Corned Beef For Dinner

By Cherry Douch

        Ted would leave, once more, today. He stood, holding his cordless  
pyjamas up, looking out the bedroom window. The hills behind his wife's  
house folded toward each other like a bunched quilt; humps of her violets  
grew on the edge of the orchard. She was not in their bed
        Huia's hand was on Wehe's shoulder as she squeezed the sleep out  
of her eyes. "It's five o'clock," she said. " Rain's stopped and the tide's  
right. You want to go with me?" She did. She pulled herself out of bed  
on Huia's hand. She looked at her mother and laughed. ''You have pikaru,''  
she said.  
        "Sh, you'll wake the others." She pressed the crust from the corners  
of her eyes, and smiled.  
        At the tank stand they shared the same basin of water. Huia poured 
the wash water around the base of a baby orange tree        Wehe took the spears from the shed and started downhill with her  
mother. She was a springy reflection of her. They dragged their feet through  
the wet grass, Wehe a half step behind. They spoke to Bunny and scratched  
her nose as they went by. Bunny was their cow. Wehe said, ''Doesn't Bunny  
have the most beautiful eyes?''  
        Summer hunger was in the air.  
        They crossed the railroad tracks and broke the surface of the sand with  
their full, flat feet. A few crabs paraded. Wehe wondered how they could  
see where they were going. The tide was turning, coming in, the water 
excited, distorting the shapes of the shells beneath.  
        Huia went into the shallow water of her favorite channel, noiseless,  
spear raised. She whispered, "Look, there's one sleeping in the sand." It  
all looked like sand to Wehe. Her mother had the flounder speared and  
in the ket before she could focus her eyes. She followed, trying to be quiet,  
watching the gulls, thinking how flounder were different from kahawai
        When they had caught five they started home, picking mushrooms  
as they went. Wehe liked the underside of mushrooms. They looked like  
fish's gills. They didn't see Bunny as they came up the hill, but when they  
got to the kitchen, she pushed her head over the hedge and mooed through  
the window. Huia gave the flounder to Wehe, reached for the bucket and  
rattled it. "I'm coming Bunny,'' she said. Wehe began washing and gilling  
the fish as Huia put warm water in the bucket, put on a large bath towel  
apron, and headed toward the bail. She could hear Sam at the woodpile,  
smell the chips as they flew
        Bunny was already standing in the bail, tossing her head, swishing  
her tail. ''Hang on girl.'' Huia came through the gate, looked at Bunny's  
tight bag. She pulled one rope around the cow's rump and the low one  
around the near leg. She poured warm water into a can and washed Bunny's  
teats. The cow moved and moaned. ''Easy girl.'' She poured the rest of  
the water over her hands and wiped them on her apron.  
        She pulled the stool under her, the bucket between her legs, pressed  
her cheek against the cow's belly and hummed poi waiata to the rhythm  
of her milking. Bunny let down her milk but did not relax till almost a  
minute later, when she loosed her cud, closed her eyes and began to chew        The cat came for his snack and Huia squirted him in the mouth. The  
cat seemed to lick to the rhythm of his song
        Later, as she came up from the bail, Wehe met her with a small bucket  
half filled with warm water. Huia poured an equal amount of the milk  
into the water, and took it to the calf tied to the peach tree. The calf wagged  
her tail and pumped her front legs. Huia wet her hand with the half milk  
and put it in the calf's mouth and pulled it sucking into the bucket to  
drink on her own. The animal kicked and gulped, till, drooling milky saliva,  
she looked up from the empty bucket. Huia then moved her to another  
tree for its shade and clean grass.  
        Inside Wehe had put away the milk and Sam had lit the stove and  
filled the kettle. Ted came in. "No porridge?" he said.  
        "No, flounder and mushrooms," said Wehe. "But I'll make you  
porridge if you'd rather, Daddy.
        ''Please,'' he said and smiled at her.  
        Ted watched Sam make the tea. "You going to fix the east fence?"  
he said
        ''Yes,'' said Sam. ''The gate too.''  
        Ted said, "Good. I guess I'll hoe kumara. Good crop this year."  
        "If they don't get blight," Sam said.  
        ''Yes.'' Ted poured himself a cup of tea, then poured his saucer full,  
and drank from that. He buttered some bread and worried it while Wehe  
dished up his porridge. He didn't use the milk she put on the table. Instead  
he put spoonfuls of porridge on his bread, sprinkled it with pepper and  
ate it with big bites. Huia came in as he was leaving. ' 'Aren't you running  
late?'' he said
        "Yes, I stopped to weed my flowers. The freesias smell wonderful."  
       "Just don't overdo," he said. "Can we have marmite and lettuce  
sandwiches with cocoa for lunch? Would be nice,'' he said.  
        "I'm" sorry," Huia said. " The slugs ate the lettuce and we ran out  
of cocoa. I need to go shopping. You can have marmite though. There's  
a big jar of that.'' Ted shrugged and left. Wehe watched him walk up to  
the cliff. He sat under the blue gums for an hour. A train went by. Wehe  
counted the trucks it was hauling. The train smoke smelled pleasant, not  
like her father's cigarettes. Maybe she'd suggest a pipe, she thought. Some  
pipe tobaccos smelled like ripe fruit. She saw a hawk circling over the  
swamp. She saw her father watching it too. It never dived, just kept circlingShe saw him kick a couple of clods off the cliff and head home        Later she watched him check on the graftings he'd done in the apple  
orchard. The Ballarat had taken well to the Golden Delicious.  
        For lunch there were marmite sandwiches and lemonade, not so badThey went back to work. Ted didn't ask about dinner. While he was still  
working Huia brought him a thick crust from the bread she'd been baking,  
butter melted on it. He smiled his pale smile. "Good bread," he said        "I know," she said.  
        ''Cheeky woman.'' He slapped her behind. She wished she had  
cabbage to go with the corned beef for dinner. Back at the house, Bunny  
was mooing through the window again. On her way to the bail she heard  
the cornstalks rattle where Wehe was collecting puha. "Put it in with the  
meat when you go up,'' she called. Wehe waved and smiled. Ted was hoeing,  
his back stiff, his stroke awkward. He had no hat and his bald head was  
turning red. Sam's hammer was hitting the paddock gate.  
        Huia didn't sing to her milking
        When she came back the corned beef and puha were cooking, and  
Wehe was peeling potatoes. Huia sat and peeled too, her cracked fingers  
moving fast and easy. Ted came in, dirt freckling his red skin. He sniffed.  
"Corned beef for dinner?"  
        "Yes. I'm sorry there's no cabbage."  
        ''Puha?''  
        ''Yes.''  
        "You going to tell me it's good for me?" he said.  
        "It is," she said.  
        ''I'd rather eat like an Englishman,'' he said
        ''Wehe made bread pudding for dessert tonight. Extra eggs in it for  
you.''  
        "Good," he said. But his smile dropped
        He washed at the tank stand then went for another walk. He was gone  
a long time.  
        He came back and the others had eaten. He ate meat and potatoes  
and a big bowl of bread pudding. As he drank his tea, they watched him.  

        Ted got up from the table, went to the bedroom and began putting  
things in a sugar sack. Huia came up behind him.  
        "Will you come back this time?" she said.  
        "I always have," he said
        "Don't go,'' she said. He threw the sack over his shoulder and headed  
for the door.  
        Wehe blocked his path. ''Daddy,'' she said
        ''Pip pip Gadget,'' he said as he stepped around her and through  
the door
        Wehe and Huia stood under the pear tree and watched him go. The  
calf and her mother watched too. He stopped, picked a barberry leaf from  
the hedge, then turned and looked at them. He waved the leaf, then  
continued down the hill. They watched as he disappeared beyond the cliff  
base onto the railroad tracks. They went inside
        Huia picked up a pair of Ted's socks. She sat down on their bed and  
began to wail softly the way Maori women do at a tangi, swaying with the  
rhythm of her noise. Her voice was high, sweet, and ragged.  
        She stood up, pulled a blanket from her bed. She put the girl on  
her back, wrapped them both tight. They looked joined-a hunch-back.  
She paced up and down, wearing a path by the bay windows. Sam  
murmured to himself as he washed the dishes. The curlews cried, craning  
their necks toward rest.  
        Much later, she stopped, brought Wehe inside and put her to bed,  
like a baby. She skimmed the milk, gave the cat some cream, and went  
outside again. She spread her blanket and sat down, quiet. Sam watched  
his mother from the shed, Wehe watched from inside the house. Huia  
wailed again once or twice through the night, but low, almost under her  
breath. Sam did not move.  
        When morning came, Bunny went to the bail. Sam found the bucket  
and started down
        "No son," said his mother. "I like to do it." She walked toward the  
cow bail, singing her poi waiata, the cat padding behind her.  

The Smiling Man

By John David Wolverton

        You could no longer distinguish single words or even voices.  
Out in the dining hall the inmates' shouting broke in waves  
against the wall, reverberating from the farther wall. The floor  
thrummed like a guitar string. Most of the cooks were backing  
away from the service doors. They would take a step, glance back, take  
another step, ready to run for the escape exit. Only three of the cooks re- 
mained with Fletcher, who lay on his back with a bloody nose, clawing  
the wall with one hand, unconscious.  
        "What's going on out there?" Willis asked from within his office.  
He'd been cracking nuts behind his desk with a pair of old steel pliers  
and eating them. He was balding, with puffy eyes and a mouth wide  
enough to swallow a cat.  
        ''Fletcher wanted to see what was going on out in the dining room.  
He was out there for maybe thirty seconds before they beat the hell out  
of him and threw him back in here.''  
        Willis jumped up from his chair, looking from side to side. ''Are the  
doors open?" he shouted        ''No-only the one he was standing by.''  
        ''Watch the phones,'' he said. He dropped his pliers among the nut  
shells and ran past me, out of the office and up to where Fletcher lay by  
the stove.  
        I was already by the kitchen phone-the one Control One would call  
on if they called. The phone had no dialing mechanism, but Control One  
could call in, and usually called through the kitchen phone when they  
wanted to get a count of the inmates. Willis and the three cooks stooped  
over Fletcher. Willis yelled something that was lost in the roar. Then they  
pulled Fletcher to a sitting position and made him lean his head back to   
stop the bleeding. They were all wearing their white cooks' uniforms;  
Mueller was wearing a blue baseball cap
        When I'd let Fletcher in with the inmates, the light from the high  
windows didn't reach the floor. It kept the room and the men in darknesstheir prison-blue uniforms faded gray. Fifty small tables had already filled,  
and men were lining against the walls and sitting on the floor. Maybe a 
dozen had brought spears. Others took clubs, iron pipes, and knives from  
beneath their pant legs and from under their shirts. We'd turned off the  
culinary lights, so the only light in the room had been a slash of sunlight  
that burned into the murals above their heads. In the murals thirteen  
left-handed Indians chased buffalo across barren plains. Painted ponies  
twisted under the clash of bodies, the jumble of hooves; their frightened  
eyes peered through blood-spattered death masks. The Indians never diedThey leapt majestically to the backs of the buffalo, ripping with knives,  
breaking hatchets across shaggy backs. The buffalo shook their enemies,  
panted, stumbled, fell, rolling bloodshot eyes at the sky. I resented the  
left-handedness. In first grade, my teacher said, "Don't write with your  
left hand: that's the Devil's hand!" She made me stuff my hand under  
my belt loops. She cut her toes off with a lawn mower the day before  
Halloween and had to quit. The artist should have known better than to  
have painted himself, with his left hand, doing all that killing. A left hand  
is the hand of the artist, the poet. He should have known: God created  
the earth with his left hand
        Franklin, the new cook, was sitting on a cutting table with his feet  
tucked up under his butt in a fetal position like a gargoyle on a cathedral  
wall. He was panting. He had frightened rabbit-eyes.  
        A couple of cooks were still trying to peek through the cracks in the  
doors to the dining hall. One of them pulled Fletcher to his feet. Willis  
jiggled the handle on one of the kitchen doors, then checked the electronic  
lock on the big blue service doors, and finally had one of the cooks on  
the far end of the kitchen check the knob on the other little regular door.  
He ran back to me. ''I'm going to stay out here for a minute," he yelled  
over the roar of voices. ''You stay by the office phones.''  
        I took three steps into the office and stopped. Willis coming in behind  
bumped into me.  
        "Do you feel something?" I asked.  
        Willis hesitated. ''You mean tension? Yeah. Felt it for days.''  
        It hung in the air like electric cobwebs that brushed your face. ''No.  
Not that. Fear. Do you feel fear?"   
        "You mean you're afraid, Animal?" He chuckled tight lipped.  
        Why didn't he think I was capable of emotion? "No--I feel fear--I 
smell it in the air." I looked over my shoulder. "Is this room secure?"  
        ''Well-yeah. Yeah. I think so,'' he said.  
        ''Are all the knives checked in?' 
        Willis' pupils didn't constrict. Nor did his nostrils flare or his lips  
quiver. "Yeah, they're in.
        I envisioned inmates hiding in the office, waiting for a signal to jump  
the guards to get to the knife lockers and the keys. I edged past the desks,  
turned the corner in the L-shaped room, and left Willis' line of sight. Willis  
stayed by the door. There were only four places in the room where anyone  
could hide; three were the cooks' coat lockers which sat in a row against  
one wall, and the other was a crack between some shelves. I touched the  
coat lockers with the back of my hand. There was a faint quivering there.  
I dragged the back of my hand across the locker and stopped. The quivering  
became stronger
        "Animal, you see anything?" Willis whispered. I didn't answer. Each  
of the three lockers was large enough to hold two or three men. None were  
locked. I jerked the door open and stepped back.  
        In the bottom of the locker, trying to conceal himself with coats, lay  
a thin, red-haired inmate, shaking like a trapped mouse. He was pale and  
he watched me from the corner of his eye, then turned to blink me away.  
Grabbing him by the shirt collar, I threw him to the floor and stepped  
on his back. I felt the lockers for movement. No one else was there
        "Find someone? Who was it?" Willis asked, stepping around the  
corner and looking at the inmate on the floor.  
        "It's Jeffrey Owen." I patted Jeffrey's legs and back, searching for  
weapons. Turning him over, I checked his sleeves and belly. When I was  
satisfied he was clean, I grabbed his wrists and dragged him across the room  
to the wall by the desks
        "Was he in the locker?" Willis asked
        I nodded.  
        "How long do you think he was in there?"  
        ''The last time I saw him back here was about forty minutes ago,''  
I answered.  
        "Is he dead?"  
        ''No.''  
        "Poor beggar looks suffocated to me," Willis said hopefully, cracking  
a nut with his pliers. It sounded like small bones breaking. His eyes bulged.   
He devoured nuts. The volume of shouting in the dining hall rose; someone  
screamed.  
        "Naw, hasn't suffocated. He was looking at me when I opened the  
door." Willis brushed some papers aside, sat down on the desktop, and  
stared out into the kitchens. Jeffrey felt clammy. He began to moan and  writhe.  
        Fletcher stalked into the office holding paper against his bloody nose  
and spat: " Willis, call Control One. Tell them it's gonna blow any minute.  
Have the SWAT team watch the back door." Turning to me he pointed  
and said, ' 'Animal, what is that inmate doing in here? '' Out in the culinary  
the clamour continued. Not yet, I thought. When they rise it will not be  
with a roar, but a shout.  
        "I found him in one of the closets. He's practically unconscious. It's 
Jeffrey Owen." I pulled Jeffrey over to the wall and leaned him against  
it. Willis was dialing Control One
        "Jeffrey Owen? Your secretary?"  
        ''Yeah,'' I answered
        "Old Animal sniffed out another one," Willis said, glancing at  
Fletcher, then looking at the phone's mouthpiece
        " Wha . .. what was he doing in here? " Fletcher asked. I looked up  
at him. ''It could have been part of a plan ... .''  
        "He was just hiding ," I said, looking down at Jeffrey's thin arms.  
        "Yeah," Fletcher grunted as he rushed back into the kitchens.  
        "Control One?" Willis asked, too loudly. "It's about to break. No  
we haven't evac . . . " He dropped the phone. "Animal, you take the  
phone. They cut me off. Tell them to get the SWAT team out back. And  
get that inmate out of here! ' ' Willis ran after Fletcher, leaving me alone  
with Jeffrey. Willis and Fletcher were ashen faced, like bones, and they  
jerked like marrionettes as they walked. I wondered what to do with Jeffrey.  
I figured he couldn't do much harm, so I left him lying in a heap on the  
floor and grabbed the phone
        From the desk I could see into the kitchen. Risenmay stood in front  
of the entrance of his meat cooler, wielding a boat oar that was kept to  
stir the steam pots. He looked like a white walrus with his yellow moustache,  
sagging jowels, and cook's uniform. He considered himself intimidating.  
Franklin still huddled on the cutting table, rocking
        No one was on the phone when I picked it up. I'd heard that Control  
One could monitor the phones by patching them into the intercom, making  
it possible to hear what was happening everywhere at once, so I gave my  
message and decided not to say anything else unless something important  
happened. Jeffrey started vomiting and sobbing. I turned to watch him.  
He'd flopped over on his belly. One thin arm was stretched out in front  
of him, and the other held him up for a moment
        "You gonna be okay?" I asked. He didn't answer.  
        "Gonna be okay?"  
        ''Give me a knife,'' he whispered
        "Not today," I said.  
        Jeffrey laid his head on the floor and brushed back long strands of  
dark red hair.  
        ''Mark, kill me.'' He was serious and I considered it. At times I'd stood  
in the towers at night with the windows open, letting the rain wash over  
me, gripping my rifle in freezing hands, wishing some loser would climb  
the fence so I could shout my warning and blow him away. It had been  
so long ago it seemed as if someone else had done it. I told myself that  
Jeffrey's request was not unreasonable: if the riot came, he'd just be one  
corpse among many. If I were willing to kill a man for climbing a fence,  
I should be able to kill a man for mercy.  
        ''No.''  
        "You're afraid the riot won't come." Jeffrey took a deep breath,  
"Mark, will you please kill me?"  
        "No," I answered softly.  
"Then--damn you--give me a knife so I can do it myself!" he  
screamed.  
        ''No.'' I glanced out toward the main kitchen doors.  
        "Mark, do you know what I am?"  
        Hearing him use my first name so often grated on my ears. I nodded.  
        ''I'm a whore! I'm a whore!" he screamed. "I do it two, maybe three  
times a day for protection. My lovers protect me. Do you know what happens  
to whores in a riot?' '  
        I kept nodding. I had been called in to help mop up in New Mexico.  
I wondered why so many of the corpses were bald until I saw the men had  
been burned to death with cutting torches. Then there were the strangled  
men in the cells and service tunnels; and sometimes . . . . I knew what  
to expect better than he
        ''They kill you! They use you to death! All of them-maybe fifteen,  
sixteen.'' He gagged and vomitted again. I started laughing.   
        He wobbled to his knees and glared. Maybe it was just the tension,  
but I couldn't stop laughing.  
        ''You should see yourself. You' re such a mess,' ' I said. Jeffrey stared  
up at me, then glanced down and self-consciously brushed at some vomit  
that clung to the pocket of his shirt.  
        "You once told me that only a man could really love another man,"  
I said. ''You were so seductive I almost believed you. I almost swore off  
my wife for a week. And now you're telling me you just do it for  
protection?''  
        Jeffrey didn't answer
        "You'll go a long way for protection," I said
        Voices mingled in a scream, followed by a rise in the shouting. I felt  
like it lifted me. Walrus dropped his boat oar and wallowed full tilt for  
the back door, his key ring jangling at his hip. There was a flash of white  
as another cook passed him.  
        I turned to Jeffrey. His mouth hung open. I jumped over the desk  
and yelled, '' Get the hell out!' ' then grabbed his arm and started pulling  him.  
        Jeffrey yelled over the roar, "Are you taking me with you?"  
        I hadn't considered. I pulled his arm so hard I was afraid it would  
dislocate. He struggled to his feet. We bolted from the office and followed  
the back wall past the refrigeration rooms. Jeffrey was limping        We were halfway across the kitchen when Willis stopped me with a  
wave of his hand. ''Animal! What are you doing with that inmate!' '  
        ''Locking him in the basement.''  
        "Not the basement. The elevator," he ordered. Suddenly all the cooks  
were piled at the front of the escape door. Sounds of shrieks and fists  
slapping on flesh came from the dining hall. Some men chanted ''Burn  
it down. Burn it down. Burn it down.' ' Others yelled ''No!' ' while some  
just screamed. It was too early to tell who would win. The cooks stopped  
and huddled around the door, ducking their heads in embarrassment at  
having begun to run too soon. The change in rhythm, the ripple in tension,  
had been a warning. I wondered if anyone was being beaten to death and  
if anyone could stop it.  
        "The doors are down!" Jeffrey said in astonishment. I glanced over  
my left shoulder to the heavy folding doors-glorified garage doors really 
that separated us from the crowd of inmates in the dining hall. We were  
told that the doors would hold for about three seconds in case of a riot.   
         "You don't think we'd leave them up with this going on do you?"  
         "I've just never seen them down in the daytime," Jeffrey answered.  
He stood up straighter.  
        We passed the cooks to get to the elevator; Fletcher grabbed my arm.  
        "Where are you going with that inmate?" he yelled.  
        ''Locking him in the service elevator--Willis' orders.''  
        Fletcher hesitated, knowing he had the authority to command me  
to do otherwise. "Hurry it up!" he finally said.  
        We went through the escape door to get to the elevator. I took off  
my key ring and unlocked the elevator door. Jeffrey took a step.  
        "Will I be safe in here?" he asked.  
        I pondered the merit of lying. "It's a death trap," I answered. 
        Jeffrey staggered back. "How?"  
        ''The screens,'' I said pointing to the heavy-duty screen roof and walls  
in the elevator. '' If someone wants to kill you, all they have to do is throw  
flammable liquid through the screens. You die of smoke inhalation if you  
don't burn.''  
        ''They'd never think of that.''  
        ''That's what those three blacks thought last week,'' I said. (They were  
inmates his lovers had burned in their cells.) Then I nodded toward the  
fifty-five gallon drum of oil that sat in the far corner of the room
        Jeffrey stared at his feet. He tensed as if to spring, then held his  
stomach as if he'd vomit again as he stepped into the elevator.  
        I locked the door and pushed the down button.  
        "Will I be able to get into the basement?"he yelled as the elevator  
descended.  
        ''The basement door is locked,'' I answered. The elevator door was  
made of thick wood, but it had a two-square-foot section of heavy screen  
for a window. I watched him descend.  
        "Can I break it down?"  
        I gauged the thinness of his arms, the roundness of his shoulders.  
"Probably not," I answered. Probably not a chance in hell. "If you can  
get the door open or tear down the screens and get into the office, hide  
in the compressor rooms, in a corner. Don't go into the service tunnels.  
They'll crawl in there to hide from each other-the tunnels are deadly."  
I remembered tales of inmates dying in the tunnels. One little body-builder  
named Johnson told a group of inmates a story about crawling into a tunnel  
to hide during a riot and meeting a man in the darkness. The man stabbed   
him in the neck with a screwdriver and they fought in the cramped tunnel.  
After strangling his attacker, Johnson found that it had been an old  
cell-mate-one of his best friends. He warned, " If you 're ever in a riotput your back against the wall and kill anyone who gets near you. I don't  
care if he's your best friend. I don't care if he's smiling. I don't care if  
he's weaponless. Kill him." I hoped Jeffrey would remember those stories.  
        ''Thank you, Animal,'' he said solemnly. As the elevator reached the  
bottom, I flipped off its lights
        The volume of the roaring had evened out again; the white plastic  
walls shimmered in unison with the voices
        Since I was near the loading door, I considered opening it and keeping  
it ajar to speed our exit if the inmates broke. But it was against prison  
policy to have both the loading door and the escape door open at the same  
time, so I left it closed. Instead I wandered back to the escape door and  
stood in the doorway, watching the cooks. Most of them stood just a few  
feet in front of me, huddled together, smoking cigarettes and speaking  
in whispers. I didn't join them. Mueller, the little German, wanted to start  
breading the pork chops for dinner. Walrus said he'd help and they ran  
into the vegetable cooler to get some eggs for breading. The other cooks  
ignored them and huddled together in their white uniforms with their  
white faces. They all thought they were being some kind of heroes; they  
wanted to be there when the walls came crashing in so they could tell their  
grandchildren about it. I just wanted to go home
        "Hey, Animal, you still up there? " Jeffrey yelled from the elevator.  
I didn't answer
        "Animal, you up there? " His voice came louder. I didn't want to talk  
to him, figuring he'd be dead in a while anyway
        "Animal, answer me! " he screamed. I turned, wandered around the  
corner, back to the elevator shaft.  
        "Yeah, I'm still here," I yelled through the screen
        ''Oh," he paused, not sure what to say. "Is it really true?--what you  
said about swearing off your wife for a week."  
        "No,'' I chuckled. "I was just teasing you, man." I liked that wordman. It sounded so colloquial.  
        "Oh. I really believe it, you know--that it takes a man to really love  
another man. Women can never really relate. They're all either prudes or  
bitches,' ' he stumbled over the words, trying to sound casual.  
        ''Women aren't easy to understand,' ' I conceded.   
        ''Yeah, I know what you mean.''  
        I cocked my head and listened to the rhythmic chanting. The voices  
were blending into one voice; the speed of the chanting was picking up.  
        "Hey, Animal, what's Sandy like?"  
        That he knew my wife's name threw me. I didn't know where he got  
his information, but it wouldn't have surprised me if he knew I had a cat  
named Custer.  
        "Hey, Animal. Do you still believe in all that about God?"  
        Jeffrey had asked me about my religion three years earlier when I first  
started working in the prison. I hadn't been to church more than three  
or four times since then. The last time I went we sang a song which said  
"Jesus bid the prison doors unfold.'' It gave me a sick feeling        ''Yeah, I guess I still believe it.''  
        "I don't," he said. "My parents tried to cram it down my throat for  
years. I don't believe it. How can you believe in God?"  
         "I don't know, sometimes you just feel it. The way you can feel another  
person in the room when it's dark and quiet."  
        "You think you can feel when another person is in a room?         ''Sure,'' I said. He'd be thinking I was crazy
        "If you didn't know I was in the elevator, do you think you could  
feel me here?' 
        "Of course, I always know when someone's in the basement.        Jeffrey seemed to consider it for a long time. I could picture him  
counting the times I'd caught inmates in the restricted area of the basement.  
Or the time I got a sense of urgency on the way to work and drove eighty  
miles-per-hour all the way from Pleasant Grove. When I got to work, I  
ran down to the basement and found Salinas nearly beaten to deathSometimes inmates went to the basement to take drugs or fight. More often,  
just one person would go there to huddle up on some flour sacks, rock  
in the darkness, and try to achieve the illusion of being alone, unwatched.  
I knew how they felt. Sometimes I wanted to huddle in that darkness tooThere were rumors that I had microphones or alarms in the basement so  
I'd know if anyone was there. He knew I was telling the truth        ''Can you feel me here now?" 
        Closing my eyes, I sensed him as a dark spot at the edge of my  
awareness.  
        ''Yeah.''  
        "Aw, you just smell me or something.''   
        I wondered. I couldn't let a butterfly pass without listening for its  
wings. I'd stand in the forest and try to unravel the descent of one leaf  
among a thousand falling leaves. I would hone every sense, then drag them  
across the cold stone floors of the prison
        Closing my eyes I tried to separate Jeffrey's smell from the other scents  
in the room. A gentle draft rose from the hot basement. I took a long  
whiff, discerned the smells of mold and dust, Jeffrey's vomit and body  
oils, the familiar smell of the prison-laundered clothing, flour, the musk  
of mice, and beyond them, ... yeast? And apples? Applejack?  
        "Aw," I muttered. "Someone's making brew in the basement again.        Jeffrey started chuckling
        "Who is it? Wait. It's Vigil, isn't it?"  
        Jeffrey snorted and pounded on the elevator door.  
        "I knew it! I saw that little wetback in here yesterday. And he had  
sticky-looking hands.''  
        "We told him not to!" Jeffrey laughed. "We said you'd catch him.  
He just said, 'All I want is a leetle drink for Chreestmas.'"  
        I heard someone walk up behind me. I glanced at the white of a cook's  
uniform, then Schaeffer whispered in my ear, "Get your coat and stuff.  
We're supposed to get ready to go. We just got a call from Control One:  
riot on A-block, inmates trashing the place, multiple fires." I noddedSchaeffer left
        "What'd ya say, Animal?" Jeffrey yelled.  
        "Yeah, he'll drink water on A-block for Christmas. Hey, look, I gotta  
go.''  
        "Hah! You put that together pretty good, Animal. You know, you  
scare folks sometimes.'' He was just trying to delay me
        "Yeah, I gotta go.'' I liked scaring folks--the right kind of folks        "Hey, Animal. Do you sense God in prison?" he asked too loud.  
        ''Well, he's supposed to be everywhere, but I haven't felt him here.''  
        "Me neither," Jeffrey said
        "But he's supposed to be here-even in prison.
        There was silence
        "Maybe he's over in Minimum Security," he said. "They get  
everything over there.''  
        His fishwife accent made me laugh. It was almost like the old Jeffrey  
was back. Listening to the shouting and cries in the dining hall, I looked  
out the escape door into the kitchen. The cooks were still standing around, 
enjoying their adrenaline rushes too much to think about leaving. I stepped  
back next to the elevator.  
        "Hey, listen," I said quickly. "Why don't you try stepping off the  
elevator and standing on the sill by the door. I'll try bringing the elevator  
up enough so you can crawl underneath it to hide.''  
        "Get under the floor of the cage?''  
        "Yeah, if you're skinny enough to let the elevator slip by you."  
"What if it squishes me?"  
        ''It won't squish you. There's an automatic cutoff if anything touches  
the face-plate by the door.  
        "No. I mean what if I get squished under the elevator cage?"  
        "It doesn't go down that far. There's about a three-foot clearance space  
there that the repairmen use." I suspected that inmates sometimes hid  
under the elevator when I did my security checks.  
        "Okay, give it a try," Jeffrey yelled.  
        I hit the up button. The elevator rose for a moment, then stopped.  
        ''Give it another try,'' Jeffrey said. ''I hit the face-plate by accident.''  
        I pushed the button again. The elevator rose a bit more and stopped. 
I jiggled the switch a few times till the elevator wouldn't give anymore.  
        "How are we doing?" I asked.  
        Pants and grunts came from the shaft. Finally he answered, "My thighs  
are wedged in tight. I can't even get my arms under it."  
        I could go down and disconnect the fuse that operated the safety  
features of the elevator-but that would require about two-and-a-half  
minutes. It would take another minute to get Jeffrey under the elevator.  
Judging by the din coming form the culinary, it didn't sound like there'd  
be time.  
        The sound of approaching footsteps made me turn. Franklin was  
watching me with his rabbit eyes, afraid to disrupt my conversation.  
        ''Willis wants you,'' he said.  
        ''Okay.'' I expected Franklin to leave, but he stood there shaking and  
licking his lips.  
        "Hey, Jeffrey," I called, "I've got to go for a minute. If l don't make  
it back in time to do anything else, just remember to keep close to the  
inside wall, huddled down, so no one can see you from up here.'' And  
dodge the oil when it comes, I thought.  
        ''Yeah, yeah. I'll do that,'' he answered. ''Hey, Animal. Know what?  
When I got up this morning, getting a haircut was the most important  
thing on my mind,'' he giggled
        I walked out remembering the bald men in New Mexico.  
        Willis was standing by the office door, telephone in hand. I waited  
for him to speak.  
        "Where you been?" he asked
        "Locking Jeffrey Owen in the elevator. Need me for something?"  
        "No, I was just wondering where in the hell you were . We need to  
be ready to evacuate. I want you to stand by the escape door and hold  
it open till they start trying to break in. If the inmates try to force entry  
through the service doors, I want the escape door closed in no less than  
three seconds. Understood?"  
        ''Three seconds,'' I nodded
        I took my post and waited. The chanting continued. There were no  
more dissuasive shouts, just the steady throb of ''Burn it down . Burn it  
down. Burn it down." Standing at the door, listening--that's when I knew  
it would really happen. The cooks were still gathered in their circle, except  
for Mueller and Walrus, who were cracking eggs four at a time. I noticed  
that the motion of their bodies was in rhythm with the chanting: grab 
some eggs; burn it down. Crack some eggs; burn it down. Dump the shells;  
burn it down. One of the eggs had fallen to the floor. I stared at the perfect  
top half-shell, with the yolk spilling yellow beneath it. Once there was this  
scullery worker, a weasle named Gray. He begged me for an egg, but didn't want to give it to him, thinking he'd throw it at somebody. He was  
so persistent I gave it to him. He took the egg and sat at a table all  
afternoon, delicately wrapping it in some rusty barbed wire that had fallen  
from the fences, ignoring the cuts he got. When he finally got it wrapped  
in a perfect little cage, he ran around the room showing it to people,  
pointing to the egg resting among the barbs, and saying, "That's me!  
That's me!" Then he went to his cell and hanged himself.  
        I turned my eyes from the egg and listened to the sounds of the  chanting
        The cooks stood in their places, oblivious. They were childish idiots  
playing Russian roulette, planning to dodge when they heard the click and  
bang. I looked at Walrus. He'd probably die. Maybe Richardson would  
too, from where he was standing. They were cooks-even my bosses were  
cooks. I could understand their watching and waiting; they spent their lives  
watching and waiting for pots to boil. I could understand their lack of  
concern for the fairy in the elevator; they concerned themselves with the  
serving of things to be eaten. In such moments of clarity, life seems a very  
good joke. It made me smile
        But I am a guard, I told myself.  
        The pounding voices halted. The cooks turned and began to run  
toward me. There was a whoosh of indrawn breath and one commanding  
scream from the cafeteria.  
        Then rose the shout. The floor felt like a rolling wave under my feet  
and I looked past the cooks running toward me. I could see the shapes  
of heads denting the big, blue service doors as inmates rushed against them.  
The little wooden doors on either side of the kitchen splintered under the  
pressure of bodies. I watched the faces of the passing cooks: Fletcher's eyes  
darted back and forth as he ran; Mueller's were glittering and dangerous;  
Rabbit eyes and Walrus were both crying. I began to swing my door closed.  
Inmate Kavika ran into the kitchen with a tide of sky-blue uniforms behind  
him. He stopped, cocked his arm, and threw something at Willis, the last  
in line, a few steps from my door. Willis was yelling, "Get out," waving  
his pliers and looking for stray cooks. Kavika's homemade brass shurikin  
grazed Willis' forehead and hit the wall behind him. Bottles and pipes   
hit the wall and shards of glass spattered around us. Ceramic tiles began  
falling from the roof, and the inmates all stopped and shielded their heads.  
I thought the roof was caving in until I saw that the metal tracks for raising  
and lowering the service doors were being ripped from the ceiling by the  
pressure of bodies shoved against the doors. None of the inmates made  
it halfway down the row of ovens before I swung my door shut.  
        It was only twenty feet to the exit. The cooks opened the back door  
and an icy blast of air hit me; I double-locked the escape door while they  
ran out. Willis waited in the doorway, sillouetted by cold sunlight. I watched  him
        ''Why are you standing there? Come on! '' he said. The sun on his  
white uniform and his wide mouth reminded me of a frost-covered toad        ''Why are you looking at me like that? What are you doing!'' he yelled.  
        ''Getting Owen out.'' Outside, the warning sirens started, permeated  
by the belch of riot horns
        ''Leave him! That's an order!" he shouted, pointing the pliers at me.  
The action struck me as being very strange, as if he thought the pliers held  
some power over me
        "Get out!" I yelled back
        "Leave him!"  
        I punched the up button, turned and waited. I knew Willis wouldn't  
report me; or at least if he did, I didn't care. Someone began beating on  
the escape door with something metal. There were yells to tear it down.  
        I've failed, I thought. The demons are at my door, and it is within  
my power to save only one man. I smiled. The pounding on the heavy  
escape door grew more insistent; and there was scraping, as if they were  
tearing the walls down with crowbars. The door was supposed to hold for  
five minutes-but then the bullet-proof glass around the control rooms  
in New Mexico was supposed to hold for five minutes, and it had held  
up for only twenty-four seconds. Willis slammed the back door shut and  
took off running
        The elevator's trip up took sixty seconds. It seemed longer.  
        "Are you letting me out? Are you letting me out?'' Jeffrey kept sayingHe was jumping up and down and climbing the wire walls inside the cage  
of the elevator.  
        In that moment I felt great peace. The hammering on the doors  
became a distant rushing. I watched, unconcerned, as the door  
dented like thin aluminum. I realized the door would be down within a  
minute. It didn't seem to matter.   
        Someone with a pry bar beat on an old metal plate crookedly welded  
to the escape door. He broke the plate at the weld, pushed the bar through,  
and used it as a lever to pry the plate free. The plate peeled back like the  
page of a book. A six-by-six inch hole opened at eye level. The hammering  
slowed for a moment while an inmate's eye passed in front of the hole.  
        "Hey, there's a guard in there!" he yelled.  
        "Who is it?" several voices yelled above a background of screams.  
        A black face passed in front of the hole, was pushed aside. A third  
face appeared.  
        "It's Animal," the face said.  
        ''Animal?'' someone yelled. I recognized the voice of one of the inmate  
cooks, Nathan Stoneman. ''Let me talk to him.''  
        Some black I didn't recognize said, ''Yeah, let the man talk to him;  
let the man talk to him.''  
        Nathan's brown eyes appeared
        "Hey, Animal, buddy, what are you doing in there?"  I nodded toward the 
elevator. "I got Jeffrey Owen locked in the  elevator. I'm taking him out."  
        "What's that?" several voices asked.  
        "He's taking Owen out," Nathan said.  
        "All right! All right!" the black man and several others said.  
        Nathan tapped nervously on the side of the door, the ring on his finger  
sounded small and tinny against the sounds of the riot. Only one person  
was still beating on the wall. "Hey, uh, Animal," Nathan said, "why don't  
you, uh, open this door and take us out with you?"  
        I paused for a very long time, as if considering. 'I'd like to, NathanI'd really like to. But if I open this door, you know that you and I could  
never get it closed again.''  
        ''Let me talk to him,'' someone yelled, and Nathan was shoved aside.  
        A mop handle with razorblades gouged into one end of it was clumsily  
thrust through the hole. I stepped aside, watching it clatter to the floor.  
There was a smack and a scuffle; Nathan reappeared at the hole.  
        "Hey, I'm sorry about that, man. I didn't see it coming," he said.  
        "That's okay,'' I said. "I did.
        "How much longer is it going to take?"  
        ''About twenty seconds,'' I answered, thinking, if you hurry you can  
get me.  
        "Twenty seconds?" he paused. "You got it man. We'll guard the  
door.''   
        "We'll guard the door?" the black man asked.  
        "Yeah," Nathan said.  
        "You mean we will guard this door?"  
        "Yeah," Nathan answered.  
        "Damn right!" someone else chimed in
        "Far-out! We're guarding this door!" the black man said.  
        The pounding ceased. There were screams and sounds of glass breaking  
in other places, but everything was quiet by the door. I knew they'd want  
payback and considered. Finally I laid the basement keys on the floor.  
        ''I'm leaving the basement keys here for you," I said. "When you  
get done with them, put them downstairs in Vigil's hooch bucket.'' There  
were whoops of laughter from behind the door and exclamations of ''All  
right!" and "He's my man!"  
        ''You guys stick together,'' I continued. ''In about six hours everyone  
is going to get hungry. They'll all head here. So when you see them coming,  
don't try to kill every gladiator carrying a stick. Just talk them into joining  
your side. Bargain with the food." 
        The lights went out as the prison power supply was shut down.  
''Just keep your heads and this whole thing can be over tomorrow." I stared  
at Nathan a moment before opening the elevator
        Nathan nodded. The elevator was stuck a couple of feet from the top,  
but now that the power was off, the in-built security systems were defeated;  
I was able to unlock it without waiting for it to come the rest of the way up.  
        Jeffrey stepped out like a woman in high heels who is afraid of turning  
an ankle. I stooped to pick up the spear that had been thrown at me        We walked out the back door, pulling it closed behind us, and headed  
slowly down the ice-covered loading ramp toward the fences. Cold sunlight  
burned our eyes, but we floundered ahead; soon we'd grow blind to it,  
and it wouldn't have power to harm us anymore. I warned Jeffrey to stay  
close to me and to stop when he reached the first fence, knowing he'd  
get shot if he tried to climb it. He might get shot anyway if the tower guards  
were too nervous. I wondered if I'd be able to cut small bushes with my  
spear. I suddenly decided that I was going to grow a garden with rose bushes  
in it--and I would prune them with the spear. And I would pull the earwigs  
and aphids from the leaves with my fingers and put them in quart jars  
and release them in the woods. And if the thorns cut me, I'd bleed on  
the ground, and my roses would be redder for having been watered with  
blood. It was cold and I was shaking. I looked over my shoulder; every  
window in the prison seemed to be shattered already; smoke was pouring  
from the laundry and C-block; someone screamed, "My God, My God,  
Save me!'' and a crackle of rifle-fire answered from tower one
        And there will be weeds in my garden, I thought. There will be plenty  
of room for weeds. Tansy ragwort, thistle and dandelions. And when they  
are in bloom, I'll walk around them so they don't get crushed. I was so  
tired, I just wanted to get home and get to bed, to curl up in the darkness  
for a long time
        Jeffrey was sobbing. "What are you smiling about?" he asked.  
        I hadn't realized I was smiling. Do I always smile at the wrong time?  
''Maybe it's because I feel a great and peaceful presence, moving through  
the basement," I said
        Jeffrey wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve and glanced up. I pictured  
my white teeth smiling and was suddenly very afraid they would crack and  
fall out and get lost in the snow.  

