactly sure. I meant it to be blue and that is what I know for sure. And of some other things I am now sure — namely, of the really important things, records are never kept. The structure is invisible. Once visible it is fallible. This is both true and impossible to prove, like the feeling that something is trying to destroy us. Something seems to be trying to destroy us. We both feel it. We have looked for it everywhere, every person we meet, we search the feces, we listen to the news. The Wizard of Oz is the story of this pursuit. We watch the weather forecasts. I see clouds drift by our window, from their shapes I divine meanings. I tell them to Barbara. She cries. It's hard to know what is going on, sometimes we are feverish with anxiety. We decide to buy a house, to invest in the future. We want to be sure. We buy bonds. We buy stocks. Barbara says to be really sure we should wear them. I pin them to my skirt, beneath, of course. After a few days we find that they are getting damaged^ possibly devalued, so we take them off and stuff them into my zafu Nothing seems to help anymore. I drink a lot of chamomile tea. Barbara drinks Chartreuse. We sing in the dark. Then suddenly on Monday morning it s gone. All the tension, all the worry, gone. Vanished. We wonder what happened. Did we do something to make it stop> We analyze everything. Our analyst analyzes us. We haven't a due We feel great. We go out into the streets. We have a raspberry ice We see a Western John Wayne. It's past midnight, the moon is high when we get home. ^ I take the linens from the table, crumple them into a pile. Barbara wants to forgive them for being dirty. I say no, that the only way to get them dean is to wash them.

Barbara Bode lives in Monterey, California. Her poetry has appeared in New Blood. 38

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW


vention, laws, fear. Or so they thought as they turned off the main road and finally stopped under silent trees to sip their booty,* By the time they nodded off, the botde was empty and little Mgh-pitched voices brought the trees out of their silence. When D o g s Could be Heard Ten Hidd This night in Wyoming Saul was behind the wheel. Still, it took the both of them to keep the car moving straight. If only they could make it through one night without stopping they could then make it through any night, no matter how infinite. But the needle on the gas gauge dipped low. The Wyoming night was not only endless, it was conspiratorial. They took a highway turn-off which pointed to a place called Elk Mountain where gasoline was sold, but the town never seemed to materialize. A small tavern was all they found, a shack with a dusty screen door that filtered noise into the darkness. Saul wanted to bolt back to the highway. Louie did too, but he also wanted to go inside and find out if maybe there was a motel nearby. Saul waited in the car, a gold '68 Dodge Dart they had picked up outside the Ye Rustic Inn in Bismark. H e watched Louie enter through the squeaking screen door, and then a dog came outside and watched the Dart from the wooden porch. It was a perfect great dane (what was it doing there?) standing high on its toes, sniffing the air for what was new and strange in it. Finally Louie came back through the squeaking door. He stroked the great dane's head, and then got into the car whistling unevenly. "What's the matter?" asked Saul. "Shut up. Relax. Here, take a drink.'' "I knew it." "Let's get out of here." They drove off slowly without speaking, passing the stolen liquor back and forth. This was what they needed. This moment. This bourbon. It was the gesture, the ritual that defied the night's unspoken demands t o move within the borders of conYen Hidd runs a service station in Ashfbrk, Arizona. This is hisfirstpublished fiction.

Breakfast at dusk was soothing and solitary. It was the hour when the large kitchen was empty and immaculate, and dogs could be heard barking from far away. She would look out the window and see the red July sun tuck itself in under its own reflections on the blanketing river. As she searched she would chew dry cereal and hum melodies to the rhythms her jaws played. The other girls would either still be sleeping, or they would be getting ready to get ready for work. And if at that moment no dogs were barking, there would be only the sound of a rocking chair creaking in time with a song in a young woman's mouth while a smiling moon slowly emerged bearing cool illumination, silvery as the head of madam Agnes. A voice. "Wake up." Saul opened his eyes, saw that it was dark, damped his eyes shut, and tried to repaint the convertible red Cadillac (white leather interior, silver-plated steering wheel) his sleeping mind had conjured until he had to give up. He was awake. "What's the matter?" he asked. "Let's go. We've been here sleeping all day." Saul started the car, flicked o n the fights, and then turned the motor off. "We still need gas." They were both silent. Though they would never admit it, they j understood what a slippery thing speech could be. They knew i how difficult it was to control the muscles around the mouth, \ how the tongue felt too big sometimes, or the voice could stum• ble, even crack altogether. So they just looked through the wind; shield, wondering a t the shadows that splintered the moonlight i on the hood of the car. Agnes stayed in the large, sprawling attic with its open rafters I and slanted glass roof. Between the tiny cracks in the floorboards, land through the twisting, labyrinthine heating ducts, and by variloiis other unknown channels of connection, all t h e sounds, THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

41


vention, laws, fear. Or so they thought as they turned off the main road and finally stopped under silent trees to sip their booty,* By the time they nodded off, the botde was empty and little Mgh-pitched voices brought the trees out of their silence. When D o g s Could be Heard Ten Hidd This night in Wyoming Saul was behind the wheel. Still, it took the both of them to keep the car moving straight. If only they could make it through one night without stopping they could then make it through any night, no matter how infinite. But the needle on the gas gauge dipped low. The Wyoming night was not only endless, it was conspiratorial. They took a highway turn-off which pointed to a place called Elk Mountain where gasoline was sold, but the town never seemed to materialize. A small tavern was all they found, a shack with a dusty screen door that filtered noise into the darkness. Saul wanted to bolt back to the highway. Louie did too, but he also wanted to go inside and find out if maybe there was a motel nearby. Saul waited in the car, a gold '68 Dodge Dart they had picked up outside the Ye Rustic Inn in Bismark. H e watched Louie enter through the squeaking screen door, and then a dog came outside and watched the Dart from the wooden porch. It was a perfect great dane (what was it doing there?) standing high on its toes, sniffing the air for what was new and strange in it. Finally Louie came back through the squeaking door. He stroked the great dane's head, and then got into the car whistling unevenly. "What's the matter?" asked Saul. "Shut up. Relax. Here, take a drink.'' "I knew it." "Let's get out of here." They drove off slowly without speaking, passing the stolen liquor back and forth. This was what they needed. This moment. This bourbon. It was the gesture, the ritual that defied the night's unspoken demands t o move within the borders of conYen Hidd runs a service station in Ashfbrk, Arizona. This is hisfirstpublished fiction.

Breakfast at dusk was soothing and solitary. It was the hour when the large kitchen was empty and immaculate, and dogs could be heard barking from far away. She would look out the window and see the red July sun tuck itself in under its own reflections on the blanketing river. As she searched she would chew dry cereal and hum melodies to the rhythms her jaws played. The other girls would either still be sleeping, or they would be getting ready to get ready for work. And if at that moment no dogs were barking, there would be only the sound of a rocking chair creaking in time with a song in a young woman's mouth while a smiling moon slowly emerged bearing cool illumination, silvery as the head of madam Agnes. A voice. "Wake up." Saul opened his eyes, saw that it was dark, damped his eyes shut, and tried to repaint the convertible red Cadillac (white leather interior, silver-plated steering wheel) his sleeping mind had conjured until he had to give up. He was awake. "What's the matter?" he asked. "Let's go. We've been here sleeping all day." Saul started the car, flicked o n the fights, and then turned the motor off. "We still need gas." They were both silent. Though they would never admit it, they j understood what a slippery thing speech could be. They knew i how difficult it was to control the muscles around the mouth, \ how the tongue felt too big sometimes, or the voice could stum• ble, even crack altogether. So they just looked through the wind; shield, wondering a t the shadows that splintered the moonlight i on the hood of the car. Agnes stayed in the large, sprawling attic with its open rafters I and slanted glass roof. Between the tiny cracks in the floorboards, land through the twisting, labyrinthine heating ducts, and by variloiis other unknown channels of connection, all t h e sounds, THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

41


smells, and whispers that occured throughout the rest of the house invariably made their way up to this attic. The stars would blink above and sometimes, thought Agnes, take notice of the goings-on beneath her feet. She welcolmcd their attention. The glass roof had not always been glass. And if the stars paid her house no mind she was not bothered. She was content to sit back and watch them blink. Especially when Marie played the piano and the stars seemed to be dancing even though they were just blinking. It was rare that something happened in her house and she did not know of it. But sometimes Agnes required assistance from others, either from the girls who worked for her or from Jake, the house handyman-bartender-peace-keeper. He had been with her as long as anyone could remember, and she trusted him almost as much as she trusted the stars. When she heard the knock at the door to the attic she knew it was him. "Come on up," she answered. His footsteps were heavy and obvious, as was everything about him."Yes mam?" Whenever Jake asked questions his eyebrows lifted involuntarily and his dark eyes squinted. "Jake, please get rid of him." "Mam?" You could even see his biceps flinch since he rolled his shirtsleeves all the way up. "He's very loud tonight." "But he's just sittin' with his dog and a bottle." "Jake, his howling is bad for business. People come here because they want to be happy. But they can't be happy with a man howling and weeping outside. Please get rid of him." "Yes mam." Agnes hated the old wino. She hated him even before he started drinking. He was weak. And even worse, he had once been in a position to be mean. It was a position she found herself lapsing into more and more. As she grew older it became harder to convinvce herself that the house she had 'built' wasn't like all the other houses on the mountain; that it didn't just have its own name, like the barber shop or the grocery store or the funeral home. Jake knew the old man would go off into the woods and howl under the trees with that beautiful big dog to keep him company. He wondered how the old wino had ever come to have such a 42

prize animal. He always wanted to ask him but was afraid. And then the party downstairs always distracted him. Pretty girls dancing with wide-eyed men. People drinking at the bar. Edna serving them all. Marie playing the piano. Jake made his way through the crowd towards the front door, unlatched the chain, unbolted the two bolts, looked through the peephole and saw two young men Walking up the stairs to the porch. He did not recognize them. They approached the door. "Can I help you boys?" "Well, we're passin' through and they told us on the other side of the hill that there's a party Over here every couple weeks." Jake was uncertain. Agnes didn't like strangers. They could be state deputies, she would say. But these two looked too skinny. Then the old man's dog came over and started sniffing them. The man who had spoken reached down to stroke the dog's head, and the dog let him. Jake trusted the prize animal and dedded to let them in. "Okay boys, come on in. But behave youselves. Hey, wait a second." Louie and Saul froze. "Did you happen to see an old bum around the house?" Louie pointed around the corner. "Okay." As Saul entered, he was carried by the noise leading him into the high-ceilinged room where the party was in full swing. The world in front of him unrolled like a colorful party fevor all the way up the wide staircase where couples dilly-dallied over final negotiations. He walked straight to the bar and ordered a drink the barmaid had never of. "Tell me, sir," she said, screwing up her black eyes, "how do I build a Manhattan?" When he told her, she informed him that "presently the bar is all out of sweet vermouth so the regular stuff will have to do." "Thank you very much," he said. Then Louie caughtmp with him. "Hey, why didn't you wait for me? This place looks alright. No? But that old boozer was a little weird, screaming like that. And then he walked away when the big guy told him to shove off. It was like a routine." "Did you recognize the dog?" "How could I not? I guess he likes thieves." "He's a she." "She's good looking. But what do you say about some of these females?"

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smells, and whispers that occured throughout the rest of the house invariably made their way up to this attic. The stars would blink above and sometimes, thought Agnes, take notice of the goings-on beneath her feet. She welcolmcd their attention. The glass roof had not always been glass. And if the stars paid her house no mind she was not bothered. She was content to sit back and watch them blink. Especially when Marie played the piano and the stars seemed to be dancing even though they were just blinking. It was rare that something happened in her house and she did not know of it. But sometimes Agnes required assistance from others, either from the girls who worked for her or from Jake, the house handyman-bartender-peace-keeper. He had been with her as long as anyone could remember, and she trusted him almost as much as she trusted the stars. When she heard the knock at the door to the attic she knew it was him. "Come on up," she answered. His footsteps were heavy and obvious, as was everything about him."Yes mam?" Whenever Jake asked questions his eyebrows lifted involuntarily and his dark eyes squinted. "Jake, please get rid of him." "Mam?" You could even see his biceps flinch since he rolled his shirtsleeves all the way up. "He's very loud tonight." "But he's just sittin' with his dog and a bottle." "Jake, his howling is bad for business. People come here because they want to be happy. But they can't be happy with a man howling and weeping outside. Please get rid of him." "Yes mam." Agnes hated the old wino. She hated him even before he started drinking. He was weak. And even worse, he had once been in a position to be mean. It was a position she found herself lapsing into more and more. As she grew older it became harder to convinvce herself that the house she had 'built' wasn't like all the other houses on the mountain; that it didn't just have its own name, like the barber shop or the grocery store or the funeral home. Jake knew the old man would go off into the woods and howl under the trees with that beautiful big dog to keep him company. He wondered how the old wino had ever come to have such a 42

prize animal. He always wanted to ask him but was afraid. And then the party downstairs always distracted him. Pretty girls dancing with wide-eyed men. People drinking at the bar. Edna serving them all. Marie playing the piano. Jake made his way through the crowd towards the front door, unlatched the chain, unbolted the two bolts, looked through the peephole and saw two young men Walking up the stairs to the porch. He did not recognize them. They approached the door. "Can I help you boys?" "Well, we're passin' through and they told us on the other side of the hill that there's a party Over here every couple weeks." Jake was uncertain. Agnes didn't like strangers. They could be state deputies, she would say. But these two looked too skinny. Then the old man's dog came over and started sniffing them. The man who had spoken reached down to stroke the dog's head, and the dog let him. Jake trusted the prize animal and dedded to let them in. "Okay boys, come on in. But behave youselves. Hey, wait a second." Louie and Saul froze. "Did you happen to see an old bum around the house?" Louie pointed around the corner. "Okay." As Saul entered, he was carried by the noise leading him into the high-ceilinged room where the party was in full swing. The world in front of him unrolled like a colorful party fevor all the way up the wide staircase where couples dilly-dallied over final negotiations. He walked straight to the bar and ordered a drink the barmaid had never of. "Tell me, sir," she said, screwing up her black eyes, "how do I build a Manhattan?" When he told her, she informed him that "presently the bar is all out of sweet vermouth so the regular stuff will have to do." "Thank you very much," he said. Then Louie caughtmp with him. "Hey, why didn't you wait for me? This place looks alright. No? But that old boozer was a little weird, screaming like that. And then he walked away when the big guy told him to shove off. It was like a routine." "Did you recognize the dog?" "How could I not? I guess he likes thieves." "He's a she." "She's good looking. But what do you say about some of these females?"