Warming House

By Randy Hawkinson

        It was early morning. When I answered the phone two people began  
talking on the other end. One said Ben had locked himself in the bedroom  
with her, and the other said to hurry. One thanked me and then they both  hung up
        My mom and dad walked into the kitchen. I told them. My mom  
sobbed and my dad peeled his pajamas off his belly.  
        My mom said she thought the doctor said Ben's mom was getting  
better. She asked what had happened. I didn't know. My mom sighed.  
Then my dad said that someone should call Ben's football coach at the  
University of Minnesota, that he could coax Ben out. My dad shook his  
head and my mom said we'll take some banana bread for Ben and Beth,  
and here, eat these doughnuts. Then we all drove over.  
        Uncle Ferdy opened Ben's door. He was holding a fifth of Old  
Forrester. He said nothing, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve. His red  
nose bobbed as he bit his lip. Then he smiled at me and I said Hi Booly  
to him.  
        The bedroom door opened into the living room, so everyone was there
A plant was tipped over on the carpet. Everyone walked around the dirtMy mom said my dad's name. Ben's younger sister, Beth, was sitting on  
the couch, crying
        One of the police officers, the younger one, mentioned the possibility  
of bloating or smell. He said in Vietnam he and some others came across  
this teeny little dead granny " gook" in her hootch. My mom pinched a  
bead on her rosary and said a prayer. He said she was puffed up fatter  
than a pig and stinking worse than anything he'd ever smelled. Then he  
and his partner and the doctor walked up to the bedroom door and asked  
Ben to come out. Ben told them to shove it. Then he called the doctor  
a liar. Someone said there wasn't enough air.  
        Father Lafontaine called out to Ben that there were rough spots in  
everyone's life. As he spoke he waved his white hands and moved his frocked  
arms in great slow arcs like someone rowing a boat in a dream. Ben swore  
and kicked the door and said sure, and to tell him all about it
        Everyone started talking, saying they knew what should be done. Ferdy  
took a drink and stomped his foot and grunted. The young cop, the heel  
of his hand smothering his squawking walkie-talkie, told Ferdy to cool his  
jets and take it easy on the circus water. Ferdy stumbled over to me and  
offered me a drink. I said I'd better not, Booly. Then he took one and  
said Ish, that's good, and wound his way through the bodies and round  
the dirt. Beth blubbered and bawled and my dad said we should call Ben's  
coach.  
        Then Father LaFontaine draped an arm around me and led me up  
to the door. Someone said someone open a window. My cheek cooled on  
the smooth varnished wood. I listened. The doctor said he wasn't a liarand then no one moved and I almost said Ben. My dad told the cops that  
when Ferdy got drunk on bourbon he turned into Booly Boolosh. Beth  
blubbered and gasped for air, and then the bedsprings squeaked. Booly  
who? the cop said, and my dad said Boolosh, Norm Boolosh, Minnesota's  
fullback. Then the bedsprings squeaked again and Ben said my name. His  
nose was plugged. He was inches away. He tried to clear his throat and  
say something
        Everyone started moving around and talking again. Ferdy tucked his  
bottle under his arm like a football, stiff-armed the air and plowed his  
way into the kitchen. The doctor paced. My dad wiped the back of his  
neck and said oofta, it's sticky in here, eh, and that this was a job for Coach  
Salem. Father LaFontaine swung his arms again and said Ben, my son, we  
know, we know, and the doctor said he wasn't a liar. The old cop lifted  
a hand above his head and said the humidity must be up to here. I leaned  
against the door and let my hand fall from my cheek. Beth tried to say  
something.  
        Ferdy walked back in carrying a bag of potato chips. The young cop  
said she could even be stinking and bloating now because it happens faster  
in the humidity and heat. Ben leaned on the door. He told Father  
LaFontaine that he could go plumb to hell.  
        He yelled it
        My mom pinched another bead and said a Hail Mary. Ferdy laughed  
and blew bourbon through his nose. Beth tried to stop crying. The young  
cop whispered was this a puzzle palace or what. His partner said it was  
just the frequency of this crap, that's all. Father LaFontaine touched the  
door and said to Ben that yes, yes, it's hard, but that we should let Him  
decide when-but Ben just yelled it out again and swore and kicked the  
door.  
        Nobody talked. My mom pinched another bead and the tips of her  
fingers turned red. Beth started bawling again. Ferdy mingled, offering  
chips. The officers peeled their uniforms off their skin, and my mom's  
fingertips turned white. Then Ferdy asked who remembered the words to  
"In the Cellars of Old Cloquet High."  
        Then the doctor yelled into the bedroom something about why he'd  
said what he did. Father La.Fontaine sighed. Someone's skin glistened. The  
young cop said he'd bet his left arm that she was puffing up like a  
baloo-but someone said someone please open a window. My dad wiped  
his face and said the solution was a phone call away. Beth shuddered. I  
lifted my fingers from the knob, and pressed the backs of them to the  
door. Ferdy started humming
        Ben said that he had to pee. He asked me if I would bring in an empty  
pitcher. He yelled that if anyone else tried to come in they were dead meat        The room was dimly lit from the closet light. Ben thanked me for  
the pitcher. His bicep jumped when he grabbed it. He asked me to lean  
against the door so it would click. The young cop said if he had it his way  
Booly Shmooly would be on his way to Duluth for the cure, and Ben  
wouldn't-but his partner said it was simply a matter of frequency        Ben turned away from me. He'd held it for a long time        His mother was all lumped under the bedsheet. Ben said oofta. Ferdy  
stopped humming and said there wasn't enough air around to dry a June  
bug's butt, and then started humming again. Ben put the pitcher on the  
window sill and squeezed me and said after he'd lifted weights and run  
sprints he just found her there. Here. He said he'd started shaking and  
then yelling and then Beth came in but he shoved her back out and locked  
the door. She'd called the priest. He said he'd strangle the doctor. Ben's  
square chest heaved. Ferdy began to sing. My dad asked why someone  
wouldn't just pick up the phone and call Ben's coach. Beth whimpered  
and choked, and the doctor said that what he'd told Ben was no different  
than what he'd told the Pollard boys about their father last week. My dad  
said Mother of Mary and one of the cops asked Ferdy what the hell his  
real problem was, anyway.  
        Ben's chest glistened, and then he held his breath too long and  
squeaked. He swore and coughed and looked at his mother. He pointed  
to the sheet over her face and said he didn't know what the hell else to  
do, and that the doctor had lied. Ben's fingers wiggled. He flexed his upper  
body and tried to clear his throat. The old cop said frequency.  
        Ben did push-ups. He asked me to count. His forearms bulged and  
the muscles on his back wiggled like snakes. He pushed and pushed and  
I counted out loud. The blue Chippewa throw rug wrinkled under his feetFerdy sang. Ferdy sang and sang and sang. When I said fifty Ben stopped  
and stood up. His chest was gorged. Then with the heel of his hand he  
tried to smooth the sheet that draped her. He patted one side smooth,  
but then the other side wrinkled, so he started shuffling back and forth,  
squeaking and pinching and patting and in different voices saying words  
and names and other things. He pointed to the pitcher and said who would  
believe it and pinched a wrinkle. His bottom lip turned inside out
        Ferdy sang the refrain and started over
        She was just lumped under the sheet. Beth bawled and bawled, then  
tried to say something, but a walkie-talkie squawked about a 10-41 in  
progress at Stella's Bar, and that a back-up and something else was needed,  
and then someone said someone open a window before they croak.  
        Then Father Lafontaine called out to Ben and said we know not the  
time or place. For a moment everyone listened. Then the doctor yelled that  
lying wasn't the word for it at all and the young cop again prophesied  
bloating and Ben, with his pumped pectorals and milk-jug forearms and  
striated back, pinched at the wrinkles and patted the lump and between  
squeaks talked fracture, saying things in different voices like so many radio  
stations crowded too close in the night.  
        Ferdy gurgled another verse.  
        And then Ben crumpled onto the bed. He breathed and looked  
around and said my name and looked at me. And I said his.  

The Phone Call

By Tim Hansen

         I was told at the time I was old enough to understand that  
I was the exact reincarnation of John Wilkes Booth, and that  
when I finally became a man, I would, discriminately of course,  
kill the President of the United States in the coldest blood  
imaginable. Having such an honorable duty hanging over my head, I began  
to collect the President's series of stamps, pasting each one in my book  
with youthful fervor. I really thought that I might see one of these famous  
gentlemen walking along the rocky paths of our commune and bean him  
with my slingshot. You can imagine what a traumatic blow it was to me  
to find out that my mother's notions about me were only so much talk,  
and that she and her guru friend had been thoroughly zoned at the time  
they'd told me. Being Americans, they never saw the need to renege on  
the lie when they were straight.  
        I sit on the end of Pier 39. Three sea gulls play tag high above. As  
I watch, the biggest of them cuts away from the group and dips sharply  
to the right. It hangs a moment in mid-air. For a second, I don't think  
it's moving at all. Then it tips one dingy grey wing and swoops in over  
my head.  
        Behind me, someone screams. I turn just in time to see the bird glide  
in and tear a crab cup from the hands of a fat woman in a purple polyester  
kimono. The woman shrieks and pouts. She stamps her feet and wigglesThe crowd oohs and aahs as the sea gull makes a smooth arc back into  
the sky. I turn my face to the sun and laugh out loud. I think this is funny.  
        It's carnival time on the wharf-mid-July and noisy. I like to hide  
in the noise. I stare at the water far below and imagine the dorsal fin of  
a friendly bay shark slicing its way through the water as the hungry machine  
separates my legs from my body. I suddenly decide that I'm going to wait  
all night for the shark if I have to. It's not a bad thought. It'll get me  
through the day.  
        A while later, I hear a scraping noise off to my left. I turn to see a  
sea gull skidding in for a landing. It's the same one that attacked the tourist. 
It's a big one, with a large bluish patch of feathers forming a ring around  
its neck. It looks at me for a moment, and then comes up beside me. We  
both stare out at the water. After a minute, the sea gull talks to me.   
        "Some day, huh?''  
        I look over at the bird. It ruffles its feathers and snaps its beak. I decide  
not to say anything. I'm in no mood to talk. It's quiet for a while, and  
then the bird speaks again. It has a deep voice. I decide it's a guy        "Your girl leave you? 
        My resolve melts and I speak. "How'd you know? " I ask.  
"I could tell," he says, scratching at the pier with his foot, or whatever  
it is birds have. "My old lady took off a while back."  
        "Really?" I say. " Where'd she go?"  
         The bird stares out toward Alcatraz, where the waves are just beginning  
to slap at the shore
        "South," he says, kind of lonely and far off.  
        "I didn't think sea gulls flew south," I say
        The sea gull leans his head back and lets out a sharp coughing soundI think he's laughing
        "Naw," he says. "She went down to Acapulco with another guy.        "Tough luck," I say
        ''Tell me,'' he says
        Together, we watch the shadows swallow Alcatraz. Then the bird jumpsHe drops straight down, wings at his sides. He almost hits the water. At  
the last second, he tips his wings and goes straight up. In another minute  
I can't see him anymore.  
        Later, the sun goes down. No sign of a shark. I decide to go home  
and sleep this off. Maybe kick back on the bed and flip through my stamp  
book. Maybe not
        Walking home, I wonder if Gloria is in Acapulco with another guy.  

        I awaken to the sound of trumpets. They herald my arrival. They howl  
the swallows back to Capistrano. They announce another glorious broadcast  
day on KBAY-TV. I open my eyes, stare at the TV, and close them again.  
The phone rings.  
        ''Hello?''  
        "Hi, Ter. Gloria. I've been thinking__'.'  
        "Yeah, I'll bet you have."  
        "Please don't be upset. Forgive me. I want you back."  
        "Sorry, chick. I'm strong now.''  
        "W-what do you mean?"  
        ''I mean__'.'  
        I wake up and answer the phone. It's my landlord. He tells me that  
if I don't pay the rent by five-thirty, he's turning off the power. I tell him  
to go ahead, and send in the sharks while he's at it. He hangs up        Some people call me a cynic.  
        By eight-thirty I'm out of bed and in my bug. I cruise up Van Ness  
to a Chevron station and fill the tank. I hit a 7-11 on Bay and pick up  
a six-pack of Classic Coke from a pretty Vietnamese girl with a  
Florida-shaped birth mark on her left cheek. I slide an Elvis Costello tape  
into my cassette deck and head over the Bay Bridge.  
        Gloria lives in a red two-story house in Berkeley, about half a mile  
from the school. Since it's on a hill, some of the streets parallel each other  
in layers, and there are at least three streets higher than Gloria's. I claim  
these streets as mine. I prowl.  
        Gloria's car is in the driveway. A blue Subaru GL. If she's gone to  
Acapulco, she didn't take her own car. That's a good sign, I guess.  
        Three little kids are playing with a Water Wiggle on one of the lawns.  
Each time I pass, they get a little more curious. After thirty trips up the  
street, parents begin to join them. After forty, the streets are deserted. After  
fifty, a cop pulls me over.  
        "May I see your license, please?"  
        "I'm looking for my girlfriend."  
        "May I see your license, please?"  
        "Okay."  
        He kicks me out of the neighborhood. I don't even get to see her.  
        I drive down to Tower Records on the wharf and buy fifteen records  
on my Mastercard. I get depressed on the way home and go back. I buy  
five more. In the car again, I start to cry. I take the records back and beg  
the clerk to let me return them. She says no way. She says no refunds. She  
wears leather pants. What does she know?  
        When I get home, I leave the records in the car. If they won't take  
them back, then I'm going to let them melt.  
        The phone rings as soon as I walk in the door
        "Terry?"  
        "Gloria." (I sound very cool and nonchalant here.)  
        "Baby," she says. "I need you. I'm ready to come back."  
        "I tried to tell you, Gloria," I say with a real sad tone in my voice.  
"But you wouldn't listen."  
        ''I know, I know,'' she cries desperately. ''I never should have scraped  
my key all the way up the side of your car.''  
        "Sorry, chick. I'm strong now."  
        "W-what do you mean?"  
        "I mean-"  
        I let the phone ring.  

        Once, in October, I was very sick. I locked myself in my apartment  
and refused to see anyone. Gloria used her key and came in anyway. She  
sat with me for two days, right next to my bed. She brought cold washcloths  
to bring down my fever. She read F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise  
out loud from start to finish. At night, when I started to shake, she climbed  
into bed next to me and held me.  
        I wake up in a sweat. The phone is ringing. My alarm clock has  
stopped, so I check my watch. It's two-thirty. The landlord has turned off  
the power early. I go to answer the phone, but my stomach climbs to my  
throat. The room tilts around me. The ringing is louder. I suddenly realize  
what I have to do. I figure if I go to the beach and hold my head underwater,  
the ringing won't be so loud. I head for the car
        I remember going to the beach once as a little kid with one of the  
communes. My mother was with a man in a torn-up army uniform. We  
were all down at the beach, and everybody took off their clothes and had  
a great time splashing around. The army man showed my mother some  
top-secret maneuvers on the dunes. I cried. Three or four really chesty girls  
came up to me, cooing poor baby and stuff like that. They scooped me  
up and took me out into the waves and threw me around like a sack of  
flour. I guess it was all right.  
        I tried to find my mother later on. I couldn't, and I thought I might  
start crying again, so I found my clothes, pulled on my pants, and set out  
across the dunes. I kept walking, holding back the tears, until I could see  
someone on the beach ahead. It turned out to be a little girl, about my  
same age, building a sand castle with empty Del Monte pea cans. I knelt  
down and started helping her. She didn't seem to mind. So we finished  
our sand castle, and it was a lot more fun than being thrown around like  
a sack of flour. Her parents owned a beach house that shot up from the  s
and like the trunk of a redwood. Her father came out and told her it was  
time to come inside for dinner. I was invited, and I remember that her  
parents were very nice people. I'm sure my manners were lousy, but they  
never let on. After dinner, the girl and her father and I went out to look  
at the sand castle. The tide had come in, and it was almost gone. The girl  
and I were all set to cry, but her father told us not to be upset, that the  
ocean was just taking back her own, as she did every night. We didn't  
understand it, but it sounded good. When I began to set off down the  
beach back to the group, the girl's father stopped me and pressed a  
five-dollar bill into my hand. I'd never seen one before. I went back over  
the dune and never saw them again. My mother took the money. I don't  
know what she spent it on.  
        So, I'm on my way to the beach. It's about a forty-five-minute drive  
in my bug. I turn up the tunes and coast along 101 at fifty-five miles per  
hour with the wind blowing steady from the east, and cooling expected  
later in the day. I sure hope Gloria doesn't get caught out in this heatHer Vuarnets might melt and stick to her nose.  
        Zappa comes on the radio. "Magdalena.'' I was thirteen years old in  
my Zappa days. It was just like any other phase, I guess, except when you're  
thirteen years old and you like Frank Zappa, you have a pretty fair chance  
of growing up diseased. I don't think I escaped in time; even a few years  
of Cat Stevens didn't help. Gloria still likes Frank Zappa, though she'd  
never admit it. I suspect she has a whole stash of Zappa and the Mothers  
of Invention in the back of her closet
        Anyway, after a while I get tired of coasting along at the designated  
speed limit and flick the hyper-space switch under my dashboard. The music  
of John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra playing the theme  
from Star Wars blares out of the two ace quality speakers I have mounted  
in the bug. I zip along through the stars, crushing planets like croutons  
and shooting Gloria with my lasers. I arrive at the beach in exactly forty-five  
minutes.  
        As soon as I pull into the parking lot, a phone rings. It's in a phone  
booth, blocking my way to the sand. But I'm brave, and I get out of the  
car and take a few tentative steps toward the beach. The phone continues  
ringing. I know it's Gloria, but I'm scared to answer, scared to think that  
she's been watching me and knows where I am
        Standing in the danger zone between the car and the phone. What  
do I do? I take a deep breath, grit my teeth on the seventh ring, and leap  
for the car. I land safely in the driver's seat and initiate take-off. John  
Williams and I are outa there. I laugh in triumph, the phone ringing in  
my ears as I fly down the highway. I'm pleased with myself.  
        I'm on the coast highway, heading south. I've got plenty of tapes and  
enough money to last for a while. I only wish Gloria could see how  
responsible I'm being with my life. A master of my fate, a ruler of mdestiny. Indiana Jones has nothing on me
        Up ahead, I see two white BMW's. Of the three available lanes, they  
occupy the inside and outside, travelling parallel at approximately the same  
speed. I am terrified. There seem to be two people in each car. Probably  
a group of weekenders down from Marin County, out for a pleasant picnic  
on the beach, complete with a metal picnic basket and straps to hold their  
wine glasses in place. I pop John Williams out of the tape deck and put  
in the theme from Mission Impossible. I sit up straight, turn up the stereo,  
scream real loud, and flip the hyper-space switch. I pass them easily, right  
up the middle. I refuse to live in fear
        The world outside stans to look less like northern California and more  
like southern California. I pull over at a truck stop to get some gas. I go  
inside to have a burger. I sip on a Coke while I wait. There's a guy in the  
next booth eating a salad. He's wearing tinted glasses and a red, white,  
and blue jogging suit. I lose my appetite. Just as I go to the counter to  
pay the check, the phone next to the cash register rings. One lady comes  
to take my money, another one goes to answer the phone. I want to tell  
the second lady not to pick it up, or at least tell the first lady to take my  
money. I begin to shake. I can't say anything
        The second lady holds the phone to her breast and scans the placeIn a panic, I throw my money on the counter and run. I burst out the  
door, dodge several gas pumps, and dive into my car. I'm outa there.  
        Gloria and I had been together a year and a half when she decided  
we should date other people.  
        ''Nobody special, Terry,'' she said, washing the dishes.  
        He's a millionaire. He's taking her to a basketball game on a Thursday  
night. Gloria hates basketball. I suggested a double date. Gloria scraped  
dried scrambled eggs from a plate.  
        Thursday night at seven, I was parked about a block down from  
Gloria's. A white BMW pulled up to her house. The guy got out, and  
he had on a red, white, and blue jogging suit. I figured he had to live  
in Sausalito or Corte Madera, that jogging suit netherland between the  
City and San Rafael. They still think jogging is chic there
        He went in and came out a couple minutes later with Gloria. He  
inserted her into the white monster and off they went.  With me in hot pursuit.  
        I've never been much of a basketball fan. I can probably name ten  
or more NBA teams, but I don't follow the games or anything. Still, there  
I sat in the parking lot, listening to the game on my car radio. Every time  
the crowd roared, I imagined that I could hear the Millionaire and Gloria  
cheering right along with them, refreshments of one kind or another  
sloshing into their laps. I'd have been inside watching them through  
binoculars or something, but I barely had enough money to buy gas.  
        By the time they came out, my back was all cramped, but I sat up  
bravely and followed them out of the parking lot. We headed over the  
Golden Gate and right down into Sausalito. The BMW pulled up in front  
of a massive condo, and I took cover in front of a semi-massive condo a  
block and a half down. Gloria and the Millionaire went inside. Twenty  
minutes later, I was out of the car and casing the joint.  
        They were sitting on the couch together, sipping wine and nibbling  
cheese. From my perch in a large, itchy bush, I shook my head. I'd always  
hoped nobody really did this stuff.  
        I sat tight until the guy started to make his move on her. I considered  
being cool and walking away from it all. I considered trusting Gloria to do  
the right thing. I considered getting in my car, paying the toll over the  
Golden Gate with my last two bucks, and going home to bed. I considered  
again and chucked a rock right through this guy's living room window.  
        I got out of jail five days later. Gloria wasn't waiting for me. She wasn't  
there to punch me in the arm, call me a big lug, and say she understood.  
She wasn't there to smile and say that she'd stay with me from that mo- 
ment on. She wasn't there at all.  
        So the sun sinks way too fast into the ocean, and I'm on the highway  
heading south. A sign tells me that L.A. isn't too far off. For a second,  
I consider turning around and heading home, but then it's too late.  
Everything slides downhill into L.A. Even me
        I fumble in the glove box for a tape, and finally latch onto one. It's  
dark in the car, and I can't tell which one I've got, but I figure it doesn't  
really matter. I figure wrong.  
        It's Lionel Richie: no one's cure for heartache. I listen anyway, because  
I feel I deserve the pain. Two weeks ago, I drove past a place selling wood  
stoves. A sign out front said:  
HEATING BILL OVER FIFTY DOLLARS
MASOCHIST
        I got all choked up when I read the sign. I drove straight to the Dairy  
Queen, where I bought a double chocolate-fudge sundae and dumped  
it on the ground in the parking lot, feeling very guilty. A masochist. That's  
me
        Lionel takes me within an hour of the City of Angels. I pull into a  
parking lot at a 7-11, go to the phone booth, and take the phone off the  
hook. Then I cry myself to sleep.  
        Three months after we'd met, Gloria and I were sitting on the couch  
at my place, watching Letterman. She was brushing her long, brown hair  
with thick, careful strokes. The brush would travel from the top of her  
head and move slowly down her back with a hollow, hushing noise. I asked  
her if I could try. She smiled and I moved behind her. Her hair tickled  
the back of my hands as the brush reached the end of each stroke. After  
a while, I dropped the brush to my side and ran a hand through her hair.  
Gloria reached back, and somewhere in the strands of hair, her fingers met  
mine. . . 
        Sounds of knocking. An ethnic guy with greasy, curly black hair is  
standing there, wearing one of those famous red and white 7-11 smocksHe is knocking and peering, peering and knocking. I sit up and roll the  
window down a crack. He doesn't waste any time.  
        "Hey man, you can't sleep here. This ain't no steenkin' hotel."  
        I make a quick mental calculation. Reseda, I think. No, not ResedaCorona. They still talk like this in Corona.  
        "I believe the term is mo-tel," I say.  
        "Huh?" he shoots back
        "Mo-tel," I repeat. "You take your car to a mo-tel."  
        "Tu madre," the guy says under his breath. "I got some friends who  
can move you to a mo-tel for sure!"  
        ''I'm sure you do," I say. "And I'd really like to stay here and meet  
them, but I've got a Circle K and two more 7-ll's to hit before I get full night's sleep."
        I back out fast enough to run over his feet if he's not quick. He isHe dives out of the way, and as soon as he hits the pavement, he's back  
on his feet with a big rock in his hand. He lobs it at my bug, hitting the  
back windshield and sending a spiderweb of cracks crawling to the roof  
of my car. I slam on the brakes, do a 360 for effect, and bear down on  
the guy. I hit the gas. He gets out of the way pretty quick, leaping up  
on the hood of a black Mustang. He twists around, trying to get my plate  
number. I keep my plates in the back window, and they fall down all the  
time. I give the guy one last laugh, back up, and get out of there
        I don't mind ethnics at all. It's stereotypes that bug me. 
        I avoid downtown L.A. altogether. I decide to hit the beach, so I get  
on the Ventura Highway and coast along in the slow lane. This is the  
territory where I spent a lot of my childhood. Gloria and I talked a lot  
about coming down here sometime, but we never did. So now I'm down  
here without her, and it feels good. The wind in my hair, the smog in  
my lungs, the spice of youth in my veins. It feels like death. Just like death.  
        There's a beach every other block down here, and not one is nearly  
as nice as it once was. I almost stop a few times. I want to find a beach  
without phones, where I can get some rest, but nothing feels right. Not  
alone.  
        I am overcome with grief. The last six months wasted without calling  
her once. My foot grinds into the gas pedal.  
        Bugs can be pretty fast little cars, if you're lucky enough to have a  
friend who can work on them. I'm lucky. I'm up to 95 miles an hour and  
my little car is hardly sweating it at all. Then I get it into my head to plow  
into the back of a semi. I can see the collision, hear the crashing of glassThe truck is up ahead, three hundred yards to the left
        I won't feel a thing
        I cross two lanes with a quick jerk of the steering wheel. Horns blareI reach 100 miles an hour with a little more effort. I feel like crying but  
I don't. I just want to get to the truck as fast as I can and atomize a few  
particles. Gloria may even come to the funeral. That might be nice.  
        Just when it seems I'm going to get my wish, and the truck is only  
100 yards ahead, I glance off to the beach on my right. I slow down so  
fast I nearly cause a pileup.  
        It's the same beach. There's my mother, and the army man. There's  
the four chesty girls. There I am, being thrown around like a sack of flour.  
        I signal and get off at the next exit, making my way back to the beachIt hasn't changed much. When you see something you haven't seen since  
childhood, it usually looks larger or smaller than your memory, but this  
beach looks about the same. There's a family with a hibachi, frying up  
steaks, and about ten teenagers playing volleyball. It's amazing, otherwiseThe sameness of it all.  
        Except for the phone booth.  
        It's white and blue, a rectangular closet up ahead on the left. I drive  
up alongside it slowly. And smile.  
        Someone has torn the phone from its brackets. It won't be ringing  
anytime soon.  
        I pull the bug onto a small, sandy patch of parking lot and get outIt's an unusually cool day for an L.A. beach, but warmer than I'm used  
to. I get out, slip off my shoes, and toss them back through my open  
window. This is the place.  
        I walk out on the beach. It immediately puts me in mind of all those  
novels and movies where people go back to the places of their childhood  
and learn new and important things about their lives. The volleyball crowd  
is moving to the soothing strains of Van Halen. Nothing new and important  
for me there. The mother of the hibachi family is reading Green Eggs and  
Ham to one of her kids, a little blond guy wearing a red plaid bathing  
suit. There may be something new and important there, but I'm not in  
the mood.  
        I walk out and let the surf wash over my feet. The water isn't too  
mucked up; I could probably even swim in it if I wanted to. But the thought  
of all those novels and movies comes back to me, and all the cathartic  
ramifications of bathing in my childhood memories keeps me out of it.  
I kick up some sand and walk down the beach.  
        I know where I'm heading, but I try not to think about it too much.  
My analytical mind is too busy wondering what it will mean if the house  
isn't there anymore. And if it is, what if it's run-down, with paint peeling  
from the rafters? The symbolic possibilities are astounding.  
        It's smaller than I remember. That doesn't mean it's small, not by  
any means, but memory's a tricky thing. It's a respectable,  
expensive-looking place, and the paint isn't peeling from the rafters. A  
couple of other houses have sprung up around it
        A man's voice comes to me from the balcony.  
        "Nice day, huh?"  
        He isn't old, probably in his mid-forties, wearing red OP shorts and  
a yellow sports shirt with a baby stegosaurus on the left breast pocket. I  
smile.  
        ''Nope, not too bad. Little warm, though.''  
        "Warm?" he laughs. "Kid, it's chilly today! You 're not from around  
here, I'd guess.
        "Up North.
        "Oregon, Washington?"  
        "No," I say. "Northern California. San Francisco."  
        "Oh," he says. "The Bay Area.
        It's always cracked me up how people say that like it's a dirty wordThe ''Bay Area,'' like it hurts them to say it. There was a time when San  
Francisco was known for its architecture and trolleys.  
        The guy doesn't say anything for a full minute. When he does, it  
isn't apologetic.  
        ''This is a private beach, you know.''  
        I look out at the waves. "No," I say. "I didn't know that."  
        "Yup," he coughs into his hand. "It is. You'll-"  
        Just then a really pretty girl walks up behind him and looks over the  
rail at me.  
        "Don't bug him, Daddy. He 's hardly a bum, you know." She smiles  
at me
        "Hi," she says. ''I'm Jenny.
        "Terry,'' I say
        The guy, who I guess is her father, looks at me distastefully. He doesn't  
want his daughter associating with any known "Bay Area" people        The girl walks down the back stairs and out onto the beach        "Jenny," her father warns, " I don't - 
        Jenny turns and looks up at him. The guy shuts up, and after a  
moment, he turns and walks inside
        Jenny looks me in the eye
        "Should I apologize for him?" she says
        "Is it your fault he's that way?"  
        She laughs. "Maybe. A little.
        We walk down to the edge of the water. She doesn't say anything for  
a while. I follow suit. Then, after a few minutes, she turns her face to the  
sun.  
        "The 'Bay Area,' huh? "  
        "Yeah.''  
        "I lived there for about a year and a half in '82....'.83. In San Rafael.  
Dad couldn't understand it. He said, 'Where are you ever going to find  
a man there?"
        "Was he right?"  
        ''I married a guy there.''  
        ''Is that an answer?''  
        Jenny laughs again. She has a nice laugh
        ''He wanted a ride to work. I wanted a husband.''  
        ''Oh.''  
        She traces a circle in the sand with her bare foot. ' 'You been here  
long?''  
        ''A few hours.''  
        "Staying long? 
        I smile. " Got any ideas?"  
        We sit on the beach for about an hour. The conversation is light, easyWhen it cools off a little bit, Jenny runs up to the house to get the hibachi  
and a couple of steaks. We fry them up and bake a couple of potatoeshave a little salad and some wine, and then go for a short swim. I use a  
pair of trunks belonging to her ex-husband, Jerry. We dry off just before  
sunset, climb one of the dunes, and watch the big guy go down. We're  
quiet for a while. Jenny pulls her knees up to her chin and rocks softly.  
        "You love her, don't you? " she says finally.  
        "Who? 
        "Whoever it is you 're running from. You love her.
        "What makes you think I'm running?"  
        Jenny just looks at me
        ''Gloria,'' I say.  
        "Nice name. You love her? 
        "Yeah.''  
        "Have you told her? 
        "Yes."
        "When was the last time?
        I hesitate a moment, then say: "Six months ago.''  
        Jenny nods. "I had a fern once. It didn't get enough sun in the back 
room where I kept it.' '  
        "Died?"  
        "Yeah.''  
        "We broke up," I say. "My fault."  
        Jenny turns to face me. "Really?" she says
        The tide comes in below us and the sound of the waves grows louder.  
A light, warm breeze starts up
        "Your folks rich? " I ask.  
        Jenny nods.  
        We talk until about three o'clock in the morning. Not too much about  
Gloria, a little about Jerry. Mostly we talk about music. Zappa and Hendrix,  
the Raspberries and Elton John, even Elvis Costello and Lionel Richie
        We sleep on the beach that night. At one point, I wake up shaking.  
Jenny holds my hand until I go back to sleep.  
        I don't dream
        At ten o'clock in the morning, Jenny takes me into the house. The  
place has changed quite a bit, but I don't really remember that much about  
it
        Jenny's father looks up at me distractedly from the kitchen table, where  
he sits reading the paper. Jenny leads me to the den and pushes me inside.  
She shuts the door, leaving me alone
        Alone, that is, except for the phone.  
        She answers on the second ring.  
        ''Hello? ''  
        "Gloria, it's Terry."  
        Silence.  
        "Gloria, I love you.
        Silence.  
        "I need you , Gloria. I'm sorry.
        At first I think she's going to hang up. Listening closer, I can tell she's  
crying.  
        "Where are you?" she asks.  
        ''L.A.''  
        "Terry?"  
        ''Yeah?''  
        ''Come home, Terry.'' 