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r

"And we'll tell them also that we're down-home boys who love to drink Jack Daniels? That we're mountain-folk like them, just passin' through?" "like always." "You go ahead. I think I'll be the audience for awhile." For a moment he shut his ears and eyes, and held his breath. "Nah," he thought, and then let go and opened everything. Ears, eyes, jaws, nostrils, toes, lungs. He allowed the entire room to wash over him and fill every pore, every crevice until they overflowed and the deluge enveloped him, grew him gills, lifted him glistening across the surface of the smoke-shadowed crowd. He danced with every woman in the sea, he sang with every bubble in the tank. They all propositioned him. "Later," he kept saying, "later." And then the barmaid slipped him a note as she passed by. "A request from the piano player, Mr. Manhattan." It read:

i

i

i

I see you and I like you. I want to see you later. But tell no-one. Marie. Saul hadn't had a single thought about the piano player. When he looked in her direction he was shocked to see how young she was. Little more than a child. And yet, she didn't look at him once, but continued playing as if she hadn't noticed him at all. Not knowing what to think, he returned to the bar in search of the caustic barmaid. He asked her about the note, but she just winked at him sweetly and served up another Manhattan. The piano player, Marie, wasn't exactly beautiful, but then she wasn't all made up to be that way. Her light blue dress was plain. She wore her brown hair short so that it curved around her ears like a schoolgirl's. And the silver bradet on her wrist was the only piece of jewelry on her body. She was the piano player, nothing more. It was dear. She played country songs, most of which he didn't know, and she never sang, though she hummed as her torso rocked back and forth. An old man with a fiddle joined her on a few waltzes, and sometimes the crowd all sang together. It was when they all sang that it sounded espedally bad. When there was only her piano playing Saul could bear it. She wasn't a good player, but she seemed to get better as he continued drinking. Even the Manhattans seemed to be getting better. But as the night wore on, and Louie was nowhere to be seen, Saul soon found himself fighting off sleep.

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THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

At midnight, Agnes herself descended the three flights of stairs connecting her attic to jhe party. Jake whacked the suspended gold disc, and the sound of the gong signalled to everyone her arrival* She was a large woman, exactly how large no one knew due to the many robes draped over her broad shoulders. Appropriately, her nose was also large, with its firm wide hridge, its pink hairless nostrils, its exact forty-five degree angle to her forehead. By pulling her straight silver hair back tighdy in a bun, she effectively immortalized this nose. Her arrival at midnight was customary^ the scheduled appearance essential to providing her guests with the sense of order they needed to accompany their rendezvous' with chaos. First she would mingle with them, and give them the feeling that they knew her. Then she would relieve Marie on the piano and entertain them. "My child, it's time for you to get your beaiity sleep," she would say. Marie would go to her room, and Agnes would play on with little more skill than her student had been able to muster. But this night in Wyoming Marie passed by the bar on the way to her room. She found Saul there, his head still ringing from the gong, and finally they looked at each other, both smiling — he lustily, she shyly. With a nod of her head, she told him to follow her. Upstairs, the corridor glowed from moonlight shapes on the worn Carpeting like stepping stones in a garden. Her room was the last door on the left. Inside, two colored light bulbs, one green and one red, and about a dozen stuffed animals {beavers, racoons, rabbits)on two foot square shelves placed in seemingly random spots around the walls,, caused Saul to hesitate in the doorway. Marie let out a laugh and assured him, "it's safe," before he even realized his hesitation* "I hunt," she said. "Not the big game, just these little ones." He looked for a hunting rifle but didn't see one. What he saw was a medium-sized room with shiny wallpaper, a bed by the window, a small bookshelf full of magazines, an old mahogany wardrobe, and of course the furry dead little critters. "Do you hunt?" He turned back, trying to read her expression but the shadow of a racoon prevented it. "Sort of," he answered. The situation called for boldness. "What does that mean?" "It means aren't you going to ask me to sit down, kick off my shoes, would I like a drink?" THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

45


r

"And we'll tell them also that we're down-home boys who love to drink Jack Daniels? That we're mountain-folk like them, just passin' through?" "like always." "You go ahead. I think I'll be the audience for awhile." For a moment he shut his ears and eyes, and held his breath. "Nah," he thought, and then let go and opened everything. Ears, eyes, jaws, nostrils, toes, lungs. He allowed the entire room to wash over him and fill every pore, every crevice until they overflowed and the deluge enveloped him, grew him gills, lifted him glistening across the surface of the smoke-shadowed crowd. He danced with every woman in the sea, he sang with every bubble in the tank. They all propositioned him. "Later," he kept saying, "later." And then the barmaid slipped him a note as she passed by. "A request from the piano player, Mr. Manhattan." It read:

i

i

i

I see you and I like you. I want to see you later. But tell no-one. Marie. Saul hadn't had a single thought about the piano player. When he looked in her direction he was shocked to see how young she was. Little more than a child. And yet, she didn't look at him once, but continued playing as if she hadn't noticed him at all. Not knowing what to think, he returned to the bar in search of the caustic barmaid. He asked her about the note, but she just winked at him sweetly and served up another Manhattan. The piano player, Marie, wasn't exactly beautiful, but then she wasn't all made up to be that way. Her light blue dress was plain. She wore her brown hair short so that it curved around her ears like a schoolgirl's. And the silver bradet on her wrist was the only piece of jewelry on her body. She was the piano player, nothing more. It was dear. She played country songs, most of which he didn't know, and she never sang, though she hummed as her torso rocked back and forth. An old man with a fiddle joined her on a few waltzes, and sometimes the crowd all sang together. It was when they all sang that it sounded espedally bad. When there was only her piano playing Saul could bear it. She wasn't a good player, but she seemed to get better as he continued drinking. Even the Manhattans seemed to be getting better. But as the night wore on, and Louie was nowhere to be seen, Saul soon found himself fighting off sleep.

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At midnight, Agnes herself descended the three flights of stairs connecting her attic to jhe party. Jake whacked the suspended gold disc, and the sound of the gong signalled to everyone her arrival* She was a large woman, exactly how large no one knew due to the many robes draped over her broad shoulders. Appropriately, her nose was also large, with its firm wide hridge, its pink hairless nostrils, its exact forty-five degree angle to her forehead. By pulling her straight silver hair back tighdy in a bun, she effectively immortalized this nose. Her arrival at midnight was customary^ the scheduled appearance essential to providing her guests with the sense of order they needed to accompany their rendezvous' with chaos. First she would mingle with them, and give them the feeling that they knew her. Then she would relieve Marie on the piano and entertain them. "My child, it's time for you to get your beaiity sleep," she would say. Marie would go to her room, and Agnes would play on with little more skill than her student had been able to muster. But this night in Wyoming Marie passed by the bar on the way to her room. She found Saul there, his head still ringing from the gong, and finally they looked at each other, both smiling — he lustily, she shyly. With a nod of her head, she told him to follow her. Upstairs, the corridor glowed from moonlight shapes on the worn Carpeting like stepping stones in a garden. Her room was the last door on the left. Inside, two colored light bulbs, one green and one red, and about a dozen stuffed animals {beavers, racoons, rabbits)on two foot square shelves placed in seemingly random spots around the walls,, caused Saul to hesitate in the doorway. Marie let out a laugh and assured him, "it's safe," before he even realized his hesitation* "I hunt," she said. "Not the big game, just these little ones." He looked for a hunting rifle but didn't see one. What he saw was a medium-sized room with shiny wallpaper, a bed by the window, a small bookshelf full of magazines, an old mahogany wardrobe, and of course the furry dead little critters. "Do you hunt?" He turned back, trying to read her expression but the shadow of a racoon prevented it. "Sort of," he answered. The situation called for boldness. "What does that mean?" "It means aren't you going to ask me to sit down, kick off my shoes, would I like a drink?" THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

45


"I don't want you drinkin' anymore. So no. You can't have a drink. But I do want you to sit down. Next to me, right here." She waved him over to the bed, queen-sized, and put her arm around him as they sat down. Their first kiss was light and soft. They opened their eyes and smiled. She admired his dark skin, his brown almond-shaped eyes. He didn't look Eke the men she was used to seeing, with their thick necks and bloated feces. He was thinner, more elegant. He drank a drink called 'Manhattan.' "Where are you from? You ain't from around here." "The hell I ain't. I'm from just down the road a mile or two. My daddy's got a farm." "Yeah, yeah." "Born and bred. Since the day my momma had me I been kickin' shit n' ropin' donkey." She nearly fell off the bed from laughing. Between breaths she mimiced him. "Kickin' shit n' ropin' donkey." "You're damn right. I am from right here, this very county. Best place in the whole damn world." "You know what?" she asked, catching her breath. "What?" "About this place?" "What about it?" "This county? I hate it." Slowly, without thinking, he began to draw away from her. "I hate it," she said again, "I hate it so much, come here. Come doser." She pulled his head to hers with both hands. She kissed him almost violently for a long time, pausing now and then to repeat it. "I hate it here...I want to leave...I want to be different...so much." And he, at first taken aback, but now coaxing her. "Of course. It's horrible here." And then she pulling him into the bed with her, taking off his dothes, and asking, "Can I leave with you? I don't have to stay with you. Just get me out of here." And he, not paying attention, but repeating the magic words. "Of course, ofcourse. It's horrible." And this conversation going the whole time until they were exhausted, and sleep arrived before their talk could get specific.

I r 1;

Hours later, after being awakened by her whistling, sleeping nose, after reading the staring black eyes of a dozen dead forest creatures, after piecing together a dream of a glorious bank robbery in which he and Louie Came away with millions due to the help of a piano-playing rabbit, and after feeling the pressure in his 46

bladder gradually fede, Saul began to hear the questions he had ignored earlier, as if they had been waiting patiently on his earlobes and were only now penetrating deeper. "Can I leave with you?...Can you take me from here?" etc....Such melodramatic words. Surely they added to the dry, sticky taste in his mouth. But when he thought of what accompanied these words, not just her passion but more interestingly her plea for help, his mind wavered. What would Louie say? 'No.' Obviously. He would think Saul was getting romantic. But it wasn't newborn love, or even pity, that caused Saul to contemplate her plea for help. It was, purely and simply, the feet that he was able to help her, that he had the power to change her life so fundamentally he would not only redirect her future, but redefine her past. Louie would see that this was something they could not afford to pass up. Saul left the room silently. The moon still lit the corridor, though the party had long since ended. But on his way down the staircase he met Louie climbing up. Louie put his hand over Saul's mouth, and led the rest of the way; down the wide staircase, through the party room, past the bar. The emptiness of the place was strange. They slipped quiedy through an open window in the kitchen It was good to be out of the house, to feel grass under his feet. But Louie again cautioned absolute silence. As they turned the corner and headed toward the front porch Louie slowed down. There was something like a mound on the porch that was difficult to see because the moonlight failed to reach it. "What?" asked Saul. "The big guy who let us in. His name's Jake." "Drunk." "No." "How do you know his name's Jake?" "Come on." They walked along the long dirt driveway towards the Dart. The moisture in the air was cold. Saul wanted to tell Ixmie about Marie."Where have you been?" he asked instead. "I got kicked out with everyone else. When you didn't show up I fell asleep. I woke up about an hour ago and came to find you." Again Louie slowed his step. They walked this way for almost twenty yards and then,stopjped. In the middle of the driveway lay the old wino and his prize animal in a shared mire,of mud and blood. Saul remained still, his eyes fixed on the dog. He won-, dered why the animal had ever been with the old man.