Sleeping Out

By Lance Larsen

        Frank got the idea driving home from work. He crossed the ravine  
and was turning into Applewood Estates when he saw it-an orange pup  
tent set up under a willow. The ropes that kept the sides from sagging  
were pulled taut, and the flaps were open. Two rolled-up sleeping bags  
lay inside. It was McMichael's place, probably his twins pretending they  
were in the mountains. Frank was thinking how it would be for them 
bedding down in sleeping bags lined with cotton pheasants. Canteensflashlights, comic books, smuggled candybars
        When he got home, Barbara was at the stove, stirring spaghetti sauceShe had her hair in a bun and was wearing bermudas. He kissed her as  
he always did, a dry kiss on the mouth
        "So how was the meeting?" she asked.  
        "It was okay."  
        He picked up the stack of mail and the newspaper and went into the  
living room. Kerri was on the floor talking on the phone. She had on her  
suit from swim practice, a navy Speedo with yellow stripes up the sides.  
Trapping the phone against her shoulder, she rubbed lotion onto her legssmoothing the blobs until her calves and thighs were lathery white. She  
was only twelve, but already she was mimicking the teenage girls on the  
team: bobbed hair, nail polish, her mother's rouge and eye shadow. She  
laughed, rolled over on her stomach, then onto her back, her lips curling  
over her braces. Suzie was on the couch coloring.  
        "Hey, how are you guys?" Frank said.  
        Kerri pointed to the phone, then started laughing again. Suzie looked  
up.  
        "I'm coloring," she said. "It's a picture of the sky." He bent low  
to admire the purple and orange swirls.  
        Dinner went smoothly-no spilled food, arguments, or dead silences.  
Kerri and Suzie cleared the table, and Barbara brought in cheesecake. The  
phone rang, and Barbara went back to the kitchen to answer it
        A moment later she stuck her head in. "It's Janet," she said. "She  
and Bob want to know if we want to see Rampal tonight. They've got box  
seats.''  
        Frank looked up, took another bite.  
        "I was going to mow the lawn," he said.  
        ''Mow it tomorrow,'' she said.  
        He shook his head. "I really don't feel like a concert."  
She gave him a long look and went back into the kitchen. Frank heard  
the phone slam, then Barbara went upstairs. He looked at the cherry poised  
on his fork. The girls finished eating and slipped away from the table.  
He took the dishes into the kitchen, then went into the laundry room and  
changed into his running shorts.  
        The mower was in the shed. He checked the gas and oil and wheeled  
it out. He liked the smell of mowed grass and the way it felt prickly and  
even when he walked across it. He would sleep near the fence
        He mowed the backyard last because he liked to watch the sun going  
down across the gulley. Beyond the hedge, deep grass dropped off into  
the ravine. There was a creek there, and across the ravine, aspens and a  
few pines. In the evenings it looked as if the trees were pulling the sun  
into them-they flared red, then cooled into purple outlines
        He had never taken Barbara camping, never slept out with her. They  
always intended to camp by the lake where he had gone with his dad every  
October for the deer hunt. But Barbara got appendicitis, and by the time  
she was better, school started
        He thought about how it had been when they rented the studio  
apartment. At night he would pull the curtains together, turn the lights  
out, and the street lamp would filter through the space between them.  
The floor and the chair where his Levis hung would glow with dusty lightHe liked it then, when the room was so cold in the mornings that when  
he woke he could see his breath; and Barbara, if she were up first, would  
step from the shower, a steamy goddess, wrap a towel around her, then  
sit by the space heater rubbing her hair dry.  
        Sometimes she would pick him up for lunch at the library, drive him  
home, and before they would eat, sometimes before he was in the door,  
she would start peeling off her clothes. There was none of that now. When  
he had flown in last week, after being in Houston for nine days, she had  
hurried home, but not for him-one of her shows was being rerun. From  
his den he could hear gunfire and sirens, and when he had gone to get  
a drink of water, she hadn't looked up
        He made one last pass with the lawn mower, switched the engine off,  
and unhooked the grass catcher. The silence surprised him. His head felt  
light with the quiet, his hands tingly from the vibrations. He carried the  
catcher across the lawn, knowing the springiness of the grass, and passed  
through the hedge to the compost pile. The sun was going down. He  
couldn't see the creek because of the scrub oak. He could barely see the  
gazebo, just a corner sticking out from the foliage. He hadn't checked it  
in years. He shook the clippings free from the catcher and followed the  
path down. His sweat cooled on him, and he felt the breeze blowing past  
his thighs, the grass tickling his calves
        He looked back at the house and watched the lights being swallowed  
up. When he got to the bottom he saw that the pond was flooding the  
trees. A dozen or so trunks were sticking up from the water. Maybe the  
McMichael boys practicing with a hatchet. Then he saw how each trunk  
tapered to an uneven point
        Frank walked along the creek to where he could cross. He stepped  
on a rock and jumped to the other side. The gazebo was the same: just  
three posts sticking up and a two-by-four across the top. That first summer  
he and Barbara had picnicked there. He sat down on the edge closest to  
the water
        The evening noises were just right: frogs, crickets, the stream's  
gurgling, and a meadow lark calling for morning. He looked at the  
gnawed-off trunks-the bark still green. At the far end of the pond, the  
chewed aspens dammed the place where the water used to fall between  
two rocks. In his mind Frank followed the brook up through the  
subdivisions: Willow Creek, Tanglewood, Briar Estates. It was at least three  
miles to the mountains. Four bridges and a dozen culverts
        Frank looked back up the hill. He couldn't remember looking at his  
house from here. The lights were on in the girls' room and in the master  
bedroom. He would sleep down here tonight, instead of in the yard. Just  
throw down the pad, his sleeping bag on top. He smelled Indian  
Paintbrush. He had smelled it as a boy when he went to the city pool.  
Standing on the board, he could smell it through the fence-stronger than  
chlorine. He would hold himself still, inhale the raw air, feel the sun on  his 
back--everything still but the slap of the water. Then he would raise  
his arms, launch himself up, push back, piking, stretching for the water.  
After, drying on the cement, he would roll onto his back and watch the  
sun lick up his water image. Once when he was lying there, a shadow crossed  
his face. He looked up. It was Jamie. She lived three streets over. He looked  
at her body, glistening with coconut oil and water. He felt small beside  
her, skinny. Up on the board he felt okay, but not here, not with her  
dripping water next to him.  
        "You're really good."  
        ''Just practicing,'' he said.  
        "Me and Monica are sleeping out tonight," she said.  
        "I usually sleep out."  
        "Who with?"  
        ''By myself. Sometimes Travis comes over.' '  
        "Why don't you come see us tonight-to talk."  
        He shrugged.  
        ''After eleven,' ' she said.  
        "Yeah--okay," he said.  
        She smiled at him and walked away, her wet hair bouncing along her  
back, just the ends drying, a crescent of white showing at the top of each 
brown thigh
        He was at her backyard fence just before midnight. At first he didn't  
see them. He checked the backyard and the sides close to the house. Then  
he saw them between the flowers and a boulder. He went in through the  
gate. He could see Jamie's hair fanned out on the pillow, the curve of her  
body under the bag. When he was fifteen feet away, she sat up, turned  
toward him, whispered his name
        ''Frank-hi.' 
        He looked at her. In the moonlight her face looked dark. Monica never  
woke up. They talked quietly, and when a calico cat jumped into the yard,  
Frank went and got it for her and brought it back to her sleeping bagThey sat there petting the cat together as it arched luxuriously under their  
hands. When the cat left, they both felt awkward, knowing it was just them  
again. They talked for a while, then Jamie reached out to feel the scar on  
Frank's chin from when he hit the board the summer before. She left her  
hand there. He didn't know what to do, so he took her hand and rubbed  
it along his face, tracing slow circles on his cheek. Then she guided his  
hand to her face, and he traced her jaw, then her lips, the line where her  
hair met her forehead, her narrow nose, the mole at the corner of her  
mouth. At first she guided his hand, then she let hers fall back. And all  
the time her eyes were closed, her head back on the pillow, her throat  
exposed. She moved her face toward him, then away. He touched her ears,  
her eyes, the hairs that lay in curls on her cheek. When he told her he  
had to go, she opened her eyes but said nothing. From the other side of  
the fence, he looked back. She was still sitting up.  
        Sitting in the gazebo, he understood something he had forgotten 
that the night was for touching the way the water touches the sand, the  
way the moon and stars burn circles in one's memory. Frank went up the  
hill slowly. He paused where the tall grass met the hedge. He stood there  
a long time, looking at his backyard and patio. The glass table, the chairs,  
the lounger, the speaker he had set up so Barbara could listen to the CD  
player when she was watering. Above the table hung a Japanese lamp that  
attracted fat hummingbird moths when they played bridge with the  
Jespersons. If he had said yes, he and. Barbara would be with them  
tonight
        He looked at the house, shuttered and painted, immaculate, not like  
the studio apartment with its stained brick and faded wallpaper, her Monet  
prints thumbtacked to the wall, his pictures of the Uintas. He looked in  
the kitchen window. The dishes were still on the counter, along with  
crumpled napkins. He went to the window of the living room. The lights  
were on, but no one was there except a bald man advertising macaroni  
on the television. The girls were in their room; Kerri sat cross-legged by  
the door, talking on a phone she had pulled in from the master bedroom,  
and Suzie thumbed through Dr. Seuss. He looked at them. They were  
long-limbed like Barbara.  
        Then he went to the bedroom window. His wife lay across the bed  
diagonally, one leg pulled up, the other hanging off the side, swinging  
back and forth, kicking the bed. She was reading a mystery novel. Frank  
went around to the front of the house. He stood by the mailbox that had  
his name on it, and looked at the front door, the step bright from a 100-watt  
bulb. The house reminded him of the homes you see on a tour on a  
Saturday afternoon when a realtor is promoting a neighborhood. He went  
inside.  
        "Where were you?" she asked.  
        ''Nowhere.''  
        ''Mr. McGuire called. And I went out in the yard to get you, and  
you weren't there. Just the lawn mower."  
        "I went down to the gulley," he said. "There's a beaver. I saw the  
trees chewed off.''  
        He took off his running shorts and pulled on his surgeon greens, which  
he wore for pajamas.  
        ''I'm going to sleep out tonight," he said
        "Suit yourself.'' she rolled over and started reading her book. He put  
on his sandals, then brushed his teeth. She didn't say anything when he  
went down the hall. He went downstairs, changed the channel of the  
television, then flipped it off. A little later he heard his wife moving  
upstairs, the toilet flushing. He turned off the lights so that he was looking  
outside on the grass, silver in the moonlight. He went to the garage and  
took down his sleeping bag from the shelf, then his pad. He took them  
outside. He felt silly walking across the lawn, leaving behind his house  
with five bedrooms, his two daughters, his wife curled alone in a dark roomBut when he got beyond the hedge, he felt okay. The gulley was changed  
from the hour before. It seemed like a different country. The wind was  
blowing warm, and he could smell a muddy smell.  
        He unrolled the pad. The ends curled up as if it were a boat floating  
on the wood. He undid the sleeping bag, rolled it out, and from habit  
unzipped it all the way and checked it before getting in. Down in the  
bottom he found a balled-up sock, one of Kerri's from a slumber party
        The noises made him forget he was alone. The aspens were quivering  
in the breeze, and the water was smooth, except when the wind blew across  
it. He thought of the fish. Did they see the moon through the layers of  
shifting water? He heard a splash near the bank, saw a ripple moving across  
the water. It was the beaver, its triangular head cutting the water like a  
prow, the fat tail fanning behind. Halfway across, it slapped and dove. He  
watched, but he knew that the beaver could stay under for a long time,  
in secret places under the bank, where it would wait, resting, curling in  
on itself until it was ready to come up. He knew a story of a beaver that  
had saved some lost children, invited them into its den, served them teand salmon.  
        Frank took off his sandals and laid them next to the sleeping bagHe could feel the coldness of the night, his arms and chest prickling. He  
wadded up his T-shirt to use as a pillow. When he lay down, the stars pulled  
at him until he felt himself falling into the darkness between them. Then  
he was following the beaver, bellying along the bottom, nosing under a  
log, bursting past pale fishes, through moss, into the narrow channel, the  
warm wet den.  
        He woke with a start. The moon was overhead. He sat up, could see  
his shadow in the moonlight. He unzipped the bag. Kerri and Suzie would  
be snuggled in a room full of cloth animals and pictures of trees and aqua  
oceans that never moved. And Barbara would be in the bedroom, her arm  
thrown out, her fingers touching his pillow
        He went up the hill shirtless. At the hedge, he looked at the houseIt was dark now. He walked across the stiff grass and eased the sliding door  
open. The house was warm. He walked up the stairs without turning on  
the lights. But he didn't know this wall as he knew the walls of his house  
when he was a boy. He had to move slower. The door to the girls' room  
was open. He could see them there-Suzie curled into a ball, Kerri sprawled  
like her mother. He could see the clean faces, the smooth skin stretched  
over bone. He wanted to touch them
        Barbara was lying across the bed, corner to corner. If he were there,  
their legs would be touching. The single sheet was pulled down halfway  
across her back. She was wearing the peach-colored night shirt. One of  
her shoulders was pointing up, a hand dangled over the side. He lay down  
carefully, curled himself to her. He put his hand on her tummy and pulled  
her hair away from her neck. She turned
        "What time is it?"  
        "I don't know," he said.  
        He snuggled her to him and rubbed his hand up and down her backbut she kept her arms to her sides. Sitting up, he pulled the sheet down  
to the bottom of the bed. Barbara pulled her legs in.  
        "What?" she said
        He took her hands and pulled her until she was sitting up, then draped  
the sheet over her shoulders. 
        "It's okay," he said
        "What are you doing?
        "Don't say anything," he said. He leaned toward her and took her  
hand. On her knees, she crawled across to his side of the bed. When she  
stepped off, he led her out the door and down the hallway
        The sliding door to the backyard was letting in cool air. With his free  
hand, Frank pushed the door wider and stepped onto the porch. Barbara  
let go of his hand, pulled her arms in.  
        "Come on," he said. He held her hand across the lawn, the sheet  
dragging in the grass. At the hedge, he lifted her, hooked one arm behind  
her knees, the other around her shoulders, then carried her down the slopeShe was warm against him. At the gazebo, he knelt with her on the bagS
he rubbed up and down his arm, then took off the sheet, began to lift  
her shirt. He stopped her, took her hands gently, and laid her down. She  
looked around but didn't say anything. She was looking at the aspens and  
the water.  
        She looked around for a long time, and he held her hand. He pulled  
the sleeping bag over them, felt it cover them like a layer of night, felt  
the moon washing them. He traced circles on her cheek, explaining with  
his fingers exactly what it meant. 

In the Hands of an Angry God

by Wayne T. Taylor

A Poetry Drama in Three Acts

CHARACTERS

Thomas Metheus, 40, hom’bly scarred by smallpox.
Helen Metheus, 30, his wife. Advocates the “Awakening.”
Isabel Metheus, 13, their daughter.
Francis, 24, an itinerate peddler. Disciple of Enlightenment.
Minister, 50, a friend of Thomas ‘s.
Josiah Momson, 50, a dairy farmer.
Mrs. Momson, 45, his wife.
Jedediah Clayton, 35, a farmer.
Mrs. Clayton, 30, his wife.
Mrs. Frazer, 45, local woman.
Mrs. Douglas, 50, local woman.
Mrs. Campbell, 55, friend of Helen’s.

ACT/
Scene 1

(The set is dark and a congregation can be heard singing “Gloria Patri. ”
Shortly, however, whispers can be heard growing louder over the music.
They are unintelligible, chaotic, and insistent. just as a word or two can be
understood, a woman’s voice rises above the intoning of the traditional
Latin Mass. )
Woman’s Voice: Veni, sanctificator omnipotens aeterne Deus: et

bene . . .
(‘ ‘Come, Thou Sanctifier, almighty and eternal God,
and bless . . . ‘ ‘

(The whispen·ng changes to voices that inte1,upt the Woman .)
Voices: For this day .
Day by day.
Our daily bread .

(The Minister’s voice cuts in, formal, but not to the degree of the
woman ‘s. )
Minister: Give us this day our daily bread .
Voices: Day by day .
According to the day’s requirement.
Today our bread.

Woman’s Voice : Panem nostrum quotidianum de nobis hodie.
(”Give us this day our daily bread.”)
Voices: Offenses, faults, sins.
Forgive us.
Those who trespass against us.
Our debtors.
Minister: Do not; suffer us not; let us not; subject us not to trial.
Woman’s Voice: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et no dimittimus
debitoribus nostris.
(“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us.’ ‘)
Voices: Thine is the power,
The glory for ever.
Woman’s Voice: Gloria in excelsis Dea!

(“Glory to God in the highest!”)
Voices: Not into temptation.
Deliver us from evil.
Protect us from the evil one.
Minister: And lead us not into temptation , but deliver us from
the evil one.

Voices: The wicked one . The secret one . The dragon .
Woman’s Voice: Beelzebub principe daemoniorum.
Est diablo, et angelius ejus.
Ftlius perditionis.
(“Prince of devils. The devil and his angels. Son of
perdition . ‘ ‘)
Minister: What are the chief attributes of God?
Woman’s Voice : Hommo peccatti.
(“Man of sin .”)

Congregation: His infinite perfection in being and working.
Woman ‘s Voice : K.yn·e, eleison.
(‘ ‘Lord, have mercy . ”)
Voices: We bless thee.
We adore thee .
We glorify thee.
Minister: What are the chief attributes of his being?
Woman’s Voice: Draco.
(”Dragon .’ ‘)

Congregation: Eternity, infiniteness, simplicity or purity, all-
sufficiency, perfectness, immutability, life , will, and
understanding.
Voices: Thou alone art holy.
Let your name be sanctified.
Hallowed be thy name.
Minister: Wherein doth the curse of God consist?
Woman’s Voice: Dracone .
(”Dragon.”)

Congregation: In divers things: first , in the guilt of death, temporal
and eternal; second, the loss of grace and favor of God;
third, guilt and horror of conscience, despair and
anguish here; with, fourth, eternal damnation hereafter.
Voices: Thou alone art the Lord.
Thou which art in heaven.
Woman’s voice : Quia peccastis Domino, et non audistis vocem ejus,
est vobis sermo hie.
(“Because you have sinned against the Lord, and have
not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon
you .”)
Voices: As in earth, so in heaven.
As it is done in heaven .
In earth as it is in heaven.
Woman’s Voice: Kyrie, eleison.
Kyr£e, eleison.
Voices: Thy Kingdom come.
Your Kingdom come.
Let your Kingdom come.
Woman’s Voice: Adventclt regnum tuum!
Adven£at regnum tuum!
(“Thy Kingdom come.”)
Voices: Thy will be done.
In earth as it is in heaven.
Thy will be done!
Thy Kingdom come!
(There is silence and the lt’ghts come up slowly on Thomas Metheus, who is
waiting outside the church. He ts about 40 years old, st’x feet tall, and has
brown hair and blue eyes. Hts face has been hom’bly deformed by
smallpox, and his eyes sttfl reflect the pain tt has caused ht’m physically and
emotionally. He is bored and for lack of something better to do he picks
up some small rocks and begins throwing them at the foundation of the
church. Sttfl bored, he goes and sits on the steps. Preaching can now be
heard inside, which ts audible to the audience but understandable only to
Thomas. Wt’th a look of disgust he throws the remaining rocks toward the
audience and stands.)
Thomas: Good people. Friends. Unfed, shining lambs
Gathered today to worship the shepherd’s lunch,
I shall this morning leave the rhetoric of damnation
In the collection plate and preach salvation.
Salvation through me. I speak to all
The children of the green-apple eaters
Of Eden. Your teeth are set on edge, my friends,
Yet have not fallen corrupted from your mouths
Because they are soothed with the saliva of God’s
salvation-
A wet sacrament elevated redly to wine.
But this is merely Hocus-Pocus to sweeten
Your sins. In truth I save you all.
I carry your sins, and my suffering
Alone fills the watery eyes of justice.
(There is a pause. Then Thomas begins to preach in a mocking manner.
Francis enters unseen.)
Offer then, good people,
Some idle dove to the goat who must carry
Your sins into the sun-harsh wild;
My punishment expiates you , and I am despised
And rejected of men who hide, as it were , their faces
From me . Oh brethren, remember and fear
The Mischief-Breather who snored damp life
Into your brittle, potted bodies; vessels
That can shatter as a drunkard shatters his crock.
Alas, my brothers, ours is a drunken God.
His belching is the thunder and the rain his spittle
As he delivers his unchangeable ambiguities
To the prophets.
(Francis begins to laugh. He is a young man in his early twenties with
black eyes and hair. He is a convert to the Enlightenment, a disciple of the
new God, reason. Thomas is startled and turns away so that his face is
hidden from Francis.)
Francis: Amen! Pray continue, good preacher.
Seldom preach the heretics from the synogogue
Steps; and a better sermon I never heard.
Thomas: I am not a heretic.
Francis: Infidel, then! Stand I now by the waters of Babylon?
Thomas: How long have you been listening?
Francis: In partibus infidelium I wander alone.
Worship you the ale-God, sir?
(He realizes that Thomas is not as amused with his joking as he himself is.)
I believe you were about to pass the plate,
And I, sadly, am without two turtles;
Naught but my mite of cynicism can I offer.
Do you preach regularly to the street-stones, Rabbi?
Thomas: I am waiting for my wife and daughter.
Francis: Why are you not inside? Surely a man of your
devotion should not waste his piety preaching to
pebbles.
(Thomas turns and faces Francis. The scars on his face answer Francis’s
question.)
Thomas: I wait outside for my wife and daughter.
Francis: Ah, I see . Forgive me, I did not .. . It must have
been very bad.
Thomas: What would you know of it, Sunday-clown?
Francis: I would think you would have died.
Thomas: I did not.
Francis: Tell me, brooding preacher, was it for sins
Unmentionable that God sent his badger to claw
Your face and mark you with the sores of Cain?
Pestilence is God’s rightful judgment visited
Upon the wicked. Or was it just the breath
Of another sinner that polluted your face?
Were you innocent, or are you penitent?
Thomas: I was eight, and my sister of six died .
Why I lived is a mystery, and what I did
To merit my punishment is an even greater one.
It is hidden even from me .
Francis: You are not consoled in dogma?
Thomas: The creeds were written by lawyers.
Francis: You should sit with the flock and make them squirm!
Thomas: What?! The heretic would instruct me in my election?
Very well, speak!
Francis: (Laughing) I am not a heretic either; I am enlightened.
But it is better business to be religious. Please, keep
my opinions to yourself.
Thomas: A wolf in sheep ‘s clothing.
Francis: Nothing so sinister.
Thomas: I fear for their souls.
Francis: Fear for their money . Come, I will speak my mind
To you because I feel you can understand .
Pythagoras, Fibonnacci, and I have seen
The vision of the rose in Bhudda’s hand.
The black seeds spinning a spiral strand
In against a bristling mandala
Showed Pythagoras a God (Upon whose command
Revelation of an irrational root was banned).
Hygeia the healer! Daughter of the claw!
Fibonnacci found the world descending the stairs
Of whirling squares that the flower’s black yolk
Weaves into the golden navel of the divine .
Thomas: Riddles?
Francis: A sunflower.
Thomas: I do not understand .
Francis: My point! Now consider the lilies of the field ,
How they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet even Solomon in all his glory
Was not arrayed like one of these.
The subject is the same; the point of view differs.
One is orthodox, the other enlightened.
Thomas: Are you a missionary or a salesman?
Francis: I am a salesman. They do not want to understand
what I would teach them, so I whisper what they
want to hear and take their money.
Thomas: Hypocrisy!
Francis: Business! Be assured, sir, that nowhere ministers an
itinerant more saintly than I.
(He reaches into one of the bags he is carrying and pulls out a bottle.)
I am a ministering angel providing the suffering
With this Elixer Divitas Magnus,
A nectar truly dripped from heaven,
A glorious remedy for any infirmity-vapors, gout,
ague .
Why this is the favorite of Cotton Mather’s wife
When the ache comes upon her. It heals with .
Thomas: Enough! Can your water cure the pox?
Francis: Water? Friend, I may profane your Gods
But I do not insult your wife, and I ask
That you not tarnish the shrines of my belief.
This divine essence .
Thomas: The pox, sir?!
Francis: No, though I wish it would . I could have sold a
hundred bottles at twice the price in Burlington.
(Thomas starts.)
Thomas: The pox in Burlington? .
Francis: And Deaton, too . Cities ripe for destruction.
The east wind is swift; His furious judgment is come.
It is the pox with which the earth is salted.
Thomas: You laugh at many things.
Francis: I laugh at folly. In Burlington they preach repentance
At children who know nothing of sin, who catch
The pox from the Deacon who pats their head.
A sermon on contagion would save more
Children than ten thousand catechisms
On Doctrine.
Thomas: You do not believe in God?
Francis: Did you believe that everyone does? No,
I do not believe in a God who crushes children
Because His head spins with wine.
Thomas: A curious creature, the atheist.
Francis: A quote from your text, minister. God is unjust
To punish little ones when parents aren’t precise
In their piety. My God is reason.
Thomas: Will the Enlightenment save you?
Francis: Will the Awakening save you?
Thomas: (Laughing) How did you know where the skin was
most tender?
Two armies march against men’s minds,
And struggle on the Megiddo of their thoughts
To annihilate each other.
Francis: Two alternatives?
Thomas: I am neither Awakened nor Enlightened.
Francis: (Pause) No, you have yet to decide .
(Josiah Morrison enters. He is a former of about 50, grey-haired and dressed
in faded work clothes.)
Thomas: Josiah! I thought you were inside.
Josiah: Not today, Lord forgive me-my oxen are in the
mire, as it were. Jane is ill and my wife has the ache
again. There is no one to help me milk my cows.
Thomas: Ill, you say? Josiah, speak with this accomplished
disciple of Hippocrates for a moment.
Francis: (Under his breath) Not on the sabbath!
Thomas: (To Francis) Your name, sir?
Francis: Francis.
Josiah: The winter has stayed too long and my wife has the
ache.
Thomas: Spring is late.
Josiah: (To Francis) Where are you traveling from?
Francis: Boston.
Josiah: Our doctor moved to Hanover last year, and that’s
too far to go just for the ache.
Francis: Does your wife take anything for her ache?
Josiah: Every night she wants a bigger fire, and the wood I
cut last fall was gone by the end of March. I’m
killing myself finding wood for the woman.
Francis: (Holding up his bottle) She might try this.
Josiah: Eh?
Francis: A cup before she goes to bed at night.
Josiah: A strange bottle. Whiskey?
Francis: No, my friend, a virtuous and divine liquid.
An elixir prepared by saintly, dedicated men
At the St. Mary’s Seminary
Of Baltimore . Jonathan Edward’s wife
Uses this whenever she feels the ache.
Josiah: Well, that’s a lot to believe in.
Francis: It’s a blessing from the Lord .
Thomas: Water.
Josiah: And for Jane . The cows need to be milked today.
Francis: Of course! What ails her?
Josiah: The pox ….
(Thomas is startled.)
Francis: Alas sir, beyond men’s humble powers
Lies the cure for the pox. Could men hope
To circumvent God’s wrath? His will is set;
The arrow is loosed . Who shall spare the mark?
Thomas: A cunning viper.
Josiah: Slow down, sir. It’s the cowpox she has, not the
smallpox. There’s so many sores on her hands she
can’t milk.
Francis: (Laughs) Cowpox? It cures itself in a week or so.
Josiah: My cows will be dead in a week if they’re not milked .
Thomas: Well, missionary of reason, if you want to rest from
your travels, I’m sure Josiah would be happy to board
you for a few days if you milk his cows.
Francis: Cows? (Resigning himself) Even the enlightened get
hungry.
Very well, sir, for a bed and a meal I will milk your
cattle.
Josiah: Well spoken! Come along, Francis, and God forgive
us our commerce on the sabbath. (Holding up a bottle) I’ll have my wife try this.
Francis: Only a little. Give her only a little .
(From inside the church angry voices can be heard growing louder.)
Francis: Trouble in Zion?
Josiah: Your wife forgets her place again, Thomas.
Thomas: She has her concerns.
Josiah: Now, I’m not siding with the minister, but I can’t
condone a woman forgetting her place . She’ 11 be
trying to wear your pants, too, if you’re not careful.
Thomas: Her salvation is her concern.
Josiah : Very well. Come along, sir-the hornets will swarm
out of church in a moment. It happens like that
every Sunday as of late.
(The church bell rings three times as Josiah and Francis leave. Voices are
sttfl loud inside. The church doors open and the chtfdren run out first.
Among them is Isabel. She is Thomas’s daughter of 13. She runs to her
father.)
Isabel: Father! I am going to lead the May Procession!
Amy Dixon has the pox so I will lead!
Thomas: (Startled) Amy has the pox?
Isabel: I will carry the flowers and be the first to walk under
the bough. Mother said…
Thomas: When did Amy become ill?
Isabel: I don’t know. But I get to lead, Father!
(Angry voices can be heard as people begin to leave the church. Helen
comes out. She is ten years younger than Thomas. Today her face is
almost as red as her hair.)
Isabel: Mother fought with the minister again today. So did
Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Bernt.
Helen: (Controlling her anger) Thomas, let us go .
Thomas: The hive is swarming.
Helen: Let us go, Thomas!
Thomas: Have Mrs. Hanley and Mrs. Bernt awakened with you?
Helen: Thomas!
(The people passing by are glaring at them.)
Jedediah: Witch!
Helen: Jedediah Clayton! You are wrong and you are a
coward and you know it!
Jedediah: Mind your mouth, woman!
Helen: Why did you not call me a witch inside with the
minister there to pass judgment on you? Or are you
now the new Bishop of New Hampshire?
Mrs. Clayton: Don’t speak with her, Jedediah!
Helen: You are wrong to judge me, Jedediah! I’m sure there
must be at least one mote in your own eye.
Mrs. Clayton : Stray if you must, Helen, but leave us to follow in
our own way.
Helen: Your way is wrong!
Jedediah: You are wrong!
Helen: I am right! I am fettered to the words of Paul to the
saints in Rome.
Jedediah: Paul also wrote to Timothy:
“Let the woman learn in silence.
Suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp
Authority over the man, but to be in silence!”
That is in your Bible!
Helen: And were I a man with the same opinions, would
that make any difference?
Jedediah: Your husband sins in not punishing you with the
whip!
(The minister approaches the group.)
Minister: Jedediah! Everyone! Go to your homes! Now!
No more contention on the Sabbath!
All of you go.