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"I don't want you drinkin' anymore. So no. You can't have a drink. But I do want you to sit down. Next to me, right here." She waved him over to the bed, queen-sized, and put her arm around him as they sat down. Their first kiss was light and soft. They opened their eyes and smiled. She admired his dark skin, his brown almond-shaped eyes. He didn't look Eke the men she was used to seeing, with their thick necks and bloated feces. He was thinner, more elegant. He drank a drink called 'Manhattan.' "Where are you from? You ain't from around here." "The hell I ain't. I'm from just down the road a mile or two. My daddy's got a farm." "Yeah, yeah." "Born and bred. Since the day my momma had me I been kickin' shit n' ropin' donkey." She nearly fell off the bed from laughing. Between breaths she mimiced him. "Kickin' shit n' ropin' donkey." "You're damn right. I am from right here, this very county. Best place in the whole damn world." "You know what?" she asked, catching her breath. "What?" "About this place?" "What about it?" "This county? I hate it." Slowly, without thinking, he began to draw away from her. "I hate it," she said again, "I hate it so much, come here. Come doser." She pulled his head to hers with both hands. She kissed him almost violently for a long time, pausing now and then to repeat it. "I hate it here...I want to leave...I want to be different...so much." And he, at first taken aback, but now coaxing her. "Of course. It's horrible here." And then she pulling him into the bed with her, taking off his dothes, and asking, "Can I leave with you? I don't have to stay with you. Just get me out of here." And he, not paying attention, but repeating the magic words. "Of course, ofcourse. It's horrible." And this conversation going the whole time until they were exhausted, and sleep arrived before their talk could get specific.

I r 1;

Hours later, after being awakened by her whistling, sleeping nose, after reading the staring black eyes of a dozen dead forest creatures, after piecing together a dream of a glorious bank robbery in which he and Louie Came away with millions due to the help of a piano-playing rabbit, and after feeling the pressure in his 46

bladder gradually fede, Saul began to hear the questions he had ignored earlier, as if they had been waiting patiently on his earlobes and were only now penetrating deeper. "Can I leave with you?...Can you take me from here?" etc....Such melodramatic words. Surely they added to the dry, sticky taste in his mouth. But when he thought of what accompanied these words, not just her passion but more interestingly her plea for help, his mind wavered. What would Louie say? 'No.' Obviously. He would think Saul was getting romantic. But it wasn't newborn love, or even pity, that caused Saul to contemplate her plea for help. It was, purely and simply, the feet that he was able to help her, that he had the power to change her life so fundamentally he would not only redirect her future, but redefine her past. Louie would see that this was something they could not afford to pass up. Saul left the room silently. The moon still lit the corridor, though the party had long since ended. But on his way down the staircase he met Louie climbing up. Louie put his hand over Saul's mouth, and led the rest of the way; down the wide staircase, through the party room, past the bar. The emptiness of the place was strange. They slipped quiedy through an open window in the kitchen It was good to be out of the house, to feel grass under his feet. But Louie again cautioned absolute silence. As they turned the corner and headed toward the front porch Louie slowed down. There was something like a mound on the porch that was difficult to see because the moonlight failed to reach it. "What?" asked Saul. "The big guy who let us in. His name's Jake." "Drunk." "No." "How do you know his name's Jake?" "Come on." They walked along the long dirt driveway towards the Dart. The moisture in the air was cold. Saul wanted to tell Ixmie about Marie."Where have you been?" he asked instead. "I got kicked out with everyone else. When you didn't show up I fell asleep. I woke up about an hour ago and came to find you." Again Louie slowed his step. They walked this way for almost twenty yards and then,stopjped. In the middle of the driveway lay the old wino and his prize animal in a shared mire,of mud and blood. Saul remained still, his eyes fixed on the dog. He won-, dered why the animal had ever been with the old man.

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47


"Come on," said Louie. "What's his name?" "What?" "The dog, I mean." "The dog? What's wrong with you?" "What are you showing me? You know so much. Tell me about this one too." "Let's get out of here." "Tell me." "Alright. The one I was with told me some things. She says he used to be a big deal around here, a judge. A mean, hardass judge. He was also a regular. There was a baby, and a scandal. He was ruined. The whore killed herself, they say. I don't know the dog's name, but I know who the baby is. And so do you* intimatdy." "She doesn't know," said Saul, as much to himself as to Louie. "Who cares? Maybe you want to go back and get her and take her away from all this. Maybe you want us to be kidnapping and murder suspects." "No no no." "Then what?" There was a pause during which both men supressed the sound of their breathing. Finally Saul said, "give me the keys." The Dart started right up, as if it had been listening. Saul eased it out of the driveway, down the dirt road, and onto the highway as the moon blended into the emerging grey.They drove for some time without speaking until Louie said, "poor dog," and Saul said, "yeah, but dogs are stupid." Breakfast at dusk was soothing and solitary. It was the hour when the large kitchen was empty and immaculate, and dog's could be heard barking from far away. She would look out the window and see the red July sun tuck itsdf in Under its own reflections on the blanketingriver..As she searched she would chew dry cereal and hum melodies to the rhythms her jaws played. The other girls would either still be sleeping, or they woulcLbe getting ready to get ready for work^ And if at that moment no dogs were barking, there would he only the sound of a rocking chair creaking in time with a song in a young woman's mouth while a.smiling.moon slowly emerged bearing cool illumination^ silvery as the head of madam Agnes.

48

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

Untitled Sean Kennerly Hot empty sky draining the rage and anger from a twisted groin unsettled on the grass. An act of love witnessed through the hollow stare of bulging chartreuse eyes, dreamless sunlit orbs of execution. A love so pure it sinks its gnarled body deep within the bowels of its lover, in homage to succession. An engulfing surrender of everything, received without the faintest stir of compassion, or even emotion. Received with an arched emerald neck bearing no compromise within the jaws above, only appetite. The praying mantis resumes its awkward stance unthinking near a gas station in Yuma, Arizona.

Scan Kennerly is an English student who mostly plays music at UC Berkeley.


"Come on," said Louie. "What's his name?" "What?" "The dog, I mean." "The dog? What's wrong with you?" "What are you showing me? You know so much. Tell me about this one too." "Let's get out of here." "Tell me." "Alright. The one I was with told me some things. She says he used to be a big deal around here, a judge. A mean, hardass judge. He was also a regular. There was a baby, and a scandal. He was ruined. The whore killed herself, they say. I don't know the dog's name, but I know who the baby is. And so do you* intimatdy." "She doesn't know," said Saul, as much to himself as to Louie. "Who cares? Maybe you want to go back and get her and take her away from all this. Maybe you want us to be kidnapping and murder suspects." "No no no." "Then what?" There was a pause during which both men supressed the sound of their breathing. Finally Saul said, "give me the keys." The Dart started right up, as if it had been listening. Saul eased it out of the driveway, down the dirt road, and onto the highway as the moon blended into the emerging grey.They drove for some time without speaking until Louie said, "poor dog," and Saul said, "yeah, but dogs are stupid." Breakfast at dusk was soothing and solitary. It was the hour when the large kitchen was empty and immaculate, and dog's could be heard barking from far away. She would look out the window and see the red July sun tuck itsdf in Under its own reflections on the blanketingriver..As she searched she would chew dry cereal and hum melodies to the rhythms her jaws played. The other girls would either still be sleeping, or they woulcLbe getting ready to get ready for work^ And if at that moment no dogs were barking, there would he only the sound of a rocking chair creaking in time with a song in a young woman's mouth while a.smiling.moon slowly emerged bearing cool illumination^ silvery as the head of madam Agnes.

48

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

Untitled Sean Kennerly Hot empty sky draining the rage and anger from a twisted groin unsettled on the grass. An act of love witnessed through the hollow stare of bulging chartreuse eyes, dreamless sunlit orbs of execution. A love so pure it sinks its gnarled body deep within the bowels of its lover, in homage to succession. An engulfing surrender of everything, received without the faintest stir of compassion, or even emotion. Received with an arched emerald neck bearing no compromise within the jaws above, only appetite. The praying mantis resumes its awkward stance unthinking near a gas station in Yuma, Arizona.

Scan Kennerly is an English student who mostly plays music at UC Berkeley.


ERIN SCHWARTZ Stereoscopic Photographs, 1989, gelatin silver prints, courtesy: the artist


ERIN SCHWARTZ Stereoscopic Photographs, 1989, gelatin silver prints, courtesy: the artist




T


T




know what children wanted. He heard Mercy's high heds on the bare wood floor of her dining room. She was angry about something when she opened the door, and Nick modified the smile he had assumed. She had her chestnut hair, in a boyish cut, which was new and attractive. She held a tall drink in her hand. "Hdlo," she said, distracted, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Her lips were cold from the ice in her drink. It was bad that she Liar had started this early; Nick had already learned that it was imporCharlie Hauck tant to manipulate her into paring her drinks, to get her home in high spirits and funny, before she turned abusive. Nick pulled his Porsche in behind Mercy's white Audi, taking "Help me with this," said Mercy, holding out a large safety pin. care not to scrape his new, mirror-quality rims against the flinty "A button came off." She turned around and showed him a gap high curb in front of her house; He saw that she still hadn't done in her black cocktail dress, and then leaned forward and rested anything about the damage to her right rear; the tail-light assemboth hands on the dining room table. She picked up a cigarette bly was a write-off, and there was about three hundred dollars in from an ashtray and smoked while Nick worked. body work to be done. A month ago, before Nick met her, MerHe bunched together taffeta with one hand and struggled to work in the safety pin with the other. He saw the bare skin of her cy had clipped a concrete pillar backing out of a parking structure lower back, and the litle mole below her tan line, and her panties after a business lunch in Beverly Hills.. She blamed it on brandy. the color of bronze. Black butterflies ran up the backs of her legs "Don't ever let me order brandy," she said to Nick on their first on her patterned pantyhose. date, after she told him the story. But from what he saw, she "So what's going on?" he said. didn't particularly need brandy. Anything she drank seemed to do the job. "I'm sorry, but I'm very upset about something. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable." Nick left his jacket in the car and walked up to the house. It was a tiny, creamy-white Spanish bungalow with roof riles the faded "Hey, you don't always have to be in a good mood around me. pink of canned salmoni The few square yards of frontage were I don't demand that." "Oh, really? I have your permission? Thank you very much." over-landscaped with flowering plants and banana palms and After several tries, Nick locked the safety pin. ferns, giving the impression of a dutter. Nick appreciated the fit "Okay," he said. of his new shirt as he walked. It was fitted, and showed off his work with Louis, the trainer he met with three mornings a week Mercy stood up and took a long swallow of her drink. at the Sports Connection in West Los Angeles. "Come on in the bathroom. I have to put on my mascara." She picked up her cigarette. "Would you bring the ashtray?" He rang the bell and waited. By turning his head to die right, Nick followed her down the bare wood floor of the hallway tohe could look directly into the living room and see the burgundy ward the bathroom when suddenly she stopped at the door of velour sectional sofas and the Mediterranean-style coffe table that Brendan's bedroom, which was closed. Without warning, she seemed to be there to support a single enormous, book, a picture screamed through the wood of the door. history of Hollywood musicals. "The New Card Sharks" was "I will not be lied to!" flickering over the room from the television set. Nick expected to see Brendan, Mercy's little boy, sitting on the floor watching it, She closed her fist with the cigarette still in her fingers and but Brendan wasn't in the room. Nick hoped he was out back, pounded on the the panel of the door at the level of her head. playing, out of the way. He was a polite boy, about five years old, There was the noise of her fist hitting the wood, and then the but Nick felt a little on edge when he was around. Nick didn't noise of the top of the door, which she pushed an inch into the room each time she hit it, slamming back against the frame. Her Charlie Hauck lives in west Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post andforpublic television. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

59


know what children wanted. He heard Mercy's high heds on the bare wood floor of her dining room. She was angry about something when she opened the door, and Nick modified the smile he had assumed. She had her chestnut hair, in a boyish cut, which was new and attractive. She held a tall drink in her hand. "Hdlo," she said, distracted, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Her lips were cold from the ice in her drink. It was bad that she Liar had started this early; Nick had already learned that it was imporCharlie Hauck tant to manipulate her into paring her drinks, to get her home in high spirits and funny, before she turned abusive. Nick pulled his Porsche in behind Mercy's white Audi, taking "Help me with this," said Mercy, holding out a large safety pin. care not to scrape his new, mirror-quality rims against the flinty "A button came off." She turned around and showed him a gap high curb in front of her house; He saw that she still hadn't done in her black cocktail dress, and then leaned forward and rested anything about the damage to her right rear; the tail-light assemboth hands on the dining room table. She picked up a cigarette bly was a write-off, and there was about three hundred dollars in from an ashtray and smoked while Nick worked. body work to be done. A month ago, before Nick met her, MerHe bunched together taffeta with one hand and struggled to work in the safety pin with the other. He saw the bare skin of her cy had clipped a concrete pillar backing out of a parking structure lower back, and the litle mole below her tan line, and her panties after a business lunch in Beverly Hills.. She blamed it on brandy. the color of bronze. Black butterflies ran up the backs of her legs "Don't ever let me order brandy," she said to Nick on their first on her patterned pantyhose. date, after she told him the story. But from what he saw, she "So what's going on?" he said. didn't particularly need brandy. Anything she drank seemed to do the job. "I'm sorry, but I'm very upset about something. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable." Nick left his jacket in the car and walked up to the house. It was a tiny, creamy-white Spanish bungalow with roof riles the faded "Hey, you don't always have to be in a good mood around me. pink of canned salmoni The few square yards of frontage were I don't demand that." "Oh, really? I have your permission? Thank you very much." over-landscaped with flowering plants and banana palms and After several tries, Nick locked the safety pin. ferns, giving the impression of a dutter. Nick appreciated the fit "Okay," he said. of his new shirt as he walked. It was fitted, and showed off his work with Louis, the trainer he met with three mornings a week Mercy stood up and took a long swallow of her drink. at the Sports Connection in West Los Angeles. "Come on in the bathroom. I have to put on my mascara." She picked up her cigarette. "Would you bring the ashtray?" He rang the bell and waited. By turning his head to die right, Nick followed her down the bare wood floor of the hallway tohe could look directly into the living room and see the burgundy ward the bathroom when suddenly she stopped at the door of velour sectional sofas and the Mediterranean-style coffe table that Brendan's bedroom, which was closed. Without warning, she seemed to be there to support a single enormous, book, a picture screamed through the wood of the door. history of Hollywood musicals. "The New Card Sharks" was "I will not be lied to!" flickering over the room from the television set. Nick expected to see Brendan, Mercy's little boy, sitting on the floor watching it, She closed her fist with the cigarette still in her fingers and but Brendan wasn't in the room. Nick hoped he was out back, pounded on the the panel of the door at the level of her head. playing, out of the way. He was a polite boy, about five years old, There was the noise of her fist hitting the wood, and then the but Nick felt a little on edge when he was around. Nick didn't noise of the top of the door, which she pushed an inch into the room each time she hit it, slamming back against the frame. Her Charlie Hauck lives in west Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post andforpublic television. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

59


drink, which was half empty, spilled over the rim of the tall glass in her other hand. "Do you hear me, Brendan? You are a lying little bag of garbage! You are a picture o f disgust!" *Hey," said Nick. "Hey, hey..." He put his hands on her shoulders from behind her, but she straightened up and walked away, down the hall into the bathroom. "I cannot stand lying," she said. "I cannot stand being lied to. It's the one thing you do not do to this girl." She raised her voice on the last few words and looked at Nick as if he were the liar. "What did he do?" asked Nick. "He lied to me," said Mercy, "His father used to lie to me." Then she yelled out the bathroom door so Brendan, in his bed, could hear her. "I do not need that!" She took a tube of mascara from a quilted plastic makeup bag on the sink and unscrewed it and began brushing mascara onto her lashes. She opened her mouth wide to do this, and lifted her eyelids to an exaggerated height. Her green eyes glared back at her from the mirror. When her fece fell back into repose, Nick saw in it some of the instinctive arrogance that he had found very attractive. He had first noticed it in photographs she had shown him from her days as a model. Soon, he thought, there would be wrinkles in her fece from the dgarette smoke and blotchy veins from the alcohol, and dark brown spots from the sun. But right now, she was beautiful. "He ate the goddam Flinstones vitamins, " said Mercy. "The jar was empty tonight, and I knew there were at least eight left. And then he denied it. I saw the yellow dye on his fingers, and he denied it!" She took a deep breath, and then a sip of her drink, which was now nearly finished. "Want some?" She held out her glass. Nick took a sip. It was much stronger than he had expected, even now at the bottom of the glass with most of the ice melted. She drank J8cB Scotch, which was lighter in color, so her drinks wouldn't look as Strong. "How are we on time?" she asked. "We're fine," said Nick. "I washed his mouth out with soap." She indicated a bar of Irish Spring soap. It rested on a white ceramic soap dish in the shape of a human hand, palm turned upward, screwed into the wall at 60

the wrist. "I don't care. He has to learn." Nick saw tooth marks on the soap. Little teeth, the size of kernals o f corn, had scraped along the white and green grains. Mercy screwed the brush back into the mascara tube. "It's this goddam town. There are no values. To live here is to invite pain into your life." She finished her drink. "Do you know what I think I'd like tonight?" she said. "Some cocaine." "I don't know about that," said Nick. The door bell rang. "That's my littlegeek-feced baby-sitter," said Mercy. Nick followed her out of the bathroom. She stopped at Brendan's door again. "I'm going out and I'm not coming back!" she shouted. The babysitter was a studious-looking Iranian girl, a festidiuos pre-teen in pressed jeans and sneakers and a pink sweatshirt. She was carrying astack of school books, even on a Saturday night. She went into the kitchen and put her books in the breakfast nook, where she seemed to be accustomed to stationing herself. "Brendan,isn't feeling well, so I've put him to bed already," said Mercy. "If he gets up later and wants to watch television, I guess it's all right but he should really stay in bed." "My mother says I have to be home by one o'dock," said the girl. "Well, we shouldn't be too late," said Mercy. *If you're not home again, my mother said to tell you she'll come over and send .me home, and then she'll, stay." "All right, Farada, I believe I understand," said Mercy, and left the room. She took a quick look at herself in a small oval mirror next to the front door, and dedded she needed different earriugs. "This will take eight seconds," she said. "Well, maybe I'll go in and say hi to Brendan," said Nick. Mercy pursed her lips in impatience and narrowed her eyes at Nick. But then she relented. "Fine," she said dramatically, suggesting thatthe situation was beyond Nick's understanding. Sh^-called into the kitchen. "There's Diet Coke in the refrigerator, Farada. Which doesn't mean you have to drink it all." She went back dowi\ the hall to her bedroom. The baby-sitter's voice from the kitchen said, "Thank you," but only Nick was

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drink, which was half empty, spilled over the rim of the tall glass in her other hand. "Do you hear me, Brendan? You are a lying little bag of garbage! You are a picture o f disgust!" *Hey," said Nick. "Hey, hey..." He put his hands on her shoulders from behind her, but she straightened up and walked away, down the hall into the bathroom. "I cannot stand lying," she said. "I cannot stand being lied to. It's the one thing you do not do to this girl." She raised her voice on the last few words and looked at Nick as if he were the liar. "What did he do?" asked Nick. "He lied to me," said Mercy, "His father used to lie to me." Then she yelled out the bathroom door so Brendan, in his bed, could hear her. "I do not need that!" She took a tube of mascara from a quilted plastic makeup bag on the sink and unscrewed it and began brushing mascara onto her lashes. She opened her mouth wide to do this, and lifted her eyelids to an exaggerated height. Her green eyes glared back at her from the mirror. When her fece fell back into repose, Nick saw in it some of the instinctive arrogance that he had found very attractive. He had first noticed it in photographs she had shown him from her days as a model. Soon, he thought, there would be wrinkles in her fece from the dgarette smoke and blotchy veins from the alcohol, and dark brown spots from the sun. But right now, she was beautiful. "He ate the goddam Flinstones vitamins, " said Mercy. "The jar was empty tonight, and I knew there were at least eight left. And then he denied it. I saw the yellow dye on his fingers, and he denied it!" She took a deep breath, and then a sip of her drink, which was now nearly finished. "Want some?" She held out her glass. Nick took a sip. It was much stronger than he had expected, even now at the bottom of the glass with most of the ice melted. She drank J8cB Scotch, which was lighter in color, so her drinks wouldn't look as Strong. "How are we on time?" she asked. "We're fine," said Nick. "I washed his mouth out with soap." She indicated a bar of Irish Spring soap. It rested on a white ceramic soap dish in the shape of a human hand, palm turned upward, screwed into the wall at 60

the wrist. "I don't care. He has to learn." Nick saw tooth marks on the soap. Little teeth, the size of kernals o f corn, had scraped along the white and green grains. Mercy screwed the brush back into the mascara tube. "It's this goddam town. There are no values. To live here is to invite pain into your life." She finished her drink. "Do you know what I think I'd like tonight?" she said. "Some cocaine." "I don't know about that," said Nick. The door bell rang. "That's my littlegeek-feced baby-sitter," said Mercy. Nick followed her out of the bathroom. She stopped at Brendan's door again. "I'm going out and I'm not coming back!" she shouted. The babysitter was a studious-looking Iranian girl, a festidiuos pre-teen in pressed jeans and sneakers and a pink sweatshirt. She was carrying astack of school books, even on a Saturday night. She went into the kitchen and put her books in the breakfast nook, where she seemed to be accustomed to stationing herself. "Brendan,isn't feeling well, so I've put him to bed already," said Mercy. "If he gets up later and wants to watch television, I guess it's all right but he should really stay in bed." "My mother says I have to be home by one o'dock," said the girl. "Well, we shouldn't be too late," said Mercy. *If you're not home again, my mother said to tell you she'll come over and send .me home, and then she'll, stay." "All right, Farada, I believe I understand," said Mercy, and left the room. She took a quick look at herself in a small oval mirror next to the front door, and dedded she needed different earriugs. "This will take eight seconds," she said. "Well, maybe I'll go in and say hi to Brendan," said Nick. Mercy pursed her lips in impatience and narrowed her eyes at Nick. But then she relented. "Fine," she said dramatically, suggesting thatthe situation was beyond Nick's understanding. Sh^-called into the kitchen. "There's Diet Coke in the refrigerator, Farada. Which doesn't mean you have to drink it all." She went back dowi\ the hall to her bedroom. The baby-sitter's voice from the kitchen said, "Thank you," but only Nick was

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

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there to hear it. Brendan was in his bed, covered almost up to the chest by a yellow thermal blanket. His little body stiffened when Nick came into the room. He was wearing a short-sleeved seersucker pajama top with blue and white stripes, and with navy blue piping around the V-neck. There was a San Diego Padres logo on the pocket, to suggest a baseball uniform. His father, who used to play right field for the Angels, was now a batting coach with the Padres. "How you doing, chief}" said Nick. H e sat down on the bed, which was very dose to the floor. It was the surviving half of an expensive bunk bed set, and Nick worried that it might not support his weight. There Was a little boys' smell in the room, like the odor in grade school doakrooms. Brendan's eyes were wet from his tears, but he was distracted by the discomfort of having a stranger in his bedroom. "Hi," said Nick. H e reached out his hand, and Brendan brought his thin arm out from under the blanket and shook hands. He had his mother eyes and, in general, her beauty. His hair was honey brown, with a wispy hint of a widow's peak. The sun was still out, and the window shade was up^ and Nick saw a young woman in the next yard, just a few feet away, stretching to pour a liquid into a hummingbird feeder that hung from her lanai. She was tan and wore a mustard yellow halter top. She was standing on a stepladder that was hidden by a primrose arbor, and could have turned her head and been looking down on them, almost a part of their group. Brendan's walls were covered with gaudy posters of television wrestlers. On his dresser, there was a framed t>ubiicity photograph of his father, in uniform and at bat, from his playing days. "Well," said Nick, " I just wanted to stop in and say hi." H e stood up and gave Brendan's pillow a pat. "You want to take a ride in my car sometime? You know, the Porsche?" Brendan looked at Nick like a litde mammal looking up out of a burrow. "Wouldn't you like that? The Porsche?" Brendan moved his head in a slight nod. u Yesi Okay. We'll do that sometime." Nick walked to the door. "Okay. Take care." 62

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

|The W o m a n t h e y Call T h e W a t e r L a d y ^Lawrence Coates ley had all gathered to acknowledge her. The taH blue policelan whom she recognized stood before her when she opened le front door, and beyond him the Committee Ladies in disciplined ranjc OffHer Property. A crowd of people (here on account of her!) watched from behind the television crews. Three meras from local news stations, lights on and rolling. Mrs. Thatcher tottered onto the pOrch of her sinking house, and the cameras panned over to film her, she gestured down to her fork, her creation: her front lawn where the weathermatic intiled sprinkler system had run without stop for fifteen months, ;r front lawn turned subverter of foundations and destroyer of reets, her front lawn s^amp. In the Committee line stood Penny Wright from next door, fet Penny who had come to her the first springtime day, the first day he had let the sprinkler run. "Honey, you've left youf water running since yesterday." "I talked with my Carl then, and I talked With him again on the >hone today." ["We decided to see if you needed help turning it off." "Carl says you should only water in the early morning or late rening, or your wasting." :"0h, that man who had sold her the system had said the same king: Only mornings or evenings or your wasting." "Now ypur husband's gone, nobody to take care of the yard." "Installed sprinkler system, modern and eajsy." She'd listened to Penny and rested her head in a high backed ^ i n g chair, her brow milk white and smooth, a forked blueriver near Tier temple. Then she rolled her head towards the square of lawn where the iawrence Coates lives in Berkeley. His short stories have appeared in Alchemy and The Mismri Review.