(The people are sttfl furious but obey the minister and leave.)
Minister: Helen, stay.
Helen: I have no time .
Minister: Only a moment.
Helen: I must prepare the day’s meals.
Minister: Then I shall visit you for dinner.
Helen: No! You shall never eat at my table!
Minister: Thomas?
Thomas: “Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my
wife, neither am I her husband.”
Minister: Thomas, you fool! This is not the time to joke and
banter passages. Your wife is out of order, and you
must discipline her.
Thomas: Helen . . .
Helen: No! I shall not prepare food for him in my house!
Minister: Then none shall be prepared for you in mine.
Helen: Isabel, run ahead.
Minister: No, this involves her, too.
Helen, my congregation has been divided
Too long. You spit disrespect at me
Each time you and your followers speak
Of this awakening. You tempt many to stray,
And division will destroy us as it destroyed
Israel, only for us there is no return
From Babylon.
Helen: You are afraid. They are afraid. Why?
Minister: You deny the sacraments.
Helen: The sacraments are empty. They nourish no souls.
Minister: They see and feel the eucharist. In the ritual
There is power. You seek a feeling empty
Of form.
Helen: I speak of Pentacost!
Minister: Those winds no longer blow! (Pause) Helen,
They need to see the grail. When they hold
The cup of wine, and touch the gold of atonement
With trembling lips, they understand more
Than your breeze can teach them.
Helen: But they are not partakers of the Holy Ghost.
Minister: Helen, you will be damned! Can you not see the
anger and hatred of the men in the congregation,
some of whom have already come to me to whisper
witchcraft?
Helen: They are cowards.
Minister: A mob is full of cowards.
Helen: Why can’t any of you see I speak the truth?
Minister: You are rebellious, Helen. I see that I must suspend
the eucharist.
Helen: Excommunication?!
Thomas: Are you that afraid?
Minister: In two weeks I shall notify the Bishop, and you can
then appeal my decision if you like.
Helen: Good. I shall wait.
Minister: Unfortunately, with both parents absent from the
congregation,
Isabel will also be unwelcomed.
Isabel: Mother! Next week I’m to carry the flowers!
Helen: (To the Minister) You are so weak you have to trap
me. Now I know I am right. Very well, there are
other towns.
Minister: Towns where Thomas will be accepted as he is here?
Helen: (Pause) Come, Isabel.
Isabel: But Mother, I want to carry the flowers .
Helen: Isabel! Come along.
Minister: Sunday the penitent will be welcomed .
(Helen and Isabel exit.)
Thomas: It was providence that Amy caught the pox.
Otherwise the plague of starving belief
Would still be afflicting you. Surely,
God sent Amy the pox for this purpose.
Minister: You don’t believe that, Thomas.
Thomas: Then why does Amy have the pox? Why is there the
pox in Burlington and Deaton?
Minister: God’s ways are not our ways, Thomas.
I do not know.
Thomas: Yet everyone knows I suffered the pox for atrocious
sms.
Tell me, Minister, who did sin? The man or his
parents?
Minister: Thomas, why are you baiting me?
Thomas: Surely it was Amy who sinned! Her parents are unduly
righteous.
Minister: Enough! Your house is not in order!
See to it before you see to mine!
Thomas: You are losing control. Every day there are new
questions you cannot answer, gaping holes in your
sterile dogma that need to be filled. God cannot
keep silent much longer.
Minister: You are losing control in your house!
Thomas: Is amputation the answer? Cut off every sore instead
of cleaning the wounds?
Minister: She threatens others.
Thomas: She threatens you.
Minister: Talk to her, Thomas. You understand God’s word
almost as well as I do. I know people have been cruel
to you, and I’m trying to spare her some of the
anguish you suffered.
Thomas: Your sermons were responsible for my suffering.
The pox is a judgment, you say, thrown down on the
wicked
By God who sees all secrets and knows all hearts.
Minister: They did not understand .
Thomas: Do I?
(Thomas exits. Lights fade on Minister.)

ACT II
Scene 1

(The next day. Interior of the Metheus home. Helen and Mrs. Campbell
are finishing baking bread. Isabel is in the kitchen working on her dress.)
Helen: I love the house filled with the smell of food . The
bread is almost cool and we’ll soon see if it baked
true.
Mrs. Campbell: You’re always too critical, Helen. It will be a feast.
Helen: (Handing her a piece of bread) Here, taste.
Mrs. Campbell: (Tasting) Wonderful!
Helen: I think the leaven was too sour. I’ 11 have to start
another batch. I’ll send this batch over to Mrs. Hanley.
Mrs. Campbell: Mrs. White’s boy has the fever. She sent Melissa to
White River in case it is the pox.
Helen: If it’s to be the pox for Melissa, then sending her
away will do no more good than running did Jonah
when he tried to escape to the sea.
Mrs. Campbell: In Boston they talk of mithridatism.
Helen: Witch talk.
Mrs. Campbell: No, doctors!
Helen: Once a woman sought the pox from a child that was
lightly afflicted, and for three days she was in the belly
of hell before she died.
Judgments come as they will.
Mrs. Campbell: Are you not concerned for Isabel?
Helen: I have faith, not fear.
Mrs. Campbell: But, Thomas …
Helen: Isabel, how are you doing?
Isabel: Better. Thank you for showing me how to sew the
lace, Mrs. Campbell.
Mrs. Campbell: You’ll look beautiful.
I remember the days before grey brushed
My shoulders, and I carried flowers beneath
the bough.
Isabel: You carried the flowers?
Mrs. Campbell: Yes, in a lace dress just like yours.
It seems like a hundred Mays have passed since then.
They brought the tree into town and everyone
Cut branches off to tie to their houses.
Then we went from house to house singing
While I, dressed in white, scattered flowers
On each doorstep until we got back to the tree.
There, all the young men were pretending sleep
And I ducked under the bough with my flowers,
Placed them on my sweetheart George’s head,
And kissed him. We married the next year.
Isabel: Will there be flowers this year? There must be
flowers.
Helen: There will be flowers.
Mrs. Campbell: I must go now. You’ll look beautiful, Isabel, and
there will be a big surprise for you Sunday. Good-bye.
(Mrs. Campbell leaves.)
Isabel: I know whom I shall kiss Sunday.
Helen: Who?
Isabel: I can’t tell you. That would spoil it.
Helen: (Offering bread) I’ll bribe you .
Isabel: (Shaking her head) It’ll cost you your arm to find
out.
(They laugh.)
Isabel: How do they prevent the pox in Boston?
Helen: It is nothing .
Isabel: But Father would want to know.
Helen: Do not tell your father!
Isabel: Why?
Helen: Your father still fears the pox, and , being afraid,
he is often rash. Do not talk of this.
(Thomas enters, breathless.)
Thomas: Isabel! Isabel, come quickly. (He goes to the
window.)
Isabel: What?
Thomas: Look, the buck and the does.
(He lifts Isabel.)
Isabel: Higher, Father! Lift me higher!
Thomas: Can you see? He is crowned with a thicket
Of antlers thornier than any other buck.
Isabel: How long will they stay in the valley?
Thomas: They wait for spring. The snow on the mountain is
deep .
Isabel: Look! He’s attacking one of the does.
Thomas: His does carry the scars of his nasty temper.
Isabel: She’s still alive! But her forleg bleeds. What will
happen to her?
Thomas: I don’t know. It depends on how bad it is.
Isabel: (Coming away from the window.) Why did he do
that to her?
Thomas: I don’t know. (Toward Helen) Maybe she needed to
be disciplined .
Isabel: But he was so cruel.
Thomas: She may have been out of control.
Isabel: I don’t understand.
Helen: Bucks are easily threatened .
Isabel: She’s not a threat.
Helen: Maybe she wanted to feed in a better field,
And the buck was afraid to move.
Isabel: If it’s better food, they should move.
Helen: I agree. Leave your sewing and run this over to
Mrs. Hanley.
(She gives Isabel a basket of bread, and Isabel exits.)
Thomas: Frank White’s boy has the pox.
Helen: It’s only a fever.
Thomas: That makes him the seventh.
Helen : It’s nothing.
Thomas: Good church-going people .
Helen: They are there every Sunday.
Thomas: Awakened?
Helen: Don’t Thomas.
Thomas: You’ve been sulking all day.
Helen: I have lots to cook before Sunday.
Thomas: One loaf isn ‘t enough?
Helen: (Laughing) And one jug of wine for the five thousand?
We wouldn’t want to put a strain on the minister.
(Pause)
There are no flowers this year.
Thomas: What will she carry?
Helen: Mrs. Campbell bought silk roses
In New York. She will use those .
Thomas: It is not the same.
Helen: Walking under the bough dressed in white
Is what is important.
Thomas: I’d like to see real flowers.
Helen: Then you’ll have to work a miracle by Sunday.
Thomas: You are going, then?
Helen: Of course .
Thomas: Then the minister beat you .
Helen: No, he hasn’t. I will be quiet for a week.
Thomas: A lie, then?
Helen: It’s not a lie.
Thomas: Deceiving such men is not a trivial matter.
Helen: He said the penitent were welcome.
Thomas: Helen, this morality is too convenient.
Deception sours your soul.
Helen: Thomas, please-she has to go.
Thomas: Then you must give up your stand. It’s been a year
Since the Holy Ghost settled upon you
Without any further manifestation.
It is time to end this foolishness.
Helen: Foolishness? God save your soul, Thomas,
If you call it foolishness.
Thomas: It’s been a year.
Helen: I know what I felt .
Thomas: What if you were mistaken? Felt wrong?
Everything shouldn’t be at the mercy of this twittering
Of the heart.
Helen: You think I was mistaken?
Thomas: Do you remember?
Helen: I shall never forget. (Pause) The sun played,
Red and blue, through the stained-glass that day,
Warming Isabel to sleep against my side
As the sermon told of Jacob drawing water
For the flock of Rachel. And from that water
Sprang the sons of Israel, the sands of the sea
And the stars of the sky. Then he spoke of a well
Where a woman drew water for our thirsty Savior,
Who offered in return a living drink.
Coming home we stopped at the pasture’s brook
And watched the sun dance upon the water.
Then I heard something inside me say,
”Whosoever drinketh of this water
Shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh
Of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. ‘ ‘
Do you remember how I cried that day?
Thomas: That was a year ago.
Helen: And I have not thirsted since.
Thomas: Then why is the eucharist suspended?
Helen: It is not.
Thomas: It will be.
Helen: Because the minister fears what he doesn’t control.
To him, communion with the spirit is good,
But not necessary. Only his ridiculous . . .
Lord forgive me.
Thomas: You must not go.
Helen: Isabel must go this year. She will be too old
Next spring.
Thomas: She will not go! I can tolerate you shouting
Down the minister in his house, but lying
To get what you want is damnable!
Helen: I need more wood for the stove.
Thomas: Flames for the martyr of the witch.
Helen: Where was this concern for my soul before
The pox broke out? You care nothing for the belief
I have in God . You only fear the pox.
Call me a witch , but the pox is what you’re afraid of!
Thomas: Would you have her scarred as I am?
Helen: If it’s God’s will, there is nothing to do
To prevent it.
Thomas: Next year, Helen .
Helen: I will not run with you .
Thomas: Then she will be scarred!
Helen: I married the scars and self-pity in your heart,
Didn’t I?
Thomas: She’ 11 be scarred.
Helen: Would that be so bad?
Thomas: Yes!
Helen: Why?!
Thomas: Because had you been scarred I wouldn’t have married!
(Pause)
My eyes are not pocked, nor is my longing for beauty
Diminished by my wretched features. Helen ,
I need the colored leaves of fall, the laughter
On Isabel’s face, and your smile in this house
More than other men do .
Helen: She must go .
Thomas: She will not!
Helen: Do you think this Madonna is conjoined to your will?
Damn me for insincerity, and with delight
I’ll look from my smouldering prison into the fires
That burn in the pits on your face! She will go,
And God help you if you try to stop her. Get out of
my kitchen!

Scene 2

(Francis is found once again outside the church plying his trade. Mrs. Mor-
rison, Mrs. Frazer, and Mrs. Douglas are listening to his sales pitch.)
Mrs. Frazer: I don’t believe in healing waters.
Mrs. Douglas: You slick city peddlers only sell us what they don’t
buy in the city.
Francis: City-born I am, but God fearing. And who’s to say
the age of miracles is past, Mrs. Frazer?
Mrs. Morrison: I know it hasn’t! This is the best stuff I’ve ever used
for the ache . Ten minutes later I couldn’t feel a
thing.
Mrs. Frazer: Liquor!
Mrs. Morrison: Pah! Smell it; it doesn’t smell of liquor.
Francis: It is a vital essence tenderly distilled
From herbs and rare and potent roots
Which the monks of St. Mary’s Seminary
Have made their study for a millennium.
Mrs. Douglas: How much does it cost for this miracle?
Francis: I collect a dollar for the upkeep of the seminary.
Mrs. Frazer: Hahl A dollar for a miracle? If that were the case I
could enter heaven for ten dollars.
Francis: None pay the true price for heaven.
Ransomed for us on that painful cross
In vows and sacraments, He asks us less than a dollar
To buy salvation and purchase an infinite reward.
Why your election is nearly free. Free!
Why then do you rebuke the gentle brethren
Of St. Mary’s who sacrifice to spare your pain?
Mrs. Morrison: If you suffer the ache then buy it, but don’t quibble
about the price.
Mrs. Douglas: How do I know it hasn’t been diluted?
Francis: It is sealed with the seal of the Seminaria
Theologica.
Mrs. Frazer: What religion sells your water, sir?
Francis: The same as yours.
Mrs. Frazer: Are you awakened?
Francis: (Pause) I have heard of this awakening. There is the
potential for a great mischief.
Mrs. Frazer: Should the awakened be punished?
Francis: For what?
Mrs. Frazer: For rebellion against the church.
Francis: God will punish rebellion. Even now the pox sweeps
Burlington, punishing the unfaithful and heretical.
But yes, we should do our part, too.
Mrs. Douglas: I’ll give you ninety cents, but I get to pick my own
bottle .
Francis: I’m sure the brethren at St. Mary’s will accept that,
Mrs. Douglas.
(She begins to rummage through Francis’s bag.)
Mrs. Frazer: We face the same problem here as in Burlington.
Already the pox has descended because one of our
members has fallen in sin.
Mrs. Douglas: Helen Metheus!
Mrs. Frazer: It is her husband who has brought this upon us.
We should never have allowed him to stay.
We should have cast him away from us
As the sailors did the rebellious Jonah.
Mrs. Morrison: You’re too hard on Thomas, Mrs. Frazer.
Mrs. Frazer: (Coldly) Your house suffers judgment because of
him.
(To Francis)
Come to my house this evening and speak with my
husband.
I shall buy a bottle then. Good day.
(Mrs. Frazer and Mrs. Douglas leave.)
Mrs. Morrison: Does she mean to imply that Jane has the cowpox
because of Thomas Metheus running a farm north of
town?
Francis: Apparently.
Mrs. Morrison: The fool! Always looking for someone to blame . I’d
like to take a board and . . . ( Catching hers el/) How
long will you be staying?
Francis: A few more days. Jane should be better.
Mrs. Morrison: Bless you , sir. Josiah is just too old to handle cows by
himself. He’ll be milking again at dusk. Good day.
(She exits.)
(Thomas enters. He is angry and walking quickly.)
Francis: Hello, Preacher!
Thomas: Good afternoon .
Francis: (Sensing his mood) Life has become more serious, I
see.
Thomas: Good day. (Thomas walks past.)
Francis: Hold! In what did I offend you?
Thomas: Nothing.
Francis: You look at me as if I were a bear about to eat your
only child.
Thomas: Yesterday you eavesdropped on my thoughts, but
today I am not obliged to regard you as a friend .
Good day.
Francis: And a fair one I’ll have at that. Farewell.
By the way, I’ve found your cure, Rabbi.
(Thomas stops.) That tantalizes you, does it?
A bottle of elixir?
Thomas: Spare the dance.
Francis: Whatever painful humour has crept .
Thomas: Must I play along?
Francis: No, but you could act civil.
Thomas: Well?
Francis: Has the pox made this a melancholy day?
Your wife?
Thomas: No.
Francis: You are so suspicious. When a man already carries
The lesions of the Lord, I need no stone
To tell me his fear is for another-your daughter.
Thomas: I do not fear the pox.
Francis: And I have no cure.
Thomas: I may incline to play with you yet.
Francis: Distilled, however, in this golden flask of Olympus
Is indeed a cure. But not, I’m afraid, for the pox.
I am a man. (Thomas grows impatient.) Have you a
knife?
Thomas: I have .
Francis: Then for a price you have a cure.
Thomas: I do not understand.
Francis: I want something in return .
Thomas: You have no cure, charlatan.
Francis: Then the pox will devour your daughter.
Thomas: How much money is your miracle worth?
Francis: You insult me. I have already bantered the worth
of miracles with silly women this afternoon.
Thomas: What then?
Francis: (Pointing)
There, on that mountain, in three nights
I will meet you by the great stone,
And in the silent hours of the night
We shall watch the shadow-tangled forest
Until morning.
Thomas: You have nothing. (Pause) Very well.
Francis: To avoid the smallpox give your daughter the cowpox.
Take your knife and go to Josiah’s home and cut the
sores on Jane’s hands. Then with the same knife
scratch your daughter’s arm and she’ll be safe from
the pox.
Thomas: Foolishness.
Francis: The sores on Jane’s hands save her from sores on
her face.
Put sores on your daughter’s hands.
Thomas: Where did you learn this alchemy?
Francis: In England it is practiced to a degree .
Thomas: Truth?
Francis: Assuredly . But hurry, Jane’s sores may begin to heal
tomorrow.

Scene 3

(lnten·or of the Metheus home the same day. Thomas enters with knife
wrapped in a cloth.)
Thomas: Here in the sharpened iron-whispers of evil
Honed on faithless logic, almost I see
(Isabel enters.)
How this lesion-lancing steel fouled
Yellow with the corruption of rotting pus
May save her. Reason’s tides are seductive
Pools of sweet grass where greedy cattle
Wade and feed to death. Even now,
Like the startled hart fleeing the meadow
Stream for darkening woods, I pant, uncertain
How near the price of the potter’s field
My purchase is.
Isabel: Father, have you seen the buck again?
Thomas: No . Isabel, come here .
Isabel: Yes, Father?
Thomas: Look at my face
And tell me what you see.
Isabel: What, Father?
(He takes her hands and puts them to his face .)
Thomas: What do you feel?
Isabel: You .
Thomas: Oh, my fawning daughter, you touch my heart;
With suede fingers you smooth my gnarled hide
Though it barks your hands. How I wish
That time would leave us in some idyll of yesterday
Where only spring and summer green the hillsides.
(Pause)
But, our hearts pump time, Isabel.
Amy has the pox. She will live
But her skin will never be again as soft
As yours.
Isabel: (Crying) Father?
Thomas: And now they’ll look at her with knowing sympathy,
Knowing that she is punished for secret sins,
Marked as was Cain, the master of the great secret.
And what has she done? Nothing. She is a child
Who unknowingly breathed the septic east wind .
Isabel, the pox must not have you.
Isabel: It won’t.
Thomas: No, it will not.
(He unwraps the knife and looks at it. Helen enters.)
Thomas: God once provided himself a Lamb . (Pause)
There will be sores on your hands but none will mar
Your face. Give me your arm.
(Helen rushes forward and pushes Isabel out of Thomas’s reach.)
Helen : Thomas! What are you doing?
Thomas: Sunday she will not return with the pox.
Helen: Don’t lay a hand upon her!
Put away that knife .
Thomas: Helen, only the hand-blistering pox
Stands between her and that which I fear
More than God or Hell.
Helen : What malevolent demon summons you toward
This madness? The pox is death , not cheese
To be nibbled in hopes that it will bring only
A little sickness.
Thomas: You do not understand . In England, it has been
done .
Helen: They are fools.
Thomas: And we be fools to hesitate like women shopping
With loud opinions shrill in their tight purses.
Am I to be a feeder lamb watching
The coming wolf, unaware of my opportunity
To flee?
Helen: This is the devil’s work!
Thomas: Still your superstition to the whisper of reason .
Devilish to spare our daughter?
Helen: No! These enlightened devils will not set
My daughter to tempt God from his chosen
path.
Do not tempt Him, Thomas. This isn’t sport
Where your only child is a wager placed
Against the will of God . Have you forgotten
She is mortal?
Thomas: I have not forgotten!
I have not forgotten the fire of my childhood,
The pain that bled my muscles off their bones
While I cried and screamed in vain for sleep
To numb what burned inside me.
Nor have I been blind when faces turn away
To whisper stares at me. No, Helen ,
My tears have been my meat day and night,
While they continually look at me and say,
Where is thy God? And even in the folds
Of your eye wrinkles an unexpected shudder
When at times you turn and see me
Unexpectedly.
Helen: Please , Thomas!
Thomas: She shall not suffer as I.
Isabel: (Running to Thomas) I am afraid, Father.
Helen: Isabel!
Isabel: Here is my arm.
(Thomas cuts her arm twice. Helen screams.)