there to hear it. Brendan was in his bed, covered almost up to the chest by a yellow thermal blanket. His little body stiffened when Nick came into the room. He was wearing a short-sleeved seersucker pajama top with blue and white stripes, and with navy blue piping around the V-neck. There was a San Diego Padres logo on the pocket, to suggest a baseball uniform. His father, who used to play right field for the Angels, was now a batting coach with the Padres. "How you doing, chief}" said Nick. H e sat down on the bed, which was very dose to the floor. It was the surviving half of an expensive bunk bed set, and Nick worried that it might not support his weight. There Was a little boys' smell in the room, like the odor in grade school doakrooms. Brendan's eyes were wet from his tears, but he was distracted by the discomfort of having a stranger in his bedroom. "Hi," said Nick. H e reached out his hand, and Brendan brought his thin arm out from under the blanket and shook hands. He had his mother eyes and, in general, her beauty. His hair was honey brown, with a wispy hint of a widow's peak. The sun was still out, and the window shade was up^ and Nick saw a young woman in the next yard, just a few feet away, stretching to pour a liquid into a hummingbird feeder that hung from her lanai. She was tan and wore a mustard yellow halter top. She was standing on a stepladder that was hidden by a primrose arbor, and could have turned her head and been looking down on them, almost a part of their group. Brendan's walls were covered with gaudy posters of television wrestlers. On his dresser, there was a framed t>ubiicity photograph of his father, in uniform and at bat, from his playing days. "Well," said Nick, " I just wanted to stop in and say hi." H e stood up and gave Brendan's pillow a pat. "You want to take a ride in my car sometime? You know, the Porsche?" Brendan looked at Nick like a litde mammal looking up out of a burrow. "Wouldn't you like that? The Porsche?" Brendan moved his head in a slight nod. u Yesi Okay. We'll do that sometime." Nick walked to the door. "Okay. Take care." 62

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

|The W o m a n t h e y Call T h e W a t e r L a d y ^Lawrence Coates ley had all gathered to acknowledge her. The taH blue policelan whom she recognized stood before her when she opened le front door, and beyond him the Committee Ladies in disciplined ranjc OffHer Property. A crowd of people (here on account of her!) watched from behind the television crews. Three meras from local news stations, lights on and rolling. Mrs. Thatcher tottered onto the pOrch of her sinking house, and the cameras panned over to film her, she gestured down to her fork, her creation: her front lawn where the weathermatic intiled sprinkler system had run without stop for fifteen months, ;r front lawn turned subverter of foundations and destroyer of reets, her front lawn s^amp. In the Committee line stood Penny Wright from next door, fet Penny who had come to her the first springtime day, the first day he had let the sprinkler run. "Honey, you've left youf water running since yesterday." "I talked with my Carl then, and I talked With him again on the >hone today." ["We decided to see if you needed help turning it off." "Carl says you should only water in the early morning or late rening, or your wasting." :"0h, that man who had sold her the system had said the same king: Only mornings or evenings or your wasting." "Now ypur husband's gone, nobody to take care of the yard." "Installed sprinkler system, modern and eajsy." She'd listened to Penny and rested her head in a high backed ^ i n g chair, her brow milk white and smooth, a forked blueriver near Tier temple. Then she rolled her head towards the square of lawn where the iawrence Coates lives in Berkeley. His short stories have appeared in Alchemy and The Mismri Review.


sprinkler pipes lay hidden like vessels beneath skin, and watched the water bleed onto the sidewalk. Sally Rodgers from across the street was also a Committee Lady, dynamic Sally who had advised her to buy an automobile. "Mrs. Thatcher, you need to get out of the house more." "If my husband died, I wouldn't miss a step." "My job and my children would keep me." "Why don't you buy a car?" Mrs. Thatcher rubbed one stiff hand with the other: ÂŤI can't drive." "Then learn. Don't let anyone say you're too old to learn." "There's no such thing as being old. If you don't think you are." "But the water; you will turn it off, won't you? My children get wet and dirty, and laundry takes so much valuable time." "If I had your time, there are so many creative things I would do." Mrs. Thatcher ignored the women's advice. She did not turn the sprinklers off, nor let anyone 'help' turn them off. The water ran through the months, and the lawn grew full and fet. Runoff became a sheet across the sidewalk then down the gutter. Not bothered by the runoff because the water would undermine the gutter. Let streets cjrack, cars fell. Her water bills grew fet too. But she paid faithfully. The fifteenth of each month. Her husband had known how to save money, and no children. Roger had worked in the mortgage department at the bank, making loans on houses just like this one, just like all the houses that surrounded her. She thought of him now, on this front porch in the hooded evenings, bowing over each plant with his trickling hose, ceremoniously measuring out a just amount of water. The square-feced policeman was speaking to her, but she had trouble hearing him, and she asked him to repeat himself. It was this same policeman who had saved her from Carl, Penny's husband. Carl had come splashing up her driveway one midnight after bowling and took the sprinkler key from the garden box, arid Mrs. Thatcher had called the police. Carl turned the long key, and the water died. Carl had. the key, and the sudden quiet made Mrs. Thatcher feel like her heart had stopped. Then the police car arrived in the still-flowing runoff. "She's turning the neighborhood into a goddamned swamp." Mrs. Thatcher came outside and saw Carl dressed in a bowling 64

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

shirt; the shirt advertised a real estate agency. "There should be a law against her." "The water lady's not breaking the law; you are." "Trespassing is trespassing." "Next door neighbor or not." "I'm protecting my home." "It's starting to sink." "Get a court order." "You can't do anything but get offher property. And hope she doesn't press charges." "Make him turn it back on. I want him to turn it back on." The policeman shrugged his shoulders. "Or I'll press charges." Carl turned the key. The invisible drops of water fell again over the dark shiny square. She took Carl's word: swamp. She could no longer walk on the lawn without sinking in. The firm sod had been destabilized, disintegrated bit by bit, floated off into the gutter. Down the street, and old Japanese man shovled the water into a wheelbarrow and used it for his little bonsai garden. N o matter; the swamp would reach him soon. The sprinkler system, the lawn's maintainer, had destroyed it. And water ran out like the dty's lifeblood, sank houses into her killing swamp. A pand truck bearing the logo of Channel 7 parked in the small lake in front of her house the following day. On the second knock she opened the door to the length of the chain. "Hello, Jeremy Blake, Channel 7 News. Pd like to interview you concerning the trespassing incident last night." "I read the police report." "Terrible, when neighbors, can't trust each other; what's the neighborhood coming to?" Behind the man with the microphone, a red bearded cameraman panned from her fece to the water felling into the front yard." Oh, he was wise; he didn't want to talk about houses sinking, he wanted to talk about trespassing. The microphone probed toward her fece. She slammed the door and caught the mike. Bent it at its Channel 7 logo. On the news that night, the newscaster said: "And now: the bizarre story of the woman they call "The Water Lady of El Cerritxx" Then Mrs. Thatcher saw a fece: a fece peering out the narrow opening; a sagging chin fece behind thick glasses; her own fece. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

65


sprinkler pipes lay hidden like vessels beneath skin, and watched the water bleed onto the sidewalk. Sally Rodgers from across the street was also a Committee Lady, dynamic Sally who had advised her to buy an automobile. "Mrs. Thatcher, you need to get out of the house more." "If my husband died, I wouldn't miss a step." "My job and my children would keep me." "Why don't you buy a car?" Mrs. Thatcher rubbed one stiff hand with the other: ÂŤI can't drive." "Then learn. Don't let anyone say you're too old to learn." "There's no such thing as being old. If you don't think you are." "But the water; you will turn it off, won't you? My children get wet and dirty, and laundry takes so much valuable time." "If I had your time, there are so many creative things I would do." Mrs. Thatcher ignored the women's advice. She did not turn the sprinklers off, nor let anyone 'help' turn them off. The water ran through the months, and the lawn grew full and fet. Runoff became a sheet across the sidewalk then down the gutter. Not bothered by the runoff because the water would undermine the gutter. Let streets cjrack, cars fell. Her water bills grew fet too. But she paid faithfully. The fifteenth of each month. Her husband had known how to save money, and no children. Roger had worked in the mortgage department at the bank, making loans on houses just like this one, just like all the houses that surrounded her. She thought of him now, on this front porch in the hooded evenings, bowing over each plant with his trickling hose, ceremoniously measuring out a just amount of water. The square-feced policeman was speaking to her, but she had trouble hearing him, and she asked him to repeat himself. It was this same policeman who had saved her from Carl, Penny's husband. Carl had come splashing up her driveway one midnight after bowling and took the sprinkler key from the garden box, arid Mrs. Thatcher had called the police. Carl turned the long key, and the water died. Carl had. the key, and the sudden quiet made Mrs. Thatcher feel like her heart had stopped. Then the police car arrived in the still-flowing runoff. "She's turning the neighborhood into a goddamned swamp." Mrs. Thatcher came outside and saw Carl dressed in a bowling 64

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

shirt; the shirt advertised a real estate agency. "There should be a law against her." "The water lady's not breaking the law; you are." "Trespassing is trespassing." "Next door neighbor or not." "I'm protecting my home." "It's starting to sink." "Get a court order." "You can't do anything but get offher property. And hope she doesn't press charges." "Make him turn it back on. I want him to turn it back on." The policeman shrugged his shoulders. "Or I'll press charges." Carl turned the key. The invisible drops of water fell again over the dark shiny square. She took Carl's word: swamp. She could no longer walk on the lawn without sinking in. The firm sod had been destabilized, disintegrated bit by bit, floated off into the gutter. Down the street, and old Japanese man shovled the water into a wheelbarrow and used it for his little bonsai garden. N o matter; the swamp would reach him soon. The sprinkler system, the lawn's maintainer, had destroyed it. And water ran out like the dty's lifeblood, sank houses into her killing swamp. A pand truck bearing the logo of Channel 7 parked in the small lake in front of her house the following day. On the second knock she opened the door to the length of the chain. "Hello, Jeremy Blake, Channel 7 News. Pd like to interview you concerning the trespassing incident last night." "I read the police report." "Terrible, when neighbors, can't trust each other; what's the neighborhood coming to?" Behind the man with the microphone, a red bearded cameraman panned from her fece to the water felling into the front yard." Oh, he was wise; he didn't want to talk about houses sinking, he wanted to talk about trespassing. The microphone probed toward her fece. She slammed the door and caught the mike. Bent it at its Channel 7 logo. On the news that night, the newscaster said: "And now: the bizarre story of the woman they call "The Water Lady of El Cerritxx" Then Mrs. Thatcher saw a fece: a fece peering out the narrow opening; a sagging chin fece behind thick glasses; her own fece. THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

65


The door slammed, and the microphone man frightened. Frightened! She watched herself again at eleven o'clock. Curious people came to stare, and she listened to the words. A trio of small boys on the way to school: "I dare you to rim across the corner.of her lawn." "No way. You'd sink in and disappear. She's some kind of witch." "My dad says she's just loony. You won't run across because you're chicken." "Why don't you do it then?" "I don't have to 'cause I already know it's safe. You're the one who thinks she's a witch." A pair of older boys: "The news says she uses almost^ million gallons a month." "What a waste* What's she trying to prove?" "Maybe she just wants to see a million of something." "If she kne\^ how to look at molecules, she could see a million in a handful of water." The witch of the million gallons! The Water LaxEy* Her awn house was sinking; the cement steps had felled a?fiaotfewer jhan the porch, and cracks spread in the unused <Mmwayr and her swamp grew deeper. More members of the press came by, but police kept them from her doorway. When camera crews arrived, however, she showed herself on the porch so that she could see herself on television. The threat of the Committee also first appeared on television. After ten seconds of seeing herself, she saw Sally Rogers interviewed. For more than twenty seconds! Sally told the rjewscaster that she and other neighbors had formed a "Committee for Responsable and Normal Water Usage," and that CRANWU would visit Mrs. Thatcher to gfee her one last chance to, act reasonably before they took legal action. She met the seven ladies of CRANWU in her family room the following Saturday. Penny Wright did not begin/until after Mrs. Thatcher served tea. "Mrs. Thatcher, we've all known you a long time, and we respect you. You've lived on our street longer than any of us. It should mean more to you. But now yoii're.killing it, not just for yourself but for everybody. Why even the tree that your poor late husband planted on that Arbor Day so long ago is tilting over." Sally said, "How are we supposed to raise our children in a (,(,

swamp? My children always come home stained by your mud." "Our house is moving," said a lady from across the street. "A real estate agent told us it would be impossible to sell a house where the water lady fived." "We're on tdevision so that people can laugh at us." "What you're doing makes no sense." "You've got no right." "Now ladies," Sally said. "Be fair. Let her answer." Mrs. Thatcher looked at the women with tortoise eyes. "I've seen mysdf on television," she said. "I know what I look like now." The blue vein river in her head began to throb slighty. Penny asked, "Can't you just let things get back to normal?" Mrs. Thatcher looked into her teacup. "All of you ladies should try to get on television. Before you're old." Sally spoke officially: "Then we're forced to take an action which all of us regret." Now the policeman bent down her ear and spoke loudly and precisely: "Court Order. He is putting in a reducer. "You will receive two hundred and fifty gallons a month. "Enough to bathe, dean, and cook." She noticed in that moment the truck from East Bay M.U.D. One cameraman filmed a skinny plumber in stained white overalls who worked on pipes under the sidewalk. Two other cameramen filmed the Committee Ladies, who read a statement in unison: "We believe a person's individual rights end at the end of there own front nose..." The plumber turned a wrench and the lawn sprinklers stopped. The Comittee Ladies cheered and applauded wildly. Mrs. Thatcher wobbled down the driveway, arms churning to keep balance. The cameras focused on her. The policeman stood between her and the plumber, his square shouldered bulk a ludicrous contrast to the tiny animated woman. Mrs. Thatcher tried to reach the plumber, but the policeman sidestepped with his hands behind his back and presented an unbreachable wall. Mrs. Thatcher pushed the policeman with both hands. He didn't budge. The vein near her temple burst, and a dark stain spread across her forehead. She raised two fists and pounded on his chest, but her shoe caught on a crack in the driveway and she stumbled backwards and fell heavily on her buttocks in the lawn. Her four limbs waved at the sky, a tortoise helpless on its back.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THEBERKELEY FICTION REVIEW 67


The door slammed, and the microphone man frightened. Frightened! She watched herself again at eleven o'clock. Curious people came to stare, and she listened to the words. A trio of small boys on the way to school: "I dare you to rim across the corner.of her lawn." "No way. You'd sink in and disappear. She's some kind of witch." "My dad says she's just loony. You won't run across because you're chicken." "Why don't you do it then?" "I don't have to 'cause I already know it's safe. You're the one who thinks she's a witch." A pair of older boys: "The news says she uses almost^ million gallons a month." "What a waste* What's she trying to prove?" "Maybe she just wants to see a million of something." "If she kne\^ how to look at molecules, she could see a million in a handful of water." The witch of the million gallons! The Water LaxEy* Her awn house was sinking; the cement steps had felled a?fiaotfewer jhan the porch, and cracks spread in the unused <Mmwayr and her swamp grew deeper. More members of the press came by, but police kept them from her doorway. When camera crews arrived, however, she showed herself on the porch so that she could see herself on television. The threat of the Committee also first appeared on television. After ten seconds of seeing herself, she saw Sally Rogers interviewed. For more than twenty seconds! Sally told the rjewscaster that she and other neighbors had formed a "Committee for Responsable and Normal Water Usage," and that CRANWU would visit Mrs. Thatcher to gfee her one last chance to, act reasonably before they took legal action. She met the seven ladies of CRANWU in her family room the following Saturday. Penny Wright did not begin/until after Mrs. Thatcher served tea. "Mrs. Thatcher, we've all known you a long time, and we respect you. You've lived on our street longer than any of us. It should mean more to you. But now yoii're.killing it, not just for yourself but for everybody. Why even the tree that your poor late husband planted on that Arbor Day so long ago is tilting over." Sally said, "How are we supposed to raise our children in a (,(,

swamp? My children always come home stained by your mud." "Our house is moving," said a lady from across the street. "A real estate agent told us it would be impossible to sell a house where the water lady fived." "We're on tdevision so that people can laugh at us." "What you're doing makes no sense." "You've got no right." "Now ladies," Sally said. "Be fair. Let her answer." Mrs. Thatcher looked at the women with tortoise eyes. "I've seen mysdf on television," she said. "I know what I look like now." The blue vein river in her head began to throb slighty. Penny asked, "Can't you just let things get back to normal?" Mrs. Thatcher looked into her teacup. "All of you ladies should try to get on television. Before you're old." Sally spoke officially: "Then we're forced to take an action which all of us regret." Now the policeman bent down her ear and spoke loudly and precisely: "Court Order. He is putting in a reducer. "You will receive two hundred and fifty gallons a month. "Enough to bathe, dean, and cook." She noticed in that moment the truck from East Bay M.U.D. One cameraman filmed a skinny plumber in stained white overalls who worked on pipes under the sidewalk. Two other cameramen filmed the Committee Ladies, who read a statement in unison: "We believe a person's individual rights end at the end of there own front nose..." The plumber turned a wrench and the lawn sprinklers stopped. The Comittee Ladies cheered and applauded wildly. Mrs. Thatcher wobbled down the driveway, arms churning to keep balance. The cameras focused on her. The policeman stood between her and the plumber, his square shouldered bulk a ludicrous contrast to the tiny animated woman. Mrs. Thatcher tried to reach the plumber, but the policeman sidestepped with his hands behind his back and presented an unbreachable wall. Mrs. Thatcher pushed the policeman with both hands. He didn't budge. The vein near her temple burst, and a dark stain spread across her forehead. She raised two fists and pounded on his chest, but her shoe caught on a crack in the driveway and she stumbled backwards and fell heavily on her buttocks in the lawn. Her four limbs waved at the sky, a tortoise helpless on its back.

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW THEBERKELEY FICTION REVIEW 67


She tped to raise herself but her hand sank in the ooze, no solid support. "Help," she shouted to anyone, "Help me." Three glass camera eyes surrounded her and zoomed in for a doseup.

68

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW


She tped to raise herself but her hand sank in the ooze, no solid support. "Help," she shouted to anyone, "Help me." Three glass camera eyes surrounded her and zoomed in for a doseup.

68

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW


C a m p Life: A n E p i s o d e BoonyonjjMeksavan The five-wheeled pedal cab Father summoned was outside. He spread a cotton blanket on the aluminum seat for Grandma to lie down there; then he went back inside the hut to fetch her. He gripped her right arm while she walked, half a step at a time: she jerked her right heel forward and then dragged her left foot after: each jerk of the heel carried her half a step, the drag of the foot the other half, the slippers flapped. She couldn't quite step over the gutter. But slowly, ever so slowly she lifted her right leg, or rather, her right leg lifted: It reached across the gutter, the slipper dangling offher sole; then with a jolt, she tilted forward and groped the side of the pedal cab, Father's hands pinched deeply into her arms as he held her. She paused, breathing hard. After awhile she dimbed across the seat, then lay there supine and panted, her hands holding onto the side while the coolie pedaled away, the air lifting strands of her white hair. That's how Grandma was sent to the hospital. A figure in white blouse and loose black pants (her clothing for years and years) lying in the pedal cab, gasping, holding onto the side, staring at I know riot what. Father went indoors, bundled up the pillow and sheets, and left for the hospital. Within a week Grandma was back. I thought she was getting better. But it was never quite the same. For one thing, she never cooked again. She lay down inside the room all day all night. She was sent back to the hospital not long after — this time the stay was longer, two weeks or so. Father brought porridge. But Grandma didn't want to eat, said she didn't feel hungry. I looked at the porridge — watery white, lukewarm, sticky — in the conBoonyong Meksavan is an English student at UC Berkeley. ERIC BONERZ The Money-Shot Kid, 1989, linoleum block print, courtesy: the artist


C a m p Life: A n E p i s o d e BoonyonjjMeksavan The five-wheeled pedal cab Father summoned was outside. He spread a cotton blanket on the aluminum seat for Grandma to lie down there; then he went back inside the hut to fetch her. He gripped her right arm while she walked, half a step at a time: she jerked her right heel forward and then dragged her left foot after: each jerk of the heel carried her half a step, the drag of the foot the other half, the slippers flapped. She couldn't quite step over the gutter. But slowly, ever so slowly she lifted her right leg, or rather, her right leg lifted: It reached across the gutter, the slipper dangling offher sole; then with a jolt, she tilted forward and groped the side of the pedal cab, Father's hands pinched deeply into her arms as he held her. She paused, breathing hard. After awhile she dimbed across the seat, then lay there supine and panted, her hands holding onto the side while the coolie pedaled away, the air lifting strands of her white hair. That's how Grandma was sent to the hospital. A figure in white blouse and loose black pants (her clothing for years and years) lying in the pedal cab, gasping, holding onto the side, staring at I know riot what. Father went indoors, bundled up the pillow and sheets, and left for the hospital. Within a week Grandma was back. I thought she was getting better. But it was never quite the same. For one thing, she never cooked again. She lay down inside the room all day all night. She was sent back to the hospital not long after — this time the stay was longer, two weeks or so. Father brought porridge. But Grandma didn't want to eat, said she didn't feel hungry. I looked at the porridge — watery white, lukewarm, sticky — in the conBoonyong Meksavan is an English student at UC Berkeley. ERIC BONERZ The Money-Shot Kid, 1989, linoleum block print, courtesy: the artist


tainer; I myself didn't want to even look at it twice, let alone eating it. Having to eat rice mixed in warm water, of course she did not feel hungry. Father left it on the table Grandma left the hospital. The sickness was still there: she began to complain about the pain in her legs more and more. Three or four days after her return she was sent away for a third time. I waited for her recovery. Two weeks passed. Then a month. She was transferred to another ward. The fifth week drew to a dose; still there was no sign of improvement. The patient next to her had left. A new one arrived, and then left. I bfcjgan to get used to the feet that Grandma would have to stay in the hospital as long as the pain remained in her legs. I saw the months ahead and could see no date of her ever getting out of there. At the thought of this I became uneasy. I remembered one afternoon, resting on her elbow, she asked me to buy her a pack of mosquito burner. It was hot both inside and outside the hut and I was sweating. I blurted out, "Why dori't you go get it yourself?" I wouldn't go. She didn't say anything, just lay there. The mosquitos flew about. I went to the hospital every morning. I sat with her until ten, then I went to my English language class. In the afternoons, around one, I sat with Grandma again, until three or four. The sun was high above so it was not bad to be inside the hospital. I studied while Grandma slept. After she woke up, I asked her if she needed anything. Father brought 'food' and clothing. Oftentimes a group of patients arrived, the hilltribe people, they are called. They had walked all the way from their home in die mountains to the border, it was said. That took weeks, and in most cases, months. (And how they crossed the border was beyond me.) Their legs became as thick as an elephant's. They smelled, these people who were hospitalized in groups, thdr clothes filthy and torn, their skin and hair caked with dirt. Flies flew around them, perched here and there, on pus openings. They, the hilltribe people, simply dosed their eyes. Father didn't like my going there breathing in the stench, said it was not healthy. He told me to leave. I left. After he was gone I returned. That Grandma did not redte the sutra strikes me: I don't remember seeing her ever fingering the prayer beads in the hospital. Back in Luang Prabang, before the Communist takeover, 72

Grandma went to the temple regularly. She deaned herself, applied some hairoil, combed her hair backward, and slipped in a hair pin at her left temple to hold the hair in place. She wrapped the "blue jade flowers" with a banana leaf and then placed the string of beads in a purse while I ran out to the street to summon a three-wheeled pedal cab. I sat beside her. (Mother said going to temple and reading the prayer beads were no use since Grandma was mean, gossiping about her and her relatives, spreading rumors; plus, Grandma was wasteful, throwing away leftovers, whereas other people had hardly enough rice to feed their families.) At the old home, next to her bed, Grandma had an alter in which she proffered incense, flowers, and fruits to Guan Yin and others gods. Once Grandma fell down from the stool while repladng a lightbulb at the corner of the alter — it was a mild electric shock. For one or two years, each night before sleep, I would kneel in front of the pillow, facing the altar, and pray for protection, health, family peace, and safety as soon as I heard the temple drum hitting tong-tong-tong nine times, from the Golden Pagoda Mountain. I asked Grandma who did that. She said it was a monk — every night at nine he beat the drum up there on the mountain. I asked wasn't he afraid of ghosts? With a laugh she said how could a monk be afraid of ghosts? Silly. I figured only a young monk; an apprentice, would have to beat the drum at nine o'dock, because the old monks would be too advanced to do it. I lay down next to Grandma. The fifth month. Grandma hardly ate. When she saw the porridge Father brought she turned her face away and said she was not hungry. Different doctors diagnosed her. She had injections every night. They didn't seem to help. I saw the bag of liquid (with tubes and a needle in her arm) hanging by the bedside. I saw the needle marks in her arm, right and left. I should have gone to buy her a pack of mosquito burner that afternoon. I didn't know what the sickness was. I only knew that Grandma had this pain in her legs all the time — sometimes, at night, she gasped till dawn. One day Grandma said she fell down in the restroom. It was dark, she said; she was careless and she slipped. She couldn't get up. She had to crawl. She crawled to the bed, dragging the bag of liquid with her, her dothes wet. Nor could she change them: she lay in bed with her wet dothes on until the next morning Father