ACT III
Scene 1

(Interior of the Metheus home. Minister, Jedediah Clayton, and his wife
are silent. Helen enters.)
Helen: She is sleeping. Thank you, Jedediah , both of you,
For going into Hanover for the doctor.
Mrs. Clayton: I’ll stop by tomorrow. Good night.
(The Claytons exit.)
Helen: Why did they go into Hanover?
Minister: They wanted to help.
Helen: You sent them.
Minister: I reminded them of Christian obligations.
Helen: Did you threaten to suspend the eucharist from them,
too?
Minister: Helen, calm down.
Helen: Someday you may not have a flock .
Minister: Then might I spend my days reading.
Thomas?
Helen: Dead, I should hope.
Minister: Bitterness will repair nothing.
Helen: Don’t preach in my house! (Pause) A stranger left
With my daughter’s arm wrapped in rags and you
preach .
I defy all the canon of heaven
Telling me to forgive.
Minister: Then be thankful she’s alive.
Helen: The foetor of rotting flesh fills this house,
A demon that lifts off the walls and burns my eyes
Each time the dust stirs. Vomit
Tears at my throat.
Minister: Thomas believed too fiercely in the thoughts that
snagged
His imagination. One day in Robinson’s meadow,
He saw cows wade into a stream to drink,
Clumped together, churning up the mud.
And a smaller calf walked upstream
And drank the cleaner water. That Sunday
He wasn’t in church, having decided to drink
His own, cleaner water. But I fear
He often reads the Bible wrong.
Helen: She held out her arm to him.
Minister: It could have been worse.
Helen: (Sobbing) Why did he do it?
Minister: The years he’s spent trying to understand .
Helen: Why are you defending him?!
Minister: Because I admire him.
Helen: What? Thomas? Your first heretic?
Minister: You were my second, and I am here with you.
Helen: Unwelcomed .
Minister: You needn’t always hate those who disagree with you.
Helen: You did more than disagree.
Minister: Had you listened earlier this wouldn’t have happened.
Helen: (Snarling) This is retribution, then?
Minister: Soften your neck or more will come.
Helen: Let it!
Minister: God forgive you.
Helen: Pray that I forgive Him!
Minister: Silence woman! You tread on my responsibility.
Helen: She ran from me to him and embraced the knife.
Even now I see him standing there
Cutting her arm with that filthy knife.
Minister: Change your heart, Helen. Try to forgive.
Helen: Both of them?
Minister: Isabel first, but Thomas most of all.
Helen: Never.
Minister: Then your life , though it only last through spring,
Will be long and rocky. How Thomas
Will be judged, I cannot tell.
Helen: He’ll be damned!
Minister: Were it anyone else I would agree
And denounce him to hell with all the fury I could
muster.
But not Thomas. Not Thomas. Days
Of somber reflection have aged him past the years
I carry.
Helen: I have never known you to speak so kindly.
Minister: And maybe I have been wrong. I have hoped
To one day give the great sermon,
One that washes around the weariness of the day
Like a brook washing over my feet .
Something to awaken the Enoch in these people.
Helen: You may have already given it.
Minister: No, my heart is muddy. I want the accolades,
The praise of men who stomp the mud around me.
You see me grasp at formality, intoning ritual
With strictness to the point of cruelty. I do this,
Helen, because this alone may save me.
Helen: (Pause) If you will wait, I will fix you something to
eat.

Scene 2

(There is a shot and a crash is heard. Lights come up on the fallen buck.
Thomas enters.)
Thomas: Through the heart it ends, antlered chief,
With a ball of lead letting your blood
Slip away, while all your does run
Free to seek at last a kinder master.
Your death is good for them, venison-lord,
The quick, hot anger of your branching spikes
Disfigured each of them until yours
Alone was the softest hide. But now, dead.
(He cuts the buck’s throat with his knife.)
Your red-spilling temper thaws the ground-
Spring is late.
(He sits and looks at the buck for a moment. Then he flings his rifle at the
dead animal and stands and shouts at the sky.)
Hell, to heaven fly and rape the angels
Praying to themselves with white devotion!
Burn their eyes with the molten smoke of bone
That aches and throbs in the fever of damnation.
Shatter their faces! Dig a thousand pits
That scab and bleed burning, vile mud
That hardens to their faces until they scream,
And with chaste and pious fingers pick and tear
The rotten feces of the gutting pox
Off their skin! Then, let them harp again
And they’ll sing a doggerel to the Most High!
Send your badger again, God. God!
If not my prayers then hear my blasphemy!
I’ll strangle your victory! As your laughter
Rocks the sky I’ll kiss death and slip
Beneath the black, armoured ground of winter
Fields.
(Thomas picks up his gun, his anger now spent, and begins to reload.
Francis enters be hind him.)
Francis: A marksman!
(Thomas whirls around with the rod still in the barrel of his gun and points
it at Francis. )
Francis: (Laughing) Will you shoot me with your rod?
Come, I bare my chest.
Thomas: We were to meet at the stone.
Francis: Would you stalk me as you did the buck?
Thomas: You wander unwelcomed .
Francis: I heard the shot. Curiosity is my failing.
Thomas: I should have saved my shot for better quarry.
Francis: Your daughter is ill.
Thomas: The town catches news fast. Well,
Am I a murderer?
Francis: (Laughs) Both pox are fevers; she will not die.
Thomas: A prophet, too?
Francis: A man of medicine. The green infection ferments
From an unclean knife in her arm.
The doctor will save her life by cutting it off.
“If thy arm or thy foot offend thee,
Cut them off, and cast them from thee .”
Thomas: You’ve come to collect? What price for her arm?
Francis: Always there is risk.
Thomas: She has no soul.
Francis: She has no scars.
Thomas: With no arm her life will be worse than mine
Ever was, when she wonders why God
Punished her.
Francis: Pah!
Thomas: The topic of Sunday gossip will be her arm
And how His purposes were served. Your work
Was done well. Will you visit other towns?
Francis: I am not evil to tell you the truth.
I gave you neither command nor promise.
Thomas: Only part of the truth .
Francis: Who knows it all? Drop me like that buck
And see if science dies. Tomorrow another
Will come and then another until your God
Is muscled under the earth. It is a leviathan
That defies the swords of steel and dogma,
But it does not administer pious injustice
To children in its wake . Isabel is safe
From the smallpox, the pox that kills
As often as it scars. Things are better
Than you think.
Thomas: With better results, I would have been your disciple.
But yours is a salty seed.
Francis: You are too fond of the surrounding shrouds of
mystery
That clothe your gospel.
Thomas: You don’t know what I believe.
Francis: I see in your face what you believe.
Thomas: (Bringing up his reloaded gun) Did you foresee this?
Francis: There have been many times I have longed for that-
The certainty of living. I grew up on Sunday
Between the pews, awed by the la tin spectacle
Of having my soul saved in a tarnished goblet.
But I’ve put away childish things and embrace the
uncertainty of reason.
Thomas: Can either save us?
Francis: From what? From what? Were we born drowning,
Floundering just between the water and the sky,
Forever needing to be saved? The decisions are black,
We choose without knowing what nor why.
Thomas: Your life for my daughter’s arm.
Francis: Very well.
Thomas: (Pause) I thought I was damned when I listened to
you
And sin was not my concern. But now I think
Of murder and I am afraid.
Francis: You will always be afraid.
(A red light begins to come up on the set.)
Look! It is come!
Thomas: What?
Francis: Watch the sky.
Thomas: (Afraid of the growing light) I have sold my soul!
Francis: Nonsense! Look! There in the northern sky!
A red light stretches across heaven.
Like the Magi, I watch the stars
For answers, and tonight God answers
Through the universe.
Thomas: You read shadowed astrologies, and demons appear in
the sky.
Francis: Demons? (Laughs) You see the future-the demon
we fear most.
See, the line folds itself into a square ,
And, in a moment, watch .. . there! Look!
See , it folds again into a compass.
Thomas: I see. But I do not understand .
(The red light fades out slowly.)
Francis: The geometry of theology is about to be corrected.
Your angry God will die, the confusing silence
Of centuries will be broken, and faith
Will be brought into square again.
Thomas: When?
Francis: Soon enough. Your daughter and her children,
maybe, will see it.
Thomas: Should I be consoled?
Francis: I speak of spring; winter has ended.
Thomas: I still do not understand.
Francis: (Pause) Perhaps I was mistaken. Search for some
understanding and your next sermon will ring with
prophecy. Farewell, Rabbi.
(Francis exits. Thomas contemplates the dead buck and then the sky.
Lights begin to come up .)
Thomas: It is morning; the icy stars fade
Into the cold eastern light that promises
Spring. The winter stays too long; spring
Must come.

Scene 3

(The bedside of Isabel-a little brighter and cleaner than might be
expected. Helen is next to Isabel reading from the Bible-the Beatitudes.
Thomas enters. Helen stops.)
Isabel: Father!
Thomas: Are you feeling well?
Isabel: Much better. The sores have gone away .
Thomas: The winter is going, too. The brooks rush
Down the mountains into greening meadows
Where dappled fawns bound around their mothers.
Isabel: Will the deer go back to the mountain?
Thomas: They are already back.
Isabel: Will spring make that nasty buck nicer?
Thomas: The buck is dead. I have been on the mountain
Hunting him.
Isabel: And the does?
Thomas: They will find another. The hills are full
Of bucks and it is spring.
Isabel: What if they don’t? What if they wander forever and
never find another?
Helen: Don’t be silly. It’s the bucks that are looking for
does.
(They laugh uncomfortably.)
Thomas: (Pause) Your arm?
Isabel: Fine, but it still itches and I want to scratch,
(Reaches to do so) but it isn’t .. . (Sobs)
Thomas: (Moves to bedside) I’m sorry , Isabel.
Isabel: My face, Father. It isn’t scarred. The blisters
Were on my hand, but none on my face. (Pause)
The minister says that I can lead the May Procession
Next year, even though I’m too old.
Thomas: With real flowers, not silk ones.
(He pulls a cloth out of his pocket and unwraps it.)
I found this to the south.
(It is a small crumpled flower.)
You can still smell it.
Helen: I can smell it from here.
Isabel: What kind is it, Father?
Thomas: It’s a very rare flower, Isabel.
They say that around the neck of an Indian princess
There hung, long ago, the four seasons,
Sealed in crystal-ice. And the princess
Would drop the gem of spring in the drifts of winter
Where it would begin to thaw. But,
In the coldest winters, even the longest winters
There would, when the snow melted, be a flower,
Thriving in the cold water. It is only found
Where water runs off melting banks of snow.
It is the first to bloom-the Ice Lily.
Helen: And it is the first that dies in the summer.
Thomas: This one will live longer.
Isabel: Will you and mother take me to pick flowers?
Helen: Of course, Isabel.
Thomas: And next year when you walk under the bough we’ 11
walk under the bough with you.
Isabel: You can’t do that.
Thomas: Yes, we can. Times are changing, and the spring
festival will change, too.
Isabel: Will I still wear white?
Helen: Yes, and you’ 11 still get to kiss the young man of your
choice.
Thomas: (Musing) It is the coming of spring.

(Lights out)

No Bird

by Dave Wolverton

The pickup on the mud road behind us pings as it cools. “Do you want to shoot one, Stevey?” Dad says. “You can if you want to.” Steam comes out of his mouth when he speaks, and he sniffs loudly.
“No,” I say, standing close to him so that I can bury my face in his warm flannel shirt.
“I think he’s just scared,” Mike says, cracking the double-barrel open and inserting two shells. A kingfisher makes its laughing sound as it flies down the river channel on the other side of the brush.
“You’ve got nothing to be afraid of, Stevey. A man with a gun doesn’t have to be afraid of anything,” Dad says. “Here, you take the shotgun and see if you can shoulder it.”
Dad hands me the shotgun; it is as cold as a stovepipe in the morning and smells of oil and varnish. He has spent half the night cleaning it. I raise the gun clumsily.                The stock is too long for my arm; I can’t get a tight fit. Dad fiddles with the gun, readjusting my grip and pushing the gun harder against my shoulder. I try to point it and look along the barrel at the sight, but it is too awkward .
“Put the butt of the gun tight against your shoulder, or you’11 get a bruise,” Dad says.
“It isn’t going to be any use, Dad,” Mike says. “He’s right-eyed. ”
”I can see that,” Dad says.
“Do you think you can take that patch off yet, Stevey?” Dad says, lightly touching the bandage over my right eye.
Mike says, “He’s not supposed to take it off for two weeks yet.”
“Well, I’d like him to. I want him to see this with both eyes open.”
“I don’t think I can shoot,” I say.
“Well then, you just watch Mikey. He’ll show you how it’s done,” Dad says.
Dad hands Mike the pump and takes the double-barrel for himself, then we step off the road and head down the levee along the riverbank, walking as silently as possible through the rushes. Steam is creeping over the water; it seems to be spilling out of the river and into the grass. We can smell the rotting carp that fishermen have left on the bank. We walk toward a clump of cattails and blackberry vines. A candy wrapper and a Black Velvet whisky bottle show that people have fished here. As we approach the cattails, a buzzard squawks and jumps into the air. Mike throws his gun to his shoulder, and the buzzard flips as he blows it out of the sky. It splashes into the river.
“Way to go! Did you see that, Stevey?” Dad asks. I nod. A few black feathers flutter to the ground, and we go find where the buzzard had been sitting as it fed on a carp. Both Dad and Mike are smiling. Mike reloads. When he’s done, he and Dad begin to hurry along, and I have to work to keep up.
We walk at almost a sprint for a few hundred feet. We round a corner in the trail and three more buzzards jump into the air. Mike shoots, and two of the buzzards drop, but the third one only drops a little , then keeps on flying. Dad gives it both barrels, and the buzzard crashes heavily into a scrubby willow. Dad laughs, but Mike is mad at himself for having missed the chance to shoot the buzzard. They both reload, and Mike keeps three shells in his hand.
You let me take all the shots now!” Mike says. Dad laughs and says okay.
We continue hurrying along the levee, and at nearly every pile of carp we find at least one buzzard. Mike shows of, taking all the shots. Each shot is swift, effortless, and on the mark. When a buzzard jumps into the air, Mike casually pulls the gun to his shoulder and squeezes the trigger. The buzzard nearly shatters in mid-air and thuds to the ground. It is a pleasure to watch. If the bodies don’t land in the water or in a tree, Dad and Mike have me go kick them in the river. I am afraid to touch them, so I kick them off the riverbank with the side of my foot; then I hurry over to
my dad before we go downriver.
After a while, Dad stops to take out his pipe. He packs it tight, flicks his lighter, and draws the flame into the bowl. “When you turn twelve, maybe we’ll get you a gun and you can do this too,” he says, patting me on the head.
Few fishermen come this far down the dirt road, and there are fewer carp and buzzards here. The brush is thicker, and the buzzards can hear us coming. Mike walks far out in front to make sure he gets them before they get away. The sun is burning some of the mist away; it seems to be getting late. The buzzards will finish feeding soon.
Finally, the dirt road gives out. We climb through a patch of wild rose and up a small knoll. As we reach the top, I watch my brother repeat his immaculate performance. Five buzzards fly up, their wings making small eddies in the mist. My brother pulls his gun to his shoulder-bang, slide, a body falls-bang, slide, a body falls-bang, slide, a body falls-I want to shout that the other two will escape, but he reloads as he fires and shoots twice more. Some buzzards flip in the air as they fall, their wings sprawling limply. Others are only black, heavy corpses that thump to the ground, raising small puffs of dust. Mike reloads his gun, then Dad and Mike look away down the river for a moment. Dad waves to me and says, “Come here .”
“Look down there, Stevey,” Dad says, gesturing down the river. The river takes a wide bend. The brush ends just past a rusty fence, where a sheep pasture begins. We can see the riverbank for nearly half a mile down stream. No more buzzards are anywhere downriver, and I try to stifle my excitement as I realize we’ve killed them all: the skies will be free of buzzards for years.
One of the buzzards Mike has shot starts flopping among the cattails, trying to get away. Mike shoots it again, and the flopping stops.
“You know,” Mike says to me, grinning, “I’ll bet you he’s the one that tried to get you, Stevey. Why don’t you go down there and rip his eye out.”
I look up at Dad, and he smiles at me and nods. I begin my way down through the cattails and blackberry bushes.
“That was twenty-eight of them,” Mike says, from the top of the knoll behind me.
“You sure about that?” Dad says.
“Yep, twenty-eight,” Mike says proudly.
Down among the cattails is a clearing where a pile of carp lies next to a circle of stones burnt from a campfire. A fresh black feather lies on one of the stones. The buzzard lies a few feet away. The others must have landed in the brush or in the water. I go to the buzzard, touch the warm body, and find blood and a couple pieces of bird shot stuck in its feathers. I hold its head in my hand and look at its eyes: they are beginning to glaze. Its beak is open, a purple tongue lolls out. It smells of carrion, and I remember how I’d smelled that smell as I lay in the pasture behind the house, just before the buzzard struck at my eye. I lift the buzzard high overhead and heave it as far as I can into the mist-covered river. It splashes in the water and goes under, then bobs back to the surface. I watch as it whirls in lazy circles in the brown water, its stomach to the sky, its head and wings mostly under water. Only the chest and wing-tips are still in the air. As one wing dips up and down, tiny waves ripple away in easy circles; the buzzard twirls slowly down the river through the mist. I sit on the riverbank, wrapping my arms around my shoulders. Now, no bird, no bird, shall ever eat me, I think, as the corpse slides downriver.

On the third ring Mike answers the phone.
“Hello?”
“Hey big bro, what’s happening?” I ask.
”Steve?”
“Yeah,” I answer. “Who’d you think it was?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. I just called to say hi.”
Mike pauses for a long moment, unbelieving. “Oh . .. hi.”
“So how’s L.A.?”
“Fine. Sunny.”
He laughs a little. ”Well, hey: it’s good to hear from you. It’s been awhile.
“Yeah. I keep meaning to call, but I put it off,” I say, feeling guilty about the last couple years.
“Same here,” he says.
“So how’s the kids?” I ask, circling the subject slowly.
“Oh, fine. Ronnie just got glasses. And Carey just started first grade-she’s home with the flu today though.”
“Ummh. How’s Kathy?”
“She’s fine. She’s at work today. She just got a job as a bank teller a few weeks ago, you know. ”
“Oh, I didn’t know. How’s your work?”
He chuckles a little. “You’ve been talking to Mom, haven’t you? Everybody’s so damned worried about me. It’s nothing-to tell the truth, it’s great.”
“What’s that?” I say.
“Didn’t you hear? I finally got the green light. Shot a doper in a day-care center.”
“Oh yeah? I didn’t hear about it.”
“Yeah. We got a call a couple of days ago, while I was on duty. This guy had taken his daughter to a day-care center and started freaking out. He kept yelling that he was going to throw the kids out the second-story window. So the SWAT team got called in. And, since I’ve been advanced to lead man, I took the shot.”
“Did you get him?” He can caress a trigger like no one else, but I’ve
often wondered if he’d hold up under pressure.
“I was a half-inch off center mark at eighty yards, but he was moving.”
“What did you choose for mark?” I want to see it in my mind .
“His head was turned to the side, so I took the left temple .”
We have both seen men shot in the head. I don’t go into it any further.
“Mom had you call me, didn’t she?” Mike says.
“Yeah,” I admit.
“Hah! I knew it! Everybody’s so damned concerned. Like it’s supposed to be some traumatic event or something. You know, they practically give you a reward? It isn’t official, but they give you a week off and a thousand-dollar bonus for ‘service above and beyond the call of duty.'”
“Yeah, I know. We’ve got the same kind of thing at the prison.”
“Right. So you know what I mean. It’s no big deal. It’s what they’re paying us for, right?”
“I suppose . . . ” I admit. It doesn’t sound conciliatory enough.
“Guess I’m going to have to move to California-we only get a five-
hundred-dollar bonus,” I joke.
On the other end of the line, Mike tells one of the kids not to bother
him because he is on the phone. I hear a child whining and another
speaking.
“I knew you’d understand,” he says. “Say look, Steve, can I call you back in a few minutes? Carey’s crying or throwing up or something in the bathroom. I think I need to go help her. ‘ ‘
“Sure. I’11 talk to you in a few minutes.”
Climbing the rungs of the ladder to the prison watchtower, I stop and wait at the third platform. A dozen pheasants peck among the yellow stubbled wheatfield, including one old rooster I’ve nicknamed Bender because his tail feathers are bent and broken. I continue to the top and pound on the hatch with my lunch pail. The floor of the watchtower vibrates in rhythm with the Blue Oyster Cult singing, “I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar,” but they’ re cut off in mid-song as Davis flips off his tape player. The wind whips through my hair, and I smile at the thought of it being “the winds of limbo.” The bolt slides back; the hatch opens and I climb in.
“What’s the pheasant count this morning?” I ask as I close the hatch. Davis sits hunched in his chair, smoking a cigarette, watching the shadows at the back of the minimum-security dorms. He jerks his head back, which flips his long brown hair out of his eyes and scoots his sunglasses more snug on his nose. The air smells of stale salami sandwiches and coffee.
“Sixteen here. Tower four wins the prison booby-prize with twenty-six.”
“Yeah, well, they’re always on top.”
“That’s because they’re a bunch of damned liars,” he says too loudly.
“So, just lie back,” I say, trying to calm him.
“Yeah, I’11 do it sometime,” he agrees, easing back in his chair. I sign in on the watch sheet: 15 June, Packham in 7:58 a.m. “What’s the bullet count?”
“Seventy and ten, ” Davis answers, referring to the AR-15 and the 12-gauge respectively. I put the bullet counts in their proper slots.
“Any action last night?”
“Nothing, man. Nothing at all. It’s been what now, fifty-two days?”
“Guess nobody’s in a hurry to die,” I say.
“Yeah, well if somebody doesn’t hit the fence soon, I’m gonna quit. Just pack my bags and head down to South America,” he says.
“What’s in South America?”
“El Salvador. Nicaragua.”
I stare at him. His face is pale, the lines around his mouth and eyes are soft and flacid, sweat stains the armpits of his blue shirt, beads of sweat stick out on his forehead, cling to his lip above his moustache . He snuffs his cigarette in an empty Coke can, then throws the can in the garbage sack. I check the safeties on the guns, then sit down beside him.
“Is it okay with you if I hang around a bit?” he asks.
”Cool.”
“There’s this bird, this big damned bird, that’s been banging into the windows all night, trying to get in,” he says.
“An owl?”
”Could’ve been. Last time it hit the window was just about half an hour ago . I didn’t see it. Just its shadow.”
I nod. Davis takes down the shotgun and pumps a shell into the chamber. He calls Control One on the intercom and asks permission to shoot the bird.
“Go ahead and do it,” a tired voice answers after a moment, “as long as you don’t blow out a damned window.”
We sit in silence. I remember times that I’ve sat in the tower wondering what people on the other shifts are like. Most of our conversation is just
“How ya doin?” and “See ya later.” I feel as if I should be talking to Davis, but there is nothing to say.
Davis sets his watch-report on the windowsill, and I notice he’s been scribbling on the report during the night. It has a picture of a diving eagle with a caption beneath it: “Death from above! Airborne 44,” and “We take no prisoners.”
“Been in Nam?” I ask.
“Airborne 44. Best damned chopper unit in Nam!” he snorts.
“Pilot?”
“Door gunner,” he corrects.
“Must feel like home up here.”
He nods, smiles placidly, then shrugs. “Yeah, feels like . . . you know, it feels like this little place called Ho Sanh. See the corner of the fence there?” he says, pointing to the Vin the edge of the fence in front of us.
“And the angle of the building there?” he says, pointing at the way the minimum-security dorm intersects the fence at an angle .
“Yeah, ” I answer.
”Reminds me of this little village called Ho Sanh,” he mutters, shifting in his chair. His voice flows smooth and gravelly, like whiskey over ice, in the manner common to hollow men.
“Every time I see it, I remember this mission we flew over that village . We were flying low over the jungle, in our Hueys, and were coming up on the village when we flew over this V.C. artillery unit by surprise. Hell, we didn’t even know it was there. But there was this fence, camouflaged with brush, up around the artillery unit, and there was this building that cut an angle to the fence , just like the dorm there , and we were at just about this altitude . I was on an M-60. I was supposed to lay down grazing fire for some assault troops we were dropping, but we came over this artillery unit by surprise. It was like one second there was the jungle, and the next
second we were staring these guns in the face . There was this one gook with his back to me, bending over this little garden, and he had a rifle on the ground next to him. He turned up and looked at me and reached for his gun. It was just a rush to see who could shoot first. He was just swinging his gun around when I shot. The blood splattered all across the wall of the hut behind him. Then all the sudden there were V.C. running out of the buildings everywhere . Most of them had some kind of rifle, but they all ran for the artillery guns. In the five seconds it took to swing clear of the
artillery unit I must have shot ten of the bastards. Damn it was fine! I mean, I was staring them right in the eye, and they knew it was coming, and I was so damn scared I was peeing my pants! And you could just see the terror in their eyes. Damn it was fine! It was like-I don’t know-like some kind of rush that you can’t get any other way!”
“You been in the towers long?” I ask, changing the subject. I have only seen him three or four times, and those have been within the last three weeks.
“No, man. I just come out of max. Been there seven months.”
”And before that?”
“There ain’t no before that. That’s when I started.”
“Oh,” I nod. “What’s the matter, get tired of people chucking on you?”
Davis clenches his teeth and looks away. “Yeah! What’s your excuse?”
“No excuse. I just went crazy,” I say, trying to mellow him with the tone of my voice. ” So they put me up here until I get my head together.”
“Me too. How long you been in the towers?” Davis says, staring out the window, face taut.
“Six months. Since the last riot.”
“You the guy they call Animal?”
“Yeah. Pleased to meet ya,” I say, extending my hand.
He smiles plasticly, shakes my hand. ” Same here.”
Below us, the guards walk from dorm to dorm, counting the inmates. The intercom buzzes and the tower sergeant calls for a tower check. I push the intercom button and say ”Two check.” The rest of the tower officers follow suit.
We sit in silence until the guards finish counting the inmates. “Count clear” is called over the intercoms and over the speakers in the yard. I log the count clear time as 8:32 and continue to watch the fence lines, and doors and windows along the back walls of the prison. Two guards begin walking down the rows of dormitories, opening doors. Most of the inmates, in their wrinkled blue uniforms, hurry across the lawn to the culinary to be first in line for breakfast. Some just huddle in circles and take drags from their cigarettes as they talk.
Davis leans forward in his chair. “Hell, wouldn’t it be great if a couple of those child molesters hit the fence! I mean, we could have a regular shooting match-” A breeze rattles the window. He whirls and points the shotgun, gasping for breath.
“Did you see it?” he asks.
“No. Nothing was there. Just the wind,” I say.
“No! There was-a bird, a big damned bird!”
”No-”
“You’re a liar!” he shouts. The wind rattles the window again. Davis sits, open-mouthed, gun ready. The wind caresses the metal struts of the tower, making it hum, and there is the familiar shimmy. After a moment he eases back in his chair, shaking, struggling for self-control.
”File a report on the bird and go on home,” I say, turning back to watch the fencelines. I hear the swish of a jacket sliding over skin and a rattle of metal and papers as trash is collected. Davis grunts and closes the hatch; the tower shakes as he slips down the ladder.

I punch the hot-chocolate button on the machine in the officers’ lounge
and wait for the cup to drop and fill. The duty captain, Gonzales,
sits at a table behind me with a half-dozen other officers. All of them are
talking.
“Excuse me, Packham. Do you know anything about any birds hitting Tower Two at night?” the captain says to me.
“Some new guy said a bird was hitting the tower a week ago.”
“That would be Davis,” he says with a sigh. “You’ve been up in that tower a couple of nights since then-any birds hit the tower?”
“No,” I answer. The cup drops into place; I jiggle it so it sits square in the slot.
One of the tower guards says, “Hey, Gonzales, you should go check out that tower. That new guy’s a lunatic. He’s got ‘Death from Above’ and ‘We take no prisoners’ written all over the place. If you don’t want to send him packing, you could at least get the moron him for vandalism.”
Another guard says “See what I was say-” His voice goes silent, and everyone in the room stops speaking. Davis wanders in, stands by the radiators, looks out the window.
“Did you just get off duty?” Gonzales says to Davis.
“Yes,” Davis says, in a faraway voice. “It came back again last night. It was hitting the window this morning. I’d thought it was a big bird, but I saw it this morning. It was small. Just a little brown bird. But damn was he determined! He just banged on that window, and his little beak would get pushed sideways. And he’d bang again.”
“Oh,” Gonzales says.

The day is already hot as I climb the watchtower. When I reach the top rung I pound on the hatch above me with my lunch pail. Music is playing, and a foot beats in time as Jethro Tull sings through ”Locomotive Breath.” I wait, thinking that whoever is in the tower might be using the facilities. But after knocking and yelling through the next three songs, I finally get too tired to hang there any longer and climb back down and walk to Tower One .
An old fellow whose name I never can remember is tower sergeant for the shift. I yell at him until he opens one of his windows. I tell him that I can’t raise the occupant in Tower Two. He consults his records.
“That would be Davis,” he yells down to me, as if that solves the problem.
“Can you raise him on the phone?”
He moves out of my line of sight . A moment later he sticks his head out the window. ” He says for you to go to hell ,” he grins. ” He doesn’t want you up there. ” He smiles even wider and breaks into a chuckle. ” He plans to work this shift.”
I shuffle my feet nervously. I’ve been stuck doing a double shift in the tower many times, but I’ve never had an officer refuse to give up his post. So I walk into the medium-security building, buy a Coke from the machine in the officers’ lounge, look around for the duty officer, and finally head back out to Tower One to see if the tower sergeant knows where the duty officer is.
The loudspeakers call “count clear” as I step out the door. The old guy in Tower One is writing in his log book, so I wait a second while he finishes. Then he opens the window to talk to me again .
I glance over to Tower Two and notice that the windows are open. Davis is sitting in his chair with his rifle raised. Before I have a chance to speak, a puff of smoke issues from his barrel and there is a crackle. The smoke and crackle keep repeating. He has waited until the inmates are halfway to the dining hall before opening fire .
The old guard in Tower One screams some obscenities, pulls out his rifle, switches on the laser sights, and begins watching the fenceline. Someone yells over the tower radio , “He’s shooting them in the yard!” The old guard curses, waits for a second, puts the red laser dot on the windows of Tower Two, and starts pulling the trigger. The windows break, and Davis takes cover in the shadows. Five seconds later he jumps from the tower. As he falls he arches his back and extends his arms behind him. When we get to his corpse, there isn’t a wound on him.

Ten thousand stars glitter in a moonless sky. In Tower Two, on the southeast corner of the prison , I watch ”the chute” -the path beneath the minimum-security dorms. Along the wall behind the dorm I see a flash from a metal watch-band; I see it the way a person sees a flicker flying in the woods: there is one flash of white as it opens its wings and dives between the trees. I know that someone is over the fence already. I flip the latch on my window and let it swing open. Grabbing the first gun my hand falls upon- the shotgun-I yell “halt,” and wait for someone to step out of the shadows.
For thirty seconds we wait in the darkness. I wonder if I’ve imagined it but call an escape warning over the radio anyway . The guard in Tower One takes out his rifle and searches the shadows with the red dot of his laser. The yard sergeant, carrying his shotgun, runs out of his shack at the far end of the dorms and directs his flashlight at the back walls. The roving car, over by the maximum-security prison, turns around and races my way. As it swerves around the corner a half-mile down the track, three shadows separate from the darkness and begin to run under the tower.
I become aware that my hands are trembling and my mouth is dry; my eyes dart back and forth. I hear the inmate’s labored breathing and the sound of tires crackling on the gravel from the roving car down the road. There is just enough light to let me see that one of the inmates has kinky hair and his shirt isn’t tucked in; the straw in the fields smells musty for such a dry night, and I realize that the fields must have been irrigated during the day. I can’t quite keep my mind on the task at hand. I know I should be shooting, but I wait for a revelation- something, anything, to tell me what to do. I want my anger to yell “shoot,” or to feel the rush of euphoria Davis promised, or to have my conscience scream against it. But there is nothing inside-only an emptiness, and moving targets beneath me. I swing my gun down, listening to the footsteps, shoot and pump another shell into the chamber, shoot and pump, shoot and pump. The action is so smooth and practiced I do it without thought. I listen for the sound of running feet. Someone moans. Thin blue smoke hangs in the
air, obscuring my view. I wait. I can vaguely see that all three inmates are lying on the ground beneath the tower. Someone grunts, struggles to his feet, starts to run-I shoot, hear an indrawn breath, a body sliding in gravel. I flick on the lights under the tower to get a better view. It doesn’t help much. Tower One shoots twice; bullets hit gravel and twang as they ricochet. I hold my gun over the inmates, tell them to spread eagle, and wait for the backup. The patrol car pulls up in a few seconds. Its
headlights drench the inmates in yellow light. The officer emerges from the car and begins screaming at the inmates to stay still. His whole body trembles as he points his revolver at the escapees and holds them there until the yard sargeant and prison doctor arrive .
Ambulances and patrol cars gather. The inmates are searched, put on metal stretchers, and handcuffed to the stretchers’ frames. I hold my gun at ready until the ambulances are out of range. The investigators arrive and begin taking pictures, then a guard comes to relieve me .
I go to the captain’s office to fill out a shooting report. The duty captain tells me how to fill out the report and tells me to leave the inmates’ names off the report until he gets them, then he leaves. I have heard that I’m supposed to go in to shock, and keep wondering when it will hit me. But nothing ever does-no shock, no euphoria, no guilt, no sense of having done anything right or wrong. Just a coldness, like loneliness. I fill out the reports, then I sit and wait, as ordered.
The duty captain comes back in the room and tells me the inmates’ names. None of them bring any faces to mind. He tells me that two of them are armed robbers and one a murderer. I tell myself that it is okay to feel nothing over shooting such men. The captain tells me they are all alive: only one has taken a direct hit; the others have shrapnel in their legs from buckshot splintering in the gravel.
I spend the night filling out reports, repeating the story over and over in my mind, writing every thought I had, describing each sight I saw, each sound I heard. I try to live the shooting in slow motion; to remember the first muzzle flash, the first puff of blue smoke coming from my gun barrel; to hear the sound of feet scuffing in gravel as the inmates fall, a moan, a partial word one has uttered. I remember that when I was shooting, I couldn’t see after the first shot because of the blue smoke . I respond in writing to the captain’s repeated questions of whether I enjoyed pulling
the trigger, whether the thrill of it led me to hurry the next shot.
When I finish it is morning, and the prison is full of officers who are coming in on shift change. The warden calls me to his office and privately thanks me for showing restraint by not killing the escapees. The guards in the officers’ lounge smile and congratulate me, thanking me for taking the shots. All of them asked how it felt. One guard, Carlson, beams with joy and keeps saying, “Now they’ll know those aren’t just scarecrows in the towers.”
Another guard’s face darkens with rage and tears well up in his eyes as he demands to know why I’d stopped shooting. “Your chamber still had four shells in it, didn’t it?”
Having no words to justify my actions, I simply mutter something about the prison policy of ”shooting to stop, not to kill.” He shakes his head, calls me a few names, wanders off. He must have something personal against one of the inmates.
The captain comes into the lounge and gives me a check for seven hundred and fifty dollars as a “special service award ” -two hundred and fifty for each wounding. He tells me I must take a mandatory one-week vacation and be cleared by the prison psychologist before I return to work. I drive home and think of using my time to begin repainting the house.
I spend the day wandering around the house, taking phone calls from neighbors and people at work, and watching the news. Later, at night, I lie awake in bed. Spools of memories replay themselves. The gun-blue steel in my hands is black as slate in the darkness. It rings as the volley slides down the barrel. The glossy wooden stock recoils against my shoulder; bodies clatter among small stones. Smoke lingers in the air, burning my nostrils. Headlights move toward me. I step out of myself, view myself from odd angles. I measure the rapidness of my breathing, feel the blood throb through my veins, nod here and shake my head there, critique my ever-present performance, unsure any longer of how much is memory, how much is dream. I try to shut the memory out, to see nothing but a black spot where the shooting has been. I am able to force a nothingness in place of the memory, but my thoughts circle the black spot-wheeling, wheeling, in dizzying circles.
Diane, who has been lying with her back to me, rolls over, pulls the sheet tight against her chin, and whispers, “I’m glad you didn’t kill them.”
“Why do you say that?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess it would just be different. I’d feel different about you.”
She lies still for a long time. Her breath evens out, deepens. I turn toward her; a twisted strand of her hair is outlined by the green fluorescence of the alarm clock. I blow the hair into place softly. Her leg jerks, and I know she is dreaming. At work, the job board announced an opening for an officer to supervise the visiting room in the medium-security. And I remember a story another guard once told me about an old lady in baggy nylons who tried to smuggle homemade muffins to her son.

Noman Pastorro

by Warren Scott

In June, when the thunderstorms came on the horizon at dusk to
bring winter, my sister, Ele, wished from the roof of our home that lightning
would stay longer on the sky. I would sit beside her, and once I said,” If it
did then who would care?” It was like telling her that the three kings do
not exist and that they do not bring gifts for the new year-a thing which
one should not tell a little sister because then she would never find out for
herself that some things do not last forever. We agreed that perhaps
lightning could last a little longer.

One evening we sat on the roof and watched thunderheads shroud the
other islands. Lightning touched the outer water with ghost fingers, and
we could almost see outlines of the islands until the storm came inland.
Our roof knelt under us in the darkness, and it was the only roof in the
world because the other roofs of our village were invisible behind the trees.
Lightning found the ghosts of trees for us and it found the chapel.

The chapel was made of brick, but for many years the priests had not
come, so it turned old. Our father, Cruz, had been tearing it down. Just
when he had the roof timber ready to come off, the first thunderstorm
came and blew the timber into the building. So the chapel knelt too,
squat and beheaded in the trees. Our father still had to take the building
down, but it was not worth anything to him without the roof timber.
There was a new chapel, but it did not stand above the trees. And there
was a new deacon.The wind turned cold and Ele and I climbed down for our studies
because it was going to rain.

Next morning, I lay feeling darkness and quiet, listening for the nest of
chaja’, for their morning chant above my window, in the eaves. Believing
myself to be awake, I dreamt the sea. I remembered, turning the crystal
voice of memory, careful not to draw the voice too close. I dreamt of my
father, Cruz, the pilot:

The crew-boys lean backward over the rail into the wind to bring the keel
back under them and give Cruz more boat to bite at the wind. He chops
his hand at the boys, and they scramble over the fish-well to lean backward
over the opposite rail, their toes wedged and gripping against the well,
pulling hemp, holding it in their mouths; the hemp lurching, fretting at
their teeth until their world is close, blurred, and full of musty hemp,
quivering from the wind of the sail. The well trembles with fish, rolling,
flopping in the windward beat, lolling, lost in the one-second luff. I stand
behind my father and hold clumps of his shirt in my fists. Cruz leans
backward under the boom sweeping above the deck in the opposite direction
of the boys at the rail. I stumble, my face in the small of Cruz’s back.
Spray stings my legs.

At the base of the mountain nearest to where we beach is a deep
brilliance of purple, trees, the clustering sign of habitation.

The dream spoke through all I saw and felt: ”This is memory, Noman
Pastorro, of your village as it was.”

I arose then, for I was to accompany our deacon to the villages to the east
above our village. He was yet new to the mountains, without the tongue of
the people, and he had no wife to accompany him. I did not mind so
much the early morning because I would not have to break bricks from the
old chapel with my father for the next week.

I crossed the brook and the village was quiet waiting for the darkness to be done. At the back of the new chapel where our deacon lived in his cottage, the cart was drawn up with Plato and Paulos harnessed, shaking out their manes at the morning. The deacon stood looking at the old chapel until I hunched my shoulders and threw my bundle into the cart and startled him.

I drove and we went up from the town onto the mountain where it was
morning. The path wrapped along the face of the mountain and doubled
back to retrace itself higher.

When we were above our village I saw the old chapel below us where
morning had not yet reached. My father had already started breaking
bricks away from the chapel.

Each day that summer I had walked across the town with Father to the
chapel. We went before the sun, and Ele would come along at first . When
she was tired she would stop to wedge her toes in the cracks between the
stones of the lanes where there was still rainwater, wonder at us, and return
home.

At the chapel, Father and I would work all day until Mother brought
lunch. We straddled the wall and scooted backwards along it, hammering
bricks away one at a time and throwing them at the ground. After the
ground was covered with bricks so that we could not throw down any more
without breaking them, we climbed down and cleaned the mortar off and
stacked them to be sold. George, who is the partner of my father, came.
We sat on the wall hanging our feet inside. Father and George watched
the splintered beams on the floor of the chapel. I swung my legs, crumbling
mortar with my fingers, watching the pebbles tumble and shrink and the
dust blow away from my fingertips, hearing the pebbles bounce in the
chapel. I was very proud for Father to let me up on the wall with him. I
liked it much better than cleaning bricks on the ground.

On this morning Father stood on the wall without moving and dust
came from where old George was working on his corner. I held my arm up,
but he did not move because he was looking past the mountain.
The path crawled around the backside of a ridge, and morning left
us until we came out on the saddle between the peak of our mountain
and the peak of the mountain of the first village. We stopped and sat
backwards in the cart, looking at the valley. The deacon prepared our
lunch.

Plato and Paulos moved a bit at a time in order for us not to notice and
turned the cart across the path to stick their noses in the grass on the edge
of the ruts. They creaked in their harnesses to look back for the offence
they made with us.

I asked the deacon why one must be religious. He did not answer. He
was busy with his thinking.

It was hot on the mountain now, and damp. The clouds stood down on
the horizon out past the islands. I saw George move to another part of the
wall and start to work again. Since the deacon had forgotten my question,

I drove on across the saddle; he sat backward, bouncing clumsily in his
greatness of patience.

Then he eased back around and said, ”The beautiful view, because it is
simple, does not capture you for long.” We went back down into the
shade. Another mountain was in front of us, much higher.

I looked down into the next valley and remembered one day when I was
working on the wall with Father. There had been much room on the
ground for throwing the bricks down. Though I hadn’t broken any by
throwing them on top of each other-I sometimes did in order to see what
would happen-Father called me to come to him. I came, and he stood up
and pulled the band of cloth on his forehead down around his neck. He
squinted and his forehead was white and damp below his hair. He had
dust on his face with streaks of sweat, so I wiped my face.

“Them, do you know them?” he said.

I looked in the direction he was squinting. “The Modales. Those who
work at the chapel?”

“Yes. You see how they come?”

I shrugged. “She is very much behind,” I said.

This was very funny to me and I laughed. The Modales worked for our
deacon teaching Sunday school and they were very religious. They had
been married for a very long time.

”Watch.”

I could see her across the brook. She hobbled and didn’t look up the hill as most people do. He had crossed the brook and had come up the hill and was just going inside the new chapel. I looked and could not see him through the doorway because of the brightness of the day.

Finally she came to the new chapel and couldn’t open the door. Father
climbed down and crossed the pasture. She was still there so he opened the
door and held it for her. It hissed shut behind her.

“There,” he said, climbing back up. “Those people. They are religious?”

”They teach the Sunday school.”

“They come every day, and every day it is the same for them. She does
not live in his eyes.”

“She did not look for him, up the hill. Does he live in her eyes?” I asked.

”And they are religious.’ ‘

”Yes.”

”Such is the way of the family Modales. There is also the family Bacchus. The love of Djon Bacchus for his wife is known in all the community; he never sets foot in the new chapel, but he paid the most for it. He is looked down on because everyone knows that he does not offer his tithes.”

Bacchus never set foot in the old chapel either. He owns the liquor shop
and does a very good business.

”His wife walks beside him,’ ‘ I said. Father squinted at the sun. It was said to be that way in the great city. But here the woman walked properly behind.

“He is not religious?”

“No,” I said.

”To be a good man, one does not have to be of the church-if a man is
not religious, then maybe he can be good.” My father threw down a brick
to break in the stacked pile.

We drove, winding lower on the backside of the mountain, and I stood
often to see over the edge of the mountain to what was below. The deacon
lit his pipe. This is the way it is for you, Noman Pastorro: if you seek the
Savior without the hand he offers, then maybe you will not find him. Take
your Savior by the hand. But feel the mark.”

After a while, there were scars in the mountain-treeless contours where
mandioca grew. A scream sluiced up through the tree roof of the village,
and an eagle dodged from its spin. We came off the mountain but the
scream floated back into the jungle with us and stopped. I reined Paulos
and Plato. Outside the village, a pregnant bitch hung from a tree. She
hung by the neck and her tongue hung out.

The first chozo of the village was around a crook of the path from the
tree. The trees had not been cut back from above for sunlight to reach
down, and there was a smell of rot. There was a woman squatting in the
door of the chozo, cradling her paunch. It spilled out on her thighs and
hid under a gray print dress of flowers that still shouted even without their
color. She giggled to herself with no teeth.

No one had wanted the bitch with her litter. The eagle still danced
above us.

We three swung in the branches of the mango-I and two from the
village who had attended school with me in my village . They were older
than I, but for a time we had been of the same class. They had not come to
the school often and fell continually behind.

Our deacon sat beneath us, under the great tarp where he met with the
elders of the village. There was a council fire, and the shadows of the
elders danced their voices across the tarp . The deacon spoke. Then the
elders spoke in a tumble that at once stopped when their spokesman began
to speak their tongue into our deacon’s tongue.

We dropped mangos onto the tarp, and I told about school in the cold
months and about the old chapel. They both nodded their heads, solemn
and with sympathy about school. They were most upset about the old
chapel, which had been a mark for their minds to cling to when they came
to the larger world of our village. They were excited to tell of a way up their mountain. The old one of their village, who told nothing, was dying and had to tell of the way in order not to lose it to his village. It was a wonderful way, but he had
no use for it after he was done being young.

I dropped from the tree and went under the tarp to our deacon to see
if I was needed. He had decided to use the spokesman for the other
villages-his voice would be part of them. My responsibility to him was
finished.

I whistled the boys down from the tree and we went up the path. We
stopped at the chozo of the old one and lifted him onto his litter. We took
him out of the back of the chozo as he had asked, and we went up the
gorge to their mountain in the dark. Dead lepacho rattled branches at the
breeze. The trail ended and the gorge steepened. We found a deer trail
and kicked for footholds on the rock. The litter became heavy, and I helped on the lower end. The floor of the gorge ended and we side-shuffled into a cleft. Between the walls of the cleft a freshet drummed in darkness. We drank and climbed up the freshet bed. Our lungs burned, and our pants sagged with mist until we stopped to draw the draw-cords tight. They cut at the skin and still hung clinging in the arc of our legs and we became impatient. Then the pain of the climb shrank away – it was as if the freshet spring were the throne of a myth-god of our school books.

The freshet bed spread open onto Pockets Fork. Meadows climbed to the base of the mountain in pine-rimmed hollows. The freshet below us was muffled by mountain.

There was the whisper dance that pines make at night.

On the peak the sky glowed red. My friends told that it was the lights
from the great city. I was enchanted. I remembered going to the city from
the sea with a catch, and I remembered the city glowing at night from
below the horizon which was beyond the islands.

We made fire in one of the pockets near a great pine on the edge of a
meadow. The fire dried us and we took the old one with us under a pine.
We burrowed nests in the needles and wrapped ourselves in our ponchos.
Flint-clackings sounded above us as deer crossed the loose rock below the
face of the peak.

In the cold of the morning, a kildeer chanted across the meadow,
impatient for the sun. I did not move, but the old one spoke to me in the
old tongue which I did not know. To be one so old is to know when
another is feigning sleep and to know how to speak to him not knowing his tongue. I crawled out of our tree and pulled him after me in the litter. He arranged his poncho, and I went back for his hat which he placed in his manner on his head. At the pocket’s rim, I laid him down because he was dead, and I was not sad; it was the time of his passing and he was in agreement.

We ate our breakfast of corn meal biscuit and cheeses that my friends
brought from their homes, and we dug for the old one a grave with the
machete which he had used when a warrior for our people. We buried him
with the machete and his poncho and hat. Then we started across the
meadow, wet to the waist from spray off the grass that caught in the dawn.

We slipped on loose rock, zig-zagging upward beneath the peak where the deer had crossed in the night. There were no trees. The pines below us were etched tiny in the pockets. We scrambled, sweating and bare-chested, up toward the sheer face of the mountain. The old one had pointed to a pine twisted into the face of the mountain of his village. And when we climbed to it, it was a bristle-cone. “It lived when our Savior lived,” the old one had said, “and it lived when legends say the Great One walked in our valleys.” It stood alone where there were no other trees. We knew that this was the gift of the old one.

We climbed a fold and stood on the saddle at the top, squeaking in
snow where wind catches and carves stone between our valley and the
valley of the great city. Then we went up onto the ridge above the saddle
that would bring us to the peak. We climbed with our bare hands and
kicked the snow away from the places where it hid from the wind. When
our hands were too cold we climbed by holding the mountain through our
ponchos. And then we were on a smooth gray dome like the dome of the
old chapel of our village. There was wind, no snow.

The outward islands were small below us, and we could see the thunder
clouds even though it was not yet midday. The morning clouds of the
valleys were below us on both sides. They were small, and they moved
across the valleys and up the canyons to cling together in the canyons and
villages above our village. On the side of the great city, there were no
villages. The great city did not cling to the mountains as our village did. It
stretched out into the death of its valley.

“Have you been there before?” I asked.

”Why? What is there in the great city that we should want to go there? We see it from here.”

I grinned and nodded. “I have been there. . . when I was small. . . when our village fished I went there from the sea.”

They stomped at the snow; wind hurried at them. They grinned. “We
see it from here.” They walked to the other side of the dome. I sat down
and tucked my nose into my poncho.

When I stood, I was alone. An eagle climbed in his dance from the
base of the mountain where the old one lay. He followed the wind over
the saddle into the valley of the great city, and then the two from the
village came from the ridge out onto the saddle where the mountain did
not hide them from me. They did not look back. I took the opposite
ridge .

At the base of the ridge were glaciers, and I slid down them to the canyon
called ”Lost Creek.” It was evening and the shade of the buried sun made
me alone.

Once I stopped to breathe, and shadows flitted across a ridge below me. I followed them down past the ridge and stopped and waited. Deer came around me and grazed. They would stay as long as I was a shadow, and more came over the ridge like ghosts. The lights of the great city became more than the sun, and I started toward them. A buck bolted up. He held his antlers dead still and snorted. His does dodged into the rocks on the ridge with their tails straight up-leaves in the whirlwind of mother’s broom in the yard. The buck carried his rack and his Roman nose and floated across the brush, exploding at the ground and floating again.