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73


tainer; I myself didn't want to even look at it twice, let alone eating it. Having to eat rice mixed in warm water, of course she did not feel hungry. Father left it on the table Grandma left the hospital. The sickness was still there: she began to complain about the pain in her legs more and more. Three or four days after her return she was sent away for a third time. I waited for her recovery. Two weeks passed. Then a month. She was transferred to another ward. The fifth week drew to a dose; still there was no sign of improvement. The patient next to her had left. A new one arrived, and then left. I bfcjgan to get used to the feet that Grandma would have to stay in the hospital as long as the pain remained in her legs. I saw the months ahead and could see no date of her ever getting out of there. At the thought of this I became uneasy. I remembered one afternoon, resting on her elbow, she asked me to buy her a pack of mosquito burner. It was hot both inside and outside the hut and I was sweating. I blurted out, "Why dori't you go get it yourself?" I wouldn't go. She didn't say anything, just lay there. The mosquitos flew about. I went to the hospital every morning. I sat with her until ten, then I went to my English language class. In the afternoons, around one, I sat with Grandma again, until three or four. The sun was high above so it was not bad to be inside the hospital. I studied while Grandma slept. After she woke up, I asked her if she needed anything. Father brought 'food' and clothing. Oftentimes a group of patients arrived, the hilltribe people, they are called. They had walked all the way from their home in die mountains to the border, it was said. That took weeks, and in most cases, months. (And how they crossed the border was beyond me.) Their legs became as thick as an elephant's. They smelled, these people who were hospitalized in groups, thdr clothes filthy and torn, their skin and hair caked with dirt. Flies flew around them, perched here and there, on pus openings. They, the hilltribe people, simply dosed their eyes. Father didn't like my going there breathing in the stench, said it was not healthy. He told me to leave. I left. After he was gone I returned. That Grandma did not redte the sutra strikes me: I don't remember seeing her ever fingering the prayer beads in the hospital. Back in Luang Prabang, before the Communist takeover, 72

Grandma went to the temple regularly. She deaned herself, applied some hairoil, combed her hair backward, and slipped in a hair pin at her left temple to hold the hair in place. She wrapped the "blue jade flowers" with a banana leaf and then placed the string of beads in a purse while I ran out to the street to summon a three-wheeled pedal cab. I sat beside her. (Mother said going to temple and reading the prayer beads were no use since Grandma was mean, gossiping about her and her relatives, spreading rumors; plus, Grandma was wasteful, throwing away leftovers, whereas other people had hardly enough rice to feed their families.) At the old home, next to her bed, Grandma had an alter in which she proffered incense, flowers, and fruits to Guan Yin and others gods. Once Grandma fell down from the stool while repladng a lightbulb at the corner of the alter — it was a mild electric shock. For one or two years, each night before sleep, I would kneel in front of the pillow, facing the altar, and pray for protection, health, family peace, and safety as soon as I heard the temple drum hitting tong-tong-tong nine times, from the Golden Pagoda Mountain. I asked Grandma who did that. She said it was a monk — every night at nine he beat the drum up there on the mountain. I asked wasn't he afraid of ghosts? With a laugh she said how could a monk be afraid of ghosts? Silly. I figured only a young monk; an apprentice, would have to beat the drum at nine o'dock, because the old monks would be too advanced to do it. I lay down next to Grandma. The fifth month. Grandma hardly ate. When she saw the porridge Father brought she turned her face away and said she was not hungry. Different doctors diagnosed her. She had injections every night. They didn't seem to help. I saw the bag of liquid (with tubes and a needle in her arm) hanging by the bedside. I saw the needle marks in her arm, right and left. I should have gone to buy her a pack of mosquito burner that afternoon. I didn't know what the sickness was. I only knew that Grandma had this pain in her legs all the time — sometimes, at night, she gasped till dawn. One day Grandma said she fell down in the restroom. It was dark, she said; she was careless and she slipped. She couldn't get up. She had to crawl. She crawled to the bed, dragging the bag of liquid with her, her dothes wet. Nor could she change them: she lay in bed with her wet dothes on until the next morning Father

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73


came. He said why do you have to get up in the middle of the night. Grandma fell down many times. Once, taking her to the restroom, I held the bag over my head, carefhl not to disturb the needle, while she hung on to me, her arm around my neck, and jerked her way there. I waited by the door. I heard a plop. I turned around and saw Grandma trying to get up, groping the wall, the IV bag dangling down her arm — the needle had come loose. All I felt was bones as I held her up. She hung on to me and I half dragged her back to the bed, her dothes wet again. She lay down, gasping, her head turned to the side. By this time I wished she would die quickly. Later on Father placed a container under Grandma's pelvis. In the mornings he would come in and change her dothes. And as he pulled Out the container from under the blanket, I saw a dark red mess in it. And the stench. Grandma's eyes dosed. Father said why am I standing there, go outside! I left the ward. A ceremony was in progress — the devoted chanting the sutra after a master monk. I stood outside, somehow didn't have enough courage to go in because I didn't know what to say to the monk or how to request a service, and whom I should talk to I had no idea. Say I stepped in and shuffled to the master, and explained to him what I had gone there for while he was chanting the sutra: an impossible thing to do in front of so many people, and rude. But I could not walk away without getting anything done. Grandma said, "A-Ha, tomorrow is your mother and sister's death anniversary. Remember to go to the temple, and have a monk read the sutra for them there." I nodded. "If Grandma were well," she continued, "grandma would cook something and bring it there to the temple — but to light some incense is still the same — that'll have to do." She sighed. Her sigh hardly palpable. Hearing the chants, I thought of Mother and Sister and the service due to them. I decided to leave. I turned away. Unnoticed. I told Grandma that I could not find a monk, that there was a ceremony going on, and that I did not know what to do. "Then let it be so," she said, "it's the intention, the heart, that counts." I felt easier, yet still thought of Mother and Sister having no service done for them on their anniversy, their having to go hungry. Eight months passed. During the last month of her life, the ninth month, Grandma 74

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

slept almost all the time. Her eyes dosed, her cheeks sucked in, her mouth open: a dry specimen. When she spoke, or tried to, her mouth moved, mouthing soundless words, her eyes looking at me and not looking at me. I could not make out what she said. Her hand raised. "I couldn't here you," I said, "louder, a little louder." Her hand dropped. I leaned dose, my ear tilted against her mouth: a wisp of dry air hissed from within. One time, however, I managed to figure out: she wanted to drink Pepsi. "No no, Grandma, you don't drink that stuff when you're sick." I would not go buy a bottle for her. But later in the afternoon, I saw an empty Pepsi bottle on the windowsill. So Father, who forbade me to drink that kind of "chemical stuff," bought it for her, a person so sick in bed. Grandma lost consciousness, or simply kept sleeping. The dark red mess kept showing up in the container. One evening, from outside the ward, I saw three grey figures, nuns, sitting around the bed, rearing the sutra, a candle flickering on the windowsill — the rest of the room was in darkness. I did not know where they came from, or who asked them to come. I walked away quickly. A few days after the evening I saw the nuns, I went to the hospital, around nine as usual. Grandma was sleeping, her mouth agape. I stood by the bed, I didn't know why but, my two fingers under her nose, I felt for breath. Again I didn't know why but I dedded to keep quiet, dedded not to do the first thing I should. I simply returned to the hut. After an hour or so I couldn't contain myself any longer; I decided to go to the hospital again, yet at the same time I was afraid to see Grandma lying there, still untended. Perhaps by this time my father, or the nurse, had already found out. I went to the hospital. I could not tell what it was, maybe disappointment, when I saw Father, together with unde Yong, wrapping Grandma with a large sheet of white cloth, father wrapping it around and around her onto a rigid bundle while uncle Yong, holding her shoulders, kept the body raised from the bed. An unlidded coffin on the floor. (So he was well-prepared, my Father). I stood outside, watching them from the window. Lest he spot me I stole away. An old friend of the 'family,' among the visitors kneeling around the coffin in the temple hall, said she had had a dream early that THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

J$


came. He said why do you have to get up in the middle of the night. Grandma fell down many times. Once, taking her to the restroom, I held the bag over my head, carefhl not to disturb the needle, while she hung on to me, her arm around my neck, and jerked her way there. I waited by the door. I heard a plop. I turned around and saw Grandma trying to get up, groping the wall, the IV bag dangling down her arm — the needle had come loose. All I felt was bones as I held her up. She hung on to me and I half dragged her back to the bed, her dothes wet again. She lay down, gasping, her head turned to the side. By this time I wished she would die quickly. Later on Father placed a container under Grandma's pelvis. In the mornings he would come in and change her dothes. And as he pulled Out the container from under the blanket, I saw a dark red mess in it. And the stench. Grandma's eyes dosed. Father said why am I standing there, go outside! I left the ward. A ceremony was in progress — the devoted chanting the sutra after a master monk. I stood outside, somehow didn't have enough courage to go in because I didn't know what to say to the monk or how to request a service, and whom I should talk to I had no idea. Say I stepped in and shuffled to the master, and explained to him what I had gone there for while he was chanting the sutra: an impossible thing to do in front of so many people, and rude. But I could not walk away without getting anything done. Grandma said, "A-Ha, tomorrow is your mother and sister's death anniversary. Remember to go to the temple, and have a monk read the sutra for them there." I nodded. "If Grandma were well," she continued, "grandma would cook something and bring it there to the temple — but to light some incense is still the same — that'll have to do." She sighed. Her sigh hardly palpable. Hearing the chants, I thought of Mother and Sister and the service due to them. I decided to leave. I turned away. Unnoticed. I told Grandma that I could not find a monk, that there was a ceremony going on, and that I did not know what to do. "Then let it be so," she said, "it's the intention, the heart, that counts." I felt easier, yet still thought of Mother and Sister having no service done for them on their anniversy, their having to go hungry. Eight months passed. During the last month of her life, the ninth month, Grandma 74

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

slept almost all the time. Her eyes dosed, her cheeks sucked in, her mouth open: a dry specimen. When she spoke, or tried to, her mouth moved, mouthing soundless words, her eyes looking at me and not looking at me. I could not make out what she said. Her hand raised. "I couldn't here you," I said, "louder, a little louder." Her hand dropped. I leaned dose, my ear tilted against her mouth: a wisp of dry air hissed from within. One time, however, I managed to figure out: she wanted to drink Pepsi. "No no, Grandma, you don't drink that stuff when you're sick." I would not go buy a bottle for her. But later in the afternoon, I saw an empty Pepsi bottle on the windowsill. So Father, who forbade me to drink that kind of "chemical stuff," bought it for her, a person so sick in bed. Grandma lost consciousness, or simply kept sleeping. The dark red mess kept showing up in the container. One evening, from outside the ward, I saw three grey figures, nuns, sitting around the bed, rearing the sutra, a candle flickering on the windowsill — the rest of the room was in darkness. I did not know where they came from, or who asked them to come. I walked away quickly. A few days after the evening I saw the nuns, I went to the hospital, around nine as usual. Grandma was sleeping, her mouth agape. I stood by the bed, I didn't know why but, my two fingers under her nose, I felt for breath. Again I didn't know why but I dedded to keep quiet, dedded not to do the first thing I should. I simply returned to the hut. After an hour or so I couldn't contain myself any longer; I decided to go to the hospital again, yet at the same time I was afraid to see Grandma lying there, still untended. Perhaps by this time my father, or the nurse, had already found out. I went to the hospital. I could not tell what it was, maybe disappointment, when I saw Father, together with unde Yong, wrapping Grandma with a large sheet of white cloth, father wrapping it around and around her onto a rigid bundle while uncle Yong, holding her shoulders, kept the body raised from the bed. An unlidded coffin on the floor. (So he was well-prepared, my Father). I stood outside, watching them from the window. Lest he spot me I stole away. An old friend of the 'family,' among the visitors kneeling around the coffin in the temple hall, said she had had a dream early that THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