At the mouth of the canyon of Lost Creek, the floor dropped away between granite walls and spilled boulders into the valley. A rattlesnake clicked lazily out
on the rocks. He shrank up and buzzed when I came near. With a forked stick, I
caught him by the head and cut the head off and threw it down the wall. It was too dark to climb out of the boulders. I made a fire and stretched the snake out to pull at its rattles. I pulled, and the headless body struck at my hand . It was nice to out-guess a headless snake. But it did not seem the thing to do so I roasted him and ate him. He tasted like brushwood.

Horned toads came out from under the rocks to blink at the fire . I set them on their backs and petted their undersides until they arched their necks, dazed and frozen, pudgy little dragons upside-down with spikes sticking out all over. One does not have to worry about pulling their tails off as with most other lizards. The fire died, and the horned toads clawed at the air one by one and flopped over and crawled back under the boulders.

It rained in the morning, and the sun did not come up. I had a horned
to.ad in a pocket under my poncho. The rain made my poncho heavy and it
smelled as old wool smells when it is wet. I walked down from the canyon,
and under the rain clouds I could see the city.

It was gray, and I went down toward the harbor which is a fine bay.
Going that way, I came into the market which weaved between the great
city and the bay which had no beach to make the city seem solid against the
bay. Trees stood in the market with death of winter in them when it was
not yet winter. Rain pooled in refuse thrown into the streets. Motored
buses brought people from the city to the market. They huddled, not
buying but staying out of the rain and the filth of the street. Children,
dogs, and cats fought under the awnings for food.

I followed a winding brood of bright tarps dripping water where they sagged. By one tarp I stopped, and a highlander with the look of the mountain villages held his paunch and squinted out at faces. He tugged at his chin so as not to have the look of hope that drives market-goers back out into the rain or to another shop. The carved trinkets of his shop were supplied by the village he came from. The woods and mountains of his village were in his trinkets. He stared across a shelf of hand-mirrors. Their dusty faces drank his eyes, and each one held a reflection of a loro tethered to a perch on the tarp-pole; of the highlander’s neighbor, glaring, dung-massed, unable to rid himself of old feathers at his time of molting. The loro rasped and mimicked the city, cowering from the rain. Spray from rain water running off a crease in the tarp covered a mirror on the end of the counter until the loro was a smear of bright colors.

The highlander held his hand down and lifted me up from the street
and the rain. I felt the roughness of the woodcarver’s scars in his palm. I
asked the highlander if he would return to the mountain if it were not for
the market and he said that he might, but first he wished to return to the
sea for he had once been a fisher as my people had been fishers.

I went to the fish wharves, and the seventh motored tuna-fisher I climbed
onto took me as its boy. I went back from the wharf to a fish shed and put
the horned toad between the stilts under the shed. He did not move. When I started back to the tuna-fisher, he spurted with his pudgy legs at the sand and went under the fish shed.

Horned toads are good for two or three days. Then they become mushy
and will not eat flies. You have to let them go, or they will die. And you
are left with less than what you had.

We moved through the outer islands against the tide that brought the sailing fishers in, and beyond the islands was sun. The purple and turquoise band that is my village on the side of the mountains was between two islands. We rolled on a swell, and it was gone.

Iwalco

by Ryan Cannon 

 

“Harry’s Bait Shop. What a name. Don’t these small towners have any originality?” Johnny opened the door and stepped out onto the gravel street shoulder. He shut the door and checked his hair in the tinted window. Mike walked around the front of the truck.

“We order the herring here, and we have to drive all the way out here in the morning before we launch, right? That’s, like, an extra twenty minutes.” Mike was twenty-three. Johnny was twenty-six. The difference in actual age and perceived age was, however, much greater. Johnny was nearly bald and thicker around the middle and chest. The heaviness of his upper torso was offset by a lack of heaviness in his lower body. Where his butt should have bulged, there was a decided slackness to his Levi’s. Mike had sun-bleached hair and a somewhat freckled face. His eyes were a pale blue that often appeared cloudy in bright light. He was taller and slimmer than Johnny. 

Johnny started to cross the street. “We have to get our saltwater tags, and I don’t think the place next to the dock has ’em.” 

“That’s twenty minutes more I could be sleeping.” 

“I’ll just tuck ya’ in twenty minutes early, sweet pea.” 

“Aw, you gonna miss your wife that bad, John? You poor thing.” 

The bait shop was a small house that Harry, the namesake and owner, had knocked all the walls out of. It passed like a “U” around a small center bathroom that was closed to the public. A sales counter had been erected in the leftmost corner from the front door. Fishnets and gaffing poles decorated the right arm of the “U.” The floor was empty throughout the rest of the store while the walls were laden with sinkers, aluminum sleeves, flashy rainbow-colored planers, barrel swivels, downriggers, deep-sea atomic lures, twin-hook setups on thick leaders, and so on. 

Marian was behind the counter. Mike saw her in still frame as his boot hit the wood floor. She was overexposed, the white of her skin washed out against the saturated red lips. Her thin hand with short fingers hung suspended over the counter. Her eyes flashed out of the white of her face in pale green luminescence. She inhaled and motion resumed. She was eighteen, petite like a bluebell and economic in the firmness of her limbs and torso. She would have been wholly and youthfully beautiful, but her face was drawn with tension. Slender concavities graced her cheekbones. There was something impassive in the way she held her head straight and in the rigid discipline of her neck. She had dyed her hair a bright and flamboyant red. It was the red of fire engines and blooming roses. Her nose was pierced on the left with a small fake-diamond stud. She wore a low-cut blouse and a push-up bra that accentuated what there was of suppleness about her body. The blouse ended three inches shy of where her bleached and torn jeans began. 

An old charter boat captain was leaning against the end of the counter, facing Marian. He was flossing his teeth with twenty-pound test fishing line and talking in a loud voice as Marian flipped through the pages of a magazine. The charter boat captain’s name was Harvey. He went by Harv. He had been guiding fishing boats out over the bar and into the ocean for forty-four years. Harv was saying, as Mike and Johnny walked into the shop,“’Ee ain’t never seen no storm, I told ’im. ’Ese rich Alaskin’ fishers think ’ey’ve seen …” 

The bell on the door, which should have rung when Johnny opened it, rang instead when Mike closed it. Harv paused in his narrative. Marian looked up. The captain pulled the fishing line out of his mouth and dropped it into a bucket at his feet that served as a garbage can. 

“’Ee’s on my boat, rite? An’ ‘ee’s tellin’ me when the things ’er gettin’rough? I told ’im, ‘Fifty ’ears I been fishin’ ’ese booie. Fifty ’ears.”” Marian turned the page of the magazine. Johnny went to look at the hooks. Mike stood next to a display of fillet knives on the wall. He picked one up and looked intermittently at it and at Marian. “An’ the other fishers starts to be scared ’cause one guy ’sboutta peein’ ‘is pants. Nobody’d caught ’eir limit ’n nothin’.” Harv bent over and picked the piece of fishing line from the bucket. He poked the end through a particularly large gap in his bottom teeth. “But I brought ’em in. S’ere dollar after all.” 

“Do you guys sell saltwater tags here?” Johnny asked, holding a fistful of Eagle Claw hooks. 

“Yeah. How many you need?” Marian replied. She set the magazine on the counter. It was a five-month-old copy of Seventeen. 

Mike made the peace sign as he approached the sales counter. 

Harv looked at Johnny looking at the hooks and asked, “You fishin’ fer salmon?” 

“Yep.”

 “Gotta ’ave barbless hooks, y’know.”

Johnny looked back over at the display on the wall.

“Don’t sell ’em. Gotta make ’em hooks barbless.” 

Harv walked over from the sales counter to Johnny and took the plastic package of a leader with two barbed hooks out of his hand. “Just get ya’some pliers and grip it ’ere, real tight. Squeeze ’til the barb ain’t there no more. An’ ’ere.” 

Mike looked at the reels behind the glass at the sales counter. Then he looked at Marian. She was writing with a pen on a small pad. Then at the magazine. It was dog-eared and used. 

“How many times you read that magazine?” 

“Do you guys want the two-day or seasonal tags?” she asked Mike. 

“Two-day. How many times you read that magazine?” 

“Too many times to make talk ’bout it.” 

Mike looked over at Harv. Harv was telling Johnny what time slack tide was the next day so that the bar wouldn’t swallow the two young men. Waste of youth, Harv told him, and a bigger waste of a boat. 

“Okay,” Mike said. 

“What’s your name?” 

“Mike. What’s yours?” 

“Full name. For the tag.” She held up the pad of paper so that Mike could see she was filling out a form. 

“Mike Richards. That’s my brother John.” 

Johnny heard his name and said, “Hey, Mike. Order a couple dozen herring, too. All right?” 

Marian said, “I need your driver’s license numbers.” 

Mike pulled out his wallet. 

“Marian.”

 “What?” 

“My name. You asked my name.” 

“Right. Marian. Good to meet you.” 

Harv was leaving. He kissed Marian on the cheek and said, “Where’s Harry, Mare?” 

“He’s out at Buoy 10 on the Redhead. They’re after kings.” 

Harv straightened his old cap and walked out, saying, “Good luck tommorra, fellas.” 

Johnny approached the counter. “She needs your license number, John,” Mike said. 

To Marian, Johnny said, “I need these hooks, too.” And then to Mike, “Did you order the herring?” And then, “Slack tide is at half-past seven. Plenty ’a time to sleep.” 

 

Marian closed the bait shop a half hour before nine. It was fully dark. She road her bike in the light of scattered streetlights. Crisp nighttime chill was settling in. She felt her cheeks and nose numb and redden with the rush of air as she peddled hard and fast the streets that she peddled every night, hard and fast. It was silent except for the ocean. That was Ilwaco. Silent except for the ocean. It got to most of them so that they didn’t even notice it anymore. The ocean was like an appendage of themselves. She felt as though she was never alone, and that was okay most of the time. 

Her house was nearly dark, except for the bluish flicker of a television set. That was her father. A chain link fence surrounded the small house and the overgrown yard. The gate was missing. She pushed the bike over the curb and into the yard. The night was clear. She looked up and could see the stars in infinite layers of brightness and density. 

“Mare, is ’at you?” her father said as Marian closed the front door behind her. Glen was in front of the television with a beer. 

“Yeah.” 

“How’s work?” 

“Good.” 

“Harry get out?” 

“Twenty-three-pound king.” 

Glen’s red face split into a liquored grin. He hadn’t fished since he lost his leg, yet he couldn’t stop talking about it. There was nothing else to talk about. “Where at? Had to be in the mouth.” He turned his wheel chair around to face Marian. She looked past him at the television. 

“Buoy 10.” 

“Knew it!” 

“We got anything to eat?” 

“Meat pies in the freezer. Sandy brought us some silver ’ee caught out at CR, but yer brother already et most ’a that.” Tad was thirteen, five foot six, and nearly two hundred pounds. He ate like her father drank. The two rival high schools in Astoria had been recruiting him for their football teams for over a year now. He didn’t like football. 

“Where’s he?” 

“Where’s he always?” Glen waved his half-empty beer bottle in the air. “Leave ’im. The boy can find ‘is way ’ome. ‘Ee’s big ’nuff.” 

“Well, I worry that something will happen to him. He’s not so big. And you know he doesn’t pay attention to anything.” 

“Awright. Go get ’im then. Tuck ’im in. Baby ’im. Your mother didn’t do it ’nuff.” 

 

The beach was bright in the starlight even though there was no moon. The waves beat out a rhythm as they broke and spilled up the sandy incline, running thinner and thinner until they collapsed back in upon themselves. Beyond that was the roar. The wind stirred the lengths of tall grasses that grew among the piles of driftwood at the beach’s edge. It was a cold wind. The ocean stole the silence. 

Marian walked quickly down a trail that wove through the grass and stocky pine, over piles of bonewood to the beach. She left her sandals at the trail’s end. The coarseness of the sand against the soles of her feet was warm at first, but as she got closer to the surf, the sand was damp and cold with ocean waves. Her toes and the balls of her feet made tiny imprints in the wet sand that flexed and settled as she passed. Gooseflesh broke out along the base of her throat and along her naked arms. She stopped to roll up the cuffs of her jeans so that they wouldn’t get soiled in the sand and seawater. Her feet were white and thin jutting out into the moonless night. 

She could see the shifting shadows of the grass and small pines to her right as she moved northward towards the cliff and the lighthouse. The ocean seemed like a pulsing inconstant to her left, inconstant and eternal in inconsistency. The cliff was far enough away to be blacker than the night, like a great void before her, where vanished the pale stretch of beach and the crashing ocean. The lighthouse spun its warning slowly atop the cliff, hundreds of feet above the beach and the sea. The light danced over the sky, never touching down, never slowing. At the base of the cliff were jagged, barnacled rocks of tidal pools and clutching shellfish. The waves pounded and broke over the lower rocks, splintering into spray and mist and fast appendages that coursed through deep channels between the rocks. She walked along the line of surf where the waves fell back, leaving a thin line of whitish foam. The waves made her dizzy if she stared down at them as they coursed in and back. The ocean could not rest. 

There was a large formation of jagged igneous rock that stood separated from the cliff and the other freestanding boulders in the upper corner of the beach. At high tide the water only crept about its base. It was forty feet high with an aggressive slope to the sides. This was Tad’s rock. He would sit and read in a sheltered, sandy bowl at the crest where the sun wasn’t so direct and the ocean spray and mist drifted overhead. There was room for three or four up there in the little half cave, too high for the tides to reach. But it was too dark to read now. 

As she grew closer, she could hear better the wind whistle as it hit the rocks and the cliff. The whistle quickly superseded the rustle of the grasses. No chance for silence. The stars were bright enough that she could spot the dim outlines of beached jellyfish and bull kelp and driftwood in time to step around them. The large rock, Tad’s rock, materialized before her, its outline black against the black cliff. Like a halo the lighthouse spun.

The ascent was on the back side between Tad’s rock and the cliff. The rock was sharp and uneven on her bare feet yet warmer than the wet sand. She worked her way up through the fissure, bracing her hands on either side and lifting her feet from foothold to foothold. She wondered how on earth Tad forced his bulk through the narrow crack in the rock. She thought maybe he would be sleeping in the sandy crater at the top with an open paperback resting on his large chest. He didn’t get cold like she did. She would scare him, leap on his huge chest or plug his nose or stick her pinky finger in his ear. He would awake, groggy at first and then laughing. He would chase her around the sandy crater. She was faster, though. 

The fissure placed her on a small indent in the rock face that was no easier on her feet. Small natural steps led up to Tad’s haven. As she ascended she heard, above the whistle of the wind and the roar of the surf, the muffled clink of glass on stone. She paused. There was a groaning sigh. 

A man was there with his back facing her. He stood at the edge of the small crater, mostly veiled in the deeper shadows of the overhanging rocks where the starlight did not filter. He had placed a hand above him on the rocky wall. His other hand was out in front of him somewhere in the shadows. He was urinating into the sand, pelvis extended and back slightly arched. There were several empty beer bottles at strange monolithic angles in the sand. 

“Tad?” she said and he leapt, startled. 

Cursing aloud, he turned his head back towards her, hunching somehow and taking his hand from the wall. He was smaller than Tad, shorter and thinner. There was a vagrant leanness to the way his clothes hung on his frame. The starlight defined vaguely the beakish ness of his nose and the hard planes of his thin face. He looked Marian up and down, casually finishing to zip up the front of his jeans. Venus gleamed in his dark eyes. Marian knew him. They went to school to gether, only he was a little younger. She couldn’t remember his name. He produced a pack of cigarettes from his breast pocket. He lit one. The flare from his lighter flashed in the black long after it was extinguished. 

“Where’s Tad?” 

He stepped closer, never averting that Venus gleam. He ran his free hand through his wiry mess of hair. His nostrils spat smoke, and the wind whistled it to sea. “He’s gone, baby. He’s left the scene.” 

“Where’d he go?” She felt a flush rising in her cheeks as he came closer. He stopped directly in front of her. She felt terribly conscious of the great empty expanse behind her — the sharp decline, the craggy outcroppings, the beach so far below. 

He reached out slowly and laid a long, thin finger on the fake stud piercing in her nose. The skin of his hand felt like latex. She could smell the pungent beer now wafting from his clothes and breath. “Didn’t you hear, baby? He got out.” 

Then she was gone, stumbling down the little steps and struggling through the fissure until she hit the beach on the balls of her bare feet. She slowed her momentum with her hands and ran back through the edge of the surf away from the lighthouse. 

She had cut her foot. She could feel the immediate stickiness of the blood. Sand adhered itself as if glued to the wound. She grimaced as she slowed to a walk, breathing forcefully and feeling her heart pound throughout her skull. The wind whipped up, nearly howling across the beach. There would be a storm. The ocean crescendoed, agitated and roaring thick. 

And the light from the lighthouse on the cliff went round and round, flashing over the top of the beach and the small town. 

 

There was a cold mist the next morning, a fine spray of water wafting off the low clouds and fog as they drifted from the cold ocean to the warmer coast. Marian knew to grab her slicker before she left for the bait shop. It was instinct, as was turning the television off and helping her incoherent father into bed from his chair. He slung his heavy arms around her neck and garbled incomprehensibly. She could smell the distinct odor of beer and underneath that, something ranker, corpulent, and familiar.

Her legs felt fatigued as she braved the slick hills on her bike. The mist seemed to press her down, adding to the heaviness of her eyes and face. There were several men waiting outside the bait shop for herring when she arrived to open. Soon after she unlocked the door, the shop was full. 

“Get out past the bar during slack tide, er just ’ang loose, skipper,” Harry, the shop’s owner and namesake, said to a man in thick glasses frosted with water spots. Harry’s voice was like an old dog’s, with a rasp in the throat that wouldn’t cough out. He smoked when he fished and he fished all the time. The ocean had made him strong and thick as a sea lion, layers of fat coating the brawn beneath. There was a permanent redness to his face and neck from the harsh sea air and sun. Walrus jowls hung down the sides of his face. 

“Where’re they bitin’at?” 

“Charter boats ’er out by Buoy 2 ’n the CR buoy.” 

“S’posed t’get windy t’day, ain’t it?” 

The fishermen thronged in and out, multicolored slickers and rain gear, faces beaded with the cold mist. To get them in and out quickly, Harry sold herring from styrofoam coolers in the corner for cash. The fishermen joked with each other about the size of fish they’d reel in that day, about the size of wife they’d left at home, but there was an underlying gravity. That day they faced the ocean.

Mike and Johnny trailed in a little before eight. They wore yellow slickers over flannel shirts. Johnny was very pale. 

“I don’t know if he drank too much or what,” Mike explained to Marian. “He just woke up that way.” 

Marian felt numb. She had thought at first that she was simply tired and that the lethargy would lift as her body warmed and the day progressed. No. It was numbness. She just wanted to sit for a moment and breathe deeply, in and out, in and out. For hours. For days. 

Harry turned a bucket upside down and sat Johnny on it. His jowls shook as he put a thick red hand to Johnny’s forehead. 

“He puked twice just on the drive over here.” Mike’s face was shadowed with short stubble. A black stocking cap was pulled down over his brow. Marian wondered what he was like, outside of bait shops and fishing trips. 

“You best sit today out, son,” Harry rasped, peering from under his thick brow at Johnny. “The ocean’ll only make that worser on ya?” 

“Forget that.” Johnny was holding onto the corner of a wall and lifting himself from the bucket with wilting bravado. His face was bloodless and sweating. “I wanna fish.” 

Mike shrugged and asked Marian, “You got our herring?” She did. 

She wanted to ask Mike to take her with him when he left Ilwaco. She could sit in the extended cab of the truck. She wouldn’t make much noise. She would press her cheek to his and relish the sandpapery feel of his stubble and take the sunburn off his lips. She was sure that there was so much under the yellow rain gear and the old flannel; so much that had nothing to do with endless ocean roars and everybody know ing everybody and nowhere to go except out where the cliffs end and the light just circles round and round overhead; so much that was only passing through 

“You better hurry,” she said. 

He took the three bags of dripping herring in one hand and his brother’s arm in the other. Their eyes looked like glass, the fishes’. They stared blankly out from the ice and plastic bags. Mike looked at Marian. 

Glen was in the road in his wheelchair when Marian returned from work in the late afternoon. There was still daylight, but the mist had been falling all day. Glen was soaked, but he wasn’t drunk, as Marian thought he would be, seeing him from her bike as she coasted 

down the hill. He was shivering and angry. 

“Didn’t you find Tad?” 

She laid her bike down against the curb and took her father’s wheelchair. She began to push him down the cement path to their front door. “Yes. He was out on the rock.” 

“Why ’idn’t ’ee come ’ome?” 

Her voice stuck in her throat. She felt her cheeks burn and her heart ache. “I’m not sure.” 

“Did’ya tell ’im ta come ’ome?” 

“Yes.” 

Glen hit the doorframe as she pushed him through it. He hit it hard enough that he split his knuckle. He looked at the blood with a sense of wonder. “Ee’s a giant boy, but ’ee’s only thirteen, Mary. You tell’em that. Tell’em ‘ee’s only thirteen.” Mary was her mother’s name. 

Marian helped her father into some dry clothes. He stared at the blood welling out of his split knuckle the entire time. She thought to herself how she would find Mike that night and he would take her away when he was done passing through. How he would take her out of Ilwaco. 

Objet d’Art

by Zina Petersen

It’s simple. I am going to take off my clothes and my
watch and my glasses (so that even if I could see what
time it is, I couldn’t see what time it is), and go into
a studio that is seven degrees, and hold absolutely
still for a million years. And Marc the artist will forget
that I am anything but a collection of tones and values and shapes
and shades, and he will also forget that he is not responsible for
what I look like.
Mumbling, he looks at me , not the canvas; he says, “I don’t
like what I’ve done with you. ”
I do things to pass the time. I count to a thousand by fives. My
brain does things with pasta, designs a better alphabet, adds lyrics
to the jazz on the radio-bad idea; rhyme destroys Sanborn. ·
The artist I’m working for now is Marc Whiting, with a c
because it’s short for Marcel. He ‘s not French. He’s from Colorado.
He has a beard, and a sweater instead of a smock, and a huge
collection of colors and brushes, and paintings of me .
Because I’ve worked with him for over a year, so he has me
memorized; he knows me naked , only. He can’t seem to find a
model he likes any better. He knows nothing about why . I do. I
am a terrific model because there is so much more grace in my body
when I am in love and composing poetry about it. He knows
nothing. We don’t talk, we art. He’s very decent and professional.
This sometimes is wonderful. Sometimes it gets hypnotic,
instead of tedious, and I can feel what is going on in the colors,
and I can feel which of my shadows he’s moving, and I can feel
that something like my own skin is growing onto the canvas, but
not quite flat or tied down in two dimensions. I feel something float

over a surface-I remember being seven , having my hair braided
by someone now faceless, and the kind of relaxed it did to all my
muscles and all my concentration, not destroying it but relaxing it
into place. My hair had nerves then, and the air, the paint, have
nerves now. Marc paints and I can feel what he’s painting without
seemg lt.
I can usually tell when something isn’t coming out of the
canvas right, too, because Marc starts saying things like , “talent”
and “wrong, here,” and “nope, nope, nope.” Usually as he ‘s
putting one brush down and picking up another one, or mashing
the bristles of a brush into the turpentine cup. He says it to the
canvas, and then he walks from foot to foot and squints.
When he gets frustrated like that I break my pose. Shaking my
left leg, and my right leg, finding out which parts of me have fallen
asleep. Calves, usually. I twist my neck aroun:d till the vertebrae
crunch.
The living part of his apartment is maybe six hundred degrees
warmer than the studio. I think of going out there and my goose
bumps go down . I want to get some sensation back in my calves.
Pain, even, anything. But I try not to flex the muscles that have
fallen asleep , because they hurt too much.
The calendar is Dali prints. He tried something like that once. I
know because it’s still propped up and dusty in his studio instead of
in some hyper-expensive gallery, like a lot of his work. Very awful.
Very seventies. Like a raspberry becoming a radio. A digital watch
giving birth to a little pink dumptruck. But he does figures now.
There are . . . studies and sketches and oils of me, gazing at
people from all over the walls of those galleries. I wonder if Marc
enjoys selling my image for money. Never, never. He doesn’t think
about it; he has a manager. I feel an itch run through my hair and
cast a spell in my head at the manager, who sells me. I think, ” Art
Models From HELL.” Like a movie ad with slime hanging off
the title.

Here goes. I fantasize that Marc strips the paint off the dump-
truck /raspberry painting and there is a painting underneath of me

with my clothes on . It’s almost too much .
If I tried to walk right now I would move like the little
tin soldier.
The modeling stand is five feet square and about two feet off
the floor, made of particle board painted black, with hundreds of

chalk marks where I and other models ( over a year ago) have had
hands, feet, hips, elbows traced to remember our poses after a
break. The stand is warmer than the cement floor. From it I can
see out the window, which is dirty . The sky is dull blue, no clouds.
I don’t want to be still anymore, because I have a song in my
head. I think, “All of me, why not take-” I want to sing it, wrists
cocked, elbows in , shoulders tense. I want to celebrate something
with it.
I will come again tomorrow and the day after. I will convince
him that there is something to celebrate about me. I’ll come wearing
a big blue sweater: clothes, Marc , look. Look at all of me.