J$


morning: an old woman, knocking at her door, had come to bid farwell. She couldn't tell who the granny was. The old friend suggested that I shave my head because Grandma would have wanted me, her only grandson, to do so: "To release her from the sea of bitterness, to save her from the bottom," the old friend repeated her sigh, audibly stricken with grief. I felt that not to do so would be to condemn my grandmother. The way I left her untended. I couldn't say no, nor did I want to say yes (because I didn't want to go around bald-headed), so I kept my eyes on the mat. Besides, the old friend was hardly the one to dedde what to do and what not to do. I remained silent. She brought it up again however. My friend's mother nodded in agreement, so did other family friends. I lifted my head and stole a glance at Father. To my relief he shook his head, and said that despite one's sense of duty, driven to it though one was, the time could not permit such formality. But I knew the reason he said no was that he didn't in believe any of the stuff: it was nonsense. He would go no further than the mere form of the ceremony. If he hadn't said no, if he hadn't done things his way, other people would have taken the matter into their own hands. Already some had become insistent that I shave my head that very minute and enter a period of monkhood, to perform only what was due, according to the buddhist tradition, the proper way since Grandma was buddhist. (None, however, proposed that my father shave his). There was talk also that Grandma would have liked her ashes spread on the earth. "To return to it — fine powders in the air, blown everywhere, then settled in the Mekong, blended with the currents; or landed on the ground, ashes and dirt, there's no telling apart," one housewife was inspired to conclude. A few suggested burial, in keeping with the tradition. My father however would have none of the fuss. The sense of relief and gratitude for his intervention disturbed me though, not doing what Grandma would have wished me to do, not relieving her. The monk redted the sutra and everyone knelt around the coffin, palms anjalied, heads bowed. The master monk chanted the words as he tied the cotton threads around my wrists; while he did so, I kept my head down and listened to his chant. This was what he should have done a month ago when I tried to look for a monk to do the service for Mother and Sister. After the ceremony family friends sat around. I was not sure how many would sit through the night, to keep Grandma company till dawn. My friends came. Around eleven or so a neighbor told me to go back

to the hut to sleep. I asked ought I not to sit through the night as well? He shook his head, said that Uncle, addressing himself, would do it, together with other grownups, now, go, go to sleep. The alley was pitch black. I didn't feel sleepy; plus, I didn't want to sleep alone — I'd rather remain in the temple. The neighbors (in the opposite hut) were still up. t heard laughter and voices. The door opened with a g-o-o-r as I lifted the bar and stepped in. I didn't want to hear any noise, nor wished to make any. I moved (my steps light) toward the room, unlatched the the second door which opened with another g-o-o-r the way bamboo trunks swung in the wind at night. The bamboo mat creaked as I moved around: lighting the candle, changing dothes, folding my white shirt and the pair of grayish yellow pants to wear for the funeral. The pants were creased, from kneeling all evening. I spread the mosquito net, hooked it; then lifted a corner of it, ducked inside, covered myself with a blanket. My neighbors were still talking. And that's what happened the day Grandma passed away. The trucks, probably two or three, made up the procession. The one with the coffin in it led the way through the main 'street'; others followed. I knelt, listening to the running engine, conscious that people Were looking from within the shops. My nose caught some sort of smell, maybe balm or oil. I was supposed to be crying, like what I saw in the movies: the family kneeling around the coffin, the widow howling (her cry tearing through tiie sky) pounding her chest, tearing her hair, she passed out; the siblings, heads down, eyes watery red, sobbed quiedy. Banners with large black words flapping in the wind. The widow, as soon as she revived, rushed forth to dash her head on the coffin but her children held her back, their hands dutching her shoulders. I felt odd because my eyes were dry. I cried only once, lying at night — the night I came back from the temple, or the night after the funeral, I don't remember which. In any case I cried because I felt obliged to. and I was feeling sad, but without grief. As I thought of crying, tears came. The trucks passed the hospital. At the checkpoint a sentry lifted the bar to let the trucks through, unchecked. On the 'highway,' so to speak, the trucks ran at normal speed. Back in the old home, funeral processions took more time. White doths covered the whole truck. Relatives, community leaders, carrying white flags with large black words, walked all the way to the cemetery, each step heavy with solemnity. That*s how THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

7(y

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

JJ


morning: an old woman, knocking at her door, had come to bid farwell. She couldn't tell who the granny was. The old friend suggested that I shave my head because Grandma would have wanted me, her only grandson, to do so: "To release her from the sea of bitterness, to save her from the bottom," the old friend repeated her sigh, audibly stricken with grief. I felt that not to do so would be to condemn my grandmother. The way I left her untended. I couldn't say no, nor did I want to say yes (because I didn't want to go around bald-headed), so I kept my eyes on the mat. Besides, the old friend was hardly the one to dedde what to do and what not to do. I remained silent. She brought it up again however. My friend's mother nodded in agreement, so did other family friends. I lifted my head and stole a glance at Father. To my relief he shook his head, and said that despite one's sense of duty, driven to it though one was, the time could not permit such formality. But I knew the reason he said no was that he didn't in believe any of the stuff: it was nonsense. He would go no further than the mere form of the ceremony. If he hadn't said no, if he hadn't done things his way, other people would have taken the matter into their own hands. Already some had become insistent that I shave my head that very minute and enter a period of monkhood, to perform only what was due, according to the buddhist tradition, the proper way since Grandma was buddhist. (None, however, proposed that my father shave his). There was talk also that Grandma would have liked her ashes spread on the earth. "To return to it — fine powders in the air, blown everywhere, then settled in the Mekong, blended with the currents; or landed on the ground, ashes and dirt, there's no telling apart," one housewife was inspired to conclude. A few suggested burial, in keeping with the tradition. My father however would have none of the fuss. The sense of relief and gratitude for his intervention disturbed me though, not doing what Grandma would have wished me to do, not relieving her. The monk redted the sutra and everyone knelt around the coffin, palms anjalied, heads bowed. The master monk chanted the words as he tied the cotton threads around my wrists; while he did so, I kept my head down and listened to his chant. This was what he should have done a month ago when I tried to look for a monk to do the service for Mother and Sister. After the ceremony family friends sat around. I was not sure how many would sit through the night, to keep Grandma company till dawn. My friends came. Around eleven or so a neighbor told me to go back

to the hut to sleep. I asked ought I not to sit through the night as well? He shook his head, said that Uncle, addressing himself, would do it, together with other grownups, now, go, go to sleep. The alley was pitch black. I didn't feel sleepy; plus, I didn't want to sleep alone — I'd rather remain in the temple. The neighbors (in the opposite hut) were still up. t heard laughter and voices. The door opened with a g-o-o-r as I lifted the bar and stepped in. I didn't want to hear any noise, nor wished to make any. I moved (my steps light) toward the room, unlatched the the second door which opened with another g-o-o-r the way bamboo trunks swung in the wind at night. The bamboo mat creaked as I moved around: lighting the candle, changing dothes, folding my white shirt and the pair of grayish yellow pants to wear for the funeral. The pants were creased, from kneeling all evening. I spread the mosquito net, hooked it; then lifted a corner of it, ducked inside, covered myself with a blanket. My neighbors were still talking. And that's what happened the day Grandma passed away. The trucks, probably two or three, made up the procession. The one with the coffin in it led the way through the main 'street'; others followed. I knelt, listening to the running engine, conscious that people Were looking from within the shops. My nose caught some sort of smell, maybe balm or oil. I was supposed to be crying, like what I saw in the movies: the family kneeling around the coffin, the widow howling (her cry tearing through tiie sky) pounding her chest, tearing her hair, she passed out; the siblings, heads down, eyes watery red, sobbed quiedy. Banners with large black words flapping in the wind. The widow, as soon as she revived, rushed forth to dash her head on the coffin but her children held her back, their hands dutching her shoulders. I felt odd because my eyes were dry. I cried only once, lying at night — the night I came back from the temple, or the night after the funeral, I don't remember which. In any case I cried because I felt obliged to. and I was feeling sad, but without grief. As I thought of crying, tears came. The trucks passed the hospital. At the checkpoint a sentry lifted the bar to let the trucks through, unchecked. On the 'highway,' so to speak, the trucks ran at normal speed. Back in the old home, funeral processions took more time. White doths covered the whole truck. Relatives, community leaders, carrying white flags with large black words, walked all the way to the cemetery, each step heavy with solemnity. That*s how THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

7(y

THE BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

JJ


it was done, the funeral. The coffin bumped. In no time the trucks reached a temple (the one I saw in the bus, on my way to join my 'family' that day). I followed the people — family friends, other unknowns — into the main hall. They knelt down, I followed suit. The ceremony began — I don't .recall whether or not the coffin was carried into the hall. I lowered my head until I heard the monk's humming stop. Then the people stood up, leaving the hall. I stood up too and followed them outside. I can no longer recall the details: how the coffin got to the crematorium, or who sent it to the fire, what I was doing and what others were doing when the cremation was in process. I am no longer sure. I watched the fire up there, in the crematorium. The whole structure before my eyes. WhichrneansI was standing far away, watching, although I forgot whether I was among a lot of people, or just by myself. I saw the tongues leaping, I saw the orange glow. As I watched, I wondered if Grandma was really in that pile of fire, her body sizzling, scorched, reduced to bones. I don't know how long it took. For the fire to burn like this, the body had to be soaked with oil (of some sort); cans of it, I heard. I watched the fire: the leaping shadows on the furnace stilled themselves, faded. The smoke expelled from the chimney. Time to leave, I was told. I got on the truck. NO one stayed. On the highway I saw the tail of smoke tiiiiining into the sky. The trucks ran at full speed. In no time I was back in the camp. Of course I thought such departure was abrupt, leaving the ashes (or bones?) still in the furnace, not knowing what could happen to them. Who would put them in an urn? A novice monk? How could he tell the ashes from the wood? What if he spilt some oh the ground? Suppose he overlooked a portion of the ashes, or pieces of small bones? I don't know. A few days later Father said he'd bring me to see the tomb after it was built. (Of course he knew what to do, having cremated Sister a year earlier.) From what I heard after the funeral, I gathered that Grandma died of cancer. I knew not what kind: I never asked, and Father never told me.

urn must be in the wall, or next toit, or under it — that's all I could tell. Father seemed pleased with it. Wasn't it neat, Grandma's rest place, he said. I thought Grandma would have a tomb of her own, instead of occupying a part of the temple wall in a foreign land. Back in the, old home, in Luang Prabang, Grandma would have been buried in the community cemetery. And I myself would be wearing a square of black cloth for a hundred days, the mourning period. And I would be grief-stricken. The tomb, the best term I can come up with, was dean because it was new. Father bent down to scrape away the leaves fallen in front of it. I went there one or two more times before I left for America. The morning I left the camp for Bangkok, as the bus passed the temple, I turned around and took one more look at it. Eight years it has been. Father has never done anything for Grandma's anniversary: no incense, no food for her, no paper money to spend.

The crematorium stood still. N o monk was in sight. Father shuffled along the temple wall, his sandals kicking up dust. I followed him. When he stopped, my eyes caught Grandma's picture on the wall. It was not exactly a tomb, not what I thought it was. The 78

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it was done, the funeral. The coffin bumped. In no time the trucks reached a temple (the one I saw in the bus, on my way to join my 'family' that day). I followed the people — family friends, other unknowns — into the main hall. They knelt down, I followed suit. The ceremony began — I don't .recall whether or not the coffin was carried into the hall. I lowered my head until I heard the monk's humming stop. Then the people stood up, leaving the hall. I stood up too and followed them outside. I can no longer recall the details: how the coffin got to the crematorium, or who sent it to the fire, what I was doing and what others were doing when the cremation was in process. I am no longer sure. I watched the fire up there, in the crematorium. The whole structure before my eyes. WhichrneansI was standing far away, watching, although I forgot whether I was among a lot of people, or just by myself. I saw the tongues leaping, I saw the orange glow. As I watched, I wondered if Grandma was really in that pile of fire, her body sizzling, scorched, reduced to bones. I don't know how long it took. For the fire to burn like this, the body had to be soaked with oil (of some sort); cans of it, I heard. I watched the fire: the leaping shadows on the furnace stilled themselves, faded. The smoke expelled from the chimney. Time to leave, I was told. I got on the truck. NO one stayed. On the highway I saw the tail of smoke tiiiiining into the sky. The trucks ran at full speed. In no time I was back in the camp. Of course I thought such departure was abrupt, leaving the ashes (or bones?) still in the furnace, not knowing what could happen to them. Who would put them in an urn? A novice monk? How could he tell the ashes from the wood? What if he spilt some oh the ground? Suppose he overlooked a portion of the ashes, or pieces of small bones? I don't know. A few days later Father said he'd bring me to see the tomb after it was built. (Of course he knew what to do, having cremated Sister a year earlier.) From what I heard after the funeral, I gathered that Grandma died of cancer. I knew not what kind: I never asked, and Father never told me.

urn must be in the wall, or next toit, or under it — that's all I could tell. Father seemed pleased with it. Wasn't it neat, Grandma's rest place, he said. I thought Grandma would have a tomb of her own, instead of occupying a part of the temple wall in a foreign land. Back in the, old home, in Luang Prabang, Grandma would have been buried in the community cemetery. And I myself would be wearing a square of black cloth for a hundred days, the mourning period. And I would be grief-stricken. The tomb, the best term I can come up with, was dean because it was new. Father bent down to scrape away the leaves fallen in front of it. I went there one or two more times before I left for America. The morning I left the camp for Bangkok, as the bus passed the temple, I turned around and took one more look at it. Eight years it has been. Father has never done anything for Grandma's anniversary: no incense, no food for her, no paper money to spend.

The crematorium stood still. N o monk was in sight. Father shuffled along the temple wall, his sandals kicking up dust. I followed him. When he stopped, my eyes caught Grandma's picture on the wall. It was not exactly a tomb, not what I thought it was. The 78

